Eye on Extremism, June 02, 2017

CNN: Kabul Bombing: Anger As City Buries Dead After Huge Suicide Blast

“A day after a massive suicide blast that left at least 90 dead, angry residents of Kabul were counting the cost of another brutal attack on their city — and asking how it was allowed to happen. The bombing, which struck Kabul’s diplomatic quarter during rush hour on Wednesday morning, came just a few days into Ramadan, a time when Muslim families come together to observe the holy month. Instead, relatives were burying the dead and tending the wounds of the 461 confirmed injured.”

The Washington Post: Coptic Christians Describe Bus Attack In Egypt: ‘Even The Little Children Were Targets’

“The passengers on the bus heard a noise and thought a tire had exploded. One young man got up to see what had happened, and why there was so much smoke. But before he could open the door, a bullet smashed the glass and hit him in the head. Several gunmen dressed in military-style uniforms then sprayed the bus with gunfire. ‘In a second, they [the gunmen] got inside and shot at every living and moving object they could see,’ said the driver, Boshra Kamel, 56, who was shot several times but survived by playing dead. ‘Even the little children were targets to them.’”

ABC News: US Concern Growing Over Pro-Syrian Regime Forces Amassing Near Coalition Training Facility

“The U.S. military is growing increasingly concerned about two groups of pro-Syrian regime forces near a coalition training facility at Tanf, Syria, and has asked some pro-regime forces to leave the area. The facility trains local partner forces to combat ISIS in southeastern Syria. The U.S. has warned the groups that they are inside and around a ‘deconfliction zone’ established by the U.S. and Russia. Deconfliction is the term the Pentagon uses to describe its contacts with Russia to ensure there are no misunderstandings about each country’s operations in Syria. This deconfliction zone extends about 34 miles out from the city center and the Pentagon says a small pro-regime force is inside the zone while a larger pro-regime force is patrolling around the zone’s perimeter. Both groups are northwest of Tanf.”

Vocativ: Double Blow For ISIS: Two Leaders Killed In Airstrikes

“Al-Binali was considered by some as a likely successor to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He’d been designated as a terrorist by the United States as well as by the European Union and the United Nations and was stripped of Bahraini citizenship in January 2015. According to the Counter Extremism Project, al-Binali was appointed chief religious advisor for the terror group and was also believed to have worked to recruit fighters from the Gulf region. A separate airstrike is said to have killed the founder of ISIS’ Amaq News Agency, known as one of the group’s strongest propaganda tools. Rayan Meshal was killed in his home with his daughters in the Syrian city of al-Mayadeen, near the Syrian-Iraq border. A Facebook user named Hozaifa Abo Alyaman claiming to be Meshal’s brother posted on Wednesday about the deaths.”

CNN: 36 Bodies Found In Resorts World Manila, Philippines Official Says

“Thirty-six bodies have been found inside Resorts World Manila, after an attack by a lone gunman who fired shots and set fire to gambling tables in the early hours of Friday morning. The victims, who did not appear to have been shot, are thought to have died of suffocation, Southern Police District Director Superintendent Tomas Apolinario said Friday. ‘Most of the victims were women who were found dead inside the bathroom,’ he added. Thick smoke from fires set by the suspect delayed a search of the building, but officers later discovered them during clearing operations, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde said.”

Reuters: Dozens Of Fleeing Civilians Killed, Wounded By Islamic State Mortar Fire In Mosul

“At least seven civilians were killed and 23 wounded by Islamic State mortar shells as they tried to flee Mosul’s militant-controlled Zanjili district on Thursday, Iraqi police said. Zanjili is part of the enclave that remains in the hands of Islamic State in the northern Iraqi city, alongside the Old City centre and the Medical City hospitals complex.  U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces retook eastern Mosul in January and began a new push on Saturday to capture the enclave where about 200,000 people are trapped, regularly dropping leaflets telling families to flee.”

Daily Mail: British Jihadi Is ‘Among Nine ISIS Fanatics Executed By The Terror Group’ Near Mosul As It Loses Control Of Its Former Iraqi Stronghold

“ISIS has executed a British jihadi who had previously been fighting for the terror group in Tal Afar, 40 miles west of Mosul.  Iraqi army sources claimed the Briton was lined up in the town’s centre along with eight others – including a Russian, Turk and some Syrians.  An unverified photograph posted on an Iraqi news website showed four blindfolded men handcuffed and kneeling on the ground with a group of heavily-armed gunmen standing behind them.  According to Bas News, nine men were killed by the terror group although the reason for their execution has not been disclosed.  Captain Idris al-Hamdani claimed the nine men executed were leading members of ISIS in Iraq.”

Reuters: Saudi-Owned TV Drama Fights Islamic State Propaganda

“A Saudi-owned television channel has launched a drama series portraying the brutality of life under the Islamic State to counter sleek propaganda from the jihadist group which has won it recruits worldwide.  Beamed across the Arab world by satellite channel MBC, the $10-million project reflects the kingdom’s self-appointed role at the forefront of a Muslim bulwark against extremism which was underlined in a May 20-21 visit by U.S. President Donald Trump. ‘Black Crows’ shows women and children living under the jihadists and is the first television drama to tackle subjects such as mass murder and rape, contrasting sharply with the idyll of heroism and holy war projected by IS on social media.”

Associated Press: Palestinian Teen Stabs Israeli Soldier, Then Shot By Troops

“An Israeli soldier was injured on Thursday in a stabbing attack by a 15-year-old Palestinian girl who was then shot and critically wounded by troops at the scene, the army and the girl’s father said. The attack took place near an Israeli settlement in northern West Bank. Okab Infeat said his 15-year-old daughter Nouf had gone to school on Thursday to pick up her eighth-grade report card and didn’t return home. Infeat said he was questioned by Israeli security forces for four hours about the girl and her family life. Infeat said his daughter did not suffer from social or psychological problems.”

New York Times: C.I.A. Names New Iran Chief In A Sign Of Trump’s Hard Line

“He is known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, nicknames he earned as the Central Intelligence Agency officer who oversaw the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the American drone strike campaign that killed thousands of Islamist militants and hundreds of civilians. Now the official, Michael D’Andrea, has a new job. He is running the C.I.A.’s Iran operations, according to current and former intelligence officials, an appointment that is the first major sign that the Trump administration is invoking the hard line the president took against Iran during his campaign. Mr. D’Andrea’s new role is one of a number of moves inside the spy agency that signal a more muscular approach to espionage and covert operations under the leadership of Mike Pompeo, the conservative Republican and former congressman, the officials said. The agency also recently named a new chief of counterterrorism, who has begun pushing for greater latitude to strike militants.”

Deutsche Welle: After Boko Haram Terror, Cameroon’s ‘Ghost Towns’ Come Back To Life

“Hundreds of buyers and sellers are assembled at the Kolofata market, close to Cameroon’s border with north-eastern Nigeria and a hotspot for cross-border trade. Livestock and cotton are destined for Nigerian markets while food products bought for resale at other markets in Cameroon. Police officer Jules Ngonde says for the past one month, the weekly market has been receiving so many traders and visitors that authorities are now dealing with a new form of insecurity. ‘There are so many young pickpocketers,’ Ngonde told DW.”

United States

Newsweek: U.S. Air Force Veteran Jailed For Trying To Join ISIS Claims He Is Victim Of Racism

“An Air Force veteran found guilty of trying to join the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. He maintained his innocence in a courtroom speech. Tairod Pugh, a 59-year-old former Air Force mechanic originally from New Jersey, was first detained at an airport in Turkey in 2015 after buying a one-way plane ticket to that nation from Egypt, where he was living at the time. Turkish authorities reportedly discovered maps of ISIS territory and crossings along the porous Turkey-Syria border, as well as a trove of jihadist propaganda videos, according to prosecutors. Pugh was arrested by U.S. authorities upon his return to New York and was later found guilty of attempting to provide material support to a group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., and of obstructing justice after Pugh tried to destroy the hard drives containing the incriminating evidence of his intentions. Pugh, however, denied the charges and said he was the victim of discrimination.”

Reuters: U.S. Hikes ‘Combat Power’ In Syria, With Eye On Iran-Backed Militia

“The U.S. military said on Thursday it had bolstered its ‘combat power’ in southern Syria, warning that it viewed Iran-backed fighters in the area as a threat to nearby coalition troops fighting Islamic State. The remarks by a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State was the latest sign of tension in the region, where the United States has forces at the base around the Syrian town of At Tanf supporting local fighters. ‘We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces,’ said the spokesman, U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, referring to Iran-backed forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

Associated Press: Trump Rejects Moving Israel Embassy To Jerusalem _ For Now

“Stepping back from a campaign promise, President Donald Trump on Thursday decided not to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, at least for the next six months. The White House described Trump’s waiver as a move to improve chances for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, but the relocation also risked igniting tensions across the Middle East. Although Trump’s move keeps the embassy in Tel Aviv for the foreseeable future, the White House said the president wasn’t abandoning his repeated pledge to move it. Press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was merely delaying the move while the administration tries to advance a new peace process.”

Syria

Associated Press: Syria Activists Say Founder Of IS’ Aamaq Killed In Airstrike

“Syria opposition activists say the founder of one of the main Islamic State group media outlets has been killed in an airstrike in eastern Syria. IS itself has not reported the death of the founder of Aamaq news agency. His brother Hozaifa posted on his Facebook that Baraa Kadek and his daughter were killed in an airstrike in Mayadeen town in Deir el-Zour province. Mayadeen has become a refuge for IS leaders as the group comes under attack in Mosul in Iraq and their de-facto capital Raqqa. Syrian opposition news outlets, including Halab News Network and Qasioun news agency, reported Kadek’s death late Wednesday. Kadek became known as a media activist covering the outbreak of protests in 2011 then rebel fronts. He later joined IS in 2013.”

Reuters: Russia Says Systematically Bombing Militants Fleeing Syria’s Raqqa

“Russia said on Thursday it was systematically bombing any Islamic State militants trying to flee Syria’s Raqqa and had carried out two such bombing runs in the last week.  A U.S.-led coalition is supporting an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias in their campaign to capture Raqqa city, Islamic State’s urban base of operations in Syria. But the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, had halted their offensive, leaving gaps on Raqqa’s southern edge which Islamic State militants were using to try to leave the city and regroup further south.”

Bloomberg: Vows To Block Islamic State’s Escape From Syrian Lair

“Russia vowed to prevent the escape of Islamic State fighters from their self-declared capital in Raqqa, under siege by U.S.-backed forces, after thwarting two attempts by the jihadists to break through toward Syrian government-controlled territory. Russian forces will ‘continue to take all necessary measures to stop Islamic State units from breaking out of Raqqa’ in Syria toward the northwestern provinces of Homs and Hama, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said by email on Thursday. ‘The Russian Air Force in Syria has the means to destroy terrorists at any time.”’

Associated Press: Short Of Allies, Syria’s Rebels Are Down But Not Out

“They are veterans of Syria’s rebellion, trying for years to bring down President Bashar Assad. But these days they’re doing little fighting with his military. They’re struggling to find a place in a bewildering battlefield where several wars are all being waged at once by international powers. Syria’s civil war has become a madhouse of forces from Turkey, the United States, Syrian Kurds, the Islamic State group, al-Qaida as well as Assad’s allies Russia, Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraqi and Afghan Shiite militias – all with their own alliances and agendas. Syrian rebel factions, battered by defeats and as divided as ever, reel around trying to find allies they can trust who will ensure their survival.”

Iraq

Reuters: In Iraq, IS Seals Off Area Around Symbolic Mosque In Mosul

 “Islamic State group militants have blocked the area around a highly symbolic mosque in Mosul’s Old City where the group’s leader made his first and only public appearance in 2014, a resident said Thursday. The move came as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are pushing to recapture the city’s remaining pockets. The militants have ordered families living near al-Nuri mosque — also known as the Great Mosque — to leave their houses and sealed all the roads leading to it, said the resident who lives in the IS-held sections of Mosul. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a Friday sermon in al-Nuri mosque in 2014 after IS seized almost a third of Iraq and declared an Islamic ‘caliphate’ on territory it controlled in Iraq and neighboring Syria.”

NBC News: Iraq’s National Soccer Team Aims To Prove To ISIS ‘That Nothing Can Divide Us’

“Iraq’s national soccer team played its first game on home soil in years on Thursday, beating Jordan 1-0 in Basra, a city that suffered some of the worst violence after Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror.  The match drew 60,000 fans — and everything went smoothly. But the match was about much more than sports. It was widely seen as a sign that the country is moving beyond the conflict and bloodshed that has plagued it since the U.S. invasion of 2003. This is an important message in a country whose forces, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, are fighting to drive out ISIS. The hyper-violent Sunni extremists preach a version of Islam that’s intolerant of other sects and religions.”

Turkey

The Washington Post: Turkey Plans To Build Walls Along Borders With Iraq, Iran

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country plans to build walls along its borders with Iraq and Iran, similar to the one currently being erected along the frontier with Syria. Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey has so far completed the construction of a 650-kilometer (403-mile) stretch of the wall along the 911-kilometer border with Syria. Turkey began building the wall in 2014 to boost its security by preventing infiltrations of Kurdish militants and Islamic State group fighters as well as refugees from Syria.”

The New York Times: Gun Deal In Jeopardy For Turkish Guards Who Beat Protesters

“The day before armed guards from the Turkish president’s security detail violently attacked a group of peaceful protesters here last month, the State Department notified Congress of its intention to license the sale of $1.2 million worth of semiautomatic handguns to the security force. Two weeks later, with mounting outrage over the episode among American lawmakers and a continuing investigation by the State Department that could lead to criminal charges against some of the guards involved, the future of the sale now appears to be in question.”

Afghanistan

BBC News: Kabul Bomb: Pakistan Says Afghan Claim ‘Baseless’

“Pakistan has rejected an Afghan claim that it was involved in a massive bomb attack in the capital, Kabul. Wednesday’s attack close to the heavily protected diplomatic area killed about 90 people and injured about 350 others. No group has said it carried out the attack, but Afghan intelligence officials suggested the Haqqani network – militants allied with the Taliban – carried it out with Pakistan’s support. Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman described the claim as baseless. Stability in Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interests, said Nafees Zakaria, and the ‘rhetoric of blaming others’ to hide Afghanistan’s own failures was unhelpful.”

Reuters: Taliban Warns Against Retaliation Over Kabul Attack

“The Taliban warned the Afghan government on Thursday against harming any of their prisoners after reports that President Ashraf Ghani would order the execution of 11 militants on death row in revenge for the devastating truck bomb attack in Kabul. Ghani’s fragile and divided government has come under increasing pressure over its failure to provide security following a series of high-profile attacks that have killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians so far this year. Wednesday’s blast, at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ripped through a traffic-clogged street, packed with people on their way to school or work during the morning rush hour, causing hundreds of casualties in an instant and sending a tower of black smoke into the sky.”

The New York Times: Peace Efforts May Be Another Casualty Of Bombing In Afghanistan

“All around Kabul, the broken glass was being swept and the dead were still being buried on Thursday. They were the most visible signs of the toll taken by the huge truck bombing in the capital the day before, but another casualty of the violence may yet come into view: a new attempt to move toward peace negotiations with the Taliban. Over the past several weeks, the Afghan government and the foreign missions here have been preparing for a conference on Tuesday 6 in which senior representatives from nearly two dozen countries were to gather in Kabul to discuss the war.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Manchester Attack: Salman Abedi’s Cousins Say ‘He Did It Secretly’

“Two cousins of the Manchester bomber say they had no idea he was planning to carry out his attack. Isaac and Abz Forjani were arrested by police after the attack – and were questioned for a week – but have since been released without charge. They say they did not know about his extremist views – adding that he may have been radicalised abroad. Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the bombing and 10 remain in custody. Separately, Greater Manchester Police have released new CCTV images of Salman Abedi before he killed 22 people at the Manchester Arena on 22 May.”

Associated Press: UK Military Ends Week-Long Counter-Terrorism Deployment

“Britain’s Ministry of Defense has announced an end to its week-long deployment to help police cope with an increased threat of an extremist attack after the Manchester concert bombing. Chief of the Defense Staff Stuart Peach said Thursday that roughly 1,000 military personnel had been deployed along with police as the terrorist threat was raised to ‘critical’ after the attack that killed 22 people and injured dozens more. The official threat level has been lowered from ‘critical’ – the highest level, meaning an attack may be imminent – to ‘severe,’ which means the government believes an attack is highly likely.”

BBC News: Huddersfield And Sheffield Terror Arrests After Armed Raids

“Residents heard ‘loud bangs’ when armed officers swooped on two addresses in terror raids. The properties, in Huddersfield and Sheffield, were searched by counter-terror officers after police received a tip-off. Explosions heard by eyewitnesses in both locations were caused by police accessing properties, officers said. Two men, aged 24 and 29, were held in Huddersfield and Sheffield on suspicion of terror offences. The BBC understands the arrests are Islamist-related. Police said the raids were not linked to the recent Manchester Arena attack.”

France

Sputnik News: France Accused Of ‘Disproportionate’ Use Of Emergency Powers

“Human rights groups claim that the use of emergency powers in France, following a series of terrorist attacks has led to ‘disproportionate and unnecessary restrictions of the right to freedom of assembly’ in violation of the French motto ‘liberte egalite fraternite.’ According to a new report from Amnesty International, in 2016, the French authorities banned dozens of public assemblies using emergency powers and placed restrictions on hundreds of individuals to prevent them from exercising their right to freedom of assembly.”

Europe

Deutsche Welle: German, French Defense Ministers Talk New European Security Force

“At the press conference in Berlin after their first bilateral meeting, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her newly-appointed French colleague Sylvie Goulard started with a few words in each other’s language. The message was obvious. France and Germany want to be seen as a unit, working hand-in-hand to make Europe more responsible for its own security. ‘We know that our common friendship and common work goes far beyond bilateralism,’ von der Leyen said. ‘For both of our countries it’s crucial that we create more for Europe and that we work together toward a European defense and security union.’”

Philippines

NPR: Dozens Of Deaths Reported In Philippine Resort Attack

“Local media report at least 34 people have been found dead by suffocation in a luxury resort complex in the Philippines on Friday. Police have said they believe the man was robbing a casino when he fired a gun at Resorts World Manila, then used gasoline to burn gambling tables before stealing chips and escaping. Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa told reporters that police searching for the gunman found him dead of apparent suicide in a hotel room in the complex. Dela Rosa said the man had covered himself with a blanket, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.”

Newsweek: Manila Resort Shooting: ISIS Says ‘Lone Wolf Soldiers Of The Caliphate’ Responsible For Resorts World Attack

“Gunfire and explosions have been reported at a resort in the Philippine capital of Manila just after midnight local time Friday. Resorts World Manila, a resort complex in a residential and commercial center a short distance from the city’s airport, tweeted that it was on lockdown after ‘reports of gunfire from unidentified men.’ It added that it was ‘working closely’ with the police. A masked gunman entered one of the resort’s hotels and began firing at guests and employees, according to reports. Smoke was also seen emerging from the windows of the resort. Photos on social media showed victims being treated and removed from the scene by emergency service personnel. At least 25 people were injured and taken to hospitals, according to local media reports.”

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