Eye on Extremism: August 7, 2020

Radio Free Europe: Iran Is No. 1 Sponsor Of Terrorism, U.S. Says Ahead Of UN Arms-Embargo Talks

“The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has called Iran “the world’s No. 1 sponsor of terrorism,” a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States plans to hold a UN Security Council vote next week to extend an arms embargo against Iran. Ambassador Kelly Craft also warned Russia and China that they will become “co-sponsors of the No. 1 state that sponsors terrorism” if they use their veto to block the resolution to extend the embargo. The United States hopes Russia and China “will see the importance of peace in the Middle East,” Craft said. But she added that the partnership between Russia and China was clear: “They're just going to be promoting chaos, conflict, and mayhem outside their borders, so we have to just corner them.” Craft and Brian Hook, the top U.S. envoy for Iran, briefed a group of reporters following Pompeo's announcement on August 5 that the United States will call for a Security Council vote next week on a U.S.-drafted resolution to extend the arms embargo that is due to expire in October. Hook announced hours after the briefing that he was stepping down.”

The Australian: Islamic State Video Urges New Recruits To Light Bushfires In Australia

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed a “sick” video has been released by Islamic State encouraging new recruits to set fire to bushland in Australia. Today, Mr Morrison said there was a “new recruitment video this morning telling followers to deliberately light bushfires in places like Australia” when asked by 2GB’s Ben Fordham. He said as Australia was gripped by the coronavirus crisis, there were still “plenty of creeps out there who would want to hurt us”. “It’s right Ben, it’s a reminder that while there is the great threat of the pandemic at the moment, the other threats haven’t gone anywhere,” Mr Morrison said. “And we need to remain vigilant about that.” Australia’s horror black summer saw hundreds of fires across the country, with 11 million hectares of land burned. The land area scorched by the bushfires was larger than Ireland or South Korea. The bushfires destroyed almost 6000 buildings, killed 34 people and wiped out an estimated 1 billion animals. Mr Morrison didn’t directly comment on the nature of the IS video – but said the government remains “very vigilant” against online threats. “Yesterday with Peter Dutton, we launched the cyber security strategy. That‘s keeping families safe from the dark web and the paedophiles and other creeps that go around trying to get into our kids’ lives through the internet.”

United States

NBC News: AG Barr Promises To Rule Out Death Penalty For ISIS 'Beatles', Victims' Families Say

“Attorney General William Barr has promised to formally rule out the death penalty for two notorious ISIS detainees to ensure that the British government can provide evidence against them, relatives of the victims told NBC News after speaking with Barr by phone Thursday. Barr’s decision breaks an impasse with the British government and appears to clear the way for the two former UK residents – who were part of a group in Syria known as “the Beatles”– to be transferred from U.S. military custody in Iraq to the criminal justice system for trial in the United States. “We just had a very promising call with the attorney general. He’s going to get the death penalty off the table in the coming days,” said Diane Foley, whose son, journalist James Foley, was beheaded in 2014 by one Beatles member. Foley and the parents of Steven Sotloff, another U.S. journalist beheaded by ISIS in 2014, said Barr told them he intends to notify British Home Secretary Priti Patel in the coming days, having already spoken to her about his intentions. The attorney general was very gracious and now that the families are unanimous, he’s willing to move forward,” Foley said. “He’s going to make the request for evidence from the UK Home Secretary. He wants to use the evidence as soon as possible.”

Associated Press: Court Date Reset For 3 In Vegas ‘Boogaloo’ Terror Plot Case

“Arraignment was postponed Thursday in Nevada state court for three men accused of plotting to firebomb a Las Vegas racial injustice protest in May to spark violence and advance views of an extremist anti-government “boogaloo” group. Stephen Parshall, Andrew Lynam and William Loomis were not brought in custody to Las Vegas from a private detention facility in rural Pahrump, where they’re being held on separate but similar federal charges. Prosecutor Michael Dickerson told Judge Valerie Adair that authorities have been unable to arrange video appearances for the men from the CoreCivic Southern Nevada Detention Center. The judge reset to Aug. 27 the Clark County District Court hearing for what defense attorneys say will be not-guilty pleas to four felony charges. Adair then would schedule trial. The men already are scheduled for trial Nov. 31 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on federal conspiracy and firearm charges. They were arrested together May 30 by police and the FBI while allegedly preparing gasoline-rag-and-glass-bottle firebombs on the way to a Las Vegas protest following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Boogaloo refers to a loosely organized internet-rooted network of gun enthusiasts who generally express support for overthrowing the U.S. government.”

Afghanistan

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Civilians, Taliban Militants Killed In Attacks Across Afghanistan

“Taliban militants and Afghan civilians have been killed in attacks and clashes across Afghanistan amid peace efforts aimed at ending the nearly 19-year war. Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said at least 16 Taliban militants were killed in two separate clashes with government forces in the eastern province of Ghazni on August 6. It was the first direct fighting between the Taliban and government security forces since a recent cease-fire was announced. Aman did not comment on casualties suffered by government forces. In one attack near the provincial capital, Ghazni city, Afghan forces called in an air strike on Taliban fighters who stormed a military facility where about 300 government troops were based Aman said Taliban fighters also attacked a military convoy in the Gilan district of Ghazni Province late on August 5. Officials said seven civilians were killed when their vehicle struck a land mine in the Khash Rod district of the western province of Nimroz late on August 5. There was no immediate claim of responsibly for the land mine, although similar cases in the past have been blamed on the Taliban. Meanwhile, officials said clashes erupted between Taliban fighters and government forces along a highway in the northern province of Baghlan, leaving four militants dead.”

Agence France-Presse: Afghan Gathering To Decide Fate Of 400 Taliban Prisoners

“Thousands of prominent Afghans will gather in Kabul Friday to decide whether to release about 400 Taliban prisoners, including many involved in brutal attacks that killed scores of Afghans and foreigners. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged attendees to free the detainees, promising help if the war-torn nation moves forward on peace efforts. “We acknowledge that the release of these prisoners is unpopular,” Pompeo said in a statement. “But this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan's friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war.” The prisoners' fate is a crucial issue in determining when peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government might begin, as the two foes had committed to completing a prisoner exchange ahead of talks. While Kabul has released almost 5,000 Taliban inmates, authorities have balked at freeing a final 400 or so demanded by the Taliban. According to an official list of the Taliban prisoners seen by AFP, many of the inmates are accused of serious offences, with more than 150 of them on death row. The list also includes a group of 44 insurgents of particular concern to the United Sates and other countries for their role in “high-profile” attacks.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pakistan: Militants Target Outposts From Across Afghan Border

“Pakistan said Thursday that suspected militants operating out of Afghanistan have attacked several border outposts, killing a paramilitary soldier and “critically” injuring two others. A Pakistani foreign ministry statement accused Afghan border security forces of facilitating the assailants. “Pakistan strongly condemns this unprovoked, aggressive action by Afghan forces and the evident support provided to the terrorists,” said the statement. It warned that such actions are “detrimental to coordination and cooperation between the two countries. The Afghan foreign ministry rejected the charges and said that being a victim of terrorism, Afghanistan would not allow any terrorist group to use its territory against Pakistan or other countries. It said that border military officials from both sides held an emergency meeting Thursday at the request of Islamabad to discuss the situation. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an outlawed anti-state extremist outfit waging attacks against Pakistani security forces and civilians, took responsibility for Wednesday's attack. In a statement circulated via TTP social media, the militant group commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban said its fighters used rockets, mortars and other assault weapons to target eight Pakistani border posts.”

Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post: How Will Hezbollah React To This Week’s Massive Blast In Beirut?

“A wedding photographer was flying a drone in Beirut on Tuesday. As the drone maneuvered over the head of the bride and then circled next to her dress, a massive explosion kilometers away caused a burst of air that sent dust gusting into the frame and caused the bride to run for cover. The camera crew and the bride were the lucky ones. Across Beirut at least 137 were killed, thousands were injured, and the city was laid waste. Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared three days of mourning from Thursday as early investigations blamed negligence for the explosion at Beirut port. Up to a quarter of a million people were left without homes fit to live in, officials said, after shock waves smashed building facades, sucked furniture out into streets and shattered windows miles inland. The death toll was expected to rise from the blast, which officials blamed on a huge stockpile of highly explosive material stored for years in unsafe conditions at the port. The explosion was the most powerful ever in Beirut, a city still scarred by a civil war that ended three decades ago and reeling from an economic meltdown and a surge in coronavirus infections.”

National Review: Help Lebanon: Remove Hezbollah’s Stranglehold — And Its Dangerous Missile Stockpiles

“If Hezbollah does capitalize on this disaster, it will only accelerate Lebanon’s economic collapse, and hold the country hostage in a future war with Israel. Beirut has been ravaged by a massive explosion, likely caused by careless handling of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at its port. As the city is still picking through the debris and thousands search for loved ones, countries such as Turkey, Iran, Qatar, France, and Israel are rushing to provide support. Yet looming over Beirut even now is the presence of the terrorist group Hezbollah with its network of 150,000 missiles, many stored in civilian areas throughout the country. While Hezbollah has not been blamed for the August 4 warehouse fire that led to the massive explosion, it is alleged to have imported and stored similar stockpiles of dangerous munitions and chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate, used in explosives. Hezbollah also helped create the corrupt and negligent political system whose lack of accountability enabled the careless storage of these deadly chemicals for years. For instance, a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies asserts that Hezbollah siphons off billions from around the world into a kind of black market.”

Lead Stories: Fact Check: 'Crude Fake' Video Does NOT Show A Missile Incoming Before Beirut Explosion

“Does a missile show up on Beirut explosion footage that is converted to negative film? No, that's not true. Video that has gone viral that is claiming to show a missile hitting the area where the huge blast hit in the capital of Lebanon is a "crude fake," Hany Farid, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who focuses on digital forensics, told Lead Stories. The claim appeared as a post (archived here) where it was published on Facebook on August 6, 2020. It opened: I told you there was a missile. Look at the footage in negative film.. That's warfare not a accident... This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing: The video from the August 4, 2020, blast in Beirut has been converted to "negative film," which shows reverse colors, with smoke billowing out of the area. There appears to be a bright line that goes directly into the smoke and then the explosion happens. However, Farid explained to Lead Stories how the video was doctored: If you watch the video frame by frame, you will notice a few things that clearly illustrate it to be a crude fake. At about the 00:08 second mark, the missile vanishes from view, well before the explosion. There is no motion blur on the missile as would be expected given the speed at which it would have been traveling.”

Nigeria

Premium Times: Military Speaks On Alleged Al-Qaeda, ISIS Inroad In Nigeria

“The Defence Headquarters has allayed fears of Nigerians over alleged plans by Al-Qaeda and ISIS to make an inroad into Southern Nigeria and penetrate the north-western part of the country. The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, John Enenche, a major general, while answering questions from journalists at the updates briefing on military operations across the country on Thursday in Abuja, said there was nothing to fear about the claim.The U.S. had said Al-Qaeda and ISIS were looking to make an inroad into Southern Nigeria and that Al-Qaeda had started penetrating the north-western part of the country. The Commander of the U.S. special operations command, Africa, Dagvin Anderson, made the claim in a digital briefing on Wednesday. Mr Enenche, however, said the claim was nothing but just an alarm and that Nigeria security agencies were equal to the task, urging the public not to be afraid of such a claim. The coordinator, who described the statement as a wakeup call or form of advice, said the security agencies were on top of the situation. “On the issue that terrorists from other zones are coming to the country, I think it will be good for us to be keeping records as events are unfolding, for me this is not the first time they are raising such an alarm.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Fresh Action To End Terrorism, Banditry Revealed

“A group, under the aegis of Initiative for One Nigeria (ION), has vowed to hold massive campaigns against the activities of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in the country. The group said there is need for active participation by all and sundry in the war against insurgency, stressing that the fight shouldn’t be left alone for the Federal Government and military. According to ION, from its findings, there has been neglect from politicians, community heads as well as relevant stakeholders in charting a solution to the insurgency. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday in Abuja, Secretary-General, Comrade Ohene Dominic Ejembi, reassured by closing all gaps and working together with the military, the country will experience a rebirth in the coming days. Read the full statement below: The Initiative for One Nigeria, an organization dedicated to the peace and progress in Nigeria welcomes you all to this important press conference convoked in the light of the fact that there has been an erroneous mentality that the war against insurgency is the preserve of the Federal Government /Military alone. While it is understandable that this line of thought has been entrenched in the system for so long, however, it is not too late to change the mentality to that of collective endeavour rather than a job for the Federal Government/Military alone.”

Africa

Vice: Child Gold Miners In Africa Have To Deal With Floods, Collapse, And Now, Al Qaeda

“Over an hour’s drive through the bush from the nearest dirt road, a lunar landscape of deep mine shafts lies between two hills. Shot through the middle is a strip of tents and shacks selling coffee, candy, and cigarettes. Rock-breaking machines drone and from the plumes of dirt they throw out, young men and boys emerge like ghosts, head to toe in dust. Trapped in poverty cycles, hundreds, possibly thousands, of children are stuck working in gold mines in Burkina Faso, regarded as the War on Terror’s newest front line. At the mine VICE News visited, children already lived and worked in extreme conditions. Now they are afraid terrorists will come to their mine and kill them. Less than eight miles away, suspected Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) militants, al Qaeda’s local subsidiary, kill civilians, burn and loot shops, and kidnap young couples. Sitting on a mound of earth dug with shovels and pickaxes from the shaft next to it, Oumarou Ouedraogo, 14, says, “I’ve heard about terrorists killing people around Kaya, at a gold mine like this one… I’ve seen them on TV. They were dressed in black and had their faces covered. Most of us here are afraid of them.” Burkina Faso, where Ouedraogo lives and works, is a country in West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel.”

United Kingdom

The National: ISIS Terrorist Fails In Test Case To Overturn UK's New Terror Laws

“An ISIS terrorist has lost his test case in which he challenged a new UK terrorism law banning the early release of jailed extremists. The UK changed its law allowing prisoners to be released halfway through their sentences following two attacks by terrorists soon after their release from jail. Mohammed Zahir Khan would have been eligible for automatic release in March prior to the law change. He had been jailed for spreading ISIS propaganda online including a video encouraging a terror attack and had endorsed acts of terrorism, such as murder and martyrdom. The former shopkeeper pleaded guilty in 2018 to five counts of encouraging terrorism, one count of dissemination of a terrorist publication and two counts of stirring up religious hatred. He was jailed for four years and six months. Khan tried to appeal against the UK government's new law on the grounds it was discriminatory and unjust because of the changed nature of the sentence he had been given in court. But two judges at the High Court in London threw out his claim, saying the government's law change was “logical and rational” given the threat to public safety. “In our judgment, it is impossible sensibly to regard a terrorist offender as in an analogous position to an ordinary offender,” Mr Justice Garnham said.”