Eye on Extremism: November 18, 2021

Reuters: U.N. Envoy Says Islamic State Now Appears Present In All Afghan Provinces

“The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday delivered a bleak assessment of the situation following the Taliban takeover, saying that an affiliate of the Islamic State group has grown and now appears present in nearly all 34 provinces. U.N. Special Representative Deborah Lyons told the U.N. Security Council that the Taliban's response to Islamic State-Khorasan Province's (ISKP) expansion “appears to rely heavily on extrajudicial detentions and killings” of suspected ISKP fighters. “This is an area deserving more attention from the international community,” she said. Her comments came hours after the group -- an ideological foe of the Taliban -- claimed responsibility for two blasts that killed at least one person and wounded six others in a heavily Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Kabul. The Taliban, she said, has been unable to stem ISKP's growth. “Once limited to a few provinces and the capital, ISKP now seems to be present in nearly all provinces, and increasingly active,” Lyons said, adding that the number of the group's attacks have increased from 60 strikes in 2020 to 334 this year. While the Taliban is making “genuine efforts to present itself as a government” since seizing Kabul in August after a 20-year war with the United States, they continue excluding representatives of other sectors of society and curtailing the rights of women and girls.”

The Washington Post: Family Of American Held By Islamist Extremists In Africa Appeals For Help Securing His Release

“The family of an American man believed to be held hostage by Islamist extremists in Mali appealed for help Wednesday in securing his release after more than five years in captivity. Els Woodke said she believed her husband, Christian aid worker Jeff Woodke, had recently been transferred from the custody of Islamic State militants in Mali to that of an al-Qaeda affiliate whose leader may be more open to negotiating his release. Jeff Woodke had lived in neighboring Niger full-time for more than 15 years when armed men appeared at his home in Abalak in October 2016, killing his guards and abducting him, Els Woodke told reporters in Washington. The California native, now 61, had spent about three decades living part- or full-time in Niger, where his work included construction of wells and schools, his wife said. Els Woodke has made only limited statements to the media since her husband’s disappearance due in large part to guidance from the U.S. government, which has often advised families of hostages to avoid drawing attention to efforts to obtain their release. She said she is now embracing a more public strategy because previous attempts to secure his freedom were unsuccessful and because her husband’s new captors appeared to be more amenable to freeing him. Woodke said she believed her husband had initially been held by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and that his transfer occurred after the death of that group’s leader, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, in a French military operation in August.”

United States

US Department Of Justice: Man Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison For Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS

“A New York man was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, aka ISIS. The defendant was also sentenced to 100 months, or more than eight years’, imprisonment for assaulting a federal correctional officer and possessing contraband at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York, to run consecutive to the terrorism sentence. Ali Saleh, 28, of Queens, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS in July 2018. According to court documents, starting in 2013, Saleh swore an oath of allegiance to ISIS and embraced ISIS’s directive to either travel to the Middle East or take action at home in support of ISIS. On Aug. 25, 2014, Saleh stated online, “I’m ready to die for the Caliphate, prison is nothing.” On Aug. 28, 2014, Saleh stated online, “Lets be clear the Muslims in the khilafah [caliphate] need help, the one who is capable to go over and help the Muslims must go and help.” That same day, Saleh made an airline reservation to travel from New York to Turkey, but was ultimately prevented from traveling because his parents took away his passport. “Saleh made numerous attempts to travel overseas to join ISIS, and when those efforts failed, attempted to assist others in joining the terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.”

CBS News: “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley Sentenced To 41 Months In Prison For Role In January 6 Attack

“The man known as the “QAnon Shaman,” who stormed the Senate chamber on January 6 adorned in face paint and wearing a fur helmet with horns, was sentenced to 41 months behind bars on Wednesday for his involvement in the attack on the Capitol. Jacob Chansley, 34, from Phoenix, Arizona, pleaded guilty in September to one felony count of obstruction for his role in trying to block the counting of the 2020 Electoral College votes. He faced a maximum of 20 years in prison on the charge, but federal prosecutors sought a sentence of 51 months, the longest requested sentence in a January 6 investigation to date. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth handed down the 41-month sentence in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday. He also sentenced Chansley to three years probation once he's released. In sentencing Chansley to prison time, Lamberth said he thought Chansley was “genuine in your remorse” but said the severity of his crime warranted the sentence. “What you did here was horrific, as you can now see,” the judge said. Images of a shirtless, American flag-carrying Chansley entering the halls of Congress and sitting in the Senate president's chair became iconic representations of the mayhem of January 6, when hundreds of pro-Trump rioters stormed the building and briefly delayed the formal counting of the electoral votes.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: Islamic State Claims Twin Blasts In Afghan Capital Kabul

“Islamic State claimed responsibility for two explosions that hit a heavily Shi'ite Muslim area of the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least one person and wounding at least six others including three women. The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks in Kabul claimed by the militant Sunni group in recent days, with Shi'ite areas in the west of the city targeted several times. The group has also launched attacks on Shi'ite mosques in the northern city of Kunduz and the southern city of Kandahar. One car bomb blast in Dasht-e Barchi, in western Kabul, killed a civilian and wounded six, interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayeed Khosty said in a tweet. There was no confirmation of casualty numbers. A Taliban official who spoke on condition of anonymity said seven people had been killed and nine wounded. A second explosion was reported in the nearby Karte 3 area, local residents said. A Taliban official said security forces were still gathering information. Images posted on social media showed a car destroyed by flames as well as twisted wreckage strewn across the road. Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account. The local affiliate of the radical group has emerged as the main security threat to the Taliban since the fall of Kabul in August and has mounted attacks across the country that have killed and wounded hundreds.”

Voice Of America: Taliban ‘Open Letter’ Appeals To US Congress To Unfreeze Afghan Assets

“The Taliban foreign minister Wednesday penned an “open letter” to the U.S. Congress, warning of a mass refugee exodus from Afghanistan unless the United States unblocks more than $9 billion in Afghan central bank assets and ends other financial sanctions against the country. Amir Khan Muttaqi wrote that the sanctions “have not only played havoc” with trade and business but also with humanitarian aid to millions of desperate Afghans. Muttaqi’s office in Kabul released copies of the letter in several languages, including English. Muttaqi maintained that his government has managed to bring political stability and security to Afghanistan since returning to power last August but growing economic troubles are worsening humanitarian challenges. “Currently the fundamental challenge of our people is financial security and the roots of this concern lead back to the freezing of assets of our people by the American government,” said the Taliban’s chief diplomat. “We are concerned that if the current situation prevails, the Afghan government and people will face problems and will become a cause for mass migration in the region and world,” Muttaqi said. Last week, the Norwegian Refugee Council reported that around 300,000 Afghans have fled to Iran since August and up to 5,000 continue to illegally cross the border into the neighboring country daily.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: Indian Kashmir Forces Accused Of Killing Civilians In Raid On Alleged Militants

“Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday detained relatives of two civilians killed in a controversial gunfight after the families staged a protest in Srinagar demanding that local police return the bodies for traditional burial. The two civilians were among four people killed in a shootout with government security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this week, and their families have accused those troops of lying about how the raid unfolded. Police say the civilians died in the crossfire between government troops and rebels. But witnesses and families of the civilians say Indian troops used those civilians as human shields during the standoff. On Tuesday, police in the disputed region’s main city said that four people were killed in the raid. The fight, according to police, left dead a foreign “terrorist,” Hyder — whose alias, according to police, is Bilal Bhai — along with his “associate,” Aamir Ahmad, and “two sympathizers,” Mudasir Gul and Altaf Ahmad Bhat. Vijay Kumar, police inspector general for the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, told reporters that police had information about the presence of militants in the area. “The joint teams of police, central reserve police force and army set up a cordon and searched,” he said, adding that when government forces knocked on the door of a room where the militants were hiding, militants shot at them, and in “self-defense, troops opened fire.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Death Toll From Gunmen Attack In Nigeria's Northwest Rises To 43

“At least 43 people have died following raids by gunmen in Nigeria's Sokoto state this week, three times more than the initial death toll given by officials, a spokesman for the state governor said on Wednesday. Although the military is conducting an operation to stamp out a tide of violence by armed gangs known as bandits in the northwest, including a telecoms blackout, the violence and kidnappings have continued. The latest attacks in Sokoto's Illela town bordering Niger republic town took place from Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning. The state government had said 13 people were killed while another two were killed in another town east of the state capital. “However, at the time of the governor's visit Wednesday afternoon the toll has risen to 43,” Muhammad Bello, the governor's spokesman said in a statement. Last month, gunmen killed at least 43 people in another attack in the state. read more Armed gangs operating for profit have killed or kidnapped hundreds of people across northwestern Nigeria this year.”

Africa

Reuters: Gunmen Kill At Least 25 In Southwest Niger

“Unidentified gunmen have killed at least 25 people in southwest Niger, officials said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of deadly raids along the country's border with Mali. Attackers on motorcycles stormed the camp of a local self-defence militia near the village of Bakorat in the Tahoua region on Tuesday, said Attawane Abeitane, mayor of the nearby town of Tillia. A gunfight lasted for several hours before Nigerien security forces arrived and repelled the attackers, Abeitane said. A security official said only one of the defence militia survived. “These are terrorists who came from outside and there were many of them,” Abeitane said. “There were deaths among the terrorists, and motorcycles were also burned.” No group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack. A local affiliate of Islamic State has killed hundreds in rural communities near the Malian border this year. One raid on Bakorat and neighbouring villages in March killed 137 people, one of the deadliest days in Niger's recent history. Local officials blamed that attack on Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. In the absence of a permanent military presence, some villages and towns have taken up arms to defend themselves, though security analysts fear this can stoke the violence. The attack is part of a wider wave of violence that since 2017 has swept across West Africa's Sahel region, a band of arid terrain south of the Sahara Desert.”

Reuters: Death Toll Soars To 53 After Attack On Burkina Faso Security Post

“Fifty-three people were killed in a weekend attack on a gendarmerie post in Burkina Faso, an updated government toll showed on Wednesday, as President Roch Kabore responded to a public outcry over the worst strike on security forces in years. Sunday's bloodshed has provoked protests over the authorities' failure to curb a four-year Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced more than a million people to flee their homes. The attack, near a gold mine in Inata, a territory in the northern Soum region, killed 49 military police officers and four civilians, a government spokesperson said, updating a previous estimate of 32 killed. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Burkina Faso's capital, demanding Kabore resign for failing to rein in militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who regularly target Burkinabe forces and civilians. In a public address on Wednesday, Kabore said he understood why some citizens were angry about the attack and the circumstances leading up to it. The personnel stationed at the gendarmerie post had run out of food and been forced to slaughter animals in the vicinity for the past two weeks, according to a memo sent by the post's commander to his superiors last week and seen by Reuters.”

United Kingdom

The Times Of Israel: Liverpool Terror Bomber Planned Blast For At Least 7 Months, Police Say

“The man who died in a botched bomb attack in the northern English city of Liverpool on Sunday had planned the blast for at least seven months, police said Wednesday. Iraq-born Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, rented a property in the city in April and had made “relevant purchases” for his bomb since “at least” that time, said Russ Jackson, who heads counter-terrorism policing in northwest England. Al Swealmeen’s improvised device went off in the back of a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital moments before Britain marked Remembrance Sunday last weekend. He was killed in the fireball, while the quick-thinking taxi driver escaped with minor injuries after reportedly locking Al Swealmeen inside his cab. “A complex picture is emerging over the purchases of the component parts of the device, we know that Al Swealmeen rented the property from April this year and we believe relevant purchases have been made at least since that time,” said Jackson. “We have now traced a next of kin for Al Swealmeen who has informed us that he was born in Iraq.” The failed asylum seeker suffered from bouts of mental illness that will “form part of the investigation and will take some time to fully understand” said Jackson.”

France

Reuters: French Police Arrest Two Linked To Ultra-Right In Anti-Terrorism Probe - Source

“Two people linked to France's ultra-right movement have been arrested by agents from the DGSI intelligence service as part of an anti-terrorism probe, a judicial source said on Wednesday. France Info earlier reported that the two were suspected of issuing a call for violence via the Telgram messaging app. Weapons were found at the home of one of the two suspects, the judicial source told Reuters. Material related to the making of explosives had also been found, French news agency AFP reported. Both suspects, who were seized by police on Tuesday, are from southwestern France, France Info and AFP said.”

Europe

Reuters: Hungarian, 22, Charged With Plotting Islamist Attack, Prosecutors Say

“Hungarian prosecutors have charged a 22-year-old man with plotting an Islamist terror attack with an accomplice in the country last year, prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday. It said the man, who prosecutors said had converted to Islam in a Budapest mosque in June 2020, pledged loyalty to Islamic State in the spring of 2021. Prosecutors said the man was planning to execute an attack to intimidate Europe's population, based on the charges brought against him. They said the man and an unnamed accomplice had in May discussed ways online to execute the attack, which would have involved the defendant ramming pedestrians in a lakeside resort in Siofok and his accomplice blowing up a nail bomb in Budapest. The man, who is under arrest, is also charged with making preparations to obtain the components required for the bomb. Hungarian special forces and prosecutors foiled the attack in June this year, the statement said.”

CNN: What A Staggering Gun Cache Discovered In One Suspected Neo-Nazi's House Says About Far-Right Extremism In Europe

“Last month, Austrian police made a remarkable discovery. In a raid on a house in the town of Baden, they found an arsenal of weapons and 1,200 kilograms of ammunition -- as well as Nazi paraphernalia and a large amount of gunpowder. Altogether some 50 weapons, including submachine guns and pump-action rifles, were seized. According to a police statement, the house belonged to a 53-year-old man who is “suspected of national socialist Nazi activities,” including sharing numerous files on Internet forums. Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said of the raid: “The consistent action against right-wing extremism is not only part of the historical responsibility, but also a clear advocacy of our democratic coexistence in Austria.” It wasn't the first action against alleged neo-Nazis in Austria this year. In July, police seized automatic weapons and hand grenades in coordinated raids against a biker gang whose leader planned to establish a “militia of the respectable” that would “overturn the system.” Support for Nazism is a criminal offense in Austria. The most prominent neo-Nazi figure is Gottfried Kuessel, who was sentenced to a nine-year jail term in 2013 for propagating Nazism online. It was his second conviction.”

Politico: Nominations And Markups And Hearings, Oh My!

“…Gilles de Kerchove has joined the advisory board of the Counter Extremism Project. He was EU counterterrorism coordinator from 2007 to 2021. …”

Southeast Asia

Deutsche Welle: Indonesian Police Arrest Top Cleric Over Terror Connections

“Indonesia's counter-terrorism force Densus 88 arrested one of the country's leading Muslim clerics over suspected connections with the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), police said on Wednesday.

Ahmad Zain An-Najah is a member of the southeast Asian country's Ulema Council, an umbrella group of religious organizations made up of Islamic scholars. He is believed to have close ties with the terror group and to have funded their activities. Ahmad was arrested in Jakarta on Tuesday, along with two associates, following a police raid, national police spokesperson Rusdi Hartono said. The cleric has been accused of starting a charitable organization “for education, social activities... some of the funds are used to mobilize JI,” Rusdi said. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority country. It has been dealing with a series of militant attacks, many of which have been connected to locals who have returned from Iraq and Syria where they fought for the so-called “Islamic State.” The militant Islamist group stands accused of being behind the 2002 nightclub bombings on the island of Bali that killed 200 people. They are also believed to have been behind a series of recent attacks in both Indonesia and the Philippines.”

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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