Eye on Extremism: November 10, 2022

Politico: The U.S. Military Plan To Keep ISIS Down: Infrastructure

“The focus may be on the midterms and the Russia-Ukraine war, but the Pentagon is quietly starting to build infrastructure in Syria for a long-haul fight with the Islamic State. Roughly 900 special forces are still working overtime to help local forces hunt ISIS remnants to keep the terrorist group at bay. The Department of Defense’s latest weapon of choice, though, is improved facilities and services so ISIS can’t break out the 10,000 or so former fighters languishing in crumbling detention centers across Syria. ISIS fighters have targeted these areas multiple times in recent months, most brazenly attacking the Hasakah prison in northeastern Syria in January. Scores of prisoners escaped during the 10-day battle that ensued. “We know that ISIS sees the detention centers, the detainee population, as the path to reconstitute its ranks,” said one defense official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the situation. “So even though ISIS doesn’t hold territory… the inspiration and the will to reconstitute is not going away.” The Pentagon sought authority and funding from Congress to make some improvements, although it’s the local partner — the Syrian Democratic Forces — that is actually carrying out the upgrades on the ground. Some of this work has already begun, including building guard towers and installing lights to prevent nighttime smuggling.”

 Reuters: Women Stopped From Entering Amusement Parks In Afghan Capital

“Afghan women were stopped from entering amusement parks in Kabul on Wednesday after the Taliban's morality ministry said there would be restrictions on women being able to access public parks. A spokesperson for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (MPVPV) confirmed that women would be restricted from accessing parks when asked for comment by Reuters, but did not respond to requests to provide further details. It was not clear how widely the restrictions applied or how they affected a previous rule from the MPVPV saying parks, including open-air spaces, must be segregated by gender and certain days would be aside for women. Bilal Karimi, a deputy spokesperson for the hardline Islamist Taliban administration, did not respond to a request for comment. At a Kabul amusement park containing rides such as bumper cars and a Ferris wheel, Reuters witnesses observed several women being turned away by park officials, with Taliban agents present observing the situation.”

United States

The Washington Times: ISIS Supporter Gets 17 Years In Federal Prison For Planning Pittsburgh Church Bombing

“A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison for planning to bomb a Pittsburgh church in the name of the terrorist group ISIS, according to prosecutors. The Department of Justice said Wednesday that Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 24, will serve 208 months after he originally pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in September 2021. Prosecutors said that Alowemer intended to bomb the church and potentially kill numerous people to support the cause of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, as well as to inspire other ISIS members in the U.S. to carry out their own attacks. He targeted what he called a “Nigerian Christian” church in order to “take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria,” according to the DOJ. “The defendant’s plan to bomb a Pittsburgh church and risk death or injury to residents in the area in the name of ISIS was thwarted by the extraordinary work of the Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force,” said U.S. Attorney Cindy K. Chung for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “Our office will continue to hold accountable individuals who threaten the safety of our communities.” In May 2019, Alowemer distributed instructions on how to make and use an improvised explosive device (IED) to an FBI employee who was posing as a fellow ISIS supporter.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Afghan Central Bank Gets Fresh Banknotes After U.S. Helps Clear Payment

“A Polish firm has delivered Afghani banknotes to Kabul this week after the United States paved the way for the Afghan central bank to make a payment via international banking systems, a member of the bank's supreme council told Reuters on Wednesday. The payment represents a shift for Afghanistan's central bank, which has been largely cut off from the international financial system since hardline Islamist Taliban insurgents seized power in the country last year. Some Taliban members are subject to international sanctions. The Afghan central bank held a contract with a Polish company for the printing of its banknotes but had been unable until early July to begin payment. Without access to fresh banknotes for more than a year, Afghanistan's cash has been deteriorating, with notes torn in shreds or held together with cellotape, exacerbating the impoverished country's liquidity crisis.”

Yemen

Arab News: Houthis Launch Fresh Drone Attack On Yemeni Port

“A drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthis hit a commercial port in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa on Wednesday when an oil tanker was offloading fuel. A local official told Arab News that the drone landed near an oil ship at the Rudum terminal. No casualties were reported in the latest in a string of drone strikes on government-controlled ports since early last month. “The strike appears to be a warning, similar to those on the Dhabbah port in Hadramout and the Al-Nashima port in Shabwa,” said a Yemeni official who requested anonymity. The internationally recognized government designated the Houthi movement as a terrorist group in October after drone attacks on oil installations in Hadramout and Shabwa. An earlier attack on Hadramout’s Al-Mukalla port, on Oct. 25, came days after the government threatened to withdraw from a UN-brokered truce and the Stockholm Agreement, which seeks to keep goods and humanitarian aid flowing through Yemen’s ports. The movement has threatened to attack ships taking oil to the international market if the government does not pay public employees in regions under Houthi control. This is despite agreeing in the UN-brokered truce to pay them with cash gained from fuel ships entering Hodeidah port, with the government making up any shortfall.”

Lebanon

Asharq Al-Awsat: Lebanon: Caretaker Minister Says 8 Terror Cells Seized In 2022

“Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said on Tuesday that the security forces have managed to arrest eight terror cells in 2022, assuring that the country’s security is under control. “The Intelligence Directorate was capable of arresting eight terror cells in 2022. We adhere to the secrecy of our investigations knowing that we only disclose information that appeases the Lebanese. Security forces are on the watch to ensure their safety,” said Mawlawi during the Central Security Council meeting. He said the security situation is “acceptable” compared to the current circumstances that the country is going through. “The crime rate is not growing comparable to the crime rate in 2021,” he said, adding that the problematic security situation in Lebanon’s city of Tripoli has been brought under control. On the attempts to smuggle narcotics, he said the security and military forces are exerting serious efforts to stop that, “our efforts will continue,” he stressed. “The fact that more attempts to smuggle drugs abroad are being stopped indicates how serious the security and military forces are in carrying out their duties,” said Mawlawi. On the situation in the Syrian encampments of refugees, he said that despite the “exceptional circumstances” that the crisis-hit country is going through, the security and military apparatuses are carrying out their duties.”

Middle East

AFP: Two Palestinians Dead In West Bank Violence

“Two Palestinians including a teenager were killed in unrest in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, one of them in clashes during a visit by right-wing Israeli politicians to a sensitive religious site. The Palestinian health ministry said Mahdi Mohammad Hashash, 15, died of “serious wounds caused by shrapnel... during the occupation's (Israel's) incursion into Nablus”, the largest city in the northern West Bank. The Israeli military said troops had been in the area to secure “the entrance of worshippers to Joseph's Tomb”, believed to be the last resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph and a flashpoint for West Bank violence. It said “shots were heard” at the site and troops fired “towards a terrorist who placed a bomb in the area”. “A hit was identified,” it added, without directly commenting on Hashash's death. The Palestinian Red Crescent said three others were wounded in the clashes. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's secular Fatah movement, issued a statement claiming Hashash as one of its members. A Jewish settler organisation told AFP that eight Israeli politicians -- current lawmakers and others elected on November 1 who have yet to be sworn in -- were visiting Joseph's Tomb. The group included members of veteran hawk Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and allies from the extreme right Religious Zionism bloc.”

The Times Of Israel: Three Palestinian Women With Islamic Jihad Ties Charged For Planned Shooting

“Three Palestinian women from Nablus with ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group were charged this week over plans to commit a shooting attack against Israeli security forces in the West Bank. On August 20, Tahrir Abu Sariya, Maryam Arafat and Alaa Abu Dhraa were detained by Defense Ministry security guards at the Eliyahu Crossing, near Qalqilya. A loaded makeshift “Carlo” submachine gun was found in the trunk of their car. The Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday that the cell, headed by 29-year-old Abu Sariya, sought to commit an attack following the killing of senior al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade member Ibrahim al-Nabulsi by Israeli security forces earlier that month. The Shin Bet security agency confirmed the details of the report to The Times of Israel. According to the Shin Bet’s investigation, Abu Sariya recruited the other two women before making contact with a terror operative in the Gaza Strip and an Islamic Jihad operative in Nablus, who helped them purchase weapons for the attack. The trio allegedly filmed themselves wearing Islamic Jihad headbands and declaring their intention to die, and sent the video to the Gaza-based operative. On the day of the planned attack in August, the three opened fire at a military post near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim after apparently spotting a soldier stationed there.”

Somalia

Reuters: Somalia Army, Allied Militia Kill 20 Al Shabaab Fighters In Latest Offensive

“Somalia's army and associated clan militias have killed at least 20 al Shabaab fighters in towns in the centre of the country, a regional official and the Information Ministry said on Wednesday, in the latest onslaught against the group. Ahmed Shire Falagle, information minister for regional Galmudug state, said that in the ensuing clash between the two groups, the army and the militias also captured El Gorof and Wabho, towns which had been in al Shabaab control for almost 10 years. “There was no fierce fighting. Al Shabaab was chased and pursued. Al Shabaab ran away, leaving weapons and at least 20 dead fighters,” he told Reuters. “We are determined to liberate all the towns which are controlled by al Shabaab. As we pursued them, six of our soldiers were wounded.” Falagle said he believed al Shabaab fighters had carried away some of their dead fighters. The central government's ministry of information said in a statement that the number of dead al Shabaab fighters stood at 50. The group was not immediately reachable for comment. Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has been under pressure since August, when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud began an offensive against them, supported by the United States and clan militias known locally known as macawisley, or “men with sarongs”. The group has killed tens of thousands since 2006 in its fight to overthrow Somalia's central government and implement its interpretation of Islamic law.”

Voice Of America: Somalia's Al-Shabab Militants Widening Revenue Base

“U.N. experts say the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab has widened its revenue stream beyond its traditional activities, like charging tolls at checkpoints, to illegally taxing properties and construction. In a new report, made public this month, U.N. experts say the terrorist group is seeking more funds to pay about $1 million per month in salaries to its fighters. The report says despite Somalia's crackdown on al-Shabab, the militants are also able to move funds through local and Islamic banks. A Somali woman who declined to be named for security reasons told VOA that al-Shabab militants demanded she pay $425 this year in so-called taxes for a house she bought almost three years ago in Mogadishu. She said a man called her on the phone and summoned her to an al-Shabab court outside Elasha-boyaha, in Lower Shabelle region. She traveled there, and met a crowd of people from Mogadishu who were also summoned by the court. She said nobody dares to defy the group's orders because people get killed. The U.N. experts' report says al-Shabab in May issued a notice to households of annual charges between $100 and $300 for iron sheet, stone, and multi-story houses. The report says the group also extorts owners of buildings and homes being constructed around Mogadishu at about 25 percent of the value of the development.”

Africa

AFP: Suspected ADF Militants Kill Three In East DR Congo

“Suspected fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces group have killed three people and torched houses and a clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east, local sources said Wednesday. ADF militants attacked the village of Kabasha, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the town of Beni in North Kivu province, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to local official Kalunga Meso. He added that three people were found dead afterwards, and the village clinic burned down. The ADF -- which the Islamic State group claims as its Central African offshoot -- is among the most violent of more than 120 armed groups active in DRC's volatile east. It has been accused of slaughtering thousands of Congolese civilians and carrying out bomb attacks in neighbouring Uganda. Philemon Kasereka, a pastor who spoke to AFP via telephone from Beni, said that other villagers were missing in the wake of the attack. Two of the dead were a mother and child whose house had been torched, he added. AFP was unable to independently confirm the death toll. On October 20, suspected ADF fighters killed seven people in attacks on clinics in the nearby town of Maboya. Hundreds of doctors protested in Beni several days afterwards, demanding hazard pay and increased security at health clinics.”

MSN: Niger Kills Five Suspected Boko Haram Members After Kidnapping In Diffa Region

“Security forces in Niger have killed five suspected members of the jihadist group Boko Haram in an operation to rescue eight people recently abducted in the town of Maldjori, one of whom was killed during the clashes. According to information gathered by the Nigerian news portal ActuNiger, the kidnapping took place on the night of Monday to Tuesday in this locality, located in the region of Diffa (southeast), one of the most affected by the operations of Boko Haram. In response, the National Guard launched a search operation that led to the location of those responsible for the abduction and led to clashes that resulted in the death of five suspects and the release of seven hostages, three of whom were injured. The region of Diffa, on the shores of Lake Chad, is the scene of relatively frequent attacks by Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). The African country also faces a terrorist threat in the west from Al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua, located in the 'three borders' area - next to Mali and Burkina Faso.”

New Zealand

NZ Herald: Teen Who Threatened To Kill Non-Muslims Had Plan To Attack Auckland, Documents Show

“About four years after he took an interest in Middle East conflicts and subsequently became radicalised online, a North Shore teen confided to a person he had recently met on social media that he was ready to take the next step - an attack in Auckland that he hoped would kill 20-30 non-Muslims. The ongoing conversation, with what turned out to be an undercover police officer, lasted about a month and included the teen sharing a list of his potential attack sites and extensive details about how he might carry it out. But police brought what was known as Operation Strand to a quick conclusion in September last year, just days after an unrelated terror attack in a New Lynn supermarket saw several shoppers stabbed. “The defendant messaged [undercover officer] Ozarikon and stated that he felt inspired by the attack and wished to bring the attack forward,” according to court documents released to the Herald today, shedding new light on what has until now been a secretive case. The man, now 20 and with ongoing name suppression, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of threatening to kill, two counts of supplying objectionable publications and six counts of possession of objectionable publications. He faces up to 14 years in prison when he is sentenced in the High Court at Auckland next year before Justice Rebecca Edwards.”

Technology

Arab News: World Must Take Cyberattacks As Seriously As Terrorism, Saudi Energy Minister Warns

“International agreements are needed to thwart the growing risk of cyberattacks, according to Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as he warned the energy sector is increasingly vulnerable to such dangers. Speaking on the first day of the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh, Prince Abdulaziz said governments and companies faced a “collective danger”, although he insisted the Kingdom is ready for any such attack. The minister called for global collaboration to help defeat the hackers, and said: “We need to have international agreements to mitigate cyberattacks just like the world is doing against terrorism.” He went on to say that the motives behind these attacks could be “anything — whether political, ideological, etc”, and added: “We cannot afford to be attacked without being ready.” The comments came as Fahad Al-Jutaily, CEO of cybersecurity firm sirar by stc, warned an attack is being launched somewhere on the planet every 11 seconds.  Speaking about Saudi Arabia’s readiness for any cyberattack, Prince bin Salman said: “I cannot proclaim victory before the victory.” However, he stressed the importance of not being in a race with one another, competing on which country has the right capabilities to defend itself. “This forum makes the point that cyber-attack is a collective danger that has to be attempted collectively,” he explained.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On November 29, 2020, an assailant detonated an explosives-filled military vehicle on an Afghan army base, killing at least 31 and wounding 24. 

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