Eye on Extremism: February 9, 2024

Reuters: With Over Half The Seats Counted, Imran Khan's Supporters Lead In Pakistan Polls

“Independents backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most seats in Pakistan's election on Friday after results from over half the constituencies were announced, leaving political parties trailing. Almost 24 hours have passed since the close of polls and the results have been unusually delayed, which the government ascribed to the suspension of mobile phone services - a security measure ahead of Thursday's election. Of the 136 seats counted by 1045 GMT from 235 contested, independent candidates backed by Khan had won 49, according to a Reuters tally of results declared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won 42 while the Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated premier Benazir Bhutto, got 34.”

Associated Press: Iranian Man Wielding An Axe And Knife Is Killed By Police After Seizing Hostages On Swiss Train

“Swiss police say a 32-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker was killed by police after he used an axe and a knife to seize more than a dozen hostages for several hours on a train in western Switzerland. No passengers were injured. The man took the hostages early Thursday evening and police, alerted by passengers, sealed off the area while the train was stopped in the town of Essert-sous-Champvert, police in the French-speaking Vaud region said Friday. The man, speaking Farsi and English, demanded that the train engineer join the 15 hostages. Nearly four hours after the incident began, police stormed the train after trying to negotiate with the man through an interpreter. More than 60 police were involved. “The hostages were all freed safe and sound,” a police statement said. “The hostage-taker was mortally injured during the operation. Vincent Derouand, a spokesperson for the Vaud prosecutors’ office, said an investigation was underway in part to determine the man’s motive.”

CEP Mentions

The Limited Times: Germany Sends Frigate To The Red Sea – Expert: Fight Against Houthi “Not Over In Three Months”

“... Now Germany is also involved in the operation against the Houthis: On Thursday, the German frigate “Hessen” left for a planned EU military operation in the Red Sea to protect merchant shipping there against attacks by the militant Islamist Houthi militia. The warship set off from the German Navy's largest base in Wilhelmshaven with around 240 soldiers on board. Marine inspector Jan Christian Kaack said: “This is the most serious operation by a German naval unit in many decades.” However, the international fight against the Houthis is likely to take many more months, believes Middle East expert Hans-Jakob Schindler from the Counter Extremism Project initiative (CEP).”

Menas Associates: Podcast – The Houthis And The Red Sea: Can The Houthis Be Deterred?

“This recording is from “The Houthis and the Red Sea: can the Houthis be deterred?” which was an hour long webinar by Noel Brehony and Edmund Fitton-Brown held on 7 February 2024.”

United States

Associated Press: Blinken Ends Latest Mideast Mission After New Israeli Snub Of Proposed Gaza Cease-Fire Plan

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the Middle East on Thursday with public divisions between the United States and Israel at perhaps their worst level since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began in October. Wrapping up a four-nation Mideast trip — his fifth to the region since the conflict erupted — Blinken was returning to Washington after getting a virtual slap in the face from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the war would continue until Israel is completely victorious and appeared to reject outright a response from Hamas to a proposed cease-fire plan.”

Fox News: Biden Invited Muslim Leader Who Publicly Supported Terror Group Hezbollah To Meet With His Top Aides

“President Biden sent top aides to Michigan on Thursday to meet with Arab American and Muslim community leaders, and one person reportedly invited to the discussion has publicly expressed support for the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas. Biden made the move with the leaders as he's faced criticism from the Muslim community over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.”

Syria

Reuters: Exclusive: US-Backed Force In Syria: More Air Defense Needed After Deadly Drone Attack

“A force that has been the backbone of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State said additional air defenses should be deployed in northeast Syria after six of its fighters were killed in a drone attack it blamed on pro-Iran factions. Mazloum Abdi, commander of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said his force considered it "a dangerous development when our camps are targeted in drone attacks by factions backed by Iran.”

CBS: Top General Leading U.S.-Backed Kurdish Forces In Syria Warns Of ISIS Resurgence

“The commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces warned Thursday there's been a "spike" in ISIS activity in Syria recently, as ISIS tries to take advantage of tensions in the Middle East. Gen. Mazloum Abdi Kobane, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, told reporters in a Zoom briefing Thursday that the escalation of attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed forces since October has impeded their efforts to prevent ISIS from resurging. "We're seeing that ISIS is taking the benefit from all these attacks, and we have seen a spike in movements of ISIS," he told reporters through a translator. The SDF and the U.S. work together in Syria in the global coalition to defeat ISIS.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq Says US Strikes Pushing Government To End US-Led Coalition's Mission

“Repeated U.S. strikes against Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq are pushing the Baghdad government to end the mission of the U.S.-led coalition in the country, the prime minister's military spokesperson said on Thursday. The U.S. military said a strike on Wednesday killed a commander from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed group in Iraq that the Pentagon has blamed for attacking its troops. Spokesperson Yahya Rasool said in a statement the U.S.-led coalition "has become a factor for instability and threatens to entangle Iraq in the cycle of conflict". In Washington, the Pentagon said it had notified the Iraqi government about the strike shortly after it had taken place.”

Associated Press: A Look At The Iraqi Government’s Relationship With Armed Groups That Are Clashing With US Forces

“A U.S. strike in Baghdad that killed a commander of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group this week highlighted the ambiguous status of the country’s Iran-allied armed factions. Some operate simultaneously as a part of the official security forces and outside of state control. That has put the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in an increasingly delicate position as it attempts to balance between its relations with the United States and with Iraqi armed groups that are sometimes in direct conflict with U.S. forces. Here’s a look at the complicated relationship between Iraq, paramilitary groups such as Kataib Hezbollah and the United States: Kataib Hezbollah is one of the most powerful armed groups in Iraq. It was formed during the power vacuum that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, with support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Consider Attending Doha Meeting, Reject New UN Envoy

“Taliban officials remain opposed to the possible appointment of a U.N. envoy but say they are considering “meaningful participation” in an upcoming international meeting on Afghanistan. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres will convene a meeting of various countries’ special representatives for Afghanistan in Qatar on February 18 to discuss engagement strategies with de facto Taliban authorities.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pakistan Awaits Results Of Contentious Election Amid Rising Political Tensions

“Preliminary official results of Pakistan’s parliamentary polls were slowly coming in Friday after an unusually long delay and allegations they were being manipulated in favor of military-backed parties. The vote was held Thursday amid the nationwide suspension of mobile phone and internet services and sporadic violence, fueling doubts about results and credibility concerns about an already controversial election.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Gaza’s Main Aid Agency Is On The Brink. The European Union, A Key Donor, Is Wavering Over What To Do

“With the embattled U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza teetering on the brink of financial collapse, one of its biggest donors is wavering over whether to extend it a lifeline worth tens of millions of dollars within the next few weeks. Israel’s allegations that 12 employees of the aid agency known as UNRWA participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel shook the organization last month. Several countries suspended funding worth some $440 million, almost half of the agency’s annual budget.”

Reuters: UN Chief Vows Immediate Action On 'Infiltration Of Hamas' In UN

“United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday pledged to act immediately on any new information from Israel related to "infiltration of Hamas" in the world body after nine U.N. staff in the Gaza Strip were fired last month. Israel last month accused 12 staff with the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency of taking part in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants. Of the remaining three staff, one is dead, while the U.N. was clarifying the identity of the other two. An internal U.N. investigation has been launched as the United States - the largest donor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) - and other countries paused funding following the allegations. "One thing that you can be absolutely sure, any delegation that is presented to us by the government of Israel in relation to any other infiltration of Hamas in the U.N., at whatever level, we will act immediately upon it," Guterres told reporters on Thursday. A six-page Israeli intelligence dossier, seen by Reuters, further alleges that some 190 UNRWA employees, including teachers, have doubled as Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants.”

Somalia

Reuters: Somalia's Al Shabaab Rebels Back On Twitter After Suspension

“Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab militants, who have used Twitter to announce assassinations and bombings, are back on the microblog service two weeks after their account was suspended."[Our new account] will function like the one they closed," a spokesman who declined to be named said on Tuesday. Al Shabaab's previous official Twitter account was suspended around January 24, days after group, which is aligned with al Qaeda, used the social media site to threaten to kill two Kenyan hostages. The group tweeted a link to a video of the abducted civil servants and threatened to kill them unless the Kenyan government released all Muslim prisoners in its jails. Twitter rules say threats of violence are forbidden but the site declined at the time to comment on why al Shabaab's account, which had thousands of followers, had been suspended. Al Shabaab's Somali- and Arabic-language Twitter accounts were never closed. The new account, using the handle @HSMPRESS1, has attracted over 1,100 followers within two days.”

Africa

Reuters: West Africa Bloc Urges Burkina, Niger And Mali Not To Withdraw

“The West African regional bloc ECOWAS pushed junta-led Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali to reconsider their decision to quit the political and economic alliance, it said on Thursday, warning of the hardships the move would force on their citizens. The three countries' self-appointed military leaders jointly announced on Jan. 28 they were abandoning the bloc after it pressured them to restore constitutional order following a string of coups. Their departure threatens to further weaken ECOWAS, which has struggled to curtail a retreat of democracy in West Africa that started with a military takeover in Mali in 2020.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On February 26, 2015, a Boko Haram suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a market in Biu, Nigeria, killing 19 people and injuring 20 others. A second attempted-suicide bomber was caught and beaten by a crowd before he was able to carry out his attack.

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