News Roundup and Notes: December 30, 2015

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Targeted US-led coalition airstrikes have killed 10 Islamic State commanders over the past month in Iraq and Syria, including a man who was linked to last month’s attacks in Paris and who was planning further attacks on the West. [BBC; Guardian’s Ian Black and David Smith]

Hundreds of wounded fighters, their families, and other civilians from opposing sides of the Syrian war have arrived in Lebanon and Turkey from Shia villages in Syria as part of a UN-backed truce ahead of next month’s peace talks in Vienna. [Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen]

France has asked the EU to improve the detection of fake Syrian passports used by people trying to get into Europe by improving the quality of equipment used to check travel documents at external borders, notably in Greece and Italy. [Reuters]

The Islamic State is attempting to launch cyberattacks against US government and civilian targets, and has tried to penetrate computers that regulate the nation’s electricity grid. Thus far the attacks have been unsuccessful. [Politico’s Joseph Marks]

Hillary Clinton said that Islamic State violence against Christians, Iraqi Yazidis, and other minorities in the Middle East amounts to genocide on Tuesday. The Obama administration is still weighing whether or not to officially designate the violence as such. [Reuters’ Amanda Becker]

A small and politically diverse group of politicians have been designated as “enemies” of ISIS in the pages of the group’s Dabiq magazine. David Weigel has the list. [Washington Post]

What does the “soft power side” of the fight against the Islamic State look like? James Stavridis argues the US should be addressing that part of the strategy now if it hopes to have long-term success against the organization. [Foreign Policy]

SURVEILLANCE and TECHNOLOGY

Despite a promise to curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state, the White House has kept certain allies under close watch, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As part of that surveillance, the NSA swept up the contents of some private conversations between US lawmakers and those world leaders. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous and Danny Yadron] In a companion piece, the Wall Street Journal traces the roots of the rules governing how the NSA treats intercepted communications involving US lawmakers.

Recent calls by academics to limit the First Amendment online are a bigger threat to US freedoms than that posed by ISIS, argues Glenn Greenwald. [The Intercept]

TERRORISM INVESTIGATIONS

Turkish police have detained two suspected Islamic State militants who were allegedly planning suicide attacks on Ankara during New Year celebrations, according to the Ankara chief prosecutor. [Associated Press]

French President François Hollande has come under fire for his call to strip convicted terrorists of their French citizenship if they have a second nationality. Critics have said the proposal is violates the idea of “le droit du sol” (“the right of the soil”), a principle in place since the French Revolution that gives everyone born in the country the right to citizenship. [Agence France-Presse]

A UK couple have been convicted of planning a large-scale bombing of civilian targets in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the July 7, 2005 attacks on the London Underground. [Associated Press]

AFGHANISTAN

Two incidents involving beheadings threaten to undercut the Afghan government’s efforts to wage a professional fight against Taliban and Islamic State insurgents. Over the weekend, Islamic State forces captured and beheaded four members of a pro-government militia. The militia retaliated by decapitating four ISIS prisoners and placing their heads on piles of stones along a main road. [Washington Post’s Pamela Constable]

Afghan journalists and analysts are growing more concerned about their safety if they criticize the Taliban after a string of attacks in the Kabul. [Guardian’s Sune Engel Rasmussen]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The US military has accused Iran of conducting a missile test in the Strait of Hormuz as US warships passed by on their way to join the campaign against ISIS. The US said Iran provided notice only 23 minutes before the test. [Associated Press]

A suspected suicide attack by a faction within the Pakistani Taliban has killed at least 26 people at a government office in northwest Pakistan. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the bombing in Mardan, which also injured more than 70 others. [BBC; Guardian’s Jon Boone]

One person was killed and 11 injured in a shooting in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan at a UNESCO heritage site on Wednesday. The area is home to periodically intense fighting between Russian forces and Islamist rebels. [BBC]

A Bahraini fighter jet crashed in Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border while it was taking part in the Saudi-led coalition’s battle against rebel forces in Yemen. Coming a day after three Bahraini soldiers died “in an incident” along the border, the coalition said the F-16 crashed due to a “technical error.” [Agence France-Presse]

Fears in the US of a terrorism attack seem to be informed by party affiliation according to the latest public opinion poll results. [Washington Post’s Philip Bump]

More than 50 people were killed in a 48-hour wave of shootings and bombings by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. Less than a week ago, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated ahead of the government’s end-of-year deadline to stamp out the group. [Agence France-Presse’s Aminu Abubakar]

At least 69 journalists were killed in the line of duty this year, with Islamic militant groups being responsible for 40 percent of the deaths, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Syria and France topped the list as the deadliest countries for journalists in 2015. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

“Islamophobia has spread and has targeted groups indiscriminately,” including a large number of Sikh Americans who are often mistaken for Muslims in the US. [Al Jazeera America’s Haya El Nasser]

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has threatened to fight any African Union peacekeepers imposed on his country after the AU said it was ready to send 5,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians caught up in months of violence. If sent, it would be the first time the AU invoked powers to intervene in a member state against its will. [Reuters] 

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About the Author(s)

Megan Graham

Former Assistant Managing Editor and Security, Privacy, and Technology Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@meganmcgraham).