Eye on Extremism: February 20, 2024

New York Times: U.S. Designates Houthis A Terrorist Group

“The State Department on Friday designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization, following through on a mid-January warning to crack down on the Yemen-based militant group. The action officially labels the Houthis as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, a step that gives the United States new powers to crack down on the Iran-backed Houthis’ access to the global financial system. It restores a designation given to the group late in the Trump administration, which Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reversed soon after taking office in 2021, partly to facilitate peace talks for Yemen’s civil war. Last month, Mr. Blinken announced the State Department’s intent to return the Houthis to its terrorism list, but delayed the action for 30 days. The pause was intended in part to give humanitarian aid groups working in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen time to ensure that their work does not run afoul of new sanctions from the United States that will punish anyone who provides support to the militant group. Some aid groups have warned that their work will inevitably be constrained in a country with dire humanitarian needs.”

New York Times: Senior Pakistani Official Admits To Helping Rig The Vote

“A senior Pakistani official confessed on Saturday to helping manipulate results in the country’s elections — a startling claim strengthening a sense that the vote was among the least credible in Pakistan’s history, and deepening the turmoil that has seized the country ever since people went to the polls this month. The official, Liaquat Ali Chatha, is a top administrative official in Punjab Province overseeing Rawalpindi, a garrison city where the military has its headquarters, and three adjacent districts. He said he would resign from his position and turn himself in to the police. “We converted losers into winners, reversing margins of 70,000 votes of independent candidates for 13 national Parliament seats,” he said at a news conference on Saturday, referring to moving votes from independent candidates aligned with Imran Khan, the former prime minister whose party the military had sought to sideline ahead of the vote. He suggested other high-ranking officials had been a part of the scheme, and said he was unable to sleep at night after “stabbing the country in its back.”

CEP Mentions

National Post: How Houthis Leverage Palestinian Cause For Arab Street Cred

“Edmund Fitton-Brown, former U.K. ambassador to Yemen, is having none of it. “This is not a liberation movement,” he counters, calling the group that controls much of Yemen, including its capital, “feckless thugs.” It’s a ruse. He should know; he was at the table with the Houthis for several years, trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Yemen. Now, he’s a counter-terrorism, counter-extremism and international security expert. I spent a lot of time in the country, initially as an oil company executive and later, training local professionals, before Al-Qaida made travel to Yemen nearly impossible for foreigners in 2009. Over the past month, I’ve spoken with many Yemeni friends and colleagues living in the Middle East. What I’m hearing is disconcerting.”

Sanctions Space: Edmund Fitton-Brown On Yemen And The Houthis

“... In the latest episode of the Sanctions Space Podcast, Justine is joined by Edmund Fitton-Brown, Senior Advisor at the Counter Extremism Project and former UK Ambassador to Yemen. They discuss the ongoing tensions in the Red Sea, the political situation in Yemen and the origin and aspirations of the Houthi group, as well as sanctions actions taken by the US and others against the Houthis. Edmund Fitton-Brown is Senior Advisor at the Counter Extremism Project and holds advisory or fellowship positions with RUSI, the Middle East Institute, The Soufan Center and New America. Edmund’s former roles have included UK Ambassador to Yemen and being Coordinator of the UN ISIL/Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team.”

United States

Politico: Lindsey Graham: Time To Designate Russia A State Sponsor Of Terrorism

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny, the most prominent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opponents, died in a high-security prison near the Arctic Circle in Russia on Friday, the federal prison service announced. While the prison service said he died after losing consciousness following a walk, there was immediate, widespread speculation — including from President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — that Putin was behind Navalny’s death. A spokesperson for Navalny confirmed Saturday that he had died. “Navalny was one of the bravest people I ever met. When he went back to Russia he had to know he was going to be killed by Putin, and he was murdered by Putin,” Graham said Sunday during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Why don’t we do this: I just got off the phone with two Democratic senators. Let’s make Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law. Let’s make them pay a price for killing Navalny.”

Reuters: US Pushes For UN To Support Temporary Gaza Ceasefire, Oppose Rafah Assault

“The United States has proposed an alternative draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and opposing a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza, according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday. Washington has been averse to the word ceasefire in any U.N. action on the Israel-Hamas war, but the U.S. draft text echoes language that President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. draft text "determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries." Israel plans to storm Rafah, where more than 1 million of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza have sought shelter, prompting international concern that such a move would sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”


Reuters: Iraqi Armed Groups Dial Down U.S. Attacks On Request Of Iran Commander

“A visit by the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force to Baghdad has led to a pause in attacks on U.S. troops by Iran-aligned groups in Iraq, multiple Iranian and Iraqi sources told Reuters, saying it was a sign Tehran wants to prevent a broader conflict. Esmail Qaani met representatives of several of the armed groups in Baghdad airport on Jan. 29, less than 48 hours after Washington blamed the groups for the killing of three U.S. soldiers at the Tower 22 outpost in Jordan, the sources said. Qaani, whose predecessor was killed by a U.S. drone near the same airport four years ago, told the factions that drawing American blood risked a heavy U.S. response, 10 of the sources said. He said the militias should lie low, to avoid U.S. strikes on their senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure or even a direct retaliation against Iran, the sources said.”


Associated Press: Turkish Police Arrest An Islamic State Suspect Who Worked At A Nuclear Power Plant, Reports Say

“Counterterrorism police in Turkey have arrested an Islamic State group suspect who was working at a nuclear power plant being built in the country’s south, local media reported Tuesday. The Russian national had been working at the Akkuyu nuclear facility under false identity papers, the Ihlas News Agency and other media reported. The $20 billion power plant is being built by Russian state-owned energy giant Rosatom in Mersin province on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. It was inaugurated last April and is expected to start producing electricity next year. The suspect was brought before a court and jailed pending trial. Two alleged IS militants are accused of fatally shooting a man at the Roman Catholic Saint Maria Church in Istanbul last month. Dozens of suspects were detained in relation to the attack, including the two alleged gunmen. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya last week said 147 people suspected of having ties to IS have been arrested across Turkey.”


New York Times: U.N. Held A Conference On Afghanistan. Taliban Officials Boycotted It

“Taliban officials sent a defiant message to Western nations, donors and Afghan women’s groups this week, refusing to attend a conference hosted by the United Nations to discuss humanitarian crises facing Afghanistan and cooperation on human rights issues. The two-day conference, which began on Sunday, was the second of its kind. It was held to try to chart a course forward for international engagement with the country. But the Taliban administration took issue with the inclusion of some groups at the meeting. Attended by special envoys from 25 countries and regional organizations, the conference is aimed at increasing international engagement with Afghanistan and developing a more coordinated response to the problems afflicting the war-torn nation. The Taliban administration, the de facto rulers of Afghanistan since 2021, had been invited to the conference but at the last minute the group said it would not attend. In a statement, the Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it should be the sole official representative of Afghanistan for talks with the international community and only then could engage in frank discussions. Inclusion of others would hinder progress, the statement added.”

Associated Press: Taliban Decrees On Clothing And Male Guardians Leave Afghan Women Scared To Go Out Alone, Says UN

“Afghan women feel scared or unsafe leaving their homes alone because of Taliban decrees and enforcement campaigns on clothing and male guardians, according to a report from the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. The report, issued Friday, comes days before a U.N-convened meeting in the Qatari capital is set to start, with member states and special envoys to Afghanistan due to discuss engagement with the Taliban and the country’s crises, including the human rights situation. The Taliban — which took over Afghanistan in 2021 during the final weeks of U.S. and NATO withdrawal from the country — have barred women from most areas of public life and stopped girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade as part of harsh measures they imposed despite initial promises of a more moderate rule. They are also restricting women’s access to work, travel and health care if they are unmarried or don’t have a male guardian, and arresting those who don’t comply with the Taliban’s interpretation of hijab, or Islamic headscarf.”


New York Times: Houthis Say They Shot Down A U.S. Drone Off Yemen

“The Pentagon is investigating the cause of a crash of an American military surveillance drone off the coast of Yemen on Monday morning, two U.S. officials said. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, confirmed that the drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, fell out of the sky. Iranian-backed Houthi militants said on Monday that they had downed the drone near the port city of Al Hudaydah, in western Yemen. “Yemeni air defenses were able to shoot down an American plane (MQ-9) with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” a Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement. “Yemeni armed forces will not hesitate to take more military measures and carry out more qualitative operations against all hostile targets in defense of beloved Yemen,” the statement said.”

Politico: Houthis Damage British Cargo Ship In New Attack

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels shot down a U.S. drone and damaged a Belize-flagged, British cargo ship in their latest assault against commercial vessels, their spokesperson claimed Monday. The Iranian-backed group, which has been targeting commercial shipping since the outbreak of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, said they hit the cargo ship Rubymar in the Gulf of Aden. “The ship suffered catastrophic damage and came to a complete halt,” Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sare'e said on social media. “As a result of the extensive damage the ship suffered, it is now at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden.” The U.K. Maritime Trade Operations agency said an explosion “in close proximity of the vessel” damaged it. The crew abandoned ship and is safe, the agency added. The Belize-flagged, Lebanese-operated cargo ship was traveling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait on its way to Bulgaria after leaving the United Arab Emirates, according to private security firm Ambrey, the Associated Press reported.”

New York Times: U.S. Says It Struck 5 Houthi Targets In Yemen, Including An Underwater Drone

“The United States struck five Houthi military targets, including an undersea drone, in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, the U.S. military announced on Sunday. The use of the underwater drone is believed to have been the first time that Iran-backed Houthis had employed such a weapon since they began their campaign against ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on Oct. 23, the military’s Central Command said in a statement. American military officials provided few details of what they called an “unmanned underwater vessel,” but the Houthis have received much of their drone and missile technology from Iran. In addition to the underwater drone, the Houthis were also using a remotely piloted boat, the statement said. The United States struck both the surface drone and the submarine drone and launched other strikes against anti-ship missiles, the military said in its statement, but provided no precise details on the location.”


Associated Press: Israeli Airstrikes Killed 10 Lebanese Civilians In A Single Day. Hezbollah Has Vowed To Retaliate

“The civilian death toll from two Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon has risen to 10, Lebanese state media reported Thursday, making the previous day the deadliest in more than four months of cross-border exchanges. Israel’s military said it killed a senior commander with the militant Hezbollah group’s elite Radwan Force, Ali Dibs, who it says played a role in an attack inside Israel last year that unnerved Israelis, as well as other attacks directed at Israel over the past four months. It said Dibs was killed Wednesday along with his deputy Hassan Ibrahim Issa, as well as another Hezbollah operative, in a strike in the southern city of Nabatiyeh. Hezbollah confirmed three of its fighters were killed and released photos of Dibs and Issa without giving information about their roles in the group. A Lebanese security official said Dibs escaped a drone strike in Nabatiyeh last week. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.”

Middle East

Voice Of America: Comparing Arsenals Of Israel, Hezbollah As Strikes Escalate

“The slow-simmering cross-border conflict between Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group and Israeli forces escalated this week, reviving fears that the daily clashes could expand into an all-out war. A rocket fired from Lebanon struck the northern Israeli town of Safed on Wednesday, killing a 20-year-old female soldier and wounding at least eight people. Israel responded with airstrikes that killed at least 10 people in southern Lebanon: a Syrian woman, her two children, four members of another family and three Hezbollah fighters. At least nine people were wounded. The cross-border violence was triggered by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which in turn was set off by the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas, a Hezbollah ally. Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for Wednesday's strike. But it has vowed to continue its attacks until there is a cease-fire in Gaza. Amid fears of a further escalation, here's a look at the arsenals of the two sides: What are Hezbollah's military capabilities?”

Associated Press: Gaza Health Ministry Says Over 29,000 Palestinians Have Been Killed In Israel-Hamas War

“Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, the territory’s Health Ministry said Monday, marking another grim milestone in one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against Hamas after the militants’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli communities. He and the military have said troops will move soon into the southernmost town of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement. But those efforts appear to have stalled in recent days, and Netanyahu angered Qatar by calling on it to pressure Hamas and suggesting it funds the militant group. The conflict has also brought near daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group that frequently threaten to escalate.”

Reuters: Jordanian Army Says Five Drug Dealers Killed On Border With Syria

“Five drug dealers were killed on Sunday during a foiled attempt to smuggle large quantities of drugs into Jordan from Syria, an army statement said. Four other smugglers were injured in the dawn attempt to cross the northern border with Syria and large quantities of drugs were seized, the statement said. Since the start of the year there has been an escalation in clashes with drug dealers that Jordan says have direct links to pro-Iranian militias and are carrying narcotics, arms and explosives over the border from Syria.”


Associated Press: Somalia’s President Accuses Ethiopia Of Trying To Annex Territory With Somaliland Sea Deal

“Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud accused Ethiopia on Saturday of trying to annex part of his country’s territory by signing a sea access deal with the breakaway region of Somaliland. The agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland signed Jan. 1 “is nothing more than annexing part of Somalia to Ethiopia, and changing the borders of Somalia,” Mohamud told reporters. “Somalia categorically objects to that.” Neither side has made the terms of the deal public, but it appears to give Ethiopia the right to build a port in Somaliland in exchange for recognition. Somaliland has enjoyed de facto independence for three decades, but Somalia still claims sovereignty over it. Mohamud claimed senior officers from Ethiopia’s military were in Somaliland “preparing the ground” for the territory’s annexation. It was not possible to verify his allegation. Somalia has suggested it would be prepared to go to war to stop Ethiopia from building a port in Somaliland.”


Associated Press: A Greek Militant Group Claims An Attempted Parcel Bomb Attack Last Week Against A Judge

“An anarchist group on Monday claimed responsibility for last week’s attempted bomb attack against a senior judge in Greece, raising fears of a resurgence of violence by radical militants. Explosives experts defused the parcel bomb that was placed at a courthouse in the northern city of Thessaloniki and addressed to the judge. In an online post, a previously unheard of group, called Armed Response, claimed responsibility for the attempted attack. It named the judge it had targeted and vowed to step up attacks against the judiciary in solidarity with jailed fellow militants. “Just as easily as the parcel bomb reached her office, our bullets can find their target,” the statement said. Greece has a decades-old history of attacks by anarchist and far-left militant groups, ranging from small arson attacks, to bombings and assassinations. Relatively few attacks have occurred in recent years, but several have taken place over the past few weeks.”

Associated Press: EU Launches Mission To Protect Ships In Red Sea From Houthis. It Won’t Partake In Military Strikes

“The European Union has launched Monday a naval mission to help protect cargo ships in the Red Sea as attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to threaten maritime traffic, hamper trade and drive up prices. Dubbed Aspides, Greek for “shield,” the mission will be run out of Larissa in central Greece — home to the Hellenic Air Force and a NATO headquarters — under the command of Greek Commodore Vasilios Griparis. The Iranian-backed Houthis have waged a persistent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships over Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas which began in October. However, the Yemen-based rebels have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for global trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe. In response, U.S. and British forces have bombed multiple targets used by the Houthis. However, the EU mission will not take part in any military strikes and will only operate at sea.”

Reuters: 26 EU Countries Warn Israel Against 'Catastrophic' Rafah Offensive

“All European Union countries except Hungary warned Israel on Monday against launching an offensive in Rafah that they said would deepen the catastrophe of some 1.5 million refugees crammed into the city on the southern edge of Gaza. "An attack on Rafah would be absolutely catastrophic ... it would be unconscionable," Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said before a meeting of foreign ministers from the 27 EU member states in Brussels. After the talks ended, all but one of them called in a joint statement for "an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a lasting ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance". The statement was issued in the name of "Foreign Ministers of 26 Member-States of the European Union" and diplomats said Hungary - a close ally of the Israeli government - was the sole country that did not sign up.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: Philippine Troops Clash With Muslim Militants In A Gunbattle That Has Left At Least Eight Dead

“Philippine troops clashed with Muslim militants in a gunbattle that left at least six soldiers and two rebels dead in a fog-shrouded hinterland in the south, military officials said Monday. Military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said four other soldiers were wounded in the army offensive Sunday against fighters of the Dawlah Islamiyah, a small armed group aligned with the Islamic State group, near Munai town in Lanao del Norte province. Troops were hunting a still-unknown number of militants, who withdrew from the scene of the battle, military officials said. Brawner vowed to get justice for the slain and wounded soldiers. “I assure their families and every Filipino that justice will be meted and all efforts will be exhausted in pursuit of the enemy,” Brawner said in a statement where he expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers. “Our troops are motivated to finish the job and accomplish our mission of defeating local terrorist groups once and for all,” he said.”


European Commission: Commission Opens Formal Proceedings Against TikTok Under The Digital Services Act

“The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether TikTok may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors, advertising transparency, data access for researchers, as well as the risk management of addictive design and harmful content. On the basis of the preliminary investigation conducted so far, including on the basis of an analysis of the risk assessment report sent by TikTok in September 2023, as well as TikTok's replies to the Commission's formal Requests for Information (on illegal content, protection of minors, and data access), the Commission has decided to open formal proceedings against TikTok under the Digital Services Act.”

Ars Technica: Musk’s X Sold Checkmarks To Hezbollah And Other Terrorist Groups, Report Says

“A watchdog group's investigation found that terrorist group Hezbollah and other US-sanctioned entities have accounts with paid checkmarks on X, the Elon Musk-owned social network that still resides at the twitter.com domain. The Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a nonprofit that is critical of Big Tech companies, said in a report today that "X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, is providing premium, paid services to accounts for two leaders of a US-designated terrorist group and several other organizations sanctioned by the US government."

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

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

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