Eye on Extremism: May 21, 2020

The Jerusalem Post: Iraqi Security Services Arrest ISIS Leader - Report

“ISIS operative,Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, Isis operative and part of ISIS's Delegated Committee was handed over to Iraqi security forces by Syrian and US officials on Wednesday. Over the course of the past few months, various reports have been published with regard to the identity of the ISIS leader. In January, the Guardian reported that his name was Amir Muhammad Sa'id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla. The report relied on sources from two foreign intelligence agencies, where it was discovered that he is one of the founders of the organization. In March 2020, the US National Archives and Federal Register released a statement signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listing Malwa's many other pseudonyms, in which they reported that he is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. According to the British intelligence agencies, he was appointed leader hours after al-Baghdadi's assassination during a special operation held by US special forces.”

The Guardian: Britain First Leader Paul Golding Convicted Under Terrorism Law

“The leader of the far-right political group Britain First has been found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act after refusing to give police access to his mobile phone on his return from a political trip to Russia. Paul Golding, 38, was stopped at Heathrow by Metropolitan police officers on 23 October last year on his way back from Moscow. He refused to give the pin codes for an iPhone and Apple computer and was later charged with wilfully refusing to comply with a duty under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. Golding denied the charge but was found guilty following a trial at Westminster magistrates court in London on Wednesday. Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ruled there was “no doubt” that Golding had failed to comply with requests for information, despite his obligations being explained to him and being warned “over and over” that he risked arrest. She handed Golding a conditional discharge for nine months and ordered him to pay a £21 surcharge and £750 in costs. Arbuthnot said Golding had been lawfully questioned and that under Schedule 7 there had been no requirement for “reasonable suspicion” for the stop.”

United States

Al Jazeera: September 11 Convict Renounces Terrorism, Al-Qaeda

“The only man ever convicted in a United States court for a role in the September 11 attacks now says he is renouncing terrorism, al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group. Zacarias Moussaoui is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Colorado after narrowly escaping the death penalty at his 2006 trial. He was sometimes referred to as the missing 20th hijacker, and while he was clearly a member of al-Qaeda, there is scant evidence to suggest he was slated to hijack a plane on September 11, 2001. Instead, prosecutors pinned responsibility on Moussaoui because they said he could have prevented the attacks if he had not lied to the FBI about his knowledge of al-Qaeda and its efforts to attack the US when he was arrested in August 2001. In a handwritten court motion Moussaoui filed with the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia last month, Moussaoui wrote, “I denounce, repudiate Usama bin Laden as a useful idiot of the CIA/Saudi. I also proclaim unequivocally my opposition to any terrorist action, attack, propaganda against the US.” He also said he wants “to warn young Muslim against the deception and the manipulation of these fake jihadis.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Man Pleads Guilty In US To Conspiracy To Hezbollah Drone Parts Export

“A Lebanese man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Minnesota to conspiring to export drone parts and technology from the US to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. US Attorney Erica H. MacDonald said this week that Usama Hamade, 55, pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally export goods and technology. His brother, Issam Hamade, pleaded guilty in March in federal court in Minnesota. Prosecutors said the brothers acquired sophisticated technology for drones from 2009 to 2013 and illegally exported them to Hezbollah, which the US considers a terrorist organization. The Hamades were arrested in February 2018 in South Africa and were extradited to the US last fall. According to an indictment, the parts included inertial measurement units, which can be used to track an aircraft’s position, and digital compasses, which can be paired with the inertial measurement units for drone guidance systems. The parts also included a jet engine and 20 piston engines. Issam Hamade has admitted that his brother arranged to purchase parts and technology from various countries, including the US, from 2009 to 2011. He also admitted that he transferred money from Lebanon to accounts in South Africa at his brother’s request, knowing the money was being used to buy these parts.”

Dhaka Tribune: An American Nightmare

“The spread of conspiracy theories is central to the extreme right’s activities. Some have vocally claimed that the virus is a hoax. Others have blamed the Chinese, the Jews, or even Bill Gates. Extremists also spread more familiar conspiracy theories, decrying 5G networks and vaccinations, which help introduce the uninitiated to their ideology. Lockdowns fit this recruitment agenda. Stuck at home with money running short, people might become “more receptive to these movements,” warns Joshua Fisher-Birch, of the Counter-Extremism Project, an NGO. The far-right is making use of online platforms such as Facebook, Gab, and Telegram to spread its message to this captive audience. They use an ever-changing litany of memes, ranging from George Washington dressed as one of their ranks to Ronald McDonald with a machine gun on his lap. Also, they have a significant presence in the online gaming world, which helps them attract young recruits.”

Syria

Fox News: How ISIS Is Exploiting The Coronavirus Pandemic

“Given that much of the world has been beleaguered by the coronavirus pandemic -- and the subsequent lockdowns, bending of health care systems, economic downturns and political divide -- concerns have risen that the Islamic State group, or ISIS, has and will continue to exploit the distraction to sustain its global reign of terror. “ISIS views the global pandemic as an opportunity to weaken its enemies further. Governments are trying to maintain their focus on international security issues at the same time they are addressing a global health crisis that is also sparking an economic crisis,” Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Researcher Josh Lipowsky told Fox News. “ISIS recognizes that and sees opportunities to take advantage of increased fears among civilian populations, as well as governments that are refocusing and stretching their resources.” In March, just as stay-at-home orders were taking hold across the United States, ISIS -- via its weekly publication al-Naba -- called on its operatives to strike against the West. “ISIS sees the entirety of the West as an enemy of Islam guilty of destroying its physical caliphate. ISIS has incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into its propaganda, praising it as divine punishment for the West,” Lipowsky explained.”

Iraq

The Washington Post: Investigators Build A Case For IS Crimes Against Yazidis

“He was burly, with piercing blue eyes, and it was clear he was in charge when he entered the Galaxy, a wedding hall-turned-slave pen in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Dozens of Yazidi women and girls huddled on the floor, newly abducted by Islamic State group militants. He walked among them, beating them at the slightest sign of resistance. At one point, he dragged a girl out of the hall by her hair, clearly picking her for himself, a Yazidi woman — who was 14 when the incident occurred in 2014 — recounted to The Associated Press. This was Hajji Abdullah, a religious judge at the time and labeled one of the architects of the militant group’s enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, who rose to become deputy to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He’s believed to be the late al-Baghdadi’s successor, identified only by the pseudonym Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. A group of investigators with the Commission for International Justice and Accountability is amassing evidence, hoping to prosecute IS figures for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide -- including Hajji Abdullah. Hajji Abdullah was previously accused of involvement in the slave trade, most notably in a wanted poster circulated by the U.S. setting a $5 million bounty on his head.”

Kurdistan 24: US-Led Coalition Airstrikes Destroy ISIS Tunnels Southwest Of Erbil: Source

“The US-led coalition against the Islamic State, in coordination with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, carried out airstrikes on Wednesday against the terrorist group's fighters in the area known as Qarachukh Mountain, located outside the disputed district of Makhmour, a security source told Kurdistan 24. According to the source, the strikes targeted tunnels used by militants as a launching pad to burn down nearby crops fields of the citizens living in the area. Casualties among the Islamic State extremists remain unknown as small sleeper cells are spread throughout hideouts in Mount Qarachukh. “The Islamic State took full advantage of the security void in disputed Makhmour to regroup and exploit the weak security in remote territories and villages under Iraqi security forces' jurisdiction to launch nighttime insurgent attacks against Kurdish civilians living there,” the security source added. Peshmerga commanders stationed at the Gwer frontline outside Makhmour have continuously warned the federal government of a mounting Islamic State presence in the area and of the threat it posed to residents. Last week with the beginning of harvest season, Islamic State burned down hundreds of acres of crop fields in the disputed Makhmour district.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Chief Urges US To Implement Afghan Peace Deal

“The leader of the Taliban said Wednesday that implementation of his group’s “historic” agreement with the United States was key to ending the war in Afghanistan and paving the way for U.S. troops to exit the country. “The Islamic Emirate [the Taliban] is committed to the agreement signed with America and urges the other side to honor its own commitments and to not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” said Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. The reclusive Taliban chief made the remarks in a message released in connection with the coming annual festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. “Let us move forward with the implementation phase so that a path is paved for the withdrawal of your [U.S.] forces and for peace and security to take hold in Afghanistan and the region,” Akhundzada said. His message coincided with a fresh trip to the region by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated and signed the deal with the Taliban on February 29. The American envoy visited Qatar for talks with insurgent leaders based there prior to meeting Wednesday in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. A pre-visit U.S. announcement said that during Khalilzad's trip, his talks would focus on implementation of the agreement and press Afghan parties to the conflict to open internal negotiations as soon as possible.”

The Guardian: Afghanistan Attacks Underscore Scale Of Challenge Facing Peace Negotiators

“At least 14 people have been killed in attacks on a mosque in northern Afghanistan and on worshippers returning from prayers in the east, as the US peace envoy arrived in Kabul to push Afghanistan’s newly united government to start peace talks with the Taliban. The Taliban rapidly denied involvement in either shooting, but said it had carried out an attack on a checkpoint that killed nine militia fighters. The violence on the eve of the planned talks underscored the scale of the challenge facing the US-brokered efforts to negotiate an end to the war. In a rare message to mark the upcoming celebration of Eid, the Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, said the group was committed to the deal reached with the US earlier this year. He urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the agreement, which provided for the safe departure of US troops from Afghanistan and was also meant to pave the way for serious peace talks between Afghan parties. This part of the process has stalled. After the February signing ceremony the Taliban rejected government calls for a ceasefire, continuing attacks inside Afghanistan and prompting the Afghan government to accuse it of bad faith.”

Saudi Arabia

The National: Saudi Arabia: Co-Ordination With US Is Vital To Curb Terrorism

“Saudi Arabia-US co-ordination on terrorism is the best way to keep both nations safe, the kingdom said this week, after an FBI investigation found an Al Qaeda link to a naval base shooting in Florida. A trainee of the Royal Saudi Air Force killed three American sailors in the December attack. The shooter’s phone revealed his links to the terror group, the FBI and Department of Justice said. “The US-Saudi partnership is one of the primary pillars of the global effort to dismantle and defeat terrorist networks such as AQAP,” a statement by the kingdom's embassy in Washington DC said. “Our two countries will maintain our unbreakable commitment to combat the forces of evil, wherever they exist,” it said. US authorities killed the gunman, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Al Shamrani, after jhe shot 11 people. Prior to the shooting, Al Shamrani posted criticism of US interventions abroad and quoted Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media. The FBI believes that he was radicalised before arriving to Florida for a three-year aviation course the US navy hosts for foreign servicemen. The embassy said that 28,000 Saudis have undergone military training in the US during the last few decades.”

Lebanon

Associated Press: 20 Years After Withdrawal, Israel, Hezbollah Brace For War

“Twenty years after Hezbollah guerrillas pushed Israel’s last troops from southern Lebanon, both sides are gearing up for a possible war that neither seems to want. Israeli troops are striking Hezbollah targets in neighboring Syria and drilling for what could be an invasion of Lebanon. The militant Hezbollah group is beefing up its own forces and threatening to invade Israel if provoked. The bitter enemies routinely exchange warnings and threats. “We are preparing seriously for the next war. We’re not taking any shortcuts because we understand we have to be extremely strong to defeat the enemy,” said Col. Israel Friedler, an Israeli commander who has been overseeing a weeks-long exercise simulating war with Hezbollah at a base in northern Israel. Hezbollah emerged as a ragtag guerrilla group in the 1980s, funded by Iran to battle Israeli troops occupying southern Lebanon. A protracted guerrilla war, characterized by roadside bombs and sniper attacks, eventually forced Israel to withdraw in May 2000. With the exception of an inconclusive, monthlong war in 2006, the volatile frontier has largely remained calm. Since then, Hezbollah has evolved into the most powerful military and political entity in Lebanon.”

Africa

Voice Of America: Analyst: Sudan Has No Cash To Pay Damages For 1998 Embassy Bombings

“A Sudanese political analyst says Sudan will have a hard time finding the cash to pay the punitive damages imposed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. “It's extremely difficult to pay this amount, so the other methods of solution must be followed, including an appeal to the international community to accelerate the lifting of sanctions from the Sudan,” Abdulmuniem Himmat told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. In a unanimous decision Monday, the Supreme Court reinstated a lower court ruling that ordered Sudan to pay $4.3 billion in punitive damages to some of the victims of the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar el Salaam carried out by al-Qaida. The attacks killed 224 people and injured thousands more. Al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum for much of the 1990s before moving to Afghanistan. Sudan's transitional government is pressing the Trump administration to remove the country from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. The state sponsors of terrorism designation prevents Sudan from accessing loans and debt relief from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as investment opportunities with U.S.-based institutions.”

Council On Foreign Relations: Preventing The Next Boko Haram In Northern Mozambique

“As the world’s attention is fixed on the global COVID-19 pandemic, a brewing conflict in northern Mozambique is threatening to plunge the region into chaos. The conflict, which broke out in Cabo Delgado province in the fall of 2017, has since resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and forced 100,000 people to flee their homes. The details remain murky—not least because the government has banned researchers and journalists from covering it—but it is becoming clear that the so-called Islamic State is trying to capitalize on the insurgency. Along with the rising death toll, growing humanitarian needs, and brutal human rights abuses, there is concern among analysts that the conflict could spread into neighboring countries across southern and eastern Africa, not unlike the spread of jihadi violence in the Sahel. Northern Mozambique has long suffered from high levels of illiteracy, poverty, child malnutrition, and alleged government discrimination. The region is primarily Muslim and features multiple languages, while the rest of the country is predominantly Christian. Cabo Delgado province in particular has long practiced Sufism, a mystical form of Islam. In recent years, new forms of Islam have been introduced to the region.”

United Kingdom

Al Jazeera: Latest UK 'Terrorism' Legislation Criticised By Rights Groups

“Civil liberties groups have criticised the British government's latest overhaul of the United Kingdom's “terrorism” legislation, highlighting the potential for indefinite restrictions placed against those suspected - but not convicted - of terrorism. The burden of proof would be lowered for officials considering placing “terrorism prevention and investigation measures” (TPIMs) against suspects, while the current two-year limit on their use would be removed, under legislation unveiled on Wednesday. Under the proposed law, courts would be able to limit a suspect's movements, enforcing curfews and electronic tagging for an indefinite period, subject to review. Minimum sentences would rise and the most serious offenders, if released, would remain on licence for the rest of their lives and could be taken back into custody. “We promised to act and today we are delivering on that promise,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said in announcing the plan. “It was never right to drastically curtail people's liberty on the basis of secret, untested evidence using control orders or TPIMs - and we seem to be diving headlong into that territory, where the standard of proof is extremely flimsy and people's liberties can be curtailed on an indefinite basis,” said Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK's legal expert.”

Germany

Daily Sabah: Daesh Terrorist Charged For Attacking Turkish Shops, Mosque In Germany

“German federal prosecutors said Wednesday they were investigating an alleged member of the Daesh terrorist group suspected of a series of acid and arson attacks on Turkish-owned shops and a mosque and of planning killings with a gun and explosives. The suspect, named only as Muharrem D., faces charges of attempted murder against 27 people by arson, and of grievous bodily harm against six, as well as planning “a serious violent act endangering the state.” Beginning in mid-April, Muharrem is believed to have committed a series of violent crimes against Turkish-owned businesses and a mosque in Waldkraiburg, a small town near Germany's border with Austria. Investigators say he also secured a pistol with ammunition as well as “significant amounts” of bomb-making equipment for planned attacks on nearby mosques, the Turkish consulate in Munich and a major mosque in the western city of Cologne. He manufactured 23 pipe bombs and 34 kilograms (75 pounds) of explosives. Investigators said in a statement that German citizen Muharrem “underwent a radicalization process from 2017 onward” and then he grasped the ideology of the Daesh while becoming a member of the terrorist group.”

Europe

Associated Press: Norway Mosque Attack Trial Wraps Up, Verdict Next Week

“A Norwegian man charged with murder and terrorism in the killing of his stepsister and the storming of an Oslo mosque should get the maximum 21 years in prison, a prosecutor said Wednesday on the final day of the trial. Philip Manshaus, 22, is accused of first killing his 17-year-old stepsister by shooting her with a hunting rifle at their home in the Oslo suburb of Baerum on Aug. 10. Authorities say Manshaus then drove to a nearby mosque where three men were preparing for Eid al-Adha celebrations. He wore a helmet with a video camera attached and a bulletproof vest, police said. Manshaus was armed with a hunting rifle and a shotgun and fired four shots with the rifle at a glass door before he was overpowered by one of the men in the mosque at the time. One person was slightly injured when they jumped on Manshaus inside the mosque. “These actions upset the feeling of security we have in Norway, regardless of faith and ethnicity,” prosecutor Johan Oeverberg said Wednesday according to the Norwegian News Agency as the trial wrapped up after starting on May 7. Authorities say Manshaus was inspired by the shootings in March 2019 in New Zealand, where a gunman targeted two mosques, killing 51 people, and in August 2019 in El Paso, Texas, where an assailant targeted Hispanics and left at least 22 dead.”

Southeast Asia

Council On Foreign Relations: Countering The Female ISIS Threat In Indonesia

“In 2017, the Government of Indonesia (GOI) arrested three female citizens, disrupting a series of separate and highly organized potential suicide operations. In 2018, Indonesia suffered multiple and simultaneous suicide bombings perpetrated by entire families (parents and children) that targeted churches in Surabaya killing 28 and injuring more than 50. In a January 2019 suicide operation, an Indonesian couple killed approximately twenty-three and wounded over a hundred people in Jolo, Philippines. In October 2019, Indonesia arrested a couple for a near fatal knife attack against its Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security and other officials. A GOI counterterrorism sweep thereafter included the arrest of thirty-six suspects of which two were policewomen. On November 13, 2019, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the Medan police headquarters. The bomber’s wife, who frequently visited a female terrorist in prison, was arrested with several others. Based on the couple’s digital trail, they were laying the groundwork for a significant terrorist attack in Bali. This list of extremist activities by Indonesian women is by no means exhaustive.”