Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
US pulling out of northern Syria; full withdrawal possible
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 01:01:41 -0400

US pulling out of northern Syria; full withdrawal possibleThe United States appears to be heading toward a full military withdrawal from Syria amid growing chaos , cries of betrayal and signs that Turkey's invasion could fuel a broader war. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had directed U.S. troops in northern Syria to begin pulling out "as safely and quickly as possible." He did not say Trump ordered troops to leave Syria, but that seemed like the next step in a combat zone growing more unstable by the hour. Esper, interviewed on two TV news shows, said the administration was considering its options.


Merkel Says Germany and France Should Deepen Relationship
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 05:36:13 -0400

Merkel Says Germany and France Should Deepen Relationship(Bloomberg) -- Explore what’s moving the global economy in the new season of the Stephanomics podcast. Subscribe via Pocket Cast or iTunes.Germany and France should deepen their relationship and coordinate policies more intensively, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly podcast, ahead of a Franco-German ministerial meeting Wednesday.Merkel and several German ministers will travel to Toulouse next week to meet French counterparts and discuss how to intensify political coordination. For example, both governments should agree on common positions before each European Council meeting, she said.Germany and France are the motors of European security and defense policy, Merkel said. Wednesday’s talks will also deal with defense issues such as the next steps in developing European tanks and an airplane, according to the chancellor.Before the talks, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse. The company is the “probably most important project of Franco-German collaboration of the past decades,” Merkel said.Germany and France also plan to foster contacts between citizens of both countries in areas near their border. She said other plans include the foundation of cultural institutes and a fund to facilitate such projects.To contact the reporter on this story: David Verbeek in Frankfurt at dverbeek1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Schaefer at dschaefer36@bloomberg.net, Thomas MulierFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Family ends search for missing CEO after a body is found
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 16:13:57 -0400

Family ends search for missing CEO after a body is foundThe family of a missing Utah tech executive has called off a search for her after police reported that a body was found inside a parked car in the San Francisco Bay Area. Police in San Jose said the body was discovered Saturday in an area where Erin Valenti's family had been searching. "While we were praying for a different outcome, we are so appreciative for the help and support you have given," according to a Facebook post by the group Help Find Erin Valenti.


BEHOLD: Is China's DF-26 Missile a Real Threat to U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers?
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 12:00:00 -0400

BEHOLD: Is China's DF-26 Missile a Real Threat to U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers?Will Beijing's strategy work?


Police: Woman killed by 6-foot log pushed off cliff in Ohio state park; 2 teens charged
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 17:46:28 -0400

Police: Woman killed by 6-foot log pushed off cliff in Ohio state park; 2 teens chargedOhio investigators say the six-foot log was pushed or thrown off the cliff in the Hocking Hills State Park. Two teens have been charged.


Israel asks Putin to pardon U.S.-Israeli jailed for Moscow airport transit drugs
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 09:38:47 -0400

Israel asks Putin to pardon U.S.-Israeli jailed for Moscow airport transit drugsIsrael asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to pardon a U.S.-Israeli woman given a 7.5-year jail sentence for drugs found in her luggage as she transited through a Moscow airport. Naama Issachar's case has opened up an unusually public rift between Israel and Russia. Issachar was arrested in April during a layover in flights from India to Israel.


Harry Dunn: US woman allegedly involved in crash does not have diplomatic immunity, says Foreign Office
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 10:54:00 -0400

Harry Dunn: US woman allegedly involved in crash does not have diplomatic immunity, says Foreign OfficeThe US diplomat’s wife allegedly involved in a crash which killed a teenager does not have diplomatic immunity, the Foreign Office has said.A letter, that appears to have been sent by foreign secretary Dominic Raab to Harry Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, says: “The question remains when such immunity comes to an end, regardless of any waiver.


German police investigate bitcoin transfer to synagogue killer
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 10:12:17 -0400

German police investigate bitcoin transfer to synagogue killerGerman police are investigating a bitcoin transfer made to the far-Right extremist behind Wednesday’s terror attack in Halle to determine if the man possessed a broader support network. German media outlet Spiegel reports that a transfer of 0.1 bitcoin – approximately €750 (£660) – was made to alleged attacker Stephan Balliet in the lead up to the attack. Police said the transfer came from an unknown source. Balliet told police interrogators that he had received the money from someone whom he had communicated with on the internet, but that he did not know who they were. Questions were raised as to how Balliet, who had been unemployed for a significant period of time in the lead up to the attack, was able to fund the attack, including buying the materials for his home-made weapons. As reported by Spiegel, the man told investigators that the weapons were cheap to manufacture, primarily as he constructed them from basic raw materials. He told police he bought steel worth €50, cartridge cases for €25 and a telescope for €20 to manufacture the weapons, which he based on designs released online by British pro-gun activist Philip Luty "The further investigations will deal in particular with the question of whether other persons were involved in the act or its preparation alongside Stephan Balliet", said a spokesman for the Federal Criminal Police Office. The 27-year-old Balliet was active in far-Right chatrooms, with police suspecting he was radicalised online. Balliet uploaded a manifesto outlining his motives, details of his weapons and indications as to the nature of his plans in the lead up to the attack.


Bernie Sanders differentiates himself from Warren, says he's the only candidate willing to stand up to corporate elite
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 13:30:00 -0400

Bernie Sanders differentiates himself from Warren, says he's the only candidate willing to stand up to corporate eliteIt looks like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is beginning to distance himself from his good friend Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) policy-wise.The two Democratic presidential candidates have always gotten along well and are generally ideological allies, especially relative to many of their primary competitors. But Sanders was pretty clear in an interview that aired on ABC's This Week Sunday that Warren has a ways to go before she's at the same point on the political spectrum.Sanders praised Warren's tenure as a senator and reaffirmed their friendship, but he said "there are differences" in their platforms, namely the fact that Warren has maintained she is a capitalist "through her bones." He said the country doesn't need more regulation, but rather a "political revolution" and he believes he's the only candidate who will stand up to the corporate elite in the U.S. and say "enough." He said that Warren would speak for herself on the matter, but, for the moment, Sanders, who considers himself a democratic socialist, thinks her adherence to capitalism is reason enough to separate them.> Sen. Bernie Sanders tells @jonkarl that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a "very, very good senator," but "there are differences between Elizabeth and myself." > > "Elizabeth, I think, as you know, has said that she is a capitalist through her bones. I'm not." https://t.co/MAEIw7EoHO pic.twitter.com/HLHFGgmubs> > -- This Week (@ThisWeekABC) October 13, 2019The initial analysis of Sanders' comments seems to be that Sanders recognizes he's falling behind Warren in the race, and understands focusing on where they differ might be his best chance at getting back in contention. > .@rickklein says Bernie Sanders drawing a contrast with Warren is "an unmistakeable message" that he recognizes "the growing consensus in the Democratic Party that is buttressed by polls that says Elizabeth Warren is going to be the candidate to beat" https://t.co/9Q62slshzO pic.twitter.com/WzVrS41SCE> > -- Deena Zeina Zaru ‍ (@Deena_Zaru) October 13, 2019


U.S. ‘Withdraws’ as Kurds Strike Deal to Let Assad’s Forces Into Region
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 11:18:59 -0400

U.S. ‘Withdraws’ as Kurds Strike Deal to Let Assad’s Forces Into RegionKhalil Ashawi/ReutersAmid a Turkish assault, the Kurds, or Syrian Democratic Forces, have struck a deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that will bring forces loyal to Assad back into areas that have been under Kurdish control for years.“An agreement has been reached with the Syrian government—whose duty it is to protect the country’s borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty—for the Syrian Army to enter and deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to help the SDF stop this aggression [by Turkey],” the Kurds said in a statement.Once the agreement was made Sunday night, Syrian Assad troops began moving into towns near the border with Turkey where Turkish forces have been encroaching since President Trump announced that he was withdrawing American forces from the region earlier this week.The agreement appears to undermine any expectation that United States might continue to assist the Kurds—Washington’s allies against ISIS—as they are attacked by Turkey. In the aftermath of Trump’s announcement, with a Turkish invasion carried out just days later, American forces were unable to carry out a move of about 60 “high value” ISIS detainees out of wartime prisons run by the Kurds, The New York Times reports. The chaos also made way for hundreds of ISIS prisoners on Sunday to escape from a low-security detention camp in the area.In the latest surge of anti-war rhetoric from the Trump administration, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday that the U.S. is launching a “deliberate withdrawal” of American forces from northern Syria but refused to say how long it will take.“We want to conduct it safely and quickly as possible,” Esper told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday morning, adding, “I’m not prepared to put a timeline on it, but that’s our general game plan.” Two knowledgeable U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the troops are just withdrawing further away from the advance of Turkish forces massacring the Syrian Kurds whom America relied upon to destroy the so-called Islamic State’s caliphate.There are currently 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria. A knowledgeable U.S. official said hundreds of those troops, without further specificity, will leave Syria for elsewhere in the Mideast. Following a pullout from two northern Syrian observation posts last week, the U.S. will now retreat farther away from the area Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invaded.Esper said Trump gave the withdrawal order because Turkish forces are pushing further south into Syria and Kurdish forces had been trying to cut a deal with Syria and Russia to counter-attack.“We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies, and it’s a very untenable situation,” he said.But as Esper made clear, the order affects only the north and there will still be American forces in the rest of Syria even as Trump—who separately has ordered about 14,000 U.S. troops to the Persian Gulf region over the past six months—rails against the disastrous, bloody, and interminable U.S. misadventure in the Middle East over the past generation.A U.S. official told CNN that U.S. policy “has failed” and that the campaign in Syria to defeat ISIS is “over for now,” giving the terrorist group “a second lease on life with nearly 100,000 [people] who will re-join their jihad.” The mixed messaging by the Trump administration is making it difficult for even his most ardent supporters to help unravel his foreign policy on Syria as it spins out of control. Just days after Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria where they have been providing weapons and cover to allied Kurdish fighters on the border between Turkey and Syria, Turkey began a military incursion that has sent the region into a level of chaos it has not seen in recent years.The Daily Beast first reported Friday that claims made by the Trump administration that U.S. troops had been withdrawn were false. “We are out of there. We’ve been out of there for a while,” Trump said Wednesday. “No soldiers whatsoever.” Two officials told The Daily Beast that in fact the U.S. military had only pulled back from—not completely out of—northern Syria. They had simply abandoned two small observation posts from which they supported Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS fighters. Trump Says U.S. Troops Have Quit Syria. It’s Not True.Trump then tweeted that he had been talking with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–SC), who had been highly critical of Trump’s decision to remove troops. “Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump administration. This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS,” Graham warned Wednesday. “I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working.” Graham later tweeted that any sanctions had to be serious. “The conditional sanctions announced today will be viewed by Turkey as a tepid response and will embolden Erdogan even more,” Graham tweeted Friday. “The Turkish government needs to know Congress will take a different path—passing crippling sanctions in a bipartisan fashion.”But in a Sunday morning tweet, the president wrote that he was working with Graham “and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey.”He then added: “Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!”Turkey has warned that any threats of sanctions would be met with the release of millions of refugees along the border between Turkey and Syria into Europe. Trump told reporters at the White House earlier this week that such a possibility did not concern him. “Well they’re going to be escaping to Europe,” he said. “That’s where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes.”On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that up to 700 ISIS sympathizers did escape the Ain Eissa camp, which holds up 12,000 people caught up in years of unrest. Most of those who escaped are ISIS brides and children, but officials warn that they could be part of a resurgence of the so-called Islamic state. Several known ISIS fighters were also spotted fighting in the current conflict, according to CNN, which reported that at least five fighters had escaped the notorious Ghuwairan prison due to heavy shelling in the area. During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—who has been one of the president’s most vocal defenders on the Syria decision—called it a “messy, complicated situation” while saying the president was right to move soldiers out of the way because “Turkey was coming in one way or another.” When moderator Chuck Todd noted that U.S. soldiers near the Turkish border were serving as a deterrent to an Erdogan invasion, Paul retorted “they were until they weren’t.”Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin repeated Paul’s line that this is a “complicated situation” when asked on ABC’s This Week why the administration hasn’t imposed sanctions on Turkey yet.“We are ready to go on a moment’s notice to put on sanctions,” Mnuchin said. “As I said, these sanctions could be starting small. They could be maximum pressure which would destroy the Turkish economy. The president is very focused on this. He’s offered to mediate the situation.”Mnunchin also pushed back on criticism from those within the president’s own party. In response to Graham and others saying sanctions would be a tepid reaction to Turkey, Mnuchin stated that this is a “multi-step process” and the administration needs to make sure “we have the proper authorizations.” The treasury chief, meanwhile, was asked what the president was talking about when he criticized the Kurds for not storming the beaches at Normandy alongside U.S. troops. Mnuchin asserted Trump’s analogy was that he was pushing back on everyone “saying the Kurds are these long-standing allies” and that our role in Syria “was not to defend the Kurds.”On CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) said that while he wished the president’s decision had “been different,” he feels that we tend to “oversimplify the complicated relationships” in the region. He went on to say this wasn’t a “binary choice” as both the Turks and Kurds are considered allies. As for whether the U.S. was retreating from the area and allowing the Turks to invade northern Syria, Cramer said “we can’t be in the middle of every skirmish in the neighborhood.”House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY), meanwhile, told Meet the Press that while he is working on a bipartisan bill that will slap sanctions on Turkey and condemn the president’s policy as it relates to the Kurds, he acknowledges that “it’s not going to stop” the Turks now. Asked whether it’s too late to do anything at this point, Engel seemed to resign himself to that notion.“We could mitigate the damage,” he told Todd. “Of course, it’s spiraling quickly. And what’s happened, of course, is a lot of ISIS prisoners, we’ve gotten reports that they have been released or they’ve escaped and so this is just the tip of the iceberg. And if we think this is terrible, I predict we will have many, many more days, weeks, and months of terrible things like this.”Elsewhere on Meet the Press, former secretary of defense James Mattis warned that ISIS could see a revival in the area, noting the Syrian Democratic Forces were the ones who largely fought the terror group in Syria. If we don’t keep pressure on, ISIS will resurge,” Mattis said. “It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”During his State of the Union interview, South Bend Mayor and Afghanistan War veteran Pete Buttigieg insisted Trump was “systematically destroying American allies and American values.”“What’s even more disturbing to me as a veteran is hearing from soldiers who feel they have lost their honor over this, who feel they are unable to look in the eye [of] allies who put their lives on line to fight with us,” he added. “If you take away a soldier’s honor, you might as well go after their body armor next. That is what the commander-in-chief is doing right now.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Girl scales replica of Trump’s 'un-climbable' border wall
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 14:35:24 -0400

Girl scales replica of Trump’s 'un-climbable' border wallAn 18-foot replica of President Trump’s border wall has been climbed in a matter of seconds by an 8-year-old girl and a man who returned for another attempt while juggling with one hand.


Caravan of 2,000 migrants detained in southern Mexico
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 08:49:08 -0400

Caravan of 2,000 migrants detained in southern MexicoMexican officials broke up a caravan of around 2,000 migrants that had set out from southern Mexico Saturday in the hopes of reaching the United States, amid increasing difficulty obtaining permission to pass through Mexico. Many of the migrants who departed from Tapachula, Chiapas early in the morning had been held up in this city just north of Guatemala for weeks or months, awaiting residency or transit papers from Mexican authorities. "I want to pass through Mexico, I don't want to live here," said Amado Ramirez, a migrant from Honduras who said he had been living on the streets of Tapachula with his young children and wife, hoping for a transit visa from Mexican officials.


A Real Threat: Why Russia's Air Force Should Be Taken Seriously
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 08:00:00 -0400

A Real Threat: Why Russia's Air Force Should Be Taken SeriouslyAnd why countries love to buy them.


The Latest: 4 killed at illegal gambling site in Brooklyn
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 10:20:39 -0400

The Latest: 4 killed at illegal gambling site in BrooklynPolice say four people were killed and three others wounded inside an illegal gambling site in Brooklyn. The shooting happened just before 7 a.m. Saturday. NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea said at a briefing Saturday that two firearms have been recovered and more may be found.


Hong Kong police make arrests as small flashmob protests erupt
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 04:21:04 -0400

Hong Kong police make arrests as small flashmob protests eruptHong Kong riot police spent much of Sunday afternoon skirmishing with small groups of masked pro-democracy protesters who held flashmob gatherings in multiple locations -- although crowds were smaller and less violent than recent weekends. In the district of Mongkok, riot police burst from an unmarked van that had screeched up to a blockade made of bamboo scaffolding poles and quickly chased down multiple protesters who were pinned to the ground and detained. In Tai Po district, officers charged into a mall where protesters had tagged a number of businesses with slogans with at least two arrests made.


Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 21:51:04 -0400

Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate actionIn a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne. Wearing white laboratory coats to symbolise their research credentials, a group of about 20 of the signatories gathered on Saturday to read out the text outside London's century-old Science Museum in the city's upmarket Kensington district. "We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law," said Emily Grossman, a science broadcaster with a PhD in molecular biology, who read the declaration on behalf of the group.


Norwegian Cruise Line passengers demand refunds after ship skips several scheduled stops
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 14:31:10 -0400

Norwegian Cruise Line passengers demand refunds after ship skips several scheduled stopsNorwegian Cruise Line passengers voiced their anger after disembarking from the ship Friday after several port stops were canceled due to weather.


WTO Chief Says No Exceptions for UK-EU Trade in Hard Brexit
Sat, 12 Oct 2019 11:19:22 -0400

WTO Chief Says No Exceptions for UK-EU Trade in Hard Brexit(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.In the event of a no-deal Brexit there will be no special rules for trade between the U.K. and the European Union, the World Trade Organization’s director-general Roberto Azevedo said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. A trade without customs duties would only be possible, if customs would be removed for all other trading partners, too, he said.Azevedo also asked the 164 WTO member countries to cooperate more constructively, saying that the world trade system is in its worst crisis since the 1930s. The WTO is the last institution “that separates us from the law of the jungle” he said.To contact the reporter on this story: David Verbeek in Frankfurt at dverbeek1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Schaefer at dschaefer36@bloomberg.net, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Kurds strike deal with Syrian government amid Turkish onslaught
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 21:17:31 -0400

Kurds strike deal with Syrian government amid Turkish onslaughtPresident Trump's decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to launch an assault against the Kurds, prompted the Kurds on Sunday to reach a protection deal with the Syrian government.Under this agreement, Syrian government troops will be able to enter Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria for the first time in years, The New York Times reports. The United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, spent the last several years as allies, fighting against the Islamic State.There are still ISIS sleeper cells in Syria, and many fear that the Turkish invasion could lead to the terror group's resurgence. Thousands of suspected ISIS supporters are being held in prisons guarded by Kurds, and hundreds escaped during fighting on Saturday and Sunday. Two U.S. officials told the Times the military recently tried to transfer five dozen "high value" ISIS detainees, but feeling betrayed, the Kurds said no.The Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its allies, said on Sunday it will fight the "Turkish aggression," while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops have control over about 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday morning announced all American troops will withdraw from northern Syria, in order to stay out of the crossfire.


Tales of Crypto-Currency: Bitcoin Jihad in Syria and Beyond
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 05:13:45 -0400

Tales of Crypto-Currency: Bitcoin Jihad in Syria and BeyondPhoto Illustration by The Daily BeastWhen President Donald J. Trump talks about the withdrawal of American forces from Syria, he’s turning his back on more than U.S. allies and the problem of their hardened prisoners from the so-called Islamic State. The president also turns his back on what has in many ways become a proving ground in the war on terrorism. Syria has been an incubator for every innovation to the global jihad in the last decade: social media recruitment, lone-wolf inspiration, and, as of the last few years, the essential pillar of any terrorist group: financing.A terrorist organization cannot exist without money, and since 9/11 draining those resources has been an indispensable component of fighting them. But what progress the world has made against terrorist financing in Syria is becoming increasingly irrelevant as ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadi groups are reviving once-dying fundraising machines with a previously untapped resource: crypto-currency.ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s New Video Is Desperate—but Potentially EffectiveWhen I began tracking terrorist financing rings in the late 1990s, they relied on charities and person-to-person resources like hawalas, which are systems of transferring money between different networks of families and trusted associates. As technology evolved, so too did terrorists, embracing services like Western Union, Moneygram, and PayPal. These developments brought forth slews of regulations and security protocols by governments and the companies themselves.At the same time these new security measures mounted, a perfect storm of circumstances were shaping in Syria that would make the country the springboard for the jihadis’ embrace of crypto.  First was the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Monero, Lumens, Zcash, and of course Bitcoin, along with the increasing ease of exchanges. Second was the July 2016 dissolution of the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate. At the same time, major offensives against ISIS were well underway, shrinking its territory and removing ISIS from many of its oil fields and other financial resources. That put many foreign fighters out of a paycheck—and, with no family in Syria, short on ways to get money. Worsening their situation, Syria was a virtual dead zone for money transfers. Now without income, ISIS and al Qaeda fighters’ only real way to get money from whatever families, friends, and supporters they had overseas was through hawala-style transfers made to neighboring countries like Turkey—an already risky process made even less reliable because of heavy monitoring by government agencies. Jihadists in Syria needed to get creative. And, considering their options, what better starting point did they have than a largely unregulated, under-the-radar resource, that is, crypto?By 2016, ISIS and al Qaeda fighters were already calling for crypto donations on social media. ISIS, like many other groups’ central commands, never outwardly fundraised for Bitcoin donations, but its operatives and fighters have done so on its behalf behind the scenes on social media and other platforms at least as early as 2015. By 2017, ISIS had long been receiving Bitcoin donations from all over the world, with numerous cases coming out of the US in places like New York and Virginia. To this day, you can find calls for Bitcoin donations across ISIS-linked chat groups on Telegram. ISIS would eventually even use Bitcoin to fund attacks, including the deadly Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka bombings this past April.Likewise, groups like al-Sadaqa, run by Western fighters associated with other jihadi factions in Syria, were among the first to fundraise with Bitcoin in any significantly organized sense. It fundraised for weapons with Bitcoin “so people from outside [Syria] can donate towards the jihad [securely] without getting [caught].” The money, according to the group, would “help by buying other items maybe guns.”These fundraising messages were posted publicly on platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Facebook, and Instagram. And they were anything but shy about where the money was going. In December 2017 al-Sadaqa launched a campaign for “ribat” (garrison position) upgrades. It released a video that following February thanking donors while showing video footage of their upgraded space:We are your mujahideen brothers. We thank the brothers from Al Sadaqah for their help in reinforcing this guarding point, and we tell the brothers that we are in need of more donations, so we are able to stand firm against our enemy.Such independent fundraising efforts were effectively proof-of-concept demonstrations. Donations came in, fighters got their money, and everything came together. By late 2017, groups linked to ISIS, al Qaeda, and other organizations began embracing this approach. Incite the Believers’ Operations Room, a coalition of Syrian factions including de facto al Qaeda affiliate Hurras al-Deen, solicits Bitcoin donations as part of its ongoing “Prepare Us [For Battle]” campaign, which it launched in May 2019 to supply weapons, ammunition, and other equipment for fighters in Northeastern Syria. Text at the bottom of its propaganda boldly gives a Bitcoin wallet address along with WhatsApp and Telegram contact info. Malhama Tactical, a group that trains fighters with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s (HTS), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization and the largest faction in Syria, even fundraised for drones to be used toward “artillery adjustment and reconnaissance.” This crypto buzz even reached upward to HTS itself which, in an April 2019 issue of its magazine, took on the utopian language of an avid crypto-bro in hyping Bitcoin as “The Currency of the Future Economy.”Just as noteworthy as the terrorists’ cleverness is their dogged persistence. One HTS-linked fundraising organization called “Al-Ikhwa” has shared at least nine Bitcoin wallet addresses, generating at least $1,600 in Bitcoin donations among them, based on publicly available transaction records and Bitcoin values calculated based on the date of the exchanges. The update shows a mirroring approach to jihadists tactics against social media companies that delete terrorist accounts, which is simply to create a surplus of back-ups. For crypto fundraising to truly take off, though, jihadists in Syria needed more than just a currency like Bitcoin by itself. There were still serious obstacles in receiving Bitcoin donations—let alone actually spending them on anything productive.   To start, jihadi fighters in a place like Syria cannot buy food or clothing with Bitcoin directly. Just as your local supermarket prefers to use the currency of your country, so too does most any corner store, landlord, or weapons dealer in Syria. But members and supporters of these groups are finding ways to transfer Bitcoin into serviceable cash by integrating the technology with, ironically, old hawala methods. This past spring, jihadists began promoting “Bitcoin Transfer,” a service run by jihadists in Idlib, Syria. The announcement of the service, written in English, Arabic, Turkish, French, German, and other languages, describes it as an “anonymous and safe way” to transfer money, written with language clearly meant to assure donors who would never have used crypto otherwise:You want to receive money from Europe, Saudi, Asia, Africa and America and you don’t want to use unsafe transfer means for the one sending you the money? BITCOIN TRANSFER is the solution.Services like Bitcoin Transfer show that there is both a demand for Bitcoin exchanges and a capacity to make money on them. But while services like Bitcoin Transfer solve the usable-currency issue, there remains the larger and perhaps more difficult obstacle of getting people to use it. It’s safe to presume the average jihadi supporter knows just as much about crypto as most people: it’s money (but not really money); supposedly secure, but maybe also kind of dangerous; and associated with a lot of shady activities. Thus, you can further presume how wary, or even plain confused a donor might be in using crypto to fund these fighters and groups. New Zealand Shooting: White Supremacists and Jihadists Feed Off Each OtherThere was, first and foremost, the issue of permissibility. Many banks and related services are, according to many Islamic fundamentalists, not allowed under Shariah law. Addressing these concerns, HTS released a 26-minute video this past July of one of its religious officials, Abu al-Fateh al-Farghali, describing Bitcoin use as permissible according to the Quran, effectively giving the green light for donations. Promotion for video by HTS religious officialAdding to such messages is a growing wealth of educational material for the crypto layman who might want to donate to a fighter or group in Syria but doesn’t know how to. Bitcoin Transfer, for example, gives detailed breakdowns of how the service works, testimonials from ‘customers,’ and even offers prospective donors the option of contacting them if they have any questions about the process. A quick breakdown of the group’s services, as it describes them, reads:Our work1\. The sender knows how to buy bitcoins: he sends us the bitcoin in our wallet, we convert them in dollar and you receive them in 3-4 days.2\. The sender doesn’t know how to buy bitcoins: the company helps him to buy bitcoins, we convert them in dollar and give you your money.3\. Depending on the country of the sender, we have other means of receiving your money.All these elements—the transfer services, the religious green lights, the instructions—gave proof that jihadi groups can use crypto to safely, consistently, easily raise funds. And, as has been the trend for nearly a decade, what started in Syria would be emulated across the globe. Perhaps it doesn’t catch much attention when Syrian groups and militants, obscure in some contexts, use Bitcoin. But what about one of the most diligently tracked, widely designated groups in the world? This past January, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the terrorist-designated military wing of Hamas, issued an announcement reading, “Izz ad-Din Qassam Brigades announces the beginning of receiving your financial support for the resistance by the currency ‘Bitcoin’ through the official wallet address and is only posted on the Qassam site.” The group has since then built an impressive financing infrastructure around Bitcoin, including an elaborate system in which a new Bitcoin address is generated for each user, intended to make the transfers much harder to source. Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has since released its own video showing how to purchase and send Bitcoin, with the same educational focus seen in Syria. The directions have come to span Arabic, English, French, Malay, Indonesian, Russian, and Turkish. In June, the group’s spokesman thanked those “who have responded and continue to respond to our call by helping the resistance with digital currency,” announcing further pushes for more fundraising efforts.Hamas is not the only group outside of Syria using crypto. Jaish al-Ummah, a pro-al-Qaeda organization based in Gaza, launched its own Bitcoin fundraising campaign this past May, bluntly stating the aim to be supplying its fighters “with weapons and ammunition.”Since 9/11, government agencies and financial institutions have together made major progress in cutting off terrorist financing. Money is, after all, a critical pillar of every terrorist group, powering everything from their media productions to actual attacks. To see terrorist groups use a yet-budding technology like crypto to sidestep this progress is a serious matter. These developments shouldn’t be surprising. Just as terrorists embraced social media, messenger platforms, and other technologies for recruitment and planning attacks, it was inevitable that they would also add cryptocurrency for fundraising. It took years for social media companies and government agencies to understand—let alone act on—jihadist recruitment online, and the results of the delay were disastrous: thousands of people leaving home for battlefronts or carrying out attacks in their homelands. It is incumbent on us to learn from these mistakes, otherwise we are doomed to see a similar scenario play out in the financial realm. Observing these evolving fundraising machines alone, President Trump’s abandonment of America’s allies on the ground will have effects cascading well beyond northern Syria. Based on what we’ve seen already—the successful fundraising drives, well-functioning (and even profitable) currency transfer infrastructures around them, and the recent adoption by groups outside of Syria—there is no reason to doubt that this model of terrorist fundraising will only spread to other fronts. And as long as the money keeps coming in for ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadist organizations, efforts to counter them will be in vain.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



rssfeedwidget.com