Eye on Extremism: November 29

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban Covert Operatives Seized Kabul, Other Afghan Cities From Within

“Undercover Taliban agents—often clean-shaven, dressed in jeans and sporting sunglasses—spent years infiltrating Afghan government ministries, universities, businesses and aid organizations. Then, as U.S. forces were completing their withdrawal in August, these operatives stepped out of the shadows in Kabul and other big cities across Afghanistan, surprising their neighbors and colleagues. Pulling their weapons from hiding, they helped the Taliban rapidly seize control from the inside. The pivotal role played by these clandestine cells is becoming apparent only now, three months after the U.S. pullout. At the time, Afghan cities fell one after another like dominoes with little resistance from the American-backed government’s troops. Kabul collapsed in a matter of hours, with hardly a shot fired. “We had agents in every organization and department,” boasted Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Saad, a senior Taliban leader who directed suicide-bombing operations and assassinations inside the Afghan capital before its fall. “The units we had already present in Kabul took control of the strategic locations.” Mr. Saad’s men belong to the so-called Badri force of the Haqqani network, a part of the Taliban that is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. because of its links to al Qaeda.”

Bloomberg: Abuse Widespread Among People At Risk Of Extremism: U.K. Police

“There is a “striking prevalence” of domestic abuse among individuals referred to a government program that aims to prevent terrorist attacks, U.K. police said.  A new analysis of referrals to the counter-radicalization “Prevent” program in 2019 found that out of 3,045 people, just over a third, or 1,076, had a link to a domestic abuse incident -- either as an offender, victim, witness or a combination of all three. National Co-ordinator for Prevent, Detective Chief Superintendent Vicky Washington said in a statement that the findings “indicated a clear over-representation of domestic abuse experiences in the lives of those who are referred to us for safeguarding and support.” Where a link to a domestic abuse-related incident was identified, an Islamist ideology was recorded in 28% of referrals, while extreme right-wing ideologies accounted for 18%. The U.K. is reviewing currently reviewing the Prevent program. The suspect in the deadly stabbing of Conservative MP David Amess last month had reportedly been referred to Prevent several years ago -- as had at least two others in the past few years who went on to commit violent or deadly acts.”

United States

New York Post: US To Drop Colombian Rebel Group FARC From Terror List

“The Biden administration is taking steps to remove far-left Colombian rebel group FARC from its list of foreign terrorist organizations to show support for a five-year-old peace agreement between the guerilla outfit and the South American country’s government.  Nov. 30 will mark the fifth anniversary of the deal between FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the government of then-Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, which ended more than 50 years of fighting. The State Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had notified Congress of its intention to drop FARC from the list. The effort was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. “The peace process and the signing of the peace accord five years ago is something that was a seminal turning point in some ways in the long-running Colombia conflict,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “It’s something we’ve commended, it is something that we have sought at every step of the way to preserve.” “The peace accord ended five decades of conflict with the FARC, and it set Colombia on a path to a just and lasting peace,” Price added. “And so we remain fully committed to working with our Colombian partners on the implementation of the peace accord.”

Syria

Al Monitor: Islamic State Down But Not Out In Syria And Iraq: Pentagon Report

“The most recent report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led diplomatic and military operation against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, indicates that IS has weakened but remains a priority for US national security interests in the region. These quarterly reports provide the most comprehensive reporting and assessment of the US-led mission against IS and therefore deserve attention. Among the latest findings: The report makes clear that the United States and its coalition partners remain essential to the continued success of the mission. The Iraq-Syria border remains an area of concern for IS activity. Economic hardship, the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastating drought, especially in Syria, will continue to shape the environment. The Iraqi elections and the prospect for continued political stability and progress there is good news for Iraq and the anti-IS coalition effort. Iran-backed proxy forces and militias in both countries remain a threat to coalition forces and operations. Both the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will continue to depend on US training and support in “conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), intelligence integration and airstrikes.”

Kurdistan 24: SDF Releases 853 ‘Non-Violent’ ISIS Detainees: RIC

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that it has released 853 “non-violent ISIS” detainees from prisons across the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) “in collaboration with local sheikhs, the Syria-based Rojava Information Center reported on Saturday. According to the center, approximately 80 percent of the released detainees were originally from Syria’s Arab-majority Deir al-Zor province. They were released “after thorough investigations proved they were not involved in violent acts as part of ISIS.” “According to local sources, this batch is set to be the first of many, as the AANES attempts to relieve its overcrowded camps & prisons of non-violent ISIS detainees,” the Rojava Information Center tweeted. The SDF, with the support of the United States-led coalition, continues to target ISIS sleeper cells across the regions of Syria it controls. Most of these sleeper cells are in Deir al-Zor province, which borders Iraq. The Kurdish-led SDF is the main US ally in its campaign against ISIS in Syria. The SDF declared the complete destruction of ISIS’s self-styled caliphate when it captured the town of Baghouz from the militants, which is in Deir al-Zor, in March 2019.”

Iraq

Al Jazeera: Five Peshmerga Killed In ISIL Attack In Iraq’s Diyala

“Five Peshmerga fighters were killed in an attack by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Sunday. The attack – which also wounded four Peshmerga – took place in Diyala province on Saturday night. A Peshmerga source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera the four fighters were wounded by ISIL sniper fire. The five Peshmerga killed were in a convoy on their way to attend to the wounded when they hit a roadside bomb planted by the armed group. Ambushing those who rush to the scene to help injured fighters is a common tactic utilised by ISIL. “The Peshmerga responded heavily and everything is under control now,” the Peshmerga ministry wrote in a statement. After the attack, Nechirvan Barzani, president of the KRG, offered his condolences and called for further regional cooperation to defeat remnants of the armed group. “I am deeply saddened by the news of the martyrdom of a group of Peshmerga heroes last night while they were providing assistance to their colleagues in the Kolajo region,” said Barzani in a statement. “The proliferation of ISIL’s atrocities is a new and terrifying message, and brings a serious threat to the region.”

The National: ISIS Prisoner Shot Dead During Jailbreak Attempt In Iraq

“A prisoner has been shot dead while trying to escape from a jail in Iraq with two other ISIS inmates, the country's security forces have said. The three men, all members of the extremist group, were serving life sentences at a jail in Taji, north of Baghdad. They were spotted as they climbed an external wall and guards opened fire “when they refused to heed warnings”, the security forces said, adding that one prisoner was killed. The remaining two surrendered. Security sources did not identify the three men. An investigation commission has been formed to interrogate the remaining two prisoners, a security official said. ISIS swept across parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014 where they set up a so-called caliphate. Jail breaks were a key part of ISIS's strategy at the time to rebuild their ranks, after losing many members during the US-led occupation. About 100 inmates were taken from a prison in Tikrit in 2012, while a much bigger jail break in two prisons —Taji and Abu Ghraib, in July 2013, which involved car bombs used to destroy prison walls, freed as many as 500 fighters. Most of those freed at the time are likely dead or recaptured and Iraq has since relocated high risk prisoners to desert complexes in the far south of the country.”

Afghanistan

Bloomberg: What The Return Of The Taliban Means For Afghanistan

“Twenty years after being dislodged from power by a U.S. invasion, the Taliban again took charge of Afghanistan in August, prompting the U.S. and its allies to expedite their planned exit from the country. The strict Islamic fundamentalists — whose previous five-year rule was characterized by the oppression of women and minorities, and the harboring of international terrorists — pledged to do things somewhat differently this time. Those vows met with skepticism among the world’s governments and multilateral institutions, which withheld recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate authority in Afghanistan, blocked access to billions of dollars in Afghan assets held overseas and severed the development assistance that had long propped up the economy. 1. Did the world cut off aid to Afghanistan entirely? No. Humanitarian assistance continued to flow. In fact, commitments to provide it — by the U.S., wealthy European countries and China — increased after the Taliban takeover, motivated in part by the desire to avert a mass exodus of Afghan refugees. However, the need was great. Before the suspension of non-humanitarian aid, foreign donors had financed about 75% of public spending.”

AFP: Taliban Regime Won't 'Interfere' In Other Countries' Affairs: PM

“The Taliban co-founder and now prime minister of Afghanistan Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund pledged Saturday that his government will “not interfere” in other countries' internal affairs, and urged international charities to continue offering aid to the war-ravaged country. Hassan's audio speech broadcast on state television -- his first address to the nation since the Taliban seized power in August -- came ahead of next week's meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Doha. “We assure all the countries that we will not interfere in their internal affairs and we want to have good economic relations with them,” said Hassan in a nearly 30-minute speech that came amid criticism on social media for remaining silent since the Islamists took power, even as the nation faced severe challenges. “We are drowned in our problems and we are trying to get the strength to bring our people out of miseries and hardships with God's help.” The Taliban seized power on August 15 after ousting the previous US-backed government, as Washington hurriedly withdrew its troops from the country after a 20-year war. The Taliban's previous regime was toppled in a US-led invasion after the 9/11 attacks in the United States that were carried out by Al-Qaeda, whose now-killed founder Osama bin Laden lived in Afghanistan at that time.”

Pakistan

The Washington Post: Pakistan Says Militants Kill 2 Soldiers Near Afghan Border

“Militants targeted a Pakistani military post in the northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers in a firefight, the army said in a statement. The Pakistani army’s media wing said late Saturday that militants attacked a post in the Datta Khel area of the district of North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The area is a former militant stronghold. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. During an intense exchange of gunfire two soldiers were killed, the military said, adding that a search of the area was being carried out to find the militants. It gave no indication of the identity of the attackers. North Waziristan for years served as a safe haven for militants until the military carried out massive operations to try to clear the area. That forced the militants either to escape across the border into Afghanistan or hide in other mountainous areas near the border. Still, militants often strike against security forces. Pakistan is holding talks with Islamic militants known as the Pakistani Taliban with the help of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. There is a temporary cease-fire in place.”

Yemen

Arab News: Arab Coalition Targets Houthi Militants In Marib With 15 Operations

“At least 95 Houthis were killed and 11 army vehicles were destroyed in operations by the Arab Coalition targeting the militia in Yemen’s Marib governorate.  The coalition said Wednesday that the 15 operations were carried over the past 24 hours in the fight against the Iranian-backed militia. Later on Wednesday, the coalition said it had conducted airstrikes on camps and legitimate military targets in Sanaa. The coalition said it used preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian objects from collateral damage, adding the operation in Sanaa was in compliance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Iranian Arrested In Kenya For Planning Terror Attacks Against Israeli Targets - Report

“An Iranian man, Mohammed Saeid Golabi, has been arrested in Kenya on suspicion of planning terror attacks against local and Israeli interests, according to an exclusive report in the daily Kenyan newspaper The Star. Kenyan police had monitored the activities of Golabi and his local associates, and were convinced of his links to terror activities, multiple Kenyan police sources told The Star. “We have profiled him and his contacts over time,” said a senior officer at Kenya’s anti-terrorism police unit. “We have enough reason to believe that he has been working with those terror groups.” Golabi visited the region frequently, and is suspected of working with a group of Kenyans to gather intelligence against establishments both private and state-owned, with the aim of attacking them, the report said. The Iranian government did not respond to Kenya’s inquiries. The announcement came during a period of heightened security in the east African country, after three terror convicts escaped recently from a maximum-security prison, the report said. The three were later captured as they tried to make their way to Somalia to join the terror group al-Shabaab that has links to al-Qaeda.”

Nigeria

The Washington Post: Nigeria Designates Gunmen In Troubled North As Terrorists

“Nigeria has designated armed groups blamed for hundreds of abductions and killings in northern areas as terrorist organizations, in a major swing in response to a key security challenge facing Africa’s most populous country. The office of Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, said in a statement Friday that the designation was made by a court following an application by the federal government. The court made its decision Thursday. The decision will allow authorities to charge suspected members of the groups with terrorism-related offences, which some believe will lead to a more effective crackdown on their activities. The Nigerian government argued in court documents that the groups’ activities should be considered terrorist acts as they “can lead to a breakdown of public order and safety and (pose) a threat to national security.” The groups mostly consist of young men from the Fulani ethnic group, who had traditionally worked as nomadic cattle herders and are caught up in a decades-long conflict with Hausa farming communities over access to water and grazing land. They often plunder villages in the northwest and central parts of the West African country, where they have killed thousands, and kidnapped hundreds of travelers and schoolchildren for ransom.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Insurgents, Others Planning To Attack Nigerian Military Bases In Border Areas – Department Of State Services

“The Department of State Services has put the Nigeria Customs Service on red alert over planned attacks by insurgents on Ogun State border communities and other border communities across the country. According to Punch, the secret police said it has intelligence that the marauders intend to hatch their sinister plot on military bases in border towns. In a letter dated November 25, 2021, addressed to the Customs Area Controller, Nigeria Customs Service, Ogun Area Command, Abeokuta, the DSS asked Customs and other security agencies in the country to put counter-measures in place to frustrate the dark plot by the insurgents. The letter was titled, “Plans by Insurgents To Launch Attacks On Military Bases In Various Border Communities,” and signed by the State Director of Security, Ogun State Command, M.B. Abdullahi. It read, “Available intelligence indicates plans by insurgents and criminal elements to carry out simultaneous attacks on military posts and bases in various border communities across the nation anytime from now. “In view of the foregoing and the likelihood such attacks not limited to the military personnel only, all law enforcement and security agencies with operational bases at border communities are advised to take note of the above threat and put in place countermeasures with emphasis on personal security of operatives to frustrate the planned attack, please.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Al-Shabab Militants Claim Somalia Suicide Bombing Aimed At UN Convoy

“Al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia have claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a U.N. convoy in the capital, Mogadishu, Thursday during morning rush hour that killed at least eight people and wounded 17. An Al-Shabab spokesman told Reuters news agency the suicide car bombing Thursday was aimed at a U.N. security convoy. It wasn’t immediately clear if any UN staff were among the casualties. But Somali police spokesman Abdifatah Aden Hassan confirmed the U.N. convoy was the target. Hassan told state media Radio Mogadishu that the attack was near several schools. The Associated Press reported several students among the victims. Hassan said they were limited as schools were already on weekend break. He said most casualties were small business owners and passersby in the area, since there were no lessons for students today. At least one school appeared damaged by the blast, with social media images showing a blown-out classroom and debris scattered across desks. The U.S. embassy in Mogadishu strongly condemned the attack in a Tweet, saying the people of Somalia deserve to live without fear of attack.”

Africa

The Defense Post: Ivory Coast Seeks Regional Response To Jihadist Threat

“Ivory Coast is beefing up military deployment on its northern border and seeking stronger security ties with its neighbors as it casts a worried eye on burgeoning jihadist violence in the region. The West African state lies to the south of Mali and Burkina Faso, which are struggling with a years-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. Over the past two years, jihadists have carried out several bloody cross-border attacks in Ivory Coast, including a raid in Kafolo in the northeast in June 2020 that killed 14 troops. Kafolo lies close to the Comoe National Park near the Burkina border — a vast forest of 11,000 square kilometers (4,250 square miles) used as a bolthole by jihadists, many of whom are linked to Al-Qaeda, security sources say. In Tengrela, a town farther west near the border with Mali, the army has set up a special forces base, and convoys of trucks are a daily sight. “We are glad to see the special forces among us — we know that we are safe,” said Zie Coulibaly, a local driver. “We are reassured that the troops are there, but if they could send more, we would be happier,” said Kone Zoumana, head of a cooperative of gold miners.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Manchester Arena Inquiry: Mosque Failed To Act On Extremism, Families Say

“The mosque which the Manchester Arena bomber attended failed to adequately “challenge extremist ideology” in the years before the attack, the families of his victims have said. A former Didsbury Mosque imam has told the Manchester Arena Inquiry support for terror groups was preached there. In a statement, some of the bereaved said they were “dismayed” by the mosque's “failure to acknowledge this”. A trustee has previously told the inquiry the mosque was “mainstream”. On Tuesday, the chairman of the mosque's trustees, Fawaz Haffar, said encouraging any radicalisation would be “in contradiction of our charitable objects”. “We are a mainstream mosque welcoming all Muslims, but we are in the middle of the road,” he said. Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds more injured when Abedi detonated his homemade device at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. The inquiry has previously heard how his elder brother Ismail was in possession of a “significant” amount of extremist material supporting the Islamic State group when he was teaching at Didsbury Mosque. In a statement read outside Wednesday's hearing, the families of some of those killed said while there was “no evidence” that the mosque played “a direct role in radicalising Salman Abedi, it is clear that they failed in the years before the bombing to take adequate steps to challenge extremist ideology.”

The Guardian: Met Police Charge Man, 19, With Six Counts Of Sharing Extremist Material

“A 19-year-old man will appear in court next week accused of sharing extremist material. Elias Djelloul was arrested at an address in east London on Friday, the Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command said. On Saturday, he was charged with six counts of dissemination of terrorist material, contrary to section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006. He will appear at Westminster magistrates court on Monday. In a statement on Friday, Met commander Richard Smith urged the public to be the force’s “extra eyes and ears”. “Every day, teams within the Met and across counter-terrorism policing nationally carry out proactive investigations to identify and target those we suspect of being involved in terrorism,” he said. “We require the public to be our extra eyes and ears and I would encourage anyone who has information that could assist counter-terrorism police to call us in confidence and share information. “Your call won’t ruin lives, but could well save them.”

Australia

The Guardian: Far-Right Groups Like The Base Will Radicalise Australians Until We Confront Their Beliefs

“As one of the reporters who worked to uncover the operations of white power accelerationist group, The Base, I view the Australian federal government’s listing of them as a proscribed terror group this week as a belated but important recognition of the danger presented by white supremacist organisations. But the national security state is a blunt instrument, and the apparatus of anti-terrorism is no substitute for making anti-racism principles central to a more inclusive democracy. At its height, The Base was a transnational network of white nationalists who were seeking to collectively plan and prepare for what they saw as the inevitable collapse of liberal democracies they saw as decadent and corrupted by the values of feminism and multiculturalism. In the Guardian US, I was the first reporter to identify Rinaldo Nazzaro, an American former US intelligence contractor now based in Russia, as the group’s founder and leader. Previously he had only been known by the aliases Norman Spear and Roman Wolf. An infiltrator gave me unprecedented access to the group’s internal communications.”

Southeast Asia

Reuters: Indonesia Arrests 24 People Over Links To Extremist Financing

“Indonesia's counterterrorism squad has arrested 24 people on suspicion of fundraising for Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the Al-Qaeda linked extremist group accused of carrying out some of the country's biggest militant attacks. The suspects had been collecting funds for JI via two Islamic charitable foundations and their arrests will help build a picture of militant funding in Indonesia, Aswin Siregar of the Densus 88 counterterrorism force told media on Thursday. JI is accused of orchestrating the 2002 Bali bombing of two nightclubs, which killed more than 200 people, including many Australians, and several other deadly attacks in the capital Jakarta. Based on financial reports, police said the two foundations used as fronts for JI had raised about $2 million, although the figure could be higher. Cash equivalent to $700,000 was discovered at the office of one of the foundations, police said. A senior member of Indonesia's Islamic Council who was arrested earlier this month was among the 24 detained.”

Technology

Business Insider: Facebook Made Niche Exceptions To Its Taliban Ban, Internal Documents Show

“Facebook has made occasional exceptions to its ban on Taliban content since the group seized power in Afghanistan in August, internal documents reviewed by The Intercept reveal. The Taliban, which announced they had formed an interim government in Afghanistan in early September, are on Facebook's list of “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations,” and a company spokesperson told Insider in August: “we remove accounts maintained by or on behalf of the Taliban and prohibit praise, support, and representation of them.” The Intercept viewed internal Facebook memos that mentioned times when the company allowed branches of Afghanistan's government to post. One memo from the end of September detailed an exception for the Ministry of the Interior so that it could post about traffic regulations. “We assess the public value of this content to outweigh the potential harm,” the memo said, per The Intercept. In another memo from the same time period, Facebook allowed the Ministry of Health to publish two posts containing information about COVID-19. Facebook also appears to have created time-limited exceptions. One internal memo viewed by The Intercept said that for 12 days in August, government figures could acknowledge the Taliban as the “official gov of Afghanistan” without risking suspension from Facebook.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On January 15, 2019, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The attack lasted over 12 hours, killing 22 people and wounding 27 others.   

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