Eye on Extremism: January 8, 2024

Associated Press: Islamic State Group Claims Responsibility For A Minibus Explosion In Afghan Capital That Killed 5

“The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a minibus explosion in the Afghan capital late Saturday that killed at least five people. The Sunni militant group said its members detonated an explosive device on the bus carrying Shiite Muslims, whom they called disbelievers, in a statement released shortly after the explosion Saturday. It was the first attack in the country in 2024. Fifteen other people were wounded in the attack in Kabul’s western Shiite neighborhood of Dashti Barchi, according to police spokesperson Khalid Zadran, raising the toll on Sunday from an earlier figure of two killed and 14 wounded. The Dashti Barchi area of Kabul has been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan. The group has carried out major assaults on schools, hospitals and mosques, and has also attacked other Shiite areas across the country. The United Nations Assistance mission in Afghanistan in a statement on X called for an end to targeted attacks on civilians and “greater protection for Afghanistan’s Hazara community and accountability for perpetrators.”

Associated Press: Protesters Calling For Cease-Fire In Israel-Hamas War Block Freeway In Seattle For Several Hours

“Protesters calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war blocked northbound traffic on Interstate 5 in Seattle for several hours Saturday. Additional demonstrators on a nearby overpass cheered in support of the blockade, which began around 1:15 p.m., the Seattle Times reported. The state transportation department said on the social media platform X that traffic at one point was backed up more than 6 miles (9.7 kilometers), and the agency asked drivers to use alternate routes. Demonstrators chanted “Free, free Palestine” and “Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go.” Seattle police posted on social media at 3:40 p.m. that officers gave a dispersal order, though protesters disputed receiving any such orders. Stormy weather, including hail, moved through the area, and protesters left the freeway around 4:45 p.m., according to the Times. Trooper Rick Johnson with the Washington State Patrol said via X that while people had abandoned the freeway, 12 vehicles were left behind. He said the roadway would reopen when they were towed.”

CEP Mentions

Wall Street Journal: Islamic State Shows Wider Threat With Iran Bomb Attack

“... ISIS-K militants have been captured in a series of arrests in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe over the past three years, according to Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director at the Counter Extremism Project, a transatlantic think tank. Other Islamic State affiliates could also develop plans to attack in the West, he said. Islamic State now controls roughly as much territory in West Africa as it had at its peak in Syria and Iraq nearly a decade ago, he said. “The center of gravity now is Africa,” said Schindler. “Sooner or later, there is going to be some really horrible spillover.”

Herald Sun: Monitoring Of Freed High Risk Terrorist Offenders Costing Australia $7420 Every Hour

“... The New York-based Counter Extremism Project warned that Israel’s war against Hamas was currently being used by ISIS as a call for new terror attacks. “The threat by lone perpetrators, including individuals that have no prior affiliation with terrorist or extremist networks, remains a major concern for all security authorities, including Australian ones,” Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, Senior Director at the Counter Extremism Project, told this masthead. “Since such attacks do not require much or any preparation, detecting those remains a major challenge.”

United States

Voice Of America: Blinken Meets With Arab Leaders, Aiming To Curb Spread Of Israeli-Hamas War

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Jordan and Qatar on Sunday to meet with Arab leaders in a new push to tamp down fears that the Israeli war with Hamas could spiral out of control across the Middle East. In meetings with Jordan King Abdullah II and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the top U.S. diplomat spoke of the need for Israel to curb civilian casualties during the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza and significantly increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching famished Palestinians in Gaza. But the U.S. has continued to support Israel in refusing Arab demands for a cease-fire to halt the fighting in the three-month war. The Jewish state has vowed to continue the war until it believes the threat of future Hamas attacks has been eradicated and the militant group no longer controls Gaza, the narrow territory along the Mediterranean Sea. Blinken’s trip will also take him to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt before he returns to Washington, his fourth to the region since the war began.”


Agence France-Presse: Islamic State Raid In Iraq Kills 2 Pro-Iran Fighters

“Two fighters from Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi alliance have been killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, the pro-Iranian Hashed and an Iraqi security source said Sunday. The two fighters "succumbed after having been wounded while they were confronting an attack" by jihadis late Saturday in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad, the Hashed said in a statement carried by Iraqi state media. A security source, speaking to AFP on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll and said that IS attacked a Hashed "(military) post on Saturday night" in the area of Al-Zarka in the province's north. Hashed al-Shaabi is a coalition of mainly pro-Iranian former paramilitary units that have been integrated into the regular armed forces. Iraqi troops have been heavily involved in the fight against IS, also opposed by Tehran. IS claimed the attack in a statement published on the group's Telegram channels, saying two Hashed members had been killed and three others wounded.”


Voice Of America: Taliban's Hijab Arrests Further Alienate Afghan Women, Activists Say

“The Taliban have arrested women for the first time in Kabul for wearing "bad hijab," which women's rights activists in Afghanistan say is an effort by the group to restrict women further and shut them out of public life. "This is an excuse for putting further restrictions on women," said Sanam Kabiri, a member of the rights group Unity and Solidarity of Afghan Women, adding that "they aim to stop women from going out even when they need to go." Abdul Ghafar Farooq, the Taliban's spokesperson for their Ministry of Vice and Virtue, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the women were arrested three days ago over their "bad hijab." However, he did not provide details on the number of women arrested and how they violated the Taliban's dress code. Kabiri told VOA that the women in Afghanistan are wearing hijab, but that they could have been arrested simply for "wearing jeans, tight clothes, or color scarf." In May 2022, the Taliban issued a decree calling for women to wear the head-to-toe burqa and to only show their eyes.”


Associated Press: Thousands Of Mourners Attend Funeral For Slain Pakistani Cleric

“Thousands of mourners attended a funeral Saturday for a Pakistani Sunni Muslim cleric gunned down on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, police and a spokesperson for the cleric's organization said. The funeral of Masoodur Rehman Usmani was held a day after unidentified gunmen shot and killed him and wounded his driver in the neighborhood of Ghauri Town, according to a statement from Islamabad police. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which is a rare occurrence in this part of Pakistan. Police said they were using closed-circuit TV footage to track down the assailants and vowed that they would be arrested and brought to justice. Authorities in Islamabad have stepped up security by deploying additional police, and some embassies were advising their nationals to avoid visiting the area where the funeral for Usmani was to be held. Usmani was a deputy secretary at the Sunni Ulema Council. The council emerged after Pakistan outlawed the Sipah-e-Sahaba extremist group, which has been accused of killing thousands of Shiites across the country in recent decades.”


Reuters: Hezbollah Says It Hit Israeli Observation Post With 62 Rockets

“Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said it hit a key Israeli observation post early on Saturday with 62 rockets as a "preliminary response" to the killing of Hamas' deputy chief earlier this week. Senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri was killed on Tuesday, Jan. 2 in an Israeli drone strike on Beirut's southern suburb of Dahiyeh. Analysts said the strike could be seen as a message to Hamas ally Hezbollah that even its prime stronghold of Dahiyeh could be vulnerable to Israeli attack. Hezbollah had said his killing would not go without punishment. Its head Sayyed Hassan Nassallah said on Friday that being "silent" on the strike would allow all of Lebanon to be vulnerable to more attacks. The statement on Saturday said the group had hit a main post on an elevated hilltop that Israel relied on for "aerial observation" and "air control". There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.”

Middle East

Fox News: IDF Raid Alleged Hamas Compound Inside School, Find Terrorism-Themed Puzzle, Toys Among Weapons Cache

“The Israeli Defense Forces raided an alleged Hamas compound inside a Gaza school, finding a weapons cache, toys, and a terrorism-themed puzzle in the structure. IDF officials announced the Bani Suheila area raid in a statement Saturday, publishing photos of weapons and other materials recovered on site. "The forces conducted an operation to neutralize terrorist infrastructure situated within a school in the Bani Suheila area," the IDF said in a statement. "The soldiers encountered the terrorists, returned fire and eliminated three terrorists who were found with RPG missiles." The statement continued, "In addition, the soldiers raided terrorist infrastructure and found intelligence information about the Khan Yunis Brigade." Among the toys and children's products discovered in the compound was a puzzle depicting children from Gaza and other regions surrounding Israel firing weapons on the Jewish state. "What toys is the Hamas Child Abuser Regime giving children in Gaza to play with? A puzzle that shows a Palestinian gunboat attacking Tel Aviv, a boat of Turkish child soldiers (sorry, aid activists with AK-47s), and an armed attack from Jordan," said Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy.”

Reuters: Six Palestinians, Israeli Police Officer Killed In West Bank Clashes

“Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said on Sunday, and an Israeli police officer was killed, Israeli officials said. Israel said its aircraft fired on Palestinian militants who had attacked troops in the city of Jenin. The Palestinian ministry said the strike targeted people who had gathered at the site. Eyewitnesses said the attack happened as Israeli forces were withdrawing. Four of those killed were brothers, according to family members. Mujahid Nazzal, a Palestinian doctor and first responder at the scene, told Reuters one of the dead was hit directly by a missile and the strike also seriously wounded a seventh person. Another witness, Ahmed Suleiman, said, "The air strike happened at the entrance of Jenin in an area called Martyr's Triangle. You can see the effects of the missile. Blood and body parts scattered everywhere." An Israeli border police officer was killed and others wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device during operations in Jenin, the Israeli military and police said.”


Wall Street Journal: Israel Presses Egypt To Better Secure Borderland Against Hamas Smugglers

“Israel and Egypt are negotiating the future of a corridor between Egypt and Gaza that Israel says has been used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and people through underground tunnels and is key to destroying the militant group. Israel has requested that sensors be installed along the Philadelphi Corridor—the sliver of land controlled by Egypt that borders Gaza—according to senior Egyptian officials, to alert Israel in case Hamas attempts to rebuild a tunnel and smuggling network after the war. Israel, which used to control the corridor, also requested direct notifications if the sensors are triggered and the right to send surveillance drones into the area in case of such a trigger, the officials said.  In response, Egypt said that it would consider adding the sensors but that a direct notification or approval of drones would be a violation of Egyptian sovereignty, the officials said. The negotiations, which have taken shape over the past two weeks, are currently stuck on this issue, said the officials.  The Israeli government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”


Reuters: Swedish Security Service Says Threat Level Still High

“The terrorist threat level against Sweden remains high, security police said on Sunday. The Swedish Security Service said in a statement its assessment of the terrorist threat against the Nordic country remained at level 4 on a 5-degree scale, to which it was raised last year. "The image that is painted of Sweden as a country hostile to Islam has strongly contributed to the increased terrorist threat from violent Islamism," it said. It said its yearly assessment showed that Sweden is still seen as a priority target. "The threat comes from both lone actors and groups that can be controlled from actors abroad," it said. Sweden raised its threat alert level in August 2023 after desecrations of the Koran by individuals in the country drew condemnation from many parts of the Muslim world and triggered threats from jihadists. In October, two Swedes wearing Swedish football shirts were shot dead in Brussels, with officials saying the likely motive for the attack was their nationality.”

Associated Press: Norwegian Mass Killer Attempts To Sue The State Once More For An Alleged Breach Of Human Rights

“Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a bomb and gun rampage in 2011, will try for the second time Monday to sue the Norwegian state for allegedly breaching his human rights. Norway’s worst peacetime killer claims his solitary confinement since being imprisoned in 2012 amounts to inhumane treatment under the European Convention of Human Rights. Norway favors rehabilitation over retribution, and Breivik is held in a two-story complex with a kitchen, dining room and TV room with an Xbox, several armchairs and black and white pictures of the Eiffel Tower on the wall. He also has a fitness room with weights, treadmill and a rowing machine, while three parakeets fly around the complex. Even so, his lawyer, Øystein Storrvik, says it is impossible for Breivik, who now goes by the name Fjotolf Hansen, to have any meaningful relationships with anyone from the outside world, and says preventing his client from sending letters is another breach of his human rights.”

Associated Press: Belarus’ Authoritarian Leader Tightens Control Over The Country’s Religious Groups

“Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a law into effect that significantly tightens control over various religious denominations and organizations. The law, published on the presidential website this week, mandates that all denominations and religious groups reapply for state registration, which authorities reserve the right to refuse. It’s the latest step in Lukashenko’s a crackdown on dissent, which intensified after a disputed presidential election in 2020 gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office. The government arrested more than 35,000 protesters in demonstrations that denounced the vote as rigged, and thousands of them were beaten in custody. Many were forced to leave the country to escape prosecution. Since 2022, involvement in unregistered organizations became a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison.”


Economic Times: Local LeT Militant Killed In Shopian Encounter

“The security forces on Friday killed a militant associated with Lashkar e Toiba (Let) in an overnight encounter in Shopian district of southern Kashmir. This is the first killing of a militant in the encounter in J&K this year. The militant killed in the encounter was identified as Bilal Ahmad Bhat, a local, who police claimed was allegedly involved in the killing of army personnel and other attacks. "It is a big success for the police. This is a step towards the resumption of peace in the area," said V K Birdi, Inspector General of Police in Kashmir. The police, along with 34 RR of the army and 178 battalion of CRPF acting on specific information regarding the presence of militants in Chotigam village of Shopian on Thursday evening, launched a joint cordon and search operation in the area. "As the joint party approached towards the spot, the terrorist fired indiscriminately upon the joint search party which was retaliated effectively, leading to an encounter and in the ensuing encounter, one terrorist Bilal associated with LeT was killed and his body was retrieved," said Birdi.”


CNBC: Chinese Shipping Giant Reportedly Suspends Trips To Israel As Red Sea Tensions Mount

“Chinese state-owned shipping giant Cosco suspended shipping to Israel through the Red Sea as tensions in the strategic shipping lane continue to rise, Israeli state media reported. The specifics of Cosco's decision remain undisclosed, according to Israeli financial news outlet Globes. Attacks on ships traversing the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi militants have pushed ocean freight rates higher and led to longer shipping journeys as shippers reroute to travel the long way around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope instead. Hong Kong-listed shares of Cosco were down 3% on Monday. To avoid strikes by the Yemen-based militants, carriers have already diverted more than $200 billion in trade over the past several weeks, with major shipping companies such as Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd pausing shipping through the Red Sea until further notice” Cosco is China's largest shipping firm and holds almost 11% of the trade market share.”


The Guardian: More Than 1,000 ‘Distressing’ Social Media Posts Removed At Australian Government’s Request During Gaza War

“More than 1,000 violent and extremist posts have been taken down from social media at the federal government’s request since 7 October following an increase in referrals brought on in part by the conflict between Israel and Hamas. It follows a warning by the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, in the days following Hamas’s 7 October attacks in southern Israel that it was the job of social media companies to “prevent the spread of distressing violent and terrorist content”. The figures, obtained by Guardian Australia, show the department of home affairs flagged 1,375 posts between 7 October 2023 and 14 December 2023 to digital platforms. Of those, 1,094 were then removed. A spokesperson said the referrals included posts related to the conflict in Gaza but the figures could not be separated. The department is responsible for referring posts containing terrorist and violent extremist content to social media sites for their removal. Posts containing mis- and disinformation about the conflict are not covered under this arrangement.”

NBC: Pressure Builds On Newsletter Company Substack To Stop Revenue Sharing With Nazi Writers

“One of the internet’s top platforms for independent writing is facing a growing backlash from some writers over its announcement last month that it won’t block Nazis from its services, a decision that allows them and other extremists to sell subscriptions and build an online audience. Substack, founded in 2017 in San Francisco, has become a hub for journalism and other online writing by streamlining the process for publishing email newsletters and allowing writers to keep 90% of any sales, with the company taking a 10% cut. But in a test of that model, a handful of writers who have used Substack to build email newsletter businesses have quit the platform in recent weeks, and more writers have said they’re considering doing so if Substack doesn’t reverse its policies and demonetize white supremacists — a step that the company argues would be tantamount to censorship. One of Substack’s top newsletters, Platformer, which publishes tech industry news, told its more than 172,000 subscribers this week that it was considering leaving the platform.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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