Eye on Extremism: April 29, 2022

The Independent: British ‘Beatle’ Terrorist To Be Sentenced Over Deaths Of Western Hostages

“A British terrorist convicted over his role in the torture and killings of Western hostages in Syria is expected to come face to face with his victims’ families when he is sentenced in a US court today. Alexanda Amon Kotey, a 38-year-old Islam convert originally from west London, was one of four so-called Islamic State militants nicknamed ‘The Beatles’ by their captives due to their British accents, who carried out wanton acts of brutality in the mid 2010s. Kotey may be ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars when he is sentenced at the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He pleaded guilty to a host of charges relating to US victims only, although the families of other murdered hostages, including British humanitarians David Haines and Alan Henning, are expected to read impact statements to the court before sentencing. Kotey’s co-defendant, El Shafee Elsheikh, is also expected to be present ahead of his sentencing hearing later in the year after he was convicted this month of his role in the murder plot. The terror cell also comprised ringleader Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, who was killed in a drone strike in 2015, and Aine Davis, who was jailed in Turkey in 2017.”

The Wall Street Journal: Pakistani Militants Test Taliban Promise Not To Host Terror Groups

“The Taliban’s commitment to prevent Afghan soil being used by terrorists against other countries is being tested, not by al Qaeda, but by Pakistani militants who have unleashed dozens of attacks in neighboring Pakistan in recent months. The Taliban not only sees many fellow jihadists as brothers and guests, they want to avoid driving new recruits to their sole remaining adversary in Afghanistan, the local branch of the Islamic State militant group. Pakistani militants, based in eastern Afghanistan, have increased attacks in Pakistan since the Taliban’s takeover in August. They have also acquired American military equipment, from the huge stores of weaponry left as U.S. troops departed last year. Pakistan, which is considered the Taliban’s closest ally, has pushed Afghanistan’s new rulers for months to end the threat from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, a group of Pakistani militants who have worked closely with al Qaeda. Islamabad’s patience appears to be wearing thin. The country carried out airstrikes inside Afghanistan earlier this month, according to the Taliban and local Afghan residents. The Taliban called in the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul to register a formal protest over the strikes.”

United States

Fox News: Biden Admin Plan To Exempt Taliban-Era Afghan Civil Servants From US Terror Entry Bars Still In The Works

“A Biden administration plan to exempt some Taliban-era Afghan civil servants from terror-related restrictions on entering the United States is still being worked on, and could soon find its way to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ desk. Fox News Digital reported in October that DHS was planning on issuing a memorandum to allow Afghan civil servants who worked during the Taliban regime to be exempted from terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds (TRIG) if they fulfill other background and screening requirements. Fox has since obtained a “pre-decisional” version of that memo from March that outlines how DHS intends to exempt certain individuals from TRIG -- which places limits on individuals who are members of a terrorist organization or who have engaged in terrorism, making them inadmissible to the U.S. and ineligible for immigration benefits. The USCIS website says that the definition of terrorism-related activity “is relatively broad and may apply to individuals and activities not commonly thought to be associated with terrorism. As a result, the Biden administration wants to allow exemptions for those who were employed as a civil servant in Afghanistan due to Taliban rule between 1996-2001, or after August 15, 2021.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Several Killed In Suspected ISIL Attack On Northeast Syria Iftar

“Suspected ISIL (ISIS) gunmen killed seven people and wounded four others at a Ramadan iftar gathering in Syria’s northeast Deir Az Zor province, according to activists and monitors. The former spokesperson of the United States-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Nouri Hamish, had hosted the iftar dinner, which marks the end of the day’s fasting, at his home in the town of Abu Khashab on Wednesday. He was among those killed, according to Syrian media group, the Euphrates Post. The attackers arrived on motorcycles and fled after villagers reportedly confronted them. ISIL has increased its attacks in northeast Syria, after US special forces assassinated then-leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi and his official spokesperson. Current ISIL spokesperson Abu Omar al-Muhajir called on ISIL fighters to avenge their deaths on April 17 in an audio message called Vengeance for the Two Sheikhs. As many as 23 alleged ISIL attacks have targeted northeast Syria over the past 11 days, according to monitoring groups. In late January, ISIL fighters attacked Ghwayran prison near Hassakeh, also in the northeast, killing at least 120 SDF fighters. The Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says ISIL has carried out at least 82 other armed operations in 2022, which have killed 63 civilians and SDF fighters.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Explosions In Northern Afghanistan Kill At Least 9, Wound 13

“Two explosions, within minutes of each other, killed at least nine people and wounded 13 in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, a spokesman for a Taliban-appointed police chief said. The blasts targeted two separate vehicles in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, according to Mohammad Asif Waziri, the spokesman. The source of the blasts was not immediately clear and the spokesman provided no further details. No one claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban security cordoned off the area. Residents in the area said members of the Shiite minority Hazara ethnic group appeared to be the target. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. The attacks are the latest in a series of deadly bombings to rattle Afghanistan. Last week, 33 Shiite worshippers were killed when a bomb ripped through a mosque and an adjacent religious building school. The Islamic State group’s regional affiliate — a top foe of Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers — claimed responsibility for that bombing.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Islamic Jihad Threatens Israel Over Al Aqsa In New Video To Mark Quds Day

“The Islamic Jihad terror group’s armed wing threatens Israel by showing off footage of the organization’s Jenin aerial drones in a propaganda clip. In video released by the terror group, a Jenin drone can be seen dropping an explosive device on an Israeli military jeep in September 2019 (the jeep in that incident was largely unscathed). Islamic Jihad is releasing videos to mark Quds Day, a day of solidarity with Palestinians initiated by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. “The enemy should think carefully and reflect: what are our drones like today, and how are their capabilities three years after that operation?” says Abu Hamza, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s military wing. Islamic Jihad has seen an uptick in activity in and around the West Bank city of Jenin in recent years. Several Palestinians killed in recent gunfights with Israeli troops entering the area to conduct arrests were reputedly affiliated with the terror group. Abu Hamza uses the opportunity to threaten Israel some more, vowing that the organization alongside other terror groups will one day turn the country into a “mass of fire and flame.” He further tells Israel not to meddle with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. “Violating the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic holy sites in Palestine [will lead to] opening new and wide fronts against the enemy entity. The geography of the coming battle will transcend the borders of Palestine,” says Abu Hamza.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: Troops Eliminate 23 Terrorists As 1,159 Surrender In Three Weeks

“The Defence Headquarters says the troops of Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK) eliminated more than 23 terrorists, rescued 619 victims and forced 1,159 terrorists to surrender within three weeks in the North-east. The Director, Defence Media Operations, Bernard Onyeuko, a major general, said this while briefing journalists on the operations of the armed forces in the last three weeks on Thursday in Abuja. Mr Onyeuko said the troops' onslaught against the terrorists also led to the arrest of 19 others during the period under review. He added that the surrendered terrorists and their family members comprised 164 men, 367 women and 627 children who according to him, have been profiled and handed over to the appropriate authority. Mr Onyeuko said the troops also neutralised a prominent commander of Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), Abubakar Dan-Buduma and scores of terrorists at Arina-Woje in Marte Local Government Area of Borno. He said that a notorious ISWAP informant and logistic supplier, Abba Lawan, was also arrested at Auno town in Konduga Local Government Area during the period. According to him, the operation led to the destruction of terrorist enclaves and their central workshop where vehicles are fabricated for vehicle borne Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).”

Sahara Reporters: 14 People Are Killed In Northern Nigeria Every Day – Northern Broadcast Media Owners

“An average of 14 persons are killed in northern Nigeria every day, the Northern Broadcast Media Owners Association (NBMOA) has said. The association also said no fewer than 8,372 people were killed in the north in 2021. The acting chairman of the association, Abdullahi Yelwa, disclosed this in a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja. He also said there were 10.5 million out-of-school children and 2.7 million internally displaced persons in Nigeria, Daily Trust reports. Abdullahi explained that the association invited all aspirants seeking political office across all the political parties to come up with clear policy prescriptions to tackle the challenges facing the nation. “Here in the North, we’re daily confronted by a unique set of existential challenges. The scourge of banditry, terrorism, Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs), drug abuse, rural poverty, out-of-school children, youth unemployment, begging and the threat of hunger, have become epidemic and have defied solutions. “These are the issues that should therefore be at the centre of political discourse. The attention of any political leader seeking the votes of the northern electorates should therefore be focused on these issues.”

Somalia

All Africa: Africa: Roadside Bomb Hits AU Military Convoy In Somalia

“An explosion was reported in the vicinity of Jowhar, Middle Shabelle regional capital targeting African Union forces serving with the ATMIS mission. The blast struck an armored vehicle in the convoy that came under an ambush attack in Burane village during a security patrol, according to the reports. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it killed two Burundian soldiers who are part of the ATMIS formerly AMISOM. The militants have stepped up attacks in the country during Ramadan as they try to oust the Somali government which is protected by AU forces.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: ‘White Hands’: The Rise Of Private Armies In African Conflicts

“Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan every year, traders from neighbouring towns flock to the popular cattle market in the central Malian town of Moura. That ritual continued this year. But on March 27 – one of those market days – military helicopters suddenly appeared in the sky. Malian troops and foreign soldiers descended on the busy market to target members of armed groups who had controlled the remote town for years. Witnesses said the bloodied operation lasted for more than four days, with about 300 civilian men, some of them suspected fighters, summarily executed in that period. One trader said dozens of men, including two of his brothers, were executed by Russian-speaking soldiers who “took them several meters away and executed them, point-blank”. The “Non-French speaking white soldiers”, and “white men with a bizarre language” as described by locals to Human Rights Watch, are widely believed to be members of the Kremlin-linked group Wagner, the only Russian soldiers currently in the country. The Malian military described the incident as a “systemic cleansing of the entire area”. It also denies Russian participation in the Moura affair and their presence in the country but says it cooperates with Russian “instructors” under a longstanding bilateral cooperation agreement with Moscow.”

AFP: Over 20 Killed In Anti-Muslim Attack In Ethiopia: Islamic Group

“More than 20 people have been killed in an attack on Muslims in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar during the funeral of a Muslim elder, a local Islamic group said on Wednesday. The Islamic Affairs Council of Amhara, the region where Gondar is located, described Tuesday’s attack at a cemetery as a “massacre” by heavily armed “extremist Christians.” The attackers “fired a barrage of heavy machine guns and grenades… leaving many dead while others who were injured have been taken to hospital,” the religious body said. “More than 20 have died due to yesterday’s attack which also saw the looting of Muslim properties,” it added. The mayor of Gondar, Zewdu Malede, told Ethiopian public broadcaster EBC that the “incident was carried out by a few extremist individuals.” “There has been some destruction and loss of lives from all sides,” he said, without offering further details about the identity of the attackers or the victims. “The situation was (brought) under control by 7:00 pm.” The cemetery where the attack occurred neighbors a mosque and church and has been the subject of an ongoing dispute between Muslims and Orthodox Christians, who are the dominant group in Ethiopia.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Terror Prosecutions Of People Back In UK From Syria Not Counted

“The government does not record the number of people prosecuted for terror offences after returning to the UK from Syria, an official report says. The data is held neither “officially or unofficially”, an annual review by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, says. Figures previously provided to Parliament by ministers later had to be clarified. Mr Hall's report instead relies on BBC News research on the subject. It is known that hundreds of people have returned to the UK after joining terrorist groups in Syria but the cumulative figure given in public is ambiguous. Last year, the director general of MI5 said “over 950 UK-linked extremists” had travelled to Syria. Two months earlier, a senior MI5 officer told inquests for Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt - killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at Fishmongers' Hall, London Bridge - about 850 had gone to the country, “around half” of whom had since returned. On Wednesday, Mr Hall said the prison service failed to recognise the dangers Islamist gangs and convicted terrorists posed inside jail. The government has provided downwardly shifting figures on the number of returnees prosecuted for terror offences: In 2016, it said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had prosecuted 35 cases involving 54 defendants suspected of having fought in the region, with 13 ongoing prosecutions involving 30 defendants.”

The National: French Government Calls UK Advocacy Group Cage 'Islamist Militants'

“UK advocacy group Cage, which has a focus on Muslim detainees, has been labelled “Islamist militants” by the French government's anti-radicalisation body. The Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalisation has published nine tweets accusing Cage, founded by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg, of supporting terrorists and says it has been conducting a “smear campaign” against France. The committee has accused Cage of supporting the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an extremist, and of backing Mohammed Emwazi, ringleader of an ISIS terrorist cell known as “The Beatles” by captives because of their British accents. “For several months, @UK_CAGE, a network of Islamist militants, has been spreading fake news and lies, in a misleading and smear campaign against France. Let’s set the record straight about this organisation and who’s behind it,” the committee tweeted. It added its information contained elements that “expose the sympathy” that Cage has for groups with a common hatred of democracy. The entities all share the “same tendency to support and reproduce fake news about European democracies, in this case France”. “These different elements demonstrate the very real continuum between … propaganda and that of certain networks advocating radical Islam.”

Canada

Associated Press: Canadian Who Traveled To Syria To Join IS Pleads Guilty

“A Calgary man who traveled to Syria to join the militant group Islamic State pleaded guilty Thursday to terrorism-related activities. Hussein Borhot, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of participating in terrorism group activity between May 9 and June 7, 2014, and the commission of the offence of kidnapping for a terrorist group while in Syria. RCMP arrested him in July 2020 after a seven-year investigation which also involved the FBI and U.S. Department of Defense. An agreed statement of facts says Borhot traveled to Syria through Turkey to join the Islamic State. He signed up as a fighter, received substantial training and excelled as a sniper. He did not tell his wife about the trip, said the document. Court heard that Borhot revealed much of the information to an undercover officer after he returned to Canada. Borhot told the officer that he and some other Islamic State fighters traveled to a village, where they kidnapped a number of opposing fighters, said the document. He also said he had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State and expressed a desire to return and fight in Syria. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice David Labrenz accepted the pleas and adjourned the case to next month for a sentencing hearing.”

Technology

Vice: There Are Dozens Of Facebook Groups Intentionally Spreading Islamophobia. Meta Refuses To Act.

“The Facebook group “Fight Against Liberalism, Socialism & Islam” has almost 5,000 members. It’s a private group, so whatever is posted there is only visible to its members. The group, run by a South African lawyer named Mark Taitz, claims that “moderate Islam does not exist and too many people fail to understand this,” and encourages Facebook users to “join our group to learn about Islam and the atrocities it is committing in ‘God’s name.’” If that wasn’t explicit enough, the group’s banner image, which portrays Islam as a gun pointed at the head of a white woman representing “western civilization,” leaves anyone joining in little doubt about the anti-Muslim nature of the group. Taitz’s is just one of dozens of Facebook groups based in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. whose explicit goal is to spread anti-Muslim hate speech, according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH). The group’s researchers found 23 Facebook pages or groups that were “mainly or wholly dedicated to anti-Muslim hatred based on their names, descriptions, and content.” These groups had a combined following of over 320,000 people. Despite being reported to Facebook—via the platform’s own reporting systems—none of these groups has been removed. But the groups are just one aspect of a much wider problem of platforms failing to tackle Islamophobia, which exists not only on Facebook but on all major social media platforms.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On June 24, 2017, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) launched back-to-back explosions at a market in Kurram Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northwest Pakistan. The attack killed 67 people who were shopping in preparation for a religious holiday and wounded 200 others. 

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