Eye on Extremism: May 20, 2020

The Washington Post: Afghanistan’s Civilian Casualties Rise Following U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal

“Since the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban, civilian casualties in Afghanistan have increased compared with previous years, according to a new U.N. report. The mounting civilian toll belies U.S. expectations that the peace deal would lead to reduced violence in the war-ravaged country. Civilian casualties caused by Afghan government and Taliban attacks in April increased by more than a quarter when compared with the same month last year, according to the report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). That increase was steeper when it came to civilian casualties caused by Afghan government operations. Those operations caused 172 civilian casualties, 38 percent more than the previous year. Taliban attacks caused 208 civilian casualties, 25 percent more than in April 2019. The report is a provisional tally and did not break down the numbers of dead and injured. The Taliban rejected the U.N. report, tweeting that it was based on “propaganda.” Afghanistan’s National Security Council said in a statement, “We note the provisional report by UNAMA and underscore that Government’s findings from the field demonstrate that the Taliban and their aligned terrorist groups are responsible for the vast majority of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan.”

Vice: Police Charge Canadian Teenager With Terrorism In Alleged Incel Murder

“For the first time, Canadian authorities have charged a person associated with incel ideology with terrorism. The teenager, who cannot be named because he's a minor, allegedly killed a woman and stabbed another in a Toronto spa earlier this year. Police say that on February 24, a 17-year-old male went into Crown Spa, an erotic spa in northern Toronto, with a machete and killed 24-year-old Ashley Noell Arzaga and stabbed the spa's owner. The owner fought back and wrestled the machete away from the teen. When police arrived at the spa they found the owner and a 17-year-old male covered in blood lying in the parking lot. Police arrested and charged the teen with first-degree murder and attempted murder. As first reported by Global News, they’ve now added “terrorist activity” to the charges. In a news release, RCMP say they found evidence shortly after the murder that indicated a possible terrorist attack. “(The teams working on this) determined that this crime was, in fact, one in which the accused was inspired by the Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremist (IMVE) movement commonly known as INCEL (involuntary celibate),” the news release said.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Clinic Bombed As Afghan Forces Fend Off Taliban Attack On Kunduz

“In a day of intensifying violence across Afghanistan, the country’s security forces bombed a clinic in the northern province of Kunduz on Tuesday in their efforts to thwart another coordinated assault by the Taliban on the provincial capital that the militants have twice overrun and continue to besiege. The country’s conflict is back into full-fledged bloodletting after a brief period of hope that a deal between the United States and the Taliban in February would open the way for negotiations between the two Afghan sides. The Taliban have ignored what U.S. officials describe as an understanding that they would reduce violence by up to 80 percent in the prelude to negotiations over a power-sharing agreement. Fighting was reported in 20 of the country’s 34 provinces over the past 24 hours, a senior Afghan official said. After a series of bloody attacks by the Taliban in recent weeks, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan last week ordered his forces, which had remained on “active defense,” to go back on offense. That change of posture by the government gave the Taliban the excuse to do away with any pretense of restraint and further ramp up attacks, particularly around cities they had largely avoided in recent months.”

Al Jazeera: Gunmen Attack Afghanistan Mosque Killing Many Worshippers

“Gunmen have opened fire in a mosque in central Afghanistan, killing at least seven worshippers and wounding five others, officials said. Parwan province's police chief Haroon Mubarez said on Tuesday the gunmen stormed the mosque when worshippers were offering evening prayers after breaking their Ramadan fast. “Seven people have been killed and 12 wounded. The gunmen fled the area,” he told the AFP news agency. It was unclear how many gunmen were involved in the attack. Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior confirmed Tuesday's attack in Parwan's capital Charekar, blaming it on the Taliban. The armed group denied responsibility. The United Nations has warned of an alarming uptick in violence against civilians in Afghanistan. Last week, a shocking attack on a Kabul maternity ward killed 24 people, including newborn babies. Violence increased around the country even after a February 29 United States-Taliban pact on the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. Elsewhere in the country, Afghan security forces on Tuesday clashed with Taliban fighters near the city of Kunduz, a strategically important centre that has been one of the Taliban's main targets and which the group has briefly captured twice in recent years.”

Gulf Today: Afghan Taliban Leader Says Committed To Deal With US

“The leader of the Taliban said Wednesday that militants were committed to a landmark deal with the US, despite being accused of carrying out thousands of attacks in Afghanistan since it was signed. Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal to end America's longest war in a message released ahead of next week's Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. “The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement signed with America and urges the other side to honour its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity to go waste,” Akhundzada said in a statement, using the name the Taliban called Afghanistan when they were in power. “I urge American officials to not afford anyone the opportunity to obstruct, delay and ultimately derail this internationally recognised bilateral agreement” between the two sides, the reclusive leader added. After months of negotiations, the Taliban and US signed a deal in February which stipulates Washington will withdraw all troops by next year in return for security guarantees. US President Donald Trump's administration has made it a priority to end the war in Afghanistan, and in a bid to withdraw foreign forces US officials have been pushing the Taliban and Afghan leaders to hold peace talks.”

Libya

The Wall Street Journal: Libyan Warlord Slows Offensive As Turkey Turns War’s Tide

“A Russian-backed militia leader who seized swaths of Libya and marched to the outskirts of Tripoli is pulling back after Turkey intervened, changing the course of a war that has become a sparring ground for rival powers in the Middle East. Renegade commander Khalifa Haftar lost control of two strategic towns on the coast of the Mediterranean over the past month. On Monday, his objective of uniting the country under his command was dealt another blow when government troops using Turkish-supplied air defense units in addition to drones and intelligence support from the Turkish military beat back his yearlong advance on the capital and took back control of a pivotal air base to the west of the city, according to the Libyan government. “The ultimate dream of him taking over the capital and becoming the supreme leader is pretty much done,” said Mohammed Ali Abdallah, a senior adviser on U.S. affairs with the Tripoli government. Diplomats suggest the long-term direction is less clear. But Mr. Haftar’s losses are a setback for Russia, in addition to his other allies, which include Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. They view the warlord as a potential bulwark against Islamist militants.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Sisi Says Egypt Will Be Firm Against Terrorist Groups And Their Backers In Libya

“Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi announced on Tuesday that Libya’s stability is integral to Egypt’s national security. Speaking during an African Union-led Contact Group meeting on Libya, he said Egypt will not be lenient with terrorist groups and their backers in Libya. The contact group, held at the level of presidents, met virtually to discuss the developments in Libya. Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said that Sisi stressed Cairo’s firm stance on Libyan crisis and reaching a political solution that safeguards the country’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. He stated that he backs the will of the Libyan people and rejects foreign meddling in Libya’s internal affairs.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: Jihadists Attack Nigeria Town Where Girls Abducted

“Jihadists have carried out a rare attack on the northeast Nigerian town of Dapchi, where more than 100 schoolgirls were abducted two years ago, military sources and residents said Tuesday. One soldier was killed and three wounded as fighters believed to be from an Islamic State group affiliate looted shops and torched the home of a local chief in the assault Monday, the sources told AFP. The attack comes days before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when jihadists who have waged a 10-year insurgency usually ramp up their deadly assaults in the region. Fighters suspected to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction stormed the town, leading to a fight with troops in which sources said the soldier and five jihadists were killed. Resident Bashir Manzo said the insurgents spent over four hours in town before soldiers backed by a military jet confronted them. Dapchi was the scene of the abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls by ISWAP in February 2018. The girls were later released although the only Christian among them is still being held by the group after she reportedly refused to renounce her faith.”

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Airstrike Kills Terrorists In Yobe

“The Defence Headquarters says the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD) on Monday, neutralised scores of Boko Haram terrorists on the outskirts of Dapchi Town in Yobe. The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, who made this known in a statement on Tuesday, said the airstrike also destroyed two terrorists’ gun trucks in the attack. Enenche said that the air operation was conducted following an attack by the terrorists in about five vehicles on Dapchi town. According to him, a Helicopter Gunship scrambled to engage the terrorists, scored direct hits on their vehicles, destroying two of them and killing the occupants. “The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has commended the Air Task Force for their professionalism. “He also directed them to remain resolute towards eradicating the terrorists from the North East,” he said.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: U.S. Kills Two Al-Shabaab Fighters In Somalia

“The United States Africa Command (Africom) today confirmed the killing of two terrorists inside Qunyo Barrow area in Sothern Somalia on Sunday. In a statement, Africom said the two were killed in an air strike targeting Al Shabaab militants in an operation conducted in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. “The US support to our Somali partners is and will remain strong,” said Africom's director of operations Major General William Gayler. The statement claimed that there were no reported civilian casualties in the strike. “This enemy has no regard for the lives of innocent Somalis and the group presents a threat to the Somali people, the US and interests abroad US Africa Command affords our partners over-watch and added precision capabilities. US Africa Command affords our partners over-watch and added precision capabilities,” said Col Christopher Karns, Africom's director of public affairs. Africom, which oversees American troops in Africa, acknowledged that for Somalia to achieve stability, efforts would have to be drawn from both non-military and military means. The military command said US forces will use a range of effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people including partnered military counterterrorism operations with the government and Somali National Army Forces.”

Africa

Bloomberg: West Africa Seen Gaining Ground Against Jihadists Despite Virus

“West African states are making progress in their fight against Islamist militants even as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou said Tuesday. Affected states are working closely with international partners to keep up the fight against jihadists which have gained influence over the years, with attacks spanning at least seven countries, Issoufou told a panel of African leaders at a New York Forum Institute webcast. “The crisis hasn’t had an impact on military operations,” said Issoufou, who’s also chairman of the Economic Community of West African States. “Our armies and security forces are increasingly gaining ground on the terrorists.” However, threatened states now face the triple threat of “security, health and economic crises,” he said. Niger has become the frontline of the international effort to fight Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel, an arid area on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. The U.S. built a $110 million drone base in the northern city of Agadez, while France has deloyed 5,100 military staff in the region. The government also receives European Union funding to stop migrants who try to cross its northern borders on their way to the Mediterranean.”

Al Jazeera: Niger: 12 Soldiers Killed In Boko Haram Attack On Military Base

“Twelve soldiers have been killed in a Boko Haram attack on a military outpost in Niger's Diffa region, the scene of recent clashes with armed fighters. The attack by “Boko Haram terrorists” overnight on Monday on the Blabrine military base left another 10 soldiers wounded, Niger's defence ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday. “Seven terrorists were neutralised” by Niger soldiers, the statement added. The Blabrine base is some 20km (12 miles) northeast of Diffa town in the remote southeastern region near Lake Chad, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge. Diffa, a city of 200,000 near the Nigerian border, has been repeatedly attacked. The region of the poor Sahel country borders Nigeria, the birthplace of Boko Haram. It shelters some 300,000 refugees from Nigeria as well as internally displaced people, according to United Nations figures. In October 2019, 12 Niger troops were killed at Blabrine, according to the defence ministry. Several violent clashes have pitted the army against armed fighters in the region since the start of May. On May 13, Niger said 75 Boko Haram combatants were killed in the southeast of the country and across the border in Nigeria.” 

United Kingdom

The National: Suspected Al Qaeda-Linked Extremist Played Chess On Counter-Terror Programme

“The problems faced by governments in the West dealing with returning foreign fighters have been revealed in the case of an alleged British extremist who snubbed de-radicalisation efforts to play chess with a government-assigned mentor. The married father-of-three, identified as QX, was banned from the UK for two years in November 2018 because of the risk he posed to national security after he travelled to Syria and joined an Al Qaeda-linked group, according to court documents. QX, described by the government as a “significant terrorism-related risk”, was arrested in Istanbul and deported to the UK in 2019. The government, which had to accept the return of QX despite the ban, told him to report every day to a police station as part of conditions imposed on him to ensure that he did not pose a continued threat. Details of QX’s case emerged after he went to court to try to have some of the conditions lifted, saying they affected his rights under human rights law to a private and family life. The programme included a two-hour session with a mentor from the government’s Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP) and one with a theologian on alternate weeks.”

The Guardian: UK Government's New Counter-Terrorism Bill: The Key Measures

“The government has unveiled a new counter-terrorism bill. Here are some of the key measures to be introduced in the legislation: Terrorism offenders will be sentenced under the following terms: A life sentence – where the offender spends a minimum period or “tariff” before being considered for release by the Parole Board. The offender may never be released. If released, offenders will spend the rest of their life on licence and can be recalled to custody. Serious terrorist sentence – a new term for the most dangerous offenders, where there is a likelihood of multiple deaths, which carries a minimum 14-year sentence with an extended licence period of seven to 25 years. An extended determinate sentence (EDS) – if this is handed out when the offence carries the maximum penalty of life, the offender will be required to spend their entire sentence behind bars with no prospect of early release. For other offences, someone given an EDS faces an extended licence period after release of up to 10 years. A sentence for offenders of particular concern (SOPC) – for adult or youth offenders, under which they would spend two-thirds of their sentence in custody before being able to apply to the Parole Board for release. Following release they will have a mandatory licence period of 12 months.”