Eye on Extremism: July 15, 2021

The Wall Street Journal: U.K.’S MI5 Cites Growing Threats From Russia, China, Iran—And Right-Wing Extremists

“The head of the U.K.’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, said the agency is doubling the resources it devotes to tackling threats from Russia, China and Iran—and faces a growing challenge from right-wing extremists, many of whom are teenagers. The shift of emphasis comes after 20 years of focus on Islamist terrorism has crowded out other priorities for the agency. Yet, MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum said, Islamist terrorism still constitutes the agency’s largest operational mission and new challenges could arise as the U.S. and its allies depart from Afghanistan. Mr. McCallum said Wednesday that the agency faces daily threats and espionage activities that predominantly come “in quite varying ways from state or state-backed organizations in Russia, China or Iran” that have to be managed alongside U.K. efforts at engagement with all three countries. The threats are against individuals, digital infrastructure and espionage that is focused on the government but also on universities and businesses, he said. He also cited efforts at disinformation and attempts to seek hidden relationships with public figures, “hack-and-leak operations” aimed at having a political impact and troll farms seeking to sow and deepen divisions in society.”

The Jerusalem Post: US Court Rules 3 Iranian Banks Liable For Hamas Terror Attack

“In a landmark ruling, a US federal court ruled on Monday that Syria, Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and three Iranian banks were liable for the Hamas terror attack which killed Eitam and Naama Henkin in 2015. The District of Columbia court ruled on two suits: one filed by the parents and siblings of Eitam and one filed by the Henkins' children and the Henkins' estates. The suits made claims governed by the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, alongside other claims. The Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act, which amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, established a fund to provide compensation to eligible claimants who hold judgments against state sponsors of terrorism. In the suit filed by the Henkins' children, the plaintiffs claimed that Hamas relies on Iran and Syria for material support, including but not limited to training, weapons and financing. The children of Eitam and Naama Henkin filed the $360 million civil damages wrongful death lawsuit in 2019, shortly after then US president Donald Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist group.”

United States

Voice Of America: Causes Of Extremism Spike In US Military Examined In New Study

“A new look at current and former members of the U.S. military linked to extremist plots finds the numbers have tripled, due in large part to a series of recent events such as the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which helped mobilize extremists in general. The analysis by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), released Wednesday, looked at 354 individuals with military backgrounds charged or convicted of criminal acts linked to extremist ideology. It found the average number of cases jumped from six per year from 1990 through 2010 to almost 21 cases per year over the past decade. The increase was largely driven by spikes in 2017, 2020 and 2021. “Each of these years were marked by issues that mobilized comparatively large numbers of U.S. extremists,” the study said. “These include the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017; the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice protests, and U.S. presidential election in 2020; and the Capitol breach of January 6, 2021.” It found that of those events, the biggest driver was the siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump attempting to prevent the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Iraqis Campaign Against Impunity For Violence

“A prominent Iraqi activist in recent protests, Ali al-Makdam was declared “kidnapped” July 10 and then found dumped on a highway south of Baghdad 36 hours into his disappearance. He was subsequently admitted to the hospital for treatment. While the party that kidnapped Makdam is unknown at this time, so is the modality, as surveillance cameras have failed to document what happened. Still, his disappearance reenergized a campaign led by a group of Iraqi activists — a campaign that had been ongoing for weeks previous to Makdam's kidnapping — to halt impunity for perpetrators of violations. The campaign seeks to pressure the Iraqi government into holding accountable the killers of protesters and activists as well as those who committed acts of violence during the military operations to liberate Iraqi cities from the Islamic State years ago. Maan al-Jizani, a journalist and an activist involved in this campaign, told Al-Monitor, “The campaign to end impunity aims to formulate a direct Iraqi national discourse that attempts to diagnose and summarize the Iraqi problem by linking it to a legal and moral defect that has led impunity to prevail and prosper in Iraq. This led to the spread of corruption, violence and failure within state institutions that were left unable to manage the country properly and effectively.”

Turkey

Al Monitor: Turkey Shrugs Off Taliban Warning Over Kabul Airport

“Ankara is signaling that the Taliban’s warnings against plans to leave Turkish security forces at the Kabul airport after NATO withdraws from Afghanistan are not being taken seriously. BBC Turkish cited an unnamed security official this morning as saying that the Taliban’s latest threats to treat remaining Turkish forces as enemy occupiers are being interpreted as little more than posturing. “It is true that they see the American soldiers as invaders. However, we have contact; they know that we do not have an invasion purpose. These are symbolic statements,” the official told BBC. Turkey’s government has offered to leave its roughly 500 troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport to secure international diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital. US officials and their counterparts in Ankara are still hammering out details of the arrangement, but a deal is not far away, officials have said. What other security forces may assist Turkey’s noncombat troops after the United States leaves is not yet clear. Meanwhile, the Taliban has spoken out in stern opposition to the proposal in recent days. The group issued a written statement on Tuesday calling Turkey’s proposal “abhorrent.” “This is the message given to the international community in the background: 'Nothing will happen except what we say.’”

Afghanistan

Al Jazeera: More Than 300 Afghans Flee Into Tajikistan As Taliban Advances

“At least 347 refugees from Afghanistan have crossed into the Central Asian country of Tajikistan over two days, fleeing sweeping gains by Taliban fighters as foreign forces withdraw. State information agency Khovar, citing Tajikistan border guards, said on Wednesday the refugees “fled from the Taliban to save their lives”, adding two babies died during the border crossing. The fighters in recent weeks have brought huge swaths of the country under their control as foreign troops draw down. In June, they seized Afghanistan’s main Shir Khan Bandar border crossing with Tajikistan in the far north of Afghanistan about 50km (30 miles) from Kunduz city. On Wednesday, they claimed to have taken the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak on the frontier with Pakistan. The Afghan interior ministry, however, insisted the armed group’s attack was repelled and government forces had control. Tajikistan said the refugees, who included about 64 boys and 113 girls, had crossed from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, bringing with them herds of livestock. “Tajik border guards, guided by humanistic principles and good neighbourliness, allowed Afghan refugees to enter,” Khovar said in a statement.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Targeting Afghanistan’s Crucial Power, IT Infrastructure

“When 30-year-old Ali Atayee enrolled for his first computer lessons as an Afghan refugee child growing up in Iran, he knew then this is what he would like to pursue as a career in his adult life. When he returned to Afghanistan in the years that followed, with that one goal in mind, Atayee directed all his energy, time and resources to learning computer science, particularly web development. A graduate of Kabul’s prestigious American University of Afghanistan, Atayee has worked with many growing Information Technology (IT) businesses and development projects in the small, yet thriving IT sector in the country. Over the last couple of years, Atayee has moved to working as a freelance web developer for local companies. “I had a passion for computer programming but also seeing how the situation was improving in Afghanistan back then, I speculated there would be a lot more development and opportunities in the sector by the time I had graduated,” he told Al Jazeera. As more and more Afghans came online – 12.8 million Afghan internet users as of 2021 – the industry flourished over the last 20 years. A USAID report in 2012 noted that the telecommunications field had become one of the largest revenue-generating sectors in Afghanistan with an annual average revenue of $139.6m, accounting for more than 12 percent of the total government revenues.”

Pakistan

Bloomberg: Chinese Workers Among 12 Killed In Pakistan Bus Explosion

“A blast in a bus carrying workers in Pakistan’s northern Kohistan region killed 12 people including nine Chinese citizens, as concerns mount an advance by the Taliban in Afghanistan may disturb peace in across the region. Pakistan authorities said Wednesday the blast was caused by a gas leak, however China condemned the explosion and called on Pakistan to strengthen the security of Chinese companies operating in the South Asian nation. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a briefing in Beijing that Islamabad should investigate the blast and hold those responsible to account, while an editorial in the Communist Party-backed Global Times was more explicit. “Although Pakistani officials have not yet determined the nature of the incident, this is clearly an act of terrorism that is both carefully planned and supported by information.” The bus plunged into a ravine after a “mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Further investigations are underway. Pakistan attaches great importance to safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan.”

Yahoo News: Taliban Claims Control Of Pakistan Border Crossing

“The Taliban has claimed via a spokesman account on Twitter that it has taken control of a border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Video released via a Twitter account associated with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid shows the Taliban flag flying in the town of Spin Boldak, across the border from the Pakistan town of Chaman. The claim follows similar advances by the group along the borders with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran, in the wake of the departure from Afghanistan of US troops. Afghan officials disputed the Taliban claim, saying state forces had pushed back. However, Afghan news outlet Pajhwok said it had spoken to locals in Spin Boldak who said the Taliban was present.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: IDF Nabs Dozens Of Hamas Activists After Solidarity Visit To Terrorist’s Village

“The IDF said it arrested dozens of Hamas activists Wednesday after they paid a solidarity visit to the West Bank village of a Palestinian man accused of killing an Israeli student. In a joint operation with Border Police and the Shin Bet security service, Israeli security forces raided two buses full of Palestinian university students as they were making their way out of Turmus Ayya. The students taken into custody had visited the home of Montasir Shalabi, which the IDF demolished last week as part of its controversial policy aimed at deterring future attacks. The suspects were part of Hamas’s student faction at Birzeit University, the IDF said in a statement, adding that “some of the arrested activists were directly involved in terrorist activities, which included money transfers, incitement and the organization of Hamas activities in the West Bank.” The IDF did not specify how many suspects it had detained, but Hebrew media said that roughly half of the 60 students on board the buses had been brought in for questioning. An invitation for Wednesday’s student event posted on social media read, “The Hamas student faction at Birzeit University invites you to attend a visit to the family of the heroic prisoner Montasir Shalabi, who carried out the heroic [attack] at the [Tapuah Junction].”

Egypt

Reuters: Egypt's Top Court Rejects Terrorism List Appeal By Activists- Source

“Egypt's highest civilian court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by a group of 13 people including two prominent activists who were disputing their placement on a terrorist list for a period of five years, a judicial source said. Among the group are activist and former member of parliament Zyad Elelaimy, and Ramy Shaath, a co-founder of Egypt's pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The 13 have been detained since 2019 in the Hope coalition case, in which authorities accused the group of being funded by the Muslim Brotherhood to incite revolution and commit violence. They were put on the terrorism list in April 2020. Colleagues and activists said the arrests were aimed at preventing the formation of a secular coalition ahead of parliamentary elections in 2020, and the detentions have become one of Egypt's most high-profile human rights cases. The Court of Cassation's decision is final, the judicial source said. Shaath's family said in a statement it was appalled by the decision to keep him on the list, which carries an asset freeze and travel ban. “Neither we, his family, nor his legal team have been given any legal proof to justify such an abusive decision, nor was Ramy granted his legal right to communicate with counsel,” it said.”

Somalia

All Africa: Kenya: KDF Kill 11 Al-Shabaab Militia In Somalia

“The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, announced it had killed 11 Al Shabaab militia in Kuday, Kismayo. Confirming the mid-morning incident, David Goldman, the Director of Counter-Terrorism, National Security, and Intelligence Analysis at Strategic Intelligence, said two-vehicles belonging to the al-Qaeda branch in Somalia Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen was destroyed during the aerial and ground operation. The militants had staged an ambush targeting Jubaland Security Forces (JSF), returning to base after a clearance patrol. The militants managed to kill seven JSF troops, while three sustained injuries, in the early morning attack. “Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) at Kuday FOB reinforced the JSF by deploying a gunship helicopter and a ground fighting patrol unit. The army intercepted the militants and their vehicles along the Kuday-Tosha Road and destroyed the vehicles and their occupants. At the same time, Special Operators took out nine militants who had disengaged from the vehicles,” Mr Goldman said.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Regional Troops Set To Arrive In Mozambique To Help Fight Rebels

“Soldiers from a regional bloc are set to arrive in Mozambique from Thursday to help fight an Islamic State-linked insurgency that’s left more than 3,000 people dead and halted Africa’s biggest private investment yet. The so-called status of forces document will be delivered to the 16-member Southern African Development Community by Wednesday to allow for troops to be sent to the southeast African nation, Mozambique Defense Minister Jaime Neto said by phone. Mozambique had until now resisted allowing foreign armies to help battle a near four-year-old insurgency in the northern Cabo Delgado province, even as the extremist rebels seized key towns and caused almost 800,000 people to flee their homes. The government had previously bolstered its army with mercenaries, who struggled to contain the violence that has put at risk gas projects that the country is banking on to transform its economy. In March, TotalEnergies SE froze work on its $20 billion facility to produce liquefied natural gas for export after militants occupied a nearby town and killed dozens of people. The southern African troops will join those from Rwanda, which isn’t part of the bloc and has already started sending 1,000 soldiers and police to Mozambique.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Racism Fuelling Far-Right Threat In UK - MI5's Ken Mccallum Warns

“The “toxic” issue of racism is fuelling a growing threat from the far right, the head of MI5 has warned. Ken McCallum said MI5 was seeing teenagers as young as 13 drawn into extremist activity, often online. But there was no sign of foreign states trying to sow divisions over race and the UK had to look closer to home to understand the problem, he said. He also urged the public to be as vigilant about threats from “hostile states” as from terrorism. But he said MI5 was alert to the possible return of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Giving an overview of of threats facing the UK, Mr McCallum said extreme right wing terrorism was “sadly here to stay”, with 10 of 29 attack plots disrupted in the last fours years linked to it. And it was a threat fuelled, in part, by racism, he said. “Racism is a toxic issue that MI5 confronts every day, most visibly in our work to deal with extreme right-wing terrorism. Racism is not the sole and only fuel of that threat, but it is strongly there.” He said in the past there had sometimes been disinformation campaigns from states abroad seeking to drive wedges on issues such as race but this was not common. “We don't currently see particular bits of state-generated misinformation as being a major slice of the problem.”

Arab News: UK Father Of Dead Al-Qaeda Brothers Charged With Terror Offenses

“The British father of two brothers who were killed fighting for an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria has been charged with terrorism offenses. Abubakr Deghayes, 53, from Brighton on England’s south coast, was charged on Wednesday on suspicion of encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. He was arrested and charged following an investigation by Sussex police and counterterror officers. His sons Jaffar and Abdullah died aged 17 and 18 respectively while fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2014. They left England to join Jabhat Al-Nusra. Their brother Abdul, 22 — another son of Abubakr — was stabbed to death by a Brighton drug dealer in 2019. Abubakr’s only surviving son, Amer, remains in Syria after leaving Britain before his younger brothers. Abubakr is the brother of Omar Deghayes, who was held by the US in Guantanamo Bay after he was arrested in Pakistan shortly after the Taliban were toppled from power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2002. Omar was released from the controversial camp in 2007, saying abuses by US guards had led to him lose his eyesight in one eye.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: German Police Raid Suspected IS Supporters

“Police in the German state of Hesse searched multiple locations in connection with investigations involving suspected “Islamic State” extremists, local authorities said Wednesday morning.  Ten search warrants were executed across the state “on suspicion of terrorist financing and the preparation of a serious, state-endangering act of violence” early Wednesday. The accused included eight men and two women between the ages of 20 and 51, according to a statement by the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt am Main and the Hessian State Criminal Police Office. The accused, who held German, Afghan, Kosovar and Turkish citizenship, were accused of having financed the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Syria through donations. The police recovered cash and data carriers while executing the search. “Due to the early intervention of the security authorities, there was no danger for the citizens at any time,” authorities said in the statement.”

Europe

Euronews: Man Convicted Of Stabbing Several People In Sweden Knife Attack

“A 22-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for stabbing several people in Sweden earlier this year. Tamin Sultani, an Afghan asylum-seeker, stabbed and injured pedestrians in the southern town of Vetlanda in March. He was shot by police and arrested after an eighteen-minute rampage. Investigators had dismissed terrorism as a motive and only charged him with seven cases of attempted murder. Sultani was convicted of the charges by Eksjö District Court on Wednesday and sentenced to life imprisonment. The court added that the man would be deported to Afghanistan after serving his jail time. The life sentence, which doesn't have a fixed time, is the most severe punishment in Sweden. Sultani had attacked seven men in the small town of Vetlanda on March 3, armed with a 22-centimetre blade. Three of the victims survived life-threatening injuries and two were seriously injured, while two others were moderately injured. The attack took place at several locations in the town near Gothenburg, including a grocery store and travel agents. Sultani was shot in the leg by police at the scene and was arrested outside a school. In its verdict, the court said that the 22-year-old had used a kitchen knife from his apartment “because he was so upset” about something blasphemous.”

Technology

The Telegraph: WhatsApp And Facebook Encryption ‘A Gift’ To Terrorists And Pedophiles, Says MI5 Chief

“MI5's chief on Wednesday accused WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook of “handing a gift” of end-to-end encryption to terrorists and pedophiles. Ken McCallum, the MI5 director general, took the unusual step of singling out WhatsApp's chief executive for criticism and called for new powers to force social media companies to make available secret messages “in cases of exceptional threat”. In comments to journalists, he also warned that Britain must take ownership of the “toxic” issue of racism and not seek to blame foreign “troll farms” for the vile abuse meted out to England footballers online. In his annual address assessing the threat to the UK posed by hostile states and terrorists, Mr McCallum said extreme Right-wing terrorism was “sadly here to stay” and raised concerns over the “high prevalence of teenagers” involved in often racist ideologies. He said the youngest Right-wing terrorist was just 13 when MI5 opened an investigation into his activities. It is thought he was referring to a teenager convicted in Cornwall, who was 13 when he joined far-Right group Fascist Forge and downloaded a bomb-making manual. He added that the threat from Right-wing terrorism had “grown and morphed quite substantially over the last five to 10 years.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On July 23, 2016, two suicide bombers targeted members of Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority who were demonstrating in Kabul. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 97 people and injured 260 others. 

View Archive

CEP on Twitter