Eye on Extremism, June 09, 2017

Voice Of America: UN: Islamic State Killed 231 Civilians Trying To Flee Mosul
“The United Nations Human Rights Office said Thursday it has ‘credible reports’ indicating Islamic State fighters in Iraq killed at least 231 civilians who were trying to flee western Mosul. The reported killings happened between May 26 and June 3, all in the al-Shifa neighborhood, and involved people trying to get from Islamic State-held areas to locations held by Iraqi troops. The United Nations also said it is still investigating reports of other civilian casualties from an airstrike in the Zanjilly section of western Mosul that reportedly killed between 50 and 80 people.”
The Times Of Israel: US Busts Hezbollah Plot To Attack Israelis In New York, Panama
“The US Justice Department Thursday said it arrested two men tied to Hezbollah who had been plotting attacks against Americans and Israelis in the US and Panama. On June 1, Samer El Debek was arrested in Livonia, Michigan, while Ali Kourani was arrested in the Bronx. Both men are being held in New York City. A statement from US authorities claims that the men tried to provide support to ‘Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad organization’ after receiving weapons and bomb-making training from the group in Lebanon.”
Reuters: Islamic State Claims Suicide Attack Killing At Least 20 Near Shi’ite Holy City
“A suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt in a market east of the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala on Friday, killing at least 20 and wounding 25, Iraqi security sources said. Islamic State claimed the attack in the town of Musayab, in a statement on its Amaq news agency.”
U.S. News & World Report: Would-Be Attackers Undeterred By ISIS Losses In Iraq, Syria
“Analysts say they expect to see an uptick in terror attacks inspired by the Islamic State group in the wake of last weekend’s deadly assault near London Bridge – a position starkly at odds with the pronouncements of U.S. military leaders who have long predicted the group’s ability to inspire violence would diminish with the size of its so-called caliphate. ‘As perverse as it sounds, the ISIS brand and its violent ideology still resonates strongly with a global following not deterred by its battlefield losses,’ says Martin Reardon, a Marine Corps and FBI veteran with deep experience in counterterrorism and intelligence operations, now a senior vice president at The Soufan Group.”
Reuters: Officials Probe U.S. Cleric’s Possible Influence On London Attackers: Sources
“Investigators are looking into whether or not the Islamist militants who attacked civilians with a truck and knives in London last Saturday may have been inspired in part by a U.S. cleric, European and U.S. government officials said. The cleric, Ahmad Musa Jebril, who had been living in the Detroit area for some years, is one of several described by authorities as online propagandists who could have influenced the three attackers, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. Jebril was first identified on Sunday as a possible inspiration for the London attacks when the British Broadcasting Corporation ran an interview by its Asian Network with a former friend of one of the attackers, whom he said listened to Jebril’s sermons posted on the internet.”
CNN: US Aircraft Shoots Down Iranian-Made Drone In Syria
“US aircraft shot down an Iranian-made drone that fired on coalition forces patrolling with partner forces in southern Syria, a coalition spokesman told reporters on Thursday. This is the first time that pro-Syrian regime forces — which the US says includes Iranian-backed Shia militias — have fired on the US-led coalition. A US official told CNN that a US F-15 jet shot down the Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone, which was being controlled from a location in Syria north of At Tanf. It was shot down after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position where coalition personnel are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS.”
Al Arabiya: Arab Powers List 59 Individuals As Qatar-Linked Terrorism Supporters
“Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have collectively designated 59 individuals and 12 institutions that have financed terrorist organizations and received support from Qatar. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and the Kingdom of Bahrain are unified in their ongoing commitment to combatting terrorism, drying up the sources of its funding, countering extremist ideology and the tools of its dissemination and promotion, and to working together to defeat terrorism and protect all societies from its impact.,” according to a statement made available to Al Arabiya News Channel.”
Newsweek: ISIS Militants Plotted Tehran Attacks For A Year, Fought In Iraq And Syria, Iran Says
“The Islamic State group (ISIS) militants who perpetrated two deadly gun and bomb attacks Wednesday in Tehran were Iranians who had joined the jihadis fighting in Iraq and Syria before returning last year, according to Iranian intelligence. In a statement published Thursday, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said the five men responsible for ISIS’s first major attacks in Iran operated within a network led by ‘high-ranking Daesh commander’ Abu Aisha, referencing the Arabic-language acronym for ISIS. The attacks in Tehran’s parliament and the mausoleum of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini killed 17 people and injured over 50.”
The Economist: Tech Firms Could Do More To Help Stop The Jihadists
“Three jihadist attacks in Britain in as many months have led to a flood of suggestions about how to fight terrorism, from more police and harsher jail sentences to new legal powers. But one idea has gained momentum in both Europe and America—that internet firms are doing the jihadists’ work for them. Technology giants, such as Google and Facebook, are accused of turning a blind eye to violent online propaganda and other platforms of allowing terrorists to communicate with each other out of reach of the intelligence services.”
United States
Reuters: U.S. Wary Of French Push For U.N. To Back Sahel Force: Diplomats
“The United States is wary of a French push for the U.N. Security Council to authorize a West African force to combat terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel region because it does not believe it is warranted and does not want the world body to help fund it, diplomats said on Thursday. France circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Tuesday to the 15-member body that would approve the force using ‘all necessary means’ and ask U.N. chief Antonio Guterres to report on options for U.N. support to the operation. Closed-door negotiations began on Wednesday, and diplomats said the United States would prefer the council give its blessing in a statement instead of a resolution and encourage bilateral support for the West African force.”
Radio Free Europe: U.S. Opposes Kurdish Region’s Move To Vote On Independence From Iraq
“The United States on June 8 said it opposes a decision by Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum in September on independence from Iraq. ‘The United States supports a unified, federal, stable, and democratic Iraq,’ State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Kurds currently enjoy almost total autonomy in the northern region or Iraq today, but tensions with the Baghdad government remain over control of oil reserves. Though Kurds have proved to be tough and reliable allies in the fight against the Islamic State, the United States is wary of the Kurds’ longstanding dream of full independence, fearing a split could provoke a new round of conflict in Iraq.”
Reuters: Fighters Move Cautiously Into Islamic State-Held Raqqa
“At Raqqa’s eastern edge, a handful of Syrian fighters cross a river by foot and car, all the while relaying their coordinates to the U.S.-led coalition so they don’t fall victim to friendly fire. This is their only way into al-Mishlab, the first district the Kurdish and Arab militias have swept into, in what the coalition says will be a long and difficult battle for Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto ‘capital’ in Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched their assault to capture the city this week. As artillery and coalition aircraft pounded targets in the city, SDF fighters moved in small groups into the district during a media trip organized by the SDF.”
Reuters: U.N. Warns Of Increasing Civilian Deaths In Battle For Iraqi City Of Mosul
“Children trying to flee western Mosul have been shot dead by Islamic State militants, the U.N. human rights office said on Thursday, saying it had reports of a ‘significant escalation’ in civilians deaths in the battle for the Iraqi city. It also said it was investigating reports that 50-80 people had died in an air strike on the Zanjili district of Mosul on May 31. It did not say who carried out the strike. The killing of fleeing civilians by Islamic State militants occurred in the al-Shifa neighbourhood on May 26, June 1 and June 3, it said.”
Reuters: Turkey Says Iraqi Kurdish Plan For Independence Vote A ‘Terrible Mistake’
“Turkey on Friday called a plan by Iraqi Kurds to hold a referendum on independence a ‘terrible mistake’, saying that Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity was a fundamental principle for Ankara. ‘We think this will represent a terrible mistake,’ the foreign ministry said in a statement. Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday said it would hold a referendum on independence, a move unlikely to be welcome by the central government in Baghdad.”
Voice Of America: Turkey Agrees To Send Up To 3,000 Troops To Qatar Amid Gulf Diplomatic Crisis
“Turkey’s decision to send up to 3,000 troops to Qatar further cements their growing ties, but it virtually eliminates a possible role for Ankara to mediate between Qatar and the Gulf states that have decided to isolate it for alleged support of terrorism. Both countries have found themselves increasingly isolated Turkey for the increasing authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatar for its alleged financial support of extremist groups and growing ties with Iran, the main competitor to Saudi Arabia for power and influence in the region. Qatar denies the allegation.”
BBC News: Islamic State Claims It Killed Two Chinese In Pakistan
“The so-called Islamic State says it has killed two Chinese nationals who were abducted from south-west Pakistan by armed men in late May. The IS-linked Amaq news agency made the claim in an Arabic statement on the Telegram messaging app. China’s foreign ministry said it was ‘gravely concerned’ and working to verify the information. The pair are said to have been studying Urdu at a language centre in the city of Quetta when they were abducted. According to local media reports at the time of the abduction, armed men took the couple as they left the centre. Another Chinese woman just managed to escape during the confrontation.”
Reuters: Pakistan Says Raid On Cave Hideout Stops Islamic State ‘Foothold’
“Pakistan’s military has killed 12 Islamic State-linked militants in a raid on their cave hideout in Baluchistan province, the army said on Thursday, cutting off Islamic State’s bid to establish a foothold in the resource-rich province. Islamic State, which controls some territory in neighboring Afghanistan, has struggled to establish a presence in Pakistan but it has claimed several major attacks, including one on the deputy chairman of the Senate last month in Baluchistan in which 25 people were killed. The military said the raid near the town of Mastung, 50 km (30 miles) south of the provincial capital, Quetta, targeted militants from the banned Lashkar-e-Jangvi Al Alami (LeJ-AL) group, which has carried out attacks with Islamic State.”
The Economist: Al-Qaeda Is Losing Ground In Yemen. Yet Is Far From Defeated
“Safe behind multiple walls of sandbags at his airbase on Yemen’s coast, a United Arab Emirates army commander points at a map of southern Yemen liberally covered in red. It indicates, he says, the reach of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in March 2016. A second map, dated six months after his men marched ashore that month, has just a few red blotches left. In a four-pronged attack, Emirati forces managed in a single day, without loss, to evict AQAP from Mukalla, one of Yemen’s main ports and the capital of its largest province, Hadramawt.”
Reuters: Egypt And Bahrain Keep Pressure On Qatar In Gulf Crisis
“Egypt and Bahrain kept up pressure on Qatar on Thursday, giving no indication after talks in Cairo between their leaders that they were ready to soften their stance on the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf. The two countries, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of backing Islamist militants and their enemy Iran – charges Qatar denies. Several other countries followed suit. King Hamad of Bahrain met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Thursday. In a statement issued by the Egyptian presidency, they gave no sign they were ready to compromise.”
Middle East
The Economist: How Israel Spots Lone-Wolf Attackers
“Such is the rhythm of the Palestinian ‘stabbing intifada’. Since its outbreak in late 2015, there have been hundreds of knife and car-ramming attacks against Israelis. If the violence has ebbed, it may be in part because the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have become better at forestalling attacks. Israeli spooks reckon they have lessons to offer Western countries struggling to stop lone wolves. One is that conventional intelligence organisations, even Israel’s well-honed system, are designed to penetrate organised terrorist groups, so they struggle to spot imminent attacks by self-radicalised individuals or small groups.”
The Times Of Israel: Arab Israeli Brothers Charged In Hamas Plot To Murder Israeli Officer
“Four Arab Israelis were charged Thursday with serious offenses connected to an alleged plan to assassinate an Israeli army officer in revenge for the shooting death in Gaza in March of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas terror chief. Three further suspects are in custody. Faqha was jailed for life for orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing that killed nine people, but was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was held by Hamas for five years. In Gaza, he oversaw efforts to recruit cells to carry out terror attacks from the West Bank against Israeli targets. He was killed on March 24 by unknown gunmen.”
The Jerusalem Post: Hamas Leader Killed In ‘Accidental’ Gaza Explosion
“A prominent leader of Hamas’ Izzadin Kassam brigade was killed Wednesday in an ‘accidental’ explosion in southern Gaza, according to PA news outlet Ma’an. The explosion occurred at a Hamas post near Rafah, injuring three other militants, according to the Palestinian news agency. Hamas described Ibrahim Hussein Abu al-Naja as a prominent leader and said the source of the explosion was not clear.  This is not the first time militants have been killed in mysterious Gaza Strip explosions, with Ma’an reporting that numerous Hamas ‘resistance posts’ have been destroyed over the past few years.”
Reuters: Qatar Vows No Surrender In Gulf Crisis As U.S., Kuwait Seek Solution
“Qatar vowed on Thursday to ride out the isolation imposed on it by fellow Arab states over its alleged support for terrorism and said it would not compromise its sovereignty over foreign policy to resolve the region’s biggest diplomatic crisis in years. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed relations with the small Gulf Arab state on Monday, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and their arch-adversary Iran – charges Qatar calls baseless. Several other countries later followed suit.”
United Kingdom
Newsweek: How ISIS-Inspired Terrorism Came To The U.K.
“There was a time when the U.K. considered itself insulated against the Islamic State militant group known as ISIS. Britons flowed out of the country to join the violence abroad, but the carnage never came home. Europe was not so lucky. In May 2014, a month before ISIS declared the formation of its so-called caliphate, a man opened fire at a Jewish museum in Brussels killing three people and fatally wounding a fourth. A former prisoner of ISIS, the French journalist Nicolas Hénin, identified the suspect Mehdi Nemmouche as one of his tormentors.”
BBC News: Arrest Over London Terror Attack
“Police investigating the terror attack at London Bridge, in which eight people died, have made another arrest. The 29-year-old man was detained in Newham, east London – the 18th person to be arrest in the inquiry. It brings the total number of people in custody to five. Twelve others, who were arrested on Sunday, were released without charge the following day. One further man, arrested on suspicion of drugs and firearms offences, was bailed, the Metropolitan Police said. The 29-year-old man was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning on suspicion of being involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”
The New York Times: Syrian Accused Of Working For ISIS News Agency Is Arrested In Germany
“The authorities in Germany announced on Thursday that they had arrested a 23-year-old Syrian who is suspected of working for the Islamic State’s news agency, which announces claims of responsibility for the group’s attacks, including the most recent ones in London and Tehran. According to a statement from the federal prosecutor’s office, the Syrian — a man identified only as Mohammed G., who was arrested on Wednesday — arrived in Germany in September 2015. ‘Once he arrived, he acted as a contact person between the news agency Amaq, which is considered part of Islamic State, and possible assailants of the terror organization,’ the statement said.”
Associated Press: Germany Providing $3.9 Million For Refugees In Libya
“Germany is pledging an additional 3.5 million euros ($3.9 million) to help improve conditions for refugees in Libya. On an unannounced visit to Tripoli on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said many migrants in Libya ‘are in a desperate situation.’ The money, to be paid by 2018, comes in response to a call from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. According to a transcript provided by the Foreign Ministry, Gabriel said the money will be in addition to Germany paying the ‘lion’s share’ of a 100-million-euro regional program run by the International Organization for Migration.”
BBC News: French Rail Drama As Actor Mistaken For Terrorist On TGV
“When a train conductor heard the English words ‘gun’ and ‘weapon’ from a toilet on board a high-speed train travelling through southern France, he feared the worst. A day after an attacker was foiled outside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, tension was high as police boarded the train at Valence station. But the suspect in the train’s toilet was just an actor rehearsing a part. He was taken off the train for questioning and eventually released. The drama unfolded on Wednesday afternoon as the high-speed TGV buzzed through the French countryside en route from Marseille to Paris, France Bleu website reports (in French).”
Reuters: With Eyes On Libya, France Cements Egypt Security Ties
“France’s foreign minister said on Thursday he had firmed up security ties with Egypt, which was the ‘central element’ to ensuring regional stability as the two countries seek to break the political impasse in neighboring Libya. Paris and Cairo have nurtured closer economic and military ties in recent years and with the rise to power of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that relationship has improved with both sides concerned by the ongoing political vacuum in Libya and the rise of jihadist groups in Egypt. Speaking after a day of meetings in Cairo, including with Sisi, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in his previous role as defense minister had developed a personal relationship with Sisi, said the two allies had a ‘common vision’ on how to tackle Islamist militants.”
Reuters: Kosovo Islamic State Commander Killed, Police And Family Say
“A self-proclaimed commander of Albanians fighting with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, notorious at home in Kosovo for a video showing him beheading a man, has been killed, police and his family said on Thursday. Lavdrim Muhaxheri, 28, died in the Middle East, but it was not clear in which country, they told Reuters. A video posted on the Internet in 2014 showed Muhaxheri beheading a young man in Iraq accused by IS of spying for the Iraqi government. Another showed him killing another person with a rocket-propelled grenade.”


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