Eye on Extremism: April 22, 2021

Associated Press: Suspect Linked To 2016 Nice Attack Arrested In Italy

“Italian media say a 28-year-old Albanian wanted in connection with a 2016 truck attack in the French city of Nice that killed 86 people has been arrested in southern Italy. News agency LaPresse said police arrested the suspect, identified as Endri Elenzi, on Wednesday in Sparanise about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Naples. Elenzi was wanted on a European arrest warrant issued by France for allegedly having provided arms to the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, Lapresse said. Bouhlel was killed by police after plowing a truck down Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and into a crowd assembled for a Bastille Day fireworks display. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the July 14, 2016, attack. French authorities say that Bouhlel, a Tunisian with French residency, was inspired by the extremist group’s propaganda, but that no evidence has been found that IS orchestrated the attack. France’s counter-terrorism prosecutors last year made a formal request for nine suspects to face trial in connection with the attack.”

Vice: British Government Bans Atomwaffen Division As Criminal Terrorist Organization

“The British government has officially banned Atomwaffen Division and its successor organization, National Socialist Order (NSO), as criminal terrorist groups, meaning membership in either in the U.K. now carries a potential 10-year prison sentence.  On Monday, Home Secretary Priti Pratel issued a motion for Parliament to “proscribe” Atomwaffen Division—a mostly U.S. based neo-Nazi terror group that disbanded last year and was connected to five stateside murders—as an “outlaw” group. Today, it was ratified by Parliament. “Vile and racist white supremacist groups like this exist to spread hate, sow division and advocate the use of violence to further their sick ideologies,” Patel said in a statement. In response to the ban, a leader within the NSO who previously headed an Atomwaffen cell told VICE World News that he wasn’t shocked by the criminal proscription of the group, and questioned why the disbanded organization was also named. “We’re not at all surprised over it. The U.K. government consistently falls all over itself to ban any dissidents that have a real public image,” he said, claiming that the group is exclusively American. “NSO’s program even states that we are a U.S.-only organization, the only reason for them to ban us is to virtue signal.”

United States

Associated Press: Judge Rejects US Bid To Send Refugee To Iraq In Terror Case

“A federal judge in California refused Wednesday to allow the extradition to Iraq of a man accused of committing a killing for the Islamic State, saying cellphone evidence shows he was in Turkey at the time of the slaying. The U.S. Justice Department has tried since 2018 to return Omar Abdulsattar Ameen to Iraq under a treaty with that nation. He fled to Turkey in 2012 and in June 2014 was granted status as a refugee in the United States on the grounds that he was a victim of terrorism. But prosecutors said that he returned to Iraq that same month to kill a police officer in the town of Rawah after it fell to the Islamic State. Five months later, Ameen traveled to the United States to be resettled as a refugee. Ameen had been living in the Sacramento area. U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund Brennan said Wednesday that Ameen's cellphone records “appear decisive on the most salient point: Ameen was in Turkey, not Iraq, on the day of the murder.” He rejected prosecutors' request that he rule that Ameen was eligible for extradition. That would have forwarded the matter to the U.S. State Department for a final decision. There is no appeal from the ruling, and Brennan ordered Ameen released from custody barring any criminal or immigration charges in the United States.”

Syria

The Jerusalem Post: Turkish-Backed Extremists In Syria Pose Threat To Religious Freedom

“Religious minorities in the Middle East have been under siege for decades. In recent years Turkey has emerged as one of the backers of extremists who now threaten minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis. Turkey’s invasions of Syria, beginning in 2016, have led to ethnic cleansing and attacks by Turkish-backed extremists on religious groups. Yazidi shrines in Afrin, which Turkey illegally occupies, have been destroyed. A new annual report for 2021, by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, documents some of Ankara’s concerning actions, Turkey’s role and how Ankara fans the flames of extremism. While the Assad regime continues to suppress people in parts of Syria, in Idlib province, where Turkey has forces, a radical Islamist al-Qaeda affiliate named Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is present. The US Department of State designated it an “entity of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act in December, the new report notes. While the report slams Turkey and its allied militias, it praises the Syrian Democratic Council in eastern Syria. It notes that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) has fostered positive conditions through its multiethnic and multi-confessional Syrian Democratic Council, and military support from the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkish Security Forces Eliminate Over 800 Terrorists In 4 Months

“Turkish security forces have eliminated 836 terrorists since the beginning of the year, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. The ministry noted that the Turkish military will continue to pursue its anti-terrorism goals with determination. In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey, where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) also regularly conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which to carry out attacks in Turkey. Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also previously called the PKK's presence in Sinjar unacceptable and urged the militants to leave the area. In northern Iraq, Turkey launched operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle in June to ensure the safety of the Turkish people and borders by eliminating the threat of the PKK and other terrorist groups.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: War, Peace And Taliban Spreadsheets

“In the twilight months of the United States’ war in Afghanistan, Americans fought the Taliban, not over fields or villages or hearts and minds, but over spreadsheets. Since February 2020, when the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban laying out the terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan if certain conditions were met, the insurgent group has recorded its every perceived violation of the deal, totaling well over 1,000 incidents laid out in Microsoft Excel. Practically every week, the Taliban delivered these lists of infractions to U.S. diplomats and military officials in Doha, Qatar, who took the complaints — investigating some and dismissing others as inaccurate. In a way, the spreadsheets’ very existence supported President Biden’s rationale for pulling out completely, even when his generals wanted to stay: A conditions-based withdrawal, as the Pentagon wanted, seemed bound to fail because neither side could agree on whether the other party was even meeting the conditions they had signed on to. After 20 years of killing one another, in suicide attacks, drone strikes, roadside bomb blasts, night raids and ground offensives, both sides understood the war on almost completely different terms.”

The National: Afghan Talks In Turkey On Hold After Bomb Rips Through Kabul

“Turkey announced the suspension of talks between Afghanistan's warring sides until after Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr – hours after a suicide bombing in Kabul injured four people. The suicide bomber struck as an Afghan security convoy was travelling in the capital. Afghanistan's interior ministry said civilians and security personnel were among the wounded. No group claimed responsibility. The attack was the first in weeks in the capital, even as targeted killings escalated and Afghanistan’s security personnel came under relentless attacks by Taliban insurgents. Residents fear the attack could be a harbinger of what is to come as the US and Nato prepare to begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan expected to be completed by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks in America. The attacks carried out by Al Qaeda were plotted in Afghanistan while the country was ruled by the hardline religious militia. It had been hoped Afghanistan’s rival sides would reach a peace pact at the talks in Turkey, to end decades of war. US State Department spokesman Ned Price did not confirm the postponement but said broader diplomatic efforts will continue: “We've always been clear, Istanbul was not a replacement for Doha.”

Pakistan

The New York Times: Deadly Blast Hits Pakistan Hotel, Missing China’s Envoy By Perhaps Just Minutes

“A powerful explosion apparently from a suicide bomber struck the parking lot of a luxury hotel in southwest Pakistan frequented by high-level guests on Wednesday, and officials said at least four people had been killed and 12 wounded. China’s ambassador to Pakistan may have missed the blast by mere minutes. The ambassador, Nong Rong, was leading a Chinese delegation that had been visiting the area and staying at the hotel, the Serena, in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province. “The Chinese were staying at Serena Hotel but they were not present at the hotel at the time of the attack,” Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan’s interior minister, told local news media. The Chinese delegation was safe and all casualties were of Pakistani nationals, officials said. Two senior civilian officials were among the wounded. It was unclear if the Chinese visitors had been the targets of the attack, which was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, known as the TTP. But the group’s statement of responsibility said a suicide bomber had intended to strike a meeting of “locals and foreigners” at the Serena. China is considered an important ally of Pakistan and has undertaken several infrastructure projects along with a deep seaport in Baluchistan province.”

Africa

Reuters: Rebels Threaten To March On Capital As Chad Reels From President’s Battlefield Death

“The son of Chad's slain leader Idriss Deby took over as president and armed forces commander on Wednesday as rebel forces threatened to march on the capital, deepening the turmoil in a country vital to international efforts to combat Islamist militants in Africa. The political opposition denounced the military's takeover of control, as did an army general who said he spoke for many officers. Labour unions called for a workers' strike. Deby, 68, was killed on Monday on the frontline in a battle against fighters of the Libyan-based Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a group formed by dissident army officers. His death shocked the nation and raised concerns among Western allies, notably France and the United States, who had counted on him as an ally in their fight against Islamist groups including Islamic State and Boko Haram. Deby had been in power since 1990 and had just been declared winner of a presidential election that would have given him a sixth term in office. His son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby, was named interim president by a transitional council of military officers. General Deby, 37, moved to consolidate his position on Wednesday, with the council issuing a new charter in place of the constitution granting him the functions of president and also naming him as head of the armed forces.”

The North Africa Post: Tunisia: Planned ISIS-Backed Attack Foiled In Sfax

“A planned terror attack backed by the Islamic state group, ISIS, in the city of Sfax, has been foiled, the Tunisian interior ministry said on Tuesday. Security forces arrested members of the cell who were preparing the alleged attack, the ministry said in a statement. The leader of the cell pledged allegiance to the terror group and received special training in manufacturing explosives. Sizeable amounts of explosives have been also seized during the arrest operation. Tunisia has been on state of emergency since November 2015 after three terror attacks, the bloodiest in the country’s history, that killed over 70 people mostly foreign tourists. The state of emergency gives sweeping power to security forces to carry out preventive arrests without warrants. Gatherings are also banned during the security measure.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Met Dismisses Police Officer Who Belonged To Banned Neo-Nazi Terror Group

“A man who became the first British police officer convicted of belonging to a neo-Nazi terrorist organisation has been dismissed from the Metropolitan police without notice. Ben Hannam was found guilty on 1 April of membership of the banned rightwing extremist group National Action (NA) following a trial at the Old Bailey. At a gross misconduct hearing on Wednesday, his behaviour was found to amount to a breach of the standards of professional behaviour, the Met said. The Met assistant commissioner, Helen Ball, who chaired the hearing, said his actions had “without question harmed public confidence in, and the reputation of” the force. She said: “In terms of culpability, PC Hannam has knowingly and intentionally remained a member of a proscribed organisation, made false statements, retained possession of terrorism-related documents and a prohibited image of a child. He had at every stage the option not to embark on this course of conduct and to move away from it and did not do so. “In addition, PC Hannam has been convicted of six separate criminal offences. It is entirely unacceptable for police officers who are responsible for enforcing the law to break the law themselves. He was wholly responsible for his actions and his culpability is high.”

Europe

Reuters: Czech Police Detain Five Suspected Of Links To Pro-Russian Forces In Ukraine

“Czech police have detained five people on suspicion of terrorism-related offences connected to fighting on the side of pro-Russia separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, prosecutors said on Wednesday. The Prague High Public Prosecutor's Office said the five people detained had not yet been charged but were taken into custody on suspicion of terrorist acts, financing terrorism and supporting terrorism. “These criminal acts relate to involvement of Czech citizens in the fighting in eastern Ukraine on the side of the so-called (rebel) Donetsk People's Republic,” it said in a statement. The arrests came amid high tension between Prague and Moscow following Czech allegations that Russian military intelligence was behind 2014 explosions at an arms and ammunition depot in which two people were killed. The central European country on Saturday expelled 18 Russian Embassy staff, whom it identified as intelligence officers, over the matter. Moscow denied any of its agents were involved, branded the Czech stance a provocation and expelled 20 Czech diplomats and other staff in retaliation. Czech police said on Twitter there was no connection between the two investigations.”

Technology

BBC News: TikTok Loophole Sees Users Post Pornographic And Violent Videos

“TikTok is banning users who are posting pornographic and violent videos as their profile pictures to circumvent moderation, in a unique viral trend. BBC News alerted the app to the “Don't search this up,” craze, which has accumulated nearly 50 million views. TikTok has also banned the hashtags used to promote the offending profiles and is deleting the videos. Users say the trend is encouraging pranksters to post the most offensive or disgusting material they can find. BBC News has seen clips of hardcore pornography shared as profile pictures on the app, as well as an Islamic State group video of the murder of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, burned to death in a cage in 2015. Tom, a teenager from Germany, whose surname we have agreed not to use, first contacted BBC News about the trend. He said: “I've seen gore and hardcore porn and I'm really concerned about this because so many kids use TikTok. “I find it especially worrying that there are posts with millions of views specifically pointing out these profiles, yet it takes ages for TikTok to act.” Tom added he had reported multiple users to the app for posting the offensive profile-picture videos. On the platform users can put videos as their profile pictures, rather than a still image.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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