Eye on Extremism: July 21, 2022

Associated Press: UN Slams Killings, Rights Abuses Under Afghanistan's Taliban

“Hundreds of people have been killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban overran the country nearly a year ago, even though security on the whole has improved since then, the United Nations said in a report Wednesday. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan also highlighted the poor situation of women and girls since the Taliban takeover and how they have been stripped of many of their human rights under Afghanistan's current rulers. “It is beyond time for all Afghans to be able to live in peace and rebuild their lives after 20 years of armed conflict. Our monitoring reveals that despite the improved security situation since 15 August, the people of Afghanistan, in particular women and girls, are deprived of the full enjoyment of their human rights,” said Markus Potzel, deputy special representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan. The report said as many as 700 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded since mid-August 2021, when the Taliban overran the Afghan capital of Kabul as the United States and NATO were in the final weeks of their withdrawal from the country. The majority of those casualties were linked to attacks by the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country, a bitter rival of the Taliban which has targeted ethnic and religious minority communities in places where they go to school, worship and go about their daily lives.”

Axios: Hezbollah Threatens War Over Lebanon-Israel Maritime Border Dispute

“With the U.S., Israeli and Lebanese governments hoping to finally reach a deal on the disputed Israel-Lebanon maritime border, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah again threatened war if Lebanon's “rights” in the Mediterranean aren't respected. Why it matters: The dispute is focused on a potentially gas-rich, 330-square-mile area of the Mediterranean Sea off of Israel and Lebanon. The revenues from future natural gas production there could reach billions of dollars. One major gas project, the Karish oil field, is expected to come online this fall and is part of Israel's plans to become a major gas supplier to Europe. Israel says Karish is south of the disputed area, but Nasrallah warned that if Lebanon's rights aren't respected, Hezbollah won't allow Israel to produce any gas there. Two weeks ago, the Israeli military shot down three Hezbollah drones that were on their way to the Karish field. “We might be going to war and we might not. We don’t want to open a new front, we only want our rights. If someone in Lebanon thinks capitulation is the solution, we think it’s unacceptable,” Nasrallah said yesterday. State of play: U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein is mediating between the Israeli and Lebanese governments, which are technically in a state of war and have yet to make a breakthrough during years of stop-start diplomacy on this issue.”

United States

The Hill: Senate Defense Bill Signals Opposition To Pentagon’s Extremism Efforts

“The Senate Armed Services Committee signaled opposition to the Department of Defense’s efforts to counter extremism in the military in a report on its version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The committee released the text of the bill this week, after voting 23-3 to advance the measure last month. In the accompanying report, the committee says “the vast majority of servicemembers serve with honor and distinction, and that the narrative surrounding systemic extremism in the military besmirches the men and women in uniform.” “The committee believes that spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately,” the report continues. The language in the bill’s report was approved by a vote of 14-12, with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who typically caucuses with Democrats, joining all Republicans voting in favor of the language. Republicans have been open about their opposition to the Pentagon’s efforts, essentially saying it creates problems where there aren’t any. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a force-wide “stand down” to address extremism in February of 2021, amid the revelation that some defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol had some connection to the military.”

WKRN ABC: Sparta Woman Sentenced After Pleading Guilty To Terrorism Charges, Aiding Foreign Terrorist Organization

“A woman from Sparta, Tennessee was sentenced to five and a half years in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to providing support and materials intended to go to a foreign terrorist organization. A release from the Department of Justice says in August 2019, a federal grand jury indicted 37-year-old Georgianna A.M. Giampietro on charges of attempting to provide material support to a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Giampietro was charged in January 2022 with concealment of material support and resources intended to be provided to a foreign terrorist organization; she pleaded guilty to the charge in January. Once Giampietro is released from prison, she will be under supervised release for 15 years. Court documents say in September 2018, Giampietro spoke with an undercover agent who was interested in traveling to Syria to join Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. The undercover agent reportedly told Giampietro that her husband swore an oath of allegiance to HTS and that he intended to fight on behalf of HTS.”

Iraq

Reuters: Turkey Says Attack On Iraq's Dohuk A Terror Act, Calls On Iraq To Avoid Terror Propaganda

“Turkey believes an attack on Iraq's northern Dohuk region which killed eight and wounded 23 others was a terror attack and calls on Iraqi authorities to avoid making statements influenced by “terrorist organisation propaganda”, Ankara's foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Earlier, Iraqi state media said the attack was carried out by Turkey. In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara was saddened to hear about the casualties in the attack, and added Turkey took maximum care to avoid civilian casualties or damage to historic or cultural sites. It said Turkey was ready to take any necessary steps to uncover the truth behind the attack.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Six Iraq Police Killed In Attack Blamed On ISIS

“Six Iraqi police were killed and seven wounded early Wednesday in an attack by militants on their position in a remote area north of Baghdad, a military source said. “Between 10 and 15 ISIS group militants attacked this federal police forward position around 12:30 am (2130 GMT Tuesday). The attack lasted around an hour,” the source said, asking not to be identified. The attackers struck near the village of Al-Jillam in an area 140 kilometers north of Baghdad where extremists remain active, AFP reported. ISIS established a so-called “caliphate” across swathes of Syria and Iraq from 2014. It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 after offensives by Iraqi forces with the support of the US-led coalition that has included more than 80 countries, among them Britain, France and several Arab nations. Even though Iraq declared victory against ISIS in December 2017, the group's remnants still carry out sporadic attacks against security forces, particularly in sparsely populated desert or mountain areas. The last major attack claimed by the extremists came in July last year, when they bombed a market in the Baghdad Shiite district of Sadr City. The US-led coalition formed to fight ISIS formally ended its combat mission in Iraq in December, shifting to a training and advisory role. The 2,500 US and 1,000 other coalition troops had been acting as advisers and trainers since mid-2020.”

Turkey

Asharq Al-Awsat: Turkey Arrests 5 ISIS Members Who Were Active In Syria, Iraq

“Turkish security forces arrested Tuesday five suspected ISIS terrorists in Adana, southern Turkey. Counter-terrorism forces had launched a raid in the city after receiving information about the presence of six suspects who were reportedly fought in Syria and Iraq, security sources said. Five were arrested, while efforts are ongoing to arrest the last suspect. The sources did not reveal the nationalities of the detainees, who were transferred to Adana’s Security Directorate for interrogation. Last week, security forces in Izmir, western Turkey, arrested five people suspected of carrying financing ISIS activities. The operation was carried out based on a report by the Financial Crimes Investigation Board on the financing of the terrorist organization in Syria. The suspects were arrested in separate areas across the province and the interrogation process is still ongoing. Turkish security forces have continued to crack down on ISIS cells operations targeting ISIS cells since 2017, after the terrorist organization attacked the Reina nightclub in Istanbul on New Year's Eve, killing 69 people, most of whom were foreigners. ISIS had previously claimed responsibility for several terrorist operations across Turkey between 2015 and 2017, killing over 300 people and injuring dozens others. The Interior Ministry announced that between December 2015 and December 2020, 8,143 foreigners were deported on suspicion of terrorism. About 100,000 people are banned from entering the country for the same reason.”

Reuters: Turkey Says It Will Meet Finland, Sweden In August To Evaluate Terror-Related Pledges

“Officials from Turkey, Finland and Sweden will meet in August to evaluate the progress made in fulfilling Ankara's counter-terrorism demands from the Nordic countries to lift its veto on their NATO membership bid, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but were faced with opposition from Turkey, which accused them of supporting groups it deems terrorists. The three countries signed an accord last month to lift Ankara's veto in exchange for promises on counter-terrorism and arms exports. Speaking to state broadcaster TRT Haber, Cavusoglu said the meeting in August would be the first of a monitoring committee formed under the accord, but repeated that Turkey would block the Nordic countries' memberships if they did not keep their promises.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Reporter Says Taliban Forced Her To Publicly Retract Accurate Articles

“The Taliban forced a longtime war correspondent to publicly retract some of her articles this week, telling her that she would go to jail if she did not, she said, in the latest crackdown on press freedom in Afghanistan. The reporter, Lynne O’Donnell, an Australian who writes for Foreign Policy and other publications, explained her circumstances on Wednesday, after she had safely left Afghanistan. “They dictated. I tweeted,” she wrote on Twitter. “They didn’t like it. Deleted, edited, re-tweeted. Made video of me saying I wasn’t coerced. Re-did that too.” In an article on Wednesday in Foreign Policy, Ms. O’Donnell wrote that Taliban intelligence agents had “detained, abused and threatened me.” She said the Taliban had taken issue with articles that she wrote in 2021 and 2022 about the threat of forced marriages by Taliban fighters and the violence facing L.G.B.T.Q. people living in Afghanistan. She wrote that one intelligence officer had told her that “there are no gays in Afghanistan,” while another had told her that he would kill anyone he learned was gay. A spokesman for the Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The forced retraction by a Western journalist underscores the increasing restrictions on the press in Afghanistan, where new leadership that promised to allow media freedom is instead harassing and detaining journalists.”

Yemen

Arab News: Houthis Besiege, Attack Small Village In Yemen’s Al-Bayda

“The Iran-backed Houthis have laid siege to a small village in the Yemeni central province of Al-Bayda and begun indiscriminately bombarding houses, Yemen’s government and rights activists said on Wednesday.  Residents and local media reports said that the Houthis besieged Khubzah village in Al-Bayda’s Ghaifa after the Yemeni militia accused villagers of assassinating allied operatives. The villagers denied the Houthi accusations, and tribal mediations failed to convince the Houthis to stop their siege and shelling of the village. Yemen’s government said that the Houthis are besieging the village, preventing people — including the wounded or children and women — from leaving, warning of a humanitarian crisis in the village if the Houthis did not end the siege and the attacks. “The Govt. condemns in the strongest terms the #Houthi militia’s attack on the Khubzah village in #AlBayda Governorate & imposing a siege on its residents, preventing the delivery of food & medical supplies,” the Yemeni government said on Twitter. It slammed the Houthis for seeking to undermine the UN-brokered truce that has largely reduced violence across the country. “Such continuous attacks undermine the truce and efforts made to extend it.” Local activists circulated a letter from tribesmen pledging to hand over fellow men to the Houthis if they substantiated their allegations.”

Middle East

Long War Journal: Ayman Al Zawahiri Is Alive; Taliban And Al Qaeda “Remain Close,” UN Reports

“Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of Al Qaeda who served as Osama bin Laden’d deputy on 9/11, “is confirmed to be alive” and is “communicating freely,” according to a report from the United Nations’ Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team. Additionally, the UN said the Taliban-Al Qaeda alliance remains strong, as reported by FDD’s Long War Journal, and the leaders of Al Qaeda’s branches in North and East Africa have assumed roles in Al Qaeda’s line of succession. While it is not news that Zawahiri is alive, well, and communicating comfortably, some terrorism analysts previously claimed Zawahiri was dead as recently as Nov. 2020. While not explicitly stated, Zawahiri is likely operating inside Afghanistan. “Member States note that al-Zawahiri’s apparent increased comfort and ability to communicate has coincided with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the consolidation of power of key [Al Qaeda] allies within their de facto administration,” the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team noted in its latest report on the status of Al Qaeda and its rival, the Islamic State.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Al-Shabab Attacks Somali Towns Close To Ethiopian Border

“Heavy fighting was reported Wednesday after al-Shabab militants attacked two Somali towns along the border with Ethiopia. Regional officials who confirmed the attack with VOA Somali said militants clashed with Liyu police, members of Ethiopia’s controversial paramilitary forces that have long been present in Somalia’s southwestern Bakool region towns of Yeed and Aato. Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) operating in Somalia as part of a bilateral security deal between Ethiopia and Somalia rely on Liyu police for border protection and supply route safety and logistics. A security official who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak with media told VOA’s Somali Service that al-Shabab first attacked a Liyu police camp in Aato town; a local Bakool region official confirmed the al-Shabab then carried out a second attack on Yeed, where militants again entered a Liyu police encampment. Militants later attacked Washaaqo village with mortars, possibly to disrupt Liyu police reinforcements from arriving on the scene. Yeed and Aato are within 80 kilometers of each other, while Washaaqo is slightly further inside Somalia. Casualties are not yet known. Telephone networks in the area had been down most of Wednesday.”

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Members Detained In Army Operation

“Somali government forces have carried out an operation in several areas in southern Somalia, targeting key Al-Shabaab bases, officials said. The operation was conducted in villages near Wanlaweyn town in the Lower Shabelle region, which lies on Mogadishu-Baidoa road, where Al-Shabaab stages ambush attacks. An unspecified number of Al-Shabaab members were detained by the military forces during their sweep-up operation that comes amidst an intensified crackdown on the militants. Al-Shabaab is yet to comment on the SNA claims. The region has witnessed deadly battles between Al-Shabaab and the Somali army along with AU soldiers from ATMIS.”

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