• Integrating radical fighters who return home isn’t easy, but can be done

    Thousands of youths have been recruited by terrorist groups from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and America. Between 2011 and 2016 the number of “foreign fighters” rose to more than 42,000 – among them 5000 Westerners and close to 7000 North Africans. They had travelled to the Middle East to join jihadist organizations such as the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) and the Syrian Fateh al-Sham Front (ex-Al-Nusra), a former al Qaeda affiliate. By early 2016, almost a third of these foreign fighters had returned to their countries of origin. Now that IS is suffering serious military setbacks, the flow of foreign fighters seems to have dwindled. More returnees can be expected to follow in the near future. How should governments manage these returnees? What the available evidence suggests is that governments must respond realistically to a complex problem. And they need to accept that opting for the reintegration of (former) terrorists to minimize the possibilities of future violence is not adopting a soft approach. Realistically, it’s the only approach.

  • Some visa applicants would be asked to provide five years’ worth of social media posts

    The State Department is planning to ask people who apply for visas to live and work in the United States, to allow government officials to review their social media post going back five years. The State Department will also ask applicants for their email addresses and phone numbers, and for their work and travel history during the previous fifteen years. Applicants will also have to provide the names and dates of birth of immediate family members. The new measures would apply only to individuals who have been identified as requiring additional security screening – for example, people who have travelled to countries and areas where known terrorist organizations are active. The State Department estimates that the new policy would apply to about 65,000 people a year, or about 0.5 percent of visa applicants.

  • New evidence shows pattern of Assad regime’s use of nerve agents

    New evidence supports the conclusion that Syrian government forces have used nerve agents on at least four occasions in recent months: on 4 April 2017, in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least ninety-two people, and on three other occasions in December 2016 and March 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. These attacks are part of a broader pattern of Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons. The attacks are widespread and systematic, and in some cases have been directed against the civilian population. As part of the evidence showing these attacks have become widespread and systematic, the detailed 48-page report identifies the three different systems being used by the Assad regime to deliver chemical weapons.

  • ISIS militants apologized to Israel after exchange of fire: Former Israel defense minister

    Last November, ISIS-affiliated fighters apologized” to Israel after attacking Israeli soldiers on the Golan Heights. Israel’s former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon referred to an incident in which Islamist militants affiliated with ISIS exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers on patrol along the Israel-Syria border.

  • Explosions rock Damascus Airport following cargo flights from Iran

    Explosions rocked the area near Damascus International Airport early Thursday morning following the arrival of four cargo planes from Iran. Israeli leaders have said that Hezbollah receiving game-changing weapons, such as advanced missiles or chemical weapons, represents a “red line” that Israel will not accept.

  • Empowering ISIS opponents on Twitter

    A new RAND report draws on earlier RAND research on how to leverage social-media influencers and tailor messages to design a data-driven, actionable strategy to counter ISIS on Twitter. While social media is still relatively new, many of the best practices for using it are based on well-understood marketing approaches – and countering ISIS on social media should be informed by these best practices.

  • Populism, terrorism converge to compound global risks

    Aon publishes 2017 Risk Maps for Political Risk, Terrorism and Political Violence shows there has been a 14 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2016, up to 4,151 from 3,633 in 2015. Western countries saw a 174 percent increase in terrorist attacks in 2016, up from 35 attacks in 2015 to 96 attacks in 2016. Oil and gas companies were the target of 41 percent of terrorist attacks on commercial interests in 2016 and the trend has continued in 2017. But 2017 marks the first year in the last four where as many countries experienced a decline in political risk for investors as those experiencing an increase. This suggests a modest improvement in economic resilience after many years of deterioration. The potential for divergence between the United States and Europe around sanctions regimes could create uncertainty for investors in Iran, Russia, and even Cuba.

  • ISIS control of people down 83% in Iraq, 56% in Syria from peak levels

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people since 2014 in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and Nigeria — and is on a path to collapse as a self-proclaimed state, according to data compiled in a new report. Still, the Islamic State continues to conduct and inspire attacks around the world in an effort to exact revenge on its enemies, coerce the withdrawal of foreign forces, and bait foreign governments into overreacting. These attacks may even increase once the group loses its core caliphate.

  • Bioterrorists, using genetic editing, could kill more than 30 million people: Bill Gates

    A bioterrorist attack could kill thirty million people — and such an attack is becoming more likely because it has become much easier to create – or “design” — deadly pathogens and spread them. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, speaking in London, said that an outbreak of a lethal respiratory virus like smallpox would be more dangerous than even a nuclear attack. Anyone can now purchase chemistry kits which allow genetic editing, and do so online for under $150.

  • Syrian defector: Assad still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stockpiled

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad circumvented a 2013 deal to dismantle his chemical weapons stockpile by failing to declare the full extent of his arsenal, Syria’s former chemical weapons research chief. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, who served as the head of chemical warfare in a top Syrian military unit before defecting in 2013, said that Assad had not declared large amounts of sarin and its precursor chemicals.

  • Bee colonies-inspired tool to help dismantle terrorist cells, criminal social networks

    Researchers have designed an algorithm, inspired by the intelligent and social behavior of bee colonies, which allows law enforcement to attack and dismantle any type of social network that poses a threat, whether physical or virtual, such as social networks linked to organized crime and jihadist terrorism. The possible applications of this new bio-inspired algorithm, which helps to make optimal decisions in order to dismantle any type of social network, are many and varied: from dismantling a criminal network to facilitating the design of vaccination strategies capable of containing the spread of a pandemic.

  • Insufficient evaluation efforts by feds of counter- extremism strategy: GAO

    Violent extremism — generally defined as ideologically, religious, or politically motivated acts of violence — has been perpetrated in the United States by white supremacists, anti-government groups, and radical Islamist entities, among others. In 2011, the U.S. government developed a national strategy and Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) for countering violent extremism (CVE) aimed at providing information and resources to communities. “The federal government does not have a cohesive strategy or process for assessing the overall CVE effort,” GAO says.

  • Morocco’s counterterrorism initiatives are effective: Study

    The number of terrorist incidents in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of Africa rose 14 percent in 2016, reaching the second highest level since 9/11. A new study says that despite this alarming trend, Morocco and Mauritania registered zero terrorist incidents in 2016, and that Morocco has been the country least-affected by terrorism in the region over the past fifteen years.

  • Rise of terrorism in Africa

    The recent terror attack by al Shabaab in the port city of Barawe in southern Somalia, a suicide bomb attack by Boko Haram in Maiduguri in Nigeria, and an attack on a military post in Mali by an al Qaeda-linked terror group have brought the focus back on terrorism in the African continent. Over the years, terrorism has become the most important challenge to peace, security and development in Africa. The terror activities have grown exponentially in the continent, not only in terms of the number of attacks but also the number of countries affected due to increased proliferation of terrorist groups.

  • Examining counter-extremism policy in the Sahel

    To find out what young people involved in jihadist groups in Mali are thinking, you need to speak to them. It sounds logical, and yet a new study by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) is one of the first to do this in the Malian context. The research helps change the discourse about violent extremism in West Africa and how to respond to it.