Eye on Extremism, April 18, 2018

Eye on Extremism
April 18, 2018
The Washington Post: U.S. Says It Will Send American ISIS Suspect Held 7 Months In Iraq To Another Country
“An American citizen imprisoned for seven months without charges by the U.S. military as an enemy combatant will be transferred from Iraq to another country, the government has told a court, giving his lawyers three days to challenge the move. At the direction of U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Justice Department publicly disclosed its plans in a partly redacted filing early Tuesday afternoon with the name of the receiving country blacked out. Two countries were under consideration, the government has previously said. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the detainee, whose name has not been disclosed, said it would seek to block the move and asked for a hearing late Wednesday or Thursday morning. ‘Forcibly rendering’ the detainee to another country ‘would be an unconscionable violation of his constitutional rights,’ ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said in a statement, adding, ‘the government has no legal authority to detain this U.S. citizen in the first place, and it clearly lacks any legal authority to transfer him to the custody of another government.’”
Associated Press: Delays Keep Inspectors From Reaching Syria Attack Site
“International inspectors were still waiting to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria on Wednesday, as the U.S. accused the Syrian government and its ally Russia of trying to cover up the evidence. It has been 11 days since the alleged attack on Douma, a town outside Damascus that at the time was controlled by the Army of Islam, a rebel group that surrendered in the days after the attack. The U.S., France, and Britain launched missile strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities one week later, after concluding that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were behind the attack. The three countries did not make their evidence public, and both the Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied any chemical attack took place. Russia has accused rebels of staging the attack with support from Britain, an allegation that Britain has strongly denied. Syrian state media reported Tuesday that inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had entered Douma, but the Syrian government later said that only a U.N. advance security team had entered.”
Military.Com: Coalition Ramps Up Strikes Amid Resurgence Of ISIS Fighters In Syria
“White House and Pentagon officials have said that Islamic State fighters have been “on the run” for some months now. But military commanders on the ground are seeing new pockets of movement in a handful of areas in Syria, which has led to an uptick in coalition airstrikes, an official said Tuesday. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said that officials hope to get members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to move back from the Afrin region and help push pockets of ISIS fighters away from towns along the Euphrates River Valley. “We have seen ISIS elements coming back and attacking, with success, pro-regime forces,” Dillon said during a televised briefing at the Pentagon.”
NPR: CIA Director Pompeo Met With Kim Jong Un: ‘Good Relationship’ Formed, Trump Says
“CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret visit to North Korea earlier this month and met with leader Kim Jong Un — a meeting that “went very smoothly,” President Trump said on Wednesday. Saying that “a good relationship was formed,” Trump added that the direct contact with North Korea — a rare step for the U.S. — was made to work out details of a possible Trump-Kim summit. In a tweet that also mentioned the potential summit’s ultimate goal, the president added, “Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!” In tweeting about Pompeo’s trip, Trump confirmed the substance of recent reports by multiple outlets, which had quoted unnamed White House officials speaking about it. But Trump also introduced an element of potential confusion, by saying Pompeo met with Kim “last week.”
The Guardian: EU To Force Tech Firms To Hand Over Terror Suspects’ Messages
“The European commission is seeking to force technology companies wherever they are based in the EU to hand over emails, text messages and app communications of terror suspects within hours of a court order. Under the plans, judges in one member state will be able to seize electronic evidence held on a service provider in another European country through a transnational European production order. The powers would further cover the seizure of data held outside the EU by a tech company “offering services in the union and established or represented” in an EU member state. The information will have to be handed over by the service provider within 10 days of receiving the warrant, or as little as six hours in emergency cases. Currently, depending on the legal vehicle, the time limits before which the tech companies need to respond to national courts can vary between 120 days to 10 months.”
United States
Reuters: October Trial Date Set For Accused New York Subway Bomber
“A federal judge on Tuesday set an Oct. 29 trial date for Akayed Ullah, the Bangladeshi man accused of attempting an Islamic State-inspired suicide bomb attack on a busy New York City commuter hub in December. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan rejected a request by Ullah’s lawyers for a December trial date. Sullivan could still grant a later request to reschedule the trial. Amy Gallicchio, one of Ullah’s lawyers, disclosed at the hearing that Ullah had recently been in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan but was moved out of it on Friday. She declined to comment further after the hearing. Ullah, 28, was arrested on Dec. 11 after trying to detonate a pipe bomb secured to his body in a pedestrian tunnel in New York’s subway system, according to federal prosecutors. The tunnel is in a station in Manhattan’s Times Square that is connected to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is used by commuters from New York’s suburbs.”
NY Daily News: John Bolton’s Arrival Could Mean An Overdue Turn On Iran
“John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser has given rise to a lot of hand-wringing about the possibility of another U.S. war in the Middle East. Critics should pause before they rush to judgment. The U.S. remains entangled in the Syrian war, attempting to mitigate the damage of Bashar Assad while searching for a way forward in what looks increasingly like a no-win situation. We have necessarily renewed our 15-plus year commitments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban appears poised to attempt a comeback. Meanwhile, our Middle Eastern allies are threatened by another civil war in Yemen. Discord undermines stability in Iraq and a number of other countries essential to national and international security. There is a common factor underlying all these conflicts. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been Assad’s chief backer since the start of the Syrian civil war. Tehran backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen and provides them with weapons like the ballistic missiles aimed at Saudi Arabia.”
Syria
Reuters: In Syria’s Raqqa, Corpses Still Lie In The Rubble
“The stench of rotting corpses rises from piles of rubble and destroyed buildings that line the streets of Syria’s Raqqa, serving as a bitter reminder of the brutal battle for the recapture of the former Islamic State stronghold. Islamic State declared a caliphate in 2014 and at the height of its power ruled over millions of people in parts of Syria and Iraq. The militant group had declared Raqqa the capital of its self-proclaimed state. But the city was retaken by U.S.-backed militias last October, after a four-month battle that left hundreds of civilians dead and most of its neighbourhoods flattened. Rescue workers say they are struggling to retrieve dozens of bodies still trapped under mounds of debris around the city.”
The Guardian: Syria: US In Talks Over Arab Force To Replace American Troops
“The Trump administration is renewing an effort to replace US troops in Syria with an Arab force, but the proposal faces substantial obstacles and could potentially exacerbate the conflict. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said his government was talking to Washington about raising such a force, confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal that said the new US national security adviser, John Bolton, had called the Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, to ask Cairo to play a part in building one. There are about 2,000 US troops in Syria fighting Islamic State, but Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to withdraw them. The idea of an Arab coalition force playing a role in Syria to combat extremist groups and contain Iranian influence has surfaced several times since 2015, but faces severe problems. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are bogged down in a brutal war in Yemen, and have little manpower and few military resources to spare.”
Reuters: Saudi Arabia Says Open To Sending Troops To Syria Under Wider Coalition
“Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday. “We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria,” Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He said Riyadh had expressed its readiness while Barack Obama was U.S. President to send ground forces into Syria if the United States were to add an on-the-ground component to the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State insurgents. Jubeir was responding to a question about a Wall Street Journal report that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria. “There are discussions regarding … what kind of force needs to remain in eastern Syria and where that force would come from, and those discussions are ongoing,” Jubeir said.”
The Wall Street Journal: After The Gas And Bombs: The Health Crisis That’s Killing Syria
“This country’s seven-year war is fueling a parallel disaster: a crippling public-health catastrophe. Some 400,000 Syrians have died from bullets, bombs or torture, including alleged recent gas attacks. More may have died as a result of the breakdown of its health system, and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease have become far more deadly, according reports from the World Bank and World Health Organization. The regime of Bashar al-Assad has targeted hospitals, clinics and medical personnel in a strategy to destroy the country’s medical infrastructure. Between the fighting and the destruction done to the health-care system, today most people can’t expect to live to 65. Many perish because they can’t get medicine, or reach a hospital. Muhammad Ismail woke his wife and three sons before a late-January sunrise and together they traveled for two hours, over rubble-filled roads and past bombed out hospitals, to join a swarm of the sick seeking treatment at one of Raqqa’s only functioning clinics.”
Fox News: US, Syrian Opposition Force Target Remaining ISIS Stronghold
“The young soldiers of the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were scattered around the makeshift checkpoint, often sitting alone, veiled only by a ripped sheet. They’re positioned just about a half-mile outside the village of Hajin, in Eastern Syria, one of the few remaining areas that a beaten-back Islamic State (ISIS) force still controls. ‘They still attack us every day, any time of the day,’ said 21-year-old Hassan, the senior SDF soldier at the post. ‘Sometimes mortar, sometimes rockets. Always lots of bullets.’ Though ISIS has been defeated in more than 90 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, removing this final pocket along the Iraqi-Syrian border — including Hajin, on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, north of Abu Kamal; and Dashisha, west of Deir ez-Zor — is proving to be a frustratingly slow process. ‘This is their last territory, and thousands of them came here after Mosul and Raqqa,’ Hassan said. ‘They are digging tunnels and planting mines all over.’”
Iran
Washington Free Beacon: Iranian-Backed ‘Sleeper Cell’ Militants Hibernating In U.S., Positioned For Attack
“Iranian-backed militants are operating across the United States mostly unfettered, raising concerns in Congress and among regional experts that these “sleeper cell” agents are poised to launch a large-scale attack on the American homeland, according to testimony before lawmakers. Iranian agents tied to the terror group Hezbollah have already been discovered in the United States plotting attacks, giving rise to fears that Tehran could order a strike inside America should tensions between the Trump administration and Islamic Republic reach a boiling point. Intelligence officials and former White House officials confirmed to Congress on Tuesday that such an attack is not only plausible, but relatively easy for Iran to carry out at a time when the Trump administration is considering abandoning the landmark nuclear deal and reapplying sanctions on Tehran.”
Jerusalem Post: Hezbollah’s War Of Words Telegraphs Iran’s Message To Jerusalem
“Israel and Iran are in “direct confrontation,” Naim al-Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, warned on Tuesday. His comments should be interpreted as a message to Jerusalem that the gloves are coming off in Tehran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is angry about alleged Israeli strikes on Iranian assets in Syria. The strike on the T4 air base on April 9 was a blow to Iran, more than just an attempt to do what some Israeli experts have called “mowing the grass” to reduce threats. Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir argued in a 2014 paper that “Israel’s strategy in the 21st century against hostile non-state groups, reflects the assumption that Israel finds itself in a protracted intractable conflict.” Use of force is designed to weaken the enemy, not to achieve “impossible political goals.” An impossible goal would be to remove Iran entirely from Syria.”
ABC News: Iran Bans Government Bodies From Using Foreign Message Apps
“Iran’s presidency has banned all government bodies from using foreign-based messaging apps to communicate with citizens, state media reported Wednesday, after economic protests organized through such apps shook the country earlier this year. Chief among those apps is Telegram, used by over 40 million Iranians for everything from benign conversations to commerce and political campaigning. Iranians using Telegram, which describes itself as an encrypted message service, helped spread the word about the protests in December and January. Telegram channels run on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri were already shut down Wednesday. A report on the website of Iran’s state television broadcaster said the ban affected all public institutions. It was not clear if the ban applied to civil servants outside of work hours. The report did not elaborate on penalties for violating the ban.”
CNBC: Israel ‘Will Be Punished’ For Its Strike On Iranian Drone Base, Tehran Says
“Iran has issued a threat against Israel following last weekend’s attack on an Iranian drone base in Syria. “Tel Aviv will be punished for its aggressive action,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told local press Monday. “The occupying Zionist regime will, sooner or later, receive an appropriate response to its actions.” The strike, which killed seven Iranian military advisors from the country’s elite Quds Force in the Syrian city of Homs, has been neither confirmed nor denied by Israel’s government. But a senior Israeli official admitted to The New York Times that the event was “the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.” Amid an already chaotic and internecine war involving numerous parties fighting for their own calculated interests, another conflict is coming into focus: the escalation of clashes between Iran and Israel.”
CNBC: Israel ‘Will Be Punished’ For Its Strike On Iranian Drone Base, Tehran Says
“Iran has issued a threat against Israel following last weekend’s attack on an Iranian drone base in Syria. “Tel Aviv will be punished for its aggressive action,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told local press Monday. “The occupying Zionist regime will, sooner or later, receive an appropriate response to its actions.” The strike, which killed seven Iranian military advisors from the country’s elite Quds Force in the Syrian city of Homs, has been neither confirmed nor denied by Israel’s government. But a senior Israeli official admitted to The New York Times that the event was “the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.” Amid an already chaotic and internecine war involving numerous parties fighting for their own calculated interests, another conflict is coming into focus: the escalation of clashes between Iran and Israel.”
Iraq
Radio Free Europe: Iraq Hands Life Sentences To Russian Women For Islamic State Ties
“Iraq has sentenced two women from Russia to life in prison after convicting them of belonging to the extremist Islamic State group. The two women sentenced by a Baghdad court on April 17 were identified by officials from Chechnya as natives of Daghestan, which neighbors Chechnya in Russia’s North Caucasus region. Russian state media reports citing Iraqi television said three women from Azerbaijan were sentenced to death at the same hearing, as was a woman from Kyrgyzstan. Details about those women could not be immediately confirmed. AFP reported that five women from Azerbaijan were sentenced to death at the hearing. The discrepancy between that report and the Russian state media reports could not immediately be reconciled. The two Russian women sentenced to life in prison held small children in their arms during the hearing. Iraq in December declared victory against IS militants who at one point controlled one-third of the country’s territory.”
Iraqi News: Jordan Allows Iraqi Troops Launch Operations Near Borders To Follow Islamic State Members
“Jordanian security sources have revealed cooperation with Iraq to enable border troops to follow Islamic State members on the borders between the two countries. Speaking to Emirates News Agency, the sources said Jordan provided Iraq with security information about places where the militants gather inside Iraq near the borders. This came as Iraqi troops launched wide-scale operations on borders with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia to follow the remnants of Islamic State. In remarks by Brig. Gen. Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for the Security Media Center, the operations target regions located west of Nineveh, inlcuding Mahlabiya, Sinjar reaching to Um Gereis on the international borders. ‘The military operations in Anbar, west of Iraq, on borders with Jordan, began inspecting regions of Akashat-Rutba, north of the highway linking between west of Iraq and borders with Jordan, in addition to operations at the Upper Euphrates, extending between Rawa to Rummana, west of Anbar on borders with Syria,’ Rasool added.”
Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Kill Seven Islamic State Insurgents Between Anbar, Salahuddin
“Seven Islamic State (IS) militants were killed during a military operation to track down dormant terrorist cells in the desert areas between Anbar and Salahuddin provinces, a security source was quoted as saying. ‘Troops of the 7th and 8th divisions of the Iraqi army, backed by pro-government forces of al-Hashd al-Shaabi, killed seven IS insurgents after storming the desert areas extending from the north of Anbar to the south of Salahuddin provinces,’ the source told IKH News Tuesday. The source pointed out that the troops also destroyed nine terrorist hotbeds and several secret tunnels that were used by IS extremists in theses areas, adding that the operation was mainly aimed at ‘drying up the sources of terrorism in these areas.’ The Islamic State group appeared on the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of an Islamic ‘caliphate’ from Mosul city.”
Afghanistan
Voice Of America: Militants Slay Afghan Boy, 12, For Feeding Police
“Islamic State militants executed a 12-year-old boy on charges of helping local police in northern Afghanistan, according to a senior Afghan government official who spoke to VOA. The boy was accused of supplying food and water to an Afghan local police check post in northern Jawzjan province. ‘The kid was apparently helping his brother-in-law, who is a member of (the) Afghan local police, fighting against militants in Kota-e-Osti district,’ Lutfullah Azizi, Jawzjan province governor, told VOA. ‘It is not the first time that IS militants are committing atrocities against civilians. They have previously killed women in summary executions.’ IS has been active in its stronghold of eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, where it first emerged in 2015. Over the years, the group has expanded its presence to pockets of the north as well, particularly in Jawzjan province.”
The Diplomat: Kabul’s Overture, The Taliban’s Dilemma, And The Way Out
“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani extended an olive branch to the Taliban at the Kabul Process-II meeting on February 28, 2018 by announcing a comprehensive peace proposal to the armed opposition group. The road map unveiled by the president accepted all the demands the Taliban had put forth from time to time, barring the announcement of a time frame for foreign forces to withdraw from Afghan soil. Even this very concern, to a certain extent, has been addressed by Kabul proposing that the demand considered as part of peace negotiations. Talking to local media, the chief executive officer of the High Peace Council said that the withdrawal of the international forces from Afghanistan can be discussed as the first item on the agenda. Following announcement of this comprehensive offer, the Afghan public has also been calling upon the Taliban to explore ending the longstanding Afghan conflict through political settlement. The Helmand sit-in was one of the many forums for people to raise their voices in support of the peace process. The sit-in, organized in the aftermath of a deadly suicide attack in Laskargah city of Helmand province, is now being replicated in many other provinces. Such unprecedented initiatives have been an additional source of pressure on the Taliban, making it difficult for them to ignore Kabul’s peace offer.”
Yemen
Middle East Monitor: Yemen’s Houthis Release 18 Al-Qaeda Fighters
“Some 18 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) officials have been released by Houthi fighters in a deal struck between the two armed groups, Aden Tomorrow reported today. The AQAP fighters were released in a deal which would see them assist with an uptick of fighting in Al-Bayda governorate, southern Yemen, between the Houthis, AQAP and the Saudi-led coalition. However, a statement published via AQAP’s open source network on Saturday claimed the 18 prisoners in Al-Bayda “attacked” prison guards and escaped without any mention of Houthi involvement. “There was a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Al-Bayda and some Al-Qaeda fighters were killed and others injured – many escaped,” Hussain Al-Bukhaithi, a Sana’a based journalist, told MEMO. “Saudi has targeted many prisons since the beginning of the war.”
Voice Of America: Yemen’s Houthis Vow To Step Up Missile Attacks On Saudi Arabia
“Yemen’s Houthi militia, which is supported by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has vowed to step up its missile and rocket attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition of Arab and Gulf states trying to push the Houthis out of the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Houthi militiamen chanted slogans against the United States and Israel earlier this month as they fired ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. Sunday, at the 29th annual Arab summit in Dhahran, Saudi King Salman accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with missiles. He called the Houthis ‘terrorists’ backed by Iran. He welcomes the U.N. condemnation of the Houthis for firing 119 missiles at Saudi cities, including Mecca.”
Israel
The Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu: Israel On Guard Against Iranian Terror Attacks On Diplomats
“Israel’s security services are poised to thwart any attempt to harm its diplomats abroad, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, amid Iran’s threats that it will avenge the attack last week on the T4 Air Base near Homs which has been attributed to Israel. Netanyahu was speaking at the Foreign Ministry’s annual memorial ceremony for 16 employees killed in terrorist attacks, 14 of them murdered abroad. ‘The forces of darkness and terrorism thought that, by striking at our representatives, they would hurt our international standing. The exact opposite happened,’ the prime minister said. ‘At the same time, the members of our security branches – the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and the Mossad – are standing guard to thwart additional attempts to harm us, and we take every warning seriously in order to protect the safety and security of our representatives wherever they are,’ he said. Iran and its proxy Hezbollah were behind the 1992 bombing of the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 28 people, including three Israel diplomats, and the 1994 bombing in the Argentinian capital of the AMIA Jewish community building, which killed 85 people.”
Africa
ABC News: Niger Says Detainee Is Not Mastermind Of Deadly Attack: Sources
“Three senior Nigerien officials tell ABC News that they have determined that a man they have in custody is not Doundou Cheffou the ISIS leader whom officials believe masterminded the deadly ambush last October that killed four American soldiers. ABC News had confirmed through senior Nigerien officials and a western official that Niger was trying to confirm the identity of a man captured several weeks ago along the border region with Mali. Officials said the man in custody bore a resemblance to Cheffou, the head of ISIS in the Greater Sahara. Senior Nigerien security officials, however, determined that the man was not the ISIS leader after testing his DNA and comparing it with Cheffou’s brother who is in prison. The New York Times was first to report on Monday that Nigerien officials were trying to determine if they had detained Cheffou. Cheffou heads the small militant group known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara.”
Nigeria
The Guardian Nigeria: Military Kills Boko Haram Terrorists In Lake Chad
“The Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation Lafiya Dole has conducted an interdiction mission and killed undisclosed numbers of Boko Haram terrorists in Lake Chad region. The Air Force spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, in a statement, said: ‘in the night of April 13, 2018, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) successfully destroyed some Boko Haram terrorist (BHT) vehicles at a location, about 12 kilometres east of Arege, in the Lake Chad region.’ He added that ‘a NAF intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft discovered the militants’ activities, with some vehicles mounted with guns, moving within the location.’”
Somalia
Bloomberg Politics: Al-Qaeda Raids In Somalia Scuttle Africa’s Plan To Withdraw
“African troops battling an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia for the past decade stand little chance of withdrawing by their deadline in two years as the government remains fragile and a spike in militant violence has drawn in U.S. forces. The longest-running African Union peacekeeping mission, known as Amisom, operates in a shattered country whose lawlessness has bred regional violence — al-Shabaab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti — and piracy that plagued global shipping in the early 2000s. Over the past year, the U.S. has boosted its cooperation with the Somali army, targeting al-Shabaab and an Islamic State faction. The U.S. Africa Command said al-Shabaab controls about a fifth of Somalia, mainly in the south. Assaults on Ugandan peacekeepers this month show the challenge still facing the mission that deployed in 2007 as al-Shabaab stepped up its violence. Since October, Somalia has suffered its deadliest attack in three decades of civil war, debate in parliament threatened to turn violent and the federal and regional governments have been at loggerheads.”
Russia
The Washington Post: Russia Accused Of Tampering With The Site Of Alleged Syrian Chemical Attack
“Chemical weapons inspectors in Syria said Monday that they are being denied access to the site of an alleged chemical attack that was used to justify U.S.-led airstrikes over the weekend, amid growing suspicions that evidence of the incident may have been tampered with. Pro-government media broadcast interviews with doctors from the area saying that no such attack had occurred and that the victims they treated were suffering from asthma. A team with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Damascus on Saturday at the invitation of the government to investigate the alleged chemical attack, which prompted the strikes against three Syrian chemical weapons facilities early Saturday local time. Two days later, the fact-finding team said it has still not been granted permission by Syrian authorities to visit Douma, the town in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus where residents and monitoring groups said the attack took place.”
Malaysia
The Australian: Malaysian Police Hunt For Islamic State Suspects
“Malaysian police are hunting three Malaysians and one Thai national who are believed to be members of an Islamic State cell and accused of planning attacks and murdering police officers. The manhunt comes amid growing concern about the return of foreign fighters after the collapse of Islamic State in the Middle East and continuing Islamic State linked attacks in The Philippines. Malaysia’s police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun this week said four members of a cell remained on the run, were ‘dangerous’ and ‘capable of launching attacks that could pose a threat to national security.’ Asked about recent events, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was concerned about the rise of ‘extremist networks’ in the region. ‘The Australian government is concerned that experienced and motivated foreign fighters could be returning from conflicts in Syria and Iraq, to join extremist networks in our region,’ she said.”
Australia
The Guardian: Two Members Of Alleged Sydney Airport Terrorist Plot Arrested In Iraq
“Two Islamic State fighters allegedly connected to Australian terrorism – including a plot to blow up a plane leaving Sydney last year – have been captured in Iraq. An Isis commander and Lebanese citizen, Tarek Khayat, and his Australian relative Ahmed Merhi were detained earlier this year, senior Australian officials have confirmed, the ABC reported on Wednesday. The two was in close contact with some of Australia’s most notorious terrorism suspects from Syria but are believed to have moved to Iraq when Isis changed territories last year. Tarek Khayat is alleged to have directed his Sydney-based brothers to smuggle a bomb hidden inside a meat grinder on to an Etihad plane due to depart from Sydney for Abu Dhabi on 15 July. Four men were arrested in late July over the conspiracy. Two of the four arrested – Khaled Khayat and his brother Mahmoud – have each been charged with two counts of planning or preparing a terrorist act. A third man, Merhi, was charged with an unrelated weapons offence, and the fourth was released without charge.”
France
The Washington Post: Struggling To Prevent Terrorist Attacks, France Wants To ‘Reform’ Islam
“Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month laid blame on ‘underground Islam­ism’ and those who ‘indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily.’ The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to restructure Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also the prevention of radicalization. He has said that in the coming months he will announce ‘a blueprint for the whole organization’ of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture. It is hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron’s ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas.”
Al Jazeera: Is France Reinventing Itself As A Kingmaker In The Middle East?
“France is pursuing an ambitious foreign policy under President Emmanuel Macron that seeks to restore Paris’ clout and influence in the Middle East, analysts have told Al Jazeera. In what marked a new phase in Macron’s presidency, France joined the United States and the UK on April 14 in dropping 105 bombs on three facilities in Syria said to be associated with the use of chemical weapons. Forty-year-old Macron, who in May 2017 became France’s youngest-ever president, said he ‘convinced’ his US counterpart, Donald Trump, to carry out the attacks and stay in Syria ‘for the long term’ after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the former rebel-held stronghold of Douma killed dozens of people, according to rescuers and medics.”
Europe
Europarltv: CEP Advisory Board Member And Former Director Of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service August Hanning Discusses Recent Terrorist Attacks In The EU And What Measures, Including Technological Measures, Need To Be Put In Place To Enhance Security.
The Guardian: Criminal ‘Arms Race’ Helping Terrorists Get Weapons, Report Warns
“An ‘arms race’ between criminal groups in Europe risks making it easier for terrorists to obtain high-powered, military grade firearms, a report has warned. The survey says long-standing barriers to obtaining firearms have broken down in recent years owing to the emergence of the internet, cross-border smuggling of military-grade assault rifles into the EU, the conversion of large numbers of blank-firing guns and the widespread reactivation of weapons previously rendered unusable to be sold to collectors. ‘The increased availability of firearms has contributed to arms races between criminal groups across the EU,’ the report, funded by the European commission, said.”
Technology
Politico: Facebook Enlists Conservative Help To Resist Privacy Rules
“An email seeking U.S. groups’ assistance against EU-style regulations came as Mark Zuckerberg was preparing to testify to Congress. Facebook asked conservative groups for help last week in heading off European-style privacy rules, just as CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepared to apologize to Congress for his company’s data scandal.The company’s outreach comes as the European Union is preparing to enforce strict new privacy rules that take effect in late May. Among other things, the EU’s rules allow regulators to impose fines as high as 4 percent of a company’s global revenues for serious violations.”
Counter-Terrorism
Elbalad: Egypt: Egyptian Parliament Ratifies Law On Confiscation Of Terrorist Funds
“In its plenary session on Tuesday, the Egyptian Parliament, chaired by Dr. Ali Abdelal, ratified the draft law submitted by the government to regulate the procedures of seizure, management and disposal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s funds. The law regulates legal procedures for the seizure of the funds of terrorist groups under the provisions of the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters. It provides for the establishment of an independent legal committee exclusively authorized to take any and all measures related to the execution of rulings issued against a group or entity or person belonging to a terrorist organization. The committee shall consist of seven members, who are judges from the Court of Appeal. The decision on the nomination of the judges shall be issued by the President of the Republic after receiving the approval of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary.”
ISIS
Al-Hayat: Iraq: Campaign Against Entities Affiliated With ISIS Financing
“Iraq has blacklisted a financial company accused of underwriting ISIS, in addition to two individuals affiliated with the organization. This came as part of a campaign which is expected, in the coming days, to include additional companies. It coincides with a move for the extradition from Jordan of several fugitives suspected of corruption and who are wanted by the Iraqi justice system. In a statement issued yesterday, the Central Bank of Iraq said, “In cooperation with the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the Bank has blacklisted Al-Kawthar Financial Brokerage Company and its owner Omar Mohammed Rahim Al-Kubaisi. The company is based in the province of Anbar. Necessary measures were taken to prevent them from entering the Iraqi financial system. Measures were also adopted to freeze the assets they own inside Iraq.” The Bank underscored “the need of all banks and financial institutions as well as concerned parties, to take the necessary procedures to avoid conducting transactions with these entities directly or indirectly.”
Muslim Brotherhood
Seventh Day: Egypt: What’s The Penalty For Refusing To Provide Information To The Muslim Brotherhood Assets Committee?
“The punishment for refraining from providing relevant information and documents to the governmental committee tasked with appraising and seizing the funds of terrorist organizations in Egypt has been determined in a newly approved draft law. Punishment includes imprisonment for a maximum of one year and a fine ranging from EGP 10,000 (565$) to EGP 50,000 ($2,822), or one of these two penalties. In addition, people who dodge sharing relevant information and documents with the Muslim Brotherhood assets committee will be suspended from their jobs until they serve their full jail sentence.”
Elfagr: Parliamentarian Unveils Fate Of Muslim Brotherhood Funds Seized In Egypt
“Egyptian MP Ehab Al Tamawi, Secretary-General of the Constitutional and Legislative Committee, claims that the Egyptian authorities won’t confiscate any assets or funds belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood without having an appropriate judicial verdict in that regard. Once these assets are confiscated, they are supposed to be transferred to the state’s ownership, the parliamentarian explained. During an interview with the Egyptian news channel “eXtra news,” Al Tamawi added that appraising, seizing and managing the Muslim Brotherhood’s assets are actually the preliminary stage, until such time as the final rulings are issued. He added that if the verdict is appealable, then the committee will continue to oversee the assets involved until a final judgment is issued.”
Elfagr: Egyptian Parliamentarian: Of The Muslim Brotherhood’s Funds Only 30% Were Confiscated
“Egyptian MP Mahmoud Nafadi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Correspondents’ Association, stated that the newly approved draft law for regulating the procedures of sequestrating, managing, and disposing of the assets of the terrorist organizations in Egypt enjoyed a unanimous vote. Nafadi added that the Muslim Brotherhood had already appealed in the past against the law which sanctions seizure of the banned Islamic movement’s assets. He stressed, however, that it was done in accordance with the constitution. The Egyptian MP disclosed that only 30% of the Muslim Brotherhood’s funds and assets were seized, while the remaining 70% are located abroad. Nafadi went on to say: “The financial empire of the terrorist organizations is much larger than we thought.”

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