A new congressional report confirms forecasts by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) concerning disturbing trends in the global spread of Islamist terror in 2016-2017.
The IPT compiled its analysis from extensive research, sources and multiple databases such as the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database and published it in March.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report finds that the Islamic State (ISIS) has expanded beyond its initial base in Iraq and Syria to field six effective militias in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
In addition to its declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the CRS paper counts ISIS affiliates in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Nigeria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen as among the most significant and capable of its 34 pledged offshoots.
The IPT's research indicated that governments which failed to provide stability or security for its citizens became an outsized factor in determining where ISIS would flourish, which the CRS brief reflects. The IPT found that more than half of all jihadist assaults since 2012 occurred in the failed states of Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
"To date, the Islamic State organization and its regional adherents have thrived in ungoverned or under-governed areas of countries affected by conflict or political instability," stated the CRS document, titled "The Islamic State and U.S. Policy."
Formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, the Islamic State in Egypt emerged after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 with up to 1,000 radicalized indigenous Bedouin Arabs, foreign fighters and Palestinian militants. It claimed credit for destroying Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31 in a strike that killed all 224 passengers.
The Islamic State in Saudi Arabia claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in the kingdom since 2014, including suicide bombings against Shia mosques and assaults against Saudi security forces, according to the CRS findings. A suicide bomber connected to ISIS successfully detonated himself in a Kuwaiti mosque in June 2015, killing more than two dozen and wounding hundreds.
ISIS declared its second caliphate along the Mediterranean in Libya in 2015 following coalition airstrikes against its territory in Iraq and Syria. Western officials estimate that 6,000 ISIS fighters moved there. Its new dominion reaches as close to 200 miles from the vulnerable southern border of Europe.
Boko Haram – the ISIS affiliate in Nigeria and the deadliest jihadist group in the world – has destroyed large areas in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. It first appeared in 2009 when it launched its military campaign for Islamist rule in attacks that killed hundreds. It has murdered 15,000 people over the past five years and displaced more than 1.6 million.
The Islamic State-Khorasan Province named itself after a region that once included parts of modern day Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Initially comprised of several small Afghan Taliban and other militant factions, it announced its affiliation with ISIS in 2013.
It grew as additional Taliban factions broke away, and in 2015 ISIS headquarters began sending it financial resources. U.S. officials estimate that it supports between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters in Afghanistan.
The Islamic State in Yemen has exploited the ongoing proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran to repeatedly bomb Shia mosques and target supporters of the Iranian-backed Houthi Movement in northern Yemen, the CRS report states.
Beyond the recent carnage in the U.S. and Europe, the IPT further predicts that jihadist attacks will continue to surge in lethality and geography throughout Africa and Middle East, as well as South and Southeast Asia. They will encompass countries such as Algeria, Jordan, Tunisia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Chad, Indonesia and Thailand.
Pete Hoekstra is the Senior Shillman Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the former Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He is the author of "Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya."
Wednesday's terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, which left four Israelis dead and 16 more wounded, is generating predictable, but disturbing reactions.
There was the requisite handing out of sweets to celebrate the attack among Palestinians and their supporters. The official Facebook page for the Fatah party, which is home to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the victims who were gunned down in the heart of Tel Aviv "settlers," the Elder of Ziyon blog noted.
People in Tel Aviv are settlers only in the eyes of those who believe Israel has no right to exist. The PA supposedly accepted Israel as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, but Abbas repeatedly has refused to accept it as a Jewish state.
The International Union of Muslim Scholars, led by Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guide Yusuf al-Qaradawi, posted a brief video on its Twitter feed. With hashtags "al Quds" (Jerusalem), "Intifada," and "Ramadan," the video shows bullets placed over a map of "Palestine" which covers all of Israel. The call to prayer is heard as a gun is shown with dates. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally break the fast with a handful of dates before heading off to the evening prayer.
American Islamists consider Qaradawi a moderate and a respected scholar.
Those Islamist voices, including officials at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have been silent about the Tel Aviv attack. As we have noted, those groups manage to overcome their reticence in rare cases in which Israelis attack Palestinian civilians. In those cases, Israeli leaders across the political spectrum quickly condemn the violence. Another prominent Islamist, Arab American Association of New York Executive Director Linda Sarsour, expressed outrage at a report that Israel was suspending entry permits for Palestinians, casting the move as a slap during Ramadan, rather than as a security step in the wake of the attacks.
Some of Israel's enemies were more direct.
Hamas promised more bloodshed for Israeli civilians.
Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese-based terror proxy, issued a statement saying it "hails the heroic operation carried out by two Palestinian Mujahidin in the heart of Tel Aviv" as a sign Palestinians remain committed to violence "to completely liberate the occupied territories from the Zionist Occupation."
If all this is meant to frighten Israelis and send them cowering into their homes, it didn't work. The scene of the terrorist attack, the Sarona Market, was open for business Thursday, again crowded with diners.
"Terrorist groups seeks (sic) to destroy the normal life of free society; we defy them by embracing life," wrote UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer, who was among the diners Thursday. He said he found inspiration in seeing Israelis defiantly paying respects to the victims and singing "songs of peace. So long as Palestinians teach their children to murder Jews, and so long as their hatred is legitimized by UN bodies like UNRWA and UNHRC, terrorism will never stop."
Al-Qaida and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are allies fighting alongside each other for the same cause and should not be viewed differently when it comes to toppling the Assad regime, said Anas al-Abdeh, president of the U.S.-backed National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.
"They are all in the same trench," Al-Abdeh told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on May 23. "We cannot differentiate between fighters whether they are Al Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham or the Free Syrian Army," Al-Abdeh said.
Al-Abdeh has had an association with the U.S. government since at least 2009. Classified cables released by Wikileaks show that U.S. taxpayers gave up to $6 million to his former group, the Movement for Justice and Development in Syria, which al-Abdeh founded in 2006. The money funded the Syrian opposition channel Barada TV, headed by his brother, Malek al-Abdeh, and other activities inside Syria.
A secret 2009 State Department cable cited a Syrian source who described Movement for Justice and Development in Syria followers as "liberal, moderate Islamists," including ex-Muslim Brotherhood members.
Anas Al-Abdeh opposes the recent American effort to work with his group's Kurdish rival, the Syrian Democratic Forces, because he and his brother have supported Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey represses its Kurdish minority, opposes the idea of a Kurdish state and has used the Syrian conflict to attack Kurdish opposition forces.
In an interview with Rudaw on Monday, Al Abdeh criticized the SDF's recent offensive against Raqqa, ISIS's capital in Syria, because it is not part of the Syrian Revolution and aligned with Turkey.
The U.S. government spent more than $500 million to train and equip the Syrian rebels only led to the training of four or five fighters. Also, American weapons that provided to Al-Abdeh's group found their way into the hands of pro Al- Qaeda groups in Syria, including Jabhat al-Nusra.
Zahra Billoo is at Sanders' left, dressed in purple.
Last month, we focused on Sanders' reliance on Linda Sarsour as a campaign surrogate. Sarsour also is a Palestinian activist with a history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements. "Nothing is creepier than Zionism," she wrote on Twitter about the idea that Jews can return to their ancestral homeland as a refuge from global anti-Semitism. To Sarsour, that ideal is racist.
Memorial Day weekend's approach brings to mind another prominent Sanders supporter, Zahra Billoo, who has repeatedly expressed discomfort with the holiday. "Many of our troops are engaged in terrorism," she wrote in June 2012.
Billoo heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) San Francisco office. CAIR has roots in a Hamas-support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood in American, internal documents and eyewitness accounts show.
Two weeks ago, Billoo made it clear her views about American troops have not changed, questioning the holiday's value: "You think we should honor people who commit war crimes?" she asked an incredulous questioner. She "proudly stands by" her opinion, she also wrote.
Despite these extreme views, or perhaps because of them, Billoo appears to be playing a significant role in the Sanders campaign. Her social media accounts are filled with pro-Sanders messages – including repeated reminders about the registration deadline to be eligible for June 7 California primary. She was granted backstage access to a Sanders rally last week in San Jose where she was photographed with the candidate.
Billoo also has argued that American citizens who move to Israel and join the army are no different from those who join ISIS. "Is one genocidal group different than the other?" she asked last year.
Billoo's extremism applies to domestic policy, too. She casts FBI counter-terror investigations as illegitimate and even corrupt. She blasted the conviction of five former officials from the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation after records showed they illegally routed millions of dollars to Hamas. And, in the wake of a Portland man's arrest for plotting to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony crowded with children, she suggested to a reporter that the FBI hyped the threat.
"The question is, are we looking to stop radicalization and stop extremism before it becomes a problem or do we want a sensational story?" Billoo asked. "And I'd really argue here that the FBI was looking for a sensational story."
The suspect, Mohamed Mohamud, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Among the evidence against him was a recording in which he said, "I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured."
Billoo's opinions hold steady regardless of the facts. Maybe that's why she's comfortable being involved in campaign politics.
Hamas is stealing nearly all of the cement Israel sends into Gaza for civilian reconstruction efforts in order to rebuild the organization's terrorist infrastructure, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Speaking to the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday, Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold described how Hamas is "cynically exploiting" Israel's assistance to Gaza in order to "rebuild [the terrorist group's] military capacity."
"From our own investigations we found that out of every 100 sacks of cement that come into the Gaza Strip [from Israel], only five or six are transferred to civilians...a hundred sacks is what is necessary to rebuild a home, the rest are confiscated by Hamas and used for military purposes," Gold said.
In addition to allowing the building materials into Gaza, hospitals in Israel's south have also treated injured Gaza residents, Gold said, including family members of Hamas terrorists.
Israel faces an important dilemma on this front, trying to provide humanitarian aid intended for a civilian population, while Hamas diverts the vast majority of the assistance for terrorist activities targeting Israel.
"Since October, Israel has let into Gaza 4,824,000 tons of building materials...but these have often times been seized and used to build new attack tunnels penetrating Israeli territory," Gold said.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continues its campaign to uncover cross-border attack tunnels leading into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Recent discoveries confirm that Hamas maintains underground capabilities dedicated to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians.
Since the 2014 summer war ended, Hamas has openly invested significant amounts of resources to the reconstruction of its offensive tunnel capabilities at the expense of Gaza's civilian population. The terrorist organization devotes roughly 1,000 operatives – working 24 hours a day, six days a week – and millions of dollars per month solely on its underground tunnel network.
Palestinian Authority (PA) media continue to glorify terrorist Bashar Masalha who attacked civilians in Tel Aviv and murdered an American tourist on March 8, Palestinian Media Watch reports.
Masalha went on a stabbing spree which killed U.S. citizen Taylor Force and injured 11 others, before being killed by Israeli police.
After the attack, Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and the PA glorified Masalha as "the heroic Martyr."
Since Israel returned the terrorist's body to the PA last week, official Palestinian media outlets devoted considerable coverage to praising the terrorist's actions.
PA TV referred to the terrorist as "Shahid" (Martyr) 11 times while reporting on his funeral, where hundreds of Palestinians participated.
"His family, friends, and people of the region took it upon themselves to ensure that this [burial] would be a large national wedding befitting of Martyrs... The Martyr was accompanied to his last resting place in the cemetery for Martyrs in Hajja," said a PA TV reporter on Saturday.
On the same day, the official PA daily – Al-Hayat Al-Jadida – also praised the terrorist as a "Martyr" for killing a U.S. citizen. "Masalha died as a Martyr on March 8 , after carrying out a stabbing operation in Jaffa, in which he killed an American tourist," Al-Hayat reported.
Through official educational and media institutions, the PA systematically teaches that becoming a martyr is the most prestigious achievement in Islam that entails vast rewards in the afterlife, including 72 virgins in paradise. Such violent incitement encourages younger Palestinians to emulate notable terrorists, fueling violence against Jews and Israelis.
By praising the murder of Taylor Force, the Western-backed Palestinian government makes it clear that U.S. citizens are also legitimate targets for terrorism.
The March 8 terrorist attack occurred while Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel. When Biden pressed Abbas to condemn the terror attack, Abbas refused, and "offered condolences" instead.
Force, 29, of Lubbock, Texas, had served with the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn (Iraq), and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). His wife was also severely injured in the attack outside Jaffa.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has a reputation for maintaining a blatant anti-Israel bias. Gross violators of human rights often serve on the Council, devoting a disproportionate amount of attention to alleged Israeli human rights abuses without substantive discussion dedicated towards other nations with far worse records.
Marking the Council's 70th anniversary on May 17, Hillel Neuer – executive director of United Nations Watch – outlined the shocking hypocrisy characterizing the UNHRC in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
While the Council's founders intended for the body to uphold the principle of human dignity for all, Neuer describes how brutal dictators like Libya's ruthless leader Muammar Qaddafi hijacked the UNHRC over the years.
Countries like China and Russia, which frequently stifle dissent and freedom of speech, have been exempt from a single resolution or special session. Instead, both countries sit on the Council.
"In Saudi Arabia, women are subjugated, Christians are arrested for practicing their religion, democracy blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes, and beheadings are at an all time high," Neuer said. "The Council's response? Silence. A recent attempt to investigate Saudi Arabia's carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians was quashed. On the contrary: Saudi Arabia, too, was elected a member."
Neuer continued to outline blatant human rights abuses associated with countries such as Algeria, Congo, Cuba, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela – all of which were elected as Council members. In fact, 62 percent of current UNHRC member states fail to meet the minimum standards to be considered free societies. There are fewer democracies on the committee than ever.
Instead of focusing on real human rights abuses, the Commission's rights violators devote much of their time to praising each other. Neuer recalled being present when China commended Saudi Arabia for respecting religious freedom and the following day Saudi Arabia praised China for upholding minority rights.
Beyond self-praise, the UNHRC focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on condemning the world's sole Jewish state.
"Despite the promise of ending selectivity, the Council's pathological obsession with demonizing Israelis, and denying their human rights, has never been worse. Since its creation, the Council has adopted 67 resolutions condemning Israel—and only 61 on the rest of the world combined," confirmed Heuer.
Now, the Council instituted a U.N. black-list of Israeli businesses, adopting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to punish Israel's economy and its citizens.
While Neuer applauded U.S. officials and ambassadors for calling out UNHRC hypocrisy, real reform of this U.N. body is unlikely to be realized in the foreseeable future.
Read Neuer's remarks here.
Norwegian police arrested a former Syrian al-Qaida fighter who sought asylum in Norway, the UK's Daily Express reports.
Police arrested the 26-year-old man Friday at an asylum center after officers received a search warrant. Anne Karoline, a lawyer representing the Norwegian police, confirmed the arrest but could not provide further details concerning the indictment. Her client admitted to being a former operative of Jabhat al-Nusra – al-Qaeda's branch in Syria – when he sought asylum in 2015, Karoline said.
The suspect came to Norway with his underage brother and denies any wrongdoing. Norwegian police are trying to keep the former al-Qaida fighter in custody for a month.
Many critics of Europe's refugee policy argue that radical jihadist organizations, including the Islamic State and al-Qaida, could attempt to infiltrate the West by planting operatives among waves of Middle Eastern refugees.
In a December 2015 white paper, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) explored gaps in the American Immigration system which could enable terrorists to enter the country as refuges, to apply for asylum once in the U.S., or to enter as passport holders from the 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program.
Weaknesses in the U.S. system include the tendency to offer refugees and asylum seekers the benefit of the doubt in their accounts of their plight and background; the rapid speed with which lawful permanent resident status is granted to asylees and refugees; the problems that arise concerning refugees who cannot provide documentation of their birth dates; inconsistency in the vetting process; and inadequacies featured in various application forms.
Click here to read the IPT's white paper and its recommendations.
Palestinian terrorist groups continue to exploit Israel's relaxation of Gaza's naval blockade to smuggle weapons meant to strike the Jewish state, Israel's domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, said in a Times of Israel report.
Israel's Navy detained a Hamas-affiliated operative last month, accused of smuggling weapons and outlawed building materials into the Gaza Strip. Under interrogation, Salim Jamal Hassan Naman admitted that he helped smuggle in "materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin," Shin Bet said.
In April, Israel allowed Gaza's boats to operate up to nine nautical miles from the shores, extending the permitted distance from six miles. Naman was detained after deviating beyond the new threshold. Though the operative is most closely aligned with Hamas, he acknowledged that the smuggling operation involved supplying weapons to various Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Naman also revealed Hamas' plans to exploit Gazan fisherman as a "camouflage" for the group's terrorist operations.
"The information revealed in this interrogation, along with the interrogations of the other Hamas terror operatives who have been arrested recently, reveal another aspect of the numerous efforts made by Hamas in order to prepare itself for advancing its violent terrorist actions. This time, it's through taking advantage of the relief provided by Israel for the population of Gazan fisherman," the Shin Bet said.
Hamas continues to focus its efforts on enhancing its terrorist capabilities to confront Israel militarily and terrorize its population. Instead of utilizing the extra nautical miles off the coast to the benefit of Gazan fisherman, Hamas squanders the opportunity to improve the Strip's economic situation. Whether by rebuilding its underground tunnel infrastructure or exploiting naval smuggling opportunities, Hamas clearly prioritizes its violent Jihad against Israel over the well-being of its citizens.
The University of Michigan's public radio group – Michigan Radio – denied one of its donors the ability to wish Israel a "Happy 68th Birthday" to mark the country's independence on air, reports Deadline Detroit.
Lisa Lis and her husband, Hannan Lis, donate $40 per month to the radio station, allowing the couple to sponsor a day's broadcast to have a message read on air six times.
Michigan Radio claims that it is "the state's most listened-to public radio services... with a broadcast signal that reaches 80% of Michigan's population."
Initially, the radio station claimed it could not air the Israel birthday wish because it required notice two months in advances. Then the station admitted to rejecting the message because it "could imply advocacy."
"We have determined that this message would compromise the station's commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy," wrote Alison Warren, associate director of development, in an April 26 email.
Lisa Lis was baffled such a simple message was seen as too political.
"It's sad. There's plenty anti- Israel messages out there, and they won't allow something for Israel," she said.
The couple argued their point in several emails, forcing the station to revise its policy on such issues to "make it clearer for individuals."
When pressed, the station said it would not allow birthday wishes to other countries.
"The answer to your question about whether or not we would allow a 'Happy Birthday Norway' is no. . . We would not air such a message. Harmless as it may seem, it forces us to make the choice between which countries or political bodies are worthy of on-air recognition and which are not," wrote Michigan Radio development director Larry Jonas.
The station's earlier response argued that offering well wishes to Israel "would compromise the station's commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy." It is difficult to fathom a similar situation unfolding, however, if Norway was replaced with Israel in this context.
While dozens of countries remain embroiled in political conflicts, the level of scrutiny surrounding anything Israel related, even a basic "Happy Birthday," is unparalleled.