Eye on Extremism: Jan 21, 2020

Bloomberg: Taliban Offer To Reduce Violence Won’t Aid Peace, Official Says

“The Taliban’s offer to reduce violence for several days ahead of fresh talks with the U.S. would not bring the war-torn nation any closer to peace when the majority of the country remained excluded from the negotiations, a senior Afghan official said. “The plan for violence reduction or anything of its kind is a vague proposal” that can deceive citizens and the international community, second Vice President of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danish said on Sunday in the capital Kabul. “So far, the government and the people -- including civil society, political parties, and ethnic groups -- have been sidelined in the peace negotiations,” between the Taliban and the U.S. “and, in such a situation, peace cannot be achieved,” Danish said. The Taliban offered a 7 to 10 day halt in its military operations ahead of renegotiations with the U.S. The proposal was given to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation in Doha, Qatar, where the group has a political office. The U.S. had asked for a complete long-term cease-fire before a peace deal. The deal will allow some 13,000 troops to return home and bring an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The protracted and bloody conflict has killed tens of thousands of Afghans, more than 2,400 U.S. forces and cost the U.S. about $900 billion.”

BBC News: Terrorism Laws To Get Tougher Within Weeks, Government Vows

“Terror offenders will face more time in jail and be monitored more closely as part of new laws being introduced within weeks, the government has said. Automatic early release from prison will be scrapped for terror offenders while a minimum jail term of 14 years for serious crimes will be introduced. The Home Office said a bill would be brought before Parliament by mid-March. Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government had faced “hard truths” since an attack in London in November. Convicted terror offender Usman Khan had been on licence from prison when he stabbed Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt to death at Fishmongers' Hall near London Bridge on 29 November last year. Khan had been released from jail on licence in 2018, half-way through a 16-year sentence for terrorism offences.Following the November attack, the government launched an urgent review into the licence conditions of 74 terror offenders who had been released early from prison. On Tuesday it said it would also launch a review, led by Jonathan Hall QC, into the way agencies such as police and the probation service investigate, monitor and manage terror offenders.”

Foreign Policy: The Far-Right Is Going Global

“In October 2019, 23 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visited Kashmir, just two months after the Indian government removed the region’s special autonomous status. The trip sparked controversy when it was revealed that most of the MEPs belonged to far-right political parties, including France’s National Rally (formerly National Front) and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It wasn’t just the affiliations of these visitors that drew attention: The MEPs had been granted access to Kashmir even as foreign journalists and domestic politicians were barred access to the region, and the Indian-administered government had imposed an internet shutdown since August. This visit was the latest example of the growing ties between the far-right in India and Europe, a connection that is rooted primarily in a shared hostility toward immigrants and Muslims, and couched in similar overarching nationalistic visions. Today, with the populist radical right ascendant in India and in several European democracies, the far-right agenda has been increasingly normalized and made a part of mainstream political discourse. The link between far-right ideologies in these regions long predates the relatively recent rise of right-wing populist leaders.”

United States

Voice Of America: 3 More Linked To Neo-Nazi Group Arrested In Georgia

“Three men linked to a violent white supremacist group known as The Base were charged with conspiring to kill members of a militant anti-fascist group, police in Georgia announced Friday, a day after three other members were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware. A senior FBI national security official said police and federal agents intentionally moved to arrest the men ahead of Monday's rally because they believed some of them intended to commit violence there. It was unknown if the men arrested in Georgia planned to attend the rally in Richmond. The Base, a collective of hardcore neo-Nazis that operate as a paramilitary organization, has proclaimed war against minority communities within the United States and abroad, the FBI has said. Unlike other extremist groups, it's not focused on promulgating propaganda - instead the group aims to bring together highly skilled members to train them for acts of violence. There's an intensified focus on The Base after the three members were arrested Thursday in Maryland and Delaware on federal felony charges. A criminal complaint included details of how some of the men built an assault rifle using parts, purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and traded vests that could carry body armor.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Russian Raids Kill 7 Civilians In Northwest Syria

“At least seven civilians, including five children, were killed Monday in air strikes on northwest Syria by regime ally Russia despite a truce declared by Moscow, a war monitor said. The raids hit several villages held by extremists and opposition factions in the western countryside of Aleppo province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Three girls were killed in the village of Kfar Taal while four civilians, including two other children, died in separate strikes that hit other villages in the area, said the Britain-based monitor. Idlib and parts of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces, are dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate. The northwestern region has come under mounting bombardment in recent weeks that displaced tens of thousands of people. A ceasefire arranged by Russia and opposition factions backer Turkey this month was supposed to protect the area from further attacks. But the Damascus regime last week pressed a deadly offensive, reaching within seven kilometers of a key town in southern Idlib it seeks to capture from extremists.”

Kurdistan 24: SDF Forces Kill ISIS Oil Official In Deir Al-Zor

“The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Sunday that they killed a senior Iraqi Islamic State official in Deir al-Zor responsible for sleeper cell attacks against the SDF. The SDF said the military operation took place on Jan. 14 against an Iraqi national called Abu al-Ward, “who was in charge of oil and funding ISIS sleeper cells and supervising ISIS attacks in the area.” Clashes erupted between Islamic State fighters and the Kurdish-led forces during the operation, which resulted in Ward’s death, the SDF said. “Our units were also able, during the operation, to seize a quantity of ammunition and documents.” Col. Myles B. Caggins III, the Coalition’s military spokesperson, said the operation disrupts and degrades the so-called Islamic State’s ability to generate revenue to finance its terrorist activity in the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Deir al-Zor. “ISIS would love to get their terrorists’ hands on the oil in eastern Syria, it’s a historical revenue source for them; with our Syrian commando partners, we will not allow this to happen again,” he told Kurdistan 24. “Our Syrian commando partners continue to prove their mettle in the fight against ISIS remnants.”


The Washington Times: Iran Expands Support For Taliban, Targets U.S. Troops In Afghanistan

“Escalating U.S.-Iran tensions mean Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran, could be the next proxy battleground between Washington and Tehran, a clash that threatens to undermine the Trump administration’s pursuit of a peace deal with the Taliban and eventual drawdown of American troops. Administration officials have recently warned of the potential for expanding Iranian activity in Afghanistan, and sources say Tehran’s support for the Taliban is well known in intelligence circles, where analysts are examining the extent to which the insurgent group already outsources some of its attack planning operations to Iran.  Communications intercepted between Taliban operatives based in Mashhad, Iran, and their counterparts working in Quetta, Pakistan, have exposed at least some level of such operational connectivity, one source told The Washington Times. While Iran and the U.S. had parallel interests in Afghanistan in the post-9/11 era — opposing the Taliban and backing anti-Taliban governments in Kabul — regional experts say the situation has changed in more recent years. Many warn that Tehran’s response to the recent U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj.”


The Jerusalem Post: ISIS 'Mufti' Weighing Over 300 Lbs Captured By Iraqi SWAT

“A massively obese ISIS “mufti” was pulled from his hiding place by elite Iraqi SWAT team members in a raid on Thursday. He is considered to be one of the “biggest” captures in recent months. Photos show that the tremendously large man – one report saying he weighed 560lbs – was too large to fit into a police car and had to be put in the back of a police vehicle, wedged between a mounted machine gun and the back of the lorry. He was carted off to prison. Shifa al-Nima was nabbed by the SWAT regiment of the Nineveh police command in northern Iraq's Mosul district, according to Iraq’s security media cell. The country has continued to fight ISIS even amid months of protests and recent US-Iran tensions there. The US-led coalition suspended anti-ISIS operations earlier this month but has recently tried to restart them. According Iraqi police, this “mufti” was a well-known preacher who spread extremism in mosques against security forces and incited on behalf of ISIS. “He is considered one of the foremost leaders of ISIS and was responsible for issuing fatwas that led to the murder of scholars and clerics,” the police said. Nima also issued the fatwa to bomb the tomb of the Prophet Yunus in Mosul, an ancient cultural site.”

New York Post: ‘Jabba The Jihadi’ Played Major Role In Enslaving Yazidi Women

“The morbidly obese ISIS militant who was captured by Iraqi forces last week is one of the main architects of the enslavement and sexual exploitation of Yazidi minority women, according to a French military journal. The 560-pound Abu Abdul Bari — nicknamed “Jabba the Jihadi” by Iraqi forces after Jabba the Hutt, the slug-like gang leader in “Star Wars” — was known as the Mufti of Mosul, one of the main leaders of ISIS, known for his incendiary religious decrees or fatwas, Iraqi security officials said. Bari, also known as Shifa al-Nima, provided the religious justification for the enslavement of hundreds of Yazidi girls and women after ISIS forced thousands of the religious minority group to flee their home in August 2014. “Above all, this ‘mufti’ gave religious justifications for slavery and for the torture and ethnic cleansing of certain ethnic minorities in Iraq, including the Yazidi,” said a report in Zone Militaire. Months after the 2014 attack on the Yazidis, “Dabiq,” a digital magazine published by ISIS on the dark web, ran an article saying that female members of the Yazidi, an ethnically Kurdish minority, could be enslaved and treated as spoils of war.”

The Guardian: Isis Founding Member Confirmed By Spies As Group's New Leader

“The new leader of Islamic State has been confirmed as Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, according to officials from two intelligence services. He is one of the terror group’s founding members and has led the enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and has overseen operations around the globe. The Guardian has learned that Salbi was named leader hours after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. The name that the group gave for Baghdadi’s replacement at the time, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, was a nom de guerre not recognised by other senior leaders or intelligence agencies. In the three months since the raid that killed Baghdadi, a fuller picture of Salbi has been pieced together by regional and western spies, placing him at the centre of Isis decision-making – and that of its forerunners – and portraying him as a hardened veteran in the same vein as Baghdadi, unflinching in his loyalty to the extremist group. Salbi is considered to be one of the most influential ideologues among the now depleted ranks of Isis. Born into an Iraqi Turkmen family in the town of Tal Afar, he is one of the few non-Arabs among the leadership. He is also known by the nom de guerre Haji Abdullah, and in some circles as Abdullah Qardash – although Iraqi officials suggest the latter was a separate Isis figure who died two years ago.”

Fox News: US Will Stay In Iraq To Fight ISIS – Trump’s Order To Kill Soleimani Benefits Both Countries

“America’s military involvement in Iraq and our fight against the ISIS terrorist group there is not over – despite initial concerns about U.S. troops being expelled from the country after President Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian terrorist Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq Jan. 3. Soleimani’s fellow terrorist leader – Kataib Hezbollah militia head Abu Mahdi al Muhandis – was also killed in the U.S. strike, along with eight other terrorists. Iraqi critics of the killings denounced the U.S. strikes as a violation of their nation’s sovereignty. And in the heat of the moment, Iraqi nationalist Muqtada al Sadr – who holds the most seats in Iraq’s Parliament – demanded that the remaining 5,000 U.S. troops in the country withdraw. The second-largest faction in the Parliament – Hadi al Amiri’s Iranian proxy Badr Corps – joined with Sadr’s faction to pass a nonbinding resolution expelling U.S. troops. But significantly, lawmakers from Kurdish and Sunni parties abstained from the vote against the U.S. presence in Iraq. While the U.S. media have shifted their focus to the impeachment trial of President Trump, you may have missed the fact that cooler heads now seem to be prevailing in Iraq. That’s very good news.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Forces Make More Arrests In Anti-ISIS Crackdown As Attack Kills Soldier

“The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service announced on Sunday that it had arrested of a senior member of the Islamic State in the western city of Fallujah after a terrorist attack by the group killed a soldier and wounded two others at an Iraqi army post in a town south of Kirkuk. The Counter-Terrorism Service posted on its Twitter account that its forces were able to “arrest the security official of the Fallujah region, in continuation of the pursuit of terrorist networks.” The service did not indicate the identity of the detainee, nor did it publish his photo, an often questionable practice that Iraqi security forces. In a similar operation in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, the anti-terror agency announced that it had arrested a “wanted terrorist” and had found two weapons and ammunition caches in the Khalidiya area, found by relying on confessions of previous detainees to locate him. Over the past few days, Iraqi security forces have launched a number of security campaigns to track down Islamic State sleeper cells in areas that were previously under their control. On Thursday in Mosul, Iraqi police arrested what was they said was a chief figure in the extremist organization, its so-called Mufti in Mosul.”


Al Jazeera: Afghan Government Demands Complete Ceasefire With Taliban

“The Afghanistan government has demanded a complete ceasefire as a way forward for peace talks in response to a reported 10-day truce offer by the Taliban. On Friday, Reuters News Agency reported that the Taliban will implement the short ceasefire with United States troops, a reduction in violence with Afghan forces, and hold discussions with Afghan government officials if it reaches a deal with US negotiators in peace talks in Doha, according to two sources close to the matter. But on Saturday, Presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference in Kabul that the Afghan people and the government reject the proposed “reduction in violence” by the Taliban as an “ambiguous term with no legal or military parameters”. “Any suggestion the Taliban have shared with the US must include ceasefire as it is the demand of our people,” Sediqqi said as reported by local media outlet TOLO news.  Sediqqi said the peace process “would not achieve any results without the role of the Afghan government”. “Peace is ours, we should remain involved,” he added. Taliban and US negotiation teams met on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the signing of a peace deal, according to a spokesman for the Taliban's office in the Qatari capital.”

Yahoo News: Taliban Aim To Sign Deal With US By End Of Month: Report

“The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman. The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire. “We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday. He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces. “It's now a matter of days,” said the spokesman. Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.”

Radio Free Europe: Afghan Officials: Taliban Kills Six Members Of Same Family

“The Taliban has killed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country's north, Afghan officials say. The Taliban denied involvement, saying the attack on January 18 was triggered by a personal dispute. However, local Afghan officials said January 19 the family was sentenced to death by the Taliban for immoral acts before being shot dead, said Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab Province's governor. The infant girl's mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child's legs had to be amputated, Bedar said. Afghan security forces deployed to the village early January 19 and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital. Bedar said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. Three Taliban members were killed in the ensuing gun battle. The Taliban now controls or holds sway over approximately half of Afghanistan.”

Arab News: Taliban Kill 6 Members Of Same Afghan Family

“Afghan officials said Sunday that the Taliban executed six members of the same family, including an infant girl, in a remote village in the country’s north. The Taliban denied any involvement, saying the attack Saturday was triggered by a personal dispute. However, local Afghan officials said the family was accused by the Taliban of working in prostitution. The insurgents sentenced them to death for immoral acts, then stormed the house and opened fire, according to Jawed Bedar, a spokesman for Faryab province’s governor. The infant girl’s mother and twin sister survived, but both of the child’s legs had to be amputated, the spokesman said. He said Afghan security forces deployed to the village early Sunday and helped evacuate the two survivors to the hospital.He said the Taliban attacked the government troops when they arrived. The ensuing gunbattle killed three Taliban members, who Bedar said were involved in the family’s killing. The Taliban control the village in Andkhoy district where the killings took place, making it difficult to accurately determine what happened, he added. The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan. Locals in the area also disputed the accounts of prostitution.”


Voice Of America: Pakistan: US 'Applauded' Steps Against Terror Financing

“Pakistan hosted high-level talks with the United States on Monday to review steps Islamabad has taken to choke funding sources to terrorist groups. The two sides, officials say, also discussed ways to increase bilateral trade. U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells led her delegation in meetings with senior Pakistani officials at the ministries of interior and commerce to formally begin her four-day visit amid warming relations. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry has announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the three-day World Economic Forum in Davos starting Tuesday. This would be the third interaction between the two leaders since their White House meeting in July 2019. Wells' discussions in Islamabad come ahead of next month's meeting of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors global money laundering and terror financing, where Pakistan's efforts will be assessed. The FATF meeting, hosted by China, will decide whether Islamabad remains on a so-called “gray list” of countries lacking adequate mechanisms to counter terrorism funding.”


CNN: 80 Soldiers Killed By Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels In Yemen

“At least 80 Yemeni soldiers attending prayers at a mosque were killed and 130 others injured in ballistic missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen reported Sunday. “I have said before that the hard-earned progress that Yemen has made on de-escalation is very fragile. Such actions can derail this progress,” Martin Griffiths warned, urging all parties to “stop the escalation” and focus energies into policy instead. The attack happened in the province of Marib on Saturday at a mosque at a military camp, in what Yemen's President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi condemned as a “heinous” and “cowardly terrorist operation committed by the Houthis.” Yemen has been embroiled in a yearslong civil war that has pitted a coalition backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Yemen's Ministry of Defense said the attack was “to avenge the killing of the Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani,” who died in a US drone strike in Iraq on January 3. The ministry offered no evidence to show how it might know the rebels' motive. The attack does come, however, as several nations in the Middle East ready themselves for retaliatory attacks by Iranian-backed militias.”


Washington Examiner: Hezbollah's Threat To Israel Rises Amid Lebanon Chaos

“Lebanon's political crisis escalated this weekend, with hundreds of civilians wounded in running street battles against security forces. The chaos will increase the Lebanese Hezbollah's temptation to lash out at Israel to unify the nation against a common enemy. At the source of tensions here is a months-long political and economic crisis. Infuriated by decades of corruption and mismanagement, and an Iranian-engineered political system that prioritizes sectarian cronyism over efficient public services, the Lebanese people are demanding wholesale reform. But the political class won't give it to them. Prime Minister Saad Hariri's pro-Western Future Movement is sympathetic to reform, but Hariri is a weak and uncertain leader. He lacks the tenacity to challenge Hezbollah. And that's the key here. Built around a mixture of patronage and thuggery, Hezbollah and its Amal ally have reinforced the rot at the heart of Beirut politics. With the support of its March 8 alliance partner, President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party, Hezbollah has been able to veto or water down any reform plans. Instead, Hezbollah has thrown its support behind new Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab.”

Al Jazeera: Honduras Declares Hezbollah A 'Terrorist Organisation'

“The Honduran government has formally declared Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, a top security official said on Monday. “We declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation and will include it in the registry of persons and institutions linked to acts of terrorism and its financing,” said Luis Suazo, Honduras' deputy security minister. Hezbollah has also been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States government. Last week, Guatemala's new president, Alejandro Giammattei, also signalled he would label Hezbollah a terrorist group, in addition to keeping the Guatemalan embassy in Israel in the city of Jerusalem. Both moves were seen as aligning Guatemala's foreign policy more closely with that of US President Donald Trump. Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, called the Honduran government's move “an important step in the global war on terror” and said it built on similar actions taken in recent months by the United Kingdom, Argentina and others  “I applaud the Honduran government for its important decision to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation and to impose sanctions against it,” Katz said. The UK's Treasury, or finance ministry, said on January 17 it had expanded an asset freeze to include the whole of Hezbollah, in addition to its military wing.”


South China Morning Post: Europe Will Face Islamic State Threat If Libya Regime Falls, Erdogan Warns

“The UN's special envoy for Libya has called for foreign fighters to be withdrawn from the war-torn country, one day before a peace conference in Berlin aimed at solving the conflict. “We have presented a security plan that foresees the withdrawal of all foreign fighters, regardless of nationality,” said Ghassan Salame in an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published on Saturday. Salame said that ending the illegal smuggling of arms into Libya will also be on the agenda on Sunday. According to an internal UN document, the conference is to work towards a permanent ceasefire and the implementation of an existing weapons embargo. The Berlin summit was organised in coordination with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is leading consultations to find a peaceful solution to the Libya conflict together with Salame. Representatives from more than 10 countries, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian President Vladimir Putin, are expected in the German capital for the peace talks hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Libya's internationally recognised Prime Minister, Fayez al-Serraj of the GNA, and rebel leader Khalifa Hifter of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) have been invited to attend, a German government statement said. It's unclear whether they will attend.”


Reuters: U.N. Says Militants Targeted Aid Worker Hub In Northern Nigeria

“Islamist militants attacked a facility housing several aid groups in northeast Nigeria at the weekend in what the United Nations warned on Monday is an escalation in violence specifically targeting aid workers. It was not immediately clear which militant group was responsible for Saturday’s attack in Ngala, near the border with Cameroon. A more than decade-long insurgency by Islamist groups in northeastern Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and left more than 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Three witnesses told Reuters that at least 20 displaced people awaiting assistance were killed in the attack on the facility where aid workers live and provide assistance to displaced people. A statement by the United Nations on Monday said that its five staff members who were there at the time were not harmed. “I am shocked by the violence and intensity of this attack, which is the latest of too many incidents directly targeting humanitarian actors and the assistance we provide,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon said. The insurgents struck on Saturday evening, firing on people from their convoy of vehicles carrying explosives and pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns as it entered the town, according to witnesses.”

All Africa: Nigeria: 17 Soldiers Killed, Several Abducted In Battle With Boko Haram

“Not less than 17 soldiers were killed in confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents along Bama-Gwoza road weekend. Many soldiers were also said to have been abducted by the insurgents in the confrontations, even as the number of casualties, though also large from the Boko Haram side, could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report. The insurgents were said to have attacked Firgi, 20 kilometres north of Pulka along the road from Gwoza to Bama on Friday night. They were said to have killed 13 soldiers in the crossfire that took over two hours. The insurgents, whose number of casualties could not be ascertained, were said to have gotten some military retreating. They were equally said to have carted away some arms, ammunition and vehicles belonging to Nigerian Army. An impeccable source told our reporter that during the crossfire around 10pm of 17 January, 2020 on Firgi, 20km north of Pulka along the road to Bama, “13 government forces members were killed with four of their vehicles taken away.” The insurgents were back on the same axis the second day, Saturday to continue from where they left. They were said to have attacked a military company at Banki junction on Bama-Gwoza road at 10 pm.”

Premium Times: UN Confirms Boko Haram Attack On Key Humanitarian Facility In Borno

“The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, on Monday condemned an attack by Boko Haram on one of its buildings in Ngala, a border town in Borno State. On Saturday, Boko Haram attacked Ngala, the headquarters of the Gamboru-Ngala local government, hitting a building housing UN humanitarian workers. Due to a lack of communication facilities in Ngala, journalists could not immediately confirm the attack when the rumour filtered to town. A statement issued by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Mr Kallon was outraged and “strongly condemns the attack”. The statement said the building was the UN’s “main humanitarian accommodation in Ngala. “I am outraged by the extremely violent attack on this key humanitarian facility where five United Nations staff were staying at the time of the incident,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said. The statement explained that the attack, which occurred on the evening of Saturday, was “a direct target of a complex assault by heavily armed non-state armed groups operatives. “An entire section of the facility was burned down as well as one of the few vehicles UN agencies rely on for movement and aid delivery.”


Reuters: Car Bomb Attack Wounds Turkish Contractors, Police Near Somali Capital

“Somali insurgents linked to al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a car bombing on Saturday that wounded at least 15 people in Afgoye, northwest of the capital Mogadishu.  Police said the injured included Turkish contractors as well as Somali nationals. Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency said at least four Turkish employees of a construction firm were wounded and are being treated in hospital, citing information from the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu. “A speeding suicide car bomb rammed into a place where the Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch,” police officer Nur Ali told Reuters from Afgoye. “So far, we know three Turkish engineers and their translator were injured,” he said. “Two other policemen were injured in the blast.” Al Shabaab, which frequently carries out bombings to try to undermine Somalia’s central government, which is backed by the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping troops, said it carried out the attack. “We are behind the martyrdom of the suicide car bomb in Afgoye,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for the group, said. “We targeted the Turkish men and the Somali forces with them. There are casualties of death and injuries.” The group and government often differ in casualty figures.”

Long War Journal: Al-Qaeda’s Senior Leadership Praises Jihadists In Mali And Somalia

“Al-Qaeda’s senior management, or general command, has released a two-page statement praising the jihadists in Mali and Somalia. Al-Qaeda has strong branches in both East and West Africa, and the international organization’s leaders signal their approval for the jihadists’ ongoing wars in the new missive. “Salutations for the Defenders of Islam in Mali” was released online on Jan. 18, with al-Qaeda’s propagandists making both Arabic and English versions available on various websites and social media channels. Much of the statement is focused on the battles in Mali, though it ends with praise for the jihadists’ efforts in Somalia as well. Though al-Qaeda’s senior men don’t name the parties they have in mind, they are clearly lauding Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM, or the “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims”) and Shabaab, among other al-Qaeda groups. Both JNIM and Shabaab remain openly loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri and have claimed attacks as part of al-Qaeda’s “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized” campaign. The statement reflects al-Qaeda’s ongoing role in guiding the insurgencies. “We consider it our duty to encourage them, guide them to the correct course, offer them sound advice and praise their valuable efforts,” the statement reads.”


The New York Times: Suicide Bombing In Western Chad Kills At Least 9

“A suicide bombing has killed at least nine people in western Chad, a local official and a resident said Monday. A woman set off explosives in a crowd in Kaiga-Kindjiria, a town that has been attacked by Boko Haram insurgents in the past, according to Dimoya Souapelbe, the prefect of the local department of Fouli in the Lake Chad province. He put the toll from Sunday night’s attack at 10 dead and several wounded. A local humanitarian worker said at least 9 people were dead and two injured. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press. Chad has suffered attacks for years by Nigeria’s Boko Haram fighters, who have crossed borders and killed tens of thousands during its 10-year insurgency. Boko Haram extremists killed at least five people in August in Kaiga-Kindjiria.  Many fighters are in the Lake Chad region, launching attacks in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.”

News 24: Kenya Arrests Five For Suspected Terrorism

“Kenyan authorities have arrested five people suspected of preparing a terror attack in Nairobi, according to a police report seen by AFP on Sunday. The group comprises three men - a US citizen, a Somali and their Kenyan driver - and two Somali women who were believed to be on a reconnaissance mission for an attack in the north of the capital, the report dated Saturday said. Police received information on Friday saying that “suspected terrorists” were carrying out a surveillance operation at a pub on Kiambu Road, a spot popular for its many bars and nightclubs. Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the Somali al-Shabaab group, close to al-Qaeda, stepped up attacks in the east of the country this month, threatening to target more Kenyan and US interests. On January 5, the Somali al-Shabaab group attacked Camp Simba, killing three Americans and destroying several aircraft and warning Kenya to withdraw its forces from Somalia while they still “have the chance.”

United Kingdom

The Arab Weekly: UK Adds Entire Hezbollah Movement To Terror Blacklist

“Britain’s Finance Ministry added Lebanon’s entire Hezbollah movement to its list of terrorist groups subject to asset freezing. The ministry previously only targeted the Shia organisation’s military wing but, as of January 17, included the entire group on its terror list. The designation requires any individual or institution in Britain with accounts or financial services connected to Hezbollah to suspend them or face prosecution. “Hezbollah itself has publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the Treasury said in a notice posted on its website. “The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism and was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK in March 2019,” it added. “This listing includes the military wing, the jihad council and all units reporting to it, including the external security organisation.” Britain’s move comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East after the United States killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in an air strike January 3. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened Iran’s enemies with retaliation. Britain proscribes 75 international terrorist organisations under terrorism legislation passed in 2000.”


RFI: Trial Of Suspected Jihadist Recruiter Opens In Paris

“The trial opened in Paris on Monday of Mourad Farès, who is accused of running a group of jihadists as well as recruiting people to fight in Syria and financing terrorism. It’s thought the 35-year-old from Thonon-les-bains in eastern France was involved in several recruitment networks and he is linked to the departure for Syria of ten young people from Strasbourg in 2013. Mourad Farès, is suspected of organizing meetings in Paris, Strasbourg and Lyon, and using social networks to actively encourage people to head for Syria. In July 2013, after receiving several bank transfers, he himself set off for Syria with 3 others. Once in Syria, he joined Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the group which later changed its name to Islamic State. He was allegedly given training in the use of arms but claims he never engaged in combat and was instead involved in surveillance. Farès left Syria of his own accord and was arrested in Turkey in August 2014. He was handed over to France in September 2014 and has been in prison since. France has been Europe's biggest exporter of jihadists to Syria and Iraq... some 2,000 went between 2012 and 2018.”

The Japan Times: French Police Arrest Seven For Islamist Extremist-Linked Terror Plot

“Security forces on Monday arrested seven men believed to be planning a terror attack in France and preparing to travel to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria, according to sources close to the case. They were detained by France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency in the western coastal city of Brest and the surrounding Finistere region. Some of the men were on the country’s “Fiche S” list of potential security risks because of their links with Islamic extremists, one of the sources said. Investigations will continue to determine how far the suspects had advanced in their plans for the attack and flight to the Middle East. France has been on high alert since a wave of jihadi attacks that began in 2015 that have killed more than 250 people. Dozens of French citizens left to join the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq before U.S.-led coalition forces dislodged the insurgents from their “caliphate” last year. IS leaders also urged followers in France to stage attacks on their own, often targeting security forces, and officials have said the threat of further IS-inspired attacks remains high. French officials say they have foiled several terror plots in recent months. ”


The New York Times: ISIS Wife’s Return To Norway Divides Government

“Before the woman left for Syria in 2013, she had grown up on the eastern side of Oslo in a Norwegian-Pakistani family, playing soccer and attending university, according to a recent profile. In Syria, she ended up living in Islamic State territory, marrying twice in the Caliphate and having two children, officials say. When she and her children were plucked from a Kurdish-controlled detention camp in Syria and arrived back on Norwegian soil on Saturday, she was taken into custody for fear that she was a security risk. The family was being kept under surveillance and medical observation in an Oslo hospital, and Norwegian news outlets reported on Monday that the woman would remain in custody for at least four more weeks. The Norwegian government suggested that the decision to bring back the unidentified woman, now 29, had been a humanitarian one: One of her two children — a boy, 5, and a girl, 3 — was believed to be seriously ill. But the move has prompted a national debate over what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said was “a difficult consular case,” and had threatened to bring down the government.”

The New York Times: Kosovo Woman Repatriated From Syria Accused Of Terror

“Kosovo prosecutors on Monday filed terrorism charges against an Albanian woman who allegedly joined a terror group in Syria. A statement said the defendant woman identified as V.B. left Kosovo in September 2014 together with her husband and two children. They went to neighboring Skopje, North Macedonia, and then to Turkey where they crossed the Syrian border to join the Islamic State group, authorities said. Her husband, identified as E.H., was killed in April 2015 in Syria. The defendant was there until April 2019 when they were part of a group of 110 Kosovo citizens repatriated from Syria. She is charged with organization and participation in a terror group. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. About 30 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo are still believed to be with terror groups in Syria and Iraq.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Philippine Military Says 5 Indonesians Kidnapped By Abu Sayyaf Militants

“The Philippine military on Sunday said it has launched search and rescue operations for five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by militants belonging to the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Malaysian waters last week. Eight Indonesians were abducted in Sabah on Thursday. Three were released, while the remaining five were probably brought by their captors to the southern Philippine province of Sulu, said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command. Sulu is Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold. Sobejana disclosed the abduction a day after soldiers clashed with Abu Sayyaf members in Sulare island in Parang town, in Sulu, killing one militant and destroying a speed boat believed to have been used in the kidnapping. Sobejana said Malaysian authorities had immediately coordinated with the Philippine military after the abduction. Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it also has coordinated with the Philippine government and was still waiting for official information about the incident. The speed boat was positively identified by the three Indonesian fishermen who have been freed as the one used in the abduction staged by six militants, Sobejana said. “The likelihood they are in Sulare island or Parang, Sulu is very high,” he said.”

France 24: Bangladesh Sentences 10 Islamists To Death For 2001 Bombing

“A Bangladeshi court sentenced 10 Islamic militants to death Monday for the bombing at communist party rally two decades ago that killed five people. In January 2001 several bombs were detonated in Dhaka at a meeting of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, and police blamed the country's branch of the banned Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HUJI) after an investigation lasting several years. The attack was one of several carried out by militant groups whose members were returning to Bangladesh from the Afghanistan conflict in the early 2000s. On Monday, Dhaka city public prosecutor Abdullah Abu told AFP that 10 HUJI members had been convicted and sentenced to death. “They carried out the bombing as part of their jihad to establish a militant government. They wanted to smear the image of the secular government and create anarchy,” he said. Two communist party members accused of involvement were acquitted. Islamist groups have been targeting secular activists, moderate Muslims and religious minorities in Bangladesh since the 1990s. HUJI and Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were the two most prominent outfits. Both were led by Afghan conflict veterans and were blamed for scores of deaths in bomb and grenade attacks.”

Eurasia Review: Islamic State Resilience In Southeast Asia? – Analysis

“Despite the death of IS’ “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019, events in Southeast Asia have since shown that IS networks, while weakened through the loss of key leaders and fighters, have regrouped and continued attempts to launch attacks. Following the five-month Marawi siege in the Philippines since May 2017 in which leading Southeast Asian jihadists such as Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute, from the Philippines, and Dr Mahmood Ahmad and Amin Baco, from Malaysia, were killed, many analysts believed the terrorist threat in the region has been largely neutralised. Yet in the last two years, security forces in Southeast Asia continue to foil potential attacks and arrest networks of mainly IS-linked operatives. In this period, around 519 individuals in Malaysia and another 500 in Indonesia have been remanded, while authorities in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have also dismantled networks of suspected IS cells and supporters. Recent reports of senior Malaysian militants Akel Zainal and Rafi Udin being killed in counter-terrorist operations in Syria have meant there are currently no known Southeast Asian fighters holding leadership positions within IS in Syria and Iraq.”