Eye on Extremism: April 28, 2021

Premium Times Nigeria: 18 Killed, 43 Injured, 50 Missing As Boko Haram Attacks Military Base In Borno

“At least one Nigerian army officer and 17 soldiers died in battle on Sunday after their base came under sudden but vicious attack by Boko Haram terrorists, military insiders familiar with the matter have told PREMIUM TIMES. The army confirmed the attack on Monday but said only one officer and six soldiers were killed. The army also said its officials, including reinforcements, successfully repelled the attack. Top military sources, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the army’s public statement deliberately underplayed the attack and that it is not a true reflection of what transpired. The Nigerian army, like many of the country’s other security agencies, is known for understating casualties and the true situation of events as the country continues to grapple with multiple security challenges. Our sources said that apart from those killed, no fewer than 43 other soldiers were seriously injured while 50 other personnel remained missing as of Monday morning. The affected military base, the headquarters of 156 Task Force Battalion in Mainok, was virtually completely destroyed as the Boko Haram terrorists carted away arms and ammunition, burning everything in sight. Mainok is about 60 kilometres west of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.”

France 24: Dozens Of Militants Killed In French-Malian Army Operation

“A military operation this week by Malian and French forces in war-torn central Mali eliminated 26 militants, the Sahel state's army said on Tuesday. Mali's military command said in a statement that the operation took place early Monday in Alatona, near the border with Mauritania. The operation targeted militants who had staged an ambush on Saturday, according to the statement, which did not provide details on that attack. French and Malian troops launched a counter-attack after determining their location. Soldiers “neutralised 26 terrorists” in the joint operation, according to Mali's army, and also destroyed two pick-up trucks and captured “a large quantity” of arms. Mali has been struggling to contain a brutal jihadist insurgency which first emerged in the north in 2012, before spreading to the centre of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Former colonial power France, which intervened in Mali in 2013 to beat back the jihadists, has 5,100 soldiers deployed across the semi-arid Sahel region.”

United States

ABC Chicago: Federal Threat Alert Before Biden's Speech To Congress Backed By Chicago Terror Research

“A new federal threat assessment is raising security concerns on the eve of President Joe Biden's first speech to a Joint Session of Congress. Wednesday, it will have been 16 weeks since the United States Capitol was attacked and pillaged by violent insurrectionists. On the eve of President Biden's appearance, a threat alert from the National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium is warning that similar antagonists could strike again. Since the January 6th attack, about 400 people from almost every state -- including Illinois--have been arrested. The new federal threat assessment by U.S. intelligence bluntly predicts “those who do not accept the legitimacy of the current administration may see the JSOC as the next available flashpoint for action.” The JSOC is the abbreviation for President Biden's speech Wednesday night before a joint session of Congress. “These far-right adherents, whether they're affiliated with the group or not, are riding that wave of wave of momentum that they got from January 6th. So I think in the near future I think it's justified before the FBI and the security agencies to be aware that these groups and individuals are out there and are likely plotting things,” said Kurt Braddock, Assistant Professor, American University.”

Iran

Fox News: Iran's Long History Of Terror And Aggression

“Iran's recent acts of aggression against the U.S. and its allies follow a long history of terror by the state, including a recent modernization of tactics in the form of cyber hacks and disinformation campaigns. New images released on Tuesday by the U.S. Navy show Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships performing “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers around American ships in the Persian Gulf. This is the latest provocation by Iran -- the second-largest country in the Middle East -- as it prepares to negotiate with the U.S. and other world leaders about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Since it became the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Iran has a long history of using terror and other acts of aggression to achieve its political objectives. For 42 years, it has been designated by the U.S. and other world powers as the leading state sponsor of terrorism around the globe. It has backed other terrorist organizations — such as the Taliban and Hezbollah — to further its goals. Prior to the Iranian Revolution, the country was ruled by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose family governed Iran since 1925. However, starting in the 1950s Shah Reza's rule -- with the backing of the U.S. -- became more and more authoritarian.”

Iraq

Voice Of America: Iraqi Kurds Fear Escalation Of Iran-Backed Rocket Attacks

“Iraqi Kurds, who played a key role in the fighting against the Islamic State terror group, are now concerned about a new threat: Iranian-backed Shiite militias. In recent weeks, the autonomous Kurdistan Region has witnessed several rocket and drone attacks targeting bases that house U.S. and foreign troops. The attacks killed at least one contractor and a Turkish soldier and wounded several others. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani last week to reaffirm Washington's “commitment to the stability of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” according to a statement by the U.S. State Department. “The Secretary discussed the continued attacks on Iraqi, U.S., and Coalition forces, including the April 14 attack on the Erbil International Airport,” the statement said. “The Secretary and Prime Minister agreed that these attacks represent an egregious violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” Despite the show of support from the U.S. and other Western governments, Kurdish residents remain worried that the heavily armed militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), will not be deterred. “It is definitely no secret that Kurdistan Region will face the threat of militia forces that are largely unaccounted for and yet armed to their teeth,” said Ruwayda Mustafa, a prominent Kurdish political activist.”

Afghanistan

CNBC: U.S. Ambassador Says He Doesn’t Believe Taliban Will Take Power After Troops Leave Afghanistan

“The nation’s top representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Afghan government will collapse after U.S. and foreign troops leave the war-torn country later this year. “I do not believe the government is going to collapse or the Taliban is going to take over,” U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Khalilzad’s testimony comes after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, effectively ending America’s longest war. The decision to leave Afghanistan has triggered an array of reactions in Washington, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lauding and criticizing the move. It has also triggered some concern within the highest echelons of the military. Last week, the head of U.S. forces in the Middle East told lawmakers he was concerned that the Afghan military will collapse after U.S. and foreign troops leave. “I am concerned about the ability of the Afghan military to hold on after we leave, the ability of the Afghan Air Force to fly, in particular, after we remove the support for those aircraft,” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on April 22.”

Saudi Arabia

Reuters: Saudi Arabia Says It Foiled Boat Attack Off Yanbu

“Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it had intercepted an explosive-laden boat off the Red Sea port of Yanbu after maritime security firms cited “unconfirmed reports” of an attack on a vessel in the area. A Saudi defence ministry statement on state media did not say whether there had been any damage as a result of the operation by the Saudi navy to intercept and destroy the remote-controlled boat. Security firm Dryad Global had earlier said it received “unconfirmed reports” that a vessel, possibly the oil tanker NCC Dammam owned by a unit of Saudi firm Bahri, had been attacked off Yanbu. Chief executive Abdullah Aldubaikhi told Reuters that no vessels owned by National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) had been attacked. British maritime security company Ambry also cited reports of an incident and said smoke was seen rising from a vessel. United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said it was aware of reports of an incident approximately 2 nautical miles from Yanbu and that investigations were ongoing.”

Middle East

France 24: Al-Qaeda 'Shadow Of Former Self' Decade After Bin Laden Death

“Ten years after the killing of its founder Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda bears little resemblance to the terror network that struck the US on September 11, 2001, but remains a threat even under a starkly different leadership structure. After his killing in Pakistan by US special forces, Bin Laden was succeeded as Al-Qaeda's chief by the Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, an ideologue who has cut a far less charismatic presence. Zawahiri has had to lie very low, most likely around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, amid speculation over whether he is still even alive, while the group has now mutated into something very different. “AQ central is a shadow of its former self,” Barak Mendelsohn, a terrorism expert at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, told AFP. “Zawahiri's biggest success was to keep Al-Qaeda alive.” Mendelsohn said that rather than being a coherent decision-making centre, Al-Qaeda's leadership is now more akin to a “board of advisors” rallying and assisting jihadists across the world. Zawahiri, 69, has seen Al-Qaeda essentially franchise out its operations from the Maghreb to Somalia to Afghanistan, as well as in Syria and Iraq.”

Egypt

The National: Egypt's Transport Minister Claims Extremists Could Be Using Children To Cause Train Crashes

“Egypt’s transport minister claimed “extremist elements” within the national rail service may be using children as part of a sabotage campaign against the country’s trains, causing deadly accidents. In a parliamentary address on Monday, where he presented no evidence, the minister alleged that railway employees sympathetic to banned extremist groups were behind a campaign to cause accidents. Egypt’s rail services have for years been plagued by poor safety but a spate of accidents in recent months has led to growing public anger. Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir has demanded legislation to empower him to fire those responsible – by his account, saboteurs. His incendiary comments were made in an address to parliament, just hours before another accident occurred when a train ploughed into a truck on a level crossing in the Red Sea city of Suez, killing the vehicle’s driver and injuring his assistant. A train passenger was also injured. It was the latest in a series of train accidents over a one-month period in which at least 43 people were killed and hundreds injured. The accidents have spotlighted the struggling railway sector, making it the centre of a national conversation amid calls for severe punishment of those responsible.”

Somalia

ABC News: As Somalia's Unrest Continues, US Says It's 'Prepared To Consider All Available Tools'

“As rival factions in Somalia's military clash over the president's extended stay in power, the United States stands ready “to consider all available tools,” according to U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price. “The United States is gravely concerned by the violent clashes yesterday in Mogadishu. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and to resolve their differences peacefully,” Price said in a statement on Monday evening. “Dialogue and consensus are the only ways to resolve the electoral impasse, and we urge parties to resume negotiations at once to arrive at an agreed way forward for immediate elections. As the Secretary has stated previously, the United States is prepared to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability in Somalia.” The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 4 travel advisory for Somalia and is advising Americans not to travel to the volatile Horn of Africa nation, citing “COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping and piracy.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu posted a security alert for all Americans in Somalia on Monday, urging them to “review your personal security plans, have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance, and make contingency plans to leave.”

Africa

The New York Times: 2 Spanish Journalists Among 3 Killed In Ambush In Burkina Faso

“Two Spanish journalists making a documentary about anti-poaching efforts and a third foreign national were killed in Burkina Faso after being kidnapped there on Monday, according to the authorities from the Western African nation and Spain. The killings come at a time of increasing violence in Burkina Faso and a deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, especially in the border area of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Burkina Faso has seen attacks from many armed groups, several of them linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Attackers on motorbikes have stormed countless villages, forcing residents to convert to Islam and sometimes killing them even when they do. Others have ambushed military patrols and killed members of the armed forces, and hundreds of schools have been forced to close because of the violence. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of the two Spanish journalists, whom he identified on Twitter as David Beriain and Roberto Fraile. The third victim remained unidentified as of Tuesday night. The two journalists were part of a group of 40 who were ambushed on Monday in a nature reserve in eastern Burkina Faso near the border with Benin, said Arancha González Laya, Spain’s foreign minister.”

The National: Total Suspends Work On $20bn Mozambique Gas Project After ISIS Attacks

“French energy company Total halted operations on its $20 billion investment in a liquefied natural gas project in northern Mozambique because of repeated rebel insurgency. Last month, more than 80 people were killed in a five-day standoff with ISIS fighters. Total used the legal clause of force majeure, which frees parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event occurs, to withdraw from its contracts. The move casts doubt on the future of the gas project, which was expected to bring sustained growth to Mozambique's struggling economy. Thousands of people were forced to seek refuge after the coastal town of Palma was overrun and seized by an armed detachment of about 150 insurgents on March 24. Eyewitnesses recounted their horror at seeing bodies, some decapitated, as they escaped to areas controlled by Mozambique’s military. An armed detachment of about 150 ISIS fighters seized the town for several days. During the siege, in which scores of civilians including western contractors were killed, more than 50,000 people fled, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique. Security analysts told The National this month that attacks carried out by a group called Al Shabab were likely co-ordinated by the core ISIS leadership as part of an expanding campaign in Africa.”

The North Africa Post: Tunisia Busts Terrorism Financing Network

“Tunisian security forces Monday broke a network, with a foreign ramification, funding terrorism in the North African country, in hotbed conflicts areas, and in refugee camps. The national unit investigating terrorist crimes raided the residences of three Tunisians, two men and one woman, who allegedly form the local brand of the international network headed by a Saudi citizen and his Tunisian wife, both of whom live in Europe, Tunis Webdo reports. The unit, during the search of the residences, seized an important amount of money in various currencies, as well as bank and postal documents for money transfers. The three alleged financiers confessed to the unit that over 15 terrorists had received funding from their families living in the North African country. The ministry of justice ordered the arrest of one of the men. It also issued arrest warrants against 16 other people allegedly connected to the network. A UN task force had branded Tunisia the largest foreign fighters’ supplier in hotbed conflict zones. Thousands of Tunisian had joined the ranks of terror groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the task force had said.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Fishmongers' Hall: Usman Khan 'Influential Terrorist Prisoner'

“A convicted terrorist who killed two people had been one of the UK's highest risk inmates, an inquest heard. Usman Khan, 28, killed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones at Fishmongers' Hall in London Bridge on 29 November 2019. Eight months earlier he had been released from prison, where he was viewed as an “influential” inmate who mixed with high-profile terrorists. A panel tasked with managing Khan after his release did not discuss the risks of his London visit, the inquest heard. During his eight years in prison Khan was considered to be among the 70 highest-risk prisoners in the entire country, jurors were told. Khan associated with terrorists including Fusilier Lee Rigby's killer Michael Adebowale, and was involved with violent incidents and radicalisation of fellow inmates at seven prisons across England, the inquest heard. At HMP Woodhill he was deemed to be a “Muslim enforcer” who headed up “a bullying gang”. Senior investigating officer Det Ch Insp Dan Brown gave evidence about Khan's life and long history of extremism in and out of prison…”

New Zealand

The Guardian: Who Guards The Guards? Experts Call For Oversight Of New Zealand’s Terror Laws

“In the early hours of an October morning in 2007, teams of armed police stormed Rūātoki, a lush green valley in the North Island of New Zealand. Equipped with new anti-terrorism powers, they stopped school buses, set up roadblocks, raided houses, arrested 18 people across the country, and detained many more in their homes for hours. “I was only 7 at the time,” Kunere Timoti, one of the children caught up in the raids told the New Zealand Herald. “I remember the bus stopping and then looking out my window… What I saw then will stay with me forever,” he said. Outside, a balaclava-clad man had a gun pointed at the bus. Whetumarama Purewa, who was six years old at the time, told The Hui that 10 years on from the raids, she still hasn’t forgotten. “I still feel hurt, I think all of us still feel hurt, we all still feel that trauma that they did to us. Not just to us – the things like they pointed guns at them and they didn’t even do anything wrong.” Dubbed “Operation 8”, it was New Zealand’s largest domestic anti-terror operation, involving 300 police officers. The valley they descended upon is populated by Ngāi Tūhoe, an indigenous Māori tribe who had never ceded sovereignty to the crown. Police alleged that a group there was running terrorist training camps in the Te Urewera forests.”

Europe

Associated Press: Denmark Arrests 6 Men For Allegedly Joining, Financing IS

“Police in Denmark said they Tuesday have arrested six men who are suspected of joining and financing the Islamic State group in Syria. Two of those arrested, ages 29 and 30, allegedly traveled to Syria in 2014 where they were recruited by IS. They are suspected of violating Danish terror laws and, if found guilty, they face up to six years in jail. The 29-year-old man tried to reenter Syria in 2015, police said in a statement. Five of them are also suspected of sending money to financially support the group. One of them, the 29-year-old, allegedly transferred funds from 2013 to 2017. Police said in a statement that they believed that the 29-year-old man used the four others as middlemen for the money transfers. If found guilty of financing a terror group, they face up to 10 years in prison. None of the men were identified in line with Danish practice. The arrests of the men, ranging in age from 27 to 35, were made in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city. Police and the Danish Security Intelligence Agency took part in the arrests.”

Technology

The New York Times: Twitch, Where Far-Right Influencers Feel At Home

“What’s the biggest political surprise of 2021? Not the Democrats’ upset wins in Georgia, flipping the Senate in their favor. Not President Biden’s leftward swerve. How about the fact that, after he was kicked off Twitter and Facebook, former President Donald Trump pretty much just … went away. He didn’t start his own social media company, as some close observers thought he might, and he didn’t mount a major public battle to get his accounts reinstated. He just quietly retreated (for now) to Mar-a-Lago. Still, the behavior of one man — no matter how famous, no matter how formidable a troll — does not determine the behavior of others. And as Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have cracked down on misinformation, the internet’s younger and spryer purveyors of far-right conspiracy theories have moved elsewhere. One platform that has particularly attracted them is Twitch, an Amazon-owned livestreaming video site that our tech reporter Kellen Browning describes in a recent article as “a new mainstream base of operations for many far-right influencers.” Many have been drawn to Twitch partly because it allows broadcasters to accept donations on the platform while they stream. To get a sense of how popular Twitch is becoming among the far-right commentariat — and why — I spoke to Kellen about his piece. Here’s what he had to say.”

Newsweek: Facebook, YouTube Execs Defend Algorithms, Downplay 'Extremist' Content, 'Shadow Banning'

“Some of Silicon Valley top algorithm experts testified Tuesday in front of bipartisan members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tasked with defending Big Tech from accusations it capitalizes on “short-term rage” and their role in society's increasing polarization. Democratic Delaware Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the committee, opened Tuesday's “Algorithms and Amplification” hearing by asking “what happens when algorithms become so good at showing you content” that users spend hours tuned into frequently hateful or outright false messaging. Executives from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube consistently defended the use of algorithms and other social media platform technology as tools of “open public conversation.” But GOP Senator Ben Sasse joined committee members in questioning the Silicon Valley companies on whether they're capitalizing off “misinformation” and users' “narcissistic” impulses. “People are pretty good at short-term rage, and the product capitalizes on that, doesn't it?” Sasse asked Twitter's head of U.S. public policy, Lauren Culbertson.”

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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