Eye on Extremism: June 22, 2022

Reuters: Use Of Airline Passenger Data Must Be Limited, Top EU Court Says

“EU states may only gather the airline passenger data strictly necessary to combat serious crime and terrorism, Europe's top court said on Tuesday, and banned the use of machine learning to harvest the data. The Passenger Name Record Directive (PNR), adopted in 2016, allows police and justice officials to access passenger data on flights to and from the EU to combat serious crimes and maintain security in the 27-country bloc. Rights groups however said data retention even by law enforcement and other authorities is an invasive and unjustified encroachment on fundamental rights to privacy and data protection. In 2017, Belgium's Human Rights League (LDH) and other rights groups challenged the PNR at a Belgian court, saying it allows the collection of too much data and could lead to mass surveillance, discrimination and profiling.”

Associated Press: Australian State Outlaws Public Displays Of Nazi Swastikas

“An Australian state has become the first in the country to pass a law banning the public display of Nazi swastikas, as concerns grow about the rate at which local young people are being radicalized. The Parliament of Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, passed laws late Tuesday that set penalties of 22,000 Australian dollars ($15,213) and 12 months in prison for displaying the Nazi swastika, or Hakenkreuz. Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, which fights antisemitism, said Wednesday he expected Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, and the states of Queensland and Tasmania will soon pass similar laws. “The fact that we’ve got a resurgent white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement is a cause for concern in every state,” said Abramovich, who lives in the Victorian capital, Melbourne. “What the bill does is to say to those forces of evil that are trying to break our spirit and instill fear that the law’s no longer on their side,” he added.”

Syria

Associated Press: Islamic State Group Claims Syria Bus Attack That Killed 13

“The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for Monday's attack on a civilian bus in northern Syria that killed 13 people and wounded three. The extremist group said in a statement late Monday that its gunmen attacked the bus with automatic rifles. It also posted photos of the attack. The Syrian army said 11 of those killed were soldiers. Three soldiers were also wounded, the military said. The bus was attacked while on the road in the northern province of Raqqa, heading to the central city of Homs. IS militants proclaimed their so-called “caliphate” in a third of both Iraq and Syria in 2014 and the city of Raqqa was their de-facto capital. They were defeated in 2019 but IS sleeper cells still carry out deadly attacks. The cells have been active in eastern, northern and central Syria.”

The New Arab: Syria Insight: Why Did Russia Allow Israel To Bomb Damascus Airport?

“...Gregory Waters, Analyst at the Counter Extremism Project and fellow at the Middle East Institute, said there are no signs that reports of major Russian troop withdrawals and Iranian fighters replacing them are correct, despite the obvious ratcheting up of Israel's air campaign. “It's important to remember that several years ago the Russians drew down a lot of their forces in Syria, shifting from doing direct on-the-ground combat support to more training, commanding, advising logistical, and air support,” he said. “So, when we talk about if and why Russians would withdraw from Syria now, the first question had to be: what would they actually withdraw? The only things that could be useful in Ukraine that are still in Syria are airframes, and if some of these were shifted over to Ukraine that's not a gap that Iran steps in to fill.” Bente Scheller, Head of Middle East Division, Heinrich Boell Foundation, agreed there are no signs of Russian troop movements from Syria to Ukraine, but Iranian militias have taken over some checkpoints in southern Syria - a red line for Israel. “Israel would prefer not to have any Iranian-linked fighters close to its borders, so the partial Russian withdrawal that we are seeing is not in its interest. That means there will be more Russian airstrikes in Syria in the future,” Scheller said.”

Yemen

Associated Press: Officials: Militants Ambush Security Post In Yemen; 8 Killed

“Suspected al-Qaida militants on Wednesday attacked a security post in a southern Yemeni province, sparking clashes that left five troops and three militants dead, officials said. The early morning attack took place in Ataq, the capital of the mountainous province of Shabwa, the officials said. At least four other troops were wounded in the attack, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press. No group claimed responsibly for the ambush, which targeted a post manned by troops loyal to the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, they said. The separatist council is backed by the United Arab Emirates and controls much of Yemen’s south. It is at odds with the internationally recognized government. The officials said reinforcements were sent to the strategic city, a gateway to oil fields and desert approaches to the Saudi border, the officials said, adding that al-Qaida militants operate in the area and are suspected to be behind the attack.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Palestinian Terror Groups May Increase Attacks Ahead Of Israeli Elections

“Buoyed by the collapse of the Israeli coalition, Hamas and other terror groups have threatened to continue carrying out attacks against Israel. The groups said that they see the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet as a direct result of its failure to confront the Palestinian “resistance” factions, especially during and after last year’s war between Hamas and Israel. The terror groups’ appetite is likely to increase after the collapse of the coalition, paving the way for increased attacks against Israel, especially in the West Bank, during the period leading up to the next general elections in Israel. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials were quoted as saying that the collapse of the coalition was a sign of Israel’s “fragility” and “weakness.” They said that the Gaza-based groups will remain on high alert to “thwart” a new Israeli “aggression against the Palestinian people.” Several Palestinians said that they did not rule out the possibility that the terror groups may exploit the period before the elections to step up their attacks against Israelis because of their belief that an interim government would be very weak and unwilling to engage in new hostilities. Even before the political drama in Israel unfolded, Hamas and PIJ gunmen in the Jenin area threatened to continue carrying out terror attacks, particularly after the killing of several of their friends by the IDF during the past few weeks.”

Newsweek: Israel Boosts Southern Border Defense Facing Isis On One End, Iran On Other

“The Israeli military has devised a new southern border strategy to contend with emerging and existing threats, including those posed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) to the west and forces aligned with Iran to the east, as well as smugglers seeking to bring drugs and weapons into the country. In the first-ever revelation of the plan to the press, an Israeli security official discussed the strategy with Newsweek on the condition of anonymity. “We've done a very significant amount of work in the last two years to sharpen our soldiers in the face of these threats,” the Israeli security official told Newsweek. “The main tactic that we use is 'Defense by Colors,' which we use to defend against these threats on the border and help our soldiers prepare for every scenario.” The system ranges from green, the lowest threat level, to red, the highest, in an effort to assess where enemy action is most likely to take place and to appropriately allocate the necessary resources. “The system also affects the level of threat that is likely to be carried out on the basis of the indicative signs we have and the severity of a potential threat,” the Israeli security official said. Another factor influencing the level is the assessed proximity of the threat to Israeli civilians whom enemy groups have sought to target.”

Nigeria

AFP: Two Kidnapped Chibok Girls Freed In Nigeria After Eight Years

“Nigerian troops have found two former schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram jihadists eight years ago, the military said Tuesday, freeing some of the last victims of the 2014 Chibok abduction. The two women each carried babies on their laps as they were presented by the military, after captivity with militants who stormed their school in April, 2014 in northeast Nigeria in a mass kidnapping that sparked international outrage. Major-General Christopher Musa, the military commander of troops in the region, told reporters the girls were found on June 12 and 14 in two different locations by troops. “We are very lucky to have been able to recover two of the Chibok girls,” Musa said. Dozens of Boko Haram militants stormed the Chibok girls' boarding school in 2014 and packed 276 pupils, aged 12-17, at the time into trucks in the jihadist group's first mass school abduction. Fifty-seven of the girls managed to escape by jumping from the trucks shortly after their abduction while 80 were released in exchange for some detained Boko Haram commanders following negotiations with the Nigerian government. In the recent releases, one of the women, Hauwa Joseph, was found along with other civilians on June 12 around Bama after troops dislodged a Boko Haram camp, while the other, Mary Dauda, was found later outside Ngoshe village in Gwoza district, near the border with Cameroon.”

Africa

AFP: Burkina Army Says Killed Over 120 ‘Terrorists’

“Burkina Faso’s army said Monday they had killed at least 128 “terrorists” in several operations this month after the new government vowed to tackle surging violence in the West African nation. The first operation took place in the northwestern region of Boucle du Mouhoun bordering Mali, according to a statement by the military headquarters. “Intelligence activities allowed us to identify terrorist locations and conduct serious offensives,” the statement said. It added that “at least 100 terrorists” were killed in the operation. Two soldiers died during the operation and 18 more were injured, the army said. A second operation, following an attack on a mining site in Namisiguima in the north, left “more than 20 terrorists” dead. The third operation, aimed to bring medical assistance to civilians near the Niger border in the northeast, was “planned as part of G5 Sahel and realized by the units of Burkina Faso and Niger.” Eight “terrorists” were killed in that operation, the Burkinabe army said. Created in 2014, the G5 Sahel was made up of some 5,000 soldiers from Mauritius, Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali, until the Malian army recently withdrew. Operations against armed jihadists groups — many linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State — have increased in recent months, the Burkinabe army has said, sparking retaliatory attacks by the groups.”

Reuters: Burkina Faso Tells Civilians To Evacuate Vast Zones Ahead Of Military Operations

“Burkina Faso's army has ordered civilians to evacuate two large “military interest zones” in its northern and southeastern regions ahead of anticipated operations against Islamist insurgents, it said. The announcement was made late on Monday, with few details about how long people have to evacuate or where they should go. “All human activities that risk exposure to the effects of the military operations which will be conducted shortly are prohibited,” said commander of national operations, Lieutenant-colonel Yves-Didier Bamouni, on state TV. “A period of time will be granted to the resident populations to reach more secure areas.” The West Africa country has been battling an insurgency by Islamist militants, some linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, since 2015. More than 1.85 million people are already displaced within Burkina Faso because of the fighting. The announcement followed an attack in the north on June 11 that killed over 100 people and displaced thousands more. A group of military officers overthrew the democratic government in January with pledges to improve security, but attacks have only multiplied. One of the military zones is a rural area of about 2,000 square kilometres (772 square miles) bordering Mali in the northern province of Soum.”

Canada

National Post: Government Should Take Fight Against Ideological Extremism Online, House Committee Report Says

“Canada should put in place a strategy to fight ideologically-motivated violent extremism that includes tackling the spread of such movements on the internet, a House of Commons committee says. MPs on the public safety and national security committee issued dozens of recommendations for how Canada can combat the spread of ideologically-motivated violent extremism (IMVE) on Monday, following a study on the topic. That includes targeting digital platforms, online bots, algorithms, crowdfunding and cryptocurrency, in addition to offline measures like increased funding for security of communities at risk and for front-line community organizations. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) considers IMVE to have four sub-categories—”xenophobic, gender-driven, anti-authority and other personal grievance-driven violence,” the report outlines. IMVE is a separate category from religiously-motivated and politically-motivated violent extremism, and according to a witness from Public Safety Canada was meant to eliminate terms like “far right.” The term is “agnostic to race, religion and ideology,” the report outlined. It said the narratives that are used to draw individuals in and radicalize them include “anti-authority; Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of religious intolerance; racism; misogyny; and anti-LGBTQ2SI.”

Europe

Al Jazeera: Belgium Repatriates ISIL-Linked Children, Mothers From Syria

“Belgium has flown back six Belgian women and their 16 children born to ISIL fighter fathers from a camp in northeastern Syria, according to officials. The airlift is the largest of its kind by Belgium to bring back the families of ISIL fighters from Syria since the fall of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in 2019. All the children are under 12 years old. The women and children were taken from the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in Hassakeh across the border to Iraq by road before boarding the plane, a judicial source told the AFP news agency. “Last night was the final phase of an operation to repatriate 16 Belgian children from Syria accompanied by mothers of Belgian nationality,” Belgium’s federal prosecutor said on Tuesday. “The military flight landed last night at 1:30am [23:30 GMT],” it said. Belgium’s RTBF broadcaster reported that the mothers had already been convicted in Belgium of participating in the activities of an armed group. They were handed over to the jurisdiction of the Belgian court services on arrival in the country overnight. The children were to undergo medical examinations before being handed over to youth protection services. From 2012 onwards, more than 400 Belgians headed to Syria to fight for the ISIL group, the largest group of European nationals to go.”

The Week: The Limits Of The Geneva Convention

“…Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, both from Alabama, are "among a number of U.S. veterans who have traveled to Ukraine to join or assist the Ukrainian military as it attempts to hold back the Russian invasion," Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post. They were part of a wave of volunteers from a number of countries who flocked to Ukraine after the war broke out: While early reports probably overstated the number of foreign fighters at around 17,000 — and while estimates are tricky — the current number is believed to be somewhere from "several hundreds to a few thousands," the Counter Extremism Project reported in May. Drueke was a former U.S Army staff sergeant who previously served in Iraq; Huynh served four years in the Marines but had no combat experience before he went to Ukraine. The two were taken "after running into a much larger Russian force during a battle last Thursday in the village of Izbytske, 30 miles northeast of Kharkiv," Colin Freeman writes for The Telegraph. Now they "are believed to be the first U.S. servicemen to end up as Russian prisoners of war." (Former Marine Grady Kurpasi went missing in Ukraine in April; at least four Americans have died in the fighting.)”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On June 24, 2017, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) launched back-to-back explosions at a market in Kurram Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northwest Pakistan. The attack killed 67 people who were shopping in preparation for a religious holiday and wounded 200 others. 

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