Eye on Extremism: December 27, 2022

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Steps Up Raids Against Islamic State Militants In Syria

“The Pentagon said it has stepped up raids against Islamic State in Syria, conducting nearly a dozen risky helicopter and ground operations to kill or capture top militant operatives. In December, the military said it had conducted at least 10 operations and raids, according to officials at U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in most of the Middle East. That included three operations Tuesday with the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.’s ally in Syria, that led to the detention of six Islamic State operatives, a spokesman for the command said. Those raids netted what the military said was an Islamic State provincial senior official named al-Zubaydi. Eight other raids, including seven earlier this month and another one in early October, killed or nabbed other Islamic State operatives, military officials said.  U.S. officials acknowledged that Central Command has carried out additional raids in Syria, but command officials declined to provide details on any of the other raids. Ground raids and other operations keep Islamic State on its heels, officials said. But it isn’t without risk. In one recent raid, for example, U.S. forces were on the ground for about three hours as they engaged in extensive gunfire and ultimately detained individuals and collected intelligence at the site. Each operation is planned carefully and takes into account the perils of such raids after making assessments on “reams and reams” of intelligence, Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Central Command, said.”

Reuters: Al Qaeda Releases Video It Claims Is Narrated By Leader Al-Zawahiri Who Was Believed Dead -SITE

“Al Qaeda has released a 35-minute recording the group claims was narrated by its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was believed to have been killed in a U.S. raid in August 2022, SITE intelligence group said on Friday. The recording was undated and the transcript did not clearly point towards a time frame for when it could have been made. Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. strike in Afghanistan, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Zawahiri had been in hiding for years, and the operation to locate and kill him was the result of “careful, patient and persistent” work by the counterterrorism and intelligence community, a senior U.S. administration official said. Al Qaeda has not named a successor. But Saif al-Adel, a mysterious, low-key former Egyptian special forces officer who is a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda, is seen by experts as the top contender. The United States is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his arrest.”

United States

ABC News: US Military Families Sue After French Company Lafarge Pleads Guilty To Supporting Terrorism

“Families of U.S. servicemen killed by ISIS have sued Lafarge, the French conglomerate that pleaded guilty earlier this year to bribing the Islamic State group and the Al-Nusra Front to keep a cement plant running through the Syrian civil war. The guilty plea and a nearly $800-million fine were part of the U.S. government's first-ever prosecution of a corporation for providing material support for terrorism. The “economic self-interest” of Lafarge enabled the Islamic State group's slaughtering of innocent civilians, including Americans, their families said in a new lawsuit. In this Oct. 19, 2022, file photo, the concrete plant of the French building materials company, Lafarge is seen in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. “Defendants' payments to and business partnership with ISIS provided ISIS the seed capital it needed to transform from a fledgling militia in the early 2010s into a brutal terroristic behemoth with the capability and intent to kill Americans,” the lawsuit said. The plaintiffs are the families of three U.S. servicemen killed in attacks blamed on ISIS. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Finan of California was killed by an ISIS-planted IED in Iraq on Oct. 20, 2016. His widow and his parents said they have “experienced severe mental anguish, extreme emotional pain and suffering” since his death, according to the lawsuit.”


Reuters: Islamic State Attack In Syria's Raqqa Kills 6 Kurdish Security Forces - Official

“Six Kurdish-led security force members were killed in an Islamic State suicide attack on Monday on a security forces centre in Syria's Raqqa, the chief of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, wrote on Twitter. One suicide bomber was killed and another detained, Farhad Shami, head of the SDF's media centre, said. Islamic State took over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, including Raqqa which was its main seat of power, but since losing its last significant piece of territory in Syria in 2019 it has resorted to guerrilla attacks. Its remaining thousands of militants have in recent years mostly hid out in remote hinterlands though they are still capable of carrying out insurgent-style attacks. A major IS attack on the SDF-run al-Sina'a prison in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka in January left some 500 people dead, including 374 people linked to ISIS and dozens of SDF fighters and prison staff, the SDF said.”

AFP: ISIS Claims Failed Prison Attack In Syria

“The ISIS group claimed an attack Monday on a security complex in northern Syria, which a war monitor said was near a military intelligence prison housing hundreds of extremists. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app. “Two ISIS fighters launched a surprise attack this morning... to avenge Muslim prisoners” and relatives of extremists living in the Kurdish-administered al-Hol camp, the group said in a statement on Telegram, adding that one of the perpetrators had survived after the attack. Six members of Kurdish-led security forces and two extremists were killed in the attack, a war monitor said. The failed assault targeted a Kurdish security complex in Raqa, the group’s former de facto capital in Syria, which includes a military intelligence prison housing hundreds of extremists, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “The jihadists were targeting the military intelligence prison,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based monitor.”


The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State Suspected To Be Behind Series Of Attacks In Iraq

“Suspected Islamic State militants ambushed a military patrol in northern Iraq late Wednesday, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding three others, Iraqi security officials said, in the latest sign that the group is attempting a violent resurgence. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack near the city of Kirkuk, but the officials said they suspected fighters from Islamic State. Gunmen opened fire on Iraqi troops riding in two military vehicles, which were also targeted by roadside bombs, according to the officials. It was the fourth major attack believed to have been carried out by Islamic State since Dec. 14, leaving at least 14 soldiers and police officers and 11 civilians dead in one of the most violent series of attacks by the militant group recently. Islamic State has managed to sustain a low-level insurgency in Syria and Iraq despite years of military operations aimed at crushing it. The militant group launched a prison break in northeastern Syria in January that triggered days of street-to-street fighting with Syrian militia fighters and U.S. soldiers. More than 500 people died in the attack and the ensuing battle in the city of Hasakah. Meeting with military commanders Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani blamed the latest violence on the remnants of Islamic State, which the U.S. military and its allies declared they had largely defeated in 2019 after expelling the group from most of Iraq and eastern Syria.”

Al Monitor: Iraqi PM Orders 'Unconventional Methods' To Stop Islamic State Attacks

“A large ‘martyr’s photo’ has been placed outside the headquarters of the Ali al-Akbar Brigade in this southern Shia-dominant city in commemoration of one of the group’s unit commanders, who was killed farther north in the Diyala governorate in late November in an Islamic State attack. The Ali al-Akbar Brigade is part of the country’s official, government-salaried Popular Mobilization Units. As the traditional Islamic 40 days of mourning for the man continue, so do attacks in both Diyala and neighboring Kirkuk. Multiple members of the country’s security forces have been killed. Three Iraqi army soldiers were killed in an attack in the Kirkuk governorate late in the evening of Dec. 21, a security source in Kirkuk contacted by Al-Monitor on Dec. 22 said. It was the third deadly IS attack in a week in the two provinces. No news of the attack had been published by the Iraqi government-linked Security Media Cell by the time of publication. Meanwhile, a major operation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has resulted in the arrest of dozens of alleged IS fighters and organizers, including one tasked with recruiting Kurdish fighters for the international terrorist organization. The Iraqi prime minister and commander-in-chief of the armed forces Mohammed Shia al-Sudani chaired a meeting Dec. 21, in Baghdad on the recent security developments in these two governorates, Diyala and Kirkuk.”


Associated Press: Head Of Turkish Medical Group Stands Trial On Terror Charges

“The president of the Turkish Medical Association denied in court on Friday accusations that she disseminated “terrorist propaganda” by calling for an investigation into allegations that the Turkish military used chemical weapons against Kurdish militants. Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, 63, is on trial accused of engaging in propaganda on behalf of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. She was arrested in October after she gave an interview during which she spoke of the need for an “effective investigation” into the allegations. Fincanci, a forensic expert, is the latest activist to be prosecuted under Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism laws, which human rights groups say have led to a crackdown on the freedom of expression. She faces up to seven and a half years in prison if found guilty. The charges are based on a recording of the interview with a pro-Kurdish media outlet where Fincanci is heard saying that she had reviewed a video purporting to show the use of chemical weapons in Iraq. “What I expressed during the broadcast was a preliminary diagnostic. It was not a definitive conclusion but a request for an effective, independent investigation,” Dokuz 8 Haber website quoted her as telling the court during the first hearing of her trial. “My words cannot be considered a crime within the scope of science or freedom of expression.”


The National: Fears ISIS Fighters Are Securing Afghan Passports And Changing Identities

“Counter-terrorism experts have raised concerns about the difficulty of tracking ISIS fighters in the future after reports some of them are changing their identities through the issuance of Afghan passports by the Taliban. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) think tank said it has received reports from officials in countries neighbouring Afghanistan that the Taliban has been giving passports to terrorists following the group's takeover of the country last year. “This will, of course, complicate the identification of potential foreign terrorists leaving Afghanistan as these will likely travel with original Afghan passports and potentially changed identities”, the CEP said. There have been fears that Afghanistan will become a safe haven for terrorists under Taliban rule. Last year UN envoy Deborah Lyons warned that ISIS has been “increasingly active” in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, with a sharp rise in the number of attacks and an expanding national footprint. “Once limited to a few provinces and Kabul, [ISIS-K] now seems to be present in nearly all provinces and is increasingly active,” said Ms Lyons. Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the local affiliate of the radical group, has emerged as the main security threat to the Taliban since they regained control of Kabul and western forces pulled out after two decades in the country.”

Reuters: U.N. Urges Taliban To Reverse Ban On Female Foreign Aid Workers

“A senior U.N. official has urged Afghanistan's Taliban administration to reverse a ban on female humanitarian workers that charities fear will worsen winter hardships. The administration on Saturday ordered all local and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) not to let female staff work until further notice. It said the move, which was condemned globally, was justified because some women had not adhered to the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic dress code for women. "Millions of Afghans need humanitarian assistance and removing barriers is vital," UNAMA said in the statement, adding that its acting head and humanitarian coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov had met with economy minister Mohammad Hanif. The directives barring women from working at NGOs came from Hanif's ministry. The orders do not apply directly to the United Nations, but many of its programmes are carried out by NGOs subject to the order. Four major global NGOs, whose humanitarian efforts have reached millions of Afghans, have already announced they were suspending operations on Sunday. Other smaller NGOs have also announced suspensions, including United Kingdom-based Islamic Relief Worldwide.”


Reuters: Suspected Militants Heading For Pakistani Govt Target Blow Themselves Up

“Pakistani militants thought to have been on the verge of carrying out a suicide bombing in Islamabad's government district blew themselves up on Friday as police pursued their car, killing one officer, authorities said. The interior ministry said the vehicle had been heading for a high-value target in the capital, without giving details, while Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said timely intervention by the police had averted a “bloodbath”. The car exploded near police headquarters on a main road leading to a government sector where parliament and the offices of senior officials are located. The capital was already on high alert due to threats of a high-profile attack, said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah. “Had the car reached its target, it would have caused heavy losses,” he told Geo News TV. Islamabad police chief Sohail Zafar said police gave chase after the car failed to stop at a checkpoint. “As they chased it, the people inside the car blew it up,” he said, adding that four police and two civilians were injured, he said. Zafar initially said there was a man and a woman inside the car. A police spokesman later said the woman's presence could not be verified. The Pakistani Taliban claimed the car bombing, saying it was revenge for the killing of one of their leaders. “We take responsibility for the suicide attack against the enemy of Islam,” said a statement from the militants known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella group of Sunni Islamist and sectarian groups.”

Associated Press: Soldier, Militant Dead In Pakistan After Clash Near Border

“A soldier and a militant were killed near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani military said Sunday, when a group of militants attempted to sneak into the country's northwest, triggering a shootout. The clash erupted in the Sambaza area of Zhob overnight, according to a military statement. Two other soldiers  were also injured in the exchange of fire. It said the area had already been under surveillance for days after intelligence reports that militants were using the route to sneak into Pakistan to target civilians and security forces. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, ended a ceasefire last month and have attacked Pakistani security forces over the last month. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allies with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan a year ago as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban. In a separate incident in Pakistan's southwest, a roadside bomb on Sunday killed an army captain and four other soldiers. A military statement said the explosion targeted troops engaged in an anti-militant operation in the Kohlu district of Baluchistan province. Police in Baluchistan also said Sunday that three grenades attacks injured 14 people in separate incidents.”

Voice Of America: US Embassy Alerts Staff Amid Surging Militant Violence In Pakistan

“The U.S. embassy in Pakistan warned its staff Sunday against visiting a top hotel in the capital, Islamabad, over the holidays, saying, “Unknown individuals are plotting to attack Americans.” The warning comes amid a surge in terrorist attacks in parts of the South Asian nation, including a suicide bombing in the capital this past week that killed a police officer. “Effective immediately, the Embassy in Islamabad is prohibiting all American staff from visiting Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel,” the U.S. diplomatic mission said in a security alert published on its website. It urged all American personnel to refrain from “nonessential, unofficial travel” in Islamabad during the holidays, noting that Pakistani authorities have placed the city on a “Red Alert” and banned all public gatherings due to security concerns. On Sunday, the Pakistani military confirmed the death of five troops, including an officer, in a roadside bombing in the southwestern Baluchistan province. Separatist ethnic Baluch insurgents claimed responsibility. Thursday’s bomb attack in Islamabad, which wounded 10 people, was claimed by the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban. The violence prompted the administration to beef up security and increase police patrols across the city, banning political gatherings and processions.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Shin Bet Busts Gaza-Directed Terror Cell Planning ‘Major’ Bombing In Israel

“The Shin Bet security agency on Monday said it recently foiled an attempt by terror groups in the Gaza Strip to carry out a bombing attack in Israel using West Bank terror operatives On December 14, security forces arrested four Palestinians in the West Bank over their involvement in the plot, and seized a primed explosive device, the agency said. According to the Shin Bet, the attack plan was directed by the Popular Resistance Committees and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is loosely tied to the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but also has members in Gaza. The Shin Bet said the groups planned a “significant terror attack in Israel” using a bomb hidden in a fire extinguisher. The device was seized before it could be planted in an Israeli city. The group received its instructions from Ahmed Fathi Omar Hajaj, an explosives expert and resident of the northern Gaza Strip city of Jabaliya who is known to the Shin Bet, the agency said. The Shin Bet also named four more terror operatives in the Gaza Strip who allegedly assisted in recruiting the West Bank attackers: Maha Ladawi, a resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp; and Jihad Ahmed, Sabari Aram, and Amin Zakot, residents of the southern Gazan city of Rafah.”


AFP: Boko Haram Kill 17 Herders In Northeastern Nigerian State Of Borno

“Boko Haram jihadists attacked herders guarding their cattle in a pasture near Airamne village in Mafa district on Saturday, a local militia group said. “Seventeen herders were killed in the fight and all their cattle taken away,” militia leader Babakura Kolo said. “The herders put (up) resistance but were outgunned and outnumbered by the attackers, who had better weapons,” said Kolo. Another militiaman, Ibrahim Liman, gave the same toll. He said the jihadists launched the attack from camps in nearby Gajiganna forest, where they relocated after being partially forced out from their stronghold in Sambisa forest by jihadist rivals ISWAP and the Nigerian army. ISWAP — Islamic State West Africa Province — split from Boko Haram in 2016 and rose to become the dominant group in the region’s long-running jihadist turmoil. It seized swathes of territory under Boko Haram control after leader Abubakar Shekau was killed in clashes with ISWAP in May last year. Boko Haram and ISWAP have increasingly been targeting civilians, particularly loggers, farmers and herders, accusing them of spying on them for the military and the local anti-jihadist militia. But herders who pay a levy to the jihadists are usually allowed to let their cattle graze safely in territory under militant control.”


Associated Press: 2 Shot Dead By Al-Shabab Militants In Coastal Kenya

“Two people were shot dead by al-Shabab militants and several houses torched in a rural area in coastal Kenya, police said Monday. The Christmas night attack happened in the Pandaguo area in Lamu county that neighbors Boni forest, where security agencies have been conducting an operation since 2015 to flush out militants in hiding. The forest near the Kenya-Somalia border and the area around it has been attacked by al-Shabab militants in the past. Police said the attackers invaded Taa village, some miles away from the popular tourist destination of Lamu town, and targeted homes in a coordinated manner. Many villagers ran and hid in bushes as the gang descended on their homes, survivors said. Coast regional commissioner John Elungata said assailants attacked the village at night but were repulsed by Kenya Police Reservists after a heavy gunfight. Elungata urged locals to cooperate with security officers on the ground. “The situation is calm, we have officers patrolling the area and we would like to ask members of the public to tell us what they know to help us in our investigations as we continue hunting them” he said. The attack comes barely a week after the suspected al-Shabab militants attacked a police vehicle in northern Kenya, killing two officers and a civilian.”

Reuters: Ten Killed After Burkina Faso Bus Hits Landmine On Christmas Day

“At least 10 people were killed and five others injured when a passenger bus triggered a landmine in eastern Burkina Faso on Christmas Day, the government said in a statement on Monday. The bus was travelling from the market town of Fada N'Gourma around 220 km (136 miles) from the capital Ouagadougou, to the border town of Kantchari near neighbouring Niger. No one has claimed responsibility, but the attack occurred in an area where the government is battling insurgents linked to al Qaeda in north Africa and Islamic State fighters. The insurgents control swathes of territory in Burkina Faso. Since 2015 they have carried out raids and blockades of several towns in the north and eastern regions of the country, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing nearly 2 million.”


Forbes: Paris Shooting: 3 Killed, Suspect ‘Extreme Right-Wing Activist,’ Mayor Says

“At least three people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a Kurdish community center and a hair salon in Paris, France, local officials said Friday morning, as police investigate whether the shooting was a hate crime and as protests flare up near the site of the attack. Three more people were injured, including one in “absolute emergency,” in the attack, which took place in the city’s rue d’Enghien, a bustling area known for its shops and restaurants, which also has a large Kurdish population, French outlet France24 reported. Local police said they arrested the 69-year-old alleged shooter—who was also injured in the attack—describing him as a Caucasian man who had been known for two previous attempted murders, in 2016 and 2021. The alleged shooter had recently been released from prison after being charged with racist violence for attacking migrants living in a tent camp in Paris with a knife last December, according to Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau. Witnesses told French outlet AFP the gunman first approached the Kurdish cultural center before he went to a salon next door. No official motive has been giving for the shooter, whose name has not yet been released publicly. The alleged gunman is believed to be an “extreme right-wing activist,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted, saying he targeted Kurdish people in the attack, while Mathilde Panot, the head of France’s left-wing Unbowed party, tweeted, “the racist extreme right must be neutralized.”


The Guardian: Cryptocurrency Becomes Mainstream Option For Money Laundering And Funding Of Terrorism, Austrac Says

“Australia’s financial intelligence agency has warned Russian paramilitary groups are soliciting cryptocurrency donations to buy weapons and that Australians have donated to terrorist organisations overseas. Senior executives at Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) also said cryptocurrency has become a “standard part of the money-laundering tool kit” for organised crime groups in Australia. The agency’s deputy chief executive and head of intelligence, John Moss, said crypto was no longer considered a “niche option” for criminal activity and had become more mainstream. “We are now seeing more traditional money laundering being displaced into cryptocurrency, particularly to send money offshore,” he said. Moss said Russian groups have been soliciting digital currency donations on social media to buy weapons, drones and armour for the conflict in Ukraine. In July, global consultants Chainalysis estimated approximately $2.2m in cryptocurrency had been sent to Russian paramilitary groups, which have posted images of arms bought on social media. “This shows how easy it is to use crypto as a fundraising source and when you mix it with social media, you get a big reach. You’ve got a technology that’s easy to use and if you’re flexible in the type of cryptos you take, you can do quite well out of it,” Moss said.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We must use our privilege as humans to fight back against the system that keeps animals oppressed... They can’t wait. The earth can’t wait. Get off your ass and FIGHT.

Animal Liberation Front (ALF), ALF statement Jul. 23, 2019
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