Eye on Extremism: Mar 24, 2020

The Sydney Morning Herald: Websites Hosting Terrorist Content To Be Blocked Under New Powers

“Australia's eSafety commissioner will be able to order internet providers to block websites hosting terrorist content under comprehensive rules developed in the wake of the livestreamed Christchurch attack last year. The new protocol will be invoked during crises where graphic terrorist content is being shared online, with the commissioner able to designate sites to be blacklisted by providers including Telstra, Foxtel, Optus, TPG, Vodafone and Vocus. Following the mass murder of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch last March, individual internet providers voluntarily blocked sites hosting the alleged attacker's viral video. At the time, there was no uniform legal basis for taking that step and the telcos have sought clarity on how to deal with future incidents. “The Christchurch terror attacks taught us that we cannot be complacent in the face of the willingness of terrorists to exploit the internet to traumatise the community and incite further heinous acts,” eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant said. Ms Inman Grant said the threshold for blocking websites should be “extremely high” in a free society, but the community also had a right to be protected from content that could cause harm and radicalisation.”

Politico: U.S. To Cut Afghan Aid By $1B Over Political Rift That Threatens Taliban Deal

“The U.S. is cutting aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion and will cut even more unless the country’s feuding political leaders can resolve their differences and form a government that can implement a peace deal with the Taliban. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision Monday after he briefly visited Kabul to try ending the dispute between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who are clashing over the results of their country’s presidential election last fall. Pompeo later reportedly met with a Taliban representative in Qatar. In a statement, Pompeo said Ghani and Abdullah had informed him that they were “unable to agree on an inclusive government” despite what the chief U.S. diplomat described as an urgent need for one. “The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests,” Pompeo said, adding that “this leadership failure poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests.” The announced aid cuts may appear harsh, given how much Afghanistan continues to rely on U.S. assistance since American troops overthrew the Taliban regime there following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

United States

The New York Times: Man Convicted Of Trying To Blow Up Oklahoma City Bank Gets 25 Years In Prison

“A man who was arrested in 2017 after a thwarted attempt to blow up a bank in downtown Oklahoma City — a plot that echoed the deadly bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building there in 1995 — was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison, the authorities said. The man, Jerry Drake Varnell, 26, of Sayre, Okla., will be on supervised release for the rest of his life once he completes his prison term, federal and local authorities said in a statement on Monday. Mr. Varnell was arrested in August 2017 after he tried to detonate a van full of what he believed to be explosives in an alley beside the downtown branch of BancFirst, Oklahoma’s largest state-chartered bank, the authorities said. The site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people, was a few blocks away. “This case is extremely poignant considering we are approaching the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing,” Chief Wade Gourley of the Oklahoma City Police Department said in the statement. “This event not only scarred the community of Oklahoma City, but had a profound effect on the nation.”

Syria

The Washington Post: How Canada Approved An Assad Loyalist To Serve The Country’s Terrorized Syrian Refugees

“Montreal businessman Waseem Ramli is so devoted to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his red Hummer — custom license plate “1SYRIA” — features the leader’s portrait splashed across a side window. So when Maclean’s magazine reported in September that Canada had approved Syria’s nomination of Ramli to the post of honorary consul in Montreal,somemembers of the Syrian diaspora were frightened. Since 2015, Canada has resettled more than 50,000 refugees who have fled Syria’s bloody civil war. They included members of the White Helmets, a volunteer group that has rescued thousands of civilians harmed by Syrian and Russian airstrikes. Ramli has described the White Helmets as a “terrorist organization” — echoing unsubstantiated claims made by Assad and his backers in Russia. As honorary consul, Ramli would have authority over renewing passports, notarizing documents and helping Syrians secure legal representation, among other services. Then-Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she hadn’t been informed of Ramli’s appointment. She called Ramli’s views “shocking and unacceptable,” condemned her department for signing off, and withdrew the approval.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Attacks, Wounds Iraqi Federal Police In Disputed Kirkuk

“A group of Islamic State militants launched two attacks against the Iraqi Federal Police forces in Kirkuk governorate, a source in the area told Kurdistan 24 early on Monday. The source claimed Islamic State militants attacked a security checkpoint belonging to the Iraqi Federal Police southwest of the city of Kirkuk, leading to heavy clashes between both sides. The source also confirmed that Islamic State militants bombed the headquarters of a federal police brigade near the oil fields in Khobaza, severely wounding an officer. Before the attack on Sunday, the Iraqi Federal Police announced the seizure of equipment between the villages of Atashana and Mansuriya in Kirkuk that “contained explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and explosive devices belonging to ISIS.” The authorities said the explosives were detonated and destroyed under the supervision of the division’s engineering battalion. The province, which is part of disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq, has witnessed frequent insurgent attacks in the past few months.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: 5 HDP Mayors In Southeast Turkey Detained In Terror Probe

“Five pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors have been detained on suspicion of having terrorist links, reports said Monday. Batman Mayor Mehmet Demir, Diyarbakır’s Silvan District Mayor Naşide Toprak, Ergani District Mayor Ahmet Kaya, Lice Mayor Tarık Mercan and Eğil District Mayor Mustafa Akkul were detained as part of an anti-terror probe early Monday. The police are searching the offices of the mayors, reports said. Silvan District Gov. Mehmet Uslu has been appointed as a trustee to replace mayor Toprak. The HDP has many times drawn fire for transferring taxpayer money and funds to the PKK, a globally recognized terrorist group. HDP mayors and local officials have been found to misuse funds in support of the PKK terrorist group and provide jobs to PKK sympathizers. Its mayors have also been accused of undermining municipal services, allowing the PKK to dig ditches in the streets and launch attacks on police and soldiers when the terrorist group adopted an urban warfare strategy in July 2015 and ended a two-year reconciliation period. HDP municipalities and their staff were also found to be actively participating in terrorist attacks launched after July 2015.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Pompeo Talks To Taliban, Afghan Leaders In Bid To Settle Dispute Impeding U.S. Exit

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched an urgent diplomatic rescue mission on Monday that failed to produce a breakthrough in his efforts to advance the Trump administration’s fragile, three-week-old deal with the Taliban that sets a timetable for the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan by the middle of next year. Amid a coronavirus pandemic that has constricted global travel, Mr. Pompeo flew to Afghanistan and Qatar for unannounced meetings with Afghan leaders and the Taliban that were meant to bring the warring parties together for direct talks. After failing to persuade Afghanistan’s feuding political leaders to resolve a dispute that has undercut the peace talks, Mr. Pompeo announced an immediate $1 billion aid cut, a deep hit for a country heavily reliant on foreign money. “The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests,” Mr. Pompeo said as he flew back to Washington. “Their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.” Mr. Pompeo spent eight hours in Kabul meetings that failed to bridge a political divide that has led to the creation of parallel Afghan presidencies.”

Yemen

Asharq Al-Awsat: Women’s Beauty Salons Raided By Yemen's Houthis

“The government of the Houthi coup in Yemen has adopted twenty precautionary measures that it claims are meant to fight COVID-19 such as the closure of beauty salons for women. This procedure reminds Yemenis of what the leader of the coup had previously stated that women’s Islamic robes were a reason behind the delay in their “divine victory.” Local sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sultan Zabin, a Houthi official, ordered dozens of armed men to carry out the new repressive campaign after the militias issued decrees banning beauty salons and tailors for women’s clothing. According to the sources, the owners of salons in Sanaa said that armed Houthis raided their shops alongside female security personnel from the Zaynabiyyat group and asked them to shut down under the threat of arrest. Rights activists in Yemen accuse the Houthis of implementing protocols that are very similar to those of ISIS and al-Qaeda. In fact, the militia group stated that these shops are one of the main reasons that have delayed its ability to defeat the legitimate government.”

Middle East

Deutsche Welle: Coronavirus: 'Islamic State' Seeks To Profit From Pandemic

“As public health authorities across the globe struggle to manage a devastating pandemic, the mayhem caused by the novel coronavirus has increasingly figured in the strategy of the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group. In their regular newsletter circulated last week, IS described the pandemic as a divinely wrought “painful torment” against “crusader nations,” a term referring to Western countries engaged in a military campaign to uproot the group. It went on to describe the outbreak's fear factor as having a greater effect than the epidemic itself, saying it has placed the Western world “on the verge of a great economic catastrophe” by restricting mobility, roiling markets and disrupting public life. “We ask God to increase their torment and save the believers from all that,” the group said, according to British researcher Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. The outbreak could be seen as reinforcing the militants' theology. It is also affecting international efforts to contain IS after the group's military defeat last year. In Iraq, NATO announced earlier this month it would suspend training for 60 days due to the pandemic. As a result, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he would scale back the UK's troop deployment since “the tempo of training has significantly declined.”

Egypt

The Telegraph: Egypt 'Torturing Hundreds Of Children In Mass Crackdown'

“Egyptian security forces have detained and tortured hundreds of children in recent years, including electrocuting them on their tongues and genitals and making them stand on beds of nails, according to a new report. An investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Belady, an Egyptian children's charity, found that children as young as 12 were being regularly swept up in raids by Egyptian authorities and abused while in detention. One boy, named only as Hamza, was arrested in 2016 for taking part in a protest as a 14-year-old. “During the first two days of his interrogation, officers used electric shocks on his genitals, head, and tongue. On the third day he was suspended by his arms, which dislocated both his shoulders,” a relative said....”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: 10 Things Nigeria Must Do To End Boko Haram, Banditry, Others - Report

“The Senate ad-hoc committee on security challenges last Wednesday disclosed its findings on why the nation's security agencies are underperforming in the fight against insecurity. The Senate had, in January, constituted the committee, chaired by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, to engage the security agencies with a view to restructuring the country's security architecture. Senator Abdullahi presented the committee's 74-page report during plenary, detailing its general findings and strategies to address insecurity. The report said the existing laws governing the security architecture were antiquated with conflicts, overlapping of jurisdictions and lack of definition of role, among other. Here are some of the solutions the committee suggested: 1. There should be an amendment of the Acts establishing security agencies to address the identified challenges and make them more efficient and effective. 2. The Nigerian Army should be equipped with anti-drone systems to counter the Boko Haram insurgents, which were now using cheap commercial drones to survey troop positions for attack planning. 3. All joint operations should be carried out strictly in accordance with extant operational procedures provided in the Armed Forces Act.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Militants Occupy Mozambican Town Near Planned LNG Projects

“Unidentified militants overran a Mozambican town close to an area in which companies including Total SA and Exxon Mobil Corp. are developing liquefied natural gas projects worth almost $60 billion. The assault began early Monday morning in Mocimboa da Praia, about 60 kilometers (38 miles) south of where the LNG developments are located in Cabo Delgado province, police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said in comments broadcast on state television. “They occupied the city, which is currently under fire,” Mudumane said Monday morning. “The defense an security forces are currently fighting to restore order.” Mocimboa da Praia is the district headquarters and was where Islamist militants attacked in October 2017 at the start of an insurgency that has left more than 800 people dead. Islamic State has claimed some of the attacks since June, but no group has declared responsibility for Monday’s raid yet. The attack could be the most significant yet and will further heighten concerns regarding the LNG projects, Ryan Cummings, Cape Town-based director at Signal Risk, said in a post on Twitter. The oil-price crash and coronavirus outbreak had already raised questions about the future of Total’s and Exxon’s plans in the southeast African country.”

All Africa: Kenya: Military, Police Foil Terror Attack On Camp As Shabaab Flee Into Forest

“Security agencies in Lamu have repulsed a group of over 10 heavily armed suspected Al-Shabaab militants who attempted to force their way into a camp belonging to the H-Young Construction Company at Milihoi area. This is the second time that the militants have attempted to attack the camp after a similar attack by four heavily armed suspected Al-Shabaab terrorists was thwarted by the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers on February 9. During the February attack, the militants managed to torch two vehicles, including an excavator belonging to the H-Young Company and a cement lorry headed to the Lapsset project site in Kililana. No one was killed or injured. Confirming the Saturday morning attack, Lamu police commander Moses Murithi said security agencies repulsed the terrorists who fled into the nearby forest. Mr Murithi said more officers have been deployed to the area to pursue the militants. He appealed to wananchi to report to authorities any suspicious incidents or individuals. “It is true. There was an attempted suspected Al-Shabaab attack at Milihoi area, just metres from where the H-Young Construction Company Camp is situated.”

Europe

Copenhagen Post: Right-Wing Extremist Terror Attack Threat Growing – PET

“The PET intelligence agency has raised the terror threat in Denmark from ‘reduced’ to ‘general’, reports TV2. However, the decision has nothing to do with the perceived capacity of extremist groups such as Islamic State, but more the growing threat of European right-wing extremists – particularly lone wolf operators who might even be home-grown. PET’s Center for Terroranalyse has partly raised the threat level because it believes overseas attacks like the one carried out in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 can inspire like-minded people in other countries – similar to the in Hanau, Germany in February. “This type of attack could also take place in Denmark,” contended Anders Henriksen, the head of the terror analysis centre. “The most likely right-wing terrorist attack in Denmark is an attack carried out by a solo terrorist or a small group located on the periphery of or outside a right-wing extremist environment.” PET is accordingly devoting more of its resources to monitoring the spread of right-wing propaganda via the internet. “We are looking into a complex, changeable and dynamic threat picture, where it still applies that terror can strike suddenly, and without any intelligence indications,” commented PET head Finn Borch Andersen.”

The Brussels Times: About 1,600 Terror Victims File For Compensation

“Close to 1,600 victims of terror attacks have applied to the Financial Assistance Commission for compensation, according to the Justice Department. By the end of December 2019, 1,000 people had requested such assistance from the State but the number shot up when, in January, the Justice Department stressed that the deadline for filing compensation claims for some victims would expire in March2020. On 15 March 2017, 13 attacks in Belgium and abroad were officially recognized as acts of terrorism. The list includes the attacks at Zaventem Airport and Maalbeek Subway Station on 22 March 2016, the Jewish Museum of Brussels in May 2014, Susa Beach, Tunisia, on 26 June 2015 and Nice, on the French National Day in 2016. Victims of these attacks had three years from the date on which they were recognized as terrorist acts to lodge requests for financial assistance. On 21 January, the Justice Department recalled that the three-year deadline expired on 18 March. At that time, over 1,000 files were being processed and over four million euros had already been approved by the Commission. “Between the 1st of January and the 18th of March, about 500 new applications were submitted by terror victims,” said Sieghild Lacoere, spokesperson for Justice Minister Geens.”