Eye on Extremism, June 27, 2017

Voice Of America: Islamic State Tries To Regroup As Mosul Losses Mount
“With U.S.-backed Iraqi forces close to ending the Islamic State group’s grip on Mosul, security forces in neighboring Iraqi provinces are increasingly concerned about extremists moving into their areas. Kirkuk, Diyala and Salahuddin provinces have recently witnessed a surge in IS activities, and local security forces fear possible terror attacks by IS militants fleeing Mosul. ‘IS terrorists have raised their black flags in many villages and plains across the provincial borders,’ said Lieutenant Colonel Faruq Ahmed, head of the security department in Tuz Khurmatu, 200 kilometers from Mosul. ‘Some of those areas have not had many IS fighters since 2014.’”
Newsweek: ISIS Using Drones Rigged With Munitions To Attack Advancing Forces In Raqqa
“The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is increasingly turning to drone warfare in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa as it loses swaths of territory in the de facto capital of its self-declared caliphate. The city has been under siege by a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters since June 6. But now ISIS fighters are using technological means to slow the advance of the coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. According to France 24, its correspondents witnessed, firsthand, grenade-size munitions attached to unmanned drones that are difficult to stop because of their size and speed.”
ABC News. AU: Can Social Media And Tech Companies Combat Terrorism?
“Some of the world’s biggest social media and tech companies are joining forces to remove terrorist content from their platforms. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft say they’ll share technical solutions in what they’re calling the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Are these social media and tech companies really doing enough to detect and block extremist content? Joining The World Today is David Ibsen, the executive director of The Counter Extremism Project, a non-partisan, international policy organisation formed to combat the threat from extremist ideologies.”
i24 News: CEP Research Director Julie Shain discusses Russian claims that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was killed and if true, how it might impact the future of the terror group.
New York Times: Syria Will ‘Pay A Heavy Price’ For Another Chemical Attack, White House Says
“The White House said late Monday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria appeared to be preparing another chemical weapons attack, and warned that he would “pay a heavy price” if one took place. Several military officials were caught off guard by the statement from President Trump’s press secretary, but it was unclear how closely held the intelligence regarding a potential chemical attack was. In the statement, the White House said that Mr. Assad’s preparations appeared similar to the ones Western intelligence officials believe the Syrian government made before a chemical attack in April that killed dozens of Syrians, including children.”
Reuters: Bahrain Accuses Qatar Of Military Escalation In Gulf Row
“Bahrain’s foreign minister accused Qatar on Monday of creating a military escalation in a dispute with regional powers, in an apparent reference to Doha’s decision to let more Turkish troops enter its territory. Bahrain, alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar three weeks ago, accusing it of backing militants – then issued an ultimatum, including demands that Qatar shut down a Turkish military base in Doha. Turkey, the most powerful regional player to stand with Qatar, has increased the number of its troops in the base since the crisis erupted.”
The Jerusalem Post: Islamic State-Affiliated Group Claims Gaza Rocket Attack On Israel
“Islamic State-affiliated group Ahfad al-Sahaba claimed the firing of a rocket from Gaza that hit an open area on Monday night. The group claimed responsibility via a statement that was shared through Israeli media. This is not the first time that the group, which has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for a rocket attack. The projectile landed in an open area near the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in southern Israel, the IDF said.  No injuries and no damage were reported. A red siren alert was not activated as it was detected early on that the projectile was aimed at an open area.”
Washington Post: Russia Says Extremists Planned Deadly Bombing Using Encrypted Chat App Telegram
“Russia’s powerful state security agency said Monday that terrorists used the encrypted messenger app Telegram to plan a deadly attack on the St. Petersburg metro, a disclosure that buttressed lawmakers’ efforts to curb the anonymous use of encoded chat programs popular among jihadists, opposition activists and government officials alike. The statement by the Federal Security Service (FSB) came as Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, moved forward on several laws targeting anonymity on the Russian segment of the Internet, including a ban on the use of virtual private networks that mask IP addresses. The government of President Vladi­mir Putin is increasingly enforcing legislation demanding that social networks store their information in Russia, blocking the employment site LinkedIn earlier this year in an apparent effort to pressure larger networks such as Facebook to comply with the law.”
United States
Reuters: U.S. Threatens Syria, Says Assad Is Planning Chemical Weapons Attack
“The White House warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday that he and his military would ‘pay a heavy price’ if it conducted a chemical weapons attack and said the United States had reason to believe such preparations were underway. The White House said in a statement released late on Monday the preparations by Syria were similar to those undertaken before an April 4 chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base. ‘The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,’ White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.”
The Washington Post: Key Senator Threatens Arms Sales To Persian Gulf Countries Over Qatar Dispute
“The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Monday that he would ‘withhold consent’ from all U.S. arms sales to Persian Gulf countries until the ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is resolved. While congratulating President Trump on signing a joint statement of unity last month with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that recent conflicts among GCC members ‘only serve to hurt efforts to fight ISIS and counter Iran.’ ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State.”
The Hill: Trump Admin Unveils Cyber Pact With Israel
“The Trump administration announced a new bilateral working group between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity. Tom Bossert, White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, disclosed the new partnership to combat cyberattacks during remarks at an annual cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv. ‘These high-level meetings represent the first step in strengthening bilateral ties on cyber issues following President Trump’s visit to Israel,’ Bossert said at Cyber Week 2017, according to Reuters. ‘The agility Israel has in developing solutions will innovate cyber defenses that we can test here and bring back to America,’ the White House aide continued. ‘Perfect security may not be achievable but we have within our reach a safer and more secure Internet.’”
BBC News: Trump Travel Ban Injunction Partly Lifted By Top US Court
“US President Donald Trump has welcomed a Supreme Court ruling allowing his travel ban to be partly reinstated as a ‘victory for our national security’. America’s highest court also granted a White House request allowing part of its refugee ban to go into effect. The justices said they would consider in October whether the president’s policy should be upheld or struck down. Mr Trump seeks to place a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations and a 120-day ban on refugees. The president welcomed the ruling’s qualified authorisation to bar visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, which he described as ‘terror-prone countries’.”
BBC News: Donald Trump And Narendra Modi Warn Pakistan Over Terror ‘Launches’
“US President Donald Trump and Indian PM Narendra Modi have urged Pakistan to ensure its territory is not used to launch terror attacks. They issued their call in a statement released by the White House shortly after the two met in Washington DC. It comes after attacks in recent years on Indian soil which Delhi claims were conducted by Pakistan-based militants. The two also discussed improving trade links. It was the first time the two leaders had met face to face. The White House also said India ‘appreciated’ the recent move by the US to label top Kashmiri militant Syed Salahuddin a ‘specially designated global terrorist’, which effectively blocks him from transactions in the US.”
Syria
Reuters: Commentary: Islamic State’s Financial Withdrawal Poses Big Anti-Laundering Challenge
“As the Islamic State (IS) loses its position in Mosul, Iraq, as well as egress points in Syria, so too begins the strategic withdrawal of Sunni militants and financial assets from the area, which presents a major new challenge to anti-money laundering officers. IS fighters will retreat through human smuggling networks to other countries. The group’s illicit proceeds, which total tens of billions of dollars, are derived from plundering banks, siphoning and trafficking of black market oil, kidnapping for ransom, human trafficking, organ trafficking, and stolen antiquities, according to Western governments and analysts.”
Iraq
Reuters: Mosul Battle To End In Days As Troops Advance In Old City: Iraqi General
“The battle to wrest full control of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State will be over in a few days, the Iraqi military said on Monday, as elite counter-terrorism units fought militants among the narrow alleyways of the historic Old City. An attempted fight-back by militants failed on Sunday night and Islamic State’s grip on the city, once its de facto capital in Iraq, was weakened, a senior commander said. ‘Only a small part (of the militants) remains in the city, specifically the Old City,’ Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) in Mosul, told Reuters.”
Reuters: U.S. Eyes Arms For YPG Fighters In Syria Even After Raqqa’s Fall
“U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday left open the possibility of longer-term assistance to Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, saying the U.S. may need to supply them weapons and equipment even after the capture of Raqqa from Islamic State. NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a threat, has said Mattis assured it in a letter that the United States would eventually take back the weapons it was giving them once Islamic State was defeated. Mattis, in his first public remarks on the issue, did not directly dispute that account. ‘We’ll do what we can,’ Mattis told reporters during his flight to Germany, when asked about weapons recovery.”
Reuters: Russia’s Lavrov, U.S. Secretary Of State Tillerson Discuss Syrian Conflict
“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed by telephone on Monday the need to cement the ceasefire regime in Syria, in particular on the basis of peace talks conducted in the Kazakh capital Astana. The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that Lavrov had urged Tillerson to use his influence to prevent ‘provocations’ against Syrian government forces in the conflict. Russia is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Lavrov and Tillerson agreed to continue contacts, including on their bilateral agenda, the statement said. Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump have not yet met since Trump took office in January.”
CNN: Hack That Plants ISIS Message Hits Another State Government Website
“A government website in the state of Washington is the latest victim of a hacking attack that plants what appears to be pro-ISIS propaganda. David Johnson, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Health, confirmed parts of the department’s website were hacked Monday morning, with a message similar to what appeared on other municipal sites across the country earlier Monday and on Sunday. A screen shot provided by the spokesman shows the same Arabic logo and claim that the hack was carried out by ‘Team System DZ,’ the same language that appeared on hacked sites in Ohio, Maryland and New York.”
Reuters: U.S. Judge Halts Deportation Of Iraqis Nationwide
“A federal judge halted late on Monday the deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during immigration sweeps across the United States this month until at least July 10, expanding a stay he imposed last week. The stay had initially only protected 114 detainees from the Detroit area. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith sided with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union who filed an amended complaint on Saturday seeking to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting Iraqis from anywhere in the United States.”
The Hill: Defense Policy Bill Would Require Trump’s Afghanistan, Syria Strategies
“The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the annual defense policy bill would require the president to give Congress his strategies for United States involvement in Afghanistan and Syria. The provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are meant to ensure the administration follows through on its promise to give Congress an Afghanistan strategy and build off a previous bill’s requirement that it give Congress a Syria strategy, a committee aide said Monday. For Afghanistan, Defense Secretary James Mattis has promised to deliver Congress a new strategy by mid-July that would include a troop increase of a few thousand to break what top generals have described as a stalemate.”
Turkey
The New York Times: President Erdogan of Turkey Recovers From Minor Health Scare
“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey appeared to faint on Sunday because of what he said were complications with his blood-sugar level and blood pressure. Mr. Erdogan, 63, was sitting for early morning prayers when he seemed to lose consciousness for a few moments at a mosque in Istanbul, several Turkish news outlets reported. He was quickly treated on a stretcher by doctors and made a rapid recovery; less than an hour later, he gave an explanation for the incident in a speech to reporters. ‘Today, I had a little instability due to my blood pressure, for reasons related to my blood sugar,’ Mr. Erdogan said. ‘But now I am recovered and in a better condition.’”
Yemen
Reuters: Yemen Official Says Disappointed By U.S. Supreme Court Decision On Travel Ban
“A Yemeni government official expressed disappointment over a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to allow much of President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees to go back into effect. ‘We’re disappointed with this decision. We believe it will not help in confronting terrorism and extremism, but rather will increase feelings among the nationals of these countries that they are all being targeted,’ said Ahmed al-Nasi, an official in Yemen’s Ministry of Expatriate Affairs. This was especially the case, he added, ‘given that Yemen is an active partner of the United States in the war on terrorism,’ conducting joint operations against militants inside Yemen.”
Middle East
The Washington Post: UAE Military Buildup Draws Scrutiny After Yemen Allegations
“With soccer sponsorships, record-setting skyscrapers and wintertime golfing, the United Arab Emirates has projected an image of comfort and opportunity in a volatile region. But the quiet expansion of its military footprint is drawing a different kind of attention to the Gulf federation as it wades into some of the region’s messiest conflicts. The Emirates flatly denied allegations revealed in an Associated Press investigation last week that its forces were running secret prisons inside Yemen where detainees were tortured, calling it ‘completely untrue.’”
Haaretz: Israeli Warplanes Strike Hamas Targets In Gaza After Rocket Fire
“The Israel Air Force struck in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning after a rocket launched from Gaza exploded in Israeli territory the previous evening. Israeli warplanes targeted two Hamas positions, the Israeli army said in a statement. No injuries were reported and rescue teams were dispatched to the targeted places, said Ashraf al-Qedra, a Gaza Health Ministry spokesman. According to the IDF, the Islamic Jihad organization is responsible for the rocket fire. The incident is relatively unusual, considering the rocket’s range. No damage or casualties were caused by the rocket, which struck at the Isareli community of Sha’ar Hanegev.”
Nigeria
The Washington Post: At Least 9 Dead In Boko Haram Attacks In Northeast Nigeria
“Authorities in northeastern Nigeria say at least nine people have been killed by suicide bombers in a series of attacks in the area. Borno state police commissioner Damian Chukwu said Monday that most of the attackers were teenage girls who were heavily wired with deadly explosives. Among the targets was the University of Maiduguri, where one civilian died. Attacks at two residential buildings in the Zannari community later killed eight others. Several other young women detonated their explosives without killing other people.”
Germany
Newsweek: Islam In Germany: Berlin Mosque Where Burqas Are Banned And LGBT Muslims Welcome Defies Fatwa
“The woman who opened a mosque in Berlin where men and women pray together and face-covering headscarves are banned has vowed to defy a fatwa from Egypt’s highest Islamic authority and criticism from the Turkish government. German-Turkish women’s rights activist Seyran Ates, 54, pioneered the opening of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque in the Moabit neighborhood of Berlin on June 16. Ates said that the mosque was open to all, including LGBT Muslims, and would seek to provide a liberal counterpoint to extremist interpretations of Islam espoused by groups like the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).”
Deutsche Welle: Things To Know About Germany’s Recent Surveillance Laws
“Germany has passed an unprecedented spate of new surveillance and security laws, often with impossibly long and hard to understand names. DW guides you through the most important of them. If you think the English translation is a mouthful, try the German on for size: Gesetz zur Einführung einer Speicherpflicht und einer Höchstspeichterfrist für Verkehrsdaten. This law requires telecommunications companies as of July 1, 2017 to collect and retain user data and make it available for preventing crime and combating public dangers. It also makes it easier for the government to require people in certain professions like journalism to turn over data. It’s the subject of a constitutional challenge.”
Reuters: Germany’s Far-Right Afd Reprimands Member Over Neo-Nazi Slogan
“The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) reprimanded a party member on Monday for using neo-Nazi slogans on a messaging service, saying it damaged the party’s image before the country’s September election. The AfD made big electoral gains last year, capitalizing on fears about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward migrants but its support has roughly halved in the past 12 months due partly to a slowdown in refugee arrivals. The party has also been dogged by an internal power struggle and disagreements over how to deal with members who have used neo-Nazi language or adopted some arguments put forward by the ultra-rightist National Democratic Party (NPD).”
Europe
Fox News: Attacks In Europe Signal Shift In Terrorists’ Tactics
“Two botched attacks in Europe in recent days signal that Islamist terror has reached a new phase, security officials say, one that is more disorganized and less sophisticated but risks spawning more assailants eager to kill with any means at hand. When an Islamic State sympathizer tried to set off a bomb Tuesday night at a train station here, it failed to detonate with the intended force. Investigators suspect he used a faulty explosives recipe found online. The intended victims were able to flee, and the attacker was shot dead.”
Reuters: Russia, Upping Pressure On Telegram App, Says It Was Used To Plot Bombing
“Russia’s FSB security service said on Monday that terrorists had used the Telegram messaging app to carry out a deadly suicide bombing on Russian soil, increasing pressure on the app days after the authorities accused it of breaking data laws. Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Friday it would block Telegram soon unless it handed over information needed to put the app on an official government list of information distributors. Telegram has so far refused to comply because it fears complying would undermine the privacy of its more than 6 million Russian users. Once on the list, it would have to store information about its users on Russian servers and hand over user information to the authorities on request.”
Counter-Terrorism
Shorouk: The Role Of Arab TV Drama In Dealing With The Phenomenon Of Terrorism
“The Future for Advanced Research & Studies published an article analyzing Arab television dramas and artistic works presented during the month of Ramadan which attempted to address the most pressing issue in the present-day Arab reality – terrorism. It claimed that, although their intention was to solve the terror crisis, these productions only made it worse. The phenomenon of terrorism has appeared in Arab drama for decades, due to the persistence of this issue in the Arab World. This is in line with the increasing role being played by the media in raising awareness in society, given its huge popularity compared to other means of information.”
Financing of Terrorism
Alwast: Egypt: Researcher Accuses Rights Group Of Receiving Funding From Individuals Included On Terror Lists
“Researcher and leader in Egypt’s leftist Tagammu Party, Haitham Sharabi, claimed that the Gamal Eid rights group has received funding from Abdul Rahman al-Nuaimi. Note that al-Nuaimi appears on the terror list issued by four countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. “Al-Karama Libraries, belonging to rights activist Gamal Eid, were established with money obtained from the Geneva-based Al-Karama Charity, which is owned by Abdul Rahman al-Nuaimi,” Sharabi claimed. He added: “Recently, Gamal Eid’s money was seized and he was barred from traveling. The libraries were shut down, and at that time he stated that the government was fighting libraries. This may explain why Gamal Eid and lawyers belonging to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information defended in the Egyptian court system parties implicated in the Rabaa {sit-in demonstrations} case and Brotherhood-affiliated journalists, and issued statements of solidarity with the opposition in Bahrain.”
ISIS
Alanba: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Facilitates ISIS Passage Into Kirkuk
“Kurdish sources claimed that ISIS is working tirelessly to multiply the number of its militants in Kirkuk, the basin of Hamrin and the outskirts of Tuzkurmatu district. This is despite the intensive presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias south of Kirkuk. The Kurdish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is brokering the passage of ISIS to Kirkuk. The newspaper reported that there are seven military bases of Quds Force where hundreds of Iranian soldiers and officers are deployed. Their mission is to supervise the leadership of al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias. The Iranian forces are the only ones that can use heavy weapons and missiles in these bases. The region has recently witnessed large numbers of Iranian soldiers and al-Hashd forces arriving at these bases situated near areas under ISIS control, the report added.”
The Seventh Day: Archeological Remnants Uncovered In ISIS Sites In Libya
“The Libyan armed forces found antiquities at a known ISIS site in the center of Souq Elhout neighborhood in downtown Benghazi. Sky News’ Arabia TV channel aired a video clip, uploaded on social media websites on Monday, showing soldiers from the Libyan National Army (LNA) inspecting the findings. The clip depicts stone-carved busts and ceramic artifacts. According to one of the LNA soldiers, ISIS militants had plotted to smuggle the antiquities for sale outside Libya.”
Muslim Brotherhood
Dostor: Egyptian Parliament Member Objects To Law Terminating Jobs Of Muslim Brotherhood Affiliates
“Egyptian MP Amani Aziz, Secretary of the Parliament’s Religious Committee, voiced her objection to a draft law prepared by MP Mohammed Abu Hamed to dismiss Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated employees from their jobs. She noted that this idea is not applicable among the Egyptian people, even if they are found to be affiliated with the Brotherhood. She pointed out that things must be dealt with quietly and indirectly. Aziz explained in press statements that the dismissal can only be applied to senior management officials, because through their work they can exploit employees and influence their minds. She noted that the law cannot be generalized to ordinary employees. In addition, she claimed that citizens are free {to support various ideological groups} as long as it is proved they are not involved in terrorist acts.”

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