Eye on Extremism: July 19, 2022

Bloomberg: US Strike Kills Two Al-Shabaab Militants After Attack In Somalia

“A US airstrike killed two members of an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Somalia in the first major action by American forces in the East African nation since President Joe Biden sent Special Operations troops back there in May. US Africa Command said it conducted the strike in coordination with the government of Somalia on Sunday after the al-Shabaab terrorist organization “attacked partner forces in a remote location near Libikus, Somalia,” according to a statement. “Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and US interests.” Biden ordered several hundred Special Forces troops back to the war-ravaged country on a “persistent” basis in May, with officials at the Pentagon and White House saying the Islamist al-Shabaab group presented an increasing threat. The move came after Donald Trump ordered troops out of the country near the end of his term. The latest strike and broader US assessment of al-Shabaab show how the US sees terrorist groups as a potent threat in some parts of the world, despite the war in Ukraine and the increasing focus on “great power” competition with China and Russia. Trump’s withdrawal, with took place against the recommendation of military leaders, wasn’t meant to signal a complete US retreat from Somalia. Rather, forces were expected to be able to strike from a distance or do short-term engagements in the country when needed.”

Reuters: Macron Decries Anti-Semitism On 80th Anniversary Of Jewish Deportations

“French President Emmanuel Macron warned against anti-Semitism and historical revisionism on Sunday as he commemorated victims of the Holocaust on the 80th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup of Jewish families. On July 16-17, 1942, around 13,000 people were taken to the Winter Velodrome, the Vel d'Hiv, in Paris before being sent on to concentration camps across Europe. It was the largest mass detention of Jewish people by French police in collaboration with the Nazi German occupiers. Macron spoke at the inauguration of a memorial in the central town of Pithiviers, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Paris. Pithiviers was the second largest transit camp and deportation point in France for Jews, after Drancy. "We have not finished with anti-Semitism, it is still there - stronger and more rampant," said Macron, citing examples of anti-Semitism in acts of terrorism, in graffiti on walls, on social media and as something that crops up in debates on some TV channels.”

United States

The Washington Post: Homeland Security Advisers Say ‘No Need’ For Disinformation Board

“Department of Homeland Security advisers urged the agency Monday to scrap the Disinformation Governance Board the Biden administration created this year only to watch it implode amid confusion and partisan quarreling over its role. A Homeland Security Advisory Council subcommittee concluded in a one-sentence draft recommendation that there was “no need” for the disinformation board and the council endorsed the recommendation at its meeting. Officials said they created the board in April to fight disinformation-fueled extremism that might endanger national security, but Republicans and conservative media portrayed it as an Orwellian tool that could infringe on privacy and free speech. The board’s director resigned after a few weeks amid a wave of online criticism, and Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asked the advisory council to study the issue. Michael Chertoff, co-chair of the council subcommittee that drafted the recommendation and a former DHS secretary, did not explain the panel’s reasoning before the broader council voted to approve the recommendation Monday. He said the subcommittee is working on a full report on disinformation due Aug. 3. “There is no room for a separate disinformation governance board,” Chertoff, who served in the George W. Bush administration, said at the meeting.”

Associated Press: 6 Members Of White Supremacist Group Appear In Idaho Court

“Six of the 31 members of a white supremacist group who were arrested near a northern Idaho pride event last month pleaded not guilty Monday to misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to riot. The Patriot Front members were arrested June 11 with riot gear after a tipster reported seeing people loading up into a U-Haul at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, police said. Appearing for Monday’s brief court proceeding were Josiah Buster and his brother Mishael Buster and Connor Moran, all of Watauga, Texas; Derek Smith of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Dakota Tabler of West Valley City, Utah; and Justin O’Leary, of Des Moines, Washington. Each had posted $300 bail and been released after their arrest. Among those arrested was Thomas Ryan Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the 23-year-old who founded the group after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Also among the arrestees was Mitchell F. Wagner, 24, of Florissant, Missouri, who was previously charged with defacing a mural of famous Black Americans on a college campus in St. Louis last year. Michael Kielty, Wagner’s attorney, has said Patriot Front did not have a reputation for violence and that the case could be a First Amendment issue.” “Even if you don’t like the speech, they have the right to make it,” Kielty said after the arrests.”

Syria

Syria Direct: Islamic State Moves Out Of The Shadows East Of The Euphrates, Swears In New Recruits

“…IS carried out at least 10 confirmed attacks in June in Deir e-Zor, Raqqa, Hama and Homs provinces. The attacks killed at least 25 Syrian regime forces and three civilians, and wounded 26 others. This is the highest number of deaths attributed to IS since September 2021, according to the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), an international organization formed to combat the growing threat of extremist ideologies. Deir e-Zor 24, a local opposition network covering northeastern Syria, documented the killing of 17 people in Deir e-Zor in June, including seven killed by IS and five by other parties. Three people were killed by the Syrian regime and two by the SDF, according to the network. Civilian and media sources Syria Direct spoke to noted an escalation of IS operations against the SDF in SDF-controlled areas of Deir e-Zor, Hasakah, Raqqa and Manbij. Some of the operations also affected local residents. On June 12, IS cells killed a young man in the eastern Deir e-Zor village of Huwayij, Alaa al-Harti, during a soccer match. The day before, two SDF members were killed by unidentified gunfire near a military checkpoint. In the latest period, IS has adjusted the way it carries out its operations, using a new strategy based on “miniature divisions” consisting of two fighters and a third in command, while previously groups ranged from seven to 10 members.”

Afghanistan

Washington Examiner: Taliban Brutality A Continued Concern For Afghan Allies

“As the Taliban seek to bolster their international legitimacy, they continue to impose starvation, oppression, and violence on Afghans. To shed light on the group's campaign of brutality, three Special Immigrant Visa applicants spoke with me about the beatings, torture, and threats they face. Each spoke on condition of anonymity to protect themselves against further retribution. As the owner of a construction company that performed major projects at NATO military bases for over a decade, Faridullah is a known supporter of the United States. Though Faridullah has moved multiple times over 11 months to evade capture, the Taliban located and imprisoned him several weeks ago. While in captivity, Faridullah was beaten over the head with a rifle butt until he lost consciousness. Believing him close to death, Taliban members brought Faridullah to a local hospital. After several days, he managed to escape. Faridullah is once again on the run with his wife and 1-year-old. Unfortunately, departure flights are occurring very slowly for U.S. allies further along in the SIV process than Faridullah. He still has not cleared the program's first hurdle of achieving chief of mission approval.”

Middle East

Reuters: Israel Military Intercepts Drone That Came From Lebanon

“Israel's military said on Monday it had intercepted a small drone that crossed into the country from Lebanon, adding that it had likely been sent by the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah. The drone had been tracked by Israel throughout its flight, the military said. "The Israel Defense Forces will continue to operate in order to prevent any attempt to violate Israeli sovereignty," it said. Hezbollah has occasionally sent drones into Israeli airspace before, calling them reconnaissance missions.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: DHQ Allays Fears Of Impending Terror Attacks On Abuja

“Following the attack on Kuje Correctional Centre by terrorists, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday allayed fears of alleged impending attacks on Abuja. This is coming as the Brigade of Guards has also set up a board of inquiry to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the Kuje incident and the involvement or otherwise of soldiers posted to the correctional facility on the day of the attack. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had issued a security alert on planned terror attacks on churches, schools and public infrastructure in Abuja. Another anonymous alert, patterned after standard security alerts which had trended on social media indicated that there was an influx of unknown persons around Karshi Hills and Orozo, in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). According to the alert, some persons were seen regularly and clandestinely going up the hills around Navy Town Estate thus raising high suspicion that the invaders were building camps within the hills which also connect to other adjoining forests within the FCT and Nasarawa State. The alert said the terrorists planned to attack educational institutions located in the area.”

Premium Times Nigeria: Inside Story Of How Zamfara Emir Turbaned Notorious Terrorist Aleru

“On Saturday the Emir of Yandoton Daji, Aliyu Marafa, made a wanted terrorist, Adamu Yankuzo, who is also known as Ada Aleru, the Sarkin Fulani of the emirate. The well-attended ceremony confirms PREMIUM TIMES’ exclusive report about the decision to make Mr Aleru, who is notorious for his ruthlessness and was once declared wanted by the police, a chief. Mr Aleru is the leader of a terrorist militia that operates in parts of Zamfara and Katsina states. Thousands of people have been killed in the two states and other neighbouring states by terrorists. During the ceremony, the emir said he was making Mr Aleru a chief to ensure a lasting peace in the area. After his inauguration as a chief, Mr Aleru told the crowd of people that gathered to witness the ceremony that he would do whatever it takes to prevent attacks on communities in the emirate. While he accused some unnamed persons of enriching themselves from the attacks in the area, he said he and his militiamen were not criminals but freedom fighters. Sources told this newspaper that the ceremony billed to take place at 11 a.m. was postponed following the public outcry after PREMIUM TIMES’ story was published on Friday. He was later turbaned at 2:45 p.m. the same day. The ceremony was attended by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, Mamman Tsafe; security advisor to the governor, Abubakar Dauran; Tsafe Local Government Chairman, Aminu Mudi, and representatives of the information commissioner, district heads and other traditional title holders and government officials.”

Somalia

AFP: Car Bomb Kills Five At Somalia Hotel: Police

“A powerful car bomb killed at least five people on Sunday outside a popular hotel in central Somalia, police and witnesses said, in an attack claimed by militants aligned with Al-Qaeda. The blast injured 14 others and destroyed not just the hotel but adjacent buildings in Jowhar about 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Police said the attackers rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the outer wall of the Nur-doob hotel, popular with state lawmakers and other local officials. “They have killed five civilians, among them women working in the hotel and security guards,” said Mohamed Ali, a police officer in Jowhar, told AFP. “Fourteen other people were wounded, some of them inside buildings not even close to the hotel.” Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based group tied to Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on a pro-militant website. Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, who was endorsed by Somalia’s parliament in June after a recent change of government, sent condolences to the victims and offered to assist those injured. Ali, the police officer, said the blast “was the biggest ever seen in Jowhar” and caused significant damage to buildings in the city. Mahad Ibrahim, a Jowhar resident, said the explosion sent shrapnel flying and clouds of smoke and dust into the air.”

All Africa: Somalia: Danab Forces 'Neutralized' Al-Shabaab Members - Official

“At least five Al-Shabaab members were killed and one captured alive by the Somali military during an operation outside the port city of Kismayo, an official said. The troops from Danab brigade swept into a tax base manned by Al-Shabaab in an area named Labakus, where they engaged in a heavy gunfight with the militants. The state media reported, citing an unnamed SNA officer that the government forces seized a large cage of weapons during the covert operation in the Jubaland state of Somalia. Jubaland state has been the scene of frequent operations by the American military-trained and funded Danab forces within the Somali national army [SNA] in the past months.”

Africa

Associated Press: Tunisia Opposition Leader Investigated On Terrorism Charges

“The leader of Tunisia’s main opposition party is due to be questioned by the country’s anti-terrorism unit on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and terrorist financing through an association charity. The accused, Rached Ghannouchi, was among a dozen top Ennahdha party officials whose bank accounts the north African country’s central bank froze earlier this month. Ennahdha vehemently disputes the accusations of money laundering and terrorism financing. President Kais Saied suspended parliament last year and seized broad powers in a move that he said was necessary to “save the country” from a political and economic crisis. This prompted criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of a slide toward totalitarianism. Ennahdha has said that these accusations are aimed at distracting attention from a July 25 referendum planned by Saied to change the constitution to augment presidential powers and reduce the role of the parliament and prime minister. The president’s critics say he is trying to legitimize a “coup.” Opposition figure Nejib Chebbi said he feared for Ghannouchi’s arrest after the hearing, denouncing what he called a “harassment campaign” unleashed by the government against “leading political figures.” Saied and some others blamed Ennahdha in part for Tunisia’s political crisis last year.”

AFP: Jihadist Attack In Burkina Faso Leaves At Least Eight Dead

“At least eight people were killed when suspected jihadists attacked a village in northern Burkina Faso at the weekend, security sources and locals said on Monday, giving provisional figures. A village called Guissingori “was targeted on Sunday. The attack claimed the lives of around 10 people,” a source in the security forces said. A local source said eight bodies had been found but the toll was expected to rise. The source gave no further details. The assailants looted the village and made off with cattle, the security source said. Guissingori lies in Yagha, a province which borders Niger and has suffered some of the bloodiest attacks in a long-running security crisis. Armed Islamists based in neighbouring Mali began mounting cross-border raids on Burkina Faso and Niger in 2015. In Burkina, one of the poorest countries of the world, thousands of civilians, troops and police have been killed and an estimated 1.9 million people have fled their homes. More than 40 percent of the country is out of the government's control, according to official figures. In January, soldiers disgruntled at failures to stem the insurgency staged a coup, forcing out elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore. The new strongman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, was sworn in as president in March.”

Australia

Daily Mail: Accounting Student Who Ditched University To Join Islamic State Is Now BEGGING To Return To Australia After Being Captured In Syria

“A former Melbourne accounting student who fled Australia eight years ago to reportedly join the terrorist group Islamic State wants to return home and insists he poses no danger. Mahir Absar Alam, 29, has spent the last three years behind bars when Kurdish forces captured him just outside Baghouz in eastern Syria, the last piece of territory held by the terrorist group. He was the first Australian caught during ISIS' final military stand and is one of about a dozen Australian men who have been detained without charge. Meghan Markle is all smiles as she is spotted with Gloria Steinem at Soho's swanky Crosby Hotel for lunch - two weeks after both appeared in Vogue to blast Roe v Wade decision: Duchess described Prince Harry's reaction to the news as 'guttural', and other top stories from July 19, 2022. Alam says he's had no contact with the outside world since a visit from ASIO officers shortly after he was captured in 2019. He refused to confirm whether he was or had been an ISIS member, citing legal and intelligence reasons but denied he'd ever been a fighter for the terrorist group. He also insists he posed no threat and wouldn't do anything to hurt his birthplace Australia. 'I don't have any problem with the Australian government or my country. I love Australia, and I didn't do anything wrong in Australia. I want to come back,' Alam told The Australian.”

Europe

Reuters: Erdogan Says Turkey Will Freeze Finland, Sweden's NATO Bids If Promises Not Kept

“Turkey will freeze Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids if the Nordic countries do not keep promises on counter-terrorism made last month, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, adding he believed Sweden was "not showing a good image" for now. Finland and Sweden applied for membership of the defence alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but were met with opposition from Turkey, which accused the Nordic countries of supporting groups it deems terrorists. The three countries signed an accord at the NATO summit in Madrid last month to lift Ankara's veto in exchange for pledges on counter-terrorism and arms exports. Turkey has said it will closely monitor the implementation of the accord to ratify their membership bids.”

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