Eye on Extremism: Jun 8, 2020

Agence France-Presse: French Troops Kill Al-Qaeda’s North Africa Chief Abdelmalek Droukdel

“Thursday’s operation came after French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting in January of regional leaders to intensify the military campaign, in the face of surging attacks that claimed the lives of 4,000 people in 2019 alone. Northern Mali is the site of frequent clashes between rival armed groups, as well as a haven for jihadist activity. In 2012, key cities fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, leading to a French-led military intervention. According to the UN, Droukdel was an explosives expert and manufactured devices that killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on public places. He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2013 for his involvement in the bombings of a government building and offices of the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177. The US said it had provided intelligence to help track down Droukdel, who was killed in Talhandak, northwest of the town of Tessalit. “US Africa Command was able to assist with intelligence and… support to fix the target,” spokesman Colonel Chris Karns told CNN. France also claimed on Friday to have captured a leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, which carries out frequent attacks over Niger’s western borders. “On May 19, French forces captured Mohamed el Mrabat, veteran jihadist in the Sahel region and an important cadre in EIGS,” Parly said on Twitter, using the French initial for ISGS. She described ISGS as “the other great terrorist threat in the region” and said operations against them were continuing…A source told AFP that some 500 jihadist fighters had been killed or captured by French troops in the region in recent months, among them several leading figures including commanders and recruiters. Droukdel’s death is a symbolic coup for the French, a military source said. He had remained a threat in the region, capable of financing jihadist movements, even though his leadership had been contested, the source added. Droukdel has been described as charismatic but ruthless, ready to eliminate members of AQIM who rejected his instructions or ideological positions, according to the analysis group Counter Extremism Project.”

Vice: German Neo Nazis Are Getting Explosives Training At A White Supremacist Camp In Russia

“German neo-Nazis have been getting military-style training at camps run by a far-right Russian terrorist organization, German media reported Friday, in the latest sign of deepening international cooperation between white supremacist networks. Citing intelligence sources, German news magazine Focus reported that the extremists had attended a camp held near Saint Petersburg, where they were shown how to use weapons and explosives, and received close combat training. The training camp, known as Partizan, is run by the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), an ultranationalist, quasi-paramilitary organization which claims to be fighting for the “predominance of the white race.”The U.S. government added RIM to its list of specially designated global terrorist groups in April — the first time it had taken such action against a white supremacist organization — saying it had “provided paramilitary-style training to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe.” The Russian government considers RIM to be extremist, but has not banned the group. The German extremists who attended the camp belonged to the youth wings of two fringe German political parties widely considered to be neo-Nazi movements: the National Democratic Party and The Third Path…Kacper Rekawek, an affiliated researcher for the Counter Extremism Project, said that Russia and Ukraine had become important hubs for the transnational white supremacist movement, where permissive government attitudes towards militant far-right groups has effectively created a safe space for extremists to network or receive military-style training. “I don’t think these [German] guys would be able to do this sort of thing anywhere in Europe,” he told VICE News.”

CNN: A Louisiana Man Was Charged With Terrorism After Allegedly Driving A Vehicle Into A Target

“A Louisiana man is in police custody after allegedly driving a vehicle into a Target store in Hammond, Louisiana. Walter Allbritton III is accused of driving a vehicle into a Target Friday, fleeing on foot and attempting to carjack a vehicle before being apprehended by police, according to the Hammond Police Department. Allbritton faces multiple charges, including terrorism, aggravated assault with a vehicle, attempted armed robbery and attempted aggravated arson, according to Hammond Police Chief Edwin Bergeron Jr. “It could have been a tragic, tragic event,” Bergeron said Friday evening, and added he was glad the police arrived on the scene in time to take action. Police say Allbritton also dropped four suspicious packages: two at the Target shopping center, and the others at Sanderson Farms and a Dollar General. Hammond police bomb technicians confirmed the suspicious devices left at the four locations are fake. “It's very unfortunate that somebody would do this and terrorize any community,” the police chief added. Allbritton was not hurt and is being interviewed by detectives from multiple agencies involved in the investigation, Bergeron said. The police believe the suspect is mentally stable and say he is coherent.”

United States

The Washington Post: As Trump Vows Crackdown On ‘Antifa,’ Growth Of Right-Wing Extremism Frustrates Europeans

“The day that President Trump declared he would label the far-left “antifa” movement a domestic terrorist organization last week, a far-right group also based in the United States announced a new international branch in Russia. The Atomwaffen Division, a small but violent neo-Nazi group, claimed in March that it had disbanded after its alleged leader and four other members were arrested on federal charges. But the group has continued to put out polished propaganda videos and establish affiliates around the globe. Security experts and officials in Europe say they are frustrated that U.S. authorities have not taken bolder steps to combat growing right-wing extremism. Their concern has been exacerbated by Trump’s focus on antifa as responsible for violence at nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. “Our requests to our U.S. counterparts for legal assistance and information exchange in matters of right-wing extremist groups would often be unanswered,” said a European intelligence official, who, like other officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. When European authorities do get a response, the official said, they are often told that the concerning behavior “is protected as freedom of speech in the U.S.”

The Wall Street Journal: NYPD, FBI Investigate Attack On Officers As Possible Terrorist Attack

“The New York Police Department and the FBI are investigating the stabbing attack of a police officer last week as a possible terrorist attack, NYPD officials said Saturday. An NYPD officer guarding against looters in Brooklyn was stabbed in the neck and two other officers were shot during a chaotic chain of events on Wednesday night. The suspect, Dzenan Camovic, who is Muslim and lives in Brooklyn, shouted “Allahu akbar” before stabbing the officer on a street in a commercial district, police officials said. Mr. Camovic, 20 years old, was shot during the incident, although it is unclear by whom. It is also unclear who shot the officers. All three officers were in stable condition and expected to recover. Lawyers for Mr. Camovic couldn’t be reached for comment. NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said at a press briefing Saturday that the stabbing had “the hallmarks” of a terrorist attack. Surveillance video of the attack shows the suspect ambushing a pair of officers from behind, and stabbing one of the officers in the neck, according to police officials. The suspect was arrested on the scene and is being held with serious injuries and is unable to communicate for an interview, the officials said.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: Kurdish-Led SDF Launches Large-Scale Operation Against ISIS In Syria

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a large-scale operation on Thursday against the Islamic State in Syria's Deir al-Zor province after a recent increase in attacks by the extremist group. The campaign, named “Deterrence of Terrorism,” is expected to last at least approximately one week. “ISIS attacks have increased in the recent period, which poses a real threat to people’s safety, security and stability,” the SDF’s General Command said in a public statement on Friday. The operation was launched in coordination with the Iraqi army and the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State. SDF Commander Adnan Efrin told the local news agency Northpress that at least 6,000 SDF fighters are participating in the campaign in response to a call from civilians and tribal leaders to assist them amid the recent increase in activity of Islamic State sleeper cells. The news agency reported that, on Thursday, four cell members were arrested in the village of Albu Hamdah outside the town of al-Dashisha in the southeastern countryside of Hasakah. The SDF General Command said that the goal of the campaign will be to “pursue and track the cells of ISIS terrorist organization in the eastern Badia (desert) along the Khabour River and the Syrian-Iraqi border.”

Iraq

World Politics Review: ISIS Is Making A Comeback, And Iraq's Government May Not Be Able To Handle It

“The Islamic State is stepping up its attacks in Iraq, fulfilling the expectations of many analysts that the extremist group would mount a comeback after the Iraqi government declared victory over it in 2017. While the Islamic State has yet to show the same capabilities it had at its peak in 2013 and 2014, when it gained control of several provinces and population centers — including Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities — the tempo of attacks has been increasing for over six months. This coincides with a period of domestic unrest due to widespread anti-government protests. The US-led coalition against the Islamic State has also reduced its aerial activities due to heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran following the US assassination of Iran's top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in January. The Islamic State has been ramping up a campaign of violence in rural parts of Iraq since the second half of 2019, focusing on Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaldin provinces, to the east and north of Baghdad. Both the frequency and character of the attacks have been steadily increasing, and there is data that suggests the Islamic State is moving skilled fighters to the area from Syria to stoke a new insurgency.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: US Airstrikes Hit Taliban; 10 Afghan Police Killed In Ambush

“U.S. forces carried out two sets of airstrikes against the Taliban, in western and southern Afghanistan, a U.S. military spokesman said Friday. Elsewhere in the south, the Taliban set off a roadside bomb and ambushed a police convoy, killing 10 Afghan policemen. The U.S. strikes against the Taliban were the first following a brief cease-fire declared by the insurgents for a major Muslim holiday last month. A U.S. military spokesman, Col. Sonny Leggett, said one set of airstrikes took place on Friday afternoon in western Farah province, targeting 25 Taliban fighters who were attacking Afghan forces. Hours earlier, on Thursday night, the U.S. air forces struck an unknown number of Taliban in southern Kandahar province, he said. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban. Since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement at the end of February, U.S. forces have only once before announced a strike against the Taliban, in defense of Afghan forces. Leggett did not elaborate on the latest airstrikes or their targets. However, an Afghan government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said three senior Taliban commanders and at least 13 other fighters were killed in the Farah airstrikes.”

The Wall Street Journal: Lawsuit Accusing Contractors Of Paying Protection Money To Taliban Is Expanded

“Families of American soldiers and personnel wounded or killed in Afghanistan have accused two U.S. contractors of paying protection money to the Taliban, expanding a lawsuit filed earlier. Two companies identified in an amended complaint received at least $1.7 billion in contracts to implement U.S. aid projects in Afghanistan over almost a decade through 2015, according to records cited in the lawsuit. U.S. congressional investigations have documented widespread instances of U.S. companies that paid money to warlords and insurgents in exchange for protection at the height of the war. The bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, created by Congress, wrote in its final report in 2011 that poor planning, management and oversight damaged U.S. objectives. It cited payments by Afghan contractors to insurgent groups for protection as particularly alarming. A lawsuit filed last year on behalf of more than 100 families seeks compensation for deaths and injuries between 2009 and 2017, citing actions involving payments to insurgents by U.S. and international firms. The amended complaint filed Friday added nearly 100 families seeking compensation for deaths and injuries between 2009 and 2017.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Ambush Kills 15 Afghan Forces, US Attacks Insurgents

“Afghan officials said Friday fresh fighting in the southern province of Zabul has killed at least 15 members of the security force and 12 Taliban insurgents. Separately, the United States military reported it has also conducted airstrikes in the south and elsewhere in Afghanistan to disrupt “coordinated” Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Gul Islam Sayal, a provincial government spokesman, told VOA that insurgents ambushed a “police reinforcement” convoy early Friday on the main highway linking Zabul with the Kandahar province. Sayal said the government responded by sending additional police forces and aerial strikes to counter the Taliban raid. He did not discuss details of battlefield casualties. But a security official requesting anonymity told VOA the clashes killed 15 Afghan highway police personnel and 12 insurgents. He said the Taliban also took away several military vehicles. Separately, a spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) said an airstrike Friday targeted insurgents assaulting Afghan forces in Kandahar. Col. Sonny Leggett gave no further details, noting this was the second airstrike the U.S. military had carried out in support of Afghan forces since Thursday.”

Voice Of America: US Envoy Discusses Afghan Peace With Taliban, Pakistan

“U.S. envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with leaders of the Taliban in Qatar to review the implementation of a peace deal with the Islamist insurgency aimed at ending nearly two decades of Afghan conflict. A Taliban spokesman, while releasing details of Sunday’s meeting in the Qatari capital Doha, said Khalilzad was accompanied by Gen. Scott Miller, the U.S. commander of international troops in Afghanistan. “Both sides talked about speedy release of the prisoners and commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations, in addition to other relevant matters,” tweeted Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban’s political office in Doha. Shaheen said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political deputy to the Taliban chief, led the insurgent delegation at Sunday’s talks. He noted that Qatar’s foreign ministry’s special envoy, Mutlaq al-Qahtani, also attended the meeting. In a pre-visit announcement last week, the U.S. State Department had said the “primary focus” of Khalilzad’s trip will be to “obtain agreement between the Afghan parties on the practical next steps necessary for a smooth start to intra-Afghan negotiations.” The long-awaited intra-Afghan dialogue, however, is tied to a prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the insurgent group, stipulated in the U.S.-Taliban agreement.”

Pakistan

Arab News: Operation Underway Against Militants Near Pakistan-Iran Border

“A major intelligence-based operation is ongoing against militants hiding near Pakistan’s border with Iran in the southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani intelligence officials and local witnesses said, in the latest attempt to combat violence on the 900-km shared frontier. Over the years, Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border. In the most recent attack that has caused friction between the two nations, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps vehicle, the army’s media wing said on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb attack in Balochistan on May 8. Several militant groups are active in Balochistan, Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on, or claimed by, ethnic Baloch separatists. Baloch Khan, a spokesperson for Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, confirmed in a media statement last month that a “Pakistan army operation” was ongoing and soldiers were surrounding and raiding remote villages. However, he said no commanders or fighters of BRAS had been killed in the attacks.”

Lebanon

Agence France-Presse: Dozens Wounded As Supporters And Opponents Of Hezbollah Clash At Beirut Rally

“Protesters poured into the streets of the Lebanese capital Saturday to decry the collapse of the economy, as clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the Iran-backed Shiite terror group Hezbollah. Hundreds filled the streets in and around the protest hub of Martyrs Square in the center of Beirut, with skirmishes also between protesters and security forces, who fired tear gas. Forty-eight were wounded in the violence, 11 of whom were hospitalized, while the rest were treated at the scene, the Lebanese Red Cross said. It was the first major anti-government rally attracting demonstrators from across the country since authorities relaxed a lockdown imposed in mid-March to fight the spread of the coronavirus. “We came on the streets to demand our rights, call for medical care, education, jobs and the basic rights that human beings need to stay alive,” said 21-year-old student Christina. Many protesters wore face-masks as part of hygiene measures imposed to fight the pandemic, which has severely exacerbated an economic crisis, the worst since the debt burdened country’s 1975-1990 civil war. But Saturday’s protest turned violent as supporters of Hezbollah clashed with some demonstrators who were demanding that the group disarm.”

Arab News: Lebanon Will Descend Into Chaos Before Hezbollah Disarms

“Once again, and despite the dangers, Lebanese protesters have taken to the streets. Although limited in numbers, it is the first time they have stood so close to the presidential palace in Beirut and the first time they have openly requested the full respect of the constitution. Indeed, a few courageous protesters, mainly women, held signs saying, “Make 1559 happen,” and “Make 1680 Happen,” referring to UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Clearly, they are calling for Hezbollah to disarm as a key step toward the return of Lebanon’s sovereignty. In 2004, Resolution 1559 saw the UNSC declare its support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon, conducted according to constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence. It also called on all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon. And, in a related provision, the council called for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Resolution 1680 of 2006 “strongly encouraged” the delineation of Lebanon’s border with Syria and called for the full implementation of all requirements of Resolution 1559, including the disarmament of armed militias such as Hezbollah.”

Egypt

Al Monitor: Is Islamic State Making A Comeback In Sinai?

“On May 31, the Egyptian armed forces announced in a statement that 19 militants had been killed during military strikes carried out during the previous week in Sinai. The same statement said the strikes were based on intelligence information that confirmed the presence of extremists in several locations in the vicinity of the cities of Bir al-Abd, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah in North Sinai. Two military strikes were carried out, the first of which resulted in the killing of three suspects found with automatic weapons, ammunition, grenades and RPG ammunition in their possession. Military engineering teams also discovered and destroyed five explosive devices that had been planted to target the Egyptian armed forces, officials said. The army reported five deaths among its ranks; two officers, one noncommissioned officer and two soldiers. The Associated Press reported this occurred when an explosive device hit their vehicle. During the operation, the Egyptian air force carried out a number of airstrikes to target “terrorist hideouts,” which resulted in the death of 16 suspects, bringing the total to 19, according to the army’s statement. On April 30, an explosive device targeted a military vehicle near the city of Bir al-Abd, killing 10 soldiers, including an officer and a noncommissioned officer.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: Jihadists Kill Six Nigerian Troops: Sources

“Jihadists have killed six Nigerian troops in an attack on a military base in northeast Nigeria, army sources said Sunday. Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in trucks fitted with machine guns attacked the base in Auno, a village that is 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, they said. “We lost six soldiers in the attacks which the terrorists launched around 6:30 pm (1730 GMT), on Saturday, a military officer told AFP. Jihadists overwhelmed the troops during the two-hour battle, “forcing them to withdraw in disarray,” said another military source who gave a similar toll. The insurgents then looted weapons and burnt buildings before they were pushed out with aerial support, the sources said. “A search is ongoing for 45 soldiers who are still unaccounted for but we assume they escaped in the fighting and are yet to return,” the second source said. Auno lies on a 120-kilometer highway linking Maiduguri and Damaturu in neighboring Yobe state. The area has been repeatedly targeted by militants who attack troops and abduct motorists at bogus checkpoints. ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016, focuses on attacking the military but it has also been accused of increasingly targeting civilians.”

The Telegraph: A Deadly Alliance: Coronavirus Makes Boko Haram More Dangerous Than Ever

“Boko Haram, one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups, has long threatened the security of the vast swathes of West and Central Africa. But now the coronavirus pandemic is adding a new dimension of danger.  Boko Haram – whose name means ‘Western education is forbidden’ – reached the height of its power five years ago, soon after it kidnapped 276 of mainly Christian schoolgirls from their school in the town of Chibok, northeastern Nigeria in 2014. In 2015, the jihadists controlled an area of Nigeria equivalent to the size of Belgium. The fighters sought to turn themselves from insurgents to rulers and impose their ruthless interpretation of Islam over a so-called ‘caliphate’. Since then, national governments helped by their Western partners have beaten the group back, shrunk its territory and forced it into a gruesome guerrilla war. Just before the pandemic struck, many political actors around the Lake Chad Basin in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad were discussing how to consolidate these gains and ultimately, defeat Boko Haram.  But now, local governments are scrambling to shore up their healthcare systems and redeploying precious resources away from fighting the jihadists.”

Premium Times Nigeria: How Explosion Killed Nine-Year-Old Child Of Suspected Boko Haram Member

“A nine-year-old boy was on Monday killed and his teenage brother injured by an explosive device they had taken to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Maiduguri, Borno State for their father. The kids had taken the device from Bama on the instruction of their father who is a suspected member of Boko Haram The incident has exacerbated residents’ concern about their safety. Bama, the second largest town in Borno, is 72 km from Maiduguri. It is one of the local government areas in the state worst affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. Many young people in the town were believed to have subscribed to the Boko Haram ideology, the reason the community was displaced for over five years after several attacks by Boko Haram until the military began to liberate it in 2018. Last year, the state government began a gradual return of the civil populace while rebuilding of the entire community. Though many families that had been living in various IDP camps in Maiduguri have returned to Bama, some male returnees who are not sure of their safety left their wives and children behind in IDP camps in Maiduguri. With the recent opening of roads connecting other Borno communities with Maiduguri, residents can now easily travel to visit their relatives outside the state capital.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Twenty-Six Killed, Village Torched In Central Mali Attack

“Twenty-six people were killed and a village burned in the volatile Mopti region in central Mali on Friday, according to officials. The attack targeted a Fulani village Binedama, said Aly Barry, an official from Tabital Pulaaku, a Fulani association. Two other local officials confirmed the attack and the death toll to the AFP news agency, adding that the village was torched and its chief killed. A local government official in Koro, a subdivision of the Mopti region, told AFP that the attack on Binedama occurred on Friday afternoon. Two women and a nine-year-old girl were among those killed, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Moulaye Guindo, the mayor of the commune of Bankass, which neighbours the commune to which Binedama belongs, said between 20 and 30 people were killed by men in military attire, according to the Reuters news agency. The attack comes at a time of mounting insecurity in Mali, rising popular discontent with the government, and increasing reports of abuses committed by the country's armed forces. As is common with many attacks in conflict-riven and remote Sahel region, it was not immediately clear who the perpetrators were. No group has yet claimed responsibility.”

Independent: Isis And Al-Qaeda Set To Profit From Covid-19 As Lockdowns And Aid Shortages Makes Sahel Communities ‘An Easy Target’

“The men with guns swarmed the girl’s village near Bankass, at Mali’s border with Burkina Faso. She watched as the fighters – likely members of one of the violent extremist groups roaming the arid region – murdered her relatives. Twelve-year-old Hamsa escaped physical harm. But a day and a half later, when she and her haggard family arrived at the Socoura displaced persons camp in the central city of Mopti with only the clothes they were wearing, she was catatonic. It took a month for relief workers and psychologists to coax a word out of her. “I was afraid,” she said, according to aid officials. “I was terrified. I thought I was going to get killed.”

Technology

The Verge: Facebook Moves To Limit Spread Of Extremist ‘Boogaloo’ Pages And Groups

“Facebook is limiting the spread of pages and groups linked with the word “boogaloo,” an internet slang term used in some far-right extremist circles to refer to the idea of an impending second American Civil War, as first reported by Reuters. The boogaloo term has more recently evolved into a disjointed anti-government movement with various and at times conflicting views. Facebook says it will no longer recommend boogaloo pages and groups to users and is demoting them in search results, Facebook tells The Verge. The change was made on June 2nd. On May 1st, Facebook updated its Violence and Incitement policy to ban boogaloo and similar terms when used with images or statements depicting armed violence. On Thursday, the FBI arrested three men in Nevada who self-identified with the boogaloo movement on terrorism-related charges for plotting to incite violence at an anti-police protest in Las Vegas. More and more self-described boogaloo members, many of which are also gun rights advocates, are using protests against racism and police brutality as cover to to promote anti-government demonstrations involving displays of firearms, CNN reports.”