Eye on Extremism: July 19, 2021

Reuters: Reuters Journalist Killed Covering Clash Between Afghan Forces, Taliban

“Reuters journalist Danish Siddiqui was killed on Friday while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near a border crossing with Pakistan, an Afghan commander said. Afghan special forces had been fighting to retake the main market area of Spin Boldak when Siddiqui and a senior Afghan officer were killed in what they described as Taliban crossfire, the official told Reuters. Siddiqui had been embedded as a journalist since earlier this week with Afghan special forces based in the southern province of Kandahar and had been reporting on fighting between Afghan commandos and Taliban fighters. “We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region,” Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement. “Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened with the shocking reports” of Siddiqui's death and extended condolences to his family. Siddiqui told Reuters he had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel earlier on Friday while reporting on the clash.”

BBC News: Anjem Choudary: Radical Preacher's Public Speaking Ban To Be Lifted

“Radical preacher Anjem Choudary's ban on speaking in public is to be lifted as conditions which were imposed after his release from prison come to an end. Choudary, from Ilford in east London, was jailed for five-and-a-half years in 2016 after being convicted of inviting support for the Islamic State group. He headed a now-banned group supporting an extreme interpretation of Islam. He was released on licence from HMP Belmarsh in 2018 and was subject to more than 20 conditions at the time. His licence conditions, which included a ban on public speaking and talking to the media, will automatically expire at midnight. His internet and mobile phone use was also restricted and he was banned from being in contact with people who may be suspected of extremist-related offences without prior approval. The former solicitor had to wear an electronic tag and abide by a night-time curfew, only attend pre-approved mosques and stay within a set area, as well as adhere to other standard requirements, like having regular meetings with probation officers. Police and probation services were among a host of bodies involved in monitoring him under the system known as multi-agency public protection arrangements.”

United States

Fox News: Convicted Terrorists Lead Religious Services In Federal Prisons: IG

“Convicted terrorists – some associated with al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and Al-Shabaab – were allowed to lead religious services in federal prisons because of a shortage of chaplains, according to a recent inspector general report evaluating the Bureau of Prisons. Moreover, the bureau’s internal watchdog found prison officials had little oversight of what was being said or taught during some of the inmate-led religious services. The July inspector general report said that convicted terrorists led religious services in four of 12 federal prison facilities that were part of the evaluation. At one prison, terrorist inmates led religious services even though the BOP hired a contract faith provider, because the inmates had disagreements with the contractors, the report says. “At another one of these facilities we found that an al-Qaeda affiliated inmate, who was convicted on terrorism charges, was permitted to lead services on a frequent basis,” the IG report notes. “The facility’s chaplain explained that the inmate was selected to lead services by the other inmate faith group members due to his extensive faith knowledge and Arabic fluency.”

Associated Press: William Regnery, Who Funded Right-Wing Extremism, Dies At 80

“William H. Regnery II, the heir to a family publishing fortune who was known for his quiet but influential support of extreme right-wing causes in the United States has died at 80. He died at his home in Boca Grande, Florida, on July 2. A person who answered the phone at the Lemon Bay Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Englewood, Florida, on Saturday confirmed they handled Regnery's arrangements, but would provide no additional information. Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in an email Saturday that Regnery's material contributions helped to build networks of racist activists and a large body of pseudoscientific literature that Regnery hoped would legitimize his calls to build a white ethnostate. “Though he usually operated in the background, Regnery was an extremely influential figure in the radical right,” Miller said. In 2016, an Associated Press review of tax records found that the National Policy Institute, founded by Regnery, and three other groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement had registered as charities and raised more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the previous decade.”

San Bernardino Sun: Court Upholds Dismissal Of Lawsuit That Blamed Websites For 2015 San Bernardino Terrorist Attack

“A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the families of three people killed in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that asserted that online giants Google, Facebook and Twitter aided and abetted the siege by hosting and creating content from the Islamic State. Radicalized Muslims Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 22 others during a San Bernardino County Division of Environmental Health holiday party and training meeting at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2, 2015. Gregory Clayborn, Vanessa Nguyen and Jacob and James Thalasinos sued on behalf of Sierra Clayborn, Tin Nguyen and Nicholas Thalasinos, who all died in the attack. “For years, Defendants have knowingly and recklessly provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants are information content providers because they create unique content by combining ISIS postings with advertisements in a way that is specifically targeted at the viewer. Defendants share revenue with ISIS for its content and profit from ISIS postings through advertising revenue.”

Syria

Yahoo News: ISD Detainee Charged With Financing Terrorist Acts In Syria

“A 50-year-old radicalised Singaporean who was detained under the Internal Security Act was on Monday (19 July) charged with financing terrorism. Appearing at the State Courts via video-link, Mohamed Kazali Salleh was accused of passing RM1,000 to Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin at a bus terminal in Johor Bahru in December 2013 to facilitate a terrorist act in Syria. In January 2014, Kazali allegedly also remitted USD351.75 to Wan Mohd Aquil, a Syria-based militant with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group also known as Akel Zainal, through a Western Union branch in Singapore for the same purpose. Sometime in early 2014, Kazali also purportedly remitted RM500 to Akel through a Western Union branch in Malaysia to facilitate a terrorist act in Syria. Kazali was arrested in Malaysia by Special Branch officers in December 2018 and was handed over to Singapore's Internal Security Department in January 2019. A pre-trial conference for the case has been set for 11 August. If found guilty, Kazali faces a fine of up to $500,000, up to 10 years jail, or both for each of his three terrorism financing charges.”

SOREP: US Drone Strike In Syria Targets Iranian Proxy Militia

“…In June of last year, the Republican Study Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives recommended designating KSS as a terrorist group. The recommendation also included other PMF factions: the Badr Organization, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas, and Jund al-Islam, according to the Counter Extremism Project. This latest drone strike comes amid increasing tensions in the region between the U.S. military and Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. The militias are now attacking U.S. targets daily. The U.S. has targeted militias in response. After President Biden authorized limited airstrikes on Iranian proxy militias on June 27 following several militia attacks, the leader of the KSS, threatened further attacks on the United States. Operation Inherent Resolve and its spokesman Army Colonel Wayne Marotto have not yet commented on the reported drone strike.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Back To Militias, The Chaotic Afghan Way Of War

“Omid Wahidi was born after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. His childhood, for the most part, was peaceful. His family farmed eggplant, tomato and okra in the country’s north. He remembers foreign troops throwing books to him as he walked out of school. Mr. Wahidi, with his slight frame and mop of brown hair, carries an assault rifle now — the metal and wood Kalashnikov that over the past two generations of conflict in Afghanistan has become a grim fixture. The weapon is likely twice his age, but he carries it as if he knows it, even though the first time he pulled the trigger in battle was only weeks ago. “I didn’t think I’d have to fight,” he said, his weight shifting under the morning’s rising temperature this month. The rifle that erased the last vestiges of Mr. Wahidi’s childhood is a byproduct of the past two months of alarm as a Taliban offensive swept across the country. Mr. Wahidi is one of the many Afghans who have been swept up in a militia recruitment drive as government forces have struggled to keep the Taliban at bay. Hundreds of volunteers have taken up arms around Mazar-i-Sharif, the northern economic hub near where Mr. Wahidi lives, to protect their homes — and, knowingly or not, the business interests of the warlords and power brokers who are organizing the militia movement.”

CNN: US Intel Assessments On Afghanistan Warn Of 'Accelerating Pace' Of Taliban Hold On Country

“US Intelligence assessments paint an increasingly bleak picture of the Taliban's quickening advance across Afghanistan and the potential threat it poses to the capital of Kabul, warning the militant group could soon have a stranglehold on much of the country in the wake of the US withdrawal of troops, multiple sources briefed on the intelligence tell CNN. The Taliban advance is “accelerating at an accelerating pace,” said a congressional source with knowledge of the intelligence, echoing concerns raised by other officials who have acknowledged the security situation is deteriorating even more rapidly than previous assessments have indicated. While multiple sources familiar with recent US intelligence assessments say Kabul is facing an increased threat, especially the outer edges of the province, they argue the capital is not at imminent risk of a takeover, thanks in part to the threat of US airstrikes and the size of the Taliban force. Kabul's population has also grown significantly since the Taliban last took control of the city in the 1990s and its inhabitants are deeply opposed to, and fearful of, the militant group. But there are clear signs the Taliban is tightening its grip as the US completes its withdrawal from the country after almost two decades of war.”

Pakistan

The New York Times: Blast That Killed Chinese Workers In Pakistan Was A Terrorist Attack, Officials Say

“The explosion that killed nine Chinese workers and four others near a hydroelectric project in Pakistan on Wednesday was a terrorist attack, not an accident as officials in Pakistan initially suggested, according to a statement by the Chinese government and a top Pakistan official close to the investigation. A vehicle driven by a suicide attacker and laden with explosives rammed a convoy of Chinese workers headed to the project site in Dasu, a remote town north of the capital, Islamabad, the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter. The explosion badly damaged two buses carrying workers from the China Gezhouba Group Co., a construction company based in Wuhan. One of the buses veered off the unpaved road and down a steep slope where it came to rest on the bank of the churning Indus River. Chinese workers and diplomats have been targeted in previous attacks in the country, though Wednesday’s was the deadliest so far. China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, called Pakistan’s leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Friday and demanded a thorough investigation in remarks that called the bombing an act of terror, according to the state news agency Xinhua.”

Egypt

Al Jazeera: Abuse And Torture In Egyptian Prisons Fuel ISIL Recruitment: NGO

“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

BBC News: Nigeria's Security Crises - Five Different Threats

“Nigeria is faced with an unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises - from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies - almost every corner of the country has been hit by violence and crime. Audu Bulama Bukarti, a senior analyst on Sahel security at the Tony Blair Institute, says the scale of the insecurity threatens the very fabric of Nigerian society: “With every attack, human lives are lost or permanently damaged and faith in democracy and the country is diminishing.” When President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015, he promised to protect citizens from terrorists and criminals. But there are less than two years left of his final term in office and the country is more unstable than it's been in decades. Some have linked the recent surge of insecurity to the staggering poverty across the country. Youth unemployment currently stands at 32.5% and the country is in the middle of one of the worst economic downturns in 27 years. Here are Nigeria's five biggest security threats: Despite claiming during his first year in office that Islamist militant group Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated, President Buhari now admits that his government is failing to stop the insurgency, which began in the north-east.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Boko Haram - Then And Now

“I have been feeling so depressed about the situation in Nigeria. As a onetime victim of kidnappers (who abducted me in Port Harcourt in 2015), I am particularly concerned about the chronic insecurity. Like so many other inhabitants of this besieged nation, I am hyper-vigilant and frightened of doing normal things like driving to funerals that take place outside big cities, lest I be attacked by outlaws on and in inadequately-policed highways and hamlets. Even in the capital city, which is full of law enforcement personnel, it is hard to feel relaxed and safe because even in Abuja, criminals are having a field day and lots of people fear nocturnal socializing. While gloomily dwelling on the status quo today - frequent kidnappings of innocent schoolchildren being especially distressing - I recalled an article I wrote about Boko Haram for a foreign newspaper in February 2013. I've decided to share it with you. Until Boko Haram staged Nigeria's first-ever suicide bombing in 2010, most of their compatriots (this writer included) complacently assumed that home-grown Islamic militants could be controlled and were, though undoubtedly dangerous, pretty tame compared to their counterparts elsewhere. How wrong we were.”

Mali

Al Jazeera: Gunmen Kidnap Chinese, Mauritanian Workers In Mali

“Gunmen have abducted three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians from a construction site in southwestern Mali, according to the country’s armed forces. The assailants stormed the site 55km (34 miles) from the town of Kwala on Saturday, and made off with five pick-up trucks and the hostages, Mali’s Armed Forces (FAMA) said in a statement on Facebook. The men also destroyed equipment including a crane and dump trucks belonging to Chinese construction firm COVEC, and Mauritanian road-building company ATTM, according to the army. A Malian army official, who requested anonymity, told the AFP news agency that the victims were working on road construction in the region. “The release of all the hostages is our priority,” he said. Mauritania’s Al-Akhbar news agency reported that the gunmen arrived on motorbikes and burned equipment as well as fuel tanks before withdrawing with captives. Mali has been struggling since 2012 to contain violence linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) affiliated groups. The fighters have now expanded their operations from their strongholds in the country’s desert north to its centre as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.”

Africa

The Independent: Jihadis Expand Control To New Burkina Faso Fronts

“Florent Coulibaly, a soldier in Burkina Faso’s army, says he hasn't been sleeping well for the past few months as he is often roused at 3 a.m. to fight jihadi rebels. Until recently life was peaceful in western Burkina Faso’s Comoe province, but an increase in attacks by extremist groups in the country’s west has put the military on edge. “It tires us. It gives us a lot of work. It scares us, too,” said Coulibaly, 27. “We don’t know where (the jihadis) are going to come from. They see us, but we don’t see them. They know us, but we don’t know them.” Over the past six months, his battalion has doubled its patrols from once a week to twice, but Coulibaly says the men are ill-equipped, overworked and worry the area could be overrun by jihadis. Burkina Faso is experiencing an increase in extremist violence by groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Last month, at least 11 police officers were killed when their patrol was ambushed in the north. The country also experienced its deadliest violence in years when at least 132 civilians were killed in an attack in its Sahel region. The jihadi rebels are also expanding their reach within Burkina Faso.”

Europe

BBC News: Belgium Takes Back Mothers And Children From Syria Jihadist Camps

“Ten children and six mothers held in a prison camp for jihadists in Syria have been flown home to Belgium. It is the biggest repatriation of suspected Islamic State (IS) members since the group's fall in 2019. Hundreds of Europeans who travelled to Syria to join IS, including women and children, are trapped in Kurdish-run camps in northern Syria. Many European countries have not allowed them to return, but Belgium wants to bring back young children. Three mothers and seven children have rejected the offer to return to Belgium, reports say. Once they are returned from the camp in Roj, north-eastern Syria, the mothers are expected to be arrested and charged by anti-terror authorities, while the children will be taken into care. Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced in March that Belgium would “do everything” to repatriate those in the camps aged under 12. He said it was important to consider their “well-being”. Heidi De Pauw, of the Child Focus NGO, praised the decision. She told AFP news agency that children should be able to “leave the dangers of these war zones”. After the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, more than 400 Belgians went there to join IS - among the largest number of any European country.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Moscow Foils ISIS Attack Plotted From Syria

“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB RF) has thwarted a terrorist attack in Moscow. Initial investigations showed that the extremist who was plotting the attack is linked to “terrorist groups” active in Syria. A Russian citizen was detained in Moscow, the FSB said. The Security Service revealed the man was planning to detonate an improvised explosive device (IED) in a crowded area in July. The Service published footage of the arrest of the extremist in an agricultural area that appeared to be the Moscow countryside. IED components and instructions for making the explosive were found in his possession. The security officials revealed his correspondence with members of international terrorist organizations in Syria. This is not the first time this month that Moscow announces the foiling of an attack linked to active organizations in Syria. The FSB has busted an ISIS cell that was plotting a series of terrorist attacks in the Russian capital. Weeks ago, the Security Service arrested four cells with ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir that were operating in three major cities. They were working at the orders of Hizb ut-Tahrir to promote terrorist propaganda in Russia and recruit new members.”

Radio Free Europe: Kosovo Repatriates 11 Citizens From Islamic State Camps In Syria

“Kosovo has repatriated 11 of its citizens from camps in Syria holding Islamic State group fighters and their families. Interior Minister Xhelal Sfecla announced on July 17 that those returned were the wives and children of Islamic State fighters who “need our help and support” to be reintegrated back into society. “They have and deserve to have the time and space needed to adapt. Our government is helping them return to their families so that they can reintegrate into their districts,” Sfecla said, adding that anyone who committed crimes with the extremist outfit would be punished.”By returning these people, we are exercising our responsibility not only to our citizens, but also as members of the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State,” he said. This is a second time Muslim-majority Kosovo has repatriated its citizens from Syria. In April 2019, 110 citizens were brought back to Kosovo, mostly women and children but also four alleged fighters. Syrian Kurdish authorities hold some 10,000 suspected Islamic State fighters in prisons, after spearheading a U.S.-backed campaign against the Islamic State that ended with the extremist group losing most of its territory in 2019. Tens of thousands of foreign women and children with ties to the extremist group are held in camps in northeast Syria under dire conditions.”

Kurdistan 24: Suspected Dutch ISIS Financier Released On Parole After Year In Jail

“A convicted member of a terrorist group accused of helping women escape detention camps in northeast Syria has been released on parole in the Netherlands after spending nearly a year in pre-trial detention, Dutch media reported. Samir A., who was released on Thursday, previously served two-thirds of a 7-year sentence for plotting attacks in the Netherlands as part of the notorious Hofstad jihadist group. He was later arrested for terrorism financing after the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) accused him of helping women linked to ISIS escape from camps in Syria. The 35-year-old, whose last name is not published in Dutch media, claimed he wanted to prevent mothers and children in al-Hol and al-Roj camps from suffering, reports the Telegraaf.  “I wonder if we should let the children die because their mothers are on a terrorist list. I disagree with this and I think it's wrong that the OM after one year now accuses me of membership of a terrorist organization,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. Samir said he did not feel “connected” to ISIS but endorsed “some of their ideologies,” according to the report. His lawyer, Tamara Buruma, argued that freeing the women from camps in Syria was not illegal, and argued that her client did what the Dutch state refused to do: to bring women and children out of the dangerous camps into safety.”

Southeast Asia

Yahoo News: Myanmar Militants Bomb Electricity Company

“A homemade bomb has exploded at an office of Myanmar's state electricity provider, injuring at least seven people in the latest example of opponents of the military-installed government turning to violence after their peaceful protests were crushed. State television MRTV reported that four employees of the Electric Power Corp in Mandalay, the country's second biggest city, and three other people were injured. Reports from independent media gave slightly different casualty counts and said the injured included customers who had come to pay their bills. Offices and staff of EPC have been targeted since earlier this month when the government decided to crack down on customers who are not paying their bills by cutting off their service. Refusing to pay the bills has been a low-key way of participating in the civil disobedience movement against the February military takeover that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The disobedience movement urges all forms of non-cooperation with the government, including state workers not turning up for their jobs. But even people who have just shown sympathy with the movement have been fired and many ministries and state enterprises now have staff shortages.”

The Straits Times: Countering The Threat Of Islamist Extremism In South-East Asia

“In spite of the apparent defeat and decline of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East, violent extremism linked to the two terrorist organisations continues to pose an ideological and security threat to South-east Asia. As the recent Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report compiled by the Singapore Government indicates, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), following the “demise of its so-called caliphate”, has “re-envisioned the caliphate as an overarching global state rather than one territorially confined to Iraq and Syria.”

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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