Eye on Extremism: March 30, 2021

Reuters: Exclusive: U.N. Team Finds Houthis Launched Aden Airport Attack That Killed 22 - Diplomats

“An investigation by a U.N. team of experts found Yemen’s Houthis were responsible for a Dec. 30 attack on Aden airport that killed at least 22 people as members of the country’s internationally recognized government arrived, two diplomats familiar with the matter said on Monday. The experts presented their report to the U.N committee that oversees Yemen-related sanctions during closed consultations on Friday, but Russia blocked its wider release, the diplomats said. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Iran-aligned Houthis denied responsibility for the attack when it took place. The diplomats did not elaborate on why Russia blocked the release of the findings. The Russian mission to the United Nations did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The report comes at a sensitive time for new U.S. President Joe Biden as his administration and the United Nations press the Houthis to accept a peace initiative that includes a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government have endorsed the initiative but the Houthis say it does not go far enough. The Houthi movement, which controls most of Yemen’s north, has been fighting forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition in what is widely seen as a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh.”

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Deadly Attack On Northern Mozambique Town

“Islamic State said on Monday its fighters had carried out an attack on the northern Mozambique town of Palma, where dozens were killed, thousands displaced and some remain missing. Islamist insurgents hit the town, adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion, with a three-pronged attack on Wednesday. Fighting continued on Monday, according to a security source directly involved in efforts to secure the town. The government confirmed on Sunday that dozens of people had died, including seven when their convoy of cars was ambushed during an escape attempt. Islamic State claimed the attack via its Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had taken control of the town after days of clashes with security forces. They had killed at least 55 people, including a number of soldiers, destroyed and taken control of buildings including factories and banks, and seized vehicles, it said. Reuters could not independently verify the claims. Most communications to Palma have been down since Wednesday. Officials at Mozambique’s defence ministry and its national police could not be reached for comment by phone on Monday and did not immediately reply to text messages. The country’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, where Palma is located on the border with Tanzania, has been home since 2017 to a simmering Islamist insurgency now linked to Islamic State.”

United States

USA Today: Judge Sends 3 Suspects To Trial In Gov. Whitmer Kidnap Plot; 1 Terrorism Charge Dismissed

“A judge on Monday threw out one of the charges against three men accused in connection with the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but the men are still headed to trial court. Judge Michael Klaeren ruled there wasn't enough probable cause in the case against Pete Musico, 43; his son-in-law, Joseph Morrison, 26, and Paul Bellar, 22, to send charges forward for communicating a threat of terrorism. His ruling came at the conclusion of their preliminary examination in Jackson, Michigan. Musico and Morrison were already facing charges related to this, but the Michigan Attorney General's Office had asked that Bellar face such a charge, too. However, charges for providing material support to a terrorist act, charges connected to gang membership, and charges of carrying a firearm in the commission of a felony were bound over to circuit court, marking the end of a multi-day hearing for which testimony was held earlier in March. Each count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison upon conviction, except for the weapons charge, which is punishable by two years in prison upon conviction for a first offense. The men are three of the 14 said to have plotted to target Whitmer in response to her coronavirus restrictions.”

Bloomberg Government: Domestic Terrorism To Skirt Sweeping 9/11-Style Law In Congress

“Domestic White-supremacist extremism is the greatest threat to U.S. security, President Joe Biden’s top homeland security official told Congress — in the same way Islamist extremists were cast as the greatest threat before and after the 9/11 attacks two decades ago. But unlike after 9/11, when Congress enacted broad measures to combat Islamist terrorism — ranging from a new airport security regime to warrantless wiretapping — key homeland security lawmakers aren’t likely to pursue expanded powers to fight the domestic threat any time soon. Some lawmakers believe the solutions to domestic violent extremism can be found in current rules and better resource allocation. There’s also the reality that passing legislation could prove impossible in a political climate in which the definition of domestic terrorism is contested and highly charged. For example, 12 Republicans opposed a bill to award Congressional Gold Medals to Capitol Police officers who died from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol because the lawmakers disputed the bill’s characterization of the attack as an “insurrection.”

Syria

Voice Of America: US-Backed Syrian Forces Launch Anti-IS Campaign In Al-Hol Camp

“U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced a major security operation against Islamic State (IS) cells inside al-Hol camp in northeast Syria. The campaign, launched Sunday, is in response to growing violence inside the camp, which is home to nearly 62,000 people, including thousands of families of IS foreign fighters. Nearly 6,000 SDF fighters, local security forces and members of anti-terror units are participating in the operation, local military officials said. “All these forces are involved in this operation in order to achieve the goal of clearing al-Hol camp from the remnants of Daesh,” said Ali Hassan, a spokesman for the SDF-linked internal security forces in northeast Syria, using an Arabic acronym for the terror group. At least a dozen individuals with suspected links to IS have so far been arrested during the operation, local news sources said.    In recent months, the camp has seen an increase in killings among its population. According to the United Nations, at least 40 people, including two children, have been killed inside the camp since the beginning of the year.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Iraq Fortifies Syria Border Against Islamic State

“Iraq's Joint Operations Command has secured about 140 kilometers (87 miles) of the border with Syria against Islamic State militants in coordination with Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime. Despite the terror group's defeat in July 2017, IS continues to maintain sleeper cells in large areas of Iraq and Syria and its sporadic attacks kill and injure many people. Since the beginning of 2020, there has been an uptick in IS attacks, reaching their highest level since the collapse of IS’ last strongholds in eastern Deir ez-Zor on March 23, 2019. IS now conducts direct attacks on checkpoints and patrols and assassinates operatives or collaborators with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The militants plant improvised explosive devices and place booby-trapped vehicles on routes used by its targets. A 610-kilometer (380-mile) border separates Syria and Iraq. Some 220 kilometers (137 miles) held by the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Kurdistan Region are not fortified. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense, the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources and the Popular Mobilization Units Authority secured a long portion of this porous land strip, digging a trench three meters deep and four meters wide and installing embankments, barbed wire and observation towers.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Afghan Group Probes Reports Of 20 Civilians Killed In Khost

“A human rights group in Afghanistan said Monday it was probing a shooting last week in which CIA-trained Afghan forces reportedly killed 20 civilians during an anti-Taliban operation in eastern Khost province. The development comes as Washington is trying to negotiate a reduction in violence between the Taliban and Afghan government forces. The reports first surfaced on Sunday, when residents from the province's Saberi district said pro-government forces — the so-called intelligence special forces — killed several civilians, including women and children. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said it launched an investigation. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid circulated photographs of the purported victims and urged the government to stop such attacks if it seeks a reduction in violence. A video taken by an alleged Saberi resident and circulated on social media shows an old man carrying a child’s lifeless body, claiming several members of his family were killed. He says no Taliban were killed in thes operation. The CIA-trained Afghan special forces have in the past been accused of repeated attacks on civilians and have been called out by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations for their often heavy-handed tactics that have left civilians dead.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Gunmen Kill Elected Official, Policeman In Kashmir Attack

“Gunmen killed an official of India’s ruling party and a policeman in disputed Kashmir on Monday, police said. Police blamed anti-India militants for the attack. None of the rebel groups that have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989 immediately claimed responsibility. Police officer Sudanshu Verma said militants fired at a municipal office in northwestern Sopore town during a meeting of local councilors. A councilor and a police official were killed, and another councilor was wounded, he said. Police and soldiers cordoned off the area and searched for the attackers. The dead councilor was a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both countries claim it in its entirety. Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. New Delhi describes the Kashmir militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.”

Yemen

Arab News: Blinken Urged By Lawmakers To Relist Houthis As Terrorist Organization

“United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was urged by lawmakers to redesignate the Iran-backed Houthi militias as a terrorist organization, Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday. Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote in a letter to Blinken that attacks in the Middle East have increased, which include targeting civilians and energy infrastructures, the report said. President’s Joe Biden’s administration reversed one of Donald Trump’s decisions that placed the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had blacklisted the Houthis on Jan. 19, one day before Biden took office. “The designations are intended to hold Ansar Allah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping,” Pompeo said. “The designations are also intended to advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors.”

Lebanon

France 24: US Offers $10 Mln For Hezbollah Fugitive Over Hariri Killing

“The United States on Monday offered $10 million to find a fugitive Hezbollah suspect who was convicted over the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafic Hariri. The State Department said it would offer the reward for “information leading to the location or identification” of Salim Ayyash or “information leading to preventing him from engaging in an act of international terrorism against a US person or US property.” The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up by the United Nations in The Netherlands, in December convicted Ayyash in absentia to life in prison over the killing of Hariri in 2005. Ayyash, 57, is believed to be in hiding in Lebanon where Hezbollah's chief Hassan Nasrallah has refused to hand him over. The tribunal has since said it will also try Ayyash over three other attacks on Lebanese politicians in the mid-2000s. The State Department said that Ayyash has also plotted to harm US military personnel. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was allegedly killed because he opposed Lebanon's control by Syria, which is allied with Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim movement backed by Iran. The assassination sparked the Cedar Revolution which forced out Syrian troops. The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group but the movement wields political power in Lebanon, holding seats in parliament.”

Somalia

Africanews: Al-Shabaab Calls For Attacks On U.S, French Interests In Djibouti

“Al-Shabaab calls for attacks on US, French interests in Djibouti. The leader of Somali's jihadist group Al-Shabaab has called for attacks on “American and French interests” in Djibouti, in a video released Saturday night, less than two weeks before the country's presidential election. Ahmed Diriye, also known as Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, lashed out at Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who has been in power since 1999 and is set to run a fifth term in elections on April 9. TheAlshabaab accused Djibouti President Guelleh of turning the Horn of Africa country “into a military base from where every war against the Muslims in East Africa is planned and executed”. “Make American and French interests in Djibouti the highest priority of your targets,” he told followers in the video. Djibouti's strategic location as a gateway to both Africa and the Arabian Peninsula has made it a sought-after destination for foreign military bases.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Ivory Coast Blames Terrorists For Border Attacks Targeting Army

“Ivorian authorities said three soldiers were killed and five wounded in attacks on two military targets near the country’s border with Burkina Faso amid an escalation of jihadist violence in the region. Three assailants were also killed in the first attack on a military base in Kafolo overnight, according to a statement from Armed Forces Chief Lassina Doumbia Monday. The army blamed the attack on “about sixty heavily armed terrorists from Burkina Faso,” without giving details on their affiliation. The authors of a second attack on a post in Kolobougou are unknown, Doumbia said. The incident comes less than a year after a similar strike in June, which also targeted Kafolo’s army base. That was the first suspected militant attack in Ivory Coast since a March 2016 raid on the beach resort of Grand-Bassam left 19 people dead. The world’s top cocoa grower has been largely spared from violence that’s ravaged its northern neighbors in recent years. Insurgents have been moving further south since groups affiliated to al-Qaeda occupied urban centers in northern Mali in 2012, and the violence has spilled over to several other countries in the region. There’s also been a rise in attacks perpetrated by groups affiliated to the Islamic State.”

Reuters: Palma Attack May Show Increasing 'Brazenness' Of Islamic State In Mozambique -U.S. Official

“An attack on the northern Mozambique town of Palma where dozens were killed and thousands displaced may show the increasing “brazenness” of Islamic State in the country, a U.S. official said on Monday. The U.S. Department of State's acting special envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, John Godfrey, told reporters the attack was in line with what has been seen from Islamic State in Mozambique and said the U.S. government is closely monitoring events. He cited what he said was the brutality of the attack and the killing of civilians as well as the increased brazenness of the group, which is now seeking to hold some towns. “The attacks there are horrific, frankly, and show a complete disregard for the life, welfare and security of the local population,” Godfrey said of the attacks in Palma. “Attacks such as these are clear indicators that ISIS continues to actively seek to spread its malign activity to new fronts,” he added. Godfrey said one American was on the ground in Palma and that the understanding is the citizen has been successfully evacuated. Islamist insurgents hit the town, adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion, with a three-pronged attack on Wednesday. Fighting continued on Monday, according to a security source directly involved in efforts to secure the town.”

France

NBC News: Bill Aims To Tackle Rising Extremism In France. Some Say It's An Infringement Of Rights.

“A draft law being debated in the French Senate this week aimed at strengthening the country and stamping out extremism has unwittingly revealed just how divided the country is. Proponents of the controversial bill put forward by President Emmanuel Macron’s government say it is simply intended to reinforce the nation’s “republican values” — liberty, equality and fraternity. France defends state neutrality through its distinct secularist model known as “laïcité.” To crack down on extremist tendencies in the wake of a slew of terrorist attacks, the legislation would require community groups to sign a charter on those national principles and cap the funding the groups receive from abroad. “What the French government right now is trying to tackle is what they see and what a majority of the French population sees as rising radicalism in certain neighborhoods,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council think tank. “It's obvious that some of that conversation is being hijacked by populist movements,” he said, noting that Macron’s moves have been criticized not only for pandering to right-wing voters, but also for being too soft on radicalism.”

Australia

Brisbane Times: Australian Father-Of-Eight Accused Of Supporting Syrian Terrorist

“An Australian father-of-eight will remain behind bars after he was denied bail during his first appearance in a Queensland court, accused of helping a terrorist arrange to travel to Syria to fight against government forces in 2013. Ahmed Luqman Talib, 31, from Doncaster East in Melbourne’s north-east, was extradited from Victoria and applied for bail in Brisbane Arrest Courts on Monday after he and Gabriel Crazzi, 34, from Chambers Flat, south of Brisbane, were arrested in a counter-terrorism sting on Thursday. Mr Talib is charged with one count of preparations for foreign incursions into foreign states for purpose of engaging in hostile activities between September 1, 2013 and October 1, 2020. He was born in Britain, left there aged four and eventually made his way to Australia. His father is a biostatistics professor and Mr Talib runs the family gemstone business, Talib & Sons. Mr Talib completed a bachelor of international relations at Bond University on the Gold Coast in 2012. Prosecutor Clare O’Connor said Mr Talib allegedly provided “information and advice for the safe passage of witness 1 into Syria”. The witness co-operated with the Australian Federal Police, which led to the arrests.”

Southeast Asia

The Guardian: Myanmar Military A 'Terrorist Group' That Should Face International Court, Advisory Council Says

“The Myanmar military is a “terrorist group” that should be brought before the international criminal court, and funds flowing to it should be cut via a global sanctions regime, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar says. The council has called for a “three cuts” strategy to combat the Tatmadaw, as the military is known.First, refer the situation in Myanmar to the international criminal court. Second, impose a comprehensive and internationally monitored arms embargo. And third, use targeted financial sanctions against senior military officials and all military-owned companies. Australian international lawyer Chris Sidoti, a member of the advisory council and a former member of a UN independent fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said the international community must “follow the lead” of the Myanmar people who are defying the military daily on the streets of the country’s cities. The special advisory council is an independent group of international experts on Myanmar. “Myanmar people are calling for international action under the responsibility to protect,” Sidoti said. “In response, we want to see three cuts imposed on the Myanmar military: cut the weapons, cut the cash, cut the impunity.”

France 24: Newlywed Suicide Bombers Identified In Indonesia Church Attack

“Two suicide bombers who attacked an Indonesian cathedral on Palm Sunday were newlyweds who joined a pro-Islamic State extremist group, police said Monday, as they arrested others suspected in the plot. About 20 people were wounded in the powerful explosion outside the church in Makassar city on Sulawesi island while worshippers celebrated the start of Holy Week. Both suspects were killed instantly after they rode a motorbike into the church compound and, when challenged by security, detonated a bomb packed with nails, police said. They were the only fatalities. About 15 victims remained in hospital Monday, with two in intensive care for burn injuries. Four have been discharged. On Monday, Indonesian authorities said the pair, identified through DNA and fingerprint testing, had been married for about six months. The male suspect, who was in his mid-twenties, left his family a suicide note that said he was ready to die as a martyr. The couple belonged to an Islamic study group along with several of nine other suspects arrested since Sunday over their alleged roles in the attack, police said. “They each had their own role, including buying the ingredients, teaching bomb making, creating the explosives and using them,” National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters.”

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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