Eye on Extremism: January 5, 2022

Reuters: Drone Attack On U.S. Forces Foiled West Of Baghdad

“Two explosive-laden drones were shot down on Tuesday by Iraq's air defenses as they approached the Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces, west of Baghdad, an official of the U.S.-led international military coalition said. U.S. officials in recent weeks had warned that they expected an uptick in attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, in part because of the second anniversary of the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. A similar attack was foiled on Monday, when Iraqi air defenses downed two drones as they approached a base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad's international airport. Separately, another coalition official told Reuters that the coalition had carried out strikes against an “imminent threat” after they saw several rocket launch sites near the Green Village in Syria. While this official did not say which country in the coalition carried out the strikes or who was responsible for the launch sites, Iranian-backed militia forces have occasionally targeted U.S. forces in both Iraq and Syria. In Washington, the Pentagon said the coalition strikes in Syria were not carried out by aircraft, but did not provide more details on the threat.”

The National: Sweden Charges Woman With Allowing Son To Fight For ISIS

“Sweden has charged a woman for allegedly allowing her son to fight for ISIS as a child soldier in Syria, prosecutors said Tuesday, in the first such case. The Swedish woman reportedly travelled to Syria in 2013, Sweden's prosecution authority said, a year before the group declared a “caliphate” in large parts of the country and neighbouring Iraq. The 49-year-old stands accused of having allowed her son to fight for armed groups, including ISIS, from the age of 12 to 15. “The woman is being charged for having made possible that he be recruited and used as a child soldier” from August 2013 to May 2016, it said in a statement. During that time, he allegedly took part “in hostilities performed by armed groups, including the terrorist organisation ISIS”. The boy died in 2017, the statement added, without elaborating on the cause of his death. “This is the first time charges are being brought in Sweden for the war crime of using a child soldier,” the prosecution authority said. The woman, who returned to Sweden in 2020 after the military defeat of the ISIS proto-state, has denied all charges. But public prosecutor Reena Devgun said an investigation seemed to indicate otherwise. It showed that “the son, during the time he lived at home, was educated and trained to partake in the hostilities, and that he had been equipped with military equipment in addition to military weapons and that he was used in battle”, she said in a statement.”

United States

USA Today: DHS Chief Says Domestic Extremist Threat 'Very Grave,' But No Specific Intel For Jan. 6 Anniversary

“The nation's top homeland security official said Tuesday that violent domestic extremists remain a “very grave” threat to the country, but there are no specific warnings associated with the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. “We are not aware of any specific, credible threats at this point related to Jan. 6, 2022,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on a conference call. “But at the same time we are operating at a heightened level of vigilance because we are at a heightened level of threat. The threat of domestic violent extremists is a very grave.” DHS came under fire in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack for failing to issue warnings about the potential for violence, despite prolific online threats. Mayorkas, who took office in February, acknowledged the criticism and said the department had since enhanced its ability to prevent, detect and respond to threats from domestic violent extremism. “Over the past year, we ... have improved and strengthened our approach to combatting this dynamic, evolving threat,” Mayorkas said. Mayorkas said individual extremists or loosely organized groups using encrypted apps on social media is what makes the threat difficult to combat.”

Politico: Why DOJ Is Avoiding Domestic Terrorism Sentences For Jan. 6 Defendants

“The storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 has been denounced by the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department as an act of domestic terrorism, but one year after the insurrection, prosecutors have yet to ask judges to impose the harsher sentences federal law recommends for defendants motivated by politics. Instead, even as some judges have publicly debated whether the charges against Jan. 6 defendants qualify as “crimes of terrorism,” prosecutors have repeatedly pulled back on tougher sentences, citing unspecified “facts and circumstances.” The so-called sentencing enhancement for terrorism crimes was created as a result of legislation Congress passed following the 1993 bombing in a parking garage at the World Trade Center. The provision initially applied only to crimes linked to international terrorism, but after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, Congress moved to expand the enhancement to cover terrorism inspired purely by domestic causes. The terrorism-related language now includes federal criminal offenses “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” In front of judges and in court filings, the Justice Department is engaged in a delicate rhetorical dance on the domestic terrorism issue.”

The Denver Post: Denver Gunman Showed “Concerning Indicators,” Participated In Hate-Filled Online Space, Extremism Experts Say

“The Colorado gunman who killed five people and injured two more in a planned attack last week across several locations in metro Denver participated in extremist circles online and expressed concerning beliefs before killing, according to two extremism experts who’ve been studying his online presence. The gunman’s writings are blatantly misogynistic and racist and often focus on violence, the extremism experts said. His books and online writing glorify violence, decry an alleged attack on white masculinity and advocate for a return to unequal gender roles. On Twitter, he wrote that aggressive white men are being made irrelevant and that “war is coming.” In another tweet, he wrote that “a generation of defective men” had been programmed to be passive and gentle — traits he said belonged to women — and that the feminine traits made them “passive eunuch slaves.” He wrote angrily that laws, social norms and law enforcement protected the weak from the strong. “I’m over it,” he wrote in 2020. “The weak better buckle up… (expletive) is about to get real.” “While we can’t necessarily pinpoint any extremist ideology or groups he was with, he was in a generally extreme, right-wing space,” said Jessica Reaves, editorial director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.”

Syria

Voice Of America: Analysts: Islamic State Poised For More Attacks In Syria In 2022

“Experts say that militants linked to the Islamic State terror group appear to be planning more deadly attacks in Syria this year. The assessment comes after an increase in IS activities in recent weeks, including two strikes claimed by the group against its foes in the war-torn country's eastern and central regions. Late Sunday, five Syrian government soldiers were killed, and 20 others wounded when IS militants attacked their military bus on a highway in Syria’s desert region, the state-run SANA news agency reported on Monday. IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh, reportedly used missile artillery in the strike that targeted the Syrian military convoy. On the same day, the extremist group claimed responsibility for an attack on a checkpoint controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour. An SDF official confirmed the attack to local media but said there were no casualties on their side. “This could be a slow buildup” for the militant group in the coming months, Colin Clarke, senior research fellow at the New York-based Soufan Center, told VOA. IS “is a group that is highly opportunistic. They're going to look to exploit the missteps and mistakes of other governments in the region,” he said. Despite losing nearly all the land they once controlled, IS militants continue to launch massive attacks against their opponents in Syria and Iraq.”

Pakistan

BOL News: Terrorist Attacks In Pakistan Saw 42% Increase In 2021: Report

“Pakistan witnessed 42 per cent increase in terrorist attacks in 2021 compared to the previous year as the developments in Afghanistan had already started influencing its militant landscape and security. A total of 207 reported incursions in the year claimed 335 lives, an increase of 52 per cent from those killed in such attacks in 2020, and left 555 people injured. These statistics were revealed in ‘Pakistan Security Report 2021′ by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). The report provides comprehensive data on violent incidents, comparative analysis of various security variables, the changing targets and tactics of militants, and the nature of state responses. The report said 2021 was the first time since 2013 that the number of terrorist attacks posted an upsurge or reversal, in a gradually declining trend. Those 335 killed in terrorist attacks included 177 security personnel, 126 civilians, and 32 militants. Similarly, as many as 66 per cent of attacks targeted security personnel, their vehicles, and checkpoints across Pakistan. The report also noted that despite repeated promises of not allowing any element to use the Afghan soil against Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban have yet not seriously considered acting against or influencing the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in support of Pakistani concerns, except having facilitated the talks between Pakistani government and the banned organisation which have also not reaped any results yet.”

Yemen

Arab News: Saudi Arabia Launches Forum For Confronting Houthi Terrorism And Extremism In Yemen

“Authorities in Saudi Arabia have unveiled a forum for Yemeni scholars and advocates that aims to assist efforts to combat terrorism in the war-torn country. At the launch of the “Yemen and the Kingdom in confronting Iranian Houthi Terrorism and Extremism” forum in Riyadh, Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh affirmed the support of his country, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for the Yemeni people. He said Yemeni scholars play an important role to play in the challenges facing the country and a responsibility to their countrymen and women to help achieve security and stability. Yemen has been engulfed in a civil war since 2014 between the internationally recognized Yemeni government, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, and the Iran-backed Houthi militia. According to the UN, 24.1 million people in Yemen, 80 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian aid and protection amid “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.” Al-Asheikh said his ministry is keen to support the efforts of Yemeni scholars to convey their advocacy, scientific and intellectual messages, and the dangers of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia to the Islamic faith and identity. He called for the coordination and redoubling of efforts in Yemen to save the people of the country from losing their identity.”

Somalia

The East African: Terror Groups In Somalia Scale Up Attacks, Keep Neighbouring States On Edge

“Splinter terror groups continue to pose a significant terrorist threat in the region despite shared efforts by different partners to combat the group. From al Shabaab to Islamic State and Allied Democratic Forces, all regional countries have this year borne the brunt of terror organisations that have managed to launch attacks, killing scores of civilians. Terror groups carry out frequent attacks in Somalia with the aim of overthrowing the government. Kenya has not been being spared, with its shared border with Somalia allowing the militants and its local sympathisers a field day, attacking at will. According to data from the Strategic Intelligence Services, there were more than 100 attacks in Somalia by al-Shabaab in 2021, with Kenya witnessing 23 mostly targeting border counties of Wajir, Mandera and Lamu. A major one on June 15 left 10 people dead and 20 wounded in a Somali Army training camp run jointly by Turkish and local forces. The year’s deadliest happened on June 26 where an estimated 30 people died in a town in the country’s semi-autonomous state of Galmudug. The insurgents used car bombs in the assault on a military base in Wisil town, in central Somalia, triggering a fight with government troops and armed locals.”

France

Reuters: France Opens Terrorism Probe Over Rally Team Blast In Saudi

“French prosecutors said on Tuesday they had opened a terrorism investigation into an explosion that went off under a French vehicle involved in the Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia. The blast, which seriously injured one of the rally competitors, hit a support vehicle belonging to the French team Sodicars soon after it left its hotel in the Saudi city of Jeddah for the race route, according to accounts from the team and race organisers. Five team members were in the vehicle at the time and one of them - driver Philippe Boutron - sustained serious leg injuries. French newspaper L'Equipe quoted a team-mate as saying the blast ripped through the floor of the vehicle, which then caught fire. Race director David Castera told L'Equipe that the two-week race will continue, and that he had asked Saudi authorities to assign more police to protect the rally. “There's a big police presence,” he was quoted as saying. Boutron has now been med-evacced to France and is in a medically-induced coma at the Percy Military Hospital, near Paris, with his family at his bedside, his team said in a statement. News of the blast emerged at the weekend, but at the time rally organisers and the sports governing body said there was no explanation for what had happened.”

Europe

The New York Times: Changing Brussels Neighborhood Tries To Leave Stigma Of Terrorism Behind

“With children’s drawings and colorful posters now adorning the walls and windows, it was easy to forget the notorious past of the red brick building, whose history still haunts a working-class Brussels neighborhood. On a recent morning, in a former bar converted into a community center, Assetou Elabo was arranging tables for students who would soon join her for homework tutoring. A few years earlier, the bar’s owner had let drug trafficking proliferate on the site. With patrons, he would watch videos from the Islamic State. And in the basement of the bar, Les Béguines, he would chat online with a friend who had joined the terrorist group in Syria. Then in November 2015, he detonated his explosive vest as part of a series of attacks in and around Paris. For many, the bar epitomized all that had gone wrong in Molenbeek, the neighborhood of nearly 100,000 people that was home to 7 of the 20 terrorists who killed 130 people in France that November and 32 more in Brussels four months later. But if the bar symbolized what Molenbeek had been, the community center shows what the neighborhood is trying to become. Since being opened by local residents in 2018, the center has been dedicated to helping children, students looking for jobs and people with disabilities. Although the neighborhood remains predominantly Muslim, it is more diverse than usually portrayed, with newcomers changing its composition in recent years.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: Suspected Militant Accused Of Beheadings Killed In Indonesia

“Indonesian security forces killed a suspected militant accused of beheadings in a shootout Tuesday in a sweeping counterterrorism campaign against extremists in remote mountain jungles, police said. Provincial police chief Rudy Sufahriadi said Ahmad Gazali, 27, also known as Ahmad Panjang, a key member of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, was fatally shot by a joint team of military and police officers near Uempasa hamlet in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district. It borders Poso district, an extremist hotbed in the province. The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians, some by beheading. It has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Police have said Gazali conducted several of the group’s executions, including the beheadings of four Christian farmers last May. The joint team was patrolling the area when it came upon two militants in a camp, Sufahriadi said at a news conference. He said the second militant escaped into the jungle. Tuesday’s shootout occurred four months after security forces killed two militants in another jungle shootout including Ali Kalora, the group’s leader, who was one of the country’s most wanted militants.”

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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