Eye on Extremism: May 4, 2020

The Guardian: US Warns Taliban To Curb Attacks After Exit Deal Calls For 80% Cut To Violence

“The US military has warned the Taliban it must curb attacks inside Afghanistan and revealed that a US troop withdrawal agreement signed in February included an informal commitment for both sides to cut violence by 80%. The previously secret arrangement was revealed in a Twitter spat between the US military spokesman, Col Sonny Leggett, and his Taliban counterpart, Zabihullah Mujahid. It comes after a sharp escalation in militant attacks since the agreement was sealed. In a rare open letter to militants published on Twitter, Leggett warned: “If the violence cannot be reduced – then yes, there will be responses.” The Taliban had “asked for clarity” after the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Scott Miller, called for a reduction in violence and warned that “if the Taliban continue to attack” they should expect retaliation. The militants have mounted more than 4,500 attacks across Afghanistan in the 45 days since they signed the agreement for a US troop drawdown, Reuters reported. These have mostly been in rural areas, with no high-profile suicide missions targeting cities or foreign troops. But overall attacks are up 70% from the same period last year. Leggett said that broke the terms of the withdrawal deal.”

Associated Press: ISIS Extremists Step Up Attacks As Iraq, Syria Grapple With Virus

“The man wearing an explosive vest emerged from a car and calmly marched toward the gates of the intelligence building in Iraq’s northern city of Kirkuk. When he ignored their shouts to halt, guards opened fire, and he blew himself up, wounding three security personnel in the first week of Ramadan. Days later, a three-pronged coordinated attack killed 10 Iraqi militia fighters in the northern province of Salahaddin — the deadliest and most complex operation in many months. The assaults are the latest in a resurgence of attacks by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq. The first was a brazen suicide mission not seen in months. The second was among the most complex attacks since the group’s defeat in 2017. In neighboring Syria, ISIS attacks on security forces, oil fields and civilian sites have also intensified. The renewed mayhem is a sign that the militant group is taking advantage of governments absorbed in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing slide into economic chaos. The virus is compounding longtime concerns among security and U.N. experts that the group would stage a comeback after its “caliphate,” which once encompassed a third of Iraq and Syria, was brought down last year.”

United States

ABC News: Wife Of US ISIS Hostage Pleads For Release Amid Added Coronavirus Threat

“The family of an American hostage of ISIS in West Africa is facing a new worry after suffering through years of his captivity: the risk of a coronavirus infection and fears that his captors in the Sahara Desert may not be able to protect him in a vast, austere region where running water is rare, his wife told ABC News this week. Jeffery Ray Woodke, 59, a Christian humanitarian worker in Niger since 1991, was kidnapped in the country's northern desert in October 2016 by militants aligned with the Islamic State terrorist group. Officials said they believe he likely is held by ISIS in neighboring Mali, where French Armed Forces operate. "My hope is really that he's isolated enough. But that doesn't always protect you. So, yes, I am more worried," Els Woodke told ABC News last week in her first U.S. interview since her husband's abduction more than three years ago. Addressing his captors directly, Els Woodke said, "I would say, please consider Jeff's age and what is going on in the world. It's not good to keep captives. Send him home." Both U.S. and Nigerien officials have told ABC News they believe Jeffery Woodke is alive. His wife decided to speak publicly this week during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, to renew her past pleas on YouTube in 2017 and 2018 for the captors to set him free.”

Politico: The Dark History Of America’s First Female Terrorist Group

“On the evening of November 7, 1983, a call came into the U.S. Capitol switchboard. “Listen carefully, I’m only going to tell you this one time,” the caller said. “There is a bomb in the Capitol building. It will go off in five minutes. Evacuate the building.” Then the caller hung up. At 10:58 p.m., a blast went off on the second floor of the structure’s north wing. The explosion blew doors off their hinges, shattered chandeliers and sent a shower of pulverized glass, brick and plaster into the Republican cloakroom. The shock wave from the explosion sounded like a sonic boom. A jogger outside on the Capitol grounds heard the blast: “It was loud enough to make my ears hurt. It kept echoing and echoing—boom, boom.” According to one estimate, the bomb caused $1 million in damage. Later, National Public Radio received a message from a group calling itself the Armed Resistance Unit: “Tonight we bombed the U.S. Capitol.” Nobody was killed or injured in the attack, but the ARU made clear that it had contemplated lethal action: “We purposely aimed our attack at the institutions of imperialist rule rather than at individual members of the ruling class and government. We did not choose to kill any of them at this time.”

Syria

The Washington Times: Islamic State Prisoners Agree To End Riot In Syria Jail

“Imprisoned members of the Islamic State group rioted and took control of a prison in northeast Syria for several hours, until Kurdish-led authorities negotiated an end to the unrest Sunday. The riot began Saturday at a prison in the city of Hassakeh, one of the largest facilities where IS members are held, and control was reestablished Sunday evening, said Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. A two-day riot and takeover of the same prison in late March allowed four extremists to escape, although they were caught a day later. It was one of the most serious uprisings by the prisoners since IS was defeated a year ago, when the SDF seized control of the last sliver of land controlled by the extremists in eastern Syria. Kurdish authorities currently operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 IS fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans. Gabriel said SDF officials and members of the U.S.-led coalition had taken part in talks with the prisoners. At the height of the riots, he said Kurdish special forces and anti-terror units took part in the operations to try get the situation under control.”

Iran

 

The Jerusalem Post: Iranian Proxies In Iraq Blame US For ISIS Attacks

“Iranian-backed militias and politicians in Iraq have blamed the US for recent ISIS attacks. The same groups and activists have also demanded the US leave Iraq. US forces returned to Iraq in 2014 to fight ISIS at the invitation of the Iraq government. However, as the US left several bases over the last month after Iranian-backed militia rocket attacks and ISIS attacks have increased, leading the same militias that demanded the US to leave to now complain that the US was leaving and that ISIS was gaining. One of the comments came from an Iraqi member of the parliament’s Defense and Security committee. He claimed that recent ISIS mass attacks on the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Salah-a-Din governorate were “proof of cooperation between ISIS and those calling for the PMU to withdraw.” The PMU are a group of dozens of brigades, many of them made up of Shi’ite militias who are linked to Iran and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. His comments alluded to the fact that after numerous rocket attacks against bases with US forces were carried out by pro-Iranian elements of the PMU, there were calls for the PMU to reduce its role.”

Express: Iranian Spies ‘Smuggle Millions To Terrorists’ In Lebanon And Syria

“Iranian agents are delivering suitcases stuffed with £800,000 in cash to Hezbollah terrorists despite the Islamic state begging for financial help to deal with coronavirus, it is claimed. Sources within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have revealed intelligence protection officers are personally delivering the hard currency to support cash-starved Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria. The daily deliveries are helping to finance newer and more sophisticated missile systems as well as military infrastructure in Syria, including bases. The news comes just three weeks after the Islamic Republic begged the International Monetary Fund for a £4billion emergency loan to fight the Middle East's worst Covid-19 outbreak. Official figures say the coronavirus pandemic has already claimed more than 6,000 lives in the region. Additional millions are being delivered in "special packages" or via Sarrafies - money exchanges - through transactions facilitated by Iranian businessmen in Beirut, says opposition group The People's Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK). Reports by IRGC sources describe a "money tube" using passenger and cargo flights from Iran to Hezbollah-controlled Beirut airport. Other funds are being delivered into Syria.”

Iraq

BBC News: Islamic State Militants Kill Ten Iraqis In 'Fierce Clashes'

“At least ten members of an Iraqi militia group have been killed in an attack by Islamic State militants. A statement released by the Shia-dominated Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) said the deaths came during "fierce clashes" with IS. Attacks by the IS group have continued in parts of Iraq, despite the country claiming victory over the group following its loss of territory. The country's prime minister-designate has vowed to pursue those responsible. "The operation carried out by the criminal terrorist groups represents a desperate attempt to exploit the situation of political rivalry that hinders the formation of the government to carry out its national duty of ensuring the security of citizens," a statement from Mustafa al-Kadhimi said on Saturday. Mr Kadhimi is the country's third prime minister-designate in three months. His statement, released Saturday, urged the formation of a new government to help with national security and stability. Iraq has been beset by political deadlock since mass anti-government protests forced former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign in November 2019. Hundreds of protesters were killed in the unrest, shot by security forces and unidentified gunmen.”

The Jerusalem Post: ISIS Is On Track To Double Its Attacks In Iraq And Syria

“ISIS in Iraq is regrouping and carrying out more sophisticated attacks, as illustrated by assaults on numerous locations around Samarra overnight that lasted into Saturday morning. The Popular Mobilization Units, a group of mostly Shi’ite paramilitaries, said they were struck by most of the attacks and suffered casualties, around the city 120 km. north of Baghdad. The disaster began at several villages, including a checkpoint in Makishifiya (Mukashifa), according to Rudaw news, based in Iraqi Kurdistan. At least eight members of a PMU unit called the Tigris regiment died in battle against ISIS, and other PMU members from Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s brigade were also impacted. The attack was so large that numerous units scrambled to get to the affected Salahaddin governorate, to help those under attack. In recent days ISIS has carried out attacks in Iraq’s Anbar governorate. An attack took place at Jalawla and in Shura south of Mosul, and mortars were fired near Rubah on May 1. ISIS was also active near Makhmour west of Erbil, near Yathrib, Metebeja near Tikrit, Baiji and other areas. The volume of ISIS activity is clearly increasing.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Terrorists May Target Virus-Weakened States, Report Warns

“Terrorist organizations could take advantage of weakened states combating the coronavirus outbreak and could use biological weapons, the Turkish National Police Academy warned in a report. For months, countries have been focused on managing their domestic problems, keeping their economies afloat and struggling to pull through the global pandemic with as few casualties as possible. In a report published on April 30 under the title “Psychological and Sociological Evaluations on the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Period After,” the police academy put forth the possible effects the outbreak could have on societies and states. The report, prepared by Coşkun Taştan, an instructor at the police academy, stated that the situation of countries troubled with health problems could lead to significant changes in the definitions of threat and approaches toward security. “This change can be two-way. Terrorist organizations may evaluate the weakness of states in this manner, turn this situation into an advantage and could use biological weapons in the upcoming years during their terrorist acts,” the report says, adding that this could lead to a change in the notion of a country's threat assessment in the same way suicide bombs had an effect on security technologies and the definition of safety.”

Afghanistan

Bloomberg: Taliban Mount Attacks After Deal, Killing 17 During Ramadan

“Afghan Taliban insurgents killed 17 civilians and wounded 49 during the first week of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, further chipping away at their pledge to reduce violence following a peace deal with the U.S. The fatalities occurred from April 24, Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council of Afghanistan, said on Twitter. Most of the casualties were caused by roadside bombs and direct fire, he added. The peace agreement signed in February was meant to pave the way for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. But while attacks on the U.S.-led coalition have ceased, the Taliban almost immediately began mounting assaults on Afghan rural areas. Separate data from the National Security Council show that 337 civilians have been killed, 452 wounded and 164 abducted in the two months since the signing. “Taliban have failed to live up to their commitment to remain peaceful. They increased their campaign of terror immediately and harmed 100s of Afghan men, women and children,” Faisal tweeted. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed disputed the numbers, saying on Twitter that the dead were killed by airstrikes and rocket attacks of “U.S. occupiers” and Afghan forces.”

Reuters: Taliban, U.S. Engage In Twitter Spat Amid Rise In Afghanistan Violence

“Representatives of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Taliban insurgents engaged in a rare public spat on Saturday, venting on social media about the stalling Afghan peace process. After lengthy talks behind closed doors, the Taliban and United States signed an agreement in February for reduced violence and a move towards talks with the Afghan government, but attacks by the group have increased since then. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, used Twitter to address his Taliban counterpart on Saturday, saying U.S. forces wanted the peace process to move forward, but would respond if the militant group continued to increase attacks. “Attacks generate attacks, while restraint produces restraint. If the violence cannot be reduced - then yes, there will be responses,” Leggett, said on Twitter, tagging and addressing Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Mujahid responded that the path to a resolution lies in the implementation of the Doha agreement. “Do not harm the current environment with pointless & provocative statements,” Muhajid tweeted to Leggett, adding, “we are committed to our end, honor your own obligations.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: 5 Indian Troops, 2 Rebels Killed In Kashmir Fighting

“Five Indian troops and two militants were killed in fighting in disputed Kashmir when the army and police stormed a house where rebels were holding hostages, officials said Sunday. A five-member counterinsurgency team entered the house in the northwestern Handwara area late Saturday and “successfully extricated the civilians,” an Indian army statement said. The government forces came under heavy gunfire from militants, and in the ensuing firefight, two militants and all the team members died, the statement said. It did not specify how many civilians were rescued. No militant group immediately commented and there was no independent confirmation of the hostage-taking. A police officer said an army colonel and a major along with a police officer and two other soldiers tried to storm the hideout when they were gunned down by the militants. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy. The officer said the reinforcement of special forces was called in and they shot dead the two militants but other two likely escaped. Meanwhile, at least eight civilians, including three young children and a teenage boy, were injured Sunday in a blast caused by an explosive device just a few kilometers from Saturday’s gunbattle site, police said.”

Lebanon

The National: How Hezbollah Is Pushing Lebanon To The Brink Of Economic Collapse

“The government led by Hassan Diab will not succeed in rescuing the Lebanese economy as long as its touted reforms are tailored to suit the needs of Hezbollah and its regional allies – and as long as the Prime Minister's No 1 priority is to remain in power at any cost. This government is essentially a fig leaf for a coalition of political parties led by Hezbollah, an entity that is loyal to the Iranian regime in Tehran. The assessment in the Iranian capital today, as I have been told, is that the country's economic problems are continuing to pose a grave threat to the regime's hold over power. It has therefore opted to direct public attention away from its internal challenges in two ways: engage in high-stakes military operations in the region that would compel the US to respond in ways that could potentially cost President Donald Trump his re-election chances this year; and mobilise a regional front in Iraq and Lebanon that is opposed to America. With Hezbollah being an important weapon in its arsenal, Tehran has two objectives that it is determined to achieve in Lebanon. First, it intends to help consolidate Hezbollah’s dominance over the country by overturning its banking system, market economy, political system and the constitution.”

Egypt

ABC News: Egypt Says Security Forces Kill 18 Militants In Sinai

“Egyptian police forces killed 18 militants in a raid on the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. The ministry said security forces exchanged fire with Islamic militants as they stormed a hideout in the small Sinai town of Bir al-Abed. No casualties were reported among the police. The ministry, which did not say when the raid took place, said police found weapons, three explosive devices and two explosives belts. The details could not be independently corroborated as Egyptian authorities heavily restrict access to that part of Sinai. On Thursday, an explosion hit a military armored convoy causing at least 10 casualties among Egyptian soldiers who were participating in a campaign against an Islamic insurgency in the volatile region. The military spokesman, Tamer el-Refai, did not specify the number of soldiers killed by the improvised explosive device. But other officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 10 soldiers died, including an officer, and three others suffered shrapnel wounds. An affiliate of the Islamic State group based in northern Sinai claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack, which took place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after sundown when the faithful break their daily fast.”

Nigeria

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Airstrikes Kill Terrorists, Destroy Logistics Facilities In Borno

“The Defence Headquarters has said that several Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) have been neutralized in an airstrike executed by the Air Component of Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD) at Parisu in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno State. Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, disclosed this in a statement on Friday. Enenche, who said that the mission was conducted on April 30, added that the terrorists’ structures and logistics supplies were also destroyed. According to him, the airstrikes were conducted after intelligence reports showed that Boko Haram members had continued to use a settlement as a staging area to carry out attacks against nearby troops’ locations. “In furtherance of its objective of restoring peace and security in the North East of the country, the armed forces of Nigeria, through the Air Task Force of Operation LAFIYA DOLE, April 30, 2020, neutralized some Boko Haram Terrorists, BHTs, and also destroyed some of their logistics facilities at Parisu in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno State,” the statement read. “The airstrike was conducted after intelligence reports showed that the terrorists had resumed use of the settlement as a staging area to launch out attacks against nearby troops’ locations.”

Latin America

Voice Of America: Venezuela Foils Attack By ‘Terrorist Mercenaries’

“Venezuelan officials said Sunday they foiled an attack by boats through the port city of La Guaira.  Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said the would-be attackers, whom he referred to as “mercenary terrorists”, came from neighboring Colombia and were quickly repelled by Venezuelan forces. "They tried to carry out an invasion by sea, a group of terrorist mercenaries from Colombia, in order to commit terrorist acts in the country, murdering leaders of the revolutionary government," Reverol said in a televised address Sunday. He said there were “some casualties” but did not specify how many attackers there were, who they were, or what weapons and boats they used. President Nicolas Maduro’s government frequently accuses political adversaries of trying to overthrow his government. Socialist critics have dismissed the accusations as an excuse to detain Maduro’s opponents. Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis in Venezuela. More than fifty countries, including the United States, have indicated their support for opposition leader Juan Guaido after a disputed election in 2018, but Maduro maintains control of the country’s military.”

Technology

The Guardian: ‘A Threat To Health Is Being Weaponised’: Inside The Fight Against Online Hate Crime

“In the winter of 2002, nine months before Hanif Qadir unpacked his bag at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, a group of men walked into the London MOT testing centre he owned with his brothers. They were collecting money for civilians caught up in the US invasion of Afghanistan; hundreds of children had been orphaned by indiscriminate bombing, the men claimed. Could he help? The appeal resonated with Qadir, who had lost his father when he was seven. He made a donation. The men returned regularly. Each time, they asked for more money, before gradually changing the subject to Qadir’s faith. Eventually they invited him to a meeting at a local house to discuss the war in Afghanistan more freely. “I felt they were sincere and genuine,” Qadir recalls. At the meeting, the men encouraged Qadir to visit websites that claimed to show photographic evidence of violence against Afghan civilians by western troops. Qadir browsed hundreds of distressing images, among them scores of orphans, each accompanied by extended captions that described the way in which the child’s family had been killed. One girl’s story has remained with him. The website claimed she had lost 21 members of her family to a “stray” US missile.”