Eye on Extremism: January 26, 2022

Reuters: U.S. Calls Russian Decision To Add Navalny To List Of 'Terrorists And Extremists' Disturbing

“The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said Russia's decision to add jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and a handful of his allies to an official list of "terrorists and extremists" was disturbing, and it again called for Navalny's immediate and unconditional release. "This latest designation represents a new low in Russia's continuing crackdown on independent civil society," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.”

Associated Press: UN: More Than 50 Million People Affected By Urban Conflicts

“More than 50 million people are affected by conflict in urban areas from Afghanistan to Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond where they face a much higher risk of being killed or injured, the United Nations chief said Tuesday. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in some cases civilians may be mistaken for combatants and be attacked. In others, he said, fighters don’t try to minimize harm and use explosive weapons in crowded areas that lead to devastating suffering for ordinary people who face life-long disabilities and grave psychological trauma. As examples, he told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in urban settings during wars that during last year’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants dozens of schools and health care facilities were damaged and nearly 800,000 people were left without piped water.”

United States

The National: Senator Ted Cruz Calls For Terror Designation On Houthis

“Texas Senator Ted Cruz has again called for the US to designate Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi militia as a terrorist organisation and reimpose sanctions on the group. Last week, he introduced a bill that would reverse a February 2021 decision by the Biden administration to lift terrorism-related sanctions on the Houthis and their leaders. Mr Cruz's bill would redesignate the group as a foreign terrorist organisation and its leaders as designated global terrorists. “President Biden made it an immediate priority to unwind pressure on Iran and its proxies, including by lifting terrorism sanctions on the Houthis and their leaders – a reckless, self-indulgent, and catastrophic move," Mr Cruz said as he introduced his bill. “This appeasement predictably caused Iran to escalate its aggression across the region, and in Yemen the Houthis launched a broad offensive within hours of the Biden administration’s announcement they would lift those sanctions. “I’ve consistently sought to reimpose those sanctions and it’s now clear that if the Biden administration is unwilling to do so, then Congress should mandate that they do.” Eight other senators, including Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, Roger Marshall, Thom Tillis, Jim Inhofe, Marco Rubio and John Barrasso, co-sponsored Mr Cruz's bill.”

CNN: Electric Grid Is 'Attractive Target' For Domestic Violent Extremists In US, Intel Brief Says

“Domestic violent extremists will "likely continue" to plot and encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure in the United States, according to a recent Department of Homeland Security intelligence briefing obtained by CNN. Since at least 2020, domestic extremists have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure, the memo dated January 24 says, noting that these extremist groups have identified the "electric grid as a particularly attractive target given its interdependency with other infrastructure sectors." Absent significant technical knowledge or insider assistance, small-scale attacks are unlikely to cause widespread, multi-state power loss, the intelligence brief notes, but this type of attack may cause physical damage, putting people and operations at risk. The memo, which was first reported by The Daily Beast, lists several past incidents of concern that informed the intelligence assessment, including an investigation into potential election-related threats.”

Syria

The New York Times: The ISIS Hostages: ‘These Children Should Not Have Been There’

“The boys in the prison sleep in groups of about 15 in cells with no windows, according to aid workers. They get fresh air and see the sun during visits to a walled-in yard, but receive no visitors. They range in age from as young as 10 up to 18 and have received no schooling since they were detained three or more years ago. Now, their lives are at risk in a pitched battle over control of the prison. Islamic State fighters who attacked the prison on Thursday to free their comrades are holding the boys hostage as human shields. A Kurdish-led militia backed by American troops is trying to retake the prison. Hundreds of fighters have been reported killed. The battle has yanked from the shadows the bleak plight of the nearly 700 boys detained at the prison in Hasaka, Syria. They are among the tens of thousands of children held in prisons and detention camps in northeastern Syria because their parents belonged to the Islamic State. The Kurdish-led militia that operates the prison, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., says that the children’s ties to the Islamic State make them dangerous. It has also criticized foreign governments for refusing to repatriate their citizens held in the camps and prisons, including the children.”

Iraq

Arab News: UN Security Council Condemns Iraq Terror Attack, Urges All Nations To Help Seek Justice

“The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned “in the strongest terms” a recent terrorist attack in Iraq’s Diyala Province, and called for all “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism” to be brought to justice. At dawn on Friday, Jan. 21, at least 11 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in their sleep during an attack on their barracks by suspected Daesh gunmen, according to reports citing Iraqi security officials. It happened in the Al-Azim district, a mountainous area more than 70 miles north of the capital, Baghdad. The Security Council urged all states to actively cooperate with the Iraqi Government in seeking to hold the perpetrators to account, in line with their obligations under international law and the council’s resolutions. It reiterated that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. In a joint statement, council members reaffirmed that “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Afghan Talks Focus On Aid, Women’s Rights As Hunger Grows

“Three days of talks between the Taliban, Western diplomats and other delegates on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and human rights were wrapping up Tuesday in Norway, with acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi praising the discussions, which he said “went very well.” The closed-door meetings in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital of Oslo came at a crucial time for Afghanistan, as freezing temperatures are compounding the misery from the country’s downward economic spiral after the fall of the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban takeover last summer. “It was a very good trip. Such trips will bring us closer to the world,” Muttaqi told The Associated Press. Aid groups and international agencies estimate that about 23 million people, more than half the country, face severe hunger and nearly 9 million are on the brink of starvation. People have resorted to selling possessions to buy food, burning furniture for warmth and even selling their children. Muttaqi said the Taliban government will do “its best to protect Afghanistan form any sorts of problems, attract more assistance, seeking solutions for the economic problems.” The Taliban are demanding that $10 billion frozen by the United States and other Western countries be released, but there is no agreement on that so far. The United Nations has managed to provide some liquidity and allowed the Taliban administration to pay for imports, including electricity.”

NBC News: LGBTQ Afghans Face Surge Of Rape, Torture After Taliban Takeover, Report Says

“LGBTQ Afghans have increasingly been threatened, beaten and raped since the Taliban took control of the country in August, a new report found. The advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International compiled a snapshot of how the freshly reawakened Taliban regime has targeted Afghans based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And while LGBTQ Afghans have long lived in peril, the groups concluded that the situation has “dramatically worsened” following the Taliban’s takeover. “The thing that I think we heard most commonly from people who we interviewed, who are still in Afghanistan, is that they don’t leave their rooms. The level of fear of being targeted is so great that they feel like they’re risking their lives to go buy food,” said J. Lester Feder, one of the study’s co-authors and a senior fellow for emergency research at OutRight Action International. “And beforehand, these were people who had jobs or had ways to eat, who could go about their cities — and that’s a real change.” For the report, released Tuesday night, the researchers interviewed 60 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Afghans, most in their 20s, from October to December of last year. Through telling the stories of their interviewees’ allegations of abuse, the report illustrates how threats, violence and harassment against LGBTQ people have become more common under the Taliban’s rule.”

Yemen

UN News: January Will ‘Almost Certainly’ Shatter Records For Civilian Casualties In Yemen

“In a joint statement, Hans Grundberg and David Gressley said they were alarmed by the situation and confirmed that January will “almost certainly” be a record-shattering month for civilian casualties in Yemen. Mr. Grundberg and Mr. Gressley also reiterate the UN Secretary-General’s condemnation of air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition on 21 January against a prison facility in Sa'dah, where migrants were also held. The airstrikes reportedly killed 91 detainees and injured 226, becoming the worst civilian-casualty incident in Yemen in three years. The Saudi-led coalition, supporting the internationally recognized Government, has been fighting Houthi militants who control much of the country, including the capital Sana’a, since 2015. Over the past few weeks, air strikes and missile attacks have hit hospitals, telecommunication infrastructure, airports, a water facility and a school. There has been an uptick in Houthi attacks against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia that resulted in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Collapses In Houthi Ranks In Marib As Coalition Raids Kill 50 Terrorists

“The Giants Brigades succeeded on Monday in breaching the Harib city center in the Yemeni province of Marib, resulting in the collapse in ranks of the Iran-backed Houthi militias. The Saudi-led Arab coalition provided air cover for the operation. Field sources said Houthi militants fled the scene towards the western district of al-Jawiya and the southern district of al-Abdiya, allowing the government forces to extend their reach in the area. The coalition carried out 14 operations against the Houthis in the Marib and al-Bayda provinces in the past 24 hours, leaving over 50 militants dead. The liberation of the Harib city center will pave the way for major changes on the battlefronts in the coming days. The Giants Brigades are expected to forge ahead with their advance towards al-Jawiya, with the possibility of opening new fronts further to the south towards the Abdiya and Mahliyah districts. Yemeni political researcher Abdul Wahab Buhaibeh told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Giants Brigades made a major strategic gain by reclaiming Harib.”

Mali

Reuters: Denmark Says Its Troops Are In Mali On Basis Of "Clear Invitation"

“Denmark said on Tuesday its troops deployed to Mali as part of a French-led counter-terrorism task force were there on the basis of a "clear invitation", responding to the Malian transitional government's continued demands for their immediate withdrawal. The Danish government has reacted with puzzlement to Mali's initial statement on Sunday, which said it had not been consulted about the deployment last week of about 90 personnel, including special forces and surgeons. The European force, know as Takuba, was set up to help Mali and West African Sahel neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger tackle militants linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda who have occupied swathes of territory in the area where their borders meet. Speaking in Brussels, Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Danish troops were in Mali on the basis of a clear invitation, "just like the other parties in the operation.”

Africa

Associated Press: Hundreds March In Burkina Faso To Show Support For New Junta

“Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Burkina Faso’s capital Tuesday in a show of support for the new military-led junta that ousted democratically elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and seized control of the country. Days of gunfire and uncertainty in Ouagadougou ended Monday evening when more than a dozen soldiers on state media declared that the country is being run by their new organization, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration. “Today’s events mark a new era for Burkina Faso. They are an opportunity for all the people of Burkina Faso to heal their wounds, to rebuild their cohesion and to celebrate what has always made us who we are: integrity,” said Capt. Sisdore Kaber Ouedraogo. On Tuesday, Ouagadougou was packed with people cheering, singing and dancing and there were reports of celebrations in other parts of the country. The coup came after several demonstrations were held against the Kabore government which was criticized for its ineffective response to Islamic extremist violence.”

Reuters: Suspected Islamists Kill At Least 12 In Eastern Congo Attacks On Villages

“Suspected Islamist militants have killed at least 12 civilians and burned houses and motorbikes during raids on two villages in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, two local human rights groups said on Wednesday. Fighters believed to be from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia active in eastern Congo since the 1990s, attacked the villages of Mutuheyi and Mapendo in Ituri province on Sunday night, the activists said. Since launching a joint military operation against the ADF in November, Congo and Uganda claim to have captured several of the ADF's jungle camps, but the militia's attacks on civilians have not stopped. Christophe Munyanderu, head of a local rights group, said the attackers came from bases in nearby North Kivu province and killed the 13 people, burned four motorbikes and torched six houses. Patrick Musubao, president of another rights group, said 12 people had been killed. He said the victims were shot or butchered with bladed weapons. He warned authorities of the presence of the ADF in the area before the attack but had no response, he said. "Now a dozen people have just been innocently killed," Musubao told Reuters. Army spokesman Jules Ngongo Tshikudi confirmed an attack had taken place in the villages but did not give a death toll or say who was responsible. He said soldiers could do nothing to stop the attack.”

France

Reuters: France Says Committed To Sahel Security Ops, Despite Coups

“An attempted coup in Burkina Faso and an earlier coup in Mali are no reason for France and its allies to end their security operation in the Sahel region against Islamist militants, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said in parliament on Tuesday.”

Europe

BBC: Lisa Smith 'Enveloped Herself In The Black Flag' Of Islamic State

“Lisa Smith, 39, pleaded not guilty to charges of membership of the organisation and providing funds to it. The Republic of Ireland's Special Criminal Court heard Smith's conduct when she travelled to Syria could "prove membership" of IS. The court heard the County Louth woman had travelled to the country in 2015. Sean Gillane, SC, for the prosecution said the court would hear evidence that Smith, a former Air Corps soldier, had taken part in "hijrah" or migration to territories controlled by the IS. "Hijrah in this context is a central act of allegiance to this proto-State, without which the organisation cannot survive. It is the very lifeblood of the Islamic State," he said. Mr Gillane said the migration was to "self-identify as a member" of the organisation. He said evidence would show Smith had willingly stayed in Syria, married there and that her movements mirrored that of the group when they lost territories in the region. Mr Gillane said evidence would show Smith was part of a Telegram group in June 2015 that discussed a video by the Islamic State showing the drowning of five men in a cage.”

Technology

Newsweek: Twitter Suspended 44K Accounts For Promoting Terrorism, Violent Orgs In First Half Of 2021

“In the first six months of 2021, Twitter suspended 44,974 individual accounts for promoting terrorism or violent organizations, according to the social media platform's new transparency report. Of those accounts, 93 percent were "proactively identified and actioned," the report said. Twitter began releasing so-called transparency reports in 2012 to give insights on certain data regarding the platform. This newest update, covering January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021, also documented millions of tweet removals. The company's guidelines on violent organizations prohibit users from promoting terrorism and violent extremism. Certain criteria set by Twitter must be met in order for a collective to be classified as either a violent extremist group or organization, and a given group's actions both on and off the platform are considered in Twitter's assessment, according to the policy.”

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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