Eye on Extremism: December 26, 2023

Wall Street Journal: Iran-Backed Forces Widen Their Attacks On Commercial Shipping 

“Escalating Iran-backed attacks against global commercial shipping in the Red Sea have heightened pressure on the Biden administration as officials scramble to protect trade while trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Tehran. The U.S. Navy said late Saturday that two more vessels had been attacked that day by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, bringing the number of commercial ships attacked near a crucial passageway between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to 15. The Pentagon said earlier in the day that a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean was struck by a drone launched directly from Iran, a claim Tehran denied.”

BBC: Terror Threat Student To Be Deported After Jail Sentence

“Somtochukwu Okwuoha claimed he had enlisted Isis to help bomb the university and told staff he planned to target the city in a chemical attack. The international energy studies student was also ordered to be deported following his release from prison. The 26-year-old was previously found guilty of seven charges by a jury. Sheriff William Wood told him: "Your presence in the United Kingdom is not conducive to the public good, and I make a recommendation for your deportation in due course." The trial heard that Okwuoha came to the UK in 2021 and formed a friendship with a fellow student, who rebuffed his advances. Sheriff Wood said: "You were abusive towards her and tried to have her removed from her university course. "The university decided to suspend you from your course and you turned your attention towards staff. "You threatened mass murder, terrorism, said you would plant bombs and use biological weapons." Witnesses described how Okwuoha claimed he had a military background and was capable of making bombs and unleashing a deadly virus on the city. Keith Mackle, 58, now a retired director of student services, told Perth Sheriff Court he became aware of "serious concerns" in the autumn of 2021. He said staff members received emails making terrorist threats.”

CEP Mentions

The National: 'Threat-Board Flashes Red' Over Gaza Radicalisation Spilling Into Europe

“... Director of the Counter Extremism Project, Dr Hans Jacob-Schindler, told The National Hamas has deep-rooted cells across Europe, which are now being activated to commit attacks in a bid to force European leaders to urge Israel to leave Gaza. "Right now there are Christmas concerts and Christmas markets where people congregate and there are more targets than usual," he said. "It makes the situation a lot more complicated. Everyone is working flat out to make sure nothing happens. But it is absolutely clear we are in a very tricky situation. "Hamas is pumping propaganda into Europe saying something needs to be done. The group made a contingency plan for the situation they are in and there are definitely more Hamas terror cells across Europe than the ones that have been found. "Now, their backs are against the wall, all rules are out of the window and they want attacks so they can use them to pressure European governments to tell Israel to stop. Hamas wants to exert pressure faster than Israel can destroy their infrastructure.” In a raid against a Hamas cell in Germany ice packs were recovered. The packs contain ammonium nitrate, which can be used for explosives and Dr Jacob-Schindler believes Hamas has similar weapon hoards across Europe. It is a method previously used by Hezbollah.”

The Sun: Reign Of Terror Iran Is Biggest Threat To World Order – They Want To Watch The World Burn Starting With Israel, Former Ambassador Warns

“... This is a calculated tactic by Iran to “take the pressure off Hamas,” said Sir Ivor Roberts, senior adviser to UANI and the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), In his role as head of the UK’s counter-terrorism, he dealt with Hezbollah back in the 1980s while they pursued a vicious campaign of kidnapping Westerns. Roberts was instrumental in securing the release of captured Brits, including Terry Waite, in what came to be known as the Lebanon hostage crisis. He said: “Back then they were a small-scale terrorist organisation sponsored by Iran. "Their extraordinary growth in terms of military force but also political control within Lebanon was something we certainly didn’t envision or anticipate." Simultaneously, a separate battle is being fought by Houthi rebels as Iran sponsors the hell they are unleashing on vessels in the Red Sea. The militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world. Now, they have sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage as they turn one of the world's busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone. The Houthis have carried out over 100 drones, missiles and hijacking assaults on any ships they believe are travelling to and from Israeli ports.”

United States

Wall Street Journal: Biden Convinced Netanyahu To Halt A Pre-Emptive Strike Against Hezbollah

“President Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt a pre-emptive strike against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon days after Hamas militants’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, warning that such an attack could spark a wider regional war. Israel had intelligence—which the U.S. deemed unreliable—that Hezbollah attackers were preparing to cross the border as part of a multipronged attack, pushing some of Israel’s more hawkish officials to the brink, officials said. Israeli warplanes were in the air awaiting orders when Biden spoke to Netanyahu on Oct. 11 and told the Israeli prime minister to stand down and think through the consequences of such an action, according to people familiar with the call. The Israeli attack didn’t go ahead. And the conversation between Biden and other U.S. officials and Netanyahu and his war cabinet—the details of which haven’t been previously reported—set a pattern of White House efforts to guard against any expansion of the conflict that could draw in the U.S. A major focus of the Biden administration since Oct. 7 has been trying to prevent any escalation along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where Israeli forces trade fire almost daily with fighters from Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Palestinian militants.”

CBS: Protesters Demanding End To Israel-Hamas War March On Fifth Avenue In Manhattan

“People demanding an end to the Israel-Hamas war marched on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Saturday, a busy last-minute shopping day.  It was one of several demonstrations across the country coinciding with Christmas weekend.  It also came one day after the U.N. passed a resolution to provide more aid to Gaza, but it did not call for an immediate cease-fire.  Meanwhile, Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem were canceled this year amid the war. The city in the occupied West Bank is typically full of tourists, decorations and shoppers this time of year.  A Palestinian Christian church is displaying a nativity scene with baby Jesus lying in the rubble.  "In the hometown of Christmas, this is what Christmas looks like, children being pulled from under the rubble, displaced families, destroyed homes. So we hope that the world pays attention to the plight of the Palestinians," the church's reverend said.  The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health claimed more than 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.  On Saturday, we learned Israeli-American dual citizen Gadi Haggai was killed during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.”


Reuters: Israeli Airstrike In Syria Kills Senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Member

“An Israeli airstrike outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday killed a senior adviser in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, three security sources and Iranian state media said. The sources told Reuters that the adviser, known as Sayyed Razi Mousavi, was responsible for coordinating the military alliance between Syria and Iran. "I won't comment on foreign reports, these or others in the Middle East," IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in response to a reporter's question at a nightly press conference. "The Israeli military obviously has a job to protect the security interests of Israel." Iran's state television interrupted its regular news broadcast to announce that Mousavi had been killed, describing him as one of the Guards' oldest advisers in Syria. It said he had been "among those accompanying Qassem Soleimani", the head of the Guards' elite Quds Force who was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Iraq in 2020. Iran's ambassador in Damascus Hossein Akbari told Iranian state TV that Mousavi was posted at the embassy as a diplomat and was killed by Israeli missiles after returning home from work. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said the assassination of Mousavi showed weakness on the part of Israel.”


ABC: US Carries Out Airstrikes Against Militants In Iraq Following Morning Attack On Erbil Air Base

“U.S. military forces carried out multiple airstrikes on facilities in Iraq used by Kataib Hezbollah -- an Iraqi paramilitary group also known as the Hezbollah Brigades -- and its affiliates on Christmas night, according to statements released by the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the strikes were carried out at the direction of President Joe Biden and in response to attacks carried out by the groups against coalition forces in the region. One of those attacks was on Erbil Air Base earlier on Dec. 25, which resulted in injuries to three U.S. personnel. One service member was left in critical condition as a result of the air base attack, according to a statement from the Defense secretary. "My prayers are with the brave Americans who were injured," Austin said in his statement. "And let me be clear – the President and I will not hesitate to take necessary action to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests," his statement continued. "There is no higher priority. While we do not seek to escalate conflict in the region, we are committed and fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities." According to early assessments by CENTCOM, the targeted facilities were destroyed, and there are no signs that any civilians were impacted.”

Reuters: Baghdad Condemns U.S Strike On Iraqi Military Positions

“Iraq's government condemned on Tuesday overnight U.S. air strikes on Iraqi military positions that it said killed one serviceman and wounded 18 other people, calling them a "clear hostile act". The United States has carried out retaliatory air strikes on Monday in Iraq after a one-way drone attack earlier in the day by Iran-aligned militants that left one U.S. service member in critical condition and wounded two others. read more. The government condemned the U.S. strikes as "an unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty," while stressing that attacks by armed groups against military bases hosting U.S-led coalition advisers are hostile acts and violate Iraqi sovereignty, a government statement said. Two Iraqi security sources said overnight U.S. airstrikes targeted headquarters for Iraqi armed group Kataib Hezbollah in the Iraqi city of Hilla south of Baghdad. One fighter from Kataib Hezbollah was killed in the strikes and 16 were wounded, said two security sources on condition of anonymity. The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, which in 2014 seized large swaths of both countries before being defeated.”


Associated Press: Turkey Detains 304 People With Suspected Links To Islamic State Group In Simultaneous Raids

“Turkish security forces have rounded up 304 people suspected of links to the Islamic State extremist group in simultaneous raids across Turkey, the interior minister said Friday. Ali Yerlikaya said the suspects were detained in 32 provinces but the majority of them were in Turkey’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. The operation, codenamed “Heroes-34,” was conducted jointly by the police intelligence and counter-terrorism squads, Yerlikaya said on the X social media platform. There was no information on the suspects’ nationalities. The militant group has carried out a string of deadly attacks in Turkey, including a shooting at an Istanbul night club on Jan. 1, 2017, which killed 39 people during New Year celebrations. It was not clear if the latest operation was part of a security sweep leading up to the New Year festivities. “There will be no respite for the terrorists for the sake of the peace, unity and solidarity of our beloved nation,” Yerlikaya said. “With our security force’s superior efforts, our fight will continue uninterrupted.” His ministry posted a video on X showing images of the raids, including anti-terrorism police breaking down a door, handcuffing suspecs and leading them into police vehicles.”

Associated Press: Turkey Steps Up Airstrikes Against Kurdish Groups In Syria And Iraq After 12 Soldiers Were Killed

“Turkey intensified its airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria and northern Iraq in retaliation for the deaths of 12 Turkish soldiers in Iraq over the weekend. The Turkish defense ministry said in a statement Monday that it had killed at least 26 militants in the strikes. In northeast Syria, at least eight civilians were killed in Turkish airstrikes Monday, including two women, Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom-based war monitor, said 12 others were wounded. Turkey has carried out 128 strikes in northeast Syria in 2023, killing 94 people, according to the Observatory. On Friday, Turkish officials said militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s, attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. They said six Turkish soldiers were killed in the ensuing firefight. The following day, six more Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdish militants. In response, Ankara launched strikes on dozens of sites it said were associated with the PKK in Iraq and Syria.”

Associated Press: 12 Turkish Soldiers Have Been Killed Over 2 Days In Clashes With Kurdish Militants, Authorities Say

“Six Turkish soldiers were killed Saturday in clashes with Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, a day after another six were also killed. The six soldiers slain on Saturday died in a firefight when militants attempted to infiltrate a Turkish base, according to a statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry. The statement said 13 militants had been “neutralized.” In addition to the six Turkish soldiers killed on Friday, four militants were slain, authorities said. Turkey conducts operations and airstrikes against targets in Syria and Iraq that it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkey since the 1980s. Ankara maintains that PKK has sanctuaries in northern Iraq, where its leadership is also purportedly based. The PKK is considered a terror organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have died since the start of the conflict in 1984.”


Associated Press: Afghan Schoolgirls Are Finishing Sixth Grade In Tears. Under Taliban Rule, Their Education Is Over

“Bahara Rustam, 13, took her last class at Bibi Razia School in Kabul on Dec. 11 knowing it was the end of her education. Under Taliban rule, she is unlikely to step foot in a classroom again. In September 2021, a month after U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from Afghanistan following two decades of war, the Taliban announced that girls were barred from studying beyond sixth grade. They extended this education ban to universities in December 2022. The Taliban have defied global condemnation and warnings that the restrictions will make it almost impossible for them to gain recognition as the country’s legitimate rulers. Last week, U.N. special envoy Roza Otunbayeva expressed concern that a generation of Afghan girls is falling behind with each day that passes. Last week, an official in the Education Ministry said Afghan girls of all ages are allowed to study in religious schools known as madrassas, which have traditionally been boys-only. But Otunbayeva said it was unclear if there was a standardized curriculum that allowed modern subjects.”

The Independent: The Afghan Resistance Movement Bringing The Fight To The Taliban’s Doorstep

“When the CIA decided to take back thousands of stinger missiles from Afghanistan in the 1980s, fearing they would fall into the hands of Iran, they knew of only one powerful warlord they could trust to help. US agents held secret talks with the fabled hero of Afghanistan’s resistance against the Soviets and the Taliban – Ahmad Shah Massoud, the guerrilla commander who famously warned the West about the threat of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden months before 9/11. Massoud was killed two days before the attack on the World Trade Center, when two of Bin Laden’s suicide bombers walked into his home in the Mujahideen fiefdom of Panjshir masquerading as journalists and blew themselves up. His then 12-year-old son Ahmad Massoud became the undisputed heir of Afghanistan’s domestic resistance against ultra-fundamentalist terrorism. “He didn’t choose to be the saviour of Afghanistan, he was born into it. It came to him,” says one of his close aides, as two armed young men guard the now 34-year-old Massoud’s quarters in a third country that The Independent has agreed not to reveal. Given the circumstances of his father’s death, it is not surprising that this rare interview with the younger Massoud is conducted with a high degree of secrecy and thorough security checks.”


Associated Press: Pakistani Police Free 290 Baloch Activists Arrested While Protesting Extrajudicial Killings

“Pakistani police Monday freed 290 Baloch activists who were arrested when they attempted to hold a protest last week in the capital, Islamabad. Their release came days after protest organizers gave authorities a deadline to release all those detained. The activists had traveled 1,600 kilometers (about 1,000 miles) on Thursday from Turbat, a town in Baluchistan province, to protest forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the militancy-ravaged southwest. The protesters were mostly women and some had brought along their children, aged 7-12, when security forces used batons and water canons to disperse and arrest them. They wanted to draw attention to the case of 24-year-old Balaach Mola Bakhsh, who died in November while in police custody in Baluchistan. Authorities said he was killed after militants ambushed the police vehicle transporting him. Police said Bakhsh was carrying explosives when he was arrested. His family insists he is innocent, demanding justice for him. They also said he had been detained since October. Police said they arrested him in November. The police use of force against the protesters sparked anger among Baluchistan residents and drew nationwide condemnation from top human rights activists.”

Saudi Arabia

The New York Times: Hoping For Peace With Houthis, Saudis Keep Low Profile In Red Sea Conflict

“After Iran-backed rebels took over the capital of Yemen in 2014, a 30-year-old Saudi prince named Mohammed bin Salman spearheaded a military intervention to rout them. With American assistance and weapons, Saudi pilots embarked on a bombing campaign called Operation Decisive Storm inside Yemen, the mountainous nation on their southern border. Officials expected to swiftly defeat the rebels, a ragtag tribal militia known as the Houthis. Instead, the prince’s forces spent years mired in a conflict that splintered into fighting between multiple armed groups, drained billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia’s coffers and helped plunge Yemen into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Hundreds of thousands of people died from violence, hunger and unchecked disease. Saudi Arabia and its main partner, the United Arab Emirates, eventually scaled back their military involvement — partly because of American pressure — and Saudi officials entered peace talks with the Houthis, who secured control of northern Yemen.Now, the war in Gaza has thrust the Houthis — whose ideology is driven by hostility toward the United States and Israel and support for the Palestinian cause — into an unlikely global spotlight.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israeli Forces Bombard Central Gaza In Apparent Move Toward Expanding Ground Offensive

“Israeli forces bombarded Palestinian refugee camps in central Gaza on Tuesday, residents said, in apparent preparation to expand their ground offensive into a third section of the besieged territory. The opening of a potential new battle zone points to the long and destructive road still ahead as Israel vows to crush Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. For weeks, Israeli forces have been engaged in heavy urban fighting in northern Gaza and in the southern city of Khan Younis, driving Palestinians into further smaller corners of territory in search of refuge. Despite international pressure for a cease-fire and U.S. calls for a reduction in civilian casualties, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned that the fight “isn’t close to finished.” Israel’s offensive has been one of the most devastating military campaigns in recent history. More than 20,600 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants among the dead.”

Reuters: Israel PM Says Hamas Must Be Destroyed For Peace; US, Iran-Backed Militants Clash

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed, defying global calls for a ceasefire amid concerns the conflict could spread with U.S. and Iran-aligned forces again attacking each other. Netanyahu, who visited Israeli troops in northern Gaza on Monday, told lawmakers from his Likud Party that the war was far from over and dismissed what he cast as media speculation his government might call a halt to the fighting. He said Israel would not succeed in freeing its remaining hostages held by Hamas without applying military pressure. "We are not stopping. The war will continue until the end, until we finish it, no less," Netanyahu. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Netanyahu reiterated three prerequisites for peace: Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarised, and Palestinian society must be deradicalised. Retaliating against Hamas for its deadly Oct. 7 cross-border rampage, Israel has been under pressure from its closest ally the United States to shift operations in Gaza to a lower-intensity phase and reduce civilian deaths. Nearly 20,700 Gazans have been killed, including 250 in the last 24 hours, according to authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza.”

Reuters: Chipmaker Nvidia Raises $15 Million For Non-Profits Helping Israel-Hamas War-Hit Civilians

“U.S. chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA.O) and its employees have donated $15 million to Israeli and foreign non-profit organisations that are supporting civilians affected by Israel's war with Palestinian militant group Hamas. Thousands of employees from more than 30 countries donated a total of $5 million, which the company matched and doubled to $10 million under a special program introduced to help those affected by the war, Nvidia said on Sunday. It noted that the donation was the largest humanitarian fundraiser in the company's 30-year-old history. "We are proud to see such broad support from Nvidia families in Israel and around the world, and argrateful for their prayers and hope for the return of our colleague Avinatan Or, and the other hostages from Hamas captivity," said Gideon Rosenberg, Nvidia's deputy general counsel. "We are truly inspired by the genuine care of our employees around the world." Or, 30, has been an engineer at Nvidia since April 2022, according to his LinkedIn page. He was captured by Hamas at the Nova music festival on Oct. 7 along with his girlfriend Noa Argamani and around 240 others, some of whom have since been released.”

CBS: Palestinian Death Toll Tops 20,000 In Israel-Hamas War, Gaza Officials Say

“More than 20,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza during Israel's war against Hamas, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry said Friday. It was the latest indication of the staggering cost of the conflict as Israel expands its ground offensive and orders tens of thousands more people to leave their homes. The deaths, amounting to nearly 1% of the territory's prewar population, are just one measure of the devastation wrought by the conflict that over 11 weeks has displaced nearly 85% of Gaza's people and leveled wide swaths of the tiny coastal enclave. More than half a million people in Gaza - a quarter of the population - are starving, according to a report Thursday from the United Nations and other agencies describing the crisis caused by Israel's bombardment and siege of the territory in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Despite the emergency, a U.N. Security Council vote on aid deliveries and terms for a cease-fire was delayed again late Thursday, after days of high-level negotiations. The United States, which has veto power, has pushed back against calls for an immediate cease-fire and giving the U.N. sole responsibility for inspecting aid deliveries. Israel, citing security grounds, insists it needs to be able to screen goods entering Gaza.”


Associated Press: Egypt Floats Plan To End Israel-Hamas War. The Proposal Gets A Cool Reception

“Israel and Hamas on Monday gave cool public receptions to an Egyptian proposal to end their bitter war. But the longstanding enemies stopped short of rejecting the plan altogether, raising the possibility of a new round of diplomacy to halt a devastating Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian plan calls for a phased hostage release and the formation of a Palestinian government of experts to administer the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, according to a senior Egyptian official and a European diplomat familiar with the proposal. The Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposal, said the details were worked out with the Gulf nation of Qatar and presented to Israel, Hamas, the United States and European governments. Egypt and Qatar both mediate between Israel and Hamas, while the U.S. is Israel’s closest ally and a key power in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment directly on the proposal. But speaking to members of his Likud Party, he said he was determined to press ahead with Israel’s offensive, launched in response to an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 240 others hostage.”


Reuters: At Least 113 Killed In Attacks In Central Nigeria, Local Official Says

“The death toll in weekend attacks in the central Nigerian state of Plateau has risen to 113, a local official said on Monday, in a region where clashes between herders and farmers are common. It is the worst outbreak of violence in Plateau since May, when more than 100 people were killed in farmer-herder attacks. AFP News Agency had cited the Nigerian army on Sunday as saying 16 people were killed in the latest attacks. The acting chairman of Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State, Monday Kassah, said 113 people had been killed in the attacks on Saturday and Sunday. "The attacks were well-coordinated. Not fewer than 20 different communities were attacked by the bandits," he said. "We have recovered 113 dead bodies from those communities. We have recovered more than 300 injured." Kassah did not say who was responsible for the attacks. He added that the injured had been taken to hospital. A Plateau police spokesperson could not be reached for comment. Plateau is one of several ethnically and religiously diverse hinterland states known as Nigeria's Middle Belt, where inter-communal conflict has claimed hundreds of lives in recent years.”

Associated Press: France Completes Military Withdrawal From Niger, Leaving A Gap In The Terror Fight In The Sahel

“France on Friday completed the withdrawal of its troops after they were asked to leave Niger by the country’s new junta, ending years of on-the-ground military support and raising concerns from analysts about a gap in the fight against jihadi violence across the Sahel region of Africa. The last French military aircraft and troops departed Niger by the Dec. 22 deadline set by the junta which severed ties with Paris after the coup in July, the French Army General Staff told The Associated Press by email. France already announced this week that it would close its diplomatic mission in Niger for “an indefinite period.” However, the country would continue to be involved in the Sahel — the vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert which has been a hot spot for violent extremism — although differently, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday during a visit to a base in Jordan. “I decided on some important reconfigurations,” Macron said. “We will continue to protect our interests over there but our armies won’t be as present permanently, will be less stationary and also less exposed,” he said.” Niger’s junta described the end of the military cooperation with France as the start of “a new era” for Nigeriens.”


Associated Press: A British Sea Monitoring Agency Says Another Vessel Has Been Hijacked Near Somalia

“Another vessel has been hijacked near the coast of Somalia, a British sea trade monitoring agency said Friday, raising more concerns that Somali pirates are active again, nearly a decade after they caused chaos for international shipping. A dhow trading vessel was seized by heavily armed people near the town of Eyl off the coast of Somalia, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said. It cited military authorities as the source of the information. The agency did not offer any details on who the hijackers were but said an investigation is underway. The European Union’s Naval Force reported that a Maltese-flagged merchant vessel was hijacked in the nearby Arabian Sea last week and moved to the same area off Somalia’s coast. The bulk carrier Ruen had 18 crew onboard when it was hijacked near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia. One crew member was evacuated to an Indian navy ship for medical care, the EU Naval Force said. Suspicion has also fallen on Somali pirates for that hijacking, although the EU force said the hijackers and their demands were unknown.”

Reuters: Somalia, U.S. Forces Kill Al Shabaab Leader Behind Numerous Attacks In Region - Official

“Somali and U.S. forces have killed a senior leader of the militant Islamist al Shabaab group who had planned numerous attacks in Somalia and Kenya, Somalia's information minister said. "Maalim Ayman ... was confirmed to have been killed in a joint operation by the Somali National Army with assistance from US forces on December 17th," Daud Aweis said on his X account late on Thursday. "Ayman was accountable for planning multiple lethal terrorist attacks in Somalia and nearby countries," he said. The U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) had conducted an air strike, an AFRICOM spokesperson said, but added that the strike's target was yet to be confirmed. The strike was conducted against the militant group near Jilib town in southern Somalia, AFRICOM and the Somali Information Ministry said. Ayman was on a U.S. State Department Rewards for Justice wanted list, with a $10 million reward offered for information leading to his arrest or conviction. The department said he was responsible for preparing an attack on a military base in Kenya in January 2020 in which three Americans - one U.S. military service member and two contractors - were killed.”

United Kingdom

Washington Post: The Right To Protest Is Under Threat In Britain, Undermining A Pillar Of Democracy

“For holding a sign outside a courthouse reminding jurors of their right to acquit defendants, a retiree faces up to two years in prison. For hanging a banner reading Just Stop Oil off a bridge, an engineer got a three-year sentence. Just for walking slowly down the street, scores of people have been arrested. They are among hundreds of environmental activists arrested for peaceful demonstrations in the U.K., where tough new laws restrict the right to protest. The Conservative government says the laws prevent extremist activists from hurting the economy and disrupting daily life. Critics say the arrests mark a worrying departure. “The government has made its intent very clear, which is basically to suppress what is legitimate, lawful protest,” said Jonathon Porritt, an ecologist and former director of Friends of the Earth. Britain is one of the world’s oldest democracies, home of the Magna Carta, a centuries-old Parliament and an independent judiciary. That system is underpinned by an “unwritten constitution” — a set of laws, rules, conventions and judicial decisions accumulated over the years. The result is “we rely on self-restraint by governments,” said Andrew Blick, author of “Democratic Turbulence in the United Kingdom” and a political scientist at King’s College London. “You hope the people in power are going to behave themselves.””

BBC: Prevent: Rise In Climate Activists Referred To Anti-Terror Scheme 

“The UK government's Prevent scheme aims to stop people becoming terrorists. Critics say Prevent curbs human rights by stifling non-violent political beliefs and should be reformed. The government says it has never advised referring people to Prevent for lawful climate activism or protest. Anyone can contact the police or a local authority to make a Prevent referral, which usually involves filling out a form to explain a concern about someone deemed to be at risk of radicalisation. Since 2015, institutions including schools, universities, hospitals, local authorities, police, and prisons have had a legal duty to consider the risk of radicalisation. The Home Office told the BBC Prevent interventions were legitimate for those who could be radicalised into terrorism in the name of environmental causes. But climate activists say the government's definition of extremism is too broad and authorities are confusing extremism with non-violent civil disobedience in too many cases. Sir Peter Fahy, a former national police lead for Prevent, said it was "inappropriate" to treat non-violent climate activists as potential terrorists. He said the fear of being flagged to police in a Prevent referral could deter people from protesting, and argued the rise in environmental cases reasons "shows how confused we've become about all of this".”


Reuters: Japan To Impose Sanctions On Three Senior Hamas Members

“The Japanese government will freeze assets and impose sanctions on payments and capital transactions on three senior Hamas members, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Tuesday. The three individuals were believed to be involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and in a position to use funds to finance such terrorist activities, the top Japanese government spokesperson said.”


The New York Times: Substack Says It Will Not Ban Nazis Or Extremist Speech

“Under pressure from critics who say Substack is profiting from newsletters that promote hate speech and racism, the company’s founders said Thursday that they would not ban Nazi symbols and extremist rhetoric from the platform. “I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either — we wish no one held those views,” Hamish McKenzie, a co-founder of Substack, said in a statement. “But some people do hold those and other extreme views. Given that, we don’t think that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away — in fact, it makes it worse.” The response came weeks after The Atlantic found that at least 16 Substack newsletters had “overt Nazi symbols” in their logos or graphics, and that white supremacists had been allowed to publish on, and profit from, the platform. Hundreds of newsletter writers signed a letter opposing Substack’s position and threatening to leave. About 100 others signed a letter supporting the company’s stance. In the statement, Mr. McKenzie said that he and the company’s other founders, Chris Best and Jairaj Sethi, had arrived at the conclusion that censoring or demonetizing the publications would not make the problem of hateful rhetoric go away.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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