Eye on Extremism: Jun 23, 2020

Deutsche Welle: Germany Bans Neo-Nazi Group Nordadler

“An allegedly neo-Nazi group called Nordadler (roughly: the Northern Eagles) was banned by Germany's Interior Ministry on Tuesday. Police made four raids targeting the group in the German federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony. Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter announced the ban on Twitter, saying the group operated mainly online. “Right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism have no place on the internet either,” he said. The ministry said the group pursued a national socialist ideology and also operated under four other names, which all make NSDAP-style references to the German Volk, or people/ethnicity: “Völkische Revolution” (People's Revolution), “Völkische Jugend” (People's Youth), “Völkische Gemeinschaft” (People's Community) and “Völkische Renaissance” (People's Renaissance). The ministry said members of the right-wing extremist group professed their allegiance to Adolf Hitler and other important representatives of the Nazi regime and used the symbols and language of the Nazi regime. It said Nordadler was planning a national socialist settlement project with like-minded people in rural areas.”

The New York Times: U.S. Soldier Admits Plotting With Neo-Nazi Cult To Kill Fellow Troops

“An Army private confessed to sharing secret information with a satanic neo-Nazi-group in a plot to attack his own unit while it was overseas and cause “the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible,” federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Monday. The private, Ethan Phelan Melzer, was charged in an indictment unsealed this week with collaborating with the Order of the Nine Angles, or O9A, a group that prosecutors described as “an occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group.” “Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within,” said Audrey Strauss, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, a job she moved into over the weekend after her predecessor, Geoffrey S. Berman, resigned under pressure from Attorney General William P. Barr. Private Melzer, Ms. Strauss added, had tried “to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group.” The F.B.I. and the Army foiled the plot in late May before it could be carried out, prosecutors said, and Private Melzer, 22, of Louisville, Ky., was arrested on June 10.”

France 24: Afghanistan Reports 'Deadliest' Week In Its 19 Years Of Conflict

“The Taliban killed at least 291 Afghan security personnel over the past week, a top government official said Monday, accusing the insurgents of unleashing a wave of violence ahead of potential talks. The previous week was the “deadliest” in the country's 19 years of conflict, said Javid Faisal, spokesman for the National Security Council, even as the insurgents dismissed the latest figures. The Taliban carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces during that time, killing 291 security force personnel and wounding 550 others, Faisal said on Twitter. “Taliban's commitment to reduce violence is meaningless, and their actions inconsistent with their rhetoric on peace,” he said. The Taliban rejected the latest government figures. “The enemy aims to hurt the peace process and intra-Afghan talks by releasing such false reports,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesman in Afghanistan, told AFP. “We did have some attacks last week, but they were mostly in defence.” In a cabinet meeting Monday, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the violence, which he blamed on the Taliban. The government sees the violence “as running against the spirit of commitment for peace”, Ghani said. In an attack on Monday, gunmen shot dead two prosecutors and three other employees of the attorney general's office.”

Syria

Associated Press: Al-Qaeda-Linked Group In Syria Detains Former Commander Who Defected

“The main al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria on Monday detained one of its own former commanders who had defected and set up his own hardline outfit earlier this year after coming out against a cease-fire, opposition activists said. The activists said a big force from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, raided the house of Jamal Zeina, better known as Abu Malek al-Tali, on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Idlib and detained him. Al-Tali was behind major operations for the group that used to be known as Nusra Front, including the December 2013 kidnapping of 12 Orthodox nuns from Maaloula, a Christian village in Syria that insurgents controlled for a few months during the country’s nine-year conflict. Nusra Front exchanged the nuns four months later for women held in Syrian government prisons. In 2014, militants under al-Tali’s command briefly stormed the Lebanese border town of Arsal and captured more than two dozen Lebanese soldiers and policemen. Nusra Front exchanged the troops it was holding with prisoners held in Lebanon. Al-Tali, a Syrian citizen, is known to be a hardliner who is opposed to a truce reached in March between Russia and Turkey that stopped a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country.”

Forbes: Uncertain Future For European Kids Detained In Syria’s Terror Prison Camps

“In the sprawling prison camps of northeastern Syria, home to hundreds-of-thousands of Islamic State (IS) detainees, coronavirus is far from the only chronic health concern. Malnutrition, hypothermia, and preventable disease stalk the fetid, overflowing terrorist penitentiaries, whilst another contagion, religious fundamentalism, proliferates unchecked. Every year, hundreds of children, many of European lineage, are born into this abject deprivation. They are the sons and daughters of some 12,000 foreign prisoners swept up by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces as the ill-fated caliphate crumbled. The plight of these youngsters is well documented. Facing severe overcrowding, al-Hol and al-Roj (Syria’s largest detention-cum-refugee camps) are squalid and unsanitary, with little provision for health care or safe drinking water.  Lacking basic medication, curable illnesses like tuberculosis are widespread, and, in many cases, prove fatal. Last year, three-quarters of detainee deaths—371 in total—were children. Those left untouched by physical illness are victim to psychological abuse. IS’s perverse interpretation of Islam is forced upon juveniles, observers report.”

Iraq

The National: Iraq Launches Third Phase Of Anti-ISIS Operations As Coalition Withdraws

“Iraq on Monday launched the third phase of a military operation in the north to combat ISIS sleeper cells as US-led coalition forces begin to withdraw. The military announced victory over the terrorist group in 2017, but in recent months ISIS militias have increased attacks across the north, killing and wounding Iraqi and foreign security personnel. “We announce the start of the third phase of the Heroes of Iraq military operation to clear and inspect areas of Saladin, Diyala, Samarra, and Kirkuk from ISIS remnants,” Yehia Rasool, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, said. The operation will be conducted by the Iraqi army, members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, the Iraqi federal police and will be supported by Iraqi air forces and coalition warplanes, Mr Rasool said. The operation will “target 4,853 square kilometres to search and chase terrorist elements, to raise our military presence and to ensure stability in those areas”, he said. The terrorist group has bases in rural areas of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Saladin and Mosul provinces. ISIS has about 3,000 to 4,000 active fighters and 8,000 other personnel in Iraq, according to the Centre for Global Policy, a Washington-based think tank. Since 2014, the main mission of US troops deployed in Iraq was to defeat ISIS.”

Arab News: Iraqis Flee Border Areas As Turkey Strikes Kurdish Militants

“Dozens of civilians fled villages in northern Iraq on Monday as Turkey stepped up a military campaign targeting Kurdish rebels that has drawn condemnation from Iraqi officials. Residents loaded trucks with their belongings and shepherds led livestock out of the Iraqi border village of Keshani as Turkish forces bombarded suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey. Turkey launched an air and ground offensive into the border region last week in a campaign to root out the PKK, which Ankara maintains has bases in northern Iraq. Those fleeing said they were afraid of airstrikes and Turkish troops entering their homes. “We are scared because of the Turks. We don’t want our kids to be killed, so we have to leave, but we don’t have any place to go,” a woman fleeing Keshani said. “Nothing is left and our government didn’t do anything,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns. Around 15 families reside in Keshani, where most tend to farmland and livestock, according to Delsher Abdulsatatr, the mayor of a nearby town. The Turkish military announced late Sunday that a soldier died in a hospital in Turkey of wounds sustained in fighting.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Gunmen Kill 5, Including 2 Prosecutors, In Afghan Capital

“Gunmen opened fire at a car belonging to the Afghan attorney general’s office on Monday, killing all five people inside, including two prosecutors, an official said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital, Kabul, but the country has seen a recent spike in violence, with most attacks claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate. The much larger Taliban insurgent group has scaled back its attacks since signing a peace agreement with the United States earlier this year. It denied any involvement in the shooting and said it would “investigate.” Kabul police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said the two prosecutors, two other employees and the driver were killed. Jamshed Rasooli, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the prosecutors were members of the team supervising the release of Taliban prisoners as part of the agreement with the U.S. He blamed the attack on the “enemies of peace.” Since the Feb. 29 peace deal, the government has released over 3,000 Taliban prisoners and the insurgent group has freed 631 Afghan national police and army personnel from captivity. A total of 5,000 Taliban members and 1,000 Afghan forces are to be released under the deal.”

Saudi Arabia

Al Jazeera: Saudi Coalition Shoots Down Houthi Ballistic Missiles And Drones

“The Saudi-led military coalition said on Tuesday it intercepted and destroyed drones and missiles launched against the kingdom by Houthi rebels in Yemen, including one fired towards the capital Riyadh. The Iran-aligned Houthis said they would announce details of a “major attack” on Saudi Arabia on their Al Masirah TV, amid ongoing fighting in Yemen where the rebels took control of the northern province of Al-Jawf earlier this year. “The joint coalition forces managed ... to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile launched by the terrorist Houthi militia from Sanaa towards Riyadh in a deliberate hostile operation,” coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said on state media. The Saudi military said it also brought down “eight booby-trapped unmanned aircraft to target civilian objects and civilians in the kingdom”, as well as “three ballistic missiles from Saada governorate towards the kingdom”.  The attack came after Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that Yemen's southern separatists - backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the country’s internationally recognised government - agreed to a ceasefire after months of infighting. The agreement aims to close the rift between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, nominal allies in the war against the Houthis.”

Lebanon

The National: US State Department Insists No ‘Back-Room Deal’ Behind Release Of Hezbollah’s Tajideen

“The US State Department is denying any deal-making or “good-will diplomacy” was behind the impending release of Kassim Tajideen, a Lebanese-Belgian businessman and convicted financier of the militant organisation Hezbollah. Tajideen, 64, was designated a “global terrorist” by the US Treasury Department in 2009 for supporting Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the US. He was arrested in Morocco in 2017, extradited to the US and sentenced to five years in prison in August 2019. But after a judge's order on May 28, Tajideen was granted “compassionate release” because of “serious health conditions” and coronavirus. He is in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is expected to be deported to Lebanon in the next two weeks. With no evidence that Tajideen’s health is suffering, or that there is coronavirus in his prison, his release is fuelling talk of a prisoner swap between Washington and Beirut, or with Hezbollah’s main backer, Iran. But on Monday, a US official told The National that there was no such deal and Tajideen’s release was a matter of judicial process. “The US government opposed Tajideen's motion for compassionate release but in the end the court ruled in his favour,” the US State Department spokesperson said.”

Somalia

Associated Press: Suicide Bomber Kills 2 At Turkish Military Base In Somalia

“A suicide bomber detonated inside a Turkish military training base in Somalia’s capital and killed two people, police said Tuesday. It was the first time the Turkish base in Mogadishu, Turkey’s largest overseas military base, has been attacked by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. The Somalia-based group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Radio al-Furqan, one of the group’s radio affiliates. Police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the attack occurred as new military cadets were doing their morning drills. It was not immediately clear if any Turkish officers were killed. Col. Ahmednor Abdulle, a Somali military officer, said an investigation had been launched into how the bomber managed to sneak into the base. Turkey has a significant presence in Somalia and operates one of a number of foreign military training operations in the Horn of Africa nation long destabilized by conflict. The Turkish-run Anadolu Agency quoted the Turkish ambassador to Somalia, Mehmet Yilmaz, as saying the attack was foiled at the last minute by guards who noticed the assailant and shot him. The incident occurred during an event to recruit students to the base’s training program.”

Africa

The Conversation: Why South Africa Has A Keen Interest In Extremist Violence In Northern Mozambique

“A growing insurgency in the northern parts of Mozambique has caught the attention of conflict analysts and observers worldwide. There is now even a possibility that the South African National Defence Force might become involved in the most northern Cabo Delgado province, with a view to ending the deadly violence and litany of atrocities, abductions and destruction of infrastructure. Should the South African government decide to send in its military, the main aim would be to focus on the violent activities of an extremist and militant Islamic group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah. It is also locally known as Al Shabaab, even though it has no connections with the Somali movement of the same name. The group aims to establish its own mosques and madrassas to enhance the spread of its radical dogma. Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah started as a religious sect which turned into a guerrilla group. Initially its goal was to impose Sharia law (Islamic law) in Cabo Delgado. It rejected the state’s schooling, health system and laws, which resulted in much tension in the province. Some analysts argue that the movement is motivated more by greed than by dogma or grievance: that it is making millions of dollars a week through criminal activities relating to mining, logging, poaching and contraband.”

Al Jazeera: Ivory Coast Arrests Armed Group Leader Behind Border Post Attack

“Ivory Coast says it has arrested the leader of an armed group that last week carried out a deadly attack on a military post near the border with Burkina Faso. “The commander of the team who led the action was taken yesterday,” Minister of Defence Hamed Bakayoko said on Monday at a military camp in the main city of Abidjan. “We will go further as the investigation progresses. We will know who he was in contact with, who is behind it,” said Bakayoko without identifying the individual or giving further details about the capture. His comments came during a speech honouring the victims of the pre-dawn June 11 attack, when at least 10 soldiers were killed and six others wounded after dozens of fighters assaulted the post at Kafolo, on the northeastern border with Burkina Faso. Other sources put the death toll at 12, comprising 11 soldiers and a gendarme, and described the raid as a reprisal for a crackdown on armed groups. Bakayoko said the authorities had carried out a “very large (number) of arrests of people directly involved” in the attack, adding that these arrests came thanks to photos retrieved from mobile phones.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: St Paul's Bomb Plotter Encouraged Attacks By Others, Court Told

“A Muslim convert and supporter of Islamic State who plotted to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral and a nearby hotel also encouraged others to launch similar attacks, a court has been told. Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 37, from Hayes, west London, has admitted preparing terrorist acts and disseminating terrorist publications. At a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, Alison Morgan QC, prosecuting, said Shaikh was a violent extremist who had pledged her support to Isis. She had not just planned an attack but also encouraged others to commit attacks of a similar kind, Morgan said. Shaikh’s online propaganda postings were sophisticated and prolific, the court was told, including pictures of executions, glorification of past atrocities and spreading threats to carry out mass murder. Shaikh visited St Paul’s to scout out security and the best place to leave a bomb, Morgan said. She initially intended to carry out the attack at Christmas but later put it back to Easter. She gave undercover intelligence officers, who were posing as co-conspirators, measurements for the size of the improvised explosive device she would require. In one exchange, Shaikh said: “Killing one kufar [non-believer] is not enough for me.”

Sky News: 25 Terror Plots Have Been Foiled Since 2017 Westminster Attack, Minister Reveals

“Twenty-five terror plots have been foiled in the UK since the Westminster attack in 2017, a minister has told Sky News. Security services are currently working on 800 live investigations into potential terrorists, security minister James Brokenshire revealed today. It comes after three people died and another three were seriously injured in a terror attack in a park in Reading on Saturday evening. The attacker, Khairi Saadallah - a 25-year-old Libyan refugee who was living in the Berkshire town, was known to MI5 last year, Sky News understands. Speaking to Kay [email protected], Mr Brokenshire said counter-terrorism police have successfully prevented 25 attacks on UK soil since extremist Khalid Masood killed five in Westminster in March 2017. He described the UK's counter-terror approach as “world-leading”, adding that the government had increased Britain's counter-terror budget by £90m this year to £900m annually. The minister refused to be drawn on the identity of the Reading suspect, which has not been officially confirmed by police. But he said: “We will be looking towards a prosecution, so I don't want to say anything to cut across that.”

The National: Judge Warned Reading Stabbing Suspect Khairi Saadallah Was Falling Through The Cracks

“The latest killings follow warnings from experts that an attack was highly likely. “While those monitored by the authorities are less likely to present a threat during this period, the police must remain vigilant to those who are off the radar or may be using distractions to smuggle into Europe,” Ms Malik said. “It is therefore imperative that intelligence is shared between countries to ensure that current gaps are not exploited by terrorists.” One of the most wanted ISIS terrorists, Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, was found hiding in Spain using coronavirus face masks as a disguise. Director of the Counter Extremism Project think tank, Hans-Jakob Schindler, said there was still a significant terror threat in Europe. “Only a few weeks into the pandemic, ISIS began calling again on its members to conduct attacks again,” Mr Schindler said. “In April, a first ISIS cell was arrested in Germany that had continued to plan attacks on US installations. “Therefore, currently, the pandemic does not result in a reduced terrorism threat. “It remains to be seen how much the increased screen time that Europeans have experienced during the lockdowns have influenced online radicalisation numbers. “But my guess is that we will see a spike of radicalised individuals in the near future.”

Southeast Asia

CNN Philippines: Anti-Terrorism Bill Still Under Review By Legal Team, Says Duterte

“The controversial anti-terrorism bill is now being reviewed by his legal team, President Rodrigo Duterte has said. “My legal [team] is still reviewing it, my legal team in Malacanang,” he said in a late night address on Monday. The enrolled bill, which will repeal Human Security Act of 2007 by giving more surveillance powers to the government forces, is now in the President’s desk and only his signature is needed before it becomes a law. “It’s always automatic, kapag nasa akin (if it’s already with me), I endorse it to legal, even without reading it. It’s legal who will return it to me with a recommendation, whether I will approve it or not,” added Duterte. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier told in a press briefing that Duterte is expected to receive the legal opinions on the bill this week. “So, sa tingin ko po by now, by this week eh mai-piprisinta na ang Bill itself at ang mga rekomendasyon ng iba’t ibang ahensiya kay Presidente,” said Roque. [Translation: I think the bill itself will be presented this week along with the recommendations of other agencies to the President.] He noted that the Department of Justice has already submitted its recommendations. Roque said before in an interview with CNN Philippines that the President is “inclined” to sign the bill.”