Eye on Extremism: April 11, 2022

Reuters: Pakistani Court Jails Islamist Hafiz Saeed For An Extra 31 Years

“A Pakistani court has jailed Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, founder of the militant group blamed by the United States and India for a deadly 2008 attack in India, for 31 years in connection with terrorism financing, court documents showed. Saeed was found guilty of multiple breaches in two cases but it was not immediately clear how much jail time the new verdict would entail given his current incarceration and the fact that his sentences run concurrently. “The sentences awarded to convict Hafiz Muhammad Saeed run concurrently of this case and of previously awarded, if any,” a the court said in an order, dated April 7, that was seen by Reuters on Friday. Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, is already in jail having been found guilty on multiple similar charges in 2020. Saeed has been arrested and released several times over the past decade. He denies any involvement with militancy, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which gunmen who slipped into Mumbai by boat from Pakistan killed 160 people, including Americans. The United States offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his conviction. The latest sentencing comes as Pakistan tries to avoid blacklisting by the global dirty money watchdog the Financial Action Task Force, which judges a country’s ability to combat illicit financing, including to militant organisations.”

The Wall Street Journal: Terrorist Attacks In Israel, Jerusalem Tensions Challenge Palestinian Strategy

“A burst of terrorist attacks on civilians and rising religious tensions in Jerusalem are testing Israel’s U.S.-backed policy of eschewing peace talks and trying instead to improve Palestinian quality of life while building deeper ties with Arab countries aligned against Iran. A rare spate of violence against civilians within central and southern Israel has left 14 victims dead in four apparently unconnected attacks in different cities. The latest attack was Thursday night in central Tel Aviv, when a gunman opened fire at a bar, killing two immediately, and a third who died of his wounds on Friday. Israeli authorities are worried about the next two weeks when Jews and Muslims will seek to pray at the same sites in Jerusalem during an unusual convergence of the Jewish holiday Passover and Islam’s holy month, Ramadan. The presence of Jewish and Muslim worshipers has been combustible in the past, and Israeli security forces have already scuffled with Palestinians in recent days near the Old City. The mounting tensions highlight the vulnerabilities of a paradigm shift in Israeli-Palestinian relations that has accelerated in recent years: That peace talks, moribund for almost a decade, aren’t necessary for Israel to be embraced in the Arab world, and that Israel can manage its century-old conflict with the Palestinians through trust-building and economic measures.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Biden Won’t Remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guard From Terror List. He’s Right.

“The Biden administration plans to reject an Iranian demand that the United States lift its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization as a condition for renewing the 2015 nuclear agreement — putting completion of the deal in jeopardy. A senior administration official told me that President Biden doesn’t intend to concede on the terrorist designation, even though this may be a dealbreaker: “The onus is on Iran as to whether we have a nuclear deal. The president will stick to core principles. The Iranians know our views.” The official’s comments amplify a statement earlier this week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Asked during an interview with NBC News whether the IRGC is a terrorist organization, Blinken answered, “So, they are.” He continued: “I’m not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting [the nuclear] agreement to conclusion.” Iran’s demand that the United States remove the IRGC from its “foreign terrorist organization,” or FTO, list has emerged as the main obstacle to reviving the 2015 nuclear pact. European countries have urged the United States to find a compromise formula that will save the deal, whose basic provisions have been negotiated in Vienna over the past year.”

Iraq

France 24: Iraq Official Warns Of Jihadist Threat From Syria Camp

“The Al-Hol camp for displaced people in Syria is a jihadist threat and should be dismantled, a senior Iraqi security official said on Saturday. Al-Hol, in the Kurdish-controlled northeast, is Syria's largest camp for displaced people. It houses about 56,000 including displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees, some of whom maintain links with the Islamic State group (IS). About 10,000 are foreigners, including relatives of jihadists. “Each day that passes with the camp still there, hate grows and terrorism thrives,” Iraq's national security adviser, Qassem al-Araji, told an international conference about the camp. IS “continues to represent a real threat at Al-Hol,” Araji told delegates who included ambassadors from the United States and France. The overcrowded camp is controlled by the autonomous Kurdish administration and lies less than 10 kilometres (six miles) from the Iraqi border. Araji called on foreign governments to repatriate their citizens from Al-Hol, and urged rapid dismantlement of the camp. Most of Al-Hol's residents are people who fled or surrendered in Syria during the dying days of IS's self-proclaimed “caliphate” in March 2019.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Airstrikes Killed 70 ISIS Members In Past Three Months

“Iraqi airstrikes killed at least 70 ISIS militants over the past three months, according to a top security official.  Even though Iraq carries out regular airstrikes and operations against ISIS militants, the group still “pose a threat” in northern, eastern, and western provinces, including Diyala, Kirkuk, southwest Nineveh, Anbar, and north Baghdad, Major General Tahsin Al-Khafaji told Iraqi state media on Friday. Based on accurate intelligence, the Iraqi Air Force eliminated 70 ISIS members. Iraq regularly carries out airstrikes against ISIS using its F-16 fighter jets. Khafaji said that security forces had stopped the infiltration of terrorists into the country, particularly from the Syrian border. The government is presently strengthening its security measures on that border by installing surveillance cameras and building observation towers and wire barriers. Following the conclusion of the US-led coalition’s combat mission in Iraq, the country’s air force has ramped up its efforts to target the group to prevent it from making a resurgence.”

Afghanistan

Axios: American Released By Taliban Recounts Months-Long Nightmare

“An American citizen detained by the Taliban says he was wrongfully accused of espionage but that his release can be a case study for U.S. diplomacy with the still-unrecognized Afghan government. Driving the news: Safi Rauf, 27, whose non-profit helped evacuate thousands of at-risk Afghans during the fall of Kabul — including an interpreter who once helped President Biden — shared new details of his 105-day detention in an interview with Axios. President Biden called Rauf on Thursday, hours after the interview, and invited him and his family to the White House next week, Rauf's girlfriend, Sammi Cannold, told Axios. Flashback: Rauf was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan and came to the U.S. as a teenager. He deployed to Afghanistan for four years as a linguist and cultural adviser embedded with the military and continues to serve as a Navy reservist. Rauf first visited Taliban-controlled Kabul in November while the aid group he founded with his brothers, Human First Coalition, was assessing how to stem the rapidly unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. He said he worked closely with the U.S. government and the Taliban to provide aid and evacuate Afghans who had documents to leave — and that both entities were “completely on board” with Human First's operations.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Militant In West Bank Raid

“Israeli troops on Saturday raided the hometown of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv, sparking a gunbattle in the occupied West Bank that left at least one Palestinian militant dead, according to Israeli and Palestinian accounts. The arrest raid was the latest in a series of events that have escalated tensions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Clashes and protests in Jerusalem last year helped spark an 11-day war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. In Saturday's raid, the Israeli military said it conducted what it described as a counterterrorism operation in and around the city of Jenin — the area in the northern West Bank where the gunman in Thursday's attack had lived. It said troops were surveying the attacker's home “to examine the potential demolition of the house.” Israel often demolishes the homes of Palestinian attackers in a controversial practice that it says deters future attackers but which critics dismiss as collective punishment. The army said it also conducted an arrest operation on people suspected of militant activity. During the raids, it said soldiers came under fire. Troops fired back, killing one militant. The Islamic Jihad militant group identified the man as a member.”

Reuters: Bahrain, UAE Condemn 'Terrorist' Shooting In Tel Aviv

“Bahrain on Friday condemned the attack that took place in Tel Aviv late on Thursday, describing it as a “terrorist operation” and offering condolences to the families of the victims and the Israeli government. “We reiterate the Kingdom of Bahrain's position that opposes all forms of terrorism and violence no matter the motives and the justifications”, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Later, the United Arab Emirates' embassy in Israel tweeted its condemnation of the attack, offering condolences to the families of the victims. Both countries formally established relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords that also included Morocco. A Palestinian who killed two people in a Tel Aviv bar late on Thursday was shot dead by Israeli security forces on Friday after an hours-long manhunt through the city.”

Egypt

Al Jazeera: Palm Sunday Church Attacks: Egypt’s ‘Worst Day Of Violence’

“Beshoy Abd el-Malak, an Alexandria-based plumber, spent the night before Palm Sunday in 2017 weaving palm fronds into crosses and hearts at home with his family. This is part of the Coptic Christian tradition to celebrate Easter, one of the most important events for those who mark it. On Palm Sunday, these creations are blessed by a priest and carried in a procession in memory of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. According to his sister, Mariana, Beshoy, 19, excelled at this craft and unusually that year had decided to celebrate Palm Sunday not in his family’s usual church of the Virgin Mary on Seif street, but rather at St Mark’s Cathedral along with his aunts and cousins. “He was strangely insistent that he wanted to go there,” Mariana, 40, told Al Jazeera. Mariana along with her father, mother, and other siblings went to their church. During the service, they learned of an attack on St George’s Church in Tanta, a city in the Nile Delta, 95km (60 miles) north of the capital Cairo. A man wearing concealed explosives managed to pass through a security check outside and detonated himself near the front pews, killing at least 28 people and wounding 77 others. Mariana – knowing that Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, would be attending – had a premonition the mass at St Mark’s could be targeted next and called Beshoy frantically demanding he and the rest of their family get out.”

Nigeria

AFP: Who's Behind Nigeria's High-Profile Train Attack?

“For a decade, northwest and central Nigeria have been ravaged by criminal gangs known as bandits who raid villages, kill and kidnap for ransom. Last week, a string of attacks in northwestern Kaduna state culminated in an assault on a train running from the capital Abuja to Kaduna city. At least eight people were killed, a number of passengers were abducted and gunmen released a video showing a high-profile captive. Many conclude the attack is a sign of a major escalation by the bandit gangs. But the sophisticated operation, use of explosives and Islamist-style hostage video also raise the question: Were jihadists involved? Northwest Nigeria's security crisis has its roots in friction between farmers and herders over water and land. Tensions snowballed into tit-for-tat attacks and then into broader, organised criminality which experts say is now conducted on a vast scale. The state government Zamfara in April last year estimated 100 bandit camps were hidden in forests around the northwest. It suggested there were 30,000 gang members in the region -- a figure that some view as conservative. “Thousands of militants... have taken over swathes of the countryside,” an Abuja-based think tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development, said in a report this year.”

Reuters: Nigeria To Try Separatist Leader Kanu On Terrorism Charges

“Nigeria's separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu should stand trial and answer to charges that include terrorism and broadcasting falsehoods, a High Court judge ruled on Friday. Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), denies all the charges, which are linked to broadcasts he made between 2018 and last year. A judge on Friday ruled that Kanu will stand trial on seven counts of terrorism out of 15, and stuck out eight of the charges which the government brought against the IPOB leader. The hearing was held in camera. A federal court judge ruled on Thursday that all trials of terrorism cases in Nigeria will henceforth be held in camera. Separately, Kanu's lead lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, on Thursday said that Kanu cannot be tried on charges of terrorism and knowingly broadcasting falsehoods because he was not extradited from Kenya based on those charges. The Kenyan high commissioner has denied his country's involvement. Kanu disappeared from Nigeria after skipping bail in 2017. He was arrested after years on the run. IPOB, which Kanu founded in 2014, is pressing for the secession of a part of southeast Nigeria where the majority of ethe population belongs to the Igbo ethnic group.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Terrorists To Govt - Talk To Us Or We'll Kill All 167 Captives

“Terrorists who attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train have threatened to kill those in their captivity unless the government meets them. “Government should hasten to meet us before we turn this place into an abattoir because killing these people is nothing to us. It's not about money, we can't do this for money. The government knows what we want,” the terrorists said in a viral video released late Wednesday. Recall that the terrorists attacked the Kaduna-bound train, killing eight passengers, injuring 41 and kidnapping scores of others. This came as a group of pastors, under the aegis of Inter-faith Alliance, yesterday staged a peaceful protest against the incessant attacks and killings by bandits in Kaduna State, pleading with government to embark on massive bombardment of bandits/terrorists in their hideouts. As at Wednesday, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, had said 141 passengers taken away were unreachable but the terrorists claimed they had in their custody 168 persons, out of which the acting managing Director of Bank of Agriculture, BOA, Alwan Ali Hassan, was released after alleged payment of N100 million ransom. Speaking further in Hausa, the terrorist said: “We are the people who abducted these people in the train some days back.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Militants Surrender

“Two members of al-Shabab surrendered to government forces on Saturday, the Somali military said on Sunday. The Somalia National Army (SNA) said Mohamed Tawane and Deqoq Ibrahim, who had been coordinating attacks in the Gedo region of southern Somalia, turned themselves in with their weapons to government soldiers in Luuq region amid intensified security operations to flush out the terror group in the region, the military radio reported. Several Shabab leaders have in the recent past surrendered to government forces during the security operations in southern and central Somalia. Al-Shabab has been launching attacks targeting government and electoral delegates taking part in the ongoing national elections.”

Africa

Associated Press: Suspected Extremist Attack Kills 16 Soldiers In Burkina Faso

“An attack by suspected Islamic extremist rebels on a military unit in Burkina Faso Friday has killed at least 16 security forces and injured many others, the army announced.  A dozen military soldiers and four volunteer fighters who work alongside the army died when their military unit was attacked at 5 a.m. in Namissiguima town in the Center North region, said a statement by the armed forces. An additional 21 soldiers were wounded and equipment was also damaged, said the statement. Burkina Faso is grappling with rising jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that’s killed thousands and displaced some 2 million people. This is the latest in a series against the military. At least 40 security forces were killed in the last two weeks of March according to an internal security report for aid groups seen by The Associated Press. The Friday attack involved a car bomb and was carefully planned, according to security analysts. “In addition to this being a sign of how (the) security situation continues to deteriorate, it also shows the ability of jihadist groups to carry (out) sophisticated and complex attacks,” said Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based organization focused on economics and policy.”

Voice Of America: Africa Urged To Use Good Governance, Inclusion To Fight Violent Extremism

“A top U.S. military commander says African countries dealing with violent extremism need to enact good governance, a stronger rule of law and inclusion of marginalized communities if they want to promote stability.  Africa has seen an increase in terror groups operating across the continent in recent years. Al-Shabab in East Africa, al-Qaida and Islamic State affiliates expanding in the Sahel, and Boko Haram around the Lake Chad Basin are among the most prominent. The head of the U.S. military's Special Operations Command Africa, Rear Admiral Jamie Sands, said on April 3 that African countries need better governance and greater cooperation if they are to stop the threat of terrorism. “No nation can solve this challenge or this problem alone,” he said. “Partnerships are key. Prevention of extremism through governance reforms and progress is an easier path than fighting established violent extremists through kinetic activity. Values matter. Transparency, accountability and inclusion are key as we move forward. International investment is critical, and this investment must be paired with security, good governance and aid.” Terrorist activity has displaced at least 33 million people continent-wide and contributed to political instability in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Somalia.”

BBC News: Mozambique Palma Terror Attack: 'I Can't Go Back'

“The town of Palma in northern Mozambique was the scene of a horrific attack by Islamist militants a year ago, which left dozens of people dead, forced thousands to flee their homes and put a massive nearby gas project on hold. BBC Africa correspondent Catherine Byaruhanga has been speaking to some of those who survived the assault to see what has changed. Fear still pervades Palma. Before the well co-ordinated assault began, the coastal town was packed and bustling - full of those who had come to find work in the area's burgeoning gas industry. It was also full of thousands of people who had fled violence in other areas of Cabo Delgado, the mainly Muslim province where an Islamist insurgency began in 2017. The militants are known locally as al-Shabab. They have no link to the Somali group of that name, but have since pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group. Today, French energy giant Total's multi-billion dollar gas project remains closed. Some of those who have begun to return home are too afraid to talk to the BBC over the phone, even though the militants have been expelled. Antònio, one of the contractors who had gone to the town to work in the gas industry, is not hopeful about the future.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Preston Man Encouraged Terrorism Against Jews And Muslims

“A neo-Nazi who encouraged far-right terrorism against Jews and Muslims has been sentenced to two years in a young offenders institution. Thomas Leech, 19, posted a “call to arms” and glorified far-right killers online.

Manchester Crown Court heard that after being arrested by police, he told officers: “I am a Nazi.” Leech, of Preston, pleaded guilty to encouraging acts of terrorism and stirring up religious or racial hatred. The court was told Leech believed conspiracy theories that Jewish people were planning the “Great Replacement” of the white race through extinction and the “Islamicisation” of Europe. Joe Allman, prosecuting, said he first came to police attention when he claimed to be planning a shooting at his school in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, in January 2017. He told police it was a “prank” and received a caution and some intervention. Leech was referred to Prevent, the Government's deradicalisation programme, but he “dropped off the radar” when he moved to Gillingham, Kent, in June 2017. After moving to Preston in 2020, posts by him on an online platform were found by the Community Security Trust, a charity involved in security for Jewish communities. Mr Allman said: “The cumulative effect of the posts is a call to arms by Mr Leech, inciting others who shared his world view to commit mass murder.”

Technology

The National: Twitter Suspends Houthi Military Spokesman's Account

“…The non-profit Counter Extremism Project, which has been documenting the Houthi spokesman's Twitter activity since he joined the platform in 2018, said he “threatened new attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and any other country participating in the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis”. One of the threats followed Houthi attacks on the UAE, when the group used drones and ballistic missiles. Energy, power and water infrastructure have been the targets of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia. On March 20, the Saudi Press Agency reported that a Houthi attack on a water treatment centre at Al Shaqeeq “did not affect the production and supply of desalinated water to the beneficiary areas”. Twitter says it is prohibits the use of the platform for “glorifying” acts of violence, including “attacks carried out by terrorist organisations or violent extremist groups (as defined by our terrorism and violent extremism policy.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On December 6, 2021, alleged ISIS fighters from Syria attacked Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq in Nineveh province’s Makhmour district.   

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