Eye on Extremism: Feb 4, 2020

Financial Times: Brazil Criticised For Backtracking On Terror Funding Fight

“Brazil is facing a backlash from global anti-money laundering authorities after lawmakers stripped a key financial crimes unit of the power to report on terrorist financing. The decision to curb the activities of the Council for Financial Activities Control, which reports on financial crimes, was sparked by opposition lawmakers’ fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s administration could turn its powers against social activists who the rightwing president has equated with terrorists. But the move by legislators has infuriated US officials while experts said it was likely to prompt a rebuke from the international Financial Action Task Force, which over the past decade has repeatedly warned Brazil over its compliance with global anti-money laundering standards. Some said Brazil was at risk of being placed on a “grey list” of countries with problematic anti-money laundering and anti-terror funding standards.  Jorge Lasmar, a money laundering expert at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, said the decision by lawmakers will create a “serious problem” for Brazil ahead of a new evaluation report by the FATF.”

NBC News: Britain's Boris Johnson Vows To End Early Release Of Terrorism Offenders

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the automatic early release of convicted terrorism offenders from prison must end after an Islamist attacker recently released from prison injured two people in a stabbing rampage in a busy south London street, before he was shot dead by police. “What we want to do is to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offenses are not let out without some process of parole or scrutiny by real experts,” Johnson told an event in London on Monday. Johnson said his government was already bringing forward legislation to stop the system of automatic early release but the difficulty was how to apply this requirement retrospectively to the cohort of prisoners who already qualify for early release. The prime minister, who had just delivered a speech on Britain’s prospects after it officially left the European Union on Friday, said Justice Secretary Robert Buckland would go into detail about how the government planned to move forward later Monday. “It's time to take action to ensure that, irrespective of the law we’re bringing in, people in the current stream to not qualify automatically for early release,” he said. Johnson's remarks follow a string of terror attacks in the United Kingdom in recent months.”

Voice Of America: Pentagon: US Forces Destroy 2 Terrorist Camps In Southern Somalia

“U.S. forces destroyed two al-Shabab compounds and killed at least one terrorist in a military operation in southern Somalia last month, the Pentagon announced Monday. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) carried out the attacks in coordination with Somali forces. The two compounds — one in Jamaame and the other in Jilib — were destroyed. AFRICOM said it took “significant measures” to ensure no civilians were killed or wounded. “We assess these compounds were used by al-Shabab militants to organize and plan violent terrorist actions against innocent Somali civilians,” said Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence. “Operations to disrupt al-Shabab are needed to deny their ability to expand terrorism outside of Somalia, as we've recently seen in Kenya.” Al-Shabab terrorists attacked a military base in Kenya last month, killing a U.S. soldier and two civilian contractors. Al-Shabab has been fighting for more than 10 years to set up a strict Islamic state in Somalia. It frequently carries out attacks in neighboring Kenya to retaliate for Kenyan forces entering Somalia in response to cross-border attacks.”

United States

The Washington Post: Feds Arrested Phoenix Man For Allegedly Killing Two Iraqi Cops In Al-Qaeda-Linked Attacks

“When members of the large Iraqi immigrant community in Phoenix heard federal agents arrested a local driving instructor for allegedly killing two Iraqi police officers in al-Qaeda-linked attacks in the Iraqi city of Fallujah nearly 14 years ago, they could not believe the accusation. “There is like no way,” 18-year-old Eva Kabejan, who had taken classes at the man’s driving school, told the Arizona Republic. “He’s a hard-working guy. He’s really good guy.” Several people who had come to know Ali Ahmed since he came to the United States as a refugee in 2008 struggled to understand the serious allegations leveled against the 42-year-old, the Republic reported. Ahmed, who became a U.S. citizen about two years ago, had embraced an exciting bachelor’s life before recently getting married and having his first child this year, his friends said. He loved animals and planned to build a little farm on property near Phoenix, the Republic reported. But Ahmed had a darker past that no one in Arizona knew about, federal officials allege. On Friday, the Justice Department announced that federal officials last week arrested Ahmed, whose full name is Ali Yousif Ahmed al-Nouri, for the deaths of two Iraqi police officers and planned to extradite him for murder.”

Syria

The New York Times: UN Experts: Islamic State Steps Up Attacks In Syria And Iraq

“Islamic State extremists are mounting increasingly bold attacks in Syria and Iraq following their loss of territory in both countries and are planning for the breakout of their fighters in detention facilities, U.N. experts said in a new report. The panel of experts said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that the militant group — known as IS and ISIL — is also exploiting weaknesses in security in both countries. The experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State and al-Qaida said it is unclear whether the Islamic States’ new leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi Al-Qurayshi, can effectively lead the extremist group’s diverse and far-flung supporters and affiliates. But the panel said unidentified U.N. member nations have made a provisional assessment that the strategic direction of the extremist group is unchanged when it comes to administration, propaganda and recruitment — and that command and control between its “core in the conflict zone and affiliates abroad will be maintained.” Al-Qurayshi's predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a U.S. raid last October in Syria’s last rebel stronghold in Idlib province. The experts said the issue of foreigners who came to fight for the Islamic State and were part of its so-called “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq “remains acute.”

France 24: NW Syria Violence Displaces 500,000 In Two Months

“A Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the country's last rebel enclave has caused one of the biggest waves of displacement in the nine-year-old war. Weeks of intensive aerial bombardment and a bruising ground offensive have emptied entire towns in the northwestern region of Idlib and sent huge numbers fleeing northwards, closer to the Turkish border. “Since 1 December, some 520,000 people have been displaced from their homes, the vast majority –- 80 percent -- of them women and children,” David Swanson, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said. The exodus, which coincides with a biting winter, is one of the largest since the start in 2011 of a conflict during which more than half of the country's pre-war population of 20 million has been displaced. “This latest displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation on the ground, when over 400,000 people were displaced from the end of April through the end of August, many of them multiple times,” Swanson said. He said the UN was alarmed by the plight of more than three million people -- half of them displaced from their homes -- who live in Idlib province and surrounding areas.”

Iraq

The New York Times: Iraq Says It Resumes Anti-Islamic State Operations With U.S. Coalition

“Iraq's military said on Thursday it was resuming operations with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, which it had halted after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by U.S. forces and Iran's retaliatory attacks on bases hosting those forces. The coalition battling IS militants in Iraq and Syria suspended most of its operations on Jan. 5 to focus on protecting coalition forces and bases, as tensions with Iran grew. Iraq’s parliament also passed a resolution telling the government to end the presence of foreign troops in the country and ensure they not use its territory for any reason. “In order to exploit the time that remains for the international coalition before the new relationship is set up... It was decided to carry out joint actions ... “ an Iraqi military statement said. The joint operations include aerial backing for the Iraqi forces depending on their needs, the statement said. Baghdad condemned both the killing of Soleimani and Iran's missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops as acts of aggression on Iraq and a breach of its sovereignty. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has asked Washington to prepare for a U.S. troop withdrawal in line with the request by Iraq’s parliament. So far, the U.S. government has rebuffed the call to withdraw.”

Afghanistan

Bloomberg: Taliban Killed, Maimed Thousands Of Afghans In 2019 Amid Talks

“Taliban killed or maimed thousands of Afghan civilians in 2019, against the backdrop of the ongoing peace talks aimed at ending the 18 year conflict in the war-torn country. The insurgent group was responsible for 71% of the 7,955 killed and 2,817 wounded last year, according to a report by Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission released on Tuesday. The Afghan and U.S.-led forces were responsible for 14% of the casualties, it said. The U.S. and Taliban negotiators are holding talks in Qatar to end the conflict that will allow President Donald Trumpto withdraw troops from Afghanistan and possibly end the widespread violence. The insurgents control or contest half of the country, more territory than any time since they were toppled in 2001.”

The Hill: Pompeo: US Wants 'Demonstrable Evidence' Taliban Will Reduce Violence

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the U.S. will not agree to a cease-fire with Taliban forces in Afghanistan without “demonstrable evidence” that it is committed to reducing violence. “We’re working on a peace and reconciliation plan, putting the commas in the right place, getting the sentences right,” Pompeo said at a press conference in Uzbekistan, The Associated Press reported. “We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence.” “So, what we are demanding now is demonstrable evidence of their will and capacity to reduce violence, to take down the threat, so the inter-Afghan talks ... will have a less violent context,” he added. “We’re hopeful we can achieve that but we’re not there yet, and work certainly remains.” Last week, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani he had seen “no notable progress” in ending the nearly 19-year war. The Taliban previously said they had offered him a 10-day cease-fire window to sign a peace agreement.”

Yemen

Foreign Policy: Leader Of Al Qaeda In Yemen Believed Dead In U.S. Airstrike

“U.S. officials believe the leader of the al Qaeda branch in Yemen was killed in a CIA airstrike, a former administration official tells Foreign Policy, confirming a New York Times report out Friday. U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to confirm the reports on Friday with a series of retweets. Significant blow. If confirmed, the death of Qasim al-Raymi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who has a long history of terrorist activities dating back to the 1990s, would represent a significant blow to the group, which on Sunday claimed responsibility for the last year’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola by a Saudi National. Raymi was sentenced to five years in prison in 2005 for plotting to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, but he escaped in 2006. He has been linked to numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the 2009 “underwear bomber.” He rose to become emir of al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate in 2015.  The State Department had offered a $10 million reward for information on his whereabouts. U.S. officials had been tracking Raymi since November 2019, when they first learned of his location from an informer in Yemen, according to the Times.”

Saudi Arabia

The Washington Post: Saudi Arabia And Yemen’s Rebels Were Making Rare Progress In Peace Talks. Then New Violence Flared.

“Months of talks between Saudi Arabia and an Iranian-allied rebel group in Yemen have led to rare goodwill gestures between the bitter battlefield adversaries and presented what Western diplomats hope might be a long-awaited opportunity to resolve Yemen's nearly five-year war. But a fresh outbreak of violence over the past few weeks in Yemen has imperiled those talks, underscoring the challenge of defusing long-standing battlefield enmities in a war fueled by outside powers. The dialogue began in earnest after an attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, according to people briefed on the talks. The rebels, known as the Houthis, claimed responsibility for missile and drone strikes on the oil facilities, even as U.S. and Saudi officials insisted Iran was responsible. After the strikes, the Houthis said they would halt attacks on Saudi Arabia, and in the months that followed, violence in Yemen fell to some of its lowest levels in years. Since then, the Houthis and the Saudi-led military coalition have taken several confidence-building measures, including prisoner exchanges and a Saudi decision to allow medical evacuation flights from the Houthi-controlled airport in Yemen’s capital.”

Lebanon

The New York Times: For Lebanon’s Shiites, A Dilemma: Stay Loyal To Hezbollah Or Keep Protesting?

“There is a Lebanese phrase that translates, roughly, to “a slapping.” That seems to be what happened to several antigovernment protesters who were caught on TV denouncing Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Islamist militia and political party Hezbollah, in the early days of the now monthslong Lebanese uprising. The smacking they received from a party that brooks little pushback, and wields tremendous influence in Lebanon’s government, might have been physical or it might have been verbal. Either way, the protesters appeared again on TV a few days later, looking subdued — this time, to apologize. “Sayyid means a lot to me. There are thousands who admire him, but I’m like No. 100 on the list,” one man said, his voice meek, using a respectful honorific for Mr. Nasrallah, whom the protester had previously accused of letting his community starve. The on-camera apology was a prelude to more violent retributions against protesters from the Shiite Muslim community, the largest of Lebanon’s 18 recognized religious sects, which for decades has drawn on Hezbollah for protection, jobs, social services and, for many, a sense of shared struggle against Israel and other enemies.”

Egypt

The Times Of Israel: Islamic State Claims Purported Attack On Egypt-Israel Gas Pipeline In Sinai

“The Islamic State extremist group said on Monday that it blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, claiming it was connected to Israel. Security sources earlier said the pipeline hit was a domestic one that connects to a power station in el-Arish, powering homes and factories in central Sinai. No casualties were reported. Masked gunmen drove a four-wheel drive before detonating explosives in the attack, carried out around 80 kilometers west of the provincial capital El-Arish, the sources told AFP. Some media reports in Egypt and Israel said, however, that the section of pipeline hit was part of Israel’s Leviathan offshore field that connects the two countries — claims denied to AFP by the Leviathan consortium. But in a statement posted on its Telegram chat groups, IS said “caliphate soldiers targeted… the natural gas line linking the Jews and the apostate Egyptian government.” It claimed that the section of the pipeline hit was in the Sinai village of Al Teloul and that several explosive devices were used to blow it up, causing “material damage.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: 199 Nigerians Killed By Bandits, Boko Haram, Herdsmen In Nigeria In January

“Not less than 199 Nigerians have been killed in the month of January 2020. The deaths were caused by insurgent groups, herdsmen including Lassa Fever. In the research carried out by the Civic Media Lab, 24 persons were kidnapped by bandits in the month. Also, scores of people were left injured in the attacks that took place in different parts of the country. According to the research by the CML, 24 terrorists were killed by the Nigerian military in the North-Eastern part of the country. Three soldiers, two health workers were killed by the ISWAP, as the CML gave a breakdown of the killings. The report also documented how a journalist, Alex Ogbu, was killed by police while covering a protest in Abuja. Rampaging herdsmen also accounted for some of the killings as they killed 13 people in Plateau State. Director of CML, Mr Seun Akinfolarin, said it was obvious government does not place a premium on the lives of people. He noted that while the country was still battling insurgency, President Muhammadu Buhari announced Visa free entry to all Africans even when the government itself had admitted foreign influence in the current insecurity crises.”

Africa

Gulf News: Militants Kill 18 Civilians In Burkina Faso

“Suspected militants have killed 18 civilians in an attack in northern Burkina Faso, the governor of Sahel region said. Several similar attacks were carried out a week ago in the country’s north, with one on January 25 leaving 39 civilians dead in the neighbouring province of Soum, northwest of Seno. A security source said during the massacre, which took place in Lamdamol village in Seno province Saturday, “the attackers, heavily armed and on motorbikes, literally executed the local inhabitants”. A local health official, speaking from the town of Dori in the north, said the chief nurse at the nearby village of Lamdamol was among the victims. “The defence and security forces brought back the body of the nurse to give it to her family in Yalgo and secure the area to allow the burial of other victims,” Colonel Salfo Kabore said on Sunday. “There is panic in the village and the surrounding area,” the official added, saying local people were fleeing the area towards the centre-north of the country. Another security source said that the attack had come as a reprisal after militants had told local people to leave the area a few days earlier. The security forces worked day and night to make the zone safe, “but it is difficult to be everywhere at once”, said the source.”

The Irish Times: Mozambique Insurgency Drives Fears Of Islamist Jihad In S Africa

“A brutal insurgency under way in Mozambique’s northernmost province that escalated in 2019 has raised fears that an Islamist jihad movement is seeking to establish itself in southern Africa. South Africa-based terrorism expert Jasmine Opperman says the Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for nearly two dozen of the 189 attacks perpetrated by a shadowy extremist group this year in Cabo Delgado, a rural resource-rich area of Mozambique bordering Tanzania. Since it first attacked police stations in the port town Mocímboa da Praia on October 5th, 2017, the group has left a trail of mutilated bodies and burned-out villages behind it, forcing at least 65,000 Mozambicans to become internal refugees. Opperman, who is the Africa associate at the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism, a UK-based think tank, estimates up to 500 civilians, insurgents and security personnel have died in the group’s attacks so far. “Isis [Islamic State] has claimed responsibility for 23 attacks in Cabo Delgado and I have been able to link 18 of these to verified incidents,” says Opperman, who added it was still unclear if the group, also known as Isis, played a role in the attacks, or if the local extremist group was now its regional proxy.”

United Kingdom

CNN: London Stabbing Attacker Recently Released From Prison Over Extremist Material

“London police have named a man they say was responsible for stabbing two people in south London on Sunday in what was described as a terror-related incident. The Metropolitan police said the attacker was 20-year-old Sudesh Amman, who had recently been released from prison for Islamist-related offenses. He was being followed by surveillance officers who shot him dead at the scene, police said. “Although the suspect has not been formally identified, given the circumstances of the incident, we are confident that he was Sudesh Amman,” Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D'Orsi announced. Police earlier called the attack a terrorist incident and said it was believed to be “Islamist-related.” Amman stabbed two people on Streatham High Road at about 2 p.m. before the surveillance officers caught up with him and shot him dead, D'Orsi said. She said he was wearing what was quickly established to be a hoax device. Three people were taken to nearby hospitals -- two with stab wounds and another who police believe was hit by glass when Amman was shot. One of the victims who was initially described as having life-threatening injuries was out of danger on Monday, police said.”

New York Post: ISIS Claims Responsibility For London Stabbing Attack

“ISIS on Monday claimed responsibility for a 20-year-old ex-con’s stabbing attack that injured three people in London, according to a report. “The perpetrator of the attack in Streatham district in south London yesterday is a fighter of Islamic State, and carried out the attack in response to calls to attack the citizens of coalition countries,” according to a statement carried by the terror group’s Amaq news agency, Reuters reported. Sudesh Amman, who was shot dead by police Sunday, had previously praised ISIS, shared an online al Qaeda magazine and encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents. He was jailed for possessing and distributing terrorist documents in December 2018 and was released from prison after serving half of his 40-month sentence. The Islamist, who remained under police surveillance, had been staying at a bail hostel for the past two weeks, the UK’s Standard reported. During the attack, he had what appeared to be an explosive device strapped to his body, but it was later discovered to be a fake, according to the BBC.”

Yahoo News: Suicide By Cop: How Isis-Inspired Terrorists ‘Emulate Each Other’ To Generate Maximum Fear

“The Streatham attack was the second lone Islamist-related terror attack in London in the past three months. Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead by police on Streatham High Road after stabbing three people in what police have called a terrorist incident. It follows a similar attack in November when five people were stabbed, two fatally, near London Bridge. The two incidents are notable because both attackers had fake explosives strapped to their bodies. Experts told Yahoo News UK the attacks could be examples of “suicide by cop”, in which terrorists deliberately behave in a threatening manner to force police officers to shoot them dead. Dr Steve Hewitt, a senior lecturer at Birmingham University and expert on lone wolf terror attacks, says the idea of suicide by cop is an interesting one as London has now seen at least three Islamist attacks with fake suicide vests – including the previous London Bridge terror attack in June 2017. The killers responsible for the 2017 attack all wore the vests, and their tactics seem to have influenced the later incidents. Islam does not condone suicide, so the method is one way for Islamist attackers such as Sudesh Amman to seek “martyrdom.”

France

Reuters: French Police Shoot Barracks Intruder Following Attack Warning

“Police shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he attacked officers inside a police barracks in eastern France on Monday. Shortly before the knifeman struck the police facility in Dieuze, near Metz, the local police operations center received warning that an atrocity was to be committed in the name of Islamic State, French news agency AFP quoted the local prosecutor as saying. “We must relate the facts to a call received by the operational center of the gendarmerie shortly before, in which an individual declared that he was a soldier, that there was going to be carnage in Dieuze and that he was a member of Islamic State,” prosecutor Christian Mercuri was quoted as telling a news conference in the area. Several hours after the attack, there had been no claims of responsibility. A judicial source said the national antiterrorist prosecutor was not investigating the case at this stage. The knifeman wounded one officer in the hand before he was shot and later taken to hospital, a spokesman for the gendarmerie said. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner praised the cool response of the officers who accosted the attacker. The incident in Dieuze will raise further questions over security at police facilities.”

Technology

Global News: Kicked Off Facebook, Canadian Far-Right Groups Resurface On The Internet’s Fringes

“On the social networking service VK, the Canadian Nationalist Front calls for a ban on “third world immigration,” Blood & Honour envisions “white victory” and photos show the Soldiers of Odin meeting in Calgary. Canadian far-right groups purged from mainstream social media sites last year have found a new home on less discerning online platforms willing to host them and their racist views. Although a crackdown that followed the March 15 attack on New Zealand mosques saw them purged from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, they have resurfaced on Russia’s VK, Gab and Canund. But while their online presence hasn’t been stamped out, it has been significantly diminished, according to experts. “In some ways, this approach has worked,” said Canadian right-wing extremism expert Prof. Ryan Scrivens of the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. “It’s minimized their online presence and reach, and it’s disrupted their online networks and ability to attract the level of attention they once had on mainstream platforms.” But it has also pushed them into “darker spaces of the internet,” where they can still attract followers, said Scrivens, whose research focuses on extremists’ use of the internet.”