Eye on Extremism: April 8, 2021

East African Business Week: New Report Reveals Illicit Trade In East Africa

“East Africa—a key security partner in the war on terror and a principal engine of economic development on the African continent—is being critically undermined by illicit trade, according to the new report An Unholy Alliance: Links Between Extremism and Illicit Trade in East Africa from the Counter Extremism Project (CEP).  Terror groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIS-linked affiliates in Somalia and Mozambique, as well as Central African militias, urban gangs, and international crime groups, are increasingly targeting East Africa as a destination market for illicit trade, as well as a transport hub for the mass import and export of illegal goods. Terrorists groups continue to cash in on the illegal ivory trade to pay their soldiers and fund their campaigns of terror, while Somali warlords profit from the thousands of bags of cheap, illicit sugar that are smuggled into Kenya every day. Meanwhile, the multi-million-dollar illegal tobacco industry funds corruption, insurgency, and the illegal arms trade across the region. Sir Ivor Roberts, CEP senior advisor and author of the report, outlined the difficulties faced by the region: “As illicit trade networks continue to expand and mature in their sophistication, the cost to East African society has been enormous.”

WTOP News: The Hunt: QAnon, ISIS More Alike Than You Might Think

“How does QAnon radicalize its followers? 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 its radicalization process is very similar to way the terror group ISIS does it.”

United States

Politico: Memo Reveals DOJ Pushback On Domestic Terrorism Bill

“A domestic terrorism bill from a powerful Senate chairman could create bureaucratic headaches, jeopardize ongoing investigations, and endanger witnesses, Justice Department officials argued in a memo sent on the last day of the Trump administration and obtained by POLITICO. At issue is legislation Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has pushed since 2017. The bill is designed to counter the growing threat from domestic terrorists, which law enforcement officials have called the most lethal terror threat facing the U.S. It would set up offices at the Justice Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security to focus specifically on the threat, and it would have those agencies send Congress joint reports on the threat twice a year, among other provisions. The legislation passed the House of Representatives last year but died in the Senate when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) objected to letting it move forward under unanimous consent. In the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the bill’s sponsors say its passage is newly pressing. When Durbin re-introduced the bill on Jan. 19, 2021, along with Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois, he said in a statement that “the continued rise in horrific incidents of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” means Congress must act.”

Fox News: Border-Region Terror Suspects Have GOP's McCarthy Sounding Alarm

“House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday requested a classified briefing from the FBI and CIA for congressional leadership and Vice President Harris about suspected terrorists apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, sounding the alarm about “the number of bad actors” that have escaped arrest and could currently be residing in the U.S. This week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that two Yemeni men had been apprehended and identified on a terror watch list in the El Centro Sector in California in the last two months.  In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director William Burns, exclusively obtained by Fox News, McCarthy, R-Calif., requested a “classified briefing regarding certain individuals apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol” for himself, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Vice President Harris, citing her recent appointment to lead the Biden administration's efforts on the border crisis.”

Iraq

The Washington Post: Before Becoming A Terrorist Leader, ISIS Chief Was A Prison Informer In Iraq For U.S., Records Show

“In confidential interrogation reports, Iraqi detainee M060108-01 is depicted as a model prisoner, “cooperative” with his American captors and unusually chatty. At times, he seemed to go out of his way to be helpful, especially when offered a chance to inform on rivals within his organization, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq. Over several days of questioning in 2008, the detainee provided precise directions on how to find the secret headquarters of the insurgent group’s media wing, down to the color of the front door and the times of day when the office would be occupied. When asked about the group’s No. 2 leader — a Moroccan-born Swede named Abu Qaswarah — he drew maps of the man’s compound and gave up the name of Abu Qaswarah’s personal courier. Weeks after those revelations, U.S. soldiers killed Abu Qaswarah in a raid in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, the detainee, U.S. officials say, would go on to become famous under a different name: Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi — the current leader of the Islamic State. U.S. officials opened a rare window into the terrorist chief’s early days as a militant with the release this week of dozens of formerly classified interrogation reports from his months in an American detention camp in Iraq.”

CNN: US Eyes Eventual Iraq Exit As ISIS Threat Wanes

“The Biden administration is eying an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country's security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement Wednesday. The statement followed a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. The timing of the exit will be determined in upcoming “technical talks,” which have not yet been scheduled, to discuss the process of withdrawal, said chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “The idea was to defeat ISIS and that's still the goal. That's still the objective, that's still the mission but we have always known that, eventually, there is going to be a redeployment of forces from Iraq,” Kirby said during a news briefing Wednesday. “There was no expectation that this was going to be a permanent, enduring mission.” The US currently has some 2,500 troops in Iraq focused on the mission to defeat ISIS as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat what remains of the ISIS caliphate that controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. The troops have now shifted to training and advisory tasks, “thereby allowing the for the redeployment of any remaining forces from Iraq,” the joint US-Iraq statement said.”

Reuters: Britain Says It Struck Islamic State Militants In Iraq Last Month

“Britain carried out several air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq last month as part of a coordinated 10-day operation with local ground forces, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Thursday. Iraqi Security Forces troops cleared IS forces from the Makhmur mountains region, south-west from Erbil, while Royal Air Force (RAF) and other coalition aircraft carried out an air offensive during the operation, the MoD said. It concluded on March 22 when IS forces were confirmed to be based in a network of caves in the Makhmur mountains. Three RAF Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets attacked using Storm Shadow missiles. The MoD said the strike was assessed by subsequent surveillance to have been a success. “The British Armed Forces, alongside our Iraqi and Coalition partners, continue to root out Daesh terrorists from where they hide,” British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for IS. “The UK is committed to defeating Daesh. This operation will prevent the terrorist group and its toxic ideology from regaining a foothold in Iraq and reduce its capability to coordinate attacks around the world,” Wallace added.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraq Still Needs Coalition Support In Face Of Terrorism Threat, PM Barzani Says

“The threat of terrorism, including from the so-called Islamic State, still faces Iraq and the country needs the US-led international coalition support to confront it, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said on Wednesday. The premier’s remarks came during a press conference in the capital Erbil, where he shed light on a number of topics in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, including the upcoming Strategic Dialogue between Iraq and the US. “The Kurdistan Region has its own decision,” Barzani said, adding that the Region’s understanding is that the threat of terrorism persists. “We believe that Iraq still faces serious terror threats, including from ISIS, and that the country still needs coalition support,” Barzani said in response to a question about the fate of international forces in Iraq who have been providing military support to the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region’s forces in the fight against Islamic State since 2014. “The KRG is part of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue,” premier Barzani said, describing the discussions as “important” which is planned to take place this week. The two countries are engaging in a new round of talks on security relations between the countries, mainly discussing the future nature of cooperation between their forces.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Freezes Assets Of 377 Terror-Linked Individuals

“Turkey has frozen the assets of 377 individuals linked to terrorist groups, including Daesh and the PKK, reports said Wednesday. The Treasury and Finance Ministry announced that the assets of members of the PKK, Daesh, the far-left DHKP-C and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the terror group responsible for the 2016 quelled coup attempt in Turkey, have been blocked. The freeze affected some 205 FETÖ members, including the group’s ringleader Fetullah Gülen, who resides in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which killed 251 people and injured 2,734 more. FETÖ ran an extensive campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary for years. The assets of 77 PKK members, nine DHKP-C members and 86 members of the Daesh terror group were also blocked, according to the ministry. The PKK members whose assets have been frozen include the terrorist group's acting leader Murat Karayılan and senior figures Cemil Bayık, Fehman Hüseyin and Duran Kalkan, as well as the ringleader of the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the YPG, Ferhat Abdi Şahin, also known as Mazlum Kobani.”

Afghanistan

Air Force Magazine: Taliban Targets Kandahar Airfield In ‘Disruptive’ Attack

“The Taliban targeted Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, with rockets on April 7, and though no casualties were reported, the Pentagon said the attack is a threat to fragile peace discussions in the country. Preliminary reports showed the rockets landed outside the perimeter of the airfield, with no casualties and no damage, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said. Kandahar has served as a key airfield for U.S. forces and has been the headquarters of Train, Advise, Assist Command-South, with American and NATO forces based on the installation. “We always have the right of self-defense for our troops, but our focus right now is on supporting a diplomatic process here to try to bring this war to a negotiated end with an enduring peace,” Kirby said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes less than a month before the deadline for U.S. forces to completely withdraw from Afghanistan. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said it would be difficult to meet the May 1 deadline, and that the U.S. is in discussions with allies about the timeline. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said April 6 that Biden’s view has “consistently” been to end the war in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Russia, Pakistan Agree To Boost Military Cooperation Against Terror, Sea Piracy

“Russia reaffirmed Wednesday it will enhance security cooperation with Pakistan by strengthening the South Asian nation's “potential” to fight terrorism, which is to include supplying Islamabad with the “relevant military” hardware. “We believe this [cooperation] serves interests of all states of the region,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in the Pakistani capital before concluding his landmark two-day official visit. In his talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Lavrov said the two countries agreed to increase the frequency of their joint military drills and maritime exercises to fight terrorism and piracy. The chief Russian diplomat last visited Pakistan in 2012, and the ensuing years saw a marked improvement in Moscow's otherwise strained and mistrustful relations with Islamabad. The distrust stemmed from Islamabad's decision to side with the U.S.-backed Afghan armed resistance of the 1980s that forced Moscow to withdraw Soviet occupation forces from Afghanistan. Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia and Pakistan are working closely to help in peace-building efforts in neighboring Afghanistan.”

Africa

The New York Times: In Bid To Boost Its Profile, ISIS Turns To Africa’s Militants

“The Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate has fallen, its fighters have dispersed and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed. But two years after it suffered stinging defeats in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group has found a new lifeline in Africa, where analysts say it has forged alliances with local militant groups in symbiotic relationships that have pumped up their profiles, fund-raising and recruitment. Many of those homegrown insurgencies are only loosely connected to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Still, over the past year, as violence from Islamist extremists on the African continent reached a record high, the Islamic State has trumpeted these battlefield wins to project an image of strength and inspire its supporters worldwide. Most recently, the Islamic State claimed credit last week for a days-long rampage in war-afflicted northern Mozambique, where militants with distant ties to the terrorist organization attacked a key port town. The attack left dozens of people dead, including at least one South African and one British citizen, and set off talk on the Islamic State’s online forums of the establishment of a new caliphate there, according to researchers.”

Voice Of America: US Exercise Focuses On Role Of Police, Courts In West Africa Counterterrorism

“About 80 law enforcement and judiciary officers participated in last week’s inaugural West Africa Joint Operations regional exercise — a small figure compared to the thousands of personnel who sometimes take part in military-led counterterrorism exercises. But this modest exercise could have a big impact against terrorism, said Julie Cabus, deputy assistant secretary and assistant director of the training directorate in the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security. For this exercise, Cabus said, trainers and participants examined the complex systems of courts and law enforcement in several West African countries to learn how to fairly, quickly and justly prosecute terror cases. “We focused on gathering timely, accurate evidence while working with judicial authorities to ensure adherence to local laws,” she said. “Goals of the exercise included enhancing the investigative capacity and capability of units focused on terrorism cases in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, ensuring investigations adhere to the rule of law and the principles of human rights, and facilitating regional cross-border cooperation by sharing best practices.” Cabus’s agency is responsible for securing diplomacy and protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents.”

The Independent: The Priest Tried To Warn Them: How Government Failures And Abuse Fuelled An Islamist Uprising In Mozambique

“In a region that is teeming with bandits, mercenaries, drug smugglers and greedy international profiteers, he was a rare flicker of hope. Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa shone a light on the corruption of the government, the exploitative conduct of international businesses and the brutality of the security force. “The conflicts in the region have their origins in the costs of exploiting natural resources,” he said during an online conference late last year. The priest was too vocal and too honest for his own good.  After being summoned to Rome for a meeting with the Pope in December, the 65-year-old was removed from his post, dispatched from volatile northern Mozambique and relocated against his will to a backwater in Brazil. “I would never ask to leave,” he said during a February radio interview, attempting to explain the circumstances and public pressure that led to his departure. “Those who live in lies do not like the truth. Those who practice corruption do not like to be charged for it. So these people feel inconvenienced. Whether from the government, from organisations, whoever they may be, people who occupy positions.”

The Defense Post: IS-Linked Militants ‘Chased’ From Mozambique Town Of Palma: President

“Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, on Wednesday said Islamic State-linked insurgents had been forced out of Palma, a key northern town that the rebels hit in a brazen raid last month. In his first substantive public comment on the attack, Nyusi said “the terrorists have been chased from Palma,” but added: “We do not declare victory, because we are fighting terrorism.” Nyusi — speaking on the eve of a regional summit on the crisis — said his government had made requests for help. He did not give details. “Our government has already expressed its needs to the international community to deal with terrorism. This international support… is being evaluated,” he said, in an address to mark Mozambique’s national women’s day. “Those who come from outside will not come to replace us. They will come to support us. It is not about empty pride. It is about a sense of sovereignty.” Insurgents seized Palma, a coastal town close to a multi-billion-dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) project, after a coordinated attack launched on March 24. They then vandalized a hospital and torched banks and a prosecutor’s office, state television TVM said at the weekend.”

The Christian Post: Boko Haram Attacks On The Rise In Cameroon; Dozens Killed, Thousands Displaced Since December

“A prominent human rights watchdog group is calling for action as Boko Haram attacks have escalated in northern Cameroon this year, leading to the death of at least 80 civilians and the displacement of thousands since December. Human Rights Watch, an international human rights advocacy group, released a report Monday detailing the rise in violence and killing at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists in Cameroon, especially in the Far North region. The violence has resulted in a major humanitarian crisis, as 322,000 people have been forced from their homes since 2014 and 12,500 have been forced from their homes since December 2020. The advocacy group calls for the government to take “concrete measures” to protect communities subject to the increasing violence. “Boko Haram is waging a war on the people of Cameroon at a shocking human cost,” HRW Senior Africa Researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi said in a statement. “As Cameroon’s Far North region increasingly becomes the epicenter of Boko Haram’s violence, Cameroon should urgently adopt and carry out a new, rights-respecting strategy to protect civilians at risk in the Far North.” The Boko Haram insurgency began in Nigeria in 2009, spreading across the Lake Chad Basin to Cameroon and other countries.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Luton Man Admits Violent Islamic State Social Media Posts

“A man has admitted posting violent films made by the Islamic State (IS) group on social media. Ibrahim Anderson, 44, from Luton, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of disseminating terrorist publications on Facebook and Telegram in July. He also pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to a further four charges of possession of terrorist publications relating to the IS group. Anderson was remanded into custody until a further hearing on 30 April. In 2016, Anderson was jailed for three years for promoting IS outside Topshop in London's Oxford Street. At his latest court appearance, he also admitted breaching notification requirements by not providing the authorities with any email details that he was using. His lawyer, Patrick Harte, said Anderson admitted dissemination “on a reckless basis in the sense he did not intend his act to encourage terrorism”. Mr Harte told the court the defendant said he must have inadvertently downloaded the other documents when he downloaded the films and neither opened nor forwarded them to anyone else. Judge Philip Katz QC ordered a pre-sentence report on Anderson, who appeared via video link from HMP Wandsworth.”

The Independent: ISIS Supporter Who Knew Westminster Attacker Committed 15 Terror Offences After Release From Prison

“A convicted Isis supporter who knew the Westminster attacker has admitted disseminating terrorist propaganda after his release from jail. Ibrahim Anderson shared Isis videos, including some showing beheadings and calling for terror attacks, on Facebook and the encrypted Telegram messaging app. He also broke notification requirements for convicted terrorists, and downloaded Isis propaganda magazines containing guides on launching terror attacks. On Wednesday, Anderson admitted committing a total of 15 terror offences after being freed from prison. The case comes amid mounting concerns over the impact of jail sentences on terror offenders, radicalisation inside prisons and the effectiveness of deradicalisation programmes. Anderson was sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2016 for promoting Isis outside Topshop in London’s Oxford Street. It later emerged that he went to the same Luton gym as the Westminster attacker, Khalid Masood, and an Isis fighter who was killed in a drone strike. Anderson, now 44, was one of numerous terror convicts linked to Anjem Choudary’s banned al-Muhajiroun network. Following his release from prison, he was subjected to terrorist notification requirements, which are intended to enable police to monitor convicts and manage any risk they pose.”

Southeast Asia

Yahoo News: ISIS, Al Qaeda Among 11 Islamic Groups To Be Banned In Sri Lanka

“Sri Lanka will ban 11 Islamic radical organisations, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, for their links to extremist activities, according to an official announcement on Wednesday. A statement from Attorney-General Dappula de Livera’s office said that he had authorised to proscribe 9 local extremist groups alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS. Officials said the proscription will come into force with a gazette to be issued soon. In the immediate aftermath of the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed 270 people, including 11 Indians, Sri Lanka banned the local Jihadi group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) and two other groups. A special probe panel appointed in 2019 by former president Maithripala Sirisena had recommended the banning of Muslim extremist organisations which advocate radicalism in the Buddhist majority country. The report had also asked for the banning of an extremist Buddhist group, BBS or the Forces of Buddhist Power. The panel said that BBS action had contributed to the radicalisation of Muslims. The panel had found Sirisena and the then top security police brass culpable for failing to prevent the attacks despite having prior intelligence.”

Technology 

Yahoo Finance: Twitch Will Ban Users For ‘Severe’ Offline Behavior, Including Terrorism And Sexual Assault

“In an unusual step, Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming service popular among gamers, has formally adopted a policy to suspend users if they engage in “severe misconduct” that occurs off the platform. The company noted that it has taken action before against serious and clear misconduct that took place offline — but until now, Twitch “didn’t have an approach that scaled,” it said in announcing the new policy Wednesday. Examples of serious off-service offenses that Twitch will now enforce against under the Off-Service Conduct Policy include: deadly violence, terrorist activities or recruiting, credible threats of mass violence, sexual exploitation of children, sexual assault, and membership in known hate groups. Twitch said it has teamed with a “highly regarded third-party investigative partner to support our internal team” in investigating allegations of off-service policy violations (without identifying the partner). “We will only take action when there is evidence, which may include links, screenshots, video of off-Twitch behavior, interviews, police filings or interactions, that have been verified by our law enforcement response team or our third party investigators,” Twitch said. The approach is not typical: Most internet services limit their enforcement to behavior that occurs solely on their platforms.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

God forbid, if a time comes when we have no choice but to watch our citizens breathe their final breaths, and when there are no ventilators… we will make six million Israeli settlers unable to breathe.

Yahya Sinwar, Leader of Hamas in Gaza Apr. 2, 2020
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