Eye on Extremism: January 10, 2023

Associated Press: Al-Shabab Extremists Deny Contact With Somalia’s Government

“The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group has denied having contact with the Somali government after the country’s deputy defense minister claimed that the extremists had for the first time asked to negotiate. An unnamed al-Shabab official with the group’s media unit told a pro-al-Shabab website in comments published Sunday that “there is no talk between us.” On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Kasim told journalists in Mogadishu that “al-Shabab requested to open negotiations with the Somali government, but there are two groups within al-Shabab.” He said Somali members of al-Shabab “have a chance to open up negotiations, but those foreigners who invaded our country have no right for talks. The only option is to return to where they are from.” Kasim added that “for the Somalis, we are ready to receive them, for they are willing to surrender to the Somali government. They must follow the government’s instructions, reintegrate with their society, or face the Somali National Army in the front lines.” It was the first time Somalia’s federal government had claimed the extremist group had requested talks.”

The Washington Post: Taliban Hard-Liners Consolidate Control With Crackdown On Women

“Taliban hard-liners are consolidating their control over Afghanistan with the recent bans on women’s education and work, overriding the wishes of some Taliban officials in the capital, Kabul, and at the provincial level, according to government and aid officials. The Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, and his fellow ultraconservatives based in Afghanistan’s second city of Kandahar are cracking down on social freedoms as their movement transitions from primarily waging an insurgency to governing a large, diverse country. The draconian restrictions issued by Akhundzada last month, banning women from attending universities and from working for international organizations, demonstrated that real authority continues to reside in Kandahar rather than in Kabul, home to Taliban ministries and the group’s acting prime minister. “This is [the supreme leader] taking more control” over national policy and how his directives are followed in Kabul and elsewhere, said an aid official in Kabul with direct knowledge of negotiations within Taliban leadership. The official, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing negotiations or internal policy disagreements.”

United States

Reuters: Man Behind Deadly New York Bike Path Attack Sought Martyrdom, Defense Says

“A man charged with using a truck to kill eight people on a Manhattan bike path in 2017 believes his attack was justified and sought to die a martyr for Islam, his defense counsel told the jury at his terrorism trial on Monday. At the first federal death-penalty trial since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, defendant Sayfullo Saipov, 34, acknowledged through his lawyers that he intended to murder and maim his victims and still believes he had a religious duty to do so. The only point of contention with prosecutors was whether he carried out the attack in order to join the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, which the United States brands a terrorist organization. "That is not why he did this," David Patton, a public defender representing Saipov, said in an opening statement at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, saying Saipov was only inspired by Islamic State, and not planning to survive his attack and join as a member. "He expected to die. He expected to become a martyr.”

Washington Examiner: 9/11 Trial Delayed Again As Biden Administration Pushes For Plea Deal With Terrorists

“Pretrial hearings for the yet-to-start 9/11 trial at Guantanamo Bay have been canceled again as the Biden administration seeks to strike a plea deal with the al Qaeda plotters, which could take the death penalty off the table. After more than 21 years, justice has yet to be attained in the case against the plotters of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and nearly a year of plea negotiations and canceled hearings at Guantanamo Bay has pushed any trial back even further. n December 2022, the presiding military judge for the case at the island war court canceled the hearings that were slated to span from mid-January to early February 2023, and at least some defense teams want the March 2023 hearings to be postponed too. The defense team for alleged 9/11 hijacking trainer Walid bin Attash told the court in early December 2022 that the scheduled multiweek hearings for late January and early February 2023 should be canceled, the prosecution did not object, and the presiding judge granted the cancellation.”

Daily Star: Inside The Neo-Nazi Street Fighting Gang Who 'Trained Followers To Riot And Beat People'

“…The men were also allegedly present at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 where they had taped their hadns to protect from injury. Three members of RAM, including Rundo, reportedly travelled Germany, Ukraine and Italy to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and meet with European white power groups. Rundo is believed to be in Eastern Europe now, with some reports suggesting he was kicked out of Serbia and is now in Bulgaria. However, he still presidees over “active clubs” from his European bolthole. He describes these as local groups that would “combine fitness and nationalist activism, building camaraderie, and developing team-building skills.”"Rundo is a model for his brand of white supremacism that seeks to normalize fascism and focus on a clean lifestyle and appearance, and fitness and combat sports," Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher at the Counter Extremism Project, told Raw Story.”

Syria

France 24: Spain Repatriates 2 Women, 13 Children From Syria Camps

“Madrid has repatriated two Spanish women who were married to Islamic State group fighters, flying them home from jihadist camps in Syria with 13 children, the government said on Tuesday. They arrived at Torrejon de Ardoz military airport near Madrid late on Monday, nearly two months after the Spanish government agreed to bring them home. "The government has just repatriated two women and 13 Spanish minors from Syrian refugee camps," a foreign ministry statement said. The two women were arrested on arrival and would be brought before a judge at the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's top criminal court, it said. A court spokesman confirmed the women would appear in court on Wednesday morning on "terrorism-related charges". The 13 children were taken into the care of the Madrid region's social services, it said.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen Calls For Unified, Firm Int’l Stance To Curb Houthi Terrorism

“After condemning the Houthi militia’s escalation in Yemen’s southwestern Taiz Governorate and its targeting of two children with sniper fire, the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) reiterated its call for unified and firm international positions to stop the terrorism of the Iran-backed group. PLC member Sultan al-Arada conveyed the Yemeni ruling body’s request during a Monday meeting with Steven Fagin, the US ambassador to Yemen. This comes at a time when Houthi militias continue to reject UN and international proposals to renew and expand the truce. The militia is also threatening to return to fighting and attacking oil facilities and ports in the liberated areas. According to official sources, al-Arada discussed with Fagin “developments in Yemen in light of the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia’s continued targeting of civilians and infrastructure, its lack of commitment to renewing the humanitarian truce, and its failure to accept a permanent and comprehensive peace based on the three basic references.” “During the meeting, al-Arada referred to PLC efforts in various fields. This included concessions the council made to renew the humanitarian truce and work to expand it and support all regional and international efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive and just peace,” sources added.”

Lebanon

Associated Press: Lebanese Hezbollah Condemns Charlie Hebdo Cartoons In France

“Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group on Tuesday condemned the cartoons published recently by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that mocked Iran’s ruling clerics and urged France to punish the publication. The Iran-backed Hezbollah said the offensive caricatures were an “ugly act by the magazine” that targeted Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, revered as the spiritual leader for tens of millions of pious Shiites throughout the world, including in Lebanon. There was no immediate comment from France. Charlie Hebdo has a long history of publishing vulgar cartoons mocking Islamists, which critics say are deeply insulting to Muslims. Two French-born al-Qaida extremists attacked the newspaper’s office in 2015, killing 12 cartoonists, and it has been the target of other attacks over the years. Its latest issue features the winners of a recent cartoon contest in which entrants were asked to draw the most offensive caricatures of Khamenei. The contest was billed as a show of support for the monthslong anti-government protests rocking Iran.”

The National: US Appeals For Information On Two Lebanese Men Accused Of Financing Hezbollah

“The US has reissued an appeal for information on two Lebanese businessmen based in Guinea who are accused of being financiers for Hezbollah. The Rewards for Justice programme said it is offering up to $10 million for information that “leads to the disruption of the financial mechanisms” of Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese political party and armed group. Ibrahim Taher was described as “one of the most prominent financial supporters of Hezbollah in Guinea” and was said to have had employees linked to the group. It is claimed that he used his role as Honorary Consul of Lebanon to the Ivory Coast to evade scrutiny while travelling in and out of Guinea. “Taher and an associate sent US dollars collected at one of their commercial facilities to Conakry airport and bribed Guinean customs officials to allow their currency to pass in luggage,” the US said. In 2020, the US said he flew with alleged Hezbollah financier Ali Saade from Guinea to Lebanon on a special flight with a significant amount of money that they claimed was supposed to support Covid-19 relief efforts in Lebanon.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: US Announces $9 Million In Military Support To Somalia

“The U.S. announced Sunday that it’s giving $9 million in new military aid to help Somalia's ongoing campaign against al-Shabab militants. It's the first such direct military support since U.S. forces returned to Somalia and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud announced an "all-out war" against the militants. The U.S. embassy in Mogadishu handed over military equipment to the government Sunday. According to a tweet from the embassy, the weapons and vehicles will support the campaign by the Somali National Army to liberate communities from al-Shabab control. According to Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, Somalia’s Defense Minister, the military donation from the U.S. was a show of confidence and testimony that the Somali military can be trusted to manage the weapons without it falling into the wrong hands. He added that the weapons will play an important role in fighting the Khawarij.”

Europe

The National: Vienna Terrorist Slipped Through Net After Seeking AK-47 Bullets

“Austrian intelligence agents should have raised the alarm about a known ISIS supporter before he killed four people in a 2020 terrorist attack in Vienna, an inquiry has found. A counter-terrorism team failed to pass on evidence that Kujtim Fejzulai was seeking ammunition for an AK-47 rifle, its report said. He opened fire with his AK-47 in Vienna’s city centre on November 4, 2020, in a nine-minute rampage that ended with his death in a shoot-out with police. It was Austria’s worst terrorist attack in decades and led to questions about why Fejzulai, a dual national of Austria and North Macedonia, had not been stopped. He was jailed in 2019 after trying to travel to Syria and spreading ISIS propaganda on social media, but was released on probation later that year. In July 2020, his name surfaced again after Europol reported that two men had tried to buy ammunition from an arms dealer in Slovakia, but were refused because of missing paperwork. The interior ministry later claimed there was only a “vague suspicion” that Fejzulai was one of the men seen in the blurry surveillance footage from Slovakia.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Germany Searches For Chemicals After Arresting Iranian Brothers Accused Of Terrorism

“German authorities raided new sites in search of chemicals, a day after they had arrested two Iranian suspects who were preparing a terrorist attack using biological weapons, according to the Düsseldorf prosecutor’s office. Police and investigators are still searching for evidence in the case, but they have not yet found any chemicals, according to security sources cited by the German news website, Der Spiegel. Officials said Monday that, during searches of multiple locations in connection with the investigation, they found a package with unknown contents in a garage, which was to be removed for inspection. Some homes in the immediate vicinity were evacuated as a precaution. Police agents raided the Iranians’ home in the city of Castrop-Rauxel, in western Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia state, around midnight Saturday night after neighbors had reported suspicious activity.”

Technology

Bloomberg: The Law That Made Social Media Possible Faces A Supreme Court Showdown

“A set of US Supreme Court cases could transform the legal landscape for social media companies by the end of the court’s term in late June, with potentially wide-reaching implications for political discourse and the 2024 elections. The justices have already agreed to decide whether social media companies can be held liable for promoting harmful content posted by their users. Until now, the answer has been no, with federal appeals courts saying a provision known as Section 230 grants them sweeping immunity. Enacted as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Section 230 is widely credited with helping the internet flourish, giving platforms assurance that they wouldn’t be at risk of lawsuits for things their users post. But the provision is increasingly drawing criticism from both sides of the political aisle. Conservatives including former President Donald Trump complain Section 230 shields tech companies that censor right-wing voices, while many liberals say it lets platforms ignore hate speech and extremism. The case before the court involves a suit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old US citizen who was among 129 people killed in coordinated attacks by the Islamic State group in Paris in November 2015. Gonzalez’s family says Google’s YouTube service, through its algorithms, violated a federal anti-terrorism law by recommending IS videos to other users.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

So you go to India, and if you see a Hindu walking down the road you are allowed to kill him and take his money, is that clear? Jews should be killed ... as by Hitler. People with British passports, if you fly into Israel, it is easy. Fly into Israel and do whatever you can. If you die, you are up in paradise. How do you fight a Jew? You kill a Jew. In the case of Hindus, by bombing their businesses.

Abdullah Faisal, ISIS Propagandist Undated
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