Eye on Extremism, December 12, 2018

TheWashington Post: France Declares Attack On Christmas Market To Be Act OfTerrorism

“An attack on France’s largest Christmas market by a gunman with a long criminal record was an act of terrorism, the Paris prosecutor announced Wednesday. A manhunt is still underway for the gunman, who was wounded during the attack Tuesday night in the eastern city of Strasbourg before fleeing the scene. French news media have identified the suspect as 29-year-old Cherif Chekkatt, but authorities so far have referred to him only by his first name. “Once again, terrorism has struck our territory, in Strasbourg,” said Paris Prosecutor Rémy Heitz, whose office leads terrorism investigations across the country. He noted that the suspect had 27 criminal convictions in France, Germany and Switzerland. He said two people were killed outright, while a third was left in a vegetative state. The attack also wounded 13 others, eight of whom are in critical condition. Heitz corrected earlier statements by regional officials that three people were killed. The prosecutor specified that one of the three previously reported as dead was, in fact, “brain dead” but not technically deceased.”

ChannelNewsAsia: Two Missile Launchers Found In Yemen Appear To Be From Iran – UN

“Two launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen appear to have been manufactured in Iran during 2016 and 2017, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Tuesday. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres does not specifically state whether the discovery of the units in Yemen was a violation of a U.N. resolution that took effect in January 2016. It prevents Iran from importing and exporting arms or related materiel unless the Security Council has given approval. “The Secretariat found that they had characteristics of Iranian manufacture and that their markings indicated production dates in 2016 and 2017,” Guterres said in his biannual report to the Security Council on the implementation of sanctions on Iran. “The Secretariat also examined a partly disassembled surface-to-air missile seized by the Saudi-led coalition and observed that its features appeared to be consistent with those of an Iranian missile,” he wrote.”

The Washington Post: James A. Fields Jr. Sentenced To Life In Prison In Charlottesville Car Attack

“James A. Fields Jr., an avowed neo-Nazi who rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters at a white-supremacist rally, was sentenced to life in prison by a jury Tuesday after a trial that offered an unsparing view of the physical and emotional ruin he caused in this city with a burst of vehicular rage 16 months ago. As he had throughout his two-week trial, Fields, 21, sat impassively at the defendant’s table, clad in a powder blue sweater, as the jury delivered its sentencing decisions after about four hours of deliberations that began Monday: life for first-degree murder; 70 years for each of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding; 20 years for each of three counts of malicious wounding; and nine years for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. The jurors were instructed that the sentences would be “presumed to be consecutive” unless they recommended that the terms be served simultaneously. The panel made no such recommendation. Fields’s overall sentence: life plus 419 years and $480,000 in fines.”

Voice Of America: Bomb Attack On Afghan Security Convoy Kills 13

“Afghan officials say a suicide car bombing Tuesday hit a security forces’ convoy in Kabul, killing at least 13 people and injuring nine others. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the casualty count and told VOA that security personnel and civilians were both among the victims. The convoy reportedly was transporting operatives of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), the main Afghan spy agency. The Taliban quickly took responsibility, saying the suicide attack in a western district of the capital city was aimed at a joint convoy of American military trainers and their Afghan partners. An insurgent spokesman claimed the powerful blast “killed and wounded 23 security personnel,” though Taliban officials often issue inflated claims for such attacks. The deadly violence came on a day when the Afghan government announced the formation of a so-called High Consultative Board for Peace Process.”

U.S. News & World Report: U.S. Downplays Reports Of Surge In ISIS Activity 

“The U.S. Military IS downplaying suggestions that the Islamic State group is on the rise in Iraq amid reports in recent days of continuing and even increased hostilities by the extremist network. Attacks by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, have risen to as many as 75 per month on average, up from 60 per month in recent years, according to recent reports. The group still holds control of a small swathe of territory in the Syrian town of Hajin, which remains under siege by U.S.-backed forces there known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The New York Times reported Sunday that some Kurdish positions in Syria were digging trenches in anticipation of an Islamic State group resurgence after a U.S.-led operation cleared out its fighters. However, Army Col. Jonathan Byrom, deputy director of Joint Operations Command, told reporters from his headquarters in Iraq on Tuesday that security there remains stable. “Many attacks are going on, but they are not having a significant impact on the security situation,” Byrom said. “It really is a good news story.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraqi Who Once Killed Americans Is A U.S. Dilemma As He Gains Political Power 

“Qais al-Khazali gained notoriety on the battlefields of Iraq, fighting to expel U.S. troops after they invaded 15 years ago. Now Mr. Khazali wants to oust American forces again, but this time through the Iraqi political system after making major gains in an election earlier this year. Mr. Khazali’s evolution—from Iran-allied outlaw to aspiring statesman—illustrates Iraq’s changing political landscape and the Trump administration’s dilemma as it tries to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the Middle East. As the U.S. tries to weaken Iran’s proxies—an array of mainly Shiite militias that have proliferated in Iraq and Syria in recent years—some of them are now boosting their profile through the very democratic process the U.S. introduced to Iraq.”

United States

USA Today: FBI, Police Investigate Attack On DJ Linked To White Supremacists

“The people arrested over the weekend for allegedly assaulting two men at a Lynnwood tavern are self-professed members of a neo-Nazi group, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The eight suspects, seven men and one woman, are believed to be from Washington, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois, and Oregon. It was initially reported that nine people were arrested. Snohomish County detectives say the suspects started harassing and assaulted a black man working as a DJ at a bar early Saturday morning. When they were told to leave, bar witnesses said the group got violent and started beating the DJ. An employee at the tavern who is Asian was injured when he attempted to help, according to the sheriff’s office. “We do not and will not ever tolerate acts of hate in Snohomish County. The violent behavior directed at members of our community over the weekend simply because of their race is disgusting. The Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the FBI in hopes of getting the strongest sentencing possible for these hate crimes,” said Sheriff Ty Trenary. According to witnesses, the suspects entered the bar and harassed the DJ. The disc jockey says he was approached by a man who ordered him to play heavy metal music. The DJ instead took a smoke break. When he returned, he was assaulted and targeted with racial slurs.”

The Chicago Tribune: DEA Agent In Chicago Charged With Conspiring To Traffic Guns And Drugs With International Gang

“A former Evanston police detective has been accused in a sweeping federal indictment of joining the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration so he could protect a vicious Puerto Rico-based drug organization responsible for numerous killings and other violence. Fernando Gomez, 41, was arrested Tuesday morning at the DEA’s Chicago field office, authorities said. Hours later, he was led into U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox’s courtroom in a T-shirt and blue jeans and shackled at the ankles. As prosecutors began to detail the allegations, several of Gomez’s fellow agents seated in the courtroom gallery exchanged stunned glances and one appeared to cry. Prosecutors asked that Gomez be held in custody as a risk to flee pending his transfer to face the charges in New York. Cox set a detention hearing for Thursday in Chicago. Gomez was charged in a superseding indictment unsealed in New York with racketeering conspiracy for his alleged decadelong affiliation with the Organizacion de Narcotraficantes Unidos, a conglomeration of drug traffickers based in Puerto Rico responsible for importing vast shipments of cocaine into New York and elsewhere.”

Radio Free Europe: Pompeo To Attend UN Security Council Meeting On Iran

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to travel to New York on December 12 to participate in a UN Security Council meeting on Iran. During the session, Pompeo will underscore Washington’s “unyielding resolve to address the Iranian regime’s threats to international peace and security through their continued development and proliferation of ballistic missiles,” the State Department said in a statement. The meeting comes after a senior Iranian military commander confirmed that Tehran recently carried out a ballistic-missile test that was condemned by Western powers. “We are continuing our missile tests and this recent one was a significant test,” the Fars news agency quoted Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh as saying on December 11.”

The Blade: Third Person To Be Charged In Connection With Terrorism Cases In Toledo

“A criminal complaint filed this week in federal court details what agents found when they entered and searched a Willow Run Drive home in South Toledo — an AK-47, a shotgun, multiple handguns, ammunition, and a shopping bag full of end caps, a component often used to build pipe bombs. Authorities believe Vincent Armstrong, 23, lived at 3608 Willow Run Drive with Elizabeth Lecron, 23,  who was charged Monday with transporting explosive materials with intent to injure or damage property after she purchased black powder to make a bomb. Law enforcement officials told The Blade Tuesday criminal charges are pending against Mr. Armstrong in connection to his girlfriend’s case. He’s scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday morning, and remains in custody in the Lucas County’s jail. Federal agents also found during the search, according to a criminal complaint, journals referencing an at times tumultuous romantic relationship between the couple, an admiration for violence, and a desire to orchestrate killings and mayhem.  “[Subject-1] and I got into a fight last night,” a journal entry dated June, 8, 2018, stated. “Not really a fight fight, but I caught him being dishonest. I’m really hurt. Truly. Why does this happen to me??? I still love him immensely and D-day is on track.”

Vice News: Racist Gangs, Mosque Attacks, And A Bar-Bombing Plot: 10 Hate And Extremism Cases On The Docket This Week

“The high-profile trial of neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. has been getting all the attention this week, but as the jurors in Charlottesville map his fate, prosecutors and investigators across the country are dealing with a host of other cases involving hate and extremism. And this is just a single week. Studies have repeatedly shown that crimes and domestic terrorism by individuals ascribing to far-right political ideologies have climbed since Barack Obama’s presidency. In November, the FBI reported that hate crimes jumped 17 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. And a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group based in Washington, D.C., found that attacks by far-right extremists doubled from 2016 to 2017. Ever since the Unite the Right rally drew Fields and hundreds of other white supremacists to Charlottesville, anti-fascist activists like Emily Gorzenski, a former resident of the college town, have been chronicling and monitoring those cases closely – and encouraging others to do the same. “These court cases reveal details about fascist organizing and networks that would otherwise be difficult or dangerous to uncover,” Gorzenski told VICE News. “It also allows people an entry point into activism, as sitting in court and taking notes is meaningful, effective, legal, and usually safe.”

Syria

The National: Trump Signs Bill To Help Religious Minorities In Iraq And Syria

“President Donald Trump signed legislation on Tuesday to help ensure humanitarian relief reaches the members of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria who have been targeted for genocide by ISIS militants. “In recent years, IS has committed horrifying atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq, including Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other groups,” Mr Trump said. He said the bill directs US assistance toward persecuted communities, including through faith-based programmes. It also allows government agencies to help groups that are investigating and prosecuting ISIS’ “despicable acts.” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act. He said the measure also urges foreign governments to help apprehend ISIS perpetrators by adding identifying information on suspects to their national security databases. “The future of endangered religious and ethnic minorities targeted by ISIS for genocide, and pluralism in the Middle East, will depend on help from the United States.” Rep. Smith said.”

The Washington Post: Iraqi Jets Target Islamic State Meeting Dens In Syria

“The Iraqi military says its jets have bombed two Islamic State positions inside Syria that were being used for as meeting places for the jihadist group. Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Tuesday that at least 30 IS members were present in one of the locations targeted and another 14 members in the other. The statement said the information was gathered from intelligence sources. Both positions were in the area of Sousa, near the border with Iraq. Iraqi forces have been firing on IS positions across the border in eastern Syria to support the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in their push against the last IS pocket along the border.”

Voice Of America: Us-Backed Forces Make ‘Significant’ Incursion Into Last Is Stronghold

“U.S.-backed forces in Syria are pushing further into Islamic State’s last stronghold along the Syria-Iraq border, forcing their way into the town of Hajin within the past two days. The area has seen some intense back-and-forth battles between IS fighters and Syrian Democratic Forces over the past several weeks, with IS briefly regaining territory before being pushed back. But U.S. officials are expressing hope that the recent advance by coalition-backed forces into Hajin is a sign of things to come. “That’s a pretty significant achievement,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, told reporters at the State Department on Tuesday, cautioning that retaking the entire IS enclave could still take a “period of months.” “There is a significant concentration of the most hardened ISIS fighters in that little splotch of territory,” he said, using an acronym for the terror group. “A couple of thousand hardened fighters remain in that area.” Syrian Democratic Forces, with the help of coalition air support and some U.S. troops on the ground, have been battling IS fighters in Hajin and the Deir el-Zour countryside in Syria since August, part of what’s been called Phase Three of Operation Roundup.  Multiple U.S. and coalition officials have described the fighting as difficult, citing the experience of the IS fighters in the area, the prevalence of improvised explosive devices and booby traps, as well as the willingness of IS to use human shields.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou Granted Bail By Canadian Judge

“A Canadian judge granted bail to Huawei Technologies Co. finance chief Meng Wanzhou, setting the stage for a new confrontation with China as the U.S. seeks the executive’s extradition to face charges over violating Iran sanctions. The judge’s decision Tuesday frees Ms. Meng after more than a week in detention, though it requires her to submit to a curfew, electronic monitoring and a limited range of travel in the Vancouver area. Justice William Ehrcke, of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, set bail at 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.5 million) and said Ms. Meng is due back in court in February. The executive was arrested on Dec. 1 at the behest of U.S. authorities who allege she lied to banks about ties between Huawei, which is based in China, and a company that did business in Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. Ms. Meng, the 46-year-old daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, has denied those allegations. She now awaits possible extradition to the U.S., where she could face multiple criminal charges that each carry up to 30 years in prison.”

Reuters: Analysis-On Iraq’s Border With Syria, Iran-Backed Militia Warily Eye US Forces

“From a desert hillside guarded by Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries, commander Qasim Muslih can spot Islamic State hideouts across the frontier in Syria. But he also keeps a wary eye on U.S. warplanes soaring overhead. “The Americans are spying on us,” he said, squinting skywards. “But we can hold the borders. We’ll fight whoever lays a finger on Iraq and its holy shrines.” The fighters Muslih commands are part of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a grouping of mostly Shi’ite militias backed by Iran, which the United States regards as the biggest threat to security in the Middle East. The PMF has been deploying in growing numbers at the border, fearing hundreds of Islamic State militants who fled Iraq are trying to cross back into Iraqi territory. The deployment is strengthening the PMF’s de facto control over large stretches of the frontier while its leaders are calling for a formal, permanent role securing the border.”

Arab News: UN Report: Iran-Built Weapons Found In Yemen

“Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres has claimed in a report that Iran-built weapons have been found in Yemen. According to AFP, Guterres’s office reports that his staff examined two container launch units for anti-tank guided missiles recovered by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The staff noticed characteristics unique to Iran’s manufacturing, as well as evidence recovered that dated between 2016 and 2017. They also examined a partially disassembled surface-to-air missile, procured by the coalition, which had features identical to those of Iran missiles. The report also indicated that the investigation into locating the source of these weapons is ongoing.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq To Seek Exemption From U.S. Sanctions On Iran: PM

“Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday he would send a delegation to the United States to seek an exemption from sanctions against Iran that would allow Baghdad to keep importing gas from Tehran. “The American side is cooperating with Iraq to find solutions that would remove pressure on Iraq because the (Iranian) gas is linked to a very sensitive issue which is electricity,” Abdul Mahdi told a news conference.

U.S. News & World Report: U.S. Downplays Reports Of Surge In ISIS Activity

“The U.S. Military Is downplaying suggestions that the Islamic State group is on the rise in Iraq amid reports in recent days of continuing and even increased hostilities by the extremist network. Attacks by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, have risen to as many as 75 per month on average, up from 60 per month in recent years, according to recent reports. The group still holds control of a small swathe of territory in the Syrian town of Hajin, which remains under siege by U.S.-backed forces there known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. The New York Times reported Sunday that some Kurdish positions in Syria were digging trenches in anticipation of an Islamic State group resurgence after a U.S.-led operation cleared out its fighters. However, Army Col. Jonathan Byrom, deputy director of Joint Operations Command, told reporters from his headquarters in Iraq on Tuesday that security there remains stable. “Many attacks are going on, but they are not having a significant impact on the security situation,” Byrom said. “It really is a good news story.” Byrom cited the U.S.-led coalition’s work to rebuild the Iraqi military and police forces after they were decimated by the Islamic State group’s initial onslaught in 2014 and the complex effort since then to unite at-times warring factions like Iran-backed militias and Kurdish units toward a common enemy.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraqi Who Once Killed Americans Is A U.S. Dilemma As He Gains Political Power

“Qais al-Khazali gained notoriety on the battlefields of Iraq, fighting to expel U.S. troops after they invaded 15 years ago. Now Mr. Khazali wants to oust American forces again, but this time through the Iraqi political system after making major gains in an election earlier this year. Mr. Khazali’s evolution—from Iran-allied outlaw to aspiring statesman—illustrates Iraq’s changing political landscape and the Trump administration’s dilemma as it tries to curb Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the Middle East.  As the U.S. tries to weaken Iran’s proxies—an array of mainly Shiite militias that have proliferated in Iraq and Syria in recent years—some of them are now boosting their profile through the very democratic process the U.S. introduced to Iraq. Mr. Khazali emerged from a parliamentary election in May with 15 seats in the 329-member assembly from just one—the biggest increase of any party—and was recently awarded the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Back in the U.S., the House last week passed a bill that would require the president to impose sanctions on groups that threaten stability and peace in Iraq and to designate them as terrorists.”

Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Forces Find Seven Islamic State Tunnels In Nineveh

“Iraqi security forces found on Tuesday seven tunnels that were used by Islamic State militants in Nineveh province. “Troops in the Nineveh Operations Command carried out a security campaign in Shaikh Ibrahim desert town in Nineveh, searching for remnants of Islamic State,” Ayn Al Iraq news website quoted Yahia Rasool, the spokesman for the Security Media Center, as saying. The security forces, according to the spokesman, “found seven Islamic State tunnels and a locally-made explosive charge during their security campaign.” Rasool further pointed out that security forces killed two Islamic State terrorists while planting bombs in Badush village in Mosul Old City. “One of them was wearing an explosive belt when he was shot dead by the security forces,” the spokesman added. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced in August 2017 that Nineveh province was fully liberated from Islamic State after the district of Tal Afar was recaptured. The announcement came after the defeat of the jihadist group in the town of Ayadiya, where the militants had fled to from Tal Afar.”

The National: ISIS Scorched-Earth Tactics Devastated Iraqi Farmland  

“The legacy of ISIS’ three-year reign over large parts of Iraq is extensive, affecting not only the country’s vulnerable social fabric and fatigued political system but also decimating its farmland.  As part of their violent campaign, ISIS sabotaged irrigation systems and wells, destroyed farming infrastructure and vehicles, and set fire to crops and plants. A methodical campaign of fear and violence was compounded by the destruction of livelihoods. In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International defined these actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The war against ISIS, says the report, severely impacted Iraq’s agricultural production. According to Amnesty estimates, production in 2018 is an estimated 40 per cent lower than it was four years ago and up to 90 per cent of livestock was lost in some areas.  “Our investigation reveals how IS carried out deliberate, wanton destruction of Iraq’s rural environment around Sinjar Mountain, wreaking havoc on the long-term livelihoods of Yazidis and other agrarian communities,” said Richard Pearshouse, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International. “Today, hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers and their families can’t return home because IS went out of its way to render farming impossible,” he added, using a different acronym for ISIS.”

Turkey

Bloomberg: A Flood Of Refugees Tests Turkey’s Tolerance

“As warplanes bombed his Syrian hometown of Aleppo, factory-owner Amer Hadri stepped on the gas pedal of his silver BMW 5 series and made for the safety of Turkey. Six years later, Hadri is a respected businessman in his adopted homeland. The 40-year-old exports production-line machinery for chips and snacks as well as packaging machines to 42 countries around the world, all bearing the label “Made in Turkey.” “My children attend Turkish schools and I am very happy to raise them here in an Islamic country,” said Hadri in Gaziantep, a town in southeastern Turkey about 60 miles north of Aleppo where he re-established his company. “I will never go back to Syria.” Hadri’s relative good fortune sets him apart from his fellow Syrians, but his story of fleeing north across the border to escape the conflict is a common one. More than 3.6 million Syrians have found a home in Turkey since the war began in 2011. Yet with the conflict now in its eighth year and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan refugees following in the Syrians’ footsteps, Turkey’s warm embrace of those in need is starting to go cold. An economic decline that makes what few jobs there are harder to come by and erodes the spending power of those who are in work is fanning anger at government policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Bomb Attack On Afghan Security Convoy Kills 13

“Afghan officials say a suicide car bombing Tuesday hit a security forces’ convoy in Kabul, killing at least 13 people and injuring nine others. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish confirmed the casualty count and told VOA that security personnel and civilians were both among the victims. The convoy reportedly was transporting operatives of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), the main Afghan spy agency. The Taliban quickly took responsibility, saying the suicide attack in a western district of the capital city was aimed at a joint convoy of American military trainers and their Afghan partners. An insurgent spokesman claimed the powerful blast “killed and wounded 23 security personnel,” though Taliban officials often issue inflated claims for such attacks. The deadly violence came on a day when the Afghan government announced the formation of a so-called High Consultative Board for Peace Process. The panel comprises senior government officials and prominent politicians, including former president, Hamid Karzai, as well as jihadi leaders outside of the government. An official announcement explained the panel’s meetings will be chaired by President Ashraf Ghani and its members will provide timely “constructive advice” on “critical issues to a 12-member government team of negotiators already set up for prospective peace talks with the Taliban.”

TOLO News: Officials Warn Over Taliban’s Access To Modern Weapons

“Some local officials from a few provinces in the south of Afghanistan have warned that Taliban has gained access to more modern arms, which is a challenge for Afghan security and defense forces in fighting the group. Helmand governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said modern weapons, from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, are being provided to the Taliban via intelligence networks, adding that Afghan security forces have on occasion seized such arms. “From our two neighboring countries, weapons and arms are being distributed to them (Taliban) via intelligence networks. These arms have been seized and not only been shown in Afghanistan, but also to the world,” Yasin Khan said. The Taliban’s recent attacks on security forces’ outposts in different parts of the country, especially in Farah province, have raised serious security concerns for the local officials of the provinces. Farah local officials said in the last few days, they have witnessed fighting in parts of some districts of Farah and on the outskirts of Farah city – the provincial capital. “The militants are trying to use Farah province as their center and by making footprints in Farah, influence other provinces,” Dadullah Qane, a member of Farah provincial council said.”

Pakistan

Daily Times Pakistan: 20 Terrorist Attacks Have Taken Place In Pakistan In November Only

“Compared to 28 in previous month, a total of 20 terrorist attacks took place in Pakistan in November, 2018. These attacks claimed 64 lives in all – compared to 28 in previous month – and injured 80 others. Among those 64 killed in terrorist attacks in November were 48 civilians, 13 personnel of security and law enforcement agencies – three FC men, three policemen, six army soldiers, one paramilitary and three militants. These statistics were revealed in the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services monthly report, which also said that though the number of terrorist attacks declined from previous month, yet the consequent casualties surged mainly due to a major suicide blast reported from Orakzai tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A surge in terrorist activity that was observed in KP during previous month continued in November. As many as 13 terrorist attacks took place in the province, including a major suicide blast, which claimed 51 lives and injured 53 others. In all, five terrorist attacks took place in Balochistan that claimed four lives and injured 18 others. Two terrorist attacks took place in Karachi including a major terror bid against Chinese Consulate in the city. Both these attacks were perpetrated by nationalist insurgents including one by Baloch insurgent group Baloch Liberation Army. Nine people were killed in these attacks, including four civilians, two policemen and three militants – and as many others were injured.”

Yemen

The Defense Post: ISIS And Al-Qaeda Clash Not Only On The Battlefield, But Also In Their Propaganda

“While such instances have been relatively common over the past few years, recent weeks witnessed an uptick in hostilities between affiliates of Islamic State and al-Qaeda in several areas, mainly in Somalia and Yemen. Most recently, on December 2, ISIS’s Amaq news agency reported the killing of a member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in an improvised explosive device detonation in Yemen’s northwestern Bayda governorate. Meanwhile, in Somalia, according to reports from November 29, al-Shabaab militants assassinated an ISIS operative in the town of Afgoye, located approximately 25 km (15 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu. The hostilities and rivalry between the two organizations have not been confined to the battlefield; the groups’ mutual animosity has also manifested in their rhetoric and messaging. For instance, in the recent 158th edition of al-Naba magazine, ISIS published an op-ed focusing on the alleged failure of other Islamist movements to advance the Sharia and protect Muslims from the Taghut (or “tyrani” – usually, though not exclusively, referring to secular Arab regimes or secular nationalist political parties), and “Western Crusaders” in the post-Arab Spring era. The article stated that these groups not only rejected armed struggle (jihad) but also actively prevented the youth from targeting the interests of the West and the “Arab Taghut,” in an attempt to gain their sympathy.”

The National: Yemen Government And Houthi Rebels Exchange Lists Ahead Of Planned Prisoner Swap

“Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels yesterday exchanged lists of prisoners they want released in a confidence-building measure aimed at advancing peace talks. The warring parties also set January 20 as a preliminary deadline for a prisoner swap. The two delegations, which are currently engaged in United Nations brokered negotiations in Rimbo, Sweden, presented more than 15,000 names to the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths. “We presented a list of 8,576 names of workers, political activists, youth, teachers, students, children, tribal figures, businessmen, women and doctors that have been forcibly detained and hidden in Houthi prisons,” a government official told The National. The number of captives held by the rebels exceeds 18,000, the official said. Among the Yemenis believed to be detained in Houthi prisons, the official said there were 1700 minors and 90 women. The government’s list also includes members of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family and Bahai groups. The government claims that 1200 of the prisoners held by the Houthis have been tortured, and that 132 have died in captivity.”

Lebanon

Bloomberg: What’s Next For Hezbollah After Its Syria Adventure?

“Since the early years of the Syrian civil war, Israel’s most threatening combatant has been busier on a different front. The Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, which last fought a war with Israel in 2006, has invested heavily since 2013 in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad prevail against groups that rebelled against him. Israeli officials have warned that a day would come when Hezbollah’s fighters would again turn their focus to the Jewish state, this time having gained significant combat experience and better weaponry. Israel’s discovery of tunnels it says Hezbollah militants dug to infiltrate it from Lebanon has raised concerns that the time is approaching. By training and backing up government forces, Hezbollah has played an important role helping the Assad regime retake control of more than 60 percent of Syria. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has made clear he’s in no hurry to bring his fighters home while the battle for the rest of the country continues. The U.S. State Department said in 2017 that the group had about 7,000 fighters in Syria. By one estimate, it’s lost 1,675 in the war. On the other hand, Hezbollah fighters gained new battlefield experiences, notably operating tanks provided by Syria and coordinating with air power provided by Russia.”

Middle East

Foreign Policy: Start Small To Stop The Next ISIS

“Though it has been a full year since the defeat of the Islamic State, the United States has yet to define how it will prevent the return of the militant organization and the emergence of other violent extremist groups. This task merits top consideration for the new U.S. Congress this January: Islamic State strongholds are reportedly regrouping in Syria and Iraq, and more localized extremist groups remain committed to violence in Somalia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. Further, across the Sahel, extremists are still exploiting the upheaval caused by unprecedented displacement, climate change, and economic disadvantage in order to regroup and recruit. Through our programs and research at Mercy Corps, we have seen how a long-term strategy to prevent violent extremism depends on addressing the socioeconomic, institutional, and political factors that determine whether these groups form and are able to recruit in certain communities. Since Sept.11, 2001, the U.S. government has invested in preventive tools to combat terrorism, including development and diplomatic programs to reduce the appeal of, and prevent supporters from joining, extremist groups. Every administration since George W. Bush’s understood that kinetic force alone could not counter this threat. And, on paper, the Trump administration’s October National Strategy for Counterterrorism seems to agree: The strategy mentions the centrality of prevention and a role for local civil society in countering radicalization, even as it eschews the term countering violent extremism (CVE), favored in the past to describe these activities.”

Egypt

ABC News: Egypt Says 27 Militants Killed In Sinai, Border With Libya

“Egypt says its security forces have killed at least 27 suspected militants in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula and along its porous border with Libya. The military said Wednesday that forces destroyed 342 hideouts and weapons depots, dismantled 344 explosive devices and detained more than 400 suspects and around 3,000 illegal migrants, without giving a timeframe. It says airstrikes destroyed 61 vehicles containing weapons and ammunition in the Western Desert. It says one soldier was killed in a shootout with militants. It wasn’t possible to independently confirm the details as access to the northern Sinai is heavily restricted . Egypt launched a nationwide operation against militants in February. It has struggled to defeat a long-running insurgency in the Sinai that is now affiliated with the Islamic State group.”

Nigeria

Pulse Nigeria: U.S. Designates Boko Haram ‘Entities Of Particular Concern’

“The United States has announced the designation of the Boko Haram terrorist group as an entity “of particular concern”. The U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in a statement, designated Boko Haram alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa’ida and al-Shabab. Pompeo also designated Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burma, North Korea, among “countries of particular concern”, while Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were placed on “special watch list”. “On November 28, 2018, I designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom. “I also placed Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated ‘severe violations of religious freedom. “Finally, I designated al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern,” Pompeo said. The U.S. top diplomat regretted that in far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs.”

Africa

Asharq Al-Awsat: Morocco Dismantles ISIS Cell

“Morocco announced Tuesday that it has dismantled an ISIS terrorist cell that was plotting to carry out attacks in the Kingdom, reported the Saudi Press Agency. The interior ministry said that the three-member cell was active in the city of Kenitra north of Rabat. The cell promoted ISIS operations and sought to stage terror attacks in the country, it added in a statement. One of the suspects attempted to join ISIS ranks in Syria and Iraq. He also tried to join its affiliates in western Africa before deciding on plotting an attack in Morocco in collaboration with the two other members of the cell. The suspects have since been referred to the concerned judiciary.”

Timeslive: ISIS ‘Loyalists’ May Face Child Pornography Charges

“Alleged loyalists of terror group Isis, accused of the kidnapping and bloody slaying of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders, may now face child pornography charges. The revelation came as the trio — Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, his wife Fatima Patel and their boarder Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa — appeared before the Verulam magistrate’s court on Wednesday. Specialist state advocate Adele Barnard said that the forensic examination of “digital devices” seized from the three revealed sexually explicit images involving children. “There was sexually explicit material involving children recovered from the devices that the state seized from the accused and we intend adding further charges in terms of the Films and Publications Act,” she said. The three already face charges of kidnapping, theft and murder, as well as those relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorists and Related Activities Act by hoisting an Isis flag.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Police Thwart Possible Isis-Inspired Plot After Newcastle Arrest

“Counter-terrorism investigators believe they have thwarted a potential fresh Isis-inspired plot following the arrest by armed police of a 33-year-old man in Newcastle. Residents described seeing armed officers “dressed like soldiers” in the Arthur’s Hill area of the city as properties were evacuated near a primary school. The suspect was detained in what police described as an “intelligence-led and pre-planned” operation Tuesday morning. It followed a joint investigation by MI5, the domestic security service, and counter-terrorism police. The suspect was taken to a police station in West Yorkshire, where he faced questioning on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Security sources said they were trying to stop fresh attacks. Britain was struck by four mass-casualty atrocities in London and Manchester last year and a further attempt to bomb a London tube train where more serious injury was avoided because of flaws in the construction of the explosive device. There are about 700 live counter-terrorism investigations, 600 into Islamist alleged violence and backing for it, and 100 into plots and those supporting the extreme rightwing. The UK threat level remains at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. A spokeswoman for the north-east counter-terrorism unit, which covers Newcastle, said after the latest arrest that houses were evacuated “as a precautionary measure” within the cordon at Philip Place, a cul-de-sac about a mile from the city centre.”

New York Post: Sword-Wielding Terror Suspect Allegedly Left Note ‘Damning Queen To Hellfire’

“An Uber driver drove at cops outside Buckingham Palace then tried to attack them with a samurai sword because he wanted to “be in paradise with Allah,” a court in England heard. It is alleged that Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, 27, wrote a “martyrdom note” to his sister that said “the Queen and her soldiers will all be in hellfire” before his attack around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2017. He then swerved his car through cones outside the palace, and as two police officers got out of a passing police van he brandished the sword and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” jurors were told. But the sword was wrestled from him and he was arrested, a jury heard. Chowdhury denies one count of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts. British national Chowdhury wrote the martyrdom note three hours before the attack, after researching terrorists including Khalid Masood, the Westminster Bridge attacker whom he described as a “martyr,” it was said. He had also allegedly changed his WhatsApp picture to an ISIS flag and wrote messages of support for the group. Prosecutor Timothy Cray said: “He stated in clear terms that his intention was to get to paradise by becoming a martyr, fighting in his words ‘the enemies of Allah.’” Part of the note reportedly said: “Tell everyone that I love them and that they should struggle against the enemies of Allah with their lives and property. “The Queen and her soldiers will all be in the hellfire.”

France

The New York Times: Gunman Traumatizes Strasbourg, Killing At Least 3 In Possible Terror Attack

“A gunman opened fire in the picturesque city of Strasbourg on Tuesday night, killing at least three, wounding a dozen and sending terrorized shoppers and tourists scrambling for safety in the middle of France’s biggest Christmas market. The assailant, previously flagged by the authorities as a potential threat, escaped police officers who quickly descended on the downtown Strasbourg market’s cobblestone streets after the shooting started, shortly before 8 p.m., and ordered people to stay inside. Hours later, the assailant remained on the loose as the police expanded their manhunt to the city’s periphery. Government officials said they were investigating the shooting as a possible terrorist attack. The shooting immediately recalled the Islamic State and Al Qaeda assaults that have haunted France and other European countries over the past several years. It came just as France was grappling with a crisis over the violent Yellow Vest economic protests that have roiled Paris and other French cities for the past four weekends. The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, announced early Wednesday morning that France had raised its terrorism threat level to the maximum level, with reinforced border checks and increased security at markets around the country. He described the gunman as “a man who was very unfavorably known for criminal activity,” who was convicted by courts in France and Germany, but he did not mention any ties to extremist groups.”

The Telegraph: Strasbourg Shooting: Terror Suspect ‘May Have Crossed Into Germany’ After Christmas Market Shooting

“France says it cannot “rule out” that a suspected terrorist has fled to neighbouring Germany after killing at least two people and injuring 13 in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.  Border controls have been strengthened and more than 600 people, including police, troops and helicopters were on the heels of the attacker who had “sowed terror” in the city, interior minister Christophe Castaner said. Asked whether he may have left France, deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said: “That cannot be ruled out.” According to Der Spiegel, the assailant had been in prison in Germany until 2017 on a sentence for “serious” theft handed out by Singen district  court in Bade-Wurtemberg next to the Alsace border, after which he was expelled to France. The gunman, Strasbourg-born Cherif Chekatt, 29 was on a “S” security and terror watch list. Anti-terrorist prosecutors have opened an investigation.”

Germany

The Washington Post: Germany Arrests Suspected Helper Of Islamic State Group

“German authorities have arrested a woman suspected of supporting the Islamic State group by helping two members who allegedly planned an attack in Germany. Federal prosecutors said the woman, a 40-year-old German identified only as Songul G., was arrested Tuesday in Hamburg. They said she was in contact with a suspected IS member based in Syria, identified as Marcia M., who together with another alleged member was involved in plans for an attack in Germany. The plan was to smuggle attackers into Germany, where they would marry women who were aware of the plot. In 2016, Songul G. allegedly registered a cellphone number under a false name and offered to host and marry one of the would-be attackers. Two of them then tried and failed to leave Syria for Germany.”

Europe

Euractiv: EU Counter-Terrorism Chief: Europe ‘May See Something Like Daesh 2.0’

“The level of terrorist threat remains “pretty serious” in several EU countries, Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, told EURACTIV.com in an interview hours before the latest attack in Strasbourg on Tuesday night (12 December). In a wide-ranging interview, de Kerchove offered some insights on the EU’s accomplishments on counter-terrorism and sketches out future challenges. Gilles de Kerchove is the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, appointed in 2007 by Javier Solana. He spoke to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.We are meeting ahead of Christmas, and unlike in previous years, there have been no terrorist attacks on EU soil [the interview was taken on 12 December in the morning]. Is this because anti-terrorism services have become better, or maybe terrorists have lost motivation? I would rather go for the former rather than the latter. The level of the threat remains in several member states, not in all of them, pretty serious, this is an assessment of the security services.”

Reuters: Commentary: Why Europe Fears Collapse Of The Iran Nuclear Deal

“Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s nuclear chief and former foreign minister, has warned that Iranians are running out of patience with the European Union’s pledge to maintain trade with Tehran despite ramped-up U.S. sanctions against its oil and banking sectors. “If we cannot sell our oil and we don’t enjoy financial transactions, then I don’t think keeping the deal will benefit us anymore,” Salehi said ahead of a Nov. 27 meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels. European powers – Germany, France and Britain – have been under enormous pressure from Washington to follow its example and withdraw from the Iran accord, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). President Donald Trump has warned that those who help Tehran circumvent sanctions “will NOT be doing business with the United States.” The Islamic Republic has not helped to facilitate effective cooperation with Europe either. Iran has resisted calls to implement the requirements of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. At the same time, Tehran-affiliated agents have tried to carry out assassination and bombing plots on European soil over the past several months, damaging political and diplomatic efforts to build constructive ties between Iran and Europe.”

Technology

ABC News: Google CEO Sundar Pichai Grilled By Congress On Privacy, Bias And China Plans

“Google chief executive Sundar Pichai appeared on Capitol Hill Wednesday where he faced questions from lawmakers on a number of issues, including data privacy, misinformation, a search product being developed for China, and allegations from Republicans that the search engine giant is biased against conservative users. “All of these topics — competition, censorship, bias, and others — point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention: Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom—or instruments of control?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at the outset of the hearing, which was held by the House Judiciary Committee. McCarthy added, “[T]he Free World depends on a free Internet. We need to know that Google is on the side of the Free World, and that it will provide its services free of anti-competitive behavior, political bias, and censorship.”

Time: Google’s Biggest Problem? It Can Never Be As Transparent As We Need It To Be

“Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a hearing that lasted more than three hours, yet only scratched the surface of the multiple controversies surrounding the global technology company. Among the axes that lawmakers ground the most were concerns about the user information Google is hoovering up each second of the day — often without individuals’ understanding — as well as allegations of conservative bias at a company that has unrivaled influence over the information consumed by billions. Many lawmakers grilled Pichai about potential plans to launch a censored search engine in the valuable market of China, while others touched on topics ranging from conspiracy theories on YouTube to illegal drugs sold online. But most issues boiled down to the same factor: trust. And it’s a resource of which Google is in relatively short supply.”

The Washington Post: Google Needs Regulation. Republicans Are Too Busy Screaming About Bias

“GOOGLE CHIEF executive Sundar Pichai’s appearance before Congress on Tuesday augured an era of increased scrutiny for technology companies. The hearing was also a swan song for a Republican majority that has chosen to prioritize political posturing over more pressing issues about how powerful firms manage consumer data, and how they wield their influence in the world. Members of the conservative majority on the House Judiciary Committee spent much of their time hammering Mr. Pichai with baseless accusations that Google rigs its search results to censor conservative content. Black-box algorithms will inevitably prioritize some content over other content, and to the extent companies can be transparent about how their systems work, they should be. But a single-minded and mindless focus on a nonexistent left-wing conspiracy within Google has had the paradoxical effect of discouraging companies from properly policing their platforms, as they hesitate to remove content that should be removed for fear of unfounded criticism.”

The Guardian: Why Facebook’s New Rule About Sex Is Its Weirdest Yet

“Facebook has new rules, and they are not fun; like Dua Lipa’s, not fun at all. You could not dance to these rules. You must henceforth desist from any post that could “facilitate, encourage or coordinate sexual encounters between adults”. Since sex between consenting adults was, last time I checked, legal – indeed encouraged by responsible media platforms such as ours – this struck me as peculiar. Facebook has always taken strange positions: for ages, the weirdest was that it would remove pictures of breastfeeding, but not pages that made light of rape. This is the strangest yet, particularly given Mark Zuckerberg’s well-known creed of do-what-yer-like. If he can withstand the pressure of parliaments across the globe to appear before them, and if he can weather every accusation with a sturdy, “No, I didn’t … OK, yes I did, but I won’t do it again,” which special-interest group can possibly have leaned on him to make this radical move? Which evangelical church, which celibacy movement, could have got under his skin?”

ISIS

Iraq Akhbar: Iraq: Terrorist Arrested For Raising Money For ISIS

“The Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate arrested a terrorist who was extorting farmers in Mosul, by allegedly taking advantage of his father’s job as a bodyguard for the “chief of agriculture’’ for ISIS. A statement issued by the Directorate said that “the detachments of the Military Intelligence Directorate affiliated with the First Task Force have captured a prominent member of the criminal ISIS organization, whose father was a bodyguard for ISIS’s so-called ‘’agriculture chief’’ in Kokjla neighborhood in eastern Mosul.” It continued: “The terrorist is accused of robbery, extorting farmers and intimidating them into paying a “tax” for their agricultural products, by exploiting the position of his father.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Ahl Masr News: Egyptian Official: Muslim Brotherhood Attempted To Steal Awqaf’s Assets And Properties

“Abd Al-Ghani Hindi, a member of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, disclosed that the Egyptian state, in collaboration with the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior Affairs, helped the Egyptian Awqaf {Endowments} Authority restore up to 75% of its stolen funds, land and other properties. The authority managed to retrieve these assets during the past four years, according to Hindi. He went on to say that the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, during its rule in Egypt, tried to seize the properties of the Awqaf Authority. The banned Islamist group sought to separate the Awqaf Authority from the Ministry of Endowments in an effort to strip the latter of its land holdings, the member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs added. He asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood was aiming to use these lots to serve its own interests {sale for profit} as well as to destroy the state.”

Shorouk News: Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Appeal Previously Issued Rulings To Appropriate Their Assets

“Lawyers of top Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders and members, including ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie, and his deputy Khairat Al-Shater, appealed previously issued rulings to confiscate their funds and assets. The appellants urged the Cairo Appeals Court to overturn previous verdicts issued by the Urgent Matters Court, which ordered the appropriation of their funds and assets. These earlier rulings also ordered the transfer of the seized funds and properties to the General State Treasury.”

Almashhad Alaraby: Kuwaiti Analyst Denounces The Muslim Brotherhood For Committing Financial Fraud In The Name Of Religion

“Fahad Alshelaimi, a Kuwaiti political analyst, harshly criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, which was classified as a terrorist organization by many Arab countries, according to him. Alshelaimi tweeted: “We’ve decided to directly confront the movement that was designated as a terrorist entity by some Arab states.” The prominent commentator went on to say: “Despite the significant political, social, media and financial capabilities of this group, we’ve chosen not to remain silent about it. We will no longer allow this organization to perpetrate acts of financial fraud in the name of religion.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps

Erem News: “New Tool” In The Hands Of The Iranian Revolutionary Guards; To Strengthen Its Influence In The Middle East

“A report warned that Iran’s planned rail link between Tehran and Damascus is a “new tool” for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps {IRGC} to strengthen its influence in the Middle East. The Director-General of the Syrian Railways, Mohammed Ali Hassanein, disclosed several days ago “the existence of Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian coordination aimed at linking Iran and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea by means of the Abu Kamal-Lattakia railway project in Syria.” Meanwhile, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan reported in its London edition that “the bulk of the railway projects in Iran are in the hands of the IRGC, both inside and outside Iran.” a

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