Eye on Extremism: November 18, 2022

WFTV ABC: DHS, FBI Warn National Security Threats ‘Have Never Been Greater Or More Complex’

“The country’s top counterterrorism officials are warning the threats here at home are evolving and growing. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Christine Abizaid, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, all testified before a Senate Committee on Thursday. “The threats facing our homeland have never been greater or more complex,” said Mayorkas. “Congress may not have predicted the extent of today’s threat environment when our department was created 20 years ago. But our mission has never been more vital.” Their testimony warned the threats we face today often come from individuals instead of large organizations. “Terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda remain committed to attacking inside the United States,” said Abizaid. “However, unlike 21 years ago, the threat today is more likely to take the form of an individual attacker inspired by these groups rather than a networked and hierarchal directed plot.” The threats can range from cyber-attacks against our hospitals, water systems and electric grids, to violent domestic terrorism attacks. “What makes our current situation unique, and I add particularly serious, is the fact that we’re seeing so many different threat areas all elevated at the same time,” said Wray.”

Metro.co.uk: Women In Afghanistan ‘Banned From Watching World Cup In Public’

“Qatar has been an intermediary between the Taliban and the outside world, including through the 2020 Doha Agreement, where the group agreed not to allow Afghan soil to be used for activities threatening the West. However it is unlikely that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will have any visible presence in the Gulf state during the World Cup. Hans-Jakob Schindler, director at the Counter Extremism Project, a New York-based think tank, told Metro.co.uk that the Taliban will want to distance itself from what it views as a ‘debauched’ event. ‘The long-standing relationship between Qatar and the Taliban is not completely divorced from US foreign policy,’ he said.”

United States

Bloomberg Law: ISIS Supporter’s Sentence For Aiding Terrorist Group Is Upheld

“A challenge to the 150-month sentence, supervised release, and special conditions given to a defendant who pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS was dismissed by the Second Circuit Thursday. The plea deal Azizjon Rakhmatov signed included an appeal waiver that said he wouldn’t “file an appeal or otherwise challenge” his sentence so long as he was imprisoned for 150 months or less. After he was sentenced, Rakhmatov filed a motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a), which allows a district court to correct a sentence that contains “arithmetical, technical, or other clear error.” Rakhmatov’s challenge…”

The Chicago Tribune: Ex-DePaul Student Gets 7 ½ Years In Federal Prison For Writing Computer Code To Help ISIS Terrorist Group

“A former DePaul University student was sentenced Thursday to 7 ½ years in federal prison for using his developing computer skills to help the Islamic State terrorist group spread violent propaganda on social media. Lawyers for Thomas Osadzinski, 23, painted him as a naive, socially awkward teenager who was struggling with mental health issues when he “got sucked in” by the radical ideologies in the dark corners of the internet. In sentencing Osadzinski, however, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said there was a wide gulf between typical youthful indirection or poor judgment and Osadzinski’s conduct, which included pledging fealty to a “hideous group” such as ISIS and “promoting and encouraging” its violent message around the globe. “I think you understand now how serious this is” said Gettleman. “You have shown remorse. Is it genuine? I hope so.” Osadzinski, who was born and raised in Northbrook, was convicted by a jury last year of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 years in prison, while the defense requested five years behind bars. Before he was sentenced, Osadzinski, who has been in custody since his arrest almost three years ago to the day, stood in court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and black eyeglasses and denounced the Islamic State, saying he was in a “dark place” at the time and “got lost online.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Two Girls Found Beheaded, Dumped In Syrian Detention Camp, Charity Says

“Two Egyptian girls were found dead in northeastern Syria’s al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected Islamic State fighters in northeastern Syria, according to a major children’s charity that works in the camp. Save the Children did not identify the cause of death of the two girls, whose ages it gave as 12 and 15. But the Associated Press, citing the London-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and unnamed officials with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, reported that both girls had been beheaded and their bodies dumped in the sewage system. The Washington Post was unable independently to verify the reports and has contacted the SDF for comment. ‘This news is utterly heartbreaking. These two girls were trapped in the Al Hol camp through no fault of their own,’ Save the Children’s interim Syria response director, Beat Rohr, said in a statement Tuesday. ‘Their death is a stark reminder that no child should grow up in these camps. We continue to urge all countries to repatriate children stuck in North East Syria as soon as possible.’”

Iran

Radio Free Europe: Iran Says Seven Killed In 'Terrorist Attack' In Izeh Amid Protests

“Iranian state media say seven people were killed and 10 injured in a November 16 “terrorist attack” in the southwestern Iranian city of Izeh. Iran's state news agencies described the incident as a terrorist attack while referring to the dead as martyrs. State media reported that a 9-year-old boy, identified as Kian Pirfalak, was among those killed. But activists and relatives of Pirfalak blamed security forces for his killing, which occurred as protests over the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini intensified on the third anniversary of the November 2019 bloody unrest over fuel price hikes. The opposition activist collective 1500tasvir reported that a large number of protesters were killed in Izeh on November 16 while blaming the Islamic republic's security forces for the killings. In a video showing Pirfalak's body published online, one of his relatives said he was shot by the “security forces of the Islamic republic” and killed while he was riding in a car with his father. Meanwhile, the official government news agency IRNA published a statement saying the extremist group Islamic State (IS) had claimed responsibility for the attack in Izeh. However, the BBC monitoring service said some supporters of IS called the group's claim of responsibility fake. Later, the state news agency IRNA removed the statement without offering any explanation.”

Turkey

Los Angeles Times: Turkish Police In Syria Capture Man Allegedly Linked To Deadly Istanbul Bombing

“Turkish security forces have detained a suspect wanted in a recent deadly bombing in Istanbul, in an operation in a Turkish-controlled area in northwestern Syria, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported. Other suspects detained in connection with the bombing will appear before Turkish court officials Thursday to face possible charges or be released from custody. The newly reported suspect, identified only by his code name Husam, was apprehended by Turkish police late Wednesday in the Syrian city of Azaz, which is currently under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition, the Anadolu Agency reported. He was being taken to Istanbul for questioning. His detention raised the number of suspects in custody in connection with the bombing to 51. Sunday’s explosion targeted Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue — a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants — and left six people dead, including two children. Scores more people were wounded in the attack, which came as a stark reminder of bombings in Turkish cities between 2015 and 2017 that engendered public fear. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militant groups have denied involvement.”

Reuters: Turkish Court Arrests 17 Suspects Over Istanbul Blast

“A Turkish court ordered the pre-trial detention of 17 people suspected of being involved in an explosion this week in central Istanbul that killed six people, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. The detainees were among a group of almost 50 people Istanbul police had rounded up earlier this week after the attack, and include the suspected bomber, which police identified as Syrian national Ahlam Albashir. Anadolu said the others detainees included the person who drove the bomber, and others the authorities have accused of ‘murder with a bomb’ and ‘disrupting the unity and integrity of the state.’ More than half the suspects detained were to be deported, the agency reported.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Afghan Terror Groups Pose Limited Threat To US, Assessments Find

“Some of the more dire predictions about the boost terror groups in Afghanistan would get from the sudden U.S. withdrawal have not come to pass, with recent assessments suggesting organizations such as al-Qaida and Islamic State have yet to regenerate formidable external attack capabilities. The new assessments, shared by U.S. officials and contained in just-released government reports, find that both terror groups remain intent on striking the United States and its Western allies, but their reach, for now, falls short. “Terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaida remain committed to attacking inside the United States,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid told U.S. lawmakers Thursday, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “Al-Qaida's capability to threaten the United States homeland from Afghanistan is quite limited, in part thanks to the operation that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul,” Abizaid said. “But also because the al-Qaida elements that are still present in Afghanistan are really not focused on external operations as far as we can tell.” As for IS-Khorasan, Abizaid said the IS Afghan affiliate is one of the Islamic State's most effective, though it has not yet demonstrated an ability to strike outside the region.”

Pakistan

AFP: Pakistan Taliban Kill Six Police Officers In Gun Ambush

“Six police officers were killed in an ambush in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, officials said, an assault claimed by the nation’s homegrown Taliban. The Pakistan Taliban share common lineage with the Afghan Taliban and have staged an increasing number of strikes in the year since Kabul fell into the hands of the hardline Islamists. Gunmen with automatic rifles launched an attack at around 7 am (0200 GMT) on a police vehicle patrolling the village of Shahab Khel, 100 km (60 miles) from the Afghan border. “All the six policemen were killed” under fire from both sides, Tariqullah Khan, a district official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told AFP. The death toll was confirmed by a second police official. In a separate incident on Wednesday, the military said two soldiers were killed in a clash with militants in the northwestern district of Bajaur that borders Afghanistan. The Pakistan Taliban — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — said the police were “coming for a raid” when they were gunned down in Shahab Khel. It said in a statement to AFP its own fighters “managed to reach their base safely” after looting weapons and ammunition. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offered his condolences and said on Twitter, “terrorism continues to be one of Pakistan’s foremost problems.” The TTP were at the height of their power in Pakistan between 2007 and 2009, when they held sway over the Swat valley just 135 km (85 miles) north of Islamabad.”

Lebanon

BBC News: Islamic State: Lebanon's Economic Collapse Drives Recruitment

“Ahmed is still a teenager, but instead of studying he spends every day at work. He lives in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, one of the poorest places on the Mediterranean. Despite the hours he puts in, he leaves with just a few dollars a week. He needs to support his sick mother, but his back-breaking manual job earns him barely enough to feed them both. That sense of hopelessness led him to search for a way out. In an internet café in Tripoli, he began chatting to a man who told Ahmed he was a recruiter for the Islamic State group - the radical Sunni Islamist militants who once controlled large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, and who have committed atrocities and terror attacks throughout the region and around the world. “I was studying Sharia [Islamic laws], and day after day they taught us about jihad,” Ahmed told me. “They told us about Iraq and the Islamic State group [IS]. We loved IS, because it was famous. I was contacted by a man in prison, and he told me 'I'm going to send you there'.” Slight and quietly-spoken, it's hard to imagine Ahmed being a fighter. We talked about the terrible crimes that the group had committed, and I pressed him to explain why he would want to be a part of something like that. “I wanted to join IS and be a mujahid because I couldn't cope with the crisis here”, he answers slowly.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: In West Bank, Undercover Troops Nab Islamic Jihad Man Accused Of Planning Attacks

“Undercover Border Police officers arrested a wanted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror operative in a village near the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, a police spokesman said. The spokesman said the suspect, Abdullah Loubani, was in contact with members of the PIJ in the Gaza Strip and was involved in planning terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the terror group. There were no clashes during the daytime raid in the village of Bir al-Basha, some 15 kilometers southwest of Jenin. Loubani was transferred to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning, the spokesman added. On Saturday, troops arrested another PIJ member in the town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, during a daytime raid. Officials said Muhammad Abu Zina had been conducting “significant terror activity,” which included work to finance and arm PIJ operatives in the northern West Bank. This spring, the military launched a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — though not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces. In arrests raids early Thursday, troops arrested 13 wanted Palestinians. In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops operating in the West Bank, as well as military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.”

The Jerusalem Post: Israel Must Develop New Strategy To Fight Lone Wolf Terrorism

“It’s been years now that Israel has been seeing terror attacks that are not purposely perpetrated as part of an operation led by one specific terror organization, but rather by single people taking upon themselves to murder innocent civilians. In recent weeks, these attacks have come again – randomly and lethally. These are now well-known as “lone wolf” attacks. In 2019, The Washington Post looked at attacks carried out by Palestinians and found that most of them seem to be random and based on opportunity rather than careful planning. A majority of the terrorists are young, unmarried men using a kitchen knife. This later became the working definition for lone-wolf terror attacks. 1,000 Israeli students call on Harvard Crimson to move office from ‘stolen lands’ That definition, for the most part, applies to the attacks seen recently. Three Israelis were brutally murdered and another three injured this past Tuesday, for example. The terrorist, Muhammad Murad Sami Souf, was 18 years old and used a knife and car to kill the victims. It is believed that he was working alone. Just two weeks prior in October, Hebron resident Muhammed Kamel al-Jaabari used an M-16 rifle – the kind most IDF combat soldiers carry home with them – to murder 50-year-old Ronen Hanania. Again, we see a young attacker working alone. In August, Amir Sidawi wounded at least eight people – including a pregnant woman, who had to have an emergency C-section – when he opened fire at a bus.”

Nigeria

Premium Times Nigeria: Nigerian Military Achieves Major Successes, Kills Over 50 Terrorists In The North – DHQ

“The Nigerian military eliminated more than 50 terrorists and rescued 50 victims in land and air offensives in the North-east and North-west in the last two weeks, an official has said. The Director of Defence Media Operations at the Defence Headquarters, Musa Danmadami, made this known at a bi-weekly news briefing on the operations of the armed forces on Thursday in Abuja. In the North-east, Mr Danmadami said, the troops of Operation Hadin Kai neutralised 13 terrorists, apprehended 10 and rescued 41 victims in land operations across the theatre during the period. The major general also said that more than 13 terrorists were eliminated in air bombardments at Belowa and Ngwuri Gana in Abadan and Bama Local Government Area of Borno on 4 November and 5 November. He said that feedback from the airstrikes revealed that key members of the leadership (Shura Council) of the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), Ali Kwaya and Bukar Mainoka, were among those killed. According to him, the airstrikes targeted two ISWAP terrorist vehicles observed to be conveying about 13 injured terrorists that survived the initial strike to another hideout. “At Ngwuri Gana in Bama, the convergence of a large group of ISWAP insurgents in 15 trucks who were armed with assorted weapons, arriving from different locations to attack an unspecified location within the general area was bombarded.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Govt Fights Back Against Al-Shabaab Attack On Education Sector

“The Somali government said it plans to reopen schools in territories recently recovered from militant group al-Shabab. Education Minister Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir says his ministry has a plan to take education to the areas seized by the government and local forces. Somali security forces supported by local clan militias have been dislodging al-Shabab from towns and villages in central Somalia since August. “The Somali people have risen up in support of their government, a sizable land has been liberated; we are going to reopen the schools, we are going to take the curriculum there, and we are going to send teachers there,” Abdulkadir said in an interview with VOA Somali. “The government will utilize all of its power to provide education service to the people who have not had regular or proper education for a long time.” He said the government already sent school supplies to Hirshabelle State, which was a focal point for the offensive against the militants. Abdulkadir said only 24% of Somalis currently have opportunity to access education. “They [al-Shabab] have taken advantage of this lack of knowledge and ignorance, and God willing; we are going to put a lot of effort into that to change,” he said. The minister's pledge to revive education in areas captured from al-Shabab is not a coincidence. It comes nearly three weeks after two consecutive al-Shabab bombs targeted the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu, killing 121 people and injuring more than 330 others.”

Africa

AFP: W. Africa Coastal States Eye More Cooperation Over Sahel Jihadism

“West African coastal states on Thursday held talks on boosting cooperation against jihadist violence spilling over from the Sahel after more countries announced they would pull their peacekeepers out of Mali. Gulf of Guinea neighbours Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo are confronting increased risks from Islamic State-allied and Al Qaeda militants waging war over their northern borders in the Sahel. As part of the so-called Accra Initiative, representatives of coastal states, the European Union and others met in the Ghanaian capital for talks on security and intelligence cooperation. Ghana's National Security Minister Albert Kan-Dapaah said collaboration was needed as the threat from extremism is “more widespread than previously thought and transcending borders.” “The threat landscape has consistently changed,” he said. In the first quarter of 2022, Africa recorded 346 attacks, almost half of which were in the west of the continent, he said. Launched in 2017, the Accra Initiative includes Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast as well as Burkina Faso. Mali and Niger have also since joined. The Accra meeting, extending to next week, will also involve representatives from the EU and British government and the 15-member West African bloc ECOWAS. A summit with regional heads of state is planned for November 22, where leaders will discuss security proposals, according to the Accra Initiative executive secretary.”

Voice Of America: West African Countries Meet Over Spillover Of Terrorism From Sahel Region

“The Accra Initiative of seven West African countries is meeting in the Ghanaian capital Thursday to discuss ways of preventing the spillover of terrorism from the Sahel region. Islamist militants have gradually spread their activities from Niger to Burkina Faso and Mali to West Africa's coastal states. Over the years West Africa has dealt with chronic instability caused by political crises and cross-border terrorism. Five West African countries — Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo — established the Accra Initiative in 2017 in order to collaborate against violent extremism in the region. Mali and Niger were admitted as observers before becoming members in 2019. The program promotes information sharing, training of security and intelligence personnel, and cross-border military operations in an often-volatile region. Speaking to VOA on the sidelines of the two-day conference in Accra Thursday, Ben Dere, the executive secretary of the Accra Initiative, said cooperation among countries is key in the fight against terrorism. “We will sustain confidence through the efforts that we are making and closer collaboration between the member states of the Accra Initiative and some partners that are already working in the area, so that we all get to know that one group of people cannot work without the other. Fighting terrorism is a collective effort so we need to work together to continue to engage, and we shall succeed in whatever we are trying to do,” said Dere.”

United Kingdom

The National: Home Office Accuses UK Muslim Student Group Of Acting 'Dangerously And Irresponsibly'

“A British Muslim student group has been accused of acting “dangerously and irresponsibly” by the government for hosting an anti-counter-extremism university tour. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis) is hosting a tour of seven universities, including three Russell Group institutions, with groups that have previously been accused of undermining the UK’s counter-extremism strategy: Cage, Mend and Prevent Watch. Fosis — which was created by the man who also founded the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq — announced the tour, which is due to start on Friday at Strathclyde University, on Twitter. The post advertises speakers from Cage — including former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg — Prevent Watch and Mend. UK think tank Policy Exchange has said these organisations have “sought to undermine Prevent and counter-extremism efforts”. The Prevent policy was introduced in 2003 but expanded after the attacks on the London transport network on July 7, 2005, in which 52 people were killed. It is one part of a four-pronged strategy designed to stop people from being drawn into terrorism and has been strengthened by successive governments, now requiring schools, universities, councils and hospitals to flag concerns over suspected cases of radicalisation.”

Europe

Deutsche Welle: Court Sentences Far-Right German Over Extremist Letters

“A 54-year-old man has been sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison by a regional court for sending over 80 threatening letters to public figures.  The presiding judge, Corinna Distler, found the Berlin resident guilty of a number of offenses including public incitement to commit a crime, threats, insulting insult, coercion, disturbing the public peace and incitement to hatred. The Public Prosecutor's Office had demanded a prison sentence of seven years and six months. The defendant, identified only as Alexander M., denied all charges and accusations in a final presentation.  He said he was a member of a right-wing chat group on the darknet but had not written the messages or committed any crimes.  Between August 2018 and March 2021, more than 80 threatening messages had been sent by email, fax or text message. They were filled with insults and death threats. The recipients were primarily women in public life, including lawyers, politicians and journalists. Some letters were signed “Heil Hitler.” The name “NSU2.0” alluded to the right-wing extremist group that murdered nine migrants and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On November 29, 2020, an assailant detonated an explosives-filled military vehicle on an Afghan army base, killing at least 31 and wounding 24. 

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