Eye on Extremism: Jun 24, 2020

The National: More Than 1,000 Terrorists Arrested Across Europe As 119 Plots Uncovered

“Almost 120 terror plots were uncovered across Europe last year, resulting in more than 1,000 arrests. ISIS was responsible for all but one of the 10 people killed. The latest figures covering terror incidents in 2019 have been revealed in Europol's EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. In total, 119 terrorist attacks were foiled, failed or completed last year in 13 EU countries, also resulting in 27 people being wounded, 26 of them by ISIS. The 27th was hurt in a far-right terrorist attack. The attacks led to 1,004 people being arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offences in 19 EU member states, with Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the UK reporting the highest numbers. They include the London Bridge attack last November, in which convicted terrorist Usman Khan stabbed five people, killing two. Khan had been released from prison early after serving a sentence for plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange. Margaritis Schinas, vice president for Promoting our European Way of Life and head of the European Commission’s work on developing a European Security Union Strategy, said the EU needed to strengthen its counter-terrorism measures. “Terrorism continues to be a threat for the world, Europe, our citizens, our security and our way of life,” Mr Schinas said.”

Military Times: Far-Right Groups Like The “Boogaloo” And “O9A” Continue To Attract Troops And Veterans

“As protesters have taken to the streets this month to call for racial justice and police reform, in the wake of the alleged murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, another movement has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Its name is Boogaloo. Two weeks after the FBI arrested an Army reservist and two veterans, one of the Navy and the other the Air Force, for planning to incite violence at a Las Vegas protest, an active-duty airman shot and killed a federal security officer in Oakland, California. All four, according to their online activity, identified with the far-right group, which is loosely tied to anti-government and white-supremacist beliefs, but mostly advocates for an armed insurrection― of whatever kind― in general. More than half of minority service members have seen links to the hate groups among fellow troops. Though largely brushed off by veterans and service members as a group of has-beens and wannabes, the Boogaloo archetype that emerged in memes in the past decade has taken hold in the violent-extremist corners of the internet. In both the white-power and anti-government “communities, ‘boogaloo’ was frequently associated with racist violence and, in many cases, was an explicit call for race war,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

United States

The Washington Post: U.S. Soldier Plotted With A Satanic Neo-Nazi Cult To Stage ‘Murderous Ambush’ On His Unit, Feds Say

“As Ethan Melzer’s Army unit prepared to deploy in April, the young private recognized that he could be killed while overseas and expressed an apparent willingness to die. “I would’ve died successfully,” he allegedly wrote in a message. But federal authorities now say that Melzer’s life was actually at risk because of a murderous plot he had hatched against his own unit. Melzer, a 22-year-old from Louisville, is accused of leaking sensitive information about his unit to a satanic neo-Nazi cult as part of a plot to launch a “mass casualty” attack intended to cause “the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible,” according to an indictment unsealed Monday. In electronic messages, Melzer allegedly shared details about his unit’s location, movements and security with members of the Order of Nine Angles, or O9A, an organization based in the United Kingdom and described by prosecutors as “an occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group.” “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists,” Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a news release. Describing the planned attack as a “murderous ambush,” Strauss called Melzer “the enemy within,” adding that he was “motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal.”

Foreign Affairs: The Growing White Supremacist Menace

“Late in the evening on April 11, the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department started receiving 911 calls about an imminent attack on one of their own. A man in a black Chevy truck was crisscrossing the area looking for a lone police officer to “ambush and execute” and streaming his search to Facebook Live. Using the video, police were able to quickly locate the truck. After a high-speed chase, 36-year-old Aaron Swenson surrendered to police, a search of his truck turning up several loaded firearms.The ensuing investigation revealed that Swenson had been deeply immersed in the online culture of the so-called boogaloo bois: heavily armed men, often clad in armored vests and incongruously festive Hawaiian shirts, who in recent months have appeared at protests around the country against both COVID-19 lockdowns and police brutality. Swenson isn’t the only member to have embraced violence: on May 30, in Las Vegas, three boogaloo bois on their way to a Black Lives Matter protest were arrested with numerous firearms and Molotov cocktail ingredients—the trio have military backgrounds, and according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two had plotted to firebomb a power substation.”

The Conversation: Islamic State Militants Incite Attacks, Gloat At US Protests And Pandemic Deaths

“An Islamic State follower posted the hashtag “#AmericaBurning” in a discussion on the Telegram chat system in early June, and another posted a message that read “You are waking up this morning to news of the destruction of America, the dismantling of its States, and civil war.” Another Islamic State website proclaimed “Destruction, fragmentation. America is burning,” while an Islamic State supporter posted photos in the same Telegram forum of the riots, writing “O Allah, burn them like they burned the lands of the Muslims.” IS supporters are rejoicing at tensions from both peaceful protests and occasional violence in U.S. streets in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death. As a scholar who tracks the Islamic State group and its affiliates, I have followed how the Islamic State has been exploiting the effects of the coronavirus on its enemies and celebrating the effects of racial tensions and the pandemic in America. Islamic State followers are excited at the prospect of a massive Western death toll from the coronavirus, which they defined as “God’s smallest soldier.” They also see the virus at work in U.S. military pullbacks related to the coronavirus – such as the March announcement from the Pentagon that it would stop sending troops to Iraq for at least two months.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: Two Syrian Soldiers Killed In Israeli Aerial Attacks: State Media

“At least two Syrian soldiers have been killed and four others wounded in Israeli missile attacks on southern and eastern Syria, according to state media. State news agency SANA cited a military source as saying on Tuesday “several hostile missiles were fired at our military positions in Kababej”, near Deir Az Zor, and in the al-Sukhna region. “At the same time, one of our military positions was targeted near the town of Salkhad in the southern city of Sweida, resulting in the death of two martyrs and the wounding of four other soldiers,” the source added. The attacks, which hit at approximately 9:17pm local time, also caused material damages, SANA reported. No further details were provided and there was no comment by the Israeli army. Israel has in the past acknowledged carrying out dozens of air raids in war-torn Syria over the years, most of them aimed at alleged Iranian weapons shipments believed to be bound for Hezbollah, which fights alongside Syrian government forces. In recent months, Israeli officials have expressed concerns that Hezbollah is trying to establish production facilities to make precision-guided missiles. Last month, an Israeli air attack on a military position near Masyaf wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, SANA reported.”

The Telegraph: British Aid Worker 'Captured By Islamic Militants' In Idlib

“A British aid worker who was stripped of his UK citizenship was arrested in northwest Syria on Monday by a jihadist group. Tauqir Sharif was captured in Atmeh, a town north of Idlib province on Monday night and taken to an “unknown location,” activists in the area said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) was formerly linked to al-Qaeda, and controls parts of the northwest, the last rebel-held area still at war with Damascus. The reason for his seizure remains unclear. The 32-year-old from Walthamstow travelled to Syria in 2012 with his British wife and founded the organisation Live Updates from Syria, which works with orphans and widows and raises awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq Collaborates With NATO To Fight ISIS

“Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein assured Monday that dialogue will continue with NATO on the mechanism of joint action in combating ISIS. In a phone call with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Hussein praised the important role of France in combating ISIS and the support provided to the Iraqi security forces through training and other logistical assistance, calling for the need to continue working together to defeat its threats. On regional tensions and interventions, the Minister emphasized the responsibility of other countries in respecting the sovereignty of Iraq and following the principle of non-intervention, with the need for a new Iraqi policy that creates balanced relations with all neighboring countries. For his part, Le Drian confirmed his country's support for the sovereignty of Iraq, praising the first round of strategic dialogue that took place between Baghdad and Washington and the agreement that included preserving the sovereignty of Iraq and the independence of the Iraqi decision, stressing the need to distance Iraq from tensions in the area. Commenting on Iraqi-NATO coordination to fight ISIS, national security professor at Nahrain University Dr. Hussein Allawi described the relationship between the two sides as “strong.”

The Jerusalem Post: Pro-Iranian Militia 'Blesses' Bombing Of Liquor Stores In Baghdad - Report

“An explosion reportedly targeted a liquor store in Baghdad and was praised by the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah. The explosion took place near the National Theatre and not far from the French embassy. According to a social media post ascribed to Kata’ib Hezbollah, the group blessed the explosion and sabotage of places that sell alcohol. Karrada District, where the incident took place, is a central and well-known area, and there are many checkpoints at either end of the area, which leads to questions about how the operation was carried out. Iranian-backed militias have infiltrated Iraq over the years and play a key role in the security forces. The US has carried out airstrikes on Kata’ib Hezbollah after it carried out rocket attacks on bases where US forces are located. A bank employee was reportedly assassinated on June 16 in the same area. Many people tweeted about the bombing that apparently occurred in the morning hours of June 23. The social media blessing of the incident was attributed to Abu Ali Al-Askari, the Kata’ib Hezbollah senior official and security official.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Roadside Bombing Kills 6 Civilians In Northern Afghanistan

“A roadside bombing killed at least six Afghan civilians traveling in a rickshaw in a northern province, an official said Wednesday. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the interior ministry spokesman, Tariq Arian, the bombing in Jawzjan province took place the previous evening when the rickshaw struck the roadside bomb in Mardyan district. One civilian was also wounded in the explosion. Arian blamed Taliban insurgents for the attack. Afghanistan has seen a recent spike in violence, with most attacks claimed by the local affiliate of the Islamic State group. In early June, IS claimed responsibility for a bombing at a mosque in Kabul that killed two people, including the prayer leader. Eight worshipers were wounded in that attack. A week later, another prayer leader and three worshipers were killed in a bomb blast inside another mosque in Kabul. Eight other worshippers were wounded. The Taliban condemned the mosque attacks. Also, the United States blamed IS for a horrific attack last month on a maternity hospital in the capital that killed 24 people, including two infants and several new mothers. The Islamic State group, which reviles Shiites as heretics, has declared war on Afghanistan's minority Shiite Muslims, but has also attacked Sunni Muslims and mosques.”

Voice Of America: US Demands Investigation Into Killing Of Afghan Prosecutors

“The United States has strongly condemned Monday’s assassination of a team of five Afghan government employees, including two prosecutors, and demanded that authorities investigate the attack. The slain men were said to be part of a team working to facilitate the release of Taliban prisoners from government custody as part of a landmark U.S. agreement with the Islamist insurgent group aimed at ending nearly two decades of Afghan war. “This attack, carried out by enemies of peace, took the lives of five civilians. We offer our condolences,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, said in a series of tweets. “We call for a full investigation to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.” Afghan officials said the victims were traveling to the Bagram prison, north of the capital, Kabul, when gunmen sprayed their car with bullets during an ambush. The prison facility hosts a large number of insurgent prisoners. While the Taliban has denied its involvement in Monday’s attack, the government has pointed the finger at the insurgents. The attack is the latest in a series of high-profile assassinations in and round Kabul in recent weeks that remain unclaimed.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Pakistani Police Kill 4 In Raid On Militant Hideout

“Pakistani police said Tuesday their counter-terrorism forces, acting on intelligence, raided a suspected militant hideout in the country’s northwest, triggering an intense shootout in which four suspects were killed. Police also seized assault rifles and other weapons in the overnight operation. The suspects had gathered at a home in the city of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, to plan attacks, said Sannaullah Abbasi, the province's police chief. The operation was successful and “saved many innocent people from possible attacks,” he said. Abbasi provided no further details, but other officials said the slain militants apparently belonged to a banned group. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province borders Afghanistan and has witnessed dozens of militant attacks in recent years, most of them claimed by the Pakistani Taliban.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Hamas Hints Terror Attacks Would Stop Annexation

“One day after the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction held a rally in Jericho to protest Israel’s intention to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, Hamas on Monday called on Palestinians to “activate all the tools of the resistance” to thwart the annexation plan. Hamas’s appeal is seen by some Palestinians as a call for carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel. While Fatah and the PA have called for “peaceful resistance” against the planned annexation, Hamas and other extremist groups insist that the Palestinians must resort to all forms of “resistance,” including terrorist attacks. Addressing the Palestinians, Hamas said: “Let’s rise. Let’s launch a popular revolution everywhere so that the enemy would know that there are men in Palestine and heroes in our nation who will protect the land, the people and the holy shrines and repel this enemy.” A “massive popular revolution and activating all the tools of the resistance are sufficient to end the Zionist aggression and stop the international conspiracy” against the Palestinians, Hamas said in a statement issued in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli plan is a “conspiracy woven by the Zionist occupation, the American administration and some Arab conspirators against the Palestinian people,” it said.”

Libya

Al Jazeera: Libya's GNA, US Africa Command To Jointly 'Fight Terrorism'

“Libya's internationally recognised government says plans were discussed with the head of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to jointly “fight terrorism” in the war-torn country during a meeting with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The Libyan-American discussions were held as foreign ministers from the Arab League on Tuesday were to hold an emergency meeting to try and find a diplomatic solution in Libya amid increasing foreign intervention and heightened fighting. “Under the framework of consultations on the evolution of the situation in Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj on Monday met with [American] General Stephen Townsend and the US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland,” the Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement. The two US officials arrived at Zuwara Airport, about 120km (100 miles) west of the capital Tripoli for the meeting. They held talks on “joint coordination between the GNA and AFRICOM for the fight against terrorism in the framework of the strategic cooperation between Tripoli and Washington”, the GNA said.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: Reading Attack: Suspect Ruled Out As Possible Terrorist Twice In Two Years

“The suspect in the Reading stabbings was twice assessed by security services but was deemed to pose no danger of staging an attack, it has emerged. Khairi Saadallah, 25, was referred to Prevent, the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, and then to MI5 in the past two years. He was arrested on Saturday following the stabbing to death of three men in a park in Reading, Berkshire. Investigators are picking through his life as they search for evidence of the motivation for the stabbings. Saadallah was arrested shortly after 7pm on Saturday. The next morning, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, determined it should be treated as a terrorist attack, but with investigators keeping an open mind as to motivation. Saadallah’s record of extensive mental health problems is understood to be considered a significant factor. Community concerns have been raised after it emerged that his three victims – James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bennett and David Wails – were friends and members of the LGBT community. In 2018, he is understood to have been assessed by Prevent and found to have no clear ideology. He was deemed to need additional mental health support. In the same year, the Libyan national was granted asylum in the UK.”

BBC News: West Sussex Man Admits Islamist-Related Terror Offences

“A 20-year-old man from West Sussex has admitted Islamist-related terror offences. Zakaria Yanaouri of Congreve Road, Worthing, was arrested in dawn raids on 24 February. He was charged with five counts of possessing documents containing information useful to terrorism. He pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey earlier and will be sentenced on 10 August.”

Daily Mail: Shamima Begum And Other Jihadis Jailed In The Middle East 'Should Be Allowed BACK To Their Homelands In A Bid To Break The Cycle Of Extremism', Says Report

“Shamima Begum and other UK jihadists jailed in the Middle East should be allowed back into Britain in order 'to break the cycle of extremism', a report says. A paper backed by ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan is urging Western governments to 'reconsider their stance on repatriation and bring home their citizens'. The Soufan Centre claims homegrown extremists pose a greater threat to national security than terrorists jailed in Syria and Iraq would if repatriated. Its latest report argues leaving imprisoned ISIS fighters and children born into the caliphate ''stateless' almost guarantees that these individuals will have no other options but to consider themselves citizens of the Islamic State'. At least 20 UK former fighters are being held in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Children and women, including ISIS bride Shamima Begum, are held in detention camps. Prisoners being held in Kurdish camps include El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, who are accused of belonging to a brutal four-man cell of executioners in Syria responsible for killing a number of Western captives. They have all stated that they want to return to live in the UK. Soufan's intervention comes as Home Office statistics show that around 90 per cent of 43,000 extremists on MI5's watchlist are Islamist terror suspects.”

France

Associated Press: Trial Requested For 9 Suspects In France's 2016 Truck Attack

“France's counter-terrorism prosecutors made a formal request Tuesday for nine suspects to face trial in connection with the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that left 86 people dead. In a statement following the end of a judicial investigation, the Paris-based prosecutors' office did not disclose the identity of the suspects. Four suspects have been charged with terrorist conspiracy for alleged links to the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who plowed a 19-ton truck down Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and into a crowd assembled for the July 14 fireworks display. Five other suspects have been charged with other criminal charges, including for allegedly providing arms to the assailant. The prosecutor's office said they likely did not have knowledge of what Bouhlel intended to do with them. One of these five suspects remains at large and is being searched for under a criminal arrest warrant. The trial, which is set to take place at a special court for terrorist cases in Paris, is not expected before the end of next year. The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the July 14, 2016 attack. French authorities said Bouhlel, a Tunisian with French residency, was inspired by the extremist group’s propaganda, but they say no evidence has been found that IS orchestrated the attack.”

Germany

Associated Press: German Police Raid Banned Far-Right Group In 4 States

“German police conducted raids Tuesday on sites linked to a far-right group after the country’s top security official deemed it extremist. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer banned the group Nordadler, which means ‘Northern Eagle,’ early Tuesday. His office said the police raids were carried out in four German states. It said the group acted mainly online, spreading far-right extremist ideology and anti-Semitism. Authorities say Northern Eagle members see themselves as adherents of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and had planned to establish a rural community with people who shared their views. The group uses social media channels such as Telegram, Instagram and Discord to promote its ideology, win new members and condone attacks such as the anti-Semitic shooting at a synagogue in Halle last year. “Far-right extremism and anti-Semitism have no place here, neither in the real nor in the virtual world,” Seehofer said. Earlier this year, he banned the neo-Nazi groups Combat 18 and United German Peoples and Tribes. Following the attack in Halle and the killing of a regional lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party last year, Seehofer warned that far-right extremism poses a growing security threat to Germany.”