Eye on Extremism: January 17, 2023

Associated Press: ‘They Are On The Run’: Somalia Leads Fight Against Al-Shabab  

“Enough was enough. For 13 years, extremists with al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate had controlled Mohamud Adow’s village in central Somalia, imposing harsh ideology and arresting local teachers and traditional leaders. Then, word came that Somali forces in a surprising national offensive had expelled the fighters from nearby villages. A small group of residents sneaked out one night in August to meet with Somali troop commanders and invited them into their village of Rage-El. The 80-year-old Adow was among those taking up arms, joining a local militia fighting alongside Somali forces in rural battles with battered guns. “The people were living in agony,” said Adow, one of several witnesses interviewed by The Associated Press. In what is being called “total war” by the government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s that was elected in May, Adow and others across the Horn of Africa nation are being encouraged to stand up to the al-Shabab extremists who have long embedded in Somali society, exploiting clan divisions and extorting millions of dollars a year from businesses and farmers in their quest to impose an Islamic caliphate.”

Reuters: Cleanup At Congo Church Begins After Blast Kills 14

“The atmosphere at the Pentecostal church in the city of Kasindi in eastern Congo was upbeat on Sunday as hundreds gathered for a series of baptisms. The congregation swelled beyond capacity, forcing organisers to move the service outside. Then, about 10 minutes in, a blast rocked the courtyard where worshippers had gathered, three witnesses told Reuters on Monday. Dozens were wounded with burns and cuts from flying debris. Fourteen died, army spokesman Anthony Mwalushayi said on Monday. "We were listening to the preacher when we heard a loud blast, it threw us to the ground," Aline Pauni told Reuters from the bed of a nearby clinic where her burned feet were wrapped in bandages. The attack was the latest against civilians by Islamist insurgents that roam eastern Congo and have killed thousands of villagers since 2014. Islamic State claimed responsibility on Sunday. The army blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2019. The militant group could not be reached for comment and did not claim responsibility for the bombing.”

United States

Voice Of America: US Offers $10 Million Reward For Mastermind Of 2019 Nairobi Terrorist Attack

“The United States has announced a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of the alleged leader of the 2019 attack on Nairobi's Dusit D2 hotel complex. The attack in the Kenyan capital killed 21 people, including a U.S. citizen, and injured 30 others. Kennedy Macharia was working at the complex on January 2019 when he heard gunshots. He and some of his colleagues barricaded themselves inside their office until police found them and led them out. However, two of his colleagues were shot and killed. Macharia welcomed Thursday's U.S. announcement of a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Mohamoud Abdi Aden, the alleged mastermind of the attack.”


Reuters: Dutch Authorities Arrest Alleged Syrian ISIS Security Chief

“The Dutch national prosecutors office on Tuesday announced the arrest of a 37-year old Syrian refugee who is accused of committing war crimes as a security official for Islamic State. Prosecutors said in a statement the man sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2019. A special Dutch war crimes police team received information that the suspect, who has not been identified, had a leading role in the security service of ISIS from 2015 to 2018. He had the same role previously in the Nusra Front, formerly al Qaeda’s wing in Syria, they said. According to the Dutch authorities he worked in and around Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, the location of a large Palestinian refugee camp. The suspect will appear before a judge in The Hague on Friday. Under Dutch law, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on foreign soil can be prosecuted under universal jurisdiction if a suspect resides in the Netherlands.”


Reuters: Former Female Afghan MP Nabizada Shot Dead In Kabul

“Mursal Nabizada, a former female member of Afghanistan's parliament, has been killed by unknown gunmen at her home in Kabul, police said. Nabizada and her guard were shot dead and her brother was injured in an attack on the weekend, police said. The attack took place overnight on Saturday, the police said in a statement issued later, adding that they were not informed until around 7am on Sunday morning."The police and security forces very soon took action and started investigation of the case," they said in the statement. No-one has been arrested and the investigation is continuing, they added. Nabizada had been a lawmaker until the Taliban took over as foreign forces withdrew in 2021, when many politicians fled the country.”

Reuters: U.S. Calls For U.N. To Urge Taliban To Reverse Bans On Women

“The United States on Friday pushed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling on the Taliban-led authorities in Afghanistan to reverse bans on women working for aid groups or attending universities and high school, diplomats said. The 15-member council met privately on Friday - at the request of the United Arab Emirates and Japan - to discuss the decisions by the Islamist Taliban-led administration, which seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council that given the gravity of the situation it should unanimously adopt a resolution to condemn the bans and call for an immediate reversal, said diplomats. It was not immediately clear whether all members would back such a formal move by the council. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, Britain, France or the United States to be adopted.”

Middle East

Outlook: Israel-Palestine Tensions: Teen Killed In Israeli Raid In West Bank, Hamas Captures Israeli Man

“…Hamas released the video on the day that Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi was sworn in as the new commander of Israel's military. In a statement accompanying the footage, Hamas warned Halevi that he would “bear the burden” of his predecessor's failure to free Israeli captives held in the Palestinian enclave. The Hamas is a terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip. It frequently harasses Israel with rockets and has fought devastating wars with Israel. It has also carried out a number of suicide bombings. "The group’s ideology blends Islamism and Palestinian nationalism and seeks the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River... Hamas’s preferred methods include suicide bombings, rocket and mortar attacks, shootings, and kidnappings," notes the think tank Counter Extremism Project.”

Reuters: Hamas Releases Video It Says Is Of Israeli Man Captured In Gaza In 2014

“Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas released a video on Monday showing what they said was an Israeli citizen being held captive in the Gaza Strip. The unverified images of the man are the first since his capture in 2014. The undated video shows a man identified by Hamas as Israeli civilian, Avera Mengistu, sitting in front of a blank wall and speaking for about 10 seconds, asking Israel for help. Its release seemed to be an effort to pressure Israel into making a prisoner swap. Mengistu, who according to his family suffers from mental health issues, crossed into Gaza in 2014 and has been held in captivity since. Mengistu's identity was not confirmed by Israel. But his brother Ilan said the family, after eight and a half years of having no idea about his emotional or physical wellbeing, believe it is him. "My mother is on the verge of tears. She hasn't stopped watching the video," he told Reuters. "Her hope, her great happiness will be seeing him home safe and sound." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in response to the video's release: "Israel is investing all its resources and efforts to bring its captured and missing boys home." It did not comment on the video's authenticity.”


Reuters: Al Shabaab Kills Seven Soldiers In Attack On Military Base

“Islamist fighters from al Shabaab on Tuesday stormed a military base in a part of central Somalia they were forced from last year, killing at least seven soldiers, including the base commander, an officer said. Assailants from the al Qaeda affiliate rammed the base in the village of Hawadley with a suicide car bomb and then opened fire, Captain Aden Nur, a military officer in a nearby town, told Reuters. "We repelled al Shaabab. We lost seven soldiers, including our commander," Nur told Reuters. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it had killed "many apostate soldiers and their commander". The base is located about 60 km (35 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu and was wrested from al Shabaab control in October last year by government forces and allied clan militias.”


Associated Press: Violence Soars In Mali In The Year After Russians Arrive

“Alou Diallo says he was drinking tea with his family one morning last month when groups of “white soldiers” invaded his village in central Mali, setting fire to houses and gunning down people suspected of being Islamic extremists. He scrambled to safety in the bush, but his son was shot and wounded while fleeing, then was finished off as he lay on the ground. “I watched my 16-year-old son die,” Diallo told The Associated Press in Mali’s capital, Bamako, where he lives in a makeshift camp for displaced people. As he recounted that awful Saturday in his village of Bamguel, the 47-year-old former cattle breeder made no attempt to hide the anger toward the troops, which he believed to be Russian mercenaries, who turned his world upside down. “I really want peace to return and things to go back to normal,” he said. “Here in Bamako, I live a life I didn’t choose.”

Associated Press: UN: Al-Qaida And Islamic State Driving Insecurity In Mali

“Al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups are driving insecurity in central Mali and continue to clash near populated areas in the northern Gao and Menaka regions, the U.N. chief said in a new report circulated Monday. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the level and frequency of incidents of violence remain exceptionally high,” with attacks by “violent extremist groups” against civilians accounting for the majority of documented human rights abuses. “The attacks carried out against civilians by terrorist groups, the battle for influence among them and the violent activities conducted by community militias remain a chilling daily reality, as do the attacks against the Malian Defense and Security Forces and against MINUSMA,” the U.N. peacekeeping force, he said. Guterres said in the report to the U.N. Security Council that “going forward, military operations to combat the extremist groups will continue to be a crucial component for the restoration of security.”


Reuters: Islamist Militants Kidnapped Around 50 Women In Burkina Faso

“Islamist militants kidnapped around 50 women searching for food in Burkina Faso's northern province of Soum, a hotbed of jihadist activity, on Jan. 12 and 13, the government said on Monday. The mass kidnapping is a first in the insurgency that spread to Burkina Faso from neighbouring Mali in 2015 despite costly international military efforts to contain it. While Westerners and locals are occasionally captured, women had not previously been abducted in such numbers. Mass kidnappings have been carried out in Nigeria by the separate Boko Haram insurgency there. Armed men seized the women as they were picking wild fruit outside the village of Liki, around 15 km (10 miles) from the town of Aribinda, and then in another location in the same district. "Searching has started with the aim of finding all these innocent victims safe and sound," the government said in a statement.”

Aharq Al-Awsat: Algeria Allocates $400 Mln To Protect Oil Facilities Against Terrorism

“The Algerian government has launched a plan to protect the oil and gas facilities against potential terrorist acts. The plan consists of hiring 22,000 guards and spending $400 million on the security systems in the infrastructure of oil and gas. Chief Executive Officer at state-owned Sonatrach Group Toufik Hakkar revealed on Monday some of the plan’s details during a meeting in Algiers attended by officials from the Ministry of National Defense on the 10th anniversary of a terrorist attack that targeted a gas facility. In 2013, a militant group staged an attack on the Tiguentourine gas processing facility in southern Algeria, killing dozens of people, including foreigners.”

United Kingdom

The National: UK To Toughen Anti-Protest Laws To Target Environmental Groups' 'Guerrilla Tactics'

“…Prof Ian Acheson of the Counter Extremism Project has called on the UK to use existing laws and set up special courts to expedite the arrest, prosecution and punishment of people whose actions have a disproportionate effect on the public. He said Just Stop Oil, which recently staged a wave of disruption that included group members gluing themselves to art masterpieces and spray-painting buildings, were “certainly a nuisance”. The group’s “distributed leadership” struggles to mobilise national action, he said. And there is equal difficulty in policing it, he added. “But perhaps there’s a dawning realisation that defacing memorials and art or sitting in front of ambulances simply alienates people and makes it harder to project a core message of environmental responsibility,” he said. He told The National he worries that radicalised individuals may feel the only way to keep their case alive “is through a high profile act of violence”.”

BBC: Man Who Shared Explosives Recipe Guilty Of Terror Offences

“A man who shared bomb-making instructions in a far-right group chat has been convicted of terror offences. Elliot Brown, 25, from Bath, shared a video of his Alexa speaker reading out a recipe for how to make the explosive substance thermite. Brown denied wrongdoing but was convicted of collecting information that could be of use to a terrorist. He was also convicted at Bristol Crown Court earlier of the dissemination of a terrorist publication. On the first count Brown was convicted on a majority verdict of 10 jurors to two, and on the second charge by 11 jurors against one, following seven hours and 18 minutes of deliberations. He is due to be sentenced at 10:00GMT on Monday at the same court. The week-long trial heard how Brown, who had no previous convictions, held "extremist views". He was a member of a far-right group chat, in which he exchanged racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic messages with other members. The group chat also contained photos related to the support of neo-Nazism and white supremacy.”

The National: Far-Right Terrorism Rise In UK 'Masks Threat Of Islamist Extremism'

“Britain cannot afford to underestimate the threat Islamist terrorism continues to pose to its security, an expert has warned, amid growing emphasis on the rise of far-right ideology among prisoners. Dr Paul Stott, head of security and extremism at Policy Exchange, said officials were shining a light on the threat of far-right terrorism while playing down that of Islamist terror, which he argued is greater. Dr Stott also warned of the possible resurgence of ISIS and what he considers a lack of focus by the UK on the Middle East. In the year to September 2022, there were 239 people in custody for terrorism-related offences in Britain, Home Office figures showed. The number of extreme right-wing prisoners hit its highest level on record while the proportion classified as Islamists fell to its lowest. In an interview with The National, Dr Stott cautioned against using the data to misjudge the make-up of the UK’s terrorism landscape. He pointed to the same set of statistics which showed 155 (65 per cent) were Islamist extremists while 66 (28 per cent) were far-right extremists.”


RFI: French Islamic State Fighter And Wife On Trial In Paris For Terrorism

“Frenchman Jonathan Geffroy is accused of terrorist offences in Syria, as are his wife and mother. Geoffroy has provided valuable information for French anti-terrorism investigators. Geffroy, 40, sits alone in the prisoner's box at the Paris Special Criminal Court. His two co-accused - his wife, Latifa Chadli, and his mother - are under judicial control and are free to sit in the open court, on the seats just outside the glass-walled high security box. The couple's now eight-year-old child is a civil plaintiff in the case, and is represented by a victims' support organisation. Geffroy and Chadli, who arrived in the Syrian war zone in early 2015 with their then 2-month-old child, were arrested by members of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army in 2017, and subsequently handed over to the French authorities.”


BBC: Taliban Start Buying Blue Ticks On Twitter

“The Taliban have started using Twitter's paid-for verification feature, meaning some now have blue ticks on their accounts. Previously, the blue tick indicated "active, notable, and authentic accounts of public interest" verified by Twitter, and could not be purchased. But now, users can buy them through the new Twitter Blue service. At least two Taliban officials and four prominent supporters in Afghanistan are currently using the checkmarks. Hedayatullah Hedayat, the head of the Taliban's department for "access to information", now has the tick. His account has 187,000 followers and he regularly posts information related to the Taliban administration. He had his paid-for blue tick removed last month, according to local media, but it has now returned.”

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