Eye on Extremism: November 17, 2020

Foreign Policy: Trump Administration Plans To Designate Yemen’s Houthis As Terrorists

“The Trump administration is preparing to designate Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents a terrorist organization before leaving office in January, fueling fears the move will disrupt international aid efforts and upend United Nations-brokered peace efforts between the Shiite movement and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, according to several diplomatic sources. The U.N. and international relief agencies have tried to dissuade the Trump administration from designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, but the apparently imminent decision would give U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another victory in his anti-Iran strategy as he visits Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates this week. Riyadh, which has been at war with the Houthis for over five years, has already designated the Houthis a terrorist organization and has been urging Washington to do the same. “They have been contemplating this for a while, but Pompeo wants this fast-tracked,” said one diplomatic source. “It’s part of the scorched-earth policy the sour grapes in the White House are taking.” In recent weeks, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has been pressing the United States to back down and appealing to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to intervene with Pompeo, according to diplomatic sources.”

Associated Press: Trial In France For Extremist Foiled By 3 Americans On Train

“Head lowered, an Islamic State operative listened silently as a Paris judge on Monday detailed his alleged plot to unleash mass slaughter on a high-speed train before he was tackled and subdued by American vacationers whose heroics inspired Clint Eastwood to direct a Hollywood re-enactment. Opening a month-long trial for Ayoub El Khazzani, the judge said the 31-year-old Moroccan with ties to a notorious mastermind intended to “kill all the passengers” aboard the Amsterdam to Paris train in 2015 but “lost control of events.” El Khazzani, who is on trial with three suspected accomplices, acknowledged the charges against him with a simple “Yes.” He risks life in prison if convicted of attempted terrorist murder. The heavily-armed and bare-chested El Khazzani wounded a French-American who managed to briefly yank a Kalashnikov from his hands before the three vacationing Americans took him down. The drama on the train is portrayed by investigators as one of a series of IS-linked attacks in Europe that include the Nov. 13, 2015 massacre in Paris at a music hall and cafes that killed 130 people. A failed 2015 attack in Verviers, Belgium, and 2016 attacks in Brussels are also among them.”

United States

Voice Of America: FBI: Hate Crime Incidents Rose 2.7% In 2019

“U.S. hate crime incidents increased 2.7% last year, rising to their highest level in more than a decade, the FBI says in a new report. There were 7,314 hate crime incidents last year, up from 7,120 in 2018 — the highest number since 2008, according to the report released on Monday. Despite a slight decline in 2018, hate crimes surged nearly 21% during the first three years of President Donald Trump’s administration, a period marked by the rise of an increasingly violent far-right movement. While Trump has denounced white supremacists, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism notes that hate crimes have spiked against groups vilified by the president. Anti-Latino hate crime, for example, rose 53% during Trump’s first three years in office to its highest level in a decade, FBI data show. “The latest rise in hate crime signals a new brutal landscape, where targeted attacks against rotating victim groups not only result in spikes, but increases are also being driven by a more widely dispersed rise in the most violent offenses,” said Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. The FBI defines hate crimes as criminal acts motivated by race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.”

Vice: Accused Canadian Neo-Nazi Soldier Offered U.S. Terror Group Paramilitary Training

“A former Canadian soldier facing terrorism-related charges in the U.S. promised fellow members of a neo-Nazi terror group that he could train them at a secretive paramilitary camp in the U.S. Patrik Mathews, 27, made the comments in a call with members of the Base, a recording of which was obtained by VICE News. Mathews disappeared in August 2019 along the U.S.-Canada border near Minnesota only to reappear months later in handcuffs after a January 2020 FBI raid in Delaware. In the January phone call, Mathews is heard recounting how he could drill the group in military tactics at a paramilitary camp that was to be held in Michigan later that month. “We want to go from point A, to point B [with] as much stealth as possible,” he said in the call. “And then when we're there, we strike like thunder. At least I see that being proper guerrilla operations.” Mathews, arrested along with two other members of the Maryland cell of the Base, was allegedly plotting to shoot up a gun-rights rally in Virginia and derail trains—attacks meant to help incite a “Second Civil War”—before the FBI intervened. Mathews has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer, Joseph Balter, filed a series of motions to quash evidence pointing to Mathews’ role in the plot. Balter did not respond to a request for comment from VICE News.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq Hangs 21 On Terrorism Charges In Latest Mass Executions

“Iraq hanged 21 convicted terrorists and murderers on Monday, an interior ministry statement said, the latest in a series of mass executions it has carried out since defeating the Islamic State group in 2017. Among those executed at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya were people involved in two suicide attacks that killed dozens of people the northern town of Tal Afar, the statement said. It gave no further details of the identities of the people who were executed or the crimes for which they were convicted. Iraq has put hundreds of suspected jihadists on trial and carried out several mass executions since defeating Islamic State fighters in a 2014-2017 U.S.-backed military campaign. Human rights groups have accused Iraqi and other regional forces of inconsistencies in the judicial process and flawed trials leading to unfair convictions. Iraq says its trials are fair. Islamic State captured a third of Iraq in 2014 and was largely defeated both there and in neighbouring Syria over the following three years.”

Afghanistan

Los Angeles Times: Born Into Occupation, Young Afghans Fear The Taliban Will Crush Their Freedoms When U.S. Troops Exit

“His hair in a bun, face shadowed by his hoodie, Jawad Sezdah raps with his “homies” about Afghanistan’s darkening future. He and his friends sit in a circle at what they call their club, a second-floor makeshift studio in west Kabul’s Pul-e-Surkhta neighborhood. They smoke weed, drink tea and practice freestyle lyrics. A picture of Tupac Shakur is taped on the wall. But the lives the 22-year-old Kabul University student and others of his generation have forged in the nearly two decades since America invaded their country are at risk as never before. The U.S.-led invasion has brought the trappings of the West and a small degree of its promised freedoms, but many here are fearful those gains are about to evaporate. They are a generation not so much adrift as stuck between opposing forces. They live with fresh graves and echoes of firefights and marketplaces spoiled by suicide bombers. Theirs is land that has not been conquered, a nation that has attuned them to hardship and the hope that the Taliban and the government will peacefully coexist after U.S. troops crate their weapons, fold their banners and leave.  Born into occupation, Sezdah is a man with a wary eye on what lies ahead. He and his friends’ latest rap — a haunting five-minute cry for tolerance posted on YouTube — opens with aerial shots of the city’s teeming markets and mosques.”

Pakistan

Agence France-Presse: Pakistan's 'University Of Jihad' Proud Of Taliban Alumni

“Maulana Yousaf Shah cracks a wide smile as he rattles off a list of former students turned Taliban leaders, revelling in their victories over superpowers on Afghanistan's battlefields after graduating from Pakistan's “university of jihad”. The Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary has churned out a who's who of Taliban top brass -- including many now on the hardline group's negotiating team holding talks with the Kabul government to end a 20-year war. “Russia was broken into pieces by the students and graduates of Darul Uloom Haqqania and America was also sent packing,” beamed Shah, an influential cleric at the seminary that critics have dubbed the “university of jihad”. “We are proud.” The sprawling campus in Pakistan's Akora Khattak, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) east of Peshawar, is home to roughly 4,000 students who are fed, clothed and educated for free. It has sat at the crossroads of regional militant violence for years, educating many Pakistanis and Afghan refugees -- some of whom returned home to wage war against the Russians and Americans or preach jihad. Despite its infamy in some quarters, it has enjoyed state support in Pakistan, where mainstream political parties are heavily boosted by links with religious factions.”

The Hindu: Pakistan Continues To Raise Terror Charges

“A day after the Ministry of External Affairs described Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s allegations against India as ‘diversion’, Islamabad cited a recent U.N. report and claimed presence of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in India. The Ministry did not respond to the allegation but officials told The Hindu earlier that the Pakistani statements are aimed at targeting India ahead of January 2021 when India will begin its stint as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. The office of the spokesperson of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday claimed that India has ‘mischievously’ presented itself as a ‘victim’ of terrorism and said, “The presence of ISIL and AQIS in India as highlighted in recent U.N. report indicates that India is emerging as a hotbed of U.N.-designated international terrorist organisations and posing a great risk to the region”. The claim indicates a change in Pakistani campaign for global platforms where it is often accused of harbouring top international terrorists from a wide variety of groups like the al-Qaeda. A U.N. report in June had pointed out “significant numbers” of IS and al-Qaeda members in Kerala and Karnataka.”

Saudi Arabia

Gulf News: 'Terrorist Motive' In Saudi Embassy Shooting: Dutch Prosecutors

“A man suspected of firing a gun at the Saudi Arabian embassy in The Hague last week acted with “terrorist intent”, Dutch prosecutors said on Monday. The 40-year-old suspect was held on Thursday last week hours after the incident, in which nobody was hurt. The shots came a day after a bomb blast struck a World War I commemoration attended by foreign diplomats in the Saudi city of Jeddah. The man is suspected of carrying out violence against the embassy building, trying to kill the caretaker of the building and making threats, all “with a terrorist aim”, prosecutors said in a statement. “Terrorist intent is apparent from the fact that the suspect appeared to want to impose his will on the embassy through his actions,” the statement added, without giving further details. Judges extended the suspect's detention for another two weeks at a hearing Monday.”

Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post: Is Hezbollah’s Ammonium Nitrate Linked To Plot Against Jews In Argentina?

“Argentina said over the weekend that it had increased security on its border with Paraguay due to an “anonymous tip” to authorities that was passed on via its embassy in the United Kingdom. There was a possibility of “bomb-making materials entering across Argentina’s northern border,” the report by Reuters noted. The specifics of the case raise questions about the possible involvement of Hezbollah. The article noted on Saturday that the tip “warned of a person seeking to ship ammonium nitrate from Paraguay to Argentina.” The chemical would then be used to make a bomb to target a “Jewish objective.” The 1994 bomb against the AMIA Jewish Center, which killed 86 people in Buenos Aires, has been linked to Iran. A 2006 report by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman pointed to Iran and Hezbollah as likely behind the attack. Nisman was killed in 2015. Allegations of cover-ups and conspiracies have rocked the country since the bombing in the 1990s. The Paraguay connection is interesting because it was believed that the 1994 attack may also have been linked to perpetrators who crossed over from Paraguay. The porous borders of the area where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet have often been referenced by the US and other countries as a safe haven for Islamist extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Middle East

Agence France-Presse: Questions Over Al-Qaeda Future After Leaders’ Reported Deaths

“The reported deaths of Al-Qaeda’s top two leaders in recent months have raised questions about the future strategy and strength of the terror network, already a shadow of the global force it was two decades ago. The New York Times reported last week that Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah, who went by the nom-de-guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was secretly killed in Tehran in August by two Israeli operatives at Washington’s behest. Meanwhile, prominent experts on Al-Qaeda have quoted sources as saying that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama Bin Laden as the chief of the group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, is also dead. Iran has strongly denied the report over the killing of Abdullah, while Al-Qaeda has not issued any confirmation of the purported death of al-Zawahiri through its usual media channels … According to the US-based Counter Extremism Project (CEP) think tank, he was arrested in Iran in 2003 and freed in 2015 in a prisoner exchange. He was still believed to be in Iran in 2018 as one of al-Zawahiri’s key deputies. “Adel played a crucial role in building Al-Qaeda’s operational capabilities and quickly ascended the hierarchy,” the CEP said.”

Egypt

Daily News Egypt: Egypt Condemns Terrorist Attack On Military Control In Burkina Faso

“Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned, on Sunday, the terrorist attack that targeted a military patrol in Tin-Akoff, Oudalan province, in Burkina Faso, killing and injuring several soldiers. The Ministry extended Egypt’s condolences to the victims’ families, and hoped speedy recovery for those who were injured in the attack. The Ministry asserted that Cairo stands with the government and people of Burkina Faso in the fight against terrorism. Egypt also called for regional and international cooperation to defeat terrorism and extremism. On Wednesday, at least 14 people were killed and eight others were wounded in the attack which took place near Burkinabe borders with Mali and Niger. The Burkinabe armed forces have suffered several attacks from terrorist groups in the Sahel region over the past two years, which claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers. The attack came ahead of the country’s presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 22 November. On Saturday, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group claimed that it had killed 20 soldiers in the operation, but the government spokesperson said that 14 soldiers were killed by “armed terrorist groups.”

Somalia

Associated Press: At Least Two Dead In Somalia Bomb Attack

“At least two people have been in Somalia's capital Mogadishu after a bomber blew himself up in a restaurant near a police base. It was unclear who was behind the attack. "A blast occurred at a restaurant near School Policio (police base), we shall give details later," police spokesman Sadik Ali told Reuters in a WhatsApp message. A witness, shopkeeper Mohamed Ali, told Reuters at least two people were dead from the blast. "I understand this includes the restaurant owner. Police opened fire after the blast," Ali said, adding that he could see huge clouds of smoke rising above the restaurant and ambulances trying to reach the blast site. Al Qaeda-allied Islamist group al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings in Mogadishu and else where in Somalia as part of its campaign to topple the central government. The group wants to establish its own rule in the Horn of African country based on its own strict interpretation of Islam's sharia law.”

France

Al Jazeera: French Far-Right Activist On Trial After Al Jazeera Investigation

“A French far-right activist will stand trial in a French court on Tuesday after being charged with incitement to terrorism and aggravated assault, based on evidence gathered during an investigation by Al Jazeera. Rémi Falize, 33, a former leading member of the Lille branch of the far-right group Generation Identity, will appear at the Tribunal de Grande Instance (High Court) in the northern city of Lille. He is charged with violence committed with a group of people in Lille in January 2018 and with incitement to a terrorist act later that month. Two others also featured in the Al Jazeera investigation will also go on trial for lesser charges. Falize was filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter at the Citadelle bar, Generation Identity’s headquarters in Lille, declaring that his dying wish would be to drive a car into a crowded Lille market popular with Muslims. It followed a six-month undercover operation, during which a reporter from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit infiltrated the Lille branch of Generation Identity. The potential sentence for the assault charge is three years in prison and a 45,000-euro ($53,300) fine. The terrorism charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a 75,000-euro ($88,800) fine.”

Europe

El País: The Young Spanish Woman Who Went From ‘Fallera’ To Jihadist

“Up until January 2017, Cristina B. was like any other young woman in Cullera, a small town in the Spanish region of Valencia. On social media, the 24-year-old was seen dressed as a fallera, wearing an elaborate traditional dress used during Valencia’s famous Las Fallas festival. There are also pictures of her in sports competitions, going out with friends and sharing romantic moments with someone who appeared to be her partner at the time. But for the past 11 months, she had been known in her town as “the woman in black.” She had swapped the colorful trims, ribbons and petticoats of the fallera dress for a niqab, which only allowed her almond-shaped eyes to be seen. It was a change that did not go unnoticed by her family, or her friends or even the rest of the town, which is home to 22,000 people. It was someone from Cullera who alerted the police: “She is the only person who dresses like that.” For more than a decade Cristina had belonged to the Raval de Sant Agustí Falla, a group that helped organize the annual fiestas. She left the group two years ago, but recently returned with one of her best friends. A food enthusiast, Cristina had completed a cooking training course at the Joan Llopis Marí School, and in recent years she had been making a living by making cakes and working in the hostelry industry.”