Eye on Extremism: March 22, 2024

The New York Times: Suicide Bombing In Afghanistan Targets Taliban Heartland

“A suicide bombing outside a bank in southern Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 20 people, including several members of the Taliban, according to hospital staff, in a bloody reminder of the terrorist threats that have persisted in the country since the U.S.-led war ended. The attack occurred about 8:30 a.m., when a bomber detonated explosives in front of a branch of the New Kabul Bank in Kandahar City, the capital of Kandahar Province, according to Taliban officials. The blast appeared to have targeted Taliban members who had gathered at the bank to collect their salaries, witnesses and hospital staff said. About 50 others were injured, according to a doctor and a nurse at Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar City who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media. Taliban officials, disputing that higher death toll, said that three people had been killed and a dozen others injured in the blast.”

Reuters: US Military Says It Destroyed Ballistic Missiles Launched By Houthis

“The U.S. military on Thursday said it had destroyed two anti-ship ballistic missiles and an unmanned surface vessel launched by Houthis from Yemen. "It was determined these weapons presented an imminent threat to coalition and merchant vessels in the region," U.S. Central Command wrote on social media site X.”

CEP Mentions

DW News: China And Russia Strike Deal With Yemen's Houthis To Ensure Safety Of Red Sea Boats | DW News

“Yemen's Houthi rebels have told China and Russia that their ships can pass through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea safely. The Houthis have been attacking vessels off the Yemeni coast since November. The US and the UK have launched air strikes on Houthi targets in retaliation. Several countries have deployed their naval forces to protect shipping in the trade route. Earlier this month, three crew members were killed when their ship was hit in a Houthi strike. Interview with Hans-Jakob Schindler.”

DW News: Houthis Vow Attacks Until Israel Ends War In Gaza

“Yemen's Houthi rebels have told China and Russia that their ships can pass through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea safely. The Houthis have been attacking vessels off the Yemeni coast since November. The militant group had vowed to continue attacks in the shipping lane until Israel ends its offensive in Gaza. We spoke with Hans-Jakob Schindler, Senior Director at the Counter Extremism Project.”

The Spectator: Only Radical Reform Will Save Our Overcrowded Prisons

“What should we do when there’s no cell space left in our disordered jails? The prison population figures published yesterday show a small drop compared to last week, with nearly 87,900 currently incarcerated. There’s precious little room for manoeuvre. We are perilously close to a time I can remember back in the mid-90s when governors refused to take convicted prisoners from court because there was no cell space left in their establishments. While numbers at the top fluctuate week by week, the trend only ever goes up, driven by courts getting rid of their backlogs and our tendency to sentence more offenders to longer spells in custody that only make prisoners worse. Our overcrowded prisons are falling apart. Too few staff looking after too many prisoners with nothing meaningful to do in brutalising conditions is a recipe for chronic instability. It does much to explain why the prison service can’t attract and keep good staff and why our jails release alienated survivors of a system where ‘rehabilitation’ is a fantasy. More than half of all adult offenders released after prison sentences of a year or less go on to reoffend. A business making widgets with a failure rate this bad would go bust overnight.”

Patch: Modern Anti-Semitism And The Terrorist Threat

“This all-too-timely topic will be explored by Josh Lipowsky, Senior Research Analyst of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), at a B'nai Shalom Culture and Learning Center (CLC) event.  “Unfortunately, what’s old is new again with anti-Semitism at its highest levels in the United States in decades. But now the bad guys don’t all wear recognizable brown shirts or white hoods anymore. Anti-Semites have changed their language and tactics in an attempt to legitimize their odious views,” said Lipowsky. He will share his in-depth CEP research into how anti-Semitism has manifested in recent years while exploring common themes that have repeated throughout history. CEP is a New York-based NGO that researches and combats the spread of violent extremism around the world.”

Newsweek: It's Time To Take The Gloves Off Against Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard | Opinion

“Washington's misplaced priorities in the Middle East over the last decade have left tens of millions exposed to the aggression of an Iranian-backed menace, the Houthis, who killed three civilian mariners this week in a missile strike on a cargo ship in the Red Sea. With Tehran's support, Houthi forces have launched near daily missile and drone attacks and committed acts of piracy and hostage taking since October that has disrupted the global economy and threatens wider war. It is critical that the U.S. move beyond the half-measures it has deployed, end the crisis, and restore stability. Under normal circumstances, 12 percent of the world's seaborne trade travels through the Red Sea. But in recent months, maritime operators are avoiding the Rea Sea in its deteriorated state and opting to reach Europe or the Americas via Africa's Cape of Good Hope, adding approximately two weeks to their journeys. This is costly to consumers and businesses alike that are suffering some disrupted supply chains, but this challenge will pale in comparison to the crisis that will unfold if Iran and the Houthis are permitted to continue to escalate their attacks.”

United States

Associated Press: Blinken Says An Israeli Assault On Gaza’s Rafah Would Be A Mistake And Isn’t Needed To Defeat Hamas

“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday a major Israeli ground assault on the southern Gaza town of Rafah would be “a mistake” and “unnecessary” to defeating Hamas, underscoring the further souring of relations between the United States and Israel. Blinken, on his sixth urgent Mideast mission since the war began in October, spoke after huddling with top Arab diplomats in Cairo for discussions on efforts for a cease-fire and Gaza’s post-conflict future. He said an “immediate, sustained cease-fire” with the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas was urgently needed and that gaps were narrowing in indirect negotiations that U.S., Egypt and Qatar have spent weeks mediating. Those negotiations are to continue at a senior level in Qatar on Friday. Blinken heads to Israel on Friday to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his War Cabinet. The growing disagreements between Netanyahu and President Joe Biden over the prosecution of the war will likely overshadow those talks — particularly over Netanyahu’s determination to launch a ground assault on Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have sought refuge from devastating Israeli ground and air strikes further north.”

Associated Press: Speaker Johnson Says He Plans To Invite Netanyahu To Address The US Congress

“House Speaker Mike Johnson says he plans to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress, a show of support from Republicans amid growing Democratic criticism of Netanyahu’s leadership. “I would love to have him come in and address a joint session of Congress,” Johnson said Thursday morning on CNBC. “We’ll certainly extend that invitation.” Johnson said it would be “a great honor of mine” to invite the Israeli leaderbut “we’re just trying to work out schedules on all this.” Republicans have rallied around Netanyahu since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for new elections in Israel on the Senate floor last week. Schumer, who is Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, said he believes that the prime minister has “lost his way” and is an obstacle to peace in the region amid the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. A U.S. speech by Netanyahu during the brutal war with Hamas could be seen in the U.S. as highly politicized and would be met with criticism from many Democrats, especially as many on the left flank have been sharply critical of his tactics in the war.”


Reuters: Red Sea Fighting Traps Two Oil Ships In Houthi Waters

“Two tankers, containing oil and toxic waste, are stuck in the Red Sea in the firing line between Western naval forces and Yemen's Houthi militants despite repeated efforts by the United Nations to empty and move the ships to avoid a spill. The vessels, one of which has been stranded for years, are near the port of Ras Issa from where Iran-aligned Houthis launch missiles on ships passing through the Red Sea and where U.S. missiles land as they target the Houthis. The United Nations last year led efforts to remove a million barrels of oil from the decaying tanker, the FSO Safer, to a new tanker, the MT Yemen, in an operation that cost $121 million. The UN had hoped to move the FSO Safer, which still contains toxic waste water and oily residue, for disposal elsewhere and sell the oil aboard the MT Yemen.

Neither of the ships has moved since August as the Houthis and their foes in Yemen’s internationally-recognised government could not agree who should receive the money for the oil, a Houthi source speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.”


Associated Press: Senior Hezbollah Security Official Makes Rare Visit To UAE To Discuss Detained Lebanese

“A senior official with Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group made a rare visit to the United Arab Emirates to discuss the cases of a dozen Lebanese citizens detained in the oil-rich nation over alleged links to the Lebanese group, Hezbollah said Thursday. The United Arab Emirates, like other Arab gulf countries, considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization and over the years has detained and deported dozens of Lebanese citizens over alleged links to the group. A Hezbollah statement said Wafik Safa, the head of the group’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, visited the UAE where he met officials involved in the cases of Lebanese detained there. It did not give further details, but said there were hopes of reaching a good outcome. The UAE gave no official comment on the visit. Lebanese media outlets reported that Safa’s visit followed mediation by Syrian President Bashar Assad with officials in the UAE. After years of backing the Syrian opposition, the UAE restored relations with Damascus in 2018 and earlier this year the first ambassador for the emirates took office in Damascus.”

Middle East

Associated Press: The UN Will Vote On A US Resolution Declaring That An Immediate Cease-Fire In Gaza Is Imperative

“The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a United States-sponsored resolution declaring that “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza is “imperative” to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was optimistic that the new, tougher draft resolution would be approved Friday by the 15-member council. The draft being put to a vote “determines” — which is a council order — “the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire,” with no direct link to the release of hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which was in the previous draft. But it would unequivocally support diplomatic efforts “to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.” Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said Moscow will not be satisfied “with anything that doesn’t call for an immediate cease-fire,” saying it’s what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pressing for and what “everybody” wants. He questioned the wording of the draft, asking, “What’s an imperative? I have an imperative to give you $100, but … it’s only an imperative, not $100.””


Reuters: Somali Pirates Return, Adding To Global Shipping Crisis

“As a speed boat carrying more than a dozen Somali pirates bore down on their position in the western Indian Ocean, the crew of a Bangladeshi-owned bulk carrier sent out a distress signal and called an emergency hotline. No one reached them in time. The pirates clambered aboard the Abdullah, firing warning shots and taking the captain and second officer hostage, Chief Officer Atiq Ullah Khan said in an audio message to the ship's owners. "By the grace of Allah no one has been harmed so far," Khan said in the message, recorded before the pirates took the crew's phones. The company shared the recording with Reuters. A week later, the Abdullah is anchored off the coast of Somalia, the latest victim of a resurgence of piracy that international navies thought they had brought under control. The raids are piling risks and costs onto shipping companies also contending with repeated drone and missile strikes by Yemen's Houthi militia in the Red Sea and other nearby waters. More than 20 attempted hijackings since November have driven up prices for armed security guards and insurance coverage and raised the spectre of possible ransom payments, according to five industry representatives.”

United Kingdom

Reuters: Australia, Britain Call Out China For Hong Kong, South China Sea And Russia Support

“Australia and Britain on Friday criticised China for its actions in Hong Kong, the South China Sea and its support of Russia, after a meeting in which London and Canberra deepened their security ties. The two countries called out "recent unsafe and destabilising behaviour by China's vessels against Philippine vessels and crew near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea", in a statement that contained unusually direct language on Beijing's activities in the region. In a joint statement earlier this month with Southeast Asian nations, Australia called for restraint in the South China Sea, without explicitly mentioning China. Friday's statement was issued after Britain's foreign secretary, David Cameron, and defence secretary Grant Shapps met their Australian counterparts, Penny Wong and Richard Marles, in Adelaide. The four ministers said they were concerned about Hong Kong's new security law and the erosion of freedom and rights in the territory, a former colony of Britain, as well as human rights abuses in China.”


Reuters: Finland To Resume Funding To UNRWA

“Finland will resume funding to the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, its foreign trade and development minister said on Friday. Several countries, including the United States and Britain, paused their funding to UNRWA after accusations by Israel that a dozen of the agency's 13,000 staff in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel. "UNRWA improving its risk management, meaning preventing and initiating close monitoring for misconduct, provides sufficient guarantees for us at this point to continue our support" Foreign Trade and Development Minister Ville Tavio said. He told a press conference some of the Finnish money would be earmarked for risk management. Countries including Canada, Australia and Sweden have also restored funding to UNRWA, while several Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia have increased funding.”

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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