Eye on Extremism: November 15

Associated Press: UN Says Many Lives Lost Daily In Africa's Sahel Crisis

“The U.N. peacekeeping chief warned Friday that the crisis in Africa’s Sahel region remains volatile, with insecurity and instability seriously undermining prospects for development and many lives lost every day as a result of terrorist attacks. “Millions of people are displaced,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix said. “Children can no longer go to school, and primary health care remains inaccessible for many” while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging. He was speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting on the G5 Sahel force set up by five African nations -- Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania -- in 2017 to fight the growing terrorist threat in the vast Sahel region. Lacroix said the joint force continues to increase its operational pace but faces “enormous challenges,” including the return of foreign fighters from the conflict in nearby Libya, domestic challenges, political uncertainty and major shortfalls in equipment and the capacity to carry out operations effectively. “The joint force is now at a crossroads and there is a risk that it will lose the gains that have been made,” he warned. In July, U.N. experts said Africa became the region hardest hit by terrorism in the first half of 2021 as the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates spread their influence, boasting gains in supporters and territory and inflicting the greatest casualties, including in the Sahel.”

Reuters: Militant Attack Kills 20 In Burkina Faso, Security Minister Says

“An attack by insurgents killed 19 Burkina Faso military police and a civilian on Sunday in the tri-border northern region where the West African nation is battling Islamist militants, Security Minister Maxime Kone said. Kone said the toll was provisional. “This morning a detachment of the gendarmerie suffered a cowardly and barbaric attack. They held their position,” Kone said on national television, adding that 22 survivors had been found. The attack on a military police outpost near a gold mine in Inata came two days after another attack in which seven police were killed in the area near Niger and Mali. Islamist militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are active in the tri-border area where several nations including France, Chad, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso have deployed hundreds of troops. Two Burkina Faso security sources and a diplomatic source told Reuters earlier on Sunday that at least 30 military police were killed in the attack and the toll could be higher, making it one of the deadliest attacks on Burkina Faso troops. Burkina Faso's armed forces confirmed the Sunday attack in a statement saying “a gendarmerie detachment was the subject of a terrorist attack”. It did not provide further details.”

Syria

The National: ISIS Ambush Kills 13 Loyalist Fighters In Syria

“An ISIS ambush has killed at least 13 fighters loyal to the Syrian government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. The attack in the country's east killed “at least 13 members of a local pro-regime group and wounded others”, the watchdog said. It took place in the Masrib area, in the West of Deir Ezzor province, while the fighters were conducting a sweep of the area, said the observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria. Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP it was the deadliest attack on pro-government forces in five months. The ISIS group's self-proclaimed caliphate was declared defeated in Syria in the riverside hamlet of Baghouz in March 2019 following a gruelling US-backed offensive. But the group continues to conduct attacks on government forces from hideouts in the vast Syrian Desert that stretches all the way from the Damascus outskirts to the Iraqi border. Mr Abdel Rahman said the group has recently increased its activity both in government-controlled areas and in territory controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The observatory said that 1,593 pro-government fighters and 153 allied pro-Iranian fighters had been killed in ISIS attacks since late March 2019.”

Iraq

The Washington Post: An ISIS Attack In Iraq Provokes Conflict Between Neighbors, Stirring Sectarian Violence

“The attack on the village of Rashad last month was unusual in recent Iraqi times for its cruelty. Islamic State gunmen opened fire on a group of seven young men — four cousins, three friends — as they smoked nargilah pipes on a warm evening, residents of the mostly Shiite Muslim village said. Then the militants waited in the dark until a rescue party arrived and turned the guns on them, too. Within hours, Shiite tribesmen had crossed the stream that separates Rashad from its Sunni Muslim neighbors and were going house to house. Families cowered in the foliage. An old man was shot in his bed. By midnight, at least nine more villagers were dead, and the sky burned red as fires ate up their homes. The initial attack claimed by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group and the reprisal it provoked underscores how fragile Iraq’s peace remains in some areas four years after the militants’ caliphate was ousted and highlights their enduring potential to stir sectarian violence.  A member of Iraq’s U.S.-trained counterterrorism force said a similar recent attack in the same province, Diyala, had left five people dead. “ISIS doesn’t use car bombs there now,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the media. “Instead, they have snipers and night-vision goggles.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Security Forces Kill Senior ISIS Figure In Kirkuk

“Members of the Iraqi security forces on Friday killed a senior ISIS figure in an operation south of the disputed Kirkuk province, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said. The ministry said in a statement that an Iraqi army unit had “killed the commander of the terrorist sniper detachment nicknamed (Abu Qatada) in the al-Bu Muhammad area in Wadi al-Shay.” Wadi al-Shay is located southwest of the town of Daquq, about 40 km south of Kirkuk. ISIS cells are still active in that vast area. The Ministry of Defense indicated that “Abu Qatada” was killed in an army ambush, resulting in two more wounded ISIS affiliates. The statement gave no further details. Wadi al-Shay is characterized by its rugged terrain and has witnessed similar military operations by the army, but it did not eliminate the remnants of the terrorist organization. Territories disputed by Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Region have witnessed regular and escalating violence carried out by terrorist organizations in areas like Tuz, Khurmatu, Jalawla, and Khanaqin, among others. Although Iraq had declared a “final victory” against ISIS in December 2017, the organization's fighters continue to carry out regular attacks. They include bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings in previously liberated areas, particularly in remote villages and regions, where security forces have difficulty monitoring the movements of the group's activity.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Wanted Daesh Terrorist Trying To Sneak Into Turkey Detained

“Two people were arrested while trying to sneak into Turkey via the Syrian border, including a wanted Daesh terrorist, the National Defense Ministry said on Saturday. The ministry said on Twitter that the terrorist was wanted with a red notice. Turkey's wanted list is divided into five color-coded categories, with red as the most wanted, followed by blue, green, orange and gray. 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 anti-terrorism operations at home and abroad to prevent further attacks.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Taliban: Bomb Hits Mosque In Afghanistan, Wounds At Least 15

“A Taliban provincial spokesman says a bomb exploded in a mosque during Friday prayers, wounding at least 15 people in eastern Afghanistan, where Islamic State group militants have been waging a campaign of violence. Qari Hanif, the government spokesman for Nangarhar Province, said the bomb appeared to have been planted inside the mosque in the town of Traili, located in the mountainous Spin Ghar area outside the provincial capital Jalalabad. Photos taken by a resident and circulating in social media showed three dead bodies, and the mosque’s interior strewn with rubble and broken glass. Hanif did not immediately confirm any deaths. It was the third major mosque bombing in five weeks in Afghanistan. The earlier attacks came on successive Fridays last month, when IS suicide bombers and gunmen blasted worshippers from Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority, first in a mosque in the city of Kunduz, then one in the southern city of Kandahar. This Friday’s bombing targeted Sunni Muslims in a province that has been a front line in the battle between the Islamic State group and the Taliban. IS militants have been carrying out nearly daily shootings and bombings against Taliban fighters in Nangarhar Province.”

Reuters: Blast Hits Shi'ite Area Of Afghan Capital Kabul

“A magnetic bomb attached to a passenger minivan exploded in a heavily Shi'ite area of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, causing an unknown number of casualties, Taliban officials and local residents said. A recent spate of such attacks has heaped more pressure on the Taliban rulers, who took power following the collapse of the Western-backed government in August and are also grappling with economic crisis and potential famine. One Taliban official, who declined to be named, said six people had been killed and at least seven wounded in the blast in the Dasht-e Barchi area of western Kabul. There was no confirmation of casualty numbers and no immediate claim of responsibility. The area is heavily populated by Shi'ite ethnic Hazaras who have been the target of repeated attacks by Islamic State militants. Two Taliban officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Islamic State was also behind Saturday's attack but there was no official comment from the movement's security forces. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's main spokesman, said a fire had broken out in Dasht-e Barchi, killing at least one civilian and injuring two others. An investigation was underway, he said in a tweet.”

The Washington Post: What The Taliban’s Youngest Fighters Tell Us About The Future Of The Movement

“Born a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Esmatullah Omari grew up to despise America. At 12, he was trained by the Taliban to plant roadside bombs. At 16, he was attacking military convoys near Bagram airfield, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan and the epicenter of America’s longest war. Now, Omari triumphantly stands guard at one of Bagram’s entrances. The Americans are gone, but the 19-year-old still doesn’t understand why they came in the first place. Once, he saw a video of planes hitting two tall buildings on a date he can’t recall, he said. “But no one told me the story about what happened.” Thousands of Americans who were either toddlers, infants or born after 9/11 joined the U.S. military to serve their nation, combat terrorism and foster democracy in Afghanistan. They included 11 of the 13 U.S. service members killed in a bombing by an Islamic State affiliate at Kabul’s airport in August during the last days of America’s two-decade-long conflict. In Afghanistan, a parallel generation of Taliban fighters battled the Americans, their lives also distinctly shaped by the 9/11 attacks. Many were children when they first tasted war, trading their childhoods for what they were told was their duty as Muslims. But they grew up in a world where the 9/11 attacks were either obscured or misrepresented in their lives.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Attack On Pakistani Police Barracks

“Islamic State militants detonated an explosive device on Saturday inside barracks of the Pakistani police in the district of Bajaur, the group said on Telegram. A police officer and a policeman were killed, it added.”

NPR: Extremists In Pakistan Have Been Emboldened By The Taliban's Success In Afghanistan

“Militant attacks inside Pakistan have been rising, highlighting an uncomfortable truth: America's exit from neighboring Afghanistan has emboldened would-be militant extremists. DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has had a knock-on effect in Pakistan. Attacks by a group known as the Pakistani Taliban are on the rise. Last week, the government signed a one-month cease-fire with the group. But as NPR's John Ruwitch explains, the Pakistani Taliban and other groups are emboldened by the success of its ideological twin in Afghanistan. JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP for short, has been around since 2007. And for a time, it wreaked havoc, killing tens of thousands in suicide bombings and shootings in its quest to establish Sharia law in Pakistan. The violence culminated in this horrific scene at a school in December 2014. RUWITCH: The attack, heard here in a news report from Pakistan's SAMAA TV, left around 150 people dead. Most were children. It hardened the Pakistani government's resolve to go after the TTP, says Madiha Afzal, an expert on extremism in Pakistan at the Brookings Institution.”

Nigeria

Associated Press: IS-Linked Group Kills Nigerian General, Destroys Buildings

“An Islamic State-linked extremist group blamed for killing thousands in Nigeria and neighboring West African countries has killed four members of the Nigerian army, including a general, the army said Saturday. The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) killed the security personnel during an attack in the Askira Uba area of Borno state, where a war against a rebel insurgency has been centered for more than a decade. A Nigerian army spokesperson said its troops killed “several” ISWAP members in response to the attack, which residents told The Associated Press had also targeted a military base and unfolded over three days. Hassan Chibok, a community leader in the neighboring Chibok council, said a classroom building and other structures were destroyed by the extremist insurgents. “The primary school (in Askira Uba) was burned down. The primary healthcare center was also burned down, and the house of the village head,” he said. “In the fierce encounter, which is still raging at the time of filing this report, troops supported by the air component of OPHK (Operation HADIN KAI, the code name for the military operation in the northeast) have destroyed five A-Jet, two A-29, two dragon combat vehicles and nine gun trucks,” the army’s spokesperson, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement.”

United Kingdom

Reuters: UK Counter-Terrorism Police Arrest Three After Liverpool Car Blast

“Counter-terrorism officers arrested three men after a vehicle exploded outside a hospital in the northern English city of Liverpoolon Sunday,killing one person and wounding another, police said. A male passenger in the car was declared dead at the scene, while the male driver was injured and was in hospital in a stable condition, police said. Counter-terrorism officers said they were investigating the case with local police and that they were keeping an open mind as to what had happened. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with those people affected and interior minister Priti Patel said she was being kept regularly updated. Three men - aged 29, 26, and 21 - were detained in the Kensington area of the city and arrested under the Terrorism Act, police said in a statement. Chief Constable Serena Kennedy said police were called to reports of a car explosion just before 1100 GMT outside Liverpool Women's Hospital, just as a Remembrance Day Service was commemorating war dead at the nearby Liverpool Cathedral. Police said they understood that the car involved was a taxi that pulled up at the hospital shortly before the explosion occurred. “Work is still ongoing to establish what has happened,” Kennedy told reporters.”

France

Reuters: France, U.S Re-Affirm Commitment To Cooperate On Anti-Terrorism

“France and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and notably in the Sahel region, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Friday. “We have a mutual concern there that relates to the ongoing challenges that the countries in the Sahel are facing. Among the many priorities that we share is a concern about what we need to do to address potential violence and ongoing violence,” Harris said.”

Financial Times: A ‘Truth Commission’: Paris Terror Trial Grips France

“François Hollande had just finished four hours of testimony in the terrorism trial of 20 men accused of carrying out the November 13 2015 attacks in Paris when one of them stood up as if to address the packed courtroom. It was Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving alleged member of the Isis-backed extremists who struck targets in the French capital, killing 130 people. A showdown loomed between the former president and the defendant, who had earlier in the trial justified the attacks as a moral response to French air strikes in Syria and blamed Hollande directly for them. “Ah no, Mr Abdeslam, if you have questions you can go through your lawyers!” Jean-Louis Périès, the presiding judge, interjected to cut short the confrontation and end a marathon day of hearings. Hollande’s presence and his stand-off with one of the alleged protagonists encapsulated how the criminal trial, now in its third month, has been acting as a cathartic moment for France. Not only is the country trying the individuals accused of the attacks at the Bataclan theatre, café terraces and Stade de France, it is also having a public reckoning over the events, and the damage they inflicted on French society. A purpose-built courtroom in a heavily fortified Palais de Justice in Paris has become a stage for the accused, investigators, survivors and politicians in power at the time to give testimony, and for experts in psychology and sociology to explain the context.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

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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