Eye on Extremism: January 27, 2022

The New York Times: Kurdish-Led Forces End Prison Siege, Defeating ISIS Fighters

“After six days of deadly battles, the Kurdish-led militia that had been battling Islamic State fighters for control of a prison in northeastern Syria retook the facility on Wednesday, ending one of the most audacious attacks by the jihadist group since the collapse of its so-called caliphate nearly three years ago. Dozens of militiamen and hundreds of ISIS fighters have been killed since the jihadists blasted their way into the prison in the city of Hasaka last week and joined rioting prisoners inside to seize control, taking the prison staff and about 700 boys detained in the facility hostage, militia officials said. The militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., battled ISIS sleeper cells in surrounding neighborhoods and then laid siege to the remaining militants, who gave up on Wednesday after running low on food and water. “The future was clear to them if they didn’t surrender,” said Aram Hanna, an S.D.F. spokesman. “The area was completely besieged and completely under the control of our forces. They had no other option.” The officials said they were still trying to determine how many of their fighters and how many ISIS attackers and prisoners had been killed. An S.D.F. spokesman said that at least 30 militia fighters and more than a hundred militants had been killed.”

Reuters: France, 14 Countries Ask Mali To Let Danish Forces Stay -Statement

“France and 14 other countries urged Mali late on Wednesday to allow Danish special forces to remain in the African country, but its transitional government insisted on an immediate withdrawal. In response to Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod saying on Tuesday that the troops were there by a "clear invitation," the Malian government said it was surprised because a decision on the Danish request in June to deploy troops was still pending. "No accord authorizes the deployment of Danish special forces to the Takuba Task Force," the Malian government said in a statement. Norway, Portugal and Hungary are still waiting for approval and have not deployed troops, it added. Mali's government on Monday asked Denmark to immediately withdraw the troops. The European task force 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.”

United States

Reuters: U.S. Charges Man With Selling Gun Used In Synagogue Hostage Crisis

“The U.S. Justice Department has filed criminal charges against a man for allegedly selling the gun that another man later used to take hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Henry “Michael” Williams, 32, is charged in a complaint with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He made his initial appearance before a federal judge on Wednesday, and the government is seeking to have him detained pending trial at a hearing on Jan. 31. On Jan. 15, British-born gunman Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel, including its rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, after they had invited him inside for tea during a worship service. He brandished a gun and held them hostage for 10 hours. The standoff ended in gunfire, with all four hostages released unharmed and the suspect dead. During the standoff, Akram demanded to speak with a Jewish leader in New York, and also asked FBI negotiators to release Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence for terrorism offenses at a federal facility in nearby Fort Worth, Texas.”

NPR: Biden Team Promises New Approach To Extremism, But Critics See Old Patterns

“There is widespread agreement that domestic extremism poses a grave threat. But the Biden administration's response has some observers wondering if the president's team is recycling past mistakes or failing to grasp the scope of the challenge. As President Biden begins his second year in office, his administration continues to roll out efforts aimed at the threat of violent domestic terrorism. It has identified violent white supremacy and extremist militias as the greatest current threats. Its arsenal includes a program at the Department of Homeland Security called the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3). Billed as an entirely new approach to prevention, top officials say it puts local communities at the center in the fight against the spread of ideologies that inspire targeted violence and terrorism. But some outside observers worry that it closely resembles earlier problematic anti-terrorism efforts at DHS, and that it falls short of meeting a post-Jan. 6 reality in the U.S.”

Syria

The Wall Street Journal: U.S.-Backed Forces Retake Syrian Prison From Islamic State

“…The attack came after a lull in Islamic State violence in Syria. In the desert expanse in the center of the country, which has been the focus of the group’s insurgency in recent years, the group carried out only 11 attacks and killed fewer government soldiers than it had at any time since 2019, according to Gregory Waters, an analyst with the Counter Extremism Project who tracks Islamic State activity in the area. Immediately following the prison break, Islamic State launched a series of other attacks within areas held by the SDF in northeastern Syria, suggesting a coordinated campaign, analysts said. The Jan. 20 prison break coincided with another attack in which Islamic State gunmen killed 11 Iraqi soldiers as they slept in their camp. “ISIS has shifted its operational focus from quantity to quality,” said Mr. Winter, the conflict analyst.”

Iraq

Al-Monitor: Iraqi Parliament Speaker’s Home Targeted Amid Power Plays

“Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi’s residence, as well as other areas in his native district of Karma, were targeted by at least three rockets late Tuesday night in what appears to be the latest in a long string of attacks by Iran-linked armed factions. Karma, sometimes spelled Garma or al-Karmah, is in the eastern part of Anbar province and is less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Baghdad. The attack happened hours after the Federal Court approved Halbusi’s re-election at the head of the country’s legislative body, as wrangling continued over the makeup of the next government coalition. Halbusi’s party got the largest number of votes among Sunni factions in the October elections. Though a video was circulated in which men with their faces covered and going by the name of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah were seen threatening Halbusi for allegedly backing “normalization of ties with Israel,” many scoffed at the unusual way the young men spoke and claimed it was a badly executed attempt to foist the blame for the attack on Sunni Islamist factions. The government-linked Iraqi Security Media Cell called the attack a “cowardly terrorist act.”

Yemen

Arab News: UK Hosts Quint Meeting On Yemen, Condemns Houthi Attacks

“Senior representatives of the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, the UK, and the US, along with UN special envoy, Hans Grundberg, met in London on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Yemen. “The Quint strongly condemned the Houthis’ repeated attacks against civilians within Yemen, including US local staff in Sanaa, and their continued heinous terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia and more recently the UAE,” they said in a joint statement. The Iran-backed Houthi militia have stepped up cross-border attacks against populated areas in Saudi Arabia and have attempted to strike the UAE capital twice in the last two weeks. The Houthis have also continued their brutal offensive on the Yemeni province of Marib, which has served as a safe haven for millions of internally displaced persons who have been fleeing the fighting since the conflict began in 2014. The Quint said “such actions are obstructing peace efforts and exacerbating suffering,” and stressed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” and the need to hold perpetrators accountable and brought to justice.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Analysis: Lebanon Slips Further Into Iran's Orbit As Hariri Bows Out

“A decision by Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri to step away from Lebanese politics opens the way for Shi'ite Hezbollah to extend its already deep sway over the country, rendering it ever more a bastion of Iranian influence on the Mediterranean. Three times prime minister, Hariri declared on Monday he would suspend his role in public life and boycott a general election in May, citing Iranian influence as one of the reasons he saw little hope of positive change. It opens a new phase in Lebanon's sectarian politics, governed by a system of power-sharing among its many sects, and adds to the uncertainties facing a country suffering a financial meltdown that marks the biggest threat to stability since a 1975-90 civil war. Hariri's move will accelerate the fragmentation of the Sunni community which his family dominated for 30 years with Saudi support, before Riyadh cut him off, abandoning a Lebanon policy that had cost billions but failed to curb Hezbollah.”

Middle East

Reuters: UAE Tackles Banned Weapons Financing, Awaits Dirty Money List Decision

“The United Arab Emirates said it was assessing the risk that funds for banned weapons could pass through its trading hub and would take measures to prevent this, as it awaits a March decision on whether it will be added to a dirty money watchlist. The UAE and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial crime monitoring group, will hold meetings in Paris at the end of February to assess a progress report submitted by the UAE late last year. The watchdog in March will update its list of high-risk and other monitored jurisdictions. A 2020 FATF report said the UAE needed "fundamental and major improvements" to avoid landing on its 'grey list' of countries under increased monitoring. Countries on the list risk reputational damage, trouble accessing global finance and increased transaction costs. The UAE's Executive Office for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing, established last February, said the financing risks assessment initiated in recent weeks would help the public and private sectors implement new requirements.”

Libya

Asharq Al-Awsat: Libya, Chad Agree On Securing Border To Fight Extremists

“Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Unity Abdelhamid Dbeibeh and the head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council, Lieutenant-General Mohamed Idriss Deby, agreed Tuesday on securing joint borders to stop the infiltration of extremist groups and fighters. The Libyan Prime Minister visited the capital of Chad, N'Djamena, on Tuesday, accompanied by Foreign Minister Najla Al-Manqoush, Interior Minister Khaled Mazen, and GNU Chief of Staff Mohamed Al-Haddad. The delegation was received at the airport by Chadian Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke and Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat. The meeting between Dbeibeh and Deby discussed advancing relations, strengthening cooperation, particularly on security, and supporting efforts in fighting mercenaries and terrorism. The Libyan PM said his government wanted to strengthen bilateral relations with Chad as part of continuous cooperation between the two countries. The two officials discussed efforts to defeat terrorism, secure borders and activate the quadripartite agreement aimed at reducing the risk of transnational organized crime. In May 2018, a four-way agreement was signed between Libya, Niger, Sudan and Chad, stipulating the deployment of forces to secure the joint border and combat cross-border crimes and undocumented migration.”

Africa

All Africa: Nigeria: Trial Of Boko Haram Suspects To Resume Soon – Malami

“An official had said since May 2021 that the federal government was preparing 800 suspects linked to the terrorist group for prosecution. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, assured that the trial of suspected perpetrators of terrorist activities and members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, will soon commence. It was the umpteenth time a government official would give such an assurance. Mr Malami gave the fresh assurance while recieving the Nigerian Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Eniola Ajayi, in Abuja on Tuesday. “Machineries are in motion to ensure the continuation of courts sitting in kainji, New Bussa for prosecution of Boko Haram cases," the minister's spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, said in a statement on Tuesday. The Federal Ministry of Justice has an arrangement with the Federal High Court that enables judges to be deployed to try terrorist suspects at the various military detention facilities holding the suspects in different parts of the country.”

United Kingdom

Fox News: UK Anti-Terror Police Make 2 More Arrests In Texas Synagogue Hostage Probe; 4 Total In Custody

“U.K. anti-terrorism police arrested two more men in Manchester Wednesday in connection with their investigation of a British man who took Jewish worshippers hostage at a Texas synagogue. Four of the six arrested are still in custody. British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, 44, took four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15. The nearly 11-hour standoff ended with the remaining three hostages running out safely and the alleged gunman shot and killed when FBI agents stormed the building. He was heard on the synagogue’s Facebook livestream demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, also known as "Lady Al Qaeda," a Pakistani national imprisoned in Fort Worth for allegedly trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Two teenagers were detained in South Manchester the day after the Texas incident, but both were later released without charges after three nights in custody. Reports said they were Akram’s sons. Two other men were arrested Jan. 20 in Birmingham and Manchester. On Jan. 21, U.K. anti-terrorism officers "were granted an extension of custody to continue to question them further," Greater Manchester Police said at the time.”

The National: Protesters Lose Battle Over PKK Flag Conviction In UK

“Three men who showed their support for the proscribed Kurdistan Workers’ Party by waving their flags at a rally in London have lost their final appeal against convictions at the UK’s highest court. Rahman Pwr, Ismail Akdogan and Rotinda Demir were arrested after they were spotted by police waving the PKK flags during a January 2018 protest against Turkey’s cross-border military operation in the Syrian town of Afrin. The operation led to hundreds of Kurds being killed and thousands more being forced to leave their homes because of the fighting. The PKK, which launched its armed struggle against Turkey in 1984 in pursuit of an independent Kurdish state within Turkey, was proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation 21 years ago. The group is also banned by the US, EU, Australia, Turkey and others. British terrorism laws introduced in 2000 banned a person from displaying an article that “arouses reasonable suspicion” that a person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation. It carries a penalty of up to six months in jail. Police did not link them to chants of “PKK, PKK” during the march, but Pwr took a selfie of himself carrying the flag. He was also seen making a "V for victory" gesture while carrying it.”

Germany

Vice: Student Who Opened Fire During Lecture Linked to Neo-Nazi Party

“The teen gunman who killed a fellow student and wounded three others in a shooting spree at a German university had previous links to a neo-Nazi party, German media reported on Wednesday. Shortly after midday on Monday, the 18-year-old gunman, named only as Nikolai G. in line with German privacy laws, entered an organic chemistry lecture at Heidelberg University in southwest Germany armed with a rifle and a shotgun and about 100 rounds of ammunition, and began firing. The attack killed a 23-year-old woman, who died of her injuries in hospital several hours later, and injured three other students – two women and a man. The gunman, who had reportedly sent his father a WhatsApp message shortly before the attack saying that “people have to be punished” and asking to be buried at sea, then fled the lecture hall before turning the gun on himself, police said. The members of the 32-strong team investigating the incident – the first shooting at a German school or university since 2009 – are still working to establish a motive of the attacker, who was previously unknown to authorities, and who recently purchased the firearms in another country, police said.”

Technology

Reuters: France Targets Groups, Websites With Expanded Powers Under Anti-Terror Law

“The French government said this week it was closing down an activist-run media outlet and a Muslim website deemed at odds with "national values", the latest in a series of steps that rights groups and lawyers say infringe on democratic freedoms. Following a violent protest against the extreme right in Nantes, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he would shut down "Nantes Révoltée", a local media platform, which had relayed information about the protest. Days earlier, he had announced plans to close the website "La Voie Droite", which publishes Islamic religious content. The government has been making increasing use of powers to shut down organisations or groups. In the last two years, there have been 12 such shutdowns, an uptick from seven between 2016 and 2019, according to French public records. Before dissolving an association, the Ministry of Interior informs the concerned party, which has 15 days to reply with its counter-arguments. Then, once the decree is published, the organisation can take the case to the Council of State, an administrative court.”

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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