Eye on Extremism: May 27, 2020

The Washington Post: Alexandria Man, On Most-Wanted Terrorists List, Charged With Aiding Al-Shabab

“An Alexandria man who fled the country in 2012 and was suspected of trying to recruit men to join the terrorist group al-Shabab was indicted Tuesday in federal court on a charge of conspiring to provide material support to the group, which is based in Somalia, federal prosecutors said. Liban Haji Mohamed, 34, is a Somali-born naturalized American citizen who drove a cab in Northern Virginia. He first came to the FBI’s attention in 2010 with the arrest of Zachary Adam Chesser, then a 20-year-old Virginian who became enthralled with extremist Islamist views and ultimately was convicted of terrorism-related charges associated with al-Shabab. The FBI has said Chesser and Mohamed were close associates. Mohamed left the United States in July 2012, and the FBI subsequently placed him on its most-wanted terrorists list. In 2015, it was reported that Mohamed was in custody in Somalia, but the United States does not have an extradition treaty with that country. Authorities did not immediately comment Tuesday on whether Mohamed had been released from Somali custody. The U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria said Tuesday’s indictment accuses Mohamed of attempting to recruit an undercover agent to travel to Somalia to provide combat training to al-Shabab fighters.”

The National: ISIS ‘Governor Of Iraq’ Killed In Syria, Says Baghdad

“ISIS’s “governor of Iraq” was killed in a US-led coalition raid on the militant group in eastern Syria, Iraqi intelligence services said on Tuesday. Moataz Al Jubouri, known as the “governor of Iraq and head of ISIS foreign operations”, was killed in an air strike in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, the agency said. Al Jubouri was also known as Hajji Taysir. The attack was carried out by the coalition with the assistance of Iraq's intelligence and counter-terrorism services. “Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi expresses his appreciation for the efforts of the national intelligence and counter-terrorism services for their co-ordination by exchanging information that led to the killing of the terrorist Moataz Al Jubouri ,” the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service said. It said that Al Jubouri oversaw the terrorist group's state-building efforts and was responsible for planning and co-ordinating foreign terrorist operations. "The intelligence services have been monitoring Al Jubouri's activities and movement for some time," the agency said. The US Defence Department neither confirmed nor denied the killing to The National. The department “is aware of reports alleging the death of a key ISIS leader, known as Hajji Taysir, but has no additional information to offer on this matter", Pentagon spokesman Maj Rob Lodewick said.”

Syria

Arab News: Daesh Exploiting Syrian, Iraqi Vacuums To Make A Comeback

“Amid the global health crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, there are disturbing signs that Daesh is re-emerging, especially in the open deserts of Syria and Iraq. Last week, newly appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi announced that Iraqi forces had foiled a major operation by Daesh, while his intelligence body revealed it had arrested a key figure in the group, Abdel Nasser Qardash, who is thought to have been nominated as the successor to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who was killed by US Special Forces in Idlib last October. Reports point to the fact that clusters of the extremist group have become active in Iraq, especially during Ramadan. Militants have struck several military and civilian targets in western and central Iraq in recent weeks. The head of Iraq’s joint military operations, Maj. Gen. Tahsin Al-Khafaji, confirmed that Daesh-related attacks had increased as the country shifted its resources toward containing the spread of the coronavirus. The scene is even worse in Syria, where Daesh militants claimed responsibility for a number of bloody attacks against pro-Damascus militias, as well as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, during Ramadan.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Trump Wants Troops In Afghanistan Home By Election Day. The Pentagon Is Drawing Up Plans

“Senior military officials are set to brief President Trump in the coming days on options for pulling all American troops out of Afghanistan, with one possible timeline for withdrawing forces before the presidential election, according to officials with knowledge of the plans. The proposal for a complete withdrawal by November reflects an understanding among military commanders that such a timeline may be Mr. Trump’s preferred option because it may help bolster his campaign. But they plan to propose, and to advocate, a slower withdrawal schedule, officials said. The move is part of the Pentagon’s attempt to avoid another situation like the one in December 2018 and again in October 2019, when Mr. Trump surprised military officials by ordering the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Diplomatic chaos and violence followed, and the president subsequently modified each announcement. American troops remain in Syria, although in smaller numbers. Senior military officials believe a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan would effectively doom the peace deal reached this year with the Taliban.”

Agence France-Presse: No New Reports Of Fighting Despite Afghan Ceasefire Ending

“Appeals for the Taliban to extend a ceasefire with Afghan forces went unanswered Wednesday, but there were no reports of major violence and the militants said they would release some government prisoners. A three-day pause in fighting which ended on Tuesday provided a rare respite from the grinding violence, and Afghan authorities called on the Taliban to extend the ceasefire so delayed peace talks could begin. The group has not yet responded, but by early Wednesday afternoon no major security incidents had been reported. The historic pause in fighting -- only the second in nearly 19 years of conflict -- has seen Afghan authorities release about 1,000 Taliban inmates, most from Bagram jail near Kabul. The release is part of a pledge by the government to free up to 2,000 insurgents in response to the Taliban's ceasefire offer. On Wednesday, a senior member of the Taliban told AFP that in return the insurgents were planning to free about 50 to 100 Afghan security force members as early as Thursday. Top Afghan officials have also demanded that the ceasefire be extended. "If the Taliban are ready to extend the ceasefire, we are ready to continue the ceasefire too," National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Tuesday.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Suspected Militants Kill 2 Pakistani Policemen In Islamabad

“Two suspected militants riding on a motorcycle opened fire on two policemen manning a roadside checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, killing both of them before fleeing the scene, the police said Wednesday. The attack took place on Tuesday night in the city’s area of Tarnol and was reportedly claimed by Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. According to the initial police investigation, two gunmen were involved in the attack and they opened fire when the officers signaled for them to stop. Islamabad's police chief, Amir Zulfiqar Khan, condemned the attack and ordered a probe. The funeral for the two slain officers, Sajid Ahmed and Mohsin Zafar, was held before dawn Wednesday. The attack comes as Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Authorities have reported over 59,000 cases, including 1,225 deaths.”

Lebanon

France 24: Hezbollah Chief Rejects US Pressure To Beef Up Role Of UN Peacekeepers

“The head of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah Tuesday rejected a US request to empower a UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border with Israel. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah spoke ahead of a UN Security Council vote this summer to renew the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). "The Americans, as the result of Israeli demands, are raising the issue of changing the nature of UNIFIL's mission," Nasrallah said in a radio interview to mark 20 years since Israel withdrew from Lebanon. "Lebanon has refused to change UNIFIL's mission, but Israel wants... it to have the right to raid and search private properties, and the Americans are pressuring Lebanon on this matter," Nasrallah said. In August last year, the UN Security Council voted to renew UNIFIL's mandate for a year. But the resolution included a requirement – on the insistence of the United States, diplomats said – for the UN secretary general to perform an evaluation on the UNIFIL mission and its staff before June 1, 2020. "We are not against UNIFIL staying," Nasrallah said. But "the time of deeming Lebanon to be weak is over, and Israel cannot impose conditions on Lebanon, even behind an American mask."

Arab News: Lebanese MPs Warn Hezbollah Over US Sanctions

“Political forces in Lebanon have renewed pressure on the Iranian-backed Hezbollah to reform or face the US imposition of the Caesar Act, which could prove catastrophic for the country. Lebanese political circles are abuzz with debate over Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and the likelihood of the imposition of the Caesar Act, which calls for biting sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters. Mouaz Mustafa, who is a member of the Caesar Act team, recently said that prominent political figures in Lebanon were likely to be targeted alongside Hezbollah because the goal of the sanctions was to reach all people who had any kind of agreements with the Syrian regime. Lebanese politicians are not taking this matter lightly as is evident from their statements calling for an end to smuggling along the Syria-Lebanon border and for Hezbollah to be disarmed. Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), recently blamed “de facto forces” for the illegal smuggling along the borders in an apparent dig at the powerful military outfit. It is known that Hezbollah has long been involved in the war in Syria and maintains military bases and training centers inside Syrian territories near the border with Lebanon. Diesel and flour smuggling is carried out through illegal crossings from Lebanon to Syria.”

Nigeria

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram Has Paralyzed Nigeria’s Military – Ohanaeze President, Nwodo

“President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo, has alleged that Boko Haram has completely paralyzed Nigeria’s military. Nwodo claimed that the insurgents have rendered Nigeria’s military incapable of fulfilling their constitutional obligation to defend the country’s sovereignty. He spoke at the opening session of a video conference organized by Governance Index on Monday, tagged, “Coronavirus Pandemic: Is it time to reevaluate the political structure of the country.” Nwodo also insisted that the military foisted the current constitution on Nigerians. Nwodo said: “We have never made constitution for Nigeria. It was given to us by the Armed Forces Ruling Council of the military government, which was not elected. The composition of its legislative body was not chosen by any parameter known to anyone. “They wrote the constitution and abandoned the agreement our forefathers had with British when we got independence, for a regional based government in which every region has its security, its own economic development, with each exercising sovereignty over its resources and paid taxes to Federal Government to run common services for the federation, but today it is no longer the case.”

Somalia

Daily Sabah: Somalia Cannot Defeat Terrorism Without Accountable Security

“Ahmed Muse Nur, the governor of Mudug, in Somalia's Puntland State, was killed by the al-Shabab terrorist group on May 17, 2020. He was Somalia's third regional governor killed by the group in less than a year. The group earlier killed the Governor of Nugal, Abdisalam Hassan Hirsi, on March 29, 2020, and the Governor and Mayor of the capital Mogadishu, Abdirahman Omar Osman "Yarisow," on Aug. 1, 2019, in a particularly horrific suicide bombing inside his own office. The more emboldened al-Shabab has become, the busier it has been ever with operations and attacks of all kinds – from ambushes on African Union forces in Somalia to complex, organized attacks against government and diplomatic installations and targeted assassinations of civilians, the group has become more and more active in recent years. Since Somalia's current federal administration took power in early 2017, al-Shabab carried out at least 1,598 attacks using improvised explosive devices (IED), killing thousands of people, according to the United Nations. This translates into two such incidents every day. Many more people were killed in complex suicide attacks and targeted assassinations. It is a gloomy picture that does not offer hope.”

Africa

Deutshe Welle: The Children Left Behind In West Africa's Conflict-Torn Regions

“A generation of children in West Africa risk missing out on vital education and health care amid ongoing conflicts in the region, human rights organizations warn. A new report released by Amnesty International on Wednesday detailed failure on the part of Nigerian authorities to protect and provide education to children in the country's northeast, which has been devastated by more than a decade of conflict between the Nigerian government and the Boko Haram armed insurgency. Another report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday found an increase in Islamist extremist attacks in Burkina Faso since 2017 has had a horrific impact on children's education. Armed groups aligned with al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State have repeatedly attacked teachers and schools in the country in opposition to Western-style education and government institutions, the report said. Similarly, extremist-driven violence is rife in Mali and Niger, where schools are also being forced to close, leaving children without access to support and making them more vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. Amnesty International's report, entitled 'We dried out tears': Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria's conflict, accuses Nigeria's military of unlawfully detaining children who escaped from the armed extremist group.”

Germany

The Republic: German Police Raids Homes Of Anti-Government Groups

“Police in Germany have raided dozens of homes linked to anti-government groups suspected of manufacturing fake documents. Prosecutors in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe said the 25 premises searched Wednesday were tied to 31 suspected members of the Reich Citizens movement. Members of the Reich Citizens movement reject the current German state order. The movement overlaps with far-right extremist groups and has come under closer scrutiny from authorities after a number of violent incidents involving so-called Reich Citizens. Prosecutors said the suspects forged passports, driving licenses and citizenship certificates.”

Australia

The Sydney Morning Herald: NSW Government Using Anti-Terror Laws Against Indigenous Men Jailed For Other Offences

“The state of NSW is using tough anti-terror laws against Aboriginal men imprisoned for other crimes, prompting calls for a review to ensure the laws are used as intended.Under terrorism laws passed after the Lindt Cafe siege, offenders nearing the end of their prison sentence for serious crimes may be subjected to extended supervision or detention orders if a judge finds they pose an "unacceptable risk" of committing a serious terrorism offence. Offenders do not need to have committed a terror-related offence in the past. In February, the NSW Supreme Court refused to make an extended supervision order (ESO) against a 43-year-old Aboriginal man who had never committed a terrorism offence. The man was jailed for a minimum of 18 months after smashing the windows of a police station and two police cars with a rock. He had been charged the previous day with possessing a small quantity of cannabis and resisting arrest. While in prison, he told a number of people he was a "political activist" and "would like to blow up Parliament House" and set fire to police stations. He had previously written letters threatening violence against the police as part of a campaign to legalise illicit drug use.”

Europe

The National: Coronavirus Claims Life Of Sweden's Leading Terror Recruiter

“Sweden’s leading terrorism expert has confirmed the death of one of the country’s central figures in radicalisation circles and a key “recruiter” with links to the perpetrators of terrorist plots around the world. Over 15 years, Swedish intelligence had gathered evidence implicating associates of the Stockholm resident in attacks on civilians. Magnus Ranstorp, a counterterrorism expert at the Swedish Defence University, said the man, known as Abu Omar because he had never been convicted, had died of Covid-19. “Abu Omar was part of the infamous ‘Brandbergen mosque’ network and close friend of Swedish terrorist Mohammed Moumou, one of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s operational commander in Mosul,” Mr Ranstorp wrote on Twitter. A shoe salesman, Abu Omar stayed in Sweden when his colleague Moumou went to Iraq in 2006, said a 270-page report on extremist activity in the country published by the defence academy. Al Zarqawi was the founder and leader of the first ISIS groupings. “Moumou was placed on the UN terror list in December 2006. He was listed as having the same address as his close friend ‘Abu Omar’,” the document said. “Moumou never returned to Sweden and was prioritised as a target by the US military, which located and killed him in Mosul, Iraq, on 5 October 2008.”