Eye on Extremism: July 20, 2020

Voice Of America: UN Urges Inquiry Into Violence By Anti-Terrorism Force Against Malian Protestors

“The U.N. Human Rights Office is calling for an investigation into the excessive use of violence by an elite counter-terrorism force in Mali against anti-government protestors last weekend, causing many civilian casualties. MINUSMA, the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in Mali, has confirmed at least 14 protestors were killed and another 154 injured during a violent clampdown by FORSAT, a special anti-terrorism unit operating in Mali. Rights monitors believe this elite special force may have violated its anti-terrorism mandate by suppressing civilians protesting endemic government corruption, alleged electoral fraud and other grievances. Witnesses report the special forces fired lethal ammunition during clashes with demonstrators that erupted July 10. During the protests, at least 200 people were arrested. All have been released pending trial.  Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, says his administration will investigate the violence. Spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssel welcomes the announcement. “It is essential that all alleged human rights violations and acts of violence committed during the demonstrations are the subject of prompt, thorough, transparent and independent investigations and that those responsible are held to account,” she said.”

The Jerusalem Post: Qatar Finances Hezbollah Terrorism, Declares ‘Jews Are Enemies’ - Report

“A German private security contractor, who has worked for the federal republic’s intelligence and security services, leveled bombshell allegations against Qatar’s regime, stating Doha finances the US and EU-designated terrorist movement Hezbollah and has declared Jews to be the enemies of the tiny Gulf state. The German weekly news outlet Die Zeit first reported on Friday about the security contractor Jason G. who obtained explosive details about Qatari terror finance. “In Doha, G. came across some unsavory information. There was an alleged arms deal with war munitions from Eastern Europe that was supposed to be handled by a company in Qatar. And there were alleged money flows from several rich Qataris and exiled Lebanese people from Doha to Hezbollah – the organization that is part of the government in Lebanon but is internationally outlawed as a terrorist organization and has been completely banned in Germany since April. The donations are said to have been processed with the knowledge of influential government officials through a charity organization in Doha,” wrote the veteran Die Zeit journalists Yassin Musharbash and Holger Stark.”

United States

Yahoo News: 'Boogaloo' On The Loose: Experts Warn Congress About Extremism On The Right

“Authorities who study extremism told Congress Thursday that far-right groups, not the radicals of antifa, currently pose the most serious threat of political violence in America — including attacks on the police. “The facts are right now that right-wing extremism is the bigger problem. That’s where the violence is coming from,” said Heidi Beirich, the recent co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and former director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, where she spent the past two decades tracking and reporting on far-right extremist activity in the U.S. Beirich was called to testify Thursday as part of a virtual hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism, along with JJ MacNab, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, and John Donohue, the former chief of strategic initiatives for the New York City Police Department and a fellow at Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience. The subject of the hearing, led by subcommittee Chairman Max Rose, D-N.Y., was “assessing the threat of accelerationists and militia extremists,” such as members of the so-called boogaloo movement, which has recently become the subject of increased national interest following the arrests of several alleged boogaloo members on charges mostly related to violent actions or plots relating to the Black Lives Matter protests.”

The Defense Post: What Does Al-Qaeda Tell Us About The Base?

“Homegrown terrorism has been a security concern in the United States for many years, focusing primarily on affiliates of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Threats from these groups continue, and the prospects of an attack are worrisome. However, equally troubling is the rapid growth and vocal intensity of white, racially motivated violent extremist groups that prioritize and engage in domestic terrorism. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of white nationalist groups in the US has increased 55 percent for the last three years and that white nationalism poses a serious threat to national security and pluralistic democracy. The Anti-Defamation League reported that the “white supremacists have committed 78 percent of right-wing extremist-related murders” over the last 10 years and that the right-wing extremists were responsible for 90 percent of domestic extremist-related murders. White supremacists, in particular, were responsible for 81 percent of extremist killings in 2019 alone. Among these groups is The Base, a fairly new organization that warrants scrutiny. Perhaps by coincidence or by clever calculation, the group’s name is the English translation of the Arabic word al-Qaeda, which also is the name of a Salafi jihadist terrorist organization.”

Syria

Reuters: Five Dead, 85 Wounded In Car Bomb Attack In Syria's Azaz: Turkish State Media

“A car bomb attack in northwestern Syria’s Azaz region killed five people and wounded 85 others, a local hospital in Syria and Turkish state media said on Sunday. The incident took place in the village of Siccu, across the border from Turkey’s southern province of Kilis, Turkey’s Anadolu agency said. It said 15 of the wounded had been taken to a hospital on the Turkish side of the border and that some were in critical condition. Azaz has been under the control of rebels backed by Turkey since Ankara’s first incursion into Syria in 2016, in an operation that aimed to drive away Islamic State militants and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from its border with Syria. Ankara regards the U.S.-backed YPG as a terrorist organisation. The operation ended in 2017. Syria held a parliamentary election across government territory on Sunday. The country is struggling against a collapsing economy and new U.S. sanctions after President Bashar al-Assad clawed back control of most of the country.”

Agence France-Presse: Monitor: Car Blast Kills 7 Near Syria-Turkey Border Post

“At least seven people were killed and scores wounded on Sunday when a car bomb exploded in northern Syria near a Turkish border crossing, a war monitor said. “A car bomb exploded at a roundabout leading to the entrance of the Bab al-Salam border post,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Seven people were killed, including five civilians, and more than 60 wounded, including women and children.” The area in northern Aleppo province, controlled by the Turkish army and allied Syrian forces, regularly sees deadly attacks and targeted killings. The Observatory blamed the Islamic State group for Sunday's attack, saying it was possibly in retaliation for a surge in operations by Turkish and Turkish-backed forces against IS cells in the region. The Bab al-Salam crossing was a key entry point for cross-border humanitarian aid into northern Syria, but it was closed earlier this month after Russian pressure at the United Nations Security Council. The Turkish official news agency Anadolu reported that a car bomb in the Azaz area, near Bab al-Salam, had killed five people and wounded 85. It accused the Kurdish YPG militia of being responsible. In April, at least 46 people including Turkish-backed rebel fighters were killed when a fuel truck bomb went off in Afrin, a city controlled by Ankara's proxies.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: SDF Launches 2nd Phase Of 'Deterring Terrorism' Campaign

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced launching the second phase of its ''Deterring Terrorism” campaign to track down and pursue ISIS cells in northeastern Syria, along the Euphrates River basin and areas on the Iraqi border. The SDF Media Center issued a statement saying that the operation has kicked off in cooperation with the international coalition, adding that it targets several cities along the northern Euphrates River Basin in Deir Ezzor. The statement explained that the campaign involved the Special Anti-Terrorism Units (YAT), in coordination with the international coalition and air support forces, reiterating that it will continue until the goal set by the General Command is achieved. The spokeswoman of Deir Ezzor Military Council, Lilwa al-Abdullah, announced that the campaign was launched at the request of the tribes’ notables in the region, after meeting with the Commander of the SDF, Mazloum Abdi, stressing that it aims to establish security and stability in the region. Recently, ISIS terrorist attacks increased against civilians, posing a direct threat to their lives. Meanwhile, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Kenneth McKenzie, said that the threat of ISIS attacks is increasing in Syrian areas under the Russian and regime control.”

Iraq

CBS News: Nadia Murad's Vow To Take ISIS To Court, And Her Heartbreaking Return Home

“She wore a scarf in our first interview because she did not want you to know her. She was a humble 21-year-old from a poor farm family. Her dream was to own a hair salon in her village of nearly 2,000, but that was before the massacre. She didn't want to be on 60 Minutes, but she needed the world to know what ISIS did: the murder, the rape, the genocide of her people. Nearly six years ago, in Iraq, we discovered this hesitant, frightened, woman. We did not imagine that her scarf concealed not only her identity, but also a fierce invincibility which would lead her, four years after our interview, to the highest honor the world has to give. We found her here, among refugees who survived the invasion of the ISIS terrorist army. Her people are Yazidis, a minority in northern Iraq that is poor, persecuted and bound by faith to its revered Mount Sinjar. In 2014, ISIS invaded. Two months later, we came to report on the atrocities of the self-described Islamic State. Scott Pelley in 2015: Of course, no country on earth recognizes that state, but if it had a border, this would be it. Beyond that border, was the Yazidi homeland where the faithful practice a religion that predates Islam by 3,000 years. In ISIS's perversion of the Muslim faith, the Yazidis were non-believers condemned to slavery and death.”

Turkey

Reuters: Turkish Police Detain 27 People Over Links To Islamic State

“Turkish police said on Sunday they had detained 27 people with links to the Islamic State militant group whom they suspect were preparing for an attack. Police said they had learned that the people had been ordered to carry out an attack in retaliation for social media posts that insulted Prophet Muhammad. The operation targeted addresses in 15 districts of Istanbul, police said. Islamic State has conducted numerous attacks across Turkey, including on a nightclub in Istanbul on Jan. 1, 2017 in which 39 people were killed, and a bombing in the city’s historic heart that killed 12 in 2016.”

Egypt Today: Turkish Secret Service Trade Over ISIS Women In Syria

“Turkey has openly admitted that its secret service MIT is taking ISIS members out of the Hol Camp in northeast Syria. A source within the security forces has told ANF News about the background to the abduction of female ISIS members from Hol Camp. “We learned a while ago that a group within MIT is trying to take ISIS women from Hol and other camps. We have been investigating this and have arrested some middlemen and ISIS women. Our research has shown that this group from MIT has made contact with the relatives of foreign women and is kidnapping these women for a high price and selling them to their families”. The security source also added that, “A large proportion of ISIS members who were not captured by the SDF are in Turkey and in areas occupied by the Turkish state such as al-Bab, Jarablus, Azaz, Afrin, Idlib, Serekaniye and Gire Spi in northern Syria. Turkey kidnaps women and takes them to their husbands, which makes them even more useful in the war of the Turkish state.” The SDF arrested Syrian ISIS jihadist and human trafficker Shahab Ahmed al-Abdullatif in June 2018. In his phone, detailed information was found about conversations with ISIS members that MIT wanted to bring from Syria to Turkey.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Taliban Make Big Changes Ahead Of Expected Talks With Kabul

“The Taliban have put the son of the movement’s feared founder in charge of their military wing and added several powerful figures to their negotiating team, Taliban officials said. The shake-up, one of the most significant in years, comes ahead of expected talks with Kabul aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan. As head of a newly united military wing, 30-year-old Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob brings his father’s fiercely uncompromising reputation to the battlefield. Equally significant is the addition of four members of the insurgent group’s leadership council to the 20-member negotiating team, Taliban officials told The Associated Press. The shuffle, overseen by Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhunzada, is meant to tighten his control over the movement’s military and political arms, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the inner workings of the Taliban. Analysts say the shake-up could be good news for negotiations with the Afghan political leadership, and a sign of how seriously the Taliban are taking this second — and perhaps most critical — step in a deal Washington signed with the insurgents in February.”

Reuters: 'Don't Redeem The Taliban', Afghan Social Media Users Ask World Before Peace Talks

“Afghans shared accounts of violence linked to the Taliban on social media with the hashtag phrase ‘don’t redeem the Taliban’ as anxiety grows as the United States withdraws troops and attempts to usher peace talks with the militant group. The accounts of alleged violence and human rights abuses with the hashtag phrase in Dari meaning ‘don’t redeem the Taliban’ have been shared more than 100,000 times on Twitter. Kabul-based Twitter user Ejaz Malikzada, 26, said the message had gained traction as Afghan social media users sought to remind foreign powers not to sacrifice achievements on human rights made in the last few decades. “By participating in this hashtag I want to tell those foreigners who insist on starting peace talks in Afghanistan, they have ignored or forgotten the crimes and violence committed by the Taliban against Afghan people,” he said. Though millions of Afghans have no access to Twitter, for many, social media movements allow people to voice their concerns and share their grief from remote parts of the country. The Taliban has carried out attacks that have killed thousands of civilians around the country as they waged an insurgency since their ouster from power.”

Voice Of America: US, Taliban Urge Afghan Leaders To Complete Prisoner Swap

“The United States is calling on leaders in Afghanistan to conclude an ongoing prisoner swap and launch a peace dialogue with the Taliban insurgency without delay. In a series of tweets Sunday, acting U.S. ambassador to Kabul Ross Wilson also stressed the need for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival-turned-coalition partner, Abdullah Abdullah, to implement a power-sharing deal which the two signed in May. “We urge this country’s leaders promptly to establish the new government, create the High Council for National Reconciliation, complete the exchange of prisoners, and move to the opening of intra-Afghan negotiations,” said the American charge d’affairs. Under his power-sharing deal with Ghani, Abdullah has been appointed as the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, which is tasked to lead a team of Afghan negotiators in still-unscheduled talks with the Taliban. The proposed negotiations, however, hinge on the prisoner swap, in which Kabul is required to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for around 1,000 Afghan security force captives held by the insurgent group.”

Daily Sabah: 72 Taliban Militants Killed As Violence Rages In Afghanistan

“As violence surges across Afghanistan, Afghan security forces on Friday said at least 72 Taliban militants, including four top commanders, have been killed in operations in three provinces. In a statement, the Afghan National Army said 32 more insurgents were also injured in ground and air offensives in northern Balkh, Faryab and Sar-i-Pul provinces over the past 24 hours. Earlier this week, at least 36 security personnel were killed and over 60 others wounded in northern parts of the country amid a rise in Taliban-claimed attacks. On Sunday, the Taliban rejected growing calls for a cease-fire by the Afghan government and international community, saying they are yet to find “an alternative” to the ongoing insurgency. In a series of tweets, the group's spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said the implementation of the Doha agreement with the U.S. and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations were necessary for an end to the violence. Days prior to that, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned the peace process could face “serious challenges” if the Taliban continued their attacks. According to the latest figures by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 1,213 civilians have been killed and 1,744 injured in 880 security incidents in the first six months of 2020.”

Lebanon

Voice Of America: US Sanctions On Syria Leave Hezbollah More Isolated In Lebanon

“New U.S. sanctions targeting the Syrian government appear to also undermine Hezbollah in Lebanon. Experts say the measures are alienating Hezbollah from its political allies in Lebanon and weakening its usage of state institutions to assist the Syrian regime. The sanctions, introduced on June 17 and known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, have been described by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah as an “economic war” that aims at “starving both Syria and Lebanon.” He has called on the Lebanese government to ignore them. While the sanctions may not be devastating for Hezbollah, they could deter other parties in Lebanon’s governing coalition from following the Iran-sponsored group’s wish to improve ties to Bashar al-Assad’s administration, according to Hanin Ghaddar, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute. “Hezbollah has been calling the Lebanese government to normalize Lebanon’s relations with the Assad regime,” Ghaddar told VOA. But, he said, none of Hezbollah’s allies “wants to challenge Caesar Act, especially when there are negotiations going on with the international community to salvage the country from its devastating economic crisis.” 

Libya

The Arab Weekly: Reports Shed Light On Mercenaries, Terrorists Sent By Turkey To Libya

“In a development that is bound to cause alarm in Tunisia and other North African nations, Turkey is reported to have dispatched to Libya during the last few months thousands of Islamic extremists, including 2,500 Tunisian ISIS members. The ISIS extremists were sent to back other militants and mercenaries dispatched  by Ankara to fight on the side of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), “Turkish intelligence have transferred Jihadist groups and Islamic State (ISIS) members of different foreign nationalities, from Syria to Libya in the past few months.” These, according to SOHR, included “over 2,500 Tunisian ISIS members” out of thousands of other ISIS-affiliated Tunisians operating in Syria. If confirmed, the transfer of Tunisian extremists from the remote Syrian battlefield to neighbouring Libya is bound to spark serious concerns in Tunis.  The small North African country has suffered major terrorist attacks in 2015 perpetrated by Tunisian ISIS-affiliated extremists after they spent time in Libya. Since the attacks, which caused the death of scores of civilians and foreign tourists, Tunisia has built a 200-km sand barrier and electronic fence on its border with Libya.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Attack Chibok, Kill Three Farmers

“Suspected Boko haram terrorists on Saturday attacked Boftari, Kuburmbula ward of Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, killing three farmers. Sources said the insurgents, who were all armed with assault rifles, came on motorbikes at about 3pm and started shooting sporadically in area where the villagers were farming. They said the insurgents have been coming in the past two weeks to loot without any resistance but were shocked they came shooting on Saturday. About 10 other farmers were also said to have sustained injuries from the gunshots. The source said most villagers were now scared of going to the farm.”

Somalia

Foreign Policy: In Somalia, Iran Is Replicating Russia’s Afghan Strategy

“Iran has established covert ties with the Somalia-based al-Shabab terrorist group well known for its attacks in the Horn of Africa. Following Russia’s playbook in Afghanistan and the surrounding regions, Tehran is allegedly using al-Shabab to attack the U.S. military and other foreign forces in Somalia and in the region, according to senior Somali government and security officials familiar with intelligence and briefed on the matter. Using financial inducements as their means for recruitment, Iran has a proxy network in Somalia and uses facilitators to provide support to violent extremist organizations to counter the influence of the United States and Persian Gulf states, including using Somalia to funnel weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen and to transit weapons to other countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Mozambique, and Central African Republic. Iranian engagement on the African continent is not new. In particular, Iranian religious groups and intelligence agencies have worked for decades to establish missionary and influence operations on the African continent. These include providing religious scholarship opportunities throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in the Horn region competing and countering Gulf states’ influences.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: German Hezbollah Members Send Funds To Lebanese Hezbollah Terrorists

“A Hezbollah-controlled community center in the northern German city of Bremen funnels money to the Lebanese-based terrorist movement Hezbollah, The Jerusalem Post can report on Friday. Bremen’s domestic intelligence service wrote in its Thursday released report that the Al-Mustafa community center “is involved in the financial support” of the Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah. Al-Mustafa organized a talk with a radical Germany-based Islamist who agitates against Israel's existence, said the report. The Bremen intelligence report documents security and terrorism threats to the city-state of Bremen and covers the year 2019. According to the intelligence authors of the report, “the approximately 50 followers of Hezbollah in Bremen are organized in the association Al-Mustafa Community. This Arab Shiite cultural association acts as a contact point for Shi'ite Muslims in Bremen, especially from Lebanon.” The document did not state the amount of funds that Hezbollah members and supporters in Bremen sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon. There are 50 Hezbollah supporters in Bremen, according to the report, and an estimated 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters across Germany. The report suggested that the Al-Mustafa center sent funds to family members of dead Hezbollah terrorists.”

Latin America

InSight Crime: New Revelations Confirm Impunity For Colorado Party Members In Paraguay

“And in 2014, a report by SENAD to the Paraguayan Senate named D’Ecclesiis, as well as another politician on the asset list, Bernardo Villalba, as having links to drug trafficking, ABC Color reported. In 2006, a shipment of 196 kilograms of cocaine was found on a property belonging to D’Ecclesiis in San Pedro. Villalba was named as having reportedly defended drug traffickers from within congress and solicited campaign donations from known criminals. Both men have firmly denied any connections to drug trafficking and have never been charged. The Colorado Party is also the political home of former president Horacio Cartes (2013-2018), a wealthy businessman whose family has a hand in virtually every major industry in Paraguay — from hotel chains and transportation companies to cattle ranching and aviation. Although no longer in office, Cartes has been connected to an extensive cigarette smuggling operation, spanning much of Latin America, according to an investigation by the Counter Extremism Project.”

Canada

The Globe And Mail: In Canadian Law, ‘Terrorism’ Seems To Be The Hardest Word – And It’s Going To Get Harder

“On July 2, Corey Hurren allegedly rammed his truck into the gates of Rideau Hall and, with a loaded firearm, advanced on the grounds where both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Julie Payette reside with their families. The RCMP swiftly intercepted Mr. Hurren. He reportedly threatened the Prime Minister but never raised his weapon in the two hours between leaving his vehicle and his arrest. In his truck, the RCMP says it discovered additional firearms and a two-page note apologizing for the undefined actions he was about to take. The force’s specialized counterterrorism unit, the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, continues to investigate, while further reporting paints a picture of a man with grievances and an interest in online anti-government conspiracy theories. And yet he has only been charged with numerous firearms offences and uttering threats – and not, to the shock of some, with terrorism. In Canada, terrorist activity is specifically defined in the Criminal Code, and for Mr. Hurren to face such charges, the RCMP and federal prosecutors must believe that there is enough evidence to convince a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt of three things.”