Eye on Extremism: Jun 10, 2020

Radio Free Europe: Iranian Links: New Taliban Splinter Group Emerges That Opposes U.S. Peace Deal

“A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged. The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February. The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years. It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support, but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays. Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government. Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizable Afghan population.”

Newsweek: Hundreds Of Thousands Sign Petitions Urging The U.S. Government To Declare KKK A Terrorist Group

“Hundreds of thousands of people are demanding that the Ku Klux Klan be listed as a terrorist organization, with several online petitions rapidly gaining support. A number of change.org petitions have gone viral this week demanding the white supremacist hate group be classified as terrorists, prompting them to be included among the top trends on Twitter. One such petition calling for the KKK to be declared a terrorist organization reached 100,000 signatures before it closed. Two more petitions have also attracted at least 79,000 and 86,000 signatures, with a fourth demanding the KKK be illegal reaching 125,000 signatures. “Black Americans have suffered the most under this terror group. Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims,” a description on the Change KKK status into Terrorist Organization petition reads: “We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labeled a terrorist group for their acts, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist.” The now-closed Declare the KKK a Terrorist Organization petition adds: “What kind of message is the government spreading by allowing the KKK to function? That it's okay to be racist? “Think about the pain African Americans endure every single day for the color of their skin.”

Syria

The Defense Post: Syria Jihadist-Regime Clashes Leave 41 Fighters Dead

“An Al-Qaeda offshoot led an offensive Monday against regime forces in northwest Syria, sparking clashes that left 19 pro-government fighters and 22 jihadists dead, a war monitor said. “Jihadist factions led by Hurras al-Deen launched an assault on two villages in Sahl al-Ghab,” a region of the central province of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They briefly seized the villages of Al-Fatatra and Al-Manara, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. But regime forces took them back just hours later amid Russian air strikes and intense shelling, the Britain-based monitor said. Abdel Rahman said the clashes left 19 government soldiers and 22 jihadists dead. The country’s official SANA news agency also reported the attack on “two Syrian army positions,” saying it involved “explosive-rigged vehicles and suicide bombers.” Citing a military source, it said the situation was now under control after the jihadists were forced to pull out under regime fire. The offensive was launched from within the Idlib region, which is controlled by jihadists and rebels and is the last bastion of resistance to Damascus after nine years of devastating civil war. A truce reached on March 6 has largely stemmed fighting in the region, which President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to fully retake.”

Kurdistan 24: US Envoy: ISIS Still Operates In Disputed Territories

“Amb. James Jeffrey, US Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and Special Representative for Syria Engagement, briefed journalists on Friday on the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition, which was held the day before. Jeffrey explained that attacks by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, what he referred to as the “core,” had shown an uptick during the fasting month of Ramadan. But compared to last year, the attacks “in terms of numbers” have “dropped significantly” from a year ago, he said, as he called the rise in Islamic State terrorism during Ramadan “typical.” The Kurdish leadership has repeatedly complained of an Islamic State resurgence in the disputed areas and stressed the need for more effective cooperation between the Peshmerga Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF.)  Jeffrey expressed that view, as well, as he explained that one of the places in which the Islamic State still operates is “in the fault lines” between the Peshmerga Forces and “the Iraqi army and certain of these militia groups,” an apparent reference to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF.) There are “coordination problems,” between the two sets of local military forces, Jeffrey said.”

Iran

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Sentences Man To Death For Allegedly Spying For U.S., Israel

“Iran said it sentenced one of its citizens to death for allegedly providing information to the U.S. and Israel about Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was later killed in a drone strike that brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of armed confrontation. Iran’s judiciary identified the man as Mahmoud Mousavi Majd, who it said had “established links” with the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel’s foreign spy agency, Mossad. He was arrested in 2018 and wasn’t connected with Gen. Soleimani’s killing, which happened early this year. Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Mr. Majd provided intelligence on Gen. Soleimani’s whereabouts to the U.S., but didn’t offer supporting evidence or elaborate on how Mr. Majd would have known about the general’s travels. The CIA and Mossad didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The U.S. killed Gen. Soleimani in January in a drone strike in Iraq that provoked an Iranian missile barrage on U.S. targets in Iraq. Both sides eventually backed away from open conflict, but the decision to execute the alleged spy illustrates how Gen. Soleimani’s killing remains a major point of friction. Iran in the past has arrested and executed scores of alleged spies who it said were working for foreign powers.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Terrorism Won't Be Turkey's Fate, Interior Minister Soylu Says

“Terrorism will soon no longer be a problem in Turkey, as the country has successfully destroyed a large number of them, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said, noting that the number of terrorists has been rapidly falling. Soylu said there are only 445 PKK/YPG terrorists left in Turkey after four more were killed on Tuesday.”Soon, terror will no longer be the fate of this country,” the minister said on his Twitter account. His remarks came after Turkish security forces killed four YPG/PKK terrorists in the southeastern Şırnak and eastern Elazığ provinces. Security forces also seized weapons and ammunition stored by YPG/PKK terrorists, the provincial governor's office in the eastern Van province said Tuesday. According to a statement, the gendarmerie forces of Van province launched an operation in a rural area of the Başkale district to locate storages and shelters used by the terror group. A rifle, two hand grenades and bullets were confiscated during the operation. Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey and in northern Iraq where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence.”

Afghanistan

Agence France-Presse: Freed Taliban Prisoners Eye Return To The Battlefield

“Afghan authorities are opening prison doors for thousands of Taliban inmates in a high-risk gambit to ensure the insurgent group begin peace talks with Kabul. Security concerns are mounting as many of the newly liberated fighters say they are ready to resume their holy war. “If the Americans do not pull out, we will continue our jihad, because they have killed many Afghans in their operations,” said Mohamed Daud, who was freed from Bagram jail north of Kabul last month. “We do not want foreign forces in our country anymore,” he told AFP, dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez, before taking a taxi back to his village with a cash handout from authorities worth $65. US forces arrested Daud, 28, in the northwest province of Faryab nine years ago. Afghan authorities accelerated the planned release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, including Daud, as a “goodwill gesture” after the insurgents called a three-day ceasefire to mark the Eid holiday. Those released include members training to be suicide bombers, suicide vest makers, kidnappers and even foreign fighters, a security official said. The move is part of a larger prisoner swap agreed as a precursor to peace talks starting. Before their release, inmates were required to sign a pledge that they would not pick up arms again.”

Foreign Policy: Factional Struggles Emerge In Virus-Afflicted Taliban Top Ranks

“With the likely death of the Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader from COVID-19 and the illness of many other senior figures, the son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the militant group’s founder, has taken control. But now the Afghan government is worried that a power struggle within the Taliban could damage the tenuous peace process that is barely underway. Indeed, as the Taliban move closer to a return to at least partial power in Kabul, thanks to a deal with the United States aimed at ending its war in Afghanistan, there are signs the jihadi movement is set to descend into an internal battle of its own, as rival factions and tribes fight for control of its vast financial and military assets. At stake is close to $2 billion in annual revenues, a well-armed and battle-hardened militia, and alliances with international terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, eager to piggyback on the Taliban’s supposed victory over the United States and its allies and use Afghanistan, as it once again becomes an ungoverned space, for training and operational planning. Uncertainty about how the Taliban’s leadership struggle will unfold comes amid the latest stage of U.S. efforts to broker peace, following the signing of a bilateral deal on Feb. 29 that transformed the Taliban into an ally and facilitated the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in 14 months.”

Daily Sabah: Afghanistan Releases 60% Of Taliban Prisoners Amid Peace Talks

“The Afghan government has released around 60% of Taliban prisoners that were part of a deal between the United States and the militants to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks, the National Security Council said Tuesday. Some 3,000 Taliban inmates have been released, and the prisoner release will continue as a confidence-building measure for reaching a lasting peace, the council said. The High Council for Reconciliation led by Abdullah Abdullah has also started its work. The government negotiating team is ready for talks with representatives of the Taliban. The release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners was part of the deal the Taliban made with the U.S. in February, as well as a precondition set by the militants for joining intra-Afghan talks. The deal also foresees the gradual withdrawal of all international forces from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees. The Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire for Eid last month. In return, President Ashraf Ghani announced the release of another 2,000 Taliban prisoners in addition to the 1,000 detainees released before. The Taliban claims they have released nearly 500 pro-government forces from their custody. However, both sides are providing conflicting figures about the number of prisoners released by each side.”

Pakistan

Hindustan Times: 22 Terrorists, Including 8 Top Commanders, Killed In J&K In Last 15 Days

“Twenty-two terrorists, including 8 top commanders, have been killed in the last 15 days in Jammu and Kashmir by security forces, sources said. According to sources, soon after Eid festival operations were stepped up with more vigour focussing on top terror leadership. “This has lead to terrorists being neutralised without any collateral damage,” sources added. Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) commander Adil Ahmad Wani and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) cadre Shaheen Ahmad Thoker were killed on May 25 at Khud Hanjipora Kulgam while Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Parvaiz Ahmad Pandith and JeM commander Shakir Ahmed Itoo were neutralised on May 30 at Wanpora Kulgam. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group commander Aaqib Ramzan Wani and Awanitpora JeM commander Mohammad Maqbool Chopan killed on June 2 at Saimoo Tral Awantipora. According to sources, on June 3, in a major breakthrough JeM top commander Fauji Bhai, who was a resident of Pakistan, HM top commander Manzoor Ahmad Kar, JeM commander Javaid Ahmad Zargar were neutralised at Kangan Pulwama.”

Lebanon

Voice Of America: Hezbollah Called To Reform Amid Protests, Political Pressure, Possible Sanctions 

“Protests in Beirut in recent days over government corruption and mismanagement quickly escalated into rioting and sectarian violence that included clashes between Shi’ite Hezbollah supporters and other demonstrators. Analysts say there are now renewed calls for the powerful Hezbollah militia, also represented in the government and parliament, to disarm. Analysts say Lebanon may be facing its biggest threat to stability since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war in 1990. A spiraling economic crisis, the coronavirus outbreak, and national protests have raised fears of a new slide into sectarian violence. While demanding better living conditions and tougher measures to fight corruption, demonstrators are urging Hezbollah to disarm. That demand ignited violent rage from supporters of the powerful Shi’ite paramilitary group backed by Iran, forcing Lebanese President Michel Aoun to call for national unity. Lebanon maintains a fragile sectarian balance after its many religious sects fought the civil war. Professor Habib Malik of the Lebanese American University tells VOA that the spotlight on Hezbollah’s misconduct is raising calls to counter its powerful influence over Lebanon.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Boko Haram Kills 69, Razes Village In Northern Nigeria: Sources

“Boko Haram gunman killed at least 69 people and razed a village to the ground in northern Nigeria’s Borno state on Tuesday afternoon, three sources told Reuters. The men attacked the village of Faduma Koloram, in Gubio local government area of Borno state, starting about noon. They arrived in vehicles and on motorcycles, shooting with AK-47s, razing the village and stealing 1,200 cattle and camels. A resident, a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) member and a soldier each confirmed the same account. They said the men attacked because they suspected residents of sharing information on Boko Haram’s movements with security authorities. “It’s an unfortunate day for us to witness this,” said CJTF fighter Kachallah Bumu. While he said the residents were armed, and had repelled previous attacks, this one caught them off guard. “They took us unaware and killed our people,” he said. A military spokesman could not be reached for comment. Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have killed thousands and displaced millions in northeastern Nigeria.”

Pulse Nigeria: Boko Haram Fighter Surrenders As Troops Kill, Arrest Terrorists In Borno

“In an official statement on Tuesday, June 9, the Army said Kori confessed that he has been an active member of the Islamic sect for the past five years. He said he fled his camp, located at Fulatari around Lake Chad, after a series of artillery bombardments that led to the death of many fighters, including local commanders. The Army also announced that a continuation of its aggressive clearance operations in the northeast led to the death and arrest of many Boko Haram fighters, and those of its influential breakaway faction, the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP). The statement said troops of 192 Battalion deployed in Gwoza, Borno on Monday conducted a well-coordinated raid on Boko Haram criminals' hideout at Kwatara on the Mandara Mountains, and killed an unspecific number of fighters while others fled. Troops of 151 Battalion deployed at Strong Response Area Miyanti, also on Monday, conducted an ambush operation against terrorists along Darel Jamel-Miyanti Road. Two fighters were killed while two women were rescued from the attack. Two bicycles, one sack containing 121 pairs of new rubber slippers, and the sum of N29,500 were also recovered by troops. The reported successes of troops happened on the same day the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, assured President Muhammadu Buhari that the military has been crushing the terrorists.”

Africa

All Africa: Mozambique: At Least 11 Dead In Terrorist Raids

“Terrorist groups have murdered at least 11 people in attacks between Wednesday and Friday against villages in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, reports Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”. On Wednesday night, the terrorists invaded Imbada village, in Meluco district, where they beheaded three people. On Thursday morning, people who had fled from an attack on Litamanda village, and took refuge in Muambala, in Muidumbe district, said they had seen five lifeless bodies as they fled. On Friday, two people were murdered, one of them by beheading, on a beach near Ulo village in Mocimboa da Praia district. The two victims were fishermen, who were caught by surprise when their boat ran aground at low tide. The terrorists, who claim inspiration from Islamic fundamentalism, have also been warning people not to approach areas they claim are under their control in Mocimboa da Praia. The area the islamists claim is in and around the villages of Ulo, Nanquidunga and Luchete. The area covered runs from north of Mocimboa da Praia town to the Messalo river. The threats have been taken seriously, and famers in these areas can no longer tend their fields safely.”

Financial Times: Victory Remains Elusive In France’s Drive To Quell Sahel Insurgency

“The killing last week of one of al-Qaeda’s top commanders in Africa was celebrated by France as a significant victory in its war on terrorism in the Sahel. But seven years after it first intervened in Mali to quell an Islamist insurgency, Paris is mired in a seemingly endless campaign. Despite 5,100 French troops across the region and 14,000 UN peacekeepers in Mali, violence that began in the north of the country has spread, killing thousands and displacing millions in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Frustrated by the rampant insecurity, protesters flooded the streets of Bamako, the Malian capital, in January calling on the French military to leave its former colonies. “Since then, France has put more effort into letting people know what they are doing, doing more communications so we can see what they’re achieving,” said Mathias Hounkpe, head of the Mali country office for the Open Society Initiative for west Africa.  But despite attempts to demonstrate progress, such as the killing of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked JNIM, Mr Hounkpe said Malians were not listening.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: Extremists Are Operating With Impunity Because Of Flawed Laws, Say Ex-Police Chief And Commissioner

“Islamist and far right extremists are operating with “virtual impunity” online and offline because of gaps in Britain’s laws, say the former head of counter-terrorism and the Government’s countering extremism commissioner. In an exclusive joint article for The Daily Telegraph, Sir Mark Rowley and Sara Khan said extremists knew they could “easily steer” around current laws on incitement and count-terrorism. This was why current legislation needed to be reviewed to establish whether changes are needed to combat what Ms Khan’s commission has termed “hateful extremism.” This review will be headed by Sir Mark, who was assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police during the terror attacks of 2017. The move follows a report last year by the commission which found efforts to combat extremism were failing because the Government's definition of it was so broad. There have been just nine prosecutions under incitement to religious or racial hatred laws in a year. Instead, the report offered a draft definition of “hateful extremism” based on three elements: first, behaviours that incite and amplify hate; second, people who engage in persistent hatred; and third, people who make the moral case for violence.”

BBC News: Extremism Body Examines New Hate Crime

“The government's adviser on extremism is investigating whether it's possible to ban behaviour that leads people to hate each other. The Commission for Countering Extremism says there may be gaps in the law, allowing extremists to sow divisions. The former head of counter-terrorism, Sir Mark Rowley, will lead the review on whether a new crime could work. Successive governments have tried and failed to come up with an agreed criminal definition of extremism. The commission, set up by the Home Office but operating independently of ministers, says it has gathered widespread evidence of people falling victim to hate that leaves them living in fear - but is short of a crime. Incidents include sectarian campaigns between communities, far-right street and Islamist protests that encourage hostility to other groups, and online abuse that makes violence more likely. In each case it says victims can feel let down by the authorities who are powerless to stop subtle attacks that are not crimes under terrorism legislation or hate laws. Last year, the commission concluded in a report that government should focus on “hateful extremism” - meaning activity that amplifies hate and pitches communities against each other - potentially leading to violence.”

Fox News: Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant Entrant And Ex-Boyfriend Jailed In UK For Being Members Of Terrorist Group

“A British woman who reportedly competed in a Miss Hitler beauty pageant, and her ex-boyfriend have been sentenced to jail Tuesday for being members of a banned far-right terrorist group. Alice Cutter, 23, and Mark Jones, 25, had been found guilty in Birmingham Crown Court earlier this year of belonging to National Action, which became outlawed in the United Kingdom in 2016 after celebrating the death of Jo Cox, a member of parliament who was murdered that year by a man with white supremacist views, according to the BBC. “Following proscription [of National Action], you weren't prepared to dissociate yourselves from the vile ideology of this group and therefore defied the ban and continued as members,” Judge Paul Farrer was quoted by Sky News as telling the pair Tuesday. Alice Cutter, left, and Mark Jones have been sentenced to prison in the United Kingdom after being found guilty of partipicating in a banned terrorist group. Cutter was sentenced to three years in prison while Jones received a 5.5-year term. Farrer, according to Sky News, described Cutter as a “trusted confidante” of one of National Action’s leaders and also at one point had been in a “committed relationship” with Jones, who himself “played a significant role in the continuation of the organization” following its ban.”

Germany

The New York Times: Germany’s Far-Right Party Wins Suit Against Interior Minister

“Germany’s highest court ruled in favor of the far-right Alternative for Germany party in its case against the country’s sitting interior minister on Tuesday, a symbolic victory for the populist party that has been steadily losing support in recent months as the country’s response to the coronavirus has dulled the appetite for criticism of the government. Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials AfD, is the country’s largest opposition party, and took legal action against the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, over a 2018 interview in which he warned that the party endangered the German state. In its decision, the court focused on the fact that the interview, conducted by the German news agency D.P.A., was also posted on Mr. Seehofer’s ministerial website. The court defended Mr. Seehofer’s right to make the comments, but it took issue with the use of government resources to promote political speech. “The admissibility of the federal government’s public relations work ends where advertising for, or influence against, individuals in the political competing parties or persons begins,” Andreas Vosskuhle, the court’s outgoing president, said on Tuesday.”

Australia

ABC News Australia: Adelaide Woman Acquitted Of IS Membership Would Use 'Second Chance Wisely', Court Told

“An Adelaide woman acquitted of being an Islamic State member has never trained with the terror group, can no longer travel to IS-controlled strongholds in Syria and wants to use her second chance “wisely”, the Federal Court has heard. Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif, 25, spent two years and six months in jail after a South Australian Supreme Court jury found her guilty of being a member of a terrorist organisation, before she was freed on appeal in October 2019. Commonwealth prosecutors have asked the High Court to overturn her acquittal, but the hearing has been delayed because of the coronavirus health pandemic. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is seeking to use powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act to control parts of Ms Abdirahman-Khalif's life in a bid to prevent a potential terror attack. She has been subjected to an interim control order for the past six months which has limited her social media use, movements and employment. It also bans her from contacting anyone in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, going to the Adelaide Airport and driving a heavy vehicle. The court was told that Ms Abdirahman-Khalif was detained at Adelaide Airport in July 2016 after buying a one-way ticket to Turkey, and that she planned to travel with $180.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Court Challenge Awaits Duterte-Backed Anti-Terror Legislation

“The Philippine Congress has sent controversial anti-terrorism legislation to President Rodrigo Duterte, paving the way for him to sign it into law, while also setting the stage for opponents to mount an immediate legal challenge on the constitutionality of some of its provisions before the Supreme Court. Senate President Tito Sotto announced that he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano signed the bill on Monday night, and that the document had been received by the office of the president on Tuesday. Last week, Duterte certified the passage of the legislation as urgent, and he is expected to sign it into law amid growing opposition and decision by several House members to withdraw their support. The House of Representatives passed the bill on June 4 after it was approved by the Senate in February. Sotto, an ally of Duterte, defended the bill saying only “terrorists” should worry about the legislation. Duterte's spokesman said the approved bill would still be subject to review before the president signs it. On Tuesday morning, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the two senators who voted against the bill, hinted at the possibility of joining the effort to take the legislation directly to the country's highest court, according to a transcript of a media statement that was also provided to Al Jazeera.”