Posts Tagged ‘terrorists’

UAE Says Will Not Back Down in Dispute if Qatar Declines to Cooperate

June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates, one of four Arab countries embroiled in a political dispute with Qatar, said on Friday it would not back down if Doha does not engage with demands that include requiring it to curb ties with Iran.

The countries’ ultimatum to Doha includes closing Al Jazeera television, curbing ties with Iran, shutting a Turkish base and paying reparations, demands so far-reaching it would appear to be hard for Doha to comply.

“This is our list of demands from Qatar. They’re (demands) are all important. This is a consistent pattern of behavior that affects all of us,” the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, told Reuters. “We would hope that Qatar reacts by engaging and not by leaking documents and trying to have this litigated in public.”

If Qatar does not engage, “things will stay at the status quo, things will stay as they are,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, which they accuse of funding terrorism, fomenting regional unrest and drawing too close to their enemy, Iran.

Qatar rejects those accusations and says it is being punished for straying from its neighbors’ backing for authoritarian hereditary and military rulers.

Otaiba also accused Qatar of leaking the 13-point list of demands, an accusation made by UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier on Friday.

Image result for UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, photos

UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs AnwarGargash

Asked to respond to accusations by UAE officials that Qatar had leaked the document, the Qatar embassy in Washington did not comment.

The UAE has said sanctions could last for years. Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, says the sanctions amount to a “blockade,” but it has ample reserves to weather the storm.

Washington, which is a close military ally of countries on both sides of the dispute, had called for a resolution. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Qatar’s neighbors should make their demands “reasonable and actionable”.

The dispute is a test for the United States, which has a large base in Qatar that is home to the headquarters of its Middle East air power and 11,000 troops.

(Reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)


 (Includes links to earlier Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

UAE warns Qatar over neighbours’ demands

June 23, 2017


© AFP | A general view of the road near the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia which has cut ties with Doha along with its allies

ABU DHABI (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates on Friday warned of “divorce” with Qatar unless it takes seriously a list of demands including the closure of Al-Jazeera television, as a diplomatic crisis drags on.Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs, issued the warning more than two weeks into the oil-rich region’s worst crisis in years.

The affair has also drawn in the United States, whose Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for Gulf unity.

Qatar is the world’s leading LNG exporter and hosts the biggest American airbase in the Middle East.

Gargash accused Qatar of leaking a document containing the demands by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which have cut diplomatic ties and accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism.

Qatar strongly denies such charges.

The demands have not been officially unveiled but Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel said overnight Thursday they were handed to Qatar by Kuwait, which is mediating the dispute.

According to the document posted on social media, the four countries demand that Qatar closes Al-Jazeera, downgrades diplomatic ties with Iran and shuts a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The list of demands has not been officially confirmed.

“The leak (of the demands by Qatar) is an attempt to abort the mediation in a childish act that we have grown accustomed to from our brother,” Gargash wrote on Twitter.?

“It would be wiser that (Qatar) deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbours or a divorce will take place,” he said.

The demands confirm that “the crisis is profound,” Gargash added.

Qatar faces a choice of either stability and prosperity, or isolation, he said.

“Perhaps the solution is in parting ways.”

Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

— US ‘mystified’ —

On June 5, Saudi Arabia and the UAE led a severing of all links with Qatar for allegedly supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, “that aim to destabilise the region”.

Other allies, including Egypt and Bahrain, followed.

Saudi Arabia regularly accuses Iran, its regional rival, of interference throughout the Middle East.

As well as cutting diplomatic ties, Qatar’s neighbours closed their air space to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirates’ only land border, vital for its food imports.

The list of 13 demands circulating on social media also says Qatar must cut ties to extremists including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Qatar is also required to hand over opposition figures wanted by its three neighbours and Egypt.

In addition to Al-Jazeera, it must shut online information sites that it supports, according to the reported demands.

“The brother (Qatar) must realise that the solution for its crisis lies not in Tehran or Beirut or Ankara or Western capitals or in media outlets, but in regaining the trust of its neighbours,” Gargash said.

“It is not possible to accept that the brother continues as the Trojan horse” in the Gulf or as a funder and “platform for an extremist agenda”, he added.

Earlier this week, a foreign diplomat told AFP the crisis had reached a “stalemate” and “won’t end soon”.

Tillerson said on Wednesday that Washington had been pushing for a clear list of grievances that are “reasonable and actionable”.

“Our role has been to encourage the parties to get their issues on the table, clearly articulated, so that those issues can be addressed and some resolution process can get underway to bring this to a conclusion,” he said.

His spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday the United States was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.

US President Donald Trump, however, has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia in the crisis.


 (Includes links to earlier Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)


Gulf states issue demands to end Qatar boycott — Compensation — 13-point list — 10 Days to comply

June 23, 2017


Bandar al-Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP | Saudi King Salman (L) with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha on December 6, 2016.


Latest update : 2017-06-23

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis.

They insist that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.

Qatari officials in Doha did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. But the list included conditions that the gas-rich nation had already insisted would never be met, including shutting down Al-Jazeera. Qatar’s government has said it won’t negotiate until Arab nations lift their blockade. The demands were also likely to elicit Qatari objections that its neighbors are trying to dictate its sovereign affairs by imposing such far-reaching requirements.

Only a day earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned the demands must be “reasonable and actionable.” The U.S. issued that litmus test amid frustration at how long it was taking Saudi Arabia and others to formalize a list of demands, complicating U.S. efforts to bring about a resolution to the worst Gulf diplomatic crisis in years.

Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the Mideast & is the staging ground for US missions against . 

Photo published for Qatar hosts largest US military base in Mideast

Qatar hosts largest US military base in Mideast

As Saudi Arabia, along with a growing list of other countries, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, it called on its allies to cease all travel and transport with its neighbor.

According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.

They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.

Qatar vehemently denies funding or supporting extremism. But the country acknowledges that it allows members of some extremist groups such as Hamas to reside in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue with those groups is key to resolving global conflicts.

Qatar’s neighbors have also accused it of backing al-Qaida and the Islamic State group’s ideology throughout the Middle East. Those umbrella groups also appear on the list of entities whose ties with Qatar must be extinguished, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the al-Qaida branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

More broadly, the list demands that Qatar align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional club that has focused on countering the influence of Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations have accused Qatar of inappropriately close ties to Iran, a Shiite-led country and Saudi Arabia’s regional foe.


The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.

Cutting ties to Iran would prove incredibly difficult. Qatar shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran which supplies the small nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup its wealth.

Image result for al jazeera, building, qatar, photos

Not only must Qatar shut down the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, the list says, but also all of its affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al-Jazeera’s English-language sister network.

Supported by Qatar’s government, Al-Jazeera is one of the most widely watched Arabic channels, but it has long drawn the ire of Mideast governments for airing alternative viewpoints. The network’s critics say it advances Qatar’s goals by promoting Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood that pose a populist threat to rulers in other Arab countries.

The list also demands that Qatar stop funding a host of other news outlets including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye.

If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.


 (Includes links to Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

SE Asian nations commit to cohesive approach to terrorism, militants

June 22, 2017


By Neil Jerome Morales and Manuel Mogato | MANILA/MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES

The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed on Thursday to pool intelligence and tackle militant financing as fears grow that protracted fighting in a southern Philippine town could be the prelude to an Islamic State infiltration of the region.

Foreign ministers and defense officials of the three neighboring countries agreed to work together to share information, track communications and crack down on the flow of arms, fighters and money, amid what experts says is the biggest security threat facing Southeast Asia in decades.

Despite signs that the rebels battling government forces in Marawi City were on the back foot, authorities are worried that the fighting – now in its fifth week – might be the beginning of a wave of violence as the ultra-radical Islamic State group tries to establish a foothold.

Militants holed up in Marawi were cornered and their firepower was flagging, the military said on Thursday, estimating the number of remaining fighters at just over 100, and all within a 1 square kilometer area.

Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told the meeting the that extremism needed an immediate response, and constant engagement between the three countries that must be a “cohesive unit”.

“This is an urgent task that we need to undertake as clearly evidenced through the current situation in Marawi,” he said.

“This means our enforcement agencies must constantly engage with one another, not only in intelligence sharing but new active and innovative measures.”

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have launched joint patrols to control militant movements across their archipelagic region.

Smoke billows are seen as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over parts of Marawi city, Philippines June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

But experts point to how they have previously failed to work together to prevent festering militancy and banditry from worsening, plagued as they are by mistrust, dormant territorial disputes and limited capabilities.

The Philippines in particular is widely seen as the weaker link.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday’s meeting aimed to revisit existing security programs between the three and draw up a plan to strengthen and implement them.


His country was now a clear target for extremists, he said, and the region only needed to look at how quickly Islamic State, or ISIS, managed to recruit fighters and carve out strongholds in Iraq and Syria

“These jihadists will be looking for land bases or areas outside Iraq and Syria,” Cayetano told reporters.

“Everyone has their vulnerability, no one is perfect.

“If other countries have nationals in Marawi and Mindanao and are extremists, they are as much a threat to their home country as here.”

A Philippine officer, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Tampus, said troops were blocking escape routes out of Marawi and rebels were hemmed-in and using civilians dressed in black as human shields.

“Our forces are coming from the east and the north and we are blocking the three bridges,” he said.

Tampus said the militant snipers were firing from “strategic nests” in schools and mosques, and their bombs were hampering his troops’ operations.

Malaysia is worried that militants could flee to its eastern state of Sabah.

Malaysia has a wanted list that includes two militants who spearheaded the attempt to capture Marawi.

They are a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, Isnilon Hapilon, who was proclaimed by Islamic State last year as its “emir” of Southeast Asia, and Abdullah Maute, whose followers accounted for a large number of the estimated 400-500 fighters who overran parts of Marawi, killing Christians and taking dozens of civilians hostage.

According to official estimates, 369 people have been killed, three-quarters of them militants. The number of security forces and civilians killed stood at 67 and 26, respectively.

(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis in MARAWI, Karen Lema in MANILA, Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR; Writing by John Chalmers and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Philippines warns of retaliatory attacks by extremist groups — Fighting in strife-torn Marawi City not yet over

June 21, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to troopers of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Iligan City on May 26, 2017 amid terror attacks in Marawi City. PPD

MANILA, Philippines — Terrorists aligned with ISIS may stage more bombings in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte warned, as he called for vigilance against possible retaliatory attacks by extremist groups.

Duterte said the threats would not disappear even if the fighting in strife-torn Marawi City is over.
“You have to keep watch and control the movements as yet. Just because the fighting has stopped in Marawi, it does not mean that we are already safe. One of these days, they will go into bombings,” the president told reporters in Cagayan de Oro Tuesday night.
“It could start in Mindanao. They are there. There are a lot of motions there. And I just hope that the Moro people would not, you know, do not take it hook, line, and sinker,” he added.
Duterte said a spillover of the Marawi conflict is possible as terrorists may slip to other parts of Mindanao to evade pursuing government forces.
“You know there are places, you have Cotabato, you have Basilan, you have Jolo. Whether you like it or not, the sentiments of a spillover there. Kaya… Besides, they are escaping in all directions in Davao,” the president said.
“The retaliatory moves of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), better keep watch. I’m not saying that it’s happening, but it will happen in the near future because of the inroads of ISIS into Mindanao,” he added.
Asked what he plans to do with the threat posed by the terrorists, Duterte said: “I will deal with them harshly.”
Fighting broke out in the predominantly Muslim city last May 23 after security forces raided a house believed to be the hiding place of wanted terrorist and Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. A total of 268 terrorists, 66 government troopers and 26 civilians have died since the clashes started. About 500 individuals are still trapped in the battle zone while more than 320,000 others have been displaced.
Security officials are no longer setting a timeline for the retaking of Marawi City after repeatedly missing their self-imposed deadlines.
Duterte claimed that the fighting in Marawi is winding up “except for a few snipers left behind.”
“I do not think that it would last a little longer than expected,” the President said.
Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla echoed this, saying  the situation in Marawi “continues to improve.”
“There are areas that we have not covered before that we have already overcome at this moment and the process of clearing is what we are concentrating on in the succeeding days,” Padilla said in a press briefing Wednesday in Malacañang.
While the government wants to put an end to the Marawi siege as soon as possible, Padilla said they would not sacrifice the lives of soldiers just to fast track the clearing operations.
Padilla said they are prioritizing the buildings that are heavily built up or are capable of withstanding bombardments.
“The Armed Forces is also carefully assessing the situation in the outlying areas in preparation for the rehabilitation,” he added.

Duterte cool to offer of armed Christian group


Despite the threats posed by Islamist extremists, the president is cool to the offer of armed Christian group Ilaga to help government forces flush out the terrorists in Marawi.
“I do not think at this time that we have to include the civilian sector. The last thing that I would want to happen is a communal war,” the president said.
“I know that some of the Christians are getting insecure and that is why a lot of them have been looking for heavy firearms…But the offer would only add to the convoluted thing that’s happening now. Let the Armed Forces and the police deal with the problem. I know that they’re capable of doing it,” he added.
Duterte previously warned that a civil war may ensue if the security problems caused by the Maute group is not addressed.


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Philippine President Duterte Says He is Sorry for Martial Law, Destruction of City — Duterte asked for forgiveness

June 20, 2017

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Photo shows an armored personnel carrier of the Marines, covered with pieces of wood to protect it from rocketpropelled grenades, crossing a deserted street after engaging Maute fighters in Marawi City. AFP

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Patawarin n’yo ako sa nangyari.

President Duterte yesterday apologized for declaring martial law and for the destruction to Marawi City brought about by the ongoing conflict between government forces and the Islamic State-inspired Maute terrorists, as he vowed to help the country’s Islamic city rise from the ruins of the nearly month-long fighting.

“I am very sorry na nangyayari na may martial law (that martial law had to happen). Patawarin ninyo ako sa nangyari sa (Forgive me for what happened to) Marawi City,” Duterte told hundreds of internally displaced persons at the National School of Fisheries in Barangay Buru-un, Iligan City.

The President, however, stressed that whatever action the government took in addressing the problem when the notorious militants attempted to seize Marawi City last May 23 was necessary.

Duterte’s visit marked the first time he was able to get into an evacuation center after the crisis started. He has yet to set foot inside the city itself.

As he vowed not to leave Marawi in ruins, Duterte reiterated several times that he takes full responsibility for declaring martial law and having launched a massive military assault, including air strikes and bombardments, against the Maute group, some of whom are still holed up in certain areas of the city.

Tutulungan ko kayo. Hindi ko kayo pababayaan hanggang (I will help you. I will not forsake you until you have) relocation,” the Chief Executive said.

“And we will rehabilitate Marawi. Gaganda ’yan ulit (It will be beautiful again),” Duterte promised the evacuees, adding he would spearhead the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding of the city.

‘Bangon Marawi’

About P20 billion would be allocated for the rehabilitation of affected areas, according to the Chief Executive. The amount is twice as much as the P10-billion rehabilitation budget proposed by the Department of National Defense.

“The President raised the allocation (for Marawi rehabilitation),” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told The STAR in a text message.

An executive order outlining the “Bangon Marawi” reconstruction and rehabilitation plan is awaiting Duterte’s signature.

Duterte likewise vowed that the government would pursue peace in the south. He said continuing talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and establishing a federal government would help solve the long-standing conflict in Mindanao.

The President said that in the next few days, he would endorse to Congress the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was finalized by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission this month.

“I will sign it two days from now. I will push for it in Congress. That’s true. I’m not fooling anyone,” he said.

Averting civil war 

Duterte also warned that a civil war between Christians and Muslims might ensue if the Maute problem is not resolved.

The terrorists, whose operations are funded by illegal drugs, want to replace Moro nationalism with extremism, the President said.

“The strong driving force is to replace nationalism or their issues like the loss of land to ISIS philosophy… It will be chaotic because even the Christians will arm themselves,” he said.

“We won’t allow that to happen because even the civilian will take up arms. It will be a civil war,” he added.

‘Forgive my soldiers’

Duterte also specifically addressed the Maranao people in his apology.

“I am very, very sorry na nangyari ito sa atin (that this happened to us),” the President said.

“Sana kung madaling panahon (I hope it will be soon), you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, ang gobyerno (the government), pati ako (including me) for declaring martial law. Wala akong choice, sinisira na ang Marawi (I have no choice because Marawi is being destroyed).”

Duterte explained that he had to drive the notorious Maute group out of Marawi.

“But, I am very sorry. Pakiabot na lang doon sa mga kapatid nating mga Maranao ang aking paghihinanakit rin sa nangyari na ito (Please extend also to our Maranao brothers that I am also saddened by what is happening),” he said.

The President likewise lamented the time that the Marawi conflict had to take place: the holy month of Ramadan, which is not over yet.

He gave out food and cash assistance to the evacuees in preparation for their breaking the fast when Ramadan ends on Monday, June 26.

In a desire to express his sincerity, Duterte again asked for forgiveness as he ended his talk to the evacuees.

“Patawarin ninyo po kami. Maraming salamat po (Please forgive us. Thank you so much),” he said. – With Alexis Romero



Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia uniting to crush IS

June 20, 2017
/ 02:26 PM June 20, 2017
Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia launch joint anti-ISIS patrols

TARAKAN, Indonesia—What is brewing in Marawi has sent a chilling message to Asean.

The growing influence of the Islamic State (IS) group coupled with a string of kidnappings by insurgent Islamist groups has forced three nations in the Asean bloc to unite and act.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines on Monday deployed warships to patrol the waters plagued by this threat, signaling the start of unprecedented joint patrols by the countries that share borders with one another in the area.

Warships, speedboats and helicopters maneuvered in a coordinated manner in a military drill to salvage a hijacked container vessel. This exercise marked the beginning of joint patrols that kicked off at an Indonesian naval base in the North Kalimantan capital of Tarakan.

Defense ministries and army chiefs from the three countries attended the ceremony. Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, which do not share the border, also sent observers and may take part in future sea patrols.

The patrols are aimed at turning back regional insurgencies that have escalated around the Sulu Sea, located on the border between Malaysia and the Philippines, says Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

Photo: Islamic State affiliates

In the past few years, many ships passing through the Sulu Sea, including several Indonesian ships, have been hijacked by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, an Islamist outfit based in the southern Philippines. The group has demanded money in return for the safety of the detained crews.

There is a sense of urgency in the joint patrols following the alarming collapse of security in the southern Philippines after IS-linked fighters, including some from Indonesia and Malaysia, overran the city of Marawi.

READ: 8 foreign fighters killed in Marawi clash, says Lorenzana

In a bid to fend off the fallout from Marawi and halt the spread of IS in the region, Indonesia inaugurated a maritime command center at the Tarakan naval base, which is close to hot spots in the Sulu Sea and the southern Philippines.

The command center will link up with similar facilities in Tawau in Malaysia’s Sabah state and Bongao in the Philippines. The centers will share intelligence on the movement of terrorist groups and pirates.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said what happened in Marawi should serve as a reminder that Asean must unite in clamping down on IS supporters to prevent them from setting up a base in the region.

“Before they even build their Asian base, we will destroy them,” Ryamizard said.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Tun Hussein said he expected other Southeast Asian countries to participate in more joint patrols in the future to ensure security and safe travel throughout the region.

“Instability in one Asean country will affect all the others,” Hishamuddin said.

Indonesia suspects that foreign fighters involved in the siege of Marawi may have slipped away during the battle with Philippine military forces. It is possible the fighters mingled with evacuees in order to escape.

“We need to watch out for the 500 to 600 terrorists there. We understand 257 of them have been killed, while the rest are blending in with the refugees,” Gatot said.

Asked about the possibility of the militants slipping into Indonesia, Gatot believed they had yet to arrive. He said the TNI would intensify patrols in the border areas with the Philippines to prevent them from entering Indonesia.

“Terrorism has become transnational. The groups are connected. Therefore, efforts in counterterrorism should be held in a coordinated way. If not, we will not succeed,” Gatot said. He added that the three countries had not decided when the coordinated patrols might end.

The National Police have reported that 38 Indonesians, including one woman, are thought to have been involved in the Marawi conflict.

Four were killed and 12 others have been deported by the Philippine government. Meanwhile, 22 others are reportedly still in Marawi.

Indonesia has intensified patrols in the waters from North Sulawesi to North Kalimantan, especially around the outermost islands, which are prone to act as entry points for terrorists and insurgents from the Philippines./rg

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Finsbury Park Mosque: Former hub of radical Islam

June 19, 2017


© AFP / by Alice RITCHIE | The Finsbury Park mosque gained global notoriety as the place where Abu Hamza spouted his anti-American vitriol after the 9/11 attacks

LONDON (AFP) – The Finsbury Park Mosque, which appeared Monday to have been the target of an anti-Muslim terror attack, has fought for years to throw off its reputation as a centre for radical Islamism.The red-brick mosque is famous around the world as the place where hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza spouted his anti-American vitriol after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Worshippers included Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” who plotted to blow up a transatlantic flight, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States over 9/11 — though Hamza always denied knowing them.

After a 2003 raid by police investigating a ricin plot, the Finsbury Park Mosque was shut down — though Hamza had already been forced out by other members, and was reduced to addressing his followers in the street outside.

He was arrested the following year and the mosque reopened in 2005 under a new board of trustees, with a particular goal of encouraging community cohesion.

– Tea and biscuits –

Many local residents gathered outside the Mosque on Monday to show their support for those affected by the attack, in which a man drove a van into pedestrians after evening prayers, leaving one person dead and injuring ten others.

Egyptian-born Hamza — whose hands were blown off by an explosives experiment in Pakistan — controlled the mosque from 1997 to early 2003, and for years after many terror investigations in Britain were traced back to his influence.

When he was jailed for seven years in 2006 for inciting murder and racial hatred, the judge said the father-of-nine used his authority to encourage worshippers that killing was a religious duty.

Hamza was later extradited to the United States and jailed for life there in 2015 for playing a key role in the 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, four of whom were killed, and in trying to set up a US terror training camp in 1999.

The new trustees have fought hard to clear the mosque’s name, and in 2015 opened its doors as part of a nationwide initiative to improve cross-community relations following terror attacks in Paris.

Annalou Oakland, an 67-year-old artist who lives nearby, was one of those who visited for tea and biscuits.

“There was big fear around this particular mosque in the past and it’s really good to hear what they’re doing and to meet people one on one,” she told AFP at the time.

“Ten years ago it was different. Since then we’ve worked tirelessly to open our centre, our mosque, our activities to the public,” Khalid Oumar, one of the mosque trustees, had said.

The mosque nonetheless received a string of threatening emails and letters in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Authorities had also warned of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes across London after the London Bridge attack on June 3.

“Our community is in shock, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been affected by this,” Mohammed Kozbar, the mosque’s chairman, said Monday.

by Alice RITCHIE

Facebook Boosts AI to Block Terrorist Propaganda

June 16, 2017

New software is tasked with identifying videos, photos, language and users that need to be removed, at times without human moderators.

The Facebook logo is displayed on their website in an illustration photo taken in Bordeaux, France, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau


Updated June 15, 2017 3:57 p.m. ET

Under intense political pressure to better block terrorist propaganda on the internet, Facebook Inc. is leaning more on artificial intelligence.

The social-media firm said Thursday that it has expanded its use of A.I. in recent months to identify potential terrorist postings and accounts on its platform—and at times to delete or block them without review by a human.

In the past, Facebook and other tech giants relied mostly on users and human moderators to identify offensive content. Even when algorithms flagged content for removal, these firms generally turned to humans to make a final call.

Companies have sharply boosted the volume of content they have removed in the last two years, but these efforts haven’t proven effective enough to tamp down a groundswell of criticism from governments and advertisers. They have accused Facebook, Google parent Alphabet Inc. and others of complacency over the proliferation of inappropriate content — in particular, posts or videos deemed as extremist propaganda or communication — on their social networks.

In response, Facebook disclosed new software that it says it is using to better police its content. One tool, in use for several months now, combs the site for known terrorist imagery, like beheading videos, in order to stop them from being reposted, executives said Thursday. Another set of algorithms attempts to identify — and sometimes autonomously block — propagandists from opening new accounts after they have already been kicked off the platform. Another experimental tool uses A.I. that has been trained to identify language used by terrorist propagandists.

“When it comes to imagery related to terrorism, context is everything,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management. “For us, technology is an important part of flagging it. People are invaluable in understanding that context.”

Facebook says that it sends all ambiguous removals to humans to review — and is hiring large numbers of new content moderators to go through it. But the firm’s new moves reflect a growing willingness to trust machines when it comes to thorny tasks like distinguishing inappropriate content from satire or news coverage — something firms resisted after a spate of attacks just two years ago as a potential threat to free speech.

One factor in the changed approach, executives say, has been the improved ability of algorithms to identify unambiguously terrorist content in some cases, while referring other content for human review.

“Our A.I. can know when it can make a definitive choice, and when it can’t make a definitive choice,” said Brian Fishman, lead policy manager for counterterrorism at Facebook. “That’s something new.”

Another factor in the fresh A.I. push: intense pressure from advertisers and governments, particularly in Europe. British Prime Minister Theresa May ratcheted up complaints this month in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in the U.K. Just days before a general election, meanwhile, the campaigns for both of Britain’s two main parties pulled political ads from Alphabet’s YouTube video-sharing site after being alerted those ads were appearing before extremist content.

Germany earlier this year proposed a bill that could fine firms up to EUR50 million ($56 million) for failing to remove fake news or hate speech — including terrorist content. The U.K. and France published a counterterrorism action plan this week that calls on tech giants to go beyond deleting content that is flagged, and instead identify it beforehand to prevent publication.

“There have been promises made. They are insufficient,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Facebook has already rolled out software to identify other questionable content such as child pornography and fake news stories. Ahead of French and German elections this year, the company began tagging “disputed” stories when outside news organizations ruled them as false.

Social media firms including Facebook, Yahoo Inc. and Twitter Inc. are adamant that they want to stamp out terrorism on their platforms — and already do a lot to remove such content. Twitter says it is expanding its use of automated technology to combat terrorist content, too. From July through December last year, Twitter said internal tools flagged 74% of the 376,890 accounts it removed.

YouTube says it is collaborating with the other social media firms on a shared database of previously identified terrorist imagery, which allows the companies to more quickly identify posts that use them. But the company doesn’t use technology to screen new content for policy violations, saying computers lack the nuance to determine whether a previously uncategorized video is extremist.

“These are complicated and challenging problems, but we are committed to doing better and being part of a lasting solution,” a YouTube spokesman said.

(Jack Nicas contributed to this article.)

Philippine Supreme Court Justice Says Duterte Administration Wrongly Expanded the Scope of Martial Law

June 14, 2017
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Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said on Wednesday that the blanket arrest orders of the government effectively expanded the scope of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The STAR/File

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen on Wednesday said that allowing the arrest of suspected rebels wherever they are in the Philippines may have expanded the scope of the martial law declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the second day of the oral arguments on petitions that seek to nullify the declaration of army rule in Mindanao, Leonen told Solicitor General Jose Calida that the doctrine that allowed the arrest of suspected rebels wherever they are in the Philippines, which the government follows, had effectively expanded Duterte’s martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

“So, therefore you have expanded martial law and the suspension of the writ not only in Mindanao but with that interpretation you are extending it to Luzon, in the Visayas, and the Batanes everywhere where the perpetrators may be found,” Leonen told Calida after the government lawyer admitted that the arrest orders of the government against suspected rebels were “enforceable” in the whole country.

Calida is defending Proclamation 216 of Duterte that placed entire Mindanao under military rule on May 23 following heavy clashes between security forces and Islamist fighters seeking to establish a so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stronghold in southern Philippines.

Calida: Rebellion a continuing offense

Calida said that since rebellion is a continuing offense, arrest orders against its perpetrators are enforceable in any part of the Philippines.

“In the context of the proclamation of martial law, the crime is rebellion. It is a continuing offense. The perpetrators of the rebellion were identified in these arrest orders. If they hide, then they are given the authority to capture them because it is a continuing offense,” he told the 15-member tribunal hearing the arguments of government lawyers and petitioners.

Leonen said that maybe the rebellion in Marawi City was not the rebellion envisaged by the Constitution as it resulted in arrest orders with blanket authority.

“Maybe this is not the rebellion that is envisaged in this provision of the Constitution because it is the kind of hostilities where the army or the police need to detain someone in order to continue with the mission,” the justice said.

He added that the legal doctrine the government was relying on was a jurisprudence established during the martial law period under former strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Leonen said that Duterte himself said that his martial law would be different from that of Marcos.

“The president said that this is not a martial law of Marcos. This is martial law Duterte-style. But it seems it is founded on an interpretation of a martial law jurisprudence,” he said.

Calida answered that until this jurisprudence is overturned the government would have to follow it.

Leonen replied: “And the court that can change it is this court.”