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Is Sri Lanka Easter Massacre a Bid to Revive Global Holy War?STR/GettyThis analysis updated 1t 10:15 a.m. EDT, April 22, 2019.NEW YORK—“It’s really a shame it had to come to this,” said an NYPD counterterrorism officer who was posted Sunday morning outside a Catholic church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Inside, the pews were filled with the faithful at Easter mass.I asked her if she and her colleague were there because hundreds of people were killed hours earlier, halfway around the world, at Easter services in Sri Lanka. No, she said, this deployment in New York was scheduled months ago, but she understood the question perfectly well.Christian churches, along with Jewish synagogues, Buddhist shrines, and Shiite Muslim mosques have been prime targets for violent jihadists, whether from the so-called Islamic State, al Qaeda, or groups or individuals that most of the world has never heard of.The terrorists are on the fringe of their own faith, claiming anyone who does not believe exactly as they do deserves to die in their “holy war” against “Crusaders” and Jews, infidels and apostates. So wide do they cast their net of hatred that they can justify killing almost anyone, and the softer the target, in many respects, the better. Especially from the perspective of ISIS and those it inspires, places of worship have the advantage of great symbolism and virtually no defenses. And an attack in one part of the world can lead to attacks elsewhere. If the death toll is high enough—which is certainly the case with the coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka—the shock will reverberate around the globe. Notwithstanding the boasting of President Donald Trump, the war waged by such terrorists is far from over, and that is well understood by anyone in counterterror ops, which is why police would have been stationed outside places of worship in New York City anyway. Such are the facts of life and death in the 21st century.“Happy Easter,” said the policewoman on the Upper East Side. * * *The killers in Sri Lanka attacked five-star hotels as well as churches, killing at least 290 people and wounding many hundreds.  Several Americans are believed to be among the dead and injured. And while the question of what group, exactly, is behind the bombings remains unclear, the timing, the context, and news reports that Sri Lankan security warned of imminent jihadist attacks on churches, strongly suggest the slaughter was the work of Muslim extremists. The French news agency AFP reported that Sri Lankan Police Chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days earlier, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches."According to the report, the alert said, "A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ [National Thowheeth Jama'ath] is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo."On Monday, after arresting dozens of people, the Sri Lankan government continued to focus attention on the NTJ and apologized for its abject failure to act on the earlier warning. Initial investigations suggest all the suicide bombers were locals. But foreign involvement is suspected as well.The NTJ was accused of vandalizing Buddhist statues last year, but has never carried out any terrorist acts remotely as murderous and sophisticated as the coordinated bombings on Sunday. It does not figure on the State Department’s list of major terrorist organizations.Sri Lanka also has a long history of violence by the former separatist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was not a Muslim organization at all, but whose “Black Tigers” were some of the first and most effective suicide bombers on the world scene. One of them successfully murdered former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. The LTTE finally was crushed by Sri Lankan government forces in 2009.* * *Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which closely monitors jihadist chat and communiques, noted Sunday in an extended thread on Twitter that ISIS supporters were quick to celebrate the Sri Lanka attacks as revenge for the military campaign that finally ended its open control of territory in Iraq and Syria, and for the massacre at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month.CNN's Barbara Starr reported Monday that according to a U.S. official "initial intelligence are that the group responsible for the attacks in Sri Lanka was inspired by ISIS." The extent of coordination and the materiel for the bombings that has been discovered, including multiple detonators, also suggests foreign involvement. But the Tamil Tiger history shows the expertise for building suicide bombs is well established on the island.Katz noted that no organization has claimed the operation, there have been fighters from Sri Lanka mentioned in ISIS ranks, and Sri Lanka in any case would be “easily accessible” for its supporters in the region. Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, have “seen a surge of central-coordinated ISIS activity” in what it dubs its “East Asia Province.” “Furthermore,” Katz wrote, “today’s bombings, albeit far more deadly, mirror January 2019 bombings” that targeted a Catholic Church in the Philippines, which ISIS formally claimed. She suggested that ISIS channels, “posting rampantly” about Sri Lanka, were paving the way for the organization to claim responsibility. Katz said that while the Easter Sunday slaughter may be framed as revenge for the New Zealand atrocity committed by a radical white nationalist, it was most likely planned long before. Of course claims do not necessarily reflect reality, and in any case need to be studied carefully. A group aligned with ISIS, the Noor al-Tawhid Foundation, claimed the fire that ravaged the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris last Monday was not the work of jihadists, who had nothing to do with the tragic accidental blaze, but was the work of Allah: “divine punishment” for destruction of the mosque in Baghuz, the last ISIS redoubt to fall in Syria.Extremists believe what they want to believe, always drawing inspiration from their own supposed victimization, and calling for “revenge” against those they hope to slaughter. Whoever finally is held responsible for the murders in Sri Lanka, and several arrests reportedly have been made, there is little question the group will claim it had no choice, and that will be the word spread to followers and faithful around the world, inspiring new attacks that may come much closer to home. ... It’s really a shame it has come to this.Read more at The Daily Beast.

4/21/2019 3:09:31 PM

British woman killed, three other people kidnapped in northern NigeriaKidnappings are rampant in Nigeria, where both locals and foreigners are targeted — mostly for ransom. The British High Commission named the woman as Faye Mooney and said it was aware of the incident that happened late on Friday but added it would not speculate on the motive or nature of attack. Mooney was employed in Nigeria by a non-governmental organization called Mercy Corps.

4/21/2019 12:34:23 PM

FBI Arrests New Mexico Border Militia Leader Larry Mitchell HopkinsPAUL RATJE/GettyThe FBI arrested a 69-year-old New Mexico man who allegedly illegally detained immigrants crossing the border under the guise of working for the United States Border Patrol.Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who runs The United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), an armed border militia group that spreads far-right conspiracies and rounds up asylum seekers on the border, was arrested by FBI in New Mexico Saturday on charges of possessing firearms and ammunition as a convicted felon. Recent video footage released by UCP shows two members holding what appear to be semi-automatic rifles near immigrants, many of them children. The group also peddles conspiracy theories and produces a radio show where members spread information about QAnon, and accuse migrants of associating with ISIS. Hopkins has also claimed that president Trump has personally asked him about ‘Muslim immigration.’UCP and Hopkins claim to work with Border Patrol, which has publicly denied doing so. Border Patrol agents sometimes appear in the periphery of the groups videos, which show camo-clad UCP members interacting with migrants at the southern border.“There’s no question about whether or not we work with Border Patrol,” said Jim, a UCP spokesperson who declined to give his last name. “That’s all documented, and not just once. It’s documented hundreds and hundreds of times over in the videos that I post.”“U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands,” a Border Patrol official told The Daily Beast.Border Patrol is not supposed to interact with border vigilantes, but has been documented doing so. A Mother Jones reporter who embedded with a border militia in 2016 witnessed the group getting information from Border Patrol agents.UCP is only one of several vigilante groups patrolling the southern border with guns.New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a statement on Saturday, praising the FBI over Hopkins' arrest. “This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” Balderas wrote in a statement. “Today's arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”Hopkins, of Flora Vista, N.M., is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Monday. Federal authorities said they would not released additional details about Hopkins’ arrest until after the appearance.The arrest was the latest fallout for the group. On Friday, the UCP Facebook group announced to its members that they no longer accept donations through PayPal, as the service has suspended their account. “TO ALL PATRIOTS, I wish to thank all of you that has donated to the Border Ops mission up till now. We can no longer accept payments thru PAYPAL, they have permanently suspended our account,” the post read. “... And is hold $1300.00 in donations for 180 days. I am looking for another outfit that we can go thru.”PayPal and GoFundMe announced Friday that they would no longer allow UCP to raise funds on their platforms.A PayPal spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement that UCP had been banned from their platform following a video that shows the group rounding up nearly 200 migrants.“The account associated with United Constitutional Patriots has been closed due to a violation of our Acceptable Use Policy,” the spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We do not allow PayPal services to be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.”Read more at The Daily Beast.

4/20/2019 3:00:21 PM

Israeli election may have dimmed hopes for 2-state solutionJERUSALEM (AP) — Is the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dead?

4/21/2019 12:13:36 AM

Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacreAddressing hundreds of people gathered at Saturday's service in a park next to the school, Dawn Anna, mother of slain student Lauren Townsend, spoke on behalf of all the families of the victims about their sense of loss. Patrick Ireland, whose fall out of a school library window into the arms of firefighters, which became one of the iconic images of the massacre, spoke of his long physical and emotional recovery. "You're a victim only if you allow yourself to become one," Ireland said.

4/21/2019 12:11:19 AM

'We don't know if it's enough': $1 billion may not cover Notre Dame Cathedral rebuilding costs after fireAn international surge in donations may not yet cover the rebuilding costs of Paris' beloved Notre Dame Cathedral, officials say.

4/20/2019 12:32:07 PM

FAA sets multi-nation review of Boeing's troubled Max planesThe US Federal Aviation Administration is planning what it calls a comprehensive multi-nation review of the control systems of the Boeing 737 Max airliner to include experts from nine civil aviation authorities. The review will "evaluate aspects of the 737 Max automated flight-control system, including its design and pilots' interaction with the system, to determine its compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed," the agency said. Boeing Max planes -- the aerospace firm's all-time best-seller -- have been grounded worldwide since then, while engineers and investigators seek the exact causes of the crashes.

4/20/2019 6:21:38 PM

Here's An Idea: The Air Force Builds 200 B-21 Stealth BombersThe B-21 has disappeared into the “black” world of military technology, and will only reemerge when the bomber is ready.On October 27, 2015, nearly thirty-four years to the day after Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to develop the first stealth bomber, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop a contract for a new bomber: the B-21 Raider. While many of the details of the Raider are shrouded in mystery, we do know a few things about it, and can infer others.(This first appeared in 2017.)The B-21 Raider bomber takes its name from both the twenty-first century and the legendary 1942 raid by Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle’s force of B-25 Mitchell bombers against targets in and around Tokyo, Japan. In invoking the Doolittle Raid, the Air Force is drawing attention to attack’s audacious nature, the strategic and tactical surprise, and the epic distances General Doolittle and his “raiders” flew to accomplish their mission.Recommended: Why Doesn't America Just Kill Kim Jong-un?

4/21/2019 8:00:00 PM

How 11 People Are Trying to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest ElectionOne of the operations most vital to Facebook Inc. at this moment is a world away from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and in more ways than one. This is Boom Live, one of seven tiny fact-checking firms at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to rebuild some of its credibility during India’s elections. Based on the early tallies, more than 60 percent of India’s 900 million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots between now and May 19, as the center-left Congress Party tries to seize power from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

4/22/2019 1:20:53 AM

Police find woman stabbed to death, 4-year-old girl, ax inside Brooklyn apartmentA man has been arrested after a woman who was five months pregnant was found dead in a Brooklyn apartment.

4/22/2019 8:18:22 AM

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