Eye on Extremism: April 7, 2022

Associated Press: Al-Qaida Leader Circulates Video, Dispels Rumor Of His Death

“A rare video has appeared of al-Qaida's chief praising an Indian Muslim woman who in February defied a ban on wearing the traditional headscarf, or hijab. The footage is the first proof in months that the man who was once Osama bin Laden's No. 2 is still alive. Rumors of the death of Ayman al-Zawahri have persistently circulated, but in a video released Tuesday and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the reclusive al-Qaida chief praises Muskan Khan who defied a ban on the wearing of the hijab in schools in India’s southwestern state of Karnataka. Two months ago, Khan garnered attention when she publicly shouted “God Is Great” as Hindu radical students jeered at her over the Islamic headscarf. In March, the court in India's Karnataka state upheld the ban, outraging civil activists and Muslim groups in India and elsewhere. A previous video of al-Zawahri, which circulated on the anniversary last year of 9/11, did not reference the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August. It did mention the Jan. 1, 2021 attack that targeted Russian troops on the edge of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. “He could still be dead, though if so, it would have been at some point in or after Jan 2021,” SITE director Rita Katz tweeted following al-Zawahri's 9/11 anniversary video.”

The Wall Street Journal: Former Islamic State Hostages Testify To Cruelty Of British-Accented Guards

“When Federico Motka got on the witness stand to testify last week in the trial of Islamic State member El Shafee Elsheikh, he shared vivid memories about three prison guards who spoke with east London accents and dominated his 14 months as a hostage when the terrorist group controlled much of Syria. One had a specific scent and would sometimes wrap a scarf around his head, said Mr. Motka, an aid worker from Italy. Another described stealing mopeds in London and could debate the differences between Islam and Christianity. He testified that he once saw the shadows of two of the guards’ faces through the cell hatch in the twilight hours. Mr. Motka spoke so softly that jurors asked the court to remove the plastic barrier that was placed around the witness stand during the pandemic, so they could better understand him. Prosecutors are trying to build the case that Mr. Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan in 1988 and grew up in London, was a member of that group of apparently British guards who oversaw the foreign hostages and were responsible for murdering four Americans among them. They are relying on the emotional testimony of several released hostages who interacted with the guards in intimate ways but never looked at them directly.”

United States

The Guardian: Court Hears US Hostage’s Emotional Letter To Father As IS Trial Continues

“An American hostage’s harrowing story about captivity at the hands of the Islamic State militants who would kill him was recounted in court in Virginia on Wednesday. A letter from the late Peter Kassig was read aloud during the terrorism trial of El Shafee Elsheikh, a 33-year-old former British citizen and alleged member of a kidnap-and-murder cell known to captives as the “Beatles” because of their British accents. The court in Alexandria heard how, by May 2014, the American hostage Peter Kassig was losing hope. “Dad, I’m paralyzed here. I’m afraid to fight back. Part of me still has hope. Part of me is sure I’m going to die,” he wrote to his father, Ed Kassig, who read the letter from the witness stand. Peter Kassig wrote that his captors tried to tell him and the other hostages that they had been abandoned by their families and their countries for refusing to meet the Islamic State’s demands. “But of course we know you are doing everything you can and more. Don’t worry, Dad, if I do go down I won’t go thinking anything but what I know to be true, that you and Mom love me more than the moon!” Kassig wrote. He added: “If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can take some refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need.”

Syria

WTOP News: The Hunt: Al Qaida Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Resurfaces

“On this week’s edition of “The Hunt with WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green,” Dr. Hans Jakob-Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, said Ayman Al- Zawahiri left clues to his whereabouts.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq, NATO Discuss Means To Confront Terrorism, Maintain Regional Stability

“Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and his deputy, Hakim al-Zamli, held talks on Tuesday with a Danish delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, led by its head Mads Fuglede. They discussed the importance of future relations and means of countering all forms of extremism and terrorism. Halbousi said the meeting touched on bilateral ties between Iraq and Denmark, in particular, and with all NATO member countries, in general, as well as bolstering cooperation to combat terrorism in the areas determined by the Iraqi government. Zamli, for his part, considered Iraq’s stability a key factor to maintain stability in the Middle East region. All world countries have a united goal to counter terrorism, coordinate in the field of armament, training and intelligence information to address the threat posed by terrorist groups, his office stated. He underscored the need to maintain cooperation with the NATO Alliance in the fields of security, training and counterterrorism. Meanwhile, international coalition logistics convoy in Iraq came under an IED attack on Tuesday. Assaults targeting the US-led international coalition forces have been occurring progressively, with attacks sometimes taking place daily.”

Afghanistan

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan: Kabul Mosque Hit By Grenade Attack

“At least six people have been wounded in a grenade blast at a mosque in a densely populated area of the Afghan capital, Kabul, police said, minutes after worshippers offered midday prayers. Attacks on public targets have largely diminished since the Taliban seized power in August last year, but ISIL (ISIS) affiliates continue to operate in parts of the country. “We had finished the prayers and were heading out of the mosque when the blast occurred,” worshipper Mohammed Yasin told the AFP news agency. Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran told AFP a grenade was thrown into the Pul-e-Khisti mosque and a suspect was arrested at the scene. The mosque is located in a densely populated area of Kabul and is surrounded by busy shops and markets. No group has claimed responsibility, but the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP, ISIS-K) group has carried out recent attacks in Kabul and other cities. The ISKP claimed the attack on a military hospital in Kabul in November which left 19 dead. The group also claimed the October suicide attack on a Shia mosque in Kandahar which in at least 60 people were killed. Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated the group, but analysts say the ISKP is a key security challenge to the new rulers of Afghanistan.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Terror Suspect With Explosive Device Arrested In Overnight West Bank Raid, Police Say

“Police say undercover officers arrested a terror suspect in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank at dawn. During the arrest, an explosive device was found hidden in the suspect’s scooter near his home, police say. The Palestinian man has been taken to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning. The arrest comes as part of Operation Breakwater — targeting individuals suspected of planning future attacks, as well as some thought to be tied to recent deadly attacks in Israel.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Attack Borno Town, Raze Government Hospital, Residential Buildings

“Boko Haram terrorists of the Islamic State West Africa Province formerly known as Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihād on Tuesday night attacked Damboa in Borno State. A security analyst and counterinsurgency expert in the North East, Zagazola Makama disclosed this on Twitter. According to Makama, the terrorists set some buildings on fire including the Damboa General Hospital. “Damboa LGA is currently under heavy attack by Boko Haram/ISWAP. Reliably informed that they have infiltrated into the town already,” he wrote last night. “The ISWAP are currently setting some building on fire including Damboa general hospital.‪ @NigAirForce support urgently needed. Troops of Operation Hadin Kai currently engaging the terrorists in a heavy gun battle. ‪@CAS_IOAmao @NigAirForce support needed.” Since the death of JAS leader, Abubakar Shekau, ISWAP has been consolidating its grip in locations around Lake Chad. Just recently, it appointed Wali Sani Shuwaram, a 45-year-old, as the new leader (Wali) of ISWAP in Lake Chad. The sect’s membership has swollen with the defection of hundreds of Boko Haram fighters under Shekau. The Nigerian Army has repeatedly claimed that insurgency had been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses. The terror group has caused over 100,000 deaths and displaced millions of people mainly in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabab Denies Plan To Attack Somali Leaders

“The al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab militant group has dismissed reports that it was planning an attack against the Somali president and prime minister. Pro-al-Shabab Somali Memo website quoted an unnamed senior al-Shabab commander who termed the claim by the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa) “laughable”. The Shabab commander said Nisa was “not capable” of unearthing the group's operations. The militants claimed the statement from the spy agency “indicates an imminent threat” against some officials because of political disputes. “Although the leaders and the officials of the apostate (Somali government) are always our targets, we will not allow them to involve us in their disputes,” the jihadist commander was quoted as saying. The group also denied the existence of a senior al-Shabab operative named Mohamed Mahir, who Nisa said was leading the alleged attack plot. Somalia's security situation continues to be jeopardized by political wrangles over its delayed election.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Victims Of Extremism Urged To Share Experiences To Help UK Tackle Terror

“People who have been targeted by extremists are being urged to share their experiences as part of a major independent review that will help the Government tackle hatred and division. The Government’s independent adviser for social cohesion and resilience, Dame Sara Khan, is launching a call for evidence on Thursday to help understand how extremism harms communities. Responses from victims, local authorities and members of the public will shape her recommendations on how the Government can better support and protect them. “Too often, the response to those sowing hatred and division is slow and ineffective. “That is why I have been asked by the Prime Minister to examine what more is required to protect social cohesion and build resilience against extremism at a local level. “I will be seeking to hear from victims of extremism whose life-changing experiences are often unrecognised and from local authorities and communities who play an invaluable role.” She added that she will take an “independent, impartial and evidence-based approach” in the public consultation, which will form part of her wider review of social cohesion and resilience. The widower of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right terrorist in her West Yorkshire constituency during the EU referendum campaign in 2016, called on people to take part.”

Germany

The Guardian: German Police Raid Neo-Nazi Cells Across Country

“German authorities have swooped on alleged neo-Nazi militant cells and arrested four suspects as the country pursues a forceful crackdown on far-right extremists. In what Der Spiegel magazine called “the biggest blow against the militant neo-Nazi scene in the recent past”, the federal prosecutor’s office said more than 1,000 officers had raided the homes of 50 suspects in 11 states. “The four men arrested are accused of membership of a rightwing extremist criminal organisation,” it said in a statement, adding that some had also received other charges, including grievous bodily harm. Spiegel reported that one of the suspects was a non-commissioned officer in the German armed forces.  The suspects targeted on Wednesday were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18, named after the order in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, the US-based Atomwaffen Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418. Germany’s centre-left-led government under chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants after criticism that the previous administration had been lax on neo-Nazi violence.”

The National: Germany Arrests Syrian Accused Of Torturing Captives With ISIS

“German investigators on Wednesday arrested a Syrian man accused of war crimes for allegedly torturing captives while he was with ISIS, the terrorist group, in Syria in 2014. Federal prosecutors said the man, identified only as Raed E in line with German privacy rules, was arrested in Berlin. He is suspected of membership in a foreign terrorist organisation, crimes against humanity, war crimes and bodily harm. The suspect joined ISIS in summer 2014 and participated in an attack that August on the Shueitat tribe in the Deir el-Zour region of eastern Syria, prosecutors said. Activists reported death tolls ranging up to 700. Raed E is accused of abusing and torturing three captives after that attack. Prosecutors say that he had a man – who was looking for his 13-year old brother kidnapped by ISIS – arrested and then tortured him at various ISIS prisons. The suspect allegedly also ordered the 13-year-old suspended from a ceiling with his hands tied behind his back. And he is accused of twice physically abusing a third captive during months in captivity. Prosecutors said that in addition to working in ISIS prisons, he handled transactions in which the freedom of Shueitat captives was bought, and manned two checkpoints for the extremist group.”

The National: German Security Officials Visit Far-Right Extremists To Warn Them Not To Travel To Ukraine

“…In a webinar hosted by the Counter Extremism Project, experts warned European nations to prepare for the fallout. “If we have groups of highly motivated, combat experienced far-right extremists with post-traumatic stress disorders, then attacks in European countries may look very different in the future,” terrorism expert Alexander Ritzmann said. “We need to prepare societies so we have measures in place ready to deal with the returnees.” He said CEP was working with officials in Germany to identify violent extremists. “The federal government is reaching out to far-right extremists telling them not to go” to Ukraine, he said. On Wednesday, German authorities investigating neo-Nazis arrested four people they said were leading members of a far-right combat sports group. They said the organisation, Knockout 51, held street-fighting sessions to indoctrinate young men and has links to other far-right extremists in Germany. The group tried to set up a “Nazi neighbourhood” in Eisenach and its members injured several people, prosecutors said. In all, 61 properties in various parts of Germany were raided. Prosecutors said they were investigating 21 people suspected of keeping alive the Combat 18 Deutschland group, despite a ban by German authorities, and 10 people suspected of involvement in the Atomwaffen Division Deutschland terrorist group.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: Indonesia Jails Activist Lawyer Over Islamic Radicalism

“A former Indonesian human rights lawyer who joined an Islamic hard-line group was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday on charges of incitement with the aim to establish a caliphate in a secular country. The three-judge panel at East Jakarta District Court found Munarman guilty of hiding information from authorities about militants pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group in January 2015 in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, and instead “giving a speech inciting people to carry out terrorism acts.” “The defendant does not support the government’s program in eradicating terrorism,” the presiding judge said in the ruling. Munarman, 53, who goes by a single name, was the general secretary of the now-banned Islam Defenders Front, widely known by the Indonesian acronym FPI, which has a long record of vandalizing nightspots, hurling stones at Western embassies and attacking rival religious groups. It wants Islamic Shariah law to apply to Indonesia’s 230 million Muslims. Police arrested Munarman in April 2021 after interrogating scores of suspected militants following the Palm Sunday bombing outside a Roman Catholic cathedral on March 28, 2021, that killed two suicide attackers and wounded 20 people.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On December 2, 2017, suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers killed 13 people and injured 53 others in a market in Borno State. The bombers struck as aid workers were distributing food to citizens.   

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