Eye on Extremism: April 19, 2021

Al Jazeera: At Least 19 People Killed In West Niger Attack

“At least 19 civilians were killed when armed men raided a village in west Niger close to the border with Mali, officials have said, in the latest bloodshed in the troubled region. The governor of Tillaberi region said dozens of heavily armed attackers on motorbikes stormed the village of Gaigorou on Saturday evening. Governor Ibrahim Tidjani Katiella told DPA news agency the attackers, who likely came from Mali, surrounded the village and then started killing the inhabitants. A municipal official from Dessa on Sunday confirmed that 19 people were killed and two others wounded in the attack. He told AFP news agency that the assailants initially attacked people at a funeral, before going on to the village where they “shot at everyone they saw,” the official said. The Tillaberi region is situated on the lawless “three-border” zone where the frontiers of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso converge and has regularly been the target of armed groups affiliated to the ISIL (ISIS) group. “What concerns us a lot is this escalation of violence and insecurity that is recently taking place in the region,” Katiella, the governor, said in March. Thirteen people were killed last month when armed men on motorbikes raided the villages of Zibane-Koira Zeno, Zibane Koira-Tegui and Gadabo.”

Voice Of America: 5 Wounded In Rocket Attack On Iraqi Base Hosting US Troops

“Five rockets targeted an Iraqi airbase hosting U.S. soldiers Sunday, wounding two foreign contractors and three Iraqi soldiers, in the latest attack coinciding with tensions between Baghdad's allies Tehran and Washington. Two of the rockets fired at Balad airbase, north of Baghdad, crashed into a dormitory and a canteen of U.S. company Sallyport, a security source told AFP. Two foreign contractors and three Iraqi soldiers were wounded, the source added. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the United States routinely blames Iran-linked Iraqi factions for such attacks on its troops and diplomats. F-16 fighters are stationed at the Balad airbase, and several maintenance companies are present there, employing Iraqi and foreign staff. There have been about 20 bomb or rocket attacks against American interests, including bases hosting U.S. soldiers, since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January. Dozens of others took place from the autumn of 2019 under the administration of Donald Trump. Two Americans and an Iraqi civilian have been killed in such attacks since late 2019. An Iraqi civilian working for a firm maintaining U.S. fighter jets for the Iraq air force was also wounded in one attack.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Biden Officials Say World-Wide Concerns And Terrorism Justify Afghanistan Pullout

“Shifting U.S. security priorities and a dispersed terrorist threat justify President Biden’s planned pullout this year of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, senior administration officials said Sunday. “The terrorism threat has moved to other places, and we have other very important items on our agenda, including the relationship with China,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC’s “This Week”.In recent days, Mr. Biden and senior officials have sought to defend the troop withdrawal by Sept. 11 of this year, saying Washington will retain the ability to monitor and target militants in Afghanistan and gain greater ability to counter threats around the world. The exit plan runs counter to the recommendations of Mr. Biden’s top military commanders, who feared it could undermine security in the country. Afghanistan hasn’t recently been a major drain on U.S. military resources, with 2,500 or so troops currently stationed there. Still, the Biden administration emphasized that the main mission there starting in 2001 was to stop plots from al Qaeda, part of a landscape that differs from the current global terrorist threat. “It’s not just about Afghanistan anymore. Al Qaeda is in Yemen. ISIS is in Syria and Iraq.”

The Washington Post: After Troops Leave Afghanistan, U.S. Will Face Challenges Maintaining Counterterrorism Capability

“The military and intelligence agencies are racing to refine plans for countering extremist groups in Afghanistan following President Biden’s planned troop withdrawal, but current and former officials warn it will be far more difficult to head off threats to U.S. security from afar. Biden said the United States would reposition personnel and equipment once the Pentagon pulls its forces out of Afghanistan ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “We’ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat,” Biden said as he announced his decision, to end a war that is now America’s longest, a goal that has eluded earlier presidents. Top Biden aides said the move, which came despite warnings from military and intelligence leaders that withdrawal could permit a diminished al-Qaeda to regroup, was necessary to comply with a 2020 withdrawal agreement President Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban, and to allow the United States to focus on more pressing challenges, like China’s military rise. But some officials cautioned that the trade-offs for American security, especially given the anemic state of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, could be steep without the constellation of military bases, arsenal of weaponry and aircraft, and network of human sources the two-decade American effort in Afghanistan has accrued.”

Al Jazeera: Gunmen Kill Eight Members Of A Family In Afghanistan

“Eight members of a family were killed when unknown attackers opened fire on them at a mosque in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. The shooting happened on Saturday night in the city of Jalalabad. According to Nangarhar Governor Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, the killings happened apparently over a land dispute. Five brothers and three of their male cousins were killed. “The shooting happened at the time of the tarawih [extra prayers in the evening during Ramadan]. This was a targeted attack and initial information shows a land dispute was the reason,” Amarkhil told Al Jazeera. Clashes over land disputes are common across Afghanistan. The so-called blood feuds can last for decades, passing down through generations in a cycle of violence. Last April, at least six tribal members were killed and nearly 20 others wounded in armed clashes over disputed land in the same province. The fighting lasted for several days. Nangarhar, a stronghold of the Taliban and the ISIL (ISIS) group, is rich in plains and is one of the most important areas for agriculture in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

The Jerusalem Post: Pakistan Targets Holocaust To Appease Far-Right Anti-French Islamists

“In a cycle that has now become common under many far-right Islamist regimes, whenever an extremist group claims it is “offended” by a Western country, it lashes out at Jews and the Holocaust. In the latest incident, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan compared “negative comments on the Holocaust” to “abuse of our Prophet” and called on Western countries to make criticism of the Prophet illegal. Khan doesn’t actually condemn Holocaust denial; he has met with leading Holocaust denier Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister of Malaysia. The recent controversy began when the far-right Pakistan Islamist supremacist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik began protests in Pakistan against France, which has told its citizens to flee the South Asian Islamic Republic. The attacks on France are entirely invented and are commonly used in Muslim countries that have far-right governments to encourage extremism. For instance, Turkey also attacked France last year, claiming it had “insulted the Prophet,” which led to several terrorist attacks in France. Last October, a student in a French school lied to her classmates, claiming a teacher had “insulted” Islam. The teacher was beheaded.”

Lebanon

Reuters: With Food And Fuel, Hezbollah Braces For The Worst In Lebanon Collapse

“Lebanon's Hezbollah has made preparations for an all-out collapse of the fracturing state, issuing ration cards for food, importing medicine and readying storage for fuel from its patron Iran, three sources familiar with the plans told Reuters. The moves, responding to a grave economic crisis, would mark an expansion of services provided by the armed movement to its large Sh'ite support base, with a network that already boasts charities, a construction firm and a pension system. The steps highlight rising fears of an implosion of the Lebanese state, in which authorities can no longer import food or fuel to keep the lights on. They underline Hezbollah's growing role in tackling the emergency with services that the government would otherwise provide. The plan chimes with worries in Lebanon that people will have to rely on political factions for food and security, in the way many did in the militia days of the 1975-1990 civil war. In response to a question about Hezbollah's plans, Leila Hatoum, an adviser to the caretaker prime minister, said the country was “in no condition to refuse aid” regardless of politics. The sources from the pro-Hezbollah camp, who declined to be named, said the plan for a potential worst-case scenario has gathered pace as an end to subsidies looms in the coming months, raising the spectre of hunger and unrest.”

Africa

BBC News: Mozambique Palma Attack: Why IS Involvement Is Exaggerated

“The recent insurgent raid on the Mozambican town of Palma made global headlines because foreigners were killed and because the Islamic State group said it was behind it, leading to sharp divisions as to how Mozambique's four-year-old conflict should be interpreted, writes analyst Dr Joseph Hanlon. Palma had always been a sleepy fishing town, until last year it was transformed into a thriving hub for Mozambique's burgeoning gas industry. The French company Total began to develop a $20bn (£14.6bn) gas liquification plant for the second largest gas reserve in Africa. Total was developing its own walled compound with airstrip and pier on the Afungi Peninsula 10km (6 miles) south of Palma. But the contractors and service industry were all based in Palma, which saw a building boom of hotels, banks and construction yards. When the insurgents entered on 24 March they were attacking a rapidly growing town with significant foreign investment and more than 1,000 foreign workers linked to the gas industry. Just two weeks before, the US had labelled the insurgents as “ISIS-Mozambique” and designated it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Four days after the attack, the Islamic State group-aligned Amaq news agency issued a statement claiming that its fighters had attacked Palma and destroyed government offices and banks.”

The Guardian: Escaped Girls Tell Of Insurgents’ Mass Abductions In Mozambique

“Insurgents in Mozambique have abducted hundreds of women and girls, forcing many into sexual relations with fighters and possibly trafficking others elsewhere in Africa, interviews with some who have escaped the extremists reveal. Most of the abducted women are under 18, with the youngest about 12 years old. They are being held in a series of camps and bases across insurgent-controlled territory in north-eastern Mozambique. Many are chosen by young fighters as “wives” and forced into sexual relations. Conditions are extremely harsh, with limited medical care, long marches under guard, unreliable food supplies and a constant risk of attacks by government forces or mercenaries. The mass abductions recall that of more than 200 female students from a school in the town of Chibok in Nigeria in 2014 by the Boko Haram group. Media attention, a Twitter campaign and interventions by celebrities led to the US and other western powers committing soldiers, intelligence specialists and substantial funds to the effort to rescue the young women. The insurgency in Mozambique’s far north, which started four years ago, has killed thousands and displaced almost half a million people.”

All Africa: East Africa: Fight Against Violent Extremism, And Graft Take Toll On Region

“As East Africa struggles to recover from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the region is also fighting extremism, crime and corruption. In this mix is illicit trade that is increasingly rising as the principal financier of extremism, criminal enterprises and breeder of corruption in East Africa and its surrounding regions, says a report by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) released recently. The region's woes are compounded by the fact that it is surrounded on all sides by potent terror groups, deeply penetrated by domestic and international crime groups and undermined from within by corrupt members of its business, civic and political classes. According to the report, terrorists 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. The report titled An unholy alliance: Links between extremism and illicit trade in East Africa, which was published last month, links increasing illicit trade to funding of extremists, terrorists and warlords. In the report, terror groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIS-linked affiliates in Somalia and Mozambique, as well as Central African militias, and urban gangs continue to cash in on the illicit trade networks which continue to expand and mature in their sophistication in East Africa.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Niger Delta Militants Threaten Fresh Attacks Over 13% Derivation Fund

“Nine militant groups in the Niger Delta have threatened to abandon their ceasefire with the federal government and resume armed agitation over the diversion of oil money by their state governors. They allege that President Muhammadu Buhari has ignored their demand to stop the payment of 13 percent oil derivation fund to state governors in the region. The fund was meant to develop host communities of oil exploration activities. The groups, under the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), said series of complaints and petitions against the governors' alleged diversion of funds accruing from the 13 percent derivation into personal pockets while neglecting the much needed development in the oil producing communities seem to have been ignored by President Muhammadu Buhari going by his refusal to stop payment of the derivation funds to the governors. This, they said, would lead to bloodshed and shutting down of the nation's oil economy. The militant groups, who spoke through one 'Major General' Johnmark Ezonebi, also known as Obama, faulted the payment of the derivation funds to state governors despite protests and suggestions that it be paid directly to the oil producing communities in the region in order to attend to their needs and improve their welfare.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: Far Right Extremist Convicted For 'Very Unacceptable Views'

“A far right sympathiser, who used social media to call for a race war, has been convicted of hate crime offences following an investigation by Counter Terrorism Police. Tobias Powell, 32, from Bognor Regis in West Sussex, published a series of tweets between July and October 2018 in which he showed support for the banned terror group, National Action. In one post he called for a “civil war to stop the ethnic suicide of white people” and shared picture of a Nazi tattoo he had. He was arrested at his home in February 2019 by counter terrorism police who seized various items including electronic devices and literature on white supremacy. Police later discovered that he had set up his computer username as Adolf Hitler and had written to Theresa May, the then Prime Minister, calling her a “snake” over the “Brexit stitch up”. In a tweet on 6 July 2018 Powell mentioned Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered by a far right extremist, describing her as a “traitor and enemy of the people”. Police said while the offences did not constitute terrorism, they showed that he held some “very unacceptable views” Appearing at Worthing Magistrates’ Court, Powell was found guilty of four counts of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intending to stir up racial hatred.”

Germany

Vice: COVID Conspiracies Are Supercharging Germany’s Far-Right

“Germany had a big enough problem with far-right conspiracy theorists even before the COVID pandemic began. But the onset of COVID sent them into overdrive, spawning a volatile “corona rebel” movement that’s unleashed dangerous, paranoid and frequently anti-Semitic currents into German society.  Germany, with its reputation as the stable economic powerhouse at the heart of the European Union, is now home to the continent’s largest anti-lockdown movement, in which opposition to coronavirus restrictions is mixed with wild conspiracy theories about the pandemic itself. This movement draws together a motley mix of fired-up anti-establishment malcontents that includes anti-vaxxers, QAnon adherents, new agers, right-wing extremists, and Reichsbürgers – the latter being followers of a far-right conspiracy theory that believes the modern German state is illegitimate. “What drove these people together was the idea that there was a conspiracy going on during the pandemic [with the intention] to establish a new authoritarian state in Germany,” Jan Rathje, a German researcher on the far-right, told VICE World News.”

Southeast Asia

The Independent: Philippine Troops Kill Egyptian, 2 Filipino Militants

“Philippine troops killed a suspected Egyptian would-be suicide bomber and two local Abu Sayyaf militants in what military officials said Saturday was a setback that would make it harder for gunmen linked to the Islamic State group to stage suicide attacks. Army troops gunned down the three militants in a 10-minute firefight Friday night near a hinterland village off mountainous Patikul town in southern Sulu province. They also recovered three assault rifles and bandoliers of ammunition, army brigade commander Col. Benjamin Batara Jr. said. Military officials did not indicate how the three were tracked down but military chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana suggested that troops were helped by intelligence provided by villagers. “The support of the public in our peace and security operations is much, much needed,” Sobejana told The Associated Press. The Egyptian, who was identified by the military only as Yusop, was the son of an Egyptian militant, Siti Aisyah, who died when she detonated a bomb and was shot by troops two years ago at the gate of an army detachment in Sulu’s Indanan town. His Egyptian stepfather was killed in a gunbattle with troops at a military checkpoint in Indanan, also in 2019, the military said.”

The Straits Times: Radicalised Malaysian Jailed For Possessing Items Linked To ISIS

“A 34-year-old radicalised man deported from Singapore to Malaysia last year was sentenced to three years' jail on Thursday for possessing items related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, who worked as a cleaner in Singapore, was charged with six counts of possessing items linked to the terrorist group, including two memory cards, a flag, four books and a mobile phone.He committed the offence at the arrival hall of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex at the Sultan Iskandar Building in Johor Baru at 10.40am on Aug 5 last year. The Malaysian pleaded guilty to the charges against him. “Notwithstanding the mitigating reason given by the accused that is personal in nature, the prosecution humbly submits that the court must also consider the seriousness of the offence,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Khalilah Abdul Rahman was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency. “Especially for terrorism-related offences, the court should take judicial notice of the continuing threat of the Islamic State and other such splinter extremist groups within and around the region.” High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah sentenced Firdaus to three years' jail on each count, to be served concurrently from the date of his arrest.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On December 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb exploded near a police post in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, killing four officers and wounding 48 other people. Ansar al-Furqan, an al-Qaeda-linked Baloch insurgent group, claimed responsibility.

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