Eye on Extremism, July 07, 2017

Radio Free Europe: Iraqi Troops In Mosul Squeeze Islamic State Forces Into Final, Tiny Stretch Of Land
“Iraqi government forces in the northern city of Mosul have broken through the Islamic State (IS) militants’ last major line of defense, squeezing the remaining desperate fighters into a 250-meter strip of land along the Tigers River. Military commanders on July 6 said IS extremists were using suicide bombers in a last-ditch attempt to slow the advance of the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces. ‘They have begun to wait for the troops to reach them, and then blow themselves up. They can’t do any more than that,’ Lieutenant General Sami Aridhi of the elite Counterterrorism service told state television.”
Fox News: ISIS Defeated, But Not Destroyed, As Terror Group Still Holds Strategic Swaths Of Iraq
“The liberation of Mosul from ISIS is nearly complete, but the Islamic State remains a formidable presence in Iraq, and numerous obstacles remain in the way of Iraqi Security forces totally eradicating the ruthless terror group. Which pockets of the Sunni-dominated terror group the government sets its sights on next will depend on numerous factors: Which ISIS-controlled areas of Baghdad pose the greatest threat, which communities are in most urgent need of liberation and the outcome of a debate about whether to include Iranian forces, which were excluded from the Mosul fight.”
CNBC: Four Arab states leading Qatar boycott say initial demands void, vow more measures
“The four Arab states leading the boycott against Qatar said late on Thursday that Doha’s refusal of their demands to resolve a Gulf diplomatic crisis is proof of its links to terror groups and that they would enact new measures against it. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain released a joint statement carried by the countries’ state media saying their initial list of 13 demands was now void and pledging new political, economic and legal steps against Qatar. The Qatari government sabotaged diplomatic efforts to solve the rift, the four states said, and its refusal affirmed its continuing sabotage of the region’s stability and security.”
Voice Of America: Kurdish Officials: Turkish Movements In N. Syria Threaten Raqqa Operation
“Syrian Kurdish officials say Turkey’s shelling of Kurdish militias in northwestern Syria and its troops’ mobilization in the border region are preparation for a full-fledged military assault on northern Syria, which could impede U.S.-backed operations to rout Islamic State from its de facto capital, Raqqa. Following intense, cross-border Turkish artillery attacks and military deployments near northwestern Syria’s Afrin region since last week, Nasser Haj Mansour, a senior military adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told VOA that Turkish military actions were a ‘declaration of war’ that could push thousands of U.S.-backed fighters to leave the battlefield in Raqqa and respond to developments in the border region with Turkey.”
Associated Press: 10 killed in blitz car bomb attack in Egypt’s Sinai
“EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Islamic militants unleashed a suicide car bomb and heavy gunfire on an Egyptian military checkpoint in northeastern Sinai Peninsula on Friday, leaving 10 security troops including a special forces colonel dead and wounding at least 20, authorities said.The officials said the blitz attack began when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into a checkpoint at a military compound in the southern Rafah village of El-Barth, followed by heavy gunfire from dozens of masked militants on foot.The dead included a high ranking special forces officer, Col. Ahmed el-Mansi, and at least 20 others were wounded in the attack. Ambulance sirens were heard from a distance as they rushed to the site. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.”
NBC News: Educated In Terror: Deprogramming The Children ISIS Taught To Kill
“The UN refugee camp near this small town just south of Mosul is a sun-baked sea of white tents. In one tent, 15-year-old Atallah Saleh swats at flies and looks at the ground shyly. His sweet smile disappears as he describes the three years he spent under ISIS rule. ‘When Daesh came, they taught us how to be suicide bombers and make IEDs,’ he says, his eyes glistening with tears. ‘They distributed books about their propaganda. The teachers at school taught us how to hold a Kalashnikov, how to shoot and kill, how to become a suicide bomber and fight the jihad.’”
NBC News: Ohio Man Pleads Guilty To Trying To Help ISIS
“An Ohio man pleaded guilty on Thursday to trying to provide support to the terrorist group ISIS, after he was arrested by authorities last year while trying to board a flight to Libya, the Justice Department said. Aaron Travis Daniels, 20, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, according to the government. Daniels, of Columbus, was arrested on Nov. 7 at John Glenn Columbus International Airport, where the FBI said he was trying to travel via Houston and Trinidad to Libya. ‘This case demonstrates how terrorist activities abroad can reach into our local communities,’ Benjamin Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the southern Ohio, said in a statement.”
United States
The Washington Post: Western Values Increasingly Endangered By Terrorism And Extremism, Trump Warns Europe
“President Trump on Thursday reaffirmed the United States’ bond with European allies, calling their pact as ‘strong as ever.’ Yet he argued in a speech here that Western values are increasingly imperiled by terrorism and extremism. In a dark and provocative address with nationalist overtones, Trump said that ‘the fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.’ ‘Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?’ Trump said. ‘Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?’”
Voice Of America: In Warsaw Speech, Trump Vows To Fight Terrorism, Back NATO Allies
“In his first major public speech in Europe, U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that the values of the West are under attack and questioned whether its people have the will to fight for it. Speaking in Warsaw, Poland, the president said ‘The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders?’ ‘While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind,’ he added to applause from the 5,000-strong crowd.”
The New York Times: U.S. Says Dispute Between Qatar And Neighbors At Impasse
“The Trump administration warned on Thursday that a festering dispute between Qatar and its fellow Arab neighbors is at an impasse. ‘We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify,’ said Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department. And in a joint statement, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said Qatar ‘has worked to thwart the efforts and diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.’ The dispute among the mostly Sunni Muslim nations puts a host of top United States priorities at risk, including the effort to defeat the Islamic State and rebuild portions of Iraq and Syria that have been devastated by three years of fighting.”
Reuters: U.S. Judge Extends Halt On Iraqi Deportations
“A federal judge on Thursday halted the deportation of all Iraqi nationals detained during recent immigration sweeps across the United States until at least July 24, extending a stay that was originally set to expire on Monday. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit said there was ‘good cause’ to extend the stay, which was sought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU says those arrested in immigration enforcement operations last month mostly in Michigan and Tennessee face persecution, torture or death if they are deported to Iraq. Many of 199 Iraqis detained – largely in the Detroit area and in Nashville – were Chaldean Catholics and Iraqi Kurds. Both groups say they could be targeted for attacks in Iraq because they are visible minorities.”
The Wall Street Journal: White House Limits Pentagon On Afghan Troop Level
“After Trump let generals decide number of forces, classified memo put initial cap at 3,900, amid strategy review. A few days after President Donald Trump gave his Pentagon chief the unilateral authority last month to send thousands of American troops to Afghanistan at his own discretion, the White House sent classified guidance that effectively limits the number of forces. The memo, sent by national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to a small group of administration officials, said that the president would let Defense Secretary Mathis decide.”
CNN: Why The US Military Is Delaying Announcing Afghanistan Combat Deaths
“The US military will no longer release any immediate information about American combat deaths in Afghanistan — a shift in policy that will delay casualty announcements until days after they occur. Specifically, military officials will hold all information about the death of US troops in Afghanistan until 24 hours after the next-of-kin is notified. Traditionally, the military has released what is considered ‘non-identifying information’ in the hours following a combat casualty — withholding names and details of the situation for 24 hours until the family could be notified.”
Reuters: Suicide Blast Kills Two At Bus Station In Syria’s Government-Held Hama
“A suicide bomber in Syria’s Hama killed two people and injured nine others on Thursday, state media said, in the second such attack in a government-held city this week. State television said the attacker set off an explosive belt at a bus station in the southwest of the city. The governor of Hama said the explosion killed two women, according to another state-run channel, al-Ikhbariya. It had quoted him earlier as saying three people had died. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. On Sunday, a bomb killed 20 people and wounded dozens more in Damascus. The Syrian capital has enjoyed relative security in recent years even as the multi-sided conflict rages on.”
Reuters: Syria Says It Extends Ceasefire In Southern Syria Till Saturday
“The Syrian army said on Thursday it had extended a unilateral suspension of combat operations in southern Syria through the end of Saturday, but rebels said the ceasefire had already been violated by strikes on areas under their control. The army had announced last Monday a ceasefire it said took effect from midday (0900 GMT) the previous day until Thursday and was being done to support ‘reconciliation efforts’. It was the second unilateral ceasefire in two weeks, but unlike the first declaration extended beyond Deraa city to the whole of southern Syria, including the strategic southwestern Quneitra province near the border with Israel and Sweida province in the southeast.”
Reuters: Russia Has Asked U.S. About Syria No-Fly Zone Proposal: Lavrov
“Russia has asked the United States for more information after comments by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Washington was ready to discuss with Moscow no-fly zones in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. ‘We have asked (for information). We haven’t yet received a response to the question about which no-fly zones they have in mind. Because no-one was ever talking about them,’ Lavrov said in comments carried on Russian state television.”
Deutsche Welle: Sarin Gas Probe In Syria Comes Under Growing Pressure
“An international investigation into a pair of chemical weapons attacks in Syria is coming under heavy political pressure, according to the lead investigator. The atmosphere surrounding the joint probe being conducted by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has become a ‘highly-politicized environment,’ lamented the head of the three-member panel Edmond Mulet. Mulet’s panel is investigating who carried out a sarin gas attack that left 87 dead in the town of Khan Sheikhun in April, as well as a mustard gas attack in Um Hosh last September. Two Syrian women suffered from exposure to the potentially lethal gas in that attack.”
Reuters: Islamic State Makes Desperate Stand In Mosul, Commanders Say
“Islamic State fighters holding out in Mosul on a strip of land along the Tigris River are increasingly using suicide bombers in a desperate attempt to slow the steady advance of Iraqi forces, military commanders said on Thursday. Iraqi forces pushing towards the al-Maydan and al-Shareen districts in the northern Iraqi city broke the militants’ defenses and have reached within 200 meters (yards) of the riverbank. But they encountered stiff resistance from an estimated few hundred militants lodged among thousands of civilians in the Old City’s maze of alleyways, particularly from foreign suicide bombers, Iraqi commanders said.”
Reuters: Iraqi Kurdish Leader Says No Turning Back On Independence Bid
“Iraq’s Kurdish leader said on Thursday that there was no turning back on a bid to achieve an independent Kurdish state, but he would pursue it through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict. Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told Reuters in an interview that the timetable for independence after a Sept. 25 vote on the issue was ‘flexible but not open-ended’. He expected a ‘yes vote’. The vote could turn into another regional flashpoint, with Turkey, Iran and Syria, along with Iraq the states with sizeable Kurdish populations, all resolutely opposed to an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. But Barzani played down such fears.”
The New York Times: No Escape From Mosul, And Unlikely Chance Of Surrender
“Perched on a rooftop near the ruins of the Al Nuri Grand Mosque, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi used a rock to sketch out the endgame for Mosul. The Islamic State was down to perhaps 150 fighters, hemmed in on all sides, defending a bastion that seemed to be shrinking by the day, said the general, a senior commander in Iraq’s counterterrorism service. On a visit to the old city of Mosul with General Saadi and his men, it was clear that the militants’ resistance was still fierce and often fanatical, even by the Islamic State’s macabre standards.”
Reuters: EU Parliament Calls For Turkey Accession Talks To Be Suspended
“The European Parliament called on Thursday for Turkey’s European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara fully implements plans to expand President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, in a vote which Turkey dismissed as flawed and wrong. The parliament has limited influence on Turkey’s decades-old pursuit of EU membership, now in limbo after bitter exchanges between Ankara and some European countries, but the decision highlighted the gulf which has grown between the two sides. EU leaders have been critical of Erdogan and his behavior toward opponents, both before and after an abortive military coup against him last July.”
Reuters: Turkey Detains 10 At Human Rights Meeting, U.S., EU Concerned
“Turkish police have detained 10 people including the local director of Amnesty International and other rights activists on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization, Amnesty said on Thursday in what it called a ‘grotesque abuse of power’. The detentions came less than a month after a court ordered the arrest of the chairman of Amnesty’s Turkey branch, Taner Kilic, on the same charge in a crackdown following an attempted military coup in July 2016. Kilic remains in jail pending trial. Amnesty Turkey Director Idil Eser and the others were removed from a meeting they were holding at a hotel on Buyukada, an island just south of Istanbul, and taken to various police stations across Turkey’s largest city on Wednesday evening, a lawyer for some of the detainees, Bahri Belen, told Reuters.”
The New York Times: Turkey Detains A 2nd Amnesty International Leader
“A second senior official with Amnesty International, the leading human rights watchdog, has been detained in Turkey in the space of a month. Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty’s Turkey office, was detained on Wednesday along with at least 10 others after a raid on a digital security workshop at a hotel on Buyukada, one of the Princes Islands near Istanbul. The detainees included seven other activists from local rights groups; two foreign trainers; and the hotel owner, who was later released, Amnesty said. After the detainees were held without access to lawyers for more than a day, officials announced that they were being investigated on suspicion of connection to a terrorist group.”
BBC News: Qatar Crisis: Saudi-Led Bloc Vows New Measures
“The four Arab states leading a boycott against Qatar have described Doha’s rejection of their demands as a threat to regional security. In a statement, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also warned of unspecified new measures. Last month the four cut all ties with Qatar, in effect imposing a land blockade on the tiny emirate. They demanded that Qatar shut down Al Jazeera TV, reduce ties with Iran and end its alleged support for jihadists. Earlier this week Qatar rejected the Saudi-led bloc’s ultimatum. It denies the allegations against it. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected on Monday to visit Kuwait, which is mediating the Gulf crisis.”
Reuters: Egypt And Russia’s Foreign Ministers Discuss Qatar
“Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov by telephone on Thursday about Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain’s rift with Qatar, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The four Arab states cut diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf nation last month, which they accuse of supporting terrorism and allying with regional foe Iran. Doha denies the charges. ‘Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday and affirmed Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain’s position of rejecting Qatar’s support for terrorism and extremism,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement.”
The New York Times: Egyptian Police Detain Uighurs And Deport Them To China
“At least 12 Chinese nationals were deported and put on a flight to China late Thursday, and 22 more were detained for immediate deportation, three Egyptian aviation officials said. According to a Chinese student who said he was friends with some of those detained, all were Uighurs, members of an ethnic group that is mostly Sunni Muslim and lives mainly in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. The student, Muhammed Emin Nurmuhammed, said that his friends had been studying at Al Azhar, a mosque and university in Cairo.”
Middle East
The Times Of Israel: Officer Lightly Hurt In Damascus Gate Attack, Police Say
“A Border Police officer was lightly hurt Thursday after he was attacked by a Palestinian man near Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City, police said. Officers asked the man to identify himself, but he refused. According to a police statement, the unarmed man then attacked one of the officers. He was quickly subdued and arrested. The suspect had no weapon on his person, and was not hurt in the altercation. The officer was treated by a medic at the scene and taken to the hospital for unspecified additional medical care.”
The New York Times: A Libyan Commander Says His Forces Have Taken Benghazi
“After three years of sporadic combat, the fighting is over in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, at least for now. The city erupted in jubilation late Wednesday after the commander of a militia in the area, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, announced on television that his forces had vanquished the Islamist fighters they had been battling in Benghazi for the past three years. Wearing military-style regalia, General Hifter said that all that remained was to clear battle-scarred neighborhoods of land mines and unexploded ordnance. Forces loyal to General Hifter, a brash and ambitious former Libyan Army officer, have prematurely claimed victory in Benghazi before. But this time residents said they believed that the news was genuine, with thousands of people streaming into the streets after his televised address to celebrate amid sounds of honking horns and triumphant gunfire.”
BBC News: Niger Army Kills 14 Civilians Mistaken For Boko Haram Fighters
“Niger’s army has killed 14 civilians who were mistaken for militants of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the remote southeast, officials say. The victims, all unarmed farmers, were in a restricted zone around the village of Abadam, next to the Nigerian border. Two were from Niger, and the rest were from Nigeria. Details of how the operation unfolded and why the civilians were there were not clear. Boko Haram is based in Nigeria but has carried out cross-border attacks. Thousands of people have been displaced from the south-eastern Diffa region and civilians have been banned from many areas. Many, however, have been returning to tend their crops, correspondents say.”
United Kingdom
BBC News: Rhondda Teenager, 17, Charged With Terror Offences
“A teenager from Rhondda Cynon Taff has been charged with two terrorism offences. The 17-year-old male was arrested on Friday following a search by detectives from the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit. He was been charged with one offence of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism, and one of encouragement of terrorism. He will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday.”
The Guardian: Manchester Bombing: Police Say Salman Abedi Did Not Act Alone
“Terrorism investigators have confirmed that they believe the Manchester Arena suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, did not act alone when preparing his attack on an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people. In a briefing to the media on Thursday, investigators said that others may have been complicit in helping Abedi. Counter-terrorism officers have said that accomplices of the 22-year-old college student were aware that he was about to carry out the deadliest terror attack on UK soil since the 7/7 bombings. Investigators revealed that although Abedi was not part of a terror network, there were others who knew he was planning to detonate a substantial nail bomb at the Ariana Grande concert.”
BBC News: May To Press G20 On Terror Financing
“There must be no ‘safe spaces’ for terrorist funding in the global financial system, Theresa May will tell a meeting of the G20 on Friday. The UK PM will focus on ways to track small sums of money used to finance ‘lone wolf’ attacks, as well as large transfers, at the summit in Germany. More must also be done to tackle the risk of foreign fighters ‘dispersing’ from Iraq and Syria, she says. The terror threat must be combated ‘from every angle’, Mrs May is urging. The UK has been hit by attacks in London and Manchester in recent months.”
Deutsche Welle: German Intelligence To Shed Light On Qatar Terror Allegations
“German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German public radio Deutschlandfunk on Thursday that Qatar had agreed to ‘open all its books’ to Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and provide answers ‘if we have questions about certain people or structures.’ Gabriel has just returned from a three-day trip to the region that included talks in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and mediator Kuwait. Riyadh and its allies – Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – severed all diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar last month over its alleged support for extremists and close relations with regional foe Iran. Gabriel said that he had spoken to both sides, adding that the military escalation some had feared at the start of the Gulf standoff no longer appeared to be a risk.”
Reuters: France Takes Guns From People On List Of Might-Be Militants: Minister
“France is confiscating weapons from roughly 100 people on a watchlist of potential Islamist militants, the interior minister said on Thursday, two weeks after state prosecutors said an assailant inspired by Islamic State had been a gun-club member. Minister Gerard Collomb was speaking ahead of a parliamentary vote to extend emergency search-and-arrest powers given to police after Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015. ‘We traced about a hundred … We’re sizing up the situation and taking the weapons away,’ he told TV channel CNews, adding that police had foiled seven attacks in France this year alone.”
Reuters: France, Russia Discuss Syria, Sidestep Differences On Chemical Weapons
“France and Russia agreed on Thursday that fighting terrorism in Syria was their common objective, but pointedly avoided airing their differences over the sensitive issue of chemical weapons. France appears to be broadly aligning its foreign policy with the U.S. priorities of tackling terrorism while seeking better ties with Russia and avoiding a head-on clash with Moscow over Syria. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who held six hours of talks primarily on Syria with Russian officials in Moscow two weeks ago, continued his push for closer co-operation, when he met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov again in Paris on Thursday.”
Fox News: New DNA Technology Creates Digital ‘Sketch’ Of Terrorists’ Faces
“Bad news for criminals who are trying to remain hidden, nameless and faceless. New technology can predict what a terrorist’s face looks like from less than a drop of blood or single strand of hair. Called the Parabon Snapshot, this new groundbreaking technology can take traces  of DNA and literally put a face to the crime. From a terrorist who built a bomb intended to kill hundreds of Americans through to a thief who stole your grandmother’s handbag, this is the sort of American innovation that makes it hard for a bad guy to stay anonymous.”
Newsweek: ISIS On The Web: Islamic State Has 30,000-Website-Strong ‘Virtual Caliphate,’ Warns Eu Anti-Terror Chief
“The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is forging a ‘virtual caliphate’ that will outlast the group’s territorial hold in Iraq and Syria, the European Union’s anti-terror chief has warned. Gilles de Kerchove, the EU counterterrorism coordinator, said tens of thousands of websites are circulating radical Islamist content. He said the political bloc’s law enforcement agency is using a unit of 20 specialists to flag such content. ‘They have already reported 30,000 sites,’ he told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. The security chief, known as ‘Mr. Terrorism’ since beginning his role in 2007, said the spread of easily accessible radical content would mean that ISIS will continue to thrive even as it loses territory in Iraq and Syria, and that more efforts to combat homegrown jihadism must be made across the bloc.”


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