Eye on Extremism: Jun 5, 2020

Voice Of America: Who's Behind The Violence At George Floyd Protests In US?

“Researchers at the Counter Extremism Project, an international policy organization formed to monitor and combat extremist groups, say white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been celebrating the past week of mayhem on the streets. On the Telegram channel of one violent neo-Nazi group, 5,500 followers reportedly were advised that a large protest would provide the perfect opportunity to commit a murder. Another Telegram channel said the time was right to attack synagogues with law enforcement being distracted by the civil unrest, according to CEP. But it is unclear to what extent radical groups of left or right have been able to orchestrate violence. New York’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller, believes anarchist and radical left groups have been stoking the fury in his city. “Before the protests began,” he told reporters, “organizers of certain anarchist groups set out to raise bail money and people who would be responsible to be raising bail money, they set out to recruit medics and medical teams with gear to deploy in anticipation of violent interactions with police.” He added: “They prepared to commit property damage and directed people who were following them that this should be done selectively and only in wealthier areas or at high-end stores run by corporate entities.”

Associated Press: IS Claims Kabul Mosque Attack That Killed Prayer Leader

“The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Thursday for a bomb attack inside a mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed two people, including the prayer leader, and wounded eight others. In a statement on an IS-affiliated website, the group said Tuesday’s attack in Kabul targeted a prayer leader who was described as “an apostate and evil propagating loyalty to the apostate Afghan government.” Prayer leader Ayaz Niazi was buried Thursday at the same mosque where the attack took place after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and several other officials paid tribute. IS attacks have increased, particularly in Kabul, targeting Afghan media, civilians and minority Shiites. On Sunday the group claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing against a bus belonging to a local TV station in Kabul. Two employees were killed and four others wounded.”

United States

New York Daily News: Man Who Slashed Brooklyn Cop In Neck Probed For Terror Links: Sources

“A man shot by police after he slashed an officer in the neck in Brooklyn is being investigated for possible links to terrorism, police sources said Thursday. The suspect, 20-year-old Dzenan Camovic, has no criminal history — but the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating his background, sources said, and whether he is linked to ISIS or other terror groups. Police released image of knife used to attack officer. The FBI’s William Sweeney said the New York office is on the case. “We will respond as if one of our own is attacked,” he said in a statement. Such terror probes typically involve looking at a person’s travel history and personal relationships, though it was not immediately clear why the NYPD and FBI have suspicions about him. Camovic is an immigrant, possibly from Bosnia, officials and neighbors of the suspect said. A man shot by police after he slashed an officer in the neck in Brooklyn is being investigated for possible links to terrorism, police sources said Thursday. All three of the cops wounded in the clash with Camovic were also immigrants, Mayor de Blasio said. “People come here from all of this country, all over this world to find a better life and they represent this entire world and then some choose to represent all of us,” de Blasio said.”

Syria

Associated Press: Syria: Israeli Warplanes Strike Targets In Central Syria

“Syrian air defenses responded to an Israeli attack near a central town on Thursday that caused explosions and a large fire in the area, state-run media said. According to the Syrian news agency SANA, the Israeli airstrike occurred near the town of Masyaf in the Hama countryside. There was no immediate word on casualties or damage from the attack.Residents in neighboring Lebanon reported hearing the Israeli warplanes flying at low altitude over parts of the Mediterranean country, on their way to bomb in Syria. The airstrike is the latest in a series of Israeli attacks in Syria in the past few weeks, despite the coronavirus pandemic gripping the region, and comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group in Syria, as well as along the Lebanon-Israel border. Syria has accused Israel of carrying out at least seven airstrikes in the past two months alone, believed to have targeted Iranian and proxy interests. On Wednesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Israel violated Lebanon's sovereignty by land, sea and air over 1,000 times in the last five months. There was no immediate comment from Israel on Thursday's reported strike in Syria.”

Voice Of America: US Warns No End To Fight Against Islamic State

“More than a year after the U.S.-led coalition declared victory over the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a top U.S. official admits the fight against the terror group is not close to over. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered the blunt assessment Thursday to representatives of 31 countries and partners during a virtual meeting of the coalition, urging allies not to be complacent. “Our fight against ISIS continues, and it will be here for the foreseeable future. We cannot rest,” Pompeo said, using an acronym for the terror group. “We must continue to root out ISIS cells and networks and provide stabilization assistance to liberated areas in Iraq and Syria.” The latest meeting of coalition partners, being held virtually because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, came at a critical time in the fight against Islamic State, also referred to as IS or by its Arabic acronym, Daesh. While the U.S.-led coalition and independent monitoring groups point to a decreased number of IS attacks compared with figures from years past, U.S. counterterrorism officials warn the terror group has made significant progress as it tries to rebuild. “They’ve made incremental, localized improvements to their operating capacity,” a counterterrorism official told VOA last month, adding that IS cells in eastern Syria have become increasingly bold.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Iraqi Forces Team Up For Anti-IS Operation In Kirkuk

“Iraq’s armed forces began a major operation called “Heroes of Iraq - Victory of Sovereignty” to clear remnants of the Islamic State in the northern province of Kirkuk at dawn Tuesday. The operation comes ahead of key talks with the United States later this month. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited the operation in its early hours and social media was later flooded with photos of him walking alongside the forces and members of a local family. He then discussed the operation during a regularly scheduled cabinet meeting in the capital. Kadhimi was sworn in on May 6 after several months of a government void. Attacks and intimidation continue in the southern areas of Kirkuk province against locals and the various forces deployed there, as well as in neighboring Diyala and Salahuddin. However, the strategic location and disputed status of Kirkuk render it of particular importance. The operation aims to clear both the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government in Baghdad but back under Baghdad control since late 2017, and Salahuddin. Weapons caches, hideouts, IEDs and other supplies were found and at least two “terrorists” were killed during the operation on Tuesday, according to a statement by the Iraqi Security Media Cell.”

Afghanistan

Foreign Policy: In Afghanistan, The Islamic State Threatens Long-Term Peace

“Overall violence in Afghanistan has abated somewhat as large numbers of both Taliban and Afghan national forces have continued to informally observe a cease-fire called during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marked the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan in late May. But on May 30, a roadside bomb in Kabul killed a journalist and a driver from an Afghan television station, and the Afghan franchise of the Islamic State—known as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)—claimed responsibility. On Tuesday, June 2, another attack occurred, killing Mawlana Mohammed Ayaz Niazi, a well-known cleric who served as the imam of the Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque in the heart of Kabul, and ISKP later said it was responsible for that blast as well. The surge of ISKP attacks suggests to many Afghan experts that the terrorist group is likely intent on disrupting any long-term move toward peace. Many of the most brutal attacks in the last few weeks appear to have been the work of the ISKP. One of the bloodiest occurred on May 12, when at least 24 mourners were killed by ISKP militants at a funeral in the eastern province of Nangarhar. On the very same day, another gut-wrenching massacre took place in western Kabul.”

Agence France-Presse: Uphill Task For Taliban As Virus Spreads In Militant Bastions

“The Taliban boasted of their readiness to fight the deadly coronavirus when it first reached Afghanistan, but now the insurgents are struggling to curb its spread in their strongholds. For months, Habib Rahman, a resident of a Taliban-controlled area in the south of the country, has been unable to test whether his persistent cough is due to the virus. “I have a cough, fever and chest pain,” said Rahman, 32, who owns a grocery store in Helmand province. “There is neither a centre here to diagnose or treat coronavirus patients, nor is there any effort to create awareness of the disease. Official figures show Afghanistan has more than 17,000 confirmed cases -- including thousands in Taliban-controlled territories. But an overall shortage of testing kits, medical supplies and a dilapidated health system were compounding problems in tackling the spread, said Ahmed Saeedi, an independent analyst. Years of war have left Afghanistan with a crumbling health sector, hampering the government's fight against COVID-19. In an attempt to bolster their narrative that they can run Afghanistan better than the struggling administration, the Taliban launched a campaign to tackle the virus in March. They posted images online showing insurgents distributing masks and soap to villagers -- albeit without any social distancing.”

Nigeria

The Economist: In The Dry Season, Nigeria’s Army Puts Boko Haram On The Back Foot

“The chief of staff of Nigeria’s army, General Tukur Buratai, has often declared victory over Boko Haram, a jihadist group known for kidnapping girls and strapping bombs to children. But it was only in April, after soldiers from neighbouring Chad attacked the rebels’ bases, that he felt confident enough to move his headquarters from Abuja, the sleepy federal capital, to Borno state, the heart of the insurgency. It was intended as a signal that Nigeria was entering the final stages of a bloody war that has raged for more than ten years and cost perhaps 40,000 lives, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (acled), a non-profit organisation based in America. Nigerian forces claim to have made big advances and to have killed more than 1,000 insurgents in recent weeks. Few Nigerians believe the government’s numbers or that it is winning the war, since it has been saying so since late 2015. But audio messages released by Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram’s main faction, since April suggest the group is indeed hard-pressed. In one of them he wept and prayed for protection from the “devilish” army as he urged his men to stand firm.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Thousands Flee Niger Refugee Camp After Attack

“Thousands have fled a camp hosting thousands of Malian refugees in western Niger after a deadly attack devastated the site. About 50 fighters on motorbikes killed three local leaders, abducted a guard, destroyed communication antennas, and sabotaged the water supply in a coordinated attack on Monday at the Intikane site near the Malian border. Intikane is home to about 20,000 Malian refugees and 15,000 internally displaced Nigeriens - all of whom previously fled their villages because of violence. Now many are on the move again with some 3,000 people fleeing to Tlemces, 27km (43 miles) from Intikane, the UN's refugee agency in Niamey told AFP news agency. UNHCR official Kourouma Mamady Fatta said the agency was carrying out an assessment of the damage and trying to get the water supply flowing again. The governor of the Tahoua region, Moussa Abdourahamane, said: “Intikane is losing its population, people are moving towards Tlemces.” The perpetrators “attacked the sensitive points of the site - they cut communication lines to isolate the population, and they destroyed the sources for drinking water,” he told the national public radio station after visiting Intikane. A radio report said troops had been deployed to secure the area.”

The East African: Mozambique: Security Forces Kill 78 Insurgents Cabo Delgado - Govt

“The Mozambique defence and security forces have killed 78 insurgents, including two of their top leaders, and injured 60 others in Cabo Delgado, in the northern part of the country, the government has announced. The two militant leaders were said to be foreign nationals. During the raid, government forces seized equipment and goods suspected to have been stolen from locals, including vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles. Mozambique's Defence Minister Jaime Neto told journalists Sunday that following this offensive, they are hopeful that life in Macomia District will now return to peace and order. “The insurgents have been attacking the village since Thursday May 28,” he said, adding that one of the militants' leaders “was involved in the first attacks to the village in October 5, 2017.” On Saturday, President Filipe Nyusi visited Cabo Delgado Province where he met officials from the defence and security forces. Recently, the country's Interior Minister Amade Miquidade told Parliament that insurgents used sophisticated technology such as drones to carry out their attacks. Cabo Delgado Province, about 1,663km north of Maputo, has for a long time suffered militant attacks. The province, however, boasts of minerals such as gold, grenadines, aquamarines, tourmalines, blue topaz and green tourmalines.”

The Christian Post: 27 Killed, Some Burned Alive In Jihadi Attacks On Predominantly Christian Villages In Mali

“Suspected Islamic radicals killed at least 27 people, some of whom were burned alive, in a series of attacks that spanned from last Tuesday to Wednesday evening in three villages that advocates say are predominantly inhabited by Christians in Central Mali, officials said. As escalations in communal violence have plagued the West African country in recent years, local officials told Reuters that attacks in the villages of Bankass, Koro and Tillé were carried out by armed men on motorcycles whom they believe to be jihadists that claim to protect Fulani herders from Dogon farmers. “We were surprised by the attack on the village of Tillé,” Doucombo Deputy Mayor Yacouba Kassogué told the news agency. “Seven were killed, all Dogons, some of them burned alive.” At least 20 additional people were reported to have been killed in neighboring villages of Bankass and Koro. According to local officials, most of the victims in those two villages were shot or burned to death.  According to the interdenominational Christian aid agency Barnabus Aid, the attacks carried out last week in Central Mali victimized “mainly-Christian Dogon villages.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: German Neo-Nazis Trained At Russian Camps: Report

“Right-wing extremists in Germany are participating in paramilitary training at a special camp near city of Saint Petersburg in Russia, German news magazine Focus reported Friday. Members of the youth wing of Germany's extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD) and the minor right-wing party The Third Way have completed the training, the report said, citing German intelligence sources. The participants received training in how to use weapons and explosives. They were also trained in close combat, the magazine said. Swedish and Finnish nationals are also among the trainees. Participants go on to join Russian militias active in eastern Ukraine.  The “Partizan” camp is run by followers of Russia's right-wing extremist Russian Imperial Movement (RIM). German intelligence believes RIM has two camps close to Saint Petersburg. The organization seeks the restoration of the Russian Empire. The US recently added RIM to its list of global terrorist groups. The group had “provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe,” the US said. Russia responded at the time saying that adding the group to the list did not help fight terrorism and that the US had not provided any details.”

Australia

The Strategist: Early Intervention Is Key To Diverting Young People From Violent Extremism

“The involvement of young people in violent extremism isn’t a 21st-century phenomenon. The Nazi party in Germany founded the Hitler Youth organisations in the early 1920s to indoctrinate juveniles, and the Irish Republican Army discovered the value of recruiting juveniles or ‘cleanskins’ during the 1980s and 1990s war of attrition in Ulster. The 21st century has brought a new level of concern about the number of young people now engaging in violent extremism. The Radicalisation Awareness Network reported in 2018 that young people make up the highest percentage of individuals joining violent extremist groups worldwide. This phenomenon also occurs in Australia. In 2018, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation indicated that, due particularly to the persistent use of online propaganda and the presence of young people detained in the youth justice system, the number of young people involved in terrorism-related offences may continue to rise. More than 10% of all people convicted for terrorism offences since 2014 in Australia were under the age of 18 at the time they offended, and a further 25% were aged between 18 and 25 years.”

Southeast Asia

The New York Times: Philippine Dissenters May Face Terrorist Designation

“President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is expected to sign sweeping antiterrorism legislation that critics said on Thursday would allow the authorities to classify government opponents as terrorists and detain people for critical social media posts. The measure, which has passed both houses of Congress, neared finalization as the United Nations released a scathing report that cites widespread human rights violations under Mr. Duterte, including the extrajudicial killing of more than 8,000 people. Despite years of international and domestic criticism over rights abuses, Mr. Duterte appears eager to double down on his strategy of suppressing dissent and to give the police an even freer hand to crack down. Critics said the legislation was so broadly written that it would allow the arrest and detention of people without a warrant or a charge for criticizing the government or acts such as causing property damage or carrying a weapon. “It’s obvious that the bill is not after real terrorists,” said Senator Leila de Lima, a critic of Mr. Duterte who has been imprisoned for more than three years. “There is a new crime here, called inciting to terrorism. Just protest against not receiving aid amid the pandemic, and they can charge you with ‘inciting.’”

The Diplomat: What Does COVID-19 Mean For Terrorism In Bangladesh?

“Islamist militancy is not a new phenomenon in Bangladesh; rather it dates back to the early 1980s. Islamist militancy in Bangladesh, based on its evolution process and the range of activities involved, can be divided into six phases. The first phase, the incubation period, covers the period from the late 1970s to 1986, where there were no attacks and public activity. The second phase, the formation period, starts with the formation of the Muslim Millat Bahini in 1986 and ends in 2001 with the introduction of Hizb-ut Tahrir (HT) to Bangladesh. During this formation period, many Islamist extremist groups including HT, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HUJIB) came into existence in Bangladesh. The third phase, the operational phase, started in 2001 with the bombing of a Communist Party of Bangladesh rally and ends in 2007 with the execution of JMB and JMJB leaders. This phase witnessed the killing of 156 people — cultural activists, renowned poets, judges, and secular voices. The fourth phase (2007-2013) is called a “silent phase” because it was a quiet period in terms of militant activity.”

Technology

NBC News: From Extremism To Coronavirus: How A Nonprofit Pivoted To Confront Arabic-Language Misinformation

“Faisal Al Mutar was at his home in New York City when he saw the first hints of what would become a tidal wave of Arabic-language coronavirus conspiracy content spreading online. It was mid-February and while the virus was starting to appear in Iran, there was yet to be a serious outbreak in an Arab country — the rampant misinformation had arrived in the Arab world before the virus. Al Mutar, 28, watched videos suggesting the pandemic was part of a biological war between the United States and China. Homespun articles claimed that eating garlic was enough to ward off the virus. Religious authorities argued the disease was a punishment for China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims. “The most dangerous misinformation I saw is the claim that because we are Muslims, the virus is not going to affect us,” he said. Al Mutar decided then that such misinformation had the potential to get people killed and redirected his organization, Ideas Beyond Borders, to join the fight against coronavirus falsehoods. Al Mutar founded the group in 2017, four years after he arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq. Its mission was to provide “a positive alternative to extremism, authoritarianism and censorship” by creating online content in Arabic that encourages free expression and critical thinking.”