France arrests 10 in probe of alleged far-right terror plot

PARIS — French counterterrorism police have arrested 10 people allegedly linked to a far-right extremist who already was in custody on suspicion of planning attacks against mosques, politicians and migrants.

A French judicial official told The Associated Press that officers investigating the militant held the people detained on Tuesday under a possible charge of criminal terrorist association.

The suspected extremist only has been identified as Logan Alexandre Nisin, former militant of the far-right group Action Francaise Provence. He was arrested in June and given preliminary charges after intelligence agents learned of his alleged attacks. They claim he maintained a Facebook page glorifying Anders Behring Breivik, a convicted far-right Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people.

The police are questioning the 10 suspected associates to find out what they knew about Nisin’s plans.

The suspects, aged 17-25, included nine men and one woman, a source close to the investigation said.

Another source named the targeted politicians as government spokesman Christophe Castaner and radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.


Ukraine arrests 3 alleged terrorists accused of targeting Jews in Uman

Ukrainian police arrested three men they said were terrorists who, in their efforts to pit ethnic groups against one another, also targeted Jews in the central city of Uman.

The men were arrested earlier this month at a border crossing while carrying explosives, according to the KP news site. Citing unnamed officials from the regional prosecutor’s office, the news site reported that the suspects were planning to blow up a monument for Hungarians in a bid to escalate tensions over legislation in Ukraine that outlaws the use of Hungarian at elementary schools.

The three suspects were also behind a string of anti-Semitic incidents, according to the report, including the hurling on Sept. 21 of a grenade at Jewish pilgrims in Uman, where 30,000 Jews convene each year on Rosh Hashanah to celebrate the Jewish holiday near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

They are also accused of dousing a synagogue in Uman with red paint in 2016 and leaving a pig’s head there – an incident that many people attributed to hatred of Jews and locals’ growing dissatisfaction with problems associated with the pilgrimage.

They are further accused of spraying the words “death to Jews” on the synagogue in Chernivtsi in November and trying to set fire to the synagogue in Lviv in July. The suspects denied these and other allegations.

Though prosecutors have not said this, the arrests prompted theories that the three suspects were working for Russia to exacerbate social tensions in Ukraine and give the country a bad image abroad.

Russia and Ukraine, where for long decades under communism the media accused Western agents of sabotage, have exchanged similar allegations after 2014, when a revolution led by nationalists in Ukraine toppled the rule of former president Viktor Yanukovych, whom some critics said was a corrupt Russian stooge. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backs separatists in Ukraine’s east.

The two countries have also exchanged accusations of anti-Semitism in an apparent attempt to discredit each other in the West.

Trump administration targets ‘sanctuary’ cities in latest wave of immigration arrests

The Trump administration has arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in cities that are hostile to the federal government’s deportation crackdown, the latest salvo in a growing battle over sanctuary jurisdictions.

Federal officials said Thursday that “Operation Safe City” specifically targeted some of the fiercest opponents of President Trump’s immigration policies, including New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Washington.

In all, 498 immigrants, including 28 in Baltimore and 14 arrests in the District, were taken into custody in a four-day operation that ended Wednesday, officials said. Just under two-thirds of those arrested had criminal records in the United States.

“We are never going to stop enforcing the laws that we’re authorized and required to do,” said Matthew Albence, an executive associate director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “If we need to go into these locations every week, we will go into these locations every week to remove these public safety threats.”

The arrests were a provocative move by an administration that has attempted to penalize jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts but has met with resistance at every turn. Federal courts have largely blocked Trump’s executive order in January that threatened to strip federal grant money from such cities and towns.

Hundreds of jurisdictions restrict how much their local officials can cooperate with immigration agents. Some limit their access to local jails or refuse to provide federal authorities with information about immigrants arrested for local crimes.

Administration officials say these cities shield criminals from deportation. But advocates for immigrants say police responsibilities do not include enforcing civil immigration laws and warn that doing so makes otherwise law-abiding immigrants less likely to report crimes.

“These raids are simply another attempt by the president and his anti-immigrant chiefs to bully cities into undermining the constitutional protections of all [their] residents, irrespective of their immigration status,” said U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Despite the administration’s stepped-up arrest efforts, the latest data shows that the number of deportations has fallen over the past 12 months.

In New York City, officials said Thursday that they would stand by their policy of cooperating with immigration officials only in cases involving individuals who have been convicted of a serious or violent felony within the past five years, or who are on the terrorist watch list.

“New York City has the greatest number of immigrant residents we’ve had in a century, and are the safest we’ve been in modern history,” said Rosemary Boeglin, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We will continue to voluntarily cooperate on requests from federal immigrant enforcement within the parameters of our local laws.”

Immigration officials said such decisions by cities force them to arrest people on the streets, which could endanger federal agents and the public, rather than focusing their efforts on immigrants who are in jail for local crimes and eligible for deportation.

Officials said there have been 37 assaults against immigration authorities this fiscal year, which began last Oct. 1, compared to nine in fiscal 2016.

During this week’s arrest operation, officials said, an armed gang member in Los Angeles allegedly rammed their vehicles with his own when they tried to arrest him. He was taken into custody.

Sixty-three percent of those arrested in Operation Safe City, about 317 people, had convictions for crimes including drunken driving, sex offenses and drug charges. They included a Baltimore woman from El Salvador who had been convicted of first-degree assault, a sex offender from India who lives in Boston, and a Guatemalan national living in Denver who has six drunk-driving convictions. Another 181 people arrested had no criminal records.

Egypt arrests seven who raised rainbow flag at concert

CAIRO (AP) — Seven homosexual men have been charged with “inciting immorality” after a concert at which the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement was raised in a rare support of gay rights in conservative Egypt, according to Egyptian security officials.

The officials said the Monday arrests resulted from Friday’s performance by the Lebanese indy rock band Mashrou’ Leila, whose singer is openly gay.

They said the Supreme State Security Prosecution launched legal proceedings against the seven after authorities discovered they “raised the flag of homosexuals.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief journalists.

Egyptian law doesn’t explicitly prohibit homosexuality, so prosecutors use alternative charges including “immorality” and “debauchery,” which is normally reserved for prostitution.

Homosexuality is a taboo in Egypt among both Muslims and the Christian minority.

FBI arrests Israeli binary options CEO as she disembarks El Al flight at JFK

The CEO of an Israeli binary options company accused of defrauding investors out of millions of dollars was doubtless surprised to find herself surrounded by FBI agents shortly after arriving in the United States last week. Binary options is a vast, largely fraudulent Israel-based industry that Israeli law enforcement has failed to tackle for the past ten years, but that the FBI announced in February it had begun investigating in earnest.

Lee Elbaz, 36, the CEO of Yukom Communications Ltd., boarded a New York-bound plane from Tel Aviv on September 14. When the FBI learned of her imminent arrival, agents scrambled to file a criminal complaint with the Maryland district court, charging her with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They were granted an arrest warrant the same day.

When Elbaz landed at JFK Airport in New York at 4 p.m., she was pulled aside by Customs and Border Patrol for a secondary screening. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents then entered the room and placed her under arrest.

Elbaz has since been released into the custody of her aunt in the United States after the latter posted $1.8 million in bail. She is under house arrest until her trial and is prohibited from engaging in binary options activity or talking to any witnesses, alleged co-conspirators or victims.

Each of the two charges faced by Elbaz carries up to 20 years in prison.

The publicly available affidavit explaining the cause for her arrest said that Elbaz is the CEO of Yukom Communications Ltd., which operates the and websites, which have allegedly defrauded thousands of investors, including Americans, out of tens of millions of dollars.

The affidavit accused Elbaz and other Yukom employees of making false statements about the safety of binary options investments; of falsely promising high returns; of telling investors they would be able to withdraw money when this was not the case; of lying about the location and qualifications of “brokers” assisting victims; of failing to disclose that binary options brands and brokers only make money when investors lose money; and of failing to disclose that her company was allegedly conspiring with another company called SpotOption to manipulate the outcomes of trades.

The Times of Israel contacted Elbaz’s lawyer on Friday for a response to the allegations, and will update this article if and when it is received.

The Times of Israel began exposing binary options fraud in a March 2016 article entitled “The wolves of Tel Aviv: Israel’s vast, amoral binary options scam exposed.”

The fraudulent firms ostensibly offer customers worldwide a potentially profitable short-term investment. But in reality — through rigged trading platforms, refusal to pay out, and other ruses — these companies fleece the vast majority of customers of most or all of their money. The fraudulent salespeople routinely conceal where they are located, misrepresent what they are selling and use false identities.

Israel Police Superintendent Gabi Biton told the Knesset Reforms Committee on August 2 that Israeli crime kingpins are behind the binary options industry and that organized crime in the country has been massively enriched and strengthened as a result of law enforcement’s failure for many years to grasp the vastness of the problem.

“Our eyes have been opened,” said Biton, who investigates financial fraud and money laundering. “What we’re seeing here is a massive organized criminal enterprise. We are talking about criminals at various levels of crime organizations, up to the very top.”

Having passed a first reading and been approved by the Knesset Reforms Committee, a law to ban Israel’s entire binary options industry is currently stalled in the Knesset until at least mid-October. Coalition chairman David Bitan has expressed reluctance to introduce the bill to the Knesset plenary for a final vote.

Bitan told fellow Knesset members on August 7 that his reluctance stems from the fact that a family connected to SpotOption, the binary options platform, is among his biggest supporters in the Likud Central Committee, the body that determines who the Likud Knesset members will be and how high they are ranked in the party hierarchy.

The FBI said in its affidavit that it had requested accounting documents for from SpotOption, the platform provider that the FBI alleges cooperated with Yukom Communications in the alleged fraud. SpotOption has complied with the FBI’s request, the affidavit said.

“The trading of binary options is facilitated by ‘platform providers’ including a company called ‘SpotOption’,” reads the September 14 affidavit, “which has referred to itself on its website as ‘today’s leading technology platform provider.’”

“Individuals who have worked in the binary options industry — including a former SpotOption employee — reported that SpotOption is physically based in Israel,” the affidavit states, “even though the ‘Contact Us’ portion of its website shows contact information for locations in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Cyprus, with no mention of Israel.”

The FBI went on to allege that SpotOption adjusted “customer risk settings” to manipulate the outcome of trades. The FBI was able to subpoena emails from Google and saw correspondence between Lee Elbaz and SpotOption in which they allegedly conspired to rig investors’ trades.

In the documents the company provided to the FBI, SpotOption revealed that the website alone had earned about $30 million in revenue a year over the past three years, according to the affidavit. is one of hundreds of binary options websites that have operated from Israel with almost complete impunity in recent years. So far, Israeli authorities have arrested 12 binary options owners and senior brokers although none remains in custody.

Israel’s largely fraudulent online trading industry has been estimated to bring in between $5 billion and $10 billion a year and to have employed well over 10,000 people at its peak. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Israelis, who occupied positions of authority in these companies akin to the positions occupied by Lee Elbaz and her senior staff.

Haggai Carmon, an Israeli lawyer who represents binary options victims, told The Times of Israel that he believes Elbaz’s arrest is “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“While I’m not involved in the pending matter against Lee Elbaz, I learn from court papers that the charges are serious and carry a maximum 20 years of prison sentence for each count (and there are two counts). I believe additional arrests or even extradition requests may follow. My experience has shown that the US justice system sometimes moves slowly, but it is very thorough and not subject to outside pressures — particularly where fraud against US citizens has been systematically perpetrated.”

Nimrod Assif, a lawyer for binary options victims who has practiced law in both Israel and the US, told The Times of Israel he was impressed by the federal action.

“When it comes to enforcement against financial fraud, the authorities in Israel are decades behind the ones in the US.  That is reflected in the dedication to the rule of law, and the competence needed in order to deal with the complexity involved.”

Added Asif: “Israeli authorities have failed to investigate, or turned a blind eye, to practices that are clear fraud, and for years now forex and binary options fraudsters here in Israel have been going about their business with impunity.”

Ukraine arrests French-Israeli wanted in ‘fake CEO’ scam

A huckster sentenced for tricking dozens of French banks and businesses into handing over millions of euros has been arrested in Ukraine after a hunt lasting more than two years.

French judicial sources and a lawyer for Gilbert Chikli, a 51-year-old Frenchman, said an extradition hearing would be held on Sunday after he was detained along with a French-Israeli man on Friday.

His arrest was initially reported by the French news weekly Le Point.

Chikli is the alleged mastermind of a scheme that saw some of France’s top companies get embarrassingly fleeced.

He would contact banks and firms posing as either their CEO or a secret service agent and instruct them to hand over large sums, often in the guise of an operation against money laundering.

Thirty-three banks and businesses were targeted between 2005 and 2006, including consulting group Accenture, the Post Office Bank, HSBC, aerospace firm Dassault, electricity and rail giant Alstom and the chic Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette.

Gilbert Chikli giving an interview in Israel at his Ashdod home, December 29, 2015. (Courtesy of i24 News/ via JTA)

He managed to swindle a total of 60.5 million euros ($71.15 million), 52.6 million euros of which was later recovered.

At his trial, a former director of the Credit Lyonnais bank — now known as LCL — gave the court a rundown of Chikli’s scheme that convinced her to hand a million euros to a stranger in the toilet of a Parisian bar.

Chikli spent several months in custody before fleeing to Israel in 2009, where he has been living openly. It is not immediately clear why he was in Ukraine.

Interviewed by French television in 2010, Chikli said he was intrigued by the “game” of scamming.

“You’ve either got the gift or you don’t, it’s like famous actors. When it comes to me, you can say that I have a gift,” he said.

In 2015, he was sentenced in absentia to seven years’ jail and a fine of a million euros. The court also ordered him to pay 5.5 million euros in damages and interest to his victims.

“We have always given our agreement that the rest of his sentence be served in Israel,” Chikli’s lawyer, David-Olivier Kaminski, said on Saturday.

Two accomplices were sentenced to four years in jail and fines of 50,000 euros.

His story inspired a 2015 film, “Je Compte Sur Vous” (I’m Counting on You), with French actor Vincent Elbaz in the starring role.



Five Palestinian journalists have been arrested in the West Bank by Palestinian Authority security forces in what a human rights monitoring group has termed a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

All five were arrested at or near their homes on Tuesday night by the General Intelligence Service, according to Shireen al-Khatib, monitoring and documentation associate at the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (Mada).

A senior security source quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said four journalists were being held on suspicion of “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities.” The source said an investigation was under way.

Khatib identified the journalists as Tariq Abu Zayd and Ahmad Halaika of Al-Aksa television, a Hamas-run station, Qutaiba Kasem who writes for the Asdaa website, Mamdouh Hamamreh of the pro-Hamas al-Quds television and Amer Abu Arafa of the Shehab news agency. The Wafa report mentioned all the journalists except for Halaika.

Abu Arafa was arrested after his home was searched and his computer and mobile phone seized, Khatib said.

A West Bank journalist who requested anonymity said “this is not the first time journalists are being arrested but it is the first time five are arrested in one night.”

In the view of the journalist who spoke with The Jerusalem Post the arrests might be aimed at pressuring Hamas to release Fouad Jaradah, a reporter for the PA’s Palestine TV, who was arrested in Gaza on June 8 and was later accused of collaborating with the authority.

“Journalists are paying the price of the Fatah- Hamas conflict,” the West Bank journalist said.

Of the accusation that the five journalists arrested on Tuesday had leaked sensitive information, he said: “No one believes that.”

The Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights, which monitors rights abuses in the PA, demanded the immediate release of the journalists and called on the authority to “stop the persecution of journalists for their journalistic work.” It termed the arrests a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights termed the arrests a “dangerous development.”

In a statement it criticized both the PA and the Hamas government.

“PCHR follows up with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and warns of the arbitrary use of legal texts or fabricating charges to beat their political rivals. This results in serious consequences on the legal system, rights and freedoms in general.

“PCHR calls for releasing the six journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the validity of the charges against them will be proven in accordance with proper and transparent procedures.”

The human rights group al-Haq, which is also based in Ramallah, said the arrests “come in the wake of a dangerous regression in the condition of rights and liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, especially freedom of opinion and expression and journalistic work.” It said that authorities had blocked journalists from covering peaceful gatherings.

PA government spokesman Yusuf Mahmoud said he could not comment on the arrests since they were under the purview of the security apparatus. But he took issue with the criticism that the PA was harming freedom of expression.

“The authority in all manners respects freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” he said. “This is guaranteed in the agreements signed by the national authority and in the law.

The authority adheres to the freedom of journalists and citizens and greatly respects that.”

In June, the PA blocked access to 11 websites that back Hamas or Muhammad Dahlan, a bitter rival of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kuwait arrests 12 over ties to Iran, Hezbollah

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwaiti authorities on Saturday arrested 12 convicted members of a “terrorist cell” with ties to Iran and Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah after a weeks-long manhunt.

The interior ministry said the 12 had been captured in different areas across Kuwait. They had been on the run since their sentencing last month, while two other convicted Kuwaitis remained at large.

The supreme court in Sunni-ruled Kuwait, which has a sizeable Shiite minority, in June overturned an acquittal by an appeals court and convicted 21 Shiites of forming a “terrorist cell” with ties to Iran and Hezbollah.

The cell had planned to launch attacks across the Gulf state, according to the court verdict.

Kuwait has protested to Lebanon over the alleged training of the so-called “Abdali Cell” by Hezbollah, which has ministers in the Beirut government.

Last month, authorities expelled 15 Iranian diplomats and shut down the military, cultural and trade missions of the Iranian embassy over Tehran’s backing of the “terrorist cell.”

Iran said the allegation is baseless.

Shiites account for around a third of Kuwait’s native population of 1.35 million.

FBI arrests US soldier over plot to provide IS with drone, army documents

HONOLULU — An active duty Army soldier has been arrested by the FBI in Hawaii on terrorism charges after he allegedly attempted to provide classified documents and a drone to the Islamic State group and pledged allegiance to it, officials said Monday.

A criminal complaint filed by the FBI said Ikaika Kang attempted to provide classified and unclassified military documents and a drone to the organization to use against American forces. It said Kang also tried to teach the group combat techniques and indicated he wanted to use his rifle to “kill a bunch of people.”

Those are the allegations made in an affidavit FBI Special Agent Jimmy Chen supporting charges made against Kang.

The 26-page affidavit alleges Kang copied secret military documents in 2015 and attempted to provide them to Islamic State through undercover FBI agents. The affidavit says he also made combat training videos for the organization’s soldiers, and he made his pledge to the terrorist group in English and repeated it in Arabic.

FBI spokesman Arnold Laanui said SWAT team special agents arrested the 34-year-old on Saturday.

Kang, a sergeant first class, made his first appearance in federal court on Monday on terrorism charges. He will face a detention hearing Thursday.

His military service record said Kang was an air traffic control operator at Wheeler Army Airfield.

Birney Bervar, Kang’s appointed attorney, said he still doesn’t know much about the case. He said he only talked to Kang for a few minutes.

Kang enlisted in the Army in December 2001, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks. He served in Iraq from March 2010 to February 2011 and Afghanistan from July 2013 to April 2014.

Kang was assigned to the headquarters of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Immigration arrests soar under Trump; sharpest spike seen for noncriminals


Days after Trump took office, he issued an executive order that made clear that anyone in the United States illegally could be deported and ended former president Barack Obama’s policy of frequently granting reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants with clean criminal records or U.S.-born children.

Acting ICE director Thomas Homan said the statistics released Wednesday show that agents still prioritize lawbreakers: 30,473 criminals were arrested from Jan. 22 to April 29, an 18 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

Meanwhile, arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to nearly 11,000, the fastest-growing category by far.

“Will the number of noncriminal arrests and removals increase this year? Absolutely,” Homan said. “That’s enforcing the laws that are on the books.”

What is less clear is what is happening to the immigrants who are being taken into custody.

Overall, deportations have fallen about 12 percent this year, to about 56,315 people, which Homan attributed to a severe backlog in federal immigration courts. He also said it can take longer to deport criminals than those without criminal records, because those in the former category may have additional court proceedings. The Trump administration has called for additional immigration judges and detention space to speed deportations.

Homan did not say how many of the 41,318 people whose arrests were announced Wednesday have been deported, remain in custody or have been released.

Unlike criminal arrests, records of immigration arrests — which are considered civil violations — are not publicly accessible.

The secrecy allows immigration officials to pick and choose which examples of their work to highlight. On Wednesday, they said the immigrants arrested since Trump’s executive order include Estivan Rafael Marques Velasquez, an alleged MS-13 gang member from El Salvador captured in New York in February; Juan Antonio Melchor Molina, a fugitive wanted for a 2008 murder in Mexico who was arrested last month in Dallas; and William Magana-Contreras, another reputed MS-13 member arrested in Houston last month. Magana-Contreras is wanted for aggravated homicide in El Salvador, officials said.

Some advocates questioned whether ICE is truly prioritizing the most serious criminals.

Parastoo Zahedi, an immigration lawyer in Virginia, said ICE is actively trying to deport one of her clients to Italy because of a conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana. He has lived in the United States nearly all his life.

“It’s not criminal aliens,” Zahedi said. “It’s anyone that they can catch.”

Ava Benach, a D.C. immigration lawyer, said ICE agents are “empowered, emboldened and . . . eager to enforce the law aggressively.”

Advocates also questioned the wisdom of arresting thousands more immigrants — especially those who pose no known public safety threat — when immigration courts are severely backlogged. But Homan said that is the agency’s job.

“When a federal judge makes a decision and issues [a deportation] order, that order needs to mean something,” he said. “If we don’t take action on those orders, then we’re just spinning our wheels, aren’t we?”

Obama also sharply increased deportations during parts of his tenure, expelling about 400,000 deportees a year during his first six years in office. At the same time, he lobbied Congress to create a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living here.

In his last two years in office, Obama curtailed deportations somewhat and emphasized that ICE should try to spare law-abiding residents and those with U.S.-born children.

Under Trump, many of those limits are gone — with the exception of a program that protected undocumented immigrants who came to America as children.

“Given the collapse in enforcement in the last few years of the Obama administration, it’s a long-overdue increase,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which has pushed for stricter adherence to immigration laws. “It’s one data point, obviously, but it’s welcome news.”

Houston, Los Angeles and other cities have pushed back against Trump’s crackdown, blaming it for sharp decreases in reports of sexual assaults and other crimes among Latinos, who officials say are increasingly afraid to go to the police.

But Homan said ICE is like any other law-enforcement agency. He expressed frustration with jurisdictions that refuse to hold immigrants in local jails and courthouses until deportation agents can take them into custody.

“The men and women of ICE are law-enforcement officers sworn to enforce the law,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do, and we’re not going to apologize for it.”