Eye on Extremism: Jun 2, 2020

CNN: UN Report Says Taliban Is Maintaining Relations With Al Qaeda Despite Deal With US

“A new United Nations report says that the Taliban assured al Qaeda that it would maintain their close links despite the "peace" deal with the organization which the Trump administration has touted as signifying a break between the Taliban and the terror group responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks. "The senior leadership of Al-Qaida remains present in Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of armed operatives, Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, and groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban," the UN report said, estimating that some 400 to 600 armed al Qaeda operatives are currently in Afghanistan. "The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaida during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties," the report added. The report was sent to the UN Security Council late last month and was produced by the UN's Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team. The Trump administration has said that its February deal with the Taliban signified the group's break with al Qaeda, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying shortly after it was signed that the Taliban had "agreed that they would break that relationship and that they would work alongside of us to destroy, deny resources to and have al-Qaeda depart from that place.”

The National: Altaf Hussain: UK Trial Begins For Pakistani MQM Founder Over Terror Charges

“The trial of Pakistani opposition politician Altaf Hussain has begun in a British court over terror charges relating to an alleged 2016 hate speech broadcast to supporters in Karachi. Proceedings at London’s Old Bailey began on Monday via video link because of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Mr Hussain, the 66-year-old founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), requested asylum in the UK in the 1990s and was later granted British citizenship while in exile. However, he still wields power and influence within the political party that is based principally in Pakistan’s largest city. Following the politician’s arrest in 2019, police confirmed he had been charged in connection with a speech he made from London to supporters in Pakistan in August 2016. He appeared in court and was granted bail. Mr Hussain pleaded not guilty to the charges. Crowds gathered to hear the 2016 address, which was broadcast from loudspeakers in Karachi. Later violence erupted in the city as police clashed with MQM supporters. The MQM, which was founded by Mr Hussain in the 1980s, has long been the dominant and mobilising political force in Karachi. The party draws support from working-class, Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated to Pakistan during partition with India in 1947.”

United States

Voice Of America: Four Extremist Groups Suspected Of Involvement In Protest Violence

“Amid the ongoing U.S. protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd, state officials have blamed outside extremist agitators, saying they mix with legitimate protesters to foment violence. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz cited unconfirmed reports Saturday that white supremacists had been behind violent protests in Minneapolis where Floyd, who was African American, died last Monday. When that assertion was not borne out, President Donald Trump pointed a finger at extremists of a different hue: left-wing anti-fascist activists known as antifa. Blaming antifa for violence that took place at protests around the country, Trump vowed to designate it as a terrorist organization. Attorney General William Barr, for his part, warned that violence committed by antifa and other similar groups is "domestic terrorism" and will be treated as such. Here is a look at the extremist movements suspected of involvement in the protests: White supremacists are individuals and groups that believe in the supremacy of the white race, oppose immigration and, in some cases, advocate the expulsion from the country of non-whites. Once boasting organized groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi organizations, the movement has become increasingly disjointed and leaderless in recent years, with most members now operating online.”

Al Monitor: US Woman Convicted Of Providing Material Support To Islamic State

“A US citizen was sentenced to more than five years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State (IS). Alison Marie Sheppard of Florida purchased 10 mobile phones and arranged to ship them to undercover officers posing as IS supporters, according to a press release by the US Justice Department. Sheppard believed the phones would be sent to the Middle East for IS operatives to use as bomb detonators. She also provided IS instructional material on how to travel to Syria to a person she believed was a sympathizer with the extremist group. That person was later caught by the FBI and provided information to investigators. Sheppard also told an undercover law enforcement officer that she had pledged loyalty to IS’ supposed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who died in a US Special Operations raid in northwest Syria late last year. Sheppard, who went by the name Aiisha Abdullah, pled guilty on May 17. The FBI has investigated IS affiliation in all 50 US states, where more than 200 people have been charged with crimes related to the group. A majority of those convicted in the United States were arrested following investigations involving at least one undercover agent or informant, according to George Washington University’s Project on Extremism.”

Politico: ‘Domestic Terrorist Actors’ Could Exploit Floyd Protests, DHS Memo Warns

“Anarchist and militia extremists could try to exploit the recent nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, the Department of Homeland Security warned in an intelligence note sent to law enforcement officials around the country. Floyd, a black man who pleaded that he couldn't breathe while a police officer held him down and pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes, was killed in Minnesota on May 25. The officer responsible has been charged with murder and manslaughter. The memo, dated May 29 and marked unclassified/law enforcement sensitive, cites “previous incidents of domestic terrorists exploiting First Amendment-protected events” as one reason for DHS’ concern of additional targeted violence by “domestic terrorist actors.” It also reveals, citing the FBI, that on May 27, two days after Floyd’s death, “a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the ‘boogaloo ’— a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War — by shooting in a crowd.” One Telegram message encouraged potential shooters to “frame the crowd around you” for the violence, the document said.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Bombing Kills Iraqi Soldiers Near Disputed Town, As Anti-Terror Operations Continue

“The Iraqi army on Monday announced that an improvised explosive device (IED) had killed two of its soldiers, as they were conducting anti-terror operations near the disputed town of Makhmour, some 100 kilometers southeast of Mosul. Iraq’s Security Media Cell, the country’s official military communications center, said in a statement that the IED blew up under an Iraqi army vehicle “while searching the Mount Kraw area within the Makhmour sector.” In addition to the two soldiers who were killed, two others were wounded in the incident. Located in the southwest of Erbil province, Makhmour lies within the areas that are contested between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG.) The district includes rugged, barren terrain that has long been a haven for terrorist groups, including the so-called Islamic State, which uses such areas as a base for planning and launching attacks against surrounding settlements and towns. The Islamic State appears to have taken advantage of several recent crises hitting Iraq, including the coronavirus pandemic. It also exploits the long-standing security gap between Peshmerga Forces and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the disputed areas to carry out attacks against security forces and civilians.”

Turkey

Al Monitor: Turkey Looks To Link Syrian Kurdish Militia To ANTIFA Following Trump Tweet

“Turkish commentators and a Kurdish armed group in Syria are at odds over the latter’s alleged connections to the ongoing riots in the US. US President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday he would declare the left-wing ANTIFA movement a terrorist organization after its apparent role in protests and riots in the US. Trump’s statement prompted some in Turkey to draw a connection between the movement and the Kurdish group in Syria the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which the US backs against the Islamic State (IS) and which has accepted some international volunteers with ANITFA affiliations. One former foreign fighter in the YPG said that while there were ANTIFA supporters in the YPG, they do not represent the group nor its foreign volunteers as a whole. “It's no secret that international antifascists joined the YPG,” Joshua Molloy told Al-Monitor. “But to say all international YPG volunteers were ANTIFA activists is not accurate.” The US is currently engulfed in protests and riots following the death of George Floyd. The late Floyd was an African-American former security guard who died while in the custody after a white policeman kneeled on his neck.”

Afghanistan

Foreign Policy: Leader Of Afghan Taliban Said To Be Gravely Ill With The Coronavirus

“The supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban has contracted COVID-19 and has possibly died while receiving treatment, according to Taliban officials. Confirmation that Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada had contracted the virus, which has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders, came Monday from a senior military official of the Islamist movement, Moulawi Muhammad Ali Jan Ahmed. “Our leader is sick, but he is recovering,” Ahmed told Foreign Policy in an interview. However, three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness. No official confirmation appeared to be forthcoming Monday. A senior official in the Afghan government said other Taliban leaders, including many in the movement’s office in Doha, Qatar, who negotiated a bilateral deal with the United States that was signed in February, were also ill with COVID-19. Speaking on the condition that he not be identified, the official said: “Nearly all the Taliban leadership in Doha has the bug.” “This is significant because if talks [between the Afghan government and the Taliban] are likely not to start within the next few weeks if they’re sick, how long will they keep up the cease-fire?” the official added.”

Libya

The Washington Post: Civilian Casualties Surge In Libya During Tripoli Battle, Study Finds

“Reported civilian casualties in Libya have surged over the past year amid a prolonged battle for the capital, Tripoli, with forces believed to be linked to a warlord based in the eastern part of the country responsible for most noncombatant deaths, a new study has found. The analysis by the New America Foundation and Airwars, which tracks allegations of civilian deaths, showed that forces associated with military leader Khalifa Hifter were believed to be responsible for the majority of reported casualties. Airstrikes and civilian deaths have increased dramatically since Hifter’s so-called Libyan National Army launched an operation to take Tripoli in April 2019 from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). According to Airwars, at least 429 of the estimated minimum of 727 civilian deaths since 2012, or about 60 percent, are believed to have taken place since the offensive began. Airwars assigned responsibility to Hifter’s group or affiliated forces for at least 270 of the deaths since the start of the Tripoli battle while saying the GNA and affiliated forces were believed to be responsible for 95.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: Why Boko Haram Attacks Are Declining In N-East - Investigation

“There appears to be a shift in the insurgency war between the military and Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East, as the latter now seem to be under heat for the first time since the terrorists started their destructive campaign in 2009.This came as Zamfara State governor, Mohammed Bello Matawalle, weekend, warned emirs, Fulani leaders and stakeholders in the state to be vigilant and never allow the security currently being enjoyed in the state to be threatened. His warning came as a result of last Wednesday's killing of over 70 persons in Sokoto by bandits. Prior to about two months ago, specifically between January and April, 2020, there had been series of coordinated Boko Haram attacks and closure of many roads in some parts of the North-East, especially the attacks and ambush on military formations, humanitarian hub in Gamboru Ngala, Auno, Buni Gari, Goniri, and Baga communities of Borno and Yobe states. Unspecified number of soldiers, other security agencies, innocent civilians and even some of the terrorists lost their lives in those attacks. This development forced relocation of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Yusuf Tukur Buratai, and other service chiefs to the theatre of operations on April 4, 2020.”

Somalia

Long War Journal: Islamic State In Somalia Suffers Setbacks Despite Uptick In Claimed Activity

“During the course of May, Somalia witnessed a relative uptick in Islamic State claimed attacks compared to recent months. However, this activity was offset by significant setbacks dealt to the organization across the country. In total, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) claimed just four attacks in May according to data maintained by FDD’s Long War Journal. While this number is minuscule compared to other Islamic State branches around the world, this number represents a relative boost since the beginning of the year. In February and March, the Islamic State released only four total claims from Somalia. And in April, the group stated its responsibility for three raids. The total amount of claims for May matches the number for January at four. Additionally, three of the four claims in May were part of the Islamic State’s global “Battles of Attrition” campaign. This campaign, in which other branches also saw relative boosts to their activities, was meant to signal the group’s staying power in the face of a global battle against it. The first use of this moniker was in April 2019 when then-Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi urged his followers to conduct a “battle of attrition” in order to “drain the enemies of their resources.” The relative increase in activity inside Somalia last month is likely explained by ISS participating in this renewed campaign.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Civilians Killed As Attackers Storm Niger Refugee Camp

“At least three civilians have been killed in a coordinated attack on a camp housing thousands of Malian refugees in western Niger, according to the United Nations. Some 50 fighters launched a "well-planned operation" against the Intikane refugee camp in the Tahoua region on Sunday afternoon, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Niamey told AFP news agency. The three victims were the head of a refugee committee, the head of a refugee vigilance group and a representative of a Tahoua nomadic group, the UNHCR said on Monday. The attackers also abducted a guard and sabotaged the camp's water supply. "The jihadists inflicted damage on the camp's facilities, in particularly emptying the food supplies and destroying the system which supplies drinking water to the area within a radius of 40km (25 miles)," the UN agency said.Alessandra Morelli, the UNHCR's representative in Niger, denounced the attack. "It is very serious, the terrorists have destroyed our space to live," Morelli told AFP. A security source told the news agency that before the attack, the fighters destroyed telephone relay antennas in the area.”

Southeast Asia

Jakarta Globe: Suspected IS Militants Attack Police Post, Kill Officer In South Kalimantan

“A small group of militants with suspected link to global terror network Islamic State attacked a police station and killed an officer with a sword in Indonesia’s South Kalimantan province early on Monday. One of the attackers was killed at the scene in South Daha subdictrict, South Hulu Sungai district. The deceased militant carried a handwritten manifesto calling Muslims to wage jihad. It remains unclear how many people were involved in the attack, which also left a police car burned out. “Investigation is underway but we need time before we can go to the details,” South Kalimantan Police spokesman Senior Comr. Muhammad Rifai said on the phone. The attack occurred at around 2.15 a.m. local time when only three officers were of the guard. Brigadier Leonardo Latipapua was killed with a sword inside the integrated public service office, Rifai said.  Two other officers identified as Brigadier Djoman Sahat Manik Raja and Brigadier Muhammad Azmi, who were at a different room, rushed to the scene and found one man brandishing a sword. The attacker, later identified as Abdurrahman, was shot as he tried to attack the two officers. He was pronounced death moments later at a local hospital.”

Al Jazeera: Alarm Over Duterte's New Anti-Terrorism Bill For Philippines

“The Philippine Congress moved closer on Monday towards enacting a new anti-terrorism law that would allow longer detentions without charge, and give the executive branch more power against dissent, raising alarm among rights groups and the opposition. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has been approved at the committee level and members of the House of Representatives are expected to debate and fast-track its approval before they go on a two-month break from June 6. The Senate approved a similar proposal earlier this year, with only two members dissenting. Both chambers of Congress are controlled by allies President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration has been pressing for the quick passage of the bill. On Monday, Duterte sent a letter to the Speaker certifying the bill as "urgent". By passing a bill identical to the one approved by the Senate, members of the House of Representatives skirt a longer process of reconciling the two versions, and cutting the time to debate and question the merits of the law. Among the most contentious provisions include the warrantless arrest and 14-day detentions of suspected "terrorists", and the creation of an anti-terror council that would determine what is terrorism and order arrests without a warrant - a function usually reserved for the courts.”