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USF Conference Examines Middle East Extremism

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AP Photo / NPR

In just the last two weeks, members of terror groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS allegedly took part in a number of deadly attacks in France, as well as the hacking of social media sites for U.S. Central Command, based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.

The growing reach of these extremist groups is the subject of a conference taking place Thursday at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Mohsen Milani, the Executive Director of the USF Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies, said the conference will focus on extremism in the Middle East and how it's effecting the policies of the U.S. and many other countries.

"I think the events in France have shown that we can no longer can think of ourselves living in isolated areas," Milani said. "Extremism has become a global challenge and in order to defeat it, not only do we have to understand it, but we have to create an international coalition against the extremists."

Among those scheduled to speak are Admiral Mark Fox, the Deputy Commander of U.S. Central Command, Christopher Hill, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, and representatives of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Our goal is to understand different aspects of this extremism," Milani added. "It is important to have a deeper understanding of what is behind this wave of extremism in the Middle East, because right now, that extremism is having a global impact - I think we live in an interconnected and dependent world, and what happens in one corner of the world will have an impact elsewhere."

And the apparent hack of CENTCOM's Twitter and YouTube accounts earlier this week points to how wide-reaching the attacks can be.

"I don't think was a major technological attack, it was more of a nuisance to CENTCOM than anything else," Milani said. "But it shows that you're dealing with a very different kind of threat than you used to before. You're dealing with people who know how the West operates, you're dealing with people who know how to use social media, and they're very good at propaganda."

Registration for the conference starts at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Patel Center for Global Solutions on USF's Tampa campus. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, click on the link.