Eye on Extremism: June 4, 2021

The Jerusalem Post: Germany Sees Increase Of Hezbollah Supporters And Members - Intel

“The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the domestic intelligence agency for the German state of Lower Saxony, revealed on Thursday in its new report a dramatic increase of the number of members and supporters of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. According to the German language intelligence report reviewed by The Jerusalem Post, the number of supporters and members rose from 1,050 in 2019 to 1,250 in 2020. There are about 180 Hezbollah members and supporters in the state of Lower Saxony, an increase of 20 members from 160 in 2019. Lower Saxony’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the formal name for its domestic intelligence agency, wrote that “Hezbollah denies the right of the state of Israel to exist and fights it with terrorist means. In Germany the followers of Hezbollah maintain organizational and ideological cohesion, among other things, in local mosque associations, which are primarily financed by donations.” The report added that “For the Shi’ite community, ‘Hezbollah,’ founded with the help of the Islamic Republic of Iran, demands the application of the Islamic legal system of Sharia.”

Dhaka Tribune: London Bridge Attack: UK Should Tackle Radicalization Seriously

“The Counter Extremism Project has asked the UK government to take the risk of extremists seriously and to tackle radicalization both online and on the ground. A New York-based non-profit non-governmental organization that combats extremist groups, the CEP made the statement on Thursday on the fourth anniversary of the London Bridge attack. On June 3, 2017, three Islamist terrorists drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and proceeded to stab people in the nearby area, taking the lives of eight and injuring almost 50 others.  The suspected ringleader, Khuram Butt, was a member of the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun, then led by the internationally-designated Islamist cleric and convicted ISIS supporter, Anjem Choudary. According to a friend, Butt was radicalized by watching YouTube videos posted by US hate preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril, who produced online lectures that praised jihad and reportedly influenced many Westerners to fight in the Syrian conflict. Butt had twice been cautioned by the police and had been investigated by MI5 for his extremist connections. David Ibsen, executive director of the CEP, said: “The anniversary of this attack comes as the inquest of Usman Khan, the terrorist responsible for the 2019 London Bridge attack, has reached its final conclusions.”

United States

CBS News: Justice Department To Prioritize Ransomware Attacks On Same Level As Terrorism

“The Department of Justice says it is so concerned about the “growing threat” that digital extortion poses nationwide that it will now handle ransomware investigations the same way it handles terrorism cases. After a spate of attacks on the world's largest meat processing company to a major oil pipeline, the White House is warning all companies to take “immediate steps” to increase their security. Any business could be targeted by foreign cyber criminals, it warned. The Justice Department is making clear that it will use all the tools in its arsenal to counter the threat. In a memo to federal prosecutors on Thursday, the Justice Department's second-in-command pressed investigators to step up efforts to track down and prosecute the criminal gangs carrying out the attacks. The memo noted the “destructive and devastating consequences” the attacks are having on critical infrastructure. “We recognize this is an increasing threat,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. The White House had an extraordinary warning to American companies, telling them to beef up their cybersecurity because “no company is safe.”

NBC News: 'They Are Hair On Fire': Biden Administration Mulls Cyberattacks Against Russian Hackers

“The Biden administration is moving to treat ransomware attacks as a national security threat, using intelligence agencies to spy on foreign criminals and contemplating offensive cyber operations against hackers inside Russia, U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the matter said. Although using the military to take action against criminals wouldn't be without precedent, it's controversial in legal circles, and any American cyber action against targets in Russia would risk retaliation. But officials say criminal ransomware attacks from abroad, once a nuisance, have become a major source of economic damage, as the disruption of gasoline and meat supplies in recent weeks has illustrated. “Right now, they are hair on fire,” a former government official said of the Biden administration. In an example of the new approach, the White House was unusually quick to point the finger at Russia for harboring the attackers, just one day after officials learned of the ransomware strike on the meat processor JBS. It's extremely unusual for a White House to publicly call out a foreign adversary over a single ransomware attack.”

New York Daily News: Victims Of Hudson River Bike Path Terrorist Sayfullo Saipov Agonizing Over Indefinite Trial Delay: Prosecutor

“The indefinite delay of a trial for the Uzbek man accused of a terrorist attack on the Hudson River bike path in 2017 is “aggravating the emotional pain” of his victims, a prosecutor said Thursday. Sayfullo Saipov still does not know when his death penalty trial will begin due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “What we’re hearing from victims and their families, with increasing frequency, is that this delay — the indefinite nature of the delay — has aggravated their emotional pain,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richman said during a hearing in Manhattan Federal Court. The prosecutor read a letter from the family of a victim from abroad.  “We understand that courtrooms are operating there, the wait is terrible ... It’s important to impart justice in this unfair and unexpected death in our family,” Richman said. Saipov is accused of running over his victims with a rental truck down the scenic bike path. Eight people died and 11 were injured.”

Syria

Voice Of America: In Syria Camp, IS Ideology Molds Forgotten Children

“At the sprawling al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, children pass their days roaming the dirt roads, playing with mock swords and black banners in imitation of Islamic State group militants. Few can read or write. For some, the only education is from mothers giving them IS propaganda. It has been more than two years since the Islamic State group’s self-declared “caliphate” was brought down. And it has been more than two years that some 27,000 children have been left to languish in al-Hol camp, which houses families of IS members. Most of them not yet teenagers, they are spending their childhood in a limbo of miserable conditions with no schools, no place to play or develop, and seemingly no international interest in resolving their situation. Only one institution is left to mold them: remnants of the Islamic State group. IS operatives and sympathizers have networks within the camp, and the group has sleeper cells around eastern Syria that continue to wage a low-level insurgency, awaiting an opportunity for a revival. Kurdish authorities and aid groups fear the camp will create a new generation of militants. They are pleading with home countries to take the women and children back. The problem is that home governments often see the children as posing a danger rather than as needing rescue.”

Iraq

The National: Iraq’s Refusal To Free Militia Leader Risks Escalation, Experts Warn

“Iraq’s refusal to release paramilitary commander Qassem Musleh a week on from his surprise arrest could lead to long-term security repercussions, experts have told The National. Mr Musleh, leader of Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) operations in Anbar province, was arrested in Baghdad last Wednesday on suspicion of terrorism and in connection with the targeted killing of civil society activists and protesters. Tensions in the capital skyrocketed when PMF fighters taking to the streets around the office of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, prompting him to deploy Iraqi security forces and the elite Counter-Terrorism Service to protect the government and diplomatic missions. The standoff sparked fears of violence as some armed PMF factions gathered at the entrance to the fortified diplomatic Green Zone in Baghdad. But, so far, the situation has remained stable. A previous attempt by Mr Al Kadhimi to have PMF fighters arrested led to similar standoffs and threats of violence before the gunmen were ultimately let free.”

Euronews: Explosion At Baghdad Restaurant Kills Three, Iraqi Officials Say

“An explosion at a crowded restaurant in Baghdad has reportedly killed three people and injured at least 16 others. The blast took place in northwestern Baghdad, according to The Associated Press, which said it confirmed the deadly incident and its death toll with two Iraqi health officials. The health officials, who spoke with AP on the condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said some of the 16 injured were in critical condition. Video published on social media appears to show the moment the blast took place, while other footage shows at least one person being carried out of the restaurant to a waiting ambulance. It is not immediately known what caused the explosion, which unfolded in Baghdad's Kadhmiyah district. A military statement said that an unknown object had exploded near the Bab-al-Murad area of Kadhmiyah. It said specialised forces were investigating the incident to determine what type of explosion unfolded. Local reports have suggested the incident could have been connected to a gas cylinder explosion, but those reports have not been confirmed. Explosions in Baghdad have become less common over the past few years in the wake of the defeat of the Islamic State group in 2017.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqis With Suspected ISIS Ties Deprived Of Basic Services Following Camp Closures, Rights Watchdog Says

“The Iraqi government’s decision to close and evict thousands of people from displacement camps has created a vulnerable population with no access to basic services, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Thursday. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government is trying to shut the door on the displacement issue and return thousands of Iraqis to homes they fled when ISIS occupied large swathes of the country from 2014 to 2017. The government plan came into force in mid-October 2020 with the closure of a series of the displacement camps around the country. So far 16 camps have been closed in areas that fall under the authority of the federal government while those in the autonomous Kurdistan Region remain operational. Kadhimi’s government intends to return the displaced population to their places of origin, a move that has exacerbated the already fragile condition of the IDPs as they are left with no access to water, security, and healthcare services upon their return. This is mainly due to a discriminatory application of Iraq’s 2009 compensation law, HRW found.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Intercepts 13 Terrorist Suspects Attempting To Cross Borders

“Turkish border units intercepted 13 people on the country's borders, some of whom were trying to illegally pass from Turkey to Greece while others were attempting to get from Syria to Turkey, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. “Seven of the held individuals were identified as members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), one as a member of the PKK and one as a member of the Daesh terrorist organization,” said the statement. In its more than 40-year campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. Since 2016, Turkey has launched a trio of successful counterterrorism operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and to enable the peaceful settlement of residents, titled: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018) and Peace Spring (2019). FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the quelled coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people dead and 2,734 injured. FETÖ is accused of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Afghan War Enters More Brutal Phase As U.S. Troops Begin Pullout

“The fight between Afghan government troops and the Taliban is entering a more brutal phase as a reduction in airstrikes against the militants by withdrawing U.S. forces has largely shifted combat to ground engagements, many on the edges of densely populated urban areas after some recent Taliban advances. To clear pockets of this district, just a few hundred yards from the edge of Helmand’s provincial capital, Afghan government forces under Gen. Sami Sadat moved house to house last month through tightly packed neighborhoods, often on foot, as Afghan aircraft carried out waves of heavy strikes. The area had been densely mined by the Taliban, and weeks of clashes left the streets shredded: dirt roads littered with craters and mud-straw walls pockmarked with bullets and shrapnel. For months, the Taliban slowly expanded its influence across Afghanistan after signing the withdrawal deal with the United States. The halt in offensive U.S. operations, especially airstrikes and raids, allowed the group to mass fighters, gather supplies and chip away at government-held territory. The country’s south, specifically Helmand, witnessed some of the militants’ most striking advances. By May 1, the date marking the start of the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban had massed hundreds of fighters in Helmand.”

Associated Press: Bomb Rips Through Minivan In Afghan Capital, At Least 4 Dead

“A bomb ripped through a minivan in a mostly Shiite neighborhood of the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least four people, a police spokesman said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The police spokesman, Ferdaws Faramarz, said the attack happened in western Kabul. The area is largely populated by the minority Hazara ethnic group who are mostly Shiite Muslims. The Islamic State group has carried out similar bombings in the area, including an attack on two minivans on Tuesday that killed at least 10 people. Shiites are a minority in mostly Sunni Afghanistan, and the local Islamic State affiliate has declared war against them. In a statement late on Wednesday, IS said they had also bombed an electrical grid station on Tuesday, leaving much of Kabul in darkness. Violence and chaos continues to escalate in Afghanistan as the U.S. and NATO continue their final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 American soldiers and 7,000 allied forces. The last of the troops will be gone by Sept. 11 at the latest.”

The Wall Street Journal: Afghan Fighter Pilot, Facing Taliban Death Threats, Arrives In The U.S.

“A celebrated Afghan fighter pilot trained by the American military, who hid for months with his wife and 5-year-old daughter from Taliban death threats, arrived in the U.S. after receiving temporary protection status. Maj. Naiem Asadi’s case came under the spotlight late last year after Washington reversed its initial decision to help him leave Afghanistan and live in the U.S. Maj. Asadi and his family left Kabul on Tuesday after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, last month granted them parole—a temporary protection status for noncitizens in the country, according to his lawyer. During this period he can apply for asylum, the lawyer said. “You can’t even imagine how happy I am,” Maj. Asadi said on the phone from New Jersey on Thursday, his voice giddy with excitement and his daughter playing noisily in the background. It wasn’t immediately clear why the U.S. provided Maj. Asadi and his family safe passage now. A USCIS spokesperson said the agency didn’t comment on individual cases, and couldn’t share, confirm, or deny immigration information about specific individuals.”

Middle East

Israel Hayom: Report: Hamas Turns To Cryptocurrency To Bypass Terror Sanctions

“…The Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Gaza-based Islamist group, blacklisted as a terrorist entity by the United States, the European Union and others, launched several platforms that accept bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies, allowing its backers to bypass international sanctions. "Our fundraising strategies keep on evolving as more restrictions are being placed on us," a Hamas official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Wall Street Journal. According to the Wall Street Journal, between May 10 and 20, as Hamas and Israeli forces clashed, the al-Qassam Brigade's flagship website, alqassam.ps, saw a considerable increase in traffic and engagement, which is the length of time visitors remain on the site, according to an analysis by the Counter Extremism Project, a New York-based non-profit group that describes Hamas as a violent Islamist extremist group.”

Nigeria

Yahoo News: After Attack On Rival, IS Jihadists Battle For Control In Northeast Nigeria

“For years, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was a dreaded figure in Nigeria's insurgency, terrorising local communities with attacks, bombs and kidnappings. Today, this once-dominant figure seems to be leaving the scene after being badly wounded -- or perhaps killed -- last week in clashes with rival Islamic State-allied jihadists. If so, a major shift in Nigeria's 12-year-old jihadist insurgency appears to be developing as his enemies consolidate their grip, analysts say. Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) is now targeting Boko Haram's soldiers after raiding Shekau's stronghold in Sambisa forest in Borno state, local and security sources said. ISWAP has intensified attacks on Boko Haram factions, appointed its own chief in Shekau's enclave and executed 10 captured commanders who had refused to surrender, the sources said. As ISWAP absorbs Shekau's fighters and territory, Nigeria's army potentially faces a more unified jihadist force, analysts say. But ISWAP may also struggle to control or persuade Boko Haram factions loyal to Shekau outside Sambisa, especially in border areas. “It may not be over yet, ISWAP will have to subdue or convince these camps to coalesce (them) into its fold to fully consolidate its control,” said one security source.”

Africa

Yahoo News: 11 Dead In Fresh Violence In Eastern DR Congo

“At least 11 people were killed by an armed group in eastern DR Congo, sources said Thursday, bringing the troubled region's death toll to at least 70 since the start of the week, according to an AFP tally. Eleven miners in the gold-rich territory of Djugu, in the northeastern province of Ituri, were killed early Wednesday by a local group called the FPIC, Mungwalu district mayor Jean-Pierre Pikilisende told AFP. The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a respected NGO that monitors violence in eastern DR Congo, said 12 people had been executed. Pikilisende said the militia had come to take control over the area, whose gold is mined by poor artisanal diggers. Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province have been placed under a “state of siege” -- a government attempt to stem escalating violence by replacing civilian officials with senior army or police officers. Fifty-three people were killed overnight Sunday in two Ituri villages, in the region's worst one-day massacre in recent history, sources there told an AFP correspondent. The journalist said 21 died in Tshabi and another 32 in Boga, where a camp for displaced people was targeted. Eighty-four shacks in the camp were torched, as were eight stores in nearby Boga, the reporter saw. Fifteen homes were burned in Tshabi.”

The National: US Announces Bounty On Al Qaeda Chief In North Africa

“The US on Wednesday placed a bounty of up to $7 million on the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the organisation’s North Africa branch. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice programme announced that it would offer the money “for information leading to the location or identification of Abu Ubaydah Yusef Al Anabi”. Mr Al Anabi, an Algerian citizen, previously led Aqim's media and propaganda operations but became the leader of the group last year after French troops killed his predecessor, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in Mali.  While most of the group’s fighters are engaged in ground combat in Mali, he and many of the organisation’s leaders are thought to be based in Algeria. Washington first designated Aqim's predecessor organisation, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a terrorist entity in 2001. The group rebranded and pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda’s global network in 2006.”

United Kingdom

The National: UK MPs Try To Block Foreign Aid Cuts That 'Allow Extremism To Flourish'

“MPs are trying to block planned cuts to Britain's foreign aid budget in a move that could embarrass Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the same week he hosts world leaders for the G7 summit. Up to 30 rebel Conservative Party MPs said they have enough support to defeat the planned cuts and lead to an aid spending increase next year with a vote in the House of Commons. One MP said the cuts would “allow extremism a place to flourish”. Former prime minister Theresa May, former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Brexit secretary David Davis, and the chairs of eight powerful committees, are among the rebels. The vote is planned to take place next week just as the G7 summit gets under way in Cornwall. Tobias Ellwood, defence committee chairman, suggested extremist groups such as Boko Haram would be delighted with the planned cuts. “Well-directed aid pays for itself – it eases poverty, it educates and builds confidence, it slows migration, it reforms justice and it builds markets for prosperity,” he told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme. “Most critically from my perspective, it denies extremism a space to flourish. When we pull out of programmes – let’s say in Nigeria – Boko Haram will be delighted when that happens. When we remove ourselves in Libya, Russia will be pleased to fill that vacuum. The same with Al Shabab in Somalia.”

Southeast Asia

Eurasia Review: Philippines: Lieutenant In Local Islamic State Faction Surrenders

“A senior suspected member of the Islamic State militant group in the Philippine has surrendered to the military in southern Sultan Kudarat province, authorities said Thursday. Officials identified the suspect as Khalid Kalaing, 57, and said he was a sub-leader of the Maguid Group, a faction of Daulah Islamiyah (DI), as the Islamic State (IS) chapter in the country is known. “His surrender was due to the relentless efforts of security forces with the cooperation of the local officials,” said Lt. Col. Romel Valencia, commanding officer of the 7th Infantry Battalion. Kalaing gave himself up to government troops on Wednesday near the town of Isulan, Valencia said. The military had dismissed the Maguid Group as a small faction made up mostly of militants engaged in banditry and other crimes. “The surrenderer feared for his life because of continuous focused military operations against the DI and the equally lawless Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the borders of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces,” Valencia said, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency. The suspect was being questioned, the military said, adding it could not divulge more details about him.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

The Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide… [terrorist attacks will] remove the threat of the Hispanic voting bloc.

Patrick Crusius, El Paso Shooter Aug. 2019
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