Eye on Extremism: July 28, 2022

Reuters: France Could Deliver Drones To Help Benin Battle Militants

“France could deliver drones and more sophisticated weapons to Benin to help it tackle a worsening Islamist insurgency that is threatening the region, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday. Macron made the pledge during a joint press conference with Benin's President Patrice Talon on the second leg of his three-nation tour of Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau. Benin, alongside the Gulf of Guinea states Togo and Ivory Coast, has seen increasing attacks from militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State as violence spreads south from the Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Benin and Togo have suffered deadly attacks in recent weeks. France is withdrawing thousands of troops from Mali after a decade there and seeking to redefine its strategy to fight insurgents in region. A central pillar of the new strategy is to help the countries strengthen their armies, provide support and allow them to take the lead in operations on the ground. Countries that request it could have French troops on the ground. Macron said France was already providing Benin with intelligence, training support, and other civilian aid to help develop areas that are vulnerable jihadist threats. Macron pledged to soon deliver vehicles, de-mining equipment, bulletproof vests and night vision equipment.”

Associated Press: Seeking New Funds, Hamas Raises Taxes In Impoverished Gaza

“Gaza’s Hamas rulers have imposed a slew of new taxes on imported clothes and office supplies just ahead of the new school year, sparking limited but rare protests in the impoverished coastal strip. The move by the militant group comes at a time when Gaza’s 2.3 million people are suffering not only from a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade, but also from a new jump in prices caused by global supply-chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “This is a wrong, oppressive decision that destroys the national economy,” said Nahed al-Sawada, who imports clothes from China and Turkey. A list by the Ministry of Economy includes planned taxes on items like packaged nuts, with an import tariff of 2,000 shekels (nearly $600) per ton. In the past, nuts were imported tax free. The tariff on a ton of toilet paper rose from $90 to $580. The taxes are set to go into effect on Aug. 1.”

United States

NBC News: Former Marine Is Accused Of Leading Neo-Nazi Group And Planning To Attack A New York Synagogue

“A former Marine is accused of leading a neo-Nazi group that was alleged to have been planning an attack on a New York synagogue. Matthew Belanger is charged with gun violations and could spend up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted, according to court documents. A criminal complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court for Hawaii alleged that Belanger, while he was serving as a Marine in Honolulu, paid a police officer on Long Island, New York, to buy him guns that he wouldn't be allowed to buy legally. When the FBI questioned Belanger about guns he owned, he didn't mention a PTR assault rifle or a Luger-style pistol that he had the officer buy for him. The FBI began investigating Belanger because it suspected he was planning to harm people and destroy property in hate-motivated attacks, according to court documents filed this month. “The investigation was grounded in evidence that defendant was using social media to conspire with others, including members of a group called Rapekrieg, to commit ... hate crimes,” the documents said. The group, based on Long Island, “had procured weapons, uniforms, and tactical gear, and discussed committing attacks on a synagogue, Jewish persons, women, and minorities, including the rape of 'enemies' to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate, and the rape of white women to increase the production of white children in furtherance of Rapekrieg’s goal of creating a white ethno-state through accelerationist means.”

Nextgov: DHS Cleared After 2021 Exposure Of Terrorist Watchlist Data

“The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security issued an inspection report on Monday following the alleged exposure of DHS’s terrorist watchlist data, which the department learned about in July of 2021. The report, entitled “DHS Has Controls to Safeguard Watchlist Data,” was launched following the purported exposure of more than 1.9 million federal terrorist watchlist records. A social media post claimed that these watchlist records were exposed publicly online and contained sensitive information and identifier information. In response, OIG launched an investigation to determine if DHS effectively safeguarded and shared this terrorist screening data. As noted in the report, DHS uses and shares the terrorist screening data to fulfill its functions, such as counterterrorism, law enforcement, border security and inspections. The watchlist is shared across the U.S. government and other law enforcement agencies to identify known or suspected terrorists trying to enter the U.S., obtain visas or board an aircraft. According to the report, the OIG “determined the Department of Homeland Security has an approach to safeguard and share terrorist screening data.” It confirmed that the department’s policies and procedures are in compliance with federal standards to safeguard sensitive data, including the data of the alleged exposure, that is used, stored and shared by DHS.”

Iraq

Axios: Rift Grows Between Ankara And Baghdad After Attack In Northern Iraq

“The attack that killed nine tourists in northern Iraq last week opened a significant rift between Ankara and Baghdad and could significantly impact Turkey’s military plans in Iraq and Syria. Driving the news: The tourists, including a child, were killed last Wednesday after artillery shells hit a park in the Duhok governorate in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The Iraqi government blamed Turkey for the attack, summoned the Turkish ambassador and demanded an official apology for the strike, which it called a violation of its sovereignty. It also demanded that all Turkish forces withdraw from Iraq. The Turkish government denied any responsibility and claimed that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was behind the attack. Why it matters: Any further escalation between Turkey and Iraq could damage bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, especially when Iraq is heavily dependent economically on trade with Turkey. Last year, bilateral trade reached $19.5 billion, with Iraq becoming Turkey's fifth-largest export market. But the Baghdad Chamber of Commerce has recently urged Iraqis to stop trading with Turkey. Ongoing negotiations over the water-sharing deal about the Tigris and Euphrates River basins as well as oil trading with the Kurdistan Regional Government also bind the two countries together.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Attacks In Disputed Territories Killed 399 People Between January 2021-April 2022: KRG Coordinator

“ISIS attacks killed just under 400 people in the disputed territories between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region from January 2021 to April 2022, the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Coordinator for International Advocacy, Dr. Dindar Zebari, told a press conference last week. “More than 283 ISIS terrorist acts were recorded in the disputed areas from January 2021 to April 2022, which collectively resulted in 399 martyrs, 539 wounded individuals, and 40 abductions,” Zebari said. “The types of incursions terrorists utilized included affirmative attacks, ambush, suicide bombings, body-trapped vehicle and motorcycle, IED (improvised explosive device), fake checkpoints, rockets, mortars, and abductions.” On Monday, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani warned that ISIS's latest attacks in Iraq pose a “serious threat”. His statement came after ISIS attacks in several Iraqi provinces on Sunday killed at least seven people, including security forces members, and injured 20 others.  Senior Kurdish officials have repeatedly warned about the ISIS threat, particularly in the disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Violence Against Women Rampant Under Taliban, New Report Finds

“Women in Afghanistan have faced an onslaught of violence and human rights abuses since the Taliban’s return to national power less than a year ago — and the “scope, magnitude and severity” of violations are “increasing month to month,” according to a new report by Amnesty International. Shortly after sweeping into Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban offered assurances that it would respect the rights of women, in a society that saw drastic changes in the decades since the Taliban had last held power. But journalists and activists swiftly called that narrative into question and began to amass evidence of a different reality. The 98-page report was released Wednesday and relies on interviews with more than 100 women, girls, staff members at detention centers, experts and journalists, collected by researchers abroad and on the ground over nine months. The report reveals the extent to which the Taliban has limited the freedoms of women and girls by imposing harsh, arbitrary, punishments — from forcibly detaining women for appearing in public without a male chaperone, to physical and psychological torture in confinement. The rights group documented accounts indicating a dramatic increase in child marriages and marital rape since the Taliban’s takeover.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Uprooted Again, Nigerians Who Fled Boko Haram Face New Dangers

“When Aisha found out she would be evicted from her camp for displaced people in northeastern Nigeria, the only thing she knew for certain was that she could not go home to the town devastated by Boko Haram militants five years earlier. The 15-year-old is one of millions of people driven from their homes into camps due to an Islamist insurgency that has killed nearly 350,000 people, with many now facing an uncertain future as local authorities close the makeshift settlements. “What will I be going back home to meet? Boko Haram militants destroyed our homes, our schools, our farms and our markets. We no longer have our houses to return to,” said Aisha, asking to use a pseudonym to protect her identity. When the militants raided her town, Baga in the northeastern state of Borno, Aisha became separated from her mother, who she has not been in contact with since, and she arrived at the Teachers Village camp in Maiduguri with neighbours. Despite the hardships of life in Teachers Village, it had become a home of sorts for Aisha and more than 30,000 other internally displaced people (IDP). So when, in January, the Borno state government shut the camp on the grounds of improved security in conflict hotspots, Aisha was plunged into uncertainty.”

Pulse Nigeria: Boko Haram, ISWAP Plan To Attack 5 States Including Lagos

“According to Punch, security agencies had got a security report that the terrorist groups planned to attack Lagos, Kaduna, Kogi, Katsina, and Zamfara states as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Commanders of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps are said to have been alerted to the planned attacks. This was contained in a leaked memo sent to the state commands of the agency from its Headquarters on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, Punch reports. But Shola Odumosu, the NSCDC spokesperson denied receiving any memo saying the memo did not originate from the security agency. However, a state commandant confirmed the memo to Punch, adding that they’ve been directed to keep mum over it in order not to cause panic. The NSCDC commandant who did not want his name mentioned said, “It is true that they (headquarters) issued a security alert to us that we should be careful and we should instruct our men to be watchful. We protect the critical infrastructure and places of worship. “It is also important that we inform the people so they can be vigilant.” Recent Attack: This is coming after terrorists who kidnapped the Kaduna-Abuja train passengers threatened to Kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.”

Somalia

Reuters: Explosions In Two Somalia Towns Kill At Least 5 - Police, Residents

“Separate explosions in two southern Somalia towns killed at least five people on Wednesday, including a local administrator, state radio, police and residents said. The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militant group said it carried out both attacks. In the first incident, two bombs planted in a livestock market in Afgoye town in Lower Shabelle region killed at least four people, police and residents said. “One bomb exploded but caused no casualty, then a second bomb exploded, killing four civilians,” Police Captain Nur Farah told Reuters from Afgoye. The second explosion in the port town of Marka killed its district commissioner, state-run radio said. “The District Commissioner of Marka, the provincial Capital of Lower Shabelle, Abdullahi Ali Wafow was killed in terrorist explosion in the town,” Radio Muqdisho said in a tweet, citing local security officials. Ahmed Farah, a Marka resident, said security personnel had sealed off the scene of the blast. Al Shabaab military spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said the Islamist group was behind both attacks. “We killed in an attack the Marka district commissioner and those with him. In Afgoye we killed two soldiers in an explosion,” Musab told Reuters.”

Mali

Reuters: Militants Kill 15 Soldiers, 3 Civilians In Two Mali Attacks

“Islamist militants killed 15 soldiers and three civilians during two separate attacks in southwest Mali on Wednesday, the army said in a statement. Six soldiers died and 25 were wounded when militants assaulted a military camp in Sonkolo, a rural commune in the south-central Segou region, more than 300 kilometres (186 miles)north of the capital Bamako. Nine soldiers and three civilians were killed during an early morning attack on a different camp in the southwestern town of Kalumba, the army said. Another military base in the central town of Mopti also was attacked during the night, but the assailants were pushed back without casualties. All the attacks were eventually repelled and soldiers killed 48 of the militants in Sonkolo, the statement added. Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have repeatedly raided bases across Mali during a decade-long insurgency concentrated in the country's north and centre. The groups have gained ground despite the presence of foreign troops and United Nations peacekeepers. Mali's main military base just outside Bamako was hit with a complex assault involving car bombs on Friday, the closest the insurgents have come to the capital in years.”

AFP: Shadowy Al-Qaeda Fighters Heap Pressure On Mali's Junta

“Al-Qaeda jihadists are tightening the screws on Mali's military junta, extending their attacks to the south of the country and hitting a key garrison town on the outskirts of the capital. Raids last week displayed coordination and operational complexity at a range that is unprecedented in the country's decade-long jihadist campaign, say analysts. Last Thursday, six attacks unfolded simultaneously at 5 am, striking the country's troubled centre as well as the southern regions of Sikasso, Koulikoro and Kayes, which until now had never been targeted. The following day, two explosive-laden vehicles smashed into the gates of an army building in Kati, a garrison town 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Bamako, killing a soldier. The suicide raid was claimed by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel and an Al-Qaeda affiliate, according to monitoring group SITE. The operation was “a way of telling (the authorities) that they can strike anywhere,” a Malian analyst in the central town of Sevare told AFP. The name of Kati has huge resonance in Mali. Its army base was the springboard for the country's August 2020 coup and reputedly houses the country's strongman, Colonel Assimi Goita, and Defence Minister Colonel Sadio Camara.”

Germany

Associated Press: Germany Offers Money To Families Of Olympic Attack Victims

“The German government indicated Wednesday that it was willing to pay further compensation to the families of 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich by a Palestinian group. Family members of the athletes have criticized the proposed amount as “insulting.” Relatives of the athletes have long criticized how German authorities handled the attack and its aftermath. Demands for further compensation have threatened to overshadow a planned memorial event for the 50th anniversary of the massacre. Germany’s Interior Ministry said it was holding talks with the relatives and that the “serious consequences for the surviving dependents of the victims in immaterial and material terms” should be reassessed. “An offer of further recognition payments to the surviving relatives of the victims of the attack” was planned, the ministry told German news agency dpa adding that “the memorial ceremony of the 50th anniversary should be the occasion for a clear political classification of the events of 1972.”

Technology

WTOP: The Hunt: Is The Global Internet Forum To Counter Terrorism Living Up To Its Potential?

“On this week’s episode of “The Hunt with WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green,” Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, says GIFCT, founded by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter is not doing all it can to make a difference.

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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