Eye on Extremism: August 4, 2022

Reuters: Tight-Lipped Taliban Leaders Gather After U.S. Says Zawahiri Killed

“Leaders of Afghanistan's Taliban were holding discussions on Wednesday about how to respond to a U.S. drone strike in Kabul that the United States said killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, three sources in the group said. The United States killed Zawahiri with a missile fired from a drone while he stood on a balcony at his Kabul hideout on Sunday, U.S. officials said, in the biggest blow to the militants since Osama bin Laden was shot dead more than a decade ago. The Taliban have not confirmed Zawahiri's death. A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that Washington would continue targeting al Qaeda in Afghanistan to ensure the country would not again become a refuge for "terrorists plotting against the United States." "We will remain vigilant and take action as needed, just like we did this week," warned the official, who said that U.S. President Joe Biden's administration still would engage with the Taliban "when it can help advance American interests.”

Associated Press: Mali’s Capital Bamako Boosts Security Fearing Jihadi Attacks

“In Bamako’s popular Darsalam neighborhood, a young gendarme stands by a newly barricaded street, his hand on the trigger of a rifle pointed slightly to the ground. The armed policeman is a sign of how Mali’s bustling capital of more than 2.5 million people on the banks of the Niger River is on heightened alert as jihadi attacks have moved perilously close to the city. At least 15 extremist attacks hit Mali in June and July, the most daring when jihadi fighters attacked Kati, the country’s largest military base, just 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside the capital. The growing insecurity in Mali, a sprawling country of 20 million people, has increased instability in West Africa’s volatile Sahel region. Mali has had two coups since 2020 in which the military has vowed to do more to stop the jihadi violence.”

United States

Al Arabiya: After The Killing Of Al-Zawahri, Here Is The FBI’s List Of Most Wanted Extremists

“Until Sunday, al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahri was one of the world's most wanted men. As the number one extremist on the FBI’s most wanted list, al-Zawahri and his deceased co-conspirator Osama Bin Laden were the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Centre in New York. Al-Zawahri was considered one of the leaders of terrorism that led the planning and execution of heinous terrorist operations in the US, Saudi Arabia and several other countries across the world. The US government carried out an attack that killed al-Zawahri on July 31 while he stepped out on his balcony in Kabul, Afghanistan. Senior US officials told reporters that the attack was conducted by an unmanned drone, which fired two Hellfire missiles. His name has been crossed off the FBI’s most wanted list, but there are about two dozen more names of suspected terrorists and extremists. Here is a look at some of the other extremists topping the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list – including a relative of al-Zawahri.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: 2 Police Killed In Clash With IS Gunmen In Afghan Capital

“A gunbattle in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul left at least five people dead Wednesday, including two Taliban police and three Islamic State group gunmen, a Taliban official said. Khalid Zadran, the Taliban spokesman for the Kabul police chief, said police had launched an operation against the gunmen's hideout, killing at least three in the Karti Sakhi neighborhood in western Kabul. He said the gunmen were Islamic State group fighters. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. One of the police officers killed was a woman, said Zardan. He said four Taliban police were wounded and one gunman was arrested. The regional affiliate of IS, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, has increased attacks on mosques and minorities across the country. It has been operating in the country since 2014. IS is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s Taliban rulers. Since the Taliban seized power in Kabul and elsewhere in the country last August, the Taliban have launched a sweeping crackdown against the IS headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. Wednesday's gunbattle took place near the Sakhi shrine in the minority Shiite neighborhood where people were busy preparing for the upcoming Ashura holiday. Ashura is the 10th day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic lunar calendar.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Ties Between Al-Qaeda And The Taliban... Will ISIS Benefit From The Rupture?

“After having killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone that hit the home he had been hiding in Kabul, the United States has, to a large extent, finished avenging the 9/11 attacks. The perpetrators were killed in bloody attacks, and Osama bin Laden was then killed by Navy SEALs in May 2011 in Pakistan. Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the “mastermind” behind the attacks, remains in Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan years ago. Many of the other perpetrators are either rotting there with him or were killed by the US. But what does eliminating Zawahiri mean? This article tries to answer that question. The first questions that come to mind ask what Zawahiri was doing in Kabul and whether his being there a year after the Taliban had returned to power, after the collapse of former President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the withdrawal of US forces, meant that an Al-Qaeda's return to the Afghan capital had been sanctioned by the Taliban. As we all know, the US withdrew from Afghanistan after concluding the Doha Agreement with the Taliban during former President Donald Trump’s term and implementing it under Joe Biden. That agreement stipulated, among other things, that the Taliban would not allow terrorist organizations to use Afghan soil to plan or carry out attacks against any other country again.”

Middle East

The Washington Post: After A Deadly 2009 Attack, The CIA’s Hunt For Zawahiri Became Personal

“It was one of the darkest days in CIA history: Seven operatives killed after being lured by a rogue informant into a deadly trap. In the years since, memories of the 2009 disaster in eastern Afghanistan helped to animate the intelligence agency’s global search for an elusive terrorist believed to have played a key role in the officers’ deaths. That terrorist was Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda leader killed on Saturday, in a strike carried out by the CIA. Nothing in official U.S. statements describe Zawahiri’s death as payback for the American losses in Khost, Afghanistan, some 12 years earlier. But many former and current intelligence officers say that’s exactly how it felt. The CIA, per usual practice, has not publicly acknowledged any part in firing the missile that struck Zawahiri as he stood on his balcony in an apartment building in Kabul, the Afghan capital. But since Monday, confirmation of the 71-year-old Egyptian’s death has triggered an emotional response within the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters, and also with former colleagues, friends and family members of those who were killed or wounded in 2009.”

The National: Police Forces On Alert For Revenge Terror Attacks After Al Zawahiri Killing

“Police forces have been warned to be on alert for terrorist attacks after the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri. His death in a drone strike in Kabul at the weekend has led to fears that attacks could take place in retaliation. Former UN terrorism expert Hans Jacob Schindler, director of the Counter Extremism Project, issued a warning to nations to remain vigilant. “Zawahiri’s death is a significant counter-terrorism success, but it should not be cause for anyone to let their guard down,” he said. “He is most likely to be succeeded by Saif Al Adel, a revered figure within the terrorist organisation and potentially a bolder operative than Zawahiri. “Zawahiri was killed in Kabul, which is fully under the control of the Taliban, in a house owned by the acting minister of interior. This demonstrates how close the relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda has remained, despite Taliban assurances to the contrary. “The next Al Qaeda leader is therefore in a good position to organise a base of operations there. It is not at all unlikely that we will see terrorists training in Afghanistan and working toward large-scale, spectacular terrorist attacks.” On Tuesday, the US State Department warned Americans travelling abroad of potential violence after US forces killed the Al Qaeda chief.”

The Daily Star: Al-Qaeda Having Trouble Recruiting New Boss After Ayman Al-Zawahiri Assassination

“The dramatic assassination of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in a US drone strike has left the global terror franchise with a serious recruitment problem. After the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin laden, Al-Qaeda splintered into a number of sub-networks such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin [JNIM] in West Africa. But al-Zawahiri remained the overall leader of the group, and experts say he could prove hard to replace. “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 counter-terror expert Hans-Jakob Schindler. Schindler told France 24 that replacing al-Zawahiri would be “a bit of a challenge”. America’s relentless campaign of targeted assassinations has left Al-Qaeda very short of experienced leaders. Security think tank The Soufan Centre said the terror group was left with a “dwindling bench of potential successors”. Rita Katz is the co-founder of SITE Intelligence, a group that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organisations. Katz says that the replacement for al-Zawahiri is difficult to predict. “Unlike the situation after Osama bin Laden's killing, so much of its leadership has moved to Syria, where many were killed,” she said.”

WTOP News: The Hunt: US Kills Al Qaida Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri In A Drone Strike

On this week’s episode of “The Hunt with WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green,” Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, said the strike was a “counterterrorism coup on many levels.”

The Jerusalem Post: Senior Islamic Jihad Official: We Will Bomb The Center Of Israel

“Israel’s military is bracing for an attack near the border with Gaza, but other areas might be at risk as well. Khaled al-Batsh, head of the politburo of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, told The Media Line that central Israel is under threat by his organization. “We have every right to bomb Israel with our most advanced weapons, and make the occupier pay a heavy price. We will not settle for attacking around Gaza, but we will bomb the center of the so-called State of Israel,” Batsh said. In an interview with The Media Line on Wednesday, Batsh made it clear that Islamic Jihad intends to retaliate for the arrest of its West Bank commander, Bassam al-Saadi, late on Monday night. “The Palestinian Islamic Jihad can’t sit silent and watch the Israeli crimes, and the spilling of Palestinian blood in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,” he said. Batsh also denied that Hamas is trying to prevent the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) from attacking Israel, stating that contact between the organizations is ongoing. “No one attempts to stop us from using our right to stop the Israeli crimes,” he said. “Our goal is to make the occupation pay for its crimes, and to prove that the Islamic Jihad will keep to its commitment to protect the Palestinian people and the resistance anywhere,” he added.”

Somalia

All Africa: Kenya: Al-Shabaab Militants Raid Police Base In Mandera's Elram Injuring 3 Officers

“Three Anti-Stock Theft Unit officers were injured on Monday after suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked Mandera's Elram base. Elram is about 10kms to the Somalia border. Police said the heavily armed militants used six high explosive bombs and PKM rifles in a daring daytime raid which happened around 3pm. The three officers who escaped with multiple injuries were reportedly wounded by flying pellets from the bombs. “The attack lasted for about thirty minutes after being repulsed by a fierce exchange of fire from the section which was just out on foot patrols,” read a police report seen by Capital FM News. A KDF jet fighter from Wajir was called in to bombard the area in efforts to reinforce the ASTU personnel. The injured officers were expected to be airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment. The attack came two weeks after three people cheated death after the vehicle they were traveling in ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in a suspected Al-Shabaab attack in Mandera's Wargadud area. Police said the victims escaped with significant injuries during the incident which occurred at Dadach Qatarow between Ires Kinto and Domog along Wargadud-Takaba road.”

Africa

The Christian Post: Over 750K Displaced By Islamic Insurgency In Mozambique

“Growing violence by Islamic State-affiliated insurgents in the northern parts of Christian-majority Mozambique has internally displaced more than 784,000 people, according to the United Nations. Announcing the latest statistics on the internal displacement in Southern African country, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement that it is “concerned with the volatile security situation in Cabo Delgado, especially recent attacks in historically safe districts.” Islamic extremists have been exploiting a crisis in the coastal province of Cabo Delgado in the country's northeast. A civil war started in 2017 over the area rich with gas, rubies, graphite, gold and other natural resources. Protesters demonstrated against what they say is profits going to an elite in the ruling Frelimo Party, with few jobs for local residents. “In 2017, jihadist insurgents began in the Cabo-Delgado province, winning over some locals due to the fact that they gave back resources to villagers from the government, and killed no one,” the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported. “This did not last, however, as IS started setting fire to Christian villages, and killing those who lived there.” In March 2021, the U.S. labeled Islamic State-Mozambique as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”

AFP: 11 ADF Rebels Killed In East DR Congo- Army

“The Congolese army announced on Tuesday that it had killed 11 members of the armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), responsible for the massacres of several thousand civilians since 2014 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and lost two soldiers on Monday, a military source said. “This Tuesday, August 2, 2022, the Armed Forces of the DRC, neutralized eleven ADF terrorists,” said Captain Antony Mualushayi, spokesman for the army in Beni (North Kivu, east) and have “recovered three weapons of war including an automatic machine gun,” he added. “On the army side, one soldier was wounded and the jeep of the Beni-Mbau sector commander was slightly hit,” he said. The day before (Monday), in fighting with another rebel group called “Mai-Mai Mazembe” in the territory of Lubero (North Kivu), the army said that “eight rebels were neutralised” and “two soldiers fell in battle”, according to the spokesman. Presented by the Islamic State (EI) as its branch in Central Africa (Iscap in English), the ADF is accused of having massacred thousands of civilians in the DRC and committed jihadist attacks in Uganda. The Mai-Mai are militiamen whose actions range from the defence of their community interests to serious criminality.”

United Kingdom

The Independent: Sunak Defines ‘Vilification Of The UK’ As Extremism In Terrorism Policy Proposal

“Rishi Sunak has announced plans to include the “vilification of the United Kingdom” into an official definition of extremism. In a series of policy proposals on terrorism, the Conservative leadership candidate also claimed he would “refocus” the Prevent programme on Islamist extremism. The controversial scheme, which has been accused of both ineffectiveness and over-reach, has been under independent review for three-and-a-half years. The review has missed numerous deadlines and the Home Office has not yet published a final report by William Shawcross, the former head of the Charity Commission. The government also set up the Commission for Countering Extremism but then ignored a flagship report that set out a definition of hateful extremism in October 2019. “There is no more important duty for a prime minister than keeping our country and our people safe,” Mr Sunak said. “Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extermism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty. The announcement appeared to misunderstand how Prevent, which aims to stop terror offending and divert people away from terrorist ideologies, operates and conflate its scope with non-violent extremism.”

Cap X: Rishi Sunak Should Be Careful What He Wishes To Ban

“What is extreme hatred of Britain? Yesterday, enduring a five-hour rail journey to London – a first class customer on third-world infrastructure – I might have strayed over the line myself. Today, leadership candidate Rishi Sunak has suggested that this is the nebulous benchmark for referral to our counter terrorism Prevent programme. This had predictable reaction in the Twittersphere. There was the usual ‘full house’ of fascism bingo and a torrent of subversive derision. Who would decide what extreme vilification was? How could a sentiment shared by a large portion of the country, fed up with how broken it has become, be treated?  How would Prevent cope with legions of nihilistic teenagers referred in after being grounded for backchat? There’s little meat on the bones, of course. This is a leadership campaign and the runes say Sunak is falling behind so perhaps, as online one wag had it, this is a last desperate pitch to the ‘bowls clubs of Kent’ where drowsing members remain to be harvested. But there is a serious point here about proportionality and preventing terrorism. Violent extremists of any ideology who attack liberal democracies like to have their work done for them. It’s a ‘force multiplier’ that always seeks to amplify their violence into an over-reaction by the state.”

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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