Eye on Extremism: Jun 25, 2020

Fox News: Pompeo Increases Bounty On New, Shadowy ISIS Leader To $10M As Rumors Of His Death In Syria Swirl

“Almost nine months after the death of Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. Special Forces, it was rumored Tuesday morning that his successor -- the shadowy Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi -- had also been taken out, this time in an American-led drone strike in the northern pocket of war-torn Syria at some point earlier this week. According to Hassan Hassan, director of the Non-State Actors Program at the Center for Global Policy, the terrorist leader was traveling under a false name and identity -- "Ahmed El Darwish" -- in areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels. While reports remain subject to speculation -- and U.S. government officials have yet to confirm or deny the mounting murmurs -- at the same time Tuesday morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the financial reward for information of the "new ISIS leader" had been increased from $5 million to $10 million. While a far cry from the $25 million once offered for Baghdadi, the bounty bump is seemingly indicative of an increased push to squash the brutal insurgency, which has been slowly regaining a foothold in swaths of Iraq and Syria in recent months. So who is al-Quraishi? "Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi was a former officer in Saddam Hussein's army and was considered one of the most prominent ISIS members in Baghdadi's circle," David Ibsen, executive director of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), told Fox News. "After the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and the capture of Hussein in 2003, Quraishi eventually became a general Sharia jurist for al-Qaeda."

The National: US Accuses Iran Of Sheltering Al Qaeda Members

“The US accused the Iranian government of sheltering members of Al Qaeda. In its annual terrorism report issued on Wednesday, the US State Department said Iran remained unwilling to convict Al Qaeda members living in the country and refused to publicly identify members in its custody. Without revealing names of the members allegedly hosted by Iran, the report said the government in Tehran “has allowed [Al Qaeda] facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling [the group] to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria”. The report labelled Iran as the worst state sponsor of terrorism for its support of “Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza and various terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and throughout the Middle East” and deploying the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force throughout the region. Speaking from the State Department, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the Trump administration for taking steps in the past year that, he said, his predecessors avoided. He said this included designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation and the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Moving on to another extremist group, the report said that despite the fall of the physical caliphate, ISIS had grown in Africa and Afghanistan.”

United States

Associated Press: US Cites Rise In Iran-Backed And White Supremacist Attacks

“The Trump administration is claiming significant victories against global terrorism but says Iran continues to increase its support for extremists and that white supremacist attacks are on the rise. The State Department said Wednesday in its annual report on terrorism that “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” throughout 2019 even as the Islamic State group suffered losses in Iraq and Syria, and the United States imposed sanctions and took other steps against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East. The report cited a surge in extremist groups affiliating themselves with IS in Africa and Southeast Asia and said Iran continued to foment terrorism. In addition, it noted a rise deadly racially motivated attacks claimed by or attributed to white supremacists as well as the threat from the remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Despite losing territory and its leader, IS “adapted to continue the fight from its affiliates across the globe and by inspiring followers to commit attacks,” the report said. “The Iranian regime and its proxies continued to plot and commit terrorist attacks on a global scale.”

NBC News: U.S. Soldier's Alleged Connection To Satanic Nazi Extremist Group Renews Calls To Ban It

“Charges laid against a U.S. Army soldier linked to a satanic neo-Nazi group founded in Britain have led to renewed calls among anti-racism campaigners to ban the far-right extremist organization. A federal grand jury handed up Army Pvt. Ethan Phelan Melzer, 22, of Louisville, Kentucky, federal attempted murder charges Monday for allegedly passing along information about his unit's planned deployment overseas with the intention to get extremist groups to attack it. The group Melzer reportedly delivered the information to is the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), a fringe far-right extremist group that incites violence by spreading its ideology, particularly online. The case “should be a wake-up call to the authorities,” said a spokesman for Hope Not Hate, a British anti-racism and anti-fascism advocacy group that has been calling to have the Order of Nine Angles proscribed under terrorism laws in the United Kingdom. “It's incumbent on the authorities to act before a terrorist act happens,” Matthew McGregor, campaign director for Hope Not Hate, said. “We can't wait until one of these people slips through the net.” The Home Office, the British government department that handles domestic policy, currently does not name the O9A in its list of banned terrorist organizations.”

Vice: Neo-Nazi Memoir Describes Terror Group’s Acid-Soaked Ram Sacrifice

“A nationwide FBI crackdown dismantled the neo-Nazi terror group, resulting in multiple arrests of its members for things as sinister as assassination plots and plans to shoot up a protest and as peculiar as animal sacrifice and the production of DMT. Then its leader was exposed by the Guardian as a 46-year-old New Jersey native and former private school kid named Rinaldo Nazzarro, who lives in Russia and is a possible Kremlin asset. The shocking flurry of events catapulted The Base into the pages of the New York Times. Here was a white supremacist terror group that looked more like ISIS than the Klan, operating all over America. After the arrests, Nazzarro went dark and the organization seemed to all but disappear. While many of its members await trial on charges that could see them serving lengthy prison sentences, or deal with having been outed by the BBC, others have covertly slipped back into society without a trace. Tipped by U.S. based terrorism watchdog the Counter Extremism Project, VICE News has obtained a strange, illuminating memoir seeking to explain the appeal of the organization, written in the aftermath of the FBI raids by someone who claims to be a former member. It details some of the very crimes that led to mass arrests. It also describes a bizarre ritual involving slaughtering a ram, drinking its blood, and then dropping acid after a day of paramilitary training.”

The Guardian: How The US Military Has Failed To Address White Supremacy In Its Ranks

“An alleged plot by a young solider to coordinate with a neo-Nazi group to attack and kill members of his own army unit has put new scrutiny on the US military’s failure to address violent white supremacy within its own ranks. Federal prosecutors have announced charges against current or former US military service members for plots linked to violent extremism nearly once a week this month. A 2019 survey of readers of Military Times, an independent news outlet, found that more that 36% of active-duty troops surveyed said they had personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months – a 14% increase from a similar survey the year before. But in a congressional hearing in February, military officials testified that “mere membership” in white supremacist groups is still “not prohibited” for American service members. The US Department of Defense prohibited members of the military from “active participation” in white supremacist and other extremist groups since 1996, when decorated Gulf war veteran and white supremacist Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing.”

The Jerusalem Post: Far-Right Obsession With Bioterror Could Lead To Work With Al-Qaeda, Iran

“The obsession of the radical Right in the US and Europe with bioterrorism could lead it to partner with Iran and jihadists like al-Qaeda and Iran, says a new report exclusively obtained by The Jerusalem Post. The report by IDC’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) also notes that the coronavirus wave has spiked the far right and other terrorists’ interest in bioweapons, as well as assisted them with their recruitment. ICT report lead author Ely Karmon writes that, “Biological weapons [BW] could be considered the second threat among CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] weapons in order of priorities, after the threat of chemical terrorism.” Karmon explains that a biological weapon has components “produced from pathogenic microorganisms or toxic substances of biological origins,” and they “can be a hundred to thousands of times more potent than chemical agents and provide a much cheaper route to CBRN capability, considering an equal quantity of chemical agents.” According to the report, “As international controls are strengthened on nuclear and chemical weapons materials, biological weapons become more attractive,” since until now governments have viewed them as a less likely or frequent threat.”

Syria

The New York Times: U.S. Used Missile With Long Blades To Kill Qaeda Leader In Syria

“American Special Operations forces used a specially designed secret missile to kill the head of a Qaeda affiliate in Syria this month, dealing the terrorist group a serious blow with a weapon that combines medieval brutality with cutting-edge technology. American and Qaeda officials said on Wednesday that Khaled al-Aruri, the de facto leader of the Qaeda branch, called Hurras al-Din, perished in a drone strike in Idlib in northwest Syria on June 14. He was a Qaeda veteran whose jihadist career dates to the 1990s. How he died was even more striking. The modified Hellfire missile carried an inert warhead. Instead of exploding, it hurled about 100 pounds of metal through the top of Mr. al-Aruri’s car. If the high-velocity projectile did not kill him, the missile’s other feature almost certainly did: six long blades tucked inside, which deployed seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path. The Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, was initially developed nearly a decade ago under pressure from President Barack Obama to reduce civilian casualties and property damage in America’s long-running wars on terrorism in far-flung hot spots such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.”

Reuters: U.S. Says ISIS Evolved To Become A Global Network That Inspires Attacks Worldwide

“The United States is seeing the Islamic State evolving into a global network that inspires extremist ideology and attacks elsewhere from being a group holding territory, Nathan Sales, the U.S. Coordinator for Counterterrorism at State Department said on Wednesday. “And this network not only plans and commits attacks...it also continues to inspire individuals to commit attacks on their own devices,” Sales told a news conference announcing the State Department’s 2019 country reports on terrorism.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Arrests 12 Daesh Terrorists In Samsun

“Turkish police arrested at least 12 Iraqi nationals for their links to the Daesh terror group, a security source said Wednesday. The anti-terror and intelligence squads of police in the northern Samsun province launched an operation — supported by special operations forces — to nab 13 Iraqi national suspects in various addresses of the city, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. The operation in Ilkadım, Atakum and Canik districts led to the arrest of 12, who were active in the terror group when they were in Iraq, the source added. Digital materials were also seized in their addresses. An operation is underway to arrest one remaining suspect. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Daesh as a terror group in 2013. The country has since been attacked by Daesh terrorists numerous times, including in 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings and four armed attacks which killed 315 people and injured hundreds.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Concern Over Intensifying Taliban Attacks May Hurt Start Of Afghan Peace Talks: Abdullah

“Public concern over an escalation in Taliban violence has made it harder to open peace negotiations with the Islamist insurgents, the head of Kabul’s negotiating team, Abdullah Abdullah, said on Wednesday. The comments by the country’s former chief executive followed a week during which the government said hundreds of security force personnel had been killed in Taliban attacks. Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said the rising violence had made “the political environment very difficult” in which to begin talks with the Taliban. “It makes the people extremely concerned,” he said in an online discussion sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace. “That puts our seriousness in pursuit of the peace process to the test.” The Taliban deny intensifying attacks. The insurgents, fighting to reintroduce strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster from power, signed a troop withdrawal agreement with the United States in February designed to lead to peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Violence fell sharply following the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr last month, triggering hopes the talks could begin.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Kill Seven Afghan Military Personnel In Raid On Army Post

“Taliban fighters killed as many as seven Afghan commandos in an hours-long attack on an army outpost in northwest Badghis province, a lawmaker and the defence ministry said on Wednesday. The assault comes as Kabul authorities accuse the armed group of stepping up attacks against security forces in recent weeks, after violence descended on much of the country following a three-day ceasefire announced in May. Badghis lawmaker Ziauddin Akazi said the fighters attacked the Bala Murghab district outpost late on Tuesday, triggering fierce fighting that lasted for about four hours. “Most of those killed were members of commando and special forces,” Akazi said. He said the attack came when a group of commandos and special forces travelled to the outpost from their base nearby. The ministry of defence said seven security personnel were killed and five were wounded in the attack. It said security forces later repelled the Taliban attack. The Taliban have not commented. In a separate incident in the northern Jawzjan province on Tuesday evening, a roadside bomb ripped through a rickshaw and killed six civilians, the interior ministry said. Interior Ministry Spokesman Tariq Arian said the Taliban had placed the bomb on the road.”

Voice Of America: Afghan Official Open To Discussing Interim Government With Taliban

“A top Afghan official leading peacemaking efforts with the Taliban said Wednesday that he would be open to discussing formation of an interim government with the Islamist insurgent group when the two sides begin long-awaited peace negotiations. Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, said the proposed dialogue has created a rare opportunity and both sides must be ready to make compromises to help end decades of hostilities. “Let’s get to the negotiating table. Let’s talk there,” Abdullah told an online discussion arranged by the U.S Institute of Peace when asked whether the Afghan government would accept a Taliban proposal for an interim government made up of officials from both sides. “We have to be flexible in our thoughts. Nothing should derail us from getting to a durable, lasting and acceptable peace for all Afghans, including [the] Taliban,” Abdullah said. His remarks, however, ran contrary to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent statement in which he rejected the possibility of stepping down from his office in favor of an interim government in the event of a potential peace deal with the Taliban. Earlier this month, Ghani told a seminar organized by Washington’s Atlantic Council that “any discussion of an interim government is premature. I serve at the will of the Afghan people, not at the will of the Taliban.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Palestinian Given 4 Life Sentences For Deadly 2018 Terror Attacks

“A Palestinian man was sentenced Wednesday by a military court to four life sentences over a pair of December 2018 terror attacks in which two soldiers and an unborn baby were killed. The Ofer Military Court also ordered Asem Barghouti to pay millions of shekels in compensation to the injured and the families of those killed. Barghouti was convicted in November by the court on three counts of murder for his role in the shootings. He was also convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder, obstruction of justice and belonging to a banned organization. Following his arrest last January, Barghouti was accused of carrying out a shooting attack on a bus stop near the Givat Assaf outpost and of helping his brother Salih in a shooting at a bus stop outside the Ofra settlement days earlier. Two soldiers, Sgt. Yosef Cohen and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, were killed in the Givat Assaf attack. Another soldier was seriously injured as was a woman. The subsequent shooting at Ofra left seven people injured, among them a woman who was seven months pregnant. Doctors delivered her baby in an emergency operation, but he died days later despite efforts to save him.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reports: 240 Persons Killed By Boko Haram, Bandits Within Six Days In Northern Nigeria, Group Says

“At least 240 people were killed by armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents in various attacks on some communities in the Northern part of Nigeria between June 8 and 13, 2020, Coalition of Northern Groups has claimed. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, CNG spokesperson in a statement on Wednesday, said Nigerians have steadily lost confidence in the ability of authorities to reverse the uncertainties arising from the cyclical violence, which has continued to ravage the country. The statement reads, “Within just six days – between Monday, June 8, and Saturday, June 13, 2020, the North lost over 240 lives in several attacks representing the highest number of deaths in such a short period in recent times. “The Nigeria Security Tracker, which compiles violent incidents around the nation, stated that 114 persons lost their lives in Borno State alone within this period with Katsina State following on the list of fatalities as 75 people were killed. “In the previous week, deaths caused by violent events stood at 183, while between Monday, May 25, and Sunday, May 31, the number of violent deaths reported by the tracker stood at 149. Alarmed by the regularity of these incidences and the audacity with which the killers roam and operate freely, the Coalition of Northern Groups organised a series of region-wide protests against the killing of innocent people starting from Katsina and Niger states on 16th June, 2020.”

Africa

Agence France-Presse: Pompeo Eyes Resolution In Coming Weeks On Sudan Terror Listing

“US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced hope Wednesday for a resolution in the coming weeks with Sudan, which said it expects soon to be delisted as a state sponsor of terrorism. Pompeo said he spoke Wednesday by telephone with Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hambok, a civilian whose near year-old government has been pushing to remove the designation by Washington that severely impedes foreign investment. “We're working very closely with him to try and come to a solution so that we get the right outcome for their new leadership and for the Sudanese people,” Pompeo told reporters. “I'm hopeful that that will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead,” said Pompeo, who was asked about the terrorism designation. Sudan's Foreign Minister Asma Abdalla told AFP on Tuesday that the government was finishing a deal to compensate victims of the simultaneous 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Once the deal is complete, she said she expected the United States to move ahead with the delisting of Sudan “as soon as possible.” Washington first blacklisted Sudan in 1993 as strongman Omar al-Bashir turned toward Islamism.”

Europe

The Irish Times: Rise In Far-Right And Islamic Extremism Activity In Ireland Last Year, Says Europol

“Ireland saw a sharp increase in the activities of far-right and Islamic extremists last year, according to the EU’s joint police agency. In the past Ireland usually only featured in the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report in the context of dissident republican terrorism. However, for the first time Europol, which compiles the report based on data from member states’ police forces, has warned of increasing far-right activity in the State including the presence of “known criminal elements” and attacks on direct provision centres. The report also states that gardaí arrested five people people suspected of “jihadi terrorism” last year. One of these was Lisa Smith, the Dundalk woman who returned from Syria with her daughter in December. She is currently before the courts charged with membership of the Islamist terrorist organisation. Four others were arrested on suspicion of financing Islamist terrorist activities. The four - three women and one man - who were members of the same family, were arrested by the Special Detective Unit in January of last year. They have not yet faced any charges. The report states there were no arrests of “ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorists” in Ireland, a category which usually includes dissident republicans.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: The Philippines' Anti-Terror Bill Is Poised To Cause More Terror

“As the world is plagued by COVID-19, an impending anti-terrorism bill is creating more fear in the Philippines. Recently passed by Congress, the bill is set to be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. If this happens, the bill will not only suppress the fundamental rights and freedoms of Filipinos, it will also terrorise the same conflict-affected communities it seeks to protect, as it undoes decades of peacebuilding work. Despite protests against the bill and mounting calls to provide more time for deliberations, Congress has quietly fast-tracked its passage while the rest of the country braced for the impact of COVID-19. The bill will allow for a lengthened period of warrantless detention and expanded surveillance of those law enforcement deems suspicious. It will also remove stiff penalties for wrongful detention. Most importantly, the bill carries a vague definition of “terrorism” that offers little distinction between organisations that commit acts of terror and revolutionary armed movements, which is important for those doing mediation among warring parties. The bill will provide law enforcers with broad powers to determine what constitutes a “terrorist”, shifting the burden of proof to suspected individuals and organisations. This is not only a threat to dissent and democracy, but also to peace.”

Technology

Haaretz: TikTok Users Target Young People With Antisemitism And Holocaust Denial, Study Finds

“The popular TikTok video-sharing service is being used for more than just awkward dances by users, according to a new study in Israel. Antisemites, Holocaust deniers and other far-right extremists are going on the social media platform to reach young people, researchers from the University of Haifa and Israel’s Institute for Counter Terrorism found in a report titled “Spreading Hate on TikTok.” From February through May, it said, there were 196 postings related to far-right extremism, with one-fifth of them related to antisemitism and Holocaust denial. In the same time frame, the study also found 14 postings of Adolf Hitler’s speeches; 11 postings of the Sieg Heil victory salute used by Nazis; 17 videos encouraging violence that featured Nazi or neo-Nazi symbols such as the swastika and sonnenrad, or black sun; and 26 accounts featuring the numbers “88” in their username, the white supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler.” TikTok, based in China, has gained popularity with its short videos of users dancing and lip syncing, among other talents. Although the platform’s Terms of Service prohibits users under age 13, many who appear in videos are clearly younger.”