Eye on Extremism: August 31, 2021

Associated Press: Taliban Celebrate Victory As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan

“Taliban fighters watched the last U.S. planes disappear into the sky over Afghanistan around midnight Monday and then fired their guns into the air, celebrating victory after a 20-year insurgency that drove the world’s most powerful military out of one of the poorest countries. The departure of the U.S. cargo planes marked the end of a massive airlift in which tens of thousands of people fled Afghanistan, fearful of the return of Taliban rule after the militants took over most of the country and rolled into the capital earlier this month. “The last five aircraft have left, it’s over!” said Hemad Sherzad, a Taliban fighter stationed at Kabul’s international airport. “I cannot express my happiness in words. ... Our 20 years of sacrifice worked.” In Washington, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, announced the completion of America’s longest war and the evacuation effort, saying the last planes took off from Kabul airport at 3:29 p.m. EDT — one minute before midnight Monday in Kabul. “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said. With its last troops gone, the U.S. ended its 20-year war with the Taliban back in power. Many Afghans remain fearful of their rule or of further instability, and there have been sporadic reports of killings and other abuses in areas under Taliban control despite the group’s pledges to restore peace and security.”

NPR: House Panel Investigating The Capitol Attack Orders 35 Companies To Preserve Records

“The Democratic-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has issued orders to 35 social media and communications companies to preserve records, as the panel continues to expand its probe into the deadly riot. The companies include telecom giants AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, as well as other platforms where communications tied to the siege may have taken place in the months leading up to January. The House committee is targeting the records of individuals who have been charged with crimes related to the attack, and those who participated in a rally preceding the riot or in its potential planning. Monday's orders follow the committee's requests last week to federal agencies and other preservation orders to social media companies in its first wave of document demands since the panel was formed and held its first hearing. “The Select Committee today sent letters to 35 private-sector entities, including telecommunications, email, and social media companies, instructing them to preserve records which may be relevant to the Select Committee's investigation,” a select committee spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual.”

United States

Reuters: U.S. Says Brooklyn Woman Who Aided Islamic State Is Arrested After Skipping Hearing

“A Brooklyn woman who faces a resentencing for supporting Islamic State but skipped a court hearing because she feared being sent back to prison has been arrested in New Mexico, U.S. prosecutors said. Sinmyah Amera Ceasar, who prosecutors said used the name “Umm Nutella” in her role as a “committed recruiter” for Islamic State, was arrested on Friday afternoon by FBI agents following a nationwide search, prosecutors said in a letter on Sunday. Ceasar, 26, had missed a scheduled appearance in Brooklyn federal court on Aug. 25, one week after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out what it called her “shockingly low” four-year prison term and ordered her resentenced. In their letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, prosecutors said Ceasar, when she was arrested, did not have the GPS ankle bracelet she was supposed to wear, and before fleeing had told others she “expected to be sent to prison” at the Aug. 25 conference. Prosecutors also said Ceasar should remain in federal custody, given that “there is no longer any conceivable argument that she is not a risk of flight.” Federal public defenders who represent Ceasar were not immediately available on Monday for comment.”

The Hill: White House: Biden Told Commanders To 'Stop At Nothing' To Go After ISIS

“President Biden has told his top generals that they should “stop at nothing” to make Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate pay for the 13 U.S. service members’ deaths in Kabul last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “I can tell you that the president has made clear to his commanders that they should stop at nothing to make ISIS pay for the deaths of those American service members at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said when asked if Biden personally gave the Pentagon permission for a Sunday drone strike on an explosives-laden vehicle. U.S. Central Command carried out the airstrike on the vehicle, which was traveling through a residential neighborhood in Kabul carrying “an imminent ISIS-K threat” to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to the Defense Department. The strike follows a suicide bombing carried out by so-called ISIS-K, a branch of ISIS that operates in South Asia and Central Asia, near the airport Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans. “They have the authorities necessary, it is self-defense,” Psaki continued. “Obviously, these are ISIS terrorists who killed U.S. service members, and the president is regularly briefed, but he has directed them to go after and to kill these ISIS terrorists who have taken the lives of the men and women serving our country.”

Forbes: New Terrorism Peril For Transportation Networks

“Much of the coverage of America’s exit from Afghanistan has focused on the chaos at the Kabul airport, the vital challenge of getting Americans and Afghans out of the country, and the lives saved. Of longer-term importance is how the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will affect Americans here in the United States. U.S. transportation networks, with their dependence on technology, are particularly vulnerable. Afghanistan now gives terrorists a base to launch coordinated, sophisticated attacks against the United States, as was the case on September 11, 2001. Those attacks and many others targeted transportation systems. America was the victim of coordinated plane attacks on 9/11. When the planes hit the World Trade Center I was in the office of the Director of the National Economic Council in the West Wing of the White House. We were told to leave in case the fourth plane, which passengers took down in Pennsylvania, hit the White House. Throughout the day, the federal government defined the threat as attacks on airliners. Civil aviation in America and around the world was halted for a week. Terrorists have targeted transportation systems in other countries. Spain suffered explosions on four commuter trains on March 11, 2004, killing almost 200 people and injuring another 2,000.”

Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat: ISIS Attacks Russian-Backed Militia In Deir Ezzor

“A Russian-backed Fifth Corps militia was attacked by unknown assailants in the desert of the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, coinciding with intense Russian air raids on ISIS positions. Ein al-Euphrates network reported that the Fifth Corps established a checkpoint near its military point in al-Masrib, west of Deir Ezzor, but unknown elements targeted the point with two RPGs, injuring three members. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported a comprehensive attack of ISIS cells on posts and positions of regime forces in the al-Masrab desert in western Deir Ezzor. Five Russian fighters have taken part in the combat, but no casualties have been reported. SOHR documented the death of three fighters from the National Defense Forces (NDF) due to the explosion of an old landmine planted earlier by ISIS in al-Duwayr village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. Meanwhile, according to the Euphrates Post, Deir Ezzor witnessed increased displacement movement over the past few days, whether from areas under the control of the Assad regime or the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The website said it was the most significant displacement in the region in years due to forced conscription, unemployment, and the deterioration of living and economic conditions.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Macron Visits Erbil And Mosul, Vows To Stay The Course Against IS

“French President Emmanuel Macron on Aug. 30 visited the former “capital” of the Islamic State (IS), Mosul, a day after taking part in the Baghdad Conference, involving several high-level leaders from the region, in the Iraqi capital. He had flown to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, on the night of Aug. 29, where he met with Yazidi Nobel Peace Prize laureate and IS torture survivor Nadia Murad as well as senior Kurdish officials. During the visit Aug. 30, Macron met with President of Iraqi Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani, the latter stressed the significance of the French president's trip to Iraq in supporting the democratic process. Iraq is holding early elections Oct. 10. The two leaders discussed the bilateral relationship between Iraq and France and the latter's role in fighting terrorism in Iraq. On his visit to Mosul, Macron made a speech at the Church of Our Lady of the Hour, which is currently under restoration. He also visited the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a 'caliphate' in June 2014. Iraq is a Muslim-majority country with a population of around 40 million. Non-Muslims account for about 5% of the population.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Investigates Kabul Airstrike; 10 Afghan Civilians Died, Relatives Say

“The Pentagon pledged a transparent investigation of an airstrike in Kabul on Sunday that it said was aimed at foiling an attack by Islamic State militants on the Afghan capital’s airport. A missile that day killed 10 civilians—all relatives of a former interpreter who had been seeking a U.S. special immigrant visa because he feared retribution from the Taliban, family members and a neighbor said. Emal Ahmady, who said he worked as a translator for an American company from 2011 to 2014, said in a telephone interview that five children in his extended family were killed, along with five adults. He wasn’t home at the time, he said. A neighbor reached by telephone said that Mr. Ahmady’s brother had just pulled his car into the yard of the family home when children crowded around the vehicle to greet him. Some adults were also standing nearby, Mr. Ahmady said. Then there was a deafening explosion, the neighbor said. “All children are in love with riding in a car or being around them,” Mr. Ahmady said. Then he began to cry before saying “I no longer care” about the visa and hanging up the phone. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, asked if there were civilian casualties in Sunday’s strike, said, “We are not in a position to dispute it.”

New York Post: Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda Security Chief Back In Afghanistan, Videos Show

“A senior al Qaeda commander who was Osama bin Laden’s security chief has apparently returned to Afghanistan after two decades living in Pakistan, according to videos posted to social media. Amin ul-Haq arrived back in his hometown in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, video purports to show, a day before the US withdrawal from the war-torn country was set to end and less than two weeks after the Taliban seized control. Videos circulating on Twitter appear to show ul-Haq being driven through a Taliban checkpoint in a convoy of SUVs as a small crowd gathered nearby. At one point in the video, ul-Haq can be seen rolling down the window of the vehicle to shake hands and pose for selfies with some men. His SUV was followed by a number of other vehicles, including some bearing the Taliban flag. Ul-Haq was the leader of bin Laden’s so-called Black Guard when the terror leader was holed up in his Tora Bora hideout 20 years ago. He reportedly helped bin Laden and others flee to Pakistan in December 2001 when US forces were hunting him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Ul-Haq fled to Pakistan several years later when US forces targeted Tora Bora again in 2007.”

Pakistan

Gulf News: Two Pakistani Soldiers Killed In Cross Border Terrorist Attack From Afghanistan

“Two Pakistani soldiers lost their lives in the country’s northwest district by terrorist fire from across the Afghan border, Pakistan’s military said. The incident occurred in Pakistan’s district of Bajaur bordering Afghanistan. “Terrorists from inside Afghanistan across the international border, opened fire on a military post in Bajaur district” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the official statement said. The army said it retaliated and killed at least two terrorists and injured three or four. Sepoy Jamal, 28, a resident of Mardan, and Sepoy Ayaz, 21, a resident of Chitral, were martyred in the attack, the military said. This is the second such reported attack since the Taliban took over Afghanistan following the collapse of the Kabul government on August 15. On August 26, a paramilitary soldier Havaldar Gul Ameer lost his life in the terror attack from Afghanistan on a military post in Lower Dir along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan security forces killed one terrorist in response to cross border attack from inside Afghanistan. The official statement did not say which group was responsible for the attacks but the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) whose leaders and fighters are reported to be in Afghanistan have been frequently using Afghan soil to plot cross-border terrorist attacks.”

Middle East

Asharq Al-Awsat: Israel Provides Intel To Western Countries On Extremism Financing 

“Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu scaled back Israel's intelligence cooperation with the United States when President Joe Biden took office earlier this year. Sources in Tel Aviv said that Naftali Bennett's government decided to cancel Netanyahu's instructions and release its information on sensitive issues, including extremism financing. The sources noted that the Israeli National Security Council held numerous meetings with their US counterpart last week and other secret meetings with US and European officials. They explained that the intel provided by the Israelis relates to Iran and its affiliates and all terrorist activities in the region. The meetings also discussed the extremist organizations in Europe and the Americas. Israel provided information about the funding of these organizations. It asserted that the “follow the money” proven has proven its effectiveness in combating these organizations, so Israel is pursuing it through high-tech means and cyber-attacks. That changed after the election of Biden, who promised to restore the nuclear agreement with Iran, which Israel so vigorously opposed. Netanyahu even curtailed intelligence sharing with the United States in the spring because he did not trust the Biden administration.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: US Eager To Help Nigeria Identify Sponsors Of Terrorism – American Ambassador

“The United States has expressed its readiness to assist Nigeria identify sponsors of terrorism in the country. This was disclosed on Monday by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, during a meeting with journalists in Abuja. US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard. When the envoy was asked if the US was ready to help Nigeria identify sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria, she said talks were ongoing on the matter, The Punch reports. Leonard said, “That is something we are very eager to partner Nigeria on. I have had at least three conversations in the last two months on this subject. “I won’t like to go into details.” She also allayed fear that the US partnership with Nigeria might end up like that of Afghanistan. According to her, Nigeria has had a strong bilateral relationship with the US, saying that the situations are not the same. She added, “I hear people making the analogy with Afghanistan a lot, it does not match up. “When you listen to what President Biden said on how troops went to Afghanistan in the first place, it was because they were in a horrible tragedy, over 3,000 Americans were killed. “That is a different construct. The sovereign nations who have had strong bilateral relations. I don’t actually think the two match up.”

Mali

AFP: Surge In Jihadist Violence Against Civilians In Mali: UN

“The UN mission in Mali warned Monday that violence against civilians, notably by jihadists but also by sectarian militias and the army, is on the rise in the poor Sahel country. In a quarterly report covering April, May and June, MINUSMA’s human rights division said the Islamists were pushing southward. “Through local ‘non-aggression or reconciliation’ agreements signed under duress by beleaguered communities, these groups have also been able to impose draconian restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, particularly against women,” the report said. “Between April and June, at least 527 civilians were killed, injured or abducted/disappeared, an overall increase of more than 25 percent from the first quarter” of 2021, it said. The Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) were responsible for 54 percent of the casualties and kidnappings, the report said.GISM, the largest jihadist alliance in the Sahel, is linked to Al-Qaeda. The report said jihadists kidnapped 156 people, mainly those thought to be informants or close to Malian or international forces. “JNIM and similar groups continued to strengthen their territorial hold, particularly in the rural areas of central Mali, with a notable expansion” in the south, the report said.”

Germany

Asharq Al-Awsat: Germany Arrests Woman Accused Of Helping ISIS Group

“A German woman was arrested Monday on suspicion of helping the ISIS group by backing efforts to transfer money to militants, prosecutors said. The suspect, identified only as Denise S., was arrested in Geretsried, near Munich and faces possible charges of supporting a foreign terrorist organization. She is accused of supporting Aymen A.-J., an Iraqi man who was arrested in Germany earlier this year. Federal prosecutors said that the woman's main job was to establish contact with female ISIS members and keep them up-to-date on upcoming money transfers. She is accused of calling for donations for an ISIS member who was supposed to be freed from a Kurdish refugee camp, to enable her return to the extremist group, and of setting up an account to receive donations. She also allegedly had Aymen A.-J. transfer 200 euros ($235) to an ISIS member in Idlib, Syria. Aymen A.-J. is accused of transferring at least $12,000 to Syria and Lebanon between June and September 2020 to help ISIS fighters. Prosecutors say he was arrested at the German-Swiss border in January as he left to leave the country to fight for ISIS in Syria or Africa.”

Southeast Asia

Nikkei Asia: Southeast Asia On Alert For Al-Qaida And ISIS Links After Kabul Attack

“Law enforcement agencies in multiple Southeast Asian nations are on high alert against terrorist groups potentially emboldened by the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and a deadly Islamic State attack at the Kabul airport. In Indonesia, the national police's counterterrorism detachment known as Densus 88 began monitoring social media and other sources for Taliban sympathizers. Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, has a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for minority faiths. But the country is no stranger to terrorism, with extremist groups seeking to impose Islamic law. Authorities fear a spillover effect from instability in Afghanistan. Hours before extremist group ISIS-K launched the suicide attack against the airport in Kabul, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met Thursday with senior Taliban official Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai in Doha to urge that Afghanistan “does not become a breeding ground for terrorist organization and activities,” the minister tweeted. Indonesia later denounced the attack, which killed 13 U.S. military members and scores of Afghans. “There are groups in this country who sympathize with the Taliban,” Boy Rafli Amar, the head of Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency, warned on Aug. 19, pledging to bolster surveillance."

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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