Eye on Extremism: Jun 4, 2020

EurAsia Times: Pakistani Citizens Make The Bulk Of Foreign Terrorists In Afghanistan – UN Report

“There are approximately 6,500 Pakistani terrorists operating in Afghanistan and Pak-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba facilitate the process of recruiting global terrorists into Afghanistan, a UN report stated. The report, from the UN Security Council’s analytical support and sanctions monitoring team, observed that Pakistani terrorists comprised the bulk of foreign terrorists in Afghanistan and pose a serious threat to the country’s national security. The report stated the Afghan Taliban’s role as a reliable counter-terrorism ally post the US-Taliban peace deal will need comprehensive analysis because of the “number of foreign terrorist fighters in search of a purpose and livelihood in Afghanistan, including up to 6,500 Pakistanis”. Indian external affairs ministry expressed “serious concern” about the leadership of al-Qaeda and a large number of foreign terrorists present in Afghanistan. The report, he said, “vindicates India’s long-standing position that Pakistan remains the epicentre of international terrorism”. The UN report said Afghan officials accentuated Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), JeM and LeT among the global terror organizations that posed a serious security threat to Afghanistan.”

Reuters: U.S. Assessment Finds Opportunists Drive Protest Violence, Not Extremists

“President Donald Trump has blamed leftwing extremist groups for instigating nights of looting and violence in cities across the United States, but an intelligence assessment offers limited evidence that organized extremists are behind the turmoil. In part of a June 1 internal intelligence assessment of the protests seen by Reuters, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said most of the violence appears to have been driven by opportunists. The assessment, prepared by the department’s intelligence and analysis unit, said there was some evidence based on open-source and DHS reporting that the anti-fascist movement Antifa may be contributing to the violence, a view shared by some local police departments in public statements and interviews with Reuters. Reuters reviewed only a portion of the document and could not determine if it addressed the tactics of the groups involved in the protests in greater detail elsewhere. The part of the document seen by Reuters did not provide any specific evidence of extremist-driven violence, but noted that white supremacists were working online to increase tensions between protesters and law enforcement by calling for acts of violence against both groups.”

United States

CNN: Gun-Toting Members Of The Boogaloo Movement Are Showing Up At Protests

“Benjamin Ryan Teeter was at his home in Hampstead, N.C., when the call to action came. It was an alert from the heart of the raging protests in Minneapolis, posted on an online forum by a fellow member of the Boogaloo movement, a loosely knit group of heavily armed, anti-government extremists. The “alert” was from a man who had a run-in with the Minneapolis police while on the frontline of the police-brutality protests set off by the death of George Floyd. “He caught mace to the face,” said Teeter, and “put out a national notice to our network.” After Teeter -- who goes by Ryan -- said he saw the online posting, he and a handful of other Boogaloo friends in the area mobilized. They grabbed their guns -- mostly assault rifles -- hopped into their vehicles, and made the 18-hour trek to Minneapolis. The Boogaloos are an emerging incarnation of extremism that seems to defy easy categorization. They are yet another confounding factor in the ongoing effort among local, state and federal officials to puzzle out the political sympathies of the agitators showing up to the mostly peaceful George Floyd rallies who have destroyed property, looted businesses, or -- in the case of the Boogaloos who descended on Minneapolis -- walked around the streets with assault rifles.”

Reno Gazette Journal: 3 Held In Las Vegas On Terror Charges In Right-Wing Conspiracy To Spark Violence During Protests

“Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas. Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus and later sought to capitalize on protests over George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died police custody. They were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint. U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas A. Trutanich said  authorities have been focused on violent instigators hijacking peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country to exploit “the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas.” Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee pressed into his neck for more than eight minutes.”

Syria

Voice Of America: Russia Eyes Military Expansion In Northeast Syria

“Russian troops in Syria are looking to expand their military presence in the northeastern part of the war-ravaged country, local sources said. A Russian military convoy arrived last week in a village near Syria's border with Turkey and Iraq, where Russian officers reportedly met with local residents and discussed the possibility of building a military base in the vicinity. A local reporter told VOA that the village Qasir Dib is located near the Kurdish-majority town of Malikiyah in Syria's north-easternmost region. “I spoke with people who were present at the meeting,” said Nishan Mohammad, a freelance reporter based in northeast Syria. “They confirmed that the Russians had expressed a desire to build a military base in the village.” In recent months, Russia, a staunch backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, has increased its foothold the country's northeast, which is largely controlled by local Kurdish forces. After Turkish military and its allied Syrian militias launched an offensive against the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in October 2019, Russian troops stepped into the region, following a partial U.S. troop withdrawal from the border area between Syria and Turkey.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghans Condemn Killing Of Prominent Cleric In Mosque Blast

“Afghan leaders and ordinary citizens condemned on Wednesday the killing of a prominent cleric in a bomb attack at a mosque in the heavily fortified diplomatic quarter of the capital, Kabul. The explosion, which police initially said was a suicide bombing but later said was caused by a planted device, killed two people on Tuesday including Ayaz Niazi, a scholar and the outspoken imam of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque. President Ashraf Ghani called the attack a crime against humanity and appointed a team to investigate, his office said on Twitter. Ghani also visited the hospital where Niazi’s body was brought to pay his respects. Niazi was famous for his fiery sermons, in which he regularly criticised the Taliban, the government as well as U.S.-led foreign forces in the country. No group claimed responsibility. The Taliban denied involvement. Prominent politician Abdullah Abdullah, who was recently appointed to head peace talks with the Taliban, said “criminal terrorists” had once again struck a “towering religious figure”. “They view great religious scholars as a major threat against their extremist ideology,” he said. Many Afghans called on social media for an official day of mourning. The mosque is one of the most-heavily guarded in the country and is in a central Kabul district where several embassies and offices of foreign organisations are located.”

Voice Of America: Landmines Kill 12 Afghans In 2 Incidents

“Ten civilians were killed and another four wounded when their van hit a roadside landmine Wednesday morning in Afghanistan’s Arghistan District in Kandahar province, according to local police. Jamal Barakzai, a spokesman for Kandahar police, told VOA the victims were residents of a local village. The district, bordering Pakistan, is considered one of the more restive areas of Kandahar, where several similar mine explosions in the past week killed at least 10 civilians in addition to Wednesday’s deaths. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has urged the Taliban to stop using the devices, saying they primarily hurt civilians. In a tweet after Wednesday’s blast, UNAMA wrote: “Pressure-Plate IEDs in #Afghanistan inflict a devastating toll on Afghan civilians. UNAMA initial findings show Taliban-placed PPIEDs killed 10 civilians & injured 10 more in first 48 hours of June alone in Kunduz & Sar-e-Pul. Stop using these illegal improvised landmines.” A separate landmine blast in Paktia province Tuesday night killed the police chief of Sayed Karam District and his guard, according to local police. A source at Paktia provincial police headquarters who wished to remain anonymous told VOA that chief Homayoun Hemat was on his way to a police outpost that was under attack by the Taliban when his vehicle hit the mine.”

Voice Of America: Living As A Prisoner: Accounts Of A Taliban Member And Afghan Soldier In Prison

“No one believed that I would be back,” said Ajar Nabi, 25, who was released by the Taliban after two years of detention. “My elderly mother hugged me and cried of happiness when she saw me.”  A resident of Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province and member of the Afghan army since 2016, Nabil was among a group of soldiers captured by the Taliban two years ago after their military headquarter in southern Uruzgan province was overrun by the group. He was a part of 420 captives released by the group on May 18. Being a Taliban prisoner was not easy. The group kept him and other Afghan army captives in a cave complex with no connection to the outside world. During that time, he was prohibited from reaching out to his family with an exception once to see his older brother to visit him. “There was a big corridor [inside the cave], and they were digging rooms in it. In one of the rooms, there were seven people, in another six and yet in another 19. In the room that I was in, we were eight,” he said. Now, after two years of hardship in a Taliban prison, Nabi believes that the best course for Afghanistan is to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The prisoner release initiative, he argues, is a major step forward.”

Lebanon

The National: Hezbollah Is Much Weaker Than It Seems

“Some would say that, given the crisis Lebanon is facing today, Hezbollah’s project for the country is dead. Such statements, however, go too far. With thousands of men under arms, a missile arsenal, Iranian backing and much of the Shiite religious community behind the party, Hezbollah remains a potent force in Lebanese society. Yet it is also true that today its ability to act as Iran’s deterrent has been severely compromised by Lebanon’s domestic situation, and this may not end any time soon. Lebanese soldiers clear the road next to a burning bank branch, set ablaze by demonstrators following the funeral of protester Fawaz al-Samman, in the northern port city of Tripoli. What is Hezbollah’s plan? Principally, it is to turn the country into a so-called “resistance state” that acts as an outpost for Iranian influence, and another counterweight to Israel and the United States. The common assumption is that the militant party has succeeded in that effort. But has it? Hezbollah has power over the Lebanese state, but its sway has also helped to bankrupt and undermine Lebanon, negatively affecting the party’s capacities.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Attack Travellers, Kidnap Soldier, Three Humanitarian Workers In Borno

“At least four persons were abducted in an ambush suspected Boko Haram insurgents laid along Monguno Road in Borno State on Tuesday, SaharaReporters has gathered. A camp manager at Monguno working with the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, two aid workers and a soldier were abducted by the attackers, who mounted a check point before Gasarwa Village, about 40 kilometers from Monguno Local Government Area of the state. “The Boko Haram militants had gun trucks with anti-air craft gun. They were well kitted in military camouflage. They took away a soldier and three other people were taken along Monguno/Maiduguri highway around 11am on Tuesday,” a source said. Boko Haram insurgents have continued their attacks in the North-East despite the efforts of security operatives. The attack is coming hours after Coordinator of Defence Media Operation, Maj-Gen. John Enenche, said troops of Operation Lafiya Dole killed three Boko Haram commanders and 67 other fighters during counter-attacks in Firgi/Banki axis of Borno State.”

Somalia

Dalsan Radio: Somalia: Several Feared Dead As Alshabaab Clashes With Government Troops In Gedo

“Several fighters are feared dead in a clash between the Somalia National Army (SNA) and Alshabab militias in Gedo region. The battle started when Alshabab militants ambushed the government forces in Burdhabo district. President Farmajo's allies register new political party ahead of General Elections. Unconfirmed reports from sources from the vicinity said they had seen bodies of casualties from either of the sides, but Radio Dalsan could not interdependently verify the claims. Alshabab the AlQaeda linked militants in Mogadishu have claimed responsibility in one of their affiliated website saying they were targeting the district commissioner of Buurdhubo. Alshabab has been fighting in Somalia for over a decade and has been moved from most of their strongholds but they still control some areas.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: Germany To Sack Extremist Soldiers — And Faster

“Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition cabinet decided Wednesday to amend Germany's Military Act to allow simpler sackings of soldiers disciplined for extremism and other severe misconduct. Ultimately, the decision rests with the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. Currently, professional soldiers, or Zeitsoldaten, with more than four years of service in Germany's Bundeswehr can only be removed via protracted disciplinary hearings, sometimes landing before civil courts that often result in them staying in uniform. That threshold is to be raised to eight years within Article 55 of the Military Act covering dismissal procedures. It currently says: “A career soldier may be dismissed during the first four years of his service if he no longer fulfills the conditions required of him in his career path.” The planned amendment follows a lengthy spate of largely far-right extremist incidents, including an arms cache found by police last month on private premises of a member of Germany's elite KSK special forces brigade.  Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer said the law change adopted by the cabinet would enhance disciplinary sanctions and make an “important contribution” to fighting extremism and other severe crimes Germany's military.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Duterte Allies Pass Anti-Terrorism Bill Through Congress

“The House of Representatives of the Philippines has approved new anti-terrorism legislation that gives President Rodrigo Duterte's administration sweeping powers, including the ability to carry out arrests without warrants and to hold suspects without charge for a longer period. The bill cleared Senate in February. Duterte's Congressional allies voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve the bill on third reading, clearing the path for the president to sign the legislation into law.  A total of 173 legislators voted in the affirmative, with 31 members opposing and 29 abstaining.  On Monday, Duterte sent a letter to the speaker certifying the bill as “urgent” and calling for its passage before Congressional members go on a two-month break from June 6. A last-minute effort to defeat the bill failed, but it is likely the opposition would question the legality of the bill before the Supreme Court. “This is terrorism against human rights. This is terrorism against our democracy,” said Carlos Zarate, one of those who opposed the legislation, accusing the House leadership of ramming through the “unconstitutional” legislation through Congress. Vice President Leni Robredo, a member of the opposition, also weighed in on the controversy, saying “Is terrorism really the focus of the Terror Bill? Or is it just interested in giving the state the powers to call anyone a terrorist?”

Technology

CBS San Francisco: Facebook Shuts Down Far-Right Group Planning To Bring Weapons To George Floyd Protests

“Facebook said Tuesday that it had shut down pages and accounts associated with what it said was a hate group, whose members were discussing bringing weapons to the protests that are happening across the country. The company, headquartered in Menlo Park, said it had observed people associated with the group American Guard discussing such action. The group says it is about American constitutional nationalism, but the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) says American Guard “has a background with connections to anti-immigrant extremism, hatred, and violence. Indeed, before the American Guard was the American Guard, it was actually the Indiana chapter of a group called the Soldiers of Odin USA, a branch of an extreme anti-immigrant and anti-refugee group that originated in Finland in 2015 and has spread to many other countries.” Facebook said it had also taken down accounts linked to the far-right group Proud Boys, though it said it had not seen posts from that group discussing weaponry. The company said it had been planning on taking action against both groups, but had expedited the process when they saw how the groups were discussing the protests.”