Eye on Extremism: January 24, 2022

The Wall Street Journal: U.S.-Backed Forces Struggle To Contain Islamic State In Battle Over Syrian Prison

“Syrian fighters backed by American airstrikes struggled to retake control of a prison attacked by Islamic State in northeastern Syria on Sunday, as the militant group’s attempt to replenish its ranks with freed prisoners sparked the area’s worst sustained fighting in years. The prison attack, which began last week, was one of the most complex and brazen Islamic State operations in Syria and Iraq in the past three years. It involved sleeper cells, suicide bombers and an insurrection inside the prison, said the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led militia that controls a section of northeastern Syria that is autonomous from the regime in Damascus. The assault represents an attempt to boost the morale of Islamic State followers by returning to one of its original tactics: freeing members held in prison. Islamic State has struggled to survive as an underground militant group since it lost control of its territorial empire in 2019 following years of Iraqi, Syrian and American military operations.”

Associated Press: Taliban Talks In Norway Raise New Debate About Recognition

“A Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Sunday started three days of talks in Oslo with Western officials and Afghan civil society representatives amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The closed-door meetings were taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital and are the first time since the Taliban took over in August that their representatives have held official meetings in Europe. The talks were not without controversy, however, reigniting the debate over whether they legitimize the Taliban government, especially since they were being held in Norway, a NATO country involved in Afghanistan from 2001 until the Taliban take over last summer. Speaking at the end of the first day of talks, Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam told The Associated Press that the meetings with Western officials were “a step to legitimize (the) Afghan government,” adding that “this type of invitation and communication will help (the) European community, (the) U.S. or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.”

United States

USA Today: Far-Right Extremists Look To Bring Vaccination Opponents Into Their Fold

“Far-right extremist influencers and leaders have increasingly jumped onto the anti-vaccination bandwagon since COVID-19 took a deadly grip on the U.S. in the past two years. From anti-immigration livestreamer Nick Fuentes, to onetime Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio, to conspiracy theory champion Alex Jones, they post memes, breathy disinformation videos and false statistics about vaccines daily on social media. They call the public health crisis a "scamdemic" and spread lies vilifying prominent scientists such as Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. On Sunday, thousands of protesters descended on the nation's capital in near-freezing temperatures for a "Defeat the Mandates" rally, listening to right-wing standard-bearers hawk their philosophies. A few young men wore Proud Boys insignias, and many in the crowd donned MAGA shirts and carried flags emblazoned with messages against Biden.”

Iraq

Al Jazeera: Suspected ISIL Fighters Kill 11 Iraqi Soldiers ‘In Their Sleep’

“Suspected ISIL (ISIS) gunmen have attacked an Iraqi army barracks in Diyala province, killing 11 soldiers as they slept, according to reports citing Iraqi security officials. The sources said the attack took place early on Friday in the al-Azim district, a mountainous area more than 120km (75 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and the circumstances of the attack were not clear, but two officials who spoke to The Associated Press news agency said the ISIL fighters broke into the barracks at 3am local time (00:00 GMT) and shot dead the soldiers before fleeing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to issue official statements. The sources said army reinforcements were sent to the village where Friday’s attack occurred, and security forces deployed in surrounding areas. The brazen attack was one of the deadliest targeting the Iraqi military in recent months.”

Rudaw: Iraqi Airstrike Kills Three ISIS Suspects

“Three Islamic State (ISIS) suspects, including two leaders, were killed in an airstrike south of the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi Security Media Cell announced on Saturday. "In response to the recent cowardly, treacherous terrorist activities, and through field follow-up and intensification of intelligence efforts of the Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency in the Ministry of Interior, as well as the Joint Operations Command, two leaders of the ISIS terrorist gang were followed up," Iraq's Security Media Cell said in a tweet. "The terrorist gangs of ISIS, namely the terrorist named Abu Issam, who holds the position of the so-called official of the Tigris sector, and the criminal terrorist Abu Mahmoud, were riding a pickup truck and wearing two explosive belts, accompanied by a third terrorist," noted the statement, as it described who the members were.”

Lebanon

Reuters: U.S. Treasury Imposes More Sanctions On Hezbollah-Linked Lebanese Individuals

“The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on three Lebanese nationals and 10 companies it said were part of an international Hezbollah network, accusing them of evading sanctions on the powerful group with an armed militia that is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by Washington. The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it designated Adnan Ayad, who it said was a Hezbollah member and businessman, as well as other members of an international network of facilitators and companies connected to him and his business partner, Adel Diab, who was designated by Washington on Tuesday. Friday's move comes after the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on three businessmen, including Diab, with ties to Hezbollah, saying their activity as financial facilitators for the Iran-backed group was exploiting Lebanon's economic resources at a time of crisis for that country. "Treasury is committed to disrupting Hizballah’s illicit activity and attempts to evade sanctions through business networks while the group doubles down on corrupt patronage networks in Lebanon," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement on Friday.”

Reuters: Lebanon Must Not Be Platform For Hostility, Kuwaiti FM Says

“Kuwait's foreign minister said on Sunday Lebanon must not be a platform for hostile acts or words toward Gulf Arab states, an indirect call for curbs on the Iran-backed group Hezbollah in order to improve strained ties. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah spoke after meeting President Michel Aoun in Beirut, during the first visit to Beirut by a senior Gulf Arab official since a diplomatic rift last year. Sheikh Ahmad said on Saturday he had delivered confidence-building proposals to Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and that his trip was coordinated with Gulf states. "We asked that Lebanon not be a platform for any aggression - verbal or actual," Sheikh Ahmad said after meeting Aoun. "I presented ideas and thoughts ... And we are awaiting a response," he added. Diplomatic sources told Reuters that among the 12-point proposals was that Lebanon commits to the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended Lebanon's civil war, tightens border controls to prevent drug smuggling to the Gulf and steps up security cooperation.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Palestinians’ Cars Vandalized In West Bank Amid Rising Jewish Extremist Violence

“A number of a vehicles were vandalized in the northern West Bank village of Qira overnight, police said Sunday morning, amid rising attacks by Jewish extremists. The vehicles were spray-painted with Stars of David as well as slogans calling for an end to administrative orders, under which suspects can be barred from certain areas or detained without charge. The tires on a number of cars were slashed. Police said security forces would go to the scene to collect any evidence. Anti-Arab vandalism by Jewish extremists is a common occurrence in the West Bank. Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming that they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.”

Associated Press: Gaza’s Hamas Rulers Play Down Pro-Iran Demonstration

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers on Sunday tried to distance themselves from a protest staged by a pro-Iranian militant group that harshly attacked Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen’s civil war. During Saturday’s demonstration by Islamic Jihad, dozens of protesters chanted “Death to the House of Saud” and waved posters of the leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia. Although Hamas did not participate in the protest, it tightly controls Gaza and authorizes all public gatherings. The protest threatened to embarrass Hamas, which already is largely isolated in the Arab world, and draw attention to its own ties to Iran. On Sunday, Hamas tried to contain the damage. “The shouts against Arab and Gulf states from our Palestinian arena don’t represent our position and policy,” it said. Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia.”

Nigeria

Associated Press: Witnesses: Extremists Abduct 17 Girls In Northeast Nigeria

“Islamic extremists have abducted 17 girls in northeast Nigeria, witnesses said Saturday as the West African nation’s military said it “remains resolute in decisively countering the terrorists.” Members of the Boko Haram jihadi group attacked Pemi, a village in the Chibok local government area of Borno state, on Thursday, two residents told The Associated Press. The state is where Boko Haram’s decade-long insurgency against the Nigeria government has been concentrated. In a statement late Friday, the Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for killing “many Christians” and setting fire to two churches and several houses during an attack on the Borno town of Bimi. Authorities blame Boko Haram for the killing of tens of thousands of people in Nigeria and neighboring countries in West Africa. The abduction of the girls from Pemi recalled the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, a remote town situated 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. More than 100 of the abducted students remain missing.”

Associated Press: Nigeria Extremists Still ‘Very Dangerous,’ Says UN Official

“The Islamic extremist insurgency in northeast Nigeria is a “very, very dangerous (and) very threatening” crisis that needs more than $1 billion in aid in 2022 to assist those hit by the decade-long conflict, United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said. In an interview with The Associated Press, Griffiths, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, urged the world not to forget the continuing devastation caused by Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province, together blamed for killing tens of thousands of residents and displacing millions. “This is a very different kind of operation and very difficult also to deter ... a grave and clear and present danger, obviously, to the people and a priority for the government,” Griffiths said in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. “The world needs to remember this is a tragedy that needs to be sorted out.” Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremist rebels, launched an insurgency in the country’s northeast in 2009, to fight against western education and to establish Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria. Their rebellion has spread over the years to the neighboring West African countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram drew international condemnation in 2014 when they abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok village, prompting the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. More than 100 of those abducted students are still missing.”

Mali

Associated Press: French Soldier Dies In Attack On Anti-Insurgent Base In Mali

“A French soldier has been killed in a mortar shelling attack on a base in Mali, the military said Sunday. The 24-year-old artilleryman, Alexandre Martin, was serving with France’s anti-insurgent force Operation Barkhane, according to a statement from the French army. Several rounds targeted the military camp in Gao on Saturday, the army statement said. Martin was seriously wounded and later died, it said. The army said nine other soldiers were slightly injured. It said helicopters were subsequently deployed to “neutralize the terrorists who fired the shots.” In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron saluted the soldier’s service and reiterated “France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism in the region, alongside its partners. French troops have been present in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power in towns across the country’s north. Operation Serval was later replaced by Barkhane and was expanded to include other countries in an effort to help stabilize Africa’s broader Sahel region. The French force has been operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. France has previously announced plans to reduce the force from 5,000 troops to 2,500-3,000 soldiers over the long term.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Burkina Faso Forces Fire Tear Gas At Anti-Government Protests

“Security forces have fired tear gas at protesters barricading the streets and throwing rocks in Burkina Faso’s capital, as anger grows at the government’s inability to stop armed attacks spreading across the country. Several hundred people marched through downtown Ouagadougou on Saturday chanting for President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to resign. “The jihadists are hitting [the country], people are dying, others are fleeing their homes … We want Roch and his government to resign because their handling of the country is not good. We will never support them,” protester Amidou Tiemtore told The Associated Press news agency. Some people were also protesting in solidarity with neighbouring Mali, whose citizens are angry at the West African economic regional bloc, ECOWAS, which imposed sanctions on the country after the military government delayed this year’s elections. Burkina Faso’s protest comes amid an escalation in attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group that has killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people.”

United Kingdom

Arab News: UK Government Reinstates Citizenship Of Alleged ‘Islamist Extremist’

“A British man left stateless in 2017 when his citizenship was stripped has had it reinstated following a lengthy court battle.The man, identified in court documents as E3, had his citizenship removed in 2017 while he was in Bangladesh for the birth of his daughter. In a deprivation-of-citizenship order sent to his mother’s UK address, the government alleged that he was “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity.” It said he was considered a threat to national security and would not be allowed to return to Britain. His lawyers were not given any evidence of the criminal activity upon which the decision was based because it was “secret.” Five years on, the government has reinstated the man’s citizenship, but he faces another court battle to provide his daughter with UK nationality. “I never thought I would win my case; not because I am guilty of anything but because the system is set up to make you lose,” the man, who was born in London but is of Bangladeshi heritage, told The Independent.”

The Washington Post: British White Supremacist, Initially Sentenced To Read Austen And Dickens, Imprisoned For Two Years

“Ben John, a British man described by police as an extremist with neo-Nazi sympathies, has completed a journey from the classics to the clink. After he was handed a suspended sentence last year for collecting antisemitic, white supremacist and extremist documents on hard drives, he received an unusual order from a judge: Read works of great literature by Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, instead. Among the materials in his possession: an updated version of the Anarchist Cookbook, a widely available text that includes various bomb “recipes,” once common reading among anti-government radicals. Possession of such books is allowed in the United States. “He has by the skin of his teeth avoided imprisonment,” Judge Timothy Spencer told the Leicester Crown Court in August. But this week the sentencing was overturned by an appeals court, which found that the original sentence was too lenient and put in place punishment of two years in prison and a third year on supervised release. “We are satisfied that there must be a sentence of immediate imprisonment,” Timothy Holroyde, a lord justice on the appeals court, said Wednesday.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On May 23, 2016, two suicide bombings at a military base in Aden, Yemen, killed at least 45 army recruits and injured approximately 60 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.   

View Archive

CEP on Twitter