Eye on Extremism: November 10

The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Struggles To Control Iran-Allied Militias Believed Responsible For Attack On Prime Minister

“Iraqi officials are grappling with how to contain Iran-backed militias after a drone attack on the Iraqi premier’s residence highlighted the enduring threat the paramilitary groups pose. In the first sign that mediation efforts were making progress, several militia groups agreed to condemn Sunday’s strike and cooperate with government investigators after meeting with Iraq’s president and other officials, senior Iraqi officials said early Tuesday. The militias have denied responsibility for the attack on the residence of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who wasn’t hurt. U.S. officials have said an unspecified Iran-backed Iraqi militia was likely behind it. Iran has disavowed the attack and sent a top general to Baghdad to ease tensions. No other group has claimed responsibility for the assault. The strike put a spotlight on how militia groups pose a threat to Iraqi institutions and underscore how difficult they are for their Iranian sponsors to control, said observers of the militias in and outside of Iraq. The paramilitary forces, part of a broader movement called the Popular Mobilization Units, have wielded enormous influence over Iraqi security and institutions since they helped vanquish Islamic State. But their political parties were dealt a defeat in Iraq’s parliamentary election last month, casting uncertainty over their continued role in the country.”

The New York Times: Afghan Pilots Who Escaped Taliban Are Flown Out Of Tajikistan

“More than 140 Afghan Air Force pilots and crew members detained in Tajikistan since mid-August after fleeing Afghanistan were flown out of the country Tuesday with the help of the American authorities, according to a retired U.S. Air Force officer who leads a volunteer group that has assisted the Afghans. The flight, bound for the United Arab Emirates, ended a three-month ordeal for the U.S.-trained military personnel, who had flown American-supplied aircraft to Tajikistan to escape the Taliban only to end up in custody. The Afghans said they were counting on the U.S. government to secure their freedom after they were detained by the Tajik authorities after the Taliban seized power in their home country and they fled, fearing reprisals. In WhatsApp audio recordings made on smuggled cellphones, the English-speaking pilots described poor conditions, insufficient food rations and limited medical care at the site where they were being held outside the capital, Dushanbe. Brig. Gen. David Hicks, a retired Air Force officer who is chief executive of Operation Sacred Promise, said a plane carrying the Afghans had departed Dushanbe on Tuesday night, U.S. Eastern time, after a long delay.”


Voice Of America: 3 Killed In Suspected Turkish Drone Attack In NE Syria

“Turkey is being accused by Kurdish security forces of carrying out a drone attack Tuesday in northeastern Syria that killed three civilians in a car. The strike took place in Qamishli, a city on the Syria-Turkey border that is controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The three victims were from the same family, according to a statement by SDF's internal security forces, which also said the attack was “carried out by a Turkish drone.” Turkey has not commented on the incident, but Kurdish forces say the Turkish military has increased targeted drone operations in northeastern Syria in recent months. Turkey views the SDF and its main component, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an extension of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group labeled as terrorist by Washington and Ankara. The United States, on the other hand, distinguishes between the two Kurdish groups. In the war against Islamic State, the SDF has been a key U.S. ally. The reason for the strike on the civilian vehicle in Qamishli is unknown, although local sources claim the victims were tied to a high-ranking YPG commander. Following a massive military assault against SDF members, Turkish military and allied Syrian militias have been in control of sections of northeastern Syria since October 2019.”


Reuters: Pope Condemns Attack On Iraqi PM As Vile Act Of Terrorism

“Pope Francis on Tuesday condemned the drone attack on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's residence as a “vile act of terrorism”. Al-Kadhimi escaped unhurt when three drones carrying explosives were launched at his home in Baghdad on Sunday. Several of his bodyguards were injured. The Vatican said its Secretary of State sent a message to the prime minister in the name of the pope, who visited Iraq in March. “In condemning this vile act of terrorism, His Holiness once more expresses his confidence that with the blessing of the most high God the people of Iraq will be confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity,” the message said. Iraqi security officials and militia sources in Baghdad said the drone attack was carried out by at least one Iran-backed militia, weeks after pro-Iran groups were routed in elections they say were rigged.”


Daily Sabah: Turkey Detains 9 Daesh Terrorists, Deports 10 Others To Iraq

“Turkish security forces detained at least nine Daesh-linked suspects in counterterrorism operations, while the country deported 10 foreign nationals over links to the terrorists. Police in Eskişehir province nabbed the suspects in an operation on Tuesday, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported. Meanwhile, Turkey deported eight Iraqi nationals Monday after their arrest in an operation against the Daesh terrorist group, security sources said. Security forces in the northern Samsun province held 10 Iraqi suspects who prosecutors then ordered to be deported. The suspects were handed over to anti-human trafficking and border gates teams for their deportation procedures. The proceedings of two other suspects are continuing. In 2013, Turkey became one of the first countries to declare Daesh a terrorist group. The country has since been attacked by the terrorist group multiple times, with over 300 people killed and hundreds more injured in at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks and four armed assaults. In response, Turkey launched counterterrorism operations at home and abroad to prevent further attacks. In May, Ankara arrested a Daesh terrorist identified as the right-hand man of former terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

Saudi Arabia

Arab News: Kuwait Condemns Terrorists’ Attempt To Threaten Saudi Arabia

“Kuwait has condemned in the strongest terms the continued attempts of the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia to threaten the security of Saudi Arabia by targeting Khamis Mushayt with a bomb-laden drone and to threaten maritime navigation and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab strait and the southern Red Sea with a booby-trapped boat. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the continuation of these aggressive practices constitutes a flagrant violation of the rules of international and humanitarian law and requires the international community to move quickly and decisively to deter these threats and hold the perpetrators accountable. The ministry reaffirmed Kuwait’s its support for all the measures the Kingdom takes to preserve its security, stability and sovereignty. On Saturday, the Arab coalition said it intercepted and destroyed a drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport on Saturday. The coalition said it is dealing with the source of the threat “to protect civilians from hostile attacks.” Earlier on Saturday, the coalition said that 157 Houthis had been killed in strikes on different Yemeni areas.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Coptic Church Call For Confronting Extremism

“Participants at a conference organized by Egypt’s Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church underscored on Monday the pivotal role played by the Egyptian Family House in countering terrorism and maintaining a unified national fabric. At the event marking the 10th anniversary of the founding the Egyptian Family House, they stressed “the need to confront terrorism and extremism and raise awareness of the values of citizenship.” The conference was attended by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II, former president Adly Mansour and Justice Minister Omar Marwan on behalf of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, as well as several other ministers, ambassadors, diplomats, Islamic scholars and heads of Egyptian churches. Al-Azhar and churches across Egypt established the Egyptian Family House to allow religious institutions to contribute to the state’s national, security and political efforts in protecting the nation, said al-Tayeb. “Al-Azhar’s recognition of religious institutions inside and outside Egypt aims at bringing together humane values between divine religions,” he added. Pope Tawadros, for his part, said that “the term ‘family house’ reflects good morals.”


AFP: Burkina Soldier, 15 Jihadists Killed in Weekend Battle

“One Burkina Faso soldier and around 15 jihadists died in fighting over the weekend, the army of the west African nation said on Monday. The soldier died on Saturday in eastern Komadjari province in a battle that saw about 15 “terrorists neutralized,” it said. “One soldier from the detachment unfortunately fell during the fighting,” the statement said, adding that three others were wounded. The army’s response “enabled the neutralisation of around 15 terrorists and the recovery of their weapons. A large quantity of ammunition and motorbikes were also seized,” it said. Burkina Faso has been facing regular and deadly jihadist attacks since 2015, particularly in the northern and eastern regions, close to Mali and Niger. These attacks, often coupled with ambushes and attributed to jihadist movements affiliated to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda, have killed more than 2,000 people and forced more than 1.4 million to flee their homes.”

United Kingdom

The National: Terrorist Prisoners 'Study Psychology To Fool Rehab Professionals'

“Terrorist prisoners across Europe, such as London Bridge attacker Usman Khan, are hiding in plain sight and deceiving deradicalisation professionals, a study has found. The Counter Extremism Project think tank is calling for “significant improvements” in rehabilitation schemes after it found some terrorists were studying psychology to bluff professionals into believing they no longer pose a threat. In its study released on Tuesday, the think tank makes 13 recommendations for dealing with extremist prisoners, including the use of lie detectors, and is calling on European nations to follow the UK in ending automatic early release for prisoners convicted of terrorism. It advises that extremists should have limited contact with each other in prison to avoid them exploiting the system. Report author, Ian Acheson, recommends creating a unified team with permanent overall responsibility for offenders to prevent dangerous extremists from “falling through the net”. “One unified, multidisciplinary team with executive authority would better ensure coherence and continuity in offender risk management, thereby reducing handovers and rationalising the dangerous sprawl of the terrorist offender threat response,” it says.”


The Independent: Shamima Begum’s Husband Decries Isis Attacks In Europe But Still Hopes For A Caliphate

“The husband of former Isis bride Shamima Begum has said he does not condone the terror group’s attacks on the west but still hopes that a caliphate will be established. Yago Riedijk, 29, who has admitted to being an Isis fighter, was interviewed from the Kurdish-run al-Roj prison in northern Syria for a documentary in which he shares his views on the jihadis as well as speaking about his marriage to Ms Begum. The Dutch national wed Ms Begum days after she arrived in Syria from the UK, aged 15, in 2015, and the couple had three children, all of whom have died. Asked about Isis attacks in European countries including Germany and France in recent years, Mr Riedijk said he did not agree with the violence for “a number of reasons”. “The prohibition on killing innocent people in Islam, on killing women and children. I see these attacks as not being Islamically responsible,” he told Alan Duncan, a Scottish former soldier who is producing a documentary on Isis. However, Mr Riedijk refused to comment on attacks by Isis on other Muslims and Yazidis, as well as beheadings by the terror group. He said Isis was not finished and that he wanted to see the establishment of a caliphate that adheres to “Islamic traditions.”

Southeast Asia

Al Jazeera: Myanmar Charges US Journalist With ‘Terrorism’ And Sedition

“A US journalist detained in Myanmar has been charged with “terrorism” and sedition, and could face life in prison if convicted, according to his lawyer. Danny Fenster, who was arrested as he was leaving the country in May, was hit with the two new charges under the Counter-Terrorism Act and Myanmar’s Penal Code, his lawyer Than Zaw Aung said on Wednesday. The counterterrorism law criminalises contacts with officially designated “terrorist” groups and carries a prison term of three and seven years. The other charge under Section 124(A) of the Penal Code is usually referred to as treason and carries a penalty of seven to 20 years of imprisonment. The new charges against Fenster, 37, come days after former United States diplomat and hostage negotiator Bill Richardson met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw. Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup on February 1, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and senior officials from her elected government. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an online news magazine based in Yangon, is already on trial for allegedly encouraging dissent against the military, unlawful association and breaching immigration law.”


The National: Whistle-Blower Claims Facebook Amplified Extremism

“A Facebook whistle-blower has said the social media giant's practices amplified “extremism and polarisation”. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook engineer, told a European Parliament committee that the EU could set the global “gold standard” on clamping down on the power of large technology corporations. Ms Haugen insisted that the social media platform put more priority on profit than on curtailing toxic content. Facebook has said Ms Haugen's allegations distort reality and called her a mid-level engineer with limited access to important decisions. “I saw that Facebook repeatedly encountered conflicts between its own profits and our safety,” she said. “Facebook consistently resolved these conflicts in favour of its own profits. The result has been a system that amplifies division, extremism and polarisation. “It undermines societies around the world. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.” The EU is pushing through new laws that could force the world's biggest tech firms to rethink the way they do business. Ms Haugen endorsed the plans, especially the Digital Services Act, which would create much stricter oversight of harmful and illegal content on platforms such as Facebook, which also owns Instagram.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On November 28, 2020, Boko Haram militants attacked farmers as they worked in the rice fields of Koshebe near the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri. Abubakar Shekau confirmed his faction was responsible for the massacre of 110 civilians.   

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