The Soufan Morning Brief


Monday, June 18, 2018

Taliban Leaders Reject Ceasefire Extension

After two days of rising hopes across the country, Taliban leaders on Sunday brusquely rejected the government’s proposal to extend a three-day cease-fire and said they were ordering all insurgent fighters to resume operations against “the foreign invaders and their internal supporters.”

The insurgents’ terse announcement came as thousands of Taliban fighters continued swarming into cities and towns to celebrate the three-day Eid holiday, mingling cordially with civilians, hugging police officers and posing for selfies. Many remained armed, however, raising concerns about whether their presence would turn menacing after the current truce expired at midnight.

There were also scattered but unconfirmed reports late Sunday of Taliban fighters regrouping or opening fire on Afghan forces in Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul provinces — long before the official cease-fire was to end at midnight.

Adding to the ominous and swift change in mood, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people in the eastern city of Jalalabad, detonating outside the governor’s compound where several hundred Taliban members and local officials were meeting to celebrate the third day of the holiday cease-fire.

A nearly identical attack in the same province killed 36 people Saturday. Both were reported to have been carried out by the Islamic State militia, which was not included in the truce. Washington Post, CNN, New York Times


America’s terrorism problem doesn’t end with prison - it might begin there: “Although many view the downfall of the Islamic State’s territorial project as a moment of relative respite, U.S. counterterrorism authorities continue to contend with potential terrorist threats against the homeland,” said Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes in Lawfare. “Most analysts recognize the challenges posed by returning American foreign fighters, online radicalization, and lone Islamic State sympathizers. But somewhat overlooked is yet another substantial concern: the impending release of terrorists who have served their time in prison.”

Why Trump’s movie trailer about North Korea was brilliant: “A president who loves to be flattered understands how to appeal to the vanity of dictators,” said Michael Hirsh in Politico.

Don’t wait for Trump to testify, Mr. Mueller: “Last week’s lengthy report by the Justice Department’s inspector general on former FBI director James B. Comey’s actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation illustrates the grave risks of making law enforcement announcements on the eve of an election,” said Philip Allen Lacovara in the Washington Post. “It also offers a lesson to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III: It’s time to act on the remaining pieces of his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. There is little time for delay. To ensure that the investigation does not tilt the scales in the November midterm elections, Mueller should promptly return any indictments that the evidence warrants.”

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At least two gunmen opened fire during Art All Night, an annual 24-hour festival that draws thousands of people in Trenton, N.J., injuring 22 people, including a 13-year-old boy and three others who remained in critical condition on Sunday. One of the suspects, a 33-year-old man, was fatally shot by a police officer, while the other one was arrested. The authorities said the shooting appeared to be gang-related. Washington Post, New York Times

Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining a previously undisclosed meeting between longtime Donald Trump confidante Roger Stone and a Russian figure who allegedly tried to sell him dirt on Hillary Clinton. The meeting between Stone and a man who identified himself as Henry Greenberg was described in a pair of letters sent Friday to the House Intelligence Committee.

Stone and Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign aide who arranged the 2016 meeting, did not disclose the contact in their interviews with the committee. But Stone and Caputo now believe the man was an FBI informant trying to set them up in a bid to undermine Trump’s campaign.

There is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone, and in his court filing, Greenberg said he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013. Greenberg, in text messages with the Washington Post, denied that he had been acting on the FBI’s behalf when he met with Stone. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

FBI agent removed from Russia probe volunteers to testify before Congress: Peter Strzok, the FBI agent removed from the Russia probe for sending anti-Trump text messages, is willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee or any other congressional committee, his lawyer wrote in a letter to the committee on Saturday. CNN


At least 31 people have been killed in a twin suicide bomb attack by suspected Boko Haram fighters on a town in northeast Nigeria, according to local sources. Two blasts ripped through the Damboa government area in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Following the suicide bombings, the attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the blasts, driving the number of casualties higher. Al Jazeera

Syrian state media, citing a military source, reported on Monday that U.S.-led coalition aircraft had bombed “one of our military positions” in eastern Syria, leading to deaths and injuries, but the U.S. military denied carrying out strikes in the area.

The strike took place in al-Harra, southeast of Albu Kamal, Syrian state media said. There were no immediate details on casualties. A commander in the military alliance backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also told Reuters that drones, "probably American," had bombed positions of Iraqi factions between Albu Kamal and Tanf and Syrian military positions.

“No member of the U.S.-led coalition carried out strikes near Albu Kamal,” Major Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, told Reuters.


A Moroccan asylum-seeker who was the subject of Finland's first terrorism trial was convicted Friday of two terror-related murders and eight attempted murders from a stabbing attack in the Nordic country last year.

The southern Finland district court sentenced Abderrahman Bouanane, an alleged sympathizer of the Islamic State group, to life in prison after finding him guilty of the Aug. 18 attack in Turku.

Prosecutors alleged that Bouanane was motivated largely by hatred following heavy military bombardments in the Syrian city of Raqqa carried out by the Western military alliance targeting the Islamic State group. Bouanane, who is in his early 20s, pleaded guilty to the murder charges, but denied committing a terrorist act as prosecutors alleged. Associated Press

A former MI6 spy has revealed how the actions of a UK man who became a master bomb-maker for ISIS led to America’s laptop ban on flights. Aimen Dean made the revelation in his autobiography, explaining how Hamayun Tariq, from Dudley, had plans to smuggle bombs “disguised as laptop batteries.”

This prompted a ban on passengers carrying laptops on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa bound for the U.S.

Tariq, a car mechanic who became a jihadist and boasted about his bomb-making skills on Twitter, is believed to have helped create bombs that could be disguised as laptop batteries and taken on planes. Dean says Tariq is now adapting drones to strike football stadiums and other crowded venues.

The disclosures from Dean, a former al-Qaeda explosives expert recruited by secret services to infiltrate UK jihadist circles, were made in his new book, Nine Lives. NBC News, Guardian

Israel says it dismantled ‘20-member Hamas cell’: Israel said on Sunday it had arrested more than 20 people and seized explosives after dismantling a Hamas cell it alleged was preparing "serious attacks" against Israeli targets. The cell's members were mostly from the city of Nablus in the north of the occupied West Bank. It was active for about six months before being dismantled in April, Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency said in a statement. Middle East Eye, Haaretz

Mother and daughter jailed in UK over terror plot: A mother and daughter, who were part of the UK's first all-female terror cell, have been jailed over a planned knife attack near the Houses of Parliament. Rizlaine Boular, 22, who was to carry out the Islamic State-inspired attack, was sentenced to life, with a minimum term of 16 years. Her mother, Mina Dich, 44, has been given six years and nine months for helping her daughter. The London pair pleaded guilty to the preparation of terrorist acts. BBC News

Filming Israeli soldiers in action could soon be a crime: The Israeli government on Sunday endorsed a proposal to make recordings or taking unauthorized pictures of Israeli soldiers clashing with Palestinians a crime if the aim is “hurting a soldier’s spirit” or “harming national security.” A conviction for such crimes could carry prison terms of five to 10 years. Washington Post


For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

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