The Soufan Group Morning Brief


A 22-year-old off-duty Turkish policeman shot and killed Russia’s ambassador to Turkey at an art exhibit in Ankara on Monday, in a bloody attack that was caught on video and replayed on news and social media sites throughout the day. The assailant yelled, “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria,” and “Those who have a part in this atrocity will all pay for it, one by one,” shortly after he shot the envoy, Andrey Karlov, in the back. The gunman was later gunned down by security forces and members of his family have been taken into custody. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the killing and said that it wouldn’t derail efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The Turkish and Russian presidents, who spoke shortly after the assassination, both declared the attack a provocation aimed at harming Turkish-Russian relations and vowed to jointly crack down on terrorism. Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Times

Just hours after the Russian envoy was killed, the U.S. closed its three main missions in Turkey on Tuesday after a Turkish man fired shots outside its embassy in Ankara. Wall Street Journal
Foreign Policy: Five Things to Worry About After the Assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey
Washington Post: The Assassination of Russia’s Ambassador in Turkey Creates a Crisis for Erdogan
New York Times: Turkey, Russia, and an Assassination -- The Swirling Crises, Explained

In what German authorities were calling a deliberate terrorist attack, a man plowed a large truck into pedestrians at a popular Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday, killing at least 12 people and wounding 48. The nature of the attack immediately invoked the attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day this year, when a lorry driver killed more than 80 people.

The police said they later arrested a man near the scene who was suspected of driving the truck, which had been stolen from a worksite in Poland about a two-hour drive from Berlin. A passenger, identified by the authorities as a Polish national, was found dead in the cab. Berlin and German newspapers report that the arrested man is a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee who came to Germany earlier this year. According to some reports, ISIS has taken credit for the attack. New York Times, Reuters, Telegraph, New York Post, Washington Post

A gunman opened fire at a Muslim prayer center in Zurich, Switzerland, on Monday afternoon, wounding at least three people -- two of them seriously. The gunman then fled, but Swiss police said early Tuesday that he had been found dead, apparently of a suicide. “Our investigation says the dead man is the shooter,” Peat Jost, a spokesman for the Zurich cantonal police, told reporters. Jost declined to identify the man, except to say that he was in his 30s. On Monday the police also found the body of a man on the Gassner Bridge, near Zurich’s city center and not far from the Islamic center, but did not immediately link him to the shooting. A motive for the shooting remains unclear. New York Times, Reuters

Trump on the attacks: President-elect Donald Trump blamed the deadly truck crash in Berlin on “Islamist terrorists” — saying they targeted “innocent” Christians as they “prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday.” He also called the assassination of the Russian diplomat in Ankara “a violation of all rules of civilized order.” He added that the diplomat was assassinated by a “radical Islamic terrorist.” New York Post, Chicago Tribune
Monday was the 30-day deadline for the Pentagon to notify Congress that it intends to transfer cleared Guantanamo prisoners, and by the end of the day, the Obama administration had reportedly told lawmakers that it intends to transfer 17 or 18 captives by the time Donald Trump takes office. The cleared captives would be transferred to Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. If all goes as planned, that will leave 41 or 42 prisoners in Guantanamo for Trump’s administration. New York Times

President-elect Donald Trump, who was formally elected by the Electoral College on Monday, has nominated billionaire businessman Vincent Viola to be secretary of the Army. Viola, a retired Army major and graduate of West Point, is the owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, and founder of Virtu Financial, a high-speed trading company. He is worth about $1.8 billion, putting him in the ranks of the richest 400 Americans. He was a driving force in the creation and funding of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center after the 9/11 attacks. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

Clinton email warrant ordered released: A federal judge on Monday ordered that the FBI’s Oct. 30 search warrant in the Hillary Clinton email investigation be unsealed by noon Tuesday. The Week, Washington Post

China returns seized drone: China has returned an American underwater drone that it seized in the waters off the Philippines last week, according to the Pentagon. Washington Post

NY bomb suspect could face spring trial: Ahmad Rahami, the man accused of setting off homemade bombs in New York and New Jersey this fall, could go on trial as early as March 27, according to discussions at a pre-trial hearing Monday. A federal prosecutor told the judge that the government won’t be introducing a lengthy statement made by the defendant into evidence, in order to keep on the schedule. Defense attorneys say they need more time to sift through evidence provided by the prosecution. New York Times, Wall Street Journal

NSA watchdog on leave: George Ellard, the NSA’s inspector general, has reportedly been placed on administrative leave after he refused to give a whistleblower a job assignment. Associated Press

A Canadian and his American wife, who have been held hostage in Afghanistan since 2012, are shown in a just-released Taliban video, along with their  two children who were born in captivity. Joshua Boyle, 33, who is Canadian, and Caitlin Coleman, his 31-year-old American wife, have been held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network since October 2012. They were kidnapped near Kabul, Afghanistan, during a backpacking trip through Central Asia. In the video, dated Dec. 3, the couple pleads for their family’s release, asking President Barack Obama to think about his “legacy” and free them from their “Kafkaesque nightmare.” The young boys sit in Boyle’s lap during the video, fidgeting and looking off camera. Toronto Star, Reuters

Suspect in France train attack confesses: The man accused of launching an attack on a train in France last year before being thwarted by three Americans has reportedly begun cooperating with authorities. Ayoub el-Khazzani, an alleged Moroccan ISIS recruit, was taken into custody after being restrained by a vacationing U.S. airman, a U.S. National Guardsman and their friend on a train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris in August 2015. He began speaking openly to French investigators last week, according to CNN.
Here’s how Obama can hit back at Putin over hacking: “If Obama looks back into the annals of the Cold War, he will find a fitting blueprint for the last big intelligence operation of his presidency,” writes Tim Weiner in Reuters. “It has a perfect code name: Farewell.”

Rehabilitating Guantanamo’s torture victims: “It is extremely unlikely that President Obama will be able to fulfill his promise of closing Guantanamo before leaving office, but he can still take action to mitigate this national stain,” write Sondra Crosby and George Annas in the Miami Herald. “Torture causes profound harm to human beings, families, and communities. We cannot undo the torture that was committed on scores of men — but we can do the right thing now: We can provide the medical, psychological, and social supports these survivors need to heal.”

All terror attacks are not connected - but terrorists wants us to think they are: Any spate of attacks “should disturb us,” writes Natasha Ezrow in the Independent. “But rolling them all together into one “wave” of violence is misguided, and misunderstands the real nature of global terrorist threats.”

The U.S. is vulnerable to drone attacks. Here’s how to stop them: “Cheap, commercially available drones are a problem and are now a tool for terrorists,” writes Jane Harman in Wired. “We need an effective counter-strategy, yesterday.”

Trump’s choice for Israeli ambassador is a danger to American lives: “The naming of David Friedman [to be Trump’s U.S. ambassador to Israel] is a double insult,” writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. “Trump has offended the liberal Jewish community, which didn’t support him anyway. This is a community that in general opposes additional West Bank settlements, favors a two-state solution and has little in common with the religious or nationalist zealotry of the settler movement. But the insult to the Arab world may be of more consequence.”

Is the United States Prepared? Zero Days, Cyber Wars, and the Russian Hack
Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 6pm

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Assassination of a Russian Ambassador

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