Eye on Extremism: August 12, 2020

Reuters: Explosions Hit U.S. Coalition Supply Convoys In Iraq: Sources And Military Say

“At least two explosions have hit convoys supplying U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq in the last 24 hours, security sources said, the first on Monday evening near the southern border with Kuwait and the second on Tuesday north of Baghdad. The explosions, which caused no casualties but did some material damage, are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent weeks. An attack in southern Iraq on Sunday hit a convoy carrying supplies to coalition forces, the military said. Several thousand U.S. forces are still based in Iraq, leading a coalition whose mission is to fight Sunni Muslim Islamic State militants. Those forces are also a target for Iran-backed Shi'ite militias, which the United States blames for regular rocket attacks on bases hosting the coalition, and on other U.S. targets such as Washington's embassy in Baghdad. The militias have vowed to avenge the death of paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was killed alongside Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad in January. Political forces aligned with the militias demand a full withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq. They also oppose Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May.”

United States

The Jerusalem Post: 3 Years After Charlottesville We’re Suing To Break The Cycle Of Terror

“Three years ago today, the country watched in horror as neo-Nazis and white supremacists attacked Charlottesville, Virginia. Three years later, as far-right extremists continue to spread disinformation, hate and violence, it’s clear that “Unite the Right” was a harbinger of what would follow — and that we still have much to learn from that weekend. My organization, Integrity First for America, is supporting a coalition of Charlottesville residents in a federal lawsuit against the individuals and groups that orchestrated the violence. The trial is scheduled for October. These extremists didn’t come to Charlottesville to peacefully protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as they claimed. Rather, for months in advance, in private social media chats, they methodically planned a weekend of violence. “Next stop: Charlottesville. Final stop: Auschwitz,” they wrote amid discussions of which weapons to carry and whether they could claim self-defense if they hit counterprotesters with cars. And that’s exactly what happened. First, the violent tiki torch march, meant to evoke the KKK and Nazis, with chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” Then, the next day, the attack on downtown Charlottesville, culminating in James Fields driving his car into a crowd of peaceful counterprotesters — exactly as planned in those chats — and killing one, Heather Heyer.”

Syria

Voice Of America: Assassinations Highlight Security Challenges For US-Backed Forces In Eastern Syria

“Tensions are flaring in an eastern Syria province after the assassinations of several powerful Arab tribal leaders, with U.S.-backed forces accusing Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells and Syrian government proxies of carrying out such attacks to cause instability in the former IS stronghold. In the past two weeks, three leaders of the al-Agidat and al-Baggara tribes were killed by unknown gunmen in separate incidents in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour, local news reported. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a major U.S. partner in the fight against IS terrorists, has accused sleeper cells affiliated with IS of the recent killings in the Arab-majority province. “These cells from the remnants of ISIS strive to cause confusion, whether through assassinations, spreading rumors, mining and booby-trapping operations,” the SDF said in a statement Monday, using another acronym for IS. The SDF also accused the Syrian regime, Turkey and their respective local allies of using certain elements in Deir al-Zour to cause instability.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: 8 Suspects Arrested Over Daesh Links In Turkey's Black Sea Region

“At least eight suspects have been arrested in Turkey's Black Sea region for their links to the Daesh terrorist group, security sources said Tuesday. Police, anti-terror and intelligence teams in northern Samsun province launched simultaneous operations at various sites to nab the Iraqi suspects, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. The raids were held in the districts of Ilkadım, Canik, Tekkeköy and Atakum, it added. Digital materials were also seized from their residences. Following medical examinations, the suspects were taken to the police station. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Daesh as a terror group in 2013, as soon as it emerged. The country has since been attacked by Daesh terrorists numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings and four armed attacks that killed 315 people and injured hundreds of others. In response, Turkey launched military and police operations at home and abroad to prevent further terrorist incidents. The Daesh terrorist group held vast swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq from its rise in 2014 until its military defeat last year. Their expansion in Iraq and Syria featured horrendous public abuses.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban ‘Hopeful’ US-Brokered Afghan Talks Settle Conflict

“The Taliban reaffirmed Tuesday its commitment to ending violence in Afghanistan, while emphasizing that a comprehensive cease-fire has to be discussed during intra-Afghan peace negotiations due to begin later this month. The proposed talks are an outcome of the agreement the United States sealed with the Taliban in February to end the nearly 19-year-old Afghan war, America’s longest. Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA the Islamist insurgency is determined to move the Afghan peace process forward in line with the pact, dismissing suggestions the start of the talks would mark an end to insurgent violence. “It is clearly written in the agreement that cease-fire will be one of the topics to be debated and agreed upon during intra-Afghan negotiations,” Shaheen said by phone from the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar. The text of the landmark U.S.-Taliban pact states that participants of the intra-Afghan negotiations will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Taliban Bomber Hits Pakistani Army Vehicle In NW, Wounding 3

“A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near a military vehicle carrying a brigadier and two junior officers in a former tribal region in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding all three, officials said. The attack took place on a bridge in the town of Ladha in South Waziristan, a former tribal region, which until recent years served as a base for the Taliban and foreign militants, according to Shaukat Ali, district police chief. He said the wounded soldiers were transported to a hospital, where two of them were listed in critical condition. According to intelligence officials, the military vehicle was badly damaged in the attack. Shortly after the attack, Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack in Ladha, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. Pakistan has carried out a number of operations in the country’s rugged northwest in recent years. The government has repeatedly claimed the areas were cleared of insurgents, but violence there has continued. According to a recently released U.N. report, more than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, most belonging to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group, which often attacks Pakistani military and civilian targets.”

Lebanon

The Washington Post: Reforming Lebanon Must Start By Putting Hezbollah In Its Place

“Last week’s blast in Beirut, one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history, has destroyed lives and devastated a city. It has also sharply intensified demands for change in a country that desperately needs fundamental reform. A wave of public anger has already forced the resignation of the government, which was composed primarily of nominal technocrats beholden to a pro-Hezbollah parliamentary coalition. But demonstrators chanting “revolution!” are making it clear that they don’t just want early elections based on an outdated electoral system; they want meaningful, lasting change, from the ground up. That won’t be possible unless the country can tackle the most fundamental problem of all: the role of Hezbollah and the political elites it has co-opted. Even before this latest disaster, Lebanese were taking to the streets to express their discontent with the status quo. Rampant corruption, economic decline and failure to guarantee basic public services have inspired a series of mass anti-government protests in recent years. But the blast — which many Lebanese attribute to the long-established rottenness of the government — has now vividly shown the consequences of empowering a parasitic political class.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: IDF Strikes Hamas Terror Targets In Gaza In Response To Explosive Balloons

“IDF fighter jets, helicopters and tanks attacked a number of Hamas terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson said. During the attack, a military compound, underground infrastructure and observation posts were targeted. The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons into Israel from Gaza over the past several days. “The IDF considers all terrorist activity against Israeli territory to be very serious and will continue to act as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens,” the IDF said. “The terrorist organization Hamas bears responsibility for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and will bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens.” The balloon units warned that they would continue the launch of incendiary and explosive balloons on Wednesday in response to the IDF strikes on Tuesday night. During the strikes, a missile that was fired from an IDF helicopter towards Gaza fell next to a cowshed in a town in the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Again, Boko Haram Terrorists Kill Several Soldiers During Attack On Borno Community

“Several soldiers have been reportedly killed in an ambush by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Baga, a town under Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State, military sources told SaharaReporters on Tuesday. “Boko Haram Fighters in several vehicles again stormed Baga town and engaged Nigerian troops in intense fighting, killing several of them. The exact number of casualties is not yet known,” one of the sources said. The attack came a few weeks after the insurgents attacked the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum in the town. Zulum was on his way to some Internally Displaced Persons camps in the Northern part of Borno when the incident happened. SaharaReporters gathered that Boko Haram had in January 2015 overran the MNJTF base and took control of Baga, killing hundreds of residents and forcing thousands to flee to Maiduguri. The town was later retaken, but jihadists continue to attack the military and civilians in the area, which is an ISWAP stronghold. In the past months, soldiers have been targeted by the insurgents who lay ambush on their path.”

Punch Nigeria: Stop Foreign Terrorists’ Infiltration, Expert Tells FG

“The President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr Ona Ekhomu, has advised the Federal Government to take urgent actions to counter the infiltration of terrorists from the West African sub-region into the country. He said Nigeria’s already dire security situation would be severely aggravated if it was further complicated with attacks by foreign Sahelian Jihadi groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Ekhomu stated this on Monday while reacting to the intelligence provided by the United States of America that ISIS and Al-Qaeda terror groups were on the march to Southern Nigeria through the North-West of the country. He said the rising spate of terrorist/bandit attacks in the North-West states of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger, was sufficient evidence of the occupation of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria, from where attacks were being launched. Ekhomu said since Nigeria’s porous borders had made it hard for the authorities to prevent infiltration into the country by foreign terrorists, the law enforcement agencies should detect and arrest them once on Nigerian soil.”

Somalia

Associated Press: Police Say 19 Inmates, Guards Killed In Somalia Prison Riot

“A Somali police officer says at least 19 people were killed during a riot in the central prison in Somalia's capital on Monday evening. Abdiqani Mohamed Qalaf, spokesman for the police force in charge of prisons, told reporters the dead included 15 inmates and four guards. He said the situation is back to normal, but he gave no details. Gen. Mahad Abdirahman, commander of the custodial corps, told reporters that the violence started when an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun and went on a shooting spree. In the chaos, other inmates, including some sentenced on terrorism charges, recovered guns from fallen guards. The prison holds some members of the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab. It was the first such riot at the prison in recent memory.”

Dalsan Radio: Somalia: SNA Kills Al-Shabaab Official In Lower Shabelle

“The Somali National Army [SNA] has killed senior Alshabab militant group leader on Sunday in an operation in Lower Shabelle. According to Somali military chief, general Odawa Yussuf Rageh the military managed to take over Awdhegle, Mubarak and Darussalam villages and killed the Al-Shabab official identified as Osman Gaab who ruled the villages. “The soldiers have killed a number of fighters including commander administering the villages,” he said. He also added army said it will intensify military operations to ensure they flush out all al-Shabab remnants in the areas which are still under their control. On Friday the military killed 17 Alshabab militants and dozen others were wounded after they clashed in Daynunay village outskirts of Baidoa in Bay region, southern Somalia. The government forces backed by African Mission in Somalia chased al-Shabab militants from the capital Mogadishu in August 2011, but the militants still control swathes of rural areas in southern regions conducting ambushes and planting land mines.”

Africa

Reuters: Niger Expands Emergency Across Region Where Aid Workers Were Killed

“Niger’s government has extended a state of emergency to the entire region that surrounds the capital Niamey and suspended access to a giraffe reserve where six French aid workers and two Nigeriens were shot dead. Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group on Sunday while they were driving through the reserve, a popular destination for expatriates southeast of Niamey in the Tillabery region. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Tuesday that France would bolster security measures to protect its nationals in West Africa’s Sahel region, without providing any details. France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert, but violence by jihadists linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda continues to rise. A state of emergency had already been in place in parts of Tillabery to the north and west of Niamey, near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso. An affiliate of Islamic State has repeatedly carried out attacks in that zone, including one that killed four U.S. soldiers in 2017. Niger’s national security council announced late on Monday that it was extending the state of emergency to all of Tillabery, which extends more than 350 km (217 miles) south from the Malian border to the frontier with Benin.”

France 24: France To Step Up Security For Its Citizens In Africa's Sahel Region, Macron Says

“France will step up security measures to protect French nationals in Africa's Sahel region, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, two days after six French aid workers were shot dead in Niger. “We will do everything we can to support the families of the victims and to respond to the attack that cost the lives of six of our compatriots and two Nigeriens. These six young people, who were members of the NGO 'ACTED', showed extraordinary commitment to the local population,” Macron tweeted. “I have decided to step up security measures for our citizens in the region. We will continue in our action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the increased support of our partners.”

The Defense Post: Millitants In Central Mali Set Jail Ablaze In Attack Killing Two

“Militants in volatile central Mali killed a prison officer and a gendarme late Monday night, officials said, in a raid that saw a jail set ablaze and five inmates escape. The overnight attack occurred in the village of Kimparana, in the Segou region of central Mali, which has witnessed a surge in violence linked to a Jihadist insurgency. Gunmen targeted a prison and gendarmerie in the village late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, the district prosecutor Dramane Diarra told AFP, killing one gendarme and prison guard. He added that the jail had been “torched” and that five prisoners escaped in the melee, without offering further details. A local Kimparana resident told AFP that the prison guard “fought until his last breath,” and that soldiers had now secured the area. “We wish that they would protect us more,” he said of the security forces. According to the United Nations, at least 580 civilians have been killed in Central Mali this year. Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights told UN News that “all of these violations and abuses have been perpetrated in a context of overwhelming impunity,” only eroding the public’s confidence in government institutions.”

Southeast Asia

Voice Of America: Islamic State Holding On In Philippines, Despite Millions In US Spending

“Hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars and hundreds of hours spent working with and training Philippine government forces appear to be doing little to dislodge Islamic State fighters entrenched in the country’s south. The assessment, part of a just-released Pentagon report, warns that at best, U.S.-supported efforts in the Philippines have fought IS and other terror groups to a stalemate, with Philippine forces unable to gain the upper hand. “In general, efforts to reduce extremism in the Philippines do not appear to have made a substantial difference,” U.S. Defense Department Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell wrote in the report assessing the success of Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines. IS-East Asia and its partners “have remained about the same size and strength for the last few years,” O’Donnell added, noting there has been “little change” in their ability to finance and carry out operations.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook Removed Nearly 40% More Terrorist Content In Second Quarter

“Facebook Inc. removed nearly 40% more content that it categorized as terrorism in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, the company said. Facebook removed about 8.7 million pieces of such content—which includes, according to the company’s definition, nonstate actors that engage in or advocate for violence to achieve political, religious or ideological aims—in the second quarter of this year, up from 6.3 million in the first quarter. That increase “was largely driven by improvements in our proactive detection technology to identify content that violates [Facebook’s] policy,” a company spokeswoman said. For “organized hate” groups, a separate category, the company said it took down four million pieces of content, down from 4.7 million in the first quarter. And in a third category, hate speech, the company said it dramatically increased removals of such posts from Facebook and its Instagram platform. It said it removed 3.3 million pieces of hate speech from Instagram in the second quarter, more than triple the amount the previous quarter, and 22.5 million pieces from Facebook, more than double what it removed in the first quarter.”