Eye on Extremism: August 31, 2020

The Jerusalem Post: ISIS Spreading In Africa, Seizes A City In Mozambique

“Three years after ISIS appeared to be on its last legs in Iraq and Syria it has seized a city in Mozambique. The city is called Mocimboa da Praia and now there are fears it may have a foothold that is growing in the country. This slow process of ISIS radicalization has taken place for a year or more. However it was largely dismissed as fear mongering. Now the group has infiltrated and some are concerned that it may be on the cusp of a larger offensive. Much like in the ISIS offensive in Iraq in the summer of 2014 the attacks in southeast Africa have displaced hundreds of thousands. There are questions about how the port city might be re-taken by security forces.  The port now affects the whole of Cabo Delgado province. This is in northern Mozambique. The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned of a humanitarian crises that may grow. While some still argue that ISIS is not actually causing or driving the war here, but it is instead just inequality and poverty, the kinds of images from Mozambique look like the same Islamist insurgencies in Nigeria or Somalia or other areas. While the international community is distracted by COVID-19 and major powers like the US no longer play a role in coordinating efforts like concentrating on these kinds of emergencies, ISIS can thrive in the margins.”

The New York Times: Taliban Violated Afghan Deal With Shelling Of American Bases, U.S. Officials Say

“Rockets launched at a U.S. military base and a joint U.S.-Afghan airfield in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks are believed to have been fired by the Taliban, according to three American military officials, in what would amount to a clear breach of the peace agreement between the United States and the insurgent group. Roughly a dozen rockets struck in late July around Camp Bastion, a sprawling air base used by Afghan and American forces in the southern province of Helmand. And several rockets were fired within the last week or so at Camp Dwyer, a large U.S. military base about 50 miles south of Bastion. A Taliban commander familiar with the region denied that the group had carried out any strikes on American bases in Helmand and said that the group would investigate. The rocket strikes may also have been carried out by a Taliban faction that is against the agreement, according to one military official who was briefed on the matter. There were no U.S. casualties in either attack, nor a public response from Washington during a stretch in which American officials have struggled to keep an already shaky peace process on track. The American-led mission in Afghanistan also declined to comment.”

United States

Fox News: Man Arrested In NYPD Officer's Stabbing Showed Support For Islamic State

“A Bosnian illegal immigrant accused of stabbing a New York City police officer in the neck and stealing his gun, then chasing other officers, had an interest in Islamic extremism, prosecutors alleged on Thursday. Dzenan Camovic, 21, screamed “Allahu Akbar” as he approached Officer Yayonfrant Jean Pierre who was stationed at an anti-looting post on a Brooklyn street corner and stabbed him in the neck, according to surveillance and body camera footage of the June 3 incident as well as media accounts. After the stabbing, Camovic is seen chasing another officer, Randy Ramnarine, before rushing back toward Jean Pierre. Ramnarine fired two shots at Camovic and Jean Pierre fired six times, according to authorities. Camovic then wrestled Jean Pierre's gun away from him and fired six shots — wounding Ramnarine and another officer in the hand, authorities said. Ramnarine and a responding sergeant returned fire. Both officers survived their injuries. Camovic was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the face, legs and torso before being moved to the city's Rikers Island jail complex. His injuries, including a shattered wrist and elbow, have required several surgeries and he is still receiving physical therapy, Camovic's lawyer, Robert Stahl told the Associated Press.”

Business Insider: Fake N95 Face Masks Were Being Sold On This ISIS-Linked Website — And It Shows How Terror Groups Are Using COVID-19 As A Propaganda Tool

“The US Justice Department shut down an ISIS-affiliated scam that attempted sell fake personal protective equipment (PPE) through a website and Facebook accounts, which researchers say is another novel way terrorists are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. FaceMaskCenter.com, a now-defunct website that claimed to sell FDA-approved N95 respirator masks and other sought-after PPE, contained all the hallmarks of a legitimate online store — including accepting credit cards. The website claimed it was “the original online personal protective equipment supplier and was the first of its kind” since its inception in 1996, when in fact the site was created February 26, 2020. The website was seized by the Justice Department and visitors are now greeted with an official disclaimer and a phone number to call if they were victims of the scam. It was not immediately clear if anyone purchased PPE from the website; however, when a US-based customer contacted the website to purchase masks for first-responders, a Syrian national living in Turkey responded by saying he could “easily provide up to 100,000 N95 masks, which he claimed to have in his possession,” according to the Justice Department's complaint.”

The National: Terrorist Preacher Abu Hamza Sues US Over ‘Cruel’ Prison Conditions

“Extremist preacher Abu Hamza is taking legal action against the US over “cruel” conditions in the maximum security prison where he is jailed. The Egypt-born cleric, who delivered hate-filled speeches at Finsbury Park mosque in north London, has complained of inhuman treatment in solitary confinement in the United States. In a civil lawsuit, Abu Hamza claims he has been reduced to tearing food packages open with his rotten teeth after being deprived of his hooks or any other prosthesis for his arms. The Al Qaeda imam has also said he has been deprived of sunlight in his isolated cell and explained he’d launched a 10-day hunger strike over the treatment, according to The Sunday Times. In the suit filed against US Attorney General William Barr, Abu Hamza said he was suffering from stress and anxiety because of the “inhuman and degrading” conditions inside ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado. He has been incarcerated inside the Rocky Mountains prison after being extradited to the United States on terrorist charges in 2012 and given a life sentence without parole. Abu Hamza, whose real name is Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, was convicted in 2014 of facilitating satellite communications between kidnappers during a 1998 attack that killed four tourists in Yemen, of supporting plans to open an Al Qaeda training camp in Bly, Oregon, and sending someone to an Afghanistan training camp.”

Iraq

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Cut Troop Presence In Iraq By About One-Third, Officials Say

“The Pentagon is cutting the U.S. force in Iraq to about 3,500 troops, U.S. officials said, a roughly one-third reduction that President Trump is expected to tout as progress toward winding down what he has described as endless wars. The U.S. and Iraq refrained from publicly setting a schedule for reducing the approximately 5,200 American troops now in the country when Iraq’s prime minister visited Washington last week. Several American officials said the Pentagon is cutting troop levels by roughly one-third over the next two to three months. That would bring American force levels roughly back to where they were in 2015 when the U.S. was in the early phase of its campaign against Islamic State. The Pentagon confirmed The Wall Street Journal’s report late Friday. “We are reducing troop levels as the Iraqi capability to defeat ISIS remnants and prevent its resurgence improves, said Navy Commander Jessica McNulty, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Any reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq will be determined through careful coordination with the Government of Iraq, as well as with our Coalition and NATO partners, and calibrated to our shared security interests and progress in the campaign against ISIS.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Sleeper Cell Attack Kills Four SDF Fighters Near Iraq Border: Statement

“Four Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters were killed during an attack by members of the so-called Islamic State near al-Dashisha area close to the Iraqi border on Friday, the SDF announced on Sunday. “Sleeper cells” of the terrorist organization launched another attack, targeting the defense units stationed in al-Dashisha area of Deir al-Zor, four fighters of which were “martyred,” the SDF media center said in a statement. According to Voice of America, al-Dashisha is a former key Islamic State stronghold and a major corridor for the group to move fighters and resources between Iraq and Syria. The SDF seized it in June 2018. SDF sources suggest that former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was at one point based in al-Dashisha before moving to Idlib. Baghdadi was killed in a US operation in Syria near the Turkish border in October 2019 with the help of intelligence from the SDF. On Saturday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in Tuwaymin in southern Hasakah that allegedly killed five SDF fighters. The SDF has not confirmed the incident. It’s unclear if this is a separate incident from the al-Dashisha attack, with the two locations being near the Iraqi border 34 kilometers apart.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: 3 Afghans Accused Of Links To Insider Attacks That Killed U.S. Troops Are Among Taliban Prisoners To Be Released

“Three Afghans accused of involvement in the deaths of U.S. troops in so-called insider attacks are among more than 300 high-value Taliban prisoners that the Afghan government is set to release to facilitate direct talks with the militant group, according to a senior Afghan official and a Kabul-based diplomat briefed on the matter. The United States has not publicly objected to the expected release of the three prisoners; instead, negotiators are exploring other options, including temporarily placing the inmates under house arrest, the two officials said, both speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The U.S. response puts it at odds with its Western allies: France and Australia have publicly opposed the release of at least three other prisoners accused of carrying out separate attacks against French and Australian nationals, including humanitarian workers. Since a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban was inked in February, U.S. officials have applied consistent, intense pressure on the Afghan government to quickly release all those remaining of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners cited in the deal as a precondition to talks. It was unclear what attacks the three prisoners are alleged to have been involved in or how many Americans were killed.”

Associated Press: Afghan President Names Council For Peace Deal With Taliban

“Afghanistan’s president has appointed a council for national reconciliation, which will have final say on whether the government will sign a peace deal with the Taliban after what are expected to be protracted and uncertain negotiations with the insurgents. The negotiations were envisaged under a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement signed in February as intra-Afghan talks to decide the war-torn country’s future. However, their start has been hampered by a series of delays that have frustrated Washington. Some had expected the negotiations to begin earlier this month. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree late Saturday establishing the 46-member council, led by his former rival in last year’s presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, who is now in the government. The council is separate from a 21-member negotiating team, which Ghani appointed in March and which is expected to travel to the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, for intra-Afghan talks. The council will have the final say and will ultimately decide on the points that the negotiating team takes up with the Taliban. Abdullah’s appointment to head the reconciliation efforts followed a power-sharing deal he signed in May with Ghani to end the political deadlock after last year’s election — a vote in which Abdullah had also declared himself a winner.”

Yemen

The Jerusalem Post: Senior Al-Qaeda Commander Planning Attack Arrested By Yemen's Military

“An al-Qaeda commander was arrested in Yemen on Saturday while he was planning a terrorist attack in the capital Sana'a, according to the Tasnim News Agency. The Yemeni official said that the terrorist was coming from the central province of Ma'rib to carry out a terrorist operation in the capital. Brig.-Gen. Abdul Khaleq al-Ajri, spokesperson of the Yemen's Interior Ministry said that the detained al-Qaeda commander had led the terrorist forces in the Qaifa area of the central province of al-Bayda, where they were forced to flee after suffering defeat from the Yemeni forces. Besides, the Yemeni military is also fighting on the Saudi front, since Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015. While a blockade imposed on Yemen extremely impoverished the country, the ongoing war have already killed tens of thousands of Yemenis, have made immense damages on the country's infrastructure, destroying hospital, schools and factories, and have pushed the country to the brink of famine. Yemen's health system is already on the brink of collapse, kept going through aid. Cholera, malaria and dengue were rife amid a malnourished population even before the coronavirus outbreak.”

Egypt

Arab News: Egypt Kills 77 Extremist Militants In Anti-Terror Operations

“Dozens of militants have been killed in anti-terrorism operations during the period July 22 - Aug. 30, the General Command of the Egyptian Armed Forces said on Sunday. Various operations to clear Egypt of extremists have resulted in the the deaths of 77 militants. Operations had targeted the alleged “homes of terrorists” which led to the deaths of 73 extremists in northern Sinai. Two other militants, considered “extremely dangerous” individuals, were killed in an operation. They were in possession of two automatic rifles, five magazines of ammunition and an explosive belt. In another such operation, two other militants were killed and another was injured. They had four automatic rifles, ammunition, explosives, a motorcycle and sums of money in their possession.  A total of 317 dens, hideouts and stores where explosive materials were kept in northern Sinai by militants and ten four-wheel drive vehicles were also destroyed.  The Air Force also destroyed nine four-wheel drive vehicles loaded with weapons and ammunition while they tried to penetrate the country's western borders. A total of three officers and four soldiers were killed in the operations.”

Nigeria

Agence France-Presse: ISWAP Fighters Kill 14 In Nigeria-Cameroon Border Over ‘Blockade’

“Jihadists have killed 14 people on a Cameroonian island on Lake Chad near the border with Nigeria after their town decided to block food supplies to the insurgents, security sources said Thursday. Fighters from the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) landed on the island of Bulgaram aboard speedboats from an enclave on the Nigerian side late Tuesday, they said. “They came around 6:30 pm (1830 GMT) while people were preparing for evening prayers and shot dead 14 community leaders,” a security source told AFP. Some of the victims were shot in their homes while others were killed in the mosque where they had gone to pray, said another source, who gave a similar toll. The assault was launched after the town — a major logistical route for ISWAP jihadists on the Nigerian side of the lake — decided to cut off food supplies for the jihadists. In recent days, local chiefs had invoked the Koran at a town hall meeting and placed a curse on any resident allowing supplies to the jihadists. The insurgents viewed the decision as a betrayal and a show of support for the local authorities. The past week has seen several Nigerian air raids on ISWAP strongholds that have inflicted heavy casualties, according to military and local sources.”

Somalia

Shabelle Media Network: U.S. Military Denies Al-Shabaab Claims Of American Casualties In Airstrike

“The United States military denied claims by Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab that American military personnel were injured in an airstrike on Monday. The U.S. military conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Dar as Salam after Al-Shabaab militants attacked partner forces from a building. The airstrike killed six militants and injured three others. A statement by the U.S. Africa Command acknowledged that American forces were in the locality to support Somali forces but none of them were casualties in the strike. “When this airstrike occurred, U.S. forces were in the vicinity in order to advise and assist Somali partner forces. Al-Shabaab falsely claimed U.S. casualties. No U.S. forces were injured or killed during the attack,” AFRICOM said in a statement. The Al-Qaeda-linked group is known to use propaganda videos and messages to lure in unsuspecting members, build community support, seek media attention and dupe the Somali public, a fact that AFRICOM was quick to point out given this most recent claim. “Al-Shabaab routinely resorts to the tradecraft of terror, crime, and propaganda to intimidate and seek control of the local populace. Persistent pressure against the al-Shabaab damages their narrative, network, and plans for broader destruction and violence,” Colonel Chris Karns, AFRICOM director of public affairs, said.”

Mali

Reuters: Where State Is Weak, Mali Militants Broker Talks Between Rival Clans

“A few weeks before military officers overthrew Mali’s government in a bloodless coup, a series of meetings in the remote centre of the country underscored how much the state’s grip on power had loosened. Video of one gathering in the rural commune of Sangha shows leaders from the rival Dogon and Fulani communities, whose militias have slaughtered hundreds of civilians in tit-for-tat attacks this year, sitting down together and making peace. Also surprising were the mediators: fighters from al Qaeda’s Mali affiliate, who can be seen squatting in the shade with rifles and ammunition belts, many of their faces obscured by turbans and dark sunglasses. Until recently, members of the al Qaeda-linked Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) - Mali’s most powerful militant group - had sided with the semi-nomadic Fulani herdsmen when they clashed with the Dogon people over land and resources. But flush with new recruits and weapons captured from overwhelmed state forces, the jihadists have turned to mediation in a bid to further entrench their local control, said Idrissa Sankare, a former member of parliament from the area.”

Africa

Reuters: Ten Militants And Five Civilians Killed In East Congo Violence - Army, Local Leader

“Ten Islamist militants were killed after they ambushed an army convoy in eastern Congo on Friday, according to the military, while a community leader said five civilians were killed by members of the same rebel group soon after. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for more than three decades, has killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to United Nations figures. The latest violence saw six Congolese soldiers wounded in clashes with the militants following the ambush near the town of Mbau, army spokesman Antony Mwalushayi said on Sunday. “Two ADF fell on the spot. In the evening after we secured the area, we discovered another eight,” he said, referring to the militant casualties. Not long after the ambush, members of the same ADF group killed five civilians near Mbau, including three women, and took a few hostages, according to Mathe Esdras, head of the local youth council. Reuters could not independently verify his report. The army launched a large offensive against the ADF late last year, sparking a violent backlash against civilians.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Man Charged With Terrorism Offences Had IED Ingredients

“A former Army employee charged with terrorism and explosive offences had the ingredients to make an improvised explosive device (IED), a court heard. Dean Morrice, 33, of Paulton, Somerset, was arrested under the Terrorism Act on 20 August and his property searched. Police found the components for the pyrotechnic composition thermite, ball bearings and metal pipes, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday. He was remanded into custody and is due to appear at the Old Bailey in October. Mr Morrice is charged with possessing the explosive substance black powder, possessing a document containing information useful to terrorism and two counts of transmitting content of a terrorist publication electronically. The allegations against him relate to the period 15 March 2019 to 20 August 2020. Sajad Chaudhury, for the defence, said Mr Morrice was in the military for less than a year and had a desk job. He said his client denied the offences and would plead not guilty in due course. He is next due to appear in court at The Old Bailey on 2 October. The charges follow an investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing South East and Counter Terrorism Policing South West.”

BBC News: Boy, 15, Accused Of Islamic Terror Bomb Plot

“A 15-year-old boy is to stand trial accused of preparing acts of terrorism. The child, who cannot be identified, is accused of trying to make bombs containing shrapnel in an Islamic terror plot. The teenager, from Eastleigh, Hampshire, was arrested on 12 June, according to Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE). He pleaded not-guilty to the charge during a hearing at Leicester Crown Court where he appeared via video link. The boy, who is said to have converted to Islam this year, was charged with preparation of terrorist acts contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 in connection with Islamist terrorism. During the 40-minute hearing, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb remanded the boy into custody until his trial at the same court on 28 September.”

Europe

Daily Sabah: Terrorism From Syria, Iraq Still Poses Threat To Security In Europe, Analysts Say

“The terrorist threat against Europe has mutated in the last half-decade as terrorist groups have seen their Middle East sanctuaries eroded, but analysts say the West must remain braced for more attacks. Both al-Qaida and the Daesh terrorist group – together responsible for the highest-profile and most horrific terror attacks of the past two decades – have lost potency as global organizations. Despite splintering into branches and franchises, their murderous ideology is still able to inspire individuals to carry out random attacks in their name. Next week in Paris, 14 people face trial over the massacres in January 2015 at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and hostages in a Jewish supermarket – violence claimed for both Daesh and al-Qaida. The murderous shooting spree heralded an unprecedented wave of attacks in France. The deadliest was the coordinated attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that year at the Bataclan music venue and other venues, when gunmen killed 130 in a plan stemming from the Daesh group's core leadership in Syria. Experts believe the same style of assault would be unlikely to recur now, not least because Daesh has seen a dramatic loss of its territory and membership in Iraq and Syria.”

Australia

The Sydney Morning Herald: 'More Organised, Sophisticated And Security Conscious Than Before': Right-Wing Extremist Threat Growing

“Australian security agencies are on alert for extremists who could have been inspired by the Christchurch mosque killer and other massacres overseas, as small far-right cells across the country are becoming more organised and sophisticated than ever before. The concern is being heightened by extreme right-wing groups increasingly attracting people from a military background who know how to use weapons, as well as a younger membership who aren't displaying obvious signs of their extremism - making them harder to detect. Brenton Tarrant, 29, was sentenced last week to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to slaughtering 51 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. The Morrison government has opened the door to the Australian-born white supremacist serving out his sentence in Australia. The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation has been increasingly focused on right-wing extremism for a number of years, including the possibility of extremists being inspired by killers such as the Christchurch gunman. The problem is being fuelled by online forums allowing people on the far-right to make quick and easy connections with like-minded individuals around the world, which ASIO believes has created a toxic peer environment in which acts of violence based on extreme right-wing ideologies are “encouraged, glorified and promoted.”