Eye on Extremism: January 4, 2023

The Wall Street Journal: New York Subway Shooter Frank James Pleads Guilty To Terrorist Attack

“New York City subway shooting defendant Frank James pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Brooklyn federal court to terrorism and gun charges, telling a judge that he opened fire on a crowded train to cause serious bodily harm to passengers. Mr. James, 63 years old, pleaded guilty to 11 counts, including committing a terrorist attack against a mass-transit system and discharging a firearm. He told U.S. District Judge William Kuntz that on the morning of April 12, he boarded a subway train in Brooklyn and later fired a pistol at passengers. While he intended to injure people, he didn’t want to kill anyone, Mr. James said. “I was fully aware of the fact that a death or deaths could occur with my discharging of the firearm,” he said. Mr. James shot 10 people, and nearly two dozen more were injured in the attack. No one was killed. At his sentencing, Mr. James said he plans to make a statement expressing his remorse to victims. Mr. James was arrested a day after the attack. Sara Winik, a federal prosecutor in the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, said at the plea hearing that Mr. James did intend to kill passengers and that he planned the shooting for years, purchasing items including a disguise and smoke bombs as early as 2017. He previously traveled to New York to do a test run of the attack, Ms. Winik said.”

Associated Press: Islamic State Claims Afghanistan Airport Checkpoint Bombing

“The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing near a checkpoint at the Afghan capital’s military airport that killed and wounded several people. IS said in a statement late Tuesday that Sunday’s attack on the checkpoint in Kabul was carried out by the same member who took part in an assault on a hotel in the capital in mid-December. The regional affiliate of the Islamic State group — known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province — has increased its attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in 2021. Targets have included Taliban patrols and members of Afghanistan’s Shiite minority. IS published a photo of the attacker identifying him as Abdul Jabbar, saying he withdrew safely from the attack on the hotel after he ran out of ammunition. It added he detonated his explosives-laden vest targeting the soldiers gathered at the checkpoint. The military airport is around 200 meters from the civilian airport and close to the Interior Ministry, itself the site of a suicide bombing last October that killed at least four people.”

United States

NBC: Suspect In NYE Machete Attack Studied Quran, Considered International Targets, Officials Say

“The man suspected of attacking three New York City police officers with a machete on New Year’s Eve had been studying the Quran and considered carrying out an international attack, according to law enforcement sources who shared new information about the suspect's movements before the attack. Trevor Bickford, 19, of Wells, Maine, nearly 300 miles from Times Square, told investigators that he self-radicalized over the past three or four months, said two senior officials briefed on the attack, who characterized the suspect as a homegrown violent extremist motivated in part by Salafi extremism. While only a small minority of Muslims are Salafis, most Muslim violent extremist movements — including Al Qaeda — are rooted in Salafism, a fundamentalist Islamic movement based on 13th and 14th century teachings, according to the Minerva Research Initiative, a research program of the Defense Department, and the Counter-Extremism Project, a nonpartisan international policy organization. Bickford was arrested on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of attempted assault.”


Rudaw: SDF Arrests Several ISIS Suspects During Ongoing Operation

“The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday announced the arrest of several Islamic State (ISIS) suspects during a recently-launched operation against the group in northeast Syria (Rojava). The SDF on Thursday announced a new anti-ISIS mission dubbed Operation al-Jazeera Thunderbolt, targeting the terror group’s hotspots in northeast Syria’s al-Hol and Tal Hamis. The force later expanded the campaign to Syria-Iraq borders. “More than 63 km was swept along the desert east of the al-Hol, where ISIS cells could use it for hiding,” the US-backed force said in a statement on Tuesday. “The joint forces raided possible hideouts, arresting three suspects who were, according to initial information, linked to ISIS terrorist cells. The arrestees were referred to investigation to inspect their true identities,” read the statement. The SDF also said that its forces arrested two other ISIS suspects who were hiding in a house. They are accused of being “responsible for manufacturing IEDs and VBIEDs for targeting military points and security patrols in al-Hasaka and Deir Ezzor countryside." Four “criminals” were also arrested who have allegedly carried out kidnappings, looting and extortion in Hasaka, said the Kurdish-led force without elaborating whether they were affiliated to ISIS.”


Voice Of America: Pakistan: Cross-Border Terrorism Coming From Afghanistan

“Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif says a new wave of terrorist attacks in his country is originating in Afghanistan and he has urged that nation's Taliban rulers to stop it in line with their counterterrorism pledges. Asif's assertions come as a spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has killed hundreds of people, mostly security forces, in recent months. An outlawed alliance of militant groups, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for much of the violence. "They are coming from across the Afghan side of the border to carry out these activities. They may have sleeper cells here [in Pakistan], but their overwhelming presence is on Afghanistan's soil," Asif told the local Geo news TV channel late Monday. He spoke after attending an hours-long meeting of the National Security Committee, the country's highest security-related forum comprising political and military leadership, which reviewed the rise in terrorist attacks. It issued a subtle warning to the Afghan Taliban. "The forum concluded that no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguard her people," said a post-meeting statement without naming Afghanistan.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Rocket Launched From Gaza At Israel After Threats Over Ben Gvir’s Temple Mount Visit

“A rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel on Tuesday night, the military said, after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir paid a morning visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, amid retaliation threats from the coastal enclave’s rulers, the Hamas terror group. The Israel Defense Forces said the projectile landed short, inside the Strip, apparently causing no injuries or damage. Incoming rocket sirens did not sound in Israeli communities as the rocket was projected by defense systems to land in the Hamas-run territory. Israeli residents of towns near the border reported hearing a large explosion. The IDF said there were no special instructions for residents following the rocket fire. The rocket fire came after Hamas had warned that a visit by Ben Gvir to the Temple Mount would be a “detonator,” and vowed resistance. Ben Gvir and his party have repeatedly dismissed the Hamas threats. The newly minted national security minister, who has long been accused of being a provocateur, made several trips to the Temple Mount as an activist and Knesset member and has also led contentious nationalist marches through the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City. On several occasions, he set up an ad hoc office in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which has also been at the center of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, kindling unrest.”

The National: Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah Plays Down Health Concerns After Days Of Speculation

“Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah returned to the public eye on Tuesday night following days of speculation about the health of the head of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese political party and armed group. A speech due to be given by Mr Nasrallah last Friday was cancelled at late notice, with Hezbollah saying he had caught the flu. It led to a spate of reports, particularly from Israel, that the 62-year-old had suffered a stroke, was on a ventilator or in intensive care. Israel and Hezbollah are sworn enemies who have repeatedly engaged in conflict before, including a month-long war in 2006. But Mr Nasrallah appeared in a live broadcast on Tuesday, speaking to mark the three-year anniversary of the death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force. While he often coughed and had a croakier voice than normal, Mr Nasrallah appeared to speak without much difficulty, although he claimed to have suffered from a sensitive throat for the past 30 years. "We wanted to be very transparent and honest with you... I apologise if I led you to concern. I thank you for your love... and all those who prayed for me," he said in the televised speech.”

Reuters: Hezbollah Head Says Change To Al Aqsa Status Quo Could Explode The Region

“The leader of Lebanon's powerful armed Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, said that any infringement of the decades-long status quo at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem could lead to an explosion in the region, not just inside Palestinian territories. Nasrallah's comments followed a visit to the site revered by Muslims, but also Jews, earlier in the day by Israel's new far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. In an apparent effort to calm anger over the visit, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the premier was fully committed to the status quo that allows only Muslim worship at the site.”

AFP: Al-Qaeda's 'Bizarre Silence Over Zawahiri Successor

“Five months after the United States announced the killing of Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, the global jihadist group has still not confirmed his death or announced a new boss. In early August, US President Joe Biden said US armed forces fired two missiles from a drone flying above the Afghan capital, striking al-Zawahiri’s safe house and killing him. But the group’s propaganda arms have continued to broadcast undated audio or video messages of the bearded Egyptian ideologue who led the group after US special forces in 2011 killed its charismatic founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. "This is really bizarre," said Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of the Counter-Extremism Project think tank. "A network only works with a leader. You need a person around which everything coalesces." Almost all options remain open. "It could of course be the case that the United States is wrong about his death," researchers Raffaello Pantucci and Kabir Taneja wrote in early December on the Lawfare website. But "this would seem unlikely given the confidence with which President Biden publicly spoke about the strike."”


Voice Of America: Somalia President's Declaration On Security Attracts Mixed Reactions

“Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, in his New Year's Day speech Sunday, declared the country will eliminate al-Shabab Islamist militants this year. Mohamud's all-out war against the group, declared last year, has succeeded in pushing the militants out of some areas under their control. The president also said Somalia would also take over security operations from African Union peacekeepers in Somalia by the end of 2024. The Somali National Army’s recent success against al-Shabab, achieved with the help of allied local militia in central Somalia, has attracted regional and international attention due to its homegrown approach in fighting terrorism. Mohamud has been trying to rally Somalis behind the government, and in his speech he referred to al-Shabab as Khawaarji, a term referring to a person who deviates from the path of Islam. Mohamud said that Somalis have taken a stand against Khawaarij regardless of where they live, and that this battle is in progress and is nearing completion. He said it was his hope that Somalia will be prosperous and peaceful in 2023. Ahmed Abdisalam, former deputy prime minister and current director of HornCenter, a Somali-based research and policy center, applauded the president’s promise for the government to take over all security duties from African Union peacekeepers. Abdisalam said the president's annual address should be welcomed, as security is the country's greatest concern. He said it was great for the president to provide a timeline for when he will take responsibility for security.”

Reuters: Car Bombs Kill At Least 10, Level Houses In Central Somalia

“Two car bombs detonated by al Shabaab militants killed at least 10 people and flattened several houses in central Somalia's Hiraan region on Wednesday, a government-allied militia and a local elder said. Al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab has been waging an insurgency against Somalia's government since 2007. It was pushed out of Hiraan last year by government forces and allied clan militias known as macawisley, but has continued to stage attacks. "We were awoken this morning by two huge explosions," Ahmed Nur, a local elder, said. "We have seen many houses levelled to the ground. At least 10 people died including civilians, soldiers and macawisley fighters." Farah Abdullahi, a macawisley spokesman for the local Mahas district, also said the blasts killed at least 10 people. Mahas district commissioner Mumin Mohamed Halane told state radio that one bomb targeted his house and the other hit the home of a federal lawmaker. Al Shaabab’s media office claimed responsibility in a statement, saying it had targeted "apostate militias and soldiers". The insurgents have been under pressure since August when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched a military offensive shortly after coming into office.”


Financial Times: Google Develops Free Terrorism Moderation Tool For Smaller Websites

“Google is developing a free moderation tool that smaller websites can use to identify and remove terrorist material, as new legislation in the UK and the EU compels internet companies to do more to tackle illegal content. The software is being developed in partnership with the search giant’s research and development unit Jigsaw and Tech Against Terrorism, a UN-backed initiative that helps tech companies police online terrorism. “There are a lot of websites that just don’t have any people to do the enforcement. It is a really labour-intensive thing to even build the algorithms [and] then you need all those human reviewers,” said Yasmin Green, chief executive of Jigsaw. “[Smaller websites] do not want Isis content there, but there is a tonne of it all over [them],” she added. The move comes as internet companies will be forced to remove extremist content from their platforms or face fines and other penalties under laws such as the Digital Services Act in the EU, which came into force in November, and the UK’s Online Safety bill, which is expected to become law this year.”

Washington Examiner: Supreme Court To Hear Major Big Tech Cases That Could Reshape Internet Regulations

“The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next month in Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh, two cases that will weigh the limits of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields Big Tech companies and other online platforms from lawsuits for hosting and moderating user posts. In Gonzalez, the case has the potential to revise the way the internet's legal rules have operated for decades. Justices will consider on Feb. 21 the scope of Section 230 and whether its protections remain when an online platform targets certain content based on a user's past activities on the platform. At the core of the lawsuit is the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S.-based woman killed in the 2015 Islamic State attack in Paris. The family argues Google's parent company, Alphabet, should be liable for allowing the terror group to use YouTube to help execute its attacks. Justices will also hear arguments on Feb. 22 in Taamneh, a similar case that focuses on an ISIS attack in Istanbul. The case aims to answer whether Big Tech companies can be held liable outside of Section 230 for allowing terror groups to use their platforms.”

Al Arbiya: Saudi Arabia Works With Telegram To Remove Over 15 Million Extremist Content In 2022

“Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (Etidal) and Telegram removed 15,021,951 extremist content throughout 2022 and shut down 6,824 channels that were being used to spread radical ideology, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. From September to December 2022, Etidal and Telegram coordinated to remove 8,494,035 different types of extremist content on 3,616 channels that were linked to al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. At least 4,172,215 extremist content that was broadcasted by 2,654 channels that belonged to ISIS was removed, while 3,696,483 extremist content linked to 703 accounts belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham were taken down. The monitors also found that al-Qaeda had shared 625,337 different extremist content through 259 channels. Etidal and Telegram will continue their joint efforts to crack down on extremist propaganda published in Arabic on the platform in all its forms, SPA reported.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We must use our privilege as humans to fight back against the system that keeps animals oppressed... They can’t wait. The earth can’t wait. Get off your ass and FIGHT.

Animal Liberation Front (ALF), ALF statement Jul. 23, 2019
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