Eye on Extremism, December 11, 2018

CNN: Synagogue, Pipeline Were Targeted By Ohioans Arrested In Terror Plots, Officials Say

“A synagogue and a Georgia pipeline were the targets of two Ohio residents arrested by federal authorities in separate investigations, officials said on Monday. Authorities said Damon Joseph, 21, planned to kill worshipers inside a Jewish synagogue in Toledo with an assault rifle. In a second case, Elizabeth Lecron, 23, is accused of purchasing bomb-making materials she intended to use to blow up a pipeline. Both arrests followed monthslong investigations in which clues, such as images of guns or words of support for mass murderers, were posted on social media. The stark difference in Joseph and Lecron’s targets shows the scope of the challenge for investigators, said Justin E. Herdman, US attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “It’s not just one threat. It’s across the spectrum,” Herdman told CNN in an interview on Monday. “It’s not just Islamic or anarchist or animal rights terrorism. It’s everything.”

Reuters: Iran Says It Recently Tested A Ballistic Missile

“A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday that Iran had recently carried out a ballistic missile test but he did not specify what kind of missile had been tested, according to Fars News. The comment appeared to confirm a report by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who said early this month that Iran had test-fired “a medium range ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple warheads.” The missile could hit all of the Middle East and parts of Europe, Pompeo said. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in May and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. “We will continue our missile tests and this recent action was an important test,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, said, as quoted by Fars News. He added: “The reaction of the Americans shows that this test was very important for them and that’s why they were shouting.”

The Independent: ISIS Smuggled Explosives Into Lebanon In Buckets Of Cheese To Carry Out Deadly Attacks

“Lebanese authorities thwarted a plan by Isis to carry out bomb attacks during the country’s parliamentary elections earlier this year, the country’s caretaker interior minister said Monday. The militant group smuggled explosives from Syria in buckets of cheese to use in attacks against places of worship, military targets and gatherings of Christians. But a 10-month police surveillance operation, codenamed “Lethal Cheese”, uncovered the plot. An undercover informer working for Lebanon’s intelligence services acted as a would-be bomber for the operation, which the minister said was planned in rebel-held Idlib, northern Syria, and was designed to “cause chaos”. The agent was in regular contact with an Isis official identified as Abu Omar. “Lebanon is now safe for both its residents and visitors. We decided to publicise the operation to provide assurances that security is in a good condition in the country,” he told a news conference. He added that Beirut is “one of the safest capitals in the world.”

Daily Signal: What To Do About Pending Release Of 1 In 4 Terrorism-Related Convicts

“In the next five years, one-quarter of all those convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the U.S. will be released from prison, according to a new report from a former propagandist for radical jihadists who became a police official working in counterterrorism. The report from Jesse Morton, dubbed the “first former jihadi,” calls for the United States to engage in deradicalization programs similar to how prisons treat addiction and other inmate issues, as a way to prevent repeat terrorism offenders. Although U.S. courts have convicted 400 people on terrorism-related charges since the 9/11 attacks, only violent offenders will spend their lives in prison, the report finds. Most of these prisoners—convicted of crimes such as making terrorist threats, communicating with terrorist groups, propagandizing or seeking to aid foreign jihadists—eventually will serve their sentences.”

Bloomberg: Lawmakers Urge Canada To Impose Magnitsky Sanctions Against Iran

“Canadian lawmakers and a former justice minister are urging Justin Trudeau’s government to impose new sanctions against key Iranian officials, citing what they say is a sharp increase in human rights abuses this year. Irwin Cotler, a former minister who now leads the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, released a report Monday calling for sanctions against Iranian ministers, judges, prosecutors and prison chiefs. Lawmakers from Trudeau’s Liberal party and its two chief rivals joined Cotler in calling for so-called Magnitsky law sanctions. Canada passed a law last year named for late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose arrest and death in prison drew international attention. It allows sanctions to be applied broadly in human rights cases, and was used last month to charge 17 Saudi officials in the aftermath of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. “2018 has seen an unprecedented assault on human rights in Iran,” Cotler said Monday in Ottawa. He was joined by lawmakers from Canada’s three major parties, including Michael Levitt, a member of Trudeau’s Liberal Party who heads the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. “The Iranian regime must continue to be held to account to end the impunity of its human rights violations,” Levitt said.”

The Washington Post: Two Years After #Pizzagate Showed The Dangers Of Hateful Conspiracies, They’re Still Rampant On YouTube

“A year after YouTube’s chief executive promised to curb “problematic” videos, it continues to harbor and even recommend hateful, conspiratorial videos, allowing racists, anti-Semites and proponents of other extremist views to use the platform as an online library for spreading their ideas. YouTube is particularly valuable to users of Gab.ai and 4chan, social media sites that are popular among hate groups but have scant video capacity of their own. Users on these sites link to YouTube more than to any other website, thousands of times a day, according to the recent work of Data and Society and the Network Contagion Research Institute, both of which track the spread of hate speech. The platform routinely serves videos espousing neo-Nazi propaganda, phony reports portraying dark-skinned people as violent savages and conspiracy theories claiming that large numbers of leading politicians and celebrities molested children. Critics say that even though YouTube removes millions of videos on average each month, it is slow to identify troubling content and, when it does, is too permissive in what it allows to remain.”

United States

The Washington Post: ‘I Can See Myself Carrying Out This Operation.’ Feds Say Man Was Planning Synagogue Attack For ISIS.

“An Ohio man was arrested on charges that he attempted to support the Islamic State by planning an attack on a synagogue in Toledo after the Pittsburgh massacre, federal officials announced Monday. Damon M. Joseph, 21, of Holland, Ohio, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. The case began after Joseph posted photographs of weapons and messages in support of the Islamic State on his social media accounts, according to a news release about Joseph’s arrest from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Ohio’s Northern District. Undercover FBI agents began corresponding with Joseph. In some of these discussions, Joseph said he supported the Islamic State and made propaganda “in support of ISIS recruitment,” which included videos to recruit people, according to the release. And he expressed his support for violence, officials said. He said that he supported “martyrdom operations,” that “what must be done, must be done” and that “there will always be casualties of war.” After a gunman killed 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Joseph told an undercover agent that he “admire[d] what the guy did with the shooting,” federal officials said. “I can see myself carrying out this type of operation inshallah,” Joseph said, according to officials. “They wouldn’t even expect in my area.” On Dec. 2, Joseph forwarded a document that specified his plans for an attack.”

PJ Media: ISIS Magazine For Millennials Threatens Vehicle Attacks Near U.S. Capitol

“Declaring that ISIS is a “globalist” organization, a new magazine geared toward young recruits is calling on jihadists to wage vehicle attacks outside of the U.S. Capitol. Shabab al-Khilafah, or The Youth of the Caliphate, debuted its first issue on Oct. 10 as a colorful collection of articles, posters and teasers to online videos encouraging home-turf attacks on behalf of the Islamic State. Supporters were encouraged to submit content for future issues. That debut issue, which was distributed via online file-sharing sites, called for lone-jihadist attacks in Australia. On Nov. 9, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali rammed his car filled with propane canisters into a sidewalk in Melbourne’s central business district, got out and stabbed three people, killing one before being shot by police. The Youth of the Caliphate isn’t an official publication, but is produced by multiple ISIS-supporting media groups under the leadership of groups including Ashhad Media, which has been recruiting online jihadists in English, Arabic and French, and Al-Abd Al-Faqir, which produces frequent online threat images and videos. These independent media organizations form a growing online support network that creates and disseminates propaganda for recruitment and incitement on behalf of the terror group, with the goal of widening the geographical scope of attacks and ISIS influence.”


The Washington Post: UN Syria Envoy: Work Ongoing For Constitutional Committee

“The U.N. Special envoy for Syria said Monday work is still ongoing to form a committee meant to draft a new constitution before the end of the year, adding that hurdles remain in place. Staffan de Mistura made his comments in Jordan after meeting Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi who said that Jordan’s “firm position” is that a political solution must be found, and “destruction and killing must be stopped in order for Syria to be recovered and to restore its role as a cornerstone in the region.” Last month, Syria’s warring sides and mediators meeting in Kazakhstan failed to agree on the formation of a constitutional committee which is key to ending the seven-year civil war. De Mistura at the time called it a “missed opportunity.” At issue is the 50-member delegation comprising Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women that de Mistura was authorized to put together by countries attending a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Jan. 30.”

Haaretz: Timeline: 560,000 Killed In Syria’s War According To Updated Death Toll

“About 560,000 people have been killed since the Syrian war began March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an updated death toll released Monday. The update comes as Syria braces for a new battlefront in the northwest.  This timeline shows how the war flared, the country splintered, foreign powers were drawn in, peace-making efforts failed, and Russia eventually helped Damascus drive back rebels. March 6, 2011 – Fifteen teenagers are arrested for writing “the people want the regime to fall” on walls across the city of Deraa. March 15, 2011 – Hundreds of people stage “Day of Rage” protests in Damascus and Aleppo, calling for democratic reforms. Protest in Damascus is violently dispersed. March 16, 2011 – Protest is held at Marjeh Square in Damascus, near the Interior Ministry, calling for release of political prisoners. Police arrest several of the protesters.”

Defense News: Iran Can Expand Range Of Its Missiles, Says Revolutionary Guard Commander

“A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said Monday that Tehran has can expand the range of its missiles beyond the current limit of 2,000 kilometers — the latest in a war of words with Washington. “We have the capability to build missiles with higher ranges,” IRGC Aerospace Force commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said, according to the Fars news agency. “The number 2,000 kilometers is not a divine decree … what has been decided until today is based on our needs.” Hajizadeh noted that many “enemy bases” were located 300 to 800 kilometers from the country’s borders. The remarks, to Iranian university students in Tehran, came days after the U.S. and Iran traded accusations over Tehran’s latest ballistic missile test — and amid accusations that Tehran tested a missile that can reach European countries. U.S. President Donald Trump in August reactivated economic sanctions on Iran after leaving a multilateral Iran nuclear deal because the deal did not ban Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles.”

The Telegraph: Iran Arrests More Than 100 Christians In Growing Crackdown On Minority

“Iran has arrested more than 100 Christians in the last week, charities report, amid a growing crackdown by the Islamic Republic. Many of the 114 detained were converts to Christianity from a Muslim background, accused of “proselytising”. They had to report the history of their Christian activities and were told to cut contact with any Christian groups, according to Open Doors UK, a charity which speaks out on persecution against Christians.    While Christianity has existed in Persia since Christ’s death, many believers fled after the Shah was deposed in a coup and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was installed in the Islamic revolution of 1979. There are no official records, but there are estimated to be some 350,000 remaining in Iran – some one per cent of Iran’s population, with a rising trend toward converting to Christianity.”

SF Gate: Offensive In Syria Targets Islamic State Stronghold

“U.S.-backed Syrian fighters pushed deeper into the Islamic State group’s last remaining stronghold on Monday, capturing an abandoned hospital. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces entered the eastern town of Hajin last week and intense fighting has been ongoing since then. SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the U.S.-allied fighters took full control of the hospital early Monday. Omar Abu Layla, of the activist-run DeirEzzor 24 monitoring group, confirmed the hospital on the edge of town was retaken by the SDF. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the hospital had been destroyed earlier by air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition. The hospital was not believed to be operating when it was hit. SDF fighters launched an offensive to capture Hajin and nearby villages on Sept. 10. They have made little progress since then, but last week intensified their attacks under the cover of air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition. The Observatory meanwhile released an updated death toll for Syria’s conflict, saying about 560,000 people have been killed since it began in March 2011. The group said it has documented the names of 367,965 of the deceased. The updated toll was released to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The group said the dead include 111,330 civilians, 65,048 troops and 50,296 pro-government Syrian gunmen.”


CNN: Bail Hearing For Jailed Huawei Executive Spills Into Third Day

“China’s anger is growing over the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive wanted by the United States. A Canadian court on Monday delayed its decision on whether she should be let out on bail. Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been detained in Vancouver since December 1 and faces extradition to the United States. She’s accused of helping Huawei, one of the world’s biggest makers of smartphones and networking equipment, dodge US sanctions on Iran, according to Canadian prosecutors. The arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, has put a new strain on the tense relationship between Washington and Beijing just as the two sides are trying to negotiate an end to their damaging trade war. It has also highlighted the intensifying clash over technology between the world’s top two economies. Meng appeared in court in Vancouver on Friday at a hearing to determine whether she should be let go on bail. The judge, after hearing arguments from Meng’s lawyer and the prosecutors, didn’t make a decision. The hearing resumed Monday, but ended without a final decision on bail. It will continue Tuesday.”

Al Arabiya: How Iran Signals Future Waves Of Crackdown, Terror Attacks

“The recent car bombing incident in Chabahar, southeast Iran, sounds alarm bells for those familiar with the history of the Iranian regime. What is being described as a suicide car bombing outside a city police station, considering the conglomerate of Iran’s security entities, is quite suspicious to say the least. With a long history of crackdown and execution campaigns following such attacks with questionable nature, there is concern of the clerical regime preparing yet another onslaught targeting a particular sector of Iran’s society. The Chabahar incident bears signs of regime hallmarks paving the path for yet another wave of atrocities.  Back in September, a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz became the target of gunmen going on a rampage, opening fire and killing 25 people in the process, with half of those killed being members of the regime’s notorious Revolutionary Guards(IRGC). Targeting a military parade and the IRGC allows the regime to play the innocent game. The entire incident looked very misleading and convenient: IRGC members in very clean clothes rescuing small children before cameras, the attackers reaching the stage where many high ranking officials were watching the parade but only targeting low-ranking IRGC members, the ambush taking place just days before US President Donald Trump chairing a United Nations Security Council session focusing on Iran, and the attack leading to a major crackdown against the Iranian Arab community in Ahvaz and Khuzestan Province.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Marks Anniversary Of ISIS Defeat Amid Public Discontent

“The Iraqi government marked the first anniversary of Islamic State’s defeat Monday by reopening parts of Baghdad’s Green Zone, the heavily fortified government area that has come to symbolize the chasm between ordinary Iraqis and the political class. The changes at the Green Zone reflect declining violence across Iraq that is particularly tangible in Baghdad, where for years people lived in fear and navigated a city carved up by concrete blast walls. However, it may take more than symbolic changes for the government to regain the goodwill of the public, whose discontent over poor services and corruption has often overshadowed the past year’s security gains. Over 1,000 streets in Baghdad have been reopened during the past two years, with 70,000 concrete T-walls removed. The number of civilians killed across Iraq by terrorism, violence and armed conflict in November fell to its lowest level in six years, according to the United Nations. The situation has improved enough that a delegation of 52 American companies are attending a business conference held outside the Green Zone on Monday and Tuesday, as the U.S. tries to build stronger ties between its business community and Iraq. Iraqi forces, aided by a U.S.-led coalition, retook the last pockets of territory from Islamic State last December after more than three years of brutal conflict. The victory came at a high cost, with thousands of civilians and soldiers killed in battles that left large parts of the country in ruins.”

Iraqi News: Man Arrested For Providing Funding For Islamic State In Anbar

“Iraqi authorities announced on Monday the capture of a man for providing funding for the terrorist Islamic State group in Anbar province. “Troops of the 14th division of the Military Intelligence Directorate, in cooperation with Anbar intelligence service, launched a security campaign targeting a man implicated in collecting money by force from citizens for the Islamic State group in Fallujah district in Anbar,” Ayn Al Iraq News quoted the directorate as saying. “The arrested terrorist was on the wanted list of the Iraqi judiciary,” the statement read. Commander of the 2nd Special Operations Command Major General Moen al-Saadi announced late Sunday that the security forces arrested 12 members of the Islamic State group while trying to sneak into the city of Kirkuk. According to al-Saadi, the arrested militants were planning to create chaos in the city and launch several terrorist attacks. Iraqi courts have sentenced many of Islamic State members to death over joining the militant group. The exact number of detained militants is still unknown, however, it’s estimated to be at thousands. It’s also unclear how many members are likely to face death sentences. Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped jihadists even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Abadi To Asharq Al-Awsat: We Waged Comprehensive War Against ISIS

“Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stressed that his country waged a “comprehensive war” against the ISIS terrorist organization. A year since he declared Iraq’s victory against ISIS, he explained that the war was not only waged on the field, but on the cultural, security, intelligence, media and economic levels. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “At the heart of the story was the management of a colossal battle by Iraq, its leadership and people, during very difficult political, economic and social conditions and very complicated regional and international conflicts.” “Managing the war was actually more difficult than the battles on the ground as we had to manage them by bringing together very contradictory and conflicting forces and conditions,” Abadi stated. The value of the victory, he went on to say, lies in defeating ISIS’ regional agenda that aimed to re-draw borders and societies according to geo-sectarian lines. “Through their blood and will, the Iraqis saved the region and world from the greatest” project of division, he remarked. “ISIS the agenda is grander and more comprehensive than ISIS the organization. The world must realize the importance of Iraq’s victory that broke the group’s project,” as well as its military capabilities, he continued. Commenting on the situation in Iraq a year after its victory, Abadi said: “The country emerged stronger on the social, military and security levels. It is still tackling all repercussions of the war.”

The Straits Times: Former ISIS Sex Slave Nadia Murad Urges World To Protect Yazidis As She Accepts Nobel Peace Prize

“Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, a survivor of sex slavery by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), implored the global community to help free hundreds of women and girls still held by the militants in her Nobel acceptance speech on Monday (Dec 10), saying the world must protect her people. “The protection of the Yazidis and all vulnerable communities around the world is the responsibility of the international community,” Ms Murad told the ceremony in Oslo. The 25-year-old shares the Nobel Peace Prize with Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who has spent more than two decades treating appalling injuries inflicted on women in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s war-torn east. Nobel committee chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen said the pair were “two of the strongest voices in the world today”. “The fight for justice unites them, despite their very different backgrounds,” she said on Monday. Ms Murad wept during Ms Reiss-Andersen’s description of the suffering of her people. She survived the horrors of captivity under the ISIS where they targeted Ms Murad’s Kurdish-speaking community. Older women and men faced summary execution during the ISIS assault, which the United Nations has described as a possible genocide. Captured in 2014, she suffered forced marriage, beatings and gang-rape before she was able to escape.”


Al Jazeera: Afghanistan: Suicide Bomber Targets Security Convoy In Kabul

“At least four people have been killed and another six injured after a suicide bomber targeted a convoy of security forces in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in the latest attack claimed by the Taliban armed group. The blast took place in Paghman district in western Kabul early on Tuesday as the convoy was returning from an overnight operation, Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish told AFP news agency. “It is still not clear whether the attacker was on foot or driving a vehicle,” the spokesman said. Another security official, who wished to remain anonymous, said the attacker had used a car bomb to target the convoy. Attacks on Afghan forces by the Taliban have been inflicting record-high casualties on security personnel this year. The early morning attack in Kabul came hours after an overnight assault by Taliban fighters on a checkpoint in Arghistan, a district in southern Kandahar province. At least eight police officers were killed, according to the provincial media office. An estimated 2,798 civilians have been killed and 5,252 others injured in attacks across the country from January to September this year, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).”

Times Of India: Taliban Intensifies Attacks In Afghanistan

“Following the US effort to engage terrorists in talks to end the conflict in Afghanistan, the Taliban have intensified their attacks on Afghan law enforcement agencies, killing and capturing security officials in an attempt to expand their control in the war-torn country.  Afghan officials confirmed to local media on Monday that at least 28 security officials were killed and several critically injured in overnight Taliban attacks in western Farah and northwestern Faryab provinces.  Shah Mohammad Naeemi, provincial council’s deputy head of Farah province, told media that the terrorists stormed a security check-post in Sur village of Farah City, the provincial capital, late Sunday night, killing 12 policemen and overrunning the check-post.  Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, Taliban spokesperson, was quoted by Pajhwak Afghan News, accepting responsibility for the attack. Ahmadi said that the fighters also captured two police officials and seized 15 heavy and light weapons. On Saturday night, Taliban attacked a military base in Aab Khurma area on the Herat-Farah highway, killing eight soldiers of Afghan National Army (ANA). The terrorists, according to government officials, also captured 10 ANA soldiers. In a separate attack in Faryab province on the same night, eight policemen were killed and five wounded when Taliban stormed their headquarters in Almar district.”

Xinhua: 8 Police, 11 Militants Killed In Clashes In Southern Afghan Province

“At least eight police officers and 11 Taliban militants were killed after clashes erupted in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar overnight, a local official said Tuesday. “Scores of armed militants stormed security checkpoints in Sandarz locality of Arghistan district, triggering heavy clashes between attackers and police personnel manning the checkpoints, lasting for hours,” provincial government spokesman Aziz Ahmad Azizi told Xinhua. He said the attackers were fought back after additional security forces were dispatched in the area. Several militants were also wounded during the fighting. The Taliban militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. The violence has been on the rise as Afghan security forces struggle against a surge in attacks by anti-government fighters since the drawdown of foreign forces within the past four years. Security situation has been improving in Kandahar, the former stronghold of Taliban, over the last months, as security forces have conducted search and cordon operations across the province. But the militants attack government interests in the province from time to time.”


Irish Times: Houthi Rebels Agree Prisoner Swap Deal With Yemen Government

“Yemen’s Saudi-sponsored government and Houthi rebels have achieved a breakthrough during their first direct talks in years by agreeing on a prisoner exchange. Details are being negotiated but all 600 captives held since the beginning of Yemen’s 3½- year civil war are expected to be released. Government delegation member Mohamed al-Amiri said the sides were discussing “operational mechanisms that would determine the date and place of the releases”, to take place in stages, in the coming months. The swap could free high-ranking figures held by the Houthis including former defence minister and relatives of president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Face-to-face discussions in the rural village of Rimbo, Sweden, in themselves a breakthrough, began on Sunday after three days of indirect talks involving a shuttle between the warring sides by UN mediator Martin Griffiths.”

Al Jazeera: Yemen Government And Houthis Remain Deadlocked Over Hodeidah

“Yemen’s warring sides remain deadlocked over the future of Hodeidah port, a major lifeline for the country, after the Yemeni government reiterated its demand that it should take control of the facility. Speaking to reporters on day five of UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, Ali Ashall, a Yemeni official and member of the government’s delegation, said it wants the management of the port to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport. “The police in the city must also be placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior,” Ashall said. “We are looking to resume the situation in the city before the Houthi takeover in 2014”. Yemen has been devastated by a multi-sided conflict since 2014 involving local, regional, and international actors.”

Arab News: Yemen Govt, Houthis Swap Names Of 15,000 Prisoners At UN Talks

“Yemen’s government and rival militia announced Tuesday plans for a mass prisoner swap, exchanging some 15,000 names, as UN-brokered talks on ending the country’s war entered their seventh day. Nearly four years into a war that has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of mass starvation, the Saudi-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Houthi militia, linked to Iran, began talks Thursday in the rural town of Rimbo in Sweden. The talks are expected to last a week. The Houthi militia announced that the names of a total of 15,000 detainees and prisoners had been exchanged. A source in the government delegation said their side had released the names of 8,200 detainees but declined to comment on the combined total. The militia and government have agreed to a 45-day deadline for the exchange, sources in both delegations said.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Hezbollah Turns Attention To Lebanese Affairs After Syria ‘Pause’

“Hezbollah has been lately seeking to invest its alleged “victory” in Syria in Lebanon’s internal affairs, according to pro and anti-Hezbollah observers. Hezbollah, which has been backing the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria’s war, lately began to have a growing role in Lebanese political issues mainly the cabinet crisis, when it pushed for a representative for its six Sunni allies in the new government, and its interference to prevent the Internal Security Forces Information Branch from arresting its Druze ally, head of the Tawhid Party, Wiam Wahhab. “Hezbollah has been benefiting from the current pause in Syria … to focus more on internal Lebanese affairs, which it hadn’t prioritized in the past years,” sources close to Hezbollah told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday. They said the party now finds itself concerned in enhancing its role and presence at all levels. While some link Hezbollah’s new aspirations with Damascus’ efforts to regain its influence in Lebanon, former MP and March 14 leader Fares Soeid told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Hezbollah is the heir to Syrian influence in Lebanon.” Soeid said the Shiite party is trying to make some gains at the political and constitutional levels.  Hezbollah has supporters from across Lebanon’s confessions including Sunnis, Christians and Druze, he told the daily.”

Middle East

Haaretz: Attempted Terror Attacks In West Bank On The Rise, Say Israeli Security Officials

“Palestinians’ will to commit terror attacks in the West Bank is on the rise, say senior Israeli security officials. Since September, there have been some 10 terror attacks or attempted attacks in the West Bank, compared with seven shooting incidents on roads around Ramallah and Jerusalem during the first half of 2018. Seven people, including a 21-year-old woman in her seventh month of pregnancy, were wounded on Sunday in the latest drive-by shooting attack, near the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Doctors at the hospital delivered her baby boy, whose condition deteriorated Sunday overnight and who is now in serious condition. The woman’s husband, who was also wounded in the attack, was said to be in stable condition. A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces Central Command told Haaretz that Hamas has plotted more attacks than before, and cautioned that the organization’s plans “are more complex than lone-wolf attacks.” However, he said, Hamas-sponsored attacks are easier to foil, due to the fact that they require the use of more extensive planning and network, whereas lone wolves “are hard to get to before the attack.” Senior officers said they are concerned over an increasingly successful trend of carrying out attacks and shifting activity from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, particularly since the September attack in Gush Etzion, in which Ari Fuld was stabbed to death.”


Daily News Egypt: Egypt’s Military Conducts Counter-Terrorism Drills With African Countries

“The Egyptian military started joint counter-terrorism exercises with several African counterparts from the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). Egyptian military spokesperson Tamer Al-Refaie said in a statement that the first phase of the drills, including Sudan, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, will be held at Egypt’s Mohamed Naguib military base in Marsa Matrouh, the largest in the Middle East and Africa. The CEN-SAD member states include Libya, the founder, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, the Comoros, Mali, Liberia, Morocco, Tunisia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Gambia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Benin, Senegal, Togo, Somalia, Niger, Chad, Djibouti, and Sierra Leone. The first phase will last until 14 December, the statement added. Other phases will take place on different dates and will include other CEN-SAD countries. Al-Refaie said that it is the first time for such drills to take place, and it comes as part of Egypt’s plans to enhance its relations with “fellow African countries,” in order to train troops on different military tactics. “It trains the participants forces on the way to deal with different terrorist threats, such as militant groups, freeing hostages, and work as one team with the forces of other friendly states,” the spokesperson said.”


Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Amnesty International Accuses Nigerian Govt Of ‘Unwillingness’ To Deal With Perpetrators

“The Amnesty International on Monday called on the International Criminal Court to start a full-blown investigation into atrocities committed on the course of the war against the Boko Haram insurgency. The organization accused the Nigerian government of failing to bring those responsible to justice. ICC chief prosecutor, Fatma Bensouda, in her latest annual report claimed that Nigeria appeared not to have taken “concrete steps” towards investigating the allegations. She claimed there appeared to be a “tangible prospect” of proceedings against Boko Haram members but not against troops “since the Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation”. But Amnesty International suggested Abuja was keeping her “in limbo” by giving the impression of domestic action but in reality doing very little. “Eight years since the opening of the preliminary examination and faced with the continuing commission of crimes under international law and the possibility of a never-ending preliminary analysis, it is time for the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) to open a formal investigation in Nigeria,” it said. Amnesty said Nigeria had failed to meet its obligations under international law to investigate and prosecute crimes as part of the ICC’s preliminary examination. “It is in the interests of both the OTP and Nigeria to demonstrate that serious steps are being taken to cure Nigeria’s inability or unwillingness to bring perpetrators to justice. Above all, it is in the interest of victims,” it said.”


The Washington Post: Is Protest A Safety Valve Against ISIS In Tunisia?

“Tunisia ranks among the top countries of origin for foreign recruits of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Leaked membership lists and details obtained from the profiles of recruits killed in battle provide an important data set of fighters’ biographical information to help determine factors contributing to their recruitment. We matched a list of 636 Tunisian Islamic State fighters derived from leaked border documents with information from the 2014 census, as well as other data. We found that fighters came from 128 of Tunisia’s 264 delegations. But why would citizens of the only Arab democracy travel thousands of miles to participate in a violent insurgency? A closer look at the areas in Tunisia more likely to produce ISIS fighters provides some answers. Some stress that economic marginalization is a key driver of the Islamic State’s success in Tunisia, while others point to the relatively high levels of educated individuals among the militant ranks as a contributing factor. Country-level analyses, however, have thus far yielded uncertain conclusions as to the relative weight of each of these factors. In 2017, 23 percent of male Tunisians enrolled in some form of tertiary education. Unemployed graduates are cited as being particularly at risk of Islamic State recruitment. These same individuals were a key constituency in the wave of mass mobilization witnessed in the country from 2010-2011.”

United Kingdom

Daily Mail: Women Make Better Recruiters For ISIS And Far-Right Terror Groups ‘Because Of Their Empathy And Soft Approach’, Study Finds

“Terror groups prefer to use women to groom potential new members on social media because of their ‘empathy and soft approach’, researchers found. Both Islamist organisations such as ISIS, and far-right terrorists, use women to target vulnerable individuals on social media, radicalise them and persuade them to join their ‘cause’. Research carried out on behalf of Facebook found that ISIS in particular had successfully used this tactic. ‘They [women terrorists] put in the hours… That’s when radicalisation works best,’ Erin Saltman, lead manager of counterterrorism policy at Facebook, said according to The Times. ‘They’re very good at recruitment because it’s a very human process – they’re playing on grievances with world problems and offer membership to an extremist group as the solution. ‘That’s what is being sold and women are very good at those dialogues.’  Several British women who are known to have left the country to join ISIS in Syria in recent years have been actively trying to recruit others using social media.  Aqsa Mahmood, from Glasgow, Scotland, went to Syria to marry an ISIS fighter aged 20 in 2014, having been radicalised online. Once in Syria, Mahmood began tweeting jihadist propaganda in a bid to lure other young British Muslims to join the brutal regime. Calling herself Umm Layth, Mahmood would post pictures of herself and other foreign ISIS-wives, covered in black from head to toe, and write about their ‘happy’ lives in the so-called caliphate.”


ABC News: German Man Who Fought For Taliban Convicted Of Terrorism

“A 37-year-old German man who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan has been convicted of membership in a terrorist organization. The dpa news agency reported Monday that Thomas K. was sentenced in Duesseldorf state court to six years in prison. His last name wasn’t given in line with German privacy laws, Prosecutors said he started fighting for the Taliban in 2013 and continued until he was captured in February. He was returned to Germany in April. When he was charged, prosecutors said he prepared explosives, got ready for a suicide attack and worked on a propaganda video aimed at German radicals. He also allegedly had himself filmed participating in a failed mortar attack on an Afghan army base.”


The Wall Street Journal: Greek Court Rejects Terrorist’s Bid For Early Release

“A Greek court rejected a terrorist’s request for early release from prison in a case that has drawn the ire of Washington at a time when Athens is cultivating closer ties to the Trump administration. The case involves Savvas Xiros, a hit man who was part of the former Greek terrorist group November 17 and who is serving five life sentences for multiple murders and other crimes. He has asked to be released from prison early on health grounds, using a law passed by the governing left-wing Syriza party to ease overcrowding in Greece’s prisons. The “November 17 Revolutionary Organization,” a radical-left terrorist group, murdered 23 people between 1975 and 2000, including five Americans. Mr. Xiros was convicted in 2003 of the murder of a U.S. military attaché and a U.S. Air Force sergeant, among other victims. The U.S. had objected to the prospect of Mr. Xiros’s release, saying it “would be a disservice to the memory of the American mission members he killed and their families.” The U.S. Embassy in Athens didn’t immediately comment on the court decision. While acknowledging Mr. Xiros’s health problems, the court rejected his request. It ordered Mr. Xiros to remain in prison at least an additional 10 years before he is eligible for release. A prosecutor argued Mr. Xiros’s appeal should be rejected in light of his role in the terrorist group and the risk that he could inspire new generations of terrorists.”


Bloomberg: Lawmakers Urge Canada to Impose Magnitsky Sanctions Against Iran

“Canadian lawmakers and a former justice minister are urging Justin Trudeau’s government to impose new sanctions against key Iranian officials, citing what they say is a sharp increase in human rights abuses this year. Irwin Cotler, a former minister who now leads the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, released a report Monday calling for sanctions against Iranian ministers, judges, prosecutors and prison chiefs. Lawmakers from Trudeau’s Liberal party and its two chief rivals joined Cotler in calling for so-called Magnitsky law sanctions. Canada passed a law last year named for late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose arrest and death in prison drew international attention. It allows sanctions to be applied broadly in human rights cases, and was used last month to charge 17 Saudi officials in the aftermath of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. “2018 has seen an unprecedented assault on human rights in Iran,” Cotler said Monday in Ottawa. He was joined by lawmakers from Canada’s three major parties, including Michael Levitt, a member of Trudeau’s Liberal Party who heads the House of Commons foreign affairs committee. “The Iranian regime must continue to be held to account to end the impunity of its human rights violations,” Levitt said.”


ABC News Australia: Teen Terrorist Sentenced To 12 Years Behind Bars For Plotting ‘Imminent’ Attack

“A teenager who purchased several bayonets and knives from a Sydney gun shop has been jailed for 12 years for plotting an “imminent” terror attack inspired by Islamic State. The 18-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sat quietly as he was sentenced to a maximum 16 years behind bars. He waved to his father as he was led from the court. The man was 16 years old when he was arrested at a Bankstown prayer hall in 2016 after purchasing bayonets and knives from a nearby gun shop. During sentencing, Justice Geoffrey Bellew told the Parramatta Supreme Court he believed the offender was arrested while planning an imminent act of terror. “It reflects a deep and unstinting motivation to act upon and put into specific effect the irrational, immoral and heinous advice propounded in extremist propaganda issued by Islamic State,” he said. Justice Bellew rejected the offender’s claims that he purchased the weapons because of an interest in hunting and camping.  The court heard the teenager told the gun shop attendant he was planning to go “pig hunting”. During his arrest, he repeatedly called the police “pigs”, Justice Bellew said. During his trial, the court was told that the boy had yelled at police “You’re all pigs, you will all die in the hellfire at the hands of Allah, you will be slaughtered” during his arrest. Justice Bellew said the offender “regarded the government as evil.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Malaysia Nabs 7 Suspects Linked To ISIS, Abu Sayyaf

“Malaysian police said yesterday they have thwarted terror plots with the arrests of six men and a woman with suspected militant links in a four-state swoop. Police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the suspects – five Malaysians and two Filipinos – were arrested in Kelantan, Sabah, Selangor and Kedah by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division. Those arrested include a honey seller in Kelantan, an oil and gas engineer in Kajang, Selangor, and three people in Sabah linked to the Abu Sayyaf. A man working at a driving school in Kelantan had also allegedly received orders from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to attack non-Muslims and their places of worship, the Inspector-General of Police said. “They were arrested in various operations held from Nov 19 until Nov 28. We are actively taking action against suspected terror elements,” Tan Sri Fuzi said in a statement. The police chief said the first suspect arrested was a 28-year-old Malaysian man in Kelantan on Nov 19. “The man, who sells honey, received instructions from militant leader Akel Zainal. He was ordered to launch attacks in Malaysia,” said Mr Fuzi. Akel Zainal is the main Malaysian militant leader recruiting people for the ISIS war in Syria. The next arrest was of a 52-year-old Malaysian man on Nov 20 in Kajang, Selangor.”


Newsweek: Russia Military Planes Arrive In Venezuela, Iran’s Warships May Follow To Support U.S. Foe

“Russia and Iran were both set to send military forces to Venezuela in a show of support to the socialist Latin American nation, whose embattled economy has been further damaged by U.S. sanctions. The Russian Defense Ministry announced Monday that two Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers, an Antonov An-124 heavily military transport aircraft and an Ilyushin Il-62 long-haul plane arrived at the Simón Bolívar International Airport in  Caracas. Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said that up to 100 Russian personnel would arrive as part of a joint air exercise, according to his ministry. Padrino said “that nobody in the world should fear” the presence of the Tu-160s and other Russian aircraft because “we are builders of peace and not war,” touting the country’s bilateral ties. “The aircrew of the Russian Federation are welcome to this heroic land,” Padrino tweeted alongside images of the Russian military delegation’s arrival. “It is a new opportunity to strengthen our relations in the military field and continue walking a path of cooperation and sincere friendship. Peace is our objective.”


The Telegraph: Twitter Warns Critics Of Islamic Extremism That Their Tweets Could Break Pakistani Law

“Twitter has warned prominent critics of Islamic extremism that their tweets may break Pakistani law. The social network has emailed two well-known commentators on Islam, terrorism and women’s rights to tell them that their tweeting has been complained about and could be illegal in the country. Pakistan has previously threatened to block Twitter if the company did not remove content which the government had deemed “offensive”. The recipients of the emails are not of Pakistani nationality or resident in Pakistan. One of them, Saudi Arabia-born human rights activist Ensaf Haidar was contacted by Twitter’s legal department, who told her that the social network had received “official correspondence.”

The Wall Street Journal: Google To Accelerate Closure Of Google+ Social Network After Finding New Software Bug

“Google said it would close the consumer version of its Google+ social network earlier than planned, after a second software glitch this year exposed the profile data of users and raised fresh concerns about the search giant’s privacy controls. The incident, in which Google said a software bug exposed the private profile information of 52 million users to outside app developers, came the day before CEO Sundar Pichai was slated to testify before Congress for the first time. Data privacy is expected to be high on the agenda. Mr. Pichai, an engineer who helped build some of Google’s most popular products, is a relative unknown in Washington, where the company is increasingly confronting harsh regulatory scrutiny. Google, which collects massive stores of data about internet users based on everything from their web searches to their email inboxes, has thus far largely avoided the type of criticism on data privacy that has weighed on rival Facebook Inc.”

Wired: 5 Questions Congress Should Ask Google’s Sundar Pichai

“Before They Hand control of the House of Representatives over to Democrats, House Republicans are mounting one more effort to hold Silicon Valley giants accountable for what they say is rampant liberal bias at tech companies. In the hot seat this time: Google CEO Sundar Pichai. On Tuesday, Pichai will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in a hearing focused on transparency, data collection, and filtering. Until now, Pichai has mostly avoided the public lashings in Washington that his contemporaries, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, have received. In September, Google declined to send either Pichai or Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to testify alongside Dorsey and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senators instead vented their frustrations with Google to an empty chair, artfully reserved with a name plate for Page.”

Associated Press: Report: Iran Sentences 3 Rights Lawyers To Prison

“Iran has sentenced two human rights lawyers to six years in prison and a third to 13 years, newspapers reported Tuesday. The Arman daily said Ghasem Sholeh-Saadi and Arash Keikhosravi were sentenced to five years in prison for taking part in an “illegal gathering” and one year for “propaganda” against the ruling system. It says they can appeal the verdict. The two were arrested in August when they took part in a protest outside parliament calling for free elections. They were released on bail last week. Sholeh-Saadi, 64, a longtime critic of the political establishment, was barred from running for president in 2017. Iran holds regular presidential and parliamentary elections, but a council of clerics vets candidates. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final word on all major policies. The Hamshari daily meanwhile reported that a court in the central city of Arak sentenced another lawyer to 13 years in prison.”

CBS News: Google CEO Will Defend Company’s Privacy Efforts During Congressional Appearance

“Google’s chief executive officer Sundar Pichai will defend his company’s efforts to protect the privacy of users and deny accusations of political bias when he testifies before Congress Tuesday morning, according to his prepared testimony. “As an American company, we cherish the values and freedoms that have allowed us to grow and serve so many users. I am proud to say we do work, and we will continue to work, with the government to keep our country safe and secure,” Pichai will say, according to the prepared remarks. The tech giant executive is poised to face tough questions from members of the House Judiciary Committee, particularly on privacy concerns on its Plus service and allegations that the search engine suppresses conservative voices.  In his prepared remarks, however, Pichai said Google “provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions.” “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests,” Pichai wrote.”


Iraq Press: Iraq: ISIS Financier Entrapped And Taken Into Custody

“The military intelligence directorate issued a statement on Monday conveying the details of a {sophisticated} operation to lure an ISIS financier into an ambush in the district of Fallujah. “The 14th Brigade detachments of the Military Intelligence Directorate, in cooperation with the intelligence department in eastern Anbar, managed to lure a key ISIS financier into an ambush in the Fallujah district and capture him,” the statement elaborated. It pointed out that “the terrorist had collected funds for ISIS in the form of royalties amid intimidation and assaults on citizens before the liberation {of the area}. He was wanted by authorities, under an arrest warrant sanctioned by Article 4 of the Terrorism {Law}.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Ain: Ireland: New Headquarters Of A Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Organization Sparks Terror-Financing Fears

“The recent opening of a new branch of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked charity in Ireland sparked fears among the local Muslim community. Muslims in Ireland are worried primarily about the {possible} use of the new headquarters as a cover for supporting extremism and terrorism financing activities. It’s noteworthy that some media sources reported that the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which is banned by certain countries for having alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, recently registered a branch through Ireland’s Charities Regulator. On its part, the IRW noted that its new branch will provide assistance and relief to needy people in disaster-prone areas and raise funds by collecting and recycling discarded clothes.”

Sama Press: Yemen: Political Activist Accuses Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Of Robbing Marib’s Wealth

“Mohsen Alkatiri Almuradi, a Marib-based Yemeni political activist, unveiled documents on Sunday that allegedly show the wide-scale corruption and fraud perpetrated by Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the province. Almuradi disclosed, via his Facebook account, that Marib’s revenues, particularly those generated from oil and gas sales, are being stolen and transferred abroad via the Mohsen Alkhader Money Transfer and Exchange Company. This bureau, which is owned by a prominent local Muslim Brotherhood figure, invests {Yemen’s} national wealth in Turkey, Qatar, Sudan, Egypt and other countries, the activist added. Almuradi went on to say that these investments are registered abroad under the names of companies belonging to figures affiliated with the Islamist group and Al-Islah party, its political arm in Yemen.”


MENA-Monitor: Hezbollah’s Funding Sources

“The funding of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, which relies heavily on Iran, is carried out via two major channels: official and semi-official. Officially, Iran pays more than $100 million to the Shiite militia annually. Semi-officially, Hezbollah receives millions of dollars’ worth of donations contributed periodically by multiple Khamenei-controlled charity associations and funds, including the Islamic Resistance Support Organization (IRSO), the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation and others. Additionally, the group obtains a part of its funds via its worldwide investments and through Shiite businessmen abroad who contribute one fifth of their earnings to their sponsor organization. Nonetheless, the last source of income, despite its importance, is considered marginal compared to Hezbollah’s massive expenditures.”

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