Eye on Extremism: April 30, 2021

Reuters: Online Terrorist Content Law Wins EU Lawmakers' Backing Amid Rights Concerns

“A proposed EU law that forces Google (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N) to remove terrorist content within an hour of publication cleared its final hurdle after EU lawmakers gave their backing despite concerns from civil rights groups. The European Commission had proposed the law in 2018, worried about the role of such content after a series of attacks by radicalised lone-wolf attackers in several European cities. The EU executive defines online terrorist content as material inciting terrorism or aimed at recruiting or training terrorists as well as material that provides guidance on how to make and use explosives and firearms for terrorist purposes. The European Parliament approved the law late on Wednesday. Lawmaker Patryk Jaki said the legislation “balances security and freedom of speech and expression on the internet, protects legal content and access to information for every citizen in the EU, while fighting terrorism through cooperation and trust between states”. The companies can face fines up to 4% of their global turnover for non-compliance. They have said they shared regulators' efforts to tackle the issue and keep the content off their platforms.”

Bloomberg: Domestic Terrorism Law Being Weighed By Justice Department

“The Justice Department is “actively considering” whether to seek a new law that would let prosecutors bring specific charges for plotting and carrying out acts of domestic terrorism, a senior department official said. “One of the things we’re looking at is would we need new authorities,” Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division, said during a House hearing Thursday. Wiegmann said the department has been successful using existing laws to fight domestic terrorism, such as bringing charges for offenses involving violations of weapons or explosives laws, hate crimes and arson. He said more than 430 arrests have been made in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. The attack was carried out by extremist supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The FBI has warned that domestic violent extremists pose a heightened threat for carrying out attacks in the U.S. in the near future, with white supremacists being the most lethal threat. “The question we’re really wrestling with is: Are there gaps?” Wiegmann told a House Appropriations subcommittee. “Is there some type of conduct that we can envision that we can’t cover or would it be an otherwise benefit in having something else other than what we’re having now?”

United States

Newsweek: Congress Needs To Review UN Agency's Terror Finance Problem

“The Biden administration this month announced that it will resume U.S. funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—a UN welfare agency ostensibly meant to assist Palestinian refugees that has faced multiple corruption scandals. One big problem: a review of the agency's expenditures revealed that it steers money to terror-group affiliates. It's now up to Congress to protect U.S. taxpayer funds. UNRWA is no stranger to criticism. Since most of its registered “refugees” are citizens or permanent residents of countries such as Jordan, or currently reside within the borders of a future Palestinian state, less than 5 percent of its serviced population meets the 1951 Refugee Convention criteria for refugee status. The agency has also fomented virulent anti-Semitism through its educational curriculum. It has no oversight other than a biannual audit conducted by the People's Republic of China's representative to the UN Board of Auditors. In seeking to help Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance, there are many reasons that Congress could justifiably halt plans to restart aid to UNRWA, and direct aid to those in need through other channels.”

USA Today: Is Amazon Recommending Books On Qanon And White Nationalism? Browsing Books Can Lead To Extremist Rabbit Hole

“Amazon’s book recommendation algorithms that help customers discover new titles may have a dark side. A new report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue says these algorithms steer people to books about conspiracy theories and extremism, sometimes introducing them to the work of conspiracy theorists who’ve been banned by other online platforms. People browsing a book about one conspiracy on Amazon are likely to get suggestions for more books on that topic as well as books about other conspiracy theories about everything from QAnon to the COVID-19 vaccine, the report found.  Other features, such as auto-complete in the search bar and content suggestions for the author or similar authors can also lead users down an extremist rabbit hole, said Chloe Colliver, head of digital policy and strategy at the ISD. The pattern is similar to problems observed on other major online platforms like Google's YouTube, whose algorithms have been found to direct users to extreme content, sucking them into violent ideologies.  “Given that vaccinations and Covid-19 issues are currently top of mind for many, the potential for recommendation of false or extremist information about these topics is certainly concerning,” Colliver told USA TODAY.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: Syrian Kurdish Asayish Arrest 3 ISIS Suspects In Deir Al-Zor With Coalition Support

“Special units from the Internal Security Forces in northeast Syria recently detained three suspected ISIS in Thiban, eastern Deir al-Zor province. “The cell has carried out assassinations and laid mines,” said the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the Asayish is part. “Weapons and equipment were seized. Air surveillance support was provided by the international coalition,” the SDF’s Coordination and Military Operations Center said about the operation on Thursday. Coalition spokesperson Colonel Wayne Marotto said the operation was enabled by coalition support. “Together, we remain committed to the #DefeatDaesh mission, stabilize NE Syria & fight terrorism,” he tweeted. The SDF and Coalition announced the defeat of ISIS in March 2019, but insurgent sleeper cells remain active in territories recaptured from the group. According to the latest report by the Syria-based Rojava Information Center, ISIS carried out 40 attacks in northeast Syria in March. The majority of these attacks were carried out in Deir al-Zor, where the SDF and local administration officials have been especially targeted by ISIS insurgent attacks.”

Iraq

The National: Iraqi Security Officers Wounded As Suicide Bomber Shot In Kirkuk

“Iraqi security forces on Thursday thwarted a suicide bombing attack outside the National Security building in the northern city of Kirkuk. Iraqi security forces killed the would-be suicide bomber, but the explosive belt he was wearing was detonated by the bullets fired at the man and wounded two security officers, a security source told The National. “A suicide bomber tried to blow himself up in the National Security building in the Qurayyah area in the city of Kirkuk, but the guards shot him,” Col Yusef Saleh, director of Domiz police station in Kirkuk, told the Rudaw media network. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attempted attack. Bombings in Iraq, once a near-daily occurrence, became rare events after ISIS was defeated in 2017. The extremist group also claimed a January attack on a crowded market that killed 32 people. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in nearly three years. Despite ISIS being significantly weakened, the group maintains sleeper cells in Iraq. In recent months, the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service and other security forces launched a series of military operations in remote areas, mainly in northern Iraq, to hunt down ISIS militants.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi President Calls On Security Forces To Prevent Infiltration Of ISIS Militants

“Iraq President Barham Salih called on the national security services to carry out their duties in combating terrorism, including stopping ISIS from infiltrating Iraqi territories. Salih met with the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, First Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah, and the two discussed security developments in the country. Salih stressed the need to support the state’s authority and its security agencies to better enforce the law, protect citizens, and enhance the capabilities of security forces. For his part, Yarallah briefed the President about the recent military operations against ISIS. Meanwhile, Iraqi Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi suspended three military commanders of the Arar border guard forces for not carrying out their duties during a recent terrorist attack. The Ministry published a video showing an ISIS attack at the Arar crossing, on the border with Saudi Arabia, during which the terrorists opened fire on the border patrol of the Fifth Brigade of the Third Regiment. A source at the ministry explained that the terrorists took control of al-Abyad police station, and stole communications equipment and a vehicle, as well as weapons. The Iraqi security forces are trying to secure Kirkuk and Diyala following a series of ISIS attacks during the last period.”

Afghanistan

CBS News: Afghan Forces Prepare To Take On The Taliban Without U.S. Help, Because There's “No Other Option.”

“In his first address before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening, President Biden underlined his plan to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan after nearly 20 years — America's longest war. The final pullout begins in May, and with the Taliban expected to ramp up violence, CBS News' Charlie D'Agata met some of the U.S.-trained Afghan forces who will soon face the insurgents on their own, ready or not. The Taliban has been gaining ground in Afghanistan for months. Traveling by road in the country has never been more dangerous, so D'Agata and his crew were flown by helicopter to a military base where Afghan soldiers have been training and putting on a show of force. The elite Afghan troops have been staging military exercises, with weapons and training provided by their U.S. military allies. The Taliban has already threatened to escalate attacks when the U.S. misses the previously-agreed May 1st deadline to withdraw its forces. The U.S. military is preparing for that, sending in hundreds more Army Rangers, B-52 bombers, and the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier to safeguard the pullout. But by the 20-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

Yahoo News: Pakistan's Capital City Put On High Alert After Threat Of Terror Attack

“Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad has been put on high alert in the wake of intelligence reports that terrorists might strike in the city. The security of high profile individuals including VVIPs, VIPs, diplomats and Chinese nationals has also been tightened, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported. Moreover, the security was also tightened around important installations, hospitals and religious places. The Central Police Office (CPO) of Islamabad had written letters to various departments of the city, asking them to upgrade security for personalities and installations, senior police officers told Dawn. The security officials have also been directed to stay on high alert at all check posts and points. Earlier this month, radical Islamist party the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) had claimed responsibility for a deadly bomb blast at a luxury hotel in Quetta, hosting the Chinese ambassador, which led to the killing of four.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Cameroon Military Says It Pushed Boko Haram Fighters Into Nigeria

“Cameroon's military said Wednesday its troops pushed back about 80 terrorists from Fotokol, a town on the border with Nigeria. The statement said the Boko Haram fighters were from the Nigerian town of Wulgo in Borno State.  Cameroon's military said it killed several fighters in clashes this week, but Boko Haram escaped with all but two of the bodies. The military said it destroyed six war jeeps and seized a large arsenal, including machine guns and assault rifles. The military said Monday's operation was led by troops of the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin Commission. A military spokesperson, Navy Captain Atonfack Guemo Cyrille Serge, said the operation freed several civilians who had been abducted by the militants.   Nineteen-year-old Zumbaisi Babale, who witnessed the abductions, said the fighters took away his elder sister and a man with whom she was seeking refuge in their village church. He said he hid under a bench until the fighters left, then the military took him to their base for protection.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Southern Africa Bloc Edges Toward Intervening In Mozambique

“The Southern African Development Community made progress in plans to help Mozambique fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency by agreeing on a concerted effort to deal with the violence that’s indefinitely delayed Africa’s biggest private investment. Regional ministers “unanimously agreed on the need to act urgently as a collective, to quell the terrorist activities in Cabo Delgado” in northern Mozambique, according to a speech by Botswana Foreign Minister Lemogang Kwape, who’s also the chairman of the SADC organ on defense and security. “We agreed on a comprehensive strategy for our collective response to the security situation in Mozambique, which will also facilitate humanitarian assistance,” Kwape said before a heads of state meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday was postponed indefinitely. The leaders were due to decide on a course of action after a SADC technical team visited Mozambique to come up with recommendations. Militants carried out a major attack last month on a Mozambican town close to Total SE’s $20 billion liquefied natural gas project that prompted the company to declare force majeure, suspending contractual obligations because of events outside of its control.”

The National: West Africa A Magnet For Illicit Animal Trade Linked To Extremist Terrorism

“Wildlife poachers with links to terrorism are rampaging across West Africa with local authorities unable to control the illegal trade, a report found. Money is urgently needed to enable task forces across the region to tackle the growing criminality that helps fund extremist groups, the Royal United Services Institute report said. The stark warning comes after the death of a wildlife conservationist and two journalists who were killed by Al Qaeda-linked terrorists on Monday while on an anti-poaching patrol in Burkina Faso. A Malian soldier stands guard by the river bank in Konna, central Mali. AFPISIS central command’s links to Mozambique and terror across Africa The National previously disclosed that ISIS-linked groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are killing or capturing exotic animals to fund their terrorism campaign. Poachers are now moving in significant numbers into West Africa, targeting rare forest elephants and pangolins to raise considerable sums. The Rusi report called for more financial investigations into the wildlife traffickers who were driven from East Africa after a clampdown by authorities. “Financial intelligence units in the region are failing to carry out financial investigations needed to bring high-level wildlife traffickers to justice,” the London-based think tank said.”

Africanews: Terrorism “Spares No One” Says Burkina Government After Deadly Attacks

“Ousséni Tamboura, Burkina Faso's Minister of Communication and government spokesman, has said terrorism “spares no one” following the killing of three foreigners in the easternpart of the country and deadly attacks on villages in the Seytenga district in the north of the country. Burkina Faso has been targeted by jihadist attacks since 2015, as have its Sahel neighbours Mali and Niger. The most recent attack on a convoy of expatriates and security forces which left two Spanish journalists and an Irish citizen killed in the eastern part of Burkina Faso have raised light to the situation. The bodies of two Spanish journalists and the Irish wildlife activistwere on Wednesday awaiting repatriation from the capital Ouagadougou, where they had been brought by helicopter late the previous night. Spain, Ireland and Burkina were discussing details of the flight for the remains, a government source in Ouagadougou said, including whether the Europeans' bodies would be returned on one or two separate aircraft. “No date has been set” for now, the source said. Spain's foreign ministry said it had “set up a military flight to repatriate the bodies once Burkina Faso authorities give their authorisation.” It hoped to transfer them “as soon as possible.”

United Kingdom

The National: ISIS Human Trafficking Networks Inquiry Launched By British Parliament

“Members of the UK Parliament are to examine the scale of ISIS human trafficking operations after 50 British women and children were identified in camps in north-east Syria. The group – jointly chaired by former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell – will push for the repatriation of Britons including adults who face potential criminal charges on their return. Human rights group Reprieve identified 16 women, 9 men and 34 children from Britain in the camps who are part of 15 family groups. It said the majority of the women were identified as victims of trafficking after they were taken to Syria as children, coerced into travelling or exploited on arrival. Last month, The National spoke to a boy, 13, in a migrant camp, the only surviving member of a family whose mother took them to Syria to join extremists. Other prominent cases include Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria as a 15-year-old schoolgirl before marrying a Dutch ISIS fighter. They lived in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa for about four years before the group lost its grip on the territory. She ended up in the Al Roj migrant camp where she is being held in dire conditions by the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

Germany

CNN: Germany Puts Anti-Lockdown Group Under Surveillance For Possible Extremist Ties

“Germany's intelligence service is putting some anti-lockdown activists under surveillance because of concerns they are attempting to undermine the legitimacy of the federal state. The country's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) announced on Wednesday that the new surveillance would focus on some members of the 'Querdenker' group. The movement has been promoting coronavirus and vaccine skepticism as well as other conspiracy theories, and has been involved in violent anti-lockdown protests. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the Querdenker movement had shown it was willing to use violence and that the authorities have to protect the rule of law in the country. “Right wing extremists are trying to take control [of these events] -- and what we cannot tolerate at all is violence,” Seehofer said at a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday. He stressed that people have the right to express their opinions, but that there is “zero tolerance” for extremism. Members of the movement -- whose name means “thinking outside the box” or “lateral thinking” -- have been protesting against lockdown measures since the start of the pandemic.”

Australia

Brisbane Times: Accused ISIS Supporter Was Found With False Venezuelan Passport, Court Told

“An Australian man accused of being an ISIS supporter claimed he received a false Venezuelan passport after someone approached him in a shopping centre five years ago, a Brisbane court has heard. Ahmed Luqman Talib, 31, from Doncaster East in Melbourne’s north-east, made a second unsuccessful bail application, this time in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday. The father-of-eight was arrested on March 25 and extradited from Victoria after he and Queenslander Gabriel Crazzi, 34, were detained in a counter-terrorism sting. Mr Talib is charged with one count of preparations for foreign incursions into foreign states for purpose of engaging in hostile activities between October 1, 2012, and September 1, 2013. Appearing for Mr Talib, barrister Hament Dhanji, SC, said the alleged offences, which included acting as a translator at a meeting in Turkey, occurred eight years ago and his client had an otherwise clean criminal record. Mr Dhanji said the Crown case largely depended on a statement from ‘Witness 1’ that implicated Mr Talib. The witness gave the statement as part of a deal with the Australian Federal Police. Witness 1 received immunity from prosecution for an offence that carried a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.”

Europe

Radio Free Europe: Iranians Plead Not Guilty To Danish Terrorism Charge

“Three members of an Iranian Arab opposition group have pleaded not guilty to Danish charges of financing and promoting terrorism in Iran with Saudi Arabia's backing. The three, who are members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) and were arrested in February last year, risk 12 years in prison if found guilty in the trial that started in Copenhagen on April 29. ASMLA is based in Denmark and the Netherlands and is considered a terrorist group by Iran. The three, one of whom is a Danish citizen, are aged 39 to 50. Gert Dyrn, a lawyer for the eldest of the three suspects, told the media that in his client's opinion “what they are charged with is legitimate resistance toward an oppressive regime.” “They are not denying receiving money from multiple sources, including Saudi Arabia, to help the movement and help them accomplish their political aim,” Dyrn said. He added that this was “the first case in Denmark within terror law where you have to consider who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter.” His client has lived as a refugee in Denmark since 2006. The three were charged by the Danish public prosecutor on April 27.”

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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