Eye on Extremism: Jun 17, 2020

The Telegraph: Mali Left Shaken As Dozens Of Soldiers Killed In Jihadist Ambush

“At least 24 Malian soldiers have been killed in an ambush near the border with Mauritania, in an apparent revenge attack for the assassination of a top jihadi leader. The soldiers were patrolling close to the Wagadou forest, a known hideout for jihadist groups, on June 14. An army spokesperson said that 8 soldiers had survived the assault. A further thirty-two on the patrol are missing. Armed forces in the Sahel region are known to undercount the death toll of attacks to preserve troop morale. One expert told The Telegraph that the attack was carried out by Katiba Macina, a jihadist group allied to Al Qaeda which has been wreaking havoc over large parts of central Mali. Video shot at the scene apparently by the group showed a man wandering among dead bodies.”

The Irish Times: UN Urges Iraq To Adopt War Crimes Laws To Prosecute Islamic State Fighters

“United Nations investigators have urged Iraq’s new government to adopt war crimes laws to prosecute Islamic State fighters for atrocities against civilians during the movement’s seizure of power in that country. With the aid of the Iraqi judiciary, the UN team dealing with crimes against the Yazidi minority has collected more than two million call data records from service providers, team leader Karim A Khan told the Associated Press. He said the records provide evidence which will stand up in court and sustain convictions “beyond reasonable doubt”. The team and Iraqi intelligence agents are also collecting witness testimonies and data from mobile phones and computers abandoned when Islamic State fighters fled during the offensive to drive them from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul during 2016-2017. Mass graves are being found with the help of 3D technology. More than 300 suspects have been identified, some living in Iraq. “We are trying to build case files that can be properly prosecuted and adjudicated in Iraq or in third countries,” said Mr Khan. During June 2014, Islamic State fighters crossed into northern Iraq from Syria, killed thousands of Yazidi men, enslaved women, forcibly converted children to Islam and made boys serve as fighters.”

United States

The New York Times: Air Force Sergeant With Ties To Extremist Group Charged In Federal Officer’s Death

“An Air Force sergeant linked to an anti-government movement was charged with murder and attempted murder on Tuesday in the shooting death of a federal security officer outside a courthouse in Oakland, Calif., last month. The sergeant had expressed his allegiance to the so-called boogaloo movement by writing with his own blood on the hood of a white Toyota Camry and had used the recent protests against racial injustice as a cover to attack law enforcement, according to the F.B.I. Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, is accused of firing an assault rifle from the open back door of a moving vehicle and gunning down the federal officer, according to the criminal complaint. The driver of the van, Robert Alvin Justus Jr., 30, who had met Sergeant Carrillo on Facebook, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, the officer killed in the shooting, the complaint said. Both men were also charged with the attempted murder of a second officer who was gravely wounded. “They came to Oakland to kill cops,” John F. Bennett, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in San Francisco, said at a news conference on Tuesday.”

Reuters: Militia At Violent New Mexico Protest Linked To White Supremacy, Domestic Terror: Mayor

“Members of a heavily armed New Mexico militia blamed for sparking violence at a protest where a demonstrator was shot are trying to “prop up” white supremacy and may be connected to domestic terrorism, Albuquerque’s mayor said on Tuesday. The peaceful protest calling for the removal of an Albuquerque statue of a Spanish conquistador turned violent on Monday after members of the New Mexico Civil Guard militia tried to keep demonstrators away from it, Albuquerque Police Commander Art Sanchez told a news briefing. Among counter-protestors defending the statue was Steven Baca, 31, caught on video throwing a woman to the ground. Protesters then pursued him before he pulled out a handgun and shot a man, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller told the briefing. Baca was not immediately available for comment and police declined to say whether he was part of the militia. But Keller said vigilantes, militias and other armed civilians had for weeks menaced local protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Protesters are demanding the removal of statues of New Mexico’s Spanish colonial rulers who killed and enslaved indigenous people.”

Penn Live: Inmate Admits Threatening To ‘Commit The Worst Terrorist Attack In American History’

“A Waverly, N.Y., man has admitted he planned to “kill a lot of people and commit the worst terrorist attack in American history” when he got out prison. Jesse Allen Blake, 25, Tuesday made the admission in U.S. Middle District Court when he pleaded guilty to a charge of mailing threatening communication. Blake was an inmate at the Bradford County Correctional Facility on March 29, 2019, when he sent the letter to FBI headquarters in Washington that stated: “When I come home I’m gonna kill a lot of people and commit the worst terrorist attack in American history.” He went on to threaten to blow up the White House, the U.N., the Pentagon and Trump Tower and said he would try to kill the president. Below his name he wrote: “I will terrorize the (expletive) out of America.” In outlining the government’s evidence, Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel quoted Bradford County Warden Donald Stewart as saying he believed Blake was fully capable of carrying out the threats. The prosecutor also mentioned comments made by Blake’s grandmother that her grandson is a violent person who has threatened to kill family members. Blake told Judge Matthew W. Brann he had been treated for methamphetamine and alcohol addiction.”

Syria

Radio Free Europe: Tajik Islamic State Recruiter Reportedly 'Goes Missing' From Syrian Prison

“A notorious Islamic State recruiter who has been linked to terrorist attacks in Sweden, Russia, and Tajikistan, has gone missing from a prison in northern Syria, according to people with knowledge of his detention. Parviz Saidrahmonov, 33, hasn’t been seen in the prison in the Syrian town of Afrin for more than a month, according to one Tajik woman, who said she shared a cell with Saidrahmonov’s wife, who was also being held in the same prison. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Saidrahmonov had previously been allowed to meet his wife twice a month. “There are rumors here that Saidrahmonov has escaped from the jail, but I don’t know for sure,” the woman told RFE/RL by phone on June 15. The woman is being held in custody along with other people with alleged links to Islamic State militants, Another Tajik woman, who lives at the Al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria, told RFE/RL that Saidrahmonov called her “out of the blue” in early June, asking after one of his family members. “He refused to tell me where he was and just said that everything was fine,” the woman said on June 15. RFE/RL could not independently verify the claims.”

Daily Sabah: 16 Police Officers Injured In Terrorist Attack In Syria's Azaz

“At least 16 police officers were injured in a terrorist attack that hit northern Syria's Azaz on Tuesday. All 16 police officers were hospitalized after a bomb attached to the bus carrying them exploded. No terrorist group has assumed responsibility for the attack yet, but the local security forces see YPG/PKK terrorists as the biggest suspect. A separate terrorist attack hit a fuel truck in the northwestern province of al-Bab on Monday night. The attack damaged multiple fuel trucks and caused a major fire. Although there were no civilian casualties, the terrorist attack caused material damages. The YPG/PKK terrorist group was once again the prime suspect in the attack, local security forces said. Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful anti-terrorist operations – beginning with Euphrates Shield and followed by Olive Branch in 2018 and Peace Spring in 2019. Turkey's cross-border operations in northern Syria were launched to prevent the formation of a terror corridor along its border and enable the peaceful resettlement of locals. Over the course of its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women and children.”

Iraq

Associated Press: Turkey Moves Troops Against Kurdish Rebels In Northern Iraq

“Turkey said Wednesday it has airlifted troops for a cross-border ground operation against Turkey's Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, the first known airborne-and-land offensive by Ankara inside Iraqi territory. The airborne offensive into Iraq’s border region of Haftanin, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Turkey-Iraq border, was launched following intense artillery fire into the area, said the Defense Ministry in Ankara. The operation by commando forces is being supported by warplanes, attack helicopters, artillery and armed and unarmed drones, according to the ministry's statement posted on Twitter. It did not say how many troops are involved. Turkey regularly carries out air and ground attacks against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which it says maintains bases in northern Iraq. Wednesday’s was the first known airborne and land offensive. Turkey has defended its past operations into northern Iraq, saying neither the Iraqi government nor the regional Iraqi Kurdish administration have acted to remove PKK insurgents who allegedly use Iraq's territory to stage attacks on Turkey. The ministry said Wednesday's operation follows “increasing harassment and attempts to attack” military outposts or bases in Turkey.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: MSF Closes Kabul Program After May Maternity Hospital Attack

“Doctors Without Borders said it closed its operation on Tuesday in Kabul, ending yearslong work to support a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital. The closure came a month after a horrific attack at the facility killed 24 people, including two infants, nurses and several young mothers. The international charity, also known by its French acronym MSF, said it would keep its other programs in Afghanistan running, but did not go into details. The May 12 attack at the maternity hospital set off an hours-long shootout with Afghan police and also left more than a dozen people wounded. The hospital in Dashti Barchi, a mostly Shiite neighborhood, was the Geneva-based group's only project in the Afghan capital. No one claimed responsibility for the assault. The Taliban promptly denied involvement in the attack, which the U.S. said bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan — an attack targeting the country’s minority Shiites in a neighborhood of Kabul that IS militants have repeatedly attacked in the past. “This was not an easy decision,” said Brian Moller, the MSF head of programs for Afghanistan. “We don’t know who is responsible for this attack, we don’t know the rationale or intent behind the attack and we don’t know who was actively targeted, whether it was foreigners, whether it was MSF, whether it was the Hazara community or the Shiite community at large.”

Long War Journal: Taliban Ramps Up Attacks After Ending Unilateral Ceasefire

“The Taliban has resumed its offensive against Afghan security forces throughout the country after a lull in fighting following a three-day unilateral ceasefire for the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday in late May. Over the past week, the Taliban has killed or wounded more than 420 Afghan security personnel during attacks across Afghanistan. At least 171 Afghan security personnel were killed in and 250 more were wounded during 222 Taliban attacks in 29 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces during the past week, a spokesman for the Interior Affairs Ministry told TOLONews. The Taliban’s resumption of its nationwide offensive against the Afghan government is in stark contrast to the picture that was painted by Afghan officials a little over two weeks ago. The Taliban announced its Eid ceasefire on May 23 and said it would end on May 26. It never coordinated its ceasefire with the Afghan government. Instead, the Afghan government seized the opportunity to reciprocate and declared its own ceasefire. On May 29, after the Taliban attacked and killed 14 border guards in Paktia province, both the Afghan Ministry of Defense and National Security Council somehow claimed that the Taliban extended its ceasefire. The Taliban denied that and its spokesmen began tweeting about significant attacks.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Hezbollah Leader Says Dollar Injections Needed, Accuses U.S. Of Deepening Shortage

“Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday that dollar injections were needed to shore up the pound currency and accused the United States of preventing dollars from reaching the crisis-hit country. A dive in the pound currency last week sparked fresh protests in Lebanon, prompting the government to announce that the central bank would begin injecting scarce dollars into the market this week to reverse its fall. Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday the central bank was working with money changers to gradually reduce the dollar price but has not commented on whether dwindling reserves had yet been deployed to boost the pound. In a televised address, Narallah said the United States had blocked dollars from reaching Lebanon, worsening a shortage that has hiked prices. “Under the pretext that dollars are being collected in the (Lebanese) market and being taken to Syria, the Americans are preventing dollars from coming to Lebanon, even what is in the hands of the Lebanese central bank for the Lebanese market,” said Nasrallah. The local currency has lost more than 60% of its value since late last year, when Lebanon plunged deep into a financial crisis that has pushed the government to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.”

Africa

Africa Center For Strategic Studies: Keeping Terrorism At Bay In Mauritania

“Violent extremism continues to be one of the most significant challenges to peace and security in the Sahel. Militant Islamist groups have shown remarkable staying power despite their military rout in northern Mali in 2013 following the deployment of French-led Operation Serval (now Operation Barkhane). Indeed, violent extremist groups in the Sahel have grown in number, size, and lethality—now concentrated in central Mali, northeastern Burkina Faso, and western Niger. Largely absent from this narrative is Mauritania. The story of Mauritania’s transformation from the weakest link in this crisis-ridden neighborhood to one of its most resilient is instructive. The country was the first in the Sahel to be hit by terrorist attacks in 2005. However, since 2011 it has avoided the expanding and diversifying threat from militant Islamist groups. That security threats in the Sahel are characterized by layers of intertwined and crosscutting interests at the local, national, and regional levels makes Mauritania’s example all the more informative. Importantly, the government has managed to restore its authority and control over border regions, which militant Islamist groups in the Sahel have often exploited to their advantage.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Failure Of Brexit Talks Could Lead To Terrorism Intelligence Delays, Say Lords

“The UK risks losing its real-time access to a watchlist of suspected terrorists if it does not strike a comprehensive Brexit deal on justice and security, peers have been told. The concerns of the policing consequences of a collapse in Brexit talks were raised by members of the Lords EU security and justice sub-committee during questioning of the Home Office minister James Brokenshire. Fears were also raised over the future of the European arrest warrant (EAW) system and the prospect of the UK becoming a haven for foreign criminals trying to evade justice from EU member states. The Labour peer Lord Rowlands described the situation prior to the EAW system as “hopeless” as it allowed fugitives to roam freely in countries without extradition treaties. “I hope we will agree that we want to avoid going back to the old system, because it did allow criminal havens; [with] those characters who lived on the Spanish Costa del Sol immune from any formal proceedings. I’m hoping you are not suggesting that we might have to go back to that, are you?” said Rowlands. His concerns came as an ally of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the MEP Nathalie Loiseau, warned that a crash out from the EU without a deal would mean weaker ties on security.”

Germany

Agence France-Presse: German Neo-Nazi Planned Politician's Murder 'For Years'

“A German neo-Nazi went on trial Tuesday for the 2019 murder of a pro-refugee politician, with the court hearing that he allegedly began plotting the killing after the 2016 Islamist truck attack in Nice fuelled his hatred of foreigners. Walter Luebcke, 65, was shot dead while sitting in his garden last June, in a case that shocked Germany and stoked alarm about rising far-right violence. Federal prosecutors say the main suspect, 46-year-old Stephan Ernst, was motivated by “extreme right-wing political convictions” when he pulled the trigger. Ernst appeared at the higher regional court in Frankfurt alongside co-defendant Markus Hartmann, who stands accused of helping him train with firearms -- including the murder weapon. Luebcke's killing is believed to be Germany's first far-right political assassination since World War II. The first day of the trial drew huge interest from the public and media but seating in court was limited because of coronavirus social distancing rules. Both defendants wore face masks as they were led into the courtroom, where plexiglass screens were installed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Ernst admitted to the homicide shortly after his arrest but later retracted his confession and said Hartmann fired the gun.”