Eye on Extremism: Jun 3, 2020

News.Com.Au: George Floyd Protests In America: Some Groups Are Trying To Ensure Violent Unrest To Continue

“The New York-based organisation Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has infiltrated a number of secretive online communities for white supremacists and neo-Nazis in recent days. An investigation reveals that several channels with thousands of members are revelling in the unrest and even seem to be plotting violence and murder. Using the secure messaging app Telegram, one “particularly violent” neo-Nazi group with more than 5500 members celebrated the mass demonstrations and “advised that a large protest would be a good opportunity to commit a murder”. “Another accelerationist neo-Nazi channel claimed that now was the time to attack synagogues, while emergency services are dealing with protests and civil unrest,” CEP said. Other channels on the app, as well as on image board websites, contained posts from far-right group members that “expressed their hopes that clashes between protesters and police would set off waves of social violence”. “A white supremacist Telegram channel was created to specifically share news about the protests, mirroring Telegram posts from a popular civil rights channel, while making it possible for users to obtain the news without subscribing to a source that supports the protests,” CEP said.”

The National Interest: Israel Believes Assad's Syria Is Restarting Its Chemical Weapons Programs

“Here's What You Need To Remember: Virtually all the state actors in the region find it more expedient to remain locked in perpetual small-scale warfare than to take on the political risks of negotiating in good faith with their adversaries—a move which could delegitimize them with their own allies.  A terrifying pandemic may have the world in its grip, but it’s business as usual in the war-torn Middle East as Tehran and Damascus continue transferring weapons to proxies and Israel continues bombing them. The latest strike took place on March 31, 2020 when Israeli jets crossed over into Lebanese airspace near Tyre (video here) and reportedly launched eight missiles that streaked towards central Syria. Video footage shows bursts of light anti-aircraft fire rippling across the sky—possibly the rapid-firing 30-millimeter cannons of Pantisr-S short-range air defense vehicles. The Syrian government’s SANA news agency reported air defenses had repelled the entire attack—but later conceded that some damage had been inflicted at an unspecified military facility. Video footage shows one missile hitting a ground target.  Other source claims two or three got through. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported the target was al-Shayrat airbase, adding “Reliable sources have informed SOHR that a cargo plane had shuttled between Al-Shayrat and T4 [AKA Tiyas] airports before Israeli strikes.”

Associated Press: Burkina Faso’s Food Woes Deepen As Extremists Expand Reach

“Islamic extremists chased Adama Drabo and his family from their land in western Burkina Faso, forcing them to abandon a year’s worth of crops. Now that food is rotting in storage in the village, too dangerous for him to retrieve, even as the family is forced to survive on meager government rations. Drabo already has lost his 20-year-old son, who was killed by a roadside bomb. “Security is getting worse, and this year we won’t be able to cultivate and it will be a big problem,” he said. His future looks bleak if he and his family cannot return to their land. Violence linked to jihadists has spread from Burkina Faso’s north to its western breadbasket in the Boucle du Mouhoun region, pushing thousands like Drabo to hunger and threatening to cut off food for millions more in the country on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The fertile land produces large amounts of rice and maize, according to the government. Humanitarian groups are concerned that the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate an already dire situation in Burkina Faso, one of the most impoverished countries in the world. “If production goes down in this area and if movement restrictions due to the coronavirus drive up food prices in the markets, it could push numbers of severely vulnerable people to double or triple,” said Julia Wanjiru, communications coordinator for the Sahel and West Africa Club, an intergovernmental economic group.”

United States

The Washington Post: What Is Antifa?

“President Trump is blaming the far-left network known as antifa for the looting and rioting that has arisen during anti-police-brutality protests in cities across the nation over the past several nights. Trump has said he’ll label the movement a terrorist organization, though he legally cannot do that. Experts who have studied antifa say there is no evidence that the fringe, amorphous group is driving nationwide protests, and Trump hasn’t cited any as he accuses them of doing so. Some experts worry Trump is conflating antifa with peaceful protesters in a dangerous way. Let’s get a better understanding of who they are and why Trump can’t label them as terrorists. What is antifa and what does it stand for? Antifa is short for antifascists. It’s pronounced “an-TEE-fuh.” Think of them as radical anti-racists who want to take matters into their own hands to try to stop white supremacy, said Mark Bray, a historian at Rutgers University and author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” The difference between them and a normal opponent of these things is that antifascists don’t trust government or police to efficiently bat down white supremacy and fascism. There’s a suspicion among antifa that police and a capitalist society are actually supportive of these ideals.”


The National: Iraq Launches Military Operation In The North To Combat Remaining ISIS Militants

“Iraq on Tuesday launched the second phase of a military operation in the north to combat ISIS sleeper cells. The country announced victory over the terrorist group in 2017 but in recent months ISIS militias have increased ambushes and attacks across the north, killing and wounding Iraqi as well as foreign security personnel. “The second phase of the ‘Iraqi Heroes’ operation was launched on Tuesday to search the southwestern areas of Kirkuk bordering the province of Salahuddin,” military spokesman Yahya Rasool said in a statement. The operation aims to enhance security and stability in the northern areas by pursuing ISIS remnants and arresting the wanted, he said. The terror group still has bases in rural areas of Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Saladin and Mosul provinces. But the international anti-ISIS coalition believes the militants are losing, even though it remains a major opponent. Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi praised the military for their efforts. “In these difficult circumstances and the many challenges that the country is going through, our heroes of the armed forces will defy the enemy and play a heroic role in combating terrorism,” he said in a statement.”


Reuters: Suicide Bomber Injures At Least Three In Kabul Mosque Compound

“A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a large mosque compound near a high-security diplomatic district in Kabul on Tuesday, government officials said, adding that at least three people were injured in the blast. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place near homes and offices belonging to dozens of international organisations and embassies. The bomber blew himself up in the part of the compound where worshippers wash before entering the main complex to pray, interior ministry and police officials said as they rushed teams to the spot. Last week, Islamic State fighters blew up a private bus carrying employees of a private news company in Kabul. One journalist and a technician were killed and six people were injured.”

Al Jazeera: Roadside Bomb In Taliban-Controlled Area Kills Afghan Civilians

“At least seven civilians have been killed in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province, local officials said. The blast struck a small truck carrying a group of labourers late on Monday in the volatile district of Khan Abad. According to local officials, the area is under the control of the Taliban armed group, which has staged a number of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces there in recent weeks. Six people were wounded in Monday's blast, two of whom are in critical condition, according to the district chief, Hayatullah Amiri. Earlier this year, a United Nations report said more than 10,000 people were killed or wounded in the Afghanistan war in 2019 alone. Violence had surged after the Taliban signed a landmark agreement with the United States in February, which paves the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May next year. However, violence across much of the country has dropped since May 24 when the Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had welcomed the Taliban ceasefire offer. Authorities said approximately 2,000 Taliban prisoners would be released in a "goodwill gesture" with a view to kick-start the peace talks envisioned in the US-Taliban agreement.”

Radio Free Europe: Taliban Officials Deny Report That Top Leader Died From Coronavirus

“Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus. Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad. Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was "sick" after contracting the virus but was "recovering." But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness. Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died. In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading "propaganda" and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and "busy with his daily activities." Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada's death was "untrue."


Associated Press: Officials Say Armed Men Killed Journalist In Southern Yemen

“A Yemeni journalist was shot dead Tuesday in the southern port city of Aden, security officials said. Armed men opened fire on Nabil al-Quaety, a video journalist and photographer who contributed to Agence France-Presse, outside his home in Aden’s Dar Saad district, the officials said. Al-Quaety, 34, was pronounced dead before reaching a nearby hospital, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. “We are shocked by the senseless killing of a courageous journalist doing his job despite threats and intimidation,” said AFP’s Global News Director Phil Chetwynd. “Through his work with AFP over the past five years, Nabil had helped to show a global audience the full horror of the conflict in Yemen. The quality of his work had been widely recognized,” he said. Al-Quaety was married with three children, and a fourth on the way, AFP said. He was a finalist for the United Kingdom’s Rory Peck Award in 2016 for his work covering Yemen’s war. Al-Quaety's death came amid increasing tensions and infighting between the internationally recognized government and southern separatists who declared self-rule of Aden in April.”

Middle East

The National: UAE Passes Draft Law Re-Launching Global Counter-Extremism Centre

“The UAE passed Tuesday a draft law setting up the International Centre for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism, Hedaya (Arabic for ‘guidance’), in Abu Dhabi. “UAE embraces moderation and tolerance, that extremism is unacceptable in religions, internationally and morally and that global cooperation is necessary for fighting this menace, Dr Anwar Gargash Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the House. The new law re-launched the landmark anti-terror initiative, which was initially launched on the sidelines of the Global Counter-terrorism Forum, in 2012. Dr Gargash reiterated the UAE’s hosting of the global centre upholds its principle of tolerance, which stands on the opposite bank of violent extremism. “The UAE is honoured to assume our role in coordinating international community efforts to get rid of threats posed by violent extremism through this centre,” he said. The centre, an international incubator of a pool of experts and specialists from 30 member countries who partner with their in-house peers to counter violent extremism, is a part of the New York-based Global Counterterrorism Forum, launched in 2011 at the foreign ministers level.”


Foreign Policy: U.S. Unable To Monitor Military Aid To Egypt’s Anti-Terrorism Fight

“The United States lacks visibility on how Egypt is using U.S.-provided weapons in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a State Department review obtained by Foreign Policy, a blind spot that Congress worries could limit the Trump administration’s ability to investigate human rights abuses in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State. The State Department said that Egypt has only given U.S. forces stationed in Sinai infrequent access to monitor allegations of human rights abuses, and that Cairo has recently started to buy Russian and French weapons in greater numbers, limiting American visibility. “As a result, it is very difficult to determine whether U.S.-origin defense articles were used in a particular operation or maneuver,” the report said, adding that U.S. troops do not have consistent on-the-ground access to Sinai. “The U.S. government generally lacks sufficient information to directly link specific U.S.-origin equipment to alleged violations of international human rights or international humanitarian law by Egyptian security forces.” U.S. President Donald Trump has lavished praise on his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, calling the Egyptian leader “my favorite dictator” and continuing American military aid apace at $1.3 billion, despite internal protests earlier in his administration and assessments that Cairo’s trajectory toward reforms has been slowed by the former general’s authoritarian tendencies.”


Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: 13 Killed In Borno

“Thirteen people including a female suicide bomber were killed in several attacks across four local government councils of Borno in the northeast, Nigeria. The attacks, according to residents took place in Kwabula, Kondori, Ali Gambori in Askira-Uba, Konduga, and Nganzai Local Government Areas of Borno State. Informed sources told DAILY POST that, In Kwabula of Askira-Uba Local Government Area, two civilians were killed when suspected members of Boko Haram sect, invaded the village on 30 May, 2020. On Sunday 31st May, 2020, a female suicide bomber infiltrated part of Konduga Local Government Area and detonated her Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) killing herself and injuring three civilians. Also, three people were killed yesterday in Kondori village of Konduga LGA by suspected terrorists, leaving scores injured, while the luckiest ones fled into Jakana town and Maiduguri for safety on Monday evening. The Source revealed that “on the 30th May 2020, at 11:45pm armed terrorists suspected to be from Shekau’s faction stormed Kwabula village of Askira- Uba LGA. “The terrorists came in large number with Four (4) gun trucks, enclose the main entrance of the village and commencing firing in the midst of the village.”


CBS News: Twitter Says Fake "Antifa" Account Was Run By White Supremacists

“Twitter has shut down multiple accounts that it says were operated by a white supremacist group posing as liberal groups encouraging violence. Twitter said the white supremacist group Identity Evropa used one fake account, @Antifa_US, to call for violence in majority white suburbs, in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement. The account's removal was first reported by NBC News. "This account violated our platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts. We took action after the account sent a Tweet inciting violence and broke the Twitter Rules" the company said. Twitter said it has also targeted other fake accounts run by Identity Evropa, but did not provide examples. The company said the accounts posted hateful tweets targeting race, religion and sexual orientation. An Identity Evropa account purported to be associated with Antifa, a collection of loosely connected groups that organize against fascism. On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr said Antifa was associated with violence at recent protests. Officials have yet to show evidence to support this claim. Without identifying any particular group, a May 31 Department of Homeland Security note warned that well-coordinated groups had "potentially compromised" law enforcement radio communications in Portland, Oregon over the weekend.”