Eye on Extremism, July 18, 2017

Associated Press: US-Backed Forces Battle IS In Heart Of Syria’s Raqqa
“U.S.-backed Syrian fighters fought Islamic State militants in the heart of Raqqa, the extremists’ self-styled capital, on Monday, as scores of civilians fled areas controlled by the group. The Kurdish-led group has been one of the most effective forces fighting IS in Syria, but has also clashed with Turkish-backed Syrian forces elsewhere in the country. As it battled IS in Raqqa, the SDF also fought Turkish-allied Syrian forces in Ein Daqna, in the neighboring Aleppo province, according to Syrian activists and Turkish media.”
New York Times: Jordanian Sentenced To Life In Prison For Killing 3 U.S. Soldiers
“A Jordanian soldier was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison on Monday for the deaths of three United States soldiers whom he shot at an air base in November. The soldier, First Sgt. Ma’arik al-Tawayha, 39, had pleaded not guilty, saying that he opened fire because the Americans had failed to stop their car as they approached the gate of the air base, and that he thought the base was under attack. “I was doing my job,” he said as he was led from the courtroom. Jordanian officials initially believed his account — angering their American counterparts — but later backed away from it, and charged Sergeant Tawayha with premeditated murder.”
The Hill: American Companies Should Be Wary Of Doing Business With Qatar
“After years of supporting terrorist and extremist groups, Qatar finally faced consequences last month as seven countries — Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen — all announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with the country.  In breaking ties, Saudi Arabia announced that it was working to ‘protect national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism.’ Bahrain and others similarly cited national security concerns and Qatar’s destabilizing activities in the region.”
Reuters: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Warn U.S. Against Designation, New Sanctions
“A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned the United States on Monday that if it designated the group a terrorist organization and applied new sanctions its action could be perilous for U.S. forces in the region. U.S. officials said earlier this year that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering a proposal that could lead to potentially categorizing the powerful Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. In Mid-June the U.S. Senate voted for new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached with the United States and other world powers in 2015. To become law, the legislation must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.”
Daily Caller: Marines Help Afghan Army Seize Helmand District From Taliban
“Marines stationed in Afghanistan have helped the Afghan army retake a key Helmand district from the Taliban. Using F-16 fighters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, the Marines assisted the Afghan army in a two-day operation beginning Saturday to seize the Nawa district in southern Helmand province, AFP reports. Afghan forces officially flew the national Afghan flag in Nawa on Monday following the successful operation referred to as Operation Maiwand Four. According to Long War Journal, the Taliban had held Nawa for about nine months after a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle and accompanying Taliban forces took control of government buildings.”
Fox News: Iran Foreign Minister Distances Himself From US Citizen’s Espionage Sentencing, ‘Doubts’ Syria Used Chemical Weapons
“Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that his country has an entirely “independent judiciary” set in stone in its constitution, and deflected the notion that he or the government had much immediate authority in helping free the jailed Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang. “But we hope an acceptable resolution can be found,” Zarif said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. “There are Iranians being detained (by the U.S.) on charges of sanction violations that are not applicable today… for bogus and purely political reasons.” Wang, who was in Iran working on his Princeton University thesis on Eurasian history, was sentenced over the weekend to ten years behind bars for “spying,” in a trial that was held behind closed doors.”
Reuters: U.S. Ending Laptop Ban On Middle Eastern Airlines
“The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said on Monday it was lifting a ban on passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines carrying large electronics like laptops onboard U.S.-bound flights, the last carrier under the restrictions. In March, U.S. officials imposed restrictions on passengers carrying laptops and other large electronic gear in cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to address the potential threat of hidden explosives. Last month, U.S. officials announced new security requirements for all airlines rather than an expansion of the laptop ban and have been dropping the restrictions from airlines as they boosted security.”
United States
The Washington Post: U.S. Certifies That Iran Is Meeting Terms Of Nuclear Deal
“The Trump administration certified to Congress late Monday that Iran has continued to meet the required conditions of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers. But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that President Trump intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing ‘malign activities’ in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism. ‘We judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent’ of the agreement as a force for international stability, one official said. Iran is ‘unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA,’ or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that took effect in January 2016 after years of negotiations, the official said.”
Newsweek: War On ISIS Under Trump Set To Double Civilian Death Toll Compared To Obama
“The U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) under President Donald Trump is on track to cause double the civilian casualties than the operations of his predecessor Barack Obama, according to new analysis. Monitoring group Airwars, in new figures provided to The Daily Beast, estimated that the coalition killed over 2,200 civilians in ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria between Trump’s inauguration on January 20 and July 13. This represents more than 360 civilian deaths a month and at least 12 a day since Trump entered the White House.”
The Washington Post: U.S. Airstrikes In Afghanistan Are At Levels Not Seen Since Obama Troop Surge
“The U.S. air war in Afghanistan has returned to a level of intensity not seen since American forces were still fanned out across the country and fighting Taliban militants in daily skirmishes in 2012, according to recently released military data. As of June 30, U.S. and coalition aircraft had dropped or expended 1,634 munitions in Afghanistan so far this year, according to U.S. Air Force numbers. By comparison, in 2015 and 2016, that figure was 298 and 545 respectively. The majority of this year’s strikes have been used to go after the Taliban, said Navy Capt. Bill Salvin, a spokesman for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan. A portion of the air support, however, has also been directed at terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.”
Syria
Reuters: Suicide Bomber Kills Four In Kurdish-Held Syrian Northeast
“A suicide car bomber killed four people at a checkpoint in a Kurdish-controlled area of northeastern Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Kurdish official confirmed an attack targeting a checkpoint operated by the Asayish Kurdish internal security force, but had no further details. The Asayish could not immediately be reached for comment. Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said the attack took place near the village of Tel Tamr, some 30 km (19 miles) from the Syrian-Turkish border. Syrian state TV also reported the deaths of four people in a car bomb attack in the area, but said it had taken place in the nearby town of Ras al-Ayn.”
Reuters: Turkish-Backed Forces Clash With Kurdish Fighters In Northwest Syria: Monitors
“Turkish-backed rebels clashed with Kurdish fighters from a U.S.-backed alliance in northwestern Syria on Monday in escalating violence between the two sides, officials and a monitoring group said. The clashes took place around the village of Ain Daqna and the nearby Menagh air base north of Aleppo, while Turkish forces stepped up shelling positions in other areas, the officials and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  ‘There are big clashes happening on the Ain Daqna axis, between us and the Turks and their mercenaries,’ Rojhat Roj, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia said.”
Reuters: Syrian Army Captures More Oil Wells In Raqqa Province
“The Syrian army supported by Iranian backed militias seized new oil fields in the desert in the southwest of Raqqa province on Monday in new advances against retreating Islamic state militants. The Syrian army said on state media they had taken al Daylaa oil field alongside the Zamla gas field in large stretches of territory the militant group have been pulling out of in recent weeks to defend their remaining possessions in Syria. On Saturday the army said they taken control of Wahab, al Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the desert area that lies in the southwest of Raqqa province.”
NPR: Here’s What To Know About The Trump-Putin Syria Cease-Fire
“President Trump is touting a newly brokered cease-fire in southwest Syria as a major foreign policy win for his White House. After years of failed peace attempts under the Obama administration, Trump has boldly speculated that the new truce could mark the beginning of the end of the war. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin reached the agreement during their July 7 meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It affects towns, villages and borderlands in three regions close to Jordan and Israel. Last Thursday, after the guns had remained silent for a fifth day in this small corner of Syria, Trump said the arrangement should be replicated across other ‘very rough’ parts of the country.”
Reuters: Exclusive – Islamic State’s Baghdadi Almost Certainly Alive: Kurdish Security Official
“A top Kurdish counter-terrorism official said on Monday he was 99 percent sure that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, despite reports that he had been killed. ‘Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive,’ Lahur Talabany told Reuters in an interview. ‘Don’t forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing.’ The secretive Islamic State leader has frequently been reported killed or wounded since he climbed up to the pulpit of a mosque in Mosul in 2014 and declared a caliphate with himself the leader of all Muslims.”
Iraq
USA Today: Iraq’s Democracy Shows Resiliency
“The Iraqi victory over the Islamic State in Mosul is something that both Iraqis and Americans can celebrate. Iraqis from all sects and ethnicities fought together bravely for months to liberate the city from a truly barbaric enemy. We have many reasons to be optimistic about Iraq’s future. Just as the Iraqis are leading the way on the battlefield, they are leading the effort to stabilize their liberated communities. An Iraqi-led, United Nations-supported stabilization program has enabled nearly two million internally displaced Iraqis to return home, including nearly one million in Anbar Province.”
Turkey
Reuters: Bomb Blast Hits Military Vehicle, Wounds 17 In Southeast Turkey: Army
“Explosives planted by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants ripped through a Turkish military vehicle traveling through southeast Turkey on Monday, wounding 17 soldiers, the military said. The vehicle was passing through the Yuksekova district of Hakkari province, which borders Iran and Iraq, when the blast occurred, the army said, adding the wounded were immediately taken to hospital. The army initially said four of the wounded were in a serious condition, but a later statement said none of the injuries were serious. The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed in the conflict. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.”
Reuters: Amnesty International Says Truth And Justice ‘Strangers’ In Turkey
“Amnesty International said on Tuesday truth and justice had become ‘total strangers’ in Turkey after its local director and five other activists were remanded in custody on accusations of belonging to a terrorist organization. Idil Eser, local director of the London-based organization, was one of a group of activists including a German and a Swedish national detained on July 5 while attending a workshop on digital security and information management near Istanbul. Turkey’s state prosecutor had asked the court on Monday to remand all 10 in custody pending trial on charges of membership of a terrorist organization.”
Voice Of America: Turkey Deals Deadly Blows To IS Cells
“Turkish security and intelligence organizations are dealing deadly blows to Islamic State cells and networks in the country, a high-level Turkish official told VOA, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘Since the New Year’s attack by IS in Istanbul which took 39 lives, Turkey has been dealing heavy blows to this extremist organization,’ the official said. ‘Turkey is part of the international anti-IS coalition. We are very determined as always and continue to fight against IS and all other terrorist organizations.’ Last week, Turkish security forces stormed a suspected IS cell in the Anatolian province of Konya, killing at least five IS fighters. In recent weeks,Turkish special police forces have detained a total of 233 IS suspects in 29 provinces, according to Turkish media reports.”
Voice Of America: Turkey Extends State Of Emergency
“The Turkish parliament voted Monday to extend a state of emergency by three months, nearly a year after it was implemented in the wake of a failed coup attempt. A statement from Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s office earlier Monday had asked parliament to extend the state of emergency, which was due to expire on Wednesday. About 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 others injured last year when a disgruntled army faction commandeered tanks and warplanes in a bid to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after 15 years in power. Thirty-five coup organizers were also killed.”
Afghanistan
Reuters: Afghan Forces Retake District In Southern Province Of Helmand
“Afghan security forces backed by U.S. air strikes have retaken a southern district from the Taliban as part of a drive to weaken the insurgents’ hold on Helmand province and push them back from around its capital, Lashkar Gah, officials said on Monday.  A two-day offensive, supported by numerous air strikes from U.S. F-16 fighters and Apache helicopters, launched on Saturday saw security forces take the district center of Nawa, to the south of Lashkar Gah, officials said. More than 50 fighters were killed and vehicles and equipment were destroyed, said defense ministry spokesman General Dawlat Waziri. Over 100 improvised explosive devices were also disabled, Task Force Southwest, the U.S. Marine Corps-led training and assistance mission in Helmand said in a statement.”
The Hill: UN: Civilian Deaths In Afghanistan Hit New Record High
“Worsening suicide attacks contributed to another grim, record-setting period for civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the United Nations said Monday. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 1,662 civilians were killed, an increase of 2 percent over the then-record-high number of civilians killed during same period last year. ‘The human cost of this terrible conflict in Afghanistan — loss of life, destruction and immense suffering — is far too high,’ Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement. ‘The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.’”
The New York Times: Afghanistan More Deadly For Women And Children, U.N. Says
“Afghanistan has grown more deadly this year for women, children and other residents of the capital, the United Nations mission in the country said on Monday, even as the violence is expected to intensify in the coming months with no hope of peace talks any time soon. A record number of civilians — 1,662 — were killed in the first six months of 2017, a 2 percent increase from the same period last year, the mission reported. An additional 3,581 civilians were wounded. ‘The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan — loss of life, destruction and immense suffering — is far too high,’ said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan.”
Yemen
Reuters: Suicide Bomber Wounds Five Soldiers In Yemen Attack: Local Official
“A suicide car bomber wounded five soldiers outside a government army compound in eastern Yemen on Monday, said a local security official who blamed the attack on militant group al Qaeda. The attack in the Ain BaMaabad area was the second by al Qaeda in two days in Shabwa province, where Yemen’s liquefied natural gas plant and export facilities are located. Five soldiers were killed and four were wounded in a raid on Sunday when suspected al Qaeda militants attacked an army outpost guarding a gas pipeline which transports LNG from Marib to the export facility at Balhaf. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited a civil war between the Western-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Iran-aligned Houthis to try to expand its influence in Yemen.”
Egypt
Reuters: Egypt Ends Visa-Free Entry For Qataris, Insists Doha Meets Demands
“Egypt will end visa-free entry for Qatari nationals with some exceptions, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Monday, the latest measure taken against Doha which Cairo and three Gulf governments are boycotting. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Qatar on June 5, cutting diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny Gulf monarchy, after accusing it of financing militant groups and allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies the accusations. ‘It does not make sense to keep making exceptions for Qatar and giving it privileges in light of its current positions,’ said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. Qatari nationals will now have to apply for a visa in order to enter Egypt.”
Middle East
NPR: 10 Years After Gaza Takeover, Hamas Under Pressure To Surrender Power
“Ten years ago this summer, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas staged a coup, ousted members of the rival Fatah party and took over the Gaza Strip. It felt it took what it deserved: Hamas had won the majority of seats in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, but Hamas and Fatah couldn’t work out how to share power. It led to gun battles. A 29-year-old man saw his cousin, a Fatah border guard in training, get shot in a fight with Hamas gunmen in one of the many battles that led to the coup. The man is afraid to be identified — even a decade later. ‘The darkest 10 years of my life’ is how he summarized his life since Hamas took over Gaza.”
The Times Of Israel: Mosques In Slain Policeman’s Village Targeted Again
“Two mosques were targeted with a stun grenade and gunshots early Monday in the northern town of Maghar, the home of a policeman killed in a Jerusalem terror attack last week. It was the second time mosques were attacked in the mixed Druze-Muslim town since the deadly shooting and stabbing at an entrance to the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem that claimed the lives of police officers Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, 30 and Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, 22, on Friday. Sitawe was from Maghar and was buried there later in the day. The second victim of the attack, Shnaan, was laid to rest in the Druze village of Hurfeish, also in northern Israel.”
Reuters: Iran’s Zarif Hopes Yemen War Does Not Lead To Iran, Saudi Conflict
“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that he hopes Yemen’s war will not spark direct confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia and that they can work together to end the conflict in the country and Syria. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, also supporting rival groups in Syria’s civil war. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in May that any struggle for influence between the Sunni Muslim kingdom and revolutionary Shi’ite theocracy Iran ought to take place ‘inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.’”
Libya
BBC News: Migrant Crisis: EU To Curb Rubber Boat Sales To Libya
“EU foreign ministers have agreed to restrict exports of inflatable boats and outboard motors to Libya in a drive to curb the smuggling of migrants. The restrictions will not apply to legitimate Libyan businesses, such as fishing crews, an EU statement said. It is not clear how the EU will check that such exports do not end up in the wrong hands in the lawless country. Meanwhile Luxembourg has warned that EU funds may be helping to drive migrants into Libyan ‘concentration camps’. Many migrants exploited by people-smuggling gangs in Libya have suffered brutality, including sexual abuse. The country is plagued by violence and lawlessness.”
Germany
CNN: Merkel Rules Out Limiting Number Of Refugees In Germany
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out setting an upper limit on refugees coming to Germany, defying her long-term coalition partner on an issue that threatens to open up a rift between the country’s ruling political parties just two months before federal elections. ‘On the issue of an upper limit, my position is clear,’ Merkel said in an interview broadcast live on Germany’s ARD on Sunday. ‘I won’t accept one.’ Merkel will need the support of the Christian Social Union — the more conservative sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union — in order to remain Chancellor after September elections.”
France
Haaretz: Anatomy Of A Terror Cell: How French Islamist Bombers Recruited A Jew For Jihad
“On September 19, 2012 two men hurled a hand grenade into a kosher supermarket in Sarcelles, north of Paris, while their accomplice waited in an escape car. It was the first terrorist attack by an organized group made up solely of French citizens in modern French terrorism. Investigators quickly discovered and dismantled a network of 20 people and uncovered plans to target Jewish institutions, a McDonald’s restaurant and French security forces. Some of its members had already fought in Syria. Known as the ‘Cannes-Torcy jihadist cell’ because its members met in those two cities, it’s considered a key phase in the development of French terrorism, from which a line can be drawn that leads to the 2015 mass casualty attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Hyper Cacher supermarket and the Bataclan concert hall, the the Nice truck attack in 2016.”
ISIS
Aleqtisadiya: Saudi Arabia: ISIS Militants Incarcerated For Financing Terror
“The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced three defendants to 15 years’ imprisonment. The men were convicted of endorsing ISIS, financing terrorism, and showing willingness to perpetrate criminal acts harmful to public order in the Kingdom. The court convicted the first Saudi defendant on charges of aiding ISIS, traveling to Turkey to join the organization in Syria, meeting with “deviant individuals” as well as financing terrorism by purchasing tickets for some of his associates on their way to conflict zones. The second defendant, a Yemeni national, was convicted of supporting ISIS and its activities in the Kingdom. He was also convicted of travelling to Turkey to join the organization in Syria, meeting with deviant individuals, and financing terrorism by receiving an airline ticket to Turkey. He was also found to have stored inflammatory materials on his computer, which could harm the public order.”
Muslim Brotherhood
Itfarrag: Source: Number Of Students Belonging To Muslim Brotherhood At Cairo University Comes To 340
“Dr. Jaber Nassar, President of Cairo University, revealed the number of students belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood at Cairo University. Nassar stated during an interview that their number does not exceed 340. He added that the University has succeeded in stopping Brotherhood followers from spreading their ideology and influencing other students at Cairo University.”
Saqr News: Egyptian Ministry Of Awqaf Calls To Cancel License Of Any Reward-Preacher Belonging To The Muslim Brotherhood
“El Dakhleya Undersecretary of Religious Endowments, Sheikh Taha Zeyada, urged citizens to provide the Endowments Directorate with the name of any imam or inspector who is affiliated, supports or sympathizes with any terrorist or extremist group, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. He underscored the need to revoke the authorization of any such reward-preacher {preacher who is paid based on the amount of work he does}. Zeyada added that the role of the mosque in terms of summer activities should focus on memorizing the Holy Quran and holding religious-knowledge contests and daily lessons. He stressed that a person who is not authorized should not ascend the pulpit or give religious lessons in mosques. Zeyada added that violators of the ministry’s instructions will be punished in the form of delayed salary-payment and deduction of three months’ wages.”
Hezbollah
Baladi-News: Drug Farms For Hezbollah In Syria
“On Saturday, media outlets affiliated with the Syrian regime published a series of photographs of what they claimed to be huge fields planted with cannabis plants in the rural districts of Hama. According to these media channels, farmers first saw the fields, without knowing what was planted there, only later to discover it was cannabis. The reports suggested that the cultivated area exceeded 4,000 square meters. The fields, situated at the lowest point of the farming areas in Al-Ghab Plain, are located to the West of Hama. Local activist, “Abu al-Bara al-Hamawi,” claimed that Al-Ghab Plain is subject to the control of three foreign military forces, namely “Iran, Hezbollah and Afghan mercenaries.” The dominant force there is the Lebanese Hezbollah, he stressed.”
Houthi
7adramout.Net: Houthi Militants Collect Money From Pupils On The Pretext Of Protecting Them From “Arab Aggression”
“Yemeni writer/political analyst Mutahhar Al-Rida asserted that the Houthis have become tax collectors not only from schools, but from every possible source, especially property owners and landlords. He explained that from their viewpoint, as disclosed by a group official, they have enjoyed only 5% of their rights from Yemen’s wealth since 1962. Speaking to Safa TV, Al-Rida noted that the Houthis seized all the state employees’ salaries causing bankruptcy of “everything” due to their excessive collection of taxes. He claimed that the Houthis are instilling in the pupils’ minds that the money they ‘donate’ is meant to protect them from the {Saudi-led} “Arab aggression.”

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