Eye on Extremism: June 24, 2022

ABC News: 'Increased Threat' Of Foreign Terrorists, Election Influence Operations In 2022: DHS

“The Department of Homeland Security recently warned that the threat from foreign terrorist organizations and cyberthreat from adversaries like Russia, including election interference, will likely increase in 2022 according to an intelligence analysis obtained by ABC News. The document, titled “Key Threats to the Homeland in 2022” and dated June 8, asserts that the greatest threat to the United States this year comes from lone wolf actors and small groups of individuals motived by a cadre of extremist beliefs like the alleged shooter in Buffalo, New York who is currently facing hate crimes charges for killing 10 African-American shoppers at a grocery store. Federal law enforcement agencies including the DHS and Justice Department have previously prioritized combatting domestic violent extremism since the start of the Biden administration. But DHS also warned about the potential for a resurgence of foreign terrorism due to the relaxing pandemic travel restrictions and said they will be “highly visible” online -- focused on messaging inspiring homegrown terrorism. “Foreign terrorists probably will continue to hone their abilities to facilitate international travel, expand their networks, raise funds, and organize, ultimately to improve their ability to target the United States and the Homeland,” the bulletin says.”

Associated Press: Argentina, Paraguay Probe Grounded 747 For Terrorism Ties

“Authorities in Argentina and Paraguay are trying to shine light on the jumbo-jet sized mystery surrounding a cargo plane with Iranian and Venezuelan crew that has been grounded outside Buenos Aires more than two weeks. Prosecutors in the two South American countries have launched investigations to figure out whether the crew members — 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians — have any ties to international terrorism or other illicit activity. Cecilia Incardona, the prosecutor leading the case in Argentina, is focusing her inquiries on the Iranian pilot, Gholamreza Ghasemi, and his possible ties to international terrorism. The FBI said in a report to Argentine federal judge Federico Villena, who is in charge of the case, that Ghasemi is CEO of Qeshm Fars Air, which the U.S. Treasury Department says provides material support to the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Iranian airline Mahan Air, according to a document issued by Incardona’s office this week. During the preliminary investigation into the plane, “numerous traces have emerged that make it necessary to move forward with the investigation” of Ghasemi, the rest of the plane’s crew and its cargo, Incardona said in the document.”

Syria

AFP: IS Kills 9 Pro-Regime Fighters In Eastern Syria, Monitor Says

“The Islamic State group has killed nine pro-regime fighters in one day in eastern Syria, a war monitor said Thursday, the latest in a spate of attacks in the area. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring organization with a wide network of sources on the ground, the nine were among 30 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters killed in IS attacks this week alone. The “fierce clashes” since Wednesday between regime forces and IS in a remote area of Raqqa province, in the country's east, also killed seven jihadi fighters, the observatory said. The fighting followed an ambush, claimed by IS, against a bus carrying fighters from the regular army and allied militia on the desert road linking the cities of Raqqa and Homs. An attack on Monday, one of the deadliest of its kind this year, left at least 15 dead according to the observatory. The monitor also said that on Wednesday, another four soldiers were killed in an IS ambush near Dumayr military airport, east of Damascus, and that two more were killed earlier this week in the Raqqa region. IS's once sprawling self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria was defeated in March 2019 by U.S.-backed local forces. It has not held fixed positions since then.”

Iran

Reuters: Iran Replaces Powerful Chief Of Guards' Intelligence Unit - State TV

“Iran has dismissed the powerful chief of the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence unit, Hossein Taeb, Iranian state TV said on Thursday, after a series of high-profile incidents Tehran has blamed on its arch-foe Israel. Iranian state media did not give a reason but state TV said Taeb would become an adviser to the Guards' Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami. Taeb will be replaced by Mohammad Kazemi, previously head of the Guards' Intelligence Protection unit. The Islamic Republic, which refuses to recognise Israel, has long accused "the Zionist regime" of sabotaging Iran's nuclear sites and killing scientists and senior commanders inside Iran. In May, Iran blamed Israel for the killing senior commander Sayyad Khodaei, the most high profile assassination inside Iran since the 2020 killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Tehran also blamed on Israel.”

Turkey

The Jerusalem Post: Turkish FM: ‘We Won’t Allow Terror In Our Land’

“Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu emphasized his country’s commitment to combating terrorism to a visiting Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Ankara on Thursday, soon after Turkish intelligence revealed that they had arrested suspects in an Iranian terrorist plot against Israelis visiting Istanbul. “We will not allow terror in our land,” Çavusoglu said. “I believe we sent the message to the terrorists.” The Turkish foreign minister said intelligence agencies and top officials in Ankara and Jerusalem were in close contact about the terrorist threat. “I hope that this situation of relations between Israel and Turkey will continue, and I want to thank Mr. Lapid for this visit in a stormy political time in his country,” said Çavusoglu. Lapid noted that “in recent weeks, the lives of Israeli citizens have been saved thanks to the security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkiye,” Turkey’s new, official English name. “We are full of appreciation for the Turkish government for this professional and coordinated activity. I want to thank all the Turkish and Israeli officials... who have handled this matter in recent weeks.” The meeting between Lapid and Çavusoglu came after Turkey arrested 10 suspects at a hotel and three rented apartments in the Istanbul area last Friday.”

Yemen

Reuters: Suspected Al Qaeda Attacks Kill At Least 10 Yemeni Soldiers

“At least 10 Yemeni soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in south Yemen believed to have been carried out by al Qaeda militants, officials and state news agency Saba said on Wednesday. A convoy belonging to Saudi-backed forces was attacked by armed men overnight using roadside bombs in Abyan province, Saba reported, adding that three soldiers were killed and two other bodies were recovered. A second attack targeted a military unit at a checkpoint in the southern town of Ateq in Shabwa province early on Wednesday, killing five soldiers, Saba said. Two Yemeni officials confirmed the two attacks to Reuters. Several people were wounded in both attacks, they said. Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has used a seven-year-old conflict between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed coalition to enhance its influence. It has survived an intensive campaign over the last decade from the U.S. military, the coalition and the Houthis, taking advantage of Yemen's mayhem, tribal sympathies and large and empty swaths of south Yemen. The attacks came amid a ceasefire that has suspended air, sea and land attacks while allowing imports into Houthi-controlled sea ports and a partial reopening of Sanaa airport.”

Middle East

Al Monitor: Islamic Jihad Ramps Up The Threats Toward Israel In West Bank

“The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported June 13 that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement is gearing up for a military escalation in response to the ongoing Israeli operations in the northern West Bank, especially in Jenin. The report comes at a time when the Islamic Jihad is seeking to unify the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to respond to the Israeli violations in the West Bank, a possible escalation for the first time since May 2021. According to Palestinian sources quoted by the Israeli newspaper, the Islamic Jihad is convinced that Israel is slowly working toward eroding the movement’s cells in the northern West Bank, especially Jenin. The sources also said that the Islamic Jihad seeks to avenge those killed by Israel. Speaking at a press conference in Gaza following an urgent meeting of Palestinian factions on June 13, Islamic Jihad political bureau member Khaled al-Batsh reiterated the factions’ support for the Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, especially hunger strikers, and held Israel fully responsible for their lives. Batsh said that the Palestinian forces and factions are “following up on the settlements, Judaization, land confiscation, field executions and cold-blooded killings taking place in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Danab Forces Kill Two Militants And Capture Four Alive Near Kismayo

“Somalia's special commandos DANAB along with with the Jubaland Security Forces have carried out a planned army operation near Kismayo port city on Thursday. The elite troops swept into Berhani, Qudus, Dharkeyn-urur, and Barjella areas west of Kismayo, engaging in a gunfight with Al-Shabaab that left two militants dead. Army officials confirmed that four other Al-Shabaab members were detained and taken into custody in Kismayo city. During the raid, the allied Forces seized the weapons used by the terrorists and destroyed two vehicles belonging to the terrorists.”

Mali

AFP: Mali Army Strikes Militants After Massacre, Army Says

“Mali’s army on Thursday said it had carried out air strikes against Al-Qaeda affiliated Macina Katiba militants in the country’s center following the massacre of at least 132 civilians. It carried out strikes between Monday and Wednesday around Bankass and Segue, near where the mass killing took place, and also further afield around Djenne and Tenenkou, the army said in a statement. “These actions resulted from efforts to search for and gather information on the perpetrators of the attacks against civilians on 18 June,” the statement said. The army did not provide any assessment of the operations, which no other sources have confirmed. Mali suffered one of its worst civilian killings over the weekend, the latest in an ongoing series of massacres across the Sahel. According to the government, 132 civilians were killed in Diallassagou and two surrounding villages, a few dozen kilometers from the town of Bankass. The Malian army described the killings as a backlash against the “strong pressure” it says it has put them under in recent months. The UN, France and other international observers have expressed grave concern about the deteriorating security situation in Mali. Dozens of civilians protested on Tuesday in Bankass to demand state protection. Mali has since 2012 been rocked by militant insurgencies.”

Africa

The North Africa Post: North African, Sahel Counterterrorism Agencies Explore In Marrakech Approaches To Strengthen Regional Cooperation

“Marrakech is hosting a two-day high-level meeting of the heads of counterterrorism and security agencies of North African and Sahel countries. The meeting, held under the auspices of the United Nations Office of Counterterrorism, provides participants with a platform to debate strategies and approaches to strengthen regional cooperation on counter-terrorism issues, terrorist threat assessment, and capacity building needs for long-term resilience. The two-day high-level meeting, themed “Capacity Building and Training for West African States”, is attended by representatives of 23 countries from the region, who will discuss and exchange views on their assessment of the threat in the Sahel region and its extension to the Gulf of Guinea. Over the past decade, the Sahel has emerged as a breeding ground for global terrorism and Morocco has long expressed concerns regarding the situation in the region. Also, Morocco had repeatedly advocated multilateralism in the fight against terrorism and expressed his willingness to share its experience in the fight against the scourge with African states. Last May, the Kingdom hosted the ministerial meeting of the global coalition to defeat ISIS and had then warned that separatism and terrorism are two sides of the same coin as fighters especially in Africa swap from one side to another.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Far-Right Cell Members Jailed For Terror Offences

“Members of a “fascist” cell who made gun parts on a 3D printer and rejoiced at mass shootings have been jailed. The three men and one woman were convicted of 18 offences in March following a two-month trial. Prosecutors said they had “celebrated racist violence and killing”. At Sheffield Crown Court, Daniel Wright, 29, Liam Hall, 31, and Stacey Salmon, 29, all from Keighley, and Samuel Whibley, 29, from Anglesey, were jailed for a total of 31 years. During the trial, jurors had heard that a partially constructed 3D-printed gun was found at the home of Hall and his partner Salmon at Hill Top Walk, Keighley. Firearms experts said despite being incomplete, the weapon could have proved lethal if fully assembled. Other weapons were also recovered from the gang, as well as chemicals and practical guides for making explosives. Counter terrorism police recovered a partially constructed 3D-printed gun from Hall and Salmon's home An undercover police officer had infiltrated the group, which used the Telegram online messaging app to exchange terror manuals and share racist ideology, the trial heard. The group also posted videos of atrocities, including mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. Daniel Wright, 30, of Whinfield Avenue, Keighley, was found guilty of seven offences, including an offence of manufacturing a firearm, and was jailed for 12 years.”

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