Eye on Extremism: November 21, 2022

Reuters: Al Qaeda Urges Muslims To Shun World Cup, Stops Short Of Threats

“Al Qaeda's regional branch urged Muslims around the world to shun the soccer World Cup in Qatar, though it stopped short of threatening attacks or promoting violence in connection with the event, according to a statement reported by a monitoring group. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the militant group's Yemen-based branch, criticised Qatar for “bringing immoral people, homosexuals, sowers of corruption and atheism into the Arabian Peninsula” and said the event served to divert attention from the “occupation of Muslim countries and their oppression”. “We warn our Muslim brothers from following this event or attending it,” said the statement, reported by the SITE Intelligence group on Saturday, a day before the tournament opens in a predominantly Muslim country for the first time. World Cup organisers, in response to criticism over Qatar's human rights record including LGBT rights as well as social restrictions, have said that everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or background, is welcome during the event. Qatar, a small country of some 3 million, mostly foreign workers, has said that it trained more than 50,000 people to provide security during the World Cup, with foreign forces helping out under Qatari command.”

Reuters: Bulgaria Charges Five People In Connection With Istanbul Blast

“Bulgarian prosecutors have charged five people for supporting terrorist acts in connection with an explosion in central Istanbul that killed six people on Nov. 13, chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev said on Saturday. Bulgarian special police forces detained three men of Moldovan origin and a man and woman of Syrian Kurdish descent this week following investigations and close cooperation with prosecutors in neighbouring Turkey, Geshev told Reuters. "Five people have been charged. The charges are in two groups - for supporting terrorist acts in another country, namely the attack in Istanbul, and for human trafficking," Geshev said, adding they were mainly involved in human trafficking through Turkey and smuggling. A Bulgarian court ruled in a closed hearing later on Saturday that the four men could be kept in pre-trial detention on the human trafficking charges, saying it lacked enough evidence to keep them behind bars on the charges of supporting terrorist activities. The prosecutors did not ask the court to keep the woman in custody because of a health condition.”

United States

Associated Press: Chicago Coder Sentenced To 7 1/2 Years For Terrorism Charge

“A former Chicago college student was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in federal prison for attempting to help the Islamic State group. Thomas Osadzinski, 23, designed, used, and taught a computer program to disseminate violent propaganda online, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He was convicted last year of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. The sentence handed down Thursday was less than the 15 years prosecutors had sought. The former DePaul computer science student has been in custody since being arrested in Chicago in 2019 during an FBI sting. Defense attorneys painted Osadzinski, who was born and raised in the Chicago suburb Northbrook, as a naive student who “got sucked in” to radical ideologies, the Chicago Tribune reported. His attorney, Joshua Herman, told AP: “This sentence will allow Tommy to have a life, which is all he and his family asked for.” Herman added that the defense plans to appeal based on First Amendment issues. Before Osadzinski was sentenced, he apologized to his parents in the courtroom and told the judge, “I completely reject ISIS.” U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, who ordered that the prison term be followed by 10 years of court-supervised release, said there was a wide gulf between poor judgment and Osadzinski’s conduct, which included pledging fealty to a “hideous group” such as the Islamic State and “promoting and encouraging” its violent message around the globe. “I think you understand now how serious this is,” Gettleman told Osadzinski. “You have shown remorse. Is it genuine? I hope so.”

CNN: 2 Men Charged, 1 With Nazi Arm-Band, In Connection With Threats To Attack New York Synagogue

“Two men arrested in connection with online threats to attack a New York City synagogue were arraigned on multiple charges over the weekend, court documents show. Christopher Brown, 21, from Aquebogue, New York, was charged with making a terroristic threat, criminal possession of a weapon and other weapons charges, according to court documents. Matthew Mahrer, 22, of Manhattan, was arraigned late Saturday and is facing charges including criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm, the documents show. Brown was denied bail, and Mahrer’s bail was set at $150,000 cash or $300,000 bond, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told CNN. Attorneys for both Brown and Mahrer have not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment. “As alleged, the two defendants possessed a firearm, a high capacity magazine, ammunition, an 8” long military style knife, a swastika arm patch, a ski mask and a bullet proof vest, among other things,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement to CNN. “A potential tragedy was averted when they were intercepted by police officers at Penn Station, given that online postings indicated an intent to use these weapons at a Manhattan synagogue,” Bragg said. New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell announced the arrests of the two men in a statement Saturday.”

Syria

France 24: Dozens Killed In Turkish Air Strikes Against Kurdish Militants In Syria, Iraq

“Turkey announced on Sunday it had carried out air strikes against the bases of outlawed Kurdish militants across northern Syria and Iraq, which it said were being used to launch “terrorist” attacks on Turkish soil. The raids in northern and northeastern Syria overnight, primarily against positions held by Syrian Kurdish forces, killed at least 31 people, British-based war monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The offensive, codenamed Operation Claw-Sword, comes a week after a blast in central Istanbul that killed six people and wounded 81. Turkey blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency there for decades and is designated a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies. The PKK has denied involvement in the Istanbul explosion. “Air Operation Claw-Sword was successfully carried out, within the scope of our strategy to eradicate terrorism at its source and eliminate terror attacks against our people and security forces from northern Iraq and Syria,” the defence ministry said in a statement. The strikes targeted PKK bases in northern Iraq's mountainous regions of Kandil, Asos and Hakurk, as well as bases of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in Ayn al-Arab (called Kobane in Kurdish), Tal Rifaat, Jazira and Derik regions in Syria, the ministry said. Ankara considers the YPG as a terror group affiliated with the PKK.”

Associated Press: Syria’s Kurds Express Concerns Over Possible Turkish Attack

“The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria called on residents on Saturday to unite against any possible attack by Turkey, warning that such an offensive would lead to long war. The statement by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria came a week after a Nov. 13, explosion targeted Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue — a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants — and left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 people were also wounded in the attack, which came as a stark reminder of bombings in Turkish cities between 2015 and 2017, crushing the public’s sense of security. 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. Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north. “At the time when all institutions denied any links to this crime, the Turkish regime insists on its fabrications and lies,” the Kurdish administration said, adding that the threats come ahead of next year’s elections in Turkey. In neighboring Iraq, the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil said it is monitoring “credible open-source reports” of potential Turkish military action in northern Syria and northern Iraq in the coming days.”

Iran

AFP: Tehran Says World Must Condemn 'Terrorist' Violence In Iran

“Iran on Saturday criticised the international community's “silence” towards acts of violence in the country during protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's death in custody. The Islamic republic has been rocked by protests since the September 16 death of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, after her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran's dress rules for women. It has accused its foreign foes, including Britain, Israel and the United States, of fomenting the unrest. On Saturday, Iran's foreign ministry hit out at the “deliberate silence of foreign promoters of chaos and violence in Iran in the face of... terrorist operations in several Iranian cities”. “It is the duty of the international community and international assemblies to condemn the recent terrorist acts in Iran and not to provide a safe haven for extremists,” it said in a statement. On Wednesday, 10 people including a woman, two children and a security officer were killed in two separate attacks in the cities of Izeh and Isfahan, according to state media and a hospital source. Two members of Iran's pro-government Basij paramilitary force were stabbed to death in the northeastern city of Mashhad while trying to intervene against “rioters”, according to state news agency IRNA. A suspect has been arrested, the judiciary's website announced. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday vowed “punishment” for “murders” and vandalism during the protests across the country.”

Iraq

Reuters: Officials: IS Militants Kill 4 Iraqi Soldiers In Northwest

“Islamic State group militants attacked an Iraqi army position in the northwestern governorate of Kirkuk early Saturday killing four soldiers, security sources and a local government official said. IS fighters in the district of Dibis took the soldiers' weapons and communications gear and left the scene, security sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give statements to the media. It was the first such attack in nearly a year. In January, Islamic State gunmen broke into a barracks in the mountainous al-Azim district outside the town of Baqouba, where they killed a guard and shot dead 11 soldiers as they slept. Rakan Saeed al-Jiboury, the governor of Kirkuk, told The Associated Press the attack “is a result of negligence and lack of care by the security forces.” He added that the site of the attack is an area where authority is divided between the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces “so there is no coordination, and [IS] takes advantage of this.” Islamic State’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria was crushed by a years-long U.S.-backed campaign, but its fighters have continued with sleeper cells that have killed scores of Iraqis and Syrians.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Bombing Kills 6 In Pakistan’s Unruly Northwest Border Area

“A roadside bombing near a public market killed six people in Pakistan’s restive northwestern province, police said Friday. The blast struck in South Waziristan’s Chakmali area and appeared to target five former militants who had turned themselves over to government forces recently, senior officer Salim Marwat said, adding that a soldier who was on leave was also killed. No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the militant group to which the victims formerly belonged has staged bombings before. South Waziristan and the long and mountainous border with Afghanistan serve as a safe haven for Islamic militants, largely known as the Pakistani Taliban. They are a separate group from the Afghan Taliban but allied with them. Pakistan’s military has carried out several operations in the region to eliminate militants but attacks continue to occur.”

Middle East

The Wall Street Journal: Israeli Pilgrims’ Attack On Palestinians Draws Condemnation

“A riot by Jewish pilgrims in the West Bank city of Hebron over the weekend drew widespread condemnation, with Palestinian leaders warning that the incoming right-wing Israeli government could cause further instability in the West Bank. On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides called the riot abhorrent and urged rapid de-escalation of the situation. Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the events, in which one Israeli soldier was injured, a “national disgrace.” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz condemned the attacks on Palestinians and Israeli forces and said those responsible would be held accountable. Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued no statement about the violence in Hebron, and his spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Israeli officials estimated 30,000 Jewish pilgrims visited Hebron for a special celebration over the Jewish Sabbath, during which a section from the Torah was read that describes how the patriarch Abraham bought a plot of land to bury his wife, Sarah. The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a holy site for Jews, is believed to be that plot of land referenced in the Bible. The Ibrahimi Mosque, a holy site for Muslims, also stands on that same plot of land.”

The Jerusalem Post: Wanted Terrorist Found With Illegal Weapons In Hebron

“One suspect wanted for terrorist activity was arrested in Hebron as part of Operation Break the Wave overnight Saturday, the IDF spokesperson reported. IDF soldiers, the Shin Bet, and local security forces confiscated several illegal weapons including an M-16 and a “Carlo” gun. No casualties were reported in the confrontation. Police launched a further investigation and took the suspect into custody.”

Metro: Brits Warned Of ‘Heightened’ Terror Threat During Qatar World Cup

“…Hans-Jakob Schindler, of New York-based think tank the Counter Extremism Project told Metro.co.uk that a large-scale attack is unlikely due to the coordinated security approach. Mr Schindler said: ‘Any country that hosts this type of event has the same set of challenges, and these are no different in any way, shape or form for Qatar. Services from the different nations will have been working in advance of the World Cup over the past four years, which will have included setting up monitoring systems. ‘You can never say nothing will happen, as there will always be the unpredictable chance a radicalised, lone actor could carry out an unsophisticated attack, for example by grabbing a knife off a shelf and going out and attacking people. ‘This type of attack happened in Melbourne, Australia, in 2018 when a terrorist who was known to police stabbed one person to death. ‘But as far as a big, headline-making attack goes, the risk is very low. There is just too much riding on it for the Qatari government and they have quite effective international cooperation systems to prevent this from happening.’  Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani, the emirate’s security chief, told the Qatar News Agency that the country is ‘home to highly qualified and trained police and security competencies and can ensure the security of the FIFA World Cup.’”

Nigeria

AFP: Suspected Jihadis Kill Troops, Civilians In Nigeria

“Gunmen attacked an army base and a town in northeast Nigeria killing nine soldiers, two policemen and civilians, security sources and residents said Sunday, in the latest violence in the region. Riding in trucks fitted with machineguns, the fighters, suspected to be members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), stormed the town of Malam Fatori, in Abadam district, late Friday and early Saturday, they said. “ISWAP terrorists attacked Malam Fatori and caused huge destruction which we are working to quantify,” a military officer told AFP. “They attacked the military base and engaged troops in a fight while a second group went on a killing spree and arson in the town,” said the officer who asked not to be identified. The first attack, near the Niger border, came at dusk Friday, leading to a fierce battle with soldiers who repelled the assault, said resident Buji Garwa. In a predawn attack on the base and the town on Saturday, the jihadists threw explosives and killed residents, while others drowned in a river trying to flee. Two security sources said on Sunday that nine soldiers and two policemen were killed in the base attack. “The number of casualties sustained in the base is 11, including nine soldiers and two mobile policemen working alongside troops,” a military officer said. The same toll was confirmed by a second security source.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab In Somalia Has Resisted Military Force - Now Is The Time For A New Strategy

“In October 2022, Somalia's capital Mogadishu suffered yet another massive suicidal attack. More than 100 people were killed. Hundreds more were wounded and thousands will have been traumatised by an attack claimed by the Somali insurgent group Al-Shabaab. The attack was carried out on the fifth anniversary of the most destructive suicide attack in Somalia's history, on 14 October 2017. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that one too. The devastation continues despite more than 15 years of effort by successive federal regimes in Mogadishu and the international community to end Al-Shabaab's insurgent activities. These counter strategies included attacking them from the sky and sending Somali and African Union forces to fight them on the ground. Some, such as Somalia's recently elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and his inner circle, argue that the organisation is a spent force. They say Al-Shabaab has been enfeebled and is now on the run. But in my perspective, based on my extensive studies of Al-Shabaab since the time when it was part of the Union of Islamic Courts which governed Somalia in the mid-2000s, this isn't true. Al-Shabaab remains a strong regional actor and has proved itself to be a resilient force. It has so far defeated all attempts (both internal and external) at eradicating it on the battlefield. This includes the deployment of Somali, western and African Union troops.”

Africa

All Africa: Africa: Violent Extremism - Africa Records 346 Terrorist Attacks In Q1, 2022

“The Minister of National Security, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, has revealed that 346 terrorist attacks were recorded in Africa in the first quarter of 2022, with 49 per cent of them occurring in West Africa alone. Also, he indicated that between July and September this year, 246 terrorist attacks resulting in 745 fatalities and 239 injuries were recorded in West Africa. The minister was speaking at the opening of the two-day internation-al conference on the Accra Initia-tive (AI), held in Accra yesterday on the theme 'Accra Initiative: Towards a credible, preventive and coordi-nated response to challenges facing the Coastal and Sahelian States'. The AI aims at preventing spill-over of terrorism from the Sahel and to address transnational organ-ised crime and violent extremism in member countries' border areas. Participants at the technical con-ference included representatives of relevant international governmental agencies, civil society organisations (CSOs), academia, think tanks, practitioners in the security sector and other multinational initiatives. The conference, supported by the European Union (EU), would afford them the opportunity to reflect on measures and strategies deployed towards addressing the threat of terrorism and violent ex-tremism and to come up with inno-vative approaches toward enhancing regional security.”

United Kingdom

AFP: UK Appeal Hearing To Rule On 'IS Bride'

“A woman who lost her British citizenship after joining the Islamic State group in Syria will on Monday have her case reviewed, with her lawyers arguing that she was a “victim of trafficking”. Shamima Begum is one of hundreds of Europeans whose fate following the 2019 collapse of the so-called Islamic State caliphate has proved a thorny issue for governments. Begum, then 15, left her home in east London in 2015 with two school friends to travel to Syria, where she married an IS fighter and had three children, none of whom survived. She was later “found” by British journalists, heavily pregnant in a Syrian camp in February 2019 -- and her apparent lack of remorse in initial interviews drew outrage. Dubbed an “IS bride”, she was stripped by the UK of her British citizenship, leaving her stranded and stateless in Syria's Kurdish-run Roj camp. Monday's hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) follows a Supreme Court decision last year to refuse her permission to come the UK to fight her citizenship case against the Home Office. Tasnime Akunjee, the Begum family lawyer, told AFP the hearing would be centred around whether she was “considered a victim of trafficking -- notably whether the then home secretary (Sajid Javid) turned his mind to those issues when making the decision to strip her of citizenship.”

Associated Press: Northern Ireland Police Vehicle Hit In Suspected Bomb Attack

“Police in Northern Ireland said Friday that two officers escaped injury when their vehicle was damaged by a homemade bomb. The force said it was treating the attack as attempted murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the blast in Strabane on Thursday night “appears to have been a targeted attack on police.” “Investigations are at an early stage, however, the attack, which is believed to have been caused by an improvised explosive device, caused damage to a police vehicle and is being treated as the attempted murder of two officers,” the force said. Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said “a strong line of inquiry” was whether an Irish Republican Army splinter group known as the New IRA was responsible. A 1998 peace agreement largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland involving Irish republican and British loyalist paramilitary groups and U.K. security forces. IRA dissidents continue to mount occasional attacks on security forces, though none has been successful since 2019. Strabane is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) west of Belfast, near the border with the Republic of Ireland. Politicians on both sides of the border condemned the attack.”

The National: Three London Women Accused Of Sending Funds To Relative Fighting For ISIS

“Three women accused of sending funds to a relative fighting for ISIS have appeared at the Old Bailey, the central criminal court in London. Olga Monpeke, 72, from north London, Vanessa Atim, 31, and Stella Oyella, 52, both from east London, are charged with funding terrorism. The alleged offences were committed between March 2017 and October 2017, and relate to Islamist terrorism in Syria. On Friday, the defendants appeared at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Sweeney for a preliminary hearing. Prosecutor Lee Ingham said the allegation was that they entered into an arrangement to pass money that might be used for the purpose of terrorism “in the context of a relative the Crown says was then fighting for Daesh”. Mr Justice Sweeney set a provisional trial at the Old Bailey from November 13 next year. He set a preparatory hearing for April 14 next year. The defendants were granted conditional bail.”

Europe

AFP: Denmark Jails IS 'Wife' For Three Years

“A 35-year-old Danish woman was sentenced on Friday to three years in prison for entering Syria and promoting the Islamic State (IS) group's activities, prosecutors in Denmark said. During the mother of five's trial, the prosecutor had argued that wives were a key part of IS. “Even if you did not actively participate in the fighting, we assert that you can support the terrorist organisation by shopping in its supermarkets, by taking care of the children, by being a housewife,” prosecutor Trine Schjodt Fogh said. The woman, who pleaded guilty, was convicted of “having promoted the activities of IS, in particular by acting as the housewife and wife of a person who was active in the terrorist organisation,” the prosecution authority said in a statement. She was also found guilty of having “entered and resided in al-Raqqa district in Raqqa province and Deir al-Zour province in Syria, which were defined as conflict zones during the period”. The woman, who is originally from the west of Denmark, arrived in Syria eight years ago, a journey she “bitterly” regrets, her lawyer Mette Gith Stage told news agency Ritzau. “The last few years have been difficult for her, first in the caliphate, then in a prison camp and now in prison.”

Southeast Asia

The Washington Post: Man Behind Bali Bombings Now Tries To Stop Terrorists — And Wants His Freedom

“When Ali Imron was an active member of the Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, he claimed that he needed only two hours to turn a recruit into a killer. “Two hours was all it took me to convince someone to become a suicide bomber,” he told The Washington Post. “So I know the power of terrorists. I know how compelling they can be.” Imron, now 43, has been in prison since 2003 for assembling and transporting the explosives used in the Bali bombings, a terrorist attack in Indonesia that killed 202 people and left 200 more injured. From his cell in the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Regional Police Headquarters, or Polda Metro Jaya, Imron says he now uses his skills of persuasion for good. He says he has dedicated himself to preventing others from making the same decisions he made — and he says he could do it more effectively if he were freed. In the two decades since the Bali bombings, the Indonesian government has transformed dozens of ex-terrorists like Imron into prominent deradicalization advocates, carving out roles for them in the country’s wider efforts to confront religious extremism. The approach has increasingly come under scrutiny as Indonesia debates whether to grant greater freedoms to former terrorists. Since the Bali bombings in 2002, few attacks on such a scale have occurred in Indonesia.”

Technology

AFP: India's Modi Says Digital Currencies Being Used To Fund Terror

“Digital currencies need more regulation to stamp out funding for terror operations, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday at a major international forum to combat financing of extremist groups. India has laboured to rein in cryptocurrency transactions after years of phenomenal growth, backed by burgeoning local trading platforms and glitzy celebrity endorsements. Modi last year said that bitcoin presented a risk to younger generations and could “spoil our youth” if it ended up “in the wrong hands”. On Friday, he went further and told delegates at the Conference on Countering Financing of Terrorism that “private currencies” posed a grave security risk. “New kinds of technology are being used for terror funding and recruitment. Challenges from the dark net, private currencies and more are emerging,” Modi said. “There is a need for a uniform understanding for new finance technologies,” he added. “From a uniform understanding, a unified system of checks and balances and regulation can emerge.” Delegates from dozens of countries are in the capital New Delhi for the two-day conference, which follows a special session of the UN's Counter Terrorism Committee held in India last month. Cryptocurrencies have been under the scrutiny of Indian regulators since first entering the local market nearly a decade ago, with a surge in fraudulent transactions leading to a central bank ban in 2018.”

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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