Eye on Extremism: April 2, 2024

Voice Of America: Somali Government Says At Least 80 Al-Shabab Militants Killed In Attacks

“The Somali government said Thursday its soldiers — backed by international partners and local clan militias — killed about 80 al-Shabab militants and wounded dozens more in three operations in the country’s southern and central regions. A government official indicated the attacks stopped a terrorist operation. “The militants were planning spectacular attacks to coincide with an important date in the Ramadan calendar, the 17th day of the fast,” said the government’s deputy information minister, Abdirahman Yusuf Adala. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll, reported by Adala and Somalia’s defense ministry, and no immediate comment from al-Shabab through its spokesperson or websites. The Ministry of Information said the Somali National Army carried out a coordinated series of operations across the regional states of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Southwest. A press release says the operations were carried out with the support of international security partners. Countries helping the Somali government include the United States, Turkey and members of the African Union.”

The Washington Post: Once Wary Of Extremist Violence, Europe Now Fears Extremism In Politics

“For years, discussions of extremism across Europe were about Islamic extremism and terrorism, but the debate has now shifted to extreme-right ideologies, with governments saying they need to be regulated to protect their democracies. The issue is arguably most vivid in Germany, where calls for a ban of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) — the country’s second-most-popular political party — are growing and the government wants to cut off funding sources of right-wing extremist networks. In Britain, the government wants to keep extremists from meeting with lawmakers or receiving public funds, and it plans to publish a new list of groups it considers “extremist,” focusing more on beliefs rather than a propensity for violence. The debate over extremism has come a long way from the early 2000s and the terrorist attacks in the United States and Britain. As recently as 2015, then-Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “the fight against Islamist extremism is, I believe, one of the great struggles of our generation.””

CEP Mentions

Voice Of America: World Braces for Islamic State to Build on Moscow Attack

“...“This could even be the first sort of real flowering of a developed ISIL-Khorasan capability,” according to Edmund Fitton-Brown, a former senior U.N. counterterrorism official, using another acronym for the IS Afghan affiliate. And Fitton-Brown, now a senior adviser for the New York and Berlin-based Counter Extremism Project, worries IS leaders will want to capitalize on the momentum they likely see from this year’s successful terror attacks. “They got that attention for Iran. They've got a lot more attention for doing it in Russia. And they would get even more attention if they could bring off something on this scale in Western Europe,” he told VOA. “But whether they can bring it off is a question, because up to now there have been a lot of abortive attempts where they've had active terrorist plots in Western Europe, particularly in Germany, but they've been detected and prevented and disrupted,” Fitton-Brown said.”

The Long War Journal: Ep. 154 — The Islamic Republic Of Iran’s Axis of Resistance

“Bill, co-host Behnam, and long-time friend of the show Edmund Fitton-Brown preview and share insights from a project they’ve been working on concerning the Islamic Republic of Iran’s axis of resistance. They discuss Tehran’s extensive track record of not playing by the rules — and not paying a price for it — as well as the origins of conflict between Iran and the West from before the 1979 revolution to tapping their regional proxies on and after October 7, 2023 to target Israeli and American interests in the Middle East — and everything in between.”

CNN: How ISIS Has Europe And The US In Sights After Deadly Moscow Attack

“...Edmund Fitton-Brown, a senior adviser to the New York-based Counter Extremism Project, told CNN that ISIS-K “has the desire and a growing ability to project beyond Afghanistan and carry out regional attacks” in Pakistan, Iran and central Asia, bolstered by a robust media output in Tajik, Uzbek and Russian. Fitton-Brown said that in Afghanistan the Taliban’s “Pashto chauvinism has helped ISIS-K recruit from other Afghan ethnic groups.” ISIS-K’s most infamous attack until now was the suicide bombing at Kabul airport in 2021 that killed nearly 200 people, including 13 US soldiers guarding the airport. It has continued a campaign of suicide bombings and assassinations against the Taliban, which it regards as insufficiently radical and beholden to outside powers. Just last week, an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt among Taliban militia in the Afghan city of Kandahar, inflicting dozens of casualties, according to local accounts.”

ABC: Al-Qaeda Resurges Under Taliban: Report Says

“When the US signed the Doha agreement with the Taliban in 2020, accelerating its withdrawal from Afghanistan, it contained measures specifically aimed at preventing al-Qaeda from gaining another foothold there. But a new report circulating among Western diplomats, outlines how al-Qaeda is being allowed to rake in tens of millions of dollars a week - all under the watch of Taliban leaders.”

The Spectator: Who Will Take Responsibility For Our Appalling Prisons?

“We know our prison system is awash with drugs but just what are they smoking at the Ministry of Justice? A shocking story in the Times yesterday revealed what a desperate state Britain’s jails are in. Paul Morgan-Bentley, an undercover reporter, was hired at breakneck speed to work as a uniformed Operational Support Grade (OSG) escort at beleaguered HMP Bedford. He lifted the lid on a security nightmare. A catalogue of errors and incompetence emerged. He wasn’t security cleared before starting his sensitive post. He had access to prisoners in this Category B jail after a day’s training where even his tutor complained of a ‘pandemic’ of unlocked security gates. On two occasions, scanners at the gate were completely unmanned, allowing him and dozens of other workers to walk straight in off the street into the heart of the prison potentially carrying anything from a mobile phone to a firearm. On other occasions, gate staff complained they had not been trained to use the scanners and workers were waved through after rudimentary checks. Drugs were being smoked openly in front of officers corralled behind perspex in a central office. A female colleague of his, barely trained and with no personal protective equipment, escorted male sex offenders through places with CCTV blind spots.”

Forbes: Yes, Even Putin Just Warned You That Telegram Is Dangerous

“...This surprise twist comes courtesy of an interview Russia’s Life conducted with Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, in the aftermath of the March 22 attack on a concert at Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk. ISIS has taken credit for the attack, which killed more than 130 people. It is actually little surprise that Telegram—according to the captured suspects, featured heavily in their recruitment. As the Counter Extremism Project says, “terrorist and extremist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others use the encrypted application Telegram for purposes that may include recruiting new members, fundraising, inciting violence, and even coordinating terrorist activity.” “This unique and phenomenal from a technological point of view resource, which has grown, in fact, before the eyes of our generation, is increasingly becoming a tool in the hands of terrorists - it is used for terrorist purposes," Peskov told Life, directing his comments at Telegram’s founder. “Of course, we would expect more attention from Pavel Durov.””

USA Today: How ISIS-K Killed Americans, Beat The Taliban, And Massacred 140 People In Moscow

“...Since shortly after the chaotic pull-out of U.S. forces in 2021, the group, known as ISIS-Khorasan or ISKP, has used Afghanistan to become the most capable branch of the global ISIS terror organization, signaling the possible re-emergence of ISIS worldwide, said Edmund Fitton-Brown, a former UN terrorism expert and senior advisor for the New York-based Counter Extremism Project.  “The resurgence of the ISIS threat globally,” he said, “is more likely to come from ISKP than from other ISIS affiliates.” The group was behind deadly suicide blasts outside the Kabul airport in August 2021 that killed more than 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops − and has set its sights on a range of foreign targets, experts say. Ahmad Zia Seraj, former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, said the group’s “main message has been that Afghanistan is the safest place in the world for ISKP. Its intelligence penetration among the Taliban is quite deep and significant.””

The Jerusalem Post: A Closer Look At The IS Branch Responsible For The Moscow Attack

“...Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project and former coordinator of the UN Security Council’s ISIL, al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team, spoke to The Media Line and explained that ISIS-K is very different from all the other IS affiliates around the world. He noted that all IS affiliates were pre-existing groups that, for the most part, were part of al-Qaida before switching sides and declaring their loyalty to ISIL. In contrast, he added, ISIS-K was established specifically from the ground up by its central command from Iraq and Syria. “At the end of 2014, IS sent a central group of Arabs to travel around Afghanistan and build up a new affiliate from scratch inside Afghanistan, as competition to the al-Qaida structures in Afghanistan,” Schindler noted, adding that ISIS-K is, therefore, the closest affiliate to the IS terrorist center that exists.”

The Media Line: A Closer Look At The ISIL Branch Responsible For The Moscow Attack: Why Russia, Why Now?

“…Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project and former coordinator of the UN Security Council’s ISIL, al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team, spoke to The Media Line and explained that ISIS-K is very different from all the other IS affiliates around the world. He noted that all IS affiliates were pre-existing groups that, for the most part, were part of al-Qaida before switching sides and declaring their loyalty to ISIL. In contrast, he added, ISIS-K was established specifically from the ground up by its central command from Iraq and Syria.”

Veteran Times: Al Qaeda Is Flourishing In Afghanistan

“…The report’s findings “demonstrate that, as expected, the Taliban leadership continues to be willing to protect not only the leadership of al Qaeda but also fighters, including foreign terrorist fighters from a long list of al Qaeda affiliates”, said Hans-Jakob Schindler, the senior director of the Berlin- and New York-based Counter Extremism Project and an expert on terrorism. “It is clear that the Taliban have never changed their stance toward international terrorism and, in particular, Al Qaeda”.”

United States

Politico: Why the US Warned Russia Of A Terrorist Attack

“Two weeks before a deadly terrorist attack at a Moscow theater killed more than 130 people in March, the United States intelligence community notified its Russian counterparts of an imminent assault that ISIS-K extremists were planning. A few weeks before that, the United States warned Iranian officials of an upcoming attack in Kerman, when ISIS-K suicide bombers killed more than 100 people attending a memorial for the slain Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Many people might be shocked that the U.S. government would go out of its way to share sensitive intelligence with some of its sharpest adversaries and alert them of impending attacks, but it’s actually part of an official policy known as a “duty to warn.” As a former CIA veteran and a terrorism scholar, we know it’s an approach that has the potential to boost security for Americans and other citizens across the globe — but it works only if there is real international cooperation on counterterrorism, something in increasingly short supply.”

Reuters: US Military Says It Destroyed 4 Drones Launched By Yemen's Houthis

“The U.S. military said on Thursday that it had destroyed four unmanned drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen. The U.S. Central Command said on the social media site X that the drones "presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region." The drones were aimed at a coalition vessel and a U.S. warship and "were engaged in self defense over the Red Sea," the statement from the U.S. Central Command said, adding there were no injuries or damage reported to the U.S. or coalition ships.”


The Independent: Hezbollah Militants Among Dozens Killed In Israeli Strikes On Syria’s Aleppo

“Israeli airstrikes hit the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Friday morning, killing dozens of people including five members of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. At about 1.45am local time (10.45pm GMT on Thursday), airstrikes targeted several areas in Aleppo’s countryside, in which a number of civilians and military personnel were killed, a Syrian Defence Ministry statement said. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the targets were weapons stores used by Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. At least 38 people were confirmed dead in the strikes, according to Reuters news agency, which reported two sources saying that at least five of them were members of Hezbollah. The Syrian Defence Ministry also confirmed a drone attack was carried out from Idlib and western rural Aleppo. However, the ministry said the attack was conducted by “terrorist organisations” targeting civilians in Aleppo and its surroundings. However, the ministry did not mention a specific death toll for the attack.”

The Washington Post: Israeli Strikes In Syria Kill Dozens, Including Soldiers And Hezbollah Militants

“Israel carried out airstrikes in Syria early Friday that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers and several members of Hezbollah as well as civilians, according to a spokesperson for Hezbollah and Syria’s state news agency. The attack, which occurred near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, marked the most significant escalation of Israel’s military campaign against Iranian-backed forces beyond its borders since the outbreak of the war in Gaza. The Israeli military, which rarely acknowledges its Syria operations, declined to comment on the strikes. Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group and political party, announced Friday that seven of its members had been killed, without providing details on the circumstances. A spokesperson for the group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to the organization’s rules, said four of the group’s members had been killed in the Aleppo strikes. The spokesperson also said dozens of Syrian soldiers were killed. Earlier in the day, Syrian state news agency SANA reported that an unspecified number of “civilians and soldiers” were killed and wounded in early-morning attacks in Aleppo province.”

Associated Press: A Car Bomb In A Syrian Opposition-Held Town Kills At Least 3 People, Including 2 Children

“A car bomb exploded in a busy market in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-based Syrian opposition fighters early Sunday, killing at least three people, rescue workers and a war monitor said. The bomb exploded in the town of Aziz in Aleppo province. Volunteers with the Syrian Civil Defense, known as the White Helmets, said the blast, just after midnight, killed two children and a woman. The explosion that tore through the busy market also wounded five civilians and destroyed shops and homes in the area, the paramedic group said. First responders struggled to break through the panicking crowds in the market, searching for casualties, clearing the wreckage, and putting out fires. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, said at least eight people were killed and 23 wounded. Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations in Syria since 2016 and controls some Syrian territory in the north. Elsewhere, Syrian state media said Israeli jets struck several locations near Damascus, wounding two civilians and causing material damage.”


Reuters: Exclusive: Iran Alerted Russia To Security Threat Before Moscow Attack

“Iran tipped off Russia about the possibility of a major "terrorist operation" on its soil ahead of the concert hall massacre near Moscow last month, three sources familiar with the matter said. In the deadliest attack inside Russia in 20 years, gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons at concertgoers on March 22 at the Crocus City Hall, killing at least 144 people in violence claimed by the Islamic State militant group. The United States had also warned Russia in advance of a likely militant Islamist attack but Moscow, deeply distrustful of Washington's intentions, played down that intelligence. It is harder, however, for Russia to dismiss intelligence from diplomatic ally Iran on the attack, which has also raised questions over the effectiveness of Russian security services. Moscow and Tehran, both under Western sanctions, have deepened military and other cooperation during the two-year Ukraine war. "Days before the attack in Russia, Tehran shared information with Moscow about a possible big terrorist attack inside Russia that was acquired during interrogations of those arrested in connection with deadly bombings in Iran," one of the sources told Reuters.”

Associated Press: Iran Vows Response After Strike It Blames On Israel Demolishes Consulate In Syria

“Iran and one of its key proxies vowed Tuesday to respond to a strike widely attributed to Israel that demolished Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus and killed eight people, including two Iranian generals. Iran’s state TV reported Tuesday that the country’s Supreme National Security Council, a key decision-making body, met late Monday and decided on a “required” response to the strike. The report said the meeting was chaired by President Ebrahim Raisi, but provided no further details. Israel has repeatedly targeted military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza, and along its border with Lebanon. Monday’s strike in Damascus signaled an escalation because it struck an Iranian diplomatic mission. It was not clear if Iran would respond itself, risking a dangerous confrontation with Israel and its ally the United States, or if it would continue to rely on proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The airstrike in Syria killed Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who led the elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016, according to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. It also killed Zahedi’s deputy, Gen. Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers.”


ABC Media: Islamic State Supporters Arrested In Istanbul On Suspicion Of Preparing Terror Attack

“Two supporters of the terrorist organization Islamic State have been arrested in Istanbul on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack, Ihlas news agency reports. The Turkish security forces conducted operations in Istanbul’s Pendik district to arrest Tajik citizen A. Fashcheljo, 37, and Kyrgyz citizen S. Zulfiya, 41. During the search operation, gendarmerie uniforms, police vests, means of communication, and other tools related to the preparation of a terror attack were found in their apartment basement and seized. The Tajik citizen was arrested, while his accomplice was deported from Turkey.”


CBS: Moscow Attack Fuels Concern Over Global ISIS-K Threat Growing Under The Taliban In Afghanistan

“The devastating March 22 terrorist attack on a packed concert hall in the Moscow suburbs brought Afghanistan abruptly back into the spotlight, as suspicions quickly fell on the ISIS branch in the country. While ISIS attributed the carnage to a never-before-mentioned Russian wing, the U.S. had warned about two weeks earlier of intelligence suggesting the Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, was planning attacks in Russia. Russian officials also said, at about the same time, that they'd thwarted another ISIS-K plot  targeting a synagogue in Moscow.  Four men identified by Russia as suspects in the concert hall attack, dragged before a judge bearing signs of significant beatings this week, were all said to be nationals of Tajikistan. That country sits right on Afghanistan's northern border, and many of ISIS-K's fighters are believed to be Tajik nationals.  So while Moscow hurls accusations at Ukraine that both Kyiv and Washington say are baseless, and no positive link has been established between the concert hall attack and ISIS' Afghan franchise, it has renewed concern about the promise made by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to prevent the country from once again becoming a haven for terrorist groups to plot attacks around the world.”


Voice Of America: More Than Just Islamic State: Rising Militancy In Afghanistan And Pakistan

“There has been a wave of attacks across Pakistan in recent weeks by militant groups operating in the region that have widely varying objectives. This week, a suicide attacker killed five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver in a convoy in Pakistan’s northwest. Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, is the usual suspect for such attacks in the northwest, but in a statement on Wednesday, it denied being behind targeting the Chinese workers. Earlier, two suicide attacks in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed nine Pakistani troops in the third week of March. In the southwest, militants carried out a brazen attack on Pakistan’s second-largest naval airbase and a port complex near the Arabian Sea in the volatile Balochistan province. The Pakistan army said two soldiers and 14 militants were killed in the attacks. Designated terrorist group Baloch Liberation Army, or BLA, accepted the responsibility. The attacks by suspected regional militant groups came as the most active terrorist group in the region, Islamic State-Khorasan, was blamed by Washington for the attack in Moscow a week ago that killed more than 140 concert-goers.”


Bloomberg: Russian Navy Enters Warship-Crowded Red Sea Amid Houthi Attacks

“Russian warships from the Pacific Fleet have crossed the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and entered the Red Sea, the state-run Tass news agency said, venturing into a maritime region plagued by Houthi attacks and crowded with naval vessels. The detachment included the missile cruiser Varyag and frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov, Tass reported Thursday, citing the Russian Pacific Fleet’s press service, which said the ships were carrying out “assigned tasks within the framework of the long-range sea campaign.” The ultimate destination of the ships was unclear from the report, as was the reason Russia sent vessels to the area. For months, the Yemen-based Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s military actions in Gaza, forcing many ships to redirect their journeys. The group told China and Russia earlier this month that their ships can sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden without being attacked. In exchange, the two countries may provide political support to the Houthis in bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, according to several people with knowledge of the militant group’s discussions.”

The New York Times: In Yemen, Renewed Conflict And Rising Hunger Stalk A Lean Ramadan

“In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel. This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills. “I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school. A decade ago, his salary covered his family’s needs and more. But conflict, poverty and hunger have overtaken much of Yemen. As rapid inflation eats away at their spending power, middle-class Yemenis like Mr. Yousef have found themselves sliding into economic collapse.”


Associated Press: Hezbollah Fires Heavy Rockets At Northern Israel After Deadliest Day Of Israeli Strikes On Lebanon

“The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired rockets with heavy warheads at towns in northern Israel, saying it used the weapons against civilian targets for the first time Thursday in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes the night before that killed nine, including what the group said were several paramedics. There were no reports of Israelis hurt in the rocket attack, local media said. The Israeli military did not immediately offer comment on the rocket attack. Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7, concerns have grown that near-daily clashes along the border between Israel and Lebanon could escalate into a full-scale war. Airstrikes and rocket fire Wednesday killed 16 Lebanese and one Israeli, making it the deadliest day of the current conflict. Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Israel had killed 30 Hezbollah militants in the past week and had destroyed dozens of Hezbollah military sites in an effort to push the Iran-backed group away from the border. The recent increase in violence has raised alarm in Washington and at the United Nations.”


Bloomberg: Qatar Signs Deals For More Ships Ahead Of Massive LNG Expansion

“QatarEnergy has signed four agreements to charter 19 liquefied natural gas carriers from Asian ship operators as it prepares to ramp up output. China’s CMES Co. Ltd. and Shandong MarineGroup Ltd. will supply six vessels each, Qatar’s energy minister Saad Al-Kaabi said at a ceremony in Doha on Sunday. Malaysia’s MISC Bhd will supply three and a joint venture of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. and Hyundai Glovis Co. will provide four. Each ship has a capacity of 174,000 cubic meters. Qatar needs more LNG carriers as it’s raising its annual production capacity from the North Field to 142 million tons by 2030 from 77 million tons currently. In doing so, the small Middle Eastern nation is set to re-establish its dominance of the global LNG market. Projects in Australia and the US have eroded its supremacy in recent years to the point where all three countries export roughly the same. However, the US recently imposed a temporary freeze on permits for new projects and Qatar’s investments in its new facilities has put it on course to take the lead again.”

Reuters: Netanyahu Pushes To Shut Israeli Office Of Qatar's Al Jazeera TV

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Monday to shutter the local office of Qatari satellite television network Al Jazeera while the war in Gaza continues. Hours after his party spokesperson said parliament would be convened to ratify the necessary law, the Knesset approved the bill allowing the temporary closure in Israel of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security. Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatari government, called the Israeli measure an "escalation" and said it "comes as part of a series of systematic Israeli attacks to silence Al Jazeera," according to a statement late on Monday. The law approved on Monday would allow Netanyahu and the security cabinet to shut the network's offices in Israel for 45 days, which could be renewed, and would stay in force until the end of July or until the end of major military operations in Gaza. Al Jazeera rejected accusations that it harmed Israel's security as a "dangerous and ridiculous lie" that puts its journalists at risk.”

Reuters: Israel's Netanyahu Agrees To Send Delegation To Egypt, Qatar For Gaza Talks

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to send delegations to Egypt and Qatar, where negotiators have been trying to secure the release of Israeli hostages as part of a possible Gaza ceasefire deal, his office said on Friday. Netanyahu's office said he spoke with the heads of Israeli intelligence agencies Shin Bet and Mossad and "approved that delegations on their behalf go in the coming days to Doha and Cairo," with a mandate to push forward with negotiations.”

Middle East

Time: Israeli Troops Withdraw From Shifa Hospital After Two-Week Raid

“The Israeli military withdrew from Gaza’s largest hospital early Monday after a two-week raid that engulfed the facility and surrounding districts in fighting. Footage showed widespread devastation, with the facility's main buildings reduced to burned-out husks. The military has described the raid on Shifa Hospital as a major battlefield victory in the nearly six-month war and said its troops killed 200 militants in the operation, though the claim they were all militants could not be confirmed. But the raid came at a time of mounting frustration in Israel, with tens of thousands protesting Sunday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanding that he do more to bring home dozens of hostages held in Gaza. It was the largest anti-government demonstration since the start of the war. Elsewhere, Syrian officials and state media said an Israeli airstrike destroyed the consular section of Iran’s embass y in Syria, killing a senior Iranian military adviser and several others. The strike appears to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of Iranian military officials and their allies in Syria. The targeting has intensified since Hamas militants — who are supported by Iran — attacked Israel on Oct. 7.”

Reuters: Israeli Airstrike On Gaza Kills Seven Working For Food Aid NGO

“Citizens from Australia, Britain and Poland were among seven people working for celebrity chef Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza on Monday, the NGO said. The workers, who also included Palestinians and a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the WCK logo and another vehicle, WCK said in a statement. Israel has long denied it is hindering the distribution of urgently needed food aid in Gaza, saying the problem is caused by the inability of international aid groups to get it to those in need. Despite co-ordinating movements with the Israeli Defence Force, the convoy was hit as it was leaving its Deir al-Balah warehouse, after unloading more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by sea, WCK said. "This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war," said Erin Gore, chief executive of World Central Kitchen. "This is unforgivable."”


Associated Press: In Mali, Russian Wagner Mercenaries Are Helping The Army Kill Civilians, Rights Groups Say

“The Russian mercenary group known as Wagner is helping government forces in central and northern Mali carry out raids and drone strikes that have killed scores of civilians, including many children, rights groups said in reports published this week that span the period from December to March. Mali, along with its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger, has for over a decade battled an insurgency fought by jihadi groups, including some allied with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Following military coups in all three nations in recent years, the ruling juntas have expelled French forces and turned to Russia’s mercenary units for security assistance instead. Violence has escalated in Mali since Russian mercenaries arrived there following a coup in 2021. Its ruling junta has ramped up operations, carrying out deadly drone strikes that have hit gatherings of civilians, and raids accompanied by Russian mercenaries that have killed civilians. Residents of the Sahel region that includes Mali say Russia’s presence doesn’t appear to have changed since Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, died in a suspicious plane crash last year.”

United Kingdom

Voice Of America: UK Anti-Terrorism Police Investigate Stabbing Of Persian-Language Journalist

“British counterterrorism detectives are investigating after a journalist working for a Persian-language media organization was stabbed Friday in London amid fears he had been targeted because of his job, police said. Police said the man, in his 30s, was attacked and suffered an injury to his leg in the Friday afternoon incident in Wimbledon, southwest London. Britain's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the victim was prominent Britain-based Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati, who hosts a show on the Persian-language television news network Iran International, which is critical of Iran's government. Police said his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening and he was in stable condition. "This cowardly attack on Pouria is deeply shocking, and our thoughts are with him, his family and all of his colleagues at Iran International," Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ general secretary, said in a statement. In January, Britain imposed sanctions on Iranian officials it said were involved in threats to kill journalists on British soil.”


AFP: Russia Says It Arrested 4 More Moscow Attack Plotters

“Russia's FSB security service has said that four people arrested Sunday in a foiled "terror" plot had provided money and arms for the deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall last month.

More than 140 people were killed when gunmen stormed the Crocus City Hall venue on March 22 before setting the building on fire in the most fatal attack in Russia for two decades. The FSB said in a statement on Monday that it had arrested a group of four a day earlier in the southern Dagestan region who "were directly involved in the financing and supply of terrorist means to the perpetrators of the terrorist act carried out on 22 March in the Crocus City Hall in Moscow.”

Associated Press: A Russian Journalist Who Covered Navalny’s Trials Is Jailed In Moscow On Charges Of Extremism

“A Moscow court on Friday ordered a Russian journalist who covered the trials of late Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and other dissidents to remain in custody pending an investigation and trial on charges of extremism. Antonina Favorskaya, also identified by court officials as Antonina Kravtsova, was arrested earlier in March. On Friday, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ordered that she remain in pre-trial detention at least until May 28. The hearing was conducted behind closed doors at the request of the investigators, which was supported by the presiding judge. Favorskaya and her lawyer protested the decision, the independent news site Mediazona reported. “I am completely against a closed process. The press needs to know what’s going on here, what I’m being accused of,” the outlet quoted Favorskaya as saying. She is accused of collecting material, producing and editing videos and publications for Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which had been outlawed as extremist by Russian authorities, according to court officials. She has been charged with involvement with an extremist group, a criminal offense punishable by up to six years in prison.”

Reuters: Islamic State Spokesperson Praises Group's Attack On Concert Hall In Russia

“The spokesperson for Islamic State praised the group's attack that killed more than 140 people in a Russian concert hall near Moscow. Abu Huthaifa al-Ansari was speaking in a recorded message posted on Thursday on the militant group's Telegram channel. Al-Ansari also reiterated urging the group's supporters to target "crusaders" everywhere, especially in the United States, Europe and Israel. "We ask God that you make it to Palestine so you could fight the Jews face to face in an endless religious war," he said. Russian investigators said on Thursday they had found proof that the concert hall gunmen were linked to "Ukrainian nationalists", an assertion immediately dismissed by the United States as baseless propaganda. Eleven people were arrested in the first 24 hours after the shooting and eight of them, including the four suspected gunmen, have been placed in pre-trial detention. Seven are from the Central Asian state of Tajikistan and the other from Kyrgyzstan.”


Voice of America: US Unfazed As India Engages Taliban

“Just two weeks after senior Indian diplomat J.P. Singh visited Kabul to meet with Taliban officials, a senior U.S. official landed in New Delhi to discuss Afghanistan. Thomas West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, urged Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra to develop “a unified diplomatic approach in support of collective interests” in Afghanistan. Unlike India, the United States has severed diplomatic ties with Kabul since the United States’ withdrawal from war-torn Afghanistan in 2021. Washington maintains a policy of sanctions and isolation toward Taliban leaders. Some analysts criticize that approach as ineffective, but U.S. officials maintain there will be no change until the Taliban reverse their bans on women's education and work and form a more inclusive government. “The United States is going to continue to pursue policies in Afghanistan that protect our national interests and support the Afghan people,” a State Department spokesperson wrote to VOA. India takes a different approach. It views the Taliban as having brought a measure of stability to Afghanistan after 20 years of civil war, according to Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistani ambassador to Kabul.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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