The Soufan Group Morning Brief



On Sunday, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Abu Firas al-Souri, a veteran leader and spokesman for the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, was killed by an airstrike in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib. At least 21 other Nusra Front militants were killed in the strikes. Reports were unclear as to whether the airstrikes were carried out by Syria, Russia, or the United States. Reuters, BBC News, CNN, Associated Press

Long War Journal: Jihadists say airstrike killed veteran al Qaeda leader in Syria

A former CIA operative has described the U.S. government’s efforts to aid Syrian rebels and overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. Douglas Laux served as an undercover CIA case officer for eight years, working in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He told reporters that his Syria task force team “had come up with 50 good options to facilitate” the ouster of Assad, yet said the President never approved of the potential covert actions. Laux also spoke of dysfunction among the Saudi, Qatari, and other Arab partners in dealing with the conflict in Syria. NBC News, New York Times

Boston Globe: A CIA officer’s long, futile secret war

Gitmo: A military judge at Guantanamo Bay has abruptly cancelled two weeks of pretrial hearings in the case against five suspects in the 9/11 attacks, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Army Col. James. L. Pohl cancelled what were to be the first hearings in the case since February. The reason for the cancellation was unknown, as judge Pohl cited a sealed letter from Justice Department investigator Fernando Campoamor-Sánchez. The next set of hearings are scheduled to begin May 30. Miami Herald

NPR: If Detainee Population Shrinks Further, Guantanamo May Have To Close

CIA: On Friday, CIA Director John Brennan’s talk at the University of Pennsylvania had to be shut down early due to repeated interruptions by protesters. Brennan had been addressing the issue of the government’s use of drones and claimed that reports about the effect of drone strikes on civilians are often exaggerated. Protesters repeatedly interrupted the event, chanting “the CIA is a terrorist group; human torture is a crime.” The Daily Pennsylvanian

Torture: In his new book, “Consequence,” Eric Fair describes his time as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In the memoir, Fair acknowledges that, in some cases, harsh interrogations got detainees to talk, but makes a stronger argument that less-severe tactics were much more effective. Washington Post

An American drone strike in Somalia is believed to have killed Hassan Ali Dhoore, an important leader of al-Shabab’s security and intelligence component, according to Pentagon officials on Friday. Dhoore has been linked to two high-profile attacks in Mogadishu last year in which Americans were killed. New York Times

Syria: The Syrian government has continued to take back territory from ISIS near Palmyra. On Sunday, Syrian forces, supported by Russian airstrikes, drove ISIS militants out of the town of al-Qaryatain on Sunday about 60 miles west of Palmyra. Reuters

Yemen: Three civilians were killed on Sunday in a rocket attack by Houthi rebels in eastern Yemen, despite plans for a April 10 ceasefire. The rebels reportedly hit a government-run hospital in the eastern Marib province. AFP

United Kingdom: A new poll about the effectiveness of the British government’s anti-radicalization strategy reveals that the British public has little confidence in the government’s efforts. The poll, conducted by BMG Research, showed that 96 percent of respondents believed the strategy to be a failure with only four percent claiming it was “effective.” The poll also found that 19 percent of respondents were not aware that the government had an anti-radicalization strategy. Brietbart

CNN: British police tricked terror suspect into handing over phone, source says

Belgium: A third suspect was charged in Brussels in connection with a thwarted terror plot targeting France. The 33-year-old Belgian citizen was charged as an accomplice of Reda Kriket, a French national accused of planning an “imminent” terror attack in Paris. New York Times
Crossing Red Lines and US Credibility: What About Our Human Rights Rules?: “Insisting that the armies of US allies respect human rights presents less comparably acute concerns than removing a chemical weapons stockpile or punishing a ruthless dictator,” writes Jeremy Ravinsky on Lawfare. “But neglecting enforcement of our broader obligations harms governance and security in nations receiving US security assistance.”

From Brussels to Ivory Coast, how should we respond to the evil of terrorism?: “A place to start is recognizing that Islam and militant Islamist fundamentalism are not the same thing. Most Muslims have nothing to do with the radicals who carry out violence in the name of Islam,” writes Colbert King in The Washington Post. “Crucial to the resistance is a clear understanding of what children in Lahore and in Jewish schools in Istanbul, and worshipers in parishes such as St. Mary’s, are up against.”

ISIS and the Big Three: “Recruitment was, in many ways, the game changer. Online activity and terrorist recruitment had always gone hand in hand, but the Syrian civil war had dramatically amplified the problem. In part because of widespread support for the rebels in the Gulf and elsewhere, fundraising, recruitment and incitement took place in broad daylight,” writes J.M. Berger on “While ISIS can and will seek out alternative platforms for its propaganda and recruitment efforts, it can’t make its targets come along for the ride.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Islamic State’s Prospects in Pakistan

The Center on National Security at Fordham Law will host a full-day conference “Hindsight: Reflections on 15 years of The War On Terror” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. To RSVP, click here.

Call for Papers: Revisiting the Role of International Law in National Security. For more information, click here.

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