Eye on Extremism: January 28, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: NATO Aims To Add Personnel To Iraq Mission From Coalition Fighting ISIS

“NATO’s members are aiming to boost the number of training and military advisory personnel at the alliance’s mission in Iraq, in response to President Trump’s call for them to do more in the Middle East, officials said. Under a proposal that has won broad support among its members, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would reassign trainers to its mission from the U.S.-led global coalition against Islamic State, which is currently outside NATO structures. The proposal could be approved by NATO defense ministers when they hold a scheduled meeting next month, diplomats said. Mr. Trump’s request earlier this month in a telephone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg caught U.S. and other officials at the alliance by surprise, officials say. The new proposal would allow the alliance to respond quickly to the appeal from its most important member without opening a politically fraught debate over committing more troops to the region. “It wouldn’t change much on the ground,” said a European diplomat at NATO, who described the idea as “streamlining and rebranding.”

The New York Times: Taliban Says Has Brought Down U.S. Military Plane In Afghanistan

“The Taliban said it had shot down a U.S. military plane in the central Afghan province of Ghazni on Monday, killing all personnel on board. “The plane, which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said in a statement, adding that everyone on board, including high ranking officers, had been killed. A senior defense official investigating the crash said no senior U.S. official was killed and added that they were still investigating the cause of the crash. No one from the U.S. military was immediately available for comment.”

Deutsche Welle: New Figures On Extremism In German Military 'Tip Of The Iceberg'

“Germany's top military intelligence agency is currently investigating over 500 cases of suspected right-wing extremism within the country's armed forces, the Bundeswehr. That number marks an uptick of 30% from the previous year, according to the agency's director. Those figures are likely just the “tip of the iceberg,” Caroline Walter, co-author of “Extreme Security” (Extreme Sicherheit), a book on right-wing extremism within Germany's military and its law enforcement agencies, told DW. “The problem in the Bundeswehr is that whoever points out right-wing extremism is still a backstabber who's violating the spirit of the brigade,” she said. A number of cases over the past five years have revealed German authorities' blind spots to extremism. The most prominent case involved a German soldier known as Franco A., who in 2017 reportedly posed as a Syrian refugee in order to infiltrate immigrant communities and carry out a terror attack. Years later, as Franco A. stands trial, German government figures continue to indicate the prevalence of extremism within the military, law enforcement agencies and society at large.”

United States

Reuters: Islamic State Urges Attacks Against Jews In Effort To Thwart Trump Plan: Recording

“The Islamic State militant group urged its fighters and other Muslims to attack Jews in a purported audio recording released on Monday in an attempt to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The message was said to feature the voice of IS spokesman Abu Hamzah al-Quraishi but Reuters could not verify the speaker’s identity. Islamic State has not been a player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the comments appeared to be an attempt by the group to stay relevant and resonate with Muslims by sounding concerned about the issue, said H.A. Hellyer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We are urging you to join the Caliphate (Islamic State) soldiers who are seeking to remove borders and dams that prevent them from fighting Jews,” Quraishi said. He especially called on IS fighters in its Sinai branch in Egypt as well those in Syria to mount cross-border raids to attack Israeli targets. “Be the spearhead in fighting Jews and making their plots fail like their ‘Deal of the Century’,” he said. Trump is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz in Washington on Monday to present his peace plan, which Palestinians fear will dash their hopes for an independent state.”

Iran

The New York Times: IS Tries To Stage Comeback Amid Rising US-Iran Tensions

“The Islamic State group's self-styled “caliphate” across parts of Iraq and Syria seemed largely defeated last year, with the loss of its territory, the killing of its founder in a U.S. raid and an unprecedented crackdown on its social media propaganda machine. But tensions between the United States and Iran and the resulting clash over the U.S. military presence in the region provide a comeback opportunity for the extremist group, whose remnants have been gradually building up a guerrilla campaign over the past year, experts say. American troops in Iraq had to pause their operations against IS for nearly two weeks amid the tensions. From the other side, Iranian-backed Iraqi militiamen who once focused on fighting the militants have turned their attention to evicting U.S. troops from the Middle East. In the meantime, Islamic State group sleeper cells intensified ambushes in Iraq and Syria in the past few weeks, killing and wounding dozens of their opponents in both countries. Activists and residents say the attacks have intensified since the U.S. killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a Jan. 3 drone strike at Baghdad's airport. It is not clear whether the uptick is related to the repercussions that followed from the strike, and it is possible some of the attacks had been planned before Soleimani's killing. U.S. officials deny seeing any particular increase in IS activities.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Violence Escalates In Iraq As Government Pushes To End Protests

“Gunmen shot dead two protesters in Iraq’s southern city of Nassiriya overnight and a Baghdad district became a battlefield on the third day of a drive by security forces to end months of demonstrations against the largely Iran-backed ruling elite. Clashes over the weekend had already killed at least five protesters. Rockets also hit the US embassy compound in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone housing government buildings. Ambassadors of 16 countries in Baghdad including the US, France and Britain condemned the use of live fire by Iraqi security forces and called for a credible investigation into the deaths of more than 500 protesters since October. Security sources said three people were wounded when at least one rocket landed in the US embassy compound, the first time in years that an attack on the Green Zone - a regular occurrence - had actually hurt staff there. The Iraqi military said five Katyusha rockets had hit the Green Zone late on Sunday, without reporting casualties. The US embassy was not immediately available for comment. Authorities began the pushback on Saturday to try to end protests that began in the capital on Oct. 1 and in other southern cities. Demonstrators are demanding the removal of all politicians, free elections and an end to corruption.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Taliban Assault On Afghan Police Base Kills 11

“Taliban militants attacked a police base in northern Afghanistan, killing 11, possibly with help from at least one of the policemen inside, local government officials said Tuesday. The insurgents first overran a checkpoint near the base late Monday, and were apparently able to breach the compound with ease because a sympathetic policeman opened a door for them. These details were provided by Mabobullah Ghafari, a provincial councilman in Baghlan province where the attack took place. A local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief reporters about the attack, also gave the same account. Insider attacks have been steady throughout Afghanistan's 18-year conflict, with U.S. and NATO troops most often targeted. But when Afghan security forces are targeted, the casualty rate is often much higher. Last July, two U.S. service members were killed by an Afghan soldier in the southern Kandahar province. The shooter was wounded and arrested. In September, three U.S. military personnel were wounded when an member of the Afghan Civil Order Police fired on a military convoy, also in Kandahar. No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's attack on the outskirts of Puli Khumri, Baghlan's provincial capital.”

Reuters: Taliban Repel Afghan Forces' Bid To Reach U.S. Plane Crash Site

“Afghan forces and Taliban fighters clashed in a central region where a U.S. military aircraft crashed, officials said on Tuesday, as the government tried to reach the wreckage site in a Taliban stronghold. On Monday, the U.S. military said an E-11A aircraft crashed in the province of Ghazni, but disputed Taliban claims to have brought it down, without saying how many were aboard or if any had been killed. Security forces were sent to the site immediately after receiving a report of the crash in the Deh Yak district, but were ambushed by Taliban fighters, Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters. “As per our information, there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,” Wardak said, adding that the forces subsequently received an order to retreat and airborne action is to be taken instead. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support had tried to capture the area around the crashed aircraft and clashed with fighters of the Islamist militant group. The attempt was repelled, however, he told Reuters, but added that the Taliban would allow a rescue team access to recover bodies from the crash site. “Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the U.S. airplane crash,” he said, adding that while there could have been more, the militant group could not be certain, as fire had reduced everything to ashes.”

Pakistan

Vice: From Terrorism To Tourism: How Pakistan Is Trying To Attract Visitors

“Pakistan is considered by many to be one of the world’s most dangerous places. Thirteen years ago, Newsweek controversially declared it the most dangerous nation in the world, while the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs still begins their webpage on Pakistan with the following: “reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism.” And yet, this month, the Condé Nast Traveller named Pakistan the Best Travel Destination for 2020. Objectively speaking, Pakistan is quite scenic. It has hilly mountainous regions, soaring cliffsides, and white-sand beaches. The country is part of the Himalayas, and subsequently has some of the tallest peaks in the world, while its cities are filled with old Hindu temples, mosques, and bazaars. But political conflict taints this image. In the late 00s and early 2010s tribal militias and terrorist organisations like the Taliban and al-Qaeda found a footing in Pakistan, as disdain for the central government and American influence grew. With a government that was unable to provide basic services for its people, especially in rural areas, these organisations garnered support by filling the social and economic vacuums that the government left open. They preyed on the frustrations of many young men who, unable to find work, were angry with the country’s growing inequality.”

Middle East

The New York Times: IS Vows To Attack Israel And Blasts US Mideast Plan

“The Islamic State group vowed in an audio message released Monday that the extremists will start a new phase of attacks that will focus on Israel and blasted the U.S. administration's plan to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite carrying out deadly attacks throughout the world over the past years, IS has rarely targeted Israel. The audio appears to try to win the extremist group popularity in the region at a time when President Donald Trump's “Deal of the Century” is expected to be announced in the U.S. soon. The Palestinians have not been consulted on the much-trumpeted deal and have pre-emptively rejected the U.S. proposal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington Sunday night vowing to “make history” at a planned meeting with Trump for the unveiling of the deal. IS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi urged in the 37-minute audio members of the extremist group to carry out attacks against Israel. The message was released by the group's al-Furqan media. The rallying message comes at a time when IS has suffered major defeats over the past year including the death of its leader and founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a U.S. attack in northwestern Syria.”

Egypt

Reuters: Egypt Sentences 37 To Jail For Joining Islamic State: Judicial Sources

“An Egyptian court sentenced 37 people on Monday to jail terms including life imprisonment for joining or supporting Islamic State’s Sinai Province affiliate, judicial sources said. Militants loyal to Islamic State have been waging an insurgency in the north of the Sinai Peninsula and other parts of the country that has killed hundreds of soldiers, police and residents. A Cairo criminal court sentenced eight defendants to life terms and 29 to terms ranging from one to 15 years, after prosecutors accused them of planning attacks, promoting the group’s ideology in prisons and financing its cells, the judicial sources said. Seven were acquitted. The defendants, all of whom pleaded not guilty, can appeal against the sentence at the court of cassation, Egypt’s top civilian court. Separately, another Cairo criminal court referred the cases of three men accused over a 2018 failed assassination attempt against Alexandria’s security chief to Egypt’s top religious authority, paving the way for possible death sentences, judicial sources said. Prosecutors said the defendants were part of a militant group called Hasm, which the government describes as an armed wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The group denies any link with any militant activity.”

Libya

Eurasia Review: Libyan Officers Trained On Tackling Online Activities Of Terrorist Targets

“With abuse of the Internet and social media channels by terrorist organizations a growing concern for police, INTERPOL said it has conducted a training course for Libyan law enforcement officers on how best to exploit the Internet and specific social media sites in counter-terrorism investigations. Held in Tunisia from January 20 to 24, the course was attended by 20 law enforcement professionals from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and General Investigation Department (GID) in Tripoli, Libya. Terrorists use the Internet and social media channels for radicalization, recruitment, funding, planning and execution of terror activities, making it vital for law enforcement to collect, analyse and share data gathered from online sources, INTERPOL noted. The course provided participants with recommendations on how to employ intelligence techniques to leverage online resources in compliance with human rights, the Libyan data protection mechanism, and international privacy and data protection standards.”

Nigeria

France 24: Terror As Jihadists Target Key Northeast Nigeria Road

“The bus driver sensed straight away that he and his six passengers were in trouble when the gunmen, dressed in Nigerian army uniforms, stopped their vehicle at a checkpoint. They were on the main road connecting the city of Maiduguri in volatile northeast Nigeria with the rest of the country. For weeks there had been reports of jihadists disguised as soldiers abducting travellers. Now his own luck had run out. “They took us at gunpoint into the bush,” the driver told AFP, asking that his name not be used for his own safety. “I spent four days in detention. I have never in my life felt the fear and trauma that I passed through in those four days.” The kidnapping around two weeks ago was part of a wave of identical attacks targeting the key Damaturu road -- the main lifeline linking Maiduguri and its roughly two million people to the outside world. Since early December jihadists disguised as soldiers have been setting up checkpoints to snare and abduct unsuspecting passengers. They appear to focus on Christians, aid workers and military personnel. Some of those seized were executed on the spot. Others were taken as captives. In late December the jihadists released a gruesome video showing them shooting and slitting the throats of 11 abducted Christians.”

All Africa: Nigeria: 'Military Committed To Ending Terrorism'

“The Coalition against Terrorism and Extremism (CATE) has applauded Nigeria's military and Service Chiefs for displaying unwavering commitment to end insurgency. The coalition made this known at a press conference on Monday on “the war against terrorism and the laudable efforts of the Nigerian military in the preservation of the territorial integrity against Boko Haram and other militant groups”. In a statement signed by National Coordinator, Gabriel Onoja, CATE commended President Muhammadu Buhari under whose leadership the military recorded tremendous gains in the fight against terrorism. The troops' doggedness and high fighting spirit, committed with the onerous task of keeping Nigeria safe and secured within the ambit particularly impressed the group. CATE, therefore, said it is “proud of the great exploits of the Nigerian troops for the numerous sacrifices they have made in the pursuant of peace all over the country”. The coalition further hailed the Service Chiefs for the provision of sound strategic and policy direction for implementation in the war against terrorism. CATE, thus, expressed “unalloyed confidence in the President Buhari, the Service Chiefs, as well as the officers and soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Africa

The Washington Post: Czech Republic To Send Troops To Africa Anti-Terror Mission

“The Czech government on Monday approved a Defense Ministry plan to deploy up to 60 troops as part of France’s anti-terror mission in Africa. The service members will join Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military mission. It has been working to root out Islamic militants roaming the Sahel region. The government said Mali, Niger and Chad approved the Czech deployment. The Czechs will help local troops fight Islamic militants. The plan to deploy Czech forces in the mission until the end of 2022 still needs parliamentary approval. The Czechs already have some 120 troops in Mali as a part of an European Union training mission.”

Reuters: France Warns U.S. Against Pulling Troops From Fight Against Islamists In Africa's Sahel

“France delivered a stern warning on Monday against possible U.S. troop cuts in West Africa, where groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are expanding their foothold. The Pentagon is considering withdrawing the personnel as part of a global troop review meant to free up more resources to address challenges from China’s military, after nearly two decades of prioritizing counter-terrorism operations around the world. French Defense Minister Florence Parly said she warned her U.S. counterpart during a visit to the Pentagon that joint counterterrorism efforts in West Africa would be harmed by cuts to U.S. military assistance. “I had the opportunity to (say) again, to mention again, that the U.S. support is critical to our operations and its reduction would severely limit our effectiveness against terrorists,” Parly said at a joint news conference, standing alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Esper, who is spearheading the review, said no decisions had been made. But he did not suggest any reconsideration of potential cuts to U.S. forces in the region. The possibility of cuts has alarmed France, which relies on U.S. intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel.”

Deutsche Welle: UN: Sahel Conflict Having Devastating Impact On Children, Hundreds Killed

“Hundreds of children in the Sahel were killed, wounded or forcibly separated from their parents in 2019, a UNICEF report revealed Tuesday. Conflict continues to be rife in the semiarid region of western and north-central Africa and the agency, which focuses on child-related issues, confirmed 277 children were killed or maimed in Mali during the first nine months of last year. The West African nation has been tackling an Islamist insurgency that began in the north of the country eight years ago and has resulted in thousands of deaths. The conflict has since spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions in the Sahel in the process. The entire region has witnessed a “significant increase of violence against children who are caught in the crossfire,” the report stated, adding that hundreds of youngsters had been forcibly separated from their families. The warfare also forced more than a million people to flee their homes, of whom more than half are children — twice as many as in the previous year. Furthermore, just shy of 5 million children are currently in need of humanitarian aid in the region, as more than 700,000 suffer from acute malnutrition in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, according to the report.”

United Kingdom

The National: Buckingham Palace Sword Attacker Who Supports ISIS 'Planned To Kill Non-Muslims After He Left Jail'

“An ISIS-supporting Uber driver who attacked police with a sword outside Buckingham Palace in London threatened to kill non-Muslims only months after he left jail, a court heard on Monday. Mohiussannath Chowdhury, 28, attacked officers outside the palace in August 2017 while shouting “Allahu Akbar”, but was cleared of terrorism charges, after jurors spent more than 11 hours considering the verdict. It emerged on Monday that six months after he left jail, Chowdhury was allegedly preparing to attack a Gay Pride parade and Madame Tussauds in London after being freed from custody. A secret recording emerged from June last year of Chowdhury telling his sister, Sneha Chowdhury, that he was quitting his job at a chicken shop in Luton. “I’m doing another attack, bruv,” he said. “I’m serious bro, it’s about time now.” Chowdhury was arrested days later on suspicion for planning a terrorist attack. Prosecutors said on Monday the defendant was planning “to unleash death and suffering on non-Muslim members of the public who happened to be present, using a firearm, sword and even a van as part of an attack”. Woolwich Crown Court in the British capital heard that Chowdhury told undercover police officers his intentions and that non-Muslims were “fair game.”

Germany

BBC News: German Police Probe Nazi-Style Beer Brand

“German police are investigating the sale of beer with a Nazi-style label, seen as scandalous in Germany as the world remembers Holocaust victims. Photos of the “German Reich Brewery” beer were posted on Facebook by Götz Ulrich, a district chief in eastern Germany, who expressed outrage. “I feel so ashamed,” he said, accusing neo-Nazis of staging a provocation exactly 75 years after Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz death camp. Nazi symbols are banned in Germany. Their use is illegal if there is a clear link to Nazi or other far-right ideology. In some cultural contexts, however, their use is tolerated. Commemorations are being held at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered about 1.1 million people - nearly a million of them Jews. Mr Ulrich said the Deutsches Reichsbräu beer was being sold on Friday in Bad Bibra, his home town, and “the worst thing is that the beer has been flying off the shelves and is sold out!” The label is brown - reminiscent of the Nazis' brown uniforms - and the Nazi eagle symbol is reproduced, except that the Iron Cross is shown inside a wreath, instead of a swastika. The Gothic script lettering - harking back to German tradition - is also standard for neo-Nazi propaganda.”

Europe

The New York Times: Kosovo Woman Faces Terror Charges For Allegedly Joining IS

“Kosovo prosecutors on Monday filed terrorism charges against a local woman for allegedly joining the Islamic State group in Syria. A statement from the prosecutors' office said the suspect, only identified as A.A., left Kosovo in November 2015 with her husband and their daughter. They allegedly went to Istanbul, Turkey, and then crossed into Syria to join the Islamic State group. She was charged with alleged organization and participation in a terror group. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison. The prosecutors' office did not clarify where the suspect's husband and daughter were and how she was repatriated. In April 2019 a group of 110 Kosovo citizens were repatriated from Syria. About 30 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo are still believed to be with terror groups in Syria and Iraq.”

Latin America

The Guardian: 'The Playbook Is The American Alt-Right': Bolsonaristas Follow Familiar Extremist Tactics

“When Jair Bolsonaro’s culture secretary published an official video paraphrasing Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, it wasn’t just Brazilians who were stunned. The video, in which Roberto Alvim called for a “rebirth of art and culture in Brazil” while Adolf Hitler’s favourite Wagner opera played in the background, sent shockwaves around the world. Alvim was sacked within hours, as Brazilians asked: was this an aberration, a one-off, or even a communist trick? And what did it say about the far right president’s communications masterplan? Analysts said the use of such extremist tactics is typical of the brinksmanship, trolling and meme tactics used by the US “alt-right” who are often referenced by powerful members of Bolsonaro’s government. The term “alt-right” was popularised by white supremacist Richard Spencer and has been linked to Stephen Miller, a white nationalist and senior adviser to Donald Trump – who has himself benefited from far-right support and at times nodded to it. Pushing the limits and goading liberals are classic alt-right tactics, said Rodrigo Nunes, a political philosophy professor at Rio de Janeiro’s Pontifical Catholic University.”