Eye on Extremism: January 9, 2024

CBS: Sacramento Man Pleads Guilty To Providing Aid To Terrorist Organization

“A Sacramento man has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide financial support to a foreign terrorist organization, the United States Department of Justice announced Monday. On February 18, 2021 a federal grand jury returned a single-count indictment against Murat Kurashev, 36, who is also a Russian national, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Kurashev allegedly tried to provide financial support to terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is based in Syria. The investigation was spearheaded by the FBI, whose agents then arrested Kurashev. On Monday, Kurashev pleaded guilty to the charges.  Court documents allege that Kurashev attempted to provide financial support to known terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which engages in terrorism in Syria, the DOJ says. Further, between July 2020 and February 2021, Kurashev allegedly sent approximately $13,000 to two known couriers of an HTS fundraiser.”

New York Times: Oct. 7 Assaults, Including Sexual Violence, Could Be Crimes Against Humanity, 2 U.N. Experts Say

“Violence that included sexual atrocities committed during the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 in Israel amounts to war crimes and may also be crimes against humanity, two United Nations human rights experts said on Monday, following months of frustrated accusations from Israel and women’s groups that the U.N. was ignoring the rape and sexual mutilation of women during the Oct. 7 invasion. Alice Jill Edwards, a special rapporteur on torture, and Morris Tidball-Binz, a special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the growing evidence of sexual violence in the day’s wide range of “brutal attacks” was “particularly harrowing,” noting allegations of sexual assault, gang rape, mutilation and gunshots to the genital areas. In a statement, they called for “full accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes,” and urged all parties to agree to a cease-fire, abide by international law, and investigate any crimes alleged to have occurred during the fighting. “These acts constitute gross violations of international law, amounting to war crimes which, given the number of victims and the extensive premeditation and planning of the attacks, may also qualify as crimes against humanity,” they said. “There are no circumstances that justify their perpetration.”

United States

Reuters: Pentagon Says Not Planning A US Withdrawal From Iraq

“The Pentagon said on Monday it was not currently planning to withdraw its roughly 2,500 troops from Iraq, despite Baghdad's announcement last week it would begin the process of removing the U.S.-led military coalition from the country. "Right now, I'm not aware of any plans (to plan for withdrawal). We continue to remain very focused on the defeat ISIS mission," Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing, using an acronym for Islamic State. He added that U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of its government. Ryder said he was also unaware of any notification by Baghdad to the Department of Defense about a decision to remove U.S. troops and referred reporters to the U.S. State Department for any diplomatic discussions on the matter. Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's office announced on Friday the moves to evict U.S. forces following a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that was condemned by the government. The Pentagon said the strike killed a militia leader responsible for recent attacks on U.S. personnel. Sudani's office released a statement saying a committee would be formed to "put arrangements to end the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq permanently."”

Reuters: U.S. Air Strike Foils Rocket Attack On Iraqi Air Base - Sources

“A U.S. air strike on a rocket launcher late on Monday foiled an attack on Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. and other international forces in western Iraq, two Iraqi army sources said. Iraqi military sources said a rocket launcher fixed on the back of a small truck had been parked in a rural area about 7 km (4 miles) to the east of the base, with at least two rockets ready to be fired towards Ain al-Asad. The U.S. air strike destroyed the launcher, an army official said. U.S.-led coalition officials were not immediately available to comment on the strike. The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 more in neighbouring Iraq and says their mission is to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, which in 2014 seized large swathes of both countries but was later pushed back. Since the Israel-Hamas war began last October, the U.S. military has come under attack at least 100 times in Iraq and Syria, usually with a mix of rockets and attack drones. Iran-aligned militia groups in Iraq and Syria oppose Israel's campaign in Gaza and hold the U.S. partly responsible.”


Reuters: Israel Shifts To Deadlier Strikes On Iran-Linked Targets In Syria

“Israel is carrying out an unprecedented wave of deadly strikes in Syria targeting cargo trucks, infrastructure and people involved in Iran's weapons lifeline to its proxies in the region, six sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The sources, including a Syrian military intelligence officer and a commander in the regional alliance backing Damascus, said Israel had shifted strategies following the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas fighters into Israeli territory and the ensuing Israeli bombing campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon. Although Israel has struck Iran-linked targets in Syria for years, including areas where Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has been active, it is now unleashing deadlier, more frequent air raids against Iranian arms transfers and air defence systems in Syria, the sources said. The commander in the regional alliance and two additional sources familiar with Hezbollah's thinking said Israel had abandoned the unspoken "rules of the game" that previously characterised its strikes in Syria, and seemed "no longer cautious" about inflicting heavy casualties on Hezbollah there.”


Associated Press: Taliban-Appointed Prime Minister Meets With A Top Pakistan Politician In Hopes Of Reducing Tensions

“Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed prime minister met Monday with one of Pakistan’s most senior politicians in an attempt to reduce lingering tensions between the two countries, a spokesman for the Taliban government said. Fazlur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema Islam party is known for backing the Afghan Taliban, is the first senior Pakistani politician to visit Kabul since the Taliban seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war. The Pakistani delegation met with Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement. Rehman’s party in a social media post confirmed the meeting. Rehman has no current position in Pakistan’s government, but he is close to the military. His visit comes less than a week after Mullah Shirin, the governor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, traveled to Islamabad and met with Pakistan’s caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani. They discussed issues including Pakistan’s ongoing expulsion of Afghans without valid documents.”


BBC: Suspected Israeli Strike In Lebanon Kills Senior Hezbollah Commander

“Wissam Tawil was reportedly a member of the group's elite Radwan Force, and one of the most prominent Hezbollah figures to be killed in the current violence. Israel's military did not comment, but it did say it had hit Hezbollah targets in response to cross-border attacks. The clashes have raised fears of a wider regional conflict. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed group that wields considerable military and political power in Lebanon. It is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK and other Western powers. Its fighters have exchanged fire with Israeli forces almost every day along the border since the start of the war between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip on 7 October. Israel's prime minister told soldiers stationed on the border with Lebanon on Monday that he was determined to "do everything necessary to restore security to the north". Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that two people - whom it did not name - were killed in an Israeli air strike that targeted a car in the al-Dabsha area of Khirbet Selim at around 10:15 (08:15 GMT) on Monday.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israel’s Military Says No Damage Was Caused In A Strike On An Army Base In Northern Israel

“Israel’s military said no damage was caused to one of its army bases in northern Israel after Hezbollah said it launched explosive drones Tuesday toward the area, while an Israeli drone strike in Lebanon killed three members of the militant group, officials said. The Israeli military did not specify exactly where the base was located. Hezbollah said it targeted the Israeli army’s northern command headquarters in Safed with several drones. Hezbollah said the attack was in retaliation for an Israeli strike in Beirut last week that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri and six others, and for a drone strike on Monday that killed Hezbollah commander Wissam al-Tawil, the most senior member of the Iran-backed group to be killed in recent months. Safed is a city away from where daily Israel-Hezbollah skirmishes have been taking place. The Israeli military said its air defense system was activated to try to intercept “hostile aircraft” and that a projectile struck the base, without specifying where it hit.”

BBC: Israeli Border Residents Demand Action As Hezbollah Clashes Escalate

“When she heard and watched reports of what was happening in southern Israel that morning, as heavily armed Hamas gunmen streamed out of Gaza, she was immediately taken back to stories from the "Yom Kippur" or 1973 Middle East war, when Israel was attacked simultaneously on two fronts. "I was terrified. Everyone was sleeping in and I thought it's going to be '73 all over again and Hezbollah is coming for us too," says Efrat, as our interview in her front garden is punctuated by the regular loud thud of outgoing Israeli artillery fire. "Immediately, I woke everyone up and very quickly got everything together and drove to a relative's house in the centre of Israel." After a month the family returned to their house near Kiryat Shmona, frustrated because they're still living on the edge of a war zone - a "buffer zone" as Efrat calls it - well within range of Hezbollah rockets being fired from southern Lebanon. "What we fear most is that nothing will be done because Hezbollah are just waiting there on the border to come in and invade Israel," says the mother-of-three. "I cannot sleep in peace. I want my government to make sure that we have real security here. If it is necessary, they should act and destroy Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon.”

Associated Press: With Each Strike, Fears Grow That Israel, The US And Iran’s Allies Are Inching Closer To All-Out War

“In the last week alone, an Israeli airstrike has killed a Hezbollah commander in Lebanon, Hezbollah struck a sensitive Israeli base with rockets and Israel killed a senior Hamas militant with an airstrike in Beirut. Each strike and counterstrike increases the risk of the catastrophic war in Gaza spilling across the region. In the decades-old standoff pitting the U.S. and Israel against Iran and allied militant groups, there are fears that any party could trigger a wider war if only to avoid appearing weak. A U.S. airstrike killed an Iran-backed militia leader in Baghdad last week, and the U.S. Navy recently traded fire with Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. The divisions within each camp add another layer of volatility. Hamas might have hoped its Oct. 7 rampage across southern Israel that triggered the war in Gaza would drag its allies into a wider conflict. Israelis increasingly talk about the need to change the equation in Lebanon even as Washington aims to contain the conflict. As the intertwined chess games grow more complicated, the potential for miscalculation rises.”


Associated Press: Danish Appeals Court Upholds Guilty Verdicts For 3 Iranians Convicted On Terror Charges

“A Danish appeals court on Tuesday upheld guilty verdicts for three members of an Iranian separatist group convicted of promoting terror in Iran and gathering information for an unnamed Saudi intelligence service. The three were arrested in February 2020 in the town of Ringsted, 60 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of the Danish capital of Copenhagen, and convicted of promoting terror over a deadly attack on a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahwaz in September 2018. The Eastern Court in Copenhagen said Tuesday the men belonged to the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz and had been gathering information about individuals and organizations in Denmark and abroad, as well as on Iranian military affairs, and passing it on to Saudi intelligence. Prosecutor Henrik Aagaard said the case underscored “how foreign powers carry out their activities on Danish soil.” The men, who were not identified according to Danish rules, face up to 12 years in prison. Their sentences based on the ruling by the Eastern High Court are to be announced later this year.”

Wall Street Journal: How France Fumbled Its Africa Ties And Set Off A Geopolitical Crisis

“Shortly after a military coup in the West African country of Mali, senior U.S. officials traveled to Paris for a discreet meeting with French counterparts, who presented them with a list of names. In an ornate office in the Élysée Palace, President Emmanuel Macron’s top Africa diplomats proposed four prominent Malian politicians as potential successors to the country’s ousted pro-French leader, a person familiar with the meeting said. The Malian military had toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020 following months of protests against him and his links to the country’s former colonial power. The French officials suggested they could still engineer a new civilian government, the person said, and wanted American backing for their prime contenders during talks with the coup plotters. Spokespeople for the U.S. National Security Council and the Élysée declined to comment on the previously unreported September 2020 meeting. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former French, African and international officials and experts suggest that the episode was emblematic of the increasingly turbulent and often disjointed relationship between France and its 20 former African colonies—and how Macron’s administration has fumbled those ties.”


Washington Post: Australia Bans Nazi Salutes, Swastikas After Extremist Right-Wing Protests

“Displays of Nazi salutes and symbols were banned in Australia starting Monday, with lawbreakers facing 12 months’ imprisonment. The ban will “ensure no one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology,” Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said in a statement Monday. Displays of Nazism are legally restricted in more than a dozen countries, particularly within Europe, according to Yad Vashem, a Holocaust remembrance center. However, in the United States, a Supreme Court ruling in 1977 upheld the National Socialist Party of America’s right to demonstrate while displaying Nazi symbols under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech. The Australian bill was introduced in June by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s center-left government, after incidents where Nazi salutes were used. These included a rally against rights for transgender people in March and an anti-immigration rally in May, both outside the Victoria state parliament house in Melbourne.”

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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