Eye on Extremism: January 19, 2024

Associated Press: As The Youngest Israeli Hostage Turns 1, His Family Pleads For A Deal To Release More From Gaza

“Between 9 and 12 months old, babies learn to stand, say their first word, maybe take their first steps. As the family of Kfir Bibas, the youngest Israeli held in captivity in Gaza, celebrated his first birthday without him, they wondered which, if any, of the typical milestones they missed during those three months of his life. “They’re supposed to see a lot of colors, but instead he’s seeing just darkness,” said Yosi Shnaider, a cousin. “He’s supposed to be learning to walk, but he has nowhere to do it. He’s supposed to be able to hold a spoon for the first time, he’s supposed to be tasting so many different foods for the first time.” Kfir, brother Ariel, and parents Shiri and Yarden Bibas were kidnapped Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage. On Thursday in Tel Aviv, hundreds of people gathered for what Shnaider called “the saddest birthday in the world.“ The infant with red hair and a toothless smile has become a symbol across Israel for the helplessness and anger over the 136 hostages still in captivity in Gaza.”

Washington Post: Pakistani Retaliatory Strikes In Iran Kill At Least 9, Raising Tensions Along Border

“Pakistan launched airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts inside Iran on Thursday, killing at least nine people as it retaliated for a similar attack days earlier by Iran and raising tensions with its neighbor as conflict across the region escalates. The unprecedented attacks by both Pakistan and Iran on either side of their border appeared to target Baluch militant groups with similar separatist goals. The countries accuse each other of providing a haven to the groups in their respective territories. The flare-up between Iran and Pakistan comes as the Middle East remains unsettled by Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and on the heels of Iranian airstrikes late Monday in Iraq and Syria. Those airstrikes were in response to a suicide bombing in Iran by Islamic State militants in early January that killed over 90 people. Iran and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long regarded each other with suspicion over militant attacks, but analysts say this week’s tit-for-tat strikes were at least partially prompted by internal political pressures.”

United States

The Guardian: Outrage As Oklahoma Republican’s Bill Labels Hispanic People ‘Terrorists’

“An Oklahoma lawmaker is facing backlash for proposing a discriminatory bill that deems people of Hispanic descent as “terrorists”. The Republican state representative JJ Humphrey introduced the bill, HB 3133, which seeks to combat problems in the state, such as drug and human trafficking, and lay out punishments to those who have committed these “acts of terrorism”. The punishment for such a crime would be forfeiting all assets, including any and all property, vehicles and money. In addition to “a member of a criminal street gang” and someone who “has been convicted of a gang-related offense”, the bill defines a terrorist as “any person who is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma”. The move was met with fierce criticism. State senator Michael Brooks, who serves as the senate’s minority caucus vice-chair and founded the Oklahoma Latino legislative caucus, said the move by Humphrey was unsurprising. “To have the law treat people differently based on their race or ethnicity only creates greater divides,” Brooks said. “The bill is fatally flawed, and I don’t know if there’s much of a way to be able to change it.”

Reuters: US Strikes Houthi Anti-Ship Missiles, Shipping Disruptions Grow

“The U.S. launched new strikes against Houthi anti-ship missiles aimed at the Red Sea on Thursday, as growing tensions in the region's sea lanes disrupted global trade and raised fears of supply bottlenecks that could reignite inflation. The two anti-ship missiles targeted in the strikes were being prepared by Yemen's Houthis for firing into the Red Sea and deemed "an imminent threat" to shipping and U.S. Navy vessels in the region, the U.S. military said. Attacks by the Iran-allied Houthi militia on ships in and around the Red Sea since November have slowed trade between Asia and Europe and alarmed major powers in an escalation of the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza. In the second attack this week on a U.S.-operated vessel in the region, the Genco Picardy came under attack in the Gulf of Aden late on Wednesday, sparking a fire onboard and prompting the Indian Navy to rescue the crew.  India diverted a warship deployed in the region to rescue the 22 crew on board the Genco Picardy, including nine Indians. The crew were all safe and the fire was extinguished.”


Associated Press: An Airstrike On Southern Syria, Likely Carried Out By Jordan’s Air Force, Kills 9

“An airstrike on southern Syria early Thursday killed at least nine people and was probably carried out by Jordan’s air force, Syrian opposition activists said, the latest in a series of strikes in an area where cross-border drug smugglers have been active. There was no immediate confirmation from Jordan on the strike that hit the province of Sweida, The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said nine people, including two children and at least three women, were killed in the strike on the village of Orman. The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdurrahman, said the people killed had nothing to do with smuggling, suggesting that the Jordanian air force might have received incorrect intelligence from local residents. Smugglers have used Jordan as a corridor over the past years to smuggle highly addictive Captagon amphetamines out of Syria, mainly to oil-rich Arab Gulf states. The Jordanian authorities have managed to stop several smuggling attempts, including some in which smugglers used drones to fly the drugs over the border.”


Reuters: Armed Drone Shot Down Near US Base In Northern Iraq - Sources

“Defence systems shot down an armed drone on Thursday over Erbil airport in northern Iraq, where U.S. and other international forces are stationed, Iraqi Kurdistan's counter-terrorism service said. The Iraqi semi-autonomous Kurdistan region's security agency said in a statement an armed drone fired by "outlaw militia" against Erbil airport was shot down at 11:06 p.m. Iraq time. Earlier, two security sources said an armed drone was intercepted and shot down at around 7:10 pm local time and a blast was heard near the airport. But the earlier attack was denied by counter-terrorism service and it said in a statement no drone was shut down. Separately, an unidentified army drone crashed in eastern Diyala province, which borders Iran, on Thursday evening, said security officials. Iraqi security forces sealed off the crash site, around 60 km (40 miles) to the east of the city of Baquba, police sources said. Security officials said parts of wreckage from the crashed drone were taken for further investigation to determine the drone's identity which has not yet been uncovered.”


New York Times: In No Position To Fight A War, Pakistan Seeks An Off-Ramp With Iran

“... To Pakistan, which was hit first, it was important to send a clear message that violations of its sovereignty would not be tolerated. But the Pakistani military quickly followed its retaliatory action with another message — one that showed its desire to contain the tensions, a wish driven in no small part by the immense strain the country was under even before the Iran clash. Pakistan signaled that it was seeking de-escalation by calling the two nations “brotherly countries” and urging dialogue and cooperation, language that Iran echoed in a statement of its own on Friday. Pakistan’s appeal, analysts said, underlined a plain fact: It could hardly be in a worse position to fight a war.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Snubbed By Netanyahu, Red Cross Toes Fine Line Trying To Help Civilians In Israel-Hamas Conflict

“The International Committee of the Red Cross has been losing influence, funding and staff, and disparaging remarks from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are just the latest headache for the Geneva-based humanitarian group. Netanyahu said he intentionally bypassed the Red Cross in helping arrange a shipment into Gaza of medicines for dozens of Israeli hostages with chronic illnesses who have been held by the militant group Hamas for months. There was no immediate word Thursday whether the medicines had gotten to the hostages. The Red Cross tries to rise above politics, but keeps getting dragged into it, and not just over the conflict in Gaza. It has also faced political pressure from Ukraine, whose government accused it of not doing enough to try to reach Ukrainians — including children — taken to Russia during the European conflict. Here’s a look at the International Committee of the Red Cross and its recent efforts in the Middle East.”

Reuters: Israeli Cabinet Minister Says He Prevented Strike On Hezbollah In Days After Hamas Attack

“Israeli cabinet minister and former military chief Gadi Eizenkot told Israel's Channel 12 on Thursday that he prevented Israel from preemptively attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon in the days after Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 onslaught on southern Israel. Eizenkot, whose youngest son was killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip last month, said Israel was on the verge of striking Hezbollah though the group, designated as a terror organization by Western states, had not yet fired on Israel. Eizenkot said he convinced officials in the war cabinet to hold off. "I think our presence there prevented Israel from making a grave strategic mistake," Eizenkot said. The Israel-Lebanon frontier has seen daily fighting but has stopped short of an all out war. The wider region teeters dangerously toward a major escalation of the conflict ignited by the Gaza war. Both Israel and Hezbollah have signaled they want to avoid war, but both say they are ready to fight if necessary.”


Reuters: Somalia Rejects Mediation Efforts With Ethiopia Over Port Deal

“Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about Addis Ababa's agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland, as regional heads of state gathered on Thursday to try to defuse a growing diplomatic crisis. Under a memorandum of understanding signed on Jan. 1, Ethiopia would consider recognising Somaliland's independence in return for gaining access to the Red Sea, partly through the port lease. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not won recognition from any country and the port lease deal, which would be a boon to landlocked Ethiopia, has enraged Somalia. An escalating war of words, including threats by Somalia to go to war to prevent the deal from going through, led the African Union to call on Wednesday for restraint and "meaningful dialogue". "There is no space for mediation unless Ethiopia retracts its illegal MOU and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia," Somalia's ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Thursday.”


Associated Press: EU, AU, US Say Sudan War And Somalia’s Tension With Ethiopia Threaten Horn Of Africa’s Stability

“The African Union, European Union, and United States called Thursday for an immediate cease-fire and constructive dialogue between warring factions in Sudan. The groups also called for an end to tension between Somalia and Ethiopia over an agreement signed between Ethiopia and Somalia’s breakaway region Somaliland. Representatives of the groups, who spoke in Kampala, Uganda, after the meeting of an East African regional bloc, said that the two crises are threatening regional stability in the Horn of Africa. Sudan’s armed forces and the rival Rapid Support Forces have been fighting for control of Sudan since April. Long-standing tensions erupted into street battles in the capital and other areas including the western Darfur region. The AU, EU and U.S. and U.N noted that the fighting has displaced 7 million people and kept 19 million children out of school. Michael Hammer, U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, called on Sudan’s factions to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and to fulfill recent commitments to stop fighting.”

Associated Press: Donkey Cart Loaded With Explosives Kills A Police Officer And Critically Injures 4 Others In Kenya

“A donkey cart carrying a suspected improvised bomb blew up at a checkpoint on the Kenya-Somalia border Thursday, killing one Kenyan police officer and critically wounding four others, authorities said. A Kenyan police report seen by The Associated Press said the cart pulled by two donkeys and ridden by one man passed the Somali checkpoint of Bula Hawa and entered Kenyan territory, where it was stopped by officers to check the load. The rider jumped off and ran back into Somalia moments before the cart exploded, causing a huge fire at the border post in the northern county of Mandera, the report said. The report said that the cart’s driver was arrested by Somali police as he tried to flee, and that the Mandera county security team was negotiating with the Bula Hawa police to have him handed over to Kenyan authorities. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on al-Shabab, a Somalia-based extremist group linked to al-Qaida.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Liverpool Teenager Accused Of Plotting To Kill ‘At Least 50’ In Suicide Attack

“A teenager who wanted “to bring about the downfall of government and society” has gone on trial accused of planning a suicide terrorist attack to kill “at least 50” people. Jacob Graham, 19, a Unabomber obsessive from Norris Green in Liverpool, stockpiled ingredients to make bombs, carried out chemical experiments and bought a 3D printer to make his own gun, Manchester crown court heard. He recorded a video of himself boasting he had “everything I need to take down a fucking army” and “everything I need, material-wise, to start my revolution”, the court was told. The college student made 105 videos outlining his planning and motivations and wrote a “manifesto” titled “society and why it is failing”, as well as a letter setting out his intentions, the jury heard. He also wrote a manual called the “freedom encyclopaedia” that he called his “cookbook”, the court was told. This contained recipes for homemade explosives, with the intention, the prosecution said, of assisting others to commit their own acts of terrorism.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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