Eye on Extremism: August 2, 2022

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Says Drone Strike Killed al Qaeda Leader Ayman al Zawahiri

“The White House said Monday that a U.S. missile launched from a drone in Afghanistan killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, a founding member of the jihadist movement and one of the key strategists behind an international campaign of terror that culminated in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. The U.S. strike targeted a safe house in a residential area in central Kabul on Sunday morning, in what was the first known counterterrorism operation in the country since U.S. forces withdrew last year. The Biden administration said the Taliban was aware that al Zawahiri was hiding in Kabul, the clearest display of the continuing alliance between al Qaeda and the group now ruling Afghanistan. Speaking from the White House balcony on Monday, President Biden announced the strike, describing al Zawahiri as a terror leader who for decades “was the mastermind behind the attacks against Americans.” Those attacks included the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors and wounded dozens of others and 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured more than 4,500.”

CBS News: Mohammed Khalifa, Canadian Who Narrated Violent ISIS Videos, Sentenced To Life In Prison By U.S. Judge

“A Canadian citizen who led propaganda efforts for the Islamic State group and personally executed two Syrian soldiers in widely circulated videos was sentenced to life in prison Friday by a U.S. judge. According to the Department of Justice, Mohammed Khalifa served as a lead translator in ISIS's propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on multiple violent ISIS videos.  Prosecutors sought the life sentence for Khalifa, 39, a Saudi-born Canadian who held prominent roles for the Islamic State group from 2013 until his capture in 2019. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Khalifa played a key role in the group's successful efforts to recruit tens of thousands of foreign fighters to defend its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In two notorious propaganda videos titled “Flames of War,” Khalifa can be seen shooting Syrian soldiers in the back of the head after they dug their own graves. He also narrated the videos. Khalifa's defense attorneys had sought a term of just 20 years at Friday's sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. They argued that he was less culpable than two British-born Islamic State members — Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, nicknamed the “Beatles” by their captives — who personally beat and tortured Western hostages. Both Kotey and Elsheikh were convicted in Alexandria; one has received a life sentence and the other is expected to get life when he is formally sentenced next month.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: 29 Bodies Of ISIS Victims Found In Syria's Manbij

“In a statement on Sunday, the Democratic Civil Administration in the northern Syrian Arab-majority city of Manbij confirmed the discovery of 29 bodies in a mass grave on Wednesday. On Wednesday, three skeletons buried by ISIS were found near the Manbij Hotel in the middle of the city, which ISIS used as a prison when it occupied the northwestern city. The hotel is near the Manbij civilian administration building. Later, a total of 29 bodies of victims aged between 18 and 60 were found in the grave. All of them had been shot in the head, had had their hands tied and were blindfolded. ISIS controlled the town from 2014 until 2016, after which the Manbij Military Council liberated the city from ISIS with US backing. In the statement, the administration called on the international community to hold states responsible for supporting ISIS and blamed Turkey for the group's rise. The administration also accused Turkey of allowing thousands of ISIS fighters to cross its border. “We once again call on the international community to correct their wrong policies,” it said, “to hold the states that give all kinds of support to terrorist organizations accountable.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry has previously underlined its contributions to the US-led coalition against ISIS and has stated that Turkey has “a broad array of mechanisms to disrupt or stop the flow of foreign fighters.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Taliban Condemns Drone Strike As Violation Of U.S. Troop Withdrawal Agreement

“The United States carried out a drone strike on a residence in Kabul over the weekend, the Taliban's chief spokesman said on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack took place on Sunday and the ruling Islamist extremists strongly condemned it as a violation of “international principles” and the 2020 agreement on a U.S. troop withdrawal.”

Fox News: Zawahri's Kabul Death Raises Questions About Al Qaeda Presence In Afghanistan After US Left It To The Taliban

“Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahri's death in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is raising questions about whether the country is being used as a base of operations for the terrorist group. “What unnerves me is that Al Zawahri felt comfortable enough being out in the open in the Kabul area after the Taliban takeover,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “So much for the Taliban rejecting al-Qaeda. This is proof positive that Afghanistan has once again become a safe haven for international terrorists.” National security experts say Zawahri's presence within the country signals a troubling relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban. The two organizations have long co-existed alongside one another, sharing similar tactics and ideologies. “There's no doubt that they've been brothers — the Taliban and al Qaeda,” said retired four-star General Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the United States Army.  “It's not surprising that Zawahri returned to his family in Kabul, in fact, the house that he was in belonged to an aide to a senior Taliban official.”  Zawahri was killed by a U.S.-led drone strike over the weekend. The 71-year-old al Qaeda leader had ruled the terrorist organization since the death of Osama bin Laden in July 2011. A one-time surgeon, Zawahri was known by U.S. intelligence as a terrorist mastermind for helping plot the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Reuters: Blinken Says Taliban 'Grossly' Violated Doha Agreement By Sheltering Al Qaeda's Zawahiri

“The Taliban "grossly" violated the Doha Agreement by hosting and sheltering al Qaeda's top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. The United States killed leader Zawahiri in a strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Joe Biden said on Monday, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. "In the face of the Taliban’s unwillingness or inability to abide by their commitments, we will continue to support the Afghan people with robust humanitarian assistance and to advocate for the protection of their human rights, especially of women and girls," Blinken said in a statement.”

Associated Press: Al-Zawahri's Path Went From Cairo Clinic To Top Of Al-Qaida

“The doors of jihad opened for Ayman al-Zawahri as a young doctor in a Cairo clinic, when a visitor arrived with a tempting offer: a chance to treat Islamic fighters battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan. With that offer in 1980, al-Zawahri embarked on a life that over three decades took him to the top of the most feared terrorist group in the world, al-Qaida, after the death of Osama bin Laden. Already an experienced militant who had sought the overthrow of Egypt’s “infidel” regime since the age of 15, al-Zawahri took a trip to the Afghan war zone that was just a few weeks long, but it opened his eyes to new possibilities. What he saw was “the training course preparing Muslim mujahedeen youth to launch their upcoming battle with the great power that would rule the world: America,” he wrote in a 2001 biography-cum-manifesto. Al-Zawahri, 71, was killed over the weekend by a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden announced the death Monday evening in an address to the nation. The strike is likely to lead to greater disarray within the organization than did bin Laden’s death in 2011, since it is far less clear who his successor would be. Al-Zawahri became crucial to turning the jihadi movement to target the United States as the right-hand man to bin Laden, the young Saudi millionaire he met in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

Middle East

Reuters: Israeli Troops Arrest Senior West Bank Militant, Palestinian Killed

“Israeli troops killed a Palestinian during a raid on a flashpoint West Bank town in which they arrested a local leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, the health ministry and residents said. There were no immediate details on the identity of the man slain in Jenin, which has seen regular raids by Israel since several local men carried out a spree of deadly street attacks in its cities earlier this year. An Israeli police spokesperson said commandos disguised as Palestinians entered Jenin to make two arrests and came under fire. They shot back, hitting several gunmen, and left without suffering casualties, the spokesperson added.”

Nigeria

Africanews: Nigeria: Three Policemen And Five Militiamen Killed In An Ambush

“Gunmen have killed eight Nigerian security personnel, including three policemen and five militiamen, in an ambush in the central state of Kogi. In Saturday's attack, gunmen “suspected to be bandits ambushed and killed eight security personnel in Ajaokuta area,” Onogwu Muhammed, spokesman for the Kogi state governor, said in a statement. Kogi State is experiencing an upsurge in attacks, some claimed by Islamic State jihadists operating outside their usual base in the northeast. The governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, has suspended a local traditional ruler, the statement said. “The governor has issued a stern warning to other traditional rulers in the state who may have links in one way or the other with criminal elements to desist immediately,” Onogwu Muhammed said. Nigeria's traditional leaders and emirs have no formal political power but are highly influential, acting as local custodians of culture and religion. Last month, gunmen attacked a police station in the Okehi district of Kogi, killing a policeman, and in April, three policemen were killed in an attack on a police station in the town of Adavi. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa (Iswap) group, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 and took over leadership in northeast Nigeria.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram Leader Reportedly Arrested In Ogun

“There is tension in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, following the arrest of a suspected Boko Haram leader. DAILY POST gathered that the suspected terrorist was arrested Saturday night by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Ogun State. Most residents of Abeokuta have now been thrown into a panic mood, as information about the arrest went viral within the State capital. This is coming amidst rumour that terrorists are planning to attack some States in the South West. On Sunday, a reliable source informed our correspondent that the suspected Boko Haram leader was arrested at Ijaye area of the metropolis. The suspected terrorist was said to have initially tried to resist arrest before he later bowed to the superior power of the DSS operatives. It was gathered that the Boko Haram leader had left Katsina for Abeokuta, where he was employed as a security guard. However, he had since been gathering intelligence for terrorist attacks. Security sources hinted that the man was purposely in Abeokuta to set up terrorists’ cells for kidnapping and terror attacks. He was said to have done the same in Abuja, Kaduna and Zamfara before he moved to Abeokuta. “However, intelligence gathering gave him out and he was promptly apprehended before he succeeded in Abeokuta,” a source said, adding that there are still many of them being monitored.”

Somalia

Associated Press: Dutch Mom Gets 3 Years In US For Supporting Somali Militants

“A Dutch woman was sentenced to three years in prison Monday for donating several hundred dollars to a group that supported the militant group al-Shabab in Somalia. The sentenced imposed on Farhia Hassan, 38, was far less than the 8-year sentence sought by prosecutors. She was convicted earlier this year by a jury at U.S. District Court in Alexandria of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Prosecutors said she was one of about 15 women who gathered in an online chatroom and regularly committed small amounts of money to support al-Shabab militants in Somalia and Kenya. In all, prosecutors say she donated about $300 over a three-year period, though they admitted difficulty tracking payments. Hassan, a Somali native and mother of six, was granted asylum in the Netherlands as a teenager and settled in the city of Terneuzen. She was initially charged in 2014, but fought extradition for seven years before she was brought to the U.S. to face trial. Two leaders of the group have already been convicted and sentenced to terms of 12 and 11 years, respectively. Hassan’s lawyers argued she never should have been charged in the first place. They said it was overreach for the U.S. to charge a Dutch woman for supporting Somali militants when she had no connection whatsoever to the U.S.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On August 13, 2017, suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) gunmen opened fire on a Turkish restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 19 people were killed and 22 others were wounded.    

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