Eye on Extremism: November 16, 2020

The Washington Post: Israel, At Behest Of U.S., Killed Al-Qaeda’s Deputy In A Drive-By Attack In Iran

“Israeli agents acting at the behest of American officials assassinated al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in August, in a brazen drive-by shooting in Iran’s capital, according to a senior U.S. official. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, whose nom de guerre was Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed along with his daughter, Maryam, as they were driving in an upscale Tehran neighborhood, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. The operation, first reported Friday by the New York Times, further slims the leadership ranks of al-Qaeda and removes the accused mastermind of the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed more than 200 people. Al-Qaeda has not officially acknowledged Masri’s death, and no country has claimed responsibility. The United States located Masri, and Israel coordinated the operation with the CIA, according to the official. The CIA, FBI and Pentagon declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to a request for comment. The Israeli prime minister’s office and intelligence ministry also declined to comment. Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement Saturday denying the report and the presence of any al-Qaeda members in Iran, accusing the United States and Israel of trying “to draw a link between Iran and such groups through falsification and the leakage of fabricated information to the media.”

Deutsche Welle: Vienna Terror Attack: Police Investigating 21 Potential Accomplices

“Austrian investigators have identified 21 suspected accomplices of an Islamist gunman who went on a deadly rampage in Vienna last week, officials said Friday. On November 2, the assailant, named as dual Austrian-Macedonian national Kujtim Fejzulai, shot dead four people and injured more than 20 others in the city center before he was killed by police. Michael Lohnegger, the police official leading the investigation, told a press conference that the 20-year-old was the sole perpetrator of the shooting spree. But he added that it was not yet possible to say “to what extent accomplices provided support before the act.” A spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutor's office, Nina Bussek, told reporters that 21 people between the ages of 16 and 28 were under investigation, with 10 of them in custody. “They are essentially suspected of having contributed to the crime before the terrorist attack, and of being members of a terrorist group and a criminal organization,” Bussek said. Fejzulai carried out the attack with a Serbian assault rifle, a Soviet-type handgun, a machete, as well as ammunition made in Serbia and China. But Lohnegger said police were still investigating how the weapons reached Austria, and how Fejzulai managed to travel with them into the city center on the night of the attack.”

Detroit Free Press: Michigan AG Details Extremist Plot To Kidnap Gov. Whitmer, Including Plan To Burn Capitol Building

“No one would get out of the Michigan State Capitol alive under the initial plan devised by the accused ringleader in a Michigan terrorist plot, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Adam Fox’s “Plan A” wasn’t just storming the building and taking hostages, as officials have already said publicly – it was to get in there and televise the execution of tyrants over the course of a week, with no one coming out alive. Or, alternatively, lock the doors and set the building on fire. That’s according to a brief filed by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in Jackson County’s 12th District Court against the pretrial release of Pete Musico, 42, of Munith, who is charged at the state level in connection with a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Adam Fox, left and Pete Musico, both face charges related to what the FBI says was a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The brief was filed ahead of Musico’s Oct. 23 bond hearing, where his bond was reduced from $10 million to $100,000. The AG’s office released the brief to the Detroit Free Press of the USA TODAY Network after it confirmed the document did not fall under a protective order in the case. Musico was released on bond Oct. 30 with a GPS tether, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.”
 

United States

Associated Press: 2 Men Testify Against Alleged Ringleader Of Mosque Bombing

“Two Illinois men who pleaded guilty to a 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque testified that the group’s alleged ringleader recruited them for an unspecified job and didn’t fill them in on his plan until they neared their target. Michael McWhorter, 31, and Joe Morris, 25, testified that Michael Hari hated Muslims, and they said they participated in the attack at Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center at Hari’s instruction. But Hari’s trial was stopped abruptly Friday after a juror’s spouse tested positive for COVID-19. The Star Tribune reported that the trial will be in recess while tests are done to determine if the jury was exposed. It will resume late next week at the earliest. Hari, 49, of Clarence, Illinois, has pleaded not guilty to five federal charges, including civil rights and hate crimes, stemming from the Aug. 5, 2017, attack on the Islamic center in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. No one was injured in the blast, but the building was damaged. McWhorter and Morris pleaded guilty to their roles in the bombing. Hari’s attorney, James Becker, told jurors that McWhorter and Morris have changed their stories and were testifying to try to get reduced sentences. They both face mandatory minimum sentences of 35 years in prison. McWhorter testified Thursday that he was in financial trouble in the summer of 2017 when Hari offered him work in “security” for his company, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.”

Afghanistan

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan: Suicide Car Bomb Blast In Kabul Kills Many Soldiers

“A suicide car bomb exploded at the western entry gate of the Afghan capital Kabul, killing at least three soldiers and wounding four others, an Afghan official said. The explosion on Friday targeted a government forces’ checkpoint near the gate of the capital Kabul, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. The attack on the army checkpoint follows weeks of violence, including an attack by gunmen earlier this month that killed 22 people, mostly students of the Kabul University. The assault was claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group. On Thursday, Taliban fighters attacked a government security forces’ checkpoint in northern Kunduz province, killing five soldiers and wounding two others, said Esmatullah Muradi, the provincial governor’s spokesman. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry claims 10 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting. On the same day, radio journalist Elyas Dayee was killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand in a targeted bomb blast, officials said. Dayee was the second journalist to be killed in less than a week in what Human Rights Watch decried as an alarming pattern of “increased threats and attacks on the media by the Taliban”. However, no one claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Asian News International: 5 Afghan Soldiers Killed In Taliban Attack In Northern Takhar Province

“Five soldiers have been confirmed dead as the Taliban terrorists attacked army posts in Khawaja Ghar district of Afghanistan's northern Takhar province on Saturday, district governor Mohammad Omar Omar said. The armed terrorists stormed security checkpoints in Hawa Shinasi area outside district headquarters in the wee hours of Saturday, triggering a gun battle, the official said, adding that five soldiers were killed and five others injured in the fighting. He said the Taliban have suffered casualties but did not give an exact figure. The Taliban outfit has yet to make comment.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Pakistan To Provide 'Irrefutable Evidence' India Sponsors Militant Groups

“Pakistan will present evidence to the United Nations and other international bodies that India, its neighbour and arch rival, is involved with militant organisations on its soil, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Saturday. Pakistani officials have long claimed that India sponsors violent groups in Pakistan -- claims India has always denied -- but Saturday’s announcement at a press conference in the capital Islamabad provided a heightened level of detail and specific accusations. “We are now presenting irrefutable evidence to the world to demonstrate the Indian state’s direct sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan that has resulted in the deaths of innocent Pakistanis,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told media alongside the spokesperson for the country’s military. A dossier of evidence would be shared with the United Nations and other international agencies, he added. Reuters sent India’s foreign ministry a statement from the media wing of Pakistan’s military detailing the allegations but it did not respond to request for comment. India not only denies interfering in Pakistan but accuses Islamabad itself of supporting militants who launch attacks in India and fight in Indian-controlled portion of the disputed territory Kashmir, a claim Pakistan denies.”

Nigeria

The Guardian: Nigeria Cracks Down On 'End Sars' Protesters, Alleging Terrorism

“Nigerian authorities have cracked down on “end Sars” protesters, charging prominent supporters of financing terrorism and sanctioning coverage of recent abuses by security forces. Authorities have suspended the bank accounts of prominent supporters, fined media agencies accused of “exaggerated reporting” of police abuses – including broadcasting graphic footage of soldiers gunning down protesters in Lagos last month – and conducted arrests of demonstrators. Nigerian authorities appear to have used coercive financial measures to suppress protests against police brutality and independent media reporting, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Friday. Twenty individuals and entities, judged as prominent supporters of “end Sars” protests against the since-disbanded, infamously brutal special anti-robbery squad, have had their accounts suspended by Nigerian banks, preventing them from receiving funds. On 4 November, the Central Bank of Nigeria obtained a court order authorising it to block the accounts for 90 days. Those targeted had been raising or received money in support of protests that had erupted across Nigeria last month, providing medical and legal aid for injured and arrested demonstrators, grants for journalists to cover police and army abuses at the protests, and help to families of those killed during the demonstrations.”

Africa

The Washington Post: An Islamist Insurgency In Mozambique Is Gaining Ground — And Showing A Strong Allegiance To The Islamic State

“In the densely forested, oil-and-gas-rich northeast corner of Mozambique, a local Islamic insurgency has steadily escalated with a growing allegiance to the Islamic State and the arrival of foreign fighters using operational techniques similar to those from conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Insurgents decapitated as many as 50 people in attacks on several villages earlier this month in Cabo Delgado province, according to Police Commander Bernardino Rafael. The attacks in the mainly Christian area of Muidumbe were condemned by the United Nations, which this week called for an investigation into the reports that militants had massacred villagers and beheaded women and children. The beheadings reflected the continuing expansion of the insurgency that began in earnest in October 2017 along the northern coastal area of Cabo Delgado but has moved to the interior into the heartland of the Makonde tribe of Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi. Nyusi and Mozambican Defense Minister Jaime Neto have accused the insurgents of being armed from outside the country. “In this terror threat, we have signs of involvement of foreigners who are recruiting and training local youth, and also equipping them, because we don’t know how they get their equipment,” Nyusi said on Aug 10.”

Bloomberg: Ethiopia Arrests Al-Shabaab And ISIS Suspects Planning Attacks

“Ethiopian security officials have arrested 14 suspected members of al-Shabaab and ISIS accused of planning terrorist attacks in the capital Addis Ababa and other parts of the country, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing a statement from the National Intelligence and Security Service. The terrorist groups tried to exploit the security situation in the country, it said, referring to the federal government’s military action on the Northern Tigray regional government. Earlier, two airports in Ethiopia’s Amhara region were targeted in a rocket attack carried out by forces in the neighboring Tigray region as violence in the north of the country spreads. Al-Qaeda-linked militants have waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose their version of Islamic law. The group continues to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks in the Horn of Africa country despite being the target of frequent U.S. drone strikes, and the Somali government retains a weak grip on power.”

Agence France-Presse: IS Claims Burkina Attack That Left 14 Soldiers Dead

“The Islamic State on Saturday said it had staged a midweek ambush of soldiers in Burkina Faso ahead of elections this month. The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, in a message carried on its Amaq news outlet and on social media, said it killed 20 soldiers traveling in a convoy Wednesday in Tin-Akoff in Oudalan province. A rival group, the Jihadist Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), had claimed responsibility Friday in social media posts. A government spokesman Thursday put the death toll at 14 while blaming “armed terrorist groups.” The attack took place in the country's north, near the border with Mali and Niger, and came ahead of presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 22. The latest bout of violence has seen several candidates, including incumbent President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, suspend campaigning for two days. The unrest will prevent residents of almost 1,500 villages out of 8,000 in the country from taking part in the vote. But in September, parliament passed a law allowing the results to be validated even if polling did not take place everywhere. The Burkinabe armed forces have suffered a spate of attacks. In the worst, 24 soldiers were killed at a military base in Koutougou in the north in August 2019.”

Al Jazeera: Dozens Killed In ‘Gruesome’ Bus Attack In Western Ethiopia

“Gunmen have killed dozens of people in a “gruesome” attack on a bus carrying civilians in western Ethiopia, according to the country’s human rights body. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in a statement on Sunday that “the estimated number of casualties, currently at 34, is likely to rise” from the attack which occurred on Saturday night in the Debate administrative area of the Benishangul-Gumuz region. It said there were reports of “similar” attacks, and of people fleeing the violence in other parts of the region, as well as “of persons who have fled to seek shelter”. There was no immediate information about the perpetrators. The attack came amid an escalating conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray region in the country’s north that has reportedly killed hundreds of people and sent more than 20,000 people fleeing over the border in Sudan. There is no known link between the violence in Benishangul-Gumuz and military operations in Tigray. The attack on the passenger bus, which was heading from Wonbera to Chagni, took place in a part of the country that has recently seen a spate of deadly assaults on civilians.”

France

Sky News: Nice Church Attack Suspect Had Images On Mobile Phone Of Paris Terrorist

“The suspect in an Islamic extremist knife attack that killed three people in a French church had a photograph on one of his mobile phones of the perpetrator of another deadly incident. French prosecutors said the Tunisian man had images of Abdoullakh Anzorov, the Chechen refugee identified as the killer of teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded on 16 October outside his school near Paris. An audio message that described France as a “country of unbelievers” and photos relating to the Islamic State group were also discovered on the phone of the 21-year-old arrested after the 29 October church attack in Nice. However, investigators have as yet been unable to interview the suspected church attacker, previously identified as Brahim Aouissaoui, because he remains in serious condition in hospital. He suffered life-threatening wounds during his arrest and has since tested positive for coronavirus. An armed police officer stands guard near Notre Dame church where the attack took place. The prosecutors' office said it opened a formal investigation on terrorism charges that will enable investigators to keep looking at whether the suspected attacker had any accomplices in France, Tunisia or Italy.”

Europe

The Guardian: Violent Extremism Linked To Failure Of Migrants To Integrate, EU Says

“The rise of violent extremism in Europe has been linked to the failure of migrants to integrate, in a hard-debated joint declaration by EU governments on the recent terror attacks. The statement by EU home affairs ministers was described by Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, as a “great sign of solidarity” when delivered on Friday but it had been heavily watered down from a controversial initial draft. After a week of disagreements over the contents of the proposed declaration pushed by France, Austria and Germany, references to Islam were removed along with demands for newcomers to learn the languages of their new home and “earn a living for oneself”. The EU capitals nevertheless highlighted the need to improve social cohesion in Europe as part of its reaction to a spate of terrorist murders in Paris, Dresden, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, Nice and Vienna. “Integration is a two-way street,” the declaration said. “This means that migrants are expected to make an active effort to become integrated, while help in this regard is important.” The statement issued on the fifth anniversary of the attacks in Paris, in the Bataclan theatre and outside the Stade de France offered few new policy initiatives.”

Deutsche Welle: EU Mulls New Anti-Terror Measures

“EU interior ministers met Friday to decide how to tackle attacks following a series of killings in Austria and France in recent weeks by lone-wolf attackers with links to Islamist groups. Ministers from the 27 EU governments held talks by video call on the fifth anniversary of the Paris attacks, when gunmen went on the rampage in the French capital killing 130 people. “That's not so much about having more police officers, or sniffer dogs on the ground. It is about having more sniffer dogs on the internet, because that is where we can send the alarms, and where we can prevent attacks,” said European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.  The ministers will discuss gaining access to encrypted information from messenger services such as WhatsApp and Signal. “I also know of the constraints related to data protection and fundamental rights, but this cannot lead to a situation in which we don't even think about how to get on the tracks of very dangerous people,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Another proposal includes creating an EU training center for imams in Europe. “The training given to imams practicing in Europe does not sufficiently take into account our fundamental values, in particular freedom of thought and gender equality,” European Council President Charles Michel (below), who chairs EU summits, wrote in a newsletter Monday.”

Euractiv: The Coming Spike In European Terror

“…Hans-Jakob Schindler, director of think-tank the Counter Extremism Project, expanded on what the security risk involved with the Al-Hol release would look like. “There is a significant [number] of Syrians in Al-Hol who did not de-radicalize — if anything they re-radicalized and will come out with a new furor in their ideological thinking,” he said. Al-Hol is far from an isolated example. As overcrowded boats travel from war-torn nations, like Syria and Libya, en route to Europe, terrorists are disguising themselves as legitimate migrants, exploiting this vulnerability. This technique is not new, but only the resurgence of a well-known tactic used by terrorists in recent years. A case in point is that of Salah Abdeslam, one of the perpetrators of the Paris terror atrocities in 2015 which killed 130 people and left more than 350 injured. Abdeslam is believed to have made four trips to Hungary during which he picked up other terrorists linked to attacks in both Brussels and Paris. Following the Paris attacks and similar incidents in neighbouring countries, the security threat of migrant routes became a central focus of the European establishment. Authorities were shocked that although some of these extremists’ names were on European counter-terrorism databases, many of them posed as refugees and carried fake Syrian passports to evade detection.”

Technology

Vice: Telegram Is Leaving A Terrorist Bomb-Making Channel Online

“Telegram, an encrypted messaging app known for being a safe haven for neo-Nazi terror groups, allowed a bomb making tutorial channel to continue broadcasting on its platform despite being notified by a terrorism watchdog of the channel’s existence. The U.S.-based Counter Extremism Project (CEP), reported to Telegram what it described in a release as a channel “made for sharing videos and written instructions for the homemade manufacture of explosives.” The channel was created on October 29—since then, it has published posts featuring how-tos on cooking up explosives that garnered over 2000 views. The channel itself is linked to the broader neo-Nazi extremist ecosystem known as “Terrorgram.” The channel, which is in English and Russian and counts more than 300 subscribers, featured videos and texts that promote recipes for explosives known to be used by jihadist organizations for suicide bombings. Some posts have a disclaimer downplaying the channel’s clearly more terroristic qualities: “The channel and materials on it were created exclusively for scientific purposes, we do not promote or encourage extremist activity.” (Since the publication of this article, the channel is no longer online.)”

Politico: Post-Election, Extremists Use Fringe Social Networks To Push Fraud Claims, Violence

“Efforts by Facebook and Twitter to squash claims from President Donald Trump and others of electoral fraud are hitting a big obstacle: The messages are running wild on smaller fringe networks popular among the far right — then boomeranging back onto the mainstream platforms. Extremist groups, white nationalists and conspiracy theorists — some claiming ties to QAnon, which alleges a so-called deep-state plot to undermine Trump — have taken to encrypted messaging apps and online message boards. There, they promote viral videos of unproven voter fraud, urge supporters to ready their guns in support of Trump and push anti-Semitic and racist claims about election officials, according to POLITICO’s review of multiple Telegram channels, 4Chan discussions and conversations on Parler, a social network favored by more mainstream conservatives. Such discussions have skyrocketed on these alternative platforms since the Nov. 3 election, creating a safe harbor for those pushing claims of fraud and a venue to push for real-world action. The fringe forums also have acted as staging grounds for coordinated misinformation campaigns targeting the major social networks, as well as repositories for extreme content, initially posted on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, that was later removed from those platforms, based on POLITICO’s review.”

Euronews: EU Interior Ministers Pledge To Take Down Terrorist Content, Boost Border Security

“European interior ministers have pushed the fight against terrorism to the top of their agenda following last month’s attacks in Paris, Nice and Vienna. In a joint statement issued on the fifth anniversary of the November 13 attacks in France, the interior ministers pledged to work towards the faster removal of terrorist content from social media networks. They agreed to finalise negotiations on regulations for removing terrorist content by the end of the year. “The aim is to enable issuing removal orders with cross-border effect to create a new and rapid and effective instrument to counter terrorist content online within an hour or less of its being reported, while maintaining effective safeguards for the protection of fundamental rights,” the ministers said in the statement. They also agreed to reinforce external borders, stating: “We want to strengthen and further develop options for security measures within the Schengen area as well as instruments for cross-border law enforcement cooperation.” There have already been a number of operational reinforcements to Schengen including the creation of European border guards, Yves Pascouau, from the think tank Res Publica, told Euronews earlier this week.”