Eye on Extremism: June 7, 2021

Reuters: ISWAP Militant Group Says Nigeria’s Boko Haram Leader Is Dead

“The Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) militant group said in an audio recording heard by Reuters on Sunday that Abubakar Shekau, leader of rival Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram, was dead. Shekau died around May 18 after detonating an explosive device when he was pursued by ISWAP fighters following a battle, a person purporting to be ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi said on the audio recording. “Abubakar Shekau, God has judged him by sending him to heaven,” he can be heard saying. Two people familiar with al-Barnawi told Reuters the voice on the recording was that of the ISWAP leader. A Nigerian intelligence report shared by a government official and Boko Haram researchers have also said Shekau is dead. Last month, Nigeria’s military said it was investigating Shekau’s alleged death, also reported in Nigerian and foreign news outlets. The audio statement, first obtained by local media, is ISWAP’s first confirmation that its arch rival in the Lake Chad region has been killed. Islamic State “are consolidating the whole area, the Lake Chad region and (Shekau's stronghold),” said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst specialising in Boko Haram at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.”

The Wall Street Journal: Jihadists Massacre At Least 130 In Burkina Faso As West African Violence Surges

“The jihadists came at night on motorcycles and surrounded a remote village on Burkina Faso’s eastern border with Niger. By the early hours of Saturday morning, over 130 civilians were confirmed dead by the government—the worst terrorist atrocity in the history of a country that has been plunged into extremist violence in recent years—prompting calls to intensify international counterterror efforts across West Africa. During the three-hour onslaught on Yagha village, the militants shot indiscriminately, torching homes and a market before lobbing explosives at civilians seeking refuge in gold-mining holes, according to government officials and nongovernmental organizations based in the region. No one has claimed the killings, but government officials say it was the work of Islamic State’s regional affiliate, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, or ISGS, which has killed hundreds of civilians in recent months. Amed, a gold-miner from Yagha, said he was woken up by the sound of Kalashnikovs. He survived by hiding in a mining hole the Jihadists didn’t discover. “I found the bodies of four of my friends and we buried them in a mass grave,” he said over phone. “When our army says it’s safe, I don’t know what they mean,” he said.”

United States

The New York Times: F.B.I. Director Compares Danger Of Ransomware To 9/11 Terror Threat

“The Biden administration is sounding increasingly urgent alarms about high-profile ransomware attacks that have caused widespread gas shortages, shut meat processing plants and paralyzed hospitals, as officials step up efforts to counter cyberthreats. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Friday that the ransomware threat was comparable to the challenge of global terrorism in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack. “There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Mr. Wray said. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American.” The F.B.I., Mr. Wray said, is investigating 100 different software variants that have been used in various ransomware attacks, demonstrating the scale of the problem. Mr. Wray’s comments came on the heels of the Biden administration warning businesses on Thursday that they needed to take urgent steps to improve their cybersecurity and defend against ransomware attacks. One such attack this week on a meat processor, JBS, forced the shutdown of nine beef plants and disrupted poultry and pork production.”

ABC News: 150 Days After Capitol Attack, More Than 465 Arrested As FBI Seeks Tips On Hundreds More: DOJ

“More than 465 people have been arrested across nearly all 50 states in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department announced in a statement marking Saturday as 150 days since the insurrection. A fact sheet released by the DOJ on Friday helps to illustrate what officials have described as likely the largest criminal investigation in DOJ's history, which continues to sweep up more suspects. And investigators are continuing to search and seek tips on some of the most violent actors from that day. The department says it is still seeking tips to identify more than 250 individuals involved in assaults on officers or other acts of violence. So far, citizens around the country have provided more than 200,000 digital media tips to the FBI to assist in its investigations, according to the DOJ. On Jan. 6, a rally in support of President Donald Trump turned deadly after Trump encouraged his supporters to march to Capitol Hill, where Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. Rioters breached through barricades and security checkpoints, forcing Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers to evacuate or shelter in place, temporarily disrupting the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win.”

The Guardian: California Sheriff Warns Officers Not To Join Far-Right Extremist Groups, Records Reveal

“The sheriff’s department in Orange county, California, advised its officers earlier this year not to affiliate with far-right extremist groups and warned them against engaging with white supremacist websites, according to internal documents reviewed by the Guardian. The Orange county sheriff’s department’s “extremism awareness” training document from February instructed officers not to share disinformation and to avoid associating with militias, QAnon, rightwing platforms like Gab and 4chan, as well as second-amendment groups or law enforcement “clubs” that could be “avenues for exploitation”. The 66-page PowerPoint presentation for staff also included a lengthy section on “the extreme left”, warning officers about “Karl Marx’s influence”; the history of the Black Panther party; anti-fascist groups’ vandalism and “improvised weapons”; and animal rights and anti-war protesters. The training is notable, experts said, because it suggests that sheriff’s officials were acknowledging that their own officers could be drawn to far-right groups and were concerned about the risks of them posting racist or extremist content. Experts said it was unusual to see this kind of training from local police.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Carried Out 42 Attacks In Syria In May: Report

“ISIS carried out 42 sleeper cell attacks in May across northeast Syria, a slight increase compared to April numbers, according to the latest data from the Syria-based Rojava Information Center (RIC). “Thirty of these attacks were claimed by ISIS,” the report said, adding that the assaults resulted in 13 deaths and 40 injuries. “The number of fatalities is significantly lower than previous months, only half as many as in April.” In the notorious al-Hol camp, two attacks wounded an Iraqi worker and another Iraqi resident at the sprawling facility. Fiver other people were killed and smuggling activities out of the camp “caused the death of a teenage girl,” the report said. The number of targeted killings in the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria have fallen slightly following a sweeping security operation by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in late March. “The [SDF] and Asayish security operation in March-April seems to have brought a lasting improvement of the security situation inside the camp. However, smuggling networks remain active, and hard to control,” the report added. The Asayish and the SDF reportedly detained 77 suspected ISIS members during 13 raids in May.”

Iran

The New York Times: Iran’s Proxies In Iraq Threaten U.S. With More Sophisticated Weapons

“The United States is grappling with a rapidly evolving threat from Iranian proxies in Iraq after militia forces specialized in operating more sophisticated weaponry, including armed drones, have hit some of the most sensitive American targets in attacks that evaded U.S. defenses. At least three times in the past two months, those militias have used small, explosive-laden drones that divebomb and crash into their targets in late-night attacks on Iraqi bases — including those used by the C.I.A. and U.S. Special Operations units, according to American officials. Iran — weakened by years of harsh economic sanctions — is using its proxy militias in Iraq to step up pressure on the United States and other world powers to negotiate an easing of those sanctions as part of a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iraqi and American officials say Iran has designed the drone attacks to minimize casualties that could prompt U.S. retaliation. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top American commander in the Middle East, told The Associated Press last month that the drones pose a serious threat and that the military was rushing to devise ways to combat them.”

Al Monitor: Two Iranian Military Advisers Killed By IS In Syria

“Two Iranian military advisers were killed by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria on Thursday. Hassan Abdullah Zadeh and Muhsin Abbassi died in an IS ambush between the cities of Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra, the Russian state media outlet RT Arabic reported. The advisers were members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to RT’s correspondent in Tehran.  The story was also reported by Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency, and was subsequently picked up by several Arabic-language and Turkish media outlets. The IRGC is an active military force throughout Iran and the Middle East. Iranian forces fight on the side of the government in the Syrian civil war, as does Russia. IS lost its last Syrian territory to the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019. The group is still active in Syria, however, particularly near Deir ez-Zor. IS attacked Syrian government forces there in March.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: UN: Unprecedented Taliban Violence In 2020 Carries Into 2021

“Taliban insurgents show no sign of reducing the level of violence in Afghanistan to facilitate peace negotiations with the government, and appear to be trying to strengthen their military position as leverage, with the “unprecedented violence” of 2020 carrying into 2021, U.N. experts said in a new report circulated Friday. The panel of experts said the Taliban are reported to be responsible for the great majority of assassinations that have become a feature of the violence in Afghanistan, targeting government officials, women, human rights defenders and journalists among others. These attacks “appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the government and intimidating civil society,” it said. In the 22-page report to the U.N. Security Council, the panel said the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces by Sept. 11, the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, “will challenge Afghan forces by limiting aerial operations with fewer drones and radar and surveillance capabilities, less logistical support and artillery, as well as a disruption in training.”

Voice Of America: At Least 11 People Killed By A Landmine In Northern Afghanistan

“At least 11 civilians, including children, were killed when their vehicle set off a landmine in northern Afghanistan, local government officials said on Sunday, accusing Taliban insurgents for planting the mines. No militant group, including the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack that occurred on Saturday, hours before senior Taliban leaders and UN officials met in Qatar to discuss the Afghan peace process, security for diplomats and people working for humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan. A Taliban spokesperson said in statement on Twitter that Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the deputy head of the Taliban's political office “reiterated strong commitment to the Afghan peace process in the meeting” with UN officials. While the Taliban delegation assured security to all relevant UN agencies staff and other diplomats based in Afghanistan, Afghan officials accused the Taliban of incessant violence against government forces and civilians in a bid to seize complete territorial control over several provinces. Husamudim Shams, the governor of the northern province of Badgis, said 11 passengers, including three children, traveling to the city of Qala-e-Naw were killed in the blast on Saturday.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Capture 7th Afghan District As Foreign Forces Pull Out

“The Taliban seized a district in southern Afghanistan Friday without facing any resistance from Afghan government security forces, bringing to seven the number of districts the insurgents have overrun since the United States and its NATO allies began withdrawing their troops from the country a month ago. Separately, an overnight roadside bombing of a vehicle in the national capital, Kabul, killed a young female Afghan television anchor and her mother, and wounded her sister. Mina Khairi was working for the Ariana News channel for the past three years, her employer said. The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said, “AJSC is deeply saddened to hear Mina Khairi, TV presenter at Ariana News and her mother are among the victims of yesterday's blast in district 6 of Kabul city. We strongly condemn the attack & call on the government to seriously investigate the case.” Sharif Hassanyar, the head of Ariana news, said in a video statement: ‘While we are deeply saddened by the loss of Mena Khairi, Ariana News will not back away from freedom of the press and will continue its work for the freedom of the press in Afghanistan.” He says freedom of the press is a red line for his channel.”

France 24: Eleven Killed As Roadside Bomb Hits Afghan Bus

“At least 11 civilians including four women and three children were killed when a roadside bomb struck a bus in Afghanistan, officials said Sunday, as top US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad visited Kabul. The latest attack targeting passenger vehicles occurred on Saturday evening in the western province of Badghis, raising fears of fresh violence in the months ahead as the US military continues to pull out its last remaining troops from the country. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast but Badghis governor Hessamuddin Shams accused the Taliban of planting the bomb. Another official from the province, Khodadad Tayeb, confirmed the toll and said that the bus fell into a valley after it was hit by the bomb. Saturday's attack came after a series of blasts targeted passenger buses in Kabul this week, two of them on Thursday in areas largely dominated by the Shiite Hazara community. Afghanistan's Hazaras are often the target of brutal jihadist attacks usually claimed by the Islamic State. Hours after Thursday's attack activists launched a campaign on Twitter under the hashtag “stopHazaraGenocide”. On Sunday, a car bomb attack targeting the police headquarters of Balkh district in the northern province of Balkh left two policemen dead and 15 others wounded including civilians, police said.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Pakistani Taliban Kill 2 Policemen Overnight In Islamabad

“Pakistani Taliban gunmen shot and killed two policemen patrolling a residential area in Islamabad, the interior minister and police said Friday, raising fears the militants had established a presence in one of the country’s safest cities. The attack happened Thursday night in the Shamas Colony neighborhood of the capital. Police said officers have launched search efforts to arrest the killers. Hours after the attack, Mohammad Khurasani, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, claimed responsibility. Pakistani Taliban are separate from the Afghan Taliban, but they have their base in Afghanistan. Earlier, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condemned the attack and ordered a probe. In a video statement, he said such attacks were increasing and efforts were underway to make Islamabad a “safe zone.” The capital shares a border with the populous Punjab province, as well as the country’s northwest passage to Afghanistan.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Qatar Has Sent Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars To Terror Group - Report

“A group of Syrians filed legal action in London last week against the Qatari regime for allegedly sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an internationally designated terrorist group. The Times of London reported on its front page on Friday about Qatar’s alleged state sponsorship of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group. “A private office of the Gulf state’s monarch was at the heart of clandestine routes by which money was transferred to… the Nusra Front,” according to the report, and that “two Qatari banks, several charities, wealthy businessmen, leading politicians and civil servants are among the defendants in a claim for damages lodged by nine Syrians.” According The Times, the nine Syrians claimed in the High Court in London that “each played a part in an alleged conspiracy on behalf of the Qatari state, acting in coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni Islamist organization.” Qatar, whose monarchy was accused by Germany’s Development Minister Gerd Mueller of financing the Islamic State in 2014, is slated to host the soccer World Cup in 2022. According to the legal action filed by the Syrians, the pro-al-Nusra Front plot was activated “by high-ranking members of the Qatari ruling elite” who issued money to “actively support and facilitate” al-Nusra Front terrorists in Syria.”

The Tribune: Al-Qaeda Leader Aiman Al-Zawahiri Probably Alive But Too Frail: UN Report

“A significant part of the Al-Qaeda leadership resides in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region, including the group’s elusive leader Aiman al-Zawahiri, who is “probably alive but too frail to be featured in propaganda,” according to a United Nations report. The report, issued on Friday, said that large numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan. “Member states reported that a significant part of Al-Qaeda leadership remains based in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the core is joined by and works closely with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent,” the twelfth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said. Al-Qaeda leader “Aiman Muhammed Rabi al-Zawahiri, is believed to be located somewhere in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Previous reports of his death due to ill health have not been confirmed. “One member state reports that he is probably alive but too frail to be featured in propaganda,” the report said, without identifying the country. It said Al-Qaeda’s strategy in the near term is assessed as maintaining its traditional safe haven in Afghanistan for the Al-Qaeda core leadership.”

Libya

Reuters: Blast Kills Two At Southern Libya Checkpoint

“A blast struck a checkpoint in the southern Libyan city of Sebha on Sunday, killing at least two people including a senior police officer, local police, city officials and medics said. A security source in Sebha said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated a car bomb. Islamic State claimed late on Sunday responsibility for the attack, saying one of its militants stormed the checkpoint using an explosive-laden car. Sebha is in the deep south of Libya, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Taraghin, where Islamic State carried out a bomb attack last year that caused no casualties. Libya has suffered a decade of chaos and violence since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ousted the then head of state Muammar Gaddafi, but its two main warring sides this year consented to a new government. But while the installation of a unified administration and a push for national elections in December are seen as the best hope in years for a lasting political solution, the process is still fraught with challenges. Most territory is still controlled by local armed groups, major outside powers have not pulled foreign fighters from the front lines, and key figures disagree on the management of Libya's economic resources.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Mass Abductions Becoming Normalized In Nigeria, Experts Say

“For weeks now, Niger state in Central Nigeria has remained a hotspot for kidnappings in the country. State authorities said around 70 gunmen on motorbikes carried out an attack on the Islamiyya School on Sunday afternoon. One person was killed during the attack and scores of children between five and 13 years old were herded into the nearby bush. But that wasn't Niger state's only kidnapping last weekend. Resident Enoch Obemeasor said his neighborhood was also the scene of an attack in which numerous people were abducted. “They started operation around 10 o'clock, over three hours operation,” Obemeasor said. “They kidnapped 17 people, but two escaped and they took away the remaining 15.” For months, kidnap-for-ransom crises have rocked Nigeria, especially in the north of the country. School students have been most adversely affected. Since December, nearly 1,000 school children have been kidnapped, leading to the shutdown of schools, leaving millions of kids without a place to learn. Experts, however, said although citizens are growing weary of the frequent mass kidnappings, public outrage in diminishing. Hosea Adama, former chairman of the Chibok community where some 276 girls were taken by Boko Haram in 2014, explains why.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: ADF Rebels Killed 57 Civilians In DR Congo’s Ituri Region: UN

“Fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) group killed 57 civilians in displacement camps in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on May 31, the United Nations said on Friday, voicing outrage at the gun and machete assaults. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said the deadly attacks by the ADF, which was driven out of neighbouring Uganda in the late 1990s, had forced some 5,800 people to flee multiple displacement sites in the eastern Ituri province. “On May 31, ADF simultaneously attacked displacement sites and villages near the towns of Boga and Tchabi, killing 57 civilians – including seven children – who were shot and attacked with machetes,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva. “Several others were left wounded and 25 people were abducted, while over 70 shelters and stores were set on fire. “In Boga town alone, 31 women, children and men were killed. Bereaved family members told UNHCR partners that many of their relatives were burnt alive in their houses,” Baloch said. “UNHCR is outraged by this latest in a series of atrocities committed by armed groups in eastern DRC,” he added. The agency called for security in the region to be scaled up urgently to protect civilians, many of whom have been attacked and forced to flee multiple times.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: Hate Preachers Now A 'Priority Threat' Amid Concerns Over Return Of Islamist Extremism

“Hate preachers will be treated as a “priority threat” and tackled as part of the Government's counter-terrorism strategy, amid concerns about a resurgence of Islamist extremism. The Telegraph understands ministers are preparing to direct counter-terrorism officials to monitor and “disrupt” the activities of those who “promote fear and division”, without involvement in terror. One former counter-terrorism officer suggested that the move could lead to officials and police attempting to prevent certain extremists from distributing material on the streets or holding large events, and challenging them when they speak in public.  It could also lead to an “Al Capone approach” of pursuing individuals for offences such as mortgage fraud, fo which Tommy Robinson, the far-Right activist, was jailed in 2014. The development comes after a review by Sara Khan, the Government's extremism commissioner, and Sir Mark Rowley, the former head of counter-terrorism policing, warned that many “hateful extremists” who are not involved in terror are able to operate with “impunity”. It warned extremists were “creating a ‘chilling’ impact on freedom of expression.”

Europe

Reuters: Swiss Anti-Terrorism Law Worries Rights Experts

“A Swiss law giving the police new powers to fight terrorism could expose people to torture abroad and risks harming children, human rights and legal experts told Reuters ahead of a nationwide referendum on the law. After a series of attacks in Europe since 2015, Switzerland adopted the law last year to make it easier for the police to monitor and restrict the movement of potential offenders, including children as young as 12. Opponents succeeded in putting the law to a referendum on June 13, but opinion polls show about two thirds of voters intend to back the law, prompting experts to speak up in a final attempt to stop it. “When you set up a system in which the federal police initiates and decides without a judicial review at the outset, it's a Frankenstein brought to life,” Philip Jaffe, psychology professor and member of the United Nations committee of the rights of the child, told Reuters. Under the law, restraining orders or travel bans can be imposed from the age of 12, house arrest from the age of 15. All measures can be contested in court. The government says the measures are needed to prevent cases like the one of 15- and 16-year-old siblings who went to Syria in 2014 and were later convicted of supporting Islamic State.”

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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