Eye on Extremism: November 20, 2020

Voice Of America: Iran-Backed Militias Resume Rocket Attacks Toward US Embassy In Iraq

“Weeks of continued calm in and around Baghdad’s Green Zone were disturbed Tuesday when several rockets were fired toward the U.S. Embassy, located in the fortified area that houses key government offices and other diplomatic facilities. Iraqi officials say at least three of the seven rockets fired were intercepted by the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-Ram) system installed near the U.S. Embassy, but some of them fell in nearby civilian areas, killing at least one child and injuring several others. The attack did not kill or wound any Americans. Initially, a new pro-Iran group called Ashab al-Kahf or “the cave companions,” which Iraqi intelligence sources describe as a subgroup of Kataib Hezbollah, the usual suspect in attacks on U.S. interests in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack on social media. But after news of civilian casualties broke, KH and its political ally in the Iraqi parliament, the Fatah Coalition, issued separate statements denying the involvement of Shiite militias in the attack. They both blamed it, without evidence, on President Donald Trump’s election performance. “The shelling of the embassy came to cover up Trump’s loss in the elections through exporting his internal crises and trying to ignite a full-scale war,” the KH statement said.”

The Wall Street Journal: Outside Nigeria’s ‘Green Zone,’ Jihadists Rule The Road

“Traveling by road into Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeast, has become one of the most dangerous journeys on earth. Vehicles entering the sprawling, sun-baked city pass under banners that welcome visitors to the “Home of Peace,” a nickname coined in happier times. But in the past six months alone, more than 200 people have been murdered or kidnapped on the four main highways that head into a town now more famous as the birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency, according to analysis from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, interviews with soldiers and state officials. The attacks are conducted by militants fighting for Boko Haram and a splinter group loyal to Islamic State. With each passing month they become more brazen, targeting civilians, aid workers, soldiers and even the state’s most powerful politicians. In September, jihadists attacked the heavily armed convoy of the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, on the road from his Maiduguri office to Baga, near the border with Chad, leaving 20 people dead and forcing one of Nigeria’s most powerful men to be rushed into an armored vehicle amid a hail of bullets.”

United States

The Washington Times: Dealing With Terrorism Threat Will Dominate New Administration's Agenda

“If there’s one thing we learned from the last two presidential election cycles, it’s that the United States has become more politically partisan and divided than at any time in its modern history. Vigorous debate is a hallmark of democracy, but bipartisanship is essential to protecting our nation from foreign adversaries. Bearing in mind President Kennedy’s admonition that while “domestic policy can only defeat us, foreign policy can kill us,” the stakes could not be higher. Following a bitter and acrimonious campaign, the incoming Biden administration will be on the hook to grapple with a wickedly complex range of threats, including Iran, nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Russia and China. But it is the threat of terrorism that is arguably the national security threat with the shortest fuse. The Trump administration decimated Islamic State’s so-called “caliphate” and eliminated terrorists such as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Hamza bin Laden, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Qassim al-Raymi and AQAP’s chief bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, whom former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell called the “most significant international terrorist removed from the battlefield since Osama bin Laden.”


Associated Press: Top US General In The Mideast Says ISIS In Iraq And Syria Still Long-Term Threat

“Although the Islamic State extremist group is battered and scattered, it cannot be fully defeated until the world finds a way to reconcile and resettle the thousands of people displaced by years of war in Iraq and Syria, the general overseeing American military operations in the Mideast said Thursday. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said there is no military means of solving the problem of Mideast refugees and internally displaced persons, or IDPs, who await repatriation or resettlement and represent what he called an unfortunate byproduct of armed conflicts. “Today, across vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, the systemic indoctrination of IDP and refugee camp populations who are hostage to the receipt of ISIS ideology is an alarming development with potentially generational implications,” McKenzie said in remarks to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. He said a solution must come from a joint effort by diplomatic, security and humanitarian organizations. “Unless the international community finds a way to repatriate, reintegrate into home communities, and support locally grown reconciliation programming of these people, ... we are buying ourselves a strategic problem 10 years down the road when these children grow up radicalized.”


Reuters: Turkey Issues Detention Warrants For 101 People On Alleged Terrorism Links

“Turkish authorities have issued detention warrants for 101 people including lawyers and doctors as part of what they called terrorism-related investigations, a security source and state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Friday. Authorities launched the operation from the southeastern province of Diyarbakir and sought suspects across four cities and a total of 106 residential addresses, the source said. Seventy-four suspects have already been detained, the source said.”


The Wall Street Journal: Afghanistan Braces For Worst As U.S. Troop Withdrawal Accelerates

“Even before President Trump’s drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan goes into effect, there are clear signs the national government is losing its grip. Streets empty out at dusk on the edge of the capital, as security forces gird for a rising wave of hit-and-run assassinations. Taliban insurgents have stuck letters on shop fronts, warning that the Islamic Emirate, as the movement calls itself, will arrest or summarily execute kidnappers, looters and robbers. “When U.S. forces leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will implement our law on the Afghan government, either by dialogue or by force,” said Azizi, a young Taliban fighter, who traveled from his home just outside the capital to give an interview. He gazed out of a third-floor apartment overlooking a middle-class neighborhood in Kabul bustling with students and modern coffee shops. “We will follow the same Shariah system in Kabul as we do in the provinces.” For years, Afghans have agonized over what happens after U.S.-led coalition troops pull out for good. They may find out soon. The Pentagon this week announced plans to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500 before Inauguration Day, down from about 12,000 in February and far off the peak of some 100,000 a decade ago.”


Reuters: Pakistani Islamist Found Guilty On Two More Charges Of Terrorism Financing

“A Pakistani court on Thursday sentenced Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed by the United States and India for the 2008 Mumbai siege, to 10 years in prison on two charges of terrorism financing, his lawyer said. The sentences for the two charges - five years each - will run concurrently. Saeed is already in jail serving two sentences of five-and-a-half-years each, handed down to him in February this year, which means he will not serve any extra jail time. “An anti-terrorism court in Lahore sentenced ten-and-a-half years imprisonment to chief of Jamaatud Dawa Hafiz Saeed, his deputy Zafar Iqbal, and spokesman Yahya Mujahid on charges of terror financing,” Saeed’s lawyer Imran Fazal Gill told Reuters. Jammaat ud-Dawa is a charity run by Saeed. “Since the convict has already been convicted ... by this court vide judgment dates 12.02.2020, so the punishment awarded to him in this case shall also run concurrently with punishment in said cases,” said the court order which was seen by Reuters. Appeals have been filed against previous sentences, Gill said. Saeed has been arrested and released several times over the past decade. He denies any involvement with militancy, including the 2008 Mumbai siege in which 160 people were killed, including Americans.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Man Indicted For Planned Terrorist Attack At Temple Mount

“An indictment was issued Thursday against a 20-year-old resident of Rahat who is suspected of planning a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, Israeli media reported. According to the indictment, the man was planning the stabbing attack because of anger he felt towards Israeli security forces. The man went to Jerusalem's Old City and was apprehended near the Lion's Gate by security forces who thought he was acting suspiciously.”

The Times Of Israel: Palestinians Mull Cutting Payments To Some Terror Convicts

“In an attempt to build new ties with the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden, the Palestinian Authority is considering changing its policy of paying stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, including those convicted of terror attacks. Israel has long sought to clamp down on the practice, which it says constitutes incitement to terrorism. Israeli officials have called it “pay-for-slay,” saying that it incentivizes terror by increasing payments depending on the sentence — meaning that those whom Israel has convicted of more serious crimes receive more money from the PA. But Ramallah has repeatedly defended the policy, describing the payments as a form of social welfare. It is also popular domestically: In addition to those who unabashedly support armed terror against Israeli civilians, many ordinary Palestinians do not trust Israel’s military justice system. Some reforms are already being implemented for prisoners which Israel has already released.  The main reform — which is already in the stages of implementation — involves employing around 7,000 released prisoners by the PA in the security services and government ministries.”


Reuters: Blast Hits Natural Gas Pipeline In Egypt's North Sinai

“A blast hit the Al Arish-Al Qantara natural gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, witnesses and local authorities said. Witnesses said flames and thick plumes of smoke rose from the pipeline, describing the scene from vantage points in and around the city of al-Arish. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast on its Telegram channel without providing evidence. North Sinai local authorities said in a statement the fire had been extinguished and it had not affected gas supplies. The scale of the damage was not immediately clear.”


Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: Troops Kill 3 Terrorists, Rescue Women, Children In Northeast

“Troops of Operation Fireball have killed three Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in different clearances they conducted in Borno State. Acting Director, Defence Media Operations, Brigadier General Benard Onyeukoin, a statement released on Thursday, indicated that the troops also rescued two women and three children kidnapped by the terrorists. He recounted that, on 17th November, 2020, troops of 251 Task Force Battalion deployed in Strong Response Area Molai while acting credible intelligence intercepted some Boko Haram criminals and relations of some kidnapped persons making efforts to pay a ransom of Two Million naira cash (2,000,000.00) to the terrorists. “In a swift reaction, the gallant troops engaged the Boko Haram criminals forcing them to abort the collection of the payment as well as abandon their captives. “In the aftermath of the decisive encounter, One Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorist was neutralized while others escaped with gunshot wounds. One AK 47 Rifle and one Motorcycle were recovered. “The victims including 2 women and 3 children were all rescued unhurt”, he said.”


Shabelle Media Network: Somalia: Bomb Kills 3 Soldiers In Southern Somalia

“At least three soldiers died and several more people, including civilians, have been wounded in a blast at a security checkpoint outside Somalia's capital on Thursday morning, officials said. The attack took place in Lafole town, some 22 kilometers (13 miles) southwest of Mogadishu. Explosives were planted by a roadside and detonated while soldiers were carrying out security checks during the morning rush hour, according to Abshir Hussein Mohamed, a police officer in the nearby town of Afgoye. “At least three soldiers have died and several more injured people, including soldiers and civilians, have been shifted to a hospital in Mogadishu,” he told Anadolu Agency over the phone. Somalia-based al-Shabaab, affiliated with the al-Qaeda terror group, claimed responsibility for the attack via its propaganda radio service Andalus. The blast comes days after at least five people were killed and eight more wounded in a suicide bombing at a busy restaurant in Mogadishu.”

The National Interest: How Ethiopia's Civil War Emboldens Jihadis In Somalia

“Observers could be forgiven for thinking these days that East Africa is on the verge of unraveling. An ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray province is affecting the entire region, with its consequences being felt most keenly in Somalia. In the Tigray there exists the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a political party that governed the country up until recently but has since been sidelined following the ascension of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. Discontent with this change, among other factors, resulted in tensions between the TPLF and the federal government under Ahmed. On November 4, forces loyal to the TPLF launched a surprise attack on an Ethiopian military base. Shortly after, the Ethiopian government initiated a counteroffensive, prompting what is now a low-level but tense civil war. The clashes have put regional stability in peril, with neighbors such as Eritrea and Sudan considering whether to intervene. But to the east, it is jihadist-stricken Somalia that is mostly feeling the impact of Ethiopia’s recent hostilities. The crisis has already diverted Ethiopian counterterrorist forces from Somalia, and a protracted conflict may spell disaster for Somalia’s security.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Gloucestershire Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Terrorism Offences

“A 43-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences. Counter Terrorism Policing South East detained the man, from Gloucestershire, earlier and he remains in custody. Officers are searching three locations in the county and another in the West Mercia Police force area as part of their inquiry. A spokesman said people may see officers in protective suits, but there is believed to be no wider threat to the public at this time. The man has been arrested on suspicion of encouragement of terrorism contrary to section one of the Terrorism Act 2006; dissemination of terrorist publications contrary to section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006; and collection of information contrary to section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He has also been held on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of serious crime contrary to section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007.”

BBC News: Lincoln Man Charged With Right-Wing Terrorism Offences

“A man from Lincoln has appeared in court charged with seven offences relating to right-wing terrorism. The accusations against Ben John, 20, relate to possession of a document or record likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, said police. Mr John, of Addison Drive, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday and was released on bail. He is due to appear at the Old Bailey in London on 4 December.”


The Wall Street Journal: EU Leans Heavily On U.S. Program Tracking Terror Financing

“A new review by a civil-liberties watchdog has revealed the extent to which European governments have come to rely on a U.S. surveillance program that monitors global financial transactions for ties to terrorism. The Treasury Department’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, or TFTP, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. New data shows it is now widely used by European authorities—even as European Union institutions, concerned about the privacy of their citizens and possible surveillance, move to more strictly control transfers to the U.S. of data they gather. Some 40% of the database searches performed by Treasury were on behalf of EU member states or Europol, the EU’s law-enforcement arm, according to information gathered as part of a review by the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal agency that advises the president on intelligence and counterterrorism programs. As a result of the audit, which covered three years, the board submitted classified recommendations to improve the program while its chairman, Adam Klein, issued a statement offering new details about the extent of U.S.-EU cooperation on counterterrorism efforts. Both sides of the Atlantic are grappling with the future of data sharing between the U.S. and Europe.”

Bloomberg: Belarus KGB Puts Social-Media Channel Creators On Terrorist List

“The Belarusian security service put the founder of the country’s most popular Telegram channel and its former chief editor on a terrorist watch list as President Alexander Lukashenko tries to stamp out continuing protests against claimed landslide re-election three months ago. Nexta-Live founder Stsiapan Putsila, 22, and Raman Pratasevich, 25, are the only two Belarusian citizens on the list of more than 700 “individuals involved in terrorist activities” drawn up by the State Security Committee, still known as the KGB. Pratasevich left the channel in September. Nexta-Live, with more than 1.8 million subscribers, was instrumental in covering the police brutality against protesters nationwide in August and demonstrations that regularly gathered more than 100,000 people in the capital alone. The channel was designated as “extremist” in October, according to the state news agency Belta, making it illegal to distribute its content or display its logo in Belarus. The authorities are seeking to extradite Putsila and Pratasevich from Poland, Belta reported this week. Almost 1,300 people were arrested on Sunday at the weekly rally in the capital, Minsk, according to human-rights center Viasna, which isn’t officially registered in the country.”

Reuters: Greek Police Arrest Islamic State Suspect After Migrant Camp Brawl

“Greek police arrested a Syrian Islamic State suspect on Thursday after a brawl at a migrant camp where he has been staying with his wife and children and said he was believed to have been involved in a number of killings. The 27-year old man, who arrived in Greece in March 2018, was detained after an argument on Wednesday between two groups at the camp, a police official said. He was arrested on Thursday, accused of being a member of a terrorist group and participating in homicides. He is expected to appear before a prosecutor later in the day, according to a police statement. Police said such arrests were rare. Greece, on the front line of migration into Europe, promised on Wednesday to build new reception centres for asylum seekers and cut the maximum stay in camps on its now-overcrowded islands. The country bore the brunt of a large influx of refugees and migrants into Europe in 2015 and 2016, many arriving via its outlying Aegean islands close to Turkey.”

Pledge Times: CEP Study: “Transnational, Apocalyptically Minded” Right-wing Extremists – WELT

“E.t was not just Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), who in July declared right-wing extremism the “greatest threat to security”. The FBI also named 2019 the “deadliest year since 1995 due to domestic extremism”. This year the American Federal Police raised the danger level for the threat of right-wing extremism and “racially motivated, violent extremism” to the same level as for foreign terrorist organizations such as the terrorist militia Islamic State. It has been known for years that the right-wing extremist scene organizes itself at least across Europe through music events, martial arts and shooting training. But how the scene is networked internationally has so far only been insufficiently illuminated … In order to maintain their “warlike mentality and attitude”, they need financial means. This is another reason why music and martial arts events are an important characteristic of the scene across borders. The goal is sustainable financing. The co-author of the study and Senior Director of CEP, Hans-Jakob Schindler, described the income as “exorbitant”. This is also possible because events of this kind are often declared as political events and entrance fees are given as donations.”


The Canberra Times: Far-Right Extremist Jailed For Terror Plot

“A far-right extremist convicted of plotting a terror attack against his ideological enemies has been jailed for at least nine years. Phillip Galea, 36, was last year found guilty by a jury of planning to target venues including the Melbourne Anarchist Club and Melbourne Resistance Centre. Involved in far-right groups including Reclaim Australia, Galea spent enormous amounts of time at home alone, drinking excessively and fuelling his conspiracy theories online. He spoke of wanting to witness the mass extermination of “the left” and Muslim people. Galea researched ingredients and methods for making explosive devices and unsuccessfully tried to recruit others to assist with the planned attacks. He also tried to make a document he dubbed the “Patriot's Cookbook”, to instruct others about how to carry out acts of violence. It was based on the 1971 Anarchist Cookbook and Galea continued working on it in jail following his August 2016 arrest. He was sentenced in Victoria's Supreme Court on Friday to a maximum of 12 years' jail, and must serve nine of those before he can be considered for release on parole. Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth noted some of his ideas appeared to be “fanciful, immature rubbish” fuelled by alcohol during late-night ramblings.”