United States – A woman is dead and 22 other people injured after a car sped on to a pavement in New York City's Times Square, the fire department said on the 18 May 17. The 26-year-old driver, a US Navy veteran and US citizen, is in custody. "There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism," said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The maroon Honda jumped the kerb and travelled for three blocks before crashing. Photos showed the sedan partially on its side on the pavement with smoke and flames spewing from the bonnet. The crash follows recent deadly car-ramming attacks in London, Berlin, France, Israel and Sweden. The FBI is investigating the incident at the Midtown Manhattan tourist venue, but so far officials say there is no terror link. NYPD said the suspect, Richard Rojas, is a Bronx resident who was arrested in 2008 and 2015 for drunk driving. Police believe the suspect was reportedly was high on synthetic marijuana, known as K2, ABC News reported, citing law enforcement sources. Initial tests reportedly came back negative for alcohol but positive for drugs. "It is believed to be an isolated incident, it remains under investigation," the New York Police Department said on Twitter. City authorities said they would nevertheless deploy extra police from anti-terror units to key locations around the city as a precaution. The vehicle jumped the kerb at 45th Street and Broadway at 1155 hrs local time (1655 hrs GMT) and drove at high speed before crashing into a pole. One person was covered with a white cloth. Among those hurt, four were in critical condition and three sustained serious injuries, according to the fire department. The department said 15 other victims suffered less serious injuries. 361 Comment: Although there are claims at the time of reporting that this incident was not terrorist related there is a chance that this may change. In another report there is a claim that the vehicle drove for approximately four city blocks on the pavement/sidewalk before coming to a halt. The casualty level is very high as well for just a normal style incident. The claim by the NYPD that they were deploying more police also would indicate that at this stage they were also unsure. COMMENT ENDS
United States/Iran/Syria/Russia – The United States said on the 19 May 17 it believed forces in a convoy targeted by U.S. military aircraft in southern Syria on the 18 May 17 were Iranian-directed, in a possible sign of increased tension between Washington and Tehran in the Syrian war. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. strike was defensive in nature. It was condemned by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has the backing of Iran and Russia. A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces told Reuters on the 18 May 17 the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian-backed militias and was headed toward the garrison in Syria used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces around the town of At Tanf. The United States determined that the convoy posed a threat. "It was necessitated ... by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed - I don't know there were Iranians on the ground - but by Iranian-directed forces," Mattis said at a news conference. Rebel sources have warned of advances by Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia in the region near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, which was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons. Mattis said he believed the Iranian-directed forces moved into the zone against the advice of Russia but that he was unable to confirm that with certainty. "But it looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them," Mattis said. A Western intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said the strike sent a strong message to Iranian-backed militias that they would not be allowed to reach the Iraq border from Syria. Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said on Friday he had raised the incident with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva. "We discussed the massacre that the U.S. aggressor committed yesterday in our country. This subject was widely discussed," Ja'afari told reporters. The air strike on the 18 May 17 did not on its own suggest a shift in the U.S. military's focus in Syria, which has been on battling Islamic State militants. But the latest move showed that the area around the Tanf garrison in southern Syria could be under pressure. U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had been working on ways to manage Syria's messy battlefield with Russia. There is no interaction between the U.S. and Syrian militaries. "We had a proposal that we're working on with the Russians right now. I won't share the details," Dunford said. "But my sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to deconflict operations and ensure that we can continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. 361 COMMENT: There is an interesting comment within this report that is worth taking note. That is the strong message that the Americans were sending regarding the Iranian-backed militias and the Syrian/Iraq border. 361 and others have made comment in the past about a “corridor” between Tehran and Damascus through Iraq to send ‘logistics and financing’ to Assad where it can be distributed to the Palestinians and Hezbollah and put Israeli security under threat. By sending out this message to the Iranians the Americans have now stated that they are aware of this threat and are doing something about it. This will put pressure on Iranian/American relations. The Iranians are currently having a country-wide election, but once the dust dies down over that then there will be more rhetoric from the new Iranian administration regarding this ‘message’. COMMENT ENDS
United States/Qatar/al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood – The US administration has decided to speak out about Qatar’s relations with terrorism in the Middle East as the White House’s new administration tries to calm the situation and control the growing terrorism on the international level. During his visit to the Middle East, US Defence Secretary James Mattis, warned Qatari officials about their country’s continued support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic movements that are linked to extremist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Qatar has been accused, more than once, of financing terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to the Qatari financiers such as Salim Hassan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, who works at the Qatari Interior Ministry. He is accused of “transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda through a terrorist network”. Kuwari was part of the US list of persons who are accused of officially financing terrorism in 2011. In Oct 14, the official documents of the US Treasury stated that the 37-year-old Kuwari was involved in “the financial and logistical support of al-Qaeda, with the help of another Qatari man named Abdullah Ghanem al-Khawar (33 years old). The latter has facilitated the movement of terrorist members and contributed to the release of al-Qaeda members in Iran. Abdul Rahman bin Omair al-Nuaimi, was also blacklisted by the US and the UN, was accused of transferring 1.25 million GBP per month to al-Qaeda militants in Iraq, and 375,000 GBP to al-Qaeda in Syria. Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad documents that were seized by US forces during the attack on his residence in Pakistan, revealed Qatar’s relations with al-Qaeda. Between these documents, there was a long letter Osama bin Laden sent to, Khayria Saber, his younger wife before his death where he asked her if she was willing to travel to Qatar. In addition to funding terrorist groups, Qatar has been accused by the international community of hosting a number of al-Qaeda militants, Arab Afghan and Taliban fighters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned to blow up 11 US aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. Mohammed is the nephew of Ramzi Yousef who had planned to attack the World Trade Center in 1993. He was transferred to Qatar upon the advice of the Minister of Labour; he worked there as an engineer at the Ministry of Electricity and Water and travelled repeatedly at the Ministry’s expense. Although he was working in a government institution, Qatar claimed, according to US intelligence, that it could not find him, and later on, it secretly planned his escape from the country. In the same context, Moroccan Fatiha al-Majati, wife of Abdel-Karim al-Majati, who is the most dangerous wanted man in Morocco for his role in establishing terrorist cells and recruiting suicide bombers in Morocco, said that she moved from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia with her husband, using Qatari passports. Moreover, Moroccan Younis al-Hayari, the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, who was killed in a security operation in the neighbourhood of Rawda in 2005, managed to enter Saudi Arabia with a Bosnian passport through Qatar. There is a Qatari satellite channel that has been the main window for extremist organizations, al-Qaeda leaders, al-Nusra Front and other extremist radical movements and organizations. It broadcast all of al-Qaeda’s interviews and messages, including those of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and others. Dennis Ross had warned about the role of this channel in serving as a platform for broadcasting extremist stances. The channel has recently hosted in a special interview, Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the religious judge of al-Nusra. Osama bin Laden had praised the relations with this Qatari channel and called upon preserving good ties with it. He said that all the channels were working against them, except this one due to common interests. He added that this channel is an important media platform for them in the region.
United States Cybersecurity – Judy malware may be the largest malware campaign found on Google Play: Check Point researchers last week discovered a widespread malware campaign on Google Play, Google’s official app store it was reported on the 30 May 17. Check Point says that the malware, dubbed “Judy,” is an auto-clicking adware which was found on forty-one apps developed by a Korean company. The malware uses infected devices to generate large amounts of fraudulent clicks on advertisements, generating revenues for the perpetrators behind it. The malicious apps reached an astonishing spread between 4.5 million and 18.5 million downloads. Some of the apps Check Point discovered resided on Google Play for several years, but all were recently updated. It is unclear how long the malicious code existed inside the apps, hence the actual spread of the malware remains unknown. Check Point also found several apps containing the malware, which were developed by other developers on Google Play. The connection between the two campaigns remains unclear, and it is possible that one borrowed code from the other, knowingly or unknowingly. The oldest app of the second campaign was last updated in April 2016, meaning that the malicious code hid for a long time on the Play store undetected. These apps also had a large amount of downloads between 4 and 18 million, meaning the total spread of the malware may have reached between 8.5 and 36.5 million users. Check Point notes that Judy, similarly to previous malware which infiltrated Google Play, such as FalseGuide and Skinner, relies on the communication with its Command and Control server (C&C) for its operation. After Check Point notified Google about this threat, the apps were swiftly removed from the Play store.