February 27/14


Bible Quotation for today/Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two
Luke 10/01-12: " After this the Lord chose another seventy-two men and sent them out two by two, to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go.  He said to them, “There is a large harvest, but few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest. Go! I am sending you like lambs among wolves.  Don't take a purse or a beggar's bag or shoes; don't stop to greet anyone on the road.  Whenever you go into a house, first say, ‘Peace be with this house.’  If someone who is peace-loving lives there, let your greeting of peace remain on that person; if not, take back your greeting of peace.  Stay in that same house, eating and drinking whatever they offer you, for workers should be given their pay. Don't move around from one house to another.  Whenever you go into a town and are made welcome, eat what is set before you,  heal the sick in that town, and say to the people there, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’  But whenever you go into a town and are not welcomed, go out in the streets and say, ‘Even the dust from your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. But remember that the Kingdom of God has come near you!’  I assure you that on the Judgment Day God will show more mercy to Sodom than to that town!


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 27/14

How Ukraine’s crisis affects the Middle East/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/February 27/14

Seven Egyptian Christians Killed in Libya/ICC Release/February 27/14

Jihadist Gang Graffiti/By: Dawn Perlmutter/ 27/14
Confronting the Changing Face of al-Qaeda Propaganda/By:Alberto M. Fernandez /Washington Institute/February 27/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 27/14
Lebanese Related News

STL adjourns Hariri trial until mid-May

Syrian-Lebanese border partly erased by hectic war traffic. Israeli air strike Monday mostly inside Syria
Hezbollah says Israel bombed positions in Lebanon near Syria border 2 days ago, vows response

Hizbullah: We Will Choose Appropriate Time to Retaliate to Israel's Strike

Report: Hizbullah May Target Israeli Officials in Light of Monday's Strike

Timeline of Israel's Anti-Hizbullah Air Raids in Syria

Plumbly Calls for Calm after Israeli Raid on Hizbullah Post

Israeli strike on Hezbollah missiles killed four

Hezbollah calls on Palestinians to restore resistance
Suleiman Tasks Bassil to Gather Information on Israeli Strike to File Complaint at Security Council

Arrest Warrant Issued against Naim Abbas for Belonging to Armed Terrorist Group

Car Plate Forging Gang Detained in Akkar

Nigerian Ambassador Says Case of Abducted Lebanese 'Delicate'

Berri: Including Baabda Declaration in Govt. Statement Will Force Others to Insist on Resistance Equation

Suleiman Abandons Demand to Include Baabda Declaration from Policy Statement

Aoun Calls on Arch-Foes to Swiftly Reach Settlement over Cabinet's Policy Statement

Report: Arslan Urged to Take Precautions over Alleged Assassination Attempt

Kerry to Visit Paris for Global Meet on Lebanon

Author of anti-Hezbollah, Marwan Dimashkieh parody song found dead

Judge issues additional charges for Naim Abbas
Two men shot in Tripoli Souk

Google celebrates pioneering Lebanese actor’s birthday

Lebanon: Rehabilitate Roumieh Prison 

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Francis kisses 'mini-me' pope as children in Carnival costumes flock to Vatican
Syria Army Ambush Kills 175 Rebels near Damascus

Syrian media: Army kills scores of al-Qaida-linked rebels in ambush near capital

3,300 Killed since January in Syria Rebel-Jihadist Fighting
U.N. Says Syria Refugee Children in Lebanon Risk Starvation
Egypt Sentences 26 to Death over 'Terror Group'

Turkey President Signs Law Tightening Government Grip on Judiciary

Bahrain Looks to Deter Citizens from Fighting Abroad

Under U.S. Pressure, Iraq Denies Iran Arms Deals

47 Jordanian MPs call to cancel Israel peace treaty over Knesset Temple Mount debate
Militants Blow Up Egypt Gas Pipeline in Sinai  

Sisi to remain as defense minister in new Egypt Cabinet

Syrian-Lebanese border partly erased by hectic war traffic. Israeli air strike Monday mostly inside Syria
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 26, 2014/ According to Middle East sources, Israel’s air strikes Monday, Feb. 24, were far more limited in scope than presented – no more than one or two warplanes which aimed four rockets at a single target, an SS-21 surface missile launcher on the Syrian side. Four Hizballah operatives were killed. The hectic traffic of arms, men and smuggling networks between Syria and Lebanon, run by Hizballah and the Syrian military, has virtually obliterated large sections of the border between the two countries. A broad military zone has taken its place, which is characterized by lofty peaks 1,600 meters high, deep gulches and narrow winding roads through wild vegetation. Traffic moving along those roads is hard to identify. Hizballah arms and missile stores in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley are in free use as strategic reserve supply centers for the units – both Hizballah and Syrian - fighting in border sectors such as the battles in the Qalamoun mountain range. Brig. Gen. Ellie Sharvit, commander of the Navy base in Haifa, touched on this situation Tuesday, when he noted that Israel presumes that any weapons systems reaching Syria have also come into the hands of he Lebanese Hizballah. Israel is therefore on a constant state of alert. He mentioned advanced Yakhont shore-sea missiles as well as top products of Iran’s and Syria’s military industries in this regard. Brig. Sharvit was the first IDF officer to confirm debkafile’s reporting in the past year that large quantities of weapons were moving between Syria and Lebanon. This traffic is by now by and large out of the IDF’s control - except for pinpointed strikes. Any attempt to seal the border to this illicit traffic would be unrealistic. Most Israeli military officials are still trying to present President Bashar Assad as losing the Syrian war and Hizballah’s military capabilities as being eroded. Contrary to this view, our Middle East sources describe the old Lebanese-Syrian border area as having been transformed into the busy hive of a burgeoning international Shiite legion of mercenaries, who are arriving in ever larger numbers from outside the region. Hizballah has opened European recruiting centers for the Syrian war effort in Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Kosovo. More than 1,000 mercenaries are already undergoing brief instruction at its Beqaa Valley training facilities. After they are familiarized with the weapons in the use of the Syrian army and Hizballah, they are sent across into battle.

Hezbollah may target Israeli officials: report
February 26, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Israeli defense officials are preparing for Hezbollah to target senior Israeli figures in retaliation for an airstrike on the Lebanon-Syria border, according to a report published Wednesday in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The report, which relies on Israeli sources, said Hezbollah is not expected to react immediately and that Israeli military leaders are preparing accordingly. Israeli warplanes targeted two trucks Monday night that were transporting missiles and a missile launcher into Lebanon, killing four Hezbollah operatives, security sources told The Daily Star. There was no official comment from Hezbollah over the attack. Israel did not directly claim responsibility for the strike, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a day after the strike that his country was doing everything "necessary" to protect the country, while Israeli media speculated that the Army was behind the raid.


Kerry to Visit Paris for Global Meet on Lebanon
Naharnet/U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to Paris next week for talks on helping Lebanon cope with the overspill from the conflict in neighboring Syria, a U.S. diplomat said Tuesday. In a letter to his newly named Lebanese counterpart, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced Thursday that the next meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon group would take place on March 5. "It is more necessary than ever to protect Lebanon from the repercussions of the Syrian crisis, on the security, political and economic fronts," Fabius said in the letter to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. "It is in this spirit that the International Support Group for Lebanon will meet on March 5 in Paris." The group was set up last year to help Lebanon deal with the implications of the brutal war in Syria that began in March 2011. It is intended to provide financial, political and security support to the small nation. It was hoped that the group would "be an active vehicle by which the international community can provide the support to promote stability" in Lebanon, Lawrence Silverman, acting deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday. "Secretary Kerry will attend the next gathering of this group... in Paris next week," he added. Kerry only returned from his last overseas trip on Friday, during which he spent three nights in the French capital. Lebanon, which borders Syria, is a small country with just four million people, but now hosts some 930,000 refugees who have fled the three-year conflict as rebels battle to oust hardline Syrian President Bashar Assad. "There is not a single Lebanese community that has not been affected by the refugee crisis," Silverman stressed. "The United States is doing its part to help Lebanon deal with the burden, providing over $340 million in assistance. We urge other countries to meet the pledges that they have made." The conflict has also inflamed sectarian tensions in Lebanon, with Hizbullah sending fighters to bolster Syria's regime against a Sunni-led uprising many Sunni Lebanese support. A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months, killing dozens of civilians.
Source/Agence France Presse

STL Adjourns in Absentia Trial Sessions to May

Naharnet/The Trial Chamber at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has “ordered the adjournment of the trial sessions until at least early to mid-May to allow Defense counsel for Hassan Habib Merhi adequate time to prepare for trial and to conduct their own investigations,” the STL said on Wednesday. The chamber issued its written decision on Tuesday following the oral ruling of February 11 on the joinder of the Merhi case to the Ayyash et al. case.
“In the meantime, the Trial Chamber will hold regular meetings and Status Conferences with the parties to ensure an expeditious process,” the tribunal said in a statement. “Yesterday's decision elaborates on the oral order taken by the Trial Chamber on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 to join the two cases,” it noted. The Trial Chamber concluded that joining the two proceedings – Ayyash and Merhi -- “would better protect the rights of all five Accused to a fair and expeditious trial, provided that certain measures were taken,” the decision stated. “Joinder was therefore ordered on the basis that the Trial Chamber would take – and will continue to take, as necessary – all the measures required to ensure a fair trial for all five Accused,” it added. The five Accused – Hizbullah members Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Assad Sabra and Hussein Oneissi -- are indicted for their alleged role in the February 14, 2005 bomb attack that killed former premier Rafik Hariri and 22 other people. STL Spokesperson Marten Youssef will hold a briefing in Beirut on Thursday to address questions from the media on this matter, the STL said. During the February 12 session, the defense team objected againt several logistical procedures adopted by the Trial Chamber, refusing the fragmentation of trials. “We oppose the fragmentation of trials and conduct ethics oblige us to acquaint ourselves with all the aspects of the case,” Merhi' defense lawyer Mohamed Aouini said. “We must be able to cross-examine the witnesses and we can't just attend for the sake of attendance,” he stressed. Aouini then requested to have “a certain reasonable period to look into all the files of the case.” Meanwhile, STL Prosecutor Norman Farrell said that Merhi's defense team may need six to seven months to prepare their files on the case Merhi's defense, however, said that they cannot determine the time they need to prepare their case.

Nigerian Ambassador Says Case of Abducted Lebanese 'Delicate'
Naharnet /Nigeria's Ambassador Amos Oluwole Idowu stressed on Wednesday that the his country is following up the case of the recent abduction of two Lebanese national in the Nigerian town of Jama'are in Bauchi State.
“The case is linked to the security situation and is very delicate,” the ambassador told As Safir newspaper. He pointed out that the Nigerian authorities are following up the case on high levels. Imad al-Indari and Carlos Bou Aziz, two Lebanese expats, were kidnapped along with five other foreigners in Nigeria on February 16 from Setraco Nigeria, a construction and civil engineering company with a road project in the region, which is a subsidiary of Lebanese-owned Setraco International Holding group. The Lebanese foreign ministry confirmed the incident. Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria, but most have occurred in its oil-rich southern delta. Lagos, a city of 17.5 million inhabitants, is in the country's southwest. In recent years, Nigeria has had a spate of ransom kidnappings, which usually last for a few days and which have focused on the country's oil-rich region.
However, Nigeria's north has also started to see politically-motivated kidnappings which typically last much longer. Kidnappings there have been linked to Islamic extremist groups rather than criminal gangs.
Islamist extremist group Ansaru recently claimed to have executed seven foreign hostages, including two Lebanese. But its claim could not be verified.

Plumbly Calls for Calm after Israeli Raid on Hizbullah Post

Naharnet /United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly urged on Wednesday Lebanon and Israel to exercise restraint after an Israeli air raid two days earlier on one Hizbullah positions in Lebanon.
“I don't have any direct information about the matter,” Plumbly told reporters after talks with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the Bustros Palace. He pointed out that the United Nations encourage all concerned parties to “avoid anything which could lead to an escalation or disturb the calm which currently prevails as a result of resolution 1701.” On Monday night, "two Israeli raids hit a Hizbullah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria," a Lebanese security source told Agence France Presse. Hizbullah confirmed on Wednesday the report. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was doing all that was "necessary" to ensure its security.
"We will not say what we're doing or what we're not doing" to maintain Israel's security, he added. The diplomat described the meeting with Bassil as “extremely good.”“We discussed the upcoming meeting in Paris and means to encourage, stimulate and highlight the need for yet more support … for Lebanon and for host communities who are receiving refugees,” Plumbly. The International Support Group on Lebanon's meeting in Paris set for March 5 and 6. The support group was inaugurated in New York in September 2013, on the sidelines of the 68th session of the General Assembly. It undertook to work together to mobilize support for the sovereignty and state institutions of Lebanon and to highlight and promote efforts to assist the country where it was most affected by the Syrian crisis, including in respect of strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese army, assistance to refugees, and structural and financial support to the government. The Paris meeting will focus on humanitarian aid to help improve the situation of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, boosting the capabilities of the Lebanese army and tackling Lebanon's economy. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had surged to around 900,000 according to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) as Lebanon has been facing difficulties in coping with their burden.

Timeline of Israel's Anti-Hizbullah Air Raids in Syria

Naharnet/A reported Israeli air raid on Hizbullah near the Lebanese-Syrian border on Monday evening would be the latest of several aimed at preventing arms transfers to the group, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad:
- January 30: The Israeli air force bombards a site of ground-to-air missiles and an adjacent military complex near Damascus suspected of holding chemical agents. Israel says it feared the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah, according to a U.S. official.
The New York Times reports that the raid could have damaged Syria's main research center for biological and chemical weapons.
The Israeli defense minister implicitly confirms the raid and reaffirms that Israel will not allow arms to be transferred from Syria to Hizbullah.
- May 3 and 5: Israel carries out two air raids near Damascus, targeting Iranian weapons destined for Hizbullah, according to a senior Israeli official.
The first raid targets a weapons storage facility at Damascus airport. The second one targets the Jamraya scientific research center in Damascus, along with a weapons depot and aircraft unit, according to a military source in Beirut.
At least 42 soldiers are killed in the second raid, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog.
Damascus warns it will strike back.
- October 30: Israeli fighter jets hit a military airbase in regime stronghold Latakia in northwest Syria to halt a shipment of surface-to-air missiles to Hizbullah, according to Saudi-owned television channel Al-Arabiya.
A U.S. official confirms "there was an Israeli strike," while the Syrian Observatory says several explosions were heard at the airbase near Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.
- February 25: A Lebanese security source says "two Israeli raids hit a Hizbullah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria," without confirming the exact nature of the target.
A Lebanese army source says "the raids most likely took place on Lebanese territory, but we cannot be completely sure because the borders in that area are not well defined."
The Observatory says the target was a "missile base" belonging to Hizbullah.
Source/Agence France Presse

Hizbullah: We Will Choose Appropriate Time to Retaliate to Israel's Strike

Naharnet /Hizbullah confirmed on Wednesday that Israeli fighter jets had shelled one of its positions on the Lebanese-Syrian border on Monday. It said in a statement: “The resistance will choose the right time and place to retaliate to the strike near the Bekaa region of Jinta.” It added that no one was killed or injured in the attack, saying that only material damage was incurred. It refuted media reports that rocket positions were targeted or that resistance fighters were killed in the attack. “The attack is a new blatant assault against Lebanon, its sovereignty, and land, and not just the resistance,” continued Hizullah. “The attack demonstrates the hostile nature of the Zionists and demands a clear and honest stance from all sides,” it stressed. “The assault will not pass without a retaliation by the resistance,” vowed the party. On Monday night, "two Israeli raids hit a Hizbullah target on the border of Lebanon and Syria," a Lebanese security source told Agence France Presse. The National News Agency confirmed the report, adding that the raids targeted the countryside of the Lebanese town of Nabi Sheet on the border. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was doing all that was "necessary" to ensure its security. "We will not say what we're doing or what we're not doing" to maintain Israel's security, he added.

Suleiman Tasks Bassil to Gather Information on Israeli Strike to File Complaint at Security Council
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman has ordered that the necessary measures be taken in order to file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over Israel's strike against a Hizbullah position on Monday.
He tasked Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to gather all available information on the strike ahead of filing the complaint. The assault is a violation of Security Council resolution 1701, remarked Suleiman.
He had held talks on the issue with army chief of staff Walid Salman. Hizbullah had confirmed on Wednesday the Israeli strike, saying that it targeted a party position near the Jinta region in the Bekaa near the Lebanese-Syrian border. It vowed that it will “choose the appropriate time and place” in order to retaliate to the attack. No one was killed or injured in the incident, it added in its statement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was doing all that was "necessary" to ensure its security. "We will not say what we're doing or what we're not doing" to maintain Israel's security, he added.

Suleiman Abandons Demand to Include Baabda Declaration from Policy Statement
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman will not “stand as an obstacle” should the committee tasked with devising a government policy statement succeed in its mission, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Wednesday.
To that end the president has reportedly abandoned his insistence to include the Baabda Declaration in the statement. In light of the recent contacts that were carried out on Tuesday, Suleiman has changed his position on including the Declaration, but he will voice his reservations on the statement, added the daily. “His ministers' position on the statement will adhere to past principles that were agreed upon, especially the Baabda Declaration,” reported An Nahar daily on Wednesday. Sources from the committee meanwhile told As Safir newspaper that Tuesday's discussions “were serious,” predicting that the statement will likely be complete this week. The committee held its fifth meeting on Tuesday, failing to agree on a statement in light of the ongoing dispute over including the Baabda Declaration. The March 14 camp is insisting on including it, while the March 8 camp has rejected it. The March 14 alliance has also been rejecting a reference to the “army-people-resistance” equation. The committee is expected to convene at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

Berri: Including Baabda Declaration in Govt. Statement Will Force Others to Insist on Resistance Equation
Naharnet /Speaker Nabih Berri suggested that the government's policy statement include a reference to Lebanon distancing itself from regional crises instead of mentioning the “Baabda Declaration” as a way to end the current deadlock on the statement discussions, reported al-Joumhouria on Wednesday. He explained that the March 14 camp's insistence to include the Baabda Declaration in the statement will force the March 8 camp to insist on including the “army-people-resistance” equation that the former rejects. The ministerial committee tasked with devising a policy statement has so far failed in its mission after five sessions. The main obstacle lies in the March 14 camp's insistence on including the Declaration in the statement. “The best way to come up with a statement lies in refraining from mentioning the Declaration, but including its essence,” said the speaker according to al-Joumhouria. “The policy statement should not refer to the 'army-people-resistance' formula, but stress Lebanon's right to resist Israel,” Berri continued. The daily revealed that the speaker had tasked his envoy Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil to make this proposal during Tuesday's policy statement discussions. The committee finished its fifth meeting on Tuesday evening without managing to reach an agreement on the clause related to resistance against Israel. Discussions will resume at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. In a session that lasted around three hours, Health Minister Wael Abou Faour proposed a formula that “includes the Baabda Declaration and the consensual issues,” but Khalil said “it needed discussion and it is not complete.” “We need a consensual, balanced statement that resembles the government,” he explained.

Aoun Calls on Arch-Foes to Swiftly Reach Settlement over Cabinet's Policy Statement
Naharnet/Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun stressed on Wednesday that the political arch-foes should swiftly draft the cabinet's policy statement, warning of any delay. “The government has to start preparing for the upcoming presidential elections as soon as possible,” Aoun said in comments published in As Safir newspaper. He warned the rival parties of the increasing international tension, which would have a negative impact on Lebanon if politicians failed to seize the opportunity to find common ground over the cabinet's policy statement “before it is too late.” “We should swiftly agree on a settlement before the international and regional sniper gunshots hit us,” Aoun pointed out. On Tuesday, the panel drafting the ministerial policy statement failed during its fifth session to reach agreement over the main point of contention. The rival ministers bickered anew over the Baabda declaration and the resistance-people-army equation.

Syria Army, Hizbullah Kill 175 Rebels in Ambush near Damascus

Naharnet /More than 170 Islamist rebel fighters, including Saudis, Qataris and Chechens, were killed Wednesday in a Syrian army ambush near Damascus, state news agency SANA reported.
The attack, apparently the deadliest against the rebels for months, took place in Eastern Ghouta, a key rebel stronghold targeted in a chemical attack in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people.
SANA said an army unit "spotted Al-Nusra Front (jihadist) and Liwa al-Islam (Islamist) terrorists" near Damascus, and "killed 175 of them and wounded several others." Saudis, Qataris and Chechens were among the dead, it said. State television had earlier reported "dozens" killed, mostly non-Syrians, in a "well-organized ambush" following a tip-off. The army also seized the rebels' weapons, the broadcaster said, following the regime's practice of using the term "terrorists" to refer to the armed opposition. Al-Nusra Front is al-Qaida's official affiliate in Syria and is committed to the overthrow of President Bashar Assad and the establishment of an Islamic state. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group with a network of contacts inside Syria, confirmed that dozens were killed in the ambush. "Dozens of Islamist fighters were killed and wounded in an ambush by loyalist troops, with the help of Hizbullah, near Otaybeh village in the Eastern Ghouta area," it said. A government security source said most of the fighters were Jordanians or Saudis, and that they had crossed over into Syria from Jordan earlier the same day. The source said the ambush took place at around 5:00 am (0300 GMT) and killed 156 rebels. Another 10 were taken prisoner, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Otaybeh area has seen several army ambushes in past months. Syria's war has since March 2011 killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions more to flee. Source/Agence France Presse

Report: Arslan Urged to Take Precautions over Alleged Assassination Attempt
Naharnet/The head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, MP Talal Arslan, was urged to boost security measures after security agencies obtained information that he might be the target of an assassination bid. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Wednesday, Arslan was advised to take extra precautions and increase his security measures. Earlier in February, media reports had said that former premier Najib Miqati has become a target for assassination in light of their circulation of a security document alleging that a political figure in Beirut or the northern city of Tripoli may be targeted by a suicide bomber. Miqati hails from Tripoli. Reports had said that a terrorist cell was plotting the assassination of several officials and judges, including Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat.

Two men shot in Tripoli Souk

February 26, 2014/The Daily Star /TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Two Alawite men were shot Wednesday in the Kandarjiyeh Souk in the northern city of Tripoli. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Omran Fazah and his son Saleh, wounding them in the legs. Two passerby, Khaled Iali and Jihad Omran, were also lightly wounded. According to local residents, the father owns a shop in the Souk and pays protection money to a local militia to keep his business safe. He ususally faces no problems in the Souk and the attack is likely linked to sectarian tensions, the residents said. Tripoli has witnessed over a dozen rounds of clashes between Alawites and Sunnis linked to the Syrian crisis.

Judge issues additional charges for Naim Abbas

February 26, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Imad Zein Wednesday issued a new arrest warrant for Naim Abbas, the alleged mastermind behind two bombings, on charges of belonging to an armed group, plotting terror attacks in Lebanon, and forging identification papers, judicial sources told The Daily star. Abbas has been in custody since February 12. He will be questioned over the new charges next week, the sources said, adding that his interrogation was postponed to allow him to appoint a lawyer. Abbas has already been charged in connection with the two Haret Hreik car bombings on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21, as well as with the murder and attempted murder of citizens. Abbas has been accused along with 20 others of belonging to two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups, the Lebanese branch of the Nusra Front and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Both have claimed responsibility for several car bombings in areas associated with Hezbollah, claiming they were in retaliation for Hezbollah’s decision to fight alongside Syrian goverment forces. The network allegedly includes Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian nationals, but so far only four, including Abbas, who is Palestinian, have been detained. The new charges were reportedly issued based on Abbas’ links to Jamal Daftardar, a commander in the Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades who was arrested on January 15. His case is also connected to that of detained preacher Sheikh Omar Atrash, who was also charged with having a role in the Beirut attacks.

Author of anti-Hezbollah, Marwan Dimashkieh parody song found dead
February 26, 2014 / The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya said Wednesday the group is awaiting the findings of a coroner’s report on the death of a party member best known for his link to a provocative parody song attacking Hezbollah over its ongoing battle in Yabroud. Marwan Dimashkieh, 41, was found Tuesday afternoon slumped over the steering wheel of his Kia with a single bullet wound to his head and a pistol between his legs, a security source told The Daily Star. The car was parked along the Dbayieh-Nahr Kalb highway, north of Beirut, he added. “We are still waiting for the official results to come out as well as the coroner’s report regarding the death of Marwan Dimashkieh,” a senior official with the Sunni Islamist political party told The Daily Star. Dimashkieh gained notoriety for authoring the song “Dig your own grave in Yabroud," which was written in response to “Declare victory in Yabroud,” sang by Ali Barakat, a supporter of the Syrian regime who also records religious chants. Sources close to the Dimashkieh family confirmed that he wrote the lyrics, despite a denial posted to the Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya's twitter account. Syrian regime forces, backed by Hezbollah fighters, launched a major assault earlier this month on Yabroud, a strategic rebel-held area near the Lebanon-Syria border. The Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya official ruled out a link between the song and Dimashkieh’s death, and refused to cast blame on any side for his killing. "Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya does not accuse anyone of carrying out the murder,” the group said in a statement, while urging supporters to practice self-restraint and not to fall prey to rumors. A funeral service will be held for Dimashkieh after Wednesday’s noon prayers at Beirut’s Khashikji mosque.

Lebanon: Rehabilitate Roumieh Prison
February 26, 2014/The Daily Star /Lebanon’s Roumieh prison has become a disaster waiting to happen, and no amount of visits by senior officials to the facility can hide the fact that the solution lies in actions, and not speeches.
The facility was designed in the late 1960s and nearly a half-century later, its deficiencies have become well-known to everyone: outdated and overcrowded, rife with corruption, and conducive to seemingly every type of activity except rehabilitation and punishment. This week’s prison break by three common criminals has highlighted, once again, how Roumieh can make a brief appearance as a topical news item and “pressing national issue.” Politicians make solemn speeches about the need to overhaul the country’s most important prison, government officials pay the requisite inspection visit and throw even more rhetoric at the problem, and then the whole matter is forgotten.
Roumieh prison won’t be able to rehabilitate any prisoners until the facility itself is rehabilitated. The list of ongoing scandals is a long one. The no-go zones for prison guards, the prisoners’ easy access to mobile phones and internet, the existence of crime and terror networks operating under the nose of the prison administration – all of these and more should be treated immediately, but a few administrative measures here and a few disciplinary measures here won’t do the job. Only a comprehensive solution will bring Roumieh in line with international standards for prisons, and only a concerted government effort – not a photo-op visit by a politician or two – will lead to any results. Until that happens, Roumieh will continue to be a disaster waiting to happen, and government officials will have only themselves to blame when the next disaster strikes.

Francis kisses 'mini-me' pope as children in Carnival costumes flock to Vatican
By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has a mini-me.Francis kissed a child dressed up as a pope as the new must-have Carnival costume made its debut at the pope's general audience Wednesday. The child, who was crying, was hoisted up to Francis as he drove by in his open-topped jeep. Another child dressed in a similar white cassock and white skullcap was also on hand, as were kids dressed as Swiss Guards. During Carnival in Italy, children often go to school and spend their weekends dressed up in pirate, princess — and now pope — costumes. Carnival, also known as mardi gras, marks the period before the church's solemn Lenten season begins.

Hezbollah says Israel bombed positions in Lebanon near Syria border 2 days ago, vows response
By Zeina Karam, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press BEIRUT - Hezbollah said Wednesday that Israel carried out an airstrike targeting one of its positions near the border with Syria earlier this week, and vowed to retaliate. The attack, which Israel has not officially acknowledged, is the Jewish state's first reported air attack inside Lebanese territory since the start of the Syrian conflict three years ago. The airstrike which occurred Monday night caused material damage but no casualties, according to a statement issued by Hezbollah. Israel has fired artillery across the border, and carried out similar airstrikes inside Syria targeting suspected weapons shipments believed to be bound from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah, allied to President Bashar Assad in Syria, has been battling alongside his troops in areas near the border and has lost at least several hundred fighters.
The reported airstrike near the border was initially met with silence by Lebanese and Hezbollah officials who declined to confirm if or where it had happened. But on Wednesday, Hezbollah said the attack took place near the eastern Lebanese village of Janta. It denied media reports that any artillery or rocket positions had been hit or any casualties had resulted from the attack. The porous border is frequently used by fighters and smugglers to move people and weapons between Lebanon and Syria. The area is a bastion of Hezbollah support and the group is known to have several outposts and training camps there. Arab media reports said Hezbollah had suffered casualties. "We will retaliate for this Israeli aggression, and the resistance will choose the appropriate time and place as well as appropriate means to respond," Hezbollah said. The Israeli military has declined to comment on Hezbollah's accusations. But senior defence officials confirmed that Israel had indeed carried out an airstrike late Monday. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a secret mission, gave no details on the precise location or target of the attack. Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Israeli officials believe Hezbollah has restocked its arsenal with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, some of which are capable of striking virtually anywhere in the Jewish state. Although Israel has refrained from taking sides in the Syrian civil war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to take action to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining "game changing" weapons from its ally Syria. Past Israeli airstrikes are believed to have targeted Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and guided missiles from Iran. Israel has never confirmed the airstrikes.


Syrian media: Army kills scores of al-Qaida-linked rebels in ambush near capital
By The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –BEIRUT - Syrian state media say troops have killed scores of al-Qaida-affiliated rebels in an ambush near the capital, Damascus. Wednesday's report by SANA said the rebels, belonging to the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, were killed near Oteibah lake southeast of Damascus. In a live broadcast from the area, Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV station showed dozens of bodies scattered along an unpaved road. An army colonel told Al-Mayadeen that his troops acted on intelligence and the rebels lost "more than 150 men" in the assault. There was no immediate word from activists who track violence in Syria, nor any way to confirm if the rebels were from the Nusra Front or another group. Syrian army tanks and armoured personnel carriers were seen in the broadcast as were soldiers patrolling on foot.

Jordan MPs Seek Israeli Ambassador Expulsion
Naharnet/A majority of Jordanian MPs voted on Wednesday to seek the expulsion of Israel's ambassador to the kingdom after the Jewish state's parliament debated Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Prominent lower house deputy Khalil Attieh told Agence France Presse that 86 out of 150 members of parliament voted to seek the expulsion of Israeli envoy Daniel Nevo.
The vote, which is not legally binding, came a day after 47 MPs, including Attieh, signed a motion demanding that a 1994 peace treaty with Israel be annulled. "All deputies who attended a meeting today to discuss Israel's debate on sovereignty over Al-Aqsa voted to kick out the Israeli envoy and recall the Jordanian ambassador in Israel (Walid Obeidat)," Attieh said. "This was in protest at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) debate. It is up to the government to act on the vote. If it does not, we will consider a no-confidence motion." State-run Petra news agency said the MPs "demanded the government take immediate action to stop Israel's schemes."
Under the peace treaty, Jordan is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. "Israel's actions clearly violate the peace treaty... it is aggression against Jordanian custodianship," Tuesday's motion said.
The Knesset Tuesday evening began a debate called by rightwingers to demand that Israel end its practice of forbidding Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa compound.
In a motion which was not put to a vote, MP Moshe Feiglin, a hardline member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, said Israel's fear of igniting Muslim rage amounted to discrimination against Jews.
The Jordanian government has so far not commented. But Jordan's opposition Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, urged the government on Tuesday to freeze the peace deal.
"The custodianship is a Jordanian national interest and a sacred religious duty," said the IAF, the main opposition party. Israeli police on Tuesday clashed with stone-throwing Palestinian protesters at the compound ahead of the Knesset debate. The Al-Aqsa compound, which lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem's Old City, is a flashpoint because of its significance to both Muslims and Jews. Sitting above the Western Wall plaza, it houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques and is Islam's third-holiest site. It is also Judaism's holiest place, being the site of the first and second Jewish temples. SourceAgence France Presse

3,300 Killed since January in Syria Rebel-Jihadist Fighting
Naharnet /Some 3,300 people have been killed in fighting between rebels seeking President Bashar Assad's ouster and their erstwhile jihadist allies since clashes erupted in January, a monitoring group said Wednesday.
"Some 3,300 people have been killed ever since the start of fighting on January 3 between the (jihadist) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on one side, and (rebel) Islamist and other groups on the other," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The deaths came "in car and (other) bomb attacks, suicide blasts and fighting," said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on activists and other sources inside Syria. While rebels initially welcomed ISIL's jihadists in their battle to overthrow Assad, much of the opposition later turned against the group, accusing it of hijacking the rebellion and carrying out a string of kidnappings and killings of activists and rival rebels. Among the fatalities were at least 281 civilians, the majority of them killed by shelling and stray bullets, the Observatory said. Twenty-one civilians were executed in a children's hospital-turned-ISIL prison in the northern city of Aleppo, it said, adding that a family of seven Kurds was also executed by the jihadists. Source/Agence France Presse

U.N. Says Syria Refugee Children in Lebanon Risk Starvation

Naharnet/Nearly 2,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are in danger of starving to death if they do not receive immediate treatment, UNICEF said Tuesday, warning of a looming malnutrition crisis. "Malnutrition is a new, silent threat among refugees in Lebanon," said Annamaria Laurini, the U.N. children agency's representative in Beirut. The problem is linked to "poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, diseases, lack of immunization and improper feeding practices of young children," she said. There are nearly one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including 200,000 children under the age of five. Lebanon, with a population of just four million, has seen its already limited resources stretched to the limit by the influx of refugees. UNICEF said a study conducted last October and November showed some 2,000 children "are at risk of dying and need immediate treatment to survive." The agency said it had begun treating several hundred of those in worst need. It said the most affected regions were in northern and eastern Lebanon, where the cases of "severe acute malnutrition" doubled between 2012 and 2013. The report warned that new arrivals and rising food prices could cause the situation to "deteriorate rapidly." Zeroual Azzedine, UNICEF's chief of health and nutrition, said under-fives were the most vulnerable to malnutrition, particularly those living in harsh conditions in camps. "The child who suffers malnutrition has no appetite, he does not want to eat... because malnutrition hits the brain first," he said. "Even if the child is smiling, playing, the malnutrition hits silently, hits the brain."He said the situation would become an emergency if the malnutrition rate among children hits 15 percent. The current rate is six percent, but that represents the "real beginning of the crisis," he told Agence France Presse. The UNICEF report recommends that Lebanon's health ministry and aid and NGO workers cooperate to monitor the situation and treat cases as they are detected.
It urges both screening of children and women and raising awareness of appropriate feeding practices for infants and young children. Source/Agence France Presse

Turkey President Signs Law Tightening Government Grip on Judiciary

Naharnet/Turkey's President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday signed into law a contested bill tightening the government's grip on the judiciary as it grapples to contain the fallout from a major corruption probe.
The new law, which sparked fistfights among lawmakers debating it in parliament, will give the justice ministry greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary. The legislation has been strongly condemned by the opposition and by rights groups, raising questions abroad about the state of democracy in Turkey.
Gul last week shrugged off calls to reject the bill, saying it was not his place to challenge legislation. He also indicated he would put his signature to another contentious bill aimed at strengthening state control over the Internet. The legislative maneuvers come as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian by critics, is under intense pressure over a bribery and corruption investigation that has implicated some of his top political and business allies. Erdogan has accused his arch-rival Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric with strong ties to Turkey's police and judiciary, of being behind the probe, which began with high-profile police raids in December. In retaliation, Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has sacked hundreds of police and prosecutors. Details of the graft probe have been leaked online, including audio recordings in which Erdogan can allegedly be heard telling his son to hide millions of euros in cash on the same day that the corruption scandal erupted. The premier on Tuesday angrily condemned the recordings as fabricated and a "vile attack" by his rivals, as several thousand protesters took to the streets to demand his resignation.Source/Agence France Presse

Seven Egyptian Christians Killed in Libya

02/25/2014 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) is deeply troubled by the brutal killing of seven Egyptian Christians who were working in Bengazi, Libya. The bodies of the seven men were discovered by Libyan authorities Monday morning on a beach in a suburb east of Benghazi. The men were found with their hands bound and appeared to have been executed, security officials reported.
According to ICC sources in Egypt, Sunday evening, February 23, masked gunmen broke into a building housing Egyptian workers and began asking the residents whether they were Muslim or Christian. Upon entering a first floor apartment and after hearing that the eight men were Christians they forced the men outside and loaded them into a vehicle. Tony Sabry, media spokesman for the Maspero Youth Union told ICC, they were "killed because they are Christians. The killers asked them to show them the right hands to see the sign of the cross on their hands and when they saw the cross they knew that they are Christians," he said.
One of the men who was in the apartment, Kareem Rizk, was able to escape and went to the Egyptian embassy to report the abduction. He was able to provide authorities with the names of the seven men who were killed. They are: Talaat Sadeek Bibawi, Hani Habib Girgis, Ndha Habib Girgis, Fathi Fawzi Sadeek, Edward Nashed Boles, Ayoub Sabri Tawfik, and Sameh Tawfik Roman, as reported by Elfagar News.
The security situation in Libya has been extremely unstable in recent months. Since the removal of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan Islamists "have been carrying out the Islamic mission of religious cleansing through discrimination, kidnapping, and execution," Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, President of Voice of the Copts, told ICC. "Even though democracy was the stated goal of Gaddafi's toppling it was not the goal of his murder in the street by Islamists," he continued.
Egyptian Christians have faced abuse on multiple occasions in Libya over the past few years. In March of 2013, dozens of Egyptians were detained and, in some cases, tortured over accusations of proselytizing, Mina Thabet of the Maspero Youth Union told Mideast Christian News. This incident came just a few months after an Egyptian church was burned down resulting in two deaths and multiple injuries.
Commenting on this latest incident, Hal Meawad, spokesman for Coptic Solidarity told ICC, "The execution of the seven Copts in Libya is a big sign for the whole world to see about the suffering of the Christian minority in the Middle East." Meawad continued, "We don't need tears and mourning of the dead. We need action to preserve lives and alleviate the suffering of the innocent before it is too late."
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "The brutal execution of seven Egyptian Christians on the basis of their religious identity is troubling. This is just the latest example of the horrific dangers of religious extremism. We urge the Libyan officials to quickly and thoroughly investigate this matter and bring those guilty of this crime to justice. We urge for the Egyptian government and the United States to strongly condemn these actions and assist the Libyan government in strengthening its institutions to combat this extremism."
For interviews, contact Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East:

Jihadist Gang Graffiti
by Dawn Perlmutter/
February 25, 2014
Young Islamists and their sympathizers are tagging, stenciling, painting, vandalizing and using every genre of graffiti to spread the global jihadist message. Similar to other gangs they are using spray paint to mark their territory, demonstrate their allegiance, advertise their gang's status and power, memorialize fallen fellow gang members, praise violence and threaten their enemies. Jihadist graffiti functions as communication and recruitment and is popping up in cities around the world including: Toronto, London, Dublin, Derry, Glasgow, Augsburg, Munich, Moscow, Toulouse, Frejus, Helsinki, Rome, Crete, Jerusalem, Beirut, Salt lake City, New York City, Washington, D.C. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and many others. Islamist graffiti is a popular artistic form of rebellion that portrays the global jihad movement as hip and cool. It appeals to young people who do not consider graffiti vandalism but view it as artistic expression and an agency for popular resistance and change. Spray painting Islamist slogans and jihadist phrases goes beyond graffiti as protest art. Islamist graffiti is a symbolic warfare tactic, a successful stealth information strategy camouflaged as street art.
Although Islamist graffiti is relatively new to Western cities, the words, signs and symbols of terrorist groups have been proudly spray painted on their home turf for decades. Similar to gangs who mark their neighborhoods with slogans or symbols exclusive to the gang, Palestinian terrorist groups spray paint their emblems on the walls of Nablus, Gaza City and Ramallah, often not far from posters glorifying suicide bombers. Gang graffiti also frequently includes the territory claimed by the gang. Similarly Palestinian graffiti often depicts the map of Israel to represent what they consider to be their turf.
Gang graffiti often includes threats and challenges to rival gangs. Islamist gang graffiti functions the same way. On December 10, 2009, the words 'Islam will dominate the world - Osama is on his way' and 'Kill Gordon Brown' were spray painted on a war memorial in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. On August 4, 2011 a swastika and the message "Islam will rule" were spray-painted on the Robbins Hebrew Academy, an elementary school attached to a Synagogue in Toronto. On May 13, 2008 stores, pavements and the walls of four synagogues in Stamford Hill and Clapton Common neighborhoods in London were spray painted with 40 pieces of graffiti that read "Jihad to Israel" and "Jihad to Tel Aviv. Often Jihadist gang graffiti is not even considered vandalism or threatening and goes unrecognized as hate speech or terroristic threats. This is because the most common words that appear in Islamist graffiti: Jihad, Intifada and Allahu Akbar, are regarded as non-threatening expressions of faith and/or resistance to oppression.
The word Jihad has been the subject matter in graffiti for years, often flying under the radar as street art. On June 15, 2013 JIHAD was spray painted in black lettering, nearly 20 feet high, on a wall along the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Delray Beach, Florida. In Oakland, California a graffiti writer who goes by the name of JIHAD is part of the PI Crew and has been painting large scale (master) pieces of the word JIHAD all over Oakland. The incongruity of the term jihad appearing in large graffiti pieces makes one question if the street artist name was chosen to garner attention and perhaps completely unrelated to Islam. Images of hijab clad women by the same graffiti artist put to rest any doubt. Imagine the response if a graffiti writer chose 'RAHOWA', a white supremacists acronym for Racial Holy War, as his street name and painted 50 foot murals of the white supremacist call to holy war all over the city. He would be accused of racism and charged with a hate crime. Even if this young street artist believes jihad means inner struggle and is unaware that he is advocating holy war, his 'JIHAD' graffiti is extremely popular on the internet spreading the message. Jihadists around the world must be enjoying the fact that their battle cry is being proudly displayed in American cities. Perhaps Jihad of the PI Crew is a young Muslim convert who knows exactly what he is doing and his graffiti bombing is a prelude to actual bombings.
Jihadists often spray paint the phrase Allahu Akbar on war memorials and churches symbolizing Islam's supremacy over other religions. On December 4, 2013 the gates of the Augsburg Cathedral, the Moritz church and the evangelical Ulrich church in Augsburg, Germany were sprayed with white Arabic letters spelling out Allahu Akbar. The next day "Allahu Akbar, Jihad" in Arabic was sprayed on St. Michael's and St. Benedict's churches in Munich, Germany. On September 30, 2013, "Allahu Akbar" in Arabic was spray painted in red on a paratrooper memorial in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. In August 2013 the Helsinki Living Word Church located in Eastern Pasila, was vandalized three times with Islamist graffiti. The messages read "Allahu Akbar", "Jesus is a Muslim" and "Islam is the answer".
Gangs often leave graffiti at the scene of a burglary or other crime. Similarly, jihadist gangs write Allahu Akbar at the scene of their crimes as a mark of victory and supremacy. Victory graffiti that read "Allahu Akbar" and "Death to Russians!" was spray painted on the wall of Planernaya subway station in the Moscow subway on April 3, 2010 marking the success of two suicide bombings that occurred a few days earlier. On September 11, 2012 after murdering the American Ambassador to Libya members of al Qaeda gang set Ansar al Sharia spray-painted Allahu Akbar on the burned out buildings of the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi marking their turf and further dishonoring America. A burned out house in Windsor, Connecticut also had Allahu Akbar painted on it. A photo of the house was posted on Jihad watch on August 17, 2013. On June 28, 2012 the words "Allah Wakbar" were written in pink and black marker on a seat in the World Trade Center memorial plaza. The misspelled word could be the result of a non-English speaker or a young American recruit who has not yet learned how to spell the battle cry. These are just a few examples of Jihadist gang victory graffiti left at the scene of crimes.
Graffiti is often used to promote or enhance the names and reputations of the gang and to memorialize dead gang members. Osama bin Laden, the Sheik of the Mujahideen gangbangers has been both glorified and memorialized in graffiti. Similar to the word 'Jihad' the name Osama has been spray painted by graffiti writers in large letters on walls and trains. A popular method of glorifying bin Laden is a stencil graffiti of his portrait similar in style to the iconic image of Che Guevara. The stenciled graffiti portrait that sometimes includes the words Rest in Peace have popped up everywhere from Brooklyn, New York to Bangor, Wales. On May 2, 2011, immediately after the news of his death, a 50 foot long tribute to bin Laden was spray painted in black on the sound wall of Orange County's I-405 freeway in Westminster, California. The memorial to the al Qaeda gang leader depicted an upside down American flag with the words un-American written over it flanked by the script "R.I.P. Osama" and "Forever."
Mohamed Merah, the 23 year old al Qaeda Mujahideen gangbanger who killed three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three children ages 4, 5, and 7 in a series of three gun attacks in March 2012 in Toulouse and Montauban, France has several graffiti tributes. Graffiti on the wall of a French house in Tarbes read, "You were a valiant Knight of Islam! You fought the shit Zionist and the false Muslims. You died guns in hand... I salute you Mohamed my brother, my friend... Rest in peace!" Graffiti in Toulouse read "Viva Merah", and in the Sainte-Croix neighborhood of Fréjus graffiti paying respect to Mohamad Merah and al Qaeda was spray painted on a house. Who knows how many other young discontented French teens were inspired by Merah and look forward to having their name celebrated in spray paint.
Jihadists use graffiti in the same manner and for the same reasons as any other criminal street gang. The writings need to be recognized and documented using methods that law enforcement currently employ to track gang activity, membership, rivalries and affiliations with larger gangs. Spray painting the words Jihad, Intifada or Allahu Akbar does not represent benign expressions of faith or popular resistance. Jihadist gang graffiti embodies Islamist messaging that has a significant impact in recruiting homegrown terrorists, inciting violence and is an indicator of future criminal and terrorist activity.
**Dawn Perlmutter Director of Symbol & Ritual Intelligence and Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum is considered one of the leading subject matter experts in the areas of symbols, unfamiliar customs, ritual murder and religious violence.

Confronting the Changing Face of al-Qaeda Propaganda
Alberto M. Fernandez /Washington Institute
The coordinator of the U.S. Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications describes how the "new normal" in global jihadist radicalization will require Washington and its allies to use public diplomacy as a major soft-power tool in countering violent extremism, both online and on the ground. Watch video or read his remarks.
The following are Ambassador Fernandez's prepared remarks, delivered as part of The Washington Institute's Stein Counterterrorism Lecture Series; watch video of the entire event above.
It is a great pleasure for me to speak to you today as part of The Washington Institute's lecture series. I have followed and appreciated the work of The Washington Institute and its outstanding team of experts for years, ever since I was with Rob Satloff when his shoes were stolen at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus almost twenty years ago. And as far as counterterrorism analysis is concerned, Matt Levitt and Aaron Zelin are essential reading.
It is a little over two years ago, on November 18, 2011, since my predecessor, Ambassador Richard LeBaron, spoke here shortly after the White House executive order formally creating the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), and it is, perhaps, a good time for stock taking on where we are in the communications struggle, how al-Qaeda and friends are using media, and the very real challenges that remain.
Al-Qaeda has always valued the power of communications. It began its formal existence, in 1998, with a press release and a fatwa. In those early days, it sought to maximize the use of burgeoning Arabic-language broadcast media and even tried to have a media office in London. Those first attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa which imprinted themselves on our consciousness came months later. But before the deed, there was a story, a narrative to be told.
Over the years, al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers have transitioned to new platforms and mechanisms as circumstances have changed. As opportunities to use broadcast media became more constrained, they shifted to password-protected forums and in late 2012 the extremists' migration to social media such as Twitter and beyond accelerated. In the ceaseless search for an audience, they seek to spread their message in new languages, so we see al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) producing material in French and Spanish and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) subtitling material in English.
Each al-Qaeda branch seeks to have a robust propaganda arm, although their effectiveness waxes and wanes according to circumstances. AQIM's media arm, al-Andalus, is probably the least effective and active of all. AQAP for a long time had probably the most active and sophisticated media operation -- they are the ones behind Inspire magazine -- but in my estimation, their recent material is far less polished and effective since the Yemeni army drove them out of some of their safe havens in 2012. In Syria, ground zero for al-Qaeda's narrative for some time now, the messaging of Jabhat al-Nusra has been eclipsed for some time by the much more robust work of the "Zarqawist" ISIS, which was recently expelled from the movement by Ayman al-Zawahiri. The messaging from al-Qaeda's senior leadership continues but seems to lack relevance and immediacy. The fact that no one among the franchises seems to have implemented or followed, much less noticed, Zawahiri's recently released "Rules for Mujahedin" points to a central node disconnected from dynamic events occurring on the ground. Al-Qaeda today "thinks globally but kills locally." Much of the rhetoric is still about America, the West, the Jews, but the actual victims of their actions are overwhelmingly local people, mostly Muslims. This is, of course, al-Qaeda's dirty little secret which can't be stressed enough. The disconnect between what they say and what they do is a feature, not a bug, of al-Qaeda's poisonous daily existence.
With an atrophied and isolated center, much of the dynamism of the movement is to be found in the regional branches. All of these franchises have tried over the past couple of years to show through their media operations that they can do governance, that they are not merely insurgent groups but can provide some sort of effective, approved rule and social services along the model pioneered earlier by Hezbollah and Hamas. They haven't proved particularly effective so far at demonstrating this and, in fact, some of the material they have produced has been counterproductive to them, but they keep trying.
So about a dozen years after al-Qaeda began to tell its story, to present its narrative to the world, CSCC was born. The idea was that given the huge emphasis that al-Qaeda places on media and propaganda, there was a need for a U.S. government entity that would function as a war room or operations center, like you may see in a political or advertising campaign, to push back. And indeed, like a political campaign, we always begin with what the adversary is saying and whom it is trying to reach.
Our operations today are very similar to what Ambassador LeBaron outlined a couple of years ago. It can be described as falling into three broad categories:
Supporting U.S. government communicators working with foreign audiences: This includes the daily work of consultation and cooperation across the interagency and in the department; producing guidance on al-Qaeda-related activities and issues including opportunity analyses that are widely accessible to all U.S. government officials; developing specific frameworks to address new communications challenges; making available online countering-violent-extremism (CVE) material useful to communicators; and sponsoring seminars where experts share their relevant knowledge with government practitioners.
Working with overseas partners to strengthen their CVE communications strategies, capabilities, and activities: This means sharing best practices with friendly governments and working through our embassies to support local initiatives, especially those that commemorate the strength and resilience of communities in response to terrorist attacks. So far we have underwritten modest projects along these lines in at least a dozen countries.
Direct digital engagement: Our digital outreach challenges extremist messages online in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and, most recently, English, through advocacy in social media using words, video, and images to undermine al-Qaeda's propaganda and narrative. This is daily, aggressive, attributed, and overt messaging by the Department of State.
Direct digital engagement is the one part of CSCC that is relatively well known. Since 2011, we have produced well over 20,000 engagements in the form of texts, graphics, and video. The immediate goals of our engagement are threefold: To contest the space. This is digital space that had previously been largely ceded to the enemy. The Internet is, all too often, another ungoverned space for al-Qaeda, and we seek, along with others, to challenge them in that space. To redirect the conversation -- to make this as much as possible about the adversary and his shortcomings rather than about the many alleged transgressions of American foreign policy. In this, CSCC is quite different from traditional public affairs and public diplomacy as it is done by most in the U.S. government. What we try to do is not to affirm the positive about ourselves but to emphasize the negative about the adversary. It is about offense and not defense. The third goal is to try to unnerve the adversary, to get in their heads. There is little doubt that we are doing that as we survive repeated efforts by al-Qaeda supporters to take us down on Twitter and other juvenile attempts to silence us.
I want to underscore that the work we do is not easy. If it was, someone would have done it long before we came into existence. The work of counterterrorism communications is not a sprint but a marathon, a daily grind of numerous skirmishes, of opportunities to influence audiences seized and lost, of trying to find the right mix of words and images at the right moment. This is an alchemy that is more art than science.
The work of CSCC is essential, but it is only a small part of the overall effort. As Secretary of State Kerry said a few months ago, "We must think creatively about expanding our tools and capabilities so we can address the issues that drive young people to despair and terrorism. The United States must take a leading role in presenting an alternative vision to that presented by extremists."
We do, I believe, a good job with the resources we have of pushing back immediately and tactically, of poking holes in the daily narrative, but more work needs to be done in attacking the larger narrative, the ideological underpinnings of the big story al-Qaeda tells about itself, the world, and us. This cannot and should not be done by the United States alone and requires supporting a much larger and more diffuse community of interest throughout the world dedicated to this goal. CSCC, and other parts of the State Department, seeks to grow this diverse and disparate community of independent actors who can challenge the narrative of the extremists in their own way and with their own voice.
But even challenging, as we must, the language of takfir and jihad is not enough. The great scholar of al-Qaeda Thomas Hegghammer made an extremely important point in a recent paper when he noted that "a growing number of micro-level studies of jihadi recruitment downplay the role of doctrine and emphasize proximate incentives involving emotions: the pleasure of agency, the thrill of adventurism, the joy of camaraderie, and the sense of living an 'authentic Islamic life.' In other words, there is much to suggest that jihadi recruitment is not just a cognitive process, but also an emotional one."
There is a reason, then, why some al-Qaeda propaganda looks more like Call of Duty than Ibn Taymiyyah. Despite its traditional religious trappings, the al-Qaeda mindset is mostly, as Olivier Roy described it, "both a product and an agent of globalization, first of all because it embodies in itself an explicit process of deculturation...neofundamentalists dream of a tabula rasa." And what better time than the present and better medium than the Internet for presenting an ahistorical worldview that is shallow and artificial even when it attracts?
This "emotional dimension" requires us to constantly look at ways to be on the cutting edge, constantly honing an appeal that must be multifaceted, emotional, immediate, and authentic. There is little doubt that, in the aftermath of tumultuous political events in the Middle East and with al-Qaeda's recent migration to social media, we are operating in a vastly changed environment today, one that makes it much easier for al-Qaeda to peddle its propaganda. But that same space also provides an opportunity for the bold willing to challenge the siren call of the takfiris.
This "new normal" I have described is a situation where the role of public diplomacy will be, or should be, a major element in the exercise of "soft power" in countering violent extremism. Radicalization has important online and on-the-ground components. The post-Arab Spring Middle East is a highly charged, fluid political environment where the tradecraft and expertise of savvy State Department officers on the ground and in Washington, working closely with colleagues across the country team and in the interagency, can be key in influencing new audiences and nontraditional players. In such a scenario, the face-to-face work of a public diplomacy officer drinking multiple cups of bitter coffee and arguing in the local language late into the evening in a stuffy, smoky room -- that same officer strategically using the tested tools of the public diplomacy trade, whether exchanges or grants or speakers -- and all of that augmented by Washington elements with a rough-and-ready attack philosophy, like CSCC, could prove to be decisive. The challenge for all of us who work in government and particularly in public diplomacy is to make sure that we have the right mix of people, programs, vision, and mandate to achieve the desired effects on the ground we all want to see.
We see, in the daily onslaught of extremist propaganda, real opportunities to use the tools of engagement to expose their deeds and the disconnect between their words and their actions. In the ongoing struggle against al-Qaeda and its allies, the time is neither one for empty triumphalism nor for unmerited despair at the challenge of combating violent extremism but rather a sober call for constant, steady, and serious work. CSCC will look to constantly hone the contents of our toolkit, work productively with others in government, expand the circle of allies and fellow workers worldwide, challenge the adversary wherever he may go, and find new and creative ways to fulfill our mandate.

How Ukraine’s crisis affects the Middle East
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
People are overwhelmed with joy in in the Arab world following the toppling of Ukraine’s president Victor Yanikovich, despite the fact that most Arabs don't know Ukraine's exact location on a map. The move marks a divine vengeance against Russia, which played a hideous role in supporting Syria's evil man, president Bashar al-Assad, for three years. Russia helped Assad commit massacres against civilians.
Russia has not awakened from Ukraine’s uprising yet. It rushed to reject the new regime and described the peaceful uprising as an armed rebellion. The response came in quick as Ukraine cancelled Russian as the second official language, ignoring that Moscow lent the former regime $15 billion two months ago.
The question is: does the crisis of Ukraine weaken Russia and therefore weaken Iran and Syria?
Repercussions for the Russia’s allies
It's certain that the Russian command got involved in a very difficult situation as a result of the events in its strategically important neighbor. The crisis in Ukraine will consume must of its time, efforts and attention.
The crisis is still in its beginning stages and will escalate because of widespread anger against Moscow. Proof to this hostility lies in one of the first decisions issued by the new Ukrainian regime: canceling Russian as a second official language, despite the presence of Russian-Ukrainians in the country.
The official statement made by Iran regarding Ukraine foretells real worry. The situation, which has weakened Russia, will keep it busy and prevent the country from helping Iran as it negotiates with the West on its nuclear program. It's certain that the Russian command got involved in a very difficult situation as a result of the events in its strategically important neighbor. The crisis in Ukraine will consume must of its time, efforts and attention.
To a lesser extent, this also goes for Syria as most Russian activity is based on exporting weapons to the Assad regime. The Syrian president is continually following up on what's happening in Ukraine as the disputes obviously affect the regime’s Russia ally.
If Syria loses support from Russia, the political landscape may change. This could be a positive for the Syrian opposition if they can build a united political front.
The crisis will grow if Russia pushes provinces affiliated with it to separate from Ukraine. If this happens, the dispute will last longer and Ukraine will head towards the West.
Russia, which talked about expanding its influence for a long time, has hinted that it intends to play a big role in Iran, the Mediterranean, the Gulf and Egypt. However, fire has reached its border. The danger against Russia is massive because of what happened in the Ukrainian capital. The events may encourage a rebellion in the Russian capital as those who opposite Vladimir Putin accuse him of corruption.
What concerns us is not throwing stones on the Kremlin but that the Russians refrain from drowning the region and the rest of the world in its struggles, which could bring it back to the Cold War era.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 26, 2014.