Eye on Extremism: August 7

The New York Times: Blast In Kabul Kills 14 And Injures 145 As Taliban Continue Talks With U.S.

“A powerful Taliban car bomb exploded on Wednesday outside the entrance of a police station in Kabul, the Afghan capital, killing 14 people and injuring at least 145 others as peace negotiations between the militants and United States diplomats continued. The explosion, following repeated warnings from the United Nations on rising civilian casualties, was the latest to strike a heavily populated area during the morning rush hour. The blast sent plumes of thick smoke into the sky and shattered windows in a radius of about a mile. Gen. Khoshal Sadat, Afghanistan’s deputy interior minister, said 14 people were killed and 145 wounded. Jalal Nazari, who lives about a half mile from the scene of the attack, said he had been lying down in his room when the explosion took place. “I thought it was in our yard,” he said. “The windows shattered, and I got up and went to a corner.”

CNN: Pentagon Report Says ISIS Is 'Re-Surging In Syria'

“ISIS is "re-surging" in Syria less than five months after President Donald Trump declared the terror group's caliphate there had been 100% defeated, according to a new Pentagon inspector general's report on the fight against ISIS. "Despite losing its territorial 'caliphate,' the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was re-surging in Syria," the report, which was published on Tuesday, warned. President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted his administration's role in driving the terror group from areas under its territorial control, telling a Cabinet meeting last month, "We did a great job with the caliphate. We have 100% of the caliphate, and we're rapidly pulling out of Syria." But the new report said the partial withdrawal of some US troops from Syria has already impacted the fight against the remnants of ISIS, making it harder to advise local allies on the ground and depriving the US of the ability to monitor areas that are described as potential recruiting zones that would allow the group to replenish its ranks.”

Vice News: 8chan Extremists Are Going Dark. Here's Why That's Dangerous.

“Instead, extremism experts said that tackling the epidemic of extremist views being shared online required a large, collaborative effort that includes both lawmakers in Washington and the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter. “Online platforms like 8chan have helped extremist ideologies go global,” David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project, told VICE News. “ If 8chan is shut down completely, then it is incumbent on tech firms to continue to act in a similar manner to keep such content and users off the surface web as they migrate from platform to platform.” 

Voice Of America: Shooting Attacks Renew Debate Over Domestic Terrorism In US

“One of the two recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, is being treated as a case of domestic terrorism by U.S. federal authorities. The El Paso attack, which has left 22 people dead, has renewed debate over how to combat domestic terrorism in the United States. The FBI has expressed concerns that such attacks could inspire more homegrown extremists to carry out further violent attacks in the future. "The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could become inspired by this weekend's attacks and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence," the FBI said in a statement on Sunday.”

The Wall Street Journal: Kashmir’s Loss Of Autonomy Clouds Afghan Peace Efforts

“India’s historic move to end the autonomous governing status of a disputed region threatens to complicate U.S. efforts to forge a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, while Indian authorities locked down the streets of Kashmir. The spike in tensions between Pakistan and India over the change of Kashmir’s status come as Taliban peace talks appear to have reached a critical final stage. Senior U.S. officials flew into New Delhi and Islamabad—trips they and their host countries said were planned before India acted on Monday—as Washington sought to build regional support for a critical agreement with the Taliban that Pakistan is expected to play a key role in helping deliver and U.S. officials hope India will support. Pakistan said the tensions with India force Islamabad to focus its attention and troops on its eastern border with India, not its northwestern border with Afghanistan. In the 1990s, India and Pakistan conducted a proxy battle in Afghanistan, fueling a civil war there, and even after 2001, New Delhi and Islamabad saw themselves as backing different sides.”

Motherboard: ISIS Is Using Internet Propaganda to Maintain a 'Virtual Caliphate,' UN Report Says

“Though the territorial holdings of the Islamic State and its so-called “Caliphate” are no more, a recent United Nations report on the status of al-Qaeda and ISIS warns the latter terror group is using the internet to reestablish its global network. Joshua Fisher-Birch of the Counter Extremism Project, a US based terrorism watchdog, said in an interview that the infamous terror group has continued to thrive online, even in the face of its territorial demise. “ISIS and their online supporters continue to operate a sophisticated online network that spreads propaganda, encourages lone actor attacks, and disseminates information on internet security, explosives, and the use of a variety of weaponry,” he said, adding that the group uses several encrypted applications to link their global network of propaganda.” 

United States

CBS News: Calls Grow For U.S. To Shift Security Focus To White Nationalist Threats

“The mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, has placed increased scrutiny on government agencies, and their role in preventing violence from the far-right. Last year, hate crimes rose in 30 of America's largest cities, according to a recent study from California State University, San Bernardino. The problem even prompted the FBI to release a rare statement, warning of "the continued threat posed by domestic violent extremists and perpetrators of hate crimes." Yet, the national response to threats from white supremacy pales in comparison to the U.S. response to Islamic terrorism after 9/11. "No remotely comparable array of national power has been directed against the threat now emerging from the far right, a loose but lethal collection of ideologies whose adherents have killed roughly the same number of people in the United States, post-9/11, as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State combined," writes Greg Miller, national security correspondent for The Washington Post.”

POLITICO: FBI Agents Warn Domestic Terrorism Poses 'Threat To The American People'

“The FBI Agents Association on Tuesday demanded that members of Congress codify domestic terrorism as a federal crime, warning it poses “a threat to the American people and our democracy.” “Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them,” FBIAA President Brian O’Hare said in a statement. The association “continues to urge Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime,” O’Hare added — a designation that “would ensure that FBI Agents and prosecutors have the best tools to fight domestic terrorism.” The statement from the association, which represents more than 14,000 active and former FBI special agents, follows the Justice Department’s announcement Sunday that it is treating the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, as a case of domestic terrorism.”

The New York Times: F.B.I. Opens Domestic Terrorism Investigation Into Gilroy Shooting

“The F.B.I. has opened a domestic terrorism investigation into the Gilroy, Calif., shooting after discovering that the gunman who killed three people and injured 13 had a “target list” of religious institutions, federal buildings and Democratic and Republican political organizations. John F. Bennett, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s San Francisco office, said at a news conference on Tuesday that the suspect had a “fractured ideology” and had been exploring several “competing” violent ideologies. Investigators have not uncovered a motive and are trying to determine which beliefs, if any, the gunman had ultimately subscribed to. They also are continuing to scrub various electronic devices and trying to learn if he had any help carrying out the shooting.”

The New York Times: The El Paso Shooting Revived The Free Speech Debate. Europe Has Limits

“The massacre of 22 people in El Paso, an attack announced in a hate-filled manifesto about an immigrant “invasion,” has revived debate about the limits of free speech, protected by the First Amendment in the United States. But in Europe, where history has proved that domestic threats can be as devastating to democracy as those from abroad, freedom of speech, while a constitutional right, comes with certain caveats. Restricted in scope and linked to specific threats, these limitations are based on the premise that protecting certain ideals, such as the public good or human dignity, can justify curbing what individuals are allowed to say. A constitutional, but limited, right: Free speech is constitutionally enshrined in both Germany and France, as it is in the United States. But there is an important difference. “The big nuance between the First Amendment and the European texts is that the European texts allow for possible limitations” on speech, said Emmanuel Pierrat, a French lawyer who specializes in publishing and free speech issues.”

Syria

Voice Of America: Accused Syrian IS Fighters Starting To Face Justice

“Parts of Syria freed from the clutches of Islamic State are starting to hold some members of the terror group accountable for their crimes. While most of the world's attention has been focused on the approximately 2,000 foreign IS fighters currently in the custody of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), another 8,000 suspected IS fighters from Syria and Iraq are also behind bars. U.S. officials estimate about half of those 8,000 prisoners are from Syria. And now, it seems, at least some of them are being brought to justice. "The SDF continues to work with local community leaders and local judicial processes to help address issues of ISIS accountability," a State Department official told VOA, using another acronym for the terror organization.”

Iran

Radio Farda: Iran Boosts Aide To Hamas To $360 Million – Reports

“Two weeks after a visit to Tehran by representatives from HAMAS, Israeli media on Tuesday August 6 reported an eye-catching increase in Iran's financial assistance to this Palestinian group. Quoting unnamed Israeli government sources, these reports say Iran has increased its usual annual $100 million aide to HAMAS to $360 million after the visit. The Jerusalem Post and Israel's Channel 12 TV say the 3.5 fold rise in aide to HAMAS is aimed at meeting certain demands by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to these reports, Iran has asked HAMAS to provide Tehran with information about Israel's missile capabilities. The visiting HAMAS delegation led by Salih Al-Arouri, the group’s deputy chief of political office, met with Khamenei during the one-week long visit.”

The Hill: A Modern 'Trojan Horse' To Stop Iran's Ship Seizures In The Strait Of Hormuz

“Iran has seized another oil tanker in the Persian Gulf — this one, it says, was smuggling oil to Arab nations — weeks after it detained a British-flagged tanker and attacked several others. So far, the United States has not succeeded in building a Western-led coalition to respond in the gulf; Germany initially declined to join the U.S. last week but said it is consulting, considering and “reviewing ... in close cooperation” with Britain and France. Thus, it seems time to consider a time-honored tactic to respond to Iran’s belligerence: Decoys. Decoys have been used with great success to fool an enemy or to deter an enemy from attacking what could be a trap or a trick. Who can forget the most famous decoy in war — the Trojan Horse, used by the Greeks to fool their enemies, the Trojans. That giant, hollow wooden horse was left at the gates of Troy, supposedly as an offering of peace in honor of Athena, the goddess of war. After leaving it at the gates, the Greeks retreated.”

Afghanistan

The Jerusalem Post: Taliban Claim Bomb Attack On Police In Afghanistan; Nearly 100 Wounded

“A car bomb exploded on Wednesday outside a police station in the Afghan capital, Kabul, wounding at least 95 people, government officials said, and the Taliban claimed responsibility. There has been no let-up in violence in Afghanistan even though the Taliban and the United States appear close to a historic pact for U.S. troops to withdraw in exchange for a Taliban promise the country would not be used as a base from which to plot attacks by extremists. The blast, in the west of the city during the morning rush hour, sent a huge cloud of grey smoke billowing into the sky. The Taliban said a "recruitment center" had been attacked by one of their suicide bombers. "A large number of soldiers and police were killed or wounded," the Taliban said in a statement. The bomb went off when a vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint outside the police station, said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.”

Saudi Arabia

The Jerusalem Post: Saudi Arabia Stands In Solidarity With Egypt And Us Amid Terror Violence

“Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered condolences on Tuesday for the victims of recent terrorist violence in Egypt and the US. At least 20 people were killed and almost 50 injured when an explosives-filled car crashed into other vehicles in central Cairo on Sunday night. Weekend attacks in the US cities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio left 31 people dead. In separate messages carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the king and crown prince conveyed "deepest and sincere condolences" to the victims and the American people as whole, wishing speedy recovery to the injured. On the violence in Cairo, King Salman condemned "in the strongest terms this criminal act" and affirmed Saudi Arabia's "support for Egypt and its brotherly people." Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denounced the "cowardly criminal act" and also expressed his "deepest and sincere condolences" for the dead victims and wished quick recovery to the injured.”

Lebanon

Xinhuanet: Spotlight: Lebanon's Hezbollah Faces Huge Financial, Political Challenges

“Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based political party, is facing huge political and financial challenges because of the increased U.S. sanctions against Iran and the party's military involvement in different parts of the Arab world, analysts told Xinhua. "To start with, salaries of Hezbollah's fighters who are at the forefront of any military confrontation have dropped by around 30 percent," Youssef Diab, political analyst, told Xinhua. Since U.S. President Donald Trump introduced new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, Iran's ability to finance allies such as Hezbollah has been reduced. As a result, Hezbollah has witnessed a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to adopt austerity measures. Moreover, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called upon his supporters on March 8 to donate funds to help the party face tighter sanctions from Western countries after Britain joined the United States to list Hezbollah as a terrorist group.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Shin Bet Says It Thwarted Terror Bombing In Jerusalem Planned By Hamas

“The Shin Bet security service says it thwarted plans by Hamas members from Hebron to conduct a bombing attack in Jerusalem earlier this summer, retrieving the three-kilogram explosive device they intended to use. The Shin Bet says the cell, along with others arrested by Israeli forces in recent months, had been directed to carry out attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets by Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip. “The operatives in the West Bank were instructed to form cells in order to carry out kidnappings, shootings, stabbings, purchase weaponry and to find and induct additional operatives for terrorist activities,” the Shin Bet says in a statement. A member of the cell planning the Jerusalem bombing, university student Tamer Rajah Rajbi, was arrested in June, leading to additional arrests of other Hamas operatives, including other students, the security service says.”

Nigeria

NBC News: Boko Haram Tried To Stop Nigeria From Eliminating Polio. They Failed

“Nigeria is on the verge of eliminating polio, but Boko Haram is standing in the way. Using violence and misinformation, the ISIS-linked militant group has hampered efforts to get every child in the country vaccinated against polio, leaving nearly 66,000 children in remote villages in northern Nigeria without the vaccine, according to UNICEF estimates. But public health officials are pushing back, teaming up with the military and volunteers who have put their lives on the line to get vaccines to everyone. Boko Haram has controlled territory in northern Nigeria since around 2003, when they implemented Sharia, or Islamic law, in the region. As part of an effort to dispel Western views, the group — whose name roughly translates to “Western education is sinful” — spread vaccine misinformation, claiming that the vaccine could lead to infertility and bone injuries.”

North Korea

Associated Press: Kim Says North Korean Launches Were Warning To US, South

“North Korea said Wednesday leader Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire demonstration of newly developed, short-range ballistic missiles intended to send a warning to the United States and South Korea over their joint military exercises. The official Korean Central News Agency said two missiles launched from a western airfield flew across the country and over the area surrounding the capital, Pyongyang, before accurately hitting an island target off its eastern coast. Its four rounds of weapons demonstrations in two weeks come during a stalemate in nuclear negotiations and after President Donald Trump repeatedly dismissed the significance of the tests, even though the weapons show North Korea’s ability to strike at U.S. allies South Korea and Japan and its military bases there.“

United Kingdom

The National: Stop Qatar’s Funding Of Global Terrorism

“Operating in plain sight for years: that’s the claim behind calls for an investigation into a Qatar state-owned bank in the UK with reported links to terror and extremist groups. The British-registered bank Al Rayan has been linked to at least 15 controversial entities – four of whom were banned by British high street banks – but had accounts with the Qatari institution. The clientele included people linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, proscribed a terrorist organisation by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood was accused of the deaths of 20 people in a car bombing near a cancer hospital in Cairo. Al Rayan has also been linked to institutions that promote religious extremism via its former chief executive, Sultan Choudhury. He served as an unpaid director for Al Kauthar Institute, an organisation that promoted controversial speakers, including one who said female genital mutilation was as natural as clipping fingernails.”

Technology

The Guardian: How Do We Beat 8chan And Other Far-Right Sites? The Same Way We Beat ISIS

“Over the past few months, we have witnessed a series of lethal terrorist attacks against minorities in places of worship and other public spaces that are said to have been carried out by white supremacists. There was the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018, then two mosque attacks in New Zealand in March 2019, another synagogue assault in California a month later and an attack at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. While the victims of these attacks were diverse – from young children to army veterans and mothers of newborn babies – their alleged perpetrators had much in common: radicalised white men who frequented online far-right hotbeds such as the anonymous imageboard website 8chan and the alt-right Twitter equivalent, Gab. And they believed their race to be threatened by an imminent “invasion” or gradual “population replacement”. In the summer of 2016, one Isis-inspired lone-actor attack was followed by the next: first a truck attack in Nice, then several knife attacks and a bombing in Germany, followed by a hostage-taking at a church in Normandy.”

AFP: 8chan Founder Hopes El Paso Shooting ‘Final Nail In Coffin’

“The American creator of the 8chan website linked to deadly US mass shootings said Tuesday he hoped the El Paso carnage would be the “final nail in the coffin” for the forum, which he accused of harboring “domestic terrorists.” Fredrick Brennan told AFP in an interview in Manila that he sometimes regretted setting up the unmoderated message board in 2013 — adding that turning it over to a new owner last year was a mistake. 8chan, which promotes itself as a site devoted to the “darkest reaches of the internet,” is home to posts from right-wing extremists, misogynists and conspiracy theorists. On Saturday, a young white male suspect was believed to have posted on the site a manifesto denouncing a “Hispanic invasion” of El Paso, shortly before going on a shooting spree at a Walmart store in the US border city, killing 22 people.”

ITPRO: For Cloudflare, Hate Speech Is Too Profitable To Give Up

“Web security and performance company Cloudflare has now terminated its relationship with notorious online imageboard 8chan, firing the customer in the wake of the mass shooting in El Paso. For instance, numerous reports have alleged that multiple terrorist organisations, paedophiles and violent misogynist groups all use Cloudflare's service to protect their websites. Neo-nazi outfits Stormfront and the Nordic Resistance Movement, as well as Islamist organisations like Hamas, the Taliban and even ISIS were cited by the Counter Extremism Project. As of March last year, Stormfront was still a Cloudflare customer, according to posts on the site by the organisation's founder.”