Eye on Extremism, June 30, 2017

Reuters: ​Civilians flee as Iraqi forces attack last Islamic State redoubt in Mosul
“U.S.-backed Iraqi forces attacked Islamic State’s remaining redoubt in Mosul’s Old City on Friday, a day after formally declaring the end of the insurgents’ self-declared caliphate and the capture of the historic mosque which symbolized their power. Dozens of civilians fled in the direction of the Iraqi forces, mostly women and children, some wounded by insurgents fire, thirsty and tired. Commanders of Iraq’s CTS counter terrorism units cautioned that with the mostly non-Iraqi IS militants dug in among civilians and likely to fight to the death, the battle ahead was challenging.”
The Telegraph: US-backed coalition tightens noose on Raqqa
“US-backed fighters have seized the last road into Raqqa and are moving eastward along the river south of the city, almost completing the siege on the Islamic State’s de-facto capital, US officials and a Syria war monitor said Thursday. A spokesman for the US-led coalition told The Associated Press that the Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of all high-speed routes into Raqqa from the south. The Kurdish-led fighters had been advancing from the city’s east after they seized a major stronghold in May, and from the west and north.”South of the Euphrates river the SDF now control all high-speed routes into Raqqa,” Col. Joe Scrocca, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said in emails to the AP. Moving toward the Euphrates from the east “would completely encircle the city and has been the SDF plan from the start.”
The Guardian: Counter-Terrorism Was Never Meant To Be Silicon Valley’s Job. Is That Why It’s Failing?
“Hany Farid, senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project, agrees. ‘They spend huge resources developing technology to find the data about users to target advertising,’ he said. ‘I’m 100% sure that if they put even a fraction of that effort into building an early warning system they could make an impact.’ It takes minutes to find a plethora of terrorist content, including a Facebook page with a recruitment video celebrating the martyrdom of a Canadian jihadi (which Facebook deemed OK when reported). On YouTube it’s easy to find videos of English-speaking Isis fighters calling for American radicals to ‘stab a kafir with a knife, throw him off a building or run him over with a car.”
The New York Times: Report Confirms That Chemical Arms Were Used On Syrian Villagers
“Sarin nerve agent or a similar poison was used in an April 4 aerial attack in northern Syria that killed nearly 100 villagers, including children, the monitoring group that polices the chemical arms ban treaty concluded Thursday in a report shared with United Nations diplomats. The report by the group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the conclusions were based on evidence that included analysis of victims, environmental samples and witness interviews. It did not answer the question of who was responsible for the attack in the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun, regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the six-year-old Syria conflict, where chemical arms have been used multiple times.”
WGBH: The Lone Wolf: The Path To Online Radicalization
“Following a string of attacks carried out by so-called “lone wolf” terrorists, Juliette digs into the issue of online self-radicalization and what can be done to prevent it. Her left-of-boom discussion with Tara Maller of the Counter Extremism Project exposes how groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda recruit would-be terrorists, and why social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s Youtube have failed to keep their platforms free of terrorist propaganda.”
Wall Street Journal: Germany to Social Networks: Delete Hate Speech Faster or Face Fines
“BERLIN—German lawmakers passed legislation Friday that would fine social-media companies up to $57 million if they fail to quickly delete hate speech, libel and other illegal content, one of the most aggressive efforts in the West to regulate content posted online.”
New York Times: Jury Finds United States May Seize Iran-Linked Office Tower
“NEW YORK — A jury in New York on Thursday found that the U.S. government may seize a Manhattan office building from a nonprofit foundation accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.The jury in a Manhattan federal court said the Alavi Foundation, majority owner of an office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue, knew that its partner and the building’s minority owner, Assa Corp, was a front for Iran, and helped conceal the fact.Jurors said the government had proven that the property was involved in or traceable to money laundering.”

United States
Reuters: U.S.-Backed SDF Sees Big Risk Of Clash With Turkey In Northwest Syria
“The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces warned on Thursday of the prospect of fierce confrontation with the Turkish army in northwestern Syria if it attacks SDF areas, and said this would undermine the assault on Islamic State at Raqqa. Naser Haj Mansour, a senior SDF official, told Reuters the SDF had taken a decision to confront Turkish forces ‘if they try to go beyond the known lines’ in the areas near Aleppo where the sides exchanged fire on Wednesday. ‘Certainly there is a big possibility of open and fierce confrontations in this area, particularly given that the SDF is equipped and prepared,’ he said. ‘If it (the Turkish army)attacks we will defend, and if it attacks there will be clashes.’”
Fox News: Trump Foreign Policy: American Military Increasingly Involved In Yemen Civil War
“In 2015, the United States closed its embassy in Yemen as a civil war tore the country apart. The U.S. Marines guarding the embassy had to ditch some of their weapons before boarding a chartered commercial airliner with embassy staff as Iranian-backed forces stormed the capital city of Sanaa and helped themselves to abandoned embassy vehicles as well as the compound itself. US special operations forces who had been hunting Al-Qaeda in Yemen were also withdrawn when the Iranian-backed group known as the Houthis seized the capital. But despite the forced departures, the American military now finds itself increasingly involved in Yemen’s civil war – and there are fears it could be open-ended.”
Reuters: Trump Administration Reverses Policy On Fiancés As Travel Ban Takes Effect
“U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration reversed a decision late on Thursday and said fiancés would be considered close family members and therefore allowed to travel to the United States as its revised travel ban took effect. The U.S. State Department concluded ‘upon further review, fiancés would now be included as close family members,’ said a State Department official who requested anonymity. The Trump administration had previously decided, on the basis of its interpretation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, that grandparents, grandchildren and fiancés traveling from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen would be barred from obtaining visas while the ban was in place.”
Reuters: Airlines Risk Fines, Losing U.S. Access For Failure To Follow New Security Rules: Official
“Airlines that do not comply with a new U.S. directive for enhanced security measures on inbound international flights could have their certificates to operate flights to the country revoked, a high-ranking U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said on Thursday. The official confirmed that the new security requirements, announced on Wednesday by DHS Secretary John Kelly, will not be funded by the U.S. government, leaving the costs to comply up to the airlines, airports and their countries of origin. Airlines that do not follow new DHS rules could be fined, face restricted access to U.S. airspace or have their clearance to operate flights to the country withdrawn altogether, the official said. ”
The Washington Post: ‘What Is The Price Of Not Fighting This War?’: Mattis Makes His Pitch To Get More NATO Troops In Afghanistan
“Nearly three years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ended combat operations in Afghanistan, the 29-nation alliance will send troops once more into the country with hopes that the renewed surge will help the Afghan military beat back a resurgent Taliban. Speaking ahead of a defense ministerial meeting here Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said thousands of troops have been requested, but he did not say how many would deploy. With the Taliban in control of broad swaths of the country and the Afghan military locked in a primarily defensive war, it is unclear how a new infusion of NATO or U.S. forces could radically turn the tide of the conflict.”
CNN: House Panel Votes To Repeal War Authorization For Fight Against ISIS And Al Qaeda
“Blindsiding leaders in both parties, a House committee on Thursday approved a repeal of the war authorization that the US military relies on to fight the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and around the globe. The House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote an amendment from Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force eight months after the appropriations bill was signed into law. The amendment is intended is to force Congress to debate and pass a new war authorization for the war against ISIS and al Qaeda. Critics like Lee argue the 2001 war authorization is overly broad and gives the president ‘the authority to wage war in perpetuity.’”
BBC News: Afghanistan Conflict: US Says Troop Withdrawal Was Too Quick
“US Defence Secretary James Mattis has said that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was done too rapidly. Mr Mattis was briefing Nato allies on future strategy, amid reports the US will boost its military presence. His comments were in direct contrast to Nato’s secretary-general, who said the withdrawal should have happened sooner. US troops reached 130,000 in 2011 but were drawn down, leaving the Afghan military in control at the end of 2014. There are now 13,500 Nato troops there. Mr Mattis was speaking at a press conference after meeting Nato defence ministers in Brussels. He said: ‘Looking back on it, it’s pretty much a consensus that we may have pulled our troops out too rapidly, reduced the numbers a little too rapidly.’”

Syria
BBC News: Syria War: Why The Battle For Raqqa Is Far From Won
“The battle for Raqqa is far from won. But in the town of Ayn Issa, barely 35 miles (56km) north of the front lines, they are already looking at a future post-caliphate. On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition fighting the group that calls itself Islamic State (IS), arrived at the headquarters of the Raqqa Civilian Council to meet local leaders-in-waiting. ‘There are tremendous challenges ahead,’ he said. ‘The United States is committed to defeating Daesh [IS]. That’s why we’re here. And we want to make sure that what comes after Daesh is stable.’”
Reuters: Syria Says U.S. Chemical Attack Warning Untrue, Aims To Justify New Attack
“The Syrian government said a U.S. warning this week to Damascus not to carry out a new chemical weapons strike were baseless and a ploy to justify a new attack on the country, state television said. State television quoted a foreign ministry source as saying Washington’s allegations about an intended attack were not only misleading but also ‘devoid of any truth and not based on any facts.’ 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.”
NPR: U.S.-Backed Forces Surround Isis ‘Capital’
“U.S.-backed forces have surrounded the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s so-called capital, dealing a symbolic blow to the extremist group as it continues to lose territory. However, human rights advocates are sounding the alarm about civilians still inside the besieged city, which ISIS seized in 2014. U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Wednesday that ‘up to 100,000 civilians are effectively trapped as the air and ground offensive intensifies.’ The independent Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported today that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have completely encircled the city after making gains south of Raqqa.”
BBC News: Syria Crisis: OPCW Says Sarin Used In Khan Sheikhoun Attack
“A fact-finding mission by chemical weapons watchdog the OPCW has concluded that the banned nerve agent Sarin was used in an attack in northern Syria in April that killed dozens of people. A UN panel will now try to determine if the Syrian government was responsible. The attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province was the most deadly in Syria in more than three years. It prompted a retaliatory US missile strike against a Syrian air base the US said had launched the attack.”
Reuters: Khamenei’s Representative Says Islamic State’s Baghdadi ‘Definitely Dead’: IRNA
“Iran’s state news agency quoted a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday as saying Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was ‘definitely dead’. ‘Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,’ IRNA quoted cleric Ali Shirazi, representative to the Quds Force, as saying, without elaborating. IRNA later updated the news item, omitting the quote on Baghdadi’s death. The Quds Force is in charge of operations outside Iran’s borders by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report of Baghdadi’s death.”
NBC News: ISIS Revenue Falls 80 Percent As Militants Lose Ground In Iraq, Syria
“ISIS has seen its income drop by 80 percent in two years as it loses territory and the oil and tax revenue that comes with it, according to a study of its finances. The self-declared caliphate has seen average monthly income plunge from $81 million in the second quarter of 2015 to just $16 million in the same period this year, according to IHS Markit, a global data monitoring company that provides analysis to businesses and governments. The report comes as Iraq declared the terror group ‘had fallen’ after government forces recaptured a key mosque in the former ISIS stronghold of Mosul.”

Iraq
CNN: The Liberation Of Mosul From ISIS Is Imminent, US-Led Coalition Says
“Iraqi forces are locked in an intense battle for the final few blocks of western Mosul still under ISIS control. Mosul’s liberation is imminent, but the battle remains ‘a difficult fight,’ with days — rather than weeks — to go, coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said Thursday from Baghdad, confirming Iraqi forces had seized the remains of an iconic mosque and minaret. The liberation of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri — where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the ISIS caliphate in 2014 — marks a major stride in the eight-month battle to seize the city, Iraq’s largest metropolis outside Baghdad, from the terrorist group. A CNN team was on the front line of the battle earlier Thursday with Iraqi units fighting ISIS. At that time, Iraqi forces had not yet captured the remains of the mosque, and a fierce battle was underway.”
NPR: Iraq Reclaims Historic Mosul Mosque, Saying Isis ‘Caliphate’ Has Fallen
“Nearly three years to the day after the leader of ISIS declared the ‘caliphate’ of Iraq and Syria from the pulpit of Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, the historic structure is back in Iraqi hands. A military spokesman announced Thursday that Iraqi troops successfully stormed the centuries-old religious landmark, reclaiming the ruins of a building destroyed by ISIS militants last week. ‘Their fictitious state has fallen,’ Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told state TV, according to Reuters. The moment marks a major symbolic victory for an Iraqi military that watched in 2014 as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ushered in a new, bloody era in the country, which was reeling from the Islamic State’s territorial gains.”

Turkey
Reuters: Turkey To Retaliate Against Kurdish YPG Fire From Syria: Deputy PM
“Turkey will retaliate against any cross-border gunfire from the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria and will not remain silent in the face of anti-Turkey activities by terrorist groups abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Thursday. He was speaking to reporters after Turkish artillery destroyed YPG targets when the group’s fighters opened fire on Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria on Tuesday night. Kurtulmus also reiterated Ankara’s opposition to the U.S. arming of YPG fighters and said that U.S. officials would understand that this was the ‘wrong path’.”
Reuters: Qatar Defense Minister To Visit Turkey: Turkish Ministry Sources
“Qatar’s defense minister is due to visit Ankara on Friday and will hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, sources at Turkey’s defense ministry said on Thursday. Turkey has backed Doha in its rift with four Arab states, which are boycotting the emirate over alleged support for terrorism, in what has become the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.”
Reuters: Turkey Says German Comments On Erdogan’s Planned Rallies ‘Unacceptable’
“Turkey lashed out on Thursday at German politicians for opposing President Tayyip Erdogan’s planned public appearances in Germany outside the G20 summit, saying they underlined double standards against Ankara. Earlier on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the German government believed it would be inappropriate for Erdogan to make the appearances given tensions between the two NATO allies. ‘It is regrettable that some politicians in Germany are making unacceptable comments with domestic political calculations,’ Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman, Huseyin Muftuoglu, said in a statement.”

Afghanistan
Reuters: Thousands Protest In Pakistan To Demand Security After Deadly Bombs
“Tens of thousands of people protested in a Pakistani town on Thursday to demand better security after twin bombings in a market there last week killed 75 people, officials and witnesses said. Citizens of Parachinar began a sit-in protest soon after the two bombs went off last week on Friday evening, as shoppers were out buying supplies in preparation for the breaking of the fast on one of the last days of the holy month of Ramadan. A faction of the Pakistan-based Sunni Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack in a town where a large number of members of the Shi’ite Muslim minority live.”

Qatar

Reuters: Qatar Working With U.S., Kuwaitis On Response To Gulf Demands: Minister
“Qatar said on Thursday it was working with the United States and Kuwait to respond to a list of demands presented by Arab states who have accused Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation that ignited a regional crisis between the U.S. allies. The feud erupted on June 5 when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel links with Qatar, accusing it also of courting regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.(For a graphic of Qatar’s relations with its neighbors click tmsnrt.rs/2sinDGg)”

Middle East
Haaretz: Israel Halts Family Visits For Hamas Prisoners From Gaza
“Israel has decided to stop family visits for Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip. Prison Service officials confirmed that the decision will go into effect on Friday. The Hamas prisoners’ administration labeled the decision ‘a declaration of war’ on its prisoners. Hamas spokesman Abdel Rahman Shadid said in a statement that ‘The aim of this decision is to exert pressure on the Hamas leadership regarding the missing and captives in Gaza and is a surrender to the pressure of the soldiers’ families, who called for the prisoners to be punished.’ He also said that this is just the first in a series of punitive measures that Israel plans to take against the Hamas prisoners in the near future.”
The Times Of Israel: Palestinian With Knife Stopped At Hebron Checkpoint
“Palestinian man was arrested on Thursday at a checkpoint in Hebron after he was found to be carrying a knife, police said, in the second such incident of the day in the flashpoint West Bank city. Security forces outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs asked the suspect, a 20-year-old resident of the area, to place his personal belongings on a table, police said. After they noticed him trying to hide a knife, they detained him for questioning. Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian man was arrested approaching a Border Police roadblock at an entrance to the city with a concealed knife, police said in a statement.”
The Jerusalem Post: Cyber Attacks Hit Israeli Hospitals As Globe Battles New Computer Virus
“A cyber attack from abroad – separate from ransomware originating in Ukraine that is currently infecting computers worldwide – hit two Israeli hospitals on Thursday. Hospital computers were immediately examined and treated without suffering any damage to medical data, according to the National Cyber Authority in the Prime Minister’s Office. It was originally thought that eight medical centers been targeted, but the Prime Minister’s Office later announced only two in Israel – it did not name them – were subjected to attack and suffered no damage.”

Nigeria
CNN: They Survived Boko Haram, Now Returnees Are Fighting Hunger
“In September 2014, Boko Haram attacked Bdagu — a village in Adamawa state, northern Nigeria. Jafiya Nuhu, a 52-year-old commercial farmer, hid under maize cobs in his farm with his wife and two children as the insurgents raided their neighbors, looting and torching houses. His family and a few others were lucky to escape unhurt. ‘It all happened so fast,’ Nuhu recounts. While the attack occurred on a Sunday morning, his family stayed hidden till late in the night and ran through the bushes till they arrived in a village, five kilometers away from Michika.”

United Kingdom
Telegraph. Co. UK : Woman Arrested On Suspected Terrorism Offences As She Lands At Heathrow Airport
“A 21-year-old woman has been detained at Heathrow Airport on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism, police said. The woman, from north London, was arrested as she left a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, at just after 9pm on Thursday. Officers said the arrest was Syria-related and the woman was being held at a south London police station. The Metropolitan Police said searches two addresses in the north of the capital had been searched.”
Daily Mail: Arabic Interpreter And Civil Engineer, 31, Who Encouraged Children To Take Up A Career In Science Appears In Court Charged With Sharing Terrorist Material Online
“An interpreter and civil engineer has appeared in court charged with terror offences. Abdulrahman Alcharbati faces seven counts of disseminating terrorist material and one of making or possessing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. The 31-year-old, from Westholme Gardens, in Newcastle upon Tyne, was arrested in May by counter-terrorism police officers and rearrested last week. He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Thursday, where he spoke only to confirm his personal details.”

France
Newsweek: Car Attack At Paris Mosque Intended To ‘Avenge The Bataclan And The Champs-Élysées,’ Suspect Claims
“A man was arrested Thursday evening after attempting to drive his car into a crowd of Muslims outside a mosque on the outskirts of Paris, in an apparent act of revenge for recent attacks carried out by Islamic extremists in the French capital. According to police in the commune of Créteil, the driver of the 4×4 vehicle was thwarted only by barriers outside the mosque. The attack took place as worshippers were filing out of the mosque. No injuries were reported. The individual, said to be of Armenian origin, said that he wanted to ‘avenge the Bataclan and the Champs-Élysées,’ according to French publication Le Parisien. The remark would appear to be in reference to attacks in Paris in November 2015 that included the killing of 90 people at the Bataclan concert hall and multiple attacks in the past few months on police officers on the Champs-Élysées.”

Europe
The Christian Science Monitor: Europe’s Muslims Start To Grapple With Touchy Issue: Islamic Terrorism As A Community Problem
“When 200 British Muslim imams declared earlier this month that they would refuse to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack near London Bridge, their statement marked a striking and unprecedented rejection of terrorism. ‘We don’t take this matter very lightly,’ says Qari Asim, an imam in the northern city of Leeds who signed the declaration. ‘But … we believe that the terrorists should not be accepted in our community, [either] in life or in death. We are trying everything possible to deter people’ from violence.”
Voice Of America: NATO Agrees To Send More Troops To Afghanistan
“NATO allies have agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan, and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the alliance has filled nearly three-fourths of the gaps in requirements for its mission in the war-torn country. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that 15 nations had already pledged additional contributions to Resolute Support, the NATO mission to Afghanistan, and further announcements from other nations were expected. Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that thousands of troops had been requested to help train and support Afghan security forces, but he did not say how many would deploy.”

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