Eye on Extremism: May 11, 2022

Asharq Al-Awsat: Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS To Hold 1st Ministerial Meeting In Marrakech

“The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS will hold its first ministerial meeting in Marrakech on Wednesday, at the joint invitation of Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The meeting aims to address ISIS’s growing threat in Africa and efforts to combat this threat in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that Blinken will not attend the meeting after he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The meeting is another step in the pursuit of international commitment and coordination in the fight against ISIS, with a particular focus on Africa and the growing terrorist threat in the Middle East and other regions, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry stated. The ministers will review the stabilization efforts in areas affected by ISIS, including the field of strategic communication against the group and its supporters’ radicalization propaganda and the fight against foreign terrorist elements. Earlier this year, the Coalition announced the creation of the Africa Focus Group. This step will be followed up in the upcoming meeting, with additional directives and concrete answers to confront the rise of terrorism in Africa. As the host country of the annual meeting and the co-chair of the Africa Focus Group, the meeting underscores Morocco’s leading role at the regional and international levels in the fight against terrorism and efforts to maintain peace, security and stability in Africa.”

The National: Trio Lose Appeals Over Iran Terror Attack Plot

“Three accomplices of an Iranian intelligence chief who masterminded a botched attack on a conference of dissidents in France on Tuesday lost their appeals against conviction for the parts they played in the bomb plot. The trio included a husband and wife, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, who claimed they had been pressured by Iranian intelligence services to plant an explosive device at the meeting, which took place on the outskirts of Paris in June 2018. The bombing attempt failed after a joint operation by German, French and Belgian police led to the arrest of the couple in Brussels and the recovery of the explosive device from their car. They had been on their way from their home in Antwerp to the conference organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which was attended by European and American politicians including Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. Undercover officers watched as the couple were handed the explosive device at a pizza restaurant in Luxembourg by the planner, Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat living in Vienna. Assadi was also captured and sentenced to 20 years in jail in February last year. He was the only one of the group who did not appeal against the verdict.”


Kurdistan 24: SDF Arrests Suspected ISIS Facilitator In Deir Al-Zor: Coalition

“The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured a suspected ISIS facilitator in an operation near the Euphrates River Valley in Syria's eastern Deir al-Zor province, the US-led Special Operations Joint Task Force-Levant (SOJTF LEVANT) announced on Tuesday morning. "The SDF continually lead in the enduring defeat of Daesh (ISIS) mission in Syria," tweeted the official account of SOJTF LEVANT. On Monday, SOJTF LEVANT also announced that the SDF carried out an operation the previous day in Deir al-Zor's Busayrah, resulting in the "capture and detention of Rashid al-Barzi, a terror facilitator wanted for supplying weapons to Daesh (ISIS) across northeast Syria." The SDF and US-led coalition regularly carry out operations against the militant group to prevent it from making a resurgence in the region. ISIS recently stepped up its attacks in April during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The US-backed SDF also announced on Sunday that it arrested a suspected ISIS leader and two local collaborators in Raqqa. The SDF also reportedly prevented an ISIS attack on the coalition in Deir al-Zor. "The SDF remains committed to hammering Daesh (ISIS) networks and denying them influence and resources to ensure their lasting defeat," tweeted the official Twitter account of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the official name for the coalition, on Tuesday.”


Reuters: Iran's Revolutionary Guards Shell Militant Bases North Of Iraq's Erbil - State Media

“Iran's Revolutionary Guards shelled an area north of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil on Wednesday, targeting what Iranian state television described as terrorist bases. Iraqi Kurdish media reported that an artillery shell had landed in a village in the Sidekan area near the Iranian border, around 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Erbil. The Iranian state TV said no casualties had been reported and details of the attack would be announced shortly. Iran's Tasnim news agency said the Guards have previously targeted Iranian Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq. A local official, quoted by the Erbil-based Rudaw news website, said shells have occasionally hit the area in the past. In March, the Guards carried out an attack against what Iranian state media described as "Israeli strategic centres" in Erbil, suggesting it was revenge for Israeli air strikes that killed Iranian military personnel in Syria.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq's President Calls For Vigilance Against Terrorism

“Iraqi President Barham Salih discussed with Defense Minister Juma Inad and Minister of Water Resources Mahdi Rashid al-Hamdani the two most significant challenges facing the country: terrorism and water shortages. Iraq faces terrorism linked to ISIS remnants almost five years after the government announced the military defeat of the extremist organization, which took control of four governorates in 2014. Iraqi security forces have been involved in a war against the remnants, particularly in their strongholds of Salaheddin, Kirkuk, Diyala and al-Anbar, and the deserts extending between the Badia to the Iraqi-Syrian border. Salih discussed with Inad the security situation in the country, focusing on the need to support the efforts of the armed forces to fight ISIS cells. The minister briefed the president on the current military operations on the front lines against ISIS remnants that are trying to threaten peace, security, and stability in some parts of Iraq. Salih stressed: "We must be vigilant against the terrorism," emphasizing that any flaws in the security system, which could strengthen these cells to threaten Iraqi citizens and safety and stability, must be addressed. The president commended the efforts of the security forces in dismantling the terrorist cells and arresting prominent terrorists.”


Air Force Times: Afghan-Based Terror Groups Still A Year Away From Ability To Strike US, Intel Leaders Say

“Terrorist groups within Afghanistan are still about a year away from being able to attack targets in western countries, but remain a significant concern for U.S. military planners, intelligence officials told lawmakers on Tuesday. Last fall, Defense Department officials said that groups like al-Qaida and Islamic State Khorasan Province (known as ISIS-K) could strike at the United States within six months if left unchecked by military forces, a timeline that alarmed numerous lawmakers. But this week, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that his agency believes both groups are still a year away from that kind of disruptive capability. U.S. Army trainers are using lessons learned from the Russian war against Ukraine as they prepare soldiers for future fights. “I’m more concerned about ISIS-K in Afghanistan, and the fact that they have had some successful and catastrophic attacks within Afghanistan,” Berrier said. “That does not portend well for the future. “Al Qaida has had some problems with reconstituting leadership, and to a degree the Taliban have held to their word about not allowing al Qaida [to] rejuvenate,” he added. “But it’s something that we’re watching very, very carefully.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Israel Said To Nix 1,100 Palestinian Entry Permits Over Relatives’ Terror Ties

“Israel has revoked the entry permits of over 1,100 Palestinians whose relatives were involved in terror attacks, including several recent deadly assaults, according to security officials cited by multiple Hebrew media outlets Tuesday. The comments were made anonymously to a number of outlets including Channel 12 and Walla news. There was no official confirmation from authorities. The decision will reportedly prevent some 1,130 Palestinian relatives of convicted terrorists from entering Israel for employment and commerce purposes. “Any Palestinian who thinks of choosing the way of terror should know that the attack he commits will critically harm his family,” an official was quoted as saying. Another unnamed official was quoted as saying that “Israel possesses quite a few civilian tools for addressing security issues,” adding that “we can see families expressing anger toward the terrorists in light of the permits being revoked.” “This is an effective tool meant to deter potential terrorists from carrying out terror attacks… The security establishment is working with all agencies and in full capacity. We will exact a heavy toll from the terrorists, their accomplices and those who incite terror,” the official added.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Leadership Condoles Egypt's Sisi Over Victims Of Sinai Terrorist Attack

“Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, offered their condolences on Tuesday to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi over the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Sinai, reported the Saudi Press Agency. In separate cables, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed stressed the Kingdom's strong condemnation of the attacks and its support for Egypt and its people. They offered their condolences to Sisi, the families of the victims and the Egyptian people, wishing a speedy recovery for the injured.”


Sahara Reporters: Over 51,000 ‘Repentant’ Boko Haram Fighters, Families Surrender, Now In Custody – Nigerian Army Commander

“More than 51,000 repentant terrorists and their families have surrendered to troops serving in various theatres of operation in the North-East region, the Nigerian military has said. The Commander of Nigerian Army’s Operation Hadin Kai, Major General Chris Musa, disclosed this during an interview with Channels Television, aired on Monday. He explained that residents in the region have been helpful to the military, especially in the area of intelligence gathering despite the communication barrier in some localities. “We get information as quickly as things are happening,” the commander said. “Sometimes, the challenge might probably be the way to communicate because we do not have network everywhere; but as soon as they get to where they can send messages across to us, they let us know. “That has assisted us greatly in subduing the insurgents to such an extent that we have so much peace. We have over 51,000 insurgents and their family members that have surrendered to us.” While many individuals and groups perceive the laying down of weapons by insurgents as a sign that the security forces are winning the war, others remain skeptical about the intention of such persons. General Musa, on his part, believes Nigerians, especially residents in the North-East, have nothing to fear as the military will continue to ensure they are well protected from criminally-minded persons.”


The Guardian: Former Guantánamo Prisoner On Trial In France For Extremism

“An Algerian preacher who spent eight years in the US-run Guantánamo Bay prison has gone on trial in France for allegedly encouraging several young men to join the Islamic State group. Saber Lahmar, a 52-year-old Algerian released by the US in 2008 and taken in afterwards by France, has been charged with encouraging jihadists to head to Iraq and Syria to fight for the extremist group in 2015. Speaking mostly in Arabic at the start of his trial in Paris on Tuesday, Lahmar denied having links to Islamist groups in France and suggested he was being persecuted because of his religion. “Today I am being detained because I knew someone who left for Syria,” he said, referring to Salim Machou, a Frenchman who was sentenced to death in an Iraqi court for belonging to IS in 2019. “But he can go where he likes, on the moon or on Earth, that’s none of my business. I am not responsible for anyone, only for myself … I am not the guide of this or that person,” Lahmar added. French prosecutors believe Lahmar, a former Arab language professor, acted as a spiritual guide to Machou and another IS recruit, Othman Yekhlef, who is presumed dead in Syria. The trial, which runs until the end of the week, is expected to hear evidence of his radical preaching which allegedly included antisemitic rants and calls for martyrdom and killing apostates.”


CBC: Canadian Online Searches For Far-Right Material Increased During Pandemic, Mps Told

“The number of Canadian online searches for material related to far-right extremist groups spiked sharply during the pandemic, an expert in online violent extremism told members of Parliament Tuesday. Vidhya Ramalingam is co-founder of Moonshot, which monitors and researches violent extremism. She said the number of such searches in the Ottawa area climbed even more after Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government declared a state of emergency in February in response to the truck convoy protest. Ramalingam said her organization began tracking Canadian online engagement with violent far-right extremist groups in February 2019. "In little over a year, we tracked over 170,000 individual searches for IMVE [ideologically motivated violent extremism] content across Canada," she told members of the public safety and national security committee. "As Canadians spent more time online as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and lockdown, the engagement increased. Searches for far-right content increased 19 per cent weekly during lockdown measures. In Ottawa, we tracked a 35 per cent increase after Ontario's state of emergency was declared." Canadians also have been seeking out far-right conspiracy theories online, Ramalingam said.”

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On May 23, 2016, two suicide bombings at a military base in Aden, Yemen, killed at least 45 army recruits and injured approximately 60 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.   

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