Eye on Extremism: March 18, 2024

Associated Press: Congo Reinstates The Death Penalty After More Than 20 Years As It Struggles To Deal With Militants

“Congo has lifted a more than two-decade-old moratorium on the death penalty as authorities struggle to curb violence and militant attacks in the country, according to a justice ministry statement released on Friday. The statement, dated earlier this week, said the ban from 2003 allowed offenders accused of treason and espionage to get away without proper punishment. Eastern Congo has been riddled by conflict for decades, linked to more than 120 armed groups fighting for land and power and in some cases, protecting their communities. The government said the violence in the east has plagued the country with recurrent conflict and resulted in a surge of attacks that have spread terror among the communities. In recent years, the M23 rebel group — the most dominant in the region with alleged links to neighboring Rwanda — has continued to attack villages, forcing many to flee to Goma, the region’s largest city. M23 has laid siege to several communities with about half of North Kivu province under it’s control.”

Associated Press: Pakistani Jets Target Suspected Pakistani Taliban Hideouts In Afghanistan, Killing 8 People

“Pakistani airstrikes targeted multiple suspected hideouts of the Pakistani Taliban inside neighboring Afghanistan early on Monday, killing at least eight people and drawing return fire from the Afghan Taliban, officials said. The latest escalation is likely to further increase tensions between Islamabad and Kabul. The Pakistani strikes came two days after insurgents killed seven soldiers in a suicide bombing and coordinated attack in northwestern Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban denounced the strikes as an aggression on Afghanistan’s territorial integrity, saying they killed several women and children. The defense ministry in Kabul said Afghan forces later on Monday “targeted Pakistan’s military centers along the border with heavy weapons,” without providing details. The Pakistani strikes were carried out in Khost and Paktika provinces bordering Pakistan, according to two Pakistani security and intelligence officials. The officials provided no further details and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.”

United States

The Washington Post: U.S. Attempts To Stop Arms Smuggling To Yemen With Limited Resources

“The Biden administration is expanding efforts to surveil and intercept Iranian weapons being smuggled to Yemen, where Houthi militants have staged a deadly campaign of violence against commercial shipping that has proved resilient to six weeks of military strikes, said U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The initiative seeks to map seafaring routes used by Tehran and stop the arms shipments while in transit, an acknowledgment that the Houthis are likely to pose a significant security challenge for the foreseeable future. It is part of a broader strategy that also includes sanctions and diplomatic pressure, but it faces constraint as essential military resources are in short supply. A senior U.S. defense official described the evolving mission as “a renewed effort to try to better understand what those water routes look like.” Like others interviewed for this report, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive military activity. The work requires considerable collaboration with the U.S. intelligence community, the official said. ”

Associated Press: Proposed US Resolution Would Back Global Efforts For An Immediate And Sustained Cease-Fire In Gaza

“The United States circulated the final draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution late Thursday that would support international efforts to establish “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war as part of a deal to release hostages taken captive during Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. No time has been set for a vote, and the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, could still be changed. The U.S. circulated the initial draft on Feb. 19, a day before it vetoed a widely supported Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying it would interfere with negotiations on a deal to free the hostages. It was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, and has put President Joe Biden’s administration at odds with much of the world, including many allies. Diplomatic talks have stalled since efforts failed to produce a cease-fire before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — an informal deadline that passed without any agreement.”


Reuters: Jordan Army Detects Suspicious Aerial Movement Near Syria Border

“The Jordanian army said on Monday its air defence radar system had detected suspicious aerial movements from an unknown source along the border with Syria, which a regional security source said were most probably missiles fired by pro-Iranian militias from Iraq. Jets believed to be Jordanian had been heard hovering over the Jordanian city of Irbid and areas near the border crossing with Syria, witnesses said. The army said an air force squadron had flown to ensure the airspace was not under any threat. It did not say from where the movements came. "The airforce responded to an alert of radar systems that monitored aerial movements whose source is not known," the army statement said. In January three U.S. service members were killed and as many as 34 wounded after a drone attack on a U.S outpost in Jordan that Washington linked to Iranian-backed militants. Jordan has requested Patriot air defence systems from Washington, saying it fears being caught in the crossfire if the war in Gaza pulls in Iran and its well-armed regional militias on the kingdom's borders.”

Associated Press: Israel Strikes Several Sites In Syria, Wounding A Soldier, Syrian Military Says

“Israeli airstrikes hit several sites in southern Syria early Sunday wounding a soldier, Syrian state media reported. State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, said air defenses shot down some of the missiles, which came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at around 12:42 a.m. local time. The strikes led to “material losses” and the wounding of a soldier, the statement said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said Israeli strikes also hit two military sites in the Qalamoun mountains northeast of Damascus, an area where the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has operations. One of the targets was a weapons shipment, the observatory said. The observatory said the strikes represented the 24th time Israel has struck inside Syria since the beginning of 2024. They have killed 43 fighters with various groups — including Hezbollah and Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard — and nine civilians.”


Associated Press: Attack By Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Targets A Ship In The Red Sea, Though Its Crew Is Reportedly Safe

“An attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted a tanker in the Red Sea early Friday but the ship’s crew was unharmed, authorities said. It was the latest in the rebels’ campaign against shipping over Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center initially reported the ship had been “struck by a missile” off the port city of Hodeida but later Friday said that further inspection of the vessel in daylight found no damage. It described the crew as being “safe” and said the ship was continuing on its way. The private security firm Ambrey also reported Friday’s attack and said the tanker with armed guards aboard had a “near miss” on Thursday off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. It said the ship had been Israel-affiliated but changed owners in February. In a statement, the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the tanker as the Panama-flagged, Vietnamese-owned Pacific 01. That tanker previously had been owned by Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Houthis. That company is ultimately controlled by Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer.”

Associated Press: A Suspected Attack By Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Has Targeted A Ship In The Gulf Of Aden

“A suspected attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels saw an explosive detonate near a ship early Sunday in the Gulf of Aden, potentially marking their latest assault on shipping through the crucial waterway leading to the Red Sea. The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said the vessel’s crew saw the blast as it passed off the coast of Aden, the port city in southern Yemen home to the country’s exiled government. “No damage to the vessel has been reported and the crew are reported safe,” UKMTO said. The Houthis have launched repeated drone and missile attacks in the same area, disrupting energy and cargo shipments through the Gulf of Aden. The rebels did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack, though it typically takes the Houthis several hours before acknowledging their assaults. Separately, the U.S. military’s Central Command said it carried out a series of strikes targeting the Houthis. It said it destroyed five drone boats and one drone before takeoff from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen on Saturday. It was an unusually high number of drone boats to be destroyed.”

Middle East

Bloomberg: Israeli Troops Target Gaza City Hospital, Citing Hamas Activity

“Israel’s military made its deepest incursion into Gaza City in about two weeks, saying its troops were undertaking a “precise operation” targeting the main hospital in the northern metropolis that bore the brunt of the first weeks of fighting in the conflict. Early Monday’s raid at Al-Shifa hospital, which has been largely dysfunctional since November, came after intelligence emerged “indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists to conduct and promote terrorist activity,” the military said in a statement. The incursion comes about four months after Israeli troops completed a multi-day operation at the hospital, where the military said it uncovered underground tunnels and military infrastructure for Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Israel’s forces first entered Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s surprise Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 people and led to more than 200 people being taken hostage. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the US and European Union. While international focus has increasingly been on the possibility of a cease-fire and the situation in the southern city of Rafah, where Israel says the bulk of Hamas’ remaining forces are based, the raid in Gaza City shows how fighting continues across the narrow Gaza Strip.”

Associated Press: Cease-Fire Talks With Israel And Hamas Are Expected To Resume On Sunday In Qatar

“Stalled talks aimed at securing a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war are expected to resume in earnest in Qatar as soon as Sunday, according to Egyptian officials. The talks would mark the first time both Israeli officials and Hamas leaders join the indirect negotiations since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. International mediators had hoped to secure a six-week truce before Ramadan started earlier this week, but Hamas refused any deal that wouldn’t lead to a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a demand Israel rejected. But both sides have made moves in recent days aimed at getting the talks, which never fully broke off, back on track. Hamas gave mediators a new proposal for a three-stage plan that would end the fighting, according to two Egyptian officials, one who is involved in the talks and a second who was briefed on them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal the contents of the sensitive discussions. The first stage would be a six-week cease-fire that would see the release of 35 hostages — women, those who are ill and older people — held by militants in Gaza in exchange for 350 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.”

Reuters: UNICEF Says Over 13,000 Children Killed In Gaza In Israel Offensive

“The U.N. children's agency said on Sunday over 13,000 children have been killed in Gaza in Israel's offensive, opens new tab, adding many kids were suffering from severe malnutrition and did not "even have the energy to cry." "Thousands more have been injured or we can't even determine where they are. They may be stuck under rubble ... We haven't seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell told CBS News' "Face the Nation" program on Sunday. "I've been in wards of children who are suffering from severe anemia malnutrition, the whole ward is absolutely quiet. Because the children, the babies ... don't even have the energy to cry." Russell said there were "very great bureaucratic challenges" moving trucks into Gaza for aid and assistance. International criticism has mounted on Israel due to the death toll of the war, the starvation crisis in Gaza, and allegations of blocking aid deliveries into the enclave. A U.N. expert said earlier this month that Israel was destroying, opens new tab Gaza's food system as part of a broader "starvation campaign." Israel rejected the accusation.”


The New York Times: Shabab Gunmen Penetrate Heavy Security To Besiege Hotel In Somalia

“Five assailants with the terrorist group Al Shabab stormed a hotel in a highly fortified area close to Somalia’s presidential palace on Thursday night, engaging security forces for about 12 hours in sustained fighting that left three people dead and injured 27 — including members of parliament — before the militants were finally killed, according to Somali officials. The attack underscored Al Shabab’s enduring capacity to stage attacks on a high-profile target in the capital, despite an aggressive counteroffensive by the Somali government, backed by the U.S. military. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud promised to eliminate the group by fighting it militarily, ideologically and financially, when he came to power in mid-2022. The militants with Al Shabab, a Qaeda-linked group, stormed the SYL Hotel in central Mogadishu after 9:30 p.m. local time, a police spokesman, Kasim Ahmed Roble, said Friday. Video footage broadcast on local television showed mangled cars and widespread destruction near the hotel’s entrance, while debris and blood covered the hotel’s floors inside.”

United Kingdom

BBC: Extremist Who Urged Killing Of Jews Is Jailed

“A man who posted pictures, videos and comments online glorifying Nazis and calling for the extermination of Jews has been jailed for two years and nine months. Harry Parris, 22, of Bittaford near Plymouth in Devon, admitted four offences of posting the material and encouraging terrorism on Telegram and BitChute between 2019 and 2021. He had also admitted six offences of having documents likely to be useful to a person preparing acts of terrorism. Winchester Crown Court heard he became exposed to extremist views during the Covid-19 pandemic. While sentencing Parris, Judge Jane Miller KC said the defendant, who had been diagnosed with ADHD, had become isolated during the pandemic and had joined an extreme right-wing organisation. He also joined Telegram online messaging groups "dedicated to promoting neo-Nazi content and sharing incitements to violence". Parris had also become the administrator of a Telegram channel which the judge said included posts that were "explicitly racist and some of which could be seen as a direct call for action".”

Bloomberg: Why UK’s New Definition Of Extremism Draws Critics

“UK Communities Secretary Michael Gove published a new definition of extremism March 14, and groups that run afoul of it will be banned from working with, or receiving funding from, government departments. The move comes after a huge uptick in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts in the country following the outbreak of war between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US and European Union. The new definition, which the government says is aimed at tackling Islamist and far-right extremism, has attracted controversy for moving closer to policing thought as opposed to action. In its 2011 definition, the government characterized extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” It also included calls for the death of UK armed forces personnel. The new description defines extremism as “the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or intentionally create a permissive environment for others” to achieve those results.”


Associated Press: Germans Thought They Were Immune To Nationalism After Confronting Their Nazi Past. They Were Wrong

“When Sabine Thonke joined a recent demonstration in Berlin against Germany’s far-right party, it was the first time in years she felt hopeful that the growing power of the extremists in her country could be stopped. Thonke, 59, had been following the rise of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, with unease. But when she heard about a plan to deport millions of people, she felt called to action. “I never thought such inhuman ideas would be gaining popularity in Germany again. I thought we had learned the lessons from our past,” Thonke said. Many Germans believed their country had developed an immunity to nationalism and assertions of racial superiority after confronting the horrors of its Nazi past through education and laws to outlaw persecution. They were wrong. If an election were held today, the AfD would be the second largest party, according to polls. But national polls camouflage an important division: the AfD has disproportionate support in the formerly communist and less prosperous eastern states of Germany.”


Reuters: EU's Von Der Leyen Says Gaza Facing Famine, Ceasefire Needed Rapidly

“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday that Gaza was facing famine and there had to be a rapid ceasefire agreement in the war between Israel and Hamas. "Gaza is facing famine and we cannot accept this," von der Leyen told reporters, speaking in Cairo after signing a strategic partnership agreement with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. "It is critical to achieve an agreement on a ceasefire rapidly now that frees the hostages and allows more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza." Sisi said that Egypt and European leaders have agreed to reject an Israeli military operation in Rafah. "(An operation) would double the humanitarian catastrophe that civilians in the Gaza Strip are suffering from, in addition to the effects of that operation on liquidating the Palestinian cause, which Egypt outright rejects," Sisi said. Their comments follow the announcement of a 7.4 billion euro ($8.1 billion) funding package from the EU for Egypt, as well as an upgrade in relations with the North African nation, part of a push - criticised by rights groups - to stem migrant flows to Europe.”


Associated Press: India’s Navy Takes Control Of Bulk Carrier Hijacked By Somali Pirates And Evacuates Crew

“The Indian navy said late Saturday that it had taken control of a bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates and evacuated the 17 crew members on the vessel. In a statement on X, the navy said all 35 pirates on board the Maltese-flagged MV Ruen had surrendered and the vessel was checked for illegal arms, ammunition and contraband. The whole operation took about 40 hours and involved drones, navy vessels and marine commandos. The development came after men on the bulk carrier fired at an Indian warship in international waters Friday, triggering the navy to intercept the vessel some 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) off the Indian coast. The vessel was first boarded by pirates Dec. 14 near the Yemeni island of Socotra, around 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Somalia. Activity from Somali pirates has dropped in recent years, but there has been growing concern it could resume amid the political uncertainty and wider chaos in the region that has included attacks on ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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