Eye on Extremism: January 12, 2022

The New York Times: Justice Dept. Forms Domestic Terrorism Unit

“The Justice Department is creating a unit to fight domestic terrorism at a time when the threat of violent extremism has increased, a top official said on Tuesday. The number of F.B.I. investigations of suspects accused of domestic extremism has more than doubled since the spring of 2020, the head of the department’s national security division, Matthew G. Olsen, said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The national security division has a counterterrorism team, Mr. Olsen added, but a group of lawyers will now be dedicated to the domestic threat and ensure that cases will be “handled properly and effectively coordinated” across the agency and federal law enforcement. The move is in keeping with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s vow to prioritize combating domestic extremism. It comes as the Justice Department investigates the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, an assault that underscores the resurgence of domestic extremism driven in part by the baseless perception that the 2020 election was marred by election fraud. Last year, the Biden administration unveiled a national strategy to tackle domestic extremism, which called for preventing recruitment by extremist groups and bolstering information sharing across law enforcement.”

Reuters: Eight Soldiers In Burkina Faso Arrested For Alleged Plot

“Eight soldiers in Burkina Faso were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of conspiring against the government, the military prosecutor's office said. One of the alleged plotters tipped off the authorities on Saturday to an alleged “plan to destabilise the institutions of the republic”, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. An investigation is under way and the soldiers have been questioned, it said. Governments in West and Central Africa are on high alert for coups after successful putsches over the past 18 months in Mali and Guinea. The military also took over in Chad last year after president Idriss Deby died on the battlefield. Neighbouring governments have imposed heavy sanctions on the military rulers in Guinea and Mali in an effort to head off any contagion effect in a region once known as Africa's “coup belt”. Burkina Faso appears to be especially vulnerable. Rising violence by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians last year, prompting violent street protests in November calling for President Roch Kabore to step down. The Burkinabe government at the time suspended mobile internet service for over a week, and the tense situation led the United Nations' special envoy to West Africa to warn against any military takeover.”

United States

Associated Press: Supreme Court Denies Appeal Of Regretful Islamic State Bride

“The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a woman who left home in Alabama to join the Islamic State terror group, but then decided she wanted to return to the United States. The justices declined without comment on Monday to consider the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who was born in New Jersey in October 1994 to a diplomat from Yemen and grew up in Alabama near Birmingham. Muthana left the U.S. to join the Islamic State in 2014, apparently after becoming radicalized online. While she was overseas the government determined she was not a U.S. citizen and revoked her passport, citing her father's status as a diplomat at the time of her birth. Her family sued to enable her return to the United States. A federal judge ruled in 2019 that the U.S. government correctly determined Muthana wasn't a U.S. citizen despite her birth in the country. Children of diplomats aren't entitled to birthright citizenship. The family’s lawyers appealed, arguing that her father’s status as a diplomat assigned to the U.N. had ended before her birth, making her automatically a citizen. Muthana surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as Islamic State fighters were losing the last of their self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria and going to refugee camps.”

The New York Times: Biden Administration Approves 5 More Guantánamo Releases

“A U.S. government review panel has approved the release of five men who have been held for years without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to a flurry of decisions released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, but they are unlikely to be freed soon as the Biden administration works to find nations to take them. The disclosure came on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the wartime prison, and President Barack Obama’s last special envoy on the task, Lee Wolosky, used the occasion to urge the White House to shut down the operation. “Our longest war has ended, yet Guantánamo endures,” Mr. Wolosky wrote in a guest column in Politico. “If these detainees had been white and not brown or Black, is there any realistic chance the United States — a country committed to the rule of law — would imprison them without charge for decades? I don’t think so.” Those recommended for transfer included three Yemenis, Moath al-Alwi, Zuhail al-Sharabi and Omar al-Rammah, and a Kenyan, Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu. All are in their 40s. None of them were ever charged with war crimes and instead were held as “law of war” detainees, the U.S. term for prisoners of the war on terrorism.”

Afghanistan

BBC News: Afghanistan Crisis: Taliban Expands 'Food For Work' Programme

“The Taliban has said it is expanding its “food for work” programme, in which donated wheat is used to pay tens of thousands of public sector workers. It comes as the United Nations (UN) has appealed for $4.4bn (£3.2bn) in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. The UN says the funds are needed this year as more than half the country's population is in need. Afghanistan's economic and humanitarian crisis has deepened since the Taliban took control in August. The Taliban's latest announcement underlined the financial crisis engulfing the country. It could also raise questions among donors over the Taliban using humanitarian aid to fund their government, even as strict rules remain in place over money going into Afghanistan. Still, some humanitarian aid has continued after the Taliban takeover as foreign governments attempt to prevent millions of people from starving. However, the aid is meant to bypass the Afghan government and is mostly distributed by international organisations. Now, wheat which was mostly donated by India to the previous US-backed Afghan government is being used by the Taliban to pay around 40,000 workers 10kg of wheat a day, the country's agriculture officials said.”

Foreign Policy: ‘You’re Very Vulnerable’: Afghan Diplomats Fear Violent Taliban Reprisals

“The Taliban have begun more aggressively to replace Afghanistan’s exiled diplomats who have resisted the militant group’s rule, current and former Afghan officials told Foreign Policy, using surprise diplomatic appointments and the threat of violence as a first step toward seeking wider political recognition. In the past several weeks, the Taliban have named new acting diplomats to lead Afghanistan’s embassies in Iran and China. While it’s not clear whether either host country approved the moves, they represent a possible warming of relations between the Taliban and countries outside of America’s orbit. The moves also shed light on the Taliban’s strategy of trying to quietly replace Afghan diplomats abroad with loyalists, even if foreign countries refuse to formally recognize Taliban rule in Afghanistan. On Monday, Afghanistan’s top diplomat in China, Javid Ahmad Qaem, announced his resignation with a detailed note that hinted at deep-seated personal and professional frustrations. The Taliban had sought to undermine Qaem by tapping their own replacement, another former Afghan diplomat, Mahyuddin Sadat, as the embassy’s first secretary. Just a few weeks earlier, the Taliban engineered a power grab over the embassy in Iran, reappointing Abdul Qayyum Sulaimani, a former diplomat, as charges d’affaires, making him acting ambassador in Tehran in December 2021.”

Pakistan

Al Jazeera: Senior Pakistani Taliban Leader Killed In Afghanistan: Official

“A senior leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban or TTP) has been killed in eastern Afghanistan, Pakistani security officials say, as a peace talks process between the armed group and the government remain stalled. Khalid Balti, also known by the nom de guerre Muhammad Khorasani when he served as the spokesperson of the group, was killed in Nangarhar province, a security source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue. “It is clear that the person who was killed is Khalid Balti,” said the official, while also confirming the killing took place in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, along the border with Pakistan. When asked about the circumstances of the killing, he said, “We are trying to get that information.” Local media in Pakistan reported that Balti had been shot dead by unidentified gunmen, but the source was unable to confirm those reports. In a statement, the Pakistani Taliban, said that “investigations were ongoing” into the reports that Balti had been killed. “It should be remembered that Mufti Khalid Balti did not currently have any responsibilities in [the Pakistan Taliban],” the statement said.”

Mali

The National: Terrorism A ‘Critical’ Threat To Mali, Says UAE Envoy

“The UAE envoy to the UN on Tuesday said terrorism was a “critical” threat to Mali and called for a comprehensive approach to tackling armed extremists in the turbulent West African country. Addressing the Security Council, Lana Nusseibeh lauded the work of the G5 Sahel force, an anti-extremist alliance that includes units from the armies of Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania. “Terrorist groups in the country continue to expand their presence and operations despite efforts to counter them,” Ms Nusseibeh told the 15-nation body in New York. “We highlight the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to counter-terrorism that addresses its root causes and builds the resilience of Malians.” Ms Nusseibeh also stressed the importance of bolstering law and order, economic development and tackling climate change in the region, which has been struck by drought and desertification. “The UAE attaches great importance to addressing climate change, and its impact on international peace and security,” said Ms Nusseibeh. She also called for more aid programmes offering “food and water security”. Mali has struggled to quell a brutal extremist insurgency that first emerged in the north of the country in 2012, before spreading to central regions and to nearby Burkina Faso and Niger.”

Africa

The Defense Post: Four Soldiers Killed In Burkina Faso Attack

“At least four soldiers were killed Tuesday in an attack blamed on jihadists in northern Burkina Faso, security sources said. The “terrorists” targeted a military detachment between Markoye and Tokabangou, near the border with Niger, one of the sources told AFP, using the army’s term for jihadists. Another said the army counter-attacked, repelling the assailants and killing “some” of them. He added that more soldiers may have died in the clash. He said a “search and sweep operation” was under way to “hunt down the assailants and search for (soldiers) who are still missing.” Markoye, in Oudalan province, is in the heart of the so-called tri-border area — a flashpoint zone where the frontiers of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali converge that is a hotbed of groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Last week at least 13 civilians including two volunteers working for the army’s anti-jihadist campaign were killed in northern Burkina Faso, a poor, landlocked former French colony. Such attacks have claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes since 2015.”

Al Jazeera: South Africa Parliament Fire Suspect Charged With ‘Terrorism’

“A South African court has charged a man suspected of starting a devastating fire that gutted South Africa’s parliament with “terrorism”, adding to robbery and arson accusations, as he made his second appearance in court on Tuesday. Zandile Christmas Mafe, 49, was arrested near the parliament complex after the fire broke out on January 2 and appeared in court three days later. He was initially charged with breaking into parliament, arson and intention to steal property, including laptops, crockery and documents, before the new terrorism charge was added on Tuesday. A new charge said the “accused is guilty of the offence of contravening the provisions of … the protection of constitutional democracy against terrorist and related activities”, according to a court document. The prosecution spokesman Eric Ntabazalila told reporters during a court recess that “we have added a sixth charge … the accused detonated a device inside parliament”. The blaze broke out in the Cape Town complex before dawn on January 2, spreading to the National Assembly, the roof of which collapsed. Protesters outside the court building demanded his release saying he was a scapegoat. Defence lawyer Dali Mpofu said that Mafe was last week “taken for mental observation on January 3” and diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Fishmongers' Hall: University Of Cambridge Project Halted After Attack

“…But a senior adviser for the Counter Extremism Project, Prof Ian Acheson, said the "total failure" of Cambridge University and its subsidiary to put in place any system of risk assessment and to discharge its duty of care to its volunteers was "the plainest case of negligence". Prof Acheson, a former prison officer, also criticised the lack of positive rehabilitation outcomes of the programme, which was awarded £250,000 of public funds as well as funding from Cambridge University. "This was a totally reckless programme that didn't achieve anything, as far as I can see, for the people who were on the programme," he said. "Part of the problem here was a mixture of incompetence, naivety and hubris." He described the Learning Together programme as a "vanity project that went disastrously wrong, resulting in the completely preventable deaths of two students".”

The National: ‘Extremist Encouraged Terrorism’ With Sword Speech At UK Mosque

“A man made a stabbing gesture as he called for death “by sword” when addressing people at a busy mosque in an English coastal city, a court in London heard. The trial opened on Tuesday of Abubaker Deghayes, 53, who is accused of encouraging terrorism at the Brighton Mosque and Muslim Community Centre. The case against Mr Deghayes was outlined by prosecutor Ben Lloyd. He told London’s Central Criminal Court that about 50 people, including children and young adults, were present when Mr Deghayes stood up after evening prayers on Sunday, November 1, 2020. In a video of the speech played to the jury, Mr Deghayes said: “Whose power is more powerful than us? Allah is more powerful than you. You, idiots. You kuffar [non-believers]. The non-believer is an idiot. He’s stupid.” Mr Deghayes said attacks would remain compulsory “until the Day of Resurrection”. Mr Lloyd said the speech was not delivered “innocently or naively”. “The prosecution case is clear. By the defendant's words and gestures he was encouraging people to undertake violent jihad,” he said. “The defendant’s speech demonstrates him to be an Islamic extremist. He is someone who believes in the use of violence in the cause of Islam.”

Daily Mail: Female Irish Soldier 'Who Joined ISIS And Financed Terror' Fights To Get Terrorism Charges Against Her Thrown Out

“A former member of the Defence Forces is seeking to have charges of being a member of Islamic State and financing terrorism dropped at the Special Criminal Court. Lawyers for Louth woman Lisa Smith, 39, have made an application for the case against her to be dismissed. It is expected that they will argue there is not sufficient evidence to convict their client on any of the charges. The case received widespread attention in 2019 when it emerged that Smith, a former Air Corps soldier who had worked on the Government jet, had been detained in Syria over alleged links to IS. Smith was arrested at Dublin Airport in 2019 on suspicion of terrorist offences after returning from Turkey in November with her young daughter. She had travelled to Syria a number of years ago after she converted to Islam. Smith is charged under Section Six of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 which makes it an offence to join a foreign unlawful organisation. It is alleged that between October 28, 2015 and December 1 2019 at a location outside the State, she was a member of a terrorist group styling itself as the Islamic State. She has also been accused of financing terrorism, by sending 800 euro in assistance by Western Union money transfer to a named individual in 2015.”

Europe

Daily Mail: Italian Far-Right Extremist's Funeral With Nazi Flag Coffin And Fascist-Saluting Mourners Sparks Fury Among Catholic And Jewish Leaders In Rome

“Italian Catholic and Jewish leaders today condemned outrageous scenes in which people gave Nazi salutes and draped a swastika on the coffin at a right-wing extremist's funeral in Rome. The Italian capital's Catholic archdiocese said in a statement that priests at the parish of St. Lucia in a central Rome neighbourhood, including the one who presided at the funeral rite, had no warning of yesterday's antics at the church. Pictures which first emerged on the Italian news portal Open showed the coffin bearing the body of Alessia Augello, a former member of the right-wing extremist group Forza Nuova, covered by the infamous swastika symbol as it was carried out of the church. The 44-year-old former militant of Forza Nuova, who was also known as 'Tungsty', died over the weekend of a blood clot according to Italian media.  Forza Nuova is an ultra-right neo-fascist party created in 1997, whose manifesto includes banning abortion, halting immigration, and repealing laws punishing incitement to hatred.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: One Child Killed, Six Wounded In Philippines Bus Bombing

“A child has been killed and six others wounded after a bomb exploded on a public bus in the rebellion-plagued southern Philippines. Police said the explosion took place on Tuesday as the bus was travelling along a highway near Cotabato City on Mindanao island, a haven for multiple armed groups ranging from communist rebels to religious fighters. The bomb was “inside the bus, at the end part … where there were a lot of people sitting”, according to Randy Hampac, police spokesman in Aleosan town. A five-year-old boy died in the blast that shattered the back windows, Hampac said. The wounded included a five-month-old baby and a three-year-old child. A police report said one of the victims saw a male passenger leave “baggage” on the bus when he disembarked and it later exploded. Regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Baldomar said no group had admitted carrying out the “presumed attack”. Attacks on buses, Catholic churches and public markets have been a feature of decades-long unrest in the region. Manila signed a peace pact with the nation’s largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in 2014, ending their deadly armed rebellion. But smaller bands of fighters opposed to the peace deal remain, including fighters professing allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group. Communist rebels also operate in the region.”

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