Eye on Extremism: May 22, 2020

The National: British Government To Prosecute Hezbollah Flag Wavers At Online Protests

“The British government warned it will prosecute protesters who break the law if Hezbollah flags are displayed in online demonstrations. In a change of policy in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Home Office announced to The National that it will observe protests on Zoom and other online platforms. Last year Sajid Javid, then home secretary, designated the whole of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation after its flags were flown at protests in London. At the Trafalgar Square protest the flag, emblazoned with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, was flown. Showing support for Hezbollah in the UK carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. This year’s Al Quds Day event, a pro-Palestinian protest, will be held online on Friday. The department said it would specifically focus on online protests that have been encouraged by organisers. Whitehall officials said there had been an “adjustment” in Home Office policy after it said “prosecutions will follow if online protests broke the law. “There is no place for hatred in our society,” it said. “While peaceful protest is a vital part of any democracy, if protests break the law or incite hatred, whether they are online or in public, there should be no doubt the police will take action.”

Daily Mail: 1,000 Israeli Websites Are Hacked To Show Images Of Tel Aviv In Flames And A Message Reading: 'The Countdown To Destruction Has Begun'

“More than 1,000 Israeli websites were hit by a coordinated cyber attack on Thursday, with the home pages replaced by images of the country's commercial capital Tel Aviv in flames. Israel's National Cyber Directorate said private companies using a particular operating system were targeted, but said the damage was 'superficial'. It did not state the number of pages targeted but Israeli media reported it was more than 1,000, including those of major firms. The pages were replaced with the slogan 'the countdown to the destruction of Israel started long ago'. A link led to a computer-generated video of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on fire, seemingly after a series of attacks. The image also showed a photoshopped picture of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swimming from the burning city to safety. There were no immediate details on the group which claimed the attack called Hackers of Saviour, who also changed the page titles to 'Be ready for a big surprise,' along with the message: 'The countdown of Israel destruction has begun since a long time ago [sic].' A statement in the group's only YouTube video – in broken English – said: 'We gather here to take revenge of Zionists crimes against Palestinians who have dead or have lost their lifes, families and grounds.'“

The Washington Post: Shooting At Corpus Christi Navy Base Investigated As Terrorist Attack, FBI Says

“An apparent attack at the gate of a military base in Corpus Christi, Tex., on Thursday is being investigated as a terrorist incident, officials said, warning that while the gunman was dead at the scene, a second person may be tied to the violence. Officials say shots were fired shortly after 6 a.m. at the north gate of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. One sailor, a security officer, was injured but is expected to survive, officials said. The gunman, who was not immediately identified, was dead at the scene. FBI agent Leah Greeves called the incident “terrorism-related,” adding “we may have a potential second related person of interest at large in the community, but we would encourage the public to remain calm, and if you see something, say something.” Greeves said investigators from multiple agencies are “working like crazy” to understand exactly what happened, and said the effort and cooperation among investigators was “awesome to see.” She said the investigation was still “fluid” and declined to provide more information while the FBI continued to gather evidence. Navy officials referred additional questions about the incident to the FBI.”

Syria

Daily Sabah: French Daesh Terror Suspects Escape YPG-Controlled Jails In Syria

“Thirteen female suspected Daesh militants from France have escaped from YPG/PKK-controlled prisons in northern Syria, a Paris-based anti-terror monitor said Wednesday. They included Hayat Boumedienne, the wanted partner of Amedy Coulibaly, who was one of the perpetrators of the January 2015 terrorist attacks in France, the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism (CAT) told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The 13, who were mainly held in the Al-Hol and Ain-Issa camps, accounted for about a tenth of all French Daesh militant women held in Syria, said Jean-Charles Brisard, one of the co-founders of CAT. He told AFP the women's escape showed the “inability” of local authorities to guarantee the detention of foreign terrorists. “The main risk is that the jihadists will disperse and either reinforce jihadist organizations in Syria or Iraq, try to wage jihad somewhere else, or, in some cases, return clandestinely to Europe to commit attacks,” he added. Brisard said there were other prominent figures among the 13 women. “Some were married to well-known jihadists, others made propaganda and appeared in the magazines of the Islamic State group,” referring to the Daesh terror group.”

Iraq

Arab News: Captured Iraqi Daesh Member Details Splits In The Extremist Group

“A senior Daesh member being held in Iraq has described the group’s new leader as “not as firm” as his predecessor Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Iraq said on Wednesday it had arrested Abdul Nasser Qardash, a militant who had been operating since before the extremist group was formed. However, analysts said Qardash was arrested last year in Syria and recently handed over to Iraq by Kurdish forces. In an interview with Al Arabiya, Qardash described the divisions within the extremist group that once held control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. He said he was in direct contact with Al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US special forces last year. He is also known to the new leader Ameer Muhammed Saeed Al-Salbi Al-Mawla, who is also known as Haji Abdullah, or Abdullah Qardash. Speaking about Al-Baghdadi, Abdul Nasser Qardash said: “He was known to be so firm and would not retract his decisions easily.” However, the current leader is “not as firm,” he said. He said there was a deep divide within Daesh between the Arab members and the “foreigners,” as well as the theft of funds and the expelling of families during battles. He also said there were disputes over the killing of prisoners.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: US Envoy Working To Resuscitate Flagging Afghan Peace Deal As US Warplanes Pound ISIS-K

“The first visit to Kabul by Washington’s peace envoy since Afghanistan’s squabbling political leadership reached a power-sharing agreement comes amid increased violence blamed mostly on an Islamic State affiliate that has been targeted in stepped-up U.S. bombing. Zalmay Khalilzad, in a flurry of tweets Thursday, told of his meetings in Doha earlier in the week with Taliban representatives and on Wednesday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and fellow leader Abdullah Abdullah. All were aimed at resuscitating a U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in February. Khalilzad returned to Washington late Wednesday. Khalilzad called for a reduction in violence by all sides in Afghanistan’s protracted conflict that has kept America militarily engaged for 19 years. He also said too much time has been wasted getting to the second and critical phase of the peace deal, which calls for talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s political leadership. Abdullah will head those efforts as part of the deal he signed with Ghani to end their monthslong dispute over who won Afghanistan's presidential election last September. He conceded the win to Ghani but as part of a power sharing agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump said again last week that American soldiers have wrongly been tasked with policing the country and called on Afghanistan to step up.”

Long War Journal: Taliban ‘Reluctant To Publicly Break With Al Qaeda,’ Inspector General Reports

“On May 19, the Lead Inspector General (IG) for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel released its quarterly report. The assessment covers recent events in the Afghan War, including the Feb. 29 withdrawal agreement between the U.S. and Taliban. Several parts of the report are summarized below. The Taliban’s leaders are “reluctant to publicly break with al Qaeda.” State Department officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, have endorsed the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances as part of the withdrawal accord. To date, however, there is no public indication of a “break” between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The State Department told the IG that “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with al Qaeda.” Left unsaid is how the Taliban could privately break with al Qaeda, without it becoming public. Al Qaeda’s men would surely complain if its longtime blood brothers in the Taliban suddenly turned on them.”

Saudi Arabia

The New York Times: As Saudi Official Hid Abroad, His Family Became A Target At Home

“For years, he was one of Saudi Arabia’s top intelligence officers, an expert in artificial intelligence who played key roles in the kingdom’s fight against Al Qaeda and in its security coordination with the United States. But since 2017, Saad Aljabri has been lying low in Canada, fearing for his life and resisting increasing pressure from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to return to Saudi Arabia, according to his son and associates. That pressure campaign has now snared Mr. Aljabri’s family. Since March, two of his adult children and one of his brothers have been arrested by the Saudi security forces and held incommunicado, Mr. Aljabri’s son said in a telephone interview. “It has been weeks and we don’t know where they are,” said the son, Dr. Khalid Aljabri, who is also living in Canada. “They were kidnapped from their beds. I don’t even know if they are alive or dead.” The Saudi authorities have not confirmed the detentions, and officials at the Saudi embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment about Mr. Aljabri or the arrests. It is common in some Middle Eastern countries for authorities to put pressure on someone by detaining or threatening their relatives.”

Egypt

Arab News: Al Jazeera Publishes Article Glorifying Egyptian Terrorist, Then Takes It Down

“Al Jazeera published an article last week titled “Hisham Ashmawy...the other side of Al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice)” where the author praised the Egyptian terrorist and sought to clear his name, but later took down the piece due to “contradictions with Al Jazeera publishing policies,” according to the news site. This comes within the same month that the Qatari-owned network published a podcast glorifying killed Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, as well as a full interview with terrorist-designated Hamas’s leader Ismael Haniya. “Not only did Al-Jazeera glorify Hisham Ashmawy, but it also always glorified different terrorist leaders and organizations as long as they fought the people and systems (or governments) that disagree with the Qatari regime’s policy,” Terrorism and extremism expert Hani Nesira told Arab News. “Qatari Al-Jazeera network and its websites on the Internet have consistently glorified the symbols of extremism and terrorism and portrayed them as symbols of resistance and national liberation.” The full article, which cannot be accessed anymore, began by suggesting that political systems resort to television programs and drama series in order to influence peoples’ minds, notably highlighting current Egyptian Ramadan show Al-Ikhtiyar (The Choice).”

Libya

Egypt Today: Libyan Army Spokesman Accuses Erdogan Of Supporting Terrorism, Disrespecting Int'l Law

“Spokesman of the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan Armed Forces, Major General Ahmed Al-Mesmari, has stressed that the blatant Turkish military intervention in Libya and its support for Al-Wefaq government’s militias since 2014 have thwarted all attempts to reach a political solution in Libya. He added during a press conference on Thursday that all the foreign agreements signed by the President of the Libyan Presidency Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, are illegal, explaining that the Presidency Council did not gain legitimacy from the Libyan Parliament. “Turkey is under the guise of agreeing with the so-called government of reconciliation to attack the Libyan people and their capabilities,” Al-Mesmari said. “The sovereignty and freedom of our homeland are in danger and we must fight,” he added. Al-Mismari also revealed that the number of Turkish military personnel in Libya is 1500, as well as other elements of security companies. He said, “Turkey is now preparing to transport 2,500 other special operations forces and commandos to Libya.” Al-Mesmari stated that “Turkey transferred approximately 17,000 of the young Syrian people who were deceived or from extremist groups to the Libyan lands.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: Two Nigerian Soldiers, Three Boko Haram Fighters Killed In An Ambush - Official

“Two Nigerian soldiers were killed in an ambush by terror group Boko Haram, an official has said. Three Boko Haram fighters were also killed in the ambush, the official said. The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, John Enenche, said these in a statement on Wednesday, according to the News Agency of Nigeria. Mr Enenche, a major-general, said troops of Combat Team 1, Operation Kantana Jimlan who were on patrol along Buni Yadi - Buni Gari axis of Yobe State encountered multiple Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and a Boko Haram ambush on Sunday. He said the ambush took place eight kilometres ahead of Buni-Gari in Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe leading to the killing of two soldiers while three other soldiers sustained injuries as a result of the IED explosion. According to him, a recovery truck, one troops-carrying vehicle and a water tanker that ran into the IED were destroyed by fire. “Three terrorists were neutralised, while unconfirmed number escaped with various degrees of injury,” Mr Enenche said. In the statement, the official also narrated some successes achieved by the Nigerian military against the insurgents.”

Africa

Foreign Policy: U.S. Tussles With France, U.N. Over Counterterrorism Efforts In West Africa

“For more than three years, the Trump administration has questioned the value of a multibillion-dollar peacekeeping mission in West Africa touted as a bulwark against the region’s terrorist networks. Now, the United States is promoting an American national to take the helm of the United Nations mission in Mali, fueling suspicions that Washington is seeking to expand its influence there to hasten the gradual drawdown of the mission. Trump administration officials have been quietly lobbying diplomats from France and the United Nations to appoint David Gressly, a veteran American U.N. official who has held a number of senior posts at the world body, as the U.N. special representative for Mali, overseeing a force of more than 11,000 African and European blue helmets. If selected, he would replace a former Chadian foreign minister, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, who is scheduled to step down at the beginning of next year after five years on the job. But France—which maintains a counterterrorism force of more than 4,500 troops in the semiarid West African Sahel region—has been cool to the prospect of an American leading the mission, preferring that the post be filled by an African candidate from a French-speaking country, according to Western and U.N. officials familiar with the matter.”

United Kingdom

The Telegraph: Mother Of Manchester Arena Bombing Victim Says 'Terrorism Has Not Gone Away' And Teachers Must Look Out For Radicalisation

“The mother of a victim of the Manchester Arena attack says that terrorism has not gone away and teachers must look out for signs of radicalisation. As Manchester prepares to mark the third anniversary of the Arena suicide bombing with online memorial services tonight, Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was one of the 22 people murdered, said that teachers “will need to be very observant” to the signs of potential radicalisation. Mrs Murray has spent the time since her son's death visiting schools, colleges and universities to discuss radicalisation in an attempt to prevent young people being recruited to extremist groups. She said teachers “will need to be very observant” to the signs of potential radicalisation, and engage the Government's Prevent counter-terror strategy if they have suspicions....”

Europe

Associated Press: Czech Court Upholds Former Prague Muslim Leader's Conviction

“A Czech appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that convicted a former Prague Muslim leader of being part of a terror group and financing terrorism, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors said imam Samer Shehadeh helped his brother Omar in 2016 and later his brother’s wife, Fatima Hudkova, travel to Syria to join an extremist group known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Prosecutors also said Shehadeh sent unspecified sums of money to the group that seeks to replace the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with an Islamic state. In the same case, Omar and his wife were convicted of terror charges and received prison terms of 11 and six years, respectively. The appeals court also upheld their sentences. Shehadeh didn’t deny the accusations, but said he didn’t consider his deeds a crime because he doesn’t recognize the Syrian government and doesn’t consider the group terrorist. Thursday’s verdict by Prague’s High Court is final. The members of Prague’s Muslim community distanced themselves from his activities.”