Eye on Extremism: August 3, 2022

Associated Press: The Downside: US Strike Shows Afghanistan Still Terror Base

“The Biden administration is holding out the CIA operation that killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri as a monumental strike against the global terror network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001. But there’s a downside, too. The drone strike also is putting into stark relief the mounting evidence that after 20 years of America’s military presence — and then sudden departure — Afghanistan has once again become an active staging ground for Islamic terror groups looking to attack the West. The operation, carried out over the weekend after at least six months spent monitoring movements by al-Zawahri and his family, came just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from the country. The Biden administration is making the case that the operation shows Americans at home and allies abroad that the United States hasn’t lost focus — or the ability to strike terrorists in the region — and validates its decision to end two decades of fighting in Afghanistan with its withdrawal. Announcing the strike from the White House, President Joe Biden said Monday night that “justice” had been exacted on a leader who in recent weeks had recorded videos calling for his followers to attack the United States and allies.”

Reuters: Somalia Appoints Al Shabaab Co-Founder As Religion Minister

“Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre on Tuesday named a co-founder and spokesman of the Islamist al Shabaab as minister for religious affairs, a move that could either help strengthen the fight against the insurgents or provoke further clan clashes. Mukhtar Robow had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head after he co-founded al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab and served as the group's spokesman. Al Shabaab insurgents have killed tens of thousands of people in bombings in their fight to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed central government and implement its interpretation of Islamic law. Robow split from the group in 2013 and publicly denounced al Shabaab when he came to the government side in 2017. But the relationship soured after he grew too politically powerful. Somalia's previous government arrested Robow in December 2018 as he campaigned for the regional presidency of southwest state. Security forces shot dead at least 11 people in the protests that followed, sparking criticism from the United Nations.”

United States

Axios: U.S. Issues Terrorism Threats Alert After Al-Zawahiri Killing

“The State Department warned Tuesday that there is a “higher potential for anti-American violence” following the U.S. killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Why it matters: The U.S. drone strike against al-Zawahiri in Kabul delivered the most significant blow to the terrorist group since the death of Osama bin Laden, but it has also triggered concern about renewed threats against U.S. citizens as al-Qaeda and its allies consider their next move. What they're saying: “The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas,” the agency said in its Worldwide Caution advisory on Tuesday. “The Department of State believes there is a higher potential for anti-American violence given the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022,” the State Department continued. “Current information suggests that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions across the globe,” the State Department noted. “These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Deports 9,000 Foreign Terrorist Fighters Since 2011

“Turkey has deported 9,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 102 different nationalities, of which 1,168 are from the United States or the European Union member countries since 2011. In the statement made by the Directorate of Migration Management of the Ministry of Interior, it was stated Tuesday that the efforts to deport foreign terrorist fighters who came from their countries to join terrorist organizations continue. In the statement, it was noted that 9,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 102 different nationalities have been deported since the Syrian civil war started in 2011. When the nationality distribution of the deported foreign terrorist fighters is considered, the statement noted that EU countries ranked first and that 59 foreign terrorist fighters from the United States and 1,109 foreign terrorist fighters from EU member countries have been sent to their countries since 2011, according to the scope of the studies carried out. The statement also underlined that 126 foreign terrorist fighters were deported from 12 EU countries in 2019, 95 foreign terrorist fighters from eight EU countries in 2020 and 69 foreign terrorist fighters from eight EU countries in 2021. In the seven-month period of this year, 20 foreign terrorist fighters from six EU countries were deported.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Ties With Al Qaeda Endure, As Terrorist Leader Killed By U.S. In Afghan Capital

“Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had been living for months in the heart of Kabul, a short walk from the now-closed British embassy and next door to a house owned by a longtime ally: Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s powerful minister of interior, according to a person briefed by Taliban officials. In the hours after the terrorist mastermind was killed by a U.S. drone strike as he stood on the balcony of his home, Taliban security officials descended on the building to wipe away signs of Zawahiri’s presence and to escort his wife, daughter and grandchildren to a new location, a senior U.S. administration official said. On Tuesday, Taliban police and intelligence agents swarmed the area, warning people to keep away and threatening journalists with arrest. The house is tucked away in a dead-end street in Sherpur, a Kabul neighborhood once popular with the city’s Western residents. The leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban have lived in symbiosis for decades, ever since Osama bin Laden found refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban government in the 1990s. That alliance has been remarkably resilient, surviving the toppling of the Taliban regime and two decades of U.S.-led military presence. And, as the refuge chosen by Zawahiri shows, the relationship is still strong today, despite pledges made by Taliban leaders seeking international assistance that their government wouldn’t allow terrorist organizations to plot attacks on the U.S. or other Western nations from its territory.”

Foreign Policy: Taliban Killings Skyrocket In Forgotten Afghanistan

“The Taliban’s killings of former members of the Afghan military and rights groups have spiked in recent months, according to a recent report compiled by Afghan diplomats and civil service staff. The militant group is seeking to crack down on perceived regime opponents while also clashing with resistance groups. During bouts of fighting with the so-called National Resistance Front across three Afghan provinces in May as well as after armed uprisings in some of Afghanistan’s eastern and southern provinces, the report concludes the Taliban arbitrarily detained, tortured, and killed dozens of civilians they accused of being linked with the deaths of their fighters. “Shoot them in the head: male or female, anyone who opposes the Taliban and Islamic Emirate. They are brainwashed by Americans, and the only solution is to shoot them in the head,” Mullah Babak, a known Taliban official from Wardak province, said in a video shared on social media at the time. “I am ready to come and shoot those captured by Taliban by my own gun, right in their head, and kill them like dogs and donkeys.” In one instance documented in the report, a son of a former Afghan intelligence official was tortured to death inside the Taliban’s district police center in Badakhshan; other former Afghan National Army officers have been forcibly disappeared without a trace.”

The Media Line: At Time Of Deadly Strike, Al-Qaida’s Zawahiri Was Hiding In Afghan Minister’s Home

“…At the time of the drone strike, Zawahiri was sitting on the balcony of the house where he was hiding with his family in the center of the Afghan capital of Kabul. The home was owned by Sirajuddin Haqqani, “who is not only the leader of the Haqqani, but he is also the interior minister of Afghanistan,” said Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project and former coordinator of the ISIL, al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council. The Haqqani Network is a semi-autonomous paramilitary arm of the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan a year ago following the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops. Afghan journalists have reported that Haqqani’s son and son-in-law also were killed in the strike. A senior White House official said Tuesday, however, that there is “no evidence of any other loss of life or casualty in this strike that was a precise and calibrated strike targeted on one individual and successfully executed.” “A house owned by the interior minister of Afghanistan had the most-wanted terrorist on the globe. This really confirms the fact that Taliban is harboring al-Qaida in Afghanistan.” Schindler told The Media Line.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Al-Zawahri’s Death Puts The Focus Back On Al Qaeda

“No terrorist group, not even the Islamic State, has had the notoriety and immediate name recognition of Al Qaeda. But the killing of the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a C.I.A. drone strike early Sunday marks a pivotal inflection point for the global organization. Eight of its top leaders have been killed in the past three years, and it is unclear who will succeed al-Zawahri. Yet Al Qaeda is in more countries and has more total fighters than it did on Sept. 11, 2001, when it attacked the United States. Some of its franchises that have sprung up since then, particularly in Somalia and the Sahel region of West Africa, are ascendant, seizing swaths of territory from weak governments and spending millions of dollars on new weapons, despite a decade’s effort to weaken and contain them. None of these affiliates pose the same kind of threat to the American homeland that Al Qaeda did on Sept. 11. But they are deadly and resilient. The Qaeda affiliate in East Africa killed three Americans at a U.S. base in Kenya in 2020. A Saudi officer training in Florida killed three sailors and wounded eight other people in 2019. The officer acted on his own but was in contact with the Qaeda branch in Yemen as he completed his attack plans.”

AFP: Al-Qaeda Faces Succession Quandary After Zawahiri Killing

“…But after US special forces killed bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, he played a key role in encouraging a decentralisation of the group, which resulted in Al-Qaeda franchises emerging all over the planet. These include the Al-Shabaab who still control a large chunk of rural Somalia, the JNIM active in West Africa -- in particular Mali, and the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) branch. “He accepted major new players in the Al-Qaeda network,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the NGO Counter-Extremism Project and a former UN advisor. “So it is a blow to Al-Qaeda,” he said. But “it's not going to stop anything” planned by Al-Qaeda affiliates. The most likely successors pointed to by analysts contacted by AFP include two other Egyptians. One contender is Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian special forces lieutenant-colonel and figure in the old guard of Al-Qaeda, whose presence has been reported in Iran. The Islamic republic's Shiite rulers officially oppose the Sunni Al-Qaeda but opponents have repeatedly accused Iran of cooperating with network and giving sanctuary to its leaders. Also in the running is Abu Abd al-Karim al-Masri who is part of the leadership of Syrian jihadist group Hurras al-Din and believed to be in Syria. “Zawahiri was not involved in the day-to-day decision-making of the affiliates... but you need a figurehead with a certain prominence and seniority because all the heads of all the affiliates need to swear personal loyalty to him,” said Schindler.”

New York Post: Saif Al-Adel Likely To Become Al Qaeda’s Next Chief, Analysts Say

“The likely successor to al Qaeda after a strike killed leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is a veteran commando from Egypt who could serve as a “fixer” for the terror group, analysts said. Saif al-Adel is likely to take over as the terror group’s emir in the aftermath of Saturday’s drone strike that killed al-Zawahiri and ended the 21-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden’s successor, according to the Middle East Institute. The Egyptian-born commando has extensive experience as a military operative and in operational planning, according to the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, which named him as a possible successor to al-Zawahiri weeks prior to the latter’s killing. Al-Adel — who uses aliases including Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi, Seif Al Adel and Ibrahim Al-Madani — could ultimately serve as a “fixer” for the terror group, ICCT analysts believe. “However, al-Adel has historically preferred to keep a low profile in his military and intelligence roles, pointing to a possible, though less likely, future as a figurehead if he becomes emir,” terror experts Tricia Bacon and Elizabeth Grimm wrote on July 15. But al-Adel is believed to be in Iran, which complicates matters, according to Charles Lister, a senior fellow and director of the group’s Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism programs.”

Al Monitor: UAE Laws Clamp Down On Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing

“The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates announced today new measures to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism. The bank released a statement on procedures that licensed financial institutions must follow with regard to “politically exposed persons.” Such individuals are at higher risk of conducting money laundering, terrorism and financing and other illicit finances, per the Central Bank.  Financial institutions must develop “risk-based policies” to identify politically exposed persons and their associates, including family members. The institutions need to further “maintain transaction monitoring systems” for suspicious activity and report any potential instances of money laundering or terrorism financing to the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit. The financial institutions must demonstrate compliance with these measures within one month, according to the Central Bank’s statement. Why it matters: The UAE is working to strengthen  regarding oversight and regulations on money laundering, sanctions evasion and other financial crimes. The country has been criticized by watchdogs, foreign governments and others regarding dark money flows as well as alleged Iran and Russia sanctions violations.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Nigerian Police Bolster Security In Capital Abuja With More Manpower

“Nigeria's police has deployed additional manpower around Abuja to bolster security of “critical national assets and vulnerable facilities,” its spokesperson said on Tuesday, days after local reports of an attack at a checkpoint near the capital. Africa's most populous nation faces growing insecurity from an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnappings for ransom in the northwest and armed criminal gangs roaming the country. Local newspapers reported last Thursday that suspected Islamist militants attacked a military checkpoint at an area bordering Abuja and Niger state, killing some soldiers. Nigeria's army and police have not responded to requests for comment on the reported attack. Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) national spokesperson, said in a statement that Inspector General Usman Alkali Baba had allayed residents' fears concerning “recent perceived security threats,” which he did not detail. Adejobi said NPF was deploying “additional police operatives and operational assets within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs to solidify the security and protection of lives and property of its residents, critical national assets and vulnerable facilities.”

Premium Times Nigeria: Fear Of Terrorists’ Attack Spreads Across Nigeria’s South-West

“The police in Ekiti State are the latest security agency to announce they have begun reinforcement on security in border towns in the state over reports of an impending attack by terrorists. Morounkeji Adesina, the police commissioner in the state, said the command is not treating the alarm with levity, even though it is yet to be confirmed. He said he had ordered the scaling up of security in all the border towns in collaboration with other sister agencies and local security architectures. He said his operatives were also keeping tabs on some suspected forests across the state so that they won’t be caught unawares. “We received the alert just like every other Nigerian, but we are not treating it with levity, despite viewing it as a mere rumour,” Mr Adesina told journalists in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday. “My men and officers are responding accordingly.” Fear of an attack by terrorists, who had already struck several times in the federal capital, Abuja, has been gradually spreading across south-west Nigeria. The fear came after rumours of infiltration of the terrorists into forests in the region emerged on social media last week. Gani Adams, the leader of the O’dua People’s Congress, last week also raised the alarm that bandits had infiltrated some sprawling forests in Oyo, Ondo and Osun States.”

Africa

Reuters: Burkina Faso Army Admits Killing Civilians In Counter-Terrorist Strike

“Burkina Faso's army said on Wednesday that it accidentally killed civilians during a counter-terrorist operation in the country's southeast earlier this week. The West African country has been battling an insurgency by Islamist militant groups, some linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, which control large swathes of territory and wage frequent attacks. "During operations which made it possible to neutralize several dozen terrorists, the strikes unfortunately caused collateral victims within the civilian population," the army said in a statement. It did not say how many civilians were killed. The victims were hit by projectiles in the zone between Kompienga and Pognoa, near the border with Togo, on Monday, it said. Togo, which has been contending with the spillover of militancy from Burkina Faso, accidentally killed seven civilians in an air strike last month near the same border.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Manchester Arena Attack: Judge Issues New Arrest Warrant For Brother Of Bomber

“A new arrest warrant has been issued for Ismail Abedi, the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber, for failing to appear at the inquiry into the terror attack. Manchester Magistrates Court issued the warrant on Tuesday morning. Abedi was convicted earlier this year of failing to appear at the inquiry after he was ordered to attend. Abedi, 29, had refused to answer questions from the inquiry in case he incriminated himself. The chairman, Sir John Saunders, rejected his position at the time and demanded he appear. It has been reported that Abedi fled the country last year and is now using the name Ben Romdhan. His younger brother Hashem Abedi was jailed for murdering 22 people in the terrorist attack. Hashem Abedi helped his older sibling Salman to plan the atrocity on 22 May 2017. The court heard during his trial that he was “just as guilty” as his older brother, who detonated the bomb during the attack. An arrest warrant was issued for Ismail Abedi in November last year after he fled the county rather than give evidence at the inquiry. Police believe that he had a “very unhealthy interest” in the terrorist group Isis, after gathering material from his phone and laptops. Ismail Abedi was stopped coming back from his honeymoon in September 2013 and the contents of his phone were downloaded.”

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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