Eye on Extremism: May 28, 2021

The Guardian: Three Men Jailed Over 2017 Catalonia Terror Attacks

“Three men have been jailed for between eight and 53 years after being found guilty of assisting the perpetrators of the 2017 terror attacks in Catalonia, which left 16 people dead and 140 wounded. The men who carried out the atrocities – Spain’s worst terror attack since the Madrid train bombings in March 2004 – used a van to knock down pedestrians on Barcelona’s La Rambla boulevard on 17 August 2017 and then staged another assault the following day in the Catalan coastal town of Cambrils. Local police shot the five Cambrils attackers dead at the scene while officers killed the Barcelona attacker a few days later. Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying their authors were “soldiers of the Islamic State”. On Thursday, Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, sentenced Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir to terms of 53-and-a-half years and 46 years respectively for belonging to a terrorist organisation, possessing explosives, terrorist destruction, and causing serious injury. The third defendant, Said Ben Iazza, was acquitted of belonging to a terrorist organisation but given an eight-year sentence for collaborating with a terror group by lending the conspirators his identity documents and a van “that he knew would be used to buy and transport chemical products.”

The Jerusalem Post: Iranian Agents Linked To Terrorist Plot In Sweden Against Dissidents

“Two refugees who entered Sweden in 2015 with claimed Afghani identities are believed to be agents for the Islamic Republic of Iran who sought to execute a terrorist plot against Iranian dissidents opposed to the theocracy in Tehran. Bulletin, a Swedish online newspaper, reported last week Sweden’s security police arrested Salma K. and Fouad M. in April for planning an act of terrorism within the territory of Sweden, and it has turned out that they are not Afghani nationals. Sweden’s Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hans Ihrman of the National Security Unit said the two suspects’ identities are fabricated. Ihrman said their ages are ten years older than they initially claimed and their names not authentic. The Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) recently confirmed, according to a report in the online news publication IranWire, that the two people might have travelled to Europe as a terrorism “sleeper cell.” IranWire journalist Kambiz Ghafouri  reported on Monday that “A well-positioned Swedish source told me all the evidence points to their connection to the security agencies of the Islamic Republic. For now at least, it is strongly suspected that their real nationality is Iranian.”

United States

CBS News: Israel-Palestinian Conflict Fuels Antisemitism In U.S. And Europe

“The deadly clash between Israel and Palestinian militants fueled an already-rising trend of antisemitic attacks. A virtual rally was being held on Thursday to demand action to stop the violence in the U.S., where recent attacks in Los Angeles and New York City have led to police investigations. The NYPD said a second person was arrested in connection with the beating of a Jewish man last week — an attack that took place amid opposing protests in the city by pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators. The Anti-Defamation League received 193 reports of antisemitism in the U.S. last week — a 47% increase from the previous week. But the violence isn't limited to American cities. As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports, antisemitic attacks have been on the rise across the Atlantic, too. As Israelis and Palestinians descended once again into deadly violence, Europe saw a spate of antisemitic incidents, including incitements to rape Jewish women blared from cars in London, racist chants at pro-Palestinian rallies in Germany, and a right-wing crowd giving fascist salutes in Italy. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned by the U.S. State Department last week after he criticized the Israeli government's actions, but then declared it “in their nature,” and said “they are only satisfied by sucking blood.”

AL.com: Hoda Muthana, Alabama ‘ISIS Bride,’ Says In New Documentary She Was ‘Brainwashed,’ Wants To Come Home

“Alabama “ISIS Bride” Hoda Muthana, who left her Hoover family in 2014 to the Islamic State in Syria, is featured in a new documentary in which she explains why she joined ISIS and why she now wants to come home. “When you are brainwashed, you don’t realize it until you snap out of it. I took everything too fast and too deep,” Muthana, now 26, told Spanish filmmaker Alba Sotorra Clua in the new documentary ‘The Return: Life After ISIS.’ The documentary is available to watch through Thursday at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York, according to a report by People magazine. Muthana was 20 when she abandoned her family and fled to Syria, a year after she graduated from Hoover High School. She later studied business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her sister, 29-year-old Arwa Muthana, was arrested in April in New Jersey. Arwa and her husband were prepared to board a cargo ship to go and fight for the terrorist group, authorities said. Arwa and husband James Bradley, a 20-year-old Bronx man also known as Abdullah, are charged with attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: The Defeat Of ISIS Depends On Removing The Causes Of Its Emergence: Kurdistan PM

“Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said on Thursday that the defeat of ISIS, and of terrorism in general, depends on the elimination of the same social and political factors that led to the group's dramatic 2014 ascent in which it gained control of large portions of both Iraq and Syria. Barzani's comments came during a meeting at his Erbil office with Brigadier Richard Bell, the new Deputy Commanding General of the US-led Coalition to Defeat ISIS. In the meeting, also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Bell praised the heroism and sacrifices of Kurdish Peshmerga forces. He also brought up current programs of reform initiated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but those too focused on reform affecting the Ministry of Peshmerga, with whom the Coalition works closely. Bell stressed the need to continue support of the Peshmerga and strengthening its security coordination with the Iraqi military to confront the threats posed by ISIS terrorists. In this regard, he emphasized that the recent creation of new joint security coordination centers in territories disputed by Baghdad and Erbil was a positive step.”

Iraq

The New York Times: Iraq Arrests Militia Leader, Inciting A Standoff With Iran-Backed Forces

“Iraq’s leader has been under intense pressure to rein in the dozens of paramilitary groups that are nominally under the command of the Iraqi government but have proved seemingly impossible for him to control. That was made abundantly clear this week, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered a move against one militia leader and quickly paid a price. After government forces arrested a paramilitary commander on Wednesday, Iraqi militias backed by Iran mounted a show of force in and around the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, in a confrontation that goes to the heart of who controls security in Iraq. Curbing the Iranian-backed militias that emerged in 2014 to fight the Islamic State — and have now become an entrenched part of Iraq’s security — was one of Mr. Kadhimi’s key promises when he took power last May. Bringing to justice those who kidnap and kill government protesters was another pledge. A year later, he is seen as having failed to deliver on either of them. The catalyst for the latest confrontation was an interior ministry arrest warrant in the killing of two young Iraqi activists shot in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. One was shot dead on May 9 by gunmen on motorcycles using silencers.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: A Wave Of Afghan Surrenders To The Taliban Picks Up Speed

“Ammunition was depleted inside the bedraggled outposts in Laghman Province. Food was scarce. Some police officers hadn’t been paid in five months. Then, just as American troops began leaving the country in early May, Taliban fighters besieged seven rural Afghan military outposts across the wheat fields and onion patches of the province, in eastern Afghanistan. The insurgents enlisted village elders to visit the outposts bearing a message: Surrender or die. By mid-month, security forces had surrendered all seven outposts after extended negotiations, according to village elders. At least 120 soldiers and police were given safe passage to the government-held provincial center in return for handing over weapons and equipment. “We told them, ‘Look, your situation is bad — reinforcements aren’t coming,’” said Nabi Sarwar Khadim, 53, one of several elders who negotiated the surrenders. Since May 1, at least 26 outposts and bases in just four provinces — Laghman, Baghlan, Wardak and Ghazni — have surrendered after such negotiations, according to village elders and government officials. With morale diving as American troops leave, and the Taliban seizing on each surrender as a propaganda victory, each collapse feeds the next in the Afghan countryside.”

CNN: A Deadly Raid Shows The Taliban Hasn't Cut Ties With Al Qaeda, Despite Promise To US

“A raid on a remote village in Afghanistan kills an ageing al Qaeda leader wanted by the FBI. Messages to the group's cells around the world are seized. Two drone strikes on militants in northwest Syria swiftly follow. Details of a little-publicized October raid targeting a senior al Qaeda militant, Husam Abd-al-Rauf, in the Afghan province of Ghazni have revealed how the terror group continues to thrive in Afghanistan under Taliban protection, and remains connected to its other franchises across the globe, according to accounts provided by Afghan intelligence officials to CNN. The operation against al-Rauf netted al Qaeda messages between Afghanistan and Syria, one Afghan official said. Two rare US strikes against al Qaeda militants in Syria's Idlib province followed in the ten days afterwards, although US officials played down any connection. The previously undisclosed details of the al-Rauf raid contribute to a picture of how tight al Qaeda's bonds with the Taliban are, according to one senior Afghan intelligence official speaking to CNN. It is “now much deeper than we think,” the senior official said. “It is not only now an ideological connection, it's also a family connection. There are intermarriages.”

Voice Of America: Thousands Flee Their Homes In Afghanistan As Taliban Offensives Intensify

“Thousands of families are fleeing their homes amid intensified Taliban offensives in several provinces, as the United States and NATO began withdrawing their remaining forces from Afghanistan on May 1. “Most of those displaced are from the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Baghlan and Laghman,” said Sayed Abdul Basit Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation. “They fled their houses due to the escalation in violence.” Ansari said that in Laghman province, which has witnessed heavy fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan government forces in recent weeks, 6,000 families have fled their homes. The Taliban captured a district in Laghman and launched an assault on Mehtar Lam City, the provincial capital, last week. Gul Meena, a resident of the Alingar district of Laghman province, has taken refuge in a makeshift camp in a park in Mehtar Lam City. She said she left her house because of the fighting in her district. “I am here with my grandchildren and daughters,” she said. “My son stayed behind. I am trying to call him, but his phone is not working.”

Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post: Why Did Hezbollah Stay On The Sidelines This Time Around?

“Throughout the last round of escalations, thousands of rockets flew into Israel from Gaza, and Israel attacked accordingly within the Strip. Rockets and UAV's were downed left and right, some even along the country's northern borders – and yet, Hezbollah chose to sit it out this time around. Sarit Zehavi, CEO and Founder of Alma Center – a nonprofit and bipartisan organization dedicated to analyzing Israel’s security challenges on its northern border – told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday it seems that proxy groups of Iran, “mainly Palestinians but not necessarily only Palestinians,” were behind the rocket attacks that entered Israel from the North. “This could be Hamas, this could be Palestinian Islamic Jihad, this could be some other Palestinian groups,” she explained. “But definitely the direction and planning came from the Iranians themselves.” She explained that although Hezbollah has full control of ground forces in the region, it seems that this time around, “It was not within the interest of Hezbollah to carry out these attacks in a public way - in a way that everybody would know it was Hezbollah.”

Nigeria

Foreign Policy: Is The Leader Of Boko Haram Really Dead This Time?

“The notorious leader of one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations is finally dead. Maybe? Probably. Perhaps. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group, has reportedly died in northeast Nigeria after setting off explosions to kill himself during a confrontation with a rival militant group. If the reports are true, his death would deal a major blow to one of Africa’s deadliest and most brutal terrorist organizations—and provide a significant morale boost to the Nigerian military, which has struggled to make gains against extremist groups after over a decade of fighting. Boko Haram is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and Shekau stands out for using children as suicide bombers and orchestrating the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014 that sparked the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign. “If” being the key word. There’s a serious “boy who cried wolf” phenomenon with Shekau. Since 2009, Nigerian officials have excitedly declared Shekau dead at least four times, only for him to crop up—again—alive. The United States hasn’t yet been able to independently verify the reports of his death, a State Department spokesperson told SitRep. Is his death a game-changer? It’s complicated.”

Council On Foreign Relations: Islamic State In West Africa Now Dominates In Northeast Nigeria

“The Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) has announced that it has replaced Abubakar Shekau with Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Abu Musab “takes over all territories that were under Shekau. The immediate replacement of Shekau was a major revenge against the former Boko Haram leader that exhibited ‘highhandedness and ruthlessness’ against humanity in the Northeast.” The announcement also included that ISWA had arrested thirty top commanders that were loyal to Shekau. It appears that ISWA has absorbed Shekau's faction. A credible hypothesis is that the thirty commanders “arrested” will either switch allegiance to Abu Musab or be killed, with the former alternative the more likely. ISWA is already the larger fighting force: in February 2019 it was estimated to boast around two to three times more fighters (3,500-5,000) than Shekau’s faction (1,500-2,000). It should be noted that there is still no definitive evidence that Shekau is dead. The Nigerian government has been careful to say that it is still investigating; no corpse, or even a picture of a corpse that might serve as proof of death, has been found. That said, there has been no statement by Shekau's supporters that he is still alive.”

Africa

Gulf News: US And UAE Are Partnering To Fight Daesh Propaganda In Africa And Beyond. We Need Your Help.

“The Global Coalition to defeat the Daesh toppled the group from its areas of territorial control in the Middle East, but since then the group’s “online Caliphate” has metastasised. Too often, we have seen Daesh and other extremists misrepresent religion and political grievances to serve their own ends, contributing to the destabilisation of fragile states and causing untold suffering. The ideology that lured thousands of fighters to conflict zones continues to spur violence on a global scale, but for every successful attack, law enforcement thwarts many more. To defeat Daesh ideology, we must offer compelling narratives of tolerance, peaceful acceptance, and economic prosperity that counter extremists’ exploitation of religion and politics. The United States and the United Arab Emirates established the Sawab Center in 2015 to expose the emptiness of Daesh’s hateful propaganda and advance the Global Coalition’s work. Sawab messages daily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube in Arabic, English, and French. The Center reflects both countries’ robust partnership in the battle against violent extremism, and the need for it has never been greater. These sentiments of peace and tolerance represent the majority but can drowned out in corners of the internet or media where extremist narratives thrive.”

The Independent: Militants Kill 22 In Democratic Republic Of Congo

“Islamist militants are suspected to have killed at least 22 people with knives and machetes in an overnight raid on villages near the town of Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia, is suspected to be behind the killings. Several more villagers are understood to have been kidnapped, according to a local official. The killings come a little more than three weeks after the DRC imposed martial law in the conflict-stricken provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which border Uganda. The government said the law aimed to “swiftly end the insecurity which is killing our fellow citizens on a daily basis”, and would be in place for an initial period of 30 days. A four-month-old baby, who was found alive on the back of one of the victims, was among those orphaned in the killings that tore through a number of villages about 25 miles east of Beni. Holding the orphaned baby, the dead woman’s sister Kavira Mwisha told Reuters: “They gave the baby to me to feed because she was crying. I call on the government to end this war.” The head of Bulongo commune, Jean-Paul Katembo, said 22 villagers had been confirmed dead and several more were thought to have been abducted.”

Voice Of America: VOA Exclusive: Tobacco Giant’s Burkina Faso Distributor Denies Smuggling, Funding Terrorism

“Two investigative reports this year accused the Burkina Faso representative of tobacco giant Philip Morris of funding terrorism through tobacco smuggling. In an exclusive interview with VOA, Apollinaire Compaoré rejects those findings. Selling cigarettes to smugglers who pay jihadists to protect their convoys. That’s the accusation leveled against the Burkina Faso representative of Phillip Morris International by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP. In a February report, the Sarajevo-based group cited officials, rivals and former colleagues of Apollinaire Compaoré who accused him of indirectly funding terrorism by working with smugglers who carry not only cigarettes, but drugs and people into Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Libya. It also accused Burkina Faso authorities and the Swiss American tobacco giant of being complicit in a vast smuggling operation centered around a warehouse in the northern town of Markoye. “Indeed, we think Phillip Morris was aware of what he was doing,” Aisha Kehoe Down, OCCRP Investigative Journalist told VOA.”

All Africa: Mozambique: Unemployment Not The Cause Of Terrorism, Says Governor

“The governor of the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, Valigy Tauabo, has described as false the frequent claim that unemployment is the main reason why young people join the terrorist groups active in the province, according to a report on Radio Mozambique. Speaking at an extraordinary meeting of the Ancuabe district government, during a working visit to that district, Tauabo pointed out that the government was trying to create jobs. But while the government implanted economic and social infrastructures which could employ more young people, the terrorists set about destroying them. Before the wave of jihadist destruction, “the trend in our province was one of growth, of acceleration, of more employment, and of more hope”, said Tauabo. “But the actions of the terrorists contradict this will of the government”. “Then others appear saying the reason they are doing this is the lack of jobs, but that's got nothing to do with it”, he added. The government, he stressed, had shown its efforts to create more jobs. Young people “should not accept these words about a lack of jobs as a justification for actions that are not acceptable to society.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

The Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide… [terrorist attacks will] remove the threat of the Hispanic voting bloc.

Patrick Crusius, El Paso Shooter Aug. 2019
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