The Soufan Group Morning Brief



On Friday, the Obama administration released its estimates of death tolls from counterrorism airstrikes outside of war zones. The White House said that American strikes have killed between 64 and 116 civilians and between 2,372 and 2,581 members of terrorist organizations. However, the official civilian death count is much lower than many independent estimates compiled by human rights groups, raising doubts about the reliability of the government’s numbers. Washington Post, New York Times, CNN

New York Times: Drone Strike Statistics Answer Few Questions, and Raise Many
Washington Post: Why the White House claims on drone casualties remain in doubt
Guardian: Obama claims US drones strikes have killed up to 116 civilians
The Hill: US reveals death toll from terror strikes outside war zones

Chief James Waters, head of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, told reporters that “I think that it’s inevitable that there’ll be another [terrorist] attack in this country.” Waters added that “we are well-prepared to respond to that,” while he gave a tour of his department’s new Critical Response Command which includes hundreds of specially trained officers ready to respond to potential terror threats. ABC

Arizona terror plot: FBI agents arrested 18-year-old Mahin Khan on Friday for threatening to commit acts of terrorism on Arizona government buildings in Phoenix and Tucson. Khan is charged with two counts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism. AP, CBS

Gitmo: South American airline Avianca is asking its employees to be on the lookout for a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was resettled in Uruguay. Syrian national Abu Wa'el Dhiab has been missing for the last few weeks and Uruguayan authorities believe that he may have crossed the border into Brazil. Miami Herald, Guardian, New York Times

Boston Marathon Bomber: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri warned of the “gravest consequences” if Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is executed. In an online video message Zawahri said “if the U.S. administration kills our brother the hero Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or any Muslim, [it] will bring America’s nationals the gravest consequences.” Tsarnaev was sentenced last year to death by lethal injection for the 2013 attack. Guardian, Reuters

Minnesota deradicalization: Attorneys for two of the Minnesota men convicted of attempting to join ISIS in Syria are asking a federal judge to allow them to enroll in a deradicalization program. In court filings, lawyers for Abdirahman Daud and Guled Omar asked U.S. District Judge Michael Davis to allow their clients to participate in a program developed by German radicalization expert Daniel Koehler. Judge Davis recruited Koehler to conduct psychological assessments of several individuals charged with aspiring to join ISIS overseas. FOX KMSP

A suicide truck bomb killed at least 215 people in a busy shopping district in Baghdad on Sunday. ISIS claimed responsibility for the massive bombing in the Iraqi capital’s Karrada neighborhood. This is the deadliest single attack in Iraq since 2003. CNN, AP

New York Times: ISIS Uses Ramadan as Calling for New Terrorist Attacks
Washington Post: The worst ISIS attack in days is the one the world probably cares least about
Associated Press: ISIS uses mass murder to show it's not beaten yet
New York Times: ISIS Bombing in Baghdad Casts Doubt on Iraqi Leader’s Ability to Unite

Yemen: On Friday, a drone strike killed at least three suspected Al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen. Security officials believe the United States carried out the strike in the province of Shabwa. AP

Afghanistan: Several U.S. Senators warned against troop reductions in Afghanistan during a visit to Kabul on Monday. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Benjamin Sasse (R-Neb.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) advocated for maintaining U.S. troop levels at 9,800 rather than reduce them to the planned 5,500 number by the end of the year. Reuters

Saudi Arabia: Bombings struck three cities in Saudi Arabia on Monday, including one near the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina. In the morning, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the U.S. Consulate in the coastal city of Jeddah, wounding two security officers. A second blast struck near a Shiite mosque in the eastern region of Qatif as Muslims were ending their daily Ramadan fast, but killed no one other than the suicide bomber. The attack in Medina, which killed four security guards, struck the security office of the mosque where the Prophet Muhammad is said to be buried. ISIS has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks. New York Times, CNN, Reuters

Bangladesh: On Friday, attackers killed at least 20 hostages and two police officers in an assault on a popular restaurant in Dhaka. Police killed the six attackers, after a 12-hour raid on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone. Authorities are searching for six members of the domestic Islamist group, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, who are suspected of helping plan and direct the attack. New York Times, Reuters

New York Times: Bangladesh Attack Is New Evidence That ISIS Has Shifted Its Focus Beyond the Mideast
BBC: Bangladesh attack: Searching for the 'affluent jihadists'

Turkey: Two of the three assailants who carried out last week’s attack on the Istanbul airport have been identified as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov, according to the Turkish state news agency Anadolu, citing an anonymous prosecution source. The report did not list their nationalities, but officials previously said the three attackers were from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and had entered Turkey from Syria a month ago. A third man from Russia’s North Caucasus region, Akhmed Chatayev, nicknamed “Akhmed One-Arm” and a top soldier in the ISIS war ministry, is suspected of organizing the attack. CNN

Kuwait: Kuwait foiled three planned ISIS attacks, including a plot targeting a Shiite mosque, following raids that resulted in the arrest of militants on Monday. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that “Kuwait security agencies have carried out three pre-emptive operations in Kuwait and abroad that led to derailing a number of Islamic State plots targeting Kuwait and arresting several I.S. members.” Reuters

Malaysia: A grenade attack last week at a nightclub in Malaysia was carried out by ISIS. Two suspects who allegedly received instructions from an ISIS fighter were arrested, Malaysian authorities said on Monday. The attack last Tuesday injured eight people in the town of Puchong, near the capital, Kuala Lumpur. This is the first attack in Malaysia linked to ISIS. New York Times, CNN, TIME
The Terrorists the Saudis Cultivate in Peaceful Countries: “For decades, Saudi Arabia has recklessly financed and promoted a harsh and intolerant Wahhabi version of Islam around the world in a way that is, quite predictably, producing terrorists. And there’s no better example of this Saudi recklessness than in the Balkans,” writes Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. “Kosovo and Albania have been models of religious moderation and tolerance...Yet Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries poured money into the new nation over the last 17 years and nurtured religious extremism.”

As Isis strikes, al-Qaida plays the long game in Islamist supremacy struggle: “It would be wrong to write off the veterans in favour of the newcomers. Isis is brittle. Its so-called caliphate is a project of massive ambition and is weak as a consequence,” writes Jason Burke in the Guardian. “Though defeats and setbacks can be explained as the trials of faith all ‘strivers in the path of God’ face, the loss of significant territory, especially the cities of Raqqa and Mosul, would fatally undermine the claims of the organisation and the authority of its leader.”

The response to every terrorist attack cannot be another checkpoint: “Will a new security perimeter create new vulnerabilities? Will it merely shift the risk to other equally vulnerable places where people gather?,” writes Brian Michael Jenkins on The Hill. “Public places are hard to protect. The terrorist network responsible for the attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels in March targeted a museum, a train, restaurants, a sports arena, a concert hall, an airport terminal and a Metro station. The group also contemplated attacks on churches and a shopping mall. Deprived of one target, terrorists merely find others.”

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: A Month of Terror

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