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March 7, 2018 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 153

Russia-Developed Texas-Based Encrypted Communication App Zello: Growing In Popularity Among Jihadis – And Growing In Usage In Terror Attacks; Zello CEO Declines MEMRI Advice, Leaves Jihadi Content On Platform

March 7, 2018 | By Steven Stalinsky
Russia | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 153
Islamic State (ISIS) supporters and other jihadis from around the world are using the Austin, Texas-based communication application Zello for planning and executing terrorist attacks in the U.S., the U.K., European countries, Turkey, and elsewhere around the world. On January 30, 2018, it was reported that the perpetrator of the April 2017 Stockholm truck attack had used Zello to communicate with other jihadis immediately after he drove the vehicle into crowds on a main street, killing five people and injuring 14. In March 2017, a Texas-based ISIS recruiter who moderated a Zello channel, instructed followers to kill infidels, and personally approved terror attacks was indicted by a federal grand jury. The Zello push-to-talk app can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PCs, and is available for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Windows PC operating systems, and for two-way radios. Users can create private or public channels that allow them to easily chat with others and listen to conversations. The main Zello app is free; the Zello@Work app is fee-based. The Zello website states that the app's "advanced encryption ensures all communications are secure." It adds: "Services may disclose personally identifiable information when it's required to comply with law enforcement requests or subpoenas when you violate the Terms of Service." On September 11, 2017, it announced that all private voice messages on Zello on the version released after June 6, 2017 are end-to-end encrypted.[1] The company states that its app has been downloaded 65 million times. Zello's Russian Connection The technology that would later become Zello, initially developed in Russia by Alexey Gavrilov under the name Loudtalks, was announced at the September 2007 TechCrunch 40 Mobile and Communications Conference.[2] Zello bought the Loudtalks technology, moved its development team to Texas, and brought Gavrilov on as CTO; under CEO Bill Moore, it was rebranded, other apps were added, and its products were announced in June 2012. Moore is also founder and CEO of the TuneIn radio streaming service; Gavrilov and his team created some popular apps for that service as well.[3] Zello's Popularity Increased In U.S. During And After Hurricanes Irma And Harvey In Late Summer 2017 When Hurricanes Irma and Harvey struck Florida, Puerto Rico, and the southern Atlantic Ocean in August and September 2017, over a million new users downloaded Zello. It became the top free download in both Apple's App Store and the Google Play store, after gaining fame as the top communications tool of the "Cajun Navy" Harvey rescuers in Houston. "Over one million people have joined [Zello] in the last day, with most coming from Puerto Rico and Florida," Gavrilov said, but went on to warn users that the app was not designed for disaster communications and required either WFi or a cellular data link, despite online rumors to the contrary. Jihadis Use Zello To Plan Attacks in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy, Sweden, Russia, And Elsewhere Over the past three years, Zello has been at the center of terrorism cases worldwide, as the following example highlights: The Dallas, Texas-based ISIS recruiter Said Azzam Mohamad Rahim, who was moderator of a Zello channel called State of the Islamic Caliphate, told his listeners to kill as many "infidels" as possible with poison, rocks, and trucks, by burning, and by pushing people off buildings.[4] He gave the go-ahead to Salman Abedi, perpetrator of the May 2017 Manchester suicide bombing; in August 2016, Abedi had sought Rahim's approval via Zello, saying: "Sheikh, I live in Manchester, in Great Britain. I live among non-Muslims. I have found work with them. Am I allowed to kill them? Is it permitted to kill them with a bomb?" To which Rahim responded on Zello: "To the boy from Manchester I say, okay, kill them! Show no mercy to civilians."[5]Also receiving instructions from Rahim was Abdulgadir Masharipov, the perpetrator of the New Year's Day 2017 attack at Istanbul's Reina nightclub, in the month preceding the attack.[6] In March 2017, Rahim was indicted by a federal grand jury for making false statements to federal agents about his alleged support of ISIS.[7] According to the indictment, he had posted his support of ISIS on social media, solicited violence, and praised attacks for which ISIS had claimed responsibility – including the Istanbul nightclub attack and the July 2016 Nice, France truck attack.[8] Rakhmat Akilov, who carried out the April 2017 Stockholm truck attack, communicated using Zello following the attack. He wrote on the app: "My trousers are burned. I thought it was going to explode but it didn't... Around ten are dead."[9] Also in April 2017, Italian police arrested a resident of the country who had used Zello to discuss his plans to carry out an attack in Italy. A judge called him "an extremely dangerous subject" who posed a "very high risk of moving on to carrying out series acts of violence." In one Zello message, he had called for "non-believers" to be "roasted on kebab skewers" and fed to dogs.[10] Tajik national and ISIS member Murodbek Kodirov was arrested in August 2017 for posting a voice message on Zello that included "calls for inciting religious hatred." He had been making plans with another individual, "D. Sharipov," to carry out first an ax attack and then a suicide bombing in a crowd.[11] Murad Atajev, a Daghestani preacher at a mosque in Berlin attended by Russian-speakers, was arrested in October 2015; he had attempted to recruit ISIS militants, and broadcasts of his sermons were featured on Zello.[12] MEMRI JTTM Research And Analysis Exposes Extent Of Zello's Popularity Among Jihadis A September 7, 2016 MEMRI JTTM report[13] revealed that jihadis, ISIS members, and ISIS supporters from around the globe were using Zello. More recently, on April 28, 2017, a link to the pro-ISIS "Zello Channel" group was circulated on numerous pro-ISIS Telegram channels; the link shows that it has nearly 13,000 subscribers.[14] MEMRI JTTM research over the past two years has discovered a range of ISIS channels in numerous languages on Zello. For example, the Zello "Islamic State channel," which includes "Recruiting new members" in its description, operates in French, Arabic, and Hebrew. It is notable that all the jihadi Zello groups revealed by MEMRI in the report are apparently still active. The accounts are easily identifiable; they have names such as "The Islamic State" and "The State of the Islamic Caliphate." They have avatars of the well-known black jihadi flag, and of jihadi leaders such as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Osama bin Laden. They share images of weapons, and threatening messages. All of these are easily recognizable, and Zello should be able to flag them as terrorist content if it wants to. Zello CEO Requests MEMRI Reports On Jihadis On Zello – But Won't Shut Down Their Accounts In March 2015, following reports that Zello was being used by ISIS, Zello CEO Moore said that he had not heard that the app was popular among ISIS fighters, and noted, "It's terrible that Zello is used for evil." The company, he said, is putting "a fair amount of effort... into figuring out ways to minimize the app's use by bad guys... so that only healthy conversations can flourish."[15] The first MEMRI report on jihadi use of Zello, published September 7, 2016, showed that jihadi channels on the platform had thousands of subscribers. Shortly after the report's publication, MEMRI received a request from Moore for a full version of the report and also offered him an opportunity to speak with MEMRI staff about the jihadi content on accounts on the app. Moore ignored this offer, and the content was left on the platform. Later that month, on September 26, MEMRI again contacted Moore to offer assistance, and let him know that the jihadi content was still on Zello. He did not reply, and the content remained. A follow-up MEMRI report, published in April 2017, noted that the content still had not been removed. In August 2017, Moore publicly acknowledged that Zello was being used by malicious actors, noting: "Oh, it's used for bad, yes. Cartels, gangs, ISIS, and others. Like any communications tool, it's used for good and evil both... It's a net positive, but it's not without risk. It doesn't replace law."[16] Shortly thereafter, in September, he underlined that even though Zello was available to ISIS and other bad actors, he preferred to take a "libertarian" view regarding policing his users – though, he said, he understands the "moral quandary" that this presents.[17] On February 1, 2018, MEMRI JTTM staff reexamined the accounts and found that most, if not all, remain active. Zello's Leadership Shows Little Interest In The Fact That The Platform Is Becoming Jihadis' Favorite App – What Can Be Done? Zello's failure to take responsible action to remove jihadi content on its platform is reminiscent of other tech companies' similar lack of action. In 2010, MEMRI met with representatives from YouTube/Google about such content on their platforms. At that time, I was told that they were not interested in removing it – yet now they do what was recommended. Twitter too brushed off early MEMRI warnings about the jihadi content on it. Now, Zello is ignoring its facilitation of jihad worldwide. MEMRI's research over the years on jihadi content on these platforms, and repeated attempts to make sure that YouTube and Twitter remained aware of the extent of the problem, contributed to their eventual efforts to remove it. The same can be done for Zello and might compel them to act more responsibly. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a partnership of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube for collaboration on the issue of terrorist activity online, works to "forge new partnerships" with small tech companies. Joining it would be a good first step for Zello and could steer them to normal industry standards about removing terrorist content.    *Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).   [1] Support.zello.com, accessed February 2, 2018. [2] Techcrunch.com, September 17, 2007. [3] Techcrunch.com, June 20, 2012. [4] Dallasnews.com, October 30, 2017. [5] Theaustralian.com.au, August 14, 2017. [6] Hurriyet.com.tr, April 25, 2017. [7] Newsweek, August 14, 2017. [8] Dallasnews.com, March 23, 2017. [9] Thelocal.se, January 30, 2018. [10] Thelocal.it, April 25, 2017. [11] En.crimerussia.com, October 11, 2017. [12] Rferl.org, October 16, 2015. [13] See MEMRI JTTM report U.S.-Based Walkie-Talkie Encrypted Chat Application Zello Used By ISIS Members And Supporters From Around The World, September 7, 2016. [14] See MEMRI JTTM report U.S.-Based Walkie-Talkie Encrypted Chat Application 'Zello' Continues To Serve As A Meeting Place For Jihadists; Calls For Attack On France Transmitted On App, April 28, 2017. [15] VOAnews.com, March 17, 2015. [16] Buzzfeed.com, August 31, 2017. [17] Inc.com, September 8, 2017.

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On Telegram, Pro-Syrian-Rebel Channel Reports Armed Surveillance Drone Shot Down

May 28, 2020

On May 27, 2020, a pro-Syrian-rebel Telegram channel shared a post saying that military factions have successfully shot down an armed surveillance drone belonging to the Iranian militias near a town in the western countryside of Aleppo.

 

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Pro-ISIS Outlet Releases New Cyber Security Magazine

May 28, 2020

On May 23, 2020 a pro-Islamic State (ISIS) group dedicated to providing ISIS supporters with material about information, communication, and cyber security, released the first issue of a new magazine. The magazine was distributed in both English and Arabic versions on the group's website, Telegram channeland on the ISIS operated Rocket.chat.

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In A Show Of Power, Islamic Authority, Al-Shabaab Releases Photos Of Children Holding Weapons in Celebration Of Eid Al-Fitr, Undermines Somali Government For Its "Late" Eid Announcement

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May 28, 2020


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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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May 28, 2020 Special Announcements No. 918

MEMRI TV Passes The Milestone Of Clip No. 8000 – Marking 53,200 Minutes Of Translated Content; Please Support Our Efforts Today

May 28, 2020
Special Announcements No. 918
On May 18, 2020, MEMRI TV reached the milestone of publishing its 8,000th clip – completing 53,200 minutes of translated content since the project launched in 2004. These 8,000 MEMRI TV clips – from Arab and Iranian as well as from Urdu, Turkish, and Russian channels – have had a huge impact. They are used by governments, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, legislatures, media, and academia worldwide – with 300 million views to date – in 195 countries. In addition, Arab and Iranian broadcast media frequently reference, comment on, and respond to MEMRI TV clips about them. No One Else In The World Is Doing This Vital Work Of Monitoring Arab And Iranian TV MEMRI TV monitors nearly 100 Arab, Iranian, and other television channels around the clock. No other organization in the world is monitoring, recording, translating, subtitling, and publishing clips from the region's media – let alone doing so 24/7. From its very first months, MEMRI TV drew attention in the Arab and Muslim world. Dr. Fatima Al-Sayyegh, dean of the history department at UAE University, discussed the project in a 2004 interview, explaining to her audience that it was to "monitor television programs, mostly talk shows and religious programs, and to analyze them, in order to find out what the Arab man on the street thinks, what is the discourse in the Arab media that is directed at the Arab public." Maintaining The Largest Archive Worldwide Of Translated Video Clips From The Arab And Muslim World In the 16 years since its inception, MEMRI TV has amassed the largest archive worldwide of translated video clips from the Arab and Muslim world. But creating MEMRI TV clips is an expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive process – from recording the raw programming to translating the content to creating English subtitles to uploading the clip and transcript. MEMRI TV's Work Requires Substantial Resources Producing MEMRI TV clips requires an extensive and advanced monitoring system, and tremendous professional and human resources. Also, maintaining our extensive archives requires costly technological support. This is where your help and support are crucial. MEMRI TV Clips Used By U.S. And Western Militaries, Intelligence Agencies, Law Enforcement In All 50 U.S. States Law enforcement agencies in the West need MEMRI TV clips: MEMRI TV clips are regularly requested and used by all branches of the U.S. military, and other countries' militaries, as well as by law enforcement in all 50 U.S. states – including fusion centers, counterterrorism divisions, terrorism task forces, and more. They are often requested by NATO and EU government bodies, and by Western governments, militaries, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies – the U.K., Germany, France, Australia, and more. MEMRI TV's Impact Fighting Extremism – And Supporting Reformist – In The Arab And Muslim World - A MEMRI TV’s mission includes exposing and fighting extremism in the Arab and Muslim world. One aspect of this is our Sermons by Imams in the West project, that monitors and translates extremist sermons across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia – and that has led to public apologies, legal action, and even deportations. Many extremists in the region and in the West are aware of MEMRI TV's clips about them, and respond to them. Some of the 8,000 clips of which MEMRI TV is most proud amplify and support reformist voices in the region, helping to bring their messages to the world. Many of them have become international figures after we translated and published their statements by the MEMRI TV Democratization in the Arab and Muslim World Project, which focuses on democratization, women's and minority rights, counter-radicalization, and education in the region. Recent examples of clips of extremists responding to MEMRI TV research on them include: Former Lebanese Minister Wiam Wahhab Recalls Being Called To Task In France For Making Antisemitic Comments Translated By MEMRI In a May 3, 2020 interview on Al-Manar TV (Hizbullah-Lebanon), former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab referred to statements he had made "half-jokingly" in an interview on Jadeed TV (Lebanon) – that were translated and released in a MEMRI TV clip in 2010 – about his support for the German soccer team FC Bayern Munich because the Germans had burned the Jews, and expressed surprise that this statement had drawn negative attention from French politicians and media several years after later. He went on to explain in the Al-Manar interview that he dislikes Zionists, that he doesn't hate Jews, and that he didn't mean what he had said in his original statement on Jadeed TV. Wahhab had said in 2010: "I support Germany in politics and Brazil in soccer. I like the way Brazil plays. But I like the Germans because they hate the Jews and they burned them." "I Was Asked [On Jadeed TV] Why I Supported Germany And [The] Bayern Munich [Soccer Team] And I Said That Maybe It Is Because They Burned The Jews" Wiam Wahhab: "I have supported the Bayern Munich [soccer team] ever since I was little, but you wouldn't believe what problem they caused me once. I was interviewed on Jadeed TV and it was really strange... I was talking on Jadeed TV... I don't hate the Jews as Jews. I don't like the Zionists, but as a Jewish people... No. "Many Jews invented things and introduced many good things to humanity. But when I was on Jadeed TV, I said half-jokingly... I was asked why I supported Germany and Bayern Munich and I said that maybe it is because they burned the Jews." Jordanian Islamic Scholar Dr. Ahmad Al-Shahrouri: MEMRI Has Taken My Statements Out Of Context And Refuses To Apologize; Coronavirus And Zionism Are Both Pandemics We Need To Fight Jordanian Islamic scholar Dr. Ahmad Al-Shahrouri said in an April 12, 2020 show on Yarmouk TV (Jordan) that MEMRI has been monitoring his show and taking statements of his out of context in order to incite against him and against Islamic thought. He said that as a result of MEMRI reports about him, the U.S.-based Arabic-language Al-Hurra TV invited him in order to discuss a statement of his in which he said there is a relationship between fighting the coronavirus and fighting Zionism (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7868). Al-Shahrouri said that Al-Hurra TV had asked him about this in order to get him "all worked up" about the distorted and fabricated information that MEMRI has published against him, and he said that his original statement had been that Zionism should be fought like coronavirus is being fought because it is also a pandemic. He also reiterated a previous statement of his in which he said that Westerners' use of toilet paper is an indication that they have poor hygiene (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7920). "MEMRI Cuts Excerpts From... My Show, Translates Them... In Order To Incite Against Me And Against Islamic Thought... Time And Again, MEMRI Has Been Quoted By Media Outlets" Ahmad Al-Shahrouri: "An American website called 'MEMRI' has been monitoring my show on this blessed TV channel. (MEMRI) cuts excerpts from the episodes of my show, takes them out of context, and translates them into English in order to incite against me and against Islamic thought. I was really intrigued by what the MEMRI website has been doing, and by its repeated quoting of me and clipping of my show. Time and again, MEMRI has been quoted by media outlets. "One time, MEMRI's report was picked up by the American Arabic-language TV channel, Al-Hurra TV. Al-Hurra TV invited me to talk about some of the superstitions circulated by some religious scholars. I won't hide from you. As I was going to Al-Hurra's headquarters in Amman, the question kept nagging at me: Why did they pick me, Ahmad Al-Shahrouri, out of the thousands of shari'a experts, and out of the thousands of Islamic members of the media? What do they want from Ahmad Al-Shahrouri? But then I was asked the first question by the TV host in America. She said: 'You, Ahmad Al-Shahrouri, said that fighting Israel or Zionism is the path to fight the coronavirus.'" Canadian Islamic Scholar Younus Kathrada: I say to MEMRITV That Jihad Does Not Mean Terrorism; Rather, It Means Establishing Islam Worldwide On Friday, May 15, 2020, Canadian Islamic scholar Sheikh Younus Kathrada delivered a sermon that was uploaded to the Muslim Youth Victoria YouTube channel. At the conclusion of his sermon, he asked Allah to support those who wage Jihad for His sake. Addressing B'nai Brith, MEMRI TV, and "the enemies of Allah," Sheikh Kathrada clarified that Jihad in Islam does not mean terrorism, but that it rather means the establishment of justice. He further elaborated that the establishing justice means establishing Islam all over the world. In addition, he asked Allah to “deal with the enemies of Islam.” For more about Sheikh Younus Kathrada, see MEMRI TV Clips Nos. 7896, 7534, 7098, 6950, and 6906. PLEASE SUPPORT MEMRI TV TODAY Without MEMRI TV, there is no understanding of what is being said on Arab and Iranian TV channels. But without your support, our work cannot continue. Please consider making your tax-deductible donation to MEMRI TV a recurring, monthly gift. This is the best way for you to help us. You can donate online, or mail a check to MEMRI, P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837. In gratitude for your consideration,

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May 28, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8771

After Defeat Of Russia's Ally Khalifa Haftar, Russia Sends Planes To Protect Haftar And Its Investment In In Libya Amidst Domestic Criticism

May 28, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8771
According to press reports Russian contract soldiers from the Wagner company and mercenaries from Syria were airlifted from Western Libya on May 24, 2020. This followed the crushing defeat of Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army at the Al-Watiya airbase on May, 19, 2020 and the advance by troops of the Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA).[1] At Al-Watiya Russian anti-air systems were destroyed and captured and then paraded in Tripoli. Captured Russian-made Pantsyr-S1 Air Defense system paraded through Tripoli (Souce: Ej.ru) Russia has repeatedly denied that it was militarily involved in Libya. In January Russia's President Vladimir Putin responded to a question at a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel about the presence of Russian fighters in Libya: "If there are Russian soldiers there they do not represent the interests of the Russian government. they do not receive money from the Russian government. "[2]  Even after a Russian Antonov cargo plane was shown evacuating forces, some Russian papers claimed that was fake news disseminated by the GNA and its leader Fayez Saraj.  Its purpose was to deflect attention from the Turkish military intervention on behalf of Ankara's client– the GNA.[3] The pattern repeated itself again following accusations by the US Africa command that Russia had sent fighter planes to Libya to back Hafter: "Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner," said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. "For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya -- every step of the way. Neither the LNA nor private military companies can arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support -- support they are getting from Russia."[4]Russia, in this case did not issue its own denial and sufficed with republishing a denial by LNA spokesperson Ahmad Al-Mismari to Al-Arabia in its official news agency Ria.ru: "We find such statements, that mention the increase in the combat readiness of the [LNA] army, that we have various types of Russian aircraft. <...> We also find it strange that these reports do not mention the intervention and expansion of Turkey in our country and the transfer tens of thousands of mercenaries from Turkey."[5] Russia's consistent denial of involvement was never convincing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Russia was managing the conflict in Libya "at the highest level".[6] The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland said the presence of about 2000 Russian mercenaries from Wagner Group and the modern weapons they have are disrespectful to Libya's sovereignty and regional security. The US, said Norland believed that Russia could secure its legitimate interests in Libya via more normal means.[7] In the recent fighting the body of a dead soldier fighting for Haftar was found and his personal effects included Russian currency. (Source: Social network photo republished by Novayagazeta.ru) Nor could ties between Russia and Haftar be easily denied.  In March 2019, Haftar visited Assad in Damascus and his "government" reopened the Libyan embassy in the Syrian capital.  After his talks with Syrian officials, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Moqdad said at the embassy reopening: "This is an acknowledgment that Syria and Libya are waging the same battle against terrorism and those who support it."[8] With the Assad regime's connivance, Russia recruited Syrian rebels to fight for Haftar in Libya (Turkey was busily doing the same in areas that it controlled to recruit fighters for the GNA).[9]  The following report examines reactions in Russia to the setback in Libya: Liberal Analyst Goltz: For Haftar There Was Money, For Russia's Unemployed Nothing The respected independent military analyst Alexander Goltz tied the events in Libya to Russia's ongoing struggle against the coronavirus. Goltz recalls that until recently, Moscow had big plans for Marshal Haftar. Haftar would ensure order and protect Russia's interests. Pro-government commentators speculated on billions in military sales to a Haftar-ruled Libya forgetting Russia's bitter experience with Muammar Ghadaffi's unpaid bills. Via its Libyan ally, Russia would presumably project strength in the region. The misplaced optimism was based on Haftar's having studied in the USSR, and his personal friendship with the Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, and "Putin’s chef" Yevgeny Prigozhin.[10] However, Moscow's hopes were not destined to be realized. Haftar sabotaged peace talks in January by walking out on Putin although his opponent the GNA's Fayez Saraj was prepared to sign a deal. Haftar also refused to pay Wagner for $150,000,000 in the equipment and services claiming that the mercenaries supplied were inexperienced. Goltz concluded: "Thus, we are now witnessing yet another rather inglorious end to the Kremlin’s geopolitical games. Its senselessness and costliness are especially glaring right now, when government officials are shamelessly arguing that the state has absolutely no means to help the strapped for funds Russians [during the coronavirus]. There is no money for our unemployed, but for Haftar - there was ..."[11] Pavel Felgenhauer: Critics Of Haftar Now Ascendant Military expert Pavel Felgenhauer believes that Haftar's defeat will strengthen the hands of Russian officials, who favor peace talks between the warring parties in Libya. The telephone conversations between Putin and Erdogan following Al-Watiya's capture appear to indicate this direction. According to Felgengauer, the Russian leadership was split on Libya. For example, the Russian Ministry of Defense supports Haftar, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kremlin do not: "The disagreements were especially pronounced during the January talks in Moscow. Kremlin tried to put al-Sarraj and Haftar at the same negotiating table. Let me remind you that Haftar did not sign anything then and left. The Russian Ministry of Defense supported him, but the Foreign Ministry scolded him…The head of the Russian Defense Ministry, Sergei Shoigu, has repeatedly met with Haftar and is his supporter, while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has not, and he has repeatedly publicly criticized the actions of this Libyan soldier…Now, in my opinion, the view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prevails, which states that Haftar has overreached, and his support must be stopped." [12] Pavel Felgengauer (source: Yandex.ru) Felgengauer's assessment was corroborated by a Russian Foreign Ministry press release reporting a conversation between Lavrov and the speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh calling for immediate ceasefire talks and effectively opposing Haftar's policy of total victory: "On May 26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh at the latter’s initiative. During the conversation the officials had a detailed exchange of views on developments in Libya under conditions of continued armed confrontation between the eastern and the western military-political camps. Both sides emphasized that a military solution of the crisis has no prospects and that it is necessary to launch a constructive dialogue of all Libyan political forces without delay."[13] El-Murid: A Draw In Libya Is A Victory For Turkey And A Defeat For Russia The influential blogger "El-Murid" claims that the events in Libya show that Turkey has gotten the upper hand. In the case of a military clash, Turkey can bring more force to bear, while Russia's supply line runs precariously from Khmeimim in Syria and can easily be interdicted by Turkey. A military confrontation between Turkey and Russia is however unlikely. Haftar's allies, Egypt and the UAE are reassessing their support, and Russia is left with unpaid bills because with the collapse of oil prices, Haftar can no longer support himself by oil smuggling. Nor should Russia console itself that even if Haftar has not managed to conquer Western Libya, the GNA is in no position to extend its control to Eastern Libya: " The task of Turkey in this war is much simpler than that of its opponents - if they [the opponents] need to overthrow the [GNA] government of Saraj and capture Tripoli, then Turkey does not need to smash Haftar and capture Benghazi. It is enough to guarantee the safety of Tripoli, since Saraj, although illegitimate and temporary, is still recognized by the UN as the country's leader, and therefore has the right to sign international documents, in particular with Turkey. The Turk, however, is interested in an agreement on the delimitation of the Mediterranean Sea, within whose framework, they gain control over all offshore pipeline systems from the eastern Mediterranean towards Europe… And in this sense, even a 'draw' with Haftar looks for Turkey like a real victory. And that means the defeat of its opponents, including, of course, the Kremlin."[14] Yulia Latinina: Moscow Backed An Eternal Loser Yulia Latinina writing in Novayagazeta.ru, mocked the Russian leadership for backing an eternal loser and thinking that its tactics of private armies and mercenaries could not be copied by others: "There is such an eternal loser - Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. This man made a military coup with Gaddafi back in 1969 and even then dreamed of becoming the ruler of Libya. However, it was not he who became the ruler, but Gaddafi, and Haftar managed to lose the war with Chad and get captured there. You must agree, losing a war with Chad is awesome. You can lose a war to the USA, China, and finally Great Britain, finally. But Chad ?! "…In the Kremlin, however, they will always find a hopeless geopolitical project in which to invest money, be it Venezuelan oil or an eternal loser, who has been dreaming of the post of Libyan dictator for the past fifty years. "Therefore, the Kremlin bet on Haftar. They supplied him with loads of military equipment and sent Wagnerites and military advisers, the number of which is estimated, according to various sources, from 1200 to 2500 people. Haftar last April announced that he would now capture Tripoli - and, of course, did not. "Although Haftar could not take Tripoli, still a significant part of the country with Russia's help was in his hands. But then the war in Syria ended, and the Turks began to transfer to Libya both their soldiers and former ISISians who are now Turkish Wagnerites, and most importantly - their Bayraktar drones who are produced by Erdogan’s son-in-law and who have so well established themselves in Syria against the Russian Pantsyrs. It was the total air supremacy of Turkish drones air that produced the result that Haftar began to suffer defeat after defeat." "…You may ask: what did the Kremlin forget in Libya? What are we fighting for? Really for the Libyan oil? It is not necessary to have the title of oil analyst in order to realize that - given the real military situation in Libya - Libyan oil will bring us no more than Venezuelan or Kurdish. .. "As a result, two phantom states - pseudo-Tsarist Russia and the pseudo-Sublime Port - are fighting in Libya over who will threaten Europe with refugees from there. At Worst A Draw An analysis in Topwar.ru, that surveys defense issues conceded that Haftar had temporarily lost a bit of his swagger but counseled against writing him off: " Of course, talk about the complete defeat of Haftar near Tripoli is premature. After all, just as the field marshal does not have the strength to capture the city, his opponents do not have the power to oust Haftar from Cyrenaica. Therefore, most likely, in the foreseeable future, the battles in Tripolitania will still continue with varying success. Much will depend on whether or not his patrons, who assist the field marshal with arms, ammunition and military equipment, will leave or stick by Haftar."[15] Stanislav Kudryashov, head of the Business Advisory Council for Libya that views itself as the representative of the Eastern Libyan House of Representatives based in Tobruk views the setback as temporary. Turkey cannot compete with the Arab states that oppose the GNA and will be overmatched by Russia and others militarily. Interviewed in Prigozhin's Riafan.ru he said: "Ankara opposed itself to the entire Islamic world, proclaiming itself its leader. The Turkish government is trying to create some religious and educational institutions, to lure teachers from other countries. Such an active position of Erdogan causes irritation not only abroad, but also among local clergy, since everyone perfectly understands where the source of truth and the center of Islamic theology are. For example, in the oldest Egyptian Islamic Academy al-Azhar, in the UAE, in Saudi Arabia, where the holy city of all Muslims, Mecca, is located, "…It is clear that the party that Turkey supports in the Libyan conflict is in power illegally. Members of the GNA are terrorists… all their power was previously sustained by weapons and Islamist gangs, and, in fact, with the help of immigrants from the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda (terrorist organizations banned in the Russian Federation), who were disguised as law enforcement agencies called the 'government'. Today, all Tripolitan power is based on the military power of Turkey. But we must understand that Turkey is not the only country in the world that has drones and an army."[16] The pro-government Vesti claimed that Haftar was not finished: As for Haftar, this is not the end. The general will now specifically attack Turkish forces. Sakr al-Jarushi, Haftar's Air Force Commander, promised to unleash "the largest air campaign in the history of Libya," making all Turkish positions "the legitimate targets of our air forces." However, Vesti claimed that main arbiter of Haftar's fate was the UAE (Union of Arab Emirates) that now had to decide whether to continue investing in Haftar.[17] Evgeny Krutikov expects Haftar to take the war to the Turks: "Strategically, Haftar does not seek that much to fight for every village in the desert, but primarily to stop the enemy's supply from Turkey, and secondly, to seriously increase the risks for the Turks. Now they dodged a rocket, but tomorrow they may not dodge it. Turks are less critical of casualties than Americans or Europeans, but relatively recent events in Idlib have shown that the loss of a large ship with casualties can be a rather sensitive blow. Already in Ankara they threaten Haftar with terrible punishments if "at least one Turkish soldier suffers".[18] RIAC Expert Kirill Semenov: Conflict Will Be Frozen, Haftar Will Be Used Till Russia Is disgusted With Him According to expert Kirill Semenov, Moscow will not go to war with Turkey and will suffice with a frozen conflict in which Haftar will serve as a useful tool until a better alternative can be found: "The Turkish side is aggressive. Unlike Syria, the Turkish Air Force will be able to act against Russian aircraft in Libya, if they really exist and yet belong to Haftar, said Kirill Semenov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council. And then it will be not only and not even a Libyan war as much as a Russian-Turkish war. "In this case, Moscow does not need any conflict. It really can increase influence in the region - especially if Egypt and the UAE finally cease to support the LNA (apparently, this is only a matter of time). However, it is most likely impossible to avoid large-scale bloodshed - the situation in Libya has long been triggered, and the war will continue regardless of what its external participants do. But the conflict can be frozen: for this Russia needs to deal with its ally, who has turned into the main problem - Field Marshal Haftar. "However, there is no alternative now: in the east of Libya, the Haftar army is the most powerful political force. So far, Russia simply does not allow the PNS to be strengthened, but if Field Marshal really 'bores Moscow, it may deprive him of support. In any case, the victory or loss of Haftar is not very interesting for Russia: it just wants to act as the main mediator and leading political force in the Libyan area."[19]     [1] Rbc.ru, May 25, 2020. [2] Novayagazeta.ru, January 11, 2020. [3] Pravda.ru, May 26, 2020. [4] Africom.mil/media-room/pressrelease, May 26, 2020. [5] Ria.ru, May 27, 2020. [6] Themoscowtimes.com, February 17, 2020. [7] Libyaobserver.ly, May 17, 2020. [8] Englis.aawsat.com, March 10. 2019 [9] Foreignpolicy.com, May 5, 2020. [10] Prigozhin is reportedly Wagner's financial angel. Bbc.com, November 4, 2019. [11] Ej.ru, May 21, 2020. [12] Rosbalt.ru, May 20, 2020. [13] Mid.ru, May 26, 2020. [14] Elmurid.livejournal.com, May 23, 2020. [15] Topwar.ru, May 25, 2020. [16] Riafan.ru, May 22, 2020. [17] Vesti.ru, May 25, 2020. [18] Vz.ru, May 25, 2020. [19] Rambler.ru, May 25, 2020.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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May 28, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8770

Member Of Qatar-Supported IUMS: Coronavirus Is Divine Retribution For Oppression Of Muslims In China And Elsewhere

May 28, 2020
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 8770
On March 9, 2020, the International Union of Muslims Scholars (IUMS), which is supported by Qatar, posted on its website an article by one of its members, Sheikh 'Abd Al-Razzaq Qassoum, who is also chair of the Association of Algerian Muslim 'Ulama. In the article he described the coronavirus pandemic as a sign heralding Judgement Day and as divine punishment for the oppression of Muslims in China, Palestine and other parts of the world. He expressed puzzlement at what he called the silence of the Muslims and their leaders in the face of the persecution of their brothers around the world, and even accused some of these leaders of encouraging and abetting this oppression. 'Abd Al-Razzaq Qassoum (source: Echoroukonline.com) The following are translated excerpts from his article.[1] "These days the world and the people are shaken… by the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which killed thousands of people in China and [then] spread like wildfire to every part of the world. The pandemic confounded hospital doctors and kept laboratory workers awake at night. All of China’s abilities, economic power and technologies did not avail it, and neither did its ideologies. The pandemic confounded the planes in the skies and the harbors and airports on the ground. It forced people to wear masks, forced travelers from China to go into quarantine, and made holiday resorts irrelevant… "The world was shaken by the appearance of the Chinese virus, as the panic spread to every country and every laboratory in the hospitals and clinics mobilized to stop it. But ideological China has suffered another plague, an ideological one, manifest in the quiet political persecution of millions of Chinese Muslims who did nothing wrong, other than be Muslim. "Bless you, Allah, for [branding] the body of the Chinese giant with signs heralding the coming of Judgement Day. You exposed the helplessness [of this giant], as opposed to your immense power, and avenged the oppressed Chinese Muslims. Today China has two faces: the face of the Chinese plague that afflicts its body, and the face of religious persecution, which sentenced the Chinese Muslims to isolation, oppression and even arrests. So why is it that the world, with all its [different] faiths and ideologies, was outraged by this disease and set forth [to fight it] in the air and on the ground, yet did not bat an eyelash at the torment of the downtrodden Muslims? "This is a world full of contrasts, whose power-balances, formulas and standards are awry. It is preoccupied with the 'Deal of the Century' instead of the 'Trial of the Century.' This Deal of the Century denies the rights of the oppressed Palestinians, for it robs them of their land and rips it to shreds… while pleasing the aggressive, occupying Zionists, welcoming the oppression they commit, strengthening them and encouraging their erosion [of the Palestinian land]. The ‘free’ and ‘civilized’ world also ignores all the corruption, tyranny and oppression that take place in various [other] places, in more than one country.   "Did the arrogant [people] of the world, [who speak] in the name of politics, economy and technology, not consider that this Chinese epidemic, which was made in China, is [Allah's] answer to [the pleas] of the oppressed? Do they not understand that Allah gives oppressors a respite, but does not ignore them, and eventually captures them, never to release them again? It was surely the sighs and the pleas of the tormented in the prisons of the aggressive Zionists and in the concentration camps of the arrogant Chinese that Allah answered [by causing this epidemic]…  "I was surprised by the terrible silence of the Muslims people and leaders in the face of what is happening to their persecuted brothers. I was even more surprised at those who conspire with the oppressors, helping them economically and encouraging them to continue… This is a grave [act], and Muslim society suffers every kind of flaw, because it its leaders… "Allah has given [the world] signs and warnings in the form of this epidemic that emerged in China, and by shaking the seats of the tyrants in the U.S. and Palestine. All that is left is for our [own] leaders to take a lesson from [the fate of] these arrogant [tyrants]. History has already taught us that it is decreed [by Allah] that the [correct] ideas, whether nationalist or religious, will eventually triumph, no matter the initial number of victims. Just as [the Muslims] defeated those who tormented them in the trench,[2] and just as November's children[3] defeated the colonialist occupiers, so too will the Chinese Muslims defeat their tormenters, the oppressed Palestinians will defeat their hangmen, and all those with [stolen] rights will defeat their oppressors. That was Allah's way with those who have passed from the world, and it will be his way with the [current oppressors]. Never shall we find an alternative to the way of Allah. There is no tyrant who will not be [defeated] by a greater tyrant, and there is no oppressed [people] to whom Allah will not eventually grant victory. We fear that the epidemic… and the punishment… will have victims among the Muslims [as well], and repercussions for the Muslims. But recovery will eventually come, and it will be the lot of the believers who spoke the truth and who believe in [the their own]  rights…"   [1] Iumsonline.org, March 9, 2020. [2] A reference to a story in the Quran (85:4-9) about the Muslims' enemies who cast them into a trench full of fire. [3] A reference to the young Algerians who fought for their country's independence from France. November's Children is the name of a documentary film by Moussa Haddad about this period.  

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