Eye on Extremism: March 26, 2021

The Washington Post: Big Tech CEOs Face Lawmakers In House Hearing On Social Media’s Role In Extremism, Misinformation

“House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Thursday interrogated the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter, escalating their calls for swift regulation of the tech industry. During the more than five-hour hearing, lawmakers in five-minute intervals called out executives on a wide range of issues including extremism, misinformation, cyberbullying, climate change and the coronavirus. Many of the politicians attempted to force the chief executives to answer “yes” or “no,” cutting them off if they tried to explain how “nuanced” those issues are. The display demonstrated just how deep the desire in Washington goes to change how social media companies operate — while also underlining the lack of consensus on how exactly to do that. Some lawmakers proposed new legislation, while others called for reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that shields tech companies from lawsuits stemming from the content users post on their sites. “The power of this technology is awesome and terrifying, and each of you has failed to protect your users and the world from the worst consequences of your creations,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), the top Democrat on a House Energy and Commerce panel focused on technology.”

Al Jazeera: Mozambique Military Launches Offensive After ISIL Attack

“Fighting around the strategic Mozambique town of Palma entered a second day on Thursday as ISIL-linked fighters occupied and ransacked it despite French energy giant Total claiming it was secure. Mozambique’s government said the town – in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado and about 10km (6.2 miles) from gas developments worth $60bn – came under a three-pronged attack on Wednesday and security forces moved in to establish order. Bodies were visible in the streets, some of them beheaded, and helicopter gunships exchanged fire with the attackers, a security source told Reuters news agency. The attack came shortly after French oil giant Total announced plans to resume construction at the nearby site of a $20bn offshore gas project. Defence ministry spokesman Omar Saranga said Mozambique’s security forces (SDS) were “pursuing the enemy’s movement” and working “tirelessly to restore security and order”. “SDS will do everything to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the population … while continuing to guarantee the protection of economic projects,” he told reporters in the capital Maputo. Saranga said the number of any casualties and the extent of damage were not yet known, adding mobile communications in the area had been “interrupted.”

United States

NBC News: DHS Weighing Major Changes To Fight Domestic Violent Extremism, Say Officials

“The Department of Homeland Security, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to protect the country from international terrorism, is moving toward a sweeping set of policy changes to detect and stop what intelligence officials say is now a top threat: domestic violent extremism. Two senior Biden administration officials said DHS, whose intelligence division did not publish a warning of potential violence before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is seeking to improve its ability to collect and analyze data about domestic terrorism — including the sorts of public social media posts that threatened an attack on the U.S. Capitol but were not deemed “actionable” by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. DHS plans to expand its relationships with companies that scour public data for intelligence, one of the senior officials said, as well as to better harness the vast trove of data it already collects about Americans, including travel and commercial data through Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and other DHS components. The department is also contemplating changes to its terrorist watch listing process “to see if there are ways we can leverage it to take into account international and domestic travel of known violent extremists,” the senior official said.”

Agence France-Presse: US Heading Anti-Jihadist Intelligence Sharing Operation — Report

“Some 30 countries have been sharing intelligence about jihadist terror organizations at a secret site with the aim of facilitating prosecutions, French newspaper Le Monde reports online. The “Gallant Phoenix” project, created in 2016, is being headed by the United States and located at a US Army base in Jordan, the daily says. It seeks to collect and centralize traces left online by terrorists, remnants from jihadist actions anywhere in the world and even the personal belongings of Islamists seized after arrest, all to help prosecutions and provide evidence at trials. The main contributors to the sharing effort are the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces, NATO allies and the members of the international military coalition against the Islamic State group. Le Monde says military intelligence units are always eager to collect and evaluate objects left behind by enemy combatants, but “‘Gallant Phoenix’ gives this collection of evidence a framework and a system.” Some 700 documents relating to 500 jihadists have been handed over by Phoenix to ongoing investigations into acts of terror, the report says.”

Vice: U.S. Man Deported From Ukraine Was Marine Dropout Linked To Neo-Nazi Terror Group

“In October 2020, Ukrainian intelligence released a video of what it claimed was two American men in baseball caps carrying camouflage-patterned duffle bags as an agent escorted them to the baggage counter at the Kyiv airport. The video was likely choreographed by the authorities: Ukraine’s security services alleged the Americans were members of a violent U.S.-based hate group and among a growing number of men from around the world trying to fight illegally in the still-raging war in the country’s eastern Donbass region against Kremlin-backed separatists. But as quickly as they made headlines in the U.S. and in Ukraine, the men disappeared and neither was ever identified publicly—until now. VICE World News has learned that Ryan Burchfield, 21, is one of the men in the video. Burchfield is a Virginia native, a Marine Corps dropout, and a former member of the Base, one of the most violent American-born terror groups in recent decades, and one under the ongoing specter of an FBI counterterrorism probe.”

Syria

Agence France-Presse: Slow Recovery In Syria's Baghouz Two Years After IS Defeat

“Two years after the Islamic State group was said to have been defeated in her Syrian village, Dalal Khaled looked on as construction workers scooped up cement to finish the home her late husband had started building. Dalal's husband was killed in a landmine explosion only months before Kurdish fighters and the US-led coalition declared the collapse of the jihadists' proto-state, known as the caliphate, in March 2019. In the east Syria village of Baghouz, where IS fighters made their last stand, Dalal watched labourers this week pile cinderblocks and pour cement on a wall she said her husband should have built himself. “I wish my husband was by my side,” the mother of seven told AFP. “If he hadn't died, we could have built this house together and started a fresh life,” she added, only her eyes showing behind a blue face veil. “But the war has denied me this wish.” The embattled village of Baghouz on the banks of the Euphrates River was the last vestige of the cross-border proto-state IS declared in 2014 across large swaths of Iraq and Syria. When fighting there between the US-backed SDF forces and jihadists intensified, Dalal and her seven children fled the area and settled in the neighbouring town of Sousa, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) away.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Kills 15 Residents Of Syria’s Sprawling Al-Hol Displacement Camp In March: SDF

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday announced that 15 residents of the notorious al-Hol displacement camp the group runs in northeastern Syria were killed in the month of March, including three women. “These crimes threaten the lives of innocent refugees who bear the consequences of this toxic ideology,” the SDF's Coordination and Military Operations Center wrote in a Twitter post. Last week, the Kurdish-led forces arrested 10 people in a new operation in al-Hol, which has seen an uptick in violence over the past few months, as “a step to control the security of the camp” where dozens of people have been killed since January. The operation was a response to the recent killing of two Iraqi refugees. Since January, security has markedly deteriorated in al-Hol, the largest camp in Syria for refugees and internally displaced people. On Jan. 8, a member of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) was killed during a reported clash with an Islamic State cell within the camp. Earlier this month, a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member was killed and three others injured, forcing the charity to suspend services at the sprawling facility. According to the United Nations, there are about 62,000 people still in the camp, including tens of thousands of women affiliated to Islamic State, along with their children.”

Iraq

Stars And Stripes: Airstrikes ‘Pummel’ ISIS In Iraq As US Prepares For Talks With Baghdad

“The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State has conducted more airstrikes in Iraq this month than it did all of last year, destroying scores of enemy positions and killing dozens of terrorists. Coalition jets carried out over 150 strikes against ISIS fighters in the mountains south of Mosul this month, U.S. and Iraqi military officials said earlier this week. An analysis of previous coalition strike data shows fewer than 120 airstrikes were carried out against ISIS in Iraq all of last year. Including Iraqi air force and army aviation operations, a total of 312 airstrikes have destroyed 120 enemy positions and killed 27 terrorists, Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the military coalition, said in a tweet Wednesday. “The mission was to destroy Daesh hiding out in some tough terrain of caves and tunnels, ostensibly the last redoubt of the so-called caliphate,” Marotto said in an email, using an Arabic term for ISIS. The new data were released ahead of the latest round of talks between Baghdad and Washington about continued cooperation. “The meetings will further clarify that coalition forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS cannot reconstitute,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Wednesday. “We are committed, first and foremost, to Iraqi sovereignty.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Security Forces Destroy 29 Terrorist Hideouts In Eastern Turkey

“Turkish security forces have destroyed 29 terrorist hideouts during an operation in eastern Turkey. In Operation Eren-7 Mercan Munzur, 59 security teams composed of 1,062 personnel raided hideouts in Tunceli province, according to the governor's office. Since early January, security units backed by helicopters have been searching the snow-covered mountainous region. The hideouts were found along with a large cache of ammunition and survival gears in the operation that is still ongoing. Although the governor's office did not specify any terror groups in the statement, the PKK is known to hold activities in the region. In its more than 40-year terror 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 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.”

Daily Sabah: Turkey Arrests 2 Foreign Nationals For Links To Terrorist Groups

“Police arrested two foreign nationals in central Turkey over their alleged links to terrorist groups, security sources said Thursday. The suspects – both Syrian nationals – were arrested in Nevşehir province when police raided two addresses, said security sources who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. The raids come after police found that the suspect, only known by the initials A.E.V., had worked for several branches of the PKK terrorist group, including the YPG, KCK and YPD, and the other suspect, only known by the initials M.M.A.M, allegedly belonged to the Daesh terrorist group. The YPG and its political wing, the PYD, are the Syrian offshoots of the PKK. The KCK serves as an umbrella body of the PKK and its Syrian and Iranian offshoots. Various digital materials and a blank firing gun were also seized during the operation. The terror suspects were handed over to authorities to be deported. In its more than 40-year terror 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. In its fight against Daesh, Turkey became one of the first countries to declare it a terrorist group in 2013.”

Afghanistan

The Hill: Top General: Afghan Forces Need US Troops To Fight Taliban

“Support from U.S. troops is “critical” to Afghan forces’ ability to fight the Taliban and other militants, a top general said Thursday. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Robert Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, noted he recently met with his Afghan counterpart and found that “progress has been made” and that his counterpart is a “very dedicated commander.” But, Clarke added, “I think the capabilities that the U.S. provides for the Afghans to be able to combat the Taliban and other threats that reside in Afghanistan are critical to their success.” The assessment that Afghan forces still need U.S. military support after two decades of war comes as President Biden is deciding whether to adhere to a May 1 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops that was set in a deal with the Taliban signed by the Trump administration last year. Biden and other officials have not explicitly said troops will stay past May, but they have increasingly hinted that will be the case. “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” Biden said at a news conference Thursday afternoon, citing the logistics of withdrawing with just a little more than a month until the deadline. “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Arab Interior Ministers Approve Expert Group To Monitor Terrorist Threats

“Arab interior ministers approved the establishment of a group of experts to monitor, analyze and exchange information on terrorist threats, as tensions in the region continue to pose a security risk. Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif led the Saudi Arabia delegation at the 38th session of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, which concluded on Thursday in the Tunisian capital, Tunis.  During the virtual meeting, the ministers also approved a guiding mechanism to prevent terrorist fighters from moving into conflict areas and flashpoints in the Arab region. They agreed on new measures for dealing with their returnees and also established a permanent committee for criminal statistics within the council’s general secretariat. Prince Abdul Aziz said despite the slowdown caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the council has made several other gains, including strengthening cooperation with regional and international organizations to serve the security authorities in Arab countries. “What is being achieved successfully by our security institutions in facing the global and local challenges and changes surrounding our Arab security, has contributed to strengthening the relationship between the security services and citizens,” he said.”

Africa

Associated Press: Morocco: Four Arrested For Links To Alleged ISIS Attack Plot

“Special agents in eastern Morocco on Thursday arrested four suspected Islamic State-linked extremists who were allegedly assigned to attack a military base and other sensitive targets, the official Moroccan news agency MAP reported. U.S. intelligence services worked closely with counterparts in the North African kingdom to dismantle the cell in Oujda, on the border with Algeria, MAP quoted a statement from Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations as saying. Four people ages 24-28 were arrested in separate neighborhoods in Oujda. One man was found on the roof of his home, trying to flee, according to MAP's account. The agents seized large sums of money in European currencies and the passports of the four suspects. Authorities said the four initially planned to travel to the Sahel to join fighting there. Branches of the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are active in the Sahel, but it was not clear whether the alleged Islamic State ties of the arrested individuals referred to a Sahel connection. Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations alleged an ISIS leader instructed them to carry out attacks in Morocco instead of traveling to the Sahel.”

Agence France-Presse: 17 Dead In East DR Congo Attacks Blamed On ADF Militia

“At least 17 people have been killed in separate attacks by the notorious ADF militia in the restive eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), local officials said on Wednesday. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) — the bloodiest of more than 120 armed groups that roam eastern DRC — on Tuesday attacked the villages of Samboko, Tchani-Tchani and Kapoka, said Donat Kibwana, the local territorial administrator. “Twelve people were knifed to death and others were forcibly abducted,” said Kibwana, in charge of Beni Territory in North Kivu province. Mathe Kwirathwiwe, a local civil representative in Samboko, gave a death toll of 15, including a soldier who was part of a counter-attack that led to the release of 10 hostages. The three villages are located in an enclave called Beni-Mbau, in the far north of North Kivu, on the border with Ituri province. Five civilians, including two drivers and their passengers, were killed in another attack on Wednesday on the Kasindi road that leads to the Ugandan border, local officials said. Two vehicles caught in the ambush were burned, Kambala Bashinde, the chairman of the local drivers association told AFP. Local administrator of the territory Donat Kibwana confirmed the attack, attributing it to “ADF attackers.”

Africanews: At Least 11 Killed In Niger Attacks And Classrooms Set On Fire

“At least 11 people have been killed in three separate jihadist attacks in the western Tillaberi region that is close to Mali, local officials said. The militants arrived in the villages on motorbikes on Wednesday and set classrooms on fire, looted a health centre and stole livestock. The attackers “surrounded the villages” and those who sought to flee were chased and killed, according to the official who wished to remain anonymous. The violent incidents occurred in the villages of Zibane-Koira Zeno, Zibane Koira-Tégui and Gadabo, which are in close proximity to each other. The insurgencies in West Africa's Sahel has killed hundreds and nearly half a million people have fled their homes. In May 2020, twenty people were killed in these same three villages, during attacks carried out by heavily armed men who came on motorcycles and who then fled towards Mali, according to the authorities. Attacks against civilians have increased since the start of the year in Niger: more than 300 people have been killed in three series of attacks against villages and camps in the west of the country, bordering Mali. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The latest large-scale attack was on Sunday in the Tahoua region, killing 137 people in a few hours in three villages.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Wednesbury Teenager Denies 20 Terror-Related Charges

“A teenager has pleaded not guilty to 20 terror-related charges. Nuh Raheel denied 10 counts of possession of an article for terrorist purposes, relating to documents including one named 39 Ways To Serve And Participate In Jihad. Appearing via video-link at Birmingham Crown Court, Mr Raheel, 19, also denied 10 charges of collecting terrorist information. All 20 offences are alleged to have happened on or before 13 October. The defendant, of Knowles Street, Wednesbury, was remanded into custody and is due to go on trial for the offences on 7 June.”

Germany

Asharq Al-Awsat: Germany Arrests Woman Accused Of Joining ISIS

“A German woman accused of taking her son to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and fighting for the extremist group there was arrested Wednesday after landing in Berlin. Prosecutors said that the suspect joined the terrorist group after her arrival and, together with her husband, decided to have her son — aged under 15 at the time — get firearms training at a training camp run by the group. The son was killed in an air raid in March 2018, according to the statement. Stefanie A. and her husband were later arrested. She is suspected of membership in a foreign terrorist organization, violating her duty of care, and a war crime, prosecutors said. She also at some point became an ISIS militant, they said. Stefanie will appear before the investigating judge on Thursday and the decision of whether or not she will be held in police custody will be taken.”

Australia

ABC News Australia: The Base Tapes

“…Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher with the US-based Counter Extremism Project, says these training camps enable recruits with military experience to train others, adding to their threat. “This very extreme neo-Nazi ideology, the way that they organised and kind of passed these skills onto one another, made them very dangerous,” he says. On the call, AdvocateCannibalism says he can help The Base with a place for weapons training through his contact in another right-wing group. “Basically, he’s into guns. He’s got property we can train on. He’s right into street fighting, that sort of thing.” Aware The Base is looking for recruits interested in the prepper lifestyle, AdvocateCannibalism says he’s got “several bugout bags”, hunting gear and “plate carriers” — vests which can be converted to tactical body armour. “What I would like to see is basically a group of networked survivalists across the country with access to firearms, legal access to firearms, so there’s no questions asked by the alphabets,” he says, referring to law enforcement and security agencies like the AFP and ASIO. Volkskrieger is impressed and discusses a plan to meet up again in Perth.”

Europe

Deutsche Welle: Rights Groups Slam EU Online Terrorist Content Law

“A potential EU law that would force Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove terrorist content within an hour is being seen as a risk to fundamental rights, according to 61 civil rights groups. “We urge the European Parliament to reject this proposal, as it poses serious threats to freedom of expression and opinion,” the groups stated in a letter sent to members of European Parliament.  The civil rights groups include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Civil Liberties Union for Europe and the European Federation of Journalists. After a series of attacks in 2018 by radicalized lone wolf attackers, with online terrorist content seen as a contributing factor, the European Commission drafted the legislation to be voted on next month. “The spread of radical ideologies and of terrorist guidance material accelerates through the use of online propaganda, with the use of social media often becoming an integral part of the attack itself,” the European Commision said in its Counter-Terrorism Agenda in December last year. “Regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online would allow Member States to ensure the swift removal of such content,” it added.  The Commission defines online terrorist content as material inciting terrorism or aimed at recruiting or training terrorists.”

Technology

The New York Times: On Google Podcasts, A Buffet Of Hate

“He had already been banned from Twitter, but on his podcast he could give full voice to his hateful conspiracy theories. The podcaster argued that the man in Atlanta who had confessed to killing eight people at massage parlors last week, including six women of Asian descent, was the one who had truly been victimized — the casualty of a supposed Jewish plot. “Your heart goes out to the guy,” he said. The remarks, emblematic of a longstanding online network of white supremacists and pro-Nazi groups, weren’t hidden in some dark corner of the internet, but could be found on Google Podcasts, the search giant’s official podcast app that was released for Android in 2018 and expanded to Apple devices last year. As leading social networks like Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to limit hate speech, misinformation and incitements to violence in recent months, podcasts — historically fueled by a spirit of good-natured anarchy — stand as one of the last remaining platforms for the de-platformed. After Twitter last November suspended the account of Steve Bannon, the onetime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, for suggesting that several officials be beheaded, he continued to enjoy large audiences with his podcast, available on both Apple and Google’s services.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

God forbid, if a time comes when we have no choice but to watch our citizens breathe their final breaths, and when there are no ventilators… we will make six million Israeli settlers unable to breathe.

Yahya Sinwar, Leader of Hamas in Gaza Apr. 2, 2020
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