Eye on Extremism: July 9, 2021

Arab News: British Daesh Member Convicted Of Terror Offenses

“A British man who used Bitcoin to pay to free Daesh members from detention in Syria has been convicted of terror offenses. Hisham Chaudhary, 28, was also found guilty in a Birmingham court of two counts of entering terrorist fundraising arrangements and four of disseminating terrorist publications. He will remain in custody until his sentencing, scheduled for Sept 3. Prosecutor Samuel Main previously said the case was “factually novel” and one of the first times someone had been charged with being a member of Daesh in the UK. He added: “This is not the first time an individual has been charged with membership of Islamic State (Daesh). The Crown (Prosecution Service) understands it to be the third at least.” According to police, Chaudhary used Bitcoin to fundraise for Daesh and transfer thousands of pounds to smugglers in order to free members from Kurdish-run detention camps in Syria. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are popular among criminals because the currency is hard to trace and can readily and anonymously be transferred across borders. Numerous people have escaped the Kurdish-administered camps, though it is unclear whether Chaudhary’s actions directly led to an escape.”

Reuters: Militia Commanders Rush To Aid Afghan Forces Against Taliban

“A prominent anti-Taliban commander with private militia will help Afghan forces in their fight against Taliban insurgents to claw back control over parts of western Afghanistan including a border crossing with Iran, local officials said on Friday. A key district in Herat province, home to tens of thousands of minority Shi’ite Hazaras was captured by fighters of the hardline Sunni Muslim insurgent group on Thursday as part of their strategy to oust Afghan forces and hold sway over critical border towns and trade routes. A former minister Mohammad Ismail Khan and a survivor of a Taliban attack in 2009 was a key member of the Northern Alliance whose militia helped U.S. forces in toppling the Taliban in 2001. Known as the Lion of Herat, Ismail Khan a veteran Tajik commander is scheduled to hold a gathering to prepare his forces to fight against the Taliban and defend his power base in Herat, an official said, adding that several erstwhile anti-Taliban commanders were supporting the over-stretched Afghan forces to defend borders in the West and the North. Taliban and Afghan government officials were not immediately available to share details about the intense clashes in Herat. Political members of the Taliban visiting Moscow assured Russian officials of their commitment to allow foreign embassies and aid groups to operate in Afghanistan even after the final exit of foreign forces.”

United States

Associated Press: SD Supreme Court: Teen Didn't Make Terrorist Threats

“A student who uttered the word “bomb” at school and said he wanted to kill someone while holding a pair of scissors shouldn’t have been found delinquent, the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled. KELO-TV reported that the court ruled unanimously Wednesday to reverse Circuit Judge Kent Shelton’s finding that the 15-year-old student's actions didn't meet the legal standards for making a terrorist threat. According to the ruling, the student was sent to the principal's office at his high school in January 2020 for “egging on” a student with a behavioral issue. An office assistant said she heard the boy say the word “bomb” as he was walking in and out of the office, said something about killing someone, grabbed a pair of scissors and said he could just kill someone. He then put the scissors down, laughed, said he was only kidding, sat down, left, came back and laid on the floor, the assistant said. The court's ruling does not name the high school and refers to the student only as I.T.B. Justice Scott Myren wrote that police didn’t find any explosive devices, not enough context exists around the student saying “bomb” to determine he was threatening violence and only one person heard him make the remarks while holding the scissors.”

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Helena-West Helena Man Pleads Guilty In Terror Case

“A Yemeni citizen living in Arkansas pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to providing support and resources to the terrorist organization Al-Qaida. Bilal Al-Rayanni, who was living in Helena-West Helena, pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Al-Rayanni, also known as Bilal Kassim Alawdi, was originally indicted on allegations of providing a false name while applying for a passport. Later, a superseding indictment was filed alleging that Al-Rayanni had provided support and material to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as Ansar al-Shari'a. As a part of the plea agreement, the government dropped two counts of false statement in application for passport against Al-Rayanni. Al-Rayanni told federal investigators that his father illegally purchased a U.S. visa from a man named “Kassim Alawdi” and used that name to obtain a passport for him in 1992 and to renew it in 2002, 2008 and 2019. According to an indictment, Al-Rayanni traveled to Yemen for three months in 2014 and provided support and material to Al-Qaida, knowing the group was engaged in terrorism. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was designated as a foreign terrorist organization at the time, and it remains designated as such.”

Iraq

Al Jazeera: Rockets Fired At US Embassy In Iraq After Series Of Attacks

“American diplomats and troops in Iraq and Syria were targeted in three rocket and drone attacks in the past 24 hours, US and Iraq officials said on Wednesday, including at least 14 rockets hitting an Iraqi airbase hosting US forces, wounding two American service members. While there were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks – part of a wave targeting US troops or areas where they are based in Iraq and Syria – analysts believed they were part of a campaign by Iranian-backed armed groups. US forces, who have 2,500 soldiers deployed in Iraq as part of an international anti-ISIL (ISIS) group coalition, have been targeted almost 50 times this year in the country, but the last few days have seen an increase in the frequency of attacks. Iraqi armed groups aligned with Iran promised to retaliate after the US raids on the Iraqi-Syrian border killed four of their members last month. Two people were slightly wounded in the rocket attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq, said coalition spokesman US Army Colonel Wayne Marotto. The rockets landed on the base and its perimeter. He said earlier that three people were wounded. Commenting after Thursday’s development, Wayne said each attack “undermines the authority of Iraqi institutions” and sovereignty.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Afghanistan’s Taliban, Now On China’s Border, Seek To Reassure Beijing

“After seizing about one-third of Afghanistan’s districts in this summer’s offensive, the Taliban this week swept through the northeastern Badakhshan province, reaching the mountainous border with China’s Xinjiang region. Considering the Taliban’s historical connections with Xinjiang’s Uyghur militant groups affiliated with al Qaeda, this advance would have caused alarm to Beijing in the past. These days, however, the Taliban go out of their way to assuage China’s concerns, eager to secure Beijing’s acquiescence to their rule. “The Taliban want to show China good will,” said Qian Feng, head of research at the National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University in Beijing. “They hope that China can play a more important role, especially after America pulls out its troops.” With the American military withdrawal nearly complete, China’s clout in the region is growing, in part through Beijing’s strategic relationship with the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan. China is also becoming increasingly influential in the Central Asian states that border Afghanistan to the north. Aware of Beijing’s sensibilities, all these countries have long steered clear of condemning the mass incarceration of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang and other human-rights abuses there.”

CBS News: Taliban Surround Major Afghan Cities, Ready For A Showdown When U.S. Troops Are Gone

“President Biden was to speak on Thursday about the situation in Afghanistan as America's involvement in its longest-ever war draws to an end. Mr. Biden is expected to say that the U.S. withdrawal is complete, but a force of around 1,000 troops will remain in country to provide security at the U.S. Embassy and Kabul International Airport. But the Taliban militants the U.S. has spent two decades battling are now pushing toward provincial cities, bringing their battle with Afghan security forces ever closer to regional capitals. Afghan commando units were back on patrol Thursday in the capital of Badghis Province, in western Afghanistan — just a day after they beat back Taliban militants who tried to storm the city. Unverified videos posted on social media appeared to show Taliban fighters speeding toward the center of Qala-i-Naw city on motorcycles. Amid the chaos, there was a jailbreak at the local prison. With heavy gunfire still ringing out, the provincial governor tried to reassure residents: “Keep your composure and I promise you, we will defend the city.” The battle was the closest the Taliban has come to toppling a provincial capital since 2015, and it was part of an offensive that has seen the insurgency advance across the country at lightning speed.”

Lebanon

Arab News: How Hezbollah Has Permeated The Lebanese State

“Hezbollah has used its financial backers in Iran and its significant military arsenal to “permeate the Lebanese state,” according to a paper launched this week. The paper — authored by Lina Khatib, director of London-based think tank Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program, and launched at an online event on Thursday attended by Arab News — details how Hezbollah morphed from a resistance group against Israeli occupation to a hybrid power holding the Lebanese state in an ideological stranglehold. “Hezbollah has spread its influence throughout the Lebanese state, from the presidency of the republic to representative political institutions and the civil service, as well as Lebanon’s military and security institutions,” the paper said. “This influence is due to a number of factors: Hezbollah’s benefiting from a reliable external patron — Iran —unlike other parties in Lebanon; Hezbollah’s capacity in terms of organization, funding, physical resources and numbers of followers, which dwarfs that of other Lebanese parties.” Other means used by Hezbollah, the paper said, include the “weakness of the Lebanese state” and the existence of “a political system based on elite pacts.”

Nigeria

The Wall Street Journal: One Night Inside Nigeria’s Kidnapping Emergency: Abducted Babies, Schoolchildren And Hospital Workers

“A single night this week revealed the terrifying scope of Nigeria’s kidnapping emergency. Shortly after midnight on Monday in the northwestern state of Kaduna, gunmen forced their way into a hospital specializing in the treatment of tuberculosis and leprosy and shot three people before kidnapping 10 others, including two infants under the age of two. Less than an hour later, another group of militants broke into the Bethel Baptist school 45 miles away and abducted 121 boys and girls aged between 9 and 16. At around the same time, another group of militants approached the newly renovated campus of Faith Academy and attempted to seize the school’s 500 students, fighting a two-hour running battle with police before withdrawing. “They took the babies,” said Adamu Jubril, an orderly at the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaria, who cowered next to a window and watched the assailants drag away the screaming hostages. “It makes the families pay the ransom quicker.” The attacks, conducted within hours of each other, spotlight the terrifying frequency of what has become a routine and brutal business in Africa’s most populous country.”

Reuters: Nigerian Villagers Killed By Suspected Islamist Militants - Officials

“Suspected Islamist militants killed 18 people when they attacked a village in northeast Nigeria on Wednesday, two local officials said. Attacks by Islamist militants have been intensifying in northeast Nigeria in recent months, with dozens of soldiers killed and thousands of Nigerians displaced. Wednesday's attack took place in Dabna, a village near the administrative area of Hong in the state of Adamawa, the officials said. James Pukuma, chairman of the Hong administrative area, told Reuters that 18 people had been killed when a group of gunmen on motorcycles stormed the village and some residents fled. Two churches and a house belonging to a local resident were set on fire, said Mohammed Aminu, the chairman of Adamawa state emergency agency. “The attack took place in the early hours of Wednesday, about 5 a.m,” said Aminu. Two residents of Hong said the gunmen proceeded to nearby villages of Kwapre and Garka, where they shot and injured some people. Police spokesman for Adamawa state Sulieman Nguroje said police could not comment. A third resident said an unknown number of people were injured and taken to Hong Federal Medical centre in Yola, the state capital.”

Africa

The Washington Post: Congo Officials Claim That A Rebel Group Is Tied To The Islamic State. That Could Backfire.

“Beni, a city in eastern Congo, is experiencing a wave of violence. Bomb attacks in late June killed one and injured two others. On June 28, Beni’s mayor closed all schools and markets, banned public gatherings and established a curfew. These moves couldn’t prevent a July 1 attack, which left nine civilians dead. Congo’s government attributed the attacks to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group active in eastern Congo since 1995. Some analysts see the ADF as the deadliest of the roughly 130 armed groups now operating in the region. Since 2019 there have been increasing reports of links between the ADF and the Islamic State, which seeks to establish a global Islamist militant movement, along with an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Is the Islamic State behind the Congo bombings, as a number of U.S. news reports suggest? Policymakers in Congo and elsewhere increasingly view the ADF as an extension of the Islamic State — but this assumption obscures the causes and consequences of the violence, and may be counterproductive. The Islamic State has ‘provinces’ in Africa. That doesn’t mean what you might think. The 83-nation Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, an intergovernmental coalition devoted to extinguishing the Islamic State threat, met in June to discuss expanding its efforts to Africa.”

Voice Of America: As France Plans To Shrink Sahel Force, Jihadi Threat Grows

“During a grueling, weekslong mission in northern Mali, French soldiers were confronted by a familiar threat: Extremists trying to impose the same strict Islamic rule that preceded France's military intervention here more than eight years ago. Traumatized residents showed scars on their shoulders and backs from whippings they endured after failing to submit to the jihadis' authority. “We were witness to the presence of the enemy trying to impose Shariah law, banning young children from playing soccer and imposing a dress code,” said Col. Stephane Gouvernet, battalion commander for the recent French mission dubbed Equinoxe. France is preparing to reduce its military presence here in West Africa's Sahel region — the vast area south of the Sahara Desert where extremist groups are fighting for control. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of Operation Barkhane, France's seven-year effort fighting extremists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Africa's Sahel region. France's more than 5,000 troops will be reduced in the coming months, although no timeframe has been given. Instead, France will participate in a special forces unit with other European countries and African countries will be responsible for patrolling the Sahel.”

RFI: Macron To Reassure African Leaders On Commitment To Fighting Terror

“President Emmanuel Macron will seek to reassure Sahel leaders of his commitment to Africa's anti-terror fight on Friday, at their first talks since he announced a reduction of French troops in West Africa. The decision last month to scale back French forces -- and hopefully convince EU allies to step up their presence -- opens an uncertain phase in the fight against jihadist insurgents that control wide swathes of West Africa. Fresh political turmoil in Mali and Chad, where military juntas are now in charge, raises further questions about whether local governments can effectively tackle the Islamist threat. France has not given details on how many of the 5,100 soldiers in its Barkhane counter-terrorism force will remain in the region. Defence Minister Florence Parly said the government would announce the changes “fairly soon”. She insisted that “this transformation does not mean a departure from the Sahel, nor that we are going to let up our counter-terrorism operations.” A source familiar with the plans told AFP that troop levels will fall to around 3,500 over the next year, and to 2,500 by the end of 2023. Commandos in the “Sabre” task force will remain to hunt down the leaders of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, the source said on condition of anonymity.”

United Kingdom

Evening Standard: Londoners Urged Not To Be ‘Complacent’ About Terror Threat In Capital

“Londoners have been urged not to be “complacent” about the threat of terrorism as lockdown restrictions ease, with a “substantial” number of terror investigations currently ongoing in the capital. The warning came from Commander Richard Smith, head of Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism command, at a meeting of the London Assembly on Thursday. As London today marks 16 years since the tragic terrorist attack that claimed 52 lives on July 7, 2007, Commander Smith said that he “wouldn’t want anyone to be complacent” about “the scale of the threat” currently facing the capital. Commander Smith told Assembly Members that the number of terror offences currently being investigated “remains high”, and that of roughly 800 active investigations taking place in the UK, a “very substantial proportion” are based in London. Commander Smith said: “The numbers of people under investigation between ourselves and our primary partner in MI5 are very significant and there is also a very large number of closed subjects of interest who may still pose a residual threat. “I wouldn’t want anyone to be complacent – neither the public nor any of our partners – about the scale of the threat. We may not be seeing the dreadful succession of offences that we saw in 2017, but there have been 29 well developed plots disrupted since then, largely a mixture of right-wing and Islamist terrorist plots.”

Express: Al-Qaeda Poses 'Serious Risk' To UK - Expert Warns Of 'Power-Sharing Deal' With Taliban

“Twenty years after it carried out the 9/11 attacks the jihadist group remains active and has retained close ties with the Taliban. The network now poses a major risk to the security of the UK and its interests abroad, according to Robert Clark, a defence fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, who called it “incredibly worrying”. He told Express.co.uk: “In terms of the threat that Al-Qaeda more significantly poses is absolutely the threat of further radicalisation and the fact that they can inspire through their messaging such large, disenfranchised sections of both British communities, Western communities and the local population as well. “Similarly to ISIS, they can inspire British citizens to conduct atrocities and terrorist activities and attacks in Britain in their name which we've seen over the last 20 years from both Al-Qaeda and ISIS. “If they're allowed to gain more control, power, terror, recruitment, funding, then, of course, those capabilities will only magnify. “You cannot rule out the threat posed by returning fighters from ISIS, we saw this in Iraq and Syria and the threat that they posed, and the aspects of radicalisation have to be considered of people returning from those areas.”

Technology

The Daily Caller: Facebook Is Causing A Spook By Asking People If They Are Worried About An ‘Extremist’ Friend. Here’s What That’s About

“In a pilot initiative to combat “extremism,” Facebook began notifying users if they were exposed to extremist content and whether they were concerned someone they knew was becoming an extremist. The notification, which Facebook said is in the testing phase, either notifies users that they have potentially been exposed to extremist content or asks them if they are concerned about a friend becoming an extremist. A Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business that the feature is part of Facebook’s commitment to combatting extremism on its platform. Facebook has had issues in the past of terrorists recruiting on the platform. A report from 2020 found that ISIS and other terrorist groups had found ways to evade content moderators, such as disguising their content with reports from legitimate news outlets, BBC reported. The groups were able to get tens of thousands of views on their recruiting materials before Facebook was able to remove them. Facebook categorizes content that violates its policies into several categories; violence and incitement, dangerous individuals and organizations, coordinating harm and publicizing crime, regulated goods, and fraud and deception. Each category has specific descriptions for what falls into them, but some have argued that it’s not enough.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On July 23, 2016, two suicide bombers targeted members of Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic minority who were demonstrating in Kabul. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed at least 97 people and injured 260 others. 

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