Eye on Extremism: Jun 19, 2020

Los Angeles Times: Facebook Removes Trump Campaign Ads Featuring Symbol Used By Nazis

“Facebook removed a series of ads from the Trump campaign on Thursday for prominently featuring an upside-down red triangle in its posts about antifascist activists, a symbol once applied by Nazi Germany to political prisoners. “We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” Facebook said in a statement. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.” The ads, first reported by the Washington Post, declared that “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem” and “are DESTROYING our cities and rioting.” The posts also asked the president’s supporters to demand that “ANTIFA” be designated a terrorist organization, though “antifa” does not comprise formal organizations and instead is an umbrella term for leftists who actively oppose far-right figures and groups such as neo-Nazis and white nationalists. “Whether aware of the history or meaning, for the Trump campaign to use a symbol — one which is practically identical to that used by the Nazi regime to classify political prisoners in concentration camps — to attack his opponents is offensive and deeply troubling,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, the anti-extremist organization, said in a statement.”

Agence France-Presse: Al-Qaeda North Africa Confirms Chief Is Dead: SITE

“Al-Qaeda's North Africa wing has confirmed that its Algerian chief Abdelmalek Droukdel is dead, according to SITE, the US watchdog for extremist groups. France said early this month that its forces killed Droukdel in northern Mali near the Algerian border, where it says the group has bases it uses to carry out bombings and abductions of Westerners. “After nearly two weeks, AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) has officially acknowledged the death of its long time leader Droukdel (Wadud), with a video eulogy narrated by AQIM's head of media, pledging continued battles against occupying French forces and others in N. Africa and the Sahel,” SITE director Rita Katz said Thursday on her Twitter account. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said June 6 that many close associates of the Algerian -- who commanded several groups under the AQIM banner -- were also “neutralised.” AQIM emerged from a group started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists, who in 2007 pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. The group has said it has carried out numerous attacks on troops and civilians across the Sahel, including a 2016 attack on an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso that killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.”

United States

The Washington Post: As Protests Spread To Small-Town America, Militia Groups Respond With Armed Intimidation And Online Threats

“In Omak, Wash., a city of fewer than 5,000 residents in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, plans for a peaceful demonstration began in a private chat on Facebook Messenger. But public threats poured in when Sinai Espinoza, a 19-year-old student at a local community college, joined other young women in promoting their Peaceful March for George Floyd. The violent messages on social media included a vow that “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” echoing President Trump’s rhetoric on Twitter. Another characterized the upcoming gathering as “free target practice.” When the march unfolded earlier this month, bringing more than 400 people to a park opposite the public library, an armed militia stood guard — at ground level but also atop nearby roofs, as if ready to act as snipers. “Honestly, it was terrifying,” Espinoza said. “They claimed they were there to protect the city from outsiders, but it felt more like preparation to kill.” The demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality that have convulsed major metropolitan areas, from Minneapolis to Miami, have also made their way into small-town America, redrawing the geography of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Agence France-Presse: US Counter-Terror Analyst Sentenced To 30 Months For Leaks

“A former counter-terrorism analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Thursday for leaking classified information to journalists, including details about foreign countries' weapons systems. Henry Kyle Frese, 31, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty in February to transmitting top secret defense information to two journalists, one of whom he lived with. “When this information was published, it was shared with all of our nation's adversaries, creating a risk of exceptionally grave harm to the security of this country,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement. The Justice Department said Frese leaked information to two unnamed journalists in 2018 and 2019. One news outlet, which was also not named, published eight articles containing classified information. Frese searched restricted government computer systems at least 30 times in 2018 for information to pass on verbally to the two journalists, according to the Justice Department. He also sent some secret information via private messages on social media. The journalists involved appeared to work for CNBC and NBC News, according to US media.”

SF Gate: As More Violence Links To Boogaloo Bois, This Is What The Extremist Movement Believes

“Once on the fringes of the internet, the boogaloo bois have recently become a mainstream talking point as police link real-world violence to the movement. But who are the boogaloo bois and what are their beliefs? What is the boogaloo movement? For starters, it's not an official group. There's no central organization, no higher-ups. It's a loose collection of people, mostly white males, with a few main tenets in common. Some of those tenets will sound familiar to watchers of American extremist groups, particularly those who remember the anti-government, pro-militia movement that came out of the bungled government responses to Ruby Ridge and Waco. Those events profoundly shaped modern, right-wing extremist thought — launching conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to mainstream fame, for instance — and sparked terrorist action, inspiring Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. Boogaloo bois most fundamentally believe in their right to bear arms and, as a consequence, are willing or eager to begin an armed overthrow of the government if they perceive that right is threatened. They believe in armed insurrection as a means of installing their preferred government.”

Turkey

The Jerusalem Post: Kurdish Terrorist Attack Kills Four In Southeast Turkey

“Four workers were killed when Kurdish soldiers detonated a roadside bomb that struck a laborers' pick-up truck as it passed by in southeast Turkey on Wednesday, the local governor's office said. The blast occurred in the Silopi district, near the borders with Iraq and Syria, while the vehicle was carrying fuel to be used by workers involved in road construction, the Sirnak governor's office said in a statement. It said the explosives were planted and detonated by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, focused in southeast Turkey. Ankara regularly targets PKK militants, both in its mainly Kurdish southeast and in northern Iraq, where the group is based. On Tuesday, Turkey launched a new operation against PKK targets in northern Iraq, as warplanes carried out air strikes on militant positions.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Reluctance To Free 'Most Dangerous' Taliban Prisoners Slows Afghan Peace Talks: Sources

“Western powers are backing the Afghan government’s refusal to free hundreds of prisoners accused of some of Afghanistan’s most violent attacks, a release demanded by the Taliban as a condition to start peace talks, five sources told Reuters. The issue is a final major sticking point which, if resolved, is expected to lead quickly to intra-Afghan peace negotiations in Qatar aimed at ending more than 18 years of war in a U.S.-brokered peace process. “The contentious part right now is the prisoners issue,” a senior government source told Reuters. Two European diplomats, an Asian diplomat and another Afghan official confirmed his account. “There are some dangerous Taliban fighters named in the list, and releasing them is literally crossing a red line,” said a senior European diplomat. “Some NATO members find it extremely uncomfortable to support the release of Taliban prisoners who were behind large-scale suicide attacks on minority groups and on expats.” The Taliban struck a troop withdrawal agreement with the United States in February to pave the way for talks with the Afghan government. But the insurgent group insisted a list of 5,000 prisoners be released, leading to months of delay as the Afghan government initially refused to set free that many prisoners before talks.”

Voice Of America: US Investigates Alleged IS Plot To Kill American Peace Envoy To Afghanistan

“U.S. officials say they are seriously investigating Taliban claims that Islamic State in Afghanistan was plotting to assassinate Zalmay Khalilzad, the American peace envoy for the country. The Taliban have recently shared with journalists a video of two blindfolded men in their custody, saying they were recruited by Islamic State for the would-be suicide mission aimed at killing Khalilzad. “The U.S. government takes any potential threat against U.S. personnel seriously,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA when contacted for a reaction. “U.S. officials are investigating the video, in addition to Afghan government authorities,” the spokesperson added. Khalilzad led the U.S. team that negotiated and sealed a landmark pact with the Taliban in February that aims to end the nearly 19-year Afghan war, America's longest. The two captives, speaking in Pashto, said in their purported confession that the plot to kill the U.S. envoy was facilitated by former and current officers within the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). They also named Rahmatullah Nabil, a former NDS chief, as being one of their key contacts. Nabil swiftly denied the charges and denounced the video as fake two days after the Taliban released the nearly seven minutes of footage via its social media outlets.”

Radio Free Europe: Top General Says U.S. Troop Cut In Afghanistan Hits 8,600 Target In Line With Taliban Deal

“The United States has reduced its troop presence in Afghanistan to levels agreed to as part of a February deal with the Taliban, the general who oversees the region said on June 18. “We agreed to go to the mid-8,000 range within 135 days,” General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute think tank. “We're at that number now.” The February deal provides for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Under the deal, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021. McKenzie said a full U.S. troop withdrawal is “conditions-based” on the Taliban meeting their commitments. A key plank of the agreement requires the Taliban to sever all ties with extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) that could launch attacks on the United States and its allies. McKenzie said the Taliban is already at odds with the IS group.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Pakistan Sentences 4 Anti-India Islamists Over Terror Financing

“Four top leaders of a Pakistan-based proscribed extremist militant group linked to deadly attacks in neighboring India have been convicted of terrorism funding. A special court in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday found the four guilty of collecting funds and unlawfully financing activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) organization. LeT has been banned in Pakistan since 2002. Indian and U.S. officials blame the organization for plotting the 2008 terror strikes on Mumbai that killed 166 people. The Punjab provincial counterterrorism department, which investigated and instituted the legal proceedings, identified the men as Zafar Iqbal, Yahya Aziz, Abdul Rehman Makki and Abdus Salam. It said in a post-verdict statement that Iqbal and Aziz had been each sentenced to five years in prison while the other two had been given one-year jail terms each. “Their conviction will play a major role in checking terrorism financing in Pakistan,” the counterterrorism department said. The statement noted that three of the convicts, Iqbal, Aziz and Salam, were also on a U.N. list of designated terrorists.”

Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanese Politicians Blame Hezbollah For Financial Crisis

“Head of the Kataeb Party MP Sami Gemayel said that Lebanon was paying the price for Hezbollah’s policy. “No one has the right to drag us into the place they want, and no one has the right to impose on us a lifestyle that we don’t want,” he said. His comments came in response to a recent speech by the movement’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. Gemayel emphasized that Hezbollah “cannot absolve itself from the economic reality that we have reached,” adding that the movement was preventing the army from closing the illegal crossings. “We don’t want to live in isolation and be cut off from the West, Arabs and the entire world,” Gemayel remarked. Addressing Nasrallah, he said: “We are not agents; rather, we are Lebanese. We consider you a Lebanese like us, and we ask you to join us under the constitution in order to build a new Lebanon.” Nasrallah’s words were met with rejection, especially his call to resort to the East and deal with China instead of the US. Lebanese Forces MP Pierre Bou Assi said on his Twitter account: “Well done, sir. Just like that, camels are driven; but we are not camels.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Palestinian Mothers Teach Their Daughters Terrorism Via Song On TV

“Palestinian mothers reportedly encouraged their daughters to be terrorists, via song, on a Palestinian TV channel, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) wrote in a press release on Thursday.  The incident took place as part of a reenactment of the old bus ride from Jerusalem to Amman on official Palestinian Authority TV on June 2.  The participants were young girls and their mothers, who used the bus ride as an opportunity to teach their daughters about violence and terrorism through singing about it, according to the report by PMW.  Lyrics heard on the broadcast, include the lines: “From my wounds, my weapon has emerged \ O, our revolution, my weapon has emerged \ There is no force in the world that can remove the weapon from my hand \ My weapon has emerged. My weapon has emerged,” according to PMW's translation. This song, according to PMW, encourages martyrdom and is very popular among people in the PA. PMW noted that in 2010 it was performed at a cultural festival in front of the PA minister of culture, and it has appeared in Fatah video clips several times over the years. In 2020, PMW reported that Fatah played the song at a rally celebrating its anniversary, which was broadcast live on PA TV.”

Nigeria

The Punch Nigeria: Troops Killed 41 Boko Haram Fighters In Borno –DHQ

“The Defence Headquarters has said troops killed 41 insurgents during an attempt by the hoodlums to overrun Monguno, Borno State, on June 12. It explained that soldiers of Operation Lafiya Dole in the counter-attack also rescued 33 captives and recovered a large cache of arms, ammunition and equipment. The troops also reportedly eliminated high-value Boko Haram leaders and some of their fighters at Garin Maloma, on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest. The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, disclosed to journalists in Abuja on Thursday that the armed forces have equally continued to build on recent successes against bandits operating in the North-West. He stated, “The counter-attack by our troops at Monguno resulted in the neutralization of 41 terrorists. Within the period under review, the land and air components of Operations Hadarin Daji, Katsina and Accord, carried out aggressive clearance operations at several identified bandits’ enclaves. “Most importantly was the attack on three camps operated by one Adamu Aleiro in a forest along Katsina-Zamfara boundary area.” Meanwhile, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has destroyed a compound housing some high-value Boko Haram leaders and their fighters.”

The Defense Post: Nigeria Attacks Spark Fears Of Bloodier Jihadist Strategy

“The attacks were swift and brutal: fleeing villagers were gunned down or crushed under the wheels of trucks. When the Islamist fighters left, dozens of mangled bodies lay scattered around. People in northeast Nigeria are no strangers to horror after a decade-long jihadist insurgency that has seen thousands massacred and schoolgirls kidnapped. But a flurry of bloody assaults last week has ramped up fears that a powerful jihadist faction may be opening a grim new chapter by extending its murderous attention from military to civilian targets. Fighters of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) splintered from the main Boko Haram group in 2016. The rupture was in part over claims veteran leader Abubakar Shekau‘s campaign of suicide bombings against local Muslim residents was too cruel. After pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, the new faction sought to win support from communities by offering them rudimentary services. The insurgents focused their attacks on the Nigerian military and other outside players — killing hundreds of troops and abducting employees from international aid groups. Now the recent surge in killings — which saw around 120 men, women, and children butchered over just a few days — has pushed some to see a turning point.”

Africa

The Economist: Fighting In The Sahel Has Forced 1.7m People From Their Homes

“Western governments have long debated whether the costs of intervening in dangerous parts of the world exceed the risks. In February the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But just as America extricates itself from one conflict, a power vacuum in Africa’s Sahel may drag it into another. The Sahel, a semi-arid strip south of the Sahara desert spanning 4,000 miles (6,400km), is unusually troubled. Its hinterlands are far from any city and mainly populated by nomads. The state’s writ does not hold; public services barely exist. The Sahel’s borderlands have long been dangerous: just 3.5% of the population of north and west Africa lives within 10km of an international frontier, but 10% of deaths from armed violence occurred in these areas between 1997 and 2019. Jihadists are now entrenching themselves in ungoverned spaces. After Islamic State was ousted from the Middle East, it began to regroup in the Sahel. At times it has co-operated with al-Qaeda; at others, the two groups have clashed. To sow terror and conquer territory, the jihadists have committed atrocities, such as murdering a mentally disabled man, hiding a bomb on his corpse and blowing up 17 mourners at his funeral.”

United Kingdom

Evening Standard: Terror Groups 'Exploiting Coronavirus Pandemic To Radicalise New Recruits', QC Warns

“Terrorist groups are using the pandemic lockdown to gather and radicalise new recruits by blaming coronavirus on the “wrath of God”, a top QC has warned. Lord Carlile of Berriew said extremists groups are trying to “use the Covid-19 global crisis to their advantage”, particularly targeting vulnerable people who have been isolated by the lockdown and social distancing rules. He said ISIS and Al Qaeda propaganda is claiming the virus is a “divine punishment” from God, while far right groups are latching on to conspiracy theories around the pandemic to boost followers. Lord Carlile, who spent a decade as the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, warned governments would be “negligent to lower their guard against terrorism” during the current crisis. “Terrorist groups are making efforts to use the Covid-19 global crisis to their advantage”, he said, delivering the annual Barnard’s Inn Reading Lecture. “They are determined to try and capitalise on the new geopolitical realities. “They believe that key national and international institutions will be distracted by the crisis at home, that counter-terrorism, security, and military budgets will be reduced as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic, that instability in conflict zones will continue with increasing numbers of refugees, and that unemployment and economic hardships will impact increasing numbers of potentially vulnerable people across the world.”

Sky News: Fourteen-Year-Old Boy Pleads Not Guilty Over Homemade Bombs Plot

“A 14-year-old boy from Hampshire has appeared in court accused of trying to make bombs and plotting a terror attack. The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is said to have developed an extremist jihadist mindset within the past month after converting to Islam earlier this year. He is accused of making devices by combining explosive substances or bleach with tinfoil and screws, as well as recording a video stating that he wished to become a martyr. At 14, he is one of the youngest people in the UK to have been charged with terrorism offences. He appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday wearing a grey tracksuit and a face mask, accompanied by his mother, who sat in front of him. He spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and age, and pleaded not guilty to the single charge of preparation of terrorist acts contrary to Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 in connection with Islamist terrorism. His mother cried as he was remanded in youth detention by chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, ahead of a preliminary hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday.”

Australia

The Australian: Local Heroes Help Save Australian Miners’ Lives In African War On Terror

“The march of the Islamist beheaders has not stopped with the demise of Islamic State in Syria. Islamist extremists continue to infect our global system, increasing their attacks across West Africa. Islamic State and al-Qa’ida-aligned jihadists are trying to gain ground while the world is distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like a virus, terrorists look to exploit weaknesses within an immunity grey zone. More than 200 Australian resource companies operate in Africa, many in West Africa. This represents a risk to our foreign and domestic interests because more than ever we need Australian companies rebuilding their balance sheets through offshore investment. Africa is a great place to do it, but we need to adopt unconventional risk strategies to protect Australians in these far-off places. The Islamic State-affiliated group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and the al-Qa’ida-affiliated Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin are expanding in size, geographical coverage and sophistication. Last year, jihadists killed 4000 people in West Africa, but these murders are hardly reported. The most recent attack occurred last week. Ten soldiers were killed at an Ivory Coast-Burkina Faso border post.”

Technology

Wired: The Meme-Fueled Rise Of A Dangerous, Far-Right Militia

“The Boogaloo Bois dress in Hawaiian shirts, stitch igloo patches on their clothes and bags, and spend their days slinging pro-gun memes back and forth on Reddit, Discord, and Facebook. They have also been linked to a plot to spark unrest at George Floyd protests in Las Vegas with firebombs, and to the deaths of two law enforcement officers in the Bay Area. Damon Gutzwiller was a Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy, and Dave Patrick Underwood was a federal security officer in Oakland. Authorities allege the same man, an Air Force sergeant, killed both of them. The suspect had a patch featuring an igloo and Hawaiian print stitched to his ballistic vest, and, on the hood of a car he had stolen prior to his arrest, he wrote the word “boog” in his own blood. The sudden burst of violent extremism this summer is the first most people have heard of the Boogaloo movement, a vague and amorphous far-right militia loosely bound together by anti-government and pro-gun sentiment and memes. But if you scan back through photos of America’s most contentious 2020 gatherings, you’ll start to spot them. Angry white men sporting Hawaiian shirts and assault rifles materialized at a massive gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, in January.”