Eye on Extremism: January 25, 2022

The New York Times: Fighting Between ISIS And U.S.-Backed Forces Spreads In Syria

“Fighting between Kurdish-led militia, backed by the United States, and Islamic State militants spread on Tuesday to neighborhoods around an embattled prison in northeastern Syria that is at the epicenter of the biggest confrontation between the American military and the Islamic State since the territorial defeat of the terrorist group three years ago. ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a makeshift prison in the city of Hasaka on Thursday in an attempt to free ISIS fighters held there. The U.S. military joined the fight on Monday, backing the allied Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces with airstrikes, intelligence and ground troops in Bradley fighting vehicles who helped cordon off the facility. ISIS now controls about one-quarter of the prison and is holding hostages, including child detainees. The U.S.-led coalition said the fight has become the biggest known battle between American forces and ISIS since the group lost the last piece of territory it had captured in Syria in 2019. The S.D.F. said on Tuesday that it had conducted sweeps in Hasaka neighborhoods near the Sinaa prison and had killed five ISIS fighters who were wearing suicide belts. The sweeps marked an expansion of the fighting to areas beyond the prison.”

Associated Press: Soldiers Declare Military Junta In Control In Burkina Faso

“More than a dozen mutinous soldiers declared Monday on state television that a military junta had seized control of Burkina Faso after detaining the democratically elected president following a day of gunbattles in the capital of the West African country. The military coup in a nation that was once a bastion of stability was the third of its kind in the region in the last 18 months, creating upheaval in some of the countries hardest hit by Islamic extremist attacks. Capt. Sidsore Kaber Ouedraogo said the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration “has decided to assume its responsibilities before history.” The soldiers put an end to President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s presidency because of the deteriorating security situation and the president’s inability to manage the crisis, he said. It was not immediately known where Kabore was, and the junta spokesman said only that the coup had taken place “without any physical violence against those arrested, who are being held in a safe place, with respect for their dignity.”

United States

Washington Examiner: 14 Illegal Immigrants On Terror Watchlist Stopped At Border In 2021, Former Border Patrol Chief Says

“Law enforcement intercepted 14 illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border who were on the terrorist watchlist, a former top official said, more than the four stops that the Department of Homeland Security had disclosed. U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped 14 noncitizens who were named on the terror watchlist and tried to sneak into the United States between October 2020 and August 2021, one month short of the entire fiscal year 2021, according to recently retired Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, who disclosed the number during a panel discussion at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference in Austin this month and in a follow-up conversation with the Washington Examiner. The terror watchlist stops in 2021 are significant because they are higher than in previous years. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, declined to comment or release data on terror watchlist encounters. Last summer, Scott told agents in a farewell address that the agency was encountering people on the terror watchlist “at a level we have never seen before.”

Associated Press: Douglas Teen Pleads Guilty In Terrorism Case

“A 14-year-old boy suspected of building pipe bombs in his Douglas home will serve at least 18 months in a juvenile detention facility. The Sierra Vista Herald reported Monday that the teen pleaded guilty to one count each of promoting terrorism and possession of a prohibited weapon. Cochise County Deputy Attorney Doyle Johnstun said a disposition of his case indicates he will go to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. The teen won’t stay there beyond his 18th birthday. In an email, Johnstun said his release date will be up to the corrections department. The boy was arrested in May 2021 after authorities found a pipe bomb and preparation for a second in a back room of the home he shares with his mother and older brother. He was already on the FBI’s radar because of terrorism-related social media posts. Prosecutors wanted him tried as an adult. His attorney, Xochitl Orozco, argued his client should be tried as a juvenile because of his age, autism and other mental issues.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Syria Prison Attack Shows ISIL ‘Absolutely’ Growing Stronger

“…Counter Extremism Project analyst Gregory Waters told Al Jazeera ISIL in Syria is “absolutely” growing stronger. “The fact that we’re at a point where ISIS can do this, has shown just how … much they’ve grown back from where they were in 2019,” Waters said. For Waters and other researchers, this attack and sustained strength shown by the armed group is far from surprising. Middle East Institute Fellow Vera Mironova highlighted while the international community turned its back on Syria, ISIL did not go anywhere. “There is nothing new in what has happened, we absolutely know how active they are … It’s just a logical next step, it’s not a breakthrough,” Mironova told Al Jazeera.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Threatened And Beaten, Afghan Women Defy Taliban With Protests

“On a raw January morning, Khujasta Elham trudged through a snowstorm to sign her name on a government register. Before the Taliban seized power in August, Ms. Elham was director of women’s programs for Afghanistan’s Civil Service Commission. But she and most other female government workers were prevented from returning to work by the Taliban’s new Islamic Emirate. Now Ms. Elham, who says she has not been paid since August, is required to sign in at her old job site once a month — a fiction that allows the Taliban to deny that they have fired female government workers. The grim routine also diminishes any hope for Ms. Elham that she will one day return to work. The dismissal of female workers is one of many indignities that have prompted small bands of women like Ms. Elham to take to the streets in protest, risking beatings or arrest. Taliban gunmen have pointed weapons at the demonstrators, sprayed them with pepper spray and called them “whores” and “puppets of the West,” Human Rights Watch said. Bearing placards and raising their fists, the women have resisted persistent attempts to erase them from public life.”

Associated Press: Taliban Talks In Oslo Enter Last Day With Bilateral Format

“The last day of talks between the Taliban and western diplomats has begun in Oslo with a bilateral meeting with Norwegian government officials focused largely on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The three-day talks opened on Sunday with talks between the Taliban and members of Afghan civil society, followed on Monday by multilateral talks with western diplomats the EU, the U.S., Britain, France, Italy and hosts Norway. Bilateral talks with all parties including independent humanitarian organisations are expected on Tuesday. The closed-door meetings are taking place at a hotel in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital and are expected to cover everything from education to humanitarian aid to greater inclusivity. They come at a crucial time for Afghanistan as freezing temperatures are compounding misery from the downward spiral that has come with the fall of the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban takeover.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Gunmen Kill Pakistani Policeman Guarding Polio Workers

“Gunmen shot and killed a Pakistani policeman who was providing security for polio vaccination workers in the northwest on Tuesday, according to police. The assailants fled the scene, and no one claimed responsibility for the attack in Kohat, local police official Dikdar Khan said. He added that the body of the slain policeman had been transported to a hospital. No polio workers were harmed in the attack, police said, a day after Pakistan launched a nationwide anti-polio campaign. Militants in Pakistan often target polio teams and police assigned to protect them, falsely claiming the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children. Militants have claimed responsibility for previous attacks across the country.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Saudi Arabia Leads Condemnation Of Houthi Missile Attacks On Abu Dhabi, Kingdom

“Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned “repeated” Houthi attacks on civilians and vital facilities in the south of the Kingdom and Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s defense ministry said it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting Abu Dhabi on Monday with no casualties reported. The ministry affirmed its “full readiness to deal with any threats,” adding that it will “take all necessary measures to protect the UAE from any attacks.” The shootdown of the missiles was aided by “close UAE-US cooperation,” Emirati Ambassador to the US Yousef Al-Otaiba said. Al-Otaiba added that the “next step is to shut off financial and arms flows from their backers,” and he renewed a call for US President Joe Biden's administration to restore the Houthis to the US list of foreign terrorist groups. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Al-Otaiba and Saudi Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar to discuss ways to hold the Houthis accountable, a White House statement said. Mr. Sullivan reiterated the US’ commitment to the security of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the statement added.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Houthi Attempted Attacks against Saudi Arabia, UAE Are Widely Condemned

“Arab and Islamic countries slammed on Monday the Iran-backed Houthi militias for their repeated attempts to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They stressed that they support all measures the countries take to preserve the security and stability of their citizens and residents. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Dr. Nayef al-Hajraf said the Houthis' insistence on carrying out such attacks reflects their blatant defiance of the international community and undermining of international laws and norms. He said it demonstrates the militias' rejection of all efforts aimed at achieving peace in Yemen. He called on the international community to assume its responsibilities and take decisive stance against the Houthis so that they will halt their terrorist acts that target civilians and vital facilities. He hailed the high efficiency of the Saudi air defenses and UAE Defense Ministry that intercepted the Houthi ballistic missile attacks.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Stone-Throwing Israeli Settlers Attack Palestinian Village

“Israeli settlers drove through a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank on Monday, throwing rocks through the windows of vehicles and businesses and injuring a teenager, a Palestinian official said. It was the latest in a series of settler attacks in recent months. On Friday, settlers attacked Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank and set a car on fire. Last month, a settler was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman, setting off revenge attacks. The Israeli military confirmed the incident on Monday, saying the Israelis had caused “significant damage” and that police have opened an investigation. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official, said a Palestinian teenager was taken to the hospital after being struck in the head by a stone. He said the teenager was “lightly wounded.” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz released a statement saying anyone who throws stones or lights cars on fire “is a terrorist and will be treated as such.”

Egypt

Arab News: Egypt To Run For Global Counterterrorism Forum Presidency

“Egypt has said it intends to run for the presidency of the Global Counterterrorism Forum during a meeting of its coordination committee in March. The Foreign Ministry said the decision reflects Cairo’s keenness to contribute to strengthening international efforts to combat terrorism. Egypt is one of the founding countries of the forum, which was established in 2011 and has 30 member states. It cooperates closely with regional and international organizations, including the UN. Egypt has co-chaired the Capacity-building in the East Africa Region Working Group with the EU since 2017 within the forum’s framework.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt's Sisi Underlines 'Great Achievement' In Eliminating Terrorism

“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi underlined the “great achievement” in eliminating terrorism across the country. He said Egypt’s ultimate goal is to preserve its survival, maintain security and provide safety for citizens. Sisi was speaking during the 70th Police Day celebrations at the Police Academy in New Cairo, which coincided with the 11th anniversary of the January Revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. Police Day marks the anniversary of the Ismailiyah Battle in 1952 when Egyptian police officers refused to hand over their weapons to the British occupation and evacuate the Ismailiyah governorate building. Sisi said the “glorious” battle embodies police heroism and the values of sacrifice, redemption and courage in defense of the homeland. He saluted the police martyrs and their families and hailed their sacrifices to ensure 100 million citizens could live in peace, security and progress. He praised the national role played by police officers and the armed forces to maintain security and stability across the country and achieve the aspired comprehensive development.”

Mali

Reuters: Mali Asks Denmark To Immediately Withdraw Troops Deployed There

“Mali's government said on Monday it had asked Denmark to immediately withdraw troops deployed to the West African nation as part of a French-led counter-terrorism task force because it was not consulted and the deployment failed to follow protocol. "The government of Mali notes with astonishment, the deployment on its territory of a contingent of Danish special forces within the Takuba force," the government said in a statement. It said the deployment took place without its consent, and without consideration of the additional protocol applicable to the task force, adding that Denmark should immediately withdraw the troops. The statement said all partners in the task force needed a prior accord with the government before deployments in Mali. The decision comes amid tension between Mali and its international partners including regional bodies and the European Union that have sanctioned Mali after the transitional government failed to organise elections following two military coups.”

France

CBC News: Canadian Academic Hassan Diab Goes To Trial Next Year In French Terrorism Case

“France's case against Ottawa academic Hassan Diab in connection with a bombing outside a Paris synagogue 40 years ago will go to trial in 2023 — more than five years after he was set free due to a lack of evidence. Last year, France's court of appeal overturned a lower court decision to release Diab and allow him to return to Canada. France's top court later rejected Diab's appeal and ordered him to stand trial. That trial is set to start on April 3, 2023. French authorities have not yet requested Diab's extradition to France to stand trial in person. Diab's lawyers have said he could be tried in absentia. Diab's lawyer in France, Amélie Lefebvre, declined to comment on the latest developments. "It is way too soon to discuss them," she said in an email. French prosecutors have persisted in their attempts to bring Diab to trial — despite problems with the physical evidence central to their case and the discovery by French investigators that Diab wasn't even in Paris on the day of the bombing, but was in Lebanon writing university exams. Diab's supporters say France's dismissal of his alibi and the weak case against him amounts to a travesty of justice.”

Germany

Al Jazeera: German Woman On Trial For Joining ISIL, Enslaving A Yazidi Woman

“A German woman who travelled to Syria as a 15-year-old to join the ISIL (ISIS) armed group has gone on trial accused of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. Leonora Messing, now aged 21, faced the court on Tuesday in the eastern German city of Halle on suspicion that she and her ISIL husband enslaved a Yazidi woman in Syria in 2015. During the course of the trial, scheduled to last until at least mid-May and being held behind closed doors, Messing will also face charges of membership of an armed group and weapons law violations. The high-profile case has prompted soul searching in Germany about how a teenage girl from a small town became indoctrinated and joined the ISIL cause. Messing ran away from her home in Sangerhausen for the ISIL-controlled part of Syria in March 2015.”

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.   

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