Eye on Extremism, July 19, 2017

Newsweek: U.S., Russia And Iran Battle To Build Bases In Syria As ISIS Falls
“Three of the leading international powers involved in Syria’s war—the U.S., Russia and Iran—are looking to expand and fortify their military presence in the country by building and upgrading foreign bases, with some already in the works. U.S. special operations forces have been involved in Syria for years, and the U.S. appears to be broadening the platforms from which it operates. Earlier this month, satellite imagery showed what appeared to be the construction of a new airstrip near Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, according to The Daily Beast. This base, along with other ‘temporary’ installations, reportedly could be used to both battle the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and bolster forces of the rebel Free Syrian Army in areas where fighters supportive of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are poised to take over. Meanwhile, Assad allies Russia and Iran have announced plans to develop their own military presence in the country.”
The Daily Beast: Turkey Leaks Secret Locations Of U.S. Troops In Syria
“In the latest display of Turkish anger at U.S. policy in Syria, the state news agency has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria where the U.S. is leading an operation to destroy the so-called Islamic State in its self-styled capital of Raqqa. The list published by the Anadolu news agency points to a U.S. presence from one end to the other of the Kurdish self-administration region—a distance of more than 200 miles. The Anadolu news agency even listed the number of U.S. troops in several locations and in two instances stipulated the presence of French special forces.”
CNN: Conflicting Reports on the Fate of ISIS Leader: CEP Spokesperson Tara Maller discusses contradictory reports on the possible death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Jerusalem Post: Two IDF Soldiers Hurt In West Bank Ramming Attack; Assailant Killed
“Two soldiers were lightly wounded in a suspected car-ramming attack near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba on Tuesday. A Palestinian arrived driving a car at the entrance to the village of Beit Anun and accelerated into the troops, the army said. Forces responded by firing their weapons at the man, killing him. Magen David Adom reported that it had evacuated the two Israelis in their 20s in light condition and fully conscious to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital. ‘When we arrived on the scene, we identified two youngsters in their twenties fully conscious and able to walk. They suffered from wounds to their limbs and faces after being hit by a vehicle,’ MDA paramedic Zaki Yahav said.”
The Jerusalem Post: Hezbollah’s Unity A Threat To Israel And The World
“There is no difference between the military and political wings of the terror organization Hezbollah. It is time that the UK and EU follow the lead of the Netherlands, which in 2004 designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist group, recognizing that “Hezbollah’s political and terrorist wings are controlled by one coordinating council.”
Reuters: U.S. Puts New Sanctions On Iran Over Ballistic Missile Program
“The United States slapped new economic sanctions against Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s ‘malign activities’ in the Middle East undercut any ‘positive contributions’ coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. The measures signaled that the administration of President Donald Trump was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place an agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. The U.S. government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what is said was ‘illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.’”
Daily Caller: Taliban Slaughtering ‘Record’ Number Of Civilians As Afghan War Slides Into Ruin
“Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a 16-year high because of Taliban improvised explosive devices, a new United Nations report reveals. The U.N. also believes one-third of the Afghan population now lives under Taliban rule, and that the insurgent group controls approximately 40 percent of the country. Improvised explosive devices are the weapon of choice for the insurgent group, which frequently deploys them against U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces. ‘A total of 1,662 civilian deaths were confirmed between 1 January and 30 June – an increase of two per cent on the same period last year, according to figures from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,’ the U.N. report noted.”
United States
Newsweek: What’s The U.S. Plan For Post-Isis Syria? Let Them Fight Among Themselves
“Imagine if, in 1945, the War Department and senior American commanders in Europe and Asia had been permitted to define victory simply as the fall of Berlin and Tokyo, with no post-combat stabilization and reconstruction program for either Germany or Japan. Imagine if, in 2003, the United States had invaded Iraq without a realistic, implementable plan for governance after the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein. Imagine if the West had fought Qaddafi in 2011 without much thought given to what would replace him. In fact, no imagination at all is required for the cases of Iraq and Libya. Both operations were undertaken with no serious regard to what would follow. Both produced disaster.”
CBS News: Orlando Nightclub Shooting: Judge Won’t Dismiss Charge Against Gunman’s Wife
“An obstruction charge will remain against the wife of a man who killed 49 people inside an Orlando nightclub last year, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Paul Byron denied a request from Noor Salman, 31, to dismiss one of the two criminal charges she faces. She is scheduled for trial in March on the obstruction charge and a count of aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen. The charges were filed in a federal district that covers Orlando, but she’s accused of obstructing investigators during an interview in Fort Pierce, which is in the Southern District of Florida. Salman argued that the obstruction charge was filed in the wrong venue.”
The Daily Caller: Trump Looks To Military Members For New Ideas On Afghanistan
“President Donald Trump hosted military service members for lunch Tuesday in an effort to field new ideas for a strategy in Afghanistan. Trump said that he wanted ‘to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in in terms of additional ideas,’ according to the Military Times. The president specifically sought out service members in an effort to get a firsthand perspective. ‘We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people, but I want to hear it from the people on the ground,’ said Trump.”
Reuters: U.S. Student Imprisoned In Iran Is Scholar, Not Spy: Colleagues
“By the time Princeton University graduate student Xiyue Wang arrived in Iran to conduct research for his doctorate in history, he had already spent years living and working in politically turbulent countries. The Chinese-born U.S. citizen previously worked as a Pashto translator for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan and spent time in Uzbekistan while a student at Harvard University. Wang, 37, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges after his arrest last summer, an Iranian official said on Sunday. He is the latest American citizen to face jail in Iran for what the U.S. State Department has denounced as fabricated charges.”
Reuters: Suicide Bomb Attack Kills Four In Kurdish-Held Syrian Northeast
“A suicide car bomb attack claimed by Islamic State 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.”
The Washington Post: Chechnya Becoming Major Player In Rebuilding War-Torn Syria
“Russia’s mostly Muslim republic of Chechnya is becoming a major player in rebuilding war-ravaged Syria. And ordinary Chechens are likely to foot the bill, with many of them being forced to make contributions or face the possibility of exile or death, human rights activists say. A murky charitable foundation run by the family of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is restoring Aleppo’s landmark mosque. The gesture is aimed at helping the Kremlin cement its footprint in Syria and to solidify Kadyrov’s standing in the Muslim world. The Kadyrov Foundation, one of Russia’s wealthiest charities, has spent millions bringing Western celebrities to Chechnya, buying sports cars for athletes and building mosques in Israel, Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and elsewhere. More recently, the foundation turned its sights to Syria.”
Newsweek: Russia And Iran Help Syria’s Military Take Oil And Gas Fields From ISIS
“The Syrian army and its allies have made major gains against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) southwest of its de facto capital of Raqqa, allowing the government to retake a number of lucrative oil wells that once helped fund the jihadists’ self-proclaimed caliphate. With support from Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed militias, Syrian troops have pierced ISIS defenses in Raqqa’s western countryside in recent months, most recently retaking al Daylaa oil field and Zamla gas field Monday, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency and Reuters. The advances follow a series of reported victories in Wahab, al Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields over the weekend and other recent wins over oil facilities formerly held by ISIS in Syria’s vast southeastern desert, signaling major progress for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to regain control of the war-torn nation.”
Voice Of America: With IS Gone, Iraq Shapes Plans For Rebuilding Mosul
“Just days after Iraqi forces evicted Islamic State (IS) militants from the last parcel of land that they controlled in Mosul, Iraqi government officials say they are ready to rebuild the war-torn city and return an estimated 1 million displaced civilians to their homes. Officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Planning told VOA that they had drawn up a 10-year plan to reconstruct the city, which came under full control of U.S.-backed Iraqi forces last week. ‘This is a broad plan that will hopefully start in the beginning of next year and continue until 2027,’ Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, ministry spokesperson, told VOA. ‘The plan will cost around $10 billion.’”
The Washington Post: Ruthless Taliban Branch Is Center Stage In U.S.-Pakistan Tensions
“When a fake sewage tanker truck carrying 3,000 pounds of explosives managed to reach a high-security district of Kabul on May 30, then detonated a huge bomb that left 150 people dead and 400 wounded, no insurgent or terror group claimed responsibility. But immediately, the rumors began to spread. The Haqqanis. It had to be the Haqqani Network, people said. No one else could have pulled off such a precise and spectacular crime. The Afghan intelligence police soon publicly accused them too, adding that they had gotten help from Pakistan’s spy agency. Six weeks later, the bombing still remains unclaimed, and the Afghan capital is still reeling from it. By rights, the Haqqanis should be barely standing. For years, this clan-based Taliban offshoot has been a high-priority target for Afghan forces and their U.S.-led allies.”
The New York Times: Afghan Vice President’s Return Thwarted As Plane Is Turned Back
“During nearly two months of de facto exile in Turkey, Afghanistan’s embattled vice president, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, hastily formed a new coalition of the discontented. On Monday, he tried to return to Afghanistan to advance their cause. But as hundreds of supporters waited late into the night at an airport in northern Afghanistan, the small private plane carrying Mr. Dostum, an ex-warlord, was denied permission to land on orders from the central government, according to several Afghan and Western officials. The episode will probably deepen Afghanistan’s political crisis, testing the limits of Mr. Dostum, a politician who has been volatile in the past and who has threatened to turn his wrath against President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which he helped bring to power but now accuses of marginalizing him.”
Reuters: Egyptian Security Forces Kill Prominent Islamic State Militant In North Sinai
“Egyptian security forces killed a prominent Islamic State militant on Tuesday suspected of being involved in recent attacks in North Sinai, an Interior Ministry statement said. Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State group in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013. The statement said security forces conducted a raid on a building under construction in Arish, a city in North Sinai, where militants had set up a base of operations. An ensuing firefight led to the death of one of the group’s leaders, Ahmed Hassan Ahmed Al-Nashu, who is known as Ghandur Al-Masri, and the escape of another, the statement said.”
The Times Of Israel: Egypt Police Trap And Kill 3 Top ‘Terrorist Group’ Members
“Egyptian police have killed three top Islamist militants in two separate operations, including two caught trying to move to a new hideout on Cairo’s outskirts, the government said Tuesday. The interior ministry said the two militants killed in New Cairo were senior members of the Hasam group — an extremist movement the government accuses of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The third man, a jihadist who was gunned down in the restive North Sinai province, was a leader of a militia affiliated with the Islamic State group, the ministry said in a separate statement.”
Middle East
Newsweek: Middle East Conflict: Palestinians Urge ‘Day Of Rage’ As Israel Imposes Holy Site Measures After Attack
“The Palestinian Fatah party, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called for a ‘Day of Rage’ on Wednesday to protest new Israeli security measures at the contested Jerusalem holy site after a deadly shooting attack that killed two policemen last week. Israel closed the site on Friday after three Arab-Israeli citizens from the northern city of Umm al-Fahm carried out a shooting attack near the entrance to the site known as the Temple Mount to Jews, and the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims.”
Associated Press: Lebanon Preparing For Military Operation Near Syria Border
“Lebanon is preparing a military operation to secure a lawless section of the border with Syria, Prime Minister Saad Hariri told parliament on Tuesday. The leader of Lebanon’s powerful militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, hinted in a speech last week that a joint operation was in the works with the Lebanese and Syrian militaries to expel Islamic State and Al-Qaida-linked militants from the Arsal region, which is home to a large number of Syrian refugees. The Lebanese military is expected to try and root out militants from the Lebanese side of the mountainous frontier, retired Gen. Elias Hanna told The Associated Press.”
Reuters: U.N. Urges East Libya Army To Probe Executions, Suspend Commander
“The United Nations called on Tuesday for the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the eastern part of the country to investigate summary executions of prisoners. Its human right’s body and voiced concern at the fate of those still in their custody. The LNA is pushing to expand its presence in central and southern Libya, where it has been vying for control with forces linked to the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and other opponents. LNA leader Khalifa Haftar has gained ground with Egyptian and Emirati support, and Western states say Haftar must be part of any solution to Libya’s conflict.”
Reuters: U.N. Seeks To Dissuade West African Migrants From Heading To Libya
“West Africa migrants and asylum-seekers must be dissuaded from going to Libya, the main point of departure for Europe but where they often face abuse and detention at the hands of traffickers, the United Nations said on Tuesday. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appealed to donors for funds to provide ‘meaningful alternatives’ for people taking dangerous boat journeys to reach Europe. More than 110,000 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea in southern Europe so far this year, including 92,000 in Italy, it said. At least 2,360 have died at sea and an unknown number have perished in the Sahara desert trying to reach Libya.”
Reuters: Children Tune In For Radio Lessons In Boko Haram-Hit Lake Chad Region
“Denied an education by the Islamist insurgency of militant group Boko Haram, tens of thousands of children across the Lake Chad region are instead tuning into lessons broadcast over the radio, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.  The radio syllabus is providing lessons on literacy and numeracy, and staying safe amid the violence, to about 200,000 displaced and out-of-school children in the Far North region of Cameroon and Niger’s southern Diffa region, according to UNICEF. ‘The level of boredom among children in camps for the displaced is tremendous,’ said UNICEF spokesman Patrick Rose.”
United Kingdom
BBC News: Coventry Teenager Held Over Terror Offences
“An 18-year-old woman from Coventry has been arrested on suspicion of terror offences. She is suspected of being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism. The suspect is being questioned by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit at a police station in the region. The arrest was ‘pre-planned and intelligence-led; there was no risk to the public’, a police statement said.”
BBC News: Man And Woman Arrested In Cardiff Under Terrorism Act
“Two people from Cardiff have been arrested under the Terrorism Act. A man, 34, and a woman, 36, are being questioned by police on suspicion of disseminating terrorist publications. Three properties in the city have been searched. Det Supt Lee Porter, of the Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit, said it continued to seek the public’s help in tackling extremism.”
Reuters: Prosecutors Checking Whether German Teenager Arrested In Mosul
“German prosecutors said on Tuesday they were checking reports that a 16-year-old German teenager under investigation for supporting Islamic State was among five women arrested in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Iraqi forces last week declared victory over Islamic State in Mosul, though clashes continue in parts of the Old City. Die Welt newspaper said the five women had been detained during the military operations in the city and it identified the German teenager only as Linda W.  Lorenz Haase, chief prosecutor for the state of Saxony, said officials were investigating whether the 16-year-old was the same teenager who went missing last summer from the small town of Pulsnitz, near the eastern German city of Dresden.”
The Macron Effect: France Now World’s Top ‘Soft Power’ Thanks To President, Cuisine And Culture
“France has risen from fifth to first in the space of a year, according to researchers for the Soft Power 30 index published on Tuesday. Germany fell from fourth to fifth over the same period. ‘France’s soft power has no doubt seen a boost with the defeat of the National Front and election of its youngest ever president, Emmanuel Macron,’ the report’s authors noted. The Soft Power 30 is not just about political leadership – it also makes reference to the number of Michelin-starred restaurants a country has. France’s vast diplomatic network was also given credit for its growing global influence.”
Terror Financing
Elbilad: Algerian Finance Minister Approves Decision To Freeze And Seize Funds Belonging To Terrorist Individuals And Entities
“Algerian Finance Minister Abderrahmane Raouia signed a resolution on the freeze and seizure of funds belonging to individuals, groups and entities terror blacklisted by the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee. Following the signature, the Head of the Algerian Financial Intelligence Cell (CTRF) was authorized to implement its provisions. Among the most prominent entities and groups included under the new measures are Jund al-Khilafah fi Ard al-Jazair {Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria}, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan {“Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa}.”
Elfagr: Egyptian Expert: Worldwide Intelligence Agencies And Nations Are Behind Terror Financing In Egypt
“Maj. Gen. Hisham al-Halabi, a consultant in the Nasser Military Academy and member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, commented on the successful raid by the Egyptian Air Force against 15 four-wheel vehicles laden with weapons, ammunition, and contraband materials including highly explosive materials. He said this was not the first time that such cars have infiltrated into Egypt. Al-Halabi disclosed that over the past two months, 42 such vehicles have made their way into Egypt. Al-Halabi said, during a TV interview, that the cost of these cars, transporting them from the plant to Libya and from there to Egypt is beyond the abilities of terrorist groups. He claimed there must be intelligence agencies and countries behind this affair. He pointed out that these countries, which finance terrorist groups inside Egypt and are the sources of terrorism, have yet to be dried up.”
Muslim Brotherhood
Dostor: Expert: Muslim Brotherhood Spends 50% Of Its Annual Budget On Military Training For Its Young Members
“The Muslim Brotherhood spends half its annual budget on the “Student Section,” which is in charge of training young people on the use of various types of weaponry and martial arts. The total sum of the funds obtained by the group from monthly membership fees alone, paid continually by employees, ranges between 40 and 50 million pounds ($2.2 – 2.8 million). The Brotherhood also obtains a percentage of the profits gained by companies affiliated with the group’s businessmen, under the banner of “donations.” These revenues amount, on average, to 20 million pounds ($ 1.1 million) {per month}, in addition to a percentage of profits from Brotherhood schools. The group obtains an additional $0.5 billion as a return on its investments in Dubai, Turkey and Hong Kong. The proceeds are transferred annually, in the form of bonds, to Swiss banks. Sameh Eid, a dissident Brotherhood leader and independent researcher on affairs of Islamic movements, asserted that the group spends more than half a billion pounds ($28 million) per year to promote its young people’s abilities in various aspects including psychological, educational and military, thereby turning them into the Brotherhood’s “iron fist,” with the aim of destroying state institutions.”
Alsumaria News: Iraq: Prominent ISIS Human Organ Trader Flees
“A local source in the province of Nineveh, on Tuesday, disclosed the escape from the Tel Afar District of a man called ‘Abu al-Akbad’, a prominent ISIS leader who is charge of the sale of human organs to traders in neighboring countries. The source said that “the official in ISIS in charge of selling human organs fled, along with three associates, to an unknown destination.” The source revealed that “Abu al-Akbad holds the passport of an Arab country located on the African continent. He used to work from an ISIS camp in a village in Tal Afar district (55 km west of Mosul).” The source, who asked to remain anonymous, added that “Abu al-Akbad was involved in the sale of more than 500 human organs taken from the group’s war casualties. He would sell them to human organ traffickers, earning millions of dollars.”
Yemen Akhbar: Children From Affluent Families Abducted By Houthis
“A picture posted by Yemeni activists on social media sites showed a Houthi leader sitting beside a huge pile of cash. Activists claimed these funds, which represent revenues belonging to provinces under the group’s control, were looted by its militants. According to the activists, the money is collected by provincial authorities and regional tax offices, but instead of channeling it to Yemen’s treasury, it reaches Houthis’ pockets, while the “legitimate” Yemeni authorities are unable to do anything to stop it. This is especially because governmental forces have not been able to achieve any military progress in the northern provinces, which are dominated by the Houthis. Other sources said that armed groups have recently carried out abductions, while other Houthi-affiliated groups have mediated the release of the captives in exchange for millions of riyals in ransom money. According to the sources, most of those kidnapped are children of wealthy families from districts in the northern governorates, under the Houthis’ jurisdiction.”


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