Eye on Extremism: July 16, 2021

BBC News: Afghanistan: Taliban Offers Ceasefire For Return Of Prisoners

“The Taliban have proposed a three-month ceasefire in Afghanistan in return for the release of 7,000 captured fighters, a government official said. Nader Nadery, an Afghan government negotiator, described the proposal as a "big demand". The government has so far not said how it will react. Clashes between the government and the Taliban have intensified since US troops began to withdraw from the country. The Taliban recently claimed their fighters had retaken 85% of territory in Afghanistan - a figure impossible to independently verify and disputed by the government. Other estimates say the Taliban controls more than a third of Afghanistan's 400 districts. Mr Nadery said Taliban leaders had also requested that their names be removed from a United Nations blacklist. Last year 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released and it is believed that many of them returned to the battlefield, worsening violence in the country, says BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet. On Thursday, Afghan forces said they had recaptured a border crossing with Pakistan that had been taken by the Taliban. The insurgents deny having lost control of the border post. Video footage posted to social media earlier this week appeared to show a white Taliban flag being flown above the Spin Boldak crossing near Kandahar.”

Bloomberg: Explosives Found In Pakistan Blast That Killed Chinese Citizens

“Pakistan says it cannot rule out terrorism as the cause of a bus explosion that killed 12 people including nine Chinese citizens, as China called on the South Asian country to protect projects valued at tens of billions of dollars. After saying an initial probe indicated the blast on Wednesday had been caused by a gas leak, Pakistan “confirmed traces of explosives” had been found, the country’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said in tweet Thursday. “Terrorism cannot be ruled out,” Chaudhry said hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to quickly investigate the cause of the explosion on a bus carrying workers in the northern Kohistan region, according to a statement from China. “China is shocked by the serious casualties of Chinese personnel in Pakistan,” Wang was cited as saying in the statement. “If this is a terrorist attack, the perpetrators must be arrested immediately and be severely punished.” Beijing will send a “working group” to Pakistan and help investigate the blast, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during regular briefing on Thursday. Concerns are mounting about an advance by the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, which threatens to disturb peace across the region.”

United States

Associated Press: 'Boogaloo' Ex-Convict Gets Home Confinement For Illegal Gun

“A Maryland man who belonged to an anti-government extremist movement was sentenced Thursday to six months of home confinement for illegally possessing a firearm. Frank William Perry, 39, acknowledged following the “boogaloo,” a concept embraced by a loose network of gun enthusiasts and militia-style extremists. The term was derived from an ’80s movie sequel called “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” and is slang for a second civil war or collapse of the U.S. government. Perry pleaded guilty in March to a gun charge that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Prosecutors weren’t seeking a sentence stiffer than the one month he already spent in jail after his arrest. U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake also sentenced him to three years of supervised release. “I hurt my children and my family with my actions. I was raised better than that,” Perry said, apologizing to the judge, his fiancee and his young children in the Baltimore courtroom. Perry said he had been worried for his family’s safety and “took the wrong route” to protect them. Blake said it was a serious offense, but agreed not to incarcerate him, noting that as a truck driver he needed to support his family. He’ll need a probation officer’s permission to leave the state.”

CBS News: 2 Men Charged With Plotting To Attack Democratic HQ In Sacramento

“Two Northern California men were charged in federal court with conspiring to attack the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento, the U.S. Department of Justice Northern District of California said on Thursday. Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa, and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, began plotting an attack on targets they associated with Democrats after the 2020 Presidential election and attempted to gain support from an anti-government militia group, the DOJ said. Both men allegedly planned to use explosive devices in their attacks and hoped their actions would spark a movement to overthrow the government. Rogers has been in custody since his arrest on January 15. On that day, law enforcement officials searched his home and business and found a cache of weapons including 45 to 50 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and five pipe bombs, officials said. Video from earlier this year shows the Bay Area business where police say Rogers was stashing guns and explosives. Copeland was taken into custody on Wednesday. They were both charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used or in affecting interstate commerce.”

CBS News: House Committee On January 6 Attack To Hold First Hearing With Law Enforcement

“The House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its first hearing at the end of July, featuring testimony from Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers. The House voted largely along party lines to create the select committee last month, after an effort to impanel an independent, bipartisan commission was torpedoed by Senate Republicans. Only eight members out of thirteen have been appointed, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi choosing seven Democrats and Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney to serve on the committee. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy can choose the remaining five members, but has not yet done so. Even if McCarthy does not name his appointments in the coming weeks, the hearing scheduled for July 27 could proceed, as the committee will have a quorum of members present. McCarthy will meet with former President Donald Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday, Mr. Trump said in a statement. McCarthy's choice of appointments could be a topic for discussion for the two, as the former president may want more sympathetic Republicans to be added to the committee.”

Fox News: Bill Bennett: 'We Need To Designate Mexican Cartels As Foreign Terrorists Like Al Qaeda'

“After a new government report revealed U.S. drug overdose deaths hit a new record in 2020, former National Drug Control Policy Director Bill Bennett said Thursday that the United States needs to designate Mexican cartels as foreign terrorists. "There is a poison that is coming across. We talked about the getaways. Do the people get away? How about the drugs that get away? " Bennett said on "America Reports." "You guys are very good at showing these huge caches of drugs that are caught and authorities seize. But there’s a lot that we don’t see, and it’s making its way in the country." Fox News reported that an angel mom argued that the current border policies under the Biden administration allowed China’s criminal "partnership" with Mexican cartels to flourish. "This partnership in combination with our current border policies have allowed this fentanyl to continuously pour over the Southwest border practically unabated," Virginia Krieger, founder of Parents Against Illicit Narcotics, said Thursday on "America's Newsroom." Krieger, who lost her daughter Tiffany Leigh Robertson to a fentanyl overdose in 2015, warned that the flow of drugs into the United States has caused a "fentanyl poisoning" crisis, wherein online sellers have targeted unaware American teenagers with fraudulent prescriptions filled with the potent synthetic opioid analgesic.”

Turkey

Al Monitor: Has Turkey Changed Its Anti-Islamic State Strategy?

“Increasing security operations against Islamic State (IS) cells across Turkey since June have raised the question whether Ankara is changing its oft-criticized anti-IS strategy as the latest operations indicate an increasing risk of terrorist attack in parallel with the group’s rebuilding attempts in Syria and Iraq.  Turkey has become one of the hideouts for IS cells escaping Syria and Iraq following the groups’ major territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq since 2016. Reports of online “auctions” of Yazidi captives on the deep web by IS cells in March showcased the groups’ activity range in Turkey. Ankara's anti-IS strategy has often been criticized as superficial, negligent and lenient. Turkey’s security operations conducted against IS cells at home and in neighboring Syria failed to contain criticism over Ankara's anti-IS strategy, which is still riddled with gaping holes. Yet recent developments suggest that change might be underway. Turkish security forces detained 307 people over suspected links to IS in several operations across Turkey in June, according to Turkey’s Interior Ministry. Local news media reported some 25 more people were rounded up in early July.”

Afghanistan

NBC News: Taliban Sweep Through Afghanistan, Imperiling Girls School

“She should be standing tall. Instead, she walks in fear. With American forces nearing their withdrawal and the Taliban on the march across Afghanistan, Lailuma Khaliqyar worries that the thriving Um-Salma girls school, where she serves as principal, will be easy pickings for the advancing Islamic militants. “They shouldn’t abandon us at the moment that the Taliban is advancing,” Khaliqyar, 43, said recently. “When I walk to school, I take every step with immense fear and worry — I’m not sure I will return home safely.” She fears it is only a matter of time until nearby Charikar, the provincial capital of Parwan province — a region known for its delicious grapes — falls to the Taliban. Once that happens, it will be the end for Um-Salma and the hopes and dreams of thousands of girls. They will close my school,” said Khaliqyar, whose three daughters attend the one-story building defended by a lone, unarmed guard. That U.S. forces quietly vacated the Bagram Airfield, once the epicenter of America’s war against the hard-line Taliban movement and a 20-minute drive from Um-Salma school, on July 2 just underlined her fears. And then on Monday the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan stepped down, marking a symbolic end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Roadside Bomb Targeting Troops Kills 2 In Southwest Pakistan

“A powerful roadside bomb targeting security forces killed two soldiers in southwest Pakistan, the mílitary said Thursday, a sign of increasing violence in the region. The overnight attack happened in Pasni, a district in the impoverished Baluchistan province, according to a military statement. It said a search operation was still underway to arrest those who orchestrated the bombing. It provided no further details and only said hostile intelligence forces were behind the violence. No group immediately claimed responsibility, but previous such attacks on security forces have been blamed on small separatist groups that have been carrying out a long-running insurgency demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. The Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic State group also have a presence in Baluchistan. Although Pakistan says it has quelled insurgency in Baluchistan, such attacks on troops have increased in recent months in the province which shares a long border with Iran and Afghanistan.”

Reuters: Pakistan Military Rescues 5 Telecom Workers Kidnapped Near Afghan Border

“Pakistan's military rescued five telecommunications workers kidnapped by Islamist militants last month close to the Afghan border in a series of operations in which two soldiers were killed, the military said on Friday. Northwest Pakistan's border regions have become relatively peaceful after years of violence but Pakistani Taliban militants have been more active recently amid concern that surging violence in Afghanistan will spill over the frontier. No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of 16 men installing a mobile telephone tower in the Kurram ethnic Pashtun tribal district on June 26. Ten of the workers were later released but one man was beheaded and the militants demanded a ransom for the last five. "To rescue the remaining 5 abducted labourers, security forces launched series of intelligence based operations in highly inhospitable terrain under extreme weather conditions," the military said in a statement. The rescue was on Thursday. The military did not say which militants group it believed was behind the kidnapping but said civilians in the area fully supported "the security forces in fighting the menace of terrorism.”

Egypt

Al Jazeera: Abuse And Torture In Egyptian Prisons Fuels ISIL Recruitment

“In the last six months of Mohamed Soltan’s prison sentence, he was placed in isolation in Egypt’s notorious Torah Prison, where he was beaten and tortured mentally and physically every day. “I was completely cut off from the rest of the world, with no access to daylight or sense of time,” he said. Only jailed members of the armed group ISIL (ISIS) had access to his cell – and they attempted to recruit him. “They tried to talk me out of my hunger strike, because ‘the world only respected hard power, might makes right’, they told me. They tried to sell me on taking matters into my own hands and joining their ranks to fight oppression,” said Soltan, an Egyptian-American human rights defender who was imprisoned for 22 months from 2013-2015. Soltan, who was charged with “spreading false news” for tweeting about the dispersal of demonstrations and spent much of his prison sentence on a hunger strike, said he saw first-hand how ISIL members recruited inmates by exploiting their pain and grievances towards the Egyptian government. Six years after his release, researchers from Washington, DC-based NGO Human Rights First (HRF) said ISIL members are still given free rein to radicalise inmates across the Egyptian prison system.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Nigerian Army Reacts To Release Of Over 1000 Ex-Boko Haram Fighters

“The Nigerian Army has confirmed that it released 1,009 persons who were implicated in the Boko Haram insurgency war, but denied that they were ex-fighters of the sect. The army authorities who did not give the extent of involvement of the released persons in the insurgency added that the exercise was part of the ongoing Counter Terrorism Counter Insurgency Operations (CTCOIN) in the North-East. The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwahuckwu, stated this on Thursday while reacting to the release of the 1009 former fighters as reported by SaharaReporters and other outlets.  Nwachukwu said, “It is an indisputable fact that the ongoing Counter Terrorism Counter Insurgency Operations (CTCOIN) in the North-East has led to the arrest of several terrorism/insurgency suspects. “These suspects have been held in custody, while undergoing profiling and further investigations by  experts from the Joint Investigation Centre (JIC) and those who are found culpable are usually handed over to prosecuting agencies  accordingly, while those who are not implicated in terrorism and insurgency are cleared and released to the state government for rehabilitation before they are reintegrated into the society.”

Africa

Deutsche Welle: 'Islamic State' Poses Growing Threat Across Africa

“Last week, Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum said his country needed technological assistance from its European partners to fight jihadis. He complained of swaths of territory in Mali and Niger being taken over by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) — known also as ISIS — and its affiliates. Bazoum's comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron announced France would start closing military bases in northern Mali by the end of 2021, including the 5,100-member Barkhane force. "We are going to reorganize ourselves in line with this need to stop this spread to the south," Macron told reporters. "Unfortunately, ISIS is so widespread in Africa today that you can say it is across the continent," Nigerian political analyst Bulama Bukarti told DW. "You are talking about groups of countries and subregions." Jihadis have taken control of significant territories in the Sahel and the Lake Chad regions, which include parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Nigeria. In 2018, the West Africa Center for Counter Extremism (WACCE) reported up to 6,000 West Africans who had fought with IS had returned home from Iraq and Syria after the group's self-proclaimed caliphate collapsed. "It was only a matter of time before we would begin to see ISIS activities replicated in their home countries," said Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar, director of the WACCE in Ghana.”

Europe

Euractiv: EU Takes Italy To Court For Not Sharing Terrorism-Related Data

“The European Commission has referred Italy to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for failing to comply with the ‘Prüm decisions’, the rules established by the EU Council of interior ministers in 2008 to strengthen judicial cooperation between member states, which for Brussels are “a fundamental tool in the fight against terrorism and crime”. The rules allow member states to swiftly exchange information on DNA, fingerprints and national vehicle registration data, allowing prosecutors and the police to identify suspects and establish links between criminal cases across the EU. But Italy has not yet granted such facilities to its European partners, because it has never opened its databases to other states. The Commission had launched an infringement procedure already in 2011, when the information exchange had become operational, and having received no response in 2017, it moved to the second step, sending a reasoned opinion and urging Italy to fully comply with its legal obligations. After repeated investigations on the progress made by the country in fulfilling its obligations, “it is noted that to date Italy still does not allow other member states to access its data relating to DNA, fingerprints and registration of vehicles,” the European Commission said.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Easter Bombings: Sri Lanka Probes Charges Against Spy Agencies

“Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered an investigation into allegations that some members of state intelligence agencies knew and met with people who carried out Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 that killed more than 260 people, a government official said. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka wrote to the president on Tuesday raising concerns about the government’s handling of the suicide bombings and asking it to investigate alleged links between intelligence personnel and the group that carried out the attacks. Two local Muslim groups that had allegedly declared allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group carried out six coordinated attacks on churches and leading tourist hotels, killing 269 people. Another man did not carry out a planned attack at a fourth tourist hotel but killed himself later by exploding the bomb at a different location. The letter from the National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims, a group of bishops and priests led by Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on the president to take legal action against former President Maithripala Sirisena for negligence as recommended by a presidential inquiry commission report.”

Technology

American Security Today: Tech & Terrorism: Facebook Puts Onus On Users To Identify Extremism

“…Criticisms also began to build when far-right groups were found to have promoted violence during the 2020 U.S. presidential election using Facebook groups and pages. “The Redirect Initiative is Facebook’s latest half measure to tackle extremism on its platform in which users are asked to do the policing instead of the companies themselves,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen. “By putting the onus on users, Facebook is deflecting from its responsibility to be more proactive about removing offending content.” David Ibsen serves as Executive Director for the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies. David Ibsen serves as Executive Director for the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideologies. “Moreover, Facebook’s initiative ignores a crucial root cause for the spread of extremist content—proprietary algorithms that have a perverse incentive amplify divisive and controversial content to keep users on their sites and generate more revenue for the company.”

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. 

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