Eye on Extremism, December 10,2019

The New York Times: American Boy, 16, Caught Fighting For ISIS In Syria, Militia Says

“A 16-year-old American boy fighting on behalf of the Islamic State was captured on the battlefield in Syria, an American-backed force fighting the militants said Wednesday. If the teenager is proved to be a United States citizen, he would be the first American minor to be caught fighting on behalf of the terrorist group overseas. His arrest follows the capture of Warren Christopher Clark, 34, a former substitute teacher from Texas whose seizure in the same area was announced on Sunday. They are among the handful of American citizens — just five so far — who have been taken alive on the front line in the battle against the Islamic State, according to a database maintained by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. The militia that announced the boy’s capture, the Syrian Democratic Forces, said he was among eight foreign fighters who were apprehended this week in the last sliver of Islamic State-held territory in northeastern Syria. The others included citizens of Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. United States officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and over the weekend the same militia announced the capture of what they said was another American citizen. There were indications, however, that that person might be from Trinidad, according to Simon Cottee, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent.”

Al Arabiya: Six Soldiers Killed, 20 Injured In Houthi Drone Attack On Yemen’s Army Parade

“In their continuous attempts to abort the Sweden peace agreement brokered by the United Nations – the pro-Iranian Houthi militias launched on Thursday, a drone attack targeting a military parade by the Yemeni National Army in al-Anad military base in Lahaj province. Al Arabiya news channel correspondent reported that six soldiers of the Yemeni Army were killed and 20 others injured, among them journalists as well as the governor of Lahaj, the deputy chief of army staff,  the head of the intelligence unit, the commander of the military police and the army commander of the fourth region. For his part, the correspondent of Al Hadath news channel reported that an Iranian-made bomb-laden drone exploded on a podium, attended by officials from the ministry of defense, watching the parade. The correspondent pointed out that ambulances were seen carrying the wounded to Aden hospitals. Also, Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani said that: “Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces in order for deployment and reinforcements,” adding that two senior military officials were wounded in the attack.”

The Washington Post: As Iraq’s Shiite Militias Expand Their Reach, Concerns About An ISIS Revival Grow

“Iraq’s large and well-armed Shiite militias are now running many of the Sunni areas they helped liberate from the Islamic State, fostering local resentments that could fuel a resurgence of support for the extremist group. After winning nearly a third of the seats in parliamentary elections last year, the Shiite militias, including several ideologically aligned with Iran, are enjoying unprecedented military and political power in Iraq. Their ascension has raised concerns among Iraqi politicians, Sunni residents and U.S. officials that the militia leaders are creating a parallel state that undermines Iraq’s central government and revives the kind of Sunni grievances that underpinned the Islamic State’s dramatic rise three years ago. During the fight to oust the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State, Shiite militias mobilized to secure holy places and then grew into effective front-line fighters involved in nearly every important battle. They gained legal status in Iraq under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), bringing 50 militias and approximately 150,000 fighters under nominal government control. Now, with major combat over, the militias — some with roots dating back to the Saddam Hussein era, others that emerged to fight U.S. occupation after 2003 and yet others that formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State — are setting their sights on political and economic goals.”

The Wall Street Journal: Europe’s Baby Steps On Iran

“The European Union on Tuesday imposed new sanctions against Iran for the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action came into effect. This is a welcome, if belated, acknowledgment that the 2015 nuclear deal has failed to change Tehran’s behavior. Over the summer European authorities prevented a bomb attack on Iranian dissidents in Paris coordinated by Iranian intelligence across the Continent. In October Denmark announced it had stopped a plot to assassinate an Iranian opposition figure on Danish soil. The Dutch government has also accused Iran of assassinating two Dutch citizens of Iranian origin in the Netherlands in recent years. The new sanctions target an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its agents, including deputy minister and director general of intelligence Saeid Hashemi Moghadam. They have been added to Europe’s terror list and their assets will be frozen. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Twitter tried to justify the attacks: “Accusing Iran won’t absolve Europe of responsibility for harboring terrorists”—his preferred word for anyone who opposes the regime. That Iran feels comfortable planning terror attacks in Europe after the nuclear deal was signed should be a red flag.”

Voice Of America: US Military Hits Somali Militants In 4th Airstrike This Week

“The United States military has killed six al-Shabab militants in Somalia, in the fourth airstrike there this week, according to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). The latest attack was carried out Tuesday in Somalia’s Bay region and destroyed one vehicle, an AFRICOM official told VOA. He said no civilian casualties resulted from the attack. On Monday, the U.S. military said it carried out two strikes in Somalia killing four al-Shabab extremists, in defense of Somali forces who “were engaged by al-Shabab militants.” AFRICOM said another U.S. airstrike on Sunday killed six al-Shabab members near Dheerow Sanle in the Lower Shabelle region, and a strike on January 2 killed 10 militants in the same area. The U.S. military says no civilians were killed or injured in these airstrikes. According to AFRICOM, the U.S. military carried out 47 airstrikes in Somalia last year and 35 in 2017, killing hundreds of militants. Most targeted al-Shabaab, while some targeted Islamic State militants in the African country. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militant group continues to control large areas in southern and central Somalia. They are also responsible for deadly bombings in the capital, Mogadishu.”

CNN: Selling Extremism: Nationalist Streetwear And The Rise Of The Far Right

“The enduring image of the racist skinhead, with his signature shaved head, black combat boots and bomber jacket, has all but disappeared.  In its place is a fragmented set of mainstream styles and streetwear brands that use coded symbols and messages to market extremist politics, turning T-shirts and hoodies into walking billboards to communicate with insiders and outsiders alike. Especially popular across Eastern Europe and Russia, the clothing is often high-quality, with T-shirts alone costing upwards of $35. Sometimes, alphanumeric sequences of numbers and letters stand in for racist or nationalist phrases. (“2YT4U,” for example, means “too white for you.”) Other coding deliberately plays on what’s called the “gray zone,” offering plausible deniability to law enforcement, teachers, parents and other authorities. Thus, a purple T-shirt that says, in big white block letters, “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS WHITE,” could be read as a white supremacist message or as a humorous play on the color of the shirt. In more overt examples, the clothing spreads nationalist and extremist ideals with symbols, iconography and messages that call on consumers to be patriotic, celebrating the nation, country and whiteness.”

United States

The Intercept: Defense Department Abruptly Stopped Releasing Key Details On Strikes In War Against ISIS

“The Defense Department has quietly halted its practice of issuing detailed “strike releases,” periodic reports that provided information about bombings targeting Islamic State fighters, buildings, and equipment in Iraq and Syria. The change comes as the U.S. military has ramped up its bombing offensive against ISIS in eastern Syria following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of a troop withdrawal last month. While many of the U.S.-led coalition’s actions against ISIS were shrouded in secrecy, the strike releases, which the military has been issuing since the start of the campaign against ISIS in 2014, were valuable tools for watchdogs that work to corroborate reports of civilian casualties. “The only claim I’ve seen publicly made is that with ISIS almost beat, there’s less need for detailed releases,” said Chris Woods, the founder of Airwars, a London-based nonprofit that monitors and assesses civilian harm from bombing campaigns in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. “Yet both strikes and civilian harm are at their highest levels since Raqqa. Reducing transparency is entirely counterproductive in our view.” In a note appended to the top of its January 4 strike release, the Defense Department announced that strike releases would be cut from weekly to biweekly.”

CBS News: USS John C. Stennis Back In The Persian Gulf To Continue ISIS Fight

“On board the USS John C. Stennis— Landing aboard the flight deck of this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, you can hear the roar of fighter jets taking off. The Stennis looks every inch of its 4.5 acres — a warship at war. F-18 warplanes sped off to launch airstrikes from Taliban targets in Afghanistan to ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria, despite President Trump’s declaration of victory and talk of a troop withdrawal of all 2,000 troops in Syria. “We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly, we’ve taken back the land, and now it’s time for our troops to come back home,” he said. But the group commander said there’s been no let-up from the Stennis. “It doesn’t change our tactics at all. We are given missions to do and we fill those missions,” said Rear Adm. Michael Wettlaufer. “The pace of us, since we arrived, has been pretty steady.” The Stennis is more like a floating city. There are more than 5,000 sailors servicing 70 tactical aircraft, primarily providing cover for U.S. forces on the battlefield. As long as there are American boots on the ground, there will be U.S. air support overhead. The return of a U.S. carrier to the Persian Gulf is also seen as a show of force to nearby Iran, which deployed vessels in December to shadow the Stennis.”

Dallas News: A Texan Was Caught Supporting ISIS In Syria. He Should Be Put On Trial In America

“The recent capture of two American citizens, one from Houston, among Islamic State forces fighting in Syria is a stark reminder of the global nature of the conflict there and the recruiting powers of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. But it’s also an opportunity to set a precedent that recognizes the right to due process for any American citizen apprehended in a foreign land and accused of taking up arms against the U.S. or, as in this case, a U.S.-backed militia. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that the U.S. government can detain foreign “enemy combatants” for as long as hostilities continue–a nebulous concept in a seemingly endless war on terror. But in Hamdi the high court also ruled that any American citizen detained overseas for alleged crimes against the U.S. has both the right to due process and the right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made clear in the court’s opinion, “[A] state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation’s citizens.” Moreover, as most legal experts agree, the only place for U.S. citizens to be tried for alleged crimes against the U.S.–whether those crimes be acts in support of terrorism or treason–is in a U.S. federal court.”


Fox News: Al Qaeda-Linked Terror Group Gains Ground In Syria

“An Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group Hay’at Tahir al-Sham (HTS) is gaining swaths of territory in the northern province of Idlib, usurping control from Turkish-backed groups connected to the National Liberation Front (NLF). The goals of the group, otherwise known as the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant,” are centered on dominating as much territory as possible ahead of planned talks between Russia and Turkey, to bring a final end to the almost eight-year Syrian civil war. Based on a previous agreement, Turkey was supposed to have reigned in the extremist outfit – now raising concerns it may not have the capacity to do so. HTS’s latest capture includes the strategic town of Darat Izza, close to two of Syria’s main highways, and deemed a conduit both within Syria and to bordering Turkey. Some analysts have contended the Turkish leadership is too focused on the Kurdish issue in the region to effecitively respond to HTS’s expansion. So who is HTS, and what danger do they pose? “HTS has proven itself to be the strongest military force in the Idlib pocket in recent weeks. Their rapid advance is a cause for concern because they are de-stabilizing efforts to bring a political settlement to the last rebel enclave,” Alan Mendoza, founder and executive director of the U.S. policy think tank the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News.”

The Daily Star: Cease-Fire Deal Sees Militants Take Over Syria’s Idlib: Reports

“The main militant alliance in Syria’s Idlib region reached a deal Thursday ending days of deadly fighting with rival rebels and extending its influence over the whole rebel enclave. The agreement brings an immediate end to the fighting between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, and the rival Turkish-backed National Liberation Front, according to the militants’ propaganda website Ebaa. “This morning, HTS and the NLF signed an agreement to put an end to ongoing fighting… and establish the control of the salvation government in all areas,” Ebaa said. The so-called “salvation government” is the administrative arm of HTS, which has been gaining ground inside Syria’s last major rebel bastion in recent days. Since September, Idlib has been shielded from a threatened government offensive by a precarious truce agreed between government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group, said Thursday’s deal saw the whole rebel enclave come under HTS administrative control. Other militant factions – such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen group and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) – are present in other areas of Idlib but are allied with HTS, Observatory chief Rami Abdel-Rahman said.”

The Defense Post: Kazakhstan Evacuates 30 Children Of ISIS Fighters From Syria

“Kazakhstan on Wednesday, January 9 said dozens of its citizens, including children, had been evacuated from Syria after being held “hostage” in the country. Hundreds of Kazakhs have left the Muslim-majority country to join up with militant groups in Syria since 2011, according to Kazakhstan’s security services. “On January 6 this year … 47 citizens of Kazakhstan, including 30 children, were evacuated from Syria,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said. “They were deceived into going to this country in crisis where they were held hostage by terrorists,” Nazarbayev said. “We will continue to work on the return of children who [were taken to] a combat zone against their will,” he added, without providing details of the operation. The Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that the hand-over of five ISIS fighters, 11 women and 30 children to Kazakhstan was done after mediation from the United States. According to Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign affairs in northern Syria, the SDF is holding nearly 900 ISIS foreign fighters from 44 countries, 400-500 of their wives and more than 1,000 children. In 2014, authorities reacted to an official Islamic State propaganda video showing Kazakh child soldiers training by blocking media outlets that shared the footage.”

The Defense Post: YPG And SDF Capture 13 ISIS Foreign Fighters In One Week

“The People’s Protection Units (YPG) said on Wednesday, January 9 that it captured eight foreign Islamic State fighters during the battle to recapture the Syrian town of Hajin from the group, following the announcement of five fighters captured over the weekend. The eight fighters announced Wednesday were identified as 58-year-old Adil Rahimov (Abu Amina Uzbeki) and Farhad Qaderov (Abu Bilal Uzbeki), 28, both from Uzbekistan; 22-year-old Tajik national Mohammad Dawlat (Abu Moshab Tajiki); Askar Zarmanbetov (Abu Dawoud Nougha), 27, of Ukraine; Kazakh national Sattibek Oshibaev (Abu Rouqaya), 30; Bimuraev Begjan (Abu Sara) from Russia, also 30; 31-year-old Lucas Glass (Abu Ibrahim al-Almani) from Germany; and 16-year-old Soulay Noah Su (Abu Souleiman al-Amriki) from the United States. The eight were captured by the YPG’s special operations team in and around Hajin on January 6 and 7, the force said. The SDF launched the offensive to take Hajin in the eastern Deir Ezzor province from ISIS on September 10. The U.S. Department of State did not immediately reply to a request for comment on al-Amriki’s citizenship, and an auto-reply from a Department spokesperson said he was out of the office because of the furlough resulting from the lapse in U.S. government appropriations.”

The National: US Syria Withdrawal Highlights Unresolved Fate Of SDF’s ISIS Prisoners

“The fate of hundreds of foreign ISIS fighters and their families held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria is becoming a sticking point as the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from the country. Some 2,000 American troops have been helping the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fight ISIS since 2015. But after President Donald Trump announced an imminent US withdrawal last month, SDF officials reportedly considered releasing its ISIS foreign prisoners, which they say are not their responsibility. On Tuesday, a senior US official said making a plan to keep these prisoners in custody was a top priority as the US government prepared to drawdown its forces. Releasing the fighters would be “unacceptable” as they could rejoin ISIS in Syria or elsewhere, the official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The SDF have continued taking ISIS prisoners as it targets the last pocket of ISIS control in the Euphrates River valley. On Sunday, it announced capturing five foreign citizens reportedly from the US, Pakistan and Ireland on Sunday. One man, Zaid Abed Al Hamid, was identified as a US citizen of Trinidadian origin, while another, Warren Christopher Clark, was said to be a teacher from Texas.”


Reuters: Iran Says It Will Reciprocate After EU Sanctions Iranians

“Iran said on Wednesday that it would reciprocate after the European Union added two Iranian individuals and an Iranian intelligence unit to the bloc’s terrorist list. EU ministers agreed on Tuesday to add the names to the list and freeze their assets, effective from Wednesday, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Tehran plotted other attacks in Europe. The move although in part symbolic since one of the men is in prison in Belgium, marked the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since lifting a host of curbs on it three years ago following its 2015 nuclear pact with world powers. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called the EU’s actions “illogical” and “surprising”. “Iran will adopt the necessary measures in response to this move and within the framework of reciprocation,” Qassemi said in a statement published on the ministry’s official website. Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU-Iran relations. “These listings have been adopted by the Council as part of its response to recent foiled attacks on the European soil,” the European Council said in a statement on Wednesday.”

New York Post: Iran Has Been Caught Causing Terror In Europe Once Again

“The nuclear deal was supposed to chart a new course for Iran. But the Tehran ­regime remains as it ever was, including when it comes to committing acts of terror in Western homelands. Just don’t expect Europe to reconsider its policy of preserving the nuclear deal at any cost. This week, the Dutch government confirmed that Iran’s intelligence ministry was behind two assassinations in the Netherlands — of Ahmad Mola Nissi in The Hague in November 2017 and Ali Motamed in Amsterdam two years earlier. In this case, the mullahs allegedly hired Dutch gangland types to carry out the murders. As the US government has repeatedly emphasized, Hezbollah, Iran’s Shiite terror proxy in Lebanon, has close connections with organized crime worldwide. The Dutch bombshell followed October’s announcement by the Danish government that it had thwarted an Iranian plan to assassinate a leader of the separatist Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz. Swedish ­authorities arrested a Norwegian citizen of Iranian extraction for his alleged role in the plot; he has been extradited to Denmark. Tehran was also behind a foiled bombing in France last summer.”

CNN: Iran Confirms It Arrested US Navy Veteran ‘A While Ago’

“US Navy veteran Michael White is in Iranian custody, the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, confirming claims made by White’s mother a day earlier.  “Michael White was arrested in the city of Mashhad a while ago, and within a few days after his arrest the US government was informed of the arrest through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran,” ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.  In the absence of relations, the Swiss Embassy represents US diplomatic interests in Iran. The holy city of Mashhad is in northeastern Iran, 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) from its border with Turkmenistan. Ghasemi denied allegations that White, who hails from Imperial Beach, California, has been mistreated in prison.  “This person’s case is currently being processed by officials. The public will be informed of more details of the case in due time,” he said.  Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, his mother, Joanne White, declined to discuss why her son was being held. She said she filed a missing person report after he failed to return to work in California in late July. She is worried about her 46-year-old son’s health because he has had cancer and suffers from asthma, she said.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Intelligence Unit On EU’s Terrorist List

“The European Union added two Iranian individuals and the directorate for internal security of the Iranian Ministry for intelligence to the bloc’s terrorist list, it said in a statement on Wednesday. “These listings have been adopted by the Council as part of its response to recent foiled attacks on the European soil,” the statement said. EU ministers agreed in Brussels on Tuesday to add the names to the list and freeze their assets, effective from Wednesday, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Tehran plotted other attacks in Europe. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called the EU’s actions “illogical” and “surprising,” Reuters reported. “Iran will adopt the necessary measures in response to this move and within the framework of reciprocation,” Qassemi said in a statement published on the ministry’s official website. Iran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots, saying the accusations were intended to damage EU-Iran relations. Qassemi, in his statement, accused the EU of supporting “terrorist groups” such as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), a group that seeks to overthrow the Iranian government.”

Reuters: Iran Says Will Not Halt Aerospace Programme Despite U.S. Warning

“Iran will continue with its aerospace programme despite U.S. warnings, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, adding there was no international law prohibiting such a programme. Zarif, who is in New Delhi on a bilateral visit, also told Reuters that leaving a 2015 nuclear deal agreed with world powers is an option available with Tehran but is not the only option on the table. The United States earlier this month issued a pre-emptive warning to Iran against pursuing three planned space rocket launches that it said would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology. Under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. Iran has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly the missile programme run by the Revolutionary Guards. It says the programme is purely defensive and denies missiles are capable of being tipped with nuclear warheads.”

Associated Press: Iran Says It Will Send 2 Satellites To Orbit Amid US Concern

“Iran’s president said Thursday the Islamic Republic soon will send two new satellites into orbit using Iran-made rockets, despite U.S. concern the launch could help further develop its ballistic missiles. President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, during a commemoration for the late President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, confirmed the rocket launches would take place. Iran typically displays achievements in its space program in February, during the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution, which saw the Persian monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi replaced by the Islamic Republic overseen by a Shiite cleric. “Soon, in the coming weeks, we will send two satellites into space using our domestically-made rockets,” Rouhani said, without elaborating. Previously, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit over the past decade, and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The U.S. and its allies worry the same satellite-launching technology could be used to develop long-range missiles. Last week Iran said country’s three new satellites have successfully passed pre-launch tests.”

The Guardian: Video Of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s Arrest Shown On Iranian State TV

“Iranian state TV has for the first time broadcast images of the April 2016 arrest of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at Tehran airport. The pictures of her shocked face were shown during a lengthy TV documentary on what it claimed were the BBC’s efforts to undermine the Iranian state by training reporters opposed to the regime. The broadcast comes as Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual national, is in dispute with prison authorities in Tehran over her access to doctors and medicine and says she will go on a three-day hunger strike. Some of her access to make phone calls to her husband, Richard, in London has also been restricted. In the Commons this week, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, warned that Tehran was “digging its own diplomatic grave” by refusing to release her. She pointed out that Iran needed Europe’s diplomatic support as it faced a growing challenge from the US, including economic actions, and even the threat of a direct military challenge. The UK government has been a stalwart backer of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, along with France and Germany, despite the opposition of Donald Trump.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Urges Pompeo To Maintain U.S. Troop Presence In Country

“Iraqi leaders implored Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to maintain a U.S. troop presence in the country, seeking U.S. reassurances after the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw troops from elsewhere in the region. Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Iraq on Wednesday underscored the challenge U.S. officials face in persuading regional partners that the administration will remain involved in the turbulent region after President Trump’s decision in December to withdraw troops from Syria and to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan. That abrupt announcement caused consternation among allies, and Mr. Pompeo is on a weeklong tour of the Middle East to try in part to assuage those fears. “We will need the support of the U.S.,” Iraqi President Barham Salih told Mr. Pompeo in Baghdad, while expressing gratitude for the yearslong American presence. “ISIS is defeated militarily but the mission is not accomplished,” Mr. Salih said, referring to Islamic State by an acronym. Iraq claimed victory over Islamic State more than a year ago but the remnants of the group have reverted to insurgency.”

CBS News: Pompeo Visits Iraq, Assures Allies That U.S. Won’t Let ISIS Rebound

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced stop in Iraq on Wednesday amid confusion over changing messages from the Trump administration about a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. Pompeo met senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Adil Adb al-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, whom he reassured that the United States was committed to not only defeating ISIS in the region, but making sure the terror group cannot rebuild itself after the fighting stops. During a meeting with the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mohamed al Halbousi, Pompeo said the U.S. and Iraq had “worked closely together to take down Daesh,” using the Arabic acronym for the terror group. “You should know the U.S. stands by to make sure that the resurgence of Daesh doesn’t take place.” Speaking to President al-Mahdi, Pompeo “discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS’ lasting defeat throughout the region,” according to a readout of the meeting provided by Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino. Mr. Trump made his own unannounced visit to Iraq on Dec. 26, saying the U.S. could use its bases in Iraq as a platform for continued operations in Syria.”

Charlotte Observer: Iraq Closes Camps For Displaced, Pushes Families Into Peril

“It was a cold and gusty day in December when the army came to the Bzeibiz camp and told families displaced by the war against the Islamic State group that it was time to go home. The fighting was over, they said, and the camp west of Baghdad was going to be closed. Some of the families protested that they had no homes to return to. The army said they would be sent to Amariyat al-Fallujah, a remote camp ringed by chain-link fences and barbed wire. “They threatened us,” said Khalwa Hamid, 27. “They said, whoever doesn’t leave, we’ll haul them out in our Humvees.” In the next few days, close to 800 families filed out, according to family interviews and U.N. data. A little over a year since the country fought its last battle against the Islamic State group, but well before it has gotten a handle on reconstruction, Iraq is closing its camps for the displaced in western Anbar province and casting vulnerable families into a maelstrom of peril. Many families cannot return home, accused by their tribes of collaborating with IS. Others worry there is no work, schooling, or housing to return to. Stragglers are being sent to two tightly-controlled camps deep in the plains of Anbar, where military authorization is required to leave.”


Council On Foreign Relations: Turkey Is Lying About Fighting ISIS

“Last summer I wrote a piece for Foreign Policy called “Trump Is the First President to Get Turkey Right.” Some of my colleagues and friends thought I’d gone quite mad as the U.S. president brought his ferocious Twitter feed to bear on Turkish officials and Turkey’s economy. It was not, of course, the intemperate tweets that I was applauding, but the willingness of the Trump administration to bring public pressure on Ankara over a variety of issues—whether the arrest and unjust imprisonment of American citizens, the targeting of journalists, the intention to buy advanced weapons from Russia, or the threats at U.S. soldiers serving in Syria. When Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina pastor who had been in Turkish custody for two years, was released in October, it confirmed for me that playing hardball with Turkey was superior to the intensive private diplomacy that previous administrations had tried with Ankara. Life moves pretty fast, though. Turkey has apparently gone from antagonist to partner in just a few months. The man whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused of waging “economic warfare” on Turkey will now visit the country in 2019. The two leaders have had two phone calls in 10 days.”

Associated Press: Turkey Says Its Syria Offensive Doesn’t Hinge On US Pullout

“Turkey’s foreign minister says a planned Turkish military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria doesn’t depend on whether the United States withdraws its troops from the region. Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with NTV news channel on Thursday that Turkey would take the necessary steps to thwart threats from the fighters “whether they (U.S.) withdraw or don’t withdraw.” Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are allied with U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group, as offshoot of outlawed Kurdish rebels inside Turkey. Turkey this week rejected U.S. national security adviser John Bolton’s demands for assurances that Ankara would protect the Syrian Kurdish fighters before Americans withdraw. Cavusoglu says American “security units” are trying to deter President Donald Trump from his decision to pull out.”


Fox News: Afghanistan Peace Talks In Doubt After Taliban’s Abrupt Walkout

“Despite earlier claims this year by the Afghan Taliban that talks for a peace deal to end the protracted conflict were “on track,” the militant group abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials in Qatar this week over an apparent “agenda disagreement.” The points of contention appear to me about much than just talking points, however. The Taliban doesn’t want representatives of the existing Afghan government  “puppets” to be there, and prefer to speak directly to U.S officials. But there’s frustration as well with the U.S, which would free only 3,000 of the 25,000 Taliban prisoners the group wants released. The U.S. has a different position. “Taliban should talk to fellow Afghans as much as they talk to the media,” the American ambassador to Kabul, John Bass, tweeted in response to the cancelation. U.S policy and intelligence analysts were mostly “not surprised” by the abrupt rebuff by Taliban brass as part of their negotiation strategy. “This is to be expected. The Taliban will try to drive a hard bargain, given the battlespace realities, and the fact that the Trump administration’s need for a deal this year. I suspect backchannel communications will lead to a resumption of the public level talks,” noted Kamran Bokhari, a specialist on the geopolitics of the Middle East with the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute.”

The New York Times: The U.S. Spent $8 Billion On Afghanistan’s Air Force. It’s Still Struggling

“The A-29 attack plane was a white speck in the bright skies over eastern Afghanistan as it launched a dummy bomb that exploded just yards from the target, a wrecked truck. “Spot on!” said an American adviser watching the exercise. The plane’s Afghan pilot had been guided by an Afghan coordinator on the ground — but only after previous bombing runs had struck well wide of the truck. Eleven years after the United States began building an air force for Afghanistan at a cost now nearing $8 billion, it remains a frustrating work in progress, with no end in sight. Some aviation experts say the Afghans will rely on American maintenance and other support for years. Such dependence could complicate President Trump’s moves to extricate the United States from the 17-year-old war against Taliban insurgents — a war in which they lately appear to be gaining ground.”

The Seattle Times: Afghan Officials: Taliban Attacks Kill 21 Policemen

“Officials say a wave of Taliban attacks in western and northern Afghanistan the previous day has killed 21 members of the country’s security forces. Jamshed Shahabi, spokesman for the governor in western Badghis province, says the insurgents overran outposts there, killing six policemen. Council member Shamsul Haq Barekzai in northern Baghlan province says seven members of the local police force were killed there, also on Wednesday. And in northern Takhar province, council member Ruhollah Raufi says eight policemen were gunned down. The attacks left another 23 members of the security forces wounded. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for all the attacks. The insurgents carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan troops, inflicting heavy loses. In response, the government in Kabul no longer releases official casualty figures.”

Xinhua: Taliban Militants Overrun 30 Villages In Western Afghan Province

“Militants loyal to the Taliban group have driven more than 30 villages and strategic areas out of the government control, following a massive attack in Afghanistan’s western province of Badghis, local officials said on Wednesday. Both Afghan Local Police (ALP) personnel and allied pro-government tribal militias, known as local uprising groups have left security checkpoints, abandoning more than 30 villages to the Taliban fighters in Ab Kamari district of Badghis province, Abdul Aziz Baik, a provincial council official, told Xinhua. “Over 300 armed men including local police and the people uprising who were fighting militants since the last several years, withdrew from most parts of the district on Tuesday, after long waiting failure to receive reinforcement in the troubled district, where the Taliban fighters could easily took control of up to 30 villages and strategic sites,” the official said, adding that only the district building is under security forces’ control. The government established the ALP or community police in 2010 to protect villages and districts around the country where army and police have limited presence. As a fresh incident, an ALP commander Khudadad, leading up to 25 local policemen fled to the neighboring Herat province, after losing resistance to the intense insurgents’ offensives in the district, according to the official.”

Malay Mail: Taliban Kill Afghan Govt Employee Who Was Also Part-Time Journalist

“The body of an Afghan government employee who also worked as a part-time journalist in western Afghanistan’s Farah region has been found, three days after he was kidnapped by Taliban militants, local officials said today. Javid Noori’s body was turned over to his family yesterday and a Taliban statement said he was killed on Saturday. Taliban and other Islamist insurgents have repeatedly targeted Afghan journalists, killing 15 in 2018, the deadliest year yet for the Afghan media, according to the media freedom group Reporters Without Borders. Farah provincial governor Shoaib Sabet said Noori was abducted from a bus along with 30 other passengers in a remote part of the province. “(He) was a government employee but was working part-time as a journalist for local radio,” Sabet said. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement Noori was killed because he worked for the US-backed Kabul government. He added that the Taliban had also seized 13 pro-government militiamen as suspected spies who were on the bus.”


Associated Press: Rebel Drone Bombs Yemen Military Parade, Kills At Least 6

“A bomb-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Shiite rebels exploded over a military parade for the Saudi-led coalition and its allies on Thursday near the southern port city of Aden, killing at least six people in a brazen attack that threatened U.N.-brokered peace efforts to end the yearslong war tearing at the Arab world’s poorest nation. The attack at the Al-Anad Air Base, where American special forces once led their fight against Yemen’s al-Qaida branch, targeted high-ranking military officials in Yemen’s internationally recognized government with what the rebel Houthis described as a new version of one of their drones. The attack also raised new questions about Iran’s alleged role in arming the Houthis with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the Yemeni rebel weapons to the Islamic Republic. “Once again this proves that the Houthi criminal militias are not ready for peace and that they are exploiting truces in order for deployment and reinforcements,” said Information Minister Moammar al-Eryani, who said two senior military officials were wounded in the attack.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Riyadh Forum Aims To Protect Society From Extremism

“A forum aimed at protecting Saudi society from terrorist groups is to be held in Riyadh on Friday.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh will lead the first Cooperative Libraries Forum to be organized in the Kingdom. More than 1,500 delegates are expected to attend the gathering being organized by the Cooperative Office for Call, Guidance and Community Awareness at the InterContinental Hotel in Riyadh. The forum titled “Protection and Development” aims to raise awareness of the dangers of terrorist propaganda. The ministry’s work in protecting society from terrorist groups and their ideas will be highlighted along with efforts to raise awareness among families to help prevent children from being radicalized and instead promote the values of citizenship and belonging. The forum will discuss the use of media and social media to warn against terrorist groups, how to defend Saudi Arabia from them, the organization of campaigns to shed light on their danger and the importance of mosques in promoting the principle of moderation. The ministry is making big strides to spread the message of moderation, reject extremism and radicalization and fight the ideas of terror groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.”


Arab News: Lebanese Security Forces Arrest Three Syrians With Links To Daesh In Middle East, Europe

“Lebanese security forces have arrested three Syrians believed to have links to Daesh terror groups across the Middle East and Europe. The Lebanese General Directorate of General Security said on Wednesday that investigations were ongoing and more arrests were expected. One of the detainees had been plotting a bombing campaign against Lebanese military and civilian targets, while also producing videos on how to make explosives. The announcement coincided with a speech by the Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in which he expressed concerns about the economic and security pressures being placed on Lebanon by the number of Syrian refugees in the country. Speaking at a meeting of diplomats at the presidential palace on Wednesday, Aoun said keeping Syrian refugees in Lebanon was “harmful to our country at all levels.” He said the war against terrorism was now a global one which had caused huge displacements of populations in countries throughout the Middle East. Aoun said: “Lebanon is one of the countries that have borne the burden of neighboring wars and the flow of Syrian refugees into it.” He added that while Lebanon had been successful in tackling terrorism on its own soil, the refugee crisis continued to “weigh heavily” on economic, security, social, educational and health aspects of the country.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Terrorist Gets 18 Years For Murder Of British Student On Light Rail

“Jameel Tamimi, 57, received 18 years in prison by the Jerusalem District Court in a plea deal for the murder of Hannah Bladon, a 20-year-old British exchange student stabbed to death on April 14, 2017 on the Jerusalem Light Rail. The prosecution and the defense made arguments Monday around the sentence, including a plea bargain for a conviction but with a reduced mental state. However, on Thursday, the court surprised the sides by endorsing the hard-negotiated deal. Murder usually carries a life sentence. While there was a finding that Tamimi could tell the differences between right and wrong, there was also a finding that Tamimi was mentally unstable, which led to his reduced sentence.  Bladon’s family and their lawyer, Maurice Hirsch, expressed upset about the reduced decision, but also said prior to the ruling that they had been prepared by the state prosecution that there were risks going to trial because of the mental state issue. According to the indictment filed by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, the attack took place extremely close to the Old City, where tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe were observing Passover and Easter. Tamimi, a resident of east Jerusalem’s Ras el-Amud neighborhood, purchased a 30.5-cm.-long knife at 10:30 a.m. on the day of the murder. Between noon and 12:30, Tamimi called his two sons to arrange a visit.”


Gulf News: More Than 30,000 Flee Boko Haram Violence In NE Nigeria: UN

“Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in northeast Nigeria after an increase in violence in the Boko Haram conflict, the United Nations said on Wednesday. “More than 30,000 internally displaced people have arrived in Maiduguri, mainly from Baga, in recent weeks,” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon.”

Reuters: Nigerian Military Frees Editor Held Over Boko Haram Article

“Nigeria’s military has released an editor two days after detaining him over an article about a planned offensive against Islamist militants in the northeast, his newspaper said. Soldiers raided the Daily Trust’s offices in the capital Abuja on Sunday in an operation that the Committee to Protect Journalists said showed “a dearth of respect for press freedom” a month before elections. Soldiers also shut down the newspaper’s bureau in the northeastern city of Maiduguri where they detained regional editor Uthman Abubakar. The military later said the article had “divulged classified military information” and the action was meant to show the seriousness of the breach. Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in the northeast in recent months, piling pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to crush the insurgency and faces fresh elections on Feb. 16. The military has complained in the past about critical coverage of its fight against the militants from the Boko Haram separatist group, and their more lethal offshoot Islamic State West Africa. But it had stopped short of arresting reporters. Abubakar was brought back to the paper’s Maiduguri office and released without charge on Tuesday, the Daily Trust said in an article.”


Yahoo News: Mauritanian President Heads Anti-Extremism Rally

“Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Wednesday called for the west African country to root out hate speech as he headed a rally aimed at dampening ethnic tensions. “The people who are behind this speech are a minority, but we have to put an end to their toxic behaviour for the sake of the future,” the president said at the march in the capital Nouakchott. He also warned he would use a law adopted last year to crack down on “hateful, racist or violent speech”. A conservative desert country with a populaton of 4.4 million, Mauritania is wrestling with tensions between communities of Arab-Berber and sub-Saharan African descent. Marchers carried banners promoting ethnic cohesion and chanted “no to hate, no to extremism and inciting violence” at the rally, which organisers said was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Mauritanians were given the day off with pay on Wednesday for the march, the first led by Aziz since he came to power in a coup in 2008. He called for the gathering in response to ongoing combative disputes on social networks, including Whatsapp, between the country’s Arab-Berber community and the Haratines, former slaves and their descendants.”


The Irish Times: Frenchman On Trial For First Murders Committed By ISIS In Europe

“The trial of Mehdi Nemmouche, the French jihadist accused of murdering four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24th 2014, will begin on Thursday in Brussels.  The shooting deaths of an Israeli couple, a French volunteer and a receptionist at the museum were the first atrocity by Islamic State in Europe. The terror group, also known as Isis, has since claimed responsibility for 22 attacks in the EU that killed 333 people and wounded 1,490 others. Nemmouche and a French codefendant, Nacer Bendrer, who is accused of providing weapons used by Nemmouche, claim to be innocent. Nemmouche says he spent 2013-14 in Syria helping children wounded in the war there. His version is undermined by the testimony of four former French hostages who describe him as their cruellest jailer. Other evidence against Nemmouche includes a 24-minute telephone conversation with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the November 13th, 2016, Bataclan massacre that killed 130 people in Paris, and a conversation with a fellow prisoner in September 2014. ”Nemmouche said, laughing, that he was happy because there were ‘four fewer Jews on earth and they’d all been sent in a coffin to Israel’ ,” prison officials reported.”


The Guardian: German Police Cast Doubt On Details Of Attack On Rightwing Politician

“German police and prosecutors have questioned some of the claims made by a rightwing populist politician who suffered an attack that left him with serious head injuries. Police say video footage casts doubt on assertions by Frank Magnitz that he was beaten with a wooden instrument by attackers who only stopped assaulting him when two passersby intervened. Magnitz, 66, the head of Alternative für Deutschland in the city state of Bremen, was hospitalised on Monday evening after being attacked by strangers. The AfD claimed he had been knocked to the ground with a wooden instrument before being beaten around the head. Jörg Meuthen, the party’s federal chairman, posted a photograph on Twitter on Tuesday, showing the MP, apparently unconscious, with a deep gash to his head and a bruised face, and calling the attack an “assassination attempt”.  The party praised two plumbers who had helped Magnitz to his feet and called the police, saying they had saved his life by intervening and scaring off the attackers. But police, who have described the attack as “politically motivated”, said analysis of CCTV footage shows that while Magnitz was knocked to the ground, the person responsible had quickly fled accompanied by two others and there was no evidence that Magnitz had been kicked or beaten while he was lying on the ground.”

Deutsche Welle: Germany Introduces Extremism Counseling Service

“A new prototype project was launched in Germany on Wednesday, aimed at counseling parents who are concerned their children may be flirting with extremism. The Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) non-profit established the service primarily for Turkish and Arabic-speaking parents, but said that German native speakers would be able to receive help as well. The service is called “emel,” a play on the word email and a Turkish given name. Parents will be able to receive help either via email or by making an appointment for a live chat. Funded partly by the European Union and Germany’s Ministry for Families, counseling is set to be available through at least the end of 2019, although founders hope they will receive the budget to continue the service indefinitely. For years, German authorities have warned about an uptick of young people in Germany becoming radicalized online. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of people considered extreme Islamists in Germany rose from 100 to at least 1,600, and an average of around four credible tips about planned terrorist activities are received on a daily basis. At the same time, far-right extremism is also on the rise. Germany has seen at least one xenophobic attack in 2019, when a man purposely drove a car into pedestrians in the city of Bottrop, injuring eight people in an attack targeting foreigners.”


The New York Times: Greek Militants Say They Bombed Media Offices To Protest ‘Capitalist’ Agenda

“A far-left militant group in Greece known for staging attacks on political and foreign diplomatic sites has claimed responsibility for a bombing near Athens last month outside the offices of a major broadcaster and newspaper publisher. In a post on the anti-establishment website Athens Indymedia on Tuesday night, the Group of Popular Fighters claimed responsibility for the Dec. 17 bombing, which caused serious damage to the facade of the building but no injuries. Greek news outlets reported at the time that 10 kilograms, or 22 pounds, of explosives had been used. In its statement, the militant group said it had targeted the broadcaster Skai and the newspaper Kathimerini, which are part of the same media group and are housed in the same building, because they were among outlets that “played a special role in preserving the rotten economic and political system” during the Greek debt crisis. For a decade, the country was required by international creditors to adopt austerity measures in return for bailouts. The group also accused news outlets of promoting a capitalist agenda in Greece and of “terrorizing society that beyond the E.U. there is nothing but chaos and hell.” It appeared to be referring to the idea, widely supported in 2015, that a compromise with creditors in the European Union and the International Monetary Fund was required to allow Greece to remain in the eurozone.”

The National: Alleged ISIS Member To Face Trial Over Brussel’s Terrorist Attack That Killed Four

“A man accused of being the first foreign fighter to return from Syria and carry out an attack on European soil is due to stand trial today over the murder of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium. It took only 82 seconds for Mehdi Nemmouche to shoot dead the victims in Brussels on May 24, 2014 in an attack that set a disturbing precedent across the continent. The Frenchman, of Algerian origin, was captured by the security services in Marseilles six days after the assault, still carrying weapons. Among his possessions was a recording of a man sounding like Nemmouche declaring support for ISIS and pre-emptively claiming the anti-Semitic museum attack. During his time in Syria from 2013 to 2014, Nemmouche, 33, is said to have spent time acting as a jailer of French journalists who were held captive near Aleppo but released in April 2014. Some of these former hostages are expected to be among at least 100 people to give evidence. When one of the reporters, Nicolas Henin, was released he said he recognised Nemmouche’s voice and believed the French-Algerian helped torture Syrians held in the same detention centre. Many of those imprisoned alongside Henin, such as the American journalist James Foley, would later be beheaded by British ISIS member Mohammed Emwazi.”

Channel NewAsia: Italy Breaks Up Smuggling Ring Run By Islamic State Sympathiser

“Italian police seized eight men on Wednesday behind a speedboat smuggling ring that ran people, including possible jihadists, to Sicily from Tunisia, investigators said. Operations were headed by a Tunisian man who used his Facebook account to spread Islamic State (IS) propaganda, they said. He remains at large and is wanted for inciting terrorism. The paramilitary Carabinieri’s early morning sweep netted two Italians, with the rest mainly Tunisian. As well as the IS promoter, six others, again mainly Tunisian, are sought for arrest on suspicion of people smuggling and trafficking in illegal cigarettes. The group was “a real and concrete threat to national security because it was able to offer many irregular migrants a secret sea passage that was safe and fast,” the arrest warrant said. The route to Sicily “was particularly attractive to subjects sought by Tunisian law enforcement for past crimes or because suspected to be connected to religiously motivated terrorist groups,” it added. The investigation began in 2016 after a Tunisian man held in an Italian prison offered information saying he wanted to protect Italy from “an army of kamikazes”, the warrant said. Using speed boats, the smugglers reached the southwest coast of Sicily within three-and-a-half hours carrying a handful of migrants and often other contraband, like cigarettes or hashish, according to testimony from the turncoat.”


Wired: A Growing Frontier For Terrorist Groups: Unsuspecting Chat Apps

“Heads up, tech companies: If your product appeals to the masses, it likely also holds allure for terrorist groups like ISIS. Rita Katz is the Executive Director and founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, the world’s leading non-governmental counterterrorism organization specializing in tracking and analyzing the online activity of the global extremist community. ISIS has effectively exploited the power of technology to fuel its rise around the globe, from streaming and file-sharing platforms to messenger applications and social media services. Many tech companies have responded in turn, strengthening their oversight and security measures. But while major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram are becoming increasingly inhospitable to ISIS, the group’s reach is growing on lesser-known messenger apps designed for businesses and gamers. In the aftermath of major territory losses in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is reconfiguring how it uses technology to drive its recruitment and coordination efforts. The move towards free public messenger apps ISIS uses the encrypted messenger platform Telegram as its primary app for media releases. In seeking new venues to disseminate its content, the terrorist group has made repeated attempts to set up web pages and blogs on services like Tumblr and WordPress.”


Emaratyah: Expert: ISIS Concentration Along Maghreb’s Southern Border

“The announcement by the Moroccan {security} forces of their recent success in dismantling a 3-man terror cell loyal to ISIS comes as part of the kingdom’s efforts to clamp down on this organization, which is deployed along the southern border of the Maghreb countries from Libya to the Western Sahara, said Mahmoud Abuhouch, a researcher at the Salman-Zayd Center for Middle Eastern Studies. The expert noted that the region is witnessing the concentration of ISIS because of the {lax} security situation in the region. He asserted that the terror organization has many sleeper cells; thus, a possibility exists that these cells will be activated in the coming weeks, attributable to the organization’s demise in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Abuhouch added that the proactive security steps in the Maghreb countries to detect these cells limit and expose the organization’s covert schemes, sources of funding and networks that were formed comprehensively in the Arab region.”

Gulf 365: Lebanon Captures ISIS-Linked Terrorist Cell In Arsal

“The Lebanese authorities announced on Wednesday the capture of members of an ISIS-linked terrorist cell in the town of Arsal, situated on the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Lebanese General Directorate of Security stated that the security forces, in their efforts to detect terrorist sleeper cells, following a tip from the Specialized Public Prosecution, arrested three Syrians for alleged membership in the terror group. The official statement pointed out that one of the Syrian detainees admitted to pledging allegiance to ISIS. The same suspect also confessed to setting up pro-ISIS groups on various social media platforms with the aim of recruiting and forming an armed cell for activity in Lebanon.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Sout Al-Omma: Egypt: Senior Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Implicated In Illicit Gains

“Although 2018 ended just a few days ago, 52 illicit gains, wealth inflation and influence peddling legal suits were left unsettled, since the Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) of the Egyptian Justice Ministry is still awaiting scrutiny by a specialized technical committee. The list of graft cases features 23 lawsuits filed against senior leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, including ousted president Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy Supreme Guide, Khairat Al-Shater, and several members of the “Judges for Egypt” movement, which is affiliated with the banned Islamist organization. These cases, which are still being reviewed by experts, accuse the top Muslim Brotherhood figures of illegally procuring farmlands and receiving unauthorized donations for the group and its political arm, known as the Freedom and Justice Party.”


Geiroon: Hezbollah Operates Extensive Network Of Drug Dealers In Syria

“Drug trade constitutes a major income source for the Hezbollah militia as the Shiite organization generates hundreds of millions of US dollars annually from this activity, according to some reports. It is estimated that drug trafficking, particularly the highly profitable Captagon pills trade, funds more than 70% of the group’s overall budget. As far as Syria and its people are concerned, the greatest threat of Hezbollah’s drugs derives from promoting and selling these narcotics inside Syria rather than from trafficking the drugs by the militant movement. Thanks to the intensive efforts devoted by Hezbollah, which has long pretended that its hands are “clean” and its money is “pure,” drug trading has become widespread in Syria, especially in the territories controlled by the Assad regime. Hezbollah operates an extensive network in Syria, comprising nearly 1,600 drug dealers. Several Syrian army officers are aiding and abetting these drug sellers in return for handsome profit shares.”


Qposts: Houthi Earned $7 Billion In 2018

“More than four years after their coup in Yemen, the Houthis earned more than $7 billion from domestic resources in 2018 alone. In that period, the Houthis collected over $4 billion in Zakat revenues, real estate taxes, Qat consumption taxes, health licenses etc., according to statistics provided by the Yemeni Center for Studies and Media. It is estimated that over $13 billion is the annual sum being looted by the Houthis. A portion of that money is financing the group’s war against the Yemenis in a number of provinces. The Houthis save some of this money for purchasing homes, while another portion is being exploited by the group’s senior leaders in the realm of oil imports and currency speculation on the black market. “The Houthis are keeping silent about the amounts they obtain directly through the customs points imposed by their militants and the various tax revenues,” said Yemeni economic researcher Hussam Saidi.” t

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