Eye on Extremism: April 26, 2021

The Wall Street Journal: French Police Worker Stabbed In Terrorist Attack Near Paris

“An administrative police worker was stabbed to death in an assault on a police station that investigators were treating as a terrorist attack. An unidentified man Friday surprised a police worker in the entranceway of the police station some 25 miles southwest of Paris as she returned from her car, French officials said. The attacker stabbed the worker in the throat and yelled “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before police stationed inside shot and killed him, police union officials said on French television. The police worker died of her wounds soon after. She was a mother of two who worked at the reception of the police station, and didn’t carry a gun, one of the union officials said. The attack jolted a nation already reeling from a string of terrorist attacks late last year, including the beheading of middle-school teacher Samuel Paty after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his class. Jean-François Ricard, France’s antiterrorism prosecutor, said Friday he had opened an investigation into the police station attack as a terrorist act in part because the attacker had scoped out the station ahead of the attack, and because of statements he made during the assault.”

Voice Of America: Jihadists Kill At Least 11 In Northeast Nigeria Attack

“At least 11 civilians were killed when IS-aligned jihadists invaded a town in northeast Nigerian Yobe state, an official and residents told AFP on Saturday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in eight trucks fitted with machine guns stormed the town of Geidam as residents were preparing to break their Ramadan fast on Friday, leading to a gunfight with troops from a nearby base. “We lost 11 people in the terrorist invasion and the gunmen are still in the town,” Ali Kolo Kachalla, Geidam political administrator, said. “Our people are trapped in the town and soldiers have been prevented from leaving,” Kachalla said by phone from the state capital Damaturu. The victims were killed when a projectile hit two adjoining homes in the Samunaka neighborhood of the town during the fighting between troops and the militants, residents said. “A projectile fell on the two houses, killing all the 11 occupants, six from one house and five from the other,” said resident Babagana Kyari. The militants destroyed telecom masts in the town, save a few from a mobile carrier, making communications limited. “The insurgents looted provision stores before setting them on fire,” said resident Ari Sanda, adding the fighters seized a military armored vehicle and destroyed three trucks.”

United States

The Jerusalem Post: Long Island Resident Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Join Terror Org.

“A Long Island resident pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support and resources to Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusrah Front terrorists, the US Justice Department announced in a statement. With the guilty plea, the resident, Elvis Redzepagic, 30, could face up to 20 years in prison. “Redzepagic, a Long Island resident, admitted that he attempted to travel to Syria on several occasions to wage jihad on behalf of ISIS and other organizations dedicated to violence and mass destruction,” said Acting United States Attorney Mark J. Lesko. “This Office is committed to preventing the spread of terrorism by stopping individuals like the defendant in their tracks and prosecuting them before they are able to harm the United States and its allies.” Redzepagic was tracked down and arrested by the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, a consortium of investigators and analysts from the FBI, NYPD and 50 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies after attempting to travel to Syria on two separate occasions. “Redzepagic has admitted to traveling overseas to try to join and provide material support to ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front, two foreign terrorist organizations that were engaged in fighting in Syria,” said Assistant Attorney-General for National Security John C. Demers.”

Syria

Foreign Policy: The Islamic State’s Signing Bonus

“In late March, jihadis linked to the Islamic State seized Palma, Mozambique. Beyond attacking the town, which is strategically located near a French-led $20 billion natural gas project, the terrorists killed dozens of Mozambican civilians as well as reportedly beheaded foreign workers. The subsequent media storm prompted widespread debate about the nature of the Islamic State’s involvement and whether the violence in Mozambique was a local or transnational phenomenon. Although some analysts have focused on the parochial nature of the insurgents’ grievances, the reality is that their apparent pledge to the Islamic State has coincided with a significant leap forward in the capabilities of the group, which is now known as the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) and is made up of affiliates in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Mozambican branch of ISCAP—known locally as al-Shabab (no relation to the Somali group) or Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah—did not always have the operational and organizational tools needed to conduct attacks on the level of what happened in Palma. Indeed, few, if any, observers expressed much concern about the then-fledgling insurgents conquering territory in northern Mozambique until their pledge to the Islamic State.”

Iraq

Reuters: Islamic State Japes: TV Pranks Spark Iraqi Anger

“Iraqi actress Nessma is on her way to receiving the shock of her life. Told she'll deliver aid to a family displaced by war on the outskirts of Baghdad, she instead falls prey to what seems to be a jihadist ambush. But is in fact a prank. Blindfolded and wrapped in a fake suicide belt - apparently fainting at one point - Nessma is “rescued” by a guy in military fatigues.That's television presenter Reslan Haddad, and his show, consisting of 25 similar episodes for broadcast over Ramadan, is drawing disgust on social media - under the hashtag “stop the Tannab Reslan show”. Haddad explained his thinking from his living room in the Iraqi capital. “The guest, after being blindfolded and after Islamic State comes in, she experiences that terror so that she, as well as the audience, see how it was for people. Some people can't see that.” Nessma confirmed she wasn't in on the prank. In the shot following the staged attack, she even calls out to her deceased brother, who Haddad said, quote, “died as a martyr.” “Aysar, I'm coming to you,” she says. Nessma's episode has so far received more than a million views on YouTube. But writer and activist Resli al-Maliki fears what it could trigger in viewers, in a nation traumatized by such events.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Biden Officials Place Hope In Taliban’s Desire For Legitimacy And Money

“President Biden’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan has drawn sharp criticism that it could allow a takeover by the Taliban, with brutal consequences, particularly for the rights of women and girls. In response, top Biden administration officials have offered a case for why the outcome may not be so dire: The Taliban, they say, might govern less harshly than feared after taking partial or full power — in order to win recognition and financial support from world powers. That argument is among the most significant defenses against those who warn that the Taliban will seize control of Kabul and impose a brutal, premodern version of Islamic law, echoing the harsh rule that ended with the American invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the case on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that the Taliban must gain power through an organized political process and not through force “if it wants to be internationally recognized, if it doesn’t want to be a pariah,” he said. On Wednesday, Mr. Blinken announced that the administration would work with Congress to expedite a commitment of $300 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan, pledged last fall under the Trump administration.”

The New York Times: U.S. Military Begins Final Withdrawal From Afghanistan

“The U.S. military has begun its complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the top American commander there said Sunday, marking what amounts to the beginning of the end of the United States’ nearly 20-year-old war in the country. “I now have a set of orders,” said Gen. Austin S. Miller, the head of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, to a news conference of Afghan journalists at the U.S. military’s headquarters in Kabul, the capital. “We will conduct an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that means transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces.” General Miller’s remarks come almost two weeks after President Biden announced that all U.S. forces would be out of the country by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that propelled the United States into its long war in Afghanistan. Mr. Biden’s announcement was greeted with uncertainty in Afghanistan, as it prepares for a future without a U.S. and NATO military presence despite a Taliban insurgency that seems dead set on a military victory despite talks of peace. If the Taliban return to power — either through force or being incorporated into the government — they are likely to roll back rights for women, as they did during their harsh rule in the late 1990s.”

Foreign Policy: Afghan Ambassador: ‘The Ball Is In The Taliban’s Court’

“In a little over a week, the first of 3,500 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan will begin to fly out of the country, leaving behind 20 years of war and a flurry of questions about what the country will look like going forward. The scheduled departure, meant to be completed by Sept. 11, puts pressure on the Taliban to finally stop its violence, according to Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States. “For 20 years, [the] Taliban were justifying their war on the basis of the presence of foreign troops on the ground,” Rahmani said in an interview with Foreign Policy this week. “Was it really about the presence of foreign troops? If it was, then it’s time to stop the silence [on peace talks], stop the killing, and come and become a constructive part of Afghan society.” After the latest attempt to hold peace talks earlier this month in Turkey failed, Rahmani made clear “the ball is in the Taliban’s court.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Foreign Policy: How is the Afghan government going to be able to protect gains that have been made on women’s rights and human rights over the past 20 years?”

Yemen

Voice Of America: Yemen Rebels Advance On Marib, Dozens Reported Dead

“Yemen's Houthi rebels have made major gains in the battle for the government's last northern stronghold, advancing close to the center of Marib city despite heavy casualties, military sources said Sunday. The rebels have taken full control of the Kassara battlefield to the northwest and made progress on western front lines despite airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that backs Yemen's government, the loyalist military sources said. Marib and its surrounding oil fields make up the last significant pocket of government-held territory in the north, the rest of which is under rebel control, including the capital Sanaa. Fierce fighting has left at least 65 dead over the past two days alone, including about 25 loyalist personnel, among them four officers, the government sources told AFP. The Iran-backed Houthis rarely disclose their own losses. The loyalist officials said fighting had now moved to the Al-Mil area, 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the center of Marib, they said. However, mountains around Al-Mil remain a formidable barrier to the rebels who have been battling to reach Marib since February. The government sources said the Houthis had poured in hundreds of reinforcements in recent days, resorting to motorbikes after the coalition targeted their military vehicles.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: Gaza Militants Fire Rockets At Israel Amid Jerusalem Clashes

“Militants in Gaza fired more than 30 rockets into Israel overnight, the worst flareup in months amid escalating nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem. In response to the barrage, Israel struck Hamas military targets, including infrastructure and rocket launchers, Israel’s military said Saturday. Two militant groups in Gaza, Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Abu Ali Brigades, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. Israel says it holds Gaza ruler Hamas responsible for any violence coming from the Gaza Strip. In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel’s bombing of Hamas targets in Gaza as well as the recent clashes in Jerusalem are “part of its comprehensive aggressive policies against our people.” Hamas did claim the rocket fire but said “what the Palestinian resistance is doing in response to this aggression is within the framework of carrying out its national duty to protect and defend the interests of our people.” No casualties were reported in either Israel or Gaza. The rocket fire prompted Israel’s military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi to postpone a trip to Washington, where he intended next week to discuss Israel’s concerns with a potential U.S. return to the Iran nuclear deal and Iranian activity in the region.”

The Jerusalem Post: Israel-UAE Conference Under Threat Of Terrorism

“There was concern about terrorism at a joint Israel and United Arab Emirates influencer conference in Dubai in early April, participants told The Jerusalem Post. According to Israeli participants in the four-day event, UAE security services had warned the organizers there was intelligence indicating that Iran was interested in the event. “The organizers told us that UAE Security notified them that there was chatter about how the Iranians were aware we were in the Emirates,” Emily Schrader, founder of Social Lite Creative, told the Post. To mitigate the threat, the organizers implemented several security precautions and notified the participants. “We were sitting in the bus and they just told us that for further security and just to be on the safe side, ‘I just want to let you know there are some threats in terms of maybe Iranians.’” Yoseph Haddad, a prominent Israeli-Arab activist and influencer, told the Post. The concern was that Iranian or terrorist operatives might “message us in a good way, and then try to set a meeting, and eventually to try to kidnap one of us: one of the people in the group,” said Haddad.”

Nigeria

Premium Times: Over 4,000 Fighters Desert Boko Haram – Report

“Over 4,000 Boko Haram fighters have deserted the extremist group, signalling a huge shrink in the rank of the terrorists, a report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has said. According to the report, the deserters from the four Lake Chad Basin countries (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) are leaving for various reasons which include safety concerns. Boko Haram and other terror groups have terrorised the Lake Chad Basin countries for over 10 years. The unending terror war has displaced thousands of nationals of the four countries. The crisis has also crippled economic activities in the once booming fish market in the region. Thousands of people have been kidnapped by the terrorists and many killed. According to the 28-page report, while some of the insurgents joined willingly, others were conscripted or abducted and held captive in Boko Haram strongholds. The report said although accurate figures were difficult to find, their data suggests at least 2,400 desertions in Chad, 1,000 in Nigeria, 584 in Cameroon and 243 in Niger. “Motives for leaving Boko Haram include individual circumstances, safety concerns and the groups’ internal dynamics, among others.”

Africa

The Guardian: Chad Dictator’s Death Spells Chaos In Islamist Terror’s New Ground Zero

“The death in battle last week of Chad’s unloved dictator, Idriss Déby, has pushed the Sahel up the west’s political and media agenda. The sudden burst of interest is unlikely to last. The global attention span for this desperately poor, unstable and ill-governed region is chronically short. And yet the Sahel is, or soon could be, everyone’s problem. A vast, arid swath of sub-Saharan Africa that comprises Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso (the so-called G5 Sahel), plus parts of neighbouring countries, the Sahel is where the world’s toughest challenges collide. The spread of jihadist terrorism, claiming record numbers of lives and posing a possible threat to Europe, is the most closely watched phenomenon. But undemocratic, corrupt and repressive governance, colonial era hangovers, external interference, environmental degradation, climate change, unchecked Covid-19, poverty and malnutrition – and the resulting conflicts, refugee emergencies and chaotic northwards migrations – are all also conspiring to render the Sahel truly hellish. In a despairing appeal in January, the UN’s refugee agency called for international action to end “unrelenting violence” that it estimates has displaced more than 2 million people within the Sahel for the first time.”

France

The New York Times: Terrorism Fears Feed The Rise Of France’s Extreme Right

“Marine Le Pen does not have to say anything,” said Alain Frachon, a former editor of the French daily Le Monde. “Each time France is hit by terrorism, the extreme right benefits.” Mr. Frachon was reflecting on the fatal stabbing Friday of a police officer by a Tunisian immigrant who had been in France for a decade without legal status before securing authorization to stay in 2019 and a temporary residence permit last year. In fact, Ms. Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, did say something. She told the BFM-TV news network that France needs “to expel hundreds of thousands of illegals in France. We need to return to reason. Support our police, expel the illegals, eradicate Islamism.” How, she asked, was it possible for “somebody who was illegally here for 10 years to have his situation regularized?” In France, where tensions are simmering after a series of terrorist attacks, Ms. Le Pen’s rhetoric resonates. The left, which is in tatters, bereft of an effective leader or message, appears to have no answer for the moment. France is divided between vehement supporters of the police on the right, who view the force as beleaguered by the government and exposed to the double threat of vandalism and Islamist terrorism, and a left that has focused on repeated cases of police violence and the state of some French Muslims in ghettoized suburbs of misery.”

Southeast Asia

Yahoo News: Sri Lanka Arrests Muslim Leader For Alleged Connections To Massive 2019 Terrorist Attacks

“Sri Lankan police on Saturday arrested prominent Muslim leader Rishad Bathiudeen over alleged connections to the suicide bombers who attacked churches and hotels on Easter Sunday 2019, Al Jazeera reports. Why it matters: The bombings, which ISIS claimed responsibility for, killed more than 290 people and injured 500 others. Around 200 people have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into the attack, but no one has officially been charged. What they're saying: Police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said detectives took Bathiudeen, a member of parliament, and his brother into custody during raids on their homes in Colombo. Rohana said their arrests were based on “circumstantial and scientific evidence that they had connections with the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks,” according to Al Jazeera. The big picture: The high-profile arrests come amid growing criticism against Sri Lanka's government for a lack of progress in the investigation.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

How come they do not ask why the Holocaust happened? Was it because those who burned were criminals, or was it because the Jews in those countries took over the economy and politics and exploited the resources of these people for their own benefit

Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas co-founder and senior official Apr. 10, 2021
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