Eye on Extremism: May 19, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: FBI Discovers Al Qaeda Ties In Pensacola Shooter’s Iphones

“A Saudi aviation student who killed three people last year at a naval base in Florida had extensive ties to al Qaeda, top U.S. law-enforcement officials said on Monday as they accused Apple Inc. of stalling the probe by refusing to help unlock the shooter’s phones. The gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi air force, had been communicating with a number of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives for years, even before he began training with the U.S. military, officials said, a discovery that was made based on information recovered from his two locked iPhones. “We received effectively no help from Apple” to access the phones, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said. The struggle to unlock the encrypted phones delayed the probe for months and potentially jeopardized public safety, he said. The FBI, bypassing Apple’s security features, was ultimately able to access information on both phones belonging to the gunman, but there is no guarantee that law enforcement could do that in a future case, Attorney General William Barr said. The information on the devices led to a counterterrorism operation against an associate of Alshamrani in Yemen, Abdullah al-Maliki, Mr. Barr said.”

The National: Fears Missing ISIS Millions Are Hidden In Cryptocurrency Ready For Use As War Chest

“ISIS is using cryptocurrency platforms to conceal donations and get around financial security measures, experts have revealed after a surge in advertising for donations. They fear the terrorist group’s missing $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) war chest could have been transferred into a digital currency to hide it from the authorities. Last year ISIS used cryptocurrency to fund the Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, which killed more than 250 people when suicide bombers attacked churches and hotels in quick succession. The Counter Extremism Project, a think tank, tracked the trend in a new report, Cryptocurrencies and Financing of Terrorism: Threat Assessment and Regulatory Challenges, launched in an online seminar on Monday. Its director, Hans-Jakob Schindler, who has worked in the UN’s security council monitoring unit for ISIS and Al Qaeda, told The National the authorities have searched for the group’s missing war chest since 2017. “I’m wondering if from 2017 to 2020 there has been $300m that we have not found and that’s why I’m thinking this might have been one of the ways it might have been used,” Mr Schindler said. “This would be an ideal storage mechanism until it is needed. If done right, it would be unfindable and unseizable for most governments.”

Associated Press: UN Team Reports New Evidence Against Islamic State In Iraq

“A U.N. investigative team says it has made “significant progress” in collecting new sources of evidence in Iraq against Islamic State extremists, including over 2 million call records that should strengthen cases against perpetrators of crimes against the Yazidi minority in 2014. The team also reported progress in its investigations of the mass killings of unarmed cadets and military personnel from the Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014 and crimes committed by Islamic State extremists in Mosul from 2014 to 2016. In a report to the U.N. Security Council obtained by The Associated Press, the investigative team said it is continuing to engage with the Iraqi government on pending legislation that would allow the country to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL. “In the coming six months, the team will continue its work with the government of Iraq in order to capitalize on this opportunity, with a view to securing the commencement of domestic proceedings based on evidence collected by the team,” the report said. The Islamic State group’s self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of both Iraq and Syria, has been defeated on the ground but its fighters are still staging insurgent attacks.”

United States

The Jerusalem Post: ADL: 50% Increase In US Arrests 'Linked To Domestic Islamist Extremism'

“There was a 50% increase in “arrests and plots linked to domestic Islamist extremism” in the United States throughout the year of 2019, according to data compiled by the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Center on Extremism. Thirty of those arrests were connected to domestic Islamist extremism, nine of which were designated as “terror plots.” The ADL reports that seven of the “terror plots” were being devised by home-bred United States citizens. According to the ADL, a portion of the 2019 terror plots focused on targeting religious institutions such as churches, synagogues, mosques and community centers. “In the last several years, America has experienced an increase in targeted violence against our faith-based communities and organizations,” Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in December 2019. The ADL added: “While there has been a significant uptick in white supremacist attacks targeting places of worship, including the Charleston church shooting, Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, and the Poway synagogue shooting, Islamist extremists have also targeted religious institutions.” The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has shown affinity for these types of attacks in the past.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi Army Launches Operation To Track ISIS Militants Near Syria Border

“The Iraqi army launched operation Desert Lions to pursue ISIS remnants across the Jazirah desert north of the Anbar, south of the Nineveh and west of the Salaheddine provinces all the way to the border with Syria. The Joint Operations Command is overseeing the operation that is aimed at pursuing terrorists and detaining fugitives in order to boost the security and stability of these regions. Commander of the operations, Major General Qassim Mohammed Saleh said the mission seeks to ensure that the “enemy does not have an opportunity to attack our forces and hide in these vast deserts,” which span over 200 square kilometers. Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Tahsen al-Khafaji announced that the operation is being conducted without the participation of the international coalition forces. Recent terrorist attacks in Diyala and Salaheddine were possible because terrorists were able to infiltrate Iraq through the Syrian border, he said. “The operations have searched more than 150,000 kilometers along the Iraqi-Syrian border and in Baiji [north of Baghdad],” he added. Spokesman for the Salaheddine Council, Marwan al-Jubara, told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS has always been active in the province.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Spring Offensive Launched, According To Afghan Officials

“A car bomb attack on an intelligence base in central Ghazni province in Afghanistan early Monday morning killed at least seven members of the security forces and wounded 40 others. Dr. Baser Ramaki, head of the Ghazni provincial hospital that received both the bodies and the wounded, confirmed the number to VOA. Provincial officials say the number of casualties may increase.  Tariq Aryan, a spokesman for the ministry of interior confirmed the attack. Ahmad Khan Serat, a spokesman for Ghazni provincial police headquarters told VOA the bomb targeted the 703 contingent of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. An Islamic culture center was located near the site of the attack, Serat added. Locals living near the site complained of damage to their houses including shattered glass. Taking responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement the attack was in response to the enemy declaring war as well as attacks on civilians in areas under Taliban control. He named the suicide bomber as Zayd Kandahari and said the attacker used a Humvee.”

Agence France-Presse: Afghan Forces Repel Taliban Attack On Key City: Officials

“Afghan security forces on Tuesday repelled a fierce Taliban attack on Kunduz, officials said, a strategic city in northern Afghanistan that had briefly fallen to the militants twice in the past. Taliban fighters attacked several outposts of Afghan forces on the outskirts of the city at around 1:00 am, triggering fierce fighting, a defence ministry statement said. “With the support of air force their attack was repelled. Eleven Taliban were killed and eight wounded,” it said, adding that the fighting lasted for several hours. Both sides have repeatedly clashed in rural areas in recent months, but an attempt to enter a city like Kunduz is seen as a serious escalation. It follows a declaration by President Ashraf Ghani last week to resume offensive strikes against the insurgents, after a string of brutal attacks. The Taliban responded to the order by vowing to increase attacks against Afghan security forces. During Tuesday's fighting, the insurgents managed to briefly capture an Afghan army post, killing one soldier, but it was quickly retaken by security forces, Hadi Jamal, an army spokesman in northern Afghanistan told AFP. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Officials: Roadside Bombs, Shootout Kill 8 Pakistani Troops

“Separate attacks in Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province killed seven troops, officials said Tuesday. An eight soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in the country's northwest. In one of the Baluchistan attacks, gunmen used a remotely-detonated bomb to ambush a convoy of Pakistani troops assigned to protect an oil and gas facility on Monday night. The attack, in a remote area of the town of Pir Ghaib, killed six soldiers and wounded four, intelligence and security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters. The casualties were brought to a military hospital in Quetta, the capital of impoverished Baluchistan province. Pakistan's military said in a statement the attack happened as troops were returning to camp. It said that later a separate incident in Baluchistan, an exchange of fire with militants killed one soldier. Hours after the first attack, Mureed Baloch, a spokesman for the separatist United Baluch Army, claimed responsibility. In a statement, he said the group targeted Pakistani soldiers assigned to protect engineers of an oil and gas facility in the region. Earlier this month, another separatist group targeted troops with a roadside bomb in an area of Baluchistan near Iran's border, killing six soldiers, including an army major.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Jewish Extremist Convicted In Arson That Killed Arab Toddler

“An Israeli district court on Monday convicted a Jewish extremist of murder in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents, a case that had sent shock waves through Israel and helped fuel months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. The court ruled that the Jewish settler Amiram Ben-Uliel hurled firebombs late one night into a West Bank home in July 2015 as a family slept, killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. His mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali’s 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived. “This trial won’t bring my family back,” Hussein Dawabsheh, the toddler’s grandfather, said outside the courtroom in central Israel. “But I don’t want another family to go through the trauma that I have.” At the time of the arson killing, Israel was dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists. But the deadly firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma touched a particularly sensitive nerve. The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged “zero tolerance” in the fight to bring the assailants to justice.”

Nigeria

Associated Press: Authorities: Boko Haram Attacks Nigerian Village, Killing 20

“Islamic extremists stormed a village just as people were preparing to break their Ramadan fast after sundown, killing at least 20 people in the first attack of its kind in northeastern Nigeria since the Muslim holy month began, authorities said Monday. Witnesses said fighters from the extremist group Boko Haram carried out the attack in Gajigana, where they entered the opposite side of the village from where Nigerian soldiers were posted. “The shootings were sudden and intense; people began to flee in all directions,” said Ba'an Bukar, a member of a local civilian defense group. Many of the victims were too weak to flee after several weeks of fasting, and temperatures had soared to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday, he added. Audu Mustapha, a member of the Borno state House of Assembly, said 25 others were wounded in the attack about 47 kilometers (29 miles) north of the state capital, Maiduguri. Boko Haram has now been waging its insurgency for more than a decade in northeastern Nigeria. Their rebellion has claimed more than 20,000 lives and left more than 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.”

Somalia

All Africa: Kenya: Three Al Shabaab Militants Shot Dead In Fierce Gun Fight With Police

“Police officers in Wajir on Saturday afternoon trailed a group of Al Shabaab militants and killed three of them in a fierce shootout. Police believe the militants are responsible for the recent attack on Khorof Harar police post in Wajir. Nairobi News has established that the killing of the three following a led to the recovering of three AK47 rifles. Police officers privy to the mission told Nairobi News that a fight ensued but the suspected terrorists were overpowered, leading to the death of the three. “Our security officers overpowered them thereby killing three of them while unknown number escaped with serious injuries, three AK rifles recovered so far,” a police source told Nairobi News. In an earlier report on the same, Wajir Police boss Thomas Ngeiywa confirmed the incident saying that the militant also destroyed a Safaricom mast in the area. He further stated that the militants did not make away with the armoury as it had been reported earlier. For the last one year militants have turned the vast North Eastern into their playing ground with a series of attacks. These incidents have attracted the attention of Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang'i who visited the area and asked chiefs get a solution to the menace.”

Africa

The New York Times: Sudan Must Pay Billions To Terrorism Victims, Supreme Court Rules

“The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reinstated as much as $4.3 billion in punitive damages awarded against Sudan to victims of truck bombs detonated in 1998 outside United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attacks, conducted by Qaeda operatives, killed hundreds and wounded thousands. Starting in 2001, many of the victims and their family members sued Sudan in federal court, arguing that it had helped Al Qaeda in carrying out the bombings. After a trial in which Sudan did not participate, Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court in Washington found in 2011 that Sudan had provided crucial assistance to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, its leader. “Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network,” Judge Bates wrote. “Bin Laden and Al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants. Sudan provided bin Laden and Al Qaeda hundreds of Sudanese passports. The Sudanese intelligence service allowed Al Qaeda to travel over the Sudan-Kenya border without restriction.” Judge Bates awarded the plaintiffs about $10.2 billion in damages, including roughly $4.3 billion in punitive damages.”

Fox News: What It Is Like To Be A Christian Activist Jailed With ISIS Operatives In Sudan

“It was the kind of calling that Petr Jasek simply could not turn away from. For more than 28 years, the Czech Republic native and global ambassador for international nonprofit The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) had traveled the world in support of persecuted Christians. And then what was supposed to be a four-day trip to aid a badly beaten, young Christian convert in the Islam-dominant nation of Sudan in December 2015 turned into 445 days of torment and torture –  and Jasek learned first hand what it felt like to be hunted and oppressed for his faith. While preparing to board a flight home from the country’s capital Khartoum, the Christian leader was detained on charges of espionage and purporting to “wage war against the country of Sudan.” He was informed he was facing the death penalty and thrown into a filthy cell. Although it was seemingly designed for just one person, Jasek was caged with six other cellmates – who he quickly learned were members of ISIS. “They asked me to tell them some news from the outside world, and a few weeks earlier was the series of coordinated terrorist attacks across Paris,” Jasek, who has documented a haunting chronology of his experiences in a new book, “Imprisoned with ISIS: Faith in the Face of Evil,” told Fox News.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Bath Student Denies Neo-Nazi Terrorism Offences

“A student has appeared in court to deny a string of terror and hate offences. Andrew Dymock, 23, is alleged to have promoted the neo-Nazi System Resistance Network (SRN) group through his Twitter account and website. He appeared at the Old Bailey via video link on Monday to plead not guilty to 14 of the 15 charges he faces. He has yet to enter a plea for the other. The Bath resident's next scheduled hearing is on 29 May and a provisional trial date has been set for 6 July. Mr Dymock was first arrested at Gatwick Airport on his way to the US in June 2019. In December, he was charged with 12 terror offences and three charges of publishing material in a bid to stir up hatred based on race and sexual orientation. At Monday's hearing he pleaded not guilty to five counts of encouraging terrorism, four counts of disseminating terrorist publications, two counts of terrorist fundraising, and three charges under the Public Order Act. He is yet to enter a plea to one count of possessing material that is of use to a terrorist. Mr Dymock was studying politics at Aberystwyth University at the time of his first arrest.”

Germany

The New York Times: Germany’s Coronavirus Protests: Anti-Vaxxers, Anticapitalists, Neo-Nazis

“Outside Germany’s Parliament building, a vegan celebrity cook grabbed the mic and shouted that he was “ready to die” to stop self-serving elites from using the pandemic to topple the world order. Some distance away, a group of women discussed how Bill Gates was plotting to force immunization on the population. Youngsters sporting cardboard cutouts of the German constitution chanted: “End the corona dictatorship!” Few wore masks, and those that did came with slogans like “Merkel’s muzzle.” Even as Germany is celebrated as Europe’s foremost example of pandemic management, an eclectic protest movement that began last month with a few dozen people marching against coronavirus restrictions has ballooned into more than 10,000 demonstrators in cities across the country. The one driving force behind the mobilization is the country’s far right, particularly the Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which had been marginalized by the pandemic. Now, the AfD’s leaders see the protests as a first step toward moving back into the national conversation, using them to position their message for the months ahead, when Germany must confront job losses and a battered economy.”

Europe

BBC News: Cardiff Man Jailed In Spain For Terror Offences

“A web designer from Cardiff has been jailed for seven years in Spain for financing and supporting terrorism. Spain's national court in Madrid heard Ataul Haque and his brother Siful Sujan transferred funds and hi-tech equipment to the so called Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria. Haque fled to Spain in 2015 after Sujan was killed in a drone strike in Syria. Haque was found guilty of financing and supporting terrorism but cleared of being a member of a terrorist group. The 37-year-old was sentenced on 10 May after a three-day trial at the Audiencia Nacional on 27 April. Haque, who was originally from Bangladesh, was arrested in 2017 after his home in Merida, in western Spain, was raided by police. Police found evidence of large money transfers, Salafist and jihadi propaganda, and spreadsheets on drone technology during the raid. Haque was listed as a director of the now dissolved Cardiff-based company Ibacstel. In August 2017, an FBI investigation in the United States alleged Sujan used Ibacstel as a front to finance terrorism and supply IS with military-grade scanners and surveillance equipment. Siful Sujan, was a computer hacker for IS and was regarded by the group as an IT mastermind. He was killed in a US-led coalition air strike near the Syrian city of Raqqah in 2015.”

Technology

The Verge: Supreme Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Facebook For Hosting Terrorists

“The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit claiming Facebook provided “material support” to terrorists by hosting their content. It declined to hear Force v. Facebook, a case brought by the families of five Americans who were hurt or killed by Palestinian attacks in Israel. The suit had already been dealt a serious blow last year, strengthening a legal precedent against suing social media platforms over terrorist attacks. The 2016 lawsuit Force v. Facebook argued that Facebook knowingly hosted accounts belonging to Hamas, which the US classifies as a terrorist organization. Websites generally can’t be sued for user-created content under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but the complaint contended Facebook’s algorithm promoted terrorist content to people who liked similar pages or posts, saying that should reduce its immunity. The Second Circuit appeals court found that logic unconvincing. It shot down the complaint last year, saying there was “no basis” for making Facebook liable because it arranged content with algorithms. Rather than being a unique property of Facebook’s recommendation system, displaying material that specific users want to click on “has been a fundamental result of publishing third‐party content on the Internet since its beginning.”