Eye on Extremism: Feb 14, 2020

Reuters: Syrian To Be Tried For Plotting Attack On U.S. Embassy In Lebanon: Agency

“A Syrian man held on suspicion of plotting an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was referred to trial on Thursday along with 20 other people, the Lebanese state news agency NNA said. NNA said a Lebanese military judge had issued an indictment against the man on charges of belonging to the Islamic State militant group and planning the operation on its behalf. It said the man was suspected of having prepared explosives and of seeking to buy a drone for the attack. The agency gave no further details and did not spell out the allegations against the 20 others. A Lebanese security source said the man was arrested last month in Lebanon and is expected to face a military trial along with the other 20 suspects, who were accused of helping to plot the operation.”

The Independent: Jihadis Jailed For Spreading Speeches By Hate Preacher Who Inspired Terrorists Including London Bridge Attacker

“Two men have been jailed for spreading extremist propaganda that called on Muslims to wage violent jihad around the world. Muhammad Abdur Raheem Kamali and Mohammed Abdul Ahad edited and uploaded speeches by hate preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal to a website and social media pages. Police said the material promoted terrorism and encouraged people to join Isis in Syria, but The Independent has confirmed that the website remains online. The site claims that Muslims must “hate disbelievers” and “fight them,”, and urges followers to spread their beliefs and contact others of the same faith in British prisons. Sheikh Faisal’s followers included two of the bombers in the 7 July 2005 attack in London, a terrorist jailed for conspiring with the 9/11 hijackers, and shoe bomber Richard Reid.”

Financial Times: Germany’s CDU In Turmoil Over Working With Extremists

“Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats have prided themselves on the strict cordon sanitaire they built around the far-right Alternative for Germany — ruling out any co-operation or contact. Many now wonder whether it is time for the barrier to come down. Events of the past week, where a local row over dealings with the AfD culminated in national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer deciding to quit, have shown just how consequential the CDU’s attitude to the far-right has become. Against the backdrop of an impending leadership campaign, and with Ms Merkel’s authority ebbing away during her last term in office, the CDU faces a battle for its soul. Some members insist the ban on working with the far right must stay. Others say the AfD’s rising support requires a different approach. “I cannot just disregard 25 per cent of voters and say ‘I’m not going to talk to your representatives’,” said Lars-Jörn Zimmer, a senior CDU MP in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. He said the CDU should consider the option of a minority government supported by the AfD — a suggestion that triggered uproar in his party. This month’s upheaval was sparked in Thuringia, where the CDU sided with the AfD in the eastern state’s parliament to elect a little-known politician as prime minister.”

United States

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Former Philadelphia Navy Yard Worker Disavows White Supremacy At Sentencing For Hiding Extremist Ties

“A former Navy Yard employee disavowed the torch-bearing white supremacists he once marched alongside as he was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison for lying to federal agents about his ties to extremist groups. Fred C. Arena, 42, of Salem, N.J., told a federal judge he was no longer a member of Vanguard America, the neo-Nazi organization he accompanied tor the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. The demonstration spawned violent brawls that left one counter-protester dead. South Jersey man accused in synagogue vandalisms, revealing dark network of neo-Nazi organizing online. “I’m not such a monster,” Arena said at a hearing in Philadelphia. “I’m really not. …. I got a little too involved in politics — this whole left-right thing, and I did some stupid things.” The case against Arena, who admitted last year that he lied on an application for national security clearance to get his Navy Yard job, comes as authorities have stepped up efforts to prosecute potentially violent domestic extremists. This photo taken from one of Fred C. Arena's social media accounts depicts him at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters left one woman dead.”


Kurdistan 24: ISIS Attack On Religious Minority In Disputed Khanaqin Leaves 2 Dead, 10 Injured

“On late Wednesday night, the so-called Islamic State attacked a village of the Kurdish religious minority known as the Kakais in the disputed Khanaqin district, killing a father and a son, and injuring 10 others. The attack targeted the “Bahary Taza” village, which falls on the outskirts of Khanaqin district in the Diyala governorate. The area is considered one of the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraq’s central government.  A source in the area confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that “the attack led to the death of a father and son from the Kakai minority, while 10 individuals among civilians and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were injured.” “The terrorist group also detonated a placed IED while the security forces were attempting to evacuate the injured individuals,” the source added. Killings and other insurgent-style operations have continued with regularity, notably in disputed areas, over two years after the Islamic State lost all its territorial claims in Iraq, and Baghdad declared a final victory over the extremist organization. In late January, a group of gunmen suspected to be an Islamic State sleeper cell set up a mock security checkpoint and abducted seven civilians to the west of Khanaqin and just south of the Kurdish run Garmiyan Administration.”


Reuters: Turkey To Oppose Pakistan Blacklisting At Anti-Terrorism Finance Meet

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said he would help Pakistan stay off a terrorism financing blacklist at a meeting of a global finance watchdog, a move he suggested would counter “political pressure” from Islamabad’s critics. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which tackles money laundering, told Islamabad late last year that it could face blacklisting if it continued to apply inadequate controls over terrorism financing. The FATF is meeting next week in France, and support from Turkey and longtime allies like China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia could help Pakistan remain off the blacklist. A minimum of three votes are required for any country to escape the blacklisting. If it joined the blacklist alongside Iran and North Korea, Islamabad would face sanctions and economic setbacks at a time when its economy is struggling with a balance of payment crisis. “We will be supporting Pakistan at the Financial Action Task Force meetings, where Pakistan is subject to political pressure,” Erdogan told Pakistan’s parliament a day after he arrived in Islamabad. The FATF already has Pakistan on its “gray-list” of countries with inadequate controls over curbing money laundering and terrorism financing.”

Deutsche Welle: Leftist Folk Musicians Go On Trial In Turkey On 'Trumped Up' Terror Charges

“Since the 1980s, the left-wing band Grup Yorum have accumulated a large fan base with their folk-rock music and political lyrics. At the same time, they've attracted the ire of the authorities and police. Several albums have been banned or censored and there have been frequent raids on Istanbul's Idil Cultural Center, where the band like to perform. Many of the 30-odd members have been jailed at one time or other. Last March, eight members were detained during a raid on the cultural center and accused of belonging to the DHKP-C, a militant Marxist group, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization, as does Germany. Some of them embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to protest against their detention. After 200 days, Ibrahim Gokcek, who is perilously close to dying, transformed his strike into a “death fast”, as did Helin Bolek, who was released from jail in November but is still refusing to eat. Their intention is to fast until all charges against the band are dropped and all members released from jail. They also want the ban on Grup Yorum concerts to be lifted and an end to raids on the Idil Cultural Center.”


The Wall Street Journal: Trump Says ‘Good Chance’ Of Deal With Taliban

“President Trump said Thursday the U.S. is close to signing a deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and that the outcome of negotiations would be clear in the next two weeks. It was the first time Mr. Trump has acknowledged the U.S. was close to an accord with the Taliban since talks fell apart last September, when both sides were on the cusp of a deal. “We shouldn’t be there. It’s time to come home,” Mr. Trump said in a podcast interview with Geraldo Rivera. Officials familiar with the negotiations have said that the U.S. and Taliban are expected to announce a period of reduced violence in the country as soon as this week. The reduction of violence is intended to serve as a show of good faith. If successful, the deal could be signed in Doha later this month. “I think we’re very close. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal, and we’ll see. We’re going to know over the next two weeks,” Mr. Trump said. After a year of painstaking negotiations, the U.S. seemed close to a deal with the Taliban. Then, in September, President Trump said the talks were dead, and prospects for ending America's longest war were dimming again.”

Reuters: Taliban, Afghan Forces Clash Despite Talk Of Breakthrough In Peace Deal

“Afghan government forces and Taliban insurgents waged war against each other in the past 24 hours despite U.S. officials saying there had been a breakthrough in recent days in peace talks to end the 18-year-old conflict. While negotiators from the warring sides pressed on with meetings in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban and the Afghan government both reported fighting on the ground. The Afghan defense ministry said an air strike had killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Balkh province on Thursday evening. “As result of a targeted air strike by Afghan air forces, Mawlavi Sardar Mohammad, a key member of the Taliban military commission was killed along with eight others,” the ministry said in a statement. The Taliban did not confirm the air strike. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the insurgents had killed six Afghan soldiers, including two officers, in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province. Afghan, Taliban and U.S. sources said a peace deal could be signed this month, allowing a withdrawal of some of 13,000 U.S. troops and thousands of other NATO personnel that remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. intervention to oust the Taliban in 2001. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday there was a “good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban on a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.”

Long War Journal: Taliban Fighters Train At Mullah Mansoor ‘Military Camp’

“The Taliban has released yet another set of photographs from one of its military training camps. In the images, Taliban fighters are training in the open in a mountainous area that should be easily identified by the U.S. and Afghan militaries. The latest images were published on Feb. 10 at Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website. The Taliban identified the camp as the “Shaheed Amirul Mumineen Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor Military Camp.” It is named after Mullah Mansoor, the second emir of the Taliban who was killed in a U.S. drone strike inside Pakistan in May 2016. Before his death, Mansoor accepted Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri’s pledge of allegiance. The images are largely unremarkable as the Taliban has released dozens of images and videos showing its fighters in training (see Taliban promotes ‘mujahideen’ graduates from one of its military training camps from Feb. 5). What makes these images interesting is that the location of this training site should be easily deduced by the U.S. and Afghan militaries. The Taliban fighters are training in a mountainous area with easily identifiable features. The Taliban provides multiple angles of the surrounding mountains.”


BBC News: Hafiz Saeed: Will Pakistan's 'Terror Cleric' Stay In Jail?

“An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced hardline Islamist cleric Hafiz Mohammad Saeed to 11 years in jail for financing terrorist operations. The man accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 161 people is to serve two five-and-a-half prison terms concurrently. Saeed has been wanted by India for years, and is designated as a global terrorist by both the UN and the US, which has a $10m bounty on his head. He's the founder of one of Pakistan's largest militant groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). So why has it taken so long to put him behind bars - and will he stay there? The answer is complicated, not least by the fact that Saeed is widely known to have close links with the Pakistani military. Why punish him now? The answer may lie in Pakistan's growing international isolation since the mid-2000s, its worsening economic woes and more recently a threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international terror financing and money laundering watchdog. Significantly, Saeed's conviction comes a week before the Paris-based FATF discusses Pakistan's progress in curbing terror financing.”


The Washington Post: Officials: Eastern Forces Bomb Tripoli Neighborhoods, 1 Dead

“Libya’s eastern-based forces indiscriminately shelled residential neighborhoods around the capital on Thursday, health authorities reported, killing one woman and wounding at least four civilians. The renewed clashes came just hours after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a 55-point road map for ending the war that demanded foreign backers of Libya’s warring sides uphold a widely flouted arms embargo. Explosive shells rained down on Tripoli’s southern suburbs, killing a 40-year-old woman in her home in the al-Hadba district. On Wednesday, errant artillery shells had killed a 38-year-old man in a coffee shop in eastern Tripoli and wounded 14 others, said Amin al-Hashmi, a spokesman for the Tripoli-based health ministry. The latest round of fighting in Libya erupted last spring, when eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter launched an assault on Tripoli to wrest it from control of the U.N.-backed government. The violence has worsened since, as international players with interests in the oil-rich country intervened, sending arms and foreign mercenaries. In the latest twist, Turkey has deployed Syrian fighters affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group to fight on behalf of the Tripoli government, which controls a shrinking corner of the country’s west.”


Reuters: Nigeria's Military Razed Villages In War On Islamist Insurgents: Amnesty International

“Nigeria’s military burned down villages and forcibly displaced hundreds of people in its fight against Islamist insurgents in the country’s northeast, rights group Amnesty International alleged on Friday. Nigeria’s military, which has frequently been accused of human rights abuses in its decade-long fight against Boko Haram and more recently Islamic State’s West African branch, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Previous allegations have sparked investigations by the International Criminal Court in the Hague and hampered Nigeria’s ability to purchase arms, a source of frustration for its military’s leaders. However, convictions of soldiers have been rare and the military has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. In the latest allegations, Amnesty said Nigerian soldiers razed three villages after forcing hundreds of men and women to leave their homes in the northeastern state of Borno in January. The human rights group said it interviewed 12 victims and reviewed satellite images that showed several large fires in the area and almost every structure razed. Residents described soldiers going house to house and rounding people up, then making them walk to a main road and board trucks, it said.”

Council On Foreign Relations: Military Failures Mount In Borno Against Boko Haram

“The security situation around Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, appears to be going from bad to worse. On February 9, The Boko Haram faction Islamic State in West African (ISWA) shot or burned alive some thirty people sleeping in their cars and trucks that night outside the town of Auno, some ten miles from Maiduguri. They also kidnapped others. The victims had arrived in Auno after curfew, the gates to the town were closed, and the military had departed, presumably for their supercamp in Maiduguri, according to media.  The Nigerian army is following its own version of the “fortified hamlets” strategy, employed by the United States and its allies in the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan and generally regarded as a failure by counterterrorism experts. By consolidating their forces in highly fortified “super camps,” the Nigerian army reduces their own casualties, but in the evening, when soldiers withdraw back to these camps, ISWA appears to have close to free rein in the countryside and smaller towns. On February 12, ISWA killed five security personnel in three separate attacks near Maiduguri. That city, the capital of Borno state, has essentially been cut off from the rest of the country by ISWA and Boko Haram.”


The Washington Post: Sudan Seeks To End Terror Designation In USS Cole Settlement

“Sudan's transitional government said Thursday it has reached a settlement with families of the victims of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, a key step in having the United States remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism so it can rejoin the international community after years of exclusion. Copies of the agreements obtained by the Associated Press show that $70 million will be split among families of 17 people killed, as well as 15 sailors who were injured and two of their spouses. In the agreement, Sudan makes no admission of wrongdoing. On Oct. 12, 2000, two suicide bombers in a boat detonated their explosives alongside the USS Cole as the Navy destroyer was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. In addition to the 17 killed, the blast wounded more than three dozen other crew members. Sudan was accused of providing support to al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The country was designated by Washington as a “state sponsor of terror” for hosting the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden. The United States has been looking at whether to remove Sudan’s terrorism designation “for quite some time,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Thursday. He did not offer any indication about when such a change to its status could take place.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Sudan ‘Islamists’ Distance Themselves From Bashir’s Regime 

“About a year after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, which lasted for nearly 30 years, many Sudanese believe that the Islamist regime is still in place. They are accused of maintaining control through cadres who have positions in important and strategic institutions and of hindering these institutions’ ability to function. Despite the recent decisions to dismantle the regime and to prosecute corrupt Islamist leaders and those who committed crimes against the Sudanese people, most of their leaders are still at large. Some go as holding them responsible for the crises that the country is going through, such as the fuel and bread crises, traffic congestion and rampant smuggling of strategic goods. “The Islamists still exist and control the facets of power and money and even hope to a return to power,” Salah Manna, a leader in Freedom and Change and spokesman for the Committee for Dismantling Ingaz (Salvation) Regime told Asharq Al-Awsat. He explains “their attempts to thwart the transitional authority are constant. Not a single day has gone by without a conspiracy.” He referred to an incident where security authorities seized explosives in Khartoum. But Manna affirmed the government's ability to “eliminate them, undo their influence and restore the Sudanese state from them.”

Xinhua: Al-Shabab Militants Torch Shops, Homes In Kenyan Border Region

“Somali al-Shabab militants on Wednesday night burnt eight homes and some shops belonging to National Police Reservists (NPR) in Garissa county near the border with Somalia, officials said on Thursday. Bernard Ole Kipury, Garissa deputy commissioner said that militants abducted a father and son whom they later released after providing them with some information. Ole Kipury said that a combined team of security officers and police reservists are combing the area for the militants who escaped on foot. “The militants are being pursued by security forces,” he said, adding that investigation has been launched to establish the motive of the militants. Nicodemus Ndalana, North Eastern regional commissioner who termed the attacks as cowardly and an act of desperation said the government resolve to rid the region of the militants is on course. Ndalana said that his security team is determined to win the fight against the militants in the region which neighbors Somalia, vowing to work towards sealing the loopholes being exploited by the militants as witnessed by the new wave of attacks.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Manchester Stabbing: Two Held Over Piccadilly Gardens Attack

“Two men, aged 21 and 18, have been arrested in connection with a stabbing in Manchester city centre. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said they were held on suspicion of assault over the attack near a Morrisons store in Piccadilly Gardens on Monday. Two men, aged 42 and 17, suffered knife wounds in the incident. The 17-year-old is due to be discharged from hospital while the 42-year-old remains in a serious but stable condition. Supt Chris Hill said: “This incident was an awful attack in broad daylight and our priority thereafter has been to work extensively in trying to identify the offenders. “While we have made two arrests, our enquires continue for this incident and we are keen to reassure the public that we are working thoroughly to ensure that this investigation results in bringing the culprits to justice.” A GMP spokesman said the arrested 21-year-old had been remanded in custody for questioning but the 18-year-old was being treated in hospital for a serious stab wound following a separate incident in Collyhurst on Wednesday. No arrests have been made in connection with the incident in Collyhurst and enquiries continue.”


Fox News: German President Calls For Country To Stand Up To Extremism, Nationalism On 75th Anniversary Of Dresden Bombing

“Speaking at a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by Allied forces at the end of World War II, Germany’s president on Thursday said it’s time to stand up to rising extremism and nationalism. Warning that hatred and a desire for strongman and patriarchal authoritarianism are on the rise again in Europe, including in his country, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was important to recall who had started the devastating global conflict. The manmade firestorm, vividly captured by American author Kurt Vonnegut in his book “Slaughterhouse Five,” and the destruction of large parts of the baroque eastern German city have become a rallying point for those seeking to portray Germans as victims in the war. “It was Germans who began this gruesome war,” Steinmeier said. “We won’t forget the German guilt,” he added. “And we stand by the responsibility that remains.” After his speech, Steinmeier joined the Duke of Kent, a cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and thousands of Dresdeners to form a human peace chain in a gesture of reconciliation and to commemorate the victims of Nazi atrocities and mass bombings by all sides during World War II.”


Financial Times: Dark Ops: Isis, The Far-Right And The Gamification Of Terror

“Have you ever imagined that it’s all just a game? Preparing to give a speech, going into an important meeting, scheduling a romantic date, even simple things like doing the groceries or paying the bills? As a kid, I used to turn tedious homework exercises and nerve-wracking exams into games in my head. I still do this sometimes in my day-to-day life when I want to escape boredom or fear. Working through hundreds of emails after coming back from annual leave becomes so much more bearable when I reward myself with a little treat for every 20th one I finish. Walking on to a big stage appears so much less intimidating when I imagine that my audience consists of a crowd of human-like robots. For me, adding game-playing elements to situations that are not games — a concept called gamification — is a wonderful thing. Getting lost in an imagined world where reality isn’t more than a simulation, a thought experiment, can be oddly comforting. But like so many brilliant innovations, this can also be used as a weapon. When a far-right gunman livestreamed his attack on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand in March 2019, the first comment to appear beneath the video said: “Get the high score.”