Eye on Extremism, January 16, 2019

The Wall Street Journal: Kenyan Hotel Siege Ends, Leaving 14 Dead

“Security forces killed the militants who had staged an 18-hour siege of an upscale hotel-and-office complex in Kenya’s capital, an attack that claimed at least 14 lives and jolted a key ally in the U.S. war on terrorism. The gunmen had kept more than 100 workers and hotel guests hostage overnight in Nairobi’s 14 Riverside complex, a popular meeting spot for upper-class Kenyans and expats, President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a news conference. The attack began when several unmasked men, armed with AK-47s, stormed a bank branch before detonating a suicide bomb in the foyer of the Dusit D2 hotel Tuesday afternoon, prompting the evacuation of 700 people. Five gunmen were killed by security forces and an additional attacker died detonating the bomb, an interior ministry official said. Al-Shabaab, a Somali extremist group affiliated with al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the assault. The long duration of the attack is likely to revive criticism in Kenya against the country’s participation in U.S.-supported regional military force that has been fighting al-Shabaab in neighboring Somalia.”

NBC News: American ISIS Member Detained In Syria Says He ‘Wanted To Go See Exactly What The Group Was About’

“A Texan who says he offered to work as an English teacher for the Islamic State and was captured earlier this month in Syria by U.S.-backed forces said he witnessed executions and crucifixions during the three plus years he spent with the terrorist group. But 34-year-old Warren Christopher Clark, who is being held in Kurdish custody, told NBC News in an exclusive interview that he does not regret throwing in his lot with ISIS. No Kurdish security were present during the interview. “I wanted to go see exactly what the group was about, and what they were doing,” he said. “Of course I saw the videos. I think with the beheadings, that’s execution. I’m from the United States, from Texas. They like to execute people, too. So I really don’t see any difference. They might do it off camera, but it’s the same.”A Muslim convert, Clark was being held in northern Syria after being captured during the campaign to liberate the last pockets occupied by ISIS in Syria, the coalition of militias known as the Syrian Democratic Forces said. (For security reasons, NBC is not identifying the town where Clark was interviewed.) Clark, a former substitute teacher from Sugar Land, Texas, said the FBI has been in contact with him but he does not know what will happen to him next.”

Politico: John Bolton Is Threatening Iran. Good.

“The latest news to rattle the Washington establishment is that John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has asked the Pentagon for military options against Iran. The commentariat and the Democrats in exile are aghast, and insist that such bellicosity will only invite belligerence from Iran. Many former Obama administration officials fear that Bolton’s truculence may lead Iran to resume its nuclear program. But the truth is that when dealing with Iran, threats usually work while blandishments only whet the appetite of the mullahs who run the country. No president was more concerned with the Islamic revolutionaries’ sensibilities than Jimmy Carter. Even after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostages, Carter hoped to resolve the crisis in a manner that did not jeopardize the possibility of resuming ties with the theocracy. Such deference helped prolong the crisis for 444 days and essentially doomed Carter’s presidency. However, during the long hostage saga, on one occasion, Carter took forceful action and his policy actually worked. After storming of the embassy, there was much loose talk in Tehran that the U.S. officials would be put on trial.”

Reuters: German Spies To Launch Anti-Extremism Probe Into Far-Right Opposition

“Germany’s domestic spy agency will investigate Alternative for Germany (AfD) to see whether the anti-immigrant party’s policies breach constitutional safeguards against extremism, its chief said on Tuesday.  The BfV has classified Germany’s main opposition party as a “case to investigate”, domestic intelligence chief Thomas Haldenwang said, but the probe would fall short of full-blown surveillance of the AfD.  Germany’s constitution contains strict protections against extremism, allowing for the close monitoring and even the outlawing of far-left or far-right parties. The measure is rare, though the BfV has previously monitored other political parties.  The AfD surged into the national parliament in a 2017 election, drawing votes from mainstream parties by focusing on voters’ concerns over immigration. It is represented in all 16 of Germany’s regional parliaments.  “The BfV has initial indications that the AfD’s policies are against the democratic constitutional order,” Haldenwang told a news conference in Berlin.  “But those indications are not sufficiently concentrated to start monitoring the party using espionage methods,” he said.  Haldenwang, whose predecessor Hans-Georg Maassen was moved over his alleged far-right sympathies, said the spy agency would pay closer attention to the AfD’s youth wing and elements close to regional AfD leader Bjoern Hoecke.”

9 News Australia: How Islamic State Recruiters Groomed Teen Into Suicide Bomber

“For Abu Ayad, it started with a simple message to an Islamic State recruiter and ended with him locked up and facing the death penalty after he agreed to become a suicide bomber. Ayad’s story is a cautionary tale of how Islamic State (IS) recruiters can seduce vulnerable young men using just the internet into joining them to carry out horrific acts of violence. Some experts have cast doubt on the idea that IS recruitment can occur without any face-to-face meetings, but Ayad’s transformation rapidly took place solely in the digital realm. Precisely how the 20-year-old from Baghdad was carefully groomed by an IS recruiter is detailed in a rare first-hand account, released by US-based International Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). Researchers from ICSVE interviewed Ayad in the Iraqi prison where he has been held since 2016, awaiting an execution order. In 2016, at the time just a teenager, Ayad began to search out ISIS content after watching the group’s dramatic rise in Syria and Iraq on the news. Intrigued, he searched out more information and found himself on Twitter accounts and Facebook pages set up to distribute IS propaganda. “They affected me because I was poor,” Ayad said.”

AFP: National Security Under Scrutiny At Nigeria Vote

“In December 2015, Buhari was confident enough to declare Boko Haram “technically” defeated. But the truth of that statement has since been repeatedly questioned. Suicide bombings and hit-and-run raids persisted, while troops were unable to stop another mass abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi. More concerning still, according to analysts, is the wave of attacks by the Islamic State West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram against military bases. This month, even Buhari acknowledged Nigerian troops were exhausted and demoralised. “Boko Haram has shown it has not gone away,” Josh Lipowsky, a senior research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project in New York, told AFP. “The government has to take further steps in order to fulfil its promises, which it has not yet done despite its proclamations.”

United States

Fox News: Jewish Groups Condemn Rashida Tlaib Over Ties To Radical Pro-Hezbollah, Anti-Israel Activist

“Freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib has been condemned after hosting a private celebratory dinner on Saturday featuring anti-Israel activists who praised terror group Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorists, said Israel has no right to exist and called for Israeli “Zionist terrorist” Jews to return to Europe. Tlaib, the first-term Palestinian-American congresswoman from Michigan, first rose to national prominence after being caught on video saying she will “impeach the motherf—–,” in reference to President trump, on the same day she was sworn into Congress Over the weekend, Tlaib came under fire for her ties to radical Palestinian activists. After the official swearing-in ceremony in her home district, Tlaib and a number of anti-Israel activists participated in the dinner. She was photographed with Abbas Hamideh, a supporter of Tlaib and a co-founder of Al-Awda, who made numerous inflammatory and hateful remarks on social media. The controversy over the ties to the activist came about a week after Tlaib was accused of anti-Semitism when she lashed out against Senate Republicans for planning to introduce a measure banning boycotts of Israel, saying: “They forgot what country they represent.”

Associated Press: Ohio Man Sentenced In Terrorism Funding Case

“One of two brothers from Ohio who admitted giving money to a friend who sent it to an al-Qaida leader has been sentenced to five years in prison. A federal judge in Toledo sentenced Sultane Salim on Tuesday after he earlier pleaded guilty to concealing the financing of terrorism. His brother, Asif Salim, was sentenced in October to six years in prison on the same charge. Sultane Salim said in court Tuesday that the money was a loan repayment. He says he lied to FBI agents about who the repayment was for and never wanted to give money to terrorists. Prosecutors say the money went to Anwar al-Awlaki, a key al-Qaida leader who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.”


Air Force Times: Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria Up In Recent Weeks

“As the U.S. military battles Islamic State militants in the Euphrates River valley, it has been conducted more airstrikes in Syria in recent weeks. The greatest increase in airstrikes came after the Trump administration ordered a surprise withdrawal from Syria Dec. 19, which caught the Pentagon and allies off-guard and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. According to a summary released Tuesday by Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the Air Force and other coalition aircraft carried out 1,147 engagements and conducted 575 strikes in Syria between Dec. 30 and Jan. 12. The coalition also was involved in 19 engagements, and 13 strikes, in Iraq during that two-week period. That’s up from the previous two-week period, Dec. 16 to Dec. 29, when 1,001 engagements and 469 strikes were carried out in Syria, and 14 engagements with nine strikes were carried out in Iraq. It’s also higher than the 863 engagements and 458 strikes conducted in Syria between Dec. 2 and Dec. 15. During the most recent two-week period, allied aircraft engaged 485 ISIS tactical units in Syria, according to the coalition. They destroyed 308 staging areas, 220 fighting positions, 105 mortar, rocket and artillery systems, 57 supply routes, and 50 facilities used to manufacture improvised explosive devices and car bombs, among other ISIS assets in Syria.”

Reuters: How Trump Slowed Rush For Syria Exits After Huddle In Iraq

“U.S. President Donald Trump was reeling from sharp rebukes at home and abroad over his surprise announcement last month to immediately pull American troops out of Syria when he flew into the al Asad airbase in neighboring Iraq the day after Christmas. Inside a canvas Quonset hut, one of the arced prefabricated structures used by the military and surrounded by concertina wire, Trump received operational briefs from U.S. commanders suggesting a territorial victory against Islamic State was within sight, but the military needed just a bit more time, U.S. officials said. ”They were upbeat about their ability to wrap things up,” one of the officials told Reuters. “I definitely think that was a seminal meeting” in terms of influencing Trump’s thinking. Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, explained to a president who had lost patience with the war why too rapid a withdrawal could not be done without putting troops at risk, according to three officials familiar with the briefing, the contents of which have not been reported in such detail.”

The National: US-Backed Fighters Seize East Syria Village From ISIS

“US-backed Syrian fighters Tuesday seized a key village from the ISIS, further chipping away at their last eastern holdout on the Iraqi border, a Britain-based monitor said. Backed by air strikes of the US-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have since September been battling to expel the jihadists from the so-called Hajin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. In recent weeks, they have whittled it down to just a handful of villages on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River. On Tuesday, the Kurdish-led alliance seized the largest of these from the extremists after they fled, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. “The SDF took control of Sousa after the withdrawal of ISIS fighters to territory that remains under their control,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. That leaves ISIS battling to defend just 15 square kilometres of land, he added. ISIS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a ‘caliphate’ in areas under their control. But they have since lost most of that to various offensives in both countries – even if they retain a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert, where Russia-backed regime forces have fought them.”

The Independent: US Troops In Syria Could Be Replaced By Private Contractors, Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Says

“Private military contractors could replace US troops withdrawing from Syria, Blackwater founder Erik Prince has suggested. The former security firm chief said contractors could protect US allies and counter Iranian influence after the US leaves the country. “The United States doesn’t have a long-term strategic obligation to stay in Syria. But, I also think it’s not a good idea to abandon our allies,” he told Fox Business. The allies to which Mr Prince refers are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mostly Kurdish militia that has been a key partner of the US in the fight against Isis in Syria. President Donald Trump abruptly announced that the US would withdraw troops from Syria last month, prompting many in his own administration to express concern that a quick exit would endanger those allies, and threaten to derail the fight against Isis. The decision caused Mr Trump’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, to resign. The SDF said a US withdrawal would leave it open to attack from Turkey, who views it as a terror organisation. Mr Prince said using contractors would allow Mr Trump to keep his campaign promise to end “forever wars”, and still leave behind some protection.”


The Wall Street Journal: Iran Works To Keep Iraq Open For Business

“Iranian officials traveled to Baghdad this week to push for expanded trade and energy ties as it tries to undercut U.S. efforts to weaken Iraq’s economic links to its neighbor. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in Iraq this week with a delegation of more than 50 companies. The visit comes a week after Iranian energy officials traveled to Baghdad to discuss strengthening energy links and keeping Iranian natural gas flowing to Iraq, where it accounts for over 40% of the country’s electricity needs. The visits from top Iranian officials highlight the tightrope that Iraq walks, as competition intensifies between Iran and the U.S. for influence in Iraqi politics and market share of its economy. Iran and the U.S. both helped Iraq defeat Islamic State but are now locked in an economic battle after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions. Mr. Zarif flew to Baghdad days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced stop in the city as part of a regional tour partly aimed at strengthening the American-led front against Tehran. Last month, U.S. energy secretary Rick Perry also traveled there to persuade Iraqi officials to stop buying Iranian natural gas for electricity, and to hire American companies to develop their energy system.”

Arab News: From Tourism To Terrorism: How The Revolution Changed Iran

“Forty years ago today, Iran’s then-shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, fled the country after a 37-year reign, in the first stage of a revolution that would replace 2,500 years of monarchy with an Islamic republic. Prior to the revolution, Iran very much resembled Western countries, with a flourishing economy and tourists flocking to the country for its breath-taking landscapes, beaches and various activities, including hiking and skiing. The shah’s departure, prompted by mass protests, paved the way for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return from exile in France, assuming power on Feb. 11, 1979.  It was “a genuine social revolution against tyranny, domestic and foreign — the first represented by the shah and the second by… the US,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College in Abu Dhabi.”

The Express: Revealed: How Iran Uses Secret ‘Tunnels And Underground Sites’ To Conceal Nuclear Missiles

“IRAN is “digging tunnels and building underground facilities for sensitive security and military initiatives in the pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles”, a chilling document has claimed. The explosive claim was made in an official Iranian Resistance paper, produced by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The NCRI document contains damning assertions which implicate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the production and concealment of nuclear-ready ballistic missiles. An NCRI representative has spoken to Express.co.uk about his group’s concerns. The NCRI manuscript, entitled Iran’s Ballistic Buildup, states: “On the basis of conclusions gleaned from the country’s defeat in the Iran-Iraq war, the regime began digging tunnels and building underground facilities for sensitive security and military initiatives.” It continues: “It was decided that all the regime’s sensitive military sites, nuclear-related facilities, and missile-related facilities should be relocated to underground sites or to sites built inside mountains. “Some of the most senior IRGC commanders have pursued this project since the Iran-Iraq ceasefire in 1988.”

BBC News: Germany Accuses Army Linguist Of Spying For Iran Over Afghan Missions

“German police have arrested a 50-year-old Afghan-German man suspected of passing military secrets to Iran. Federal prosecutors named the army linguist only as Abdul Hamid S. He is understood to have known details of German military operations in Afghanistan. Prosecutors said he was suspected of “having passed on his knowledge to an Iranian intelligence service”. The EU has imposed sanctions on Iran for various alleged spying operations. This month the EU put a unit of the Iranian intelligence agency and two individuals on the EU terrorist list, freezing their financial assets. Iran says the accusations were fabricated to damage EU-Iran relations. Abdul Hamid S. was arrested in Rhineland-Palatinate state in south-west Germany and, according to the Spiegel website, he is suspected of having worked for Iran for several years. The German armed forces (Bundeswehr) have up to 1,300 personnel in the international security force in Afghanistan, with a mandate currently running until the end of March.”


Iraqi News: Iraqi Troops Arrest IS Terrorist, Dismantle 55 Explosives In Anbar

“An Islamic State terrorist was arrested Tuesday in Anbar province with three machine guns in his possession, an Iraqi military spokesman said. “Security forces arrested a terrorist while hiding at his house in Ar-Rutbah district in western Anbar,” Almaalomah news website quoted spokesman for the Security Media Center Brig. Gen. Yahya Rassol as saying, adding that three machine guns were found inside the house. He added that the troops also dismantled 55 explosive charges that were left by Islamic State militants in the province. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. Former Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of military operations against Islamic State in Iraq on December 9, 2017 three years after the militant group seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and imposed its rule over some 10 million people.. Despite the group’s crushing defeat at its main havens across Iraq, Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks against troops with security reports warning that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.”

Iraqi News: Man Gets Life Sentence In Iraq For Supplying IS Militants With Money

“An Iraqi court has sentenced a man to life in jail over accusations of supplying Islamic State militants with money. “The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad has sentenced a man to life imprisonment as he was found guilty of handing over money to IS militants in Hawija,” a town which had fallen to the extremist group in June 2014, Alghad Press website quoted the Iraqi judiciary as saying in a statement. “The defendant admitted delivering money to IS militants in return for $100,” said the statement, adding that the verdict was issued pursuant to article no. 4 of the anti-terrorism law. Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped jihadists even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks. Iraqi courts have sentenced many of Islamic State members, including a big number of female members, to death over joining the militant group. The exact number of detained militants is still unknown, however, it’s estimated to be at thousands. It’s also unclear how many members are likely to face death sentences. Human rights groups have always criticized collective death sentences issued by Iraqi courts, claiming that some detainees are tortured and threatened.”

BBC News: The Girl Who Escaped Islamic State Group And Is Fighting Back With Boxing

“Seventeen-year-old Hussna has always loved sport. Growing up, boxing was her favourite, and she idolised former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Life was simple in her small village in Sinjar, Iraq, 80 miles west of Mosul. She was studying in secondary school with hopes to one day become a doctor, but her dreams came to a halt one morning four years ago. It was 7am when they arrived, armed with guns and explosives, wreaking havoc on the streets of her village. So-called Islamic State had begun their massacre. It was just one of the numerous attacks that almost completely destroyed the north-western Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014. The local Yazidi population was specifically targeted by IS militants because of their religious beliefs – a 2016 report by the UN said that IS regarded Yazidis as devil-worshippers who were killed or enslaved with impunity. It was an attempt to erase their way of life. Thousands of families were destroyed in the genocide. Men were executed, while women and girls as young as seven were abducted and used as sex-slaves, repeatedly raped and tortured by IS members. Hussna was one of the girls that got caught up in these events, and she shared her story with us.”

Iraqi News: 3 Policemen Injured In Armed Attack By Islamic State On Iraqi Checkpoint

“Three Iraqi policemen were wounded Tuesday in an armed attack by Islamic State on a security checkpoint in Diyala province, a security source was quoted as saying. Speaking to Baghdad Today news website, the source said that Islamic State militants launched an armed attack in Khanaqin district, 100km northeast of Baqubah, leaving three policemen dead, including a critically-wounded officer.” The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that security reinforcements were deployed to the scene and the wounded policemen were moved to a nearby hospital for treatment. In January 2015, Iraqi forces announced liberation of Diyala province from Islamic State extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The province has seen months of fighting between Iraqi troops and IS militants especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province’s north and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah.”


Al Jazeera: Erdogan: Turkey To Set Up ‘Security Zone’ In Syria

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would set up a security zone in northern Syria as suggested by US President Donald Trump as both leaders sought to ease growing tensions. Addressing his deputies on Tuesday, Erdogan said he held a “quite positive” telephone conversation with Trump late on Monday where he reaffirmed “a 20-mile [32-km] security zone along the Syrian border … will be set up by us”. Erdogan said he viewed the planned security zone in Syria positively and added its range may be extended further. The president added he and Trump reached “a historic understanding” during the phone call, but Erdogan didn’t elaborate. Trump confirmed the idea of establishing a zone around the border in a tweet earlier, referring to the proposed area as a “safe zone”. The phone conversation came amid heated discussions about a US decision to withdraw forces from Syria and rising tensions over the fate of the US-allied Kurdish fighters in the war-torn country. Bitter differences between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish YPG militia had soured talks between the two NATO partners.”


Hindustan Times: Pak Forces Kill 2 Terrorists Involved In Kidnappings Of American, Son Of Ex-Premier Gilani

“Pakistani security agencies on Tuesday killed two terrorists of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in Punjab province, who were allegedly involved in the kidnappings of an American national, a senior army officer, and the son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The terrorists were also involved in the killing of senior intelligence officials. According to a statement issued by the counter terrorism department (CTD) of the Punjab Police, the terrorists were to hit the offices of an intelligence agency on Tuesday but they were eliminated before they could act. “On Monday the CTD received credible source information that some terrorists were hiding in Faisalabad, some 150 kms from Lahore, in a rented house. A person from the neighbourhood observed suspicious activity and secretly informed the police,” a CTD spokesman said. He said an intelligence-based operation was jointly conducted by the CTD, Punjab and an intelligence agency at midnight. “The terrorists were warned to surrender but they started indiscriminate firing at the personnel of the raiding team. A shootout ensued. When the firing stopped, two terrorists were found dead. They were identified as Adeel Hafeez and Usman Haroon. They belong to a very dangerous network of Daesh (IS),” he said.”


Xinhua: Yemen’s Anti-Terror Operation Kills 7 Al-Qaida Militants

“Yemen’s security forces on Tuesday launched an anti-terror operation against the al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan, killing seven militants, a government official told Xinhua. The security forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) attacked the al-Qaida hideouts in Mudiyah district of Abyan province, sparking a fierce shootout with the group’s militants, the official said on condition of anonymity. During the clashes that lasted about three hours, seven militants were killed and four others were wounded at the scene, the official said. He added that six members of the UAE-backed Yemeni troops were injured during the operation in Abyan. Local residents told Xinhua that warplanes launched a number of airstrikes against al-Qaida-held areas in Abyan just a few hours after the start of the anti-terror military operation. They said that huge explosions were heard in the same places that witnessed armed confrontation with the security forces earlier in the day. Elsewhere in Abyan, Munir Abu Yamamah, a senior security commander backed by the UAE, survived an assassination attempt in Mahfad town. A security official said that a group of gunmen ambushed Yamamah’s motorcade and clashed with his bodyguards, without causing casualties.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Abbas Calls For End To Terrorism As He Takes Over Largest U.N. Bloc

“The global community must band together to combat terrorism, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday as he took over the chairmanship of the United Nations Group of 77 and China, the organization’s largest bloc of member states. He broke the proceedings at UN headquarters in New York to condemn terrorism after hearing during the meeting that gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, killing at least seven. The attack occurred as Abbas was in the middle of leading his meeting as chairman of the Group of 77 in New York. “Terrorism takes place worldwide on a daily basis. It is an epidemic and I therefore call on all countries of the world to cooperate, to put an end to terrorism, to uproot it,” Abbas said. “The state of Palestine has adopted 83 protocols with 83 countries throughout the world to put an end to this scourge and to fight against terrorism, and I call on all states to work with us to combat terrorism,” he said. But he made no mention of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, nor did he take responsibility for them. Israel has taken Abbas to task for his government’s continued payment of terrorists and their family members.”


The Jerusalem Post: Report: ISIS At Large In Sinai

“ISIS might have lost ground in Iraq and Syria, but the Sinai chapter is going strong despite prolonged efforts by the Egyptian armed forces to subdue it, Channel 10 reported on Tuesday. In the swath of the peninsula they control, ISIS uphold radical Islamic interpretations of traditional law, complete with public execution. “Once we are done with infidels [Muslims who disagree with ISIS] we will target you, Jews,” the Sinai chapter of ISIS said repeatedly. ISIS Sinai fired rockets on the city of Eilat last year but they caused no casualties.”


News 24: Libya’s Paramilitary Force To ‘Cleanse’ Country’s South

“A spokesperson for Libya’s powerful paramilitary based in the eastern city of Benghazi says its troops are launching an operation “to cleanse” the country’s south of Islamic militants and criminals. Ahmed al-Mesmari of the self-styled Libyan National Army that answers to Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter told reporters on Tuesday that the operations aims to “eliminate gangs, Islamic State terrorists and criminals” in the south. He says the operation will also try and stem illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, describing it as an “international problem.” The UN recently deplored deteriorating security in southern Libya. Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country is currently governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the east, each backed by an array of militias.”


Reuters: Nigerian Military Clears Islamists From Northeastern Town

“Nigeria’s military recaptured the northeastern town of Rann on Tuesday after it was overrun by Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) insurgents a day earlier, weeks ahead of an election in which security has become a key campaign issue.  Nigerian government forces and residents fled during the ISWA attack as the militants set buildings ablaze, but troops fought back and regained control of Rann early on Tuesday, military and police sources said.  “Boko Haram invaded Rann at about 4pm (on Monday). The battle continued for about three hours. Our troops retreated and later returned to fight back,” said a soldier speaking on condition of anonymity.  Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on promises to defeat the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state in the northeast.  ISWA, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, has launched a series of attacks in recent weeks, renewing debate about security in the run-up to elections on Feb. 16.  In December, ISWA took the town of Baga – the Nigerian headquarters of a multi-national force formed by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger to fight the extremists – and more than 30,000 people fled.”

AFP: 7 Killed As Boko Haram Hits Nigeria Military Base

“Seven people were killed when Boko Haram militants attacked a military base in remote northeast Nigeria, setting fire to shelters for those displaced by the conflict, military and humanitarian sources told AFP Tuesday. The attack in Rann, some 175 kilometres (110 miles) northeast of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, began late on Monday afternoon and forced civilians to flee.It followed a pattern by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram that has called into question government claims the group is virtually defeated. A similar attempt was made to take over a military base in Magumeri, 50 kilometres northwest of Maiduguri, on Sunday, a local community leader said.Rann currently hosts around 35,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), according to the International Organization for Migration.”

Defense Post: Nigeria’s Military Struggles With Islamic State: Part 1 –  An Upsurge In Attacks

“While Islamic State has suffered defeats in its core territory of Iraq and Syria, this is not the situation for the group everywhere. Its West Africa province, or wilayat, appears to be on a resurgent path in northeastern Nigeria after suffering several setbacks in recent years. As Nigerian soldiers complain about poor equipment, corruption, and suffer from low morale, ISWA are overrunning military bases and capturing towns. Without a change of trajectory this conflict is only going to worsen for Nigeria. Boko Haram, officially Jama`at ahl al-sunna li-da`wa wa-l-qital, was founded in 2002 by Salafist cleric Mohammed Yusuf with the overarching goal of setting up an Islamic state in Nigeria. The group initially abstained from violence, instead preaching and setting up camps and complexes for followers of its ideals. However, over time tensions increased with security services. Yusuf and other Boko Haram leaders made increasingly clear their intentions to wage a violent jihad, and local political and religious leaders increasingly warned about Boko Haram’s threat. In 2009 there were major clashes between security services and Boko Haram. They began in June when a group of Boko Haram members were shot and wounded by police over their failure to wear motorcycle helmets.”


The Independent: Al-Shabaab: Who Are The East African Jihadi Group And What Are Their Goals?

“Al-Shabaab is the deadliest jihadi group in sub-Saharan Africa, largely operating in Somalia but known for brutal attacks on neighbouring Kenya. Founded in 2006, the group – whose name translates from Arabic as the “The Youth” or “Mujahideen Youth Movement” – began as the militant arm of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an alliance of hard-line Sharia courts in southern Somalia who sought to rival the Transitional Federal Parliament for control of the country. Al-Shabaab has long since spun off from the ICU and aims to overthrow the Western-backed successor Federal Parliament on its own, carrying out vicious suicide bombing attacks and other acts of brutality against “enemies of Islam” among the Horn of Africa’s Christian and Sufi Muslim population. Committed to ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islam, al-Shabaab intends to run Somalia in accordance with strict Sharia principles. Al-Shabaab initially won popular support by pledging to bring security to a nation that has not had a stable government in 20 years, before losing face when its rejection of international aid made tough conditions worse for their people when the land was struck by drought and famine in 2011.”


The New York Times: Death Toll Rises To 14 In Attack On Nairobi Hotel-Office Complex

“The death toll rose to 14 on Wednesday in a terrorist attack waged by Shabab militants, including a suicide bomber and several gunmen, who stormed a luxury hotel and office complex in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta said. Mr. Kenyatta said later in a speech to the nation that all of the attackers had been “eliminated” and that the operation was complete, after gunfire was heard from the complex earlier on Wednesday morning, a day after the authorities said that all of the buildings in the area targeted in the assault had been secured. “We will seek every person involved in planning, funding and executing this heinous act,” Mr. Kenyatta said. He said the nation was on the highest alert “and shall remain so.” Relatives of the victims were traveling to morgues and hospitals in search of more information, and the Red Cross said it had set up teams to help them find victims and deal with the aftermath. The State Department said that one of the victims was an American, but provided no details.  “We can now confirm that 14 innocent lives were lost in this murderous attack,” Mr. Kenyatta said. Seven hundred civilians were evacuated during the response to the terrorist attack, he added.”

The Independent: Nairobi Hotel Attack A Grim Reminder Of Spectre Of The Terrorism Which Hangs Over Kenya

“The attack on the hotel complex in Nairobi raises the spectre of the siege at the Westgate shopping mall five-and-a-half years ago which left 67 people dead and 200 injured. The gunfire and explosions which echoed in the Kenyan capital were also a grim reminder of the terrorist threat which hangs over the country. Al-Shabaab in next-door Somalia claimed they had carried out the attack, which appears to have left at least several people dead. The same al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group were responsible for Westgate, and, two years later, massacred 148 people, mostly students, at Garissa University College in the east of the country.  Tuesday also marks the third anniversary of an al-Shabaab attack on the El Adde military base in Somalia in which more than 140 Kenyan soldiers, part of an international force, were killed and the assault came a day after three men were committed for trial by a Nairobi magistrates court over the mall atrocity.”

The Washington Post: For Kenyans, Militant Group Al-Shabab Is A Deadly Threat That Won’t Back Down

“For decades, Kenyan authorities have struggled to contain the threat of extremism in their country. And on Tuesday morning, the militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for another attack there, this time on a hotel in the upscale Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi. As The Washington Post reported from the scene, police cordoned off the building during the attack as terrified and wounded civilians poured out of the building and some were carried away on stretchers. The city has been the site of other large-scale terrorist attacks in the past. In August 1998, suicide bombers drove to the U.S. embassy in Nairobi and detonated explosives, killing more than 200 people and injuring about 5,000 others. Another attack took place at the same time at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Nairobi, the “explosion reduced much of the interior of the embassy to rubble,” stated a CIA report on the attack. “The secondary fragmentation from flying glass, internal concrete block walls, furniture, and fixtures caused most of the embassy casualties.” Twelve Americans were among those killed in the bombings, which were planned by al-Qaeda and led to the inclusion of Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s most-wanted list.”

Reuters: U.S. State Department Official Confirms American Killed In Kenya Attack

“A U.S. State Department official confirmed a U.S. citizen was killed in an attack on a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday claimed by Somali Islamist group al Shabaab in which at least 15 people were killed. “We can confirm that a U.S. citizen was killed in the attack,” the official said without giving further details.”

The Guardian: Kenyan President Says Nairobi Attack Is Over After All Militants Killed

“Kenya’s president has said security forces have killed all four militants who stormed a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, confirming earlier reports that 14 civilians had died. Uhuru Kenyatta said early on Wednesday that operations at the dusitD2 hotel in the centre of the Kenyan capital had ended and that 14 “innocent lives” had been lost. More than 700 civilians had been safely evacuated, he said. The attack on the began shortly after 3pm on Tuesday with an explosion in the parking lot and then a suicide bomb blast in the hotel’s foyer, police said. The assault on a compound in the centre of the Kenyan capital containing restaurants, a spa and several office buildings housing international companies as well as the luxury hotel, was the most high-profile by terrorists in Kenya for many years. The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia, on its in-house radio network and online. Al-Shabaab was responsible for an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 that left at least 67 people dead. Kenyatta pledged to “pursue relentlessly those involved in the funding, planning and execution of a heinous act wherever they will be” and said the country was on “highest alert.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Brother Guilty Of Funding Sister Who Joined Islamic State Group

“A British man whose sister joined the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria has been found guilty of funding terrorism by sending her money. Salim Wakil, 25, of Fleet, Hampshire, accepted transferring a payment of £2,500 to his sister Sumaiyyah but told London’s Old Bailey his intention was to help her return to the UK. She fled abroad aged 16 in August 2014, leaving the family home at night. He was convicted by a unanimous verdict and will be sentenced on 8 February. Judge Rebecca Poulet QC, who granted the defendant conditional bail, said he was “undoubtedly naive” and not in “any sense himself supportive of Islamic State”. A CCTV image of Salim Wakil in a bank withdrawing cash that he would later transfer to his sister Salim Wakil, who is one of 10 children born to parents of Bangladeshi heritage, accepted transferring a payment to Sumaiyyah Wakil via Western Union, but the court heard that instead of returning to the UK she remained in Syria and later asked for more. A letter left behind for her relatives when she first fled said she wanted to die as a martyr and warned them not to inform the authorities, the court heard. “I love you with all my heart but none of you understand Islam in its proper sense,” it read.”


The New York Times: German Intelligence Agency Puts Far-Right Party On Warning

“Germany’s domestic intelligence agency took a first step on Tuesday toward placing the far-right Alternative for Germany party under surveillance as a threat to the country’s democracy, announcing that it would formally observe its youth wing, which it called “extremist.” It was the first time in Germany’s postwar history that a party seated in parliament was put under such scrutiny, setting the stage for a looming battle between the state and a party whose strength has steadily grown even as its suspected associations with neo-Nazi groups have stirred concern. The leaders of Alternative for Germany, or AfD, as the party is known, routinely attack the press, accuse Muslim immigrants of being criminals, and question the principles of liberal democracy. The warning on Tuesday was issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, an agency whose founding mission when it was established after World War II was to protect against the rise of political forces — primarily another Nazi party — that could once again threaten Germany’s democracy.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthis Regret Accepting Sweden Agreement

“The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen expressed on Tuesday their regret at accepting the conditions of the Sweden ceasefire deal on Hodeidah that was reached in December. A minister in the Houthis’ illegitimate government, Hassan Zeid, said that the militias committed a “strategic error” in agreeing to the deal because they lost several humanitarian cards that they were exploiting for their interests before the international community and United Nations. With these cards gone, attention was shifted to the Houthis’ intransigence and refusal to implement the Sweden deal. Zeid, who is wanted by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, acknowledged that the Sweden consultations cost the militias the media campaign that they had promoted before international organizations. Instead, he continued, attention was now focused on the obstacles that are hindering the implementation of the Sweden agreement.”

Yahoo News: Spanish Police Raid Barcelona Cell Suspected Of Plotting Attack

“Spanish police mounted a counter-terrorism operation in Barcelona and a nearby city on Tuesday against an alleged militant Islamist cell suspected of plotting an attack, local officials said. Officers arrested 18 people in Barcelona and Igualada, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the Catalan capital, as part of the raid, Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police said in a statement. Five suspects were arrested for terrorism offences while the rest allegedly committed theft, drug trafficking and other crimes to help support the cell’s activities. The five “were in an advanced process of radicalisation with the aim to attack,” the statement said. “The group defended the doctrine and actions of the jihadist movement and they consumed a significant amount of publications that advocated the theses of Daesh,” it added, using the Arabic acronym for the so-called Islamic State group. The authorities said the suspects were constantly under surveillance and there was never any danger to the public. The suspects “intended to carry out an attack”, but police work “ensured that at no moment did they have the capacity to carry out these actions,” Catalan regional interior minister Miquel Buch said. More than 100 officers were taking part in the “counter-terrorism operation” launched by the Catalan police force at 6:00 am (0500 GMT), the Mossos said on Twitter.”

Counter Terrorism

Aden Time: Yemeni Security Forces Captured Terrorist Cell Operating In Lahj

“In a press conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior Affairs of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government announced the arrest of an 8-member cell affiliated with the Houthi rebels, which had been operating in the southern Yemeni province of Lahj. On his part, Yemen’s Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari revealed that the captured militants confessed during their interrogation to receiving military training in Dhamar and Sana’a by the Iran-backed militia, with the aim of assassinating army and security officials. The cell members also admitted to receiving funds from the leaders of the insurgency in Yemen, the minister concluded.”

Muslim Brotherhood

UK-Arabic News: Researcher Urges Swedish Government To Avoid Brotherhood Financing

“Sameh Egyptson, Swedish writer and researcher of Egyptian origin, noted that his book clarifies to Arab readers, in particular, that the directors of political Islamic charities, including the Islamic Association in Sweden {Islamiska förbundet}, misappropriate the funds they receive from foreign governments. In his book, entitled “Holy White Lies: Muslim Brotherhood in the West – the Case of Sweden”, Egyptson reveals that these funds, which are donated to associations by governments such as the Swedish government, for example, are being used to establish “armies of terrorism.” The book seeks to warn Arab governments, especially in Egypt, about such risks so that they ultimately pressure the Swedish government to stop the financing of terrorism, according to Egyptson. The writer explained that this terrorist financing occurs through funds provided to the diverse charity associations run by the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.”

Okaz: Saudi Arabia: Directorate Of Islamic Affairs Ministry In Jizan Counters Ideology Of Muslim Brotherhood

“Osama Al-Madkhali, Head of the Directorate of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance in Jizan region, asserted that his office has firmly tightened control over the contents/texts presented during the weekly Friday sermons. Al-Madkhali warned that the directorate is undertaking strict measures against anyone who tries to exploit the mosques to advocate the radical ideologies of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. He added that the ministry’s directorate in Jizan regulates programs applied by the Cooperative Offices for Preaching, Guidance, and Enlightening to assure that they are consistent with the ministry’s directives and strategies. Al-Madkhali also noted that the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology is based on undermining the state, spreading chaos, death and destruction, in addition to conning young people with shiny slogans. Therefore, the Directorate of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Da’wah and Guidance in Jizan has organized hundreds of awareness activities in that regard, the Saudi official emphasized.”


Lebanon 24: New Decision By Banque Du Liban Hampers Hezbollah’s Financial Transfers

“The Banque du Liban recently issued a resolution on electronic financial and banking operations, which obliges non-banking institutions to pay the value of electronic cash remittances from abroad solely in Lebanese pounds. What is behind this decision, and what does it mean? In explaining the objectives of the Banque du Liban’s circular on the matter, economist Professor Jassim Ajaka said that the goal is complex and comes, in the first place, to combat money laundering. Hence, it is beneficial for the Lebanese economy. Sources linked to supervising {of money transfers} said the new decision is connected to the US sanctions against Hezbollah. Moreover, it aims to stop these financial transfers from being spent on “prohibited items” such as arms, which means the purchase of weapons is impossible in Lebanese pounds; only in dollars.”


Sky News Arabia: Houthi Group Cuts State Employees’ Salaries In Half

“The Ministry of Finance in the Iran-backed Houthi-affiliated government issued a circular pertaining to the payment of {only} half of last October’s salary to all state employees. The circular (issued on Monday, January 14, 2019) sets legal deductions of 50% of the salary and allowances, which will be paid in accordance with the law. It confirms that the disbursement does not include any amounts that were disbursed under the banner of monthly incentives or any other banner whatsoever, even if the laws and regulations of the governmental entity include them. The circular pointed out that all necessary legal measures will be taken against anyone who violates this. In the past year, the Houthis have been imposing various levies and royalties under various banners. The so-called Houthi government’s Ministry of Finance earlier approved raising the sales tax on mobile and international telecommunications to 22%, up from 10%, and a tax on fixed-line and Internet services from 5% to 10%.”

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