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Homeland Security News

A collection of open-source homeland security and terrorism news from around the world.
Date: Dec 27, 2016

Twitter has suspended the account of Jordanian preacher and al-Qaida spiritual leader Abu Qatada, along with two other influential scholars aligned with the extremist group.

The three accounts, which between them had tens of thousands of followers and were used several times a day, were at the heart of an online network of al-Qaida supporters, said Cole Bunzel, scholar of jihadism at Princeton University.

The accounts focused mostly on the war in Syria, frequently attacking Islamic State, but also commented on other issues, from law to religious judgments.

Read more: The Guardian (UK)

A senior police officer has called the government's Prevent anti-extremism programme "absolutely fundamental" in tackling terrorism in the UK.  The programme has been criticised by MPs, the National Union of Teachers and the Muslim Council of Britain.

But Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole said it was sometimes wrongly presented in "hysterical" terms as a spying operation.  A Muslim group and a government advisor are calling for an independent review.  The Prevent duty was introduced last year, requiring schools and local authorities to "have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".

Read more: BBC News

Russia said on Tuesday that a U.S. decision to ease some restrictions on arming Syrian rebels had opened the way for deliveries of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, a move it said would directly threaten Russian forces in Syria.

Moscow last year launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad and government forces in a conflict with rebels, some of whom are supported by the United States.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the policy change easing some restrictions on weapons supplies to rebels was set out in a new U.S. defence spending bill and that Moscow regarded the step as a hostile act.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed the annual defence policy bill into law last week.

"In the administration of B. Obama they must understand that any weapons handed over will quickly end up in the hands of jihadists with whom the sham 'moderate' opposition have long acted jointly," Zakharova said in a statement.

"Such a decision is a direct threat to the Russian air force, to other Russian military personnel, and to our embassy in Syria, which has come under fire more than once. We therefore view the step as a hostile one."

Read more:  Reuters

Nigeria's military will turn the Sambisa forest, a former bastion of militant Islamist group Boko Haram, into a training centre for its troops, the army chief has said.

This would prevent the militants from rebuilding a presence in the area, Gen Tukur Buratai added.

The military overran the militants' last camp in Sambisa on Friday.

It had become their main base after they lost control of urban strongholds in north-eastern Borno state in 2015.

Many of the militants are thought to have fled to areas closer to the border with Niger and Chad before the camp fell, says BBC Hausa service editor Jimeh Saleh.

In an address to troops in Damasak town in Borno state, Gen Buratai said that troops were conducting a "mop-up operation" against Boko Haram in the forest, a former colonial game reserve.

"We are opening up roads in Sambisa forest to site a base. It is going to be one of our training centres in the country as well as ground for testing acquired equipment before putting them into operation," he added.

Read more:  BBC News

One of Islamic State's top commanders in Syria was probably killed in combat as the jihadists sought to stave off an advance by U.S.-backed Syrian forces towards a strategic dam in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

The commander known as Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti was killed as Islamic State fighters tried to drive the Syrian Democratic Forces from the village of Jabar captured from the jihadists on Monday, Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman said.

The Islamic State counter attack, launched overnight, failed. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, have advanced to within 5 km (3 miles) of the dam, Abdulrahman said.

Source:  Reuters