Thursday, February 23, 2017

Eye on Extremism February 23, 2017

Eye on Extremism

February 23, 2017

New York Times: F.B.I. Interviews Tell Of Cleric’s Role In Plot To Bomb Plane
“In a series of conversations in Qaeda safe houses in Yemen in 2009, Anwar al-Awlaki carefully sized up a young Nigerian volunteer, decided the man had the diligence and dedication for a “martyrdom mission” and finally unveiled what he had in mind. Mr. Awlaki, an American-born cleric who had become a leading propagandist for Al Qaeda, told the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, that “the attack should occur on board a U.S. airliner,” according to the account Mr. Abdulmutallab gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Abdulmutallab told F.B.I. agents that he “was resolved to killing innocent people and considered them to be ‘collateral damage.’” With “guidance” from Mr. Awlaki, he said, he had “worked through all these issues.”
BBC: Mosul Offensive: Iraqi Forces Recapture Airport In Bid To Retake City
“The operation took four hours. IS continued to fire mortars at the airport from further inside the city after losing the ground to the army. The jihadists have also entered a nearby military base amid further clashes, a military spokesman said. Eastern Mosul was retaken last month. The airport's runway has been destroyed by IS, but BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, who is embedded with Iraqi federal police units, says it still has value. It's a large piece of land, and controlling it will help secure southern routes to west Mosul, our correspondent says.”
Washington Post: New Anti-Islamic State Plan Could Change U.S. Strategy In Syria
“President Trump’s developing plan to defeat the Islamic State may lead to significant alterations in the Syria strategy that Trump inherited from Barack Obama, including a reduction or elimination of both long-standing U.S. support for moderate opposition forces fighting against the Syrian government and the use of Syrian Kurdish fighters as the main U.S. proxy force against the militants, according to U.S. officials. A memorandum signed late last month by Trump ordered the Pentagon and other national security agencies to draft a new proposal by late February. Trump has made clear in public statements both before and since his inauguration that he is eager to increase U.S. firepower against the militants, and willing to add more troops beyond about 500 U.S. Special Operations troops currently on the ground in Syria.”
New York Post: ISIS Now Has The Weapons To Shoot Down Low-Flying Planes
“ISIS jihadists have acquired small anti-aircraft artillery pieces that can threaten low-flying planes, according to a report. A US military spokesman in Baghdad described the weapons as a “significant threat” to coalition planes, CBS News reported Wednesday. The revelation comes amid reports this week that the militant group has been using increasingly sophisticated drones to drop explosives on Iraqi forces with great accuracy. Unmanned aerial vehicles also have been used by the extremists for surveillance to guide car bombs through Mosul’s narrow streets on their way to Iraqi troop positions.”
Washington Post: Away From Iraq’s Front Lines, The Islamic State Is Creeping Back In
“The Islamic State is nearing defeat on the battlefield, but away from the front lines its members are seeping back into areas the group once controlled, taking advantage of rampant corruption in Iraq’s security forces and institutions. Police officers, judges and local officials describe an uneven hand of justice that allows some Islamic State collaborators to walk, dimming Iraq’s chances of escaping the cycle of violence that has plagued the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In the western city of Ramadi, retaken a year ago, officials say evidence against the accused disappears from police files, while witnesses are too scared to testify. A bribe of as little as $20 can buy a laminated security pass granting access to the city.”
Voice Of America: Iran Uses Palestinian Conference To Spotlight Anti-Israel Rhetoric
“Iran has held its first conference in six years supporting Palestinian uprisings, a forum that it says drew hundreds of delegates from 80 countries, reflecting the country’s resurgent clout on the world stage. The two-day Sixth International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada ended Wednesday in the Iranian capital, Tehran, with Iran’s president pledging more aid for Palestinians fighting against Israel. Tehran has long provided monetary and military assistance to Palestinian militants. Iranian state media quoted President Hassan Rouhani as saying his people “have paid a high cost for supporting the Palestinians and opposing the Zionist regime of Israel’s actions, but they will continue their support with determination.”
CNN: Blair Defends Guantanamo Release For 'ISIS Bomber'
“Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended his attempts to secure the release of a UK citizen from Guantanamo Bay after reports that the former detainee carried out an ISIS suicide attack in Iraq this week. ISIS on its media affiliates claimed that Abu-Zakariya al-Britani -- a British citizen who initially went by Ronald Fiddler and later took the name Jamal Udeen al-Harith -- detonated a car bomb at an Iraqi army base southwest of Mosul this week. While a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said there had been no independent verification that the attacker was the former Guantanamo detainee, an official told CNN that UK intelligence services believe with "high confidence" that the bomber killed near Mosul was the former British inmate.”
Deutche Welle: More Than 100 Swiss Police Raid Suspected Islamist Targets
“Police have arrested two suspects with links to Turkey. The men are suspected of recruiting for the so-called "Islamic State" militant group, prosecutors said in a statement. Swiss police on Wednesday arrested two men for suspected involvement in terrorist activities, including recruiting for the self-styled "Islamic State" or similar organizations. At least 100 law enforcement officers staged several raids in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino (or Tessin to German speakers), according to the attorney general's office. "The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland is conducting criminal proceedings against two men, one with dual Swiss-Turkish citizenship and the other a Turkish citizen," prosecutors said in a statement.”
France 24: Yemen Loyalists Push Back Rebels On Red Sea Coast
“Yemeni government forces made gains around the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha in heavy fighting overnight as they rebuffed a rebel counter-offensive, a military source said on Thursday. Seven loyalist troops and 16 rebels were killed in the fighting, hospital sources said. Twelve soldiers and 28 rebels were wounded. Government forces captured Yakhtul, 14 kilometres (nine miles) north of Mokha, and Jabal Nar, 10 kilometres (six miles) to the east, consolidating their grip on the town they overran on February 10, the military source told AFP. On Tuesday, government forces had suffered a major setback in the offensive they launched in January to try to recapture Yemen's 450 kilometre (280 mile) Red Sea coastline, which had previously been almost entirely in rebel hands.”
Raleigh News And Observer: Federal Prosecutors Accuse NC Man Of Making Online Threats
“Federal prosecutors have accused a North Carolina man of posting threats against non-Muslims online. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District said 27-year-old Garrett Grimsley, of Cary, appeared before a magistrate on Tuesday. An affidavit said Grimsley posted a message online last Sunday telling readers "don't go to Cary tomorrow." In a private message, a witness says Grimsley said "For too long the (non-Muslims) have spit in our faces and trampled our rights. This cannot continue. I cannot speak of anything. Say your (prayers), sleep, and watch the news tomorrow. It will only be the beginning . . " A search of Grimsley's home turned up an AK-47, four 30-round magazines and approximately 340 rounds of ammunition. If convicted, Grimsley faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.”
Reuters: Muslims Raise Over $91,000 For Vandalized Jewish Cemetery In Missouri
“Muslim Americans have helped raise more than $91,000 to repair vandalized headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, according to an online fundraising page, amid attacks and threats against Jewish institutions. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the graveyard on Wednesday and told clean-up volunteers, state officials and reporters that there was no place in America for hatred, violence, anti-Semitism or acts of prejudice. "I must tell you the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care of this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri and I want to thank you for that inspiration," Pence said.”
Daily Beast: How Boko Haram's Sex Slaves Wind Up As Sex Workers In Europe
“It’s minutes past 4:00 p.m. local time, and Sarah, as we’ll call her, has just returned to her tent in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp at the outskirts Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s war-torn Borno state. She had spent much of her day in the heart of town meeting with a woman who’s promising to take her to Italy and find her a job. The young girl, who said she was 17, hasn’t been told where she’ll be working once she arrives at her destination. Yet she isn’t bothered. All she wants is to get to Europe. Sarah is not naïve. She knows that many of the girls who are taken from Nigeria to Italy end up as sex workers. She even suspects that will be the job she’ll be asked to do once she arrives in Europe, given the way her would-be benefactor has been communicating with her.”

United States

NPR: Sen. Mccain Makes Unannounced Trip To Syria To Meet With U.S. Forces
“Sen. John McCain made an unannounced trip to northern Syria last week to meet with U.S. forces stationed there, his office announced on Wednesday. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went to discuss the campaign for defeating militants from the Islamic State. "Sen. McCain's visit was a valuable opportunity to assess dynamic conditions on the ground in Syria and Iraq," according to a statement from spokeswoman Julie Tarallo. The trip, which is considered official travel, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, has been one of President Trump's harshest critics.”


BBC: Syria's Warring Sides Brought Together For Geneva Talks
“The meeting follows weeks of difficult negotiations in preparation. Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special Syria envoy, said on Wednesday he was "not expecting a breakthrough". The opposition is insisting that the fate of President Bashar al-Assad is on the agenda - something the government has refused to discuss. At least 300,000 people have been killed since the war began in 2011. More than 4.8m have fled the country and a further 6.3m have been displaced inside Syria itself. While hopes of a breakthrough at the talks are low, much has changed since the last round broke down in April 2016.”
Washington Post: Syria Peace Talks Resume, But Assad Is In The Driver’s Seat
“The forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad scored significant victories in 2016, most importantly the recapture of rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Russia and Iran launched a parallel diplomatic process along with Turkey, which has gone from being Assad's most vociferous regional opponent to finding common cause with his staunch allies. And there's a new American president who seems far less concerned with the Syrian leader's departure than his predecessor. "Peace is only possible when none of the parties to the conflict think they can win. I’m not sure we are yet there in Syria," said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres over the weekend. "I’m afraid that some might still think — and I think it’s a total illusion — that they might win that war, so I’m not optimistic about the short-term solution for the Syria crisis." Given such pessimism, here are a few key points when considering Syria's future prospects.”
World Tribune: ISIS-Linked Jihadists Seize Towns Near Oil-Rich Golan Heights In Syria
“In a series of surprise attacks, jihadists affiliated with Islamic State (ISIS) seized four villages in the oil-rich Syrian Golan Heights. The terror group, which calls itself the Khalid Ibn Al Walid Army, captured the towns of Tseel, Sahem al Golan, Adwan and Ten Jamoua that were held by moderate rebels, according to witnesses who spoke to Reuters on Feb. 21. “In a surprise attack Islamic State made an attack on positions held by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups which no one expected to happen so fast,” said Col. Ismail Ayoub, a Syrian opposition army defector.”


Al Masdar News: Hashd Al-Sha’abi Kills Dozens Of ISIS Terrorists In Western Mosul: Video
“Over the past 24 hours, Hashd Al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units) has killed dozens of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in the western countryside of Mosul, as they continue their advance towards the strategic town of Tal ‘Afar. The Popular Mobilization Units are currently advancing at 4 axes in Tal ‘Afar’s western countryside, while their allies in the Iraqi Army and Federal Police forces continue their powerful offensive in the western sector of Mosul City.”


The Hindu: Turkish Military Says 56 IS Militants Killed In Syria
“Fifty-six Islamic State militants were killed by Turkey-backed forces around the Syrian town of al-Bab and by U.S.-led coalition air strikes in the latest operations on Wednesday, the Turkish military said on Thursday. Turkish artillery fire also hit 104 Islamic State targets,including buildings and bombed vehicles, the army said in a statement, reiterating it had largely established control in the residential areas of al-Bab. The Islamic State stronghold, 30 km from theTurkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion with Syrian rebels last August to push the jihadists from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia.”


Khaleej Times: Yemen General Killed In Houthi Attack
“Yemeni rebels hit back at government forces advancing up the Red Sea coast, killing a deputy army commander in a missile strike, a military source said on Wednesday. Army deputy chief of staff Major General Ahmad Saif Al Yafii was killed by a heat-seeking missile on the outskirts of the coastal town of Mokha, the source said. Another 18 soldiers as well as 21 rebels were killed in the clashes between Iran-backed Houthi insurgents and a Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government. More than 50 others from the two sides were wounded in the fighting, which saw the coalition carry out air strikes as the rebels reached the eastern outskirts of Mokha. The army had overrun Mokha on February 10.”
Al-Arabiya: Yemen Army Regains Control Of Town North Of Mokha
“Sources confirmed to Al Arabiya that the Yemeni army has regained control of the town of Yakhtul north of Mokha. Furthermore, the Yemeni National Army troops also dominated the mountains east of Mokha on Wednesday at dawn, after fierce battles that lasted for about 24 hours against the militia groups, according to military sources in Taiz. During the battles, Nine militants were killed and dozens were wounded after coalition raids. The National Army Forces advanced toward the Khaled camp in the Mawza district under heavy air cover from the aircrafts of the Arab coalition. A military source explained that the National Army continued its progress toward the eastern Directorate of Mocka located between the provinces of Taiz and al Hudaydah to completely block supplies to the militia groups.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Saudi Arabia Earmarks $10bn For Yemen Reconstruction: Hadi
“Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has earmarked $10 billion (SR37.5 billion) in aid for the reconstruction of provinces retaken from Houthi rebels. Hadi said the Kingdom had allocated $10 billion “for the reconstruction of liberated provinces, including $2 billion as a deposit in the central bank to shore up the (Yemeni) riyal,” the Saba news agency reported. The president, speaking in the government’s temporary southern capital of Aden, called on his government to focus on power, water, roads, health and education in retaken areas. Pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition took back five southern provinces from Iran-backed rebels in 2015, but Houthis still control the capital and much of northern Yemen.”


Egyptian Streets: Two Christians Killed By Militants In Egypt’s North Sinai Amid Growing Attacks On Copts
“The rate of attacks on Egyptian Christians residing in North Sinai has significantly increased over the past few months. A father and his son were killed on Wednesday when two militants reportedly gunned them down. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. However, security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that Saad Hana, 65 was shot dead and then his son Medhat, 35, was abducted and burnt alive. The statements of the security sources contradict those of one of the family members who spoke to Al-Arabiya on condition of anonymity as well. She said that Nabila Fawzy, Hana’s wife, tried to call for help when militants stormed her house and shot her husband and son dead. The militants then set the house on fire.”

Middle East

Daily Wire: Watch: Women Liberated From Isis Remove Veils, Burn Them
“In a video posted by Rudaw English, women liberated from ISIS-controlled areas are seen celebrating their freedom, taking off their veils and burning them in defiance of their once-oppressive rulers.  The women, with sheer joy on their faces, remove their veils, once mandated by their rulers, and begin to set them aflame. The women are also seen smoking cigarettes and cheering over their newfound freedom. Areas under ISIS rule have been described as a "giant prison," which typically have banned internet access and closed up cyber cafes. And life for women under such reign can be particularly devastating. "Women rarely venture out for fear of being reprimand by Isis police, known as the Hisbah, and the female unit, the Khansaa Brigade, even for the slightest transgression, such as carrying a brightly coloured handbag," noted The Guardian last year.”


Washington Post: Top Libyan Security Official Wounded In Car Bomb Attack
“A Libyan spokesman says a top security official in the eastern city of Benghazi has survived an assassination attempt by a car bomb. The spokesman, Walid Urfi, told The Associated Press that Col. Salah al-Hewidi — who refused to leave his post as a security chief of Benghazi after being sacked —was wounded in the Wednesday explosion. It was the second assassination attempt targeting security officials in one month. Last month, a nominee to al-Hewidi’s post was wounded in another car bomb attack in the city. The eastern-based government, headed by Abdullah al-Thinni, sacked al-Hewidi. Al-Thinni answers to the internationally-recognized parliament seated in eastern Libya. Another UN-backed government is seated in the capital Tripoli.”
Foreign Affairs: Libya After ISIS
“Among the many crises now facing the new Trump administration, Libya poses a growing challenge. The shattered Mediterranean state is close to open civil war, which could have profoundly negative consequences for U.S. interests and allies. Although the Islamic State (ISIS) was driven from its main areas of control in Libya last year and oil production has rebounded to a three-year high, Libya is more polarized and fragmented than ever. The United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is failing in its basic functions and confronts an existential challenge from an eastern faction led by General Khalifa Hifter and backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and, increasingly, Russia. In addition, the economy is veering toward collapse, and jihadist militancy could still find purchase in the country’s chaos.”


BBC: Why Is Nigeria's President Buhari Still In London?
“A former military ruler known for his no-nonsense style would appear to have little in common with a reality TV show where contestants engage in attention-seeking behaviour. But both subjects were soon generating headlines for the same reason - neither of them were in Nigeria. It turned out that Big Brother was actually being filmed in South Africa - a decision that led Nigeria's information minister to launch an investigation. While the howls of protests from outraged Big Brother fans soon died down, the clamour over Nigeria's leader's extended medical stay in London is not going away. President Buhari's absence comes as Africa's most populous nation is gripped by its worst economic crisis in decades, and faces the threat of famine in north-east Nigeria, which has been devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.”

United Kingdom

New York Times: ISIS Says British Militant Carried Out Suicide Attack In Iraq
“They called him Abu Zakariya al-Britani — the surname means “the Briton” — and they say he blew himself up on Monday in an attack at a village southwest of Mosul, Iraq. The claim, in a communiqué from the Islamic State, immediately revived fears about foreign fighters who have moved to Syria or Iraq to join the group’s ranks. But in Britain, it prompted even more troubling allegations. Several British news organizations — including the BBC, The Times of London and The Guardian — reported Tuesday evening that the man was Jamal Malik al-Harith, a native of Manchester, England, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001; detained by the United States in the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2002 to 2004; and released to Britain, where the government later awarded him 1 million pounds, about $1.25 million at current exchange rates, to settle a lawsuit.”


Deutche Welle: German Intel Agency Notes Dramatic Increase In Islamic Extremism
“The domestic intelligence service has announced an uptick of hundreds in a matter of months. At least one cause of the worrying trend is the ease with which young people can become radicalized online, authorities said. Germany's domestic security and intelligance agency (the BfV) said on Wednesday that the radical Islamist scene in the country had grown considerably, from only about 100 people in 2013 to some 1,600 today. Indeed, according to BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen, the number had jumped by several hundred in a matter of months. "We receive between two and four credible tips on planned terrorist activity in Germany each day," Maassen said. "We have to recognize that we are living in a different situation now than was normal.”
Reuters: Bavaria Pushes Ahead With Burqa Ban As Elections Loom
“Bavaria will ban the full-face veil in schools, universities, government workplaces and polling stations, the southern German state said on Tuesday. The move comes seven months before a federal election where immigration will be a prominent issue and the Bavarian conservatives that govern the region, the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's, are worried about losing votes to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD). "Communication happens not only via language but also via looks, facial expressions and gestures," Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said after the regional government agreed a draft law to ban the full-face veil for civil servants and in public places where there are concerns for public safety. "It's the foundation of our interactions with each other and it's the basis of our free and democratic order," he said. "Concealing your face is at odds with this culture of communication.”


Ashnona: ISIS Trying To Extort Factories In Baquba
“A local source in Diyala province disclosed on Wednesday that ISIS has been demanding monthly payments from owners of cement-block manufacturing plants, located northeast of Baquba. When Iraqi security forces discovered the extortion, they threatened urgent action against anyone cooperating with the terror organization. The source was quoted as saying: "ISIS, via its sleeper cells, has been trying to extort owners of block production factories near the villages of Islah and Sheikh Baba in the vicinity of Jalawla (70 km north-east of Baquba). It is coercing monthly royalties and threatening to sabotage factories whose owners refuse to pay.”
New Sabah: ISIS Stealing Money From Residents Of Right Side Of Mosul
“ISIS has exploited the need of the residents of the right side of the city of Mosul for food to con them out of their money. Activists in Mosul claim that ISIS militants notified residents of the Wadi Hajar, Al Hawi, and Yarmouk neighborhoods that they need to hand over their families' personal identity cards and ration cards in the amount of 15,000 dinars ($13) in return for flour. However, three days after submitting the cards and money, ISIS returned the cards to them without money {or flour}. ISIS militants informed the residents that the mills are experiencing production problems due to constant power outages. They promised they would distribute flour as soon as they obtain it from the mills.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Dotmsr: Expert: Three Funding Sources For Muslim Brotherhood And Their Management Are A Big Secret
“Ahmed Ban, an expert in affairs of Islamic movements, noted that the Muslim Brotherhood's financing and financial activities are an obscure issue. He stressed that since the early days of the clash with the Egyptian state, the Brotherhood built a "wall" of secrecy around their funds, considering them to be the nerve center of any political movement or group. The expert specified three funding sources: 1) membership fees which range between 5% to 7% of the gross monthly income; 2) donations by group-affiliated businessmen; and - most importantly - 3) revenues from group's investments and projects. Mr. Ban explained that the Brotherhood has a huge financial and investment portfolio, but only a very small number of members are privy to it. These include Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Khayrat al-Shater, who according to Ban, is the de-facto leader of the group, in addition to six other individuals - members of the Finance Committee, who reside in different parts of the world. The expert emphasized that the group does not keep official records of the number of its members. There is also no oversight mechanism for collection and disbursement of funds. Thus, the running of the funds remains a big secret and something of a mystery. Ban added that it came as no surprise that the boundaries between the group's funds and those owned by individuals who run its portfolios have been obscured, as some of the Brotherhood's assets appear under the names of individuals.”


Baladi News: A Prominent Syrian Merchant Flees To Hezbollah Positions After Receiving A Huge Bank Loan
“On Monday, a prominent merchant, affiliated with the Assad regime in the coastal province of Tartous, fled after embezzling millions of pounds from the pockets of Assad loyalists and conning a local bank clerk. He exited Syria with his family. Pro-Assad sources in Tartous confirmed that the merchant fled to Lebanon after smuggling millions of pounds to Lebanon before fleeing from his homeland. According to the sources, days before his escape, he went to Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi and borrowed 255 million Syrian pounds, equivalent to $530k, claiming he needed the money for reconstruction projects in the region. After receiving the money from the bank, he immediately left Syria headed for Hezbollah positions in Lebanon.”


Alyemeni Alyoum: Houthi Offers Telecom Company License To A Businessman In Exchange For Payment Of Employees' Salaries
“Officials in the Sanaa-based government, which is run by the Houthis, disclosed their intention to grant a private entity a license to set up a new G4 telecommunications company. This is in exchange for payment of two-month back salaries for employees in the provinces under Houthi control. According to the website, which is affiliated with ousted President Ali Saleh's party, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Hussein Abdullah Mkabuli, offered Houthi billionaire, Adel Motaher Al-Moayad, to pay 2-3-month overdue salaries in exchange for a license to establish a new telecommunications company. Al-Moayad turned up in Yemen following the Houthis' coupe"


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