Eye on Extremism: Jun 9, 2020

France 24: Three Prominent Jihadists Dominate Sahel After Death Of Al Qaeda Leader

“Three leaders have been left dominating the jihadist insurgency in the Sahel, following the death of a top al Qaeda commander in the West African state of Mali this week. French forces killed Algerian national Abdelmalek Droukdel, the head of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in a raid in northern Mali on Wednesday. The move will strike a blow to the organisation, but other powerful al Qaeda-linked leaders already operate in the semi-desert Sahel. Droukdel's death also comes at a time of increasing jihadist infighting, between al Qaeda affiliates and Islamic State group aligned militants. Three jihadist leaders now loom large over the central Sahel: Iyad Ag Ghaly and Amadou Koufa – who are both linked to al Qaeda – and Adnan Abou Walid Sahraoui, who leads the region's Islamic State group franchise. Iyad Ag Ghaly, who heads the powerful Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) jihadist alliance, is a veteran of Mali's internecine conflicts.  An ethnic Tuareg from northern Mali, he first leapt onto the stage during a Tuareg rebellion during the 1990s.  After it subsided he went into business, before publically returning to militancy again in 2012, with a newly created group called Ansar Dine.”

NL Times: ISIS Split-Off A Threat In Netherlands: Report

“A split-off of terrorist organization ISIS is gaining grounds in the Netherlands and may pose a real threat, NRC reports based on a report by research agency NTA. The so-called Hazimi movement is considered even more extreme than ISIS and has around a hundred followers in the Netherlands, the researchers estimate. With ISIS no longer having its own caliphate, some jihadists have traded ISIS for Hazimi, named after Saudi preacher Ahmad al-Hazimi who is known to preach that anyone who deviates from radical Islamic teachings is an apostate and therefore deserves to be killed. Those who refuse to label such a person an apostate is also an apostate, according to his preachings. The Hazimi movement benefited from ISIS' collapse, because it argues that ISIS fell because it did not adhere to the strict teachings, according NTA. According to NRC, a part of ISIS embraced the Hazimi stance in 2015, but the ISIS leadership thought it went to far and detained or executed many Hazimis for 'extremism'. Eight Dutch jihadists were executed by ISIS in Syria in 2016. The reason for the executions was previously unknown, but the NTA report now stated that there are indications that the executed Dutch were killed fro their pro-Hazimi views.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Lone Wolves, Self-Styled Anarchists: The Disparate Actors Accused Of Protest Violence

“As flares of violence and destruction have disrupted largely peaceful demonstrations against police brutality over the past two weeks, federal and state officials have warned that members of extremist groups are at work behind the scenes. U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Thursday the Justice Department had evidence that “extremist agitators” were hijacking protests to “pursue their own separate and violent agenda”—an assertion he and President Trump have repeated throughout the national unrest. Minnesota officials described a professional campaign of urban warfare involving domestic terrorists seeking to destroy Minneapolis and St. Paul. New York Police Department officials have said outside agitators were working to provoke violence and sow fear. What has emerged from the protests—and in criminal charges filed across the country—is a diffuse collection of what appear to be self-styled anarchists and opportunists, lone actors and clusters of alleged extremist cells, with a range of allegiances, interests and motivations. Some may be bent on revolution, while others, bound by no apparent ideology at all, have been accused of vandalism, theft and violence. Since George Floyd was killed in police custody on May 25, tens of thousands of people have joined protests erupting across the U.S.”

Associated Press: Man Accused Of Terror Plot Seeks To Withdraw Guilty Plea

“A former Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting politically motivated killings inspired by a far-right mass murderer asked a federal appeals court on Monday to let him withdraw his guilty plea or else throw out his sentence of more than 13 years in prison. In a court filing, a defense attorney argued that Christopher Hasson’s 160-month prison term was roughly four times longer than sentencing guidelines would have called for if U.S. District Judge George Hazel had not mistakenly applied a “terrorism enhancement” to the sentence. Prosecutors didn’t charge Hasson, 50, with any terrorism-related offenses. He pleaded guilty last October to possessing unregistered and unserialized silencers, being a drug addict in possession of firearms and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller. The judge “clearly erred by finding Hasson’s offenses were intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism,” assistant federal public defender Cullen Macbeth wrote. Prosecutors have until June 29 to respond in writing to Macbeth’s filing. The appeal was filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Federal prosecutors called Hasson a domestic terrorist and self-described white nationalist.”

Boston Globe: R.I. Man Serving Terror Sentence Wants Early Prison Release, Cites Coronavirus Concerns

“A Rhode Island man serving a 15-year prison term for conspiring to support ISIS is asking a federal judge to release him to his mother’s home in Warwick, citing health concerns that place him at “unique risk” if he contracts COVID-19 behind bars. In a motion for compassionate release filed Sunday in US District Court in Boston, lawyers for Nicholas Alexander Rovinski, 29, said he’s currently incarcerated at FCI Danbury in Connecticut, “where one of the first major COVID-19 outbreaks in the federal Bureau of Prisons is ongoing.” The motion said Rovinski, who pleaded guilty in September 2016 to conspiracy to support ISIS and to committing acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, has 94 months left on his sentence. He’s seeking “immediate release to begin his lifetime term of supervised release in self-quarantine at his mother’s home in Warwick, Rhode Island,” the filing said. The matter’s urgent in light of his health challenges, the motion said. “Mr. Rovinski has medical, neurological, cognitive, and psychological conditions that place him at unique risk,” the document said. “These conditions make him medically vulnerable and diminish his ability to provide self-care.”

CBS Chicago: CPD Investigating After Officer Wore Extremist Militia Logo To Downtown Protest Saturday

“A Chicago Police officer wore a mask bearing the logo of a right-wing militia group known as the “Three Percenters” while on duty at a downtown protest Saturday. Still frames from video shot by CBS 2 shows a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer wearing a black face mask with the logo — the roman numeral three surrounded by a ring of stars — while standing among a group of officers near the LaSalle Street bridge Saturday afternoon.  The officer’s name tag and badge number, which can be seen in video, identify him as Kyle Mingari, a 13-year veteran of CPD. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which studies extremist groups, the Three Percenters is a militia group that first appeared around 2009. Their logo, which Mingari is seen sporting on his face mask, “has become very popular among anti-government extremists,” according to the ADL. The ADL confirmed to CBS 2 that the logo was in fact a Three Percenters symbol. “ADL is deeply disturbed by the apparent display of the ‘three percenter’ symbol by an on-duty Chicago police officer this weekend,” ADL Midwest regional director David Goldenberg said in a statement emailed to CBS 2.”

Syria

Voice Of America: Dozens Of IS Fighters Captured In New Campaign In Eastern Syria

“U.S. military officials said more than 60 Islamic State (IS) terrorists were captured by U.S.-backed forces in Syria as part of a major campaign to hunt down remnants of the terror group. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said in a tweet Monday that U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their operation against IS sleeper cells in parts of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka provinces in eastern Syria. Since its territorial defeat in March 2019, IS has carried out terror attacks against civilians and SDF fighters, especially in areas along the border with Iraq. With nearly 6,000 U.S.-backed fighters involved, SDF officials say they also coordinate with Iraqi security forces for their campaign, which was launched Friday.  “We have received a lot of intelligence about [IS] being very active in this area,” said Resho Kobani, an SDF field commander in northern Deir al-Zour. “They have dug tunnels here to store their weapons. But civilians have provided us a lot of information about their locations,” he told VOA Monday, noting that SDF forces “are in control. … We started this campaign three days ago, but it could continue for up to 10 days.”

Iran

The Jerusalem Post: Pro-Iran Militias Position Themselves For US-Iraq Talks

“The US and Iraq are careening towards an unclear future concerning their relations. At the heart of the problem is Iran’s desire to eject US forces from Iraq, the lack of a clear mission for the US-led Coalition, chess moves by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and preparations for a “strategic dialogue” with Baghdad. Iraq has a new prime minister named Mustafa al-Kadhimi and he finally has a government. The last seven posts in his cabinet were approved. There are now 22 members of the cabinet, and Kadhimi is happy. After more than eight months of chaos and protests, Iraq could be on a new track. But COVID-19 has shut airports, there are fears of the virus in the capital and a new ISIS insurgency and protests continue. There is also a budget crisis due to oil prices, the need to buy energy from Iran and discussions with the Kurdistan autonomous region over salaries. US-led anti-ISIS Coalition spokesman tweeted on June that the Iraqis were hunting down ISIS as  part of the “heroes of Iraq” operation. This includes, he wrote, the Iraqi army, Counter-Terror Service, Federal Police, Hashd al-Sha’abi and other units.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghan Peace Talks Seen This Month After U.S. Shuttle Diplomacy

“Talks to end the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan may begin this month, sources said on Monday, a day after the U.S. special envoy visited the capital of neighbouring Pakistan and met Taliban leaders in Qatar. The United States signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in February, but its attempts to usher the insurgent group towards peace talks with the Afghan government have been mired in setbacks and violence surged in March and April. The Taliban's spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter that U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad had discussed “the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations” at the insurgent group's political capital, Doha, on Sunday. Khalilzad had earlier met Pakistan's army chief of staff, according to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. “The two took note of recent progress created by the Eid ceasefire and accelerated prisoner releases as well as reduced violence ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations,” the Embassy said on Monday. “(They) discussed steps required for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations.” Disagreement over the Taliban's demand for the release of 5,000 prisoners has also blocked progress towards resolving the conflict, in which Pakistan is considered a key regional player.”

Long War Journal: Analysis: Taliban Again Denies Presence Of Foreign Fighters In Afghanistan

“Yet again, the Taliban has denied that foreign fighters, including members of Al Qaeda, are present in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s statement should raise deep concerns with U.S. officials about the group’s reliability to be an effective counterterrorism partner against Al Qaeda and other terror groups. The Taliban issued its latest denial on June 6, just five days after the U.N.’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said in a report that the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain allied, have consulted with each other during the Taliban’s negotiations with the U.S., and that there are thousands of foreign fighters on Afghan soil. In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban called the U.N. report “fictitious” and says “there are no foreign fighters currently present in Afghanistan”: It is very unfortunate however that a recent report published by this organizations related to presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan and other issues are not grounded in facts. For example, the claim of large number of foreign fighters and their extensive presence throughout Afghanistan has left our compatriots baffled because the Afghans, the natives of this land who view everything first-hand and can discern conditions better than anyone else, are completely aware that there are no foreign fighters currently present in Afghanistan.”

Lebanon

Arab News: Hezbollah Dragging Lebanon Closer To New Civil War

“Activists in Lebanon called on citizens to take to the streets at the weekend and finish the mission they started on Oct. 17 last year. The manifesto of the “October Meeting” — a more or less unitary body representing the protesters — highlighted three “nos.” No to a government that behaves like a farm, no to a state that acts like the politicians’ private company, and no to a state that is used as plunder by the politicians. The protesters were faced by Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement. They felt threatened as the demands of the protesters could endanger their grip on the state. The confrontation resulted in armed clashes. The clashes died down, but if this trend is not contained it might threaten another civil war. The protesters want a total break from the previous system. They have lost trust in the presidency, government and parliament. They have instead asked for a transitional government that reflects the spirit of Oct. 17. The activists’ statement even detailed what they expect from the transitional government. The first demand is for the transitional government to design and implement an economic rescue plan. Secondly, they want it to prepare for free elections under the supervision of an independent committee, according to a new law.”

The Jerusalem Post: Lebanese Protesters Call For Hezbollah Disarmament, Clashes Ensue

“As anti-government protests are renewed in Lebanon amidst a continuing economic crisis, some protesters called for the disarmament of the Hezbollah terrorist group, leading to violent clashes with Hezbollah supporters. Dozens were injured as pro-Hezbollah and anti-Hezbollah protesters clashed in Beirut on Saturday amid massive demonstrations. Anti-Hezbollah protesters held signs reading “No weapons but legal weapons. 1559, make it happen,” according to Al-Arabiya. UN Security Council Resolution 1559 called for the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. “With their weapons, they are controlling the state, they are controlling everything,” said one protester to Al-Arabiya. “The smuggling comes from the weapons, the poverty comes from the weapons, the stealing comes from the weapons, the corruption comes from the weapons. If we got rid of the weapons, the rest of the problems will be solved.” Another protester pointed out that only Hezbollah has weapons “on the ground” and only the Lebanese Army should have weapons. The demonstration on Sunday was organized by the Sabaa party, which is associated with anti-Hezbollah partites such as the Christian Kataeb and Lebanese Forces parties and Sunni politicians Bahaa Hariri and Ashraf Rifi who both oppose Hezbollah having weapons, according to Al-Arabiya.”

Middle East

Asharq Al-Awsat: Jordan Thwarts Terrorist Plot To Target Security Site

“Trials at the Jordanian State Security Court have revealed that a third terrorist plot targeting a security site in Irbid governorate has been thwarted. The Kingdom’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) arrested members of a terrorist cell who were planning to target the site in the governorate that lies 80 km north of the capital, Amman. According to Alrai official newspaper, three defendants attempted to join ISIS terrorist organization in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, but they failed to reach there. According to the indictment, the three defendants were friends, pointing out that the first remained the link between the two others. “After ISIS’s emergence in Iraq and Syria in 2014, he started following its news and publications through internet channels until he became one of its supporters,” the indictment read, adding that he believed it is applying the correct Islamic Sharia law and pledged allegiance to the group. The first defendant wanted ISIS to gain more support, so he started promoting its ideas among family members and friends, and was able to convince the second defendant to join the organization by keeping him updated on its news and publications and providing him with a book on militant thought.”

Somalia

Dalsan Radio: Somalia: 11 Alshabaab Militants Killed In Bakol Operation

“Somali national army (SNA) on Sunday killed 11 Alshabab militants in an operation in the outskirts of Bakol region Military officer confirmed on Sunday. Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, commander of the Somali infantry division told reporters that SNA conducted a sting operation in Abal and villages in that area and they have retaken the area and it is under the control of the army. Locals say the government army attacked the members of Alshabab prompting exchange gunfire between the two sides “ There was an exchange of gunfire between the army and the militants, but the forces are now in the town and the militants were chased out,” said a resident whose identity cannot be revealed. On the other hand, Alshabab militants claim victory and say they have killed 15 military. Somali forces have intensified operations against Al-Shabab extremist in Bakol region, but the militants still hold swathes of rural areas in that region conducting ambushes and planting landmines.”

Africa

Reuters: Mali Orders Investigation Into Killings Of 43 Villagers

“Mali’s government said it had ordered investigations into whether soldiers killed 43 people during attacks on two villages last week. Armed men dressed in military fatigues raided the village of Binedama on Friday, killing 29 people including women and children and burning down houses, officials said. Two days earlier, attackers killed 14 people in the village of Niangassadiou, the government said in its statement. Both villages are in the West African country’s central Mopti region, which has seen dozens of tit-for-tat ethnic massacres over the past few years. In both cases community leaders said attackers targeted members of the Fulani group - semi-nomadic herders who have been accused by rival farming communities of supporting Islamist militants. Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku has said all the victims were innocent civilians. Last week it accused Malian soldiers of carrying out both attacks, saying the troops surrounded Binedama in pick-up trucks before moving in, and attacked a trade fair at Niangassadiou. The government acknowledged the accusation and said it had asked the military and the justice system to conduct the investigation. “If it turned out that these killings were the work of national army members, sanctions matching the seriousness of these actions would be taken by the head of the military,” it said in its statement issued late on Sunday.”

All Africa: Mozambique: UN Official Blames Terrorism On Drug Trafficking

“The representative in Mozambique of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Cesar Guedes, has argued that the traffic of heroin from Mozambique to Europe via Mozambique is one of the main reasons for the conflict in Cabo Delgado province, where the Mozambican forces are fighting terrorists inspired by islamic fundamentalism. Interviewed by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Guedes said that Afghan heroin production has tripled in the past ten years, and Mozambique lies on one of the corridors used to take the drug to consumer nations. He argued that the Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities have increased their vigilance in recent years, pushing traffickers who might once have used the Kenyan or Tanzanian coast further south, to Mozambique “in search of new routes and new markets”. “Here (i.e. in Mozambique) they apparently find a country with a unique strategic location to facilitate trafficking in drugs”, said Guedes. “What these countries offer is facilitated passage. It's nothing sophisticated, but the borders are enormous and the authorities are not everywhere. And the traffickers know this”. After Mozambique, the heroin goes by all possible paths to Europe, notably via the richest country on the African continent, South Africa.”

United Kingdom

Daily Mail: British Universities Are Advertised As Exam Centres For Online College Set Up By Islamist Hate Preacher Banned From UK For 'Extremist Views' Including Saying Gays Should Be Put To Death

“Philips has always claimed to abhor violence and denied involvement in any terrorist attacks, including the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. But Joshua Lipowsky, senior research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, warned that the IOU's teaching risked radicalising students as he urged mainstream institutions to disassociate themselves from it. 'Philips claims to abhor violence but he preaches an ultra-conservative form of Islam that leads people down a path to radicalization that concludes violence is necessary for the greater good,' he told MailOnline. 'University students are particularly at risk from his dangerous rhetoric because they are at stages in their lives where they are questioning and rebuilding their own belief systems. Universities should be open forums for ideas but not for promoting hatred and extremism.' Hundreds of other UK institutions are listed by the IOU as approved exam centres, including Leeds Grand Mosque and others in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London. Several schools are also mentioned, including a secondary school in Cardiff and two primary schools in Derby and London.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: Germany Launches Terrorism Probe Over Planned Attack On Muslims

“German authorities arrested a 21-year-old man and launched a terrorism investigation after he threatened to carry out an attack targeting Muslims, prosecutors said on Monday. The 21-year-old man from the northern city of Hildesheim made the threat in an anonymous online chat forum on May 29, announcing his intention to carry out an attack “with multiple dead,” prosecutors in the city of Celle said in a statement. He referenced the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand where a gunman killed 51 people, saying that he wanted to carry out a similar attack in Germany. “The goal was to kill Muslims,” prosecutors said. The man is believed to have been considering carrying out a mass-casualty attack for some time, also seeking to attract worldwide media attention. During a raid on the man's apartment, police uncovered data files containing right-wing extremist content as well as weapons that “may have been purchased to carry out the attack plans.” The suspect was arrested on Saturday and faces a string of charges including threatening to commit criminal offences, disturbing the peace and financing terrorism through purchasing weapons. Germany has seen several deadly right-wing extremist attacks over the past year, with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer at one point calling right-wing terrorism “the biggest danger for democracy in Germany.”

Australia

The Guardian: Woman Stripped Of Australian Citizenship Over Alleged Isis Role Launches Bid To Overturn Law

“A Melbourne woman stripped of Australian citizenship for allegedly serving Islamic State has lodged a high court challenge in a bid to reverse the operation of laws that automatically cancel citizenship. Zehra Duman lodged the case on behalf of herself and her two children challenging a notice sent by the home affairs department in July 2019 claiming she is no longer a citizen because the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, had learned she served Islamic State after it was listed as a terrorist organisation in 2016. Duman’s case is the first of its kind, challenging laws passed by the Abbott government in 2015 creating powers to strip Australian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorist offences or deemed to have renounced citizenship by their own conduct, even without a conviction. Duman allegedly left Australia in 2014 to marry a Melbourne Isis fighter, Mahmoud Abdullatif. According to court documents, seen by Guardian Australia, Duman is still in al-Hawl camp in Syria with her two children. The notice sent to Duman claims that she lost citizenship on 6 May 2016 by the operation of section 35 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 because she was allegedly “in the service of a declared terrorist organisation.”