Eye on Extremism: Feb 5, 2020

The Guardian: Far-Right 'Hate Factory' Still Active On Facebook Despite Pledge To Stop It

“Facebook has failed to stop a coordinated far-right operation profiting from disinformation and anti-Islamic hate almost two months after it was publicly exposed. The Guardian revealed in December that a network of Facebook’s largest far-right pages were part of a coordinated commercial enterprise that for years had been harvesting Islamophobic hate for profit, prompting promises from the social media giant that it would crack down on the network. Facebook soon removed several pages and accounts which it said “appeared to be financially motivated” and said it had updated its inauthentic behaviour policy to “further improve our ability to counter new tactics”. “These pages and accounts violated our policy against spam and fake accounts by posting clickbait content to drive people to off-platform sites,” a Facebook spokesperson said at the time. “Our investigations are continuing and, as always, we’ll take action if we find any violations.” But two months after Facebook was made aware of the scheme, an analysis by the Guardian has confirmed that a number of the pages are still feeding off anti-Islamic content to drive readers to the same for-profit, third-party websites.”

The New York Times: Islamic State Claims South London Attack: Amaq News Agency

“Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack in south London, without giving evidence, the group's Amaq news agency said on Monday. “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,” a statement carried by Amaq said. The assailant in Sunday's attack, who was shot dead by police, had previously praised the Islamic State, shared an online al Qaeda magazine and encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents.”

Military Times: DIA Says ISIS Took Advantage Of Turkish Invasion Of Northern Syria, Baghdadi Death Did Not Degrade Jihadi Group

“The Defense Intelligence Agency said that ISIS took advantage of Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of northern Syria and increased attacks by nearly 20 percent, according to an inspector general report. Officials from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, pushed back on that, saying that DIA based its information on propaganda. There is agreement, however, on one thing: The death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi did not degrade the jihadi group. The DIA said in the IG report, that following Turkey’s military operation to rout out Kurdish militants in northern Syria, ISIS self-claimed actions rose from a monthly average of 55 attacks to 66 attacks. The DIA detailed in the report that the figures of ISIS claimed attacks were pulled from the group’s online claims. “This suggests ISIS continues to view the security environment in northeast Syria as more conducive to its operations,” the DIA said in the IG report. Military officials with Operation Inherent Resolve and U.S. Central Command pushed back in the IG report on claims that the Turkish incursion has increased capabilities or attacks by the Islamic State. OIR said in the report that ISIS’ claims of attacks were “most likely propaganda” and that OIR’s assessment that the Turkish military operations have not led to an ISIS comeback are based on “known facts.”

United States

CNBC: Trump Touts Killings Of ISIS Leader, Iranian General In State Of The Union

“President Donald Trump recognized the parents of Kayla Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped and imprisoned by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Tuesday during the State of the Union address. “In 2013, while caring for suffering civilians in Syria, Kayla was kidnapped, tortured, and enslaved by ISIS, and kept as a prisoner of Al-Baghdadi himself. After more than 500 horrifying days of captivity, Al-Baghdadi murdered young Kayla,” Trump said after recognizing Carl and Marsha Mueller. “She was just 26 years old,” he said. The president then recounted the night that U.S. Special Forces carried out the mission that led to Al-Baghdadi’s life. “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, received a call in the Situation Room. He was told that the brave men of the elite Special Forces team, that so perfectly carried out the operation, had given their mission a name,” Trump explained. “Task Force 8-14, it was a reference to a special day: August 14th, Kayla’s birthday,” he said, telling Kayla’s parents that, “America’s warriors never forgot Kayla and neither will we.”

Syria

Business Insider: Killing ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Hasn't Hurt The Terror Group's Operations, Pentagon Warns

“The elimination of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last fall has not hindered the terror group's operations, the US military assessed, according to a new Pentagon inspector general report. US Central Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency “both assessed that the October death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a US operation in Syria has not resulted in any immediate degradation to ISIS' capabilities,” the report explained. CENTCOM said that “ISIS likely implemented an existing succession plan upon Baghdadi's death and continued to operate without interruption.” President Donald Trump announced in late October that the notorious ISIS leader Baghdadi died during a raid by US Special Operations Forces on his position, detonating a suicide vest that killed him and his children. “The United States brought the world's number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said. “Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations,” he added. The ISIS leader was eliminated on Oct. 26. Less than a week later on Oct. 31, the terror group announced a successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.”

Iraq

France 24: Exclusive: Iraqi Kurdistan PM Barzani Warns 'Great Possibility' Of IS Group Returning

“In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, warned “there is a great possibility for ISIS (the IS group) to come back” and urged the international community to take action. Barzani claimed the IS group had more members now than it did in 2013 when it was about to create its “caliphate”. He also said the terrorist group was taking advantage of the security “vacuum” in areas disputed between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds and called for the resumption of full security cooperation between the two respective parties. Speaking to FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman, the Iraqi Kurdistan PM Masrour Barzani expressed his support for US troops remaining in Iraq and said he would be open to allowing the US to deploy Patriot anti-missile systems. He said he was very worried about the escalating tensions between the US and Iran but refused to comment on the US killing of Qassem Soleimani, noting, however, that while “Iran is our neighbour, the United States is our friend”. He criticised Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, for recently declaring that his father Massoud Barzani begged Soleimani to come to the rescue when the IS group was marching towards Kurdistan in 2014.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Taliban Accuses U.S. Of Delaying Peace Process After Call For Violence Reduction

“Afghanistan’s Taliban on Tuesday accused the United States of hampering peace negotiations in response to the top American diplomat’s comments that a reduction in violence was needed before a deal to end years of war could be struck. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said during a visit to Uzbekistan that “demonstrable evidence” of a reduction in Taliban violence was necessary for a peace agreement with the Islamist group. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said issues from the American end, including a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump halting the signing of an agreement last year, were the reason for challenges in the peace process. “Mr. Pompeo should not shift the blame. Our stance is principled and united, and our policy is not shaky like the opposite side,” said Mujahid in a statement on messaging service Whatsapp. Trump abruptly called off the talks to end the 18-year war in a Tweet in September after a U.S. soldier was killed in an attack by the militant group. Talks have since resumed but have suffered setbacks due to multiple attacks, including a December suicide bombing of a U.S. base outside Kabul that killed two civilians. Hostilities have surged in recent weeks, suggesting a deadlock in the peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators in Qatar’s capital, Doha.”

Xinhua: 4 Militants Killed In Afghanistan's Eastern Nangarhar

“Four militants have been confirmed dead as the government forces' fighting planes struck the armed group's hideout in Haska Mina district of the eastern Nangarhar province on Monday, said an army statement released here Tuesday. Acting on tip off, the fighting planes targeted the Taliban hideout in Kozkalai area of the restive district on Monday afternoon, killing four insurgents including the shadow district chief, Ziarat Gul, on the spot. No security personnel or civilians were harmed during the raids, the statement added. Taliban militants who are active in parts of Nangarhar province with Jalalabad as its capital 120 km east of Kabul have yet to make any comment.”

Libya

The New York Times: Turkey Deploys Extremists To Libya, Local Militias Say

“Syrian militants affiliated with groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group are currently being sent by Turkey to fight on behalf of the U.N.-supported government in Libya, according to two Libyan militia leaders and a Syrian war monitor. Both sides in Libya's civil war receive equipment and backing from foreign countries. But Turkey, which has long trained and funded opposition fighters in Syria and relaxed its borders so foreign fighters joined IS, has in recent months been airlifting hundreds of them over to a new theater of war in Libya. The U.N.-supported government controls only a shrinking area of western Libya, including the capital, Tripoli. It's facing a months-long offensive by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter who is allied with a rival government based in Libya's east. The United Nations recognizes the government in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, as Libya's legitimate government because it was born out of U.N.-mediated talks in 2015. Sarraj is backed by Turkey, and to a lesser degree, Qatar and Italy. Hifter receives backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. Libya has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world, and many of these countries are apparently jockeying for influence in order to control Libya's resources.”

Somalia

The Telegraph: Al Shabaab 'Fires Two Members Of Executive Council' After They Pushed To Stop Attacks On Civilians

“Somali jihadist group Al-Shabaab has expelled top members of its executive council after they expressed concern over attacks against civilians, according to Somalia’s intelligence agency. Attacks on civilians have intensified in the past year in the East African country, and the group are thought to have struck nearly 800 times in 2019.  Al-Shabaab’s leader Ahmed Diriye fired senior members Mahad Karate and Bashir Qorgab after the two asked him to stop targeting civilians in the capital Mogadishu, the National Intelligence and Security Agency, said on Twitter. Last month, the terror group killed at least 90 people in Mogadishu in its deadliest strike in years, prompting an unprecedented show of anger from residents. It later issued a rare apology after hundreds of people took to the streets in protest over the car blast....”

Xinhua: One Al-Shabab Terrorist Killed, Two Compounds Destroyed In Somalia Week-Long Operations

“Somali and U.S. security forces have killed an al-Shabab terrorist and destroyed two compounds of the militant group in southern Somalia in week-long operations, the United States Africa Command (Africom) said Monday. The results were recorded during the airstrikes on various targets in the Jan. 23-29 operations in order to disrupt and disable the al-Shabab expansion beyond Somalia, into Kenya recently for example. “We assess these compounds were used by al-Shabab militants to organize and plan violent terrorist actions against innocent Somali citizens,” Gregory Hadfield, Africom's deputy director for intelligence, said in a statement. Hadfield said the two al-Shabab compounds were located in the Jamame and in Jilib areas. “We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes,” he added. The Somali government and partner forces have intensified military raids against the al-Shabab insurgents, including airstrikes by U.S. forces largely targeting important al-Shabab members based in southern Somalia where the group still has strongholds.”

Africa

Reuters: More Soldiers Won't Help Mali, Talks With Jihadists Might: U.N.

“The United Nations' top humanitarian official in Mali urged more engagement with armed groups including jihadists, and more aid and development funding, saying on Monday that extra troops would not help to stabilize the country. Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate across northern and central Mali despite constant efforts to drive them back. More than 200,000 people are displaced and many communities have no local government or means of defense. The former colonial power, France, on Sunday pledged another 600 soldiers to the 4,500 it has tackling armed groups in the Sahel or with a 14,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in the region. Ute Kollies, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Mali, told journalists in Geneva that the country was at a watershed, and complained of a lack of international support. The funds received by OCHA in Mali last year amounted to just 5% percent of the $3 billion spent by armies there. “I do not believe that more military would help,” Kollies said. “What we need is more engagement on the political front.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Morocco Busts Isis-Affiliated Terrorist Cell

“Morocco’s interior ministry announced Tuesday that it had dismantled a terrorist cell that was plotting attacks in the kingdom. It said that the six-member cell was operating in Casablanca, Mohammedia and Azilal, reported the state news agency (MAP). The members, whose ages ranged between 18 and 59, had adopted extremist ideology and pledged allegiance to ISIS. They were planning on carrying out attacks in Morocco ahead of declaring the establishment of a “state” loyal to ISIS. Investigations are underway with the detainees to uncover their accomplices.”

News 24: Two Killed, 20 Homes Torched In Cameroon Boko Haram Attack

“Suspected Boko Haram jihadists attacked a village in northern Cameroon early on Tuesday, torching homes and killing two civilians just days before legislative and municipal elections, security sources said. “Boko Haram made an incursion a little before 02:00 in Mozogo village,” in the Extreme-Nord province “killing two people,” a police officer told AFP. They torched about 20 homes and two motorbikes and stole another five motorcycles, the officer said. An army officer confirmed the incident. Security has been tightened in Cameroon ahead of Sunday's elections. Anglophone separatists are fighting government troops in western Cameroon while the north of the country has come under attack from Boko Haram. Based in neighbouring Nigeria, Boko Haram has stepped up attacks from bases hidden in the vast Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge. Cameroon says the group has carried out nearly 13 000 attacks on its territory since 2014, with the loss of “several thousand” lives. The insurgency has forced more than 250 000 people to flee their homes and triggered an influx of 60 000 people from Nigeria.”

United Kingdom

The New York Times: Man Shot Dead By British Police Wanted Girlfriend To Behead Her Parents

“The man shot dead by police after wounding two people in a stabbing spree on a busy London street had been jailed for promoting violent Islamist material and had encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents. He had also once written a list of “goals in life” which included the desire to die as a martyr. Police have named Sudesh Amman, 20, as the attacker. He was killed on a street in the south London district of Streatham on Sunday afternoon by armed officers who had been carrying out surveillance on him. In November 2018, Amman had pleaded guilty to 13 offences of possession of terrorist documents and disseminating terrorist publications and the following month he was sentenced to more than three years in prison. He was released last month having served half the sentence. Amman was 17 and living at home in Harrow, north London, with his mother and four younger siblings when he first began committing terrorism offences, according to authorities. Police became aware of his activities in April 2018 and he was arrested in a north London street a month later. When officers examined his computers and phone, they found he had downloaded material about making explosives and carrying out terrorist attacks, court documents show.”

BBC News: Extremism: More Than 250 People In Wales Flagged Over Concerns

“More than 250 people in Wales were flagged up to police and councils over concerns about extremism, it has emerged. Just under half were aged 20 or younger, Home Office figures show. Right-wing extremism accounts for 24% of all referrals, while 15% are related to Islamist extremism. An education watchdog warned that some schools could miss early opportunities to address extremism because they do not think it is relevant. Estyn wants it acknowledged that radicalisation and extremism are “real risks” to pupils in all schools. Schools are required to protect pupils from radicalisation and the Welsh Government said Wales' new curriculum will teach youngsters to “critically evaluate” information they are exposed to. Last year 258 people in Wales were flagged up to police and councils over concerns about extremism. The figures are highlighted in a report by the education and schools inspectorate says most schools do not do enough within their curriculum to build pupils' resilience against extremist influences.”

BBC News: Schools In Wales 'Could Miss Real Risk' Of Extremism

“Some schools could miss early opportunities to address extremism because they do not think it is relevant to them, says a watchdog. Estyn wants it acknowledged that radicalisation and extremism are “real risks” to pupils in all schools. Schools are required to protect pupils from radicalisation as part of safeguarding duties. Last year 258 people in Wales were flagged up to police and councils over concerns about extremism. Just under half were aged 20 or younger. A report by the education and schools inspectorate says most schools do not do enough within their curriculum to build pupils' resilience against extremist influences. But “in a minority of schools, leaders do not perceive radicalisation and extremism as relevant to their school or surrounding area”, and that meant “staff in these schools may miss an opportunity to identify and address early concerns about a pupil.”

BBC News: Hashem Abedi: Manchester Arena Attack Brother 'Equally Guilty'

“The brother of the Manchester Arena bomber was “just as guilty” of the murder of the 22 people who died in the attack, his trial has heard. Salman Abedi detonated a “large home-made improvised explosive device” outside an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. His brother Hashem Abedi is standing trial at the Old Bailey over his “role in perpetrating these terrible events”. He denies the murder of 22 people and the attempted murder of others. He also denies conspiring with his brother to cause an explosion. Prosecutor Duncan Penny QC said the siblings spent “months” planning the attack, which had been “both sudden and lethal” and had had “nearly 1,000 victims”. He said in addition to the 22 people - men, women, teenagers and a child - who died, a total of 264 “were physically injured” while 670 more had since “reported psychological trauma as a result of these events”. Mr Penny said the explosion was the “culmination of months of planning and preparation” by the brothers, who had worked together to source chemicals and buy screws and nails to use as “anti-personnel shrapnel” in experimental improvised bombs. He said they had also obtained an address in Blackley, north Manchester where they could work on the device and bought a Nissan Micra car to use as a “de-facto storage facility.”

Sky News: Five Terrorists Who Could Spend Longer In Prison Under Proposed Law Change

“Streatham terrorist Sudesh Amman stabbed two people a week after being released halfway through his sentence for spreading extremist material. Usman Khan, who killed two people in the London Bridge attack last year, was also released early. The government has said emergency legislation will be introduced “as soon as possible” to end the automatic early release of convicted terrorists in the wake of the Streatham attack. Under the plans, they would only be considered for release after serving two thirds of their sentence and with the approval of the Parole Board. Sky News has profiled five jailed extremists who could end up serving longer sentences if the law change goes through. Britain's youngest terrorist was just 14 years old when he was arrested at his home in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 2015 in connection with a terrorist plot in Australia. The Islamic State supporter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a life sentence in October 2015 and told he must serve at least five years for planning a “massacre” at an Anzac Day parade in Melbourne, Australia. Described as highly intelligent but “abusive and aggressive” to his teachers, he pretended to be an adult online and plotted to behead police officers at the war remembrance event.”

France

The National: French Police Attacker Inspired By ISIS Made Pre-Attack Call To Pledge Allegiance

“A knife attack at a French police barracks was carried out by a trainee soldier who stabbed officers having reportedly made a phone call to say he was inspired by ISIS. It follows a recent spate of knife attacks across Europe by extremists seemingly motivated or claimed by terror groups. There are fears that recent statements by ISIS and Al Qaeda could be causing such attacks with the latter releasing a video on Sunday calling for stabbings with household knives in message seemingly directed at Western Muslims. The knifeman, who is in hospital, wounded one officer in Dieuze, eastern France in the hand before being shot. Shortly before the attack, a call was placed to the police from someone saying he was in the armed forces and was preparing an attack in Dieuze in the name of ISIS, local media reported. Prosecutor Christian Mercuri said the attacker had declared he was a member of ISIS and that there was going to be “carnage” at a gendarmerie barracks in Dieuze. “It's been confirmed that the attacker was a young soldier, two months into initial training and currently in his probationary period,” Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter. “He was not on duty at the time of the incident.”