Eye on Extremism: January 4, 2022

The Wall Street Journal: Attacks On U.S. Allies Raise Tensions On Anniversary Of Killing Of Iran’s Soleimani

“Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized an Emirati-flagged ship, explosive-laden drones targeted the Iraqi capital’s airport and hackers hit two Israeli newspapers on Monday, raising tensions in the Middle East as Iran-aligned militias attacked U.S. allies on the second anniversary of America’s killing of one of Tehran’s top generals. Meanwhile, Iran held a massive memorial for Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the country’s capital to mark the anniversary of the American drone strike in Iraq that killed the military leader and an Iraqi militia commander on Jan. 3, 2020. It wasn’t immediately clear if Monday’s attacks were coordinated or backed by Iran. They came a day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted: “Martyr Soleimani is more dangerous for his enemies than General Soleimani.” They also followed protests by Iran-allied paramilitary groups in Iraq over the weekend. Crowds in Baghdad chanted “death to America” and vowed to avenge Gen. Soleimani’s killing. “Iran is trying to show that they are taking revenge and that they are strong,” said Hamdi Malik, an associate fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an expert on Iraq’s Shiite militias. “But at the same time they don’t really want to start a war because they desperately need the sanctions to be lifted,” Mr. Malik said.”

Associated Press: 21 Abducted Schoolchildren Rescued In Northwestern Nigeria

“At least 21 schoolchildren in Nigeria have been rescued hours after they were abducted by armed groups in the West African country’s troubled northwestern region, police said. The schoolchildren were abducted on Friday while they were traveling with their teacher from the Bakura area to an Islamic school in neighboring Katsina state, police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said in a statement over the weekend. Security forces responded and rescued the 21 students and are “currently working to rescue the remaining victims and apprehend the perpetrators,” Shehu said. He did not say how many hostages are still being held but said the assailants seized travelers from as many as five vehicles, suggesting there are many more still in captivity. Children have often been targeted in northwestern Nigeria in attacks by armed groups on rural communities far from the protection of security forces who are often outgunned and outnumbered. A day after the attack on the schoolchildren, the Nigeria Air Force launched “successful” airstrikes targeting the camps of the gunmen in Zamfara state, senior official Edward Gabkwet told The Associated Press on Monday. He said the number of those killed in the airstrikes has not been confirmed.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: 5 Syrian Soldiers Killed, 20 Injured In ISIL Attack: State Media

“Five Syrian soldiers have been killed and 20 injured in a rocket attack on a military transport bus in the east of the country. Sunday’s attack took place at approximately 7pm (17:00 GMT), Syrian state media reported on Monday, adding that a military vehicle in the Badia area came under a rocket attack followed by artillery shelling by ISIL (ISIS) fighters. ISIL, which declared a caliphate straddling parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, has lost all the territory that was under its control in 2019. However, the group continues to wage a low-level fight in both countries, launching frequent hit-and-run raids from desert hideouts on either side of the border with Iraq. In mid-December, Kurdish forces in the north of the country said, backed by the US military, they killed five suspected fighters in an airborne operation in the Deir Az Zor province. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, which controls the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northeastern Syria, conducted the raid near the village of al-Busaira.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pakistan Vows To Continue Fencing Afghan Border, Downplays Taliban Disruptive Acts

“Pakistan said Monday it was engaging with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers through diplomatic channels to resolve “some confusions” stemming from the installation of a security fence on the porous border separating the two countries. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad that his country was determined to protect its “interests” and continue unilateral fencing Pakistan’s nearly 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani chief diplomat was responding to recent attempts by Taliban border forces aimed at preventing Pakistan from building the barrier. The latest such incident apparently happened over the weekend when the Afghan side dismantled a portion of the fence. “We are not silent. We have installed the fence and, God willing, this effort will continue,” Qureshi stressed. “Afghanistan is our friendly neighbor. We are engaged with them, as some confusions have emerged, and we shall be able to resolve them through diplomatic channels.” A Taliban Defense Ministry spokesman on Sunday criticized the fencing project, saying Pakistan had “no right to erect barbed wire along the Durand Line and separate the tribes on both sides of the line.”

Saudi Arabia

Al Jazeera: Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah Accuses Saudi Arabia Of ‘Terrorism’

“Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has accused Saudi Arabia of exporting ISIL (ISIS) ideology and transporting cars rigged with explosives for suicide attacks to Iraq. In a televised speech on Monday, he addressed Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz. “Your Majesty, the terrorist is who exported the Daesh ideology to the world,” Nasrallah said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL. “The terrorist is the one who sent thousands of Saudis to conduct suicide operations in Iraq and Syria, and it’s you.” Nasrallah also slammed the kingdom for its close ties with the United States and for the military campaign it is leading in Yemen. Nasrallah’s comments came in response to political opponents and critics in Lebanon who criticised the Iran-backed party for damaging ties between the cash-strapped country and Saudi Arabia. “We didn’t attack Saudi Arabia. They were involved in the greater conspiracy that was destroying the region,” the Hezbollah leader said. Lebanon is struggling to resolve a diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which have been critical of Hezbollah for their role in Yemen and other regional conflicts. In October, the Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors, and Saudi Arabia banned all Lebanese exports, after a video surfaced of the then-Information Minister George Kordahi criticising the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.”

Arab News: Egypt Condemns Continued Houthi Attacks On Saudi Arabia

“Egypt has condemned the Iran-backed Houthis for targeting southern parts of Saudi Arabia with three armed drones. In a statement, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the latest launches represented a “flagrant violation of the rules of international law” and were a threat to the security and stability of the Kingdom. “Egypt strongly condemns the Houthi militia’s continuation of its cowardly terrorist attacks toward the lands of the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the statement added. Cairo also pledged its full support for Saudi measures to combat the Houthi attacks, while the Arab Parliament joined in slamming the group for its actions. On Saturday evening, the Saudi-led Arab coalition said in a statement that it had intercepted and destroyed three Houthi drones launched toward the southern region of Saudi Arabia and that intelligence monitoring and operational preparations for air strikes were underway.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: IDF Issues Demolition Order For Home Of Jerusalem Terrorist

“The IDF on Monday issued a demolition order for the home of the Palestinian terrorist who murdered Israeli civilian Eli Kay on November 22 in Jerusalem’s Old City. The order was signed by OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Ori Gordin for the home of Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, who lived in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. His family had appealed the decision, but their requests were rejected. Abu Shkhaydam opened fire at several Israeli men near the entrance to the Western Wall, killing Kay, 26, and wounding four others. Border Police officers shot and killed the terrorist. Gordin’s area of command includes east Jerusalem and the Shuafat refugee camp. OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs is authorized to issue demolition orders in the West Bank. Abu Shkhaydam was a known Hamas member, and the terrorist group quickly took responsibility for the attack. Hamas called it a “heroic operation” and warned “the criminal enemy and its government to stop the attacks on our land and our holy sites. [Israel] will pay a price for the iniquities it commits against al-Aqsa Mosque, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere.”

Egypt

Al Monitor: Sinai Tribes Participate In Military Action Against Jihadi Organizations

“Military confrontations against extremist groups in Sinai have expanded to include Sinai tribes as well as the Egyptian army. On Dec. 18, the Sinai Tribes Union website published pictures of an operation carried out by tribesmen in El-Ajra area, in the south of Rafah, against members of extremist groups. And on Dec. 19, the union's official website published video clips of a clash between tribesmen and two members of jihadi groups in the village of El-Ajra in North Sinai. Both operations resulted in the killing of the jihadi members. The Sinai Tribes Union operations are running in coordination with the Egyptian army, as the union issued a statement Dec. 1 regarding an operation against what they described as the “dangerous terrorist jihadi leaders … with air and field cover from the Egyptian armed forces.” The statement added that “dozens of explosive devices prepared for detonation were found along with around a ton of explosive materials, weapons, equipment, wireless communication devices and wires used in terrorist acts.” According to the Sinai Tribes Union’s Facebook page, the union brings together the vast majority of the Sinai tribes to confront extremist organizations and provide logistical support to the Egyptian Armed Forces in Sinai.”

Africa

Voice Of America: Kenyan Authorities Suspect Al-Shabab Militants Kill 6 In Coastal County

“Kenyan authorities say they are pursuing suspected al-Shabab terrorists who killed six people early Monday in Lamu County, on the border with Somalia. Kenya’s Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia says suspected al-Shabab militants attacked and killed the villagers early Monday in the county’s Widhu area. However, there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Macharia says they are pursuing the suspects into the forest. They might also be hiding among the population. Macharia added they are seeking the public’s help to trace the criminals. Kenya’s Citizen TV reported at least one victim was shot, one hacked to death with a machete, and others were burned alive. VOA could not independently verify the accounts. Widhu area residents said the attackers also torched several houses, though some residents speaking to local media questioned if the violence was the work of the Islamist militants or related to local politics. The Nation Media group quoted some locals saying most of the attackers were carrying machetes, whereas al-Shabab militants are commonly armed with guns. Macharia says they have deployed more security forces to the area.  He says they have beefed up security in the county to make sure that Kenyans and their properties are safe.”

AFP: Detained Tunisia Ex-Minister Suspected Of 'Terrorism'

“Detained Tunisian ex-justice minister Noureddine Bhiri of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, who is refusing food or medication after his transfer to hospital, is suspected of “terrorism”, the interior minister said Monday. Bhiri, deputy president of Ennahdha -- viewed by President Kais Saied as an enemy -- was arrested by plainclothes officers Friday and his whereabouts were initially unknown. Ennahdha had played a central role in Tunisian politics until a power grab by President Kais Saied last year. Tunisia was the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts of a decade ago, but civil society groups and Saied's opponents have expressed fear of a slide back to authoritarianism a decade after the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. “There were fears of acts of terrorism targeting the country's security and we had to act,” Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine said late Monday of the arrest. A member of a delegation that visited Bhiri in hospital told AFP on Monday that he was refusing food or medication. On Sunday activists and a former Ennahdha legislator said Bhiri was in a critical condition and facing death. But the source told AFP that Bhiri, 63, is “not in critical condition for the time being.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: Germany: Prosecutors Investigate Soldier Over Video Threat

“Bavaria's Central Office for Combating Extremism and Terrorism (ZET) is taking over proceedings after a Bundeswehr soldier posted a video which contained “threats against the rule of law.” The ZET on Monday confirmed that it was assuming the case as it recognized that “extremism” could not be ruled out, while it continued its investigations into the production of the video which was widely shared on social media. The soldier, who was briefly arrested at the end of December and has since been released, expressed his vehement opposition to a vaccine mandate for care workers and those in the Bundeswehr. What did the soldier allegedly threaten? The man is being investigated for possibly inciting the public to commit a crime. “A video of a supposed soldier, which has been shared here a lot, is currently circulating online,” the German Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter last week. “It contains threats against the rule of law that are unacceptable. The consequences are already being examined.”  In the one-minute clip, the man appears to be dressed in a Bundeswehr uniform and gives what he claims to be his surname and rank. His message targets the vaccine mandate for both healthcare workers and soldiers.”

Canada

CBC: Winnipeg Professor Developing Tool Kit To Help Teachers Spot Burgeoning Extremism In Students

“A Winnipeg professor is developing a tool kit to help teachers in the province identify the early stages of extremism in their students so it can be addressed before thoughts and musings turn to violent actions. Kawser Ahmed, an adjunct professor at the University of Winnipeg who studies extremism, hate and radicalization, received $400,000 from Public Safety Canada and the university to develop the tool kit over the next two years. Youth are more vulnerable than ever to being radicalized because of connectivity and the presence of digitally savvy people who produce hate-filled conspiracy materials, he said. “This connectivity, in one side, is a great advantage to connect with others, but on the other, it is very easy to motivate people in these really problematic causes,” Ahmed told CBC News. “Google will produce 1.8 million results in five seconds, but the top five, 10 or 20 results, how do you know that these are authentic and legitimate? There is no way, and in the world of fake news and conspiracy theories, it is even [more] difficult.” In 2019, police reported 1,946 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate, according to data from Statistics Canada. From 2010 to 2019, 23 per cent of people accused of hate crimes were between the ages of 12 and 17, and 86 per cent were male.”

Technology

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Hate Crimes Are Soaring. White Supremacists Have A New Recruitment Tool: Video Games.

“They arrived in yellow rental trucks, unfurled their flags, and readied shields and smoke bombs. The hour was late, and the symbolism was unsettling: As the clock inched close to midnight on July 3, about 200 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front marched through downtown Philadelphia, past Independence Hall and other historic landmarks, while chanting, “Take America back!” If the demonstration was meant to be a show of strength for the organization, it ended meekly. After scuffling with a handful of counterprotesters, the Patriot Front members retreated into their Penske trucks and then were stopped by Philadelphia police on Delaware Avenue, where some marchers sat dejectedly, their heads bowed. But the episode served a dual purpose. Social media has proven to be fertile ground for white supremacist and conspiracy-theory movements trying to attract new members. Patriot Front turned footage of its parade through the city into a hype video; on its website, its members likened themselves to Revolutionary War heroes, and insisted, “Americans must dictate America.” A month before the Philadelphia demonstration, more than 300 researchers and scholars had volunteered to be part of a new effort to curb the spread of extremism: the Collaboratory Against Hate, a center created by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On August 19, 2021, at least three people were killed and 50 were injured when a roadside bomb struck a Shiite procession marking the 7th century death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, a Shiite saint. Sunni extremists were suspected in the explosion in Bahawalnagar, Punjab province, Pakistan.

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