Eye on Extremism: July 13, 2020

Express: Fears As 29 Terrorists To Be Freed Onto UK Streets ‘Deeply Worrying’

“Twenty-nine terrorists are due to be released from prison within the next three years, with 11 of them back on the streets before April and three released by September. It means the security services will be put under huge pressure monitoring the newly released danger men. Once freed, these extremists are subject to security measures in a bid to stop them radicalising others or going on the rampage themselves. But the difficulties surrounding the issue were highlighted by two recent atrocities in London, carried out by recently released prisoners. Usman Khan killed two people, Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, in a knife attack at Fishmongers' Hall, on London Bridge, last November. Khan, 28, was released from prison a year before the attack after serving half a 16-year sentence for being involved in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange. Then five months ago, Sudesh Amman stabbed two people in Streatham, south London, before being shot dead by police. He too had recently been released and was under active surveillance. The Ministry of Justice data does not name the 29 due to walk free but Jamshed Javeed, jailed for six years for trying to join Isis, and Moinul Abedin - an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist who had been making detonators - are both in line for early release.”

NBC News: Twitter Suspends More Than 50 White Nationalist Accounts

“Twitter has suspended more than 50 white nationalist accounts amid recent criticism over its handling of extremist content, a source familiar with the matter said Friday. The move came days after NBC News published a story on a new report documenting the proliferation of white nationalist content on social media platforms. “The accounts in question were suspended for violating our policies in relation to violent extremism,” Twitter said in a statement. Twitter and YouTube were criticized in the report, released Tuesday by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, for helping white nationalist groups spread their message and recruit new members. The report focused on the Identitarian movement, also known as Generation Identity, an ideology based on the notion that people of European heritage are being “replaced” by immigrants. The Global Project Against Hate and Extremism identified 67 Twitter accounts for Generation Identity chapters in 14 countries with nearly 140,000 followers. “I think this is a very important move Twitter made because it means the major international white nationalist group connected to the violence in Christchurch and many other attacks no longer can use Twitter to propagandize against people of color or, perhaps more importantly, to recruit young people into their movement,” said Heidi Beirich, co-author of the report, referring to the 2019 attack at a mosque in New Zealand in which a far-right extremist killed 51 people at two mosques.”

United States

Los Angeles Times: From Vehicle Rammings To Verbal Tirades, Videos Capture A Spike In Racist Attacks

“Josh Lipowsky, a senior researcher at the New York-based nonprofit Counter Extremism Project, has focused on vehicular attacks on protesters in recent months. “These vehicle rammings have become a more common tactic being used against protesters in general,” he said, including those attributed to the far right. “There has been quite a bit of online propaganda over the past few years and increasing over the past few months targeting protesters — and Black Lives Matter in particular — and really seeking to dehumanize the protesters and delegitimize their causes.” Lipowsky said the motives for some of the incidents have been unclear: Perhaps a driver accelerated at protesters accidentally, or was confronted by protesters. But he said the message is clear in memes of such rammings that he’s collected, dating back to anti-police-brutality protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014. “The message being put forward with a lot of these memes is that the protesters are inconveniencing your lives,” he said, and that “you have the right then to remove that impediment.” Here are a few recent examples of people lashing out, verbally or physically attacking others.”

Syria

BBC News: Islamic State Inmate Who Grew Up In London 'Killed In Syria'

“A man who left London to join the Islamic State group in Syria has died while being held in prison in the country, the BBC has been told. One source said that Ishak Mostefaoui, previously from east London, was killed while attempting to escape custody. Another said the death came during serious disorder in a jail in Hassakeh, which houses IS prisoners from various countries. The death and surrounding circumstances have not been officially confirmed. After being captured last year, the 27-year-old was held in a prison in north-east Syria controlled by the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Sources said he was one of around 10 British men and 30 British women being held by the militia - but he was the first to die in SDF custody. The prison where he was held is a converted school. When the BBC spoke to him there last October he admitted joining IS. The general situation in the prisons and camps where IS prisoners are being held has deteriorated this year and there have been several riots. The British government has refused to allow adult prisoners to return to the UK, saying they should be put on trial in the region. A government spokesman told the BBC the Foreign Office had advised against all travel to Syria since 2011.”

Al Jazeera: How A Syrian Bulgarian Wrestler Became A 'Terror' Suspect

“On July 1, at 6am, masked officers of the Bulgarian national security and anti-organised crime agencies burst into the small apartment where Anelia Petrova and her son, Mohammed Abdulqader, were staying in the Bulgarian port city of Burgas. After a thorough search, they confiscated all mobile phones and laptops and took all inhabitants - Petrova, her son, her sister and her family - in custody. Everyone was later released, except 21-year-old Abdulqader who was arrested on terrorism charges. The Specialised Prosecutor's Office has said Abdulqader, a Bulgarian citizen born to a Bulgarian mother and Syrian father, had participated in “terrorist activities” in Syria. As evidence, the prosecution has pointed to multiple photos from Syria Abdulqader had posted on social media and his father's membership in the Sultan Murad Division armed group in Syria. The group was part of the Free Syrian Army supported by the Friends of Syria, an international coalition, which Bulgaria was part of.”

Iran

Newsweek: Pentagon Says Iran's New Syria Defense Deal Won't Stop Efforts To Fight ISIS

“The U.S. military has said it has no plans to change its mission to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria despite Iran's new defense deal with Damascus that is designed to bolster ties between Washington's two foes there. “The mission of U.S. Forces in Syria today remains the same as it was when they first began operations in 2014: to enable the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Pentagon spokesperson Navy Commander Jessica L. McNulty told Newsweek. “U.S. service members will continue to execute the Defeat ISIS mission in Syria, working in conjunction with vetted local forces in northeast Syria and around At Tanf Garrison.” Her comments come after Iranian Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Revolutionary Guard commander and chief of staff of the Islamic Republic's armed forces, touted the new deal this week that would strengthen Syria's air defense systems. The deal is expected to boost bilateral ties between two countries united in their fight against the Islamic State militant group and in their opposition to U.S. intervention in the region.”

Iraq

ABC News Australia: Islamic State Never Needed A Caliphate To Keep Menacing The World. Now It's Regrouping

“To the rest of the world it might have appeared as if the Islamic State group had finally been conquered, but Juma'a Qasim Al-Rubaie knew better. The mayor of Garma, just north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, Mr Al-Rubaie says the terror never left his village. “We have been attacked with car bombs, improvised explosives, suicide bombers,” he told the ABC. In fact, the continuing presence of the Islamic State terrorist group has seen the population of Garma fall from 8,000 to 120, transforming it into a ghost town. More than a year after the 'territorial defeat' of the Islamic State, which involved dismantling its so-called caliphate, IS cells still roam much of Iraq. In places like Garma, residents say they lay traps and mines, divert irrigation water, and kill villagers. Many people have abandoned their farms in fear. Even though Iraq's army has been deployed to protect the village, Mr Al-Rubaie says the soldiers don't do much. “The situation is very bad. People can't get out, can't get food, there is nothing we can do,” he said. “We can only ask for God's mercy, nothing more.” Other villagers in Iraq elsewhere tell the same story: Islamic State fighters move freely, killing people and livestock, damaging crops and attacking security forces at will.”

Agence France-Presse: Three Years After ISIS, Mosul Residents Still Waiting To Rebuild

“Ahmed Hamed has dreamt of rebuilding his pulverised home in Iraq's Mosul from the moment government forces recaptured the northern city from ISIS in 2017. But three years on, it remains a pile of rubble. He is among tens of thousands of Iraqis who have filed claims to the Nineveh province's Subcommittee for Compensation, seeking reparations for material goods, injuries and even lives lost in the months-long fight to retake Mosul from the extremist militants. “I still haven't gotten a cent, even though it's been so long since the liberation,” said Mr Hamed, 25, who works menial day jobs to afford a small apartment. His original home lies in Mosul's ravaged western half, where ISIS made its final stand in the city and where reconstruction has been the slowest. Iraq gathered $30 billion (Dh110bn) in pledges from international donors in Kuwait in 2018 to rebuild, but virtually none of the funds have been disbursed. The lack of progress has been widely blamed on Iraq's infamous bureaucracy, corruption that has siphoned off reconstruction funds and polarised city politics. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and plummeting oil prices, Iraq's government is struggling to rake in enough monthly revenues to break even – pushing rebuilding even lower on its priorities list.”

Turkey

The Telegraph: Ex-Paratrooper Who Fought Isil Claims Turkey Put Pressure On Britain To Charge Him With Terror Offences

“A former British paratrooper who volunteered to help the Kurds in Syria was charged with terror offences after Turkey applied diplomatic pressure on Britain and threatened trade links, his lawyers have claimed. Daniel Burke, 33, spent seven months on remand, much of it in solitary confinement, after volunteering to help the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG in its fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). After returning to Britain he was charged with three terror offences and faced possible life imprisonment, despite the fact the YPG is an ally of the West and has never been proscribed by the Home Office as a terrorist organisation. Last week the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) abruptly withdrew the charges after his defence team applied to obtain more details about the decision to charge Mr Burke...”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Within The Taliban, Clashing Views Of Afghanistan’s Future

“In talks in Doha and in Kabul, the Taliban’s leaders have struck a conciliatory tone: Issues of human rights, democracy and power sharing are open for discussion, they said, and will be worked out during peace talks with the Afghan government. But here, in one of the militant group’s long-held districts in eastern Afghanistan, Taliban commanders and fighters speak not of peace but of toppling the Afghan government in Kabul. They boast of a hard-fought “military victory” over American forces in the country. “We will only accept 100 percent of power in Afghanistan,” said Yaser, a 26-year-old Taliban fighter from Marawara district, whose comments were echoed by his commander and others in the district. Yaser, like many Afghans, goes by a single name. The competing visions of a postwar Afghanistan within the Taliban’s ranks reveal the difficult task facing the group’s leaders as they seek to rally support for an agreement with the government in Kabul ahead of long-awaited formal talks. Many fear that even with a peace deal, a fractured Taliban could lead Afghanistan back to a period of perpetual violence. It’s difficult to discern how widespread the views expressed by these Taliban fighters are in other parts of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, because access to those areas is severely restricted.”

Voice Of America: Taliban: Calls For Halting War Before Afghan Peace Talks 'Illogical'

“Afghanistan’s Taliban has dismissed as “illogical” escalating domestic and foreign calls for the insurgent group to cease hostilities before the commencement of intra-Afghan peace negotiations. The long-delayed dialogue is stipulated in a landmark deal the United States and the Taliban sealed in February aimed at ending nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, America’s longest. The peace talks are tied, however, to a successful conclusion of an ongoing controversial prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the insurgents. A spokesman for the Islamist Taliban insisted Sunday that implementation of the agreement and start of intra-Afghan negotiations are necessary to de-escalate and end the war. “A demand for us to stop the fighting and then start the negotiations is illogical. War is raging precisely because we have yet to find an alternative,” Zabihullah Mujahid said in a media release. “The prisoner exchange process must be completed and intra-Afghan talks must begin immediately. This is the real and logical path toward resolving the problem,” Mujahid stressed. Direct peace negotiations between Afghan parties to the war were originally scheduled to commence in March but were pushed back due to disagreements over the prisoner swap.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Pakistan Says 4 Troops, 4 Militants Killed In Shootout In NW

“Pakistan's military on Sunday said four soldiers and four militants were killed during a shootout in the rugged northwestern region of North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan. A statement from the military’s public relations wing said the exchange of fire took place after the army personnel had surrounded the militant hideout early Sunday. The statement did not identify the militants, but Pakistan’s military has been battling members of the Pakistani Taliban group, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in that region for years. The group, which has also voiced support for the Islamic State in Afghanistan, declared war on the government of Pakistan more than a decade ago. Since then, they have carried out a series of attacks, including a brutal assault on a Pakistan Army Public School in northwest Peshawar in December 2014 killing 140 children and several teachers. Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan, so its progress at reining in terror is critical, particularly as Washington seeks to forge ahead on an agreement with the Afghan Taliban to bring an end to the 18-year war, America’s longest military engagement.”

Lebanon

Arab News: Tensions Continue To Rise Between US And Hezbollah

“The fallout from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warning that Washington will do all it can to prevent Iran selling oil to Hezbollah in Lebanon continued this week. Youth organizations that support Hezballah staged a demonstration on Friday afternoon in the vicinity of the US Embassy in the area of Awkar in Mount Lebanon,  surrounded by tight security barriers. Although the protesters succeeded in breaching the first barrier, security forces retaliated with water cannons and smoke bombs to disperse them. After Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his party was in talks with Iran about buying oil with Lebanese pounds, to ease pressure on the plummeting currency, Pompeo said on Wednesday: “Washington will not allow this. This will not be acceptable. This is a product subject to sanctions. We will do everything in our power to ensure that Iran cannot continue to sell crude oil anywhere, including to Hezbollah.” A Hezbollah source described the comments as “blatant, rude and unacceptable interference in Lebanese economic options.” Another Hezbollah source said on Thursday: “Lebanon will not remain a hostage to American practices. It has to make up its mind about the choices that provide for the needs of its people.”

Voice Of America: Reports: Lebanese Hezbollah Opening Unofficial Border Crossing With Syria

“The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is intensifying efforts to open a new border crossing between Lebanon and Syria, local sources and Arab media reported this week. The Iranian-backed Shiite group has been constructing an unofficial crossing along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, according to pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Workers commissioned by Hezbollah have been working intensively in recent days to pave a road for the crossing, said a local source in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley region. The source, who insisted on anonymity for fear of retribution from Hezbollah, told VOA that militants affiliated with Hezbollah have been using the route for years to transport fighters and weapons between the two countries, “but it looks like they want to prepare it for civilian use as well.” Hezbollah has been a major actor in Syria’s civil war since 2012, siding with the government of President Bashar al-Assad. With support from Iran, the group has deployed thousands of fighters to Syria in recent years. A voice recording about the development was widely circulated on social media last week. In the clip, a Hezbollah commander purportedly said the construction of this border crossing “is a message to the enemies inside and outside [Lebanon that] soon convoys will pass through here.”

Egypt

Egypt Today: Egypt’s Dar Al-Iftaa: Islamic State Terrorist Group Recruits Wealthy Members

“The Islamic State (IS) terrorist group is currently working on recruiting new members from rich people, warned the Egyptian monitoring unit of Dar al-Ifta's Observatory of Takfiri Fatwas and Extremist Views in a statement on Saturday. “IS has recently called for donations in an intensive way through cryptocurrencies. It has tried to urge members of the wealthy classes to join this campaign and provide the organization with funds,” the observatory said. “IS is currently recruiting as many members of this class as possible because they are usually at highly educated and skilled,” the observatory added. In 2018, the unit conducted a two-year study on the IS ideology. The Egyptian observatory dismantled the ideology of terrorist groups. The study referred that the IS speeches, delivered from 2014 to 2016 on jihad and expansion, have been greatly followed. Many efforts have been exerted to combat extremism and terrorist ideology in Egypt. The Ministry of Endowments launched an initiative to combat extremism and terrorism in Europe where hardliners are increasing. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has repeatedly called for renewing the religious discourse as part of the war against terrorism.”

Egypt Today: Egypt Asserts Commitment To Face Extremism During UN Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week

“The Egyptian permanent mission at the United Nations participated in the UN’s virtual counter-terrorism week, held from 6 to 10 July. Egypt’s representative at the UN ambassador Mohammed Idris said during the virtual meeting that the countries involved in transporting mercenaries and terrorists from one conflict to another should abort this behavior, adding that Egypt is ready to cooperate with the different international players to counter-terrorism and extremism. Idris asserted that the Coronavirus pandemic revealed the importance of international cooperation in order to stop biological and cyber terrorism, aside from other forms of terrorism such as racist and hate speeches. Idris said that the seventh biennial review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy provides an opportunity for the member states to reassure their commitment to counter the changeable terrorism in the international arena. Egypt asserts commitment to counter extremism during UN virtual counter-terrorism week CAIRO – 12 July 2020: The Egyptian permanent mission at the United Nations participated in the UN’s virtual counter-terrorism week, held from 6 to 10 July.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: 35 Troops Killed In Nigeria Jihadist Ambush, 30 Missing: New Toll

“The death toll from a jihadist attack on a military convoy in northeast Nigeria has risen from 23 to 35, while 30 troops are still missing, security sources said Thursday. Fighters linked to the so-called Islamic State group ambushed the convoy on Tuesday at Bulabulin village, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Twenty-three soldiers were initially thought to have been killed in Tuesday’s attack, and many were listed as missing. But security sources said more bodies had now been found in a nearby bush. “We lost 35 soldiers from the ambush. Eighteen others were injured while 30 are still missing. Their fate is not known,” a security source told AFP. “More bodies were recovered in the bush by rescue teams which led to a rise in the deaths,” he said. Another source confirmed the new toll. “Thirty-five bodies of troops were recovered as … search teams combed the area around the scene of the ambush. Another 30 have not been accounted for. It is not known whether they are dead or alive,” he said. He said the jihadists torched a mine-resistant vehicle and carted away eight guntrucks, guns, and communication equipment. “It was a surprise attack. The terrorists hid inside heaps of foliage they gathered along the road and opened fire on the convoy as it passed. It was a close-range ambush,” he said.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Relocating To North-West, North-Central As Bandits –Defence Headquarters

“The military high command has confirmed that scores of Boko Haram terrorists fleeing intense land and air offensive against their hideouts and camps in the North-East were infiltrating the North-West and North-Central, emboldening armed banditry and other crimes. Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, who confirmed the movement of terrorists to the zones, noted that the type of weaponry found with the bandits such as anti-aircraft gun, PKT gun capable of shooting down an aircraft, was an indication that some Boko Haram criminals might have relocated to the North-West and North-Central. He said, “In the past, the highest weapon found among bandits was the GPMG guns and AK 47 rifles because what they are known for is stealing of cows and rams. But now, they are in possession of AA and PKT guns which can be used to bring down an aircraft. “It is no hidden fact that these are weapons used by Boko Haram terrorists got from neighbouring West African countries.” Speaking on the withdrawal of military from checkpoints across the country, which is capable of opening the way for terrorists and bandits fleeing military offensives to freely relocate to other parts of the country, Enenche said it was due to complaints of Nigerians especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Somalia

Shabelle Media Network: Somalia: Militants Killed In Security Operation In Southern Somalia

“Somali security forces backed by the Southwestern state army killed seven al-Shabab fighters and injured five others on Saturday in an operation in Bardale town in the southern region of Bay, an official confirmed on Sunday. Mohamed Isak, governor of Bardale town, told journalists that the joint operation started when the army got intelligence that the militants were hiding in the area to plan further attacks in the area. “There was intense confrontation between the army and the militants in Bardale town, but our forces subdued the militants killing seven of them including a senior leader who was in charge of finance and we also injured five others,” Isak said. He noted that a government soldier was killed and three others injured during the confrontation. The latest operation came barely two days after Somali National Army (SNA) killed five al-Shabab militants including two senior leaders in another operation in Janale town in the country's southern region of Lower Shabelle. Meanwhile, the Somalia National Army (SNA) said its forces have captured al-Shabab territories in Mubarak district of Awdhagle in the southern region. The SNA said in a statement on Sunday that the areas were captured during a sting military operation to liberate areas still under al-Shabab control.”

Africa

Fox News: Private Anti-Poachers Recruited To Fight In Mozambique’s Terrorist Hot Spot

“For years, the African nation of Mozambique has been beleaguered by local Islamic terror attacks in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. But in recent months, as the threat has become more organized, there has been at least one silver lining: anti-poachers working to save the region. According to The Telegraph, Angolan civil war veterans-turned-anti-poachers have flown in on helicopters to fight ISIS-affiliated militants in the terror-plagued north. Around February, as the situation spiraled, a frustrated Mozambican government recruited a Rhodesian army colonel named Duck, who then hired a band of snipers known for gunning down poachers in the region. In one incident that hit headlines in April, the team lost a helicopter in the fighting, but was heralded for saving land and people. For almost three years, the terrorist outfit – namely the Islamic State of Central African Province (ISCAP), although numerous others including Al Sunnah wa Jama'ah and al-Qaeda also claimed responsibility – has cemented its footprint in the African country, deemed the tenth most impoverished in the world by Concern USA. Hoisting their infamous black flags, the insurgents routinely seize small villages and carry out mass beheadings and kidnappings, in addition to recruiting impoverished and disenfranchised youth.”

Southeast Asia

Foreign Policy: After Signing Anti-Terrorism Law, Duterte Names His Targets

“Rodrigo Duterte prefers to speak to his country late at night, when most Filipinos are asleep, leaving weary night-shift reporters left to parse through the Philippine president’s scattershot musings on the worsening coronavirus outbreak, the flailing economy, and a new anti-terrorism law which the United Nations and rights groups are worried could morph into an expansive attempt to crush government critics. Duterte’s latest pre-taped address, which aired around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, was his first chance to speak publicly about the law after it was fast-tracked through Congress despite concerns over the constitutionality of provisions allowing an anti-terrorism council appointed by the president to authorize warrantless arrests, detention without charge for up to 24 days, and 90 days of surveillance and wiretaps. Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has arrested political opponents, overseen thousands of extrajudicial killings in a brutal drug war, and heaped praise on former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, adding to the perception that the new law is the latest in an ongoing backslide into authoritarian rule.”

Technology

Deutsche Welle: Arab States Target Extremism Online — But Are They Effective?

“Less than five years ago, the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group's digital presence was so momentous, it forced the US government and Arab states to rethink their approach to countering extremist messaging online. That impetus triggered a wave of Arab-led initiatives, including several conducted in tandem with Washington. One of those, the Sawab Center, was launched in 2015 as “an online engagement and messaging operation” led by the United Arab Emirates aimed at supporting the US-led coalition's efforts against IS. With a budget of $6 million (€5 million) and just over a dozen staff members, the joint venture also “promoted information sharing with international police organizations when family members report on relatives who have become radicalized,” according to a report by the US Congressional Research Service. In 2017, US President Donald Trump spearheaded a new initiative with Saudi King Salman, establishing the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology — or Etidal, Arabic for moderation. At the time, Trump placed the responsibility of combating extremism and promoting a “moderate Islam” on Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and even Qatar. Challenges of counter-messagingBut the approach seems uneven at best, and ineffective at worst.”

The Times: Extremists Use BBC Theme To Trick Facebook Into Showing Vile Clips

“Extremists are using a BBC theme tune to avoid security measures on social media and post clips of beheadings and suicide bombings. Islamic State networks are deploying several tricks to evade the software that technology giants use to look for extremist content, including using odd punctuation in their posts and disguising graphic videos with initially neutral clips, including a remix of the BBC News signature tune. Experts fear that such methods mean that members of terrorist groups are starting to reappear on platforms such as Facebook, after years of them being in effect stamped out. Moustafa Ayad, deputy director of international technology, communications and education at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), said: “There are micro Isis networks appearing with some frequency that are gaming…”