Eye on Extremism: November 17, 2023

Reuters: TikTok To Prohibit Videos Promoting Bin Laden's 'Letter To America'

“TikTok will prohibit content that promotes Osama bin Laden's 2002 letter detailing the former al Qaeda leader's justifications for attacks against Americans, the short-form video app said on Thursday. Discussions of the 20-year-old letter have spread on the platform this week in the context of debate over the Israel-Hamas war, with some users in the West praising its contents. The letter, which was written after al Qaeda's attack on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people, criticized U.S. support for Israel, accused Americans of financing "oppression" of Palestinians, and contained antisemitic comments. Bin Laden was killed in 2011 in Pakistan by a U.S. military special operations unit. "Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism," TikTok said in a statement, adding that reports that it was "trending" on the platform were inaccurate. A search for "Letter to America" on TikTok surfaced no results on Thursday, with a notice that said the phrase may be associated with "content that violates our guidelines." Some U.S. lawmakers have called for a ban of the Chinese-owned app and had renewed their criticisms before Thursday's announcement.”

Reuters: Shelling Intensifies At Lebanon-Israel Border

“Shelling intensified across Lebanon's frontier with Israel on Thursday, with Lebanese armed group Hezbollah saying it had fired missiles at eight positions across the border and Israel saying it had retaliated with artillery. In statements throughout the day, the Iran-backed Hezbollah said it had hit eight sites in Israel, including a group of Israeli soldiers, a barracks and other military posts. A Lebanese security source said Israeli bombardment, including drone strikes, hit at least a dozen villages all along Lebanon's southern border. The Israeli military said in a statement it had struck a "cell" in Lebanon that had tried launching anti-tank missiles towards Israel and was firing artillery onto other targets. It said no injuries were reported in shelling on Israel. The Lebanese security source said it was one of the most violent days there since Hezbollah began trading fire with Israeli forces following the eruption of the Hamas-Israel war on Oct. 7. Hezbollah's statements said its attacks were "in support of our steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip". The exchanges mark the deadliest violence at the border since Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006.”

CEP Mentions

Bellingcat: From Pixels To Punches: Geolocating A Neo-Nazi And White Nationalist Combat Event In Los Angeles

“…Several Active Clubs, which experts say form a dangerous bedrock for far-right activity and recruitment, joined the second annual tournament alongside extremist groups like Patriot Front and the Hammerskins. Active Clubs are a network of white nationalist mixed martial arts crews inspired by the Rise Above Movement, a now-defunct militant streetfighting group whose neo-Nazi cofounder Robert Rundo is currently in jail awaiting trial on federal rioting charges. They focus on training their members in combat skills in order to prepare them to fight against their purported enemies. “Their own propaganda says ‘we are a white nationalist sports network, it’s about fitness,’” said Alexander Ritzmann, a political scientist and senior advisor at the Counter Extremism Project who studies Active Clubs, in an interview. “But reading their documents and listening to their podcasts, I’m curious about if they are a combat sports network or if they are a militia hiding in plain sight.”

The Messenger: Al Jazeera Forces Mom Of Israeli Hostage To Debate Hamas Head Of Hostages On Live TV

“…Jabarin was a convicted terrorist held in Israeli custody until 2011, when he was released as part of a prisoner swap. At that point, he rejoined Hamas as a senior leader based in Turkey, according to the Counter Extremism Project.”

Human Events: Al Jazeera Ambushes Mom Of Israeli Hostage, Forces Her To Debate Hamas Hostage Chief On Live TV

“…Until his release in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap, Jabarin, an infamous and convicted terrorist, was detained by Israel. That was when he returned to Hamas as a top official stationed in Turkey, according to the counter-extremism project.”

United States

Reuters: Top MS-13 Leader To Stand Trial In New York On Terrorism Charges

“A top leader of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang will stand trial in New York on terrorism charges, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday. El Salvador citizen Elmer Canales, known as "Crook de Hollywood," was arrested by Mexican authorities last week and sent to Texas, where a federal court on Wednesday ordered him to face trial in New York. Canales, along with 13 other MS-13 members, was indicted in 2020 on terrorism charges relating to his alleged involvement in organized crime in the U.S., Mexico and El Salvador over the past two decades. He "bears responsibility for the gang's efforts over decades to terrorize communities, target law enforcement, and sow violence here in the United States and abroad," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the Justice Department's statement on Wednesday. When Canales' indictment was unsealed in early 2021, he was behind bars in El Salvador, and the U.S. requested his extradition. But the Salvadoran government released Canales around November 2021, and he illegally entered Guatemala, the Justice Department said. His release has provoked criticism in El Salvador, where a crackdown on alleged gang members has landed tens of thousands in jail since March 2022, drawing accusations of human rights abuses and violations of due process.”


Reuters: World Court Orders Syria To Stop Torture And Preserve Evidence

“Judges at the World Court on Thursday ordered Syria to take steps to prevent torture as part of emergency measures in a case against Damascus brought before the top U.N. tribunal by the Netherlands and Canada. "Syria must (...) take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel and inhumane or degrading treatment" and ensure its officials or others under its control do not commit torture, presiding judge Joan Donoghue said. The 15-judge panel also told Damascus to ensure that any possible evidence about allegations of torture, including medical reports and death records, are preserved. Syria has boycotted the court's hearings and was not present for the ruling. The case marks the first time an international court has looked at alleged abuses committed in Syria during 12 years of conflict. The case before the World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, was filed in June by the Netherlands and Canada. They say Syria is breaching a U.N. anti-torture convention by abusing tens of thousands people, many of whom are kept in Syria's extensive detention system. Syria’s government and President Bashar al-Assad have rejected accusations of torture and extrajudicial killings in a war that the United Nations has said claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.”


Bloomberg: Iran’s ‘Crown Jewel’ Has Much To Lose From A Full-Blown War With Israel

“Hezbollah, Israel’s enemy on the northern front, is probably stronger than it’s ever been – which means it also has more to lose. That’s one reason why the Lebanese militant group wants to avoid getting drawn into a full-blown war with Israel, a reluctance shared by its patron Iran. Such calculations may decide how the latest war in the Middle East unfolds. Hezbollah and the Israeli military have exchanged almost daily fire since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. But those clashes across the Lebanese border have been relatively restrained, even as Israeli troops push into Gaza and casualties soar. A wider regional conflict -– which could upend oil markets and jolt the global economy — has been averted so far. Hezbollah and Hamas are both designated by the US as terrorist organizations. They both help Iran to deter its enemies and expand its influence. But the Lebanese group is more important, according to Joseph Daher, author of “Hezbollah: The Political Economy of Lebanon’s Party of God.” “Iran wouldn’t want to see its crown jewel get weakened,” says Daher. Iran’s geopolitical goal is not to liberate the Palestinians but to use such groups as leverage, especially in its relations with the US, he says.”


Reuters: Turkish Air Strikes Kill 13 Kurdish Militants In Northern Iraq -Ministry

“Turkey's military carried out air strikes in northern Iraq and killed 13 Kurdish militants, the defence ministry said on Friday. In a statement on social messaging platform X, the ministry said 13 Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were hit in air strikes in the Hakurk region of northern Iraq, as well as areas where Turkey conducts its "Claw-Lock Operation". "Our operations will continue with determination until there is not a single terrorist left in the region," it said. The PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union, United States, and Turkey, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984 and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Ankara frequently carries out cross-border air strikes and operations against the PKK, which has bases in the mountains of northern Iraq. Turkey has intensified attacks on Kurdish militants in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks after militants detonated a bomb near government buildings in Ankara on Oct. 1.”

Associated Press: Turkey’s Erdogan To Visit Germany As Differences Over The Israel-Hamas War Widen

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off for Germany Friday on a short visit overshadowed by the two countries’ very different stances on the war between Israel and Hamas. Erdogan is due to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany’s largely ceremonial president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in Berlin. Scholz invited Erdogan to visit in May following his re-election. Turkey has long been viewed as an awkward but essential partner in Germany, which is home to more than 3 million people with Turkish roots. It’s a NATO ally that also is important in efforts to control the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe, an issue on which Scholz faces intense domestic pressure, but there have been tensions in recent years over a variety of issues. This visit is overshadowed by a growing chasm between the two countries’ stances on events following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and has opposed calls for a cease-fire, while pushing for aid to civilians in Gaza, advocating “humanitarian pauses” and seeking to keep open channels of communication with other countries in the region to prevent the conflict from spreading.”


Voice Of America: Regional Countries Mulling Simultaneous Taliban Recognition, Pakistani Envoy Says

“Afghanistan’s neighbors, along with Russia, are sustaining ties with its Taliban government under an “understanding” that they will grant it formal recognition simultaneously if certain conditions are met, a regional diplomat said Thursday. Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s special representative on Afghanistan, told an international seminar that the regionally developed approach has helped sustain the crisis-hit country economically. “There is an understanding among the immediate neighbors of Afghanistan and Russia that we will recognize the Taliban regime simultaneously and not unilaterally,” Durrani said at the annual Margalla Dialogue organized by the state-run Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He noted that the regional consensus enabled these countries to enter into “bilateral trade, currency swap, and barter trade agreements” with de facto Afghan authorities. Durrani said if this were not the case, there would likely be 10 million people fleeing poverty-stricken Afghanistan and seeking refuge in Pakistan. “The positive thing in Afghanistan is that there is less corruption, and [the Taliban] have raised their revenues. There’s security in the country, and ... drug or opium cultivation is at its all-time low,” the Pakistani envoy said, citing international observations and recent U.N.-backed studies.”

Middle East

Reuters: Aid Supplies To Gaza Halted Again, UN Says Starvation Imminent

“U.N. aid deliveries to Gaza were suspended again on Friday due to shortages of fuel and a communications shutdown, deepening the misery of thousands of hungry and homeless Palestinians as Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the enclave. The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said civilians faced the "immediate possibility of starvation" due to the lack of food supplies. Palestinian news agency WAFA said a number of Palestinians were killed and others injured in an Israeli strike that hit a group of displaced people near the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt - the transit point for aid. Al Jazeera TV cited sources as saying that nine people were killed in the strike. There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reported strike and Reuters could not verify it. Israel said its troops had found a tunnel shaft used by Hamas at Al Shifa hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip. The hospital, packed with patients and displaced people and struggling to keep operating, has become a major focus of global concern. Israel says Hamas has stored weapons and ammunition and is holding hostages in a network of tunnels under hospitals like Shifa, using patients and people taking shelter there as human shields. Hamas denies this.”

Bloomberg: Hamas Mastermind Who Tricked Israel Is Top Target In Gaza Tunnels

“Five years ago, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, scrawled a note on a document that he knew Egyptian intermediaries would hand to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Take a “‘calculated risk’ on a ceasefire,” Sinwar wrote in Hebrew, according to former National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. Not long before, the Hamas chief had said something similar to an Italian journalist: “I don’t want war anymore. I want a ceasefire.” His ambition for the impoverished Palestinian coastal strip? “We can be like Singapore, like Dubai.” In the wake of Hamas’s long-planned and brutal Oct. 7 assault on Israel, the Israeli security establishment is looking back on his words in a new light: as part of an effort to create the illusion that Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the US and European Union, was limiting its embrace of violence to focus on governance. Israeli officials now acknowledge that a sense of complacency had set in around Hamas. In recent years, the military had greatly reduced its surveillance of the Gaza border fence, relying on electronic sensors and transferring troops out of the area to guard settlements in the West Bank.”

NBC: Family Of 3-Year-Old Kidnapped By Hamas Reveals Harrowing Details

“The families of American citizens kidnapped by Hamas militants in Israel nearly 40 days ago said Tuesday they want to focus international attention on the plight of their loved ones in captivity — including a 3-year-old American girl who the White House confirmed was taken into the Gaza Strip during the Oct. 7 terror attack. In an exclusive interview in Washington with NBC News’ Lester Holt, the girl’s great-aunt was joined by seven other families whose relatives were taken hostage during the brazen Hamas assault on kibbutzim, a musical festival and homes across Israel’s south. They spoke as thousands of people from across the U.S. descended on the National Mall for a pro-Israel march. Liz Hirsh Naftali, the great-aunt of 3-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, revealed that the little girl’s parents were killed in their home at the Kfar Aza kibbutz. Abigail was in her father’s arms when a Hamas gunman shot him. He fell on top of her. Abigail then “crawled out from under her father’s body … full of his blood,” Hirsh Naftali said. The girl ran over to a neighbor’s house and sheltered with that family in a bomb shelter. “The last thing we learned was that somebody saw [a] terrorist taking this mother, her three kids and Abigail out of the kibbutz,” Hirsh Naftali said. “That’s all we know.””


Voice Of America: Gunmen Kill One Journalist, Kidnap Two In Mali

“Unidentified gunmen killed one journalist and abducted two other journalists earlier this month in Mali, the International Press Institute said Wednesday, underscoring the threats facing the media in the region. Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla, a journalist with community radio Naata, was driving in northern Mali on November 7 along with Radio Coton FM director Saleck Ag Jiddou and Radio Coton FM host Moustapha Kone when they saw gunmen ahead on the road, according to the International Press Institute, or IPI. When they tried to turn around, the unidentified gunmen fired on the car, killing Djibrilla, said Reporters Without Borders, or RSF. The gunmen then abducted Jiddou and Kone. It is unclear whether the journalists were targeted over their work. The gunmen asked their families to pay nearly $5,000 in ransom for each journalist, according to RSF. “The latest events in Mali are extremely alarming,” Sadibou Marong, director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau, said in a statement. “We call on the Malian authorities to do everything possible to find them and to arrest those responsible for Abdoul Aziz Djibrilla’s murder.” Harouna Attino, a journalist with community radio Alafia, was also in the car and was wounded in the assault but is now safe, press freedom groups said without providing further details.”


Times Of India: Jaishankar Raises Indian Fugitives And Khalistan Extremism With UK During Visit

“External affairs minister S Jaishankar raised the delayed extradition of Indian fugitives such as Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya with the UK government during his five-day visit as well as Khalistan extremism and the safety of the Indian high commission building and personnel. “We have longstanding concerns about extremist, and sometimes even violent, activities of various forces, including those who propagate Khalistan, and we have been taking it up with UK to try and get the government here to understand that, as a democracy, we do understand freedom of speech and expression but they should be on guard against the misuse of these freedoms to threaten diplomats in the UK and to advocate causes in a manner in which it could justify violence and extremism,” Jaishankar said at a press briefing on Wednesday. He said that following the March incident, when the flag of the mission building was pulled down, the windows smashed and two security officials assaulted, “We think the gravity of this situation is sharply recognised. We have seen some steps taken as a consequence of that.” But he warned it was not a “static situation” as there “were different aspects to it”, referring to Indian high commissioner Vikram Doraiswami’s “travels in the UK”. In September, Doraiswami was prevented from entering a gurdwara in Glasgow by Khalistan activists who tried to open his car door.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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