Eye on Extremism: July 26, 2022

Reuters: EXCLUSIVE US And Taliban Make Progress On Afghan Reserves, But Big Gaps Remain

“U.S. and Taliban officials have exchanged proposals for the release of billions of dollars from Afghan central bank reserves held abroad into a trust fund, three sources familiar with the talks said, offering a hint of progress in efforts to ease Afghanistan's economic crisis. Significant differences between the sides remain, however, according to two of the sources, including the Taliban's refusal to replace the bank's top political appointees, one of whom is under U.S. sanctions as are several of the movement's leaders. Some experts said such a move would help restore confidence in the institution by insulating it from interference by the Islamist militant group that seized power a year ago but which foreign governments do not recognise. Freeing up cash may not solve all of Afghanistan's financial troubles, but it would provide relief for a country hit by a slump in foreign aid, persistent drought and an earthquake in June that killed 1,000 people. Millions of Afghans are facing a second winter without enough to eat.”

ABC News: Trial For NYC Subway Shooting Suspect Frank James Tentatively Set For 2023

“Accused New York City subway shooter Frank James will tentatively stand trial early next year for allegedly opening fire on a Manhattan-bound N train in Brooklyn in April. A federal judge in Brooklyn on Monday set a trial date for Feb. 27, 2023, after prosecutors disclosed a vast amount of evidence in the case. "Videotaped post-arrest statements made by the defendant on or about April 13, 2022," along with "videos of the defendant collected from YouTube," will all be part of the case, prosecutors said in a court filing. The government has collected numerous photos, records and reports and turned them over to James' defense team. On April 12, James allegedly shot and wounded 10 commuters before he was caught in the East Village following a manhunt through parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. No one was killed.”

United States

Axios: Biological Weapons Could Target DNA, Food Supply, Two U.S. Lawmakers Say

“Biological and chemical weapons have the potential to pose a national security threat to the U.S. that the country is not equipped to handle, a panel of lawmakers and a military leader told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday. Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic underscored how globally debilitating and dangerous pathogens could be if deliberately engineered and released. In May, former federal officials warned that the U.S. is not prepared for the possibility of germ warfare. The big picture Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said chemical weapons such as chlorine and mustard gas had been used in 2014-16 by actors such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Clarke said non-state actors such as ISIS or al-Qaeda continue to look to these weapons “because they instill fear.” As such it is necessary to develop capabilities to protect U.S. troops that are in proximity, which the U.S. is working to do, Clarke said. Clarke added that state actors like Russia could also pose a threat. “Russia is willing to use those against political opponents. They're willing to use them on their own soil, but then to go in on the soil of a NATO ally in the UK and use those,” Clarke said, alluding to the nerve agent attack against British resident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Judge Delays North Side Terror Sentencing So U.S. Can Review Defense’s Psych Report

“A U.S. judge has postponed next week's sentencing for a Syrian refugee convicted of plotting to bomb a North Side church so that prosecutors have time to review a defense report indicating psychological trauma from the Syrian civil war was largely to blame for the crime. Mustafa Alowemer, a refugee who had been living in Northview Heights, pleaded guilty to planning to blow up Legacy International Worship Center and was set to be sentenced on Aug. 4. But his public defender said he intends to ask for leniency based in part on a psychological exam he said will show that Alowemer suffered “enormous torment and tragedy” in his home country before coming to the U.S. The U.S. attorney's office said it wants time to review that report and consult its own experts to possibly refute it. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Horan granted the request but didn't set a new sentencing date. Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo Song said in court papers that her office and Alowemer's public defender, Andrew Lipson, are at “extremely disparate” positions on what kind of sentence Alowemer should get. The U.S. wants 30 years to life and has indicated it will seek the terrorism enhancement.”

Syria

AFP: Syria’s Kurds Repatriate Nearly 150 ISIS-Linked Tajiki Women And Children

“Syria’s semi-autonomous Kurdish administration handed Tajikistan 146 women and children related to ISIS extremists, a Kurdish official said Monday, in the first such repatriation to the ex-Soviet state. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app. Thousands of foreign extremists joined ISIS as fighters, often bringing their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” declared by the group across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The extremists were dislodged in 2019 from their last scrap of territory in Syria by Kurdish-led forces backed by a US-led coalition, and Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on countries to repatriate their citizens from crowded displaced camps. But nations have mostly received them only sporadically, fearing a domestic political backlash. The Kurds handed over “42 women and 104 children, including orphans, who were held in the al-Hol and Roj camps” in northeast Syria to Tajikistan’s ambassador to Kuwait Zabidullah Zabidov, Kurdish foreign affairs official Fanar al-Kaeet said. Zabidov is handling the repatriation process for Tajikistan. The ex-Soviet state has been in contact with Syria’s Kurds “for months” to repatriate their citizens, Kaeet said during a press conference in the northeastern city of Qamishli. The women “did not commit any crimes or terrorist acts in northeastern Syria,” he said.”

Iran

Reuters: Iran Parliament To Discuss Belgium Prisoner Swap Treaty -State Media

“Iran's parliament is to debate a prisoner exchange deal with Belgium, state media said on Monday, after Brussels approved the deal that may lead to the release of an Iranian diplomat jailed for planning to bomb a rally of an exiled opposition group. The official Iranian news agency IRNA said the cabinet approved the prisoner exchange treaty bill and sent it to parliament. If passed by parliament, the bill needs to be approved by a clerical council before it becomes law.”

Iraq

Reuters: Erdogan Says Attack On Iraq's Dohuk A Terrorist Act Aimed At Harming Turkey-Iraq Ties

“Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that an attack on a mountain resort in Iraq's northern province of Dohuk last week that killed nine people was carried out by “terrorists” and was aimed at harming Turkey-Iraq ties. Speaking to state broadcaster TRT Haber, Erdogan said Turkey had informed its NATO allies, including the United States, and Iraqi authorities of its position on the attack, and added that he called on Iraq not to fall for the propaganda by Kurdish militants.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Israeli Forces Thwart Terror Attack In Gush Etzion

“A Palestinian man from the town of Beit Fajjar threw a Molotov cocktail towards the Israeli town of Migdal Oz in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, United Hatzalah announced on Monday night. The IDF later confirmed the incident. IDF chased the man, and found an improvised gun on him when they apprehended him, as well as fireworks and two more Molotov cocktails. The suspect has been transferred for further questioning.”

Nigeria

Premium Times Nigeria: EXCLUSIVE: Terrorists Plotting More Prison Attacks In Three States – Military Intel

“Terrorists are planning more prison attacks targeting facilities in Gusau, Birnin Kebbi, and Katsina to free their imprisoned fighters, military intelligence sources have said, a warning already passed to the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS). The attacks are planned to be carried out successively, first, in Gusau, then Birnin Kebbi, and finally Katsina, the military told the correctional service, according to officials familiar with the transmission of the intelligence and documents sighted by PREMIUM TIMES. The phased plan, sources said, is because the terrorists are unable to mobilise sufficient logistical capabilities to strike simultaneously in three states. All the target facilities are in Nigeria’s North-west facing aggravated violence by terrorists, often called bandits, and other violent extremist groups like Boko Haram, Ansaru, and ISWAP, who have expanded into the region in the past years from the North-east. A rare collaboration of ISWAP and Ansaru, two Boko Haram splinter groups, produced the audacious July 6 Kuje prison attack in the federal capital, Abuja, researchers and negotiators with an understanding of the working of the terrorists said. The attack showed the terrorists’ capacity to exploit Nigeria’s worsening vulnerability under President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Somalia

AFP: Al-Shabaab Fighters ‘Destroyed’ In Ethiopian Incursion

“Authorities in the Ethiopian region of Somali on Saturday said they had “destroyed” fighters from the Al-Shabaab Islamist group, in a rare militant incursion from neighboring Somalia. Somali’s state communication bureau in a statement said an armed Al-Shabaab group that crossed into the southeastern region on Tuesday “was surrounded in a sub-locality called Hulhul and completely destroyed.” A three-day operation left more than 100 members of the militant group dead and destroyed 13 vehicles, it added. The authorities said the armed group was seeking to pass through El-Kere district in the Somali region, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Somalia-Ethiopian border. On Thursday, officials and residents of Bakool region, on the border with neighboring Somalia, reported Al-Shabaab attacks the previous day against bases hosting a special Ethiopian police unit which helps protect the frontier. Mohamed Malim, a local official in Somalia’s Hudur district, told AFP on Thursday that “this was the heaviest fighting ever” around the towns of Ato and Yeed in the country’s west. “It continued about six hours before the militants had been repelled, there are dead and wounded combatants from both sides, but we don’t have the details so far,” he said.”

Long War Journal: Analysis: Shabaab’s Multi-Day Incursion Into Ethiopia

“Late last week, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, conducted a rare military incursion into eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Region. The foray inside Ethiopian territory reportedly lasted at least three days, with the Ethiopian government acknowledging it combated the jihadists inside its borders. According to officials in Ethiopia’s Somali Region (also known as the Ogaden), Shabaab militants entered Ethiopian territory through the region’s Afdheer Zone which borders Somalia’s Bakool Region on July 21. The jihadists then briefly took control over Hulhul, a town inside Ethiopia, before reportedly being beaten back after a three-day battle for the town. The Ethiopian government, while acknowledging the rare invasion of its territory by Shabaab, framed the raid in a more propagandistic narrative. State officials in Ethiopia’s Somali Region remarked that its forces killed at least 100 members of Shabaab in the counter-offensive, though this has not been independently verified. Public statements by Somali regional state officials also alleged that Shabaab’s incursion was intended to reach Oromia State to coordinate with the Oromo Liberation Army, an Oromo nationalist rebel group currently waging its own deadly insurgency against the Ethiopian government.”

Australia

The Sydney Morning Herald: Man Guilty Of Advocating Terrorism To Be Released From Jail

“A regional NSW chef who made online posts advocating right-wing terrorism will be released from custody immediately after he was given a prison sentence he has already served. Tyler Jakovac, 20, was jailed on Monday for a maximum of 18 months after he wrote a series of posts on messaging apps Snapchat and Telegram suggesting racial minorities should be targeted with violence. On June 24, 2020, Jakovac posted a picture of military-style paraphernalia to Snapchat and included the caption: “The shooting will take place on 3 of July, make sure to DM me for my Facebook for the livestream guys, I’m sick of [racial epithets], [derogatory term about homosexuality] and race-mixers.” Jakovac claimed there was a race war, posted a tribute celebrating the birthday of Adolf Hitler, discussed attacking Somalians in his local Albury area, and wrote: “Prepare for terror. Store and stack weapons and learn makeshift bombs too”. He was placed under police surveillance from August 2020 until his eventual arrest several months later. On December 7, Jakovac had consumed four beers when he posted to Snapchat wearing dark clothing and a balaclava, with his finger in the air. He captioned the image: “I’m actually going to commit a massive national tragedy.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On August 13, 2017, suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) gunmen opened fire on a Turkish restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 19 people were killed and 22 others were wounded.    

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