Eye on Extremism: August 17, 2020

The Associated Press: Minnesota Man Faces Terror Charge For Allegedly Joining IS

“A Minnesota man accused of joining the Islamic State group has been returned to the United States and faces a terrorism charge after spending more than a year in Syrian custody with alleged IS fighters, according to documents unsealed Wednesday. Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, 23, made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, appearing via video from a cell. Authorities say he was vacationing with his family in Morocco in 2015 when he secretly booked a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and then traveled to Iraq and Syria, where he joined IS. He was indicted last week on one count of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization. In court documents unsealed Wednesday, authorities allege that Al-Madioum was a soldier for IS, and that at one point he was assigned to a battalion that was responsible for training and preparing foreign fighters to carry out suicide attacks in Europe. He surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces in March 2019. His attorney, Manny Atwal, said Wednesday that she was still looking into the case and was meeting with Al-Madioum and his family. Al-Madioum, who was 18 when he left for Syria, is a native of Morocco and a naturalized U.S. citizen.”

Voice Of America: Anarchist Groups Tied To Riots In 4 US Cities

“Far-right groups in America such as the anti-government Boogaloo Boys have long used a host of tactics and platforms to incite violence, including dehumanizing memes, online forums and organized militias. Now, left-wing groups are employing many of the same tactics against police and other targets during the social justice protests since the death of George Floyd, according to a new report by researchers affiliated with Rutgers University. “Many of the features of anarcho-socialist extremism seem to parallel the key tactical structures documented in libertarian-anarchist and Jihadi extremism,” says the 24-page report, entitled “Network Enabled Anarchy.”… Josh Lipowsky, a senior research analyst with the Counter-Extremism Project, said the decentralized antifa movement poses a lesser threat than the better organized groups on the far right. While far-left extremists boast groups such as the John Brown Gun Club, they don’t actively promote violent attacks, Lipowsky said. “On the far right, we do see more active networks calling for organized attacks on synagogues and other religious institutions, as well as individuals that are deemed the enemy of that ideology,” Lipowsky said.

The New York Times: 29 Officers Suspected Of Sharing Hitler Images Are Suspended In Germany

“A police force in Germany on Wednesday suspended 29 officers suspected of sharing images of Hitler and violent neo-Nazi propaganda in at least five online chat groups, adding to concerns about far-right infiltration in Germany’s police and military. Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, where the chats were discovered, called them a “disgrace.” At a news conference on Wednesday, he described the images that were shared among officers as “far-right extremist propaganda” and the “ugliest, most despicable, neo-Nazi immigrant-baiting.” The 126 images shared included swastikas, a fabricated picture of a refugee in a gas chamber and the shooting of a Black man, officials said. The number of cases of far-right extremists in Germany’s police and military, some of whom hoard weapons and keep lists of enemies, have multiplied in recent years. On Monday, the authorities raided the home of a 40-year-old soldier in connection with an investigation of a suspected far-right terrorism plot. For years, German politicians and security chiefs rejected the notion of far-right infiltration of the security services, speaking only of “individual cases.”

United States

CBS New York: Investigation Continues Into Bomb-Making Materials Found In Astoria Home

“A Queens man is facing charges after investigators found bomb-making materials at his home late Tuesday night. Police said Marak Squires is facing a reckless endangerment charge, but more charges could be added as the investigation continues. Police sources told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes on Wednesday evidence points to a mentally unstable man with no political or terror affiliations, adding motives remain unclear. FBI agents carried bags of evidence from a home on 19th Street in Astoria. Federal and local investigators swarmed the block for hours, trying to piece together why the man who lives there allegedly had bomb-making materials and manuals inside. It was a stark scene as joggers and dog walkers passed by for their morning strolls across the street in Astoria Park. “I felt surprised, shock. I can’t believe it happens in your own backyard,” one man said. The unsettling find came after a fire at the house on Tuesday afternoon. Investigators said the tenant, 37-year-old Squires, was acting erratically outside and taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Meanwhile, when the scene cleared neighbors noticed a suspicious box on the sidewalk out front and opened it.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Attacks Continue As Peace Negotiations Progress 

“Multiple Taliban attacks in three provinces across northern Afghanistan since Tuesday killed at least 17 people, including six civilians, and wounded scores of others even as a Taliban political team was negotiating peace with Afghan government representatives in Doha, Qatar. According to local officials, Taliban fighters targeted security checkpoints or outposts of local anti-Taliban militias that operate with government support. In Balkh province, the chief of Char Kent district, Salima Mazari, confirmed two separate Taliban attacks, one on a local force outpost and the other near the district center. She said three local fighters and six civilians were killed and multiple others wounded. This was in addition to a third attack the previous day that killed two security personnel. In nearby Kunduz province, Taliban attacks killed six security personnel, according to Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The head of the provincial council, Mohammad Yosouf Ayubi, said the death toll was higher. Meanwhile, in Takhar province, two civilians were killed and 12 wounded from a blast caused by an improvised explosive device. Police said the device was hidden on a motorcycle.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: PIJ Leader: Gaza Terror Groups Have Military Presence In West Bank

“The Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, stated that Palestinian terror groups have military presence in the West Bank in an interview with Al-Mayadeen on Wednesday, warning that there are “no redlines” if war breaks out with Israel. Referring to a recent decision to establish a joint leadership of the Palestinian terrorist organizations, the PIJ leader stated that “important changes” will take place in the Palestinian territories, “especially in the West Bank.” Nakhalah added that military structures which belong to the terrorist groups are present there. “Soon we will develop new equations that may reach joint military action,” said Nakhalah, stressing that there is “no binding truce” for the terrorist groups in Gaza and that they are in a “continuous war and conflict at the borders of the Strip.” The PIJ leader warned that all of Israel “is a target for resistance rockets” and that there are “no redlines” if war breaks out. “We are attached to Palestine from the sea to the river and this is our right,” Nakhalah told Al-Mayadeen.

Nigeria

Agence France-Presse: Jihadists Kill 11 Villagers In Northeast Nigeria

“Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in several pickup trucks opened fire on Wasaram, 90 kilometers (55 miles) from regional capital Maiduguri on Tuesday, killing eight villagers and injuring 20, they said. Three villagers were also killed in a separate attack in Auno earlier that day. “We recovered 11 bodies from the two attacks which occurred yesterday in Kaga district,” militia leader Ibrahim Liman told AFP. The insurgents had accused the villagers of alerting troops about their movement on their way to rob traders in the nearby town of Ngamdu, he said. Soldiers intercepted the jihadists and engaged them in a gun battle, forcing them to retreat, said militiaman Umar Ari, who gave the same death toll. “They (ISWAP) attacked the village on their way back, accusing residents of informing soldiers about their movement to rob local traders at the weekly market”, Ari told AFP. Earlier on Tuesday, ISWAP fighters slaughtered three farmers that they seized as they worked on their fields outside Auno village, 65 kilometers away, the militia leaders added. ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 and initially focused on attacking the military, has increasingly been targeting civilians, in particular abducting and killing motorists at bogus checkpoints on highways.”

Daily Trust: Nigeria: 'Boko Haram, Bandits On The Rampage In Northeast, Northwest Daily'

“The Coalition of Northern Groups says Boko Haram insurgents and bandits are still on the rampage in the Northeast and Northwest killing people and destroying property. At a press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, the spokesperson of the coalition, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, urged the Federal Government to show courage in arresting and prosecuting the “criminals” and their sponsors. He said the fight against the current security challenges in the north must be isolated from partisan influence. “Despite repeated claims by the government that federal troops have decimated the capacity of the armed insurgents in the Northeast, the group (insurgents) has continued to show the capacity to launch attacks and overrun military formations, seize equipment and vandalise local communities,” Suleiman said.”

Somalia

BBC News: Al-Shabab Militant Jailed For Attack On US Base In Kenya

“A military court in Somalia has sentenced a militant Islamist to life in prison for his role in a deadly attack on a US base in Kenya. Farhan Mohamud Hassan was also convicted of being a member of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate headquartered in Somalia. Its fighters cross the border into Kenya to carry out attacks.A US soldier and two contractors were killed in January's attack on the base in the coastal region of Lamu. It was the first attack by al-Shabab on US forces in Kenya, which has troops in the 20,000-strong Africa Union force battling the militants in Somalia. The US often carries out air strikes in Somalia to target al-Shabab. On Tuesday, the New York Times quoted unnamed US government sources as saying that the US military was seeking approval to carry out drone strikes against al-Shabab in eastern Kenya. There has been no independent confirmation of the report. In an interview broadcast by Somali state television after his sentencing, Hassan said he helped transport explosives in jerrycans to Kenya. “I was with 70 men on this side [Somalia]. There were about 115 on the other side [Kenya],” he said. Hassan added that he joined al-Shabab in 2010 and took part in many attacks in southern Somalia.”

Shabelle Media Network: Somalia: Somali Army Kills 7 Militants In Southern Somalia

“At least seven al-Shabab fighters were killed in fierce fighting with Somali National Army (SNA) in the southern town of Awdhigle in Lower Shabelle, a military commander said on Wednesday. SNA commander for section 66 Ahmed Maslah said the army clashed with the militants, injuring several of them during the gun battle. “We have killed seven al-Shabab militants in the fighting. We also removed landmines which the militants placed along Awdhigle road,” Maslah said. The commander added the forces later pursued other militants who ran towards the forest. The government forces have intensified security operations in the recent past against al-Shabab extremists in the southern regions.”

Mali

Reuters: Mali Junta Moves Toward Selecting Interim President After Embargo Threat

“Mali’s ruling junta said on Wednesday that it had started the process of naming an interim president, after West African presidents threatened a total embargo on the landlocked country. Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met on Tuesday with the heads of the junta that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last month to try to speed up the transition back to civilian rule. West African leaders, nervous the coup could set a dangerous precedent and undermine a fight against Islamist militants across the Sahel region, imposed economic sanctions after the coup, but they appear to have had a limited effect so far. Speaking to reporters after returning to Mali, junta spokesman Colonel Ismael Wague said ECOWAS leaders had given one week for a civilian interim president and prime minister to be in place. Wague said the junta told the heads of state it could not give an immediate response. A transitional charter approved at multi-party talks says the interim president can be a soldier or a civilian and will be chosen by electors selected by the junta.”

Africa

Gulf News: Sudan Busts Terror Cell With Explosive Materials

“Sudanese security forces have busted a terrorist cell with explosive materials that posed threat to Sudan and neighbouring countries, Sudan’s public prosecutor Taj Al Sir Ali Al Hebr said on Wednesday. Al Hebr said at a press briefing in capital Khartoum that the terrorist cell consists of 41 members, pointing out that investigations are still underway to disclose the details. Meanwhile, Jamal Jumma Adam, spokesman of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), said at the press briefing that the RSF forces have also seized 3,594 blasting caps, 1,000 detonating cord, and four bags of aluminium nitrate. He noted that the terrorist cell was pursued from August 19 to September 13. Adam further warned that large quantities of explosives could possibly leak into countries neighboring Sudan. Analysts say the busting of this terrorist cell could help expedite the lifting of the terrorism designation. Last month, the Trump administration reached an agreement in principle with Sudan’s new transitional government to settle a series of long-standing claims by American terrorism victims, laying the groundwork for the country’s removal from the US list of states that sponsor terrorism, officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy.”

United Kingdom

The National: UK Police Make Terror Arrest At Luton Airport

“British police have arrested a man on suspicion of terrorism offences after his arrival at Luton airport. The 24-year-old man, who had flown in from Turkey, was detained on Monday as part of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command. The man was suspected of being part of a banned organisation, police said. The suspect was taken into police custody and subsequently released, the Met police said, but remains under investigation.”

Germany

The New York Times: Jewish Students Aid Owners Of Kebab Shop Hit In Synagogue Attack

“When a heavily armed, far-right extremist tried to storm a synagogue in eastern Germany a year ago, the failed attack revived the worst fears of anti-Semitism. Thanks to clumsily built explosives and a locked door, the congregation inside narrowly escaped a massacre. The thwarted gunman then trained his weapons on other targets of his hatred in the city of Halle, killing a young man having lunch at a nearby kebab shop, where he presumed he would find Muslims. Since then, that kebab shop and the Turkish brothers who own it have fallen on hard times. But their plight recently drew the attention of several young Jews who also survived the Oct. 9 attack, and they decided to try to help, launching a GoFundMe campaign that immediately surpassed their expectations. “We wanted to do something that would draw attention” to the owners’ struggles, “but would also provide concrete financial support,” said Ruben Gerczikow, vice president of the Jewish Student Union in Germany, which opened the drive last week. “We were surprised by the positive reaction,” Mr. Gerczikow said. “We never dreamed that we could raise so much so quickly.”

Europe

European Jewish Press: ‘For The Time Being, The EU Position On Hezbollah Remains Unchanged’, Says EU Foreign Policy Chief

“For the time being, the EU position on Hezbollah remains unchanged,’’ EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament as he addressed the assembly members on the situation in Lebanon. Noting that members of the European Parliament have asked the EU to change its position towards the Lebanese group and declare it a terrorist organization in its entirety, Borrell responsed that only the ‘’military’’ wing of Hezbollah ‘’is under our sanctions regime.’’ The EU has so far only recognized Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization as it continues to make an artificial distinction between the group’s ‘’political’’ and ‘’military’’ wings. “The presence of Hezbollah in the (Lebanese) government is not new. We are convinced that engaging in a constructive dialogue with all political parties is a  way of strengthening Lebanon’s institutions, including the Lebanese Armed Forces, state security agencies, and this is key for the stability of Lebanon and the Middle East.’’ He added that to change the EU position on Hezbollah would require once again unanimity of all Member States. ‘’This is not the case,’’ he said. In the EU, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the UK (before it went out of the EU) have listed the entire Hezbollah as a terror organization.”