Eye on Extremism: November 18, 2020

International Business Times: 'We've Destroyed ISIS Caliphate': US To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan, Iraq

“The United States on Tuesday announced to reduce its troops' presence in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 each by January 15 next year. “By January 15, 2021, our force size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2,500 by that same day,” Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said during a live press conference. The United States has around 4,500 troops currently in Afghanistan and over 3,000 in Iraq, according to CNBC. “This decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over the past several months including ongoing discussions with me and my colleagues across the United States government,” Miller told reporters at the Pentagon. The “repositioning” of the US forces were being done on the orders of President Donald Trump, he said, adding that the decision was taken after consulting with key leaders in the Congress , NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg and Afghanistan's President Ghani. “Just this morning, I spoke with key leaders in Congress as well as our allies and partners abroad to update them on these plans in light of our shared approach. We went in together, we adjust together and when the time is right, we will leave together,” said Miller.”

Agence France-Presse: Dozens Killed In Eastern DR Congo, ADF Militia Blamed

“Around three dozen people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled east, local officials said Tuesday, blaming the notorious ADF militia which has slaughtered hundreds of civilians over the past year. Twenty-nine bodies were found in the Virunga Park after being “executed en masse”, the interior minister of North Kivu province, Jean-Bosco Sebishimbo, said. He added that six civilians were also killed during “an armed attack” in the nearby village of Kokola earlier on Tuesday. The UN's MONUSCO mission confirmed that six people were killed in Kokola, while local sources spoke of seven dead. “The first indications about the perpetrators of these vile acts point towards ADF fighters, who are very active in the area,” Sebishimbo said. Both attacks occurred in North Kivu's Beni territory, where 811 civilians have been killed since October 31 last year, according to the Kivu Security Tracker. It was on that date that DR Congo's army launched a large operation against the ADF's leaders and bases in the jungle around Beni. The militia responded by intensifying a campaign of massacres in rural areas, seeking to dissuade civilians from collaborating with the military, experts say.”

United States

Yahoo News: Exclusive: Counterterrorism Agency Increasingly Eyes Right-Wing Threats As Trump Era Winds Down

“Even as President Trump and his allies have tried to downplay the threat of right-wing extremism and blame violence on the political left, one intelligence agency has been quietly ramping up its warnings about the threat of domestic threats, such as white supremacists, according to interviews and internal government documents. The National Counterterrorism Center, an agency formed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to combat international terrorism, has been increasingly focused on domestic extremists, including those who have no known connection to a foreign group. One example of that new focus is its weekly internal digest for the week of the presidential election, when four of the top ten extremist threats highlighted by the agency were purely domestic, including the “boogaloo” movement, white supremacists, and militia members. The digest also includes three pages dedicated to the history of Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, Okla., to highlight risk factors for terrorist mobilization. “Reviews of McVeigh’s struggles as a youth, his background and relationships, his experiences in the U.S. Army, and during the period between his discharge and the bombing indicate that he probably had several risk factors for mobilization to violent extremism,” says the digest, which covers the week of Oct. 29 – Nov. 4.”

Associated Press: FBI Releases Attack Plan Of Radicalized 2015 Campus Stabber

“A troubled California university freshman who burst into a classroom in 2015, stabbing four people before police shot him dead, planned to praise Allah while slitting the throats of classmates and use a gun taken from an ambushed officer to kill more, according to records released by the FBI. Authorities determined that Faisal Mohammad, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of California, Merced had no connections to organized hate or terror groups and no past behavior to suggest violence. Still, records released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Daily Beast publication include a chilling, handwritten 31-step plan for the Nov. 4 attack with names of people to target. The plan included putting on a balaclava at 7:45 a.m. and saying “in the name of Allah” before stepping into his classroom and ordering students to use zip-ties he provided to bind their hands. Mohammad also planned to make a fake 911 distress call to report a suicidal guy and wait for police outside the classroom before ambushing from behind “and slit calmly yet forcefully one of the officers with guns.” He planned to take a gun from an officer and kill classmates before making another fake distress call to 911 to report the shootings.”

Reuters: 2nd Circuit To Examine Bank Liability For Terrorist Acts

“The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on Thursday in an appeal by victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks, in one of several cases posing the question of when banks can be sued for aiding and abetting terrorism by providing financial services. Eighteen U.S. citizens who allege they were injured or lost property in Hezbollah rocket attacks in Israel in 2006 will urge the 2nd Circuit to revive their lawsuit against Lebanese Canadian Bank under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The case drew supporting briefs from banking groups arguing Congress purposely set a high threshold for such claims and from law professors asserting courts have set the bar too high.”

Fox News: Behind Susan Rosenberg And The Roots Of Left-Wing Domestic Extremism

“Susan Rosenberg, who made the FBI’s Most Wanted list by the time she was 29, is among the most prominent far-left revolutionary activists in the U.S. Earlier this summer, she sparked controversy after it was discovered that she purportedly sat on the board as vice-chair of Thousand Currents, which has poured more than $10 million into grassroots social change initiatives, including Black Lives Matter as of late. The nonprofit, formerly known as IDEX, quickly removed the director’s page featuring Rosenberg from its website in June. It remained unclear if and to what capacity she still serves the organization. Thousand Currents did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. The police officer who personally escorted Rosenberg out of the Newark courthouse in 1985 after she was sentenced to 58 years for explosives possession said her affiliation with the group showed that the same domestic terrorism ideologies from 35 years ago still are percolating now. “I was at first shocked to learn of (Rosenberg's new role), but on the other hand, I wasn't so shocked given that members of these same groups get into academia and still follow the same teachings and inspiration,” retired NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik told Fox News.”

Iraq

Associated Press: Iraqi Military Says Rocket Attack In Baghdad Kills Child

“Rockets struck Iraq’s capital Tuesday with four landing inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, Iraq’s military said, killing a child and wounding at least five people, signaling an end to an informal truce announced by Iran-backed militias in October. Two Iraqi security officials said one of the rockets that hit the Green Zone struck close to Iraq’s National Security Service, just 600 meters (2,000 feet) from the American Embassy. Some of the rockets were intercepted by the C-RAM air defense system installed by the U.S. earlier this year, they said. Iraq’s military said three rockets landed outside the Green Zone, one hitting close to Baghdad Medical City hospital, one at the gate of a public park, and a third exploded in the air. One child was killed and five civilians were wounded, the military statement said. Officials said two Iraqi security forces personnel were also wounded inside the Green Zone. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The military said the incident would not go without “prosecution and accountability.” U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003 and left in 2011 but returned in 2014 after the Islamic State group overran large parts of Iraq.”

Reuters: Iraqi PM And Pompeo Discuss Cooperation Against Daesh

“Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi received a phone call from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, in which they discussed the future of cooperation between Iraq and the US-led international coalition, a statement from his office said. Al-Kadhimi and Pompeo discussed the development of cooperation between the two countries in various fields, the statement from the Iraqi's prime minister media office, posted on Facebook, said. “They also discussed the future of cooperation between Iraq and the international coalition led by the United States of America, in light of the growing Iraqi capabilities in combating terrorism,” the statement said.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Times: Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal Could Lead To Terrorist Attacks On US, Allies: NATO Chief

“NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday signaled opposition to President Trump’s plan to pull more U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and he cautioned that “leaving too soon” could lead to terrorist strikes against America and its allies. In a statement, Mr. Stoltenberg said all NATO allies are eager to leave Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, but he stressed that a withdrawal must only happen when “the time is right” on the ground. His comments come after reports that Mr. Trump will soon issue formal orders to cut the number of American forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to about 2,500. Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments echo those of critics in the U.S., including some Republican lawmakers, who fear that an early American exit could represent a serious national security threat and could recreate the conditions seen in Afghanistan during the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We now face a difficult decision. We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary,” Mr. Stoltenberg said in a statement, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Times. “But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”

Middle East

Voice Of America: Al-Qaida 'On The Ropes' After 2 Decades Of War

“Key U.S. officials are not backing down from their assessment that core al-Qaida, while still a threat, is in decline, brushing aside intelligence suggesting the terror organization remains entrenched in Afghanistan and may be growing stronger. For months, tensions have been growing between the United States and its allies over the status of al-Qaida, with some counterterrorism officials arguing Washington is in danger of underestimating the threat posed by the terror group. But the State Department’s top counterterrorism official on Tuesday said al-Qaida has been significantly degraded as a result of U.S. efforts. “I think al-Qaida's on the ropes, no doubt,” Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales told the virtual Global Security Forum in a pre-recorded interview. “We have decimated their senior leadership cadre over the past 20 years leaving core al-Qaida leadership really a remnant of its former self,” he said. Sales’ comments come just a day after U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien similarly downplayed al-Qaida core’s capacity to do harm. “Al-Qaida's been incapable of directing a complex, large-scale attack against the U.S. because of the pressure that we've kept on them,” he said. “And there's more to come.”

The National: Islamic Relief Founder Hany El Banna Called Yazidis ‘Devil Worshippers’

“The founder of Islamic Relief Worldwide brought more controversy to the scandal-hit charity after he referred to the persecuted Yazidi people as “devil worshippers”. Dr Hany El Banna, who is also chairman of the UK’s Muslim Charities Forum and president of Islamic Relief Switzerland, posted a video on Twitter of him giving a lecture entitled "Money doesn’t buy you class", in which he made the remark in September … Executive director of the Counter Extremism Project think tank, David Ibsen, described it as reprehensible. “It is outrageous for the founder of one of Britain’s largest charities to slander people in this manner,” he told The National. “Unfortunately, Dr El Banna’s comments did not occur in a vacuum. He is only the latest in a series of high-ranking officials from IRW in the past six months to publicly make derisive comments about other religious and ethnic groups. “IRW’s entire board resigned over the summer. Almoutaz Tayara shared an anti-Semitic cartoon and praised the terrorist group Hamas, calling its leaders “great men” who responded to the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood”. Despite these incidents, hatred has continued to flow from the board. “It is troubling that so many board members feel safe to publicly share these comments on social media.”

The Times Of India: Jolt To Qaeda Leadership Succession: Only Saif al-Adel From Old Guard Remains To Lead

“The peculiar timing of the reports on the ‘natural death’ of al-Qaeda’s ageing leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the confirmed brazen daylight murders of his likely successor and No. 2 Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and his daughter Miriam in Tehran’s upscale suburb of Pasdaran couldn’t have come at a worse time for the global jihadist terrorist organisation. The November 13 reports cast a serious doubt on the terrorist organisation’s leadership succession plans and its future strategy—though al-Qaeda has been always been resilient enough to bounce back every time its leaders, including the charismatic co-founder Osama bin Laden, were eliminated … A brilliant planner who excelled in intelligence gathering and target assessment, al-Adel played the most crucial role in building al-Qaeda’s operational capabilities and closely worked with al-Masri. Al-Adel, whose name also figures on the ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ list, was also part of the group that trained Aideed’s militants in countering the US forces in Somalia. “Adel played a crucial role in building al-Qaeda’s operational capabilities and quickly ascended the hierarchy,” the US-based Counter Extremism Project think tank says.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: 5 Killed In Mogadishu Bombing After Report That US Will Pull Troops From Somalia

“At least five people were killed, and eight others were injured following a suicide bombing near the main Somalia police academy in Mogadishu on Tuesday, officials said. Government communication sources said two police officers, a military officer and two civilians were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest outside a restaurant that is often used by members of the police academy. Police spokesman Major Sadiiq Aden Ali confirmed the death toll to VOA Somali. Other government officials said eight others were injured.   The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack. Hours earlier, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump could withdraw U.S. troops out of Somalia under an order being circulated at the Pentagon. Virtually all of the more than 700 troops conducting training and counterterrorism missions would leave, the paper reported.  Pentagon officials have not commented on the report. U.S. troops in Somalia provide training and advice and assistance to a unit of Somali army known as Danab (Lightning) that has been hailed as model for rebuilding the Somali army. The U.S. also conducts airstrikes against al-Shabab, which have increased since Trump took office in 2017.”

Africa

Agence France-Presse: In Jihadist-Hit Burkina Areas, No Elections -- And No State

“Two days before Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore held a campaign rally in the northern town of Dori earlier this month, the body of a driver for a regional MP was found 15 kilometres (nine miles) away. The death of Sorgho Wendtoin served as a brutal reminder of the difficulty of holding a national election in a country where large areas remain outside the state's control due to a grinding jihadist insurgency. Amadou Abdouramane Ly, a civil servant in Dori and parliamentary candidate for the ruling party, said “we must tell the truth, the situation is precarious”. “This is a new example of it.” Burkina Faso is preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections on November 22, while neighbouring Niger has its own presidential election on December 27. But no votes will be cast in many districts because the state is absent in the “three borders” region between Burkina, Niger and Mali. The territory is at the mercy of jihadist forces that have spread across large swathes of the three Sahel nations. Burkina first came under attack in 2015 from groups that have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. “How are we to organise an election in a zone where the attacks come almost every day?” asked a Burkinabe security specialist. Islamist fighters killed 14 soldiers in a road ambush on November 11, the biggest attack on the army in several months.”

The Christian Post: ‘The Next Jihad': Evangelical Leader, Rabbi Warn About 'Christian Genocide’ In Africa

“The rise of violent extremist groups throughout Africa, as well as the constant attacks against Christian communities in the continent’s most populated country, has religious leaders fearful that “the next jihad” is underway as world leaders seem to be rushing to address the problem. “I know one thing has never really changed: No one gives a damn about Africa except for their natural resources or if there is going to be a big party because there is a peace treaty being signed,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of the global social action agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization with over 400,000 family members. “That’s just the truth and it’s a terrible truth. It might be one of the vestiges, frankly, of colonialism.” Cooper teamed up with Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, to author the new book The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa. The book was written after the unlikely duo traveled together to Nigeria earlier this year to meet with dozens of Christian victims of terrorism from five different regions.”

United Kingdom

Sky News: UK Sees Sharp Increase Of Children As Young As 10 Investigated For Far-Right Extremism: Report

“Children under the age of 10 in the U.K. are being investigated over their links to far-right extremism, Sky News has found. Home Office figures show a dramatic rise in the number of under-18s referred to the government's counterterrorism program Channel over concerns about their possible involvement with the far-right. A total of 682 children were referred for this reason in 2017-18, compared with 131 in 2014-15 — a more than five-fold increase, according to figures obtained through a freedom of information request. The total for 2017-18 includes 24 children under the age of 10. For the first time since the data has been recorded, there was an equal balance in the number of cases linked to the far-right and those linked to Islamic radicalization in the year up to March 2019. Out of 5,738 referrals across all age groups, 1,404 (24%) were for concerns related to Islamist radicalization and 1,389 (24%) related to right-wing radicalization The bulk of referrals, 62%, were related to young people up to the age of 20.”

Sky News: Manchester Arena Bombing: Football Museum Warned Staff Would Be Alone In Case Of Terror Attack

“The National Football Museum was warned before the Manchester Arena bombing that the emergency services might take hours to reach casualties of a terrorist attack. The museum, which is a few yards from the arena, took part in an emergency exercise in which police warned that staff would probably have to deal with “battlefield injuries” themselves. The inquiry has heard that only one paramedic entered the City Room foyer where the bomb went off in the first 40 minutes and that the victims had to be carried from the scene on makeshift stretchers by members of the public. The “table top” exercise, known as Project Argus, was held in central Manchester, organised by Greater Manchester Police. David Scally, the general manager at the time, told the inquiry into the bombing: “We were given a scenario and were in groups and would say what we would do in the event of an attack. “What we found was that the emergency services wouldn't respond immediately and we could be left alone as a business for up to two hours, or maybe longer, if the area wasn't secure and we would have to be ready to treat battlefield injuries.” The exercise team recommended that the museum get “grab bags” of medical supplies, including tourniquets, to stop victims bleeding out from leg and arm injuries.”

Germany

Deutsche Welle: German State Minister Resigns Over Gun Purchase From Right-Wing Extremist

“A controversial gun purchase prompted the resignation of the interior minister of the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Tuesday. The minister, Lorenz Caffier, bought a hunting pistol from the arms dealer in 2018. It later came to light that the dealer was a member of the Nordkreuz (Northern Cross) group, an extreme-right survivalist network made up of people stockpiling for the collapse of the German state. “I bought a firearm from someone whom I should not have bought it from, in hindsight. Although it was not the purchase that was a mistake, but how I handled it. I apologize for that,” Caffier said in a statement. The arms dealer's affiliation with the group only came to light in 2019, but the dealer's name was already known to authorities in 2017. The name came to light during the questioning of a witness associated with the Nordkreuz Group, and the information was then forwarded to authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. As the state interior minister, Caffier oversaw the police and intelligence agencies conducting an investigation into the extreme-right group.  In his statement Tuesday, Caffier flatly denied any links to right-wing extremists and condemned “unrestrained reporting” into the case.”