Eye on Extremism: May 5, 2020

France 24: Hezbollah Slams German Ban As ‘Submission To America’s Will’

“The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement on Monday condemned Germany's ban on his group as bowing to US pressure and insisted it was not active in the country.  Germany designated Hezbollah a “Shiite terrorist organisation” on Thursday as its security forces raided mosques and associations linked to the group. In a televised speech, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called it a “political decision that reflects Germany's submission to America's will and to pleasing Israel”. “When we say we are not active in Germany, we are being 100 percent honest,” said the leader of the Iranian-backed group. Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war and fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel. The US and Israel have long designated it a terrorist group and urged allies to follow suit. Like the European Union, Germany had until now outlawed only Hezbollah's military wing while tolerating its political arm, a major force in the Lebanese parliament. Nasrallah on Monday said he expected more EU countries to follow Germany's example. The Hezbollah chief also condemned German authorities for raiding mosques and associations linked to the group and called on the Lebanese government to protect its nationals in Germany.”

United States

Reuters: Cuba Calls Attack On Washington Embassy Terrorism; Police Say Gunman Heard Voices

“Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Monday called a gun assault last week on its embassy in Washington a “terrorist attack”, while U.S. court papers said the suspected gunman was a psychotic Cuban emigre who heard voices. There were no injuries in the attack last Thursday, but gunshots riddled the facade and some penetrated the building. Police arrested Alexander Alazo, 42, at around 2 a.m. after he fired an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle 32 times at the embassy, according a memorandum filed on Sunday in support of pretrial detention. Alazo told investigators he would have shot the ambassador if he had come out because he was “the enemy”. Voices in his head had told him to protect his family from what he believed were Cuban organized crime groups affiliated with the Cuban government that he claimed were following them and wanted to harm them. He admitted he had been prescribed antipsychotic medication in March but did not fully comply with the prescription, a fact U.S. state prosecutors argued “strongly weighs against his release” before trial. “I must denounce the terrorist attack ... and demand from the United States government a thorough and swift investigation, harsh sanctions and security measures and guarantees for our diplomatic missions,” Diaz-Canel told a virtual summit of the non-aligned movement early on Monday.”

Syria

Al Jazeera: ISIL Used Syria's Al-Hota Gorge As Dumping Ground For Bodies: HRW

“ISIL (ISIS) used a deep gorge in northeast Syria as a dumping ground and mass grave for bodies of people it abducted and executed, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report. Authorities need to remove the human remains from the al-Hota gorge located 85km (53 miles) north of Raqqa city and preserve the evidence for criminal proceedings against the killers, HRW urged in a statement on Monday. ISIL controlled the area around the al-Hota gorge from 2013 to 2015. By flying a camera-equipped drone into the 50m (164 feet) deep gorge, HRW discovered the remains of at least six people floating at the bottom. Based on the state of decomposition, the bodies were dumped there long after ISIL had left the area, HRW said. The identities of those victims and their causes of death remain unknown. Geological maps and a 3D topographic model of al-Hota from the drone imagery suggest that the gorge goes deeper than the drone was able to see, so more human remains may lie below the water's surface.”

Al Jazeera: Syria Says Israeli Jets Hit Military Outposts In Aleppo Province

“Syrian air defences thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a research centre and a military base in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said on Monday, in the fifth such attack in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets. The Syrian army said in a statement that Israel hit military barracks in al-Safirah in the eastern Aleppo countryside. Earlier, state television had said a research centre was hit. The army said it was now assessing the damage caused by the raids. A regional intelligence source said Israel was stepping up raids in Syria at a time when world attention and the region, including Syria, were distracted by the coronavirus pandemic. An Israeli army spokeswoman declined to comment on the report. Western intelligence sources say Iranian-backed militias have long been entrenched in Aleppo province where they have bases and a command centre and installed advanced weapons, part of a growing presence across government-controlled Syria. The Scientific Studies and Research Center is one of several facilities where Western intelligence and opposition sources suspect Syria, with the help of Iranian researchers, works on developing chemical weapons they accuse Syria of having used against civilians in rebel-held areas.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: 9 Syrian Policemen Shot Dead In Regime-Controlled Daraa

“Unknown gunmen killed nine Syrian policemen on Monday in a southern village close to the border with Jordan, state media and an opposition war monitor said. The attack occurred in the province of Daraa where Syria’s anti-regime uprising began in March 2011 before morphing into a war that has killed more than 400,000 people and displaced half the country’s population. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that a group of unknown gunmen kidnapped the policemen before shooting them dead. “Unknown assailants attacked the municipality building... abducting nine members of the security forces before shooting them dead and abandoning their bodies in a square,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. Syria’s state news agency SANA said that the nine policemen were killed in the village of Muzayreeb by “terrorists” who attacked them while they were on duty. It listed the names of the dead policemen without giving further details. The regime often refers to the opposition and extremist groups as terrorists. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraq Launches Operation To Pursue ISIS Elements After Recent Attacks

“Iraqi security forces began Sunday large-scale military operations to purse ISIS remnants. This military campaign comes in response to the recent attacks launched by the terrorist organization in a number of Iraqi regions, in which security personnel and elements from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were killed. According to the semi-official Al-Iraqiya TV channel, the operations were launched in line with orders by Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and focused on the outskirts of Salah al-Din province and the west of Diyala and Anbar provinces. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source in Mosul city said some merchants have recently complained about the ISIS elements again imposing royalties on them. This brings to mind the group's blackmail and the imposition of royalties on the city's merchants and riches before seizing it in June 2014. The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the current extortion and royalties are practiced on a small scale and mostly in secret. “Some traders respond to their demands, fearing retaliation by the terrorist elements and due to their lack of confidence in the government's measures against ISIS.”

Kurdistan 24: ISIS Continues Its Multi-Pronged Attacks In Iraq For Third Day In A Row

“On Sunday night, the so-called Islamic State launched multiple assaults in different areas across central provinces of Iraq, targeting tribal Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and a local administrator, making it the third consecutive assault in a week. The bloody incident comes as part of a recent increase in activity by fighters loyal to the group, over two years after its territorial defeat in Iraq in late 2017 by federal security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and the PMF militias, with air support by the US-led coalition. In an ambushed attack by the Islamic State on Sunday night against the convoy of al-Azim district’s head of municipality, Mohammed Dhifan al-Obeidi, the head was critically wounded and three of his guards killed, a source told Kurdistan 24. Following the attack, a group of tribal fighters also known as tribal PMF, organized a unit alongside the Iraqi army and police to raid the site resulting in four deaths and five injuries in renewed clashes with the Islamic State, the source said. In parallel, an Iraqi soldier was killed in a sniper attack launched by some Islamic State members on the Naqishbandi Iraqi army base in Qara Tapa sub-district of Diyala late on Sunday, they noted.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Hits Daesh In Counterterrorism Efforts, Arrests 76 Members

“Turkish security forces dealt a heavy blow to the Daesh terrorist organization in the first four months of the year with a series of successful domestic counterterrorism operations in which 354 suspects were detained and 76 were arrested including high-level members. According to information compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA), police, gendarmerie and border forces have detained 354 suspects, and seized several documents, weapons and ammunition from the terrorist organization. Some of the 76 arrested terrorists were deported while the legal proceedings of others continue. The security officials arrested five foreign nationals preparing for a terror attack in the capital Ankara on New Year's Eve; four of them were sent to prison. In western Balıkesir province, 11 suspects linked to the terror group in Iraq were arrested. Four women affiliates, including one senior operative, were caught in Hatay province in southern Turkey following their entry into the country from Syria. Another Daesh affiliate was arrested in northwestern Edirne province. The Kyrgyz national was arrested with prosecutors seeking more than six years of jail time for him while a Danish national sought by Interpol, going by the initials of Y.A., was caught in southern Turkey following a joint operation of security and intelligence operatives.”

Afghanistan

Radio Free Europe: Taliban Truck Bombing Kills At Least Five At Afghan Military Center

“A truck-bomb attack at a military center in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province has killed at least five people and wounded several others. The May 4 attack came as U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said attacks by the Taliban were increasing, despite the United States and the militant group having signed a peace deal in February. The Taliban, claiming responsibility for the bombing in Helmand, said it attacked a center where at least 150 members of the Afghan army and intelligence wing were stationed. “Five members of the Afghan security forces and intelligence services were killed and seven others were wounded in a truck-bomb explosion in Grishk district,” Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the regional governor, told RFE/RL. The Taliban claimed the toll was much higher, saying that “dozens” of Afghan soldiers had been killed and wounded in the attack, which occurred late on May 3. “Dozens of members belonging to the enemy forces have been killed and wounded in the attack,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmedi said in a statement. The Afghan Defense Ministry had earlier said only one member of the army was wounded. In a separate incident, at least 20 people were injured when suspected Taliban militants threw a hand grenade into a mosque in the Khayerkot district of the southeastern Paktika Province late on May 3, police said.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Claim Attack On Afghan Army Base 

“Taliban have claimed an attack on an Afghan military and intelligence base in Helmand province Sunday night that killed at least seven and wounded more than a dozen, according to a security source. The attack was confirmed by multiple Afghan officials, including the spokesman for Helmand governor Omar Zawak, albeit with a lower number of casualties. The Afghan ministry of defense said only one person was wounded. The source who did not wish to be named also said the base in Grishk district was partially damaged in the attack. District police chief Ismail Khpalwak said a suicide attacker exploded a Mazda mini truck in front of the gate. The base along the Kandahar-Herat highway is approximately 120 km north of the provincial capital Lashkargah which houses forces responsible for keeping the highway secure. The Taliban statement claiming the attack said it was done in retaliation for repeated violations of the deal made between the United States and Taliban in February in Doha, as well as attacks on civilians living in areas under Taliban control. While this is the first time in weeks that Taliban have directly claimed an attack, several reports suggest Taliban violence increased in March and April of this year.”

Time: The American Hostages Left Behind For Trump's Taliban Peace Deal

“Two American hostages still missing in Afghanistan underscore the limits of a troubled peace deal the U.S. signed with the Taliban, and the Trump Administration’s diminishing ability to bend the militants to American will as the group steps up attacks on its Afghan allies. As the U.S. was nearing an accord with the Taliban, the militant group’s hardline Haqqani faction kidnapped American contractor and Navy veteran Mark Frerichs in Afghanistan on Jan. 31. The Trump Administration, which was aware he was missing, went ahead and signed the Feb. 29 peace deal anyway. It provided for a Taliban ceasefire against U.S. forces in return for their eventual withdrawal, but made no specific mention of hostages, nor did it specify any protection for American contractors, current and former U.S. officials tell TIME. It was a surprising concession from President Donald Trump, who has previously made bringing American captives home a high priority. Now some lawmakers in Washington are demanding the Trump Administration drive a harder bargain with the Taliban to find and free Frerichs and Paul Overby, another American missing in Afghanistan since 2014.”

Foreign Policy: In Rural Afghanistan, Taliban Gingerly Welcome Girls Schools

“For the last year, Habib-ur-Rahman has been running a small girls school in his own home in this remote area of rural Afghanistan, which is largely dominated by the Taliban. In a previous era, when the Taliban completely ruled the country before 9/11, that would have been impossible: The radical Islamist group forbade formal education for girls. But things are different this time, villagers say. Some of the girls at Rahman’s school are actually related to active Taliban members, and according to the villagers, the insurgents have assured them that they have no qualms with his girls school. “Some of my students are daughters, sisters, or nieces of Taliban fighters. Mostly, all of these men are not living in our village,” Rahman told Foreign Policy. “They are busy with fighting and hiding. But they encouraged their relatives to visit my school and get educated.”  “My brother is a Taliban fighter. But he does not have any problems with the school. He wants me to seek wisdom and education,” said Latifa Khostai, one of Rahman’s students. Even as the fighting rages outside the village between the Taliban and Afghan national forces, despite a U.S.-orchestrated cease-fire, Rahman said he is cautiously hopeful that things won’t go back to the way they were before.”

Pakistan

Hindustan Times: In Pakistan’s New Script For Terrorism In Kashmir, Handwara Is The Key

“A second face-off between security forces and terrorists, not far from the Handwara house in north Kashmir where a bloody firefight killed 5 soldiers, appears to be part of a Pakistan attempt to rewrite the script for terrorism in Kashmir, a top security official told Hindustan Times on Monday evening. Just minutes earlier, two young men had opened fire at CRPF jawans at a security checkpoint when they were busy checking out some movement in the adjoining orchard. Two jawans were killed on the spot, the third succumbed to the gunshots later. A civilian who was caught in the cross-firing also died. The attack is considered brazen not just because of how the terrorists targeted security personnel at a checkpoint, but also the timing. In an overnight operation in another part of Handwara over the weekend, the security establishment had lost four soldiers including the commanding officer of the battalion Colonel Ashutosh Sharma and a police officer. At the end of the 13-hour long operation, two bodies of terrorists were found. One of them was said to be a top Lashkar commander Haider, a Pakistani national. Top intelligence officials told Hindustan Times that they have decided to keep an open mind about the number of terrorists involved in the Handwara encounter and ascertain if this group had recently infiltrated into India.”

Middle East

Long War Journal: Analysis: The Islamic State’s Ideological Campaign Against Al-Qaeda

“On April 29, the Islamic State’s “province” (wilayah) in Yemen released a lengthy video that is intended to undermine al-Qaeda’s ideological legitimacy within the jihadists’ ranks. The 50-plus minute production, titled “A Documentary Shedding Light on Al-Qaeda Organization’s Deviation Following What Is Known as the Arab Spring,” repeats many of the same doctrinal accusations the Islamic State has made for years. The would-be caliphate’s ire is directed at Ayman al-Zawahiri and his lieutenants, as well as al-Qaeda’s regional branches and their allies. The Islamic State’s central charge is that al-Qaeda betrayed its own Salafi-jihadist ideology in the wake of the Arab uprisings in 2011 and 2012. For those who have followed the Islamic State’s messaging since its rise to power in 2014, when the group mushroomed into an international menace, the allegations will be familiar. Indeed, the group’s literature, including its Arabic weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, and its English-language magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, have advanced the arguments discussed below on multiple occasions. Indeed, the video was highlighted in the most recent edition of Al-Naba (Issue no. 232), with an article summarizing its arguments. Al-Qaeda’s senior leaders and the group’s regional branches are not the only ones featured in the video. The Islamic State harshly criticizes various other Salafists and Islamists, especially Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s men in Egypt.”

Nigeria

Al Jazeera: Dozens Of Boko Haram, ISWAP Fighters Killed In Nigeria

“Nigeria has killed 134 members of the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) armed groups. John Enenche, Nigeria's defence ministry spokesman, told reporters on Monday the fighters were killed in Operation Kantana Jimlan, which was launched on May 1 in the country's northeast. ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram. He said 78 of those killed were members of ISWAP and 56 were Boko Haram members, adding that Nigerian troops arrested 16 informants of the fighters as the country aims to eradicate both armed groups from its territory. Lots of ammunition was also seized during the operation, he said. Boko Haram launched its fight in 2009 in northeast Nigeria but later spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a military response. More than 30,000 people have been killed and nearly three million displaced in a decade of Boko Haram's activities in Nigeria, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Violence committed by Boko Haram has affected about 26 million people in the Lake Chad region and displaced 2.6 million others, according to the UN Refugee Agency.”

Africa

 

BBC News: Mozambique: Is Cabo Delgado The Latest Islamic State Outpost?

“A simmering Islamist rebellion in a remote corner of Mozambique has erupted into open warfare in recent weeks, with reports of massacres, beheadings and the brief seizure of two towns in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, writes BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding. The armed men walked calmly through the long grass, skirting past a large white building, seemingly untroubled by the sound of gunfire. Most carried automatic rifles and wore variations of what appeared to be Mozambican army uniforms. A few more shots rang out in the distance and someone shouted “Allahu Akbar” - God is the greatest - as if in reply. The video footage, shot last month on a mobile phone in Muidumbe was powerful new evidence that a murky conflict in the northern-most region of Mozambique has now moved out into the open, in spectacular and alarming fashion. A second video, shot a few weeks earlier, showed a dead man - apparently a policeman - lying in a pool of blood. The camera then moved over to reveal another corpse, then a third lying under a black police vehicle, then a fourth body out in the open, and finally a large pile of automatic weapons in some sort of police or military store.”

Voice Of America: France, G5 Sahel Nations Urge Chad To Continue Counterterrorism Support

“France and other countries in Africa’s Sahel region have called on Chad to send additional troops “as soon as possible” to an area wracked by instability and violent extremism. The request came last week during a videoconference between representatives of France and five countries from the Sahel region that are involved in a military alliance that has been battling a growing Islamist insurgency. The Sahel is a semi-arid region that stretches from Sudan in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. It includes Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. These nations are known as the G5 Sahel countries. The countries “highlighted the importance of sending a Chadian battalion to the Three-Borders area as soon as possible,” according to a joint statement following the G5 Sahel-France meeting last week. The tri-border area, where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso converge, has had a surge in violent attacks carried out by Islamist militants, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaida and Islamic State terror groups. Chad’s military plays a significant role in the 5,000-strong G5 force, which cooperates with French troops who have been present in the region since the outbreak of an insurgency in Mali in 2012.”

All Africa: Kenya Stops Attacks Planned By Al-Shabaab During Ramadhan

“The government has thwarted planned attacks by al-Shabaab during the Holy Month of Ramadhan, which would have seen a number of abductions and hijacking of government vehicles, a confidential security brief seen by the Sunday Nation shows. It was made possible by the collaboration of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the National Intelligence Service (NIS). “Al-Shabaab terror group has upscaled targeted attacks both in Kenya and Somalia. The group has established parallel operational administrative structures in five of the seven Federal member states (FMS) including the capital city, Mogadishu. The terrorist group has also infiltrated the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) where they occupy key positions, receive financial support and influence decision making. “Al-Shabaab's gains both in FMS and FGS are part of its plans to ascend to political power in Somalia and in the long-term create an Islamic caliphate in the Eastern Africa region. The militants have also taken advantage of the negative propaganda by Somali citizens and their diaspora community in the mainstream media in denting the images of Amisom contributing countries and Kenya in particular following the maritime dispute,” it reads.”

Germany

 

The Straits Times: Widow Of ISIS Militant Goes On Trial In Germany

“A German-Tunisian woman who married a German rapper-turned-fighter for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and who kept a child slave in Syria went on trial yesterday. The woman, named as 35-year-old Omaima M, faces a slew of charges, including membership of a foreign terror group, human trafficking and crimes against humanity. She appeared before the higher regional court in Hamburg dressed in a blue blazer, using a magazine to cover her face from photographers. Omaima M is widely known in Germany for having been the wife of the late German-Ghanaian rapper and ISIS militant Denis Cuspert, who went by the stage name Deso Dogg. Prosecutors said Omaima M had travelled to Syria in January 2015 with her three children to join her first husband and the children's father, Nadar H. She lived under ISIS rules, raising her children on the group's doctrines and receiving monthly financial help from the militant outfit, prosecutors said. Between spring and summer 2015, Omaima M allegedly held a 13-year-old Yazidi girl as a slave. She married the rapper Denis Cuspert after her first husband was killed in an air raid in Kobane, according to prosecutors.”