Thursday 11.1.18
  • Iran on Wednesday summoned the Danish ambassador to Tehran over Copenhagen’s allegations about an Iranian plot to kill an opposition activist in Denmark, the official IRNA news agency reported. Iran expressed a “strong protest” to Ambassador Danny Annan over what it described as the Danish officials’ “hasty, political” and “uncalculated actions” in the case. The development came after Denmark’s intelligence agency said on Tuesday that a police operation last month that briefly cut off Copenhagen from the rest of Denmark stemmed from an alleged Iranian plot to kill an opposition activist. It said a suspect in the case, a Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent, has denied wrongdoing and is being held in pre-trial custody until Nov. 8.
  • He’s been dubbed the “hipster terrorist” for the glamorous social media shots of him posing in snazzy shirts and designer sunglasses, an iced latte in hand and jacket slung casually over a shoulder. But Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab cut a much different profile Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Chicago, where he wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was shackled at the ankles as he pleaded guilty to charges of aiding a terrorist organization and lying to immigration officials. Al-Jayab, 25, a Palestinian native with ties to Wisconsin, admitted in a plea agreement with prosecutors that he flew from O’Hare International Airport to Turkey in November 2013 and then entered Syria. Once there, he joined Ansar Al-Islam, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that was a precursor to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, according to his plea agreement.
  • The Trump administration has freed an American citizen whom the military imprisoned without trial for more than 13 months as a suspected Islamic State member, United States officials said on Monday. His release brings a close to a legal saga that raised novel issues about the scope of the government’s national security powers and individual rights. The man, a dual American and Saudi citizen, was captured in September 2017 by a Kurdish militia in Syria. The Kurds turned him over to the American military, which held him as a wartime detainee at a base in Iraq while a court battle over his fate played out. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was released in Bahrain, where his wife and daughter are living.
  • The US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction reports that the security situation has reached an all time low. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control three years ago, Afghan government controlled or influenced districts has declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, insurgent control/influence rose 5.5% and contested districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assesses that the government controls/influences 226 districts and that the Taliban controls/influences 49. The military identifies 132 districts as contested. By comparison, Long War Journal assesses that the government controls 145 districts, the Taliban controls 52, and 199 are contested.
  • Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims in Iraq on Tuesday, the Sunni Islamist militant group’s news agency Amaq reported. The roadside bomb killed three pilgrims as they walked to a holy site near the northeastern Iraqi city of Khanaqin.
  • U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria said Wednesday they are temporarily suspending their campaign against the last batch of territory held by Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, accusing Turkey of jeopardizing their efforts. In a new spike in tensions along the border, Turkey said its military shelled Kurdish positions across the border in Syria, east of the Euphrates River. It was the second time this week Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish positions in northeast Syria, an area where troops of the U.S.-led coalition are also based.
  • Turkey’s military carried out air strikes in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing 23 militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), it said on Twitter. The air strikes targeted several regions in the neighboring northern Iraq, including the Qandil mountains, a PKK stronghold, the military said. Turkey has in recent months carried out regular strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq. PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. More than 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched its insurgency in Turkey in 1984.
  • Despite Islamic State’s failure last year to establish a caliphate in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, foreign militants continue to flock to the island of Mindanao, waiting in the wings to strike anew. Security analysts and military officials say at least 100 foreign terrorist fighters are now holed up with a range of local armed groups that have pledged their allegiance to Islamic State. Filipino troops needed five months to flush out Islamic State-allied Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters from their positions in Marawi, which one year later has yet to rise from the ashes of the urban war that left its core in ruins.
  • Malaysia arrested five terror suspects last month, including a former Al-Qaeda operative who had dealings with the Afghanistan-based terror group's slain leader, Osama bin Laden. National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun yesterday said the five held comprised two Malaysians, a Pakistani, an Egyptian and a Middle Eastern man. They were detained in Selangor, Perak, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah by counter-terrorism officers during the operation from Oct 13 to Oct 26. The two Malaysians - a man and a woman - had allegedly channeled funds to their compatriot, Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruiter killed in a drone strike in Raqqa last year.

Friday 11.2.18

  • A Muslim convert who plotted to kill 100 people in a terror attack on London’s Oxford Street is due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey. Lewis Ludlow, 27, is facing years in jail for planning to drive a van through pedestrians near the Disney Store. Nicknamed “The Eagle”, he swore allegiance to Islamic State as he plotted this and other terror attacks.
  • Russia has quietly invited a group of senior Afghan politicians to talks with the Taliban in Moscow, bypassing President Ashraf Ghani’s government in a move that has angered officials in Kabul who say it could muddle the U.S.-backed peace process. The invitations, extended over the past two months by Russian diplomats in Kabul, were confirmed to Reuters by six of the eight leaders, who include former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, or their aides, and by other leading politicians with ties to the Afghan government.
  • Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in northern Syria on Thursday aimed at averting clashes between Turkey and Washington’s Kurdish allies, but Turkey pressed on with a new threatened offensive nearby to crush the Kurds. Turkish military advances into northern Syria over the past two years have put U.S. forces directly in the path of advancing troops from Turkey, Washington’s main Muslim NATO ally.
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  • Iran’s ally Hezbollah is paying former U.S.-backed rebels to switch sides and join a growing force in southern Syria, deepening its presence near Israel’s border after appearing to withdraw to avoid Israeli airstrikes, according to activists and a former rebel commander. The Iran-backed militia has recruited up to 2,000 fighters, these people said, most of them from rebel groups that lost U.S. funding last year, according to the former commander, who tracks recruitment in villages in southern Syria.
  • Israel has reportedly sent a message to the Lebanese government via Paris demanding that it act against the Hezbollah terror group’s rocket factories in the country, saying if Lebanon refused to do so, Israel could take military action. The message was delivered by Israel’s deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David to Orléan la-Chevalier, a top adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, during the latter’s visit in Jerusalem on Monday, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.
  • Official statements by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Saudi war in Yemen were not taken for granted by Iranians, who have been anticipating a Vietnam-style quagmire for the Saudi-led coalition in the Middle East's poorest country. "The Yemeni resistance (a term used in Iran to describe Houthi militia fighting off the Saudi war) will not give in to America's peace-seeking postures," wrote Javan, a hard-line news outlet close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Javan referred to French Defense Minister Florence Parly's comments on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as an acknowledgment that Houthis have cornered the Saudis into a deadlock. 
  • At least seven people have been killed and 14 wounded in attack on a bus heading toward a Coptic Christian monastery in upper Egypt, the Archbishop of Minya told Reuters on Friday. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.