Eye on Extremism: July 15, 2020

The Jerusalem Post: Big Increase Of Palestinian Terrorist Members, Supporters In Germany

“The number of members and supporters of the US and EU-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has dramatically increased in Germany, The Jerusalem Post can report. According to a review of the newly released German domestic intelligence service report, the number of PFLP members rose from 100 in 2018 to 120 in 2019. The intelligence report was released on Friday and covers the period of 2019. The report noted that there are 120 PFLP “members/supporters in Germany.” An exact breakdown of members and supporters was not outlined. It is unclear what caused the 20% increase; the document provided no explanation. The Post has observed PFLP activity at the annual al-Quds march in Berlin that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. The founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. created the al-Quds (Jerusalem) global rally. Writing in the Post in May, Jonathan Spyer, director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, noted that “This growing PFLP-Iran connection is not a new revelation. It has been well reported in recent years.” The PFLP was founded in 1967 and is animated by a Marxist-Leninist doctrine coupled with radical Arab nationalism.”

Al Monitor: CENTCOM: No Sign Of Coronavirus In Syria’s IS Prisons As Riots Raise Concern

“Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the top commander of American forces in the Middle East, said today that his command is concerned about recurring uprisings in prisons holding thousands of Islamic State detainees in northeast Syria. McKenzie also said the United States is “absolutely” concerned about the coronavirus spreading in the prisons, though no signs of an outbreak have yet been detected. “We believe the best way to reduce the population of those prisons, in all cases, is repatriation,” McKenzie told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday morning. “We’re working with a variety of nations to achieve that goal. It’s a slow process, but we believe that’s the best path going forward,” the commander said. McKenzie is currently on a tour of the Middle East and has met with regional officials, including Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, over the past week. The general also visited northeast Syria, where he met with the commander of the Kurdish-led forces and al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria over the past week. Backed by US Special Operations and the international coalition, Syria’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured and detained tens of thousands of suspected IS prisoners in the war against the extremist group in Syria.”

Fox News: 28 Hezbollah Missile Launch Sites Detected In Civilian Areas, Highlighting Its 'Human Shield' Tactic In Lebanon

“The researchers' highlight that the "human shield" tactic has two main implications. The first is centered on "incapacitating players, who discriminate between combatants and non-combatants in armed conflicts, such as Israel, and preventing them from adequate retaliation\attacks, minimized in order to not harm innocent civilians as required by international law." The second, the report continues, is about "forcefully limiting the civilians' freedom of movement by preventing them from leaving combat zones and directly endangering their lives," which is said to be "enforced through checkpoints in various locations in Lebanon, particularly in the South and near the Shiite concentration in Beirut, which prohibits civilians from freely leaving the area." And it's a tried and true technique. "It is not surprising at all that Hezbollah has embedded rocket launchers in civilian areas, even in Beirut. Hezbollah is cynically using Lebanese civilians as human shields against Israeli retaliation," Josh Lipowsky, senior research analyst, Counter Extremism Project, told Fox News. "It has long used Lebanese civilian structures to shield its arsenals. During the 2006 war with Israel, Human Rights Watch and U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator Jan Egeland both acknowledged that Hezbollah was blending among Lebanese civilians to decrease its own military losses."

United States

ABC News: White California Man Charged With Hate Crime In Car Attack On Black People

“A white Southern California man was jailed on $1 million bail after being charged with a hate crime stemming from an incident in which police allege he screamed racial slurs at a group of Black people before driving a car at them, injuring two, including an off-duty security guard who fired shots at the charging vehicle. Dennis Aaron Wyman, 42, allegedly fled the confrontation last month in a hotel parking lot in Torrance, California, police said. He was arrested during a July 8 traffic stop in Rodando Beach where he lives and was charged on Monday with multiple felony counts, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The charges against Wyman were filed following a string of recent incidents across the country in which people have driven into crowds, mostly at protests, injuring multiple people and killing one Black Lives Matter protester during a freeway demonstration. Wyman was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in serious injury. He was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail, according to online records, and is scheduled to appear in Torrance Municipal Court on Tuesday. It was unclear if Wyman has an attorney.”

News 4 Nashville: Man Faces Terrorism Charge After Allegedly Making Threatening Calls

“A Nashville man has been charged with terrorism after being suspected of making threatening phone calls on Tuesday morning to the Department of Emergency Communications and a crisis hotline. Police said the man, identified as Joshua W. Jones, 30, called the DEC non-emergency line at 4:15 a.m. and allegedly made threatening statements toward Nashvillians, including police officers. At 8:30 a.m. he allegedly called Mobile Crisis and threatened their employees. Jones is also suspected of making threatening calls in May and June. Recent communications from him have been increasingly threatening and specific, including naming locations where he intended to harm people.”

Syria

The National: In Syria, The Families Of ISIS Suspects Are Stuck In Limbo

“Last Thursday, UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov said that 700 people had died in the Syrian camps of Al Hol and Roj from lack of food and medicine. Humanitarian workers have described these camps as “perilously overcrowded”, with one speaking of “dramatic mortality rates”, according to the International Crisis Group. For more than a year, nearly 70,000 people in Al Hol, mostly families of ISIS members, have been living in an open-air prison. There is no trial in sight to end their plight, should they be found innocent, or to hold them to account of any crimes they may have committed. The first people to suffer from inhumane detention are children, who constitute more than half of the camp’s population. They are the innocent victims of extremist parents, now paying for crimes they did not commit. ISIS lost control of its last Syrian bastion last March, but the group once controlled a vast territory spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. Its reign of violence and dispossession is now over, but there is still a risk that the group might resuge. The hardships of camp dwellers echo that of ISIS suspects in prisons run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Syrian Kurdistan, none of whom have been tried.”

Iraq

The National: Iraqi Government Must Catch Killers Of Husham Al Hashimi Or Risk 'Fatal Blow', Experts Say

“A “fatal blow” will have been dealt to Iraqi government control if Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi does not catch those who ordered the killing of scholar Husham Al Hashimi, experts said. The Iraqi political and security expert was shot dead at point-blank range by unknown assailants as he parked his car outside his house on July 7. Mr Al Kadhimi pledged to hold a transparent investigation into the killing and said no one was above the law. A week has passed and the government has not announced any developments. Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert and friend of Al Hashimi, said failure to bring to justice those responsible for his assassination would be a challenge to the state’s authority. “A man so loved, admired and respected, and so close to the supposedly most powerful politicians in Iraq ... they’ve got to catch his killers and those who ordered his murder,” Mr Dodge told The National. He said the leaders of the organisation that ordered the killing must receive justice. “This was designed as a challenge to the prime minister, and if he can’t meet that challenge then it’s a huge blow to the prestige and capability of the Iraqi state,” Mr Dodge said. Al Hashimi’s murder sent shockwaves around the world and was interpreted by many as a challenge to the prime minister’s pledges to defeat armed groups.”

Afghanistan

CNN: Pentagon Says US Has Withdrawn From 5 Bases In Afghanistan As Part Of Agreement With Taliban

“The Pentagon announced Tuesday that the US has withdrawn from five bases in Afghanistan and reduced the size of its forces there as part of the agreement it entered into with the Taliban earlier this year. “US forces in Afghanistan remain in the mid-8,000s and five bases formerly occupied by US forces have been transferred to our Afghan partners,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement “US military presence in Afghanistan remains focused on capabilities -- not numbers. We maintain the capabilities and authorities necessary to protect ourselves, our Allies and partners, and US national interests,” Hoffman said. The statement makes no mention of the Taliban's continued links to al Qaeda, something referenced in a Defense Department report earlier this month. In late February, the US and the Taliban signed a historic agreement, setting into motion the possibility of ending America's long involvement in the war, which has stretched nearly two decades. The “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” outlined a series of commitments from the US and the Taliban related to troop levels, counterterrorism and the intra-Afghan dialogue aimed at bringing about “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Voice Of America: Afghan Civilian Casualties High As 1st Phase Of US-Taliban Deal Ends

“Nearly 3,000 civilians, around 16 per day, have been killed or wounded in the conflict in Afghanistan in the first six months of this year, according to the country’s official human rights body. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued its report Tuesday in Kabul, indicating that the civilian casualties, while still high, have dropped by 11 percent compared to the same period last year. The greatest reduction was among children, 630 wounded or killed this year compared to 951 last year, or a drop of around 33 percent. The AIHRC has placed most of the blame on the Taliban, accusing it of being responsible of nearly half of all casualties, even as the report said the “figures indicate a 24 percent reduction in civilian casualties caused by Taliban attacks” this year compared to 2019. While the militant group insists it does not target civilians, most of its attacks cause civilian casualties. An attack Monday on an intelligence agency’s complex in Samangan province killed 11 intelligence officials but wounded nearly 50 civilians in the process. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Tuesday also marked the end of the first phase of a hallmark agreement reached in February between the Taliban and the United States that was seen as the beginning of the end of the longest American war.”

Pakistan

Al Jazeera: Pakistan: Eight Soldiers Killed, Five Wounded In Attack On Convoy

“At least eight soldiers have been killed and five wounded after a group of unidentified gunmen opened fire on a security forces convoy in the southwestern Pakistani district of Panjgur, the country’s military said. In Tuesday's incident, three vehicles were targeted in the Gichak area, about 400km south of the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta, a brief statement by the military said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistani forces have been fighting an ethnic Baloch armed separatist movement in the region for more than a decade. Armed separatist groups have waged a guerilla campaign in Balochistan, the country’s largest but least populated province, for years, targeting security forces, government installations and projects associated with the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. On June 29, four Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) gunmen stormed the country’s main stock exchange in the southern city of Karachi, killing three private security guards and a policeman. Violence by Baloch armed groups has increased in the last year, with security forces among targets. Separatist groups have demanded independence for ethnically Baloch areas of Balochistan, accusing the Pakistani government of extracting the province’s rich natural resources while not investing in the people of the province.”

Voice Of America: Militant Ambush Kills 3 Pakistani Troops In Baluchistan

“Suspected separatist militants in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province Tuesday ambushed a military convoy, killing at least three soldiers and injuring eight others. The army’s media wing said in a brief statement that the “terrorist fire raid” targeted a “routine patrolling party” in the remote Panjgur district. The statement said the injured soldiers have been evacuated to a military hospital in the provincial capital, Quetta, where five of them were in “critical” condition. A militant group known as the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) took responsibility for the deadly ambush, saying it killed more than 20 Pakistani security forces. The BLF and several other armed groups, which claim to be fighting for Baluchistan’s independence from Pakistan, often issue inflated claims about attacks on government installations and security forces. The Pakistani province is at the center of a China-funded multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC. It is an extension of Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Police Rescue Soldiers From Boko Haram After Attack In Borno

“The Nigeria Police Counter-terrorism operatives have rescued two soldiers earlier abducted by Boko Haram fighters in Borno State. PRNigeria gathered that the terrorists had killed some security personnel and abducted others after an attack on soldiers on a patrol. This comes after Nigerian troops repelled an attempt by terrorists to seize an army barrack in Maiduguri on Monday.  According to a situation report sighted by PRNigeria, it disclosed that “At 14.30 Hrs of July 13, 20120, an army patrol team was attacked by Boko Haram along Auno Road and killed two soldiers and kidnapped others while carting away two of the military’s gun truck, AK 47 rifles and unspecified numbers of ammunition. “Counter-Terrorism Unit of the Nigerian Police on pin down point (operation), at the area went after the terrorists. After a gun battle recovered one gun-truck, rifles and rescued two soldiers alive. “All exhibits handed over to the Commissioner of Police Command.” Meanwhile, in another development, Nigerian troops have thwarted an attempt by Boko Haram terrorists to seize an army barracks in Maiduguri. PRNigeria learnt that the terrorists had attempted to seize the 333 Artillery Barracks of the Nigerian Army but were resisted after heavy exchanges of fire that lasted for about two hours between Monday night and early Tuesday morning.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Attack Maiduguri, Kill Several Residents

“Boko Haram terrorists on Monday night attacked Gomari area of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, multiple sources told SaharaReporters. A security source disclosed that the insurgents came into the village around 11:05pm, shooting sporadically and killing several persons. “Gomari, near Airport Road is presently under attack, they have started burning buildings and killing civilians trying to flee.”  Increased attacks by insurgents have been recorded in the area in recent times. The terrorists have made several attempts to overrun a military base located within the area lately also.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Ivory Coast Creates Northern Military Zone After Deadly Attack

“Ivory Coast has created a special military zone in the north of the country, the government said, less than a month after a deadly attack on a frontier post. The pre-dawn killing of 14 army personnel on June 11 at Kafolo, along the country's border with Burkina Faso, was the first assault by hardline fighters on Ivorian soil since March 2016 when a raid on the southeastern beach resort of Grand-Bassam left 19 people dead. “Given the persistent insecurity at the borders between Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso due to the presence of armed terrorist groups in these neighbouring countries and following the attack,” the government has authorised “the creation of an operational zone”, a statement made at the end of a cabinet meeting on Monday said. The zone will have a single central command for military operations. “This northern operational zone will make it possible to move from the phase of border surveillance to a defensive posture... in order to prevent any infiltration of these armed groups onto national territory,” the statement said. The attack at Kafolo has not been claimed, but authorities believe it was carried out by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), an organisation linked to al-Qaeda.”

United Kingdom

The Conversation: Why We Need To Stay Alert To The Terror Threat As The UK Reopens

“The UK has faced a persistent threat from terrorism over the past decade, with recent attacks focusing on busy public spaces. In June 2020, this threat was highlighted once again by an attack in a public park in Reading. This was the first reported terrorist event in the UK since the beginning of the pandemic. Until recently, the coronavirus had reduced opportunities for terrorism. The lockdown had seen UK high streets and public spaces almost deserted, with most non-essential businesses forced to close, lowering the number of potential terrorist targets. However, lockdown and social distancing measures are now being relaxed, and the government is promoting greater use of open public spaces to try to kickstart the economy while keeping transmission of the virus low. Earlier this month, it announced new laws to relax outdoor drinking and dining rules. Bars, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues can apply more easily for “pavement licences” to place tables and chairs in public spaces outside their premises. While this response is likely to benefit businesses and the economy, there’s a real risk these new outdoor arrangements may become attractive targets for terrorists.”

Technology

The Jerusalem Post: Studies Find Far-Right Using Telegram, ISIS Using Facebook

“The social media platform Telegram is being used by far-right extremists to promote hate and violence against Jews, blacks and law enforcement, according to a new study by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Wiesenthal Center officials indicated that much of their real-time research has been shared with the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the FBI. The center urged Telegram to introduce clear and comprehensive policy guidelines to stop the proliferation of hate, extremism and terrorism on its social-media platform. “Our researchers found that far-right channels on Telegram are used to glorify terrorist actors and movements, including the murderers of Jews and Muslims at prayer,” Wiesenthal Center associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said. “The sharing of harmful material and incitement to lone-wolf violence regularly occurs on these channels.” The study cited research by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank, which found that Telegram channels associated with white supremacy and racism grew by more than 6,000 users during March. The think tank released a study on Monday that found a pro-ISIS account network on Facebook consisting of several hundred accounts and reaching audiences in the tens of thousands.”