Eye on Extremism, July 26, 2017

Associated Press: Al-Qaida In Syria Snuffs Out Competition In Northwest
“Syrian rebels and activists are warning that an al-Qaida-linked jihadi group is on the verge of snuffing out what remains of the country’s uprising in northwestern Syria, after the extremists seized control of the opposition-held regional capital, Idlib, last weekend. With the jihadis cementing their authority over the city and its province, also called Idlib, Syrian President Bashar Assad has been supplied with a useful pretext for a long-expected assault against the rebellious province: that the uprising against him is largely driven by Islamists and terrorists.”
CNN: Videos Suggest Russian Government May Be Arming Taliban
“The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country. US generals first suggested they were concerned the Russian government was seeking to arm the Afghan insurgents back in April, but images from the battlefield here corroborating these claims have been hard to come by. These two videos show sniper rifles, Kalashnikov variants and heavy machine guns that weapons experts say are stripped of any means of identifying their origin.”
BBC News: Pakistan Blast: Taliban Bike Bomb Kills 26 In Lahore
“At least 26 people have been killed in a car bombing in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, officials say. More than 50 others were injured in the explosion on the busy Ferozepur Road close to a vegetable market in the south of the city. The Pakistani Taliban said it was behind the explosion. Reports suggest it was a suicide bomber on a motorbike, and the target may have been police working in the area. Police officers are among the dead. Windows were blown out in nearby buildings by the force of the blast. Eyewitness Sher Dil, who works at an office near the site, said he heard a ‘deafening blast’.”
Associated Press: Syria Activists: Despite Truce, Strikes Near Damascus Kill 8
“Syrian opposition activists and a paramedic group say that airstrikes in a Damascus suburb have killed eight people, including children. The casualties late on Monday were the first since Russia said three days ago that an agreement was reached with the Syrian opposition on the boundaries for a de-escalation zone for the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian Civil Defense group, more popularly known as the White Helmets, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the airstrike on Arbeen killed eight and wounded several others.”
ISIS In Europe: Dutch Jihadis Are Calling Tv Stations To Announce Their Return
“Jihadis from the Netherlands suspected of fighting for the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) are contacting television stations at home in a bid to improve their image before they return and face trial. Last week, two Dutch fighters contacted separate television stations to give interviews, announcing that they are to return to their home country, according to The Daily Beast. They are part of a wave that has given security services across the continent increasing concern. The two jihadis are part of a wider group of 10 that Dutch authorities seek to put on trial. A court decided that they can be present to defend themselves and have until January 2018 to return to Dutch soil.”
New York Times: Vast Support For Russia Sanctions Quashes Potential For Veto
“Strong congressional support from Republicans and Democrats for a new package of Russia sanctions effectively scuttles the potential for President Donald Trump to derail the legislation. The House is set to vote Tuesday on the penalties that aim to punish Moscow for its meddling in the presidential election and military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. The Senate is expected to act soon after that, which means the measure could be sent to Trump before the GOP-led Congress breaks for its August recess. The bill also would hit Iran and North Korea with fiscal and economic penalties. Both chambers are positioned to approve the legislation by veto-proof margins.”
Newsweek: Iran And Iraq Military Unite Against ‘Terrorism,’ Creating Potential Problems For U.S.
“Iran and Iraq have pledged to join forces against militant fighters and ideology in the region by boosting bilateral defense ties, a move that could present a challenge to U.S. foreign policy goals. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hiyali met Sunday in Tehran to sign a military agreement aimed at improving joint efforts to curb the influence of jihadis such as the Islamic State militant group. ISIS has conducted deadly attacks in both countries and is still being fought by Iraq with support from Iran and the U.S., but the U.S. has become increasingly concerned about Iran’s growing foothold in Iraq.”
Los Angeles Times: Man Wanted To Help ISIS And Spread Terror In Bay Area, Indictment Alleges
“He spoke of giving backpacks full of explosives to homeless people, federal authorities said. He talked about lacing cocaine with rat poison to distribute at nightclubs and setting fires to hills near Berkeley. For months, undercover federal agents interacted with Amer Sinan Alhaggagi — swapping text messages, emails and phone calls in which the man expressed his wishes to do harm in the Bay Area. They met multiple times, court records show, to plan a potential terror attack. If it was carried out, officials said, Alhaggagi intended to flee to Mexico. Now the 22-year-old Oakland man is facing up to 47 years in federal prison after a grand jury indictment in San Francisco accused him of attempting to provide material support or resources to Islamic State. “It’s pretty horrific, plans that he had for the greater Bay Area,” FBI spokesman Prentice Danner said Monday. “Any one of the things, isolated, is alarming.”
United States
Reuters: U.S. Judge Halts Deportation Of More Than 1,400 Iraqi Nationals
“A federal judge in Michigan halted on Monday the deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals from the United States, the latest legal victory for the Iraqi nationals facing deportation in a closely watched case. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction requested by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers, who argued the immigrants would face persecution in Iraq because they are considered ethnic and religious minorities there.  Goldsmith said the injunction provides detainees time to challenge their removal in federal courts. He said many of them faced ‘a feverish search for legal assistance’ after their deportation orders were unexpectedly resurrected by the U.S. government after several years.”
The Washington Post: Cooperation With Russia Becomes Central To Trump Strategy In Syria
“Cooperation with Russia is becoming a central part of the Trump administration’s counter-Islamic State strategy in Syria, with U.S. military planners counting on Moscow to try to prevent Syrian government forces and their allies on the ground from interfering in coalition-backed operations against the militants. Syria’s once-separate conflicts have moved into close proximity on the battlefield. Part of the plan essentially carves up Syria into no-go zones for each of the players — President Bashar al-Assad’s fight, with Russian and Iranian help, against rebels seeking to overthrow him, and the U.S.-led coalition’s war to destroy the Islamic State.”
Fox News: Mattis Slams Pentagon For Wasting Taxpayer Dollars In Afghanistan
“Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has chided the Pentagon for its ‘cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an effective and wasteful manner,’ cautioning the department that such missteps are ‘not to recur.’ The memo, obtained Monday by Fox News, highlights a June report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan (SIGAR) which found that as much as $28 million had been wasted by the Pentagon over a ten-year period on uniforms for Afghan soldiers with a camouflage pattern deemed unsuitable for the country’s predominantly desert terrain.”
Syria
Newsweek: ISIS Defeat Ends With ‘Women’s Revolution’ And Syrians Destroying Conservative Muslim Dress
“Syrians are destroying items of traditional Islamic clothing as local forces supported by the U.S. dislodge the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and lift the ultraconservative dress code imposed on the population. In a video posted Friday to the official Twitter account of the Kurdish nationalist People’s Protection Units (YPG), civilians of ISIS’ embattled de facto capital of Raqqa could be seen celebrating the jihadists’ defeat by emotionally condemning what they had inflicted on the town. While some reacted to ISIS’ downfall with exclamations of joy, others mourned for their loved ones who they said ISIS had slaughtered as it expanded its so-called caliphate and enforced their ultraconservative brand of Sunni Islam on locals.”
Reuters: Air Strikes, Shelling Strain Moscow-Backed Damascus Truce
“Air strikes killed at least nine people in the Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus overnight and insurgent shelling from the rebel-held area landed near the Russian embassy on Tuesday, a war monitor reported. The fighting strained a Russian-backed truce in the area. The Syrian military declared a cessation of hostilities there on Saturday. Russia, a military ally of President Bashar al-Assad, said it had deployed military police in the Eastern Ghouta on Monday to try to enforce a de-escalation zone it said it had agreed with the Syrian opposition there. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths in the air strikes in the Eastern Ghouta town of Arbin marked the first civilian casualties since the truce came into effect.”
Associated Press: Russia Deploys Military Police At ‘Safe Zone’ In Syria
“Russia has deployed military police to monitor the cease-fire in a safe zone in the eastern suburbs of Syria’s Damascus, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Monday. Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive against the Islamic State group since 2015 and previously deployed a military police force to patrol the city of Aleppo last year. Russia, Iran, which supports Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fighting his forces, in May approved a plan to create four ‘de-escalation’ zones in Syria, pressing Assad’s air force to halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country.”
Reuters: Hezbollah Says Battle With Nusra Front Almost Won At Syria-Lebanon Border
“Hezbollah said on Monday its battle with Nusra Front jihadists at the Syria-Lebanon border was almost over and urged remaining insurgents in the area to give up, pressing its campaign to take their last foothold at the frontier. With the Nusra Front almost beaten in the mountainous area on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal, the next phase is expected to focus on adjacent territory held by Islamic State militants. ‘We call on all militants … to spare their blood and throw down their weapons,’ declared a statement from ‘resistance operations command’ published by Hezbollah-run media. The Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group has played a critical role in vanquishing Sunni Muslim jihadists in the border region during the six-year-long Syrian war, part of its critical military support provided to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
Iraq
Fortune: ISIS Is So Desperate It’s Turning To The Drug Trade
“As the Islamic State’s territory continues to be squeezed, most notably in the Iraqi city of Mosul, primary revenue-generating streams are drying up—including oil and gas extortion, taxation of the local populations it once controlled, and money earned from phosphate and cement plants. This will likely force the group to seek new, opportunistic revenue streams to exploit, including drug trafficking, to raise money. One major consequence of the Arab Spring, the anti-government uprising that spread across the Middle East more than six years ago, and the geopolitical tumult that followed has been that new smuggling and trafficking routes and networks throughout the Middle East and North Africa have emerged, with criminal groups and terrorist organizations taking advantage of continued instability in key geographic hubs throughout the Mediterranean region.”
Turkey
Reuters: Turkey’s Erdogan Ends Tour With No Sign Of Qatar Progress
“Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan left Qatar on Monday after two days in the Gulf trying to mediate in the worst row among Arab states for years but there was no sign he had made any progress. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants. Doha denies the claims. Turkey has been Qatar’s most powerful ally in the dispute, rushing through legislation to send more troops to its base in Doha as a sign of support. Kuwaiti and Western efforts to end the crisis have yielded little so far. The four Arab states want Qatar to reduce ties with their arch-foe Iran, close down the Turkish military base and shut the Al Jazeera TV channel, which they view as critical of their governments.”
The New York Times: Turkey Opens Trial Of 17 Journalists On Terrorism Charges
“Seventeen journalists and executives of the last prominent independent newspaper in Turkey, Cumhuriyet, went on trial in Istanbul on Monday, accused of aiding terrorist organizations under a government crackdown against opponents since a failed coup last year. Two other defendants, a jailed teacher prominent on social media and a former correspondent based in the United States, have been included in the same indictment. The trial, which is expected to come to a provisional decision on Friday, is being seen as a test case for the freedom of the press in Turkey, now the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.”
Reuters: Migrant Deal With Turkey Working Well, Says EU Official
“An EU deal with Turkey to stem the westward flow of migrants is working well, and day-to-day bilateral ties are better than rhetoric might suggest, the bloc’s top official for relations with neighboring states said. Austrian Johannes Hahn made the comments to ORF radio on Tuesday, days after Germany raised the possibility of suspending European Union aid payments promised to Turkey under the migrant deal. In exchange for 3 billion euros in financial aid and a promise to ease visa restrictions for Turks, Ankara has sharply cut numbers of migrants crossing into Europe via its territory from conflict zones in the Middle East and Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan
CNN: Pakistan Bomb Blast Kills More Than Two Dozen People
“At least 26 people have died in a bomb blast targeting police in Pakistan on Monday, officials told CNN. The incident took place in Lahore, at a vegetable market at the entrance of the Arfa Software Technology Park, a city landmark. At least 54 others were injured, according to the Punjabi provincial government Twitter account. Nine police officers were among the dead.”
Egypt
Reuters: Car Bomb Kills Seven Civilians In Egypt’s North Sinai: Army
“Seven civilians, including two young children, were killed by a car bomb that exploded at a security checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula on Monday, Egypt’s army spokesman said. The military said it intercepted the vehicle at a checkpoint near the city of Arish, the capital of North Sinai province, and tried to contain the expected blast by running over the car with a tank. However, the bomb exploded after the tank had driven away and the civilians nearby were caught in the blast, according to images seen in video released by the army. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Four gunmen were inside the vehicle, the army said.”
Middle East
The Jerusalem Post: Palestinian Terrorist From West Bank Stabs Arab-Israeli In Petah Tikva
“An Arab man from the West Bank was arrested in the Central Israel city of Petah Tikva Monday morning after illegally infiltrating the area and stabbing a 32-year-old Arab-Israeli male victim in what police are deeming a terrorist attack. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), said the unidentified suspect, a 21-year-old from the village of Qalqiliya, was imprisoned between 2015-2016 for unspecified terrorist activity. He is currently being interrogated. According to The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, a worker at a nearby pizza restaurant struck and subdued the attacker with a pizza tray amid the frenzy.”
The Jerusalem Post: IDF Strikes Hamas In Gaza After Two Rockets Strike Israel On Sunday
“IDF tank fire struck and destroyed a Hamas instillation in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday morning in response to rockets that had been fired from the enclave towards southern Israel, the military said. The response by the IDF came after two rockets struck the southern Israel communities of Sha’ar HaNegev and Eshkol regional councils on Sunday. Both rockets fell in open areas and did not cause any damage. The Code Red siren alerts were not activated in both incidents and the army is investigating why the warning system did not pick up the launch of the first rocket.”
NBC News: Israel Embassy Shooting In Jordan Deepens Temple Mount Security Crisis
“An Israeli embassy security guard fatally shot two Jordanians in Amman Sunday after one reportedly attacked him with a screwdriver — prompting concerns that the Temple Mount security crisis might exacerbate tensions between the neighboring states. Israeli media said Jordan had demanded to conduct an investigation and had prevented the Israeli security guard from leaving the country. Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the security guard had diplomatic immunity and that it was working with Jordanian authorities. Jordan’s Interior Ministry declined to comment and NBC News could not immediately reach Jordan’s Ministry of Information spokesperson.”
The Jerusalem Post: Charged Atmosphere In Jordan Leads To Israeli Concessions
“The shooting deaths of two Jordanians at the hands of an Israeli security guard who was stabbed with a screwdriver at the Israeli Embassy compound in Amman was not being linked Monday by Jordan’s media or officialdom to the crisis around the installation of metal detectors at entrances to the Temple Mount. But the incident occurred against the background of highly inflamed anti-Israel passions in Jordan because of the metal detectors and the perception that they are an infringement against al-Aksa, the third-holiest site in Islam.”
BBC News: Israeli Embassy Staff Home After Amman Standoff
“Israeli embassy staff in Jordan have returned to Israel after a deadly incident at the complex on Sunday. A statement from Israel’s government said among those to return is a security officer, who had shot dead a Jordanian who had stabbed him. Israel said all its diplomats were safe. The incident led to a brief standoff as Jordanian authorities sought to question the guard, who Israel said had diplomatic immunity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken to the ambassador and the guard, congratulating them on their handling of the situation.”
BBC News: Israel Removes Flashpoint Holy Site Metal Detectors
“Israel has removed metal detectors from outside a holy site in East Jerusalem after uproar from Palestinians over their recent introduction. Israel’s security cabinet voted early on Tuesday to remove and replace them with less obtrusive surveillance. There were deadly clashes after the metal detectors were set up, which Palestinians saw as an Israeli attempt to assert control over the site. Israel said they were necessary to prevent weapons being smuggled in. It followed the killing on 14 July of two Israeli policemen by Israeli-Arab gunmen, who police say had hidden their weapons on the hilltop site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.”
Reuters: Gulf Arab States Blacklist Nine Individuals, Nine Organizations: SPA
“Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have added nine entities and nine individuals to their individual ban lists because of alleged links to Qatar over terrorism, Saudi’s state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday. The four Arab states, who isolated Qatar by cutting all diplomatic and transport links with it in early June, already have put dozens of figures linked to the country on blacklists. The new entrants on the ban lists include entities from Libya and Yemen and individuals from Qatar, Yemen and Kuwait who the Arab states say have direct and indirect links to Qatari authorities, the SPA reported.”
Libya
Reuters: Libya Coastguard Rescues Nearly 300 Migrants Off The Coast: Official
“Libya’s coastguard rescued an estimated 278 migrants including women and children on Monday off the shores of two different towns west of the capital Tripoli, a spokesman said. The coastal towns to the west of Tripoli – Zawiya, Sabratha, and Zuwarah – are common departure points for migrants trying to reach Europe, often sent out by smugglers in flimsy vessels. The coastguard near Zawiya refinery rescued 128 people about 23 km (14 miles) off the coast and another 150 were rescued off Sabratha, the spokesman of Libyan naval forces Ayoub Qaseed told Reuters. The migrants were mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, though there was also one from Bangladesh and two from Egypt.”
Voice Of America: Video Emerges Of IS-Style Mass Killing Of Jihadists In Libya
“A recent video emerged Sunday of fighters loyal to Libyan warlord General Khalifa Haftar, massacring suspected Islamic State militants dressed in orange jumpsuits. The footage, initially posted on Libyan social media sites, depicts an apparent mass killing conducted in deliberate and macabre mimicry of IS-style executions. Eighteen prisoners are seen in the footage being shot in sequence in the back of the head at point-blank range with bursts of semi-automatic gunfire. The blindfolded men are shown kneeling in four rows as the executioners walk up slowly behind them.”
United Kingdom
BBC News: Sandeep Samra Of Coventry Charged With Terror Offence
“An 18-year-old woman has been charged with a terrorism offence. Sandeep Samra, of Alder Road, Coventry, was charged with being concerned in the commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism, police said. Ms Samra, who was arrested on Tuesday, was due before Westminster Magistrates’ Court later. ‘The arrest was pre-planned and intelligence-led and there was no risk to the public’s safety,’ a West Midlands Police statement said. She was charged with ‘being engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to her intention to commit acts of terrorism or to assist others to commit such acts,’ between 7 June and 6 July, it added.”
BBC News: Boy, 16, Arrested At Stansted Airport Over Terrorism Offences
“A 16-year-old boy has been arrested at Stansted Airport on suspicion of terrorism offences. The teenager, from the Kent area, was due on a flight leaving the UK, and was arrested on Sunday afternoon. He was arrested on suspicion of the collection of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. He is currently in police custody and was detained under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). He was arrested by officers from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, working in collaboration with Counter Terrorism Policing South East.”
Germany
The Washington Post: At 15, She Joined ISIS After Converting To Islam. Now This German Teen Wants To Go Home.
“When 15-year-old Linda W. started to wear long-sleeved clothes early last year, it quickly struck her classmates and teachers in the sleepy eastern German town of Pulsnitz as odd. Her conversion to Islam was noticed almost immediately in a part of Germany where only 0.5 percent of the population is Muslim and where the backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-refugee policy had been stronger than almost anywhere else in the country. Linda W.’s school soon reached out to her mother and stepfather about the subtle changes, a local official said. But when the teenager told her parents one day last July that she would sleep at a friend’s place over the weekend and be back Sunday afternoon, they later said, they did not suspect anything unusual.”
CNN: German Schoolgirl Who Allegedly Joined ISIS May Be Tried In Iraq
“A 16-year-old German girl who ran away from home in 2016 and allegedly joined ISIS has been found alive in Iraq, the German government confirmed Monday. Linda Wenzel, a schoolgirl from the town of Pulsnitz near Dresden, was one of at least five foreign women captured by Iraqi forces sweeping the old city of Mosul after the defeat of ISIS, according to sources within the counter-terror operation in Mosul. The sources added that the women have now been moved to Baghdad and are under interrogation.”
France
The Guardian: Macron Attempts To Broker Libyan Peace With Meeting Of Leaders
“The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is to convene face-to-face talks in Europe between the leaders of the rival Libyan factions in an attempt to bring peace and political stability to the country. A stable Libya is a precondition for ending the flow of refugees through the Mediterranean that has upended Italian politics and has the potential to undermine support for the European Union. The two competing leaders, Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed government of National Accord based in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, head of the so-called Libyan National Army that controls large tracts of territory to the east, have been unable to agree a new power sharing compromise to reunite the country.”
Europe
Associated Press: Italy Uses Imams In Prisons To Deter Extremism Among Inmates
“Italy’s plan to reduce the risk of a jihadi-inspired attack is pinned in small part on El Hacmi Mimoun, an imam who bikes to the prison here every week and exhorts Muslim inmates not to stray from life’s ‘right path’ or hate people who aren’t Muslim. Seven inmates — three Moroccans, three Tunisians and a Somali — left their cells at Terni Penitentiary on an early summer day to listen as the Moroccan-born imam led prayers and delivered a sermon. Sunlight from a high barred window streamed through Mimoun’s gauzy, off-white robe.”
Voice Of America: Interior Ministers From Europe, Africa Meet To Tackle Migrant Crisis
“European and African ministers are meeting in Tunisia about efforts to regulate the flow of refugees from Africa to Europe, primarily along the deadly central Mediterranean route originating in Libya. In a declaration Monday in Tunis, the capital, the ministers said they agreed on a multi-pronged approach to the crisis, including informing people about the risks of illegal migration and the possibility of voluntarily returning home, addressing why migrants leave home and beefing up actions against human traffickers. Participating in the meetings were interior ministers from Algeria, Austria, Chad, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Mali, Malta, Niger, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia and Estonia, which currently holds the EU Council presidency.”

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