Eye on Extremism: April 1, 2021

Reuters: Gunmen Kill 30 People In Attack In Western Ethiopia, Witnesses Say

“Gunmen killed 30 civilians in an attack on a village in the west of the Ethiopian region of Oromiya, witnesses said on Wednesday, the latest outbreak of ethnic violence to challenge the federal government in the fractious nation. Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is struggling to control several flashpoints where ethnic rivalries over land, power and resources have ignited ahead of national elections scheduled for June. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has promised to hold the first free and fair polls, but some of his reforms have also emboldened regional strongmen and groups angered by what they describe as decades of government repression. Farmer Wossen Andaege, 50, said his neighbours were killed during the Tuesday night attack in the West Wollega Zone of Oromiya. He identified the victims as ethnic Amharas. “We took the bodies using a car and we buried 30 people,” said Wossen by phone. He said he and his family had heard gunshots and fled to a nearby government office to wait for protection from federal troops. Local authorities blamed the attack, in which 15 more people were wounded, on a splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), known as OLF Shane or the Oromo Liberation Army.”

Associated Press: US-Backed Syrian Kurdish Forces Detain 71 Militants In Raid

“Syria’s Kurdish-led forces arrested 71 suspected militants, including a religious leader and a militant recruiter, in an ongoing security sweep at a sprawling camp that houses families and supporters of the Islamic State group, a spokesman said Wednesday. The campaign, which started Sunday, is assisted by the U.S.-led coalition and aimed at curbing the escalating violence and killings inside al-Hol camp. The Kurdish-led forces have put the number of killings there since the start of 2021 at nearly 50 but U.S officials say it’s more than 60. Many fear the camp, which initially housed refugees and is now home to 62,000 people from more than 50 countries, is becoming a breeding ground for the next generation of IS militants. Kurdish and U.S. officials have called for countries to repatriate their citizens languishing in the camp. Ali al-Hassan, spokesman for the Kurdish-led internal security forces, said the sweep is still ongoing. Those arrested so far include an IS religious leader inside the camp, a recruiter, a communications expert and a security officer. All of them are Iraqi, aged between 18 and 62. He said more details on the nationalities of those arrested would be made public later, not ruling out that they include foreign nationals.”

United States

ABC News: Militia Extremists Developing Strategies To Work Around Social Media Crackdown, DHS Memo Warns

“Violent anti-government extremists are developing communication strategies to circumvent recent clampdowns by the government and the tech industry in order to continue recruiting new members and promote their views online, according to a new confidential memo by the Department of Homeland Security. The report, issued on Monday by the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis and obtained by ABC News, warns that “some militia violent extremists (MVEs) are actively disguising their online social media outreach to promote violent anti-government narratives, connect with others espousing violent extremist views, and share tactical information by using layered communications,” even as social media platforms like Facebook have taken action to mitigate those efforts. Faced with tighter restrictions online, especially in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, militia groups have shifted to a “layered strategy” to recruit new members by starting conversations on popular, easy-to-access platforms and gradually shifting the discussions to more secure communication services, “such as private social media groups and encrypted applications,” according to the DHS memo.”

CNN: US Receives $335M From Sudan For Victims Of Terrorist Attacks

“Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday that the United States had received the $335 million settlement from Sudan that will be paid out to victims and families of individuals impacted by the 1998 bombings at the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the murder of a USAID employee in Khartoum. “Achieving compensation for these victims has been a top priority for the Department of State. We hope this aids them in finding some resolution for the terrible tragedies that occurred,” Blinken said. The multi-million dollar settlement was a key component in lifting Sudan's decades-old state sponsor of terrorism designation, which came with a series of restrictions including a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance. The Trump administration removed that designation after the $335M was transferred to an escrow account and after Sudan announced it had agreed to normalize relations with Israel, both in October 2020. The money was held in that escrow account until Sudan's sovereign immunities -- which prevent it from being sued in federal court -- were restored. A State Department spokesperson told CNN that the money was released from escrow on March 11.”

The Hill: Spy Agencies Identify Neo-Nazi Group As 'Domestic Extremism Concern' In US

“A neo-Nazi group called The Base was recently noted as a “domestic extremism concern” in an unpublished report on domestic terrorism coauthored by several government agencies. Reuters reports that a non-public version of the report said The Base, whose ethos is a white nationalist, anti-Semetic network that trains its members in paramilitary skills, documented the group’s trips to Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian forces against the elected Ukranian government. The report was primarily compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It was released earlier in March. The authoring agencies reportedly warn of threats issued by The Base and other extremist groups that detail mass-casualty attacks on civilians and a fight against the government. Details about The Base itself are nebulous. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes the organization as being composed of small terroristic cells that support the rise of a white ethnostate, and is not a mainstream organization. Members reportedly meet in person to train with weapons, but primarily operate via encrypted online networks.”

Voice Of America: Survey: 63% Of US Jews Encountered Anti-Semitism Over Last 5 Years

“At a time of growing concern about right-wing extremism in the United States, a new survey paints a troubling portrait of Jewish Americans’ experiences with anti-Semitism. The survey, released Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent Jewish civil rights group based in the U.S., said 63% of American Jews had experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism over the past five years — a marked increase from the 53% of respondents who expressed the same view in last year’s ADL survey. At the same time, 59% of the respondents in this year’s survey said they felt Jews were less safe in the U.S. today than they were a decade ago, while 49% expressed fear of a violent attack at a synagogue. “What this [report] does is it gives a very broad photograph of what the American Jewish experience is like today. And it is clearly one that is affected pretty profoundly by various forms of anti-Semitism or the expressions of anti-Semitism,” said Jessica Reaves, editorial director at ADL’s Center on Extremism. The survey was conducted January 7-15 and collected responses from 503 Jewish Americans 18 years and older. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.”

Syria

Arab News: US Urges Western Allies To Repatriate Daesh Families Held In Syria

“The US has urged its Western allies to repatriate foreign Daesh fighters and their families from Syria, warning that the camps they are being held in are breeding another generation of extremists. John Godfrey, special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh, said victory over the extremist group on the battlefield would be wasted if Western countries did not take responsibility for repatriating and, where necessary, prosecuting their citizens who are being held in camps. “This is an international problem that requires an international solution.  There are more than 60,000 individuals in Al-Hol, from dozens of nationalities, the vast majority of whom are children,” Godfrey said during a special briefing on Monday. “We urge the international community to consider how they might support both humanitarian agencies who are providing to those populations now, as well as consider the repatriation of their own citizens in order to help relieve the burden on our local partners,” the special envoy added. Godfrey said that there are about 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters being held in north eastern Syria by Kurdish forces in detention centers while there are 10,000 associated family members to these fighters who are staying in displacement camps.”

Iraq

Forbes: Iraqi Militia Attacks Against Kurdish Peshmerga Benefit The Islamic State

“If Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militias continue targeting Iraqi Kurdistan and its Peshmerga forces, remnants of the Islamic State (ISIS) will ultimately be the ones who stand to benefit. On March 29, at least three Katyusha rockets were fired at Peshmerga forces near the town of Altun Kupri on the provincial border between Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan and the disputed province of Kirkuk. The attack did not kill or injure anyone. While it has not yet been confirmed who was responsible, the attack bore all the hallmarks of past rocket attacks by Iran-supported elements within the Iraqi state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) paramilitaries. These groups have targeted bases hosting U.S. troops across Iraq with rockets since 2019, sometimes sparking retaliatory U.S. airstrikes when they caused casualties. They were also most likely behind the unprecedented rocket attacks against Erbil International Airport, which also hosts U.S. troops, in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2020 and February 2021. The Peshmerga has fought these groups before. If they are now, yet again, being targeted by them, that will certainly bode ill for the success, or even the prospect, of any joint operations by the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military to decisively combat ISIS, which still operates in the disputed regions between Iraqi and Peshmerga positions.”

Yemen

Arab News: Yemen’s Government: Houthis Are Working With Al-Qaeda And Daesh

“The Yemeni government has submitted a memorandum to the United Nations Security Council which said Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Al-Arabiya TV reported. The government said the militia have freed 252 Al-Qaeda prisoners, including one of the people behind the USS Cole bombing in 2000, the report added. Al-Qaeda has evacuated some areas and handed them to the Houthis and they have 55 members fighting along the militia’s ranks, Al-Arabiya quoted the Yemeni government.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Hezbollah: Time To Allow Formation Of New Lebanon Government

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Wednesday it was time for politicians to put aside their demands and allow the formation of a new government that can rescue the country from an unprecedented financial crisis. “Everyone must know the country has run out of time,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iran-backed movement, said in a televised speech. He said there were “serious, collective efforts” in recent days to ease a political standoff that has obstructed cabinet talks for months. Lebanon is hurtling towards collapse in a financial meltdown that is posing the most serious threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war, but bickering politicians have been unable to form a government for months. Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun have been at loggerheads since October, dashing hopes of a reversal of Lebanon’s deepening financial meltdown. Hariri has said Aoun is trying to dictate cabinet seats in order to gain veto power while Aoun’s party accused Hariri of trying to orchestrate a majority for himself and his allies. Hezbollah, an ally of Aoun, has urged cabinet formation before. A new cabinet could implement reforms and unlock much needed foreign aid.”

Libya

Arab News: Libya Authorities Release 120 Captured Pro-Haftar Fighters

“Authorities in western Libya released 120 fighters from a rival eastern force on Wednesday, the latest move toward reconciliation in a UN-backed peace process after years of violence. The men were fighting for the 107th Brigade under the command of eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who in April 2019 launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from a unity government. The fighters had been captured near the western city of Zawiya that same month. On Wednesday, dressed in loose white cotton and matching skullcaps, they were released following a ceremony in Zawiya, 45 kilometers (30 miles) east of Tripoli. Abdallah Al-Lafi, vice president of the country’s new presidential council, gave a speech in which he praised the liberation of the prisoners as “a concession in the interests of the nation” and called for further reconciliation and rebuilding. After the ceremony at a sports ground in Zawiya, the prisoners were released and reunited with their families. Libya has been ravaged by bloodshed since the fall and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed 2011 revolt. An array of armed groups arose to fill the vacuum, and many coalesced around the unity government or around Haftar, who backed an eastern administration.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Militants Lack Fuel For Transportation As Military Advances— Source

“A military source has revealed that Boko Haram militants in the Sambisa forest are lamenting the dearth of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) in the area as members of the Nigerian Army advance towards them. From intelligence reports, one of the militants, Mallam Ibrahim, who is located in Sambisa forest at Bama Local Government Area had on Tuesday, contacted the Boko Haram Commander, Abu Ubaida to supply fuel to his men. Ibrahim had complained of the inability of his men to move their vehicles and motorcycles to carry out a planned attack on the community. Ubaida, in his response, also complained of lack of fuel to power their motorbikes and vehicles.  He said most of their vehicles and motorcycles had stopped and they were operating with bicycles and on foot. Ubaida was also quoted as saying the Boko Haram commanders are living in fear due to military attacks. The military source, who spoke with SaharaReporters, said the military men have taken advantage of this opportunity and advancing gradually towards the terrorists massively.”

Mali

New York Post: Body Of Swiss Hostage Killed By Al Qaeda Affiliate Recovered In Mali

“The remains of a Swiss woman who was killed while held hostage by an Al Qaeda affiliate group in Mali have been recovered, government officials said Wednesday. Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry announced in a statement that DNA tests confirmed the body of the hostage — identified in reports as Beatrice Stoeckli, a Christian missionary who was kidnapped by the Islamist group in 2016 — has been formally identified. “Sadly, we now have definitive evidence that the woman who was held hostage is dead,” said Switzerland’s foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis. “But I am also relieved that we can return the woman’s remains to her family and I would like to pass on my deepest condolences to them.” Cassis said in October the ministry was told by French authorities that Stoeckli had been killed by her captors from the jihadist group Jama’at Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) about a month earlier, but her body was not located. Stoeckli, who lived in Mali for years working with local children, was first taken hostage in 2012, but was released days later. In 2016, she was kidnapped a second time and later killed, Swissinfo reported.”

Africa

The Washington Post: As Militants Overrun Mozambique Oil Town, Fears Rise Of ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’

“An ongoing, week-long assault by Islamist militants on a northern Mozambique town that has left dozens dead and tens of thousands fleeing marks a significant escalation of the conflict that will precipitate a “humanitarian catastrophe,” analysts and aid organizations said.A largely homegrown militancy that borrows iconography from the Islamic State and professes allegiance to the global terrorist network has grown in power since 2017, when it began launching attacks in the oil-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado. The group’s latest assault was on the Cabo Delgado town of Palma, which is at the center of $60 billion worth of offshore oil projects near Mozambique’s border with Tanzania. Defense Ministry officials acknowledged Sunday that the besieged town remained contested. The military was still attempting to “eliminate some pockets of resistance,” the ministry said. But the government has for years played down the insurgency’s threat — deflections that have come under increased scrutiny as harrowing details of the Palma attack come to light. Besides a provisional toll, officials have remained largely silent on what by other accounts was a significant attack on one of Mozambique’s most economically important towns.”

Al Jazeera: Suspected ADF Rebels Kill 23 In Eastern DR Congo Attack

“Suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia fighters have killed 23 people in yet another massacre in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a senior local official has said. Fighters attacked Beu Manyama-Moliso village in the Beni region late on Tuesday night, North Kivu provincial Governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita told the AFP news agency. The army intervened, killing two assailants, he said. The death toll was still provisional as the search for bodies continued, the governor’s office said on Twitter on Wednesday. “We are in mourning, the ADF carried out a raid and killed more than 20 people,” said Noella Katongerwaki Muliwavyo, president of an association of grassroots groups in Beni. Beu Manyama-Moliso is a small village located in remote forests in the Beni region, close to the boundary with Ituri province. The ADF, which originated in the 1990s in western Uganda with the aim of establishing an Islamic state, is one of more than 100 rebel groups that plague the eastern provinces of the vast country. About a year ago, the Congolese army launched a large-scale campaign against the ADF. The ADF is linked to the ISIL (ISIS) group, the United States said earlier this month.”

The National: ISIS Using Illegal Ivory Trade To Fund Terrorism In East Africa, Former UK Ambassador Warns

“ISIS is “growing stronger” through its use of the illegal ivory and illicit sugar trades to fund terrorists in East Africa, according to a new report by a former British ambassador. Extremist fighters and terror campaigns are being paid for through the unlawful activities which are becoming “more sophisticated”, said Sir Ivor Roberts, a former British diplomat in Lebanon and head of counter-terrorism in the Foreign Office. He makes these claims in his report An Unholy Alliance: Links Between Extremism and Illicit Trade in East Africa, produced for non-government organisation the Counter Extremism Project. He warns that East Africa is being “critically undermined” by the illegal trade, as terror groups continue to thrive. Mr Roberts' report was published as ministers from the Global Coalition against ISIS on Tuesday warned of the “urgent threat” posed by growing insurgency in parts of Africa. Last year, attacks by ISIS in Africa grew by a third. “The most effective way for the East African region, and the wider international community, to fight extremism, crime, and corruption is to turn off the taps of illicit trade,” Mr Roberts said. “This can ensure critical revenues are not lost to the shadow economy but are instead invested in key services.”

All Africa: East Africa: New CEP Report Reveals That Illicit Trade In East Africa Is Funding Extremists, Terrorists, And Warlords

“East Africa - a key security partner in the war on terror and a principal engine of economic development on the African continent—is being critically undermined by illicit trade, according to the new report An Unholy Alliance: Links Between Extremism and Illicit Trade in East Africa from the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). Terror groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIS-linked affiliates in Somalia and Mozambique, as well as Central African militias, urban gangs, and international crime groups are increasingly targeting East Africa as a destination market for illicit trade, as well as a transport hub for the mass import and export of illegal goods. Terrorists groups continue to cash in on the illegal ivory trade to pay their soldiers and fund their campaigns of terror, while Somali warlords profit from the thousands of bags of cheap, illicit sugar that are smuggled into Kenya every day. Meanwhile, the multi-million-dollar illegal tobacco industry funds corruption, insurgency, and the illegal arms trade across the region. Sir Ivor Roberts, CEP senior advisor and author of the report, outlined the difficulties faced by the region: “As illicit trade networks continue to expand and mature in their sophistication, the cost to East African society has been enormous. At every link in the illicit chain, economic, social, and political harm is done to East African society, while terror and crime groups grow stronger.”

Council On Foreign Relations: Concern Grows About Jihadi Activity In Ivory Coast

“In the early hours of March 29, an estimated sixty gunmen attacked two small military installations in Kafolo and Kolobougou, both located in Ivory Coast on the border with Burkina Faso. The assailants killed at least three soldiers and wounded others. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the media is speculating credibly that the perpetrators were jihadis based in nearby Burkina Faso, where Islamist groups have been increasingly active. There have been attacks before in the same area. In 2020, “jihadis” killed fourteen soldiers and gendarmes, also near Kafolo. Nevertheless, concerns are growing that the latest attack is a sign that jihadi insurgents are expanding their reach, as they have in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. In some ways Ivory Coast is the largest and most important country in francophone West Africa. In the decades after independence in 1960, Ivory Coast was an economic powerhouse with wealth mostly based on agriculture, especially cocoa. It hosted the largest French expatriate community in West Africa. However, political instability after the death of long-time statesman/big man Félix Houphouët-Boigny resulted in coups and civil war, the latest round of which ended in 2011 and left the economy in shambles.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Indonesia Police Say Female Attacker At Headquarters Was An ISIS Follower

“A woman shot dead by Indonesian police at the force’s national headquarters in an exchange of gunfire was a “lone wolf” who believed in Islamic State ideology, police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a news conference on Wednesday. The woman was 25 and she had posted an ISIS flag to her social media account hours before the attack, he said.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

God forbid, if a time comes when we have no choice but to watch our citizens breathe their final breaths, and when there are no ventilators… we will make six million Israeli settlers unable to breathe.

Yahya Sinwar, Leader of Hamas in Gaza Apr. 2, 2020
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