Eye on Extremism: July 24, 2020

The New York Times: Former Nazi Guard Is Convicted In One Of Germany’s Last Holocaust Trials

“A German court convicted a 93-year-old man on Thursday for helping the Nazis murder thousands of people while he served as a concentration camp guard more than 75 years ago, in what might be one of the last verdicts to be handed down to a living participant in the Holocaust. The Hamburg state court found Bruno Dey guilty of 5,230 counts of accessory to murder — one for each person believed to have been killed in the Stutthof concentration camp, east of Gdansk in Poland, during the time he served as a guard there, from August 1944 to April 1945. Mr. Dey, who was tried in juvenile court because he was only 17 years old at the time, was given a two-year suspended sentence, reflecting the prosecutors’ acknowledgment of his contrition and willingness to cooperate with authorities. But survivors and those representing them criticized the sentence as too lenient. “It is unsatisfactory and much too late,” said Christoph Heubner of the International Auschwitz Committee, who followed the trial. “What is so upsetting for survivors is that this defendant failed to use the many postwar years of his life to reflect on what he saw and heard.” The trial against Mr. Dey was the latest in a push by prosecutors in the special office for handling Nazi-era crimes to bring aging suspects to justice before it is too late.”

Boston Herald: ICE Deports Former Irish Republican Army Terrorist Caught In Massachusetts

“A onetime member of the Irish Republican Army paroled after serving time for bombing a police station in Northern Ireland decades ago was deported by Boston ICE officials this week. Darcey McMenamin, who was 18 when he was charged in the 1993 mortar attack on a police station west of Belfast, lost in his appeal to both remain in the Boston area and be set free during the coronairus pandemic. He was deported back to Ireland this week, the New England office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday. “There is no safe haven in the U.S. for foreign nationals convicted of terrorist activities. ERO Boston officers still continue their duties even during these trying times,” said Todd M. Lyons, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Boston. “Those who believe they can hide in the U.S. from their crimes including terrorist activities they committed in other countries are in for a rude awakening,” Lyons said. “ICE remains committed to removing dangerous foreign nationals from the U.S., even those who may have managed to evade immigration law for a lengthy period of time.”

United States

The Washington Post: Our Children Were Killed By Islamic State Members. They Must Face Trial.

“We are the parents of James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller and Steven Sotloff. As Syria’s civil war unfolded, our children saw the Syrian people’s suffering and wanted to help, whether by providing humanitarian aid or by telling the world about this disaster. While carrying out this work, they were abducted by members of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. They were starved, tortured and beaten. According to witnesses, Kayla was repeatedly raped by the then-leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Jim, Peter and Steven were publicly murdered in the most brutal way imaginable. Nearly six years later, their bodies haven’t been found. No one has faced justice for their murders. Some of the men who allegedly committed these atrocities are now in U.S. military custody in the Middle East. We implore President Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr and the Justice Department to have the detainees brought to the United States to face trial. Like any grieving relatives, we want to know the full truth about what happened to our loved ones, and we want to see our children’s murderers held accountable. These things can happen only if the suspects are put on trial before a jury in an American court of law.”

NPR: 'I Am Antifa': One Activist's Violent Death Became A Symbol For The Right And Left

“News of an attack trickled out of Tacoma, Wash., just after dawn on a summer morning in July 2019. The details were fuzzy at first — one dead, a fire, the local ICE facility — but those who were close to Willem van Spronsen all said the same thing: They just knew. Van Spronsen, 69, a Dutch-born immigrant, musician and father of two, was a lifelong activist and early member of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, an armed antifascist group in the Seattle area. He stood up to far-right leaders at local rallies, and he was a fixture at demonstrations against U.S. immigration policies, especially family separation. “Kids in cages,” he called it. Van Spronsen's belief in militancy to fight injustice showed up in his song lyrics and street protests. Eventually, friends say, it shaped what they call his “final action,” which began around 4 a.m. that July 13. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle, authorities say, van Spronsen crept onto the grounds of a sprawling immigration jail, set his car on fire, tossed Molotov cocktails and died in a hail of police bullets. As word of a death at the detention center got out, calls flew among members of the John Brown Gun Club. “Was it Will?” they asked, hoping to be wrong about their suspicions.”


CNN: ISIS Exploiting Coronavirus Security Gaps To Relaunch Insurgency, UN Report Warns

“There has been a significant rise in ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria, with the group exploiting security gaps in Iraq caused by the coronavirus pandemic to relaunch and invigorate its rural insurgency in the country, according to a report submitted to the UN Security Council that was made public on Thursday. The wide-ranging report, put together by the UN monitoring team that tracks the global jihadi terror threat, states that the group is consolidating in Iraq and Syria and “showing confidence in its ability to increasingly operate in a brazen manner in its former core area.” It states that the number of ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria “increased significantly in early 2020 as compared with the same period in 2019.” Referring to the situation in Iraq, the UN monitoring team stated that ISIS has “exploited security gaps caused by the pandemic and by political turbulence in Iraq to relaunch a sustained rural insurgency, as well as sporadic operations in Baghdad and other large cities.” In recent weeks in particular, Iraq has seen a huge surge in Covid-19 cases, with the number of cumulative cases surpassing 100,000 on Thursday compared with fewer than 7,000 confirmed on June 1. Syria has far fewer confirmed cases, but leaders of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say ISIS has exploited the fact that the pandemic has limited the SDF's mobility in the region.”

Daily Sabah: Bomb Attack Kills 2 Civilians In Syria’s Ras Al-Ain

“Two civilians have been killed in a bomb attack in northeastern Syria’s Ras al-Ain, local security sources said Thursday. A car bomb detonated near the local assembly building in the center of Ras al-Ain, a city near the Turkish border, also wounding seven other people, according to the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. Local security forces suspect the YPG/PKK terror group may be behind the attack near Turkey's southern border, which also caused material damage. Ras al-Ain was liberated from the control of the YPG/PKK terrorist group last October as part of Turkey's Operation Peace Spring, launched to secure Turkey's borders by eliminating the terror group from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity. However, the YPG/PKK terrorists continue attacks in Ras al-Ain and the nearby city of Tal Abyad despite pulling out of areas under a deal reached by Turkey and the U.S. on Oct. 17. Since then, Turkish soldiers and institutions have implemented a wide range of measures to eradicate traces of terrorism in the liberated Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad provinces by repairing hospitals and schools, demining the region and providing vital COVID-19 aid.”


The New York Times: In Afghan Attacks, Facts Are Murky. But It’s Clear Deaths Are Piling Up.

“For a full day after airstrikes on a remote village in western Afghanistan on Wednesday, the only certainty was that people had perished. The most basic facts — who had carried out the strikes, and how many Taliban and civilians were killed — were impossible to pin down amid the denials, conflicting statements and exaggerations. With the start of peace talks between the Taliban and the government delayed by months, the Afghan war has spiraled into a deadlier phase, even as the United States continues to withdraw its forces. Car bombs, roadside bombs and airstrikes wreak carnage across the country, killing dozens of Afghans everyday. But as the war has spread, the exact nature of the attacks and their toll, particularly on civilians, has increasingly grown opaque. The Taliban often flatly deny incidents that kill civilians, even when the bodies are there to be buried. Protest and pressure turns the government’s denials of civilian casualties in its operations into investigations that rarely result in follow-through or answers. The U.S. military, after a deal with the Taliban in February that was supposed to produce something resembling a cease-fire between them, has quietly returned to striking Taliban units that it sees as preparing attacks on its Afghan allies, but it no longer officially acknowledges those strikes.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Says Ready For Talks Next Month If Prisoner Swap Complete

“The Taliban is prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month straight after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the armed group has said, provided a continuing prisoner swap has been completed. The conditional offer marks the first occasion a talks timeline has been floated since warring parties blew past a March 10 deadline to begin negotiations. The development on Thursday comes amid soaring violence that has threatened to derail US-backed efforts to bring Kabul and the Taliban to the negotiating table and seek an end to Afghanistan's nearly 19-year war. The Taliban is “likely ... ready to begin intra-Afghan negotiations immediately after Eid in case the process of the release of the prisoners is completed”, the armed group's political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter. He added that the Taliban was ready to release the remaining Afghan security force prisoners in their custody, as long as Kabul freed all Taliban inmates “as per our list already delivered” to authorities. There was no immediate response from the Kabul government. The prisoner-exchange issue, agreed to under a deal between the US and the Taliban, has proved a major sticking point ahead of peace talks.”

Agence France-Presse: Eight Civilians Killed In Afghan Strike On Freed Taliban Fighter

“Eight civilians were killed when an Afghan air strike hit a group of people gathered to celebrate a Taliban commander's release from prison, an official said Thursday. The strike in the western province of Herat on Wednesday drew condemnation from a top US diplomat and underscores the worsening violence in Afghanistan's war even as the Taliban and Kabul are supposed to be preparing for peace talks. According to Ali Ahmad Faqir Yar, the district governor in the area where the strike took place, a group had gathered to welcome the Taliban commander. “An air strike was carried out during the ceremony and civilians who participated were among those killed,” he told AFP, putting the toll at eight civilian dead and 16 wounded. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy to Afghanistan, said photographs and witness accounts indicated that many civilians, including children, had been killed. “We urge all sides to contain the violence, protect civilians, and show necessary restraint as the start of intra-Afghan negotiations is so close,” he said on Twitter. The defence ministry, however, disputed both accounts and said none of those killed were civilians. Afghan forces had carried out the strike “based on intelligence photos and videos”, the ministry said.”


Associated Press: Bombing At Open-Air Market Wounds 20 In Northwest Pakistan

“At least 20 people were wounded when a bomb went off at a busy open-air market in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, police said. The bombing in the town of Parachinar happened as people were buying fruits and vegetables from vendors, police official Rehmat Hissain said. The victims, some of them in critical condition, have been taken to hospital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in this majority Shiite town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. The town, west of the provincial capital of Peshawar, has been targeted by Sunni militant groups several times in recent years, leaving dozens dead. The province’s former tribal regions have long served as hideouts for the Taliban and other militants. The government and the army claim they have cleared the area in recent years but there have still been occasional attacks.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: How Might Hezbollah Retaliate Against Israel?

“Hezbollah has been prodded to respond to the death of one of its fighters in Syria in what it says was an Israeli airstrike this week.  The terrorist group – which has thousands of fighters, more than 150,000 missiles and controls part of the government of Lebanon – says that Ali Kamel Mohsen was killed on July 20. Other members of the group may also have been harmed. Over the last several days, Hezbollah supporters have put up hundreds of social media posts vowing revenge. This kinds of rhetoric of “revenge” is similar to Iran’s claims that it will avenge the death of IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, who the US killed in early January. What we know about Hezbollah is that it is an organization to be taken seriously. When it paints itself into a corner by saying it will respond to the killing any of its members, it tends to do something. However, Hezbollah must weigh this against the regional reality. Israel is far stronger today than on the eve of the 2006 war. The same Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gambled in 2006 that Israel would not respond to his attack on a patrol in which Israeli soldiers were killed and bodies kidnapped. He had been watching Israel closely since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and he had also watched how Israel responded to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit by Hamas in Gaza.”


Al Jazeera: UN 'Horrified' By Killing Of Five Aid Workers In Nigeria

“The United Nations has said it is “utterly shocked and horrified” by the killing of five aid workers by unknown armed groups in northeastern Nigeria. The statement late on Wednesday by Edward Kallon, UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, followed the release of a video showing the murder of the humanitarian workers who were kidnapped last month in Borno state. The Nigerian government identified the victims as employees of the country's State Emergency Management Agency as well as international aid organisations Action Against Hunger (ACF), International Rescue Committee and Rich International. “They were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence,” Kallon said. The aid workers were abducted while travelling on a main route connecting the town of Monguno with Borno state capital, Maiduguri. Kallon said he was troubled by the number of illegal checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along the region's main supply routes. “These checkpoints disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance and heighten the risks for civilians of being abducted, killed or injured, with aid workers increasingly being singled out.”


Foreign Policy Research Institute: Can Sudan Escape Its History As A Transit Hub For Violent Extremist Organizations?

“When the U.S. Department of State released its annual country reports on terrorism a few weeks ago, many security analysts were curious how Sudan would be assessed. The state has been officially listed as a sponsor of terrorism since 1993 on account of its support for groups like the Abu Nidal Organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda, among others. According to the report on Sudan, “Despite the absence of high-profile terrorist attacks, ISIS facilitation networks appear to be active within Sudan.” Sudan’s security and counterterrorism forces continue to have difficulties stemming the entry of fighters, weapons, and other illicit goods from neighboring countries. Sudan lacks the technical and physical capabilities to secure its borders, according to the State Department’s report. But Sudan has taken several steps to normalize its relations with the global community, tightening regulation of the country’s financial sector to reduce its susceptibility to money laundering and exhibiting greater willingness to cooperate with regional counterterrorism efforts. According to the U.S. State Department, these include “operations to counter threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan.”

United Kingdom

NBC News: Two Of The ISIS Terrorists Dubbed The Beatles Admit Involvement In Captivity Of Kayla Mueller, James Foley

“Two of the British ISIS terrorists dubbed the “Beatles” further incriminated themselves in the mistreatment of Western hostages in Syria, including Americans Kayla Mueller and James Foley, in interviews obtained exclusively by NBC News. In the interviews, the two men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, for the first time admitted their involvement in the captivity of Kayla, an aid worker who was tortured and sexually abused before her death in 2015. Kotey said, “She was in a room by herself that no one would go in.” Elsheikh got into more detail, saying, “I took an email from her myself,” meaning he got an email address the Islamic State militant group could use to demand ransom from the family. “She was in a large room, it was dark, and she was alone, and … she was very scared.” In one email reviewed by NBC News, ISIS demanded the Muellers pay 5 million euros and threatened that if the demands weren’t met, they would send the family “a picture of Kayla's dead body.” Elsheikh also implicated himself in the abuse of American James Foley. “I didn't choke Jim,” he said. “If I choked Jim I would say I choked him. I mean, I've — I've hit him before. I've hit most of the prisoners before.”

BBC News: IS Prisoner Issue A Ticking Timebomb For The West

“The latent danger posed by thousands of defeated and captured fighters who joined the Islamic State (IS) group is festering and growing in the squalid, overcrowded prison camps of north-east Syria, where riots and attempted breakouts are becoming commonplace. IS has vowed to liberate them, along with their wives and dependants, while a people-smuggling network is reportedly being put together using bribery to secure covert releases. The ruling this month by Britain's Court of Appeal that the British-born former schoolgirl Shamima Begum, stripped of her UK nationality, had a right to return to the UK to face justice has also thrown a spotlight on the issue. As has the recent death in Kurdish custody of a British IS fighter. When IS lost the last of its self-declared caliphate at Baghuz in Syria in March 2019 thousands of its surviving members were rounded up and interned indefinitely in camps run by the Syrian Kurds who had fought them. This, say critics, is unfinished business that risks developing into a renewed security problem for the world.  Research published by Kings College London Defence Studies this month warned that escaping IS fighters were regrouping in other parts of the world and that there was now a risk IS could regroup.”


Deutsche Welle: Families Of French IS Members In Syria Battle To Bring Them Back

“Antoine is used to standing his ground. The trade unionist has defended workers' rights his whole life. But when his daughter M. suddenly left to join so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq five years ago, he hit rock bottom. “It was as if my house came tumbling down on top of me,” he told DW. “She had always been a good student and we didn't see this thing coming at all. I told her — do you know what you're getting yourself into? And what Salafism actually means?” Raised in an agnostic family, the 26-year-old had converted to Islam without telling her parents. Revolted to see how, apparently due to his origins, her Franco-Tunisian boyfriend was struggling to find work as an electrician, she left with him to “live their religion freely.” M. is one of about 1,700 French nationals who joined IS in Iraq and Syria. Overall, 5,000 Western Europeans are believed to have done so. Now, about 1,000 of them are thought to still be held in Kurdish camps and prisons. The French represent the biggest group with more than 300 women and children in the camps and about 75 men in the prisons. Back in France, their families' fight to bring them back has grown even more desperate since several dozen women and children disappeared from the camp of Al-Hawl in northern Syria five weeks ago.”


El País: Spanish Prosecutors Seek Up To 41 Years For Perpetrators Of 2017 Barcelona Terrorist Attacks

“Spanish prosecutors are seeking a 41-year prison term for Mohammed Houli, the only surviving member of the terrorist cell that carried out attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in August 2017, killing 16 people and injuring over 140. The written accusation by the prosecutor’s office, which EL PAÍS has seen, is also demanding 36 years in prison for Driss Oukabir, who abandoned the plan at the last minute, and eight years for Said Ben Iazza for providing assistance. Neither one of them participated actively in the attacks. Prosecutors note that even if convicted, under Spanish legislation Houli and Oukabir can only serve a maximum of 20 years in prison. On the night of August 16, the day before the attacks, Mohammed Houli had just dined inside a house in Alcanar, in Tarragona province, which the terrorist group had illegally occupied and transformed into a giant explosives lab. A little before midnight, there was a tremendous blast in the house, where one of the occupants had been manipulating explosives. The building was destroyed, killing the alleged leader of the cell, an imam named Abdelbaki Es Satty who lived in the Catalan town of Ripoll. Numerous butane gas canisters were found among the rubble.”