Eye on Extremism: January 6, 2022

Bloomberg: Taliban Adding Suicide Bombers To Army Ranks To Bolster Defenses

“The Taliban will officially recruit suicide bombers to become part of the army as the militant group tries to contain its biggest security threat from rival Islamic State since forming government in Afghanistan four months ago. Before sweeping into power last year, the Taliban used suicide bombers as a key weapon to attack and defeat U.S. and Afghan troops in the 20-year war. Now the group wants to reform and organize the scattered squads of suicide bombers across the country to operate under a single unit and protect Afghanistan, said the Taliban’s deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi. Their main target now would be the local offshoot of the Islamic State, which has carried out at least five major attacks as the Taliban looked to consolidate power after the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August. Several of those attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. “The special forces that include martyrdom seekers will be used for more sophisticated and special operations,” Karimi said by phone, without providing details. The militant group is building a “strong and organized army to bolster defense” nationwide and at the borders with the suicide bombers becoming a integral part of the strategy, Karimi added. Some 150,000 fighters will be invited to join the military, Al Jazeera reported in November, citing the Taliban’s chief of staff Qari Fasihuddin.”

The New York Times: How Many Americans Support Political Violence?

“As the anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol arrives, we’re hearing a lot about the number of Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, who have embraced the use of violence to achieve their political goals. And, at first blush, those numbers seem alarming: In February, a poll by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life found that nearly 40 percent of Republicans agreed that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” In September, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 30 percent of Republicans agreed that, “Because things have gotten so far off-track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” In December, an AP-NORC poll found that majorities of Democrats and independents called the events of Jan. 6 either “extremely” or “very” violent. A plurality of Republicans surveyed — nearly 40 percent — described the events as either “extremely” or “very” violent, while 29 percent of Republicans rated the events of Jan. 6 either “not very violent” or “not violent at all.” Few have explored this issue more deeply than Nathan Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason, co-authors of the forthcoming book, “Radical American Partisanship.”

United States

ABC News: On Jan. 6 Anniversary, Homeland Security Focused On Domestic Violent Extremism

“Just days before the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 attack at the United States Capitol, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said domestic violent extremism remains one of “the greatest terrorism related threats” the country faces. A look at the days, events and conversations leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, from the eyes of anti-government groups, extremism experts and several ABC News correspondents who were at the Capitol that day. “Over the past year, we in the Department of Homeland Security have improved and strengthened our approach to combating this dynamic, evolving threat,” Mayorkas told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday. He detailed some of the steps the department has taken, such as convening conference calls to discuss emerging threats and sharing intelligence bulletins of which he said DHS has sent more than 80 on domestic violent extremists alone. At the same time, he said there are no credible threats ahead of the Jan. 6 anniversary. Those who attacked the Capitol last year included groups that align with the department's definition of domestic violent extremism. Mayorkas said DHS is “very focused” on the “lone-wolf actor,” something proving hard to stop, or a “loose affiliation” of people to one group. “We are operating at a heightened level of vigilance because we are at a heightened level of threat,” the secretary said. “The threat of domestic violent extremists is a very grave one.”

NBC News: Far-Right Forums Thrive After Capitol Attack, But Stumble Over Trump And Riot's Legacy

“One year after members of far-right groups rioted at the U.S. Capitol, the online extremist forums that telegraphed the brutality of Jan. 6 are still home to violent rhetoric.  But they also indicate a different reality: Disparate groups that once united around a shared goal are now struggling to agree on many issues, including what happened on Jan. 6 and how to interpret former President Donald Trump’s support for Covid vaccines.  Calls for violence in these online forums have become less specific, though experts warn they are still cause for concern. A report to be released Thursday from Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit group that conducts public-interest research and investigations, found that “while explicit calls for violence are no longer as prolific, misinformation about election fraud and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election continue to be prominent” and that “a number of users continue to use violent rhetoric.” It is a distinct shift from the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, when users of TheDonald.Win, an extremist forum that was relocated to an independent website after being banned from Reddit, posted pictures of ammunition in their hotel rooms and maps of the tunnels underneath the Capitol.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Iran-Backed Militants Probably Behind Attacks Targeting U.S. Troops In Iraq And Syria, Pentagon Says

“A spate of attacks this week on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria were probably conducted by Iran-backed militias, the Pentagon said Wednesday, stopping short of directly implicating Tehran. There is a “working level assumption” that incidents every day this week, including rocket attacks and incursions from explosives-laden drones, were coordinated by groups trained and supplied by Iran, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “The threat is growing,” he told reporters, adding that the drone attacks in particular have become more precise, though so far no Americans have been wounded this week. It’s unclear what prompted the attacks, although commanders have been mindful, Kirby said, that Monday marked the anniversary of a U.S. strike that killed a revered Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani. A militant drone shot down in Baghdad the same day had “Soleimani’s revenge” written on its wing, the Associated Press reported, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi demanded that former president Donald Trump be “prosecuted and killed” for authorizing the attack. A rocket barrage launched Wednesday in Baghdad and western Iraq targeted bases housing U.S. troops but did not result in any casualties, defense officials said.”

Iraq

The National: Iraqi President Praises Suleimani For Fighting ISIS But Urges National Unity

“Iraqi President Barham Salih on Wednesday praised assassinated Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis for their role in defeating ISIS but called for national unity to avoid repeating the mistakes that allowed the terror group to overrun large areas of the country. The two men played a vital role in the more than three-year gruelling fight against ISIS between 2014 and late 2017 when the terror group overran about a third of Iraq. They rallied thousands of volunteers into the government-approved Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella group that is made up mainly of pro-Tehran influential Shiite militias. The militias played a vital role in defending Baghdad and defeating ISIS. But they have strengthened their hand in the years since the victory and still control large areas with heavy weapons. Suleimani, who led the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Al Muhandis, the founder of the influential Iran-allied Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, were killed in a US drone attack near Baghdad international airport in January 2020. President Donald Trump said at the time that Suleimani had planned imminent action against US personnel in Iraq.”

Libya

Asharq Al-Awsat: France Says 300 Mercenaries Have Left Eastern Libya

“Some 300 foreign mercenaries have left eastern Libya, France's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, hailing the start of a phased withdrawal of thousands of foreign forces that have fought on both sides of the conflict in the North African country. The move, initially announced in November by Libya's eastern-backed forces, was intended to stimulate a UN-backed agreement struck between the warring sides in the conflict through a joint military commission. “This first withdrawal has taken place, which constitutes a positive first signal after the Nov. 12 conference,” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said, referring to a Paris meeting that was aimed at breaking the deadlock in Libya. “It must now be followed up with the implementation as quickly as possible of a complete process for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.” She did not say when the mercenaries had left or where they were from. Diplomats have said the departing mercenaries were from neighboring Chad. The withdrawal comes after efforts to lead Libya into elections at the end of December were thrown into disarray when the country's electoral commission said a vote could not take place, citing what it called inadequacies in the electoral legislation and the judicial appeals process.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Nigeria Brands Bandit Gangs 'Terrorists' In Bid To Curb Violence

“Nigeria's government on Wednesday labeled heavily armed gangs blamed for mass kidnappings as terrorists in a bid to deter violence in the country's northwest. So-called criminal bandit gangs have long plagued Nigeria's northwest and north-central states, raiding villages to loot and kidnap for ransom, but violence has become more widespread. President Muhammadu Buhari's government, battling jihadists in the northeast for more than a decade, had been under pressure to do more to halt attacks from the criminal gangs. In the official gazette published on Wednesday, the federal government labeled activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta'adda — references in the Hausa language to bandit gunmen — “as acts of terrorism and illegality.” It referred to criminal gangs who carry out mass kidnappings of schoolchildren, abduction for ransom, cattle rustling and destruction of property, among other crimes. The definition will mean tougher sanctions under Nigeria's Terrorism Prevention Act for suspected bandit gunmen, their informants and supporters, such as those caught supplying them with fuel and food. Nigerian daily newspapers often carry stories about bandit raids on villages and communities, where they steal cattle, kidnap families and terrorize residents. Security forces have announced a crackdown, including air raids and a telecom shutdown in parts of the country's northwest, as part of an attempt to flush criminal gangs from their forest hideouts.”

Sahara Reporters: Breaking: Many Feared Killed As Boko Haram Fighters Ambush Civilian JTF, Hunters In Yobe

“Many members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and hunters have been feared killed after militants from the Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province, attacked Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State. SaharaReporters gathered that the terrorists, who came in no fewer than 10 gun trucks, stormed the area on Wednesday morning. “ISWAP terrorists earlier today ambushed some members of the Civilian JTF and hunters. I can’t confirm the number of casualties now,” a military source said. Since the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, ISWAP has been consolidating its grip in locations around Lake Chad. Just recently, it appointed Wali Sani Shuwaram, a 45-year-old man, as new Leader of ISWAP in Lake Chad. The sect’s membership has swollen with the defection of hundreds of Boko Haram fighters under Shekau. The Nigerian Army has repeatedly claimed that insurgency had been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses. The terror group has caused over 100,000 deaths and displaced millions of individuals mainly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.”

United Kingdom

The National: British MP Stephen Timms Open To Meeting Extremist Who Stabbed Him

“An Islamist extremist who stabbed a former UK government minister more than 11 years ago has written to him to apologise. Roshonara Choudhry stabbed and wounded opposition Labour politician Stephen Timms during a meeting in 2010, saying it was in retaliation for him voting for war in Iraq. She is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Since the attack, two British MPs have been killed in their constituencies. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist, while a ruling party MP, David Amess, was stabbed to death last year. Mr Timms said that police had handed him three letters written by Choudhry, with the last one containing an apology. “I've recently had three letters from her which the police have given to me. I wasn't aware of their existence until the police gave me all three of them,” Mr Timms told television network GB News. “They were written over a period, I think. And in the third of them she says she's sorry about what happened. So we're in a restorative justice process at the moment which may lead to me meeting her at some point before she's released from prison. “And I'd welcome that if that opportunity does arise. We'll have to see whether it does or not.”

To Build Back Better, Build A Police Station | CAPX

“Events in the US following the murder of George Floyd are an object lesson in what happens when policing is ripped out of communities. From Minnesota to Seattle via San Francisco, the progressive fetish of slashing police numbers in reprisal for bad law enforcement – both real and politically expedient – has been disastrous for poor communities and businesses in particular. A quiet reversal is in progress. Local legislators drunk on retribution have sobered up in the face of near anarchy. Reality has dawned – public safety is an inequality issue too, one on which all other prosperity (not to mention political survival) rests. What’s this ideological volte-face got to do with the Government’s long awaited White Paper on Levelling Up? Plenty. Five minutes of research on the huge amount of open-source data available shows that in the UK areas with the highest levels of social deprivation, in metrics ranging from life expectancy to benefit take up, map onto areas with high levels of violent crime and antisocial behaviour.”

Europe

Newsweek: A Year After 1/6, Ukraine's War Draws U.S. Far-Right To Fight Russia, Train For Violence At Home

“A year after the deadly riot that ensued when mostly far-right protestors descended on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election, white supremacists and other like-minded radicals see fertile ground to recruit and train abroad in war-torn Ukraine. And with the Eastern European country teetering on the brink of conflict with neighboring Russia, journalists and researchers are concerned about the kind of combat experience that could potentially be obtained by a strain of extremists branded by the FBI as the most serious threat to the U.S. homeland. One journalist who tracked this phenomenon in the lead-up to the events of 1/6 is Mariana van Zeller. In the final months of 2020, she spoke with one of the leading neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. and traveled to Ukraine to sit down with far-right figures there as part of an upcoming episode seen exclusively ahead of time by Newsweek for the National Geographic original series Trafficked, airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Asked if she had identified a trend in which U.S. extremists were joining counterparts in Ukraine to obtain battlefield experience, van Zeller told Newsweek, “Yes, this was very much what we found in our investigation.”

Southeast Asia

Associated Press: Indonesian Prosecutors Seek Life For Bali Bombing Suspect

“Indonesian prosecutors on Wednesday demanded a life sentence for a top terror suspect who eluded capture for 18 years and accused him of masterminding a series of deadly attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Aris Sumarsono, 58, whose real name is Arif Sunarso but is better known as Zulkarnaen, sat impassively as the prosecution announced the sentencing demand before a panel of three judges in East Jakarta District Court in a session that was held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Police and prosecutors say Zulkarnaen is the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group with ties to al-Qaida. The group is widely blamed for attacks including the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, as well as attacks in the Philippines. Zulkarnaen had eluded capture for 18 years after being named a suspect in the October 2002 suicide bombings of Paddy’s Pub and the Sari Club in Bali. He was arrested last year in Lampung, a province on the southern tip of Sumatra. Police were tipped off to his hideout after interrogating several suspected militants arrested in earlier raids. Zulkarnaen argued that he was a leader of the network’s military wing but was not involved in the operation of the Bali bombings, as he was focused on organizing his squad for sectarian conflicts in Ambon and Poso and in the southern Philippines.”

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