Eye on Extremism: July 22, 2022

Bloomberg: Islamist Militants Launch Attacks On Towns Near Ethiopian Border

“Al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked four towns near the border between Somalia and Ethiopia, the first major assault by the Islamist group since Somalia appointed a new president in May. Towns including Aato and Yeed were targeted in the raids by the al-Shabaab group, according to people who declined to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak to the media. Dozens of members of an Ethiopian paramilitary police unit, known as the Liyu, were killed in the raids, according to two of the people. It wasn’t immediately clear whether any al-Shabaab fighters died. The office of Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre ordered the country’s security forces to swiftly respond to the situation at the border, though it didn’t provide a death toll for the attack. Barre on Wednesday met with senior members of an African Union-led armed force fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia and said he would help launch a new offensive against the militants in order to reach those in need of humanitarian assistance. The region is facing its worst drought in four decades. Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane didn’t respond to questions about the attack. SomaliMemo, a pro-al-Shabaab media outlet, also reported the attacks, claiming the militant group seized ammunition and military equipment.”

Reuters: Hundreds Protest In Baghdad After Deadly Attack On Tourist Resort

“Hundreds of people protested in Baghdad on Thursday after an attack in northern Iraq killed nine people including a newly wed husband and a 1-year-old, a strike that Iraq blamed on Turkish forces but which Ankara denied carrying out. The incident took place on Wednesday at a summer resort near the northern Iraqi town of Zakho close to the border with Turkey, in a region where Turkish forces have waged a campaign against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. Iraq accused Turkey of responsibility for the deaths, but has not provided evidence. Ankara said it had not carried out any attacks aimed at civilians in the area and said it was ready to hold talks with Iraq to uncover the facts. “All signals indicate that Turkey is responsible for the assault and its denial is a 'dark joke,'“ the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “There is a possibility that Iraq will resort to the economic card,” the ministry said, without further explanation. In Baghdad, around 500 people gathered near a building belonging to the Turkish Embassy and scuffles briefly broke out between police and protesters.”

Syria

Washington Examiner: ‘Perfect Storm Brewing’ For ‘Reemergence Of ISIS’ In Syria, Graham Warns

“Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is imploring his colleagues and the Biden administration to pay attention to northeast Syria, even as Russia's war in Ukraine and the threat of China loom large in defense circles. Graham recently returned from a trip to the al-Hol refugee camp and Hasakah prison, both in northeast Syria. The refugee camp has a population of roughly 55,000, consisting mainly of the wives and children of the Islamic State fighters who are in the prison, both of which are rampant with radicalization. A possible new generation of radicalized jihadis, in addition to those currently housed in Hasakah prison, presents a chilling risk to U.S. national security, according to Graham, who detailed his trip to the Washington Examiner in an interview on Wednesday. “The reemergence of ISIS as a threat to the American homeland is increasing by the day,” he stated. “There's a perfect storm brewing in northeastern Syria, where we have a refugee camp full of ISIS wives and children mixed in with other populations. That's going to be an ISIS factory. ... The radical elements of the camp are taking over.” Graham stressed the importance of improving the lives of the people in the camp, which he described as “a tent city with very draconian living conditions,” and it's an issue he plans to address on Capitol Hill.”

Iran

Fox News: Belgium's Parliament Passes Iran Treaty That May Lead To Release Of Convicted Terrorist

“The Belgian parliament ratified a treaty with Iran that sets the stage for a prisoner swap that could see a convicted Iranian terrorist walk free. “The Iranian Resistance strongly condemns the endorsement of the shameful deal with the clerical regime and considers it the highest incentive for the religious fascism ruling Iran to step up terrorism and to use hostage-taking as much as possible,” Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said in a statement after the vote. The statement comes after 79 of the 131 Belgian MPs present voted in favor of the treaty that was approved by the parliament’s foreign affairs committee on July 6, paving the way for a deal that could see the release of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian convicted to 20-years in prison in Belgian courts for a bomb plot that targeted a rally by opponents of the Iranian regime in France. The deal will also pave the way for the release of Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele, who has been in Iran since February. But some parts of the treaty, which allow Belgians convicted in Iran to serve their sentences in Belgium and Iranians convicted in Belgium to serve their sentences in Iran, were more controversial, most notably a provision that allows each country the ability to grant amnesty to its prisoners. Assadi, a former Iranian diplomat, is expected to be quickly set free.”

Afghanistan

AFP: Facebook Removes Afghan Media Pages Controlled By Taliban

“Facebook has removed the accounts of at least two state-owned media outlets in Afghanistan, the company confirmed Thursday, saying it was complying with laws in the United States listing the Taliban as a “terrorist organisation”. The Taliban have made liberal use of Facebook and Twitter since seizing power in August last year, and have a firm grip on state-owned media in the country -- including radio and TV stations, and newspapers. While Facebook parent Meta did not list the banned media outlets, state broadcaster National Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and the government-owned Bakhtar news agency both said that they had been blocked. The Facebook pages of privately owned media houses seemed unaffected. “The Taliban is sanctioned as a terrorist organisation under U.S. law and they are banned from using our services,” a Meta spokesperson told AFP in a statement. “We remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them,” it added. Government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid criticised the blocking, saying it showed “impatience and intolerance” by the US firm. “The slogan 'Freedom of expression' is used to deceive other nations,” he tweeted.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: High Court Upholds Law To Revoke Citizenship Of Israeli Terrorists

“The High Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that the law permitting the revocation of the citizenship of terrorists is constitutional, although it also canceled decisions by former interior ministers to revoke the citizenship of convicted terrorists Alaa Ziad and Mahmoud Mafarja. Ziad is an Arab-Israeli who ran over and stabbed two soldiers and two civilians, one of whom was 15 years old, at Gan Shmuel near Hadera, and was convicted by the Haifa District Court of four counts of attempted murder. Mafarja planted a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv in 2012, wounding 24 people. He was convicted on charges of intent of aiding the enemy, attempted murder and causing serious bodily harm, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The power to revoke citizenship was first enshrined in the Citizenship Law in 1952 and has been amended multiple times since then. The law in its current form allows the interior minister to submit a request to a court to revoke the Israeli citizenship of a person if they acquired their citizenship using false information or if they committed an act that constitutes a “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.” That means an act of terrorism, an act that constitutes treason or “serious espionage” or the acquisition of citizenship or permanent residence in enemy countries (i.e. Iran, Lebanon or Syria, among others).”

Nigeria

Newsweek: 'My University Was Attacked By Boko Haram Terrorists, It Changed My Life'

“When I started my second year of university in 2009, at the age of 19, I feared the unknown. Unlike most university students, I wasn't just worried about being away from my parents. I feared the very real threat of the rising insurgency group, Boko Haram. At the time, the insurgency group was attacking the outskirts of communities, which led to a lot of tense times for the students on my campus at the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, Nigeria. Nobody wanted to stay out late at night, or to travel home alone. Students were kidnapped on their way to campus. We heard about cases of rape and girls who were kidnapped and married to the insurgents. Others were shot dead by stray bullets. There was a time where we found six bodies behind a student hostel. These attacks often happened in broad daylight. And of course as students, we knew each other well. So when an incident happened, we would often know the victim.The feeling I remember most is fear: the fear of who would be next, where the next attack would happen. As young students, it was always on our minds. Our parents panicked, too, and they would call to check in and ask, “what's happening, do you really want to stay there?”

Mali

AFP: Mali Army Says 3 Soldiers, 3 Terrorists Killed In Attacks

“Mali’s army on Thursday said three soldiers and three “terrorists” died following simultaneous early morning attacks in several towns in the country’s centre and west, adding to a growing list of deadly incidents since last week. In a statement, the military blamed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Macina Katiba jihadists for the attacks, which it said took place in and around the towns of Douentza, Koro, Sevare, Bapho, Segou and Kolokani. It said one soldier and three terrorists were killed after a vehicle exploded in Douentza at 6:30 am (local and GMT), followed by gunfire. In Kolokani, 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of the capital Bamako, “complex and simultaneous attacks targeted the detachment of the Anti-Terrorist Force and the Territorial Brigade of the Gendarmerie” at around 0530 GMT, killing two Malian soldiers and wounding three others, the army said. In Koro, a vehicle exploded at around 0515 GMT, leaving no casualties. Shells were fired at military compounds in Segou and Bapho, causing no casualties, while another vehicle was found in Mopti near the town of Sevare packed with explosives but successfully destroyed without causing damage, the army said. Earlier Thursday, the army announced it had “neutralised” 48 “terrorists” during several operations carried out between July 14 and 18 in the centre and east of the Sahel country.”

Reuters: Mali Army Says It Repelled 'Terrorist' Attack On Military Base Near Capital

“Mali's army said it repelled a "terrorist attack" on Friday against its main base outside the capital Bamako, which was carried out with car bombs. "The provisional death toll is two assailants neutralised," it said in a tweet. "The situation is under control and clearing operations are under way to flush out the authors and their accomplices.”

Africa

Air Force Times: Counterterrorism Still A Pressing Issue For Special Operations, Africa Command Nominees

“With the war in Afghanistan in the rear-view mirror, a pressing threat to Europe from Russia in the foreground and an ongoing competition for influence and military dominance with China, the generals tapped to lead U.S. Special Operations and Africa commands are set to have a lot on their plates. At their confirmation hearing Thursday, senators were eager to hear about how they plan to counter the ongoing threat of non-state terrorist groups, while balancing the main priorities in the current national defense strategy. “In general, lately, I’m concerned that in the current world situation, we’re taking our eye off the terrorist threat, and it is certainly extremely serious in in Africa,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, told Marine Lt. Gen. Michael Langley, who has been tapped to lead AFRICOM, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In addition to local ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates, the continent is home to groups like Boko Haram and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, an amalgamation of several predecessor groups that has come together in the Sahel region over the past five years. “Please share with me your thoughts on that, because it’s so easy in the time of Ukraine, and the China challenge, to sort of move the focus away from terrorism, but these people are still there,” King added.”

Voice Of America: L'Afrique, Zone De Croissance Exponentielle Du Groupe Etat Islamique

“…Sur l'Est enfin, poursuit Elie Tenenbaum, de l'Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI), “il y a des Ougandais qui circulent dans toute l’Afrique australe. Ils passent par le Malawi et ça peut descendre très au sud”. “Ce sont des lieux de passage mal contrôlés”, précise-t-il, évoquant des “points de passage de trafic anciens” et des individus qui agissent “parfois en électron libre”. Mais aussi peu structurée qu'elle soit, la croissance de l'EI profite, en miroir, de la faiblesse de la lutte anti-terroriste. Rares sont les actions conjointes entre Etats, comme entre armées congolaises et ougandaises contre les ADF, ou comme l'intervention rwandaise face à l'EI au Mozambique. Au Sahel, la France quitte le Mali après neuf ans d'antiterrorisme et la mission onusienne, la Minusma, est en suspens. “La coordination va mal”, tranche Hans-Jakob Schindler, directeur de l'ONG Counter-Extremism Project (CEP) et ex-expert de l'ONU sur le jihadisme. Il regrette le départ des Français, tant les Etats africains semblent impuissants face au fléau jihadiste. Et “à part la France, dans l'Union européenne, est-ce que c'est un sujet prioritaire ? Non ! Nous l'ignorons à notre propre detriment.”

Europe

AFP: Irish Court To Sentence Ex-Soldier For Joining IS In Syria

“Dublin's Special Criminal Court was on Friday expected to sentence former soldier Lisa Smith, who was found guilty of joining the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. The 40-year-old mother of one from Dundalk on Ireland's east coast, was convicted in May of belonging to the terror group between October 28, 2015 and December 1, 2019. She faces a maximum sentence of eight years for membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation. Her lawyer said Smith's offence was at the lower end of the scale and has urged the judges to consider imposing a suspended sentence. She was acquitted by three judges on a separate charge of financing terrorism by sending 800 euros ($900) to aid medical treatment for a Syrian man in Turkey. During her nine-week trial, prosecutors outlined how Smith -- who was a member of the Irish Defence Forces from 2001 to 2011 -- travelled to IS territory in 2015 following a conversion to Islam. In 2012, she went on pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and expressed a desire on an Islamic Facebook page to live under Sharia law and to die a martyr. The court was told that she bought a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, crossed the border into Syria and lived in Raqqa, the capital of the self-styled IS caliphate.”

Technology

Arab News: Etidal, Telegram Remove 1.9 Million Items Of Extremist Online Content

“The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, and messaging platform Telegram, have together removed around 1.9 million online items of extremist content since partnering on an initiative earlier this year. And of the total, an estimated 1.2 million pieces of material and links were taken down between June 8 and July 12. The center, known as Etidal, has been collaborating with Telegram on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism by reviewing online content posted in Arabic. Both organizations have agreed to expand their coordination to detect and remove Arabic material glorifying terrorism. Among items referred were media files — PDFs, videos, and audio — uploaded by groups on Telegram and public Telegram channels hosting the material. The cooperation agreement aims to protect the platform’s users from extremist content, ideological influences, and attempts to exploit the platform in trading the content. On Feb. 21, Etidal and Telegram announced a deal to step up their joint cooperation on tackling the issue.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 28, 2020, two Katyusha rockets targeted U.S. troops stationed at Baghdad’s airport, but fell short, striking a house. The impact killed two women and three children and wounded two other children. Iraqi intelligence blamed a small group of Iran-backed fighters.   

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