Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) and Hizballah trained Bahraini Shiite terrorists in camps near Damascus. Dissident Syrian military officers told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat that the Assad regime and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) supervised the training.
Iran's embassy in Damascus provided logistical and material support for the terrorist training. IRGC Quds Force leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani also reportedly was involved.
The Bahraini terrorist trainees reportedly were taught to manufacture and use explosives. The training took place in regime-held territory near Damascus because Western and Arab intelligence operatives are well established in Iraq and Lebanon. Previous training by Hizballah took place in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Bahraini terrorists have been trained in in this way since 2008, in groups ranging from 15 to 30 fighters, a dissident Syrian officer told Al-Hayat. "They are moving to follow up with other courses in Lebanon and Iran."
Iran has been involved in destabilizing Bahrain, its Persian Gulf neighbor. Bahraini officials arrested more than 116 people on terrorism charges and for plotting attacks on government officials in March. They accused the IRGC of being behind this Bahraini terrorist network. Iran should annex Bahrain and turned into a province, IRGC commander Gen. Saeed Qasemi said in 2016.
Last month, Bahraini authorities detained 169 people, accusing them of trying to form "Bahrain's Hizballah" in collaboration with Iranian intelligence.
Bahraini youths were sent to the Shiite holy city of Qom in Iran under the pretext of their undertaking a religious pilgrimage. From there then were sent to join camps run by the IRGC. Iran's leadership pressured Assad to let them train the Bahrainis in Syria to evade detection by foreign intelligence services.
This is the latest example of Iran using Syria as a base to exert its power in the region.
Although Turkey and Russia agreed last month to "withdraw" all jihadist groups from Syria's Idlib Province, a former Turkish National Police official warns that Turkey may use al-Qaida-tied Syrian fighters against Syria's Kurds.
Turkey's MIT intelligence agency started cultivating relations with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in 2014, Ahmet Yayla told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). MIT used Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) as an intermediary to arm the al-Qaida terrorists.
Yayla was chief of counterterrorism in the city of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border and now teaches at Georgetown University and MIT. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan replaced all of his counterterrorism police chiefs in 2014 and ordered intelligence operations against al-Qaida be stopped.
"Anyone who is saying that Erdogan, AKP and al-Qaida are enemies are making a huge mistake," Yayla said. "They don't like democracy, but they see that Erdogan is the best way for them to reach their objectives."
So far, HTS refuses to withdraw from Idlib, but Yayla believes the Turkish army will coerce it into laying down its arms. Erdogan likely will incorporate former HTS jihadists into the forces he will use against the Kurds because he wants to create a buffer area controlled by men loyal to Turkey. Erdogan has already warned that Turkey will cleanse northern Syria of Kurdish militiamen linked to the Marxist PKK. Turkey seized control of the formerly Kurdish-held Afrin area in northwestern Syria earlier this year.
"It is logical for HTS to work with Turkey otherwise the Russians are going to crush them," Yayla said. "Eventually they are going to give in."
Members of the jihadist-dominated Free Syrian Army (FSA) appear ready to attack the Kurds further east in the city of Manbij from adjacent Turkish-held areas, Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) member Bassam Ishak told the IPT. U.S. troops currently are stationed in Manbij. The SDC is the political arm of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that works closely with the U.S. military against ISIS in eastern Syria.
"This has been the model. Using Syrian and foreign jihadis with the logistics and support of the Turkish military to conquer Syrian land, so we are concerned about that for sure," Ishak said.
Sunni Arab jihadists will form the backbone of future operations against the Kurds in eastern Syria, Yayla said.
It is plausible that some former HTS fighters may be used against the Kurds, but terrorism researcher Kyle Orton doubts they will be employed in areas where American troops are stationed.
Turkey's ultimate goal is to divide HTS and liquidate elements that refuse reconciliation, Orton said, suggesting that the U.S. mediate between the PKK and Turkey to defuse the situation and block Russia from chipping away at NATO in the process.
Hizballah hackers used 'catfishing' techniques on social media to infiltrate mobile devices worldwide, according to a Monday release from the Czech Security Intelligence Service (BIS), as reported by Radio Praha (Prague).
Hizballah operatives posed as attractive women on Facebook to seduce users into downloading a "more private and secure application."
Those who installed the application gave the hackers access to sensitive information such as GPS data, photographs, contacts, and communications. The hackers could also secretly enable the recording function on a particular mobile device and spy on the target.
The cyber-attacks originated from the Middle East, the BIS press release said, and focused on targets across Europe and the United States.
The Czech intelligence service revealed that it cooperated with international partners to identify and disarm servers used in this particular case of Hizballah's cyber espionage campaign.
"The Czech Republic has traditionally been considered as an ally of Israel and the United States in this field and in the past we have seen many Czech activities against Hizballah," said Miroslav Mares, professor of international politics at Masrayk University. "In the previous decade, Czech diplomacy struggled for the addition of this organization [Hizballah] into the so called 'EU terrorist list'."
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas also has used fake dating applications on several occasions, as recently as this past summer, in an attempt to seduce Israeli soldiers and install spyware on their phones.
In July, a senior intelligence official told YNet News discussed how Israel "identified a similar method in the January 2017 when the IDF uncovered that a Gazan terrorist group lures soldiers by using fake women's profiles before infecting their phones with spyware."
"The minute the spy software is installed on a smartphone the attackers can hear everything that is going on in the room, have access to each file downloaded on the phone, activate the phone's camera and get the specific location of the phone," explained Nitzan Ziv, vice president of Check Point Software Technologies.
Militant organizations with state-like cyber capabilities will increasingly exploit the cyber domain, among other asymmetric strategies, against their more powerful adversaries. The recent Hizballah case shows that the terrorist group not only targets Israel, but the United States and countries across Europe as well.
The Austrian government is considering outlawing a four-fingered salute representing support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan popularized it and began using it after Egypt's military toppled the Brotherhood in 2013.
Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers around the world use the image on websites, posters and literature. If the ban is approved, anyone in Austria who flashes the salute could be fined $4,600.
It also has been used by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the United States, including members of Egyptian Americans for Freedom and Justice (EAFJ) and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official Mohamed Elibiary.
Erdogan's role in popularizing the gesture seems to be driving the Austrian ban. It also would outlaw a wolf-head like salute used by the pro-Erdogan Turkish fascist group the Grey Wolves. Its most infamous member, Mehmet Ali Agca, tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Wolves have become some of Erdogan's greatest non-Islamist supporters and aim to unify all Turkic peoples in Turkey across and throughout Central Asia into a single nation.
It was the only group besides Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that backed constitutional changes allowing him to consolidate power.
So far Turkey hasn't responded.
Relations between Austria and Turkey have become tense due to reports that Erdogan's intelligence agency, the MIT, spied on Erdogan's enemies in Austria. In February 2017, a member of Austria's Green Party alleged that an umbrella organization headed by the Turkish embassy's religious attaché had carried out spy operations in Austrian mosques.
Turkey was inserting "unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria," said Green Party member Peter Pilz.
Austria closed seven Turkish-linked mosques in June due to concerns over political Islam. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz complained about "parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation." The Turks responded by accusing the Austrians of racism. The imams were paid by Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, also called the Diyanet. It has a close relationship with Turkey's MIT intelligence agency.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Qadri Abu Bakr, who directs the Palestine Liberation Organization's Commission of Prisoners' Affairs, recently issued a defiantly assurance that they won't end payments to terrorists and their families despite international pressure.
Bakr "emphasized that the leadership ... will continue to support the resolve of the prisoners and their families and will not succumb to the Israeli and American pressures calling to stop the Martyrs' (Shahids) and prisoners' salaries (rawatib) and allowances (mukhassasat)," reports the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida and translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
Bakr's sentiment mirrors Abbas'.
"By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will only be spent on the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people," Abbas said on official PA TV in July, adding that "martyrs and prisoners" are "stars in the sky" and that these terrorists "have priority in everything."
These statements reaffirm that Palestinians convicted of attacking Israelis take precedent over all over sectors of Palestinian society. In fact, terrorists and their families receive far higher payments than welfare recipients.
The amount of money paid to imprisoned or released terrorists depends on the length of sentence, which is a function of an action's severity. The more brutal the attack or murder, the more money a Palestinian prisoner receives.
Despite growing international pressure to halt this practice, roughly half of the foreign aid that the PA receives is allocated for payments to terrorist inmates and the "families of martyrs."
The Palestinian government spends $355 million annually on terrorist salaries, about 7.5 percent of the PA's budget, a PMW analysis shows.
This form of Palestinian incitement is one of the main reasons the Trump administration has taken specific measures against the Palestinian Liberation Organization in recent weeks. In mid-September, the administration revoked residency permits for the family of the PLO's envoy to the United States and reportedly shut down all PLO bank accounts in the country. The White House announced the closure of the PLO office in Washington a week earlier.
Canada's Revenue Agency (CRA) has suspended the Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada), the Global News reports.
Federal auditors say ISNA-Canada "failed to conduct any meaningful due diligence" for $136,000 it sent to an Islamist charity about a decade ago that may have gone into the hands of a terrorist group operating in the conflict-ridden Kashmir region.
Although the findings from the 2011 audit were communicated to ISNA-Canada in 2014, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) only sanctioned the organization on Sept. 5, the report said.
The one-year suspension took effect Sept. 12 and includes a $550,000 penalty.
During 2007-09, ISNA-Canada "gifted" $90,000 to the Relief Organization of Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM). ROKM is the "charitable arm" of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Pakistan and its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen, is a designated terrorist group in the United States and Europe. JI is a South Asian Islamist movement that seeks to promote a rigid interpretation of Islam in the U.S. and other secularly-government nations. Its leaders have defended terrorists and rationalized attacks against Western targets.
The audited records showed that ISNA-Canada gave an additional $46,000 to the Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada that CRA earlier alleged raised money for ROKM.
According to the Global News, top Canadian officials have visited ISNA-Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke there in 2013 and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was photographed there in April 2017.
"Providing resources to organizations operating in support of a political purpose, including the achievement of nationhood or political autonomy, are not recognized at law as charitable," CRA documents obtained by Global News said.
"In addition, Canada's public policy recognizes that the tax advantages of charitable registration should not be extended to organizations whose resources may have been made available, knowingly or unknowingly, to a terrorist entity."
CRA has acted against ISNA-Canada before. ISNA's Islamic Services of Canada and ISNA Development Foundation lost its charitable status after audits revealed possible funding to the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Lawyers representing ISNA-Canada acknowledge that "not all of its practices may have been in complete compliance," but pin the blame on "unauthorized actions" by a former secretary-general who resigned in 2011.
Corporate records show that ISNA-Canada was the "Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)" until October 2014, when it changed its name to "Islamic Society of North America Canada." ISNA is a leading Muslim Brotherhood group in North America and its conferences routinely feature rhetoric in support of terrorist groups and other radicalism.
A violent South Asia Islamist group reportedly is part of a secret plot to undermine Bangladesh's government and pave the way for the country's former supreme court chief justice to take control.
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB) has a "secret verbal agreement" with Surendra Kumar Sinha to fund a campaign "getting Justice Sinha international media exposure," the Weekly Blitz reports. Sinha, the first Hindu to occupy Bangladesh's top judicial post, left the country following allegations of money laundering and graft and later tendered his resignation from overseas.
The report comes in advance of a visit to Washington, D.C. next month by JIB assistant secretary Abdur Razzaq, a Bangladeshi lawyer living in self-exile in the United Kingdom. As I reported along with Middle East Forum's Sam Westrop earlier this week, Razzaq is expected to meet with members of Congress and with think-tanks.
According to the Blitz, Razzaq planned to use Sinha's recently published autobiography to trigger a "mass revolt" against the Bangladeshi government which ultimately would force it from power, opening the door for Sinha's return.
"JIB policymakers are considering Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha as their 'tramp (sic) card' and would use him in appraising American policymakers and top jurists on the 'current situation' in Bangladesh. Members of JIB in the US also are trying to buy airtime in several television channels for airing interview of Justice Sinha," the Blitz said.
The article also detailed ties between a former top Jamaat financier Mir Quasem Ali and Islamist NGOs, including the Saudi-funded Rabita al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League), a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated quasi government religious organization established in 1962 to propagate Saudi "Wahhabi" Islam.
Ali was hanged in 2016 after Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal convicted him of crimes related to Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence, including abducting and killing a teenager who supported independence. Razzaq had helped Ali hire a lobbying firm for an upfront payment of $500,000 to influence American lawmakers against the war crimes tribunal. Razzaq promised to pay an additional $2.5 million once Ali was released from prison.
Ali's brother, Mir Masum Ali, is an executive board member for the JI-tied Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA). A 2010 picnic hosted by MUNA featured Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, JI's then-assistant secretary general, as the guest of honor. Kamaruzzaman was sentenced to death in 2013 for his role in the murder of 120 unarmed farmers.
Parents of some San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) students lost their bid to get a federal judge to inhibit it from working with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) filed a motion for preliminary injunction on their behalf in March.
School board officials voted in April 2017 to enter into a formal partnership with CAIR but modified its plan three months later. At their July meeting, the board voted to move away from a formal partnership with CAIR and establish an intercultural committee comprised of people from different religions and communities instead. FCDF called this a "religious gerrymander" built around CAIR.
It claimed that the school district's anti-bullying/anti-Islamophobia program violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and California state law in its motion. Parents also claimed their children suffered "irreparable harm" from favoritism shown to Muslim students.
Federal Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled Tuesday that they failed to meet the burden of proof for their objection to obtain the injunction. She wrote that the parents had not shown they were subjected to "irreparable harm" from the policy.
Bashant ruled that California's No Aid Clause never has been interpreted to "require governmental hostility to religion, nor to prohibit a religious institution from receiving an indirect, remote and incidental benefit when there exists 'a secular primary purpose.'"
She also shot down FCDF's claim that the school district placed "taxpayer money under the direction of a sectarian organization" because it did not provide evidence that CAIR directed the SDUSD's use of funds. Her ruling described the acquisition of the CAIR-recommended textbooks was consistent with California's No Aid Clause. District officials contradicted the FCDF's claim that the school district did not provide instructional materials that "address all major world religions."
Bashant noted there is no evidence to support Plaintiffs' belief that the District "lavishes" Muslim students with "benefits" not received by students of other religions.
"...[T]he Revised Policy largely blunts Plaintiffs' claims about unequal benefit or unequal benefit or 'special treatment' for Muslim students," Bashant wrote.
Her ruling says that the Establishment Clause was not violated because the Islamophobia curriculum served a secular purpose of deterring bullying. It also upheld the school district's use of the CAIR report to justify the creation of the anti-Islamophobia curriculum, saying that it was not a case in which "significant, admitted flaws in methodology" undermine the existence of a compelling interest." This was even though district statistics show that only two students in the entire school district were bullied because they were Muslim.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invited Nihad Awad, the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) executive director, to meet with them in New York during this week's U.N. General Assembly meeting.
"It's not about photo ops for me," Awad wrote on Twitter. "It's about real issues and people's lives. Please engage and tell me what issues and questions I should raise."
"...[It] makes you wonder what Awad gets in return from Erdogan's government," said exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, who noted Erdogan has jailed 60,000 opponents.
While Awad has been warm toward Turkey and Erdogan, his relations with Iran have been different. He attended a 2009 meeting with then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but skipped similar meetings with Hassan Rouhani in protest of Iran's support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. He apparently lambasted Rouhani during a 2016 meeting, blaming Iran for Syrian bloodshed and denouncing Iran for promoting sectarianism.
Erdogan will be in New York until Thursday. He spoke over the weekend at several events sponsored by the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC).
His son-in-law, Turkey's Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, joined Erdogan at a speech he gave Sunday to TASC supporters, the Turkish news website Haberler.com reported. Hacked emails from TASC leaders showed they gave Albayrak regular updates about their work and were interviewed by the FBI on suspicion they were engaged in political espionage on behalf of Erdogan. One such email from former TASC co-chairman Ibrahim Uyar to Albayrak described a July 2016 White House rally against the Turkish coup attempt that he organized. Awad and other American Islamist leaders participated in that rally, which also was sponsored by TASC.
Politics is the means for Muslims to convey their demands to decision makers, Erdogan said in Sunday's speech. That includes Muslims in the United States.
"American Muslims have an interest in the nearing elections, which is positive news. At the end of the elections we hope to see many of our brothers in decision-making positions. We are ready to exchange our experience as Turkey," Erdogan said.
Syrian jihadists belonging to al-Qaida's former Syrian affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) oppose a Turkish-Russian agreement to establish a demilitarized buffer zone around the country's Idlib province. This area in northwestern Syria remains the last area west of the Euphrates River outside the control of the Assad regime and its allies. HTS and other smaller rival jihadist factions dominate the province.
President Trump warned Bashar al-Assad earlier this month not to invade the province, saying it would be a "human tragedy." Clashes seemed imminent between Russia, Syria, Iran and the jihadists and triggered fears that millions of additional refugees might flood into Turkey.
Had Assad's troops intervened, they also could have risked accidental clashes with Turkish troops stationed in Idlib. Turkey promised to crackdown on HTS and other jihadists. Numerous Uighur and Chechen foreign fighters are in the province.
An HTS commander who identified himself as "Abu al-Fath al-Fergali" told the Syrian news website Enab Baladi that surrendering his weapon would be "treason" to his religion.
Zaid al-Attar, former head of HTS's political office, also rejected disarming because fighting provided "the only guarantee to the realization of the revolution's aims of attaining dignity and freedom." HTS's enemies only understand force, he said.
HTS has a high-stakes game ahead of it to keep from splintering. If it looks too weak, it could lose fighters to groups that are even more hard line such as the remnants of ISIS and al-Qaida's current affiliate Hurras al-Deen.
Turkey warned HTS and other jihadist groups they should disband or face elimination. Thus far, HTS has resisted those calls. The Assad regime has used HTS's existence as an excuse for carrying out a scorched earth policy.
The Turks and Russians plan to use drones to patrol the buffer area. Rebel groups that cooperate with Turkey and Russia will not be attacked, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.
Stratfor predicts that the Assad regime and Iran could also eventually challenge the deal because they are motivated to weaken Russia's relationship with Turkey.