Eye on Extremism: October 13, 2020

Associated Press: Facebook Bans Holocaust Denial, Distortion Posts

“Facebook is banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new policy Monday, the latest attempt by the company to take action against conspiracy theories and misinformation ahead of the U.S. presidential election three weeks away. The decision comes amid a push by Holocaust survivors around the world who lent their voices to a campaign targeting Zuckerberg beginning this summer, urging him to take action to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site. Coordinated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the #NoDenyingIt campaign used Facebook itself to make the survivors’ entreaties to Zuckerberg heard, posting one video per day urging him to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts as hate speech. The testimonials coincided with an advertising boycott by companies pushing Facebook into taking a stronger stand against various forms of hate speech and extremism around the world. Facebook said Monday that the new policy “is supported by the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people.”

The New York Times: Taliban Test Afghan And U.S. Resolve In Talks By Attacking A City

“The Taliban have opened an offensive on the southern Afghan city of Lashkar Gah, overrunning some of its surrounding security checkpoints and largely cutting it off, even as their negotiators remained at the table for talks with the Afghan government that appear stalled. While the insurgent attempt to cap the fighting season with high-profile attacks before winter sets in was not unusual for recent years of the two-decade war, the run for a provincial capital amid peace talks suggested that the Taliban still see military bullying as their most effective negotiating tactic. The attack also appeared to test the limits of how far the United States military — which is drawing down to about 4,500 troops and significantly cutting back air support to Afghan forces since it signed a deal with the Taliban in February — would go to defend its Afghan allies. The United States has been critical of the Taliban’s intensified attacks across Afghanistan, but has stopped short of calling the group’s actions a breach of their agreement — even as the American troop withdrawal has continued. In recent weeks, confusing signals from Washington that President Trump wanted the remaining American troops home before next spring, as laid out in the withdrawal timeline agreed with the Taliban, threatened to further undermine the shaky Afghan government.”

United States

Detroit Free Press: Michigan Law Enforcement On Alert In Response To 'Plan To Target And Kill Police'

“Michigan law enforcement is on high alert after the FBI revealed an alleged plot by extremist groups to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also involved a “plan to target and kill police.” “We're cautious. We're absolutely more careful,” said First Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police. “This is one of the tactics these anti-government, domestic terrorism groups use. Law enforcement is the face of the government. If you're mad at the government, you're mad at the police.” The alleged plot was unveiled last Thursday when the U.S. Department of Justice charged six men with conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer, which authorities said they wanted to carry out before Election Day. On the same day, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel brought charges against seven other men that included supporting terrorism, gang membership, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.  Officials said the suspects were attempting to trigger “civil war” with a detailed plan to abduct the governor and attack other elected officials at the Statehouse. Part of the plot included plans to target police.”

The Daily Beast: Feds Look To Bring Home Accused American Terrorists After Decade In Pakistan

“As the country’s top law enforcement officials hailed the arrival of ISIS’ two most notorious murderers to face trial in the United States, prosecutors in Virginia were quietly working to secure the return of a group of five American citizens who’d fled the country over a decade ago to fight in a separate theater of jihadi combat. In a sealed hearing that same day, prosecutors and defense attorneys met to discuss efforts to bring Waqar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Minni, Ramy Zamzam, Aman Yemer, and Umar Farooq back to Virginia to face charges from a 2017 indictment after the men fled to Pakistan to fight with the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist groups in 2009. The hearing was originally listed as public but later designated sealed by Judge Liam O’Grady after an inquiry by The Daily Beast. The U.S. criminal charges against the men and the current attempts to extradite them from Pakistan have not been previously reported. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment. As did lawyers for each of the five defendants. The men, dubbed internally by the FBI as ‘the Five Guys,’ spent over a decade in prison in Pakistan on terrorism charges after a 2009 arrest.”

Syria

The National: Swedish Female ISIS Supporters May Be Tried In Syria For Terrorism Offences

“Swedish female ISIS recruits could now be tried in Syria for terrorism offences after Kurdish authorities told Sweden’s Foreign Ministry that they wish to prosecute ISIS members in prison camps locally. Sweden has been calling on the European Union to introduce an international tribunal to prosecute ISIS fighters, instead of sending them back to individual nations … The director of the Counter Extremism Project think-tank, Hans-Jakob Schindler, said this would be a change in tactics for the Kurdish forces, who have previously been against prosecuting fighters locally. “It is very interesting to see that the Kurdish forces are now apparently arguing for some version of the international tribunal idea,” he told The National. “So far, Kurdish forces were not keen to accept this argument. Furthermore, there is of course the general legal question about the status of the Kurdish territories in Syria, which are not yet an internationally recognised country and therefore, it is not clear under which law these individuals would be prosecuted. “This is somewhat of a shift in position as far as I can see. Normally, in the past they were happy for anyone to be taken off their hands.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: U.S. Air Strikes Target Taliban Fighters Advancing On Key Afghan City

“The United States launched air strikes against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, U.S. officials said on Monday, after a large-scale offensive saw insurgents take over military bases in the region and close in on a key provincial capital. The strikes, carried out over the last two days, mark a rare military intervention by the United States since it signed an agreement on troop withdrawal with the Taliban in February. The deal provides for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgent group, and a pledge to sit down with the Kabul administration to find a peaceful settlement to decades of war. Fighting has continued despite several rounds of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators in the Qatari capital of Doha over the past month. In the last two days, hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed security checkpoints in Helmand, taking over key areas on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said on Twitter that the U.S. air strikes were “consistent with the United States-Taliban agreement”, and that Afghan security forces would continue to be provided with defensive cover.”

Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post: Lebanese NGO Acted As Front For Hezbollah, Storing Arms Which Exploded

“Hezbollah has been using a private non-governmental organization (NGO) to cover for their activities in southern Lebanon, the Israeli research organization the Alma Education Center has revealed. On September 22, an arms depot belonging to Hezbollah exploded in the village of Ain Qana in south Lebanon, injuring several people and heightening tensions in the country, which has been on edge since the much larger explosion at Beirut port on August 4. As in the Beirut blast, the arms depot had been stored in a civilian area, making it more likely that any explosion would cause injury and potentially loss of life. But according to the Alma Center, the depot was stored at the business premises of NGO “Peace Generation Organization for Demining,” (PGOD) a front group set up by Hezbollah in 2008 with the sponsorship of “Immen Sazan Omran Pars,” a private Iranian company suspected of having the patronage of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces. It's official work centers around the clearance of minefields and the rehabilitation of these ares for agricultural and construction use. It also acts as an advocacy group on minefield clearance, and cares for the victims of mines. However, according to the report, the seemingly humanitarian ethos of the organization hides a secret agenda.”

Middle East

Arab News: Popularity Of Extremist Groups, Such As Daesh, Muslim Brotherhood To Decline: Arab News Poll

“News Now Chicago reports that an Arab News poll shows that the popularity of extremist groups such as Daesh, and religious political parties, like the Muslim Brotherhood, will decline over the next 10 years. Of the poll’s 3,079 respondents, surveyed in partnership with YouGov, 59 percent of people believed their home countries would see less of the Muslim Brotherhood in the next 10 years. With regards to Hezbollah 63 percent shared this belief, while 75 percent expected less Al Qaeda, and 57 percent expected to see less of Hamas. The poll also found that the deaths of extremist leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did nothing to foment sympathy for their respective groups. The article’s key message is that Arabs have had enough of extremism and political-Islamic groups.”

Nigeria

This Day: Nigeria: Military Takes Battle Against Terrorists To Sambisa Forest, Others

“In line with the demand by the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum for the military to take battle to the terrorists' den instead of always waiting to be attacked, the military authorities said weekend that it would launch a final onslaught against terrorist hideouts in Sambisa Forest, Mandara Mountains and Lake Chad. While declaring open the Chief of Army Staff Combined four-day Conference at Command Guest House, Maiduguri, Zulum had urged the army not to wait until terrorists attack them. Zulum urged the Nigerian army to be proactive by taking the counter-terrorism war to Boko Haram hideouts of Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad region. According to him, taking the war to the hideouts will expose the terrorists, their collaborators and sponsors in forests and region. Following Zulum's request, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, said after the conference that the Nigerian Army was set to launch “Operation Fireball” against terrorist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP). He said the operation would be the final onslaught against the insurgents. He said the military was “approaching a crucial phase in our counter-terrorism operations in the North-east with Operation Fireball.”

Somalia

Shabelle Media Network: Somalia: Five Militants Killed In Joint Operation In Southern Somalia

“Somali National Army (SNA) backed by South Western State forces killed five al-Shabab militants on Saturday in a joint operation in Dinsor, a town in the southern region of Bay, an official said. The forces launched an attack on bases run by the militants in the town following complaints from the locals, said Shine Mayow, commander of South Western State forces in Dinsor. “The extremists isolated the locals in Dinsor and blocked all the roads leading to the town. Our forces later conducted an operation to help the residents. We killed five militants during a confrontation between the army and the extremists,” Mayow said. He added that the army had managed to drive the militants out of the town. The government forces have intensified operations against al-Shabab extremists in southern regions in recent months, but the militants are still hiding in the rural areas of those regions, conducting ambushes and planting land mines.”

Africa

Caj News Africa: Mozambique: Another Mozambique Terror Spree Uproots Thousands

“Escalating attacks by militants opposed to the peace deal in Mozambique have forced more than 7 000 people to flee their homes. The attacks in the western Manica province and Sofala, to the east, are blamed on the self-styled RENAMO military junta. RENAMO is an acronym for the main opposition Mozambique National Resistance, which signed an historic peace deal with the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) in 2019. The military junta is a breakaway faction of RENAMO opposed to the peace agreement. It has been perpetrating ambushes on main roads. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) disclosed 7 780 civilians (1 507 households) had been displaced as a result of the attacks mostly in the Gondola district of Manica as well as Chibabava and Buzi districts of Sofala. This has generated a fresh crisis in Mozambique, which since 2017 has suffered terror attacks by an Islamist sect north of the country. In Manica and Sofala, IOM has identified the top humanitarian needs to include food, water, sanitation and shelter. There is also a dire need of health services, clothing, kitchen utensils and bedding. President Filipe Nyusi earlier this week appealed to the Renamo military junta to lay arms and join the peace process.”

Mozambique News Agency: Mozambique: Alleged Terrorist Recruiter Arrested

“The Mozambican defence and security forces on Saturday announced the arrest of a man accused of recruiting new members for the islamist terrorist groups operating in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. According to a report in the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique”, the suspected recruiter, named as 39 year old Joseph Adremane Kumocho, recruited 72 young men in the coastal district of Macomkia to join the jihadists. Mozambican security sources told the paper that Kumocho has been moving constantly between the districts affected by the terrorist attacks, other parts of Cabo Delgado, and Nampula city, where it is thought that he owns a house. “Carta de Mocambique” also reports that, among the more than 1,000 people killed by the terrorists, are 14 local community leaders, who were beheaded. Citing international NGOs working in Cabo Delgado, the paper says that the terrorists have also attacked and set on fire 25 Cabo Delgado health units. The group resorted to explosives to demolish government buildings, Christian churches and other places of worship. The terrorist rampage has led to the abandonment of about 50 schools and crèches.”

United Kingdom

The National: UK’s ‘Weak’ Counter-Extremism Strategy Set For Overhaul

“The UK is set to shake up its counter-extremism strategy after an adviser criticised the system as “weak, disjointed, and behind the curve” in dealing with terrorist radicalisation. A counter-extremist unit set up in 2015 within the Home Office is in line to be scrapped, although the ministry said no decision had been taken, the Financial Times reported. The possible changes appeared to reflect the views of Sara Khan, the country’s independent counter-extremism adviser. She called for a shift in strategy to focus on hateful extremism that fell short of terrorism but created divisions in society and for some provided a moral justification for violence. The changes could result in a programme focused on hateful extremism while incorporating the work of its predecessor, a source told the newspaper. The Extremism Analysis Unit was established in 2015 under Conservative prime minister David Cameron to support government and public bodies to “deal with extremists appropriately”. It was set up partly in response to concerns that Muslim extremists had tried to take control of schools in Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city.”

The Guardian: Scottish MI5 Spy To Be Crown's Key Witness In New IRA Terrorism Trial

“A former Scottish police officer turned MI5 spy has inflicted major damage on the New IRA leading to the arrests of alleged key figures and the disruption of links between violent dissident republicans and terrorist groups in the Middle East. Dennis McFadden infiltrated the New IRA’s high command over the last eight years, providing safe houses in Northern Ireland and Scotland that were in fact bugged by the Security Service while handing out free tickets for Celtic matches and drinks from the bar in his home. He played a central role in MI5’s Operation Arbacia, which culminated at the end of this summer with the arrest of nine suspected leading New IRA members, all of whom have been charged with directing acts of terrorism. McFadden will be the crown’s key witness in what will be the biggest terrorist trial since the so-called supergrass cases of the early to mid-1980s. The nine suspected New IRA figures charged with directing terrorism are Kevin Barry Murphy,50, Davy Jordan, 49, Damien McLaughlin, 44, Gary Hayden, 48, Joe Barr, 44, Shea Reynolds , 26, Paddy McDaid, 50, Sharon Jordan, 45, and Mandy Duffy, 49. Lawyers for the defendants have raised issues about entrapment and the reported role of a state agent.”

Europe

Deutsche Welle: Slovakia Jails Far-Right Leader For Extremism

“A Slovakian court on Monday sentenced the head of the right-wing extremist People's Party — Our Slovakia (LSNS), Marian Kotleba, to four years and four months in prison. The special court for organized crime found Kotleba guilty of promoting a movement and ideology that aims to suppress civil rights and democracy, after using a well-known neo-Nazi symbol. The verdict, which is not yet final following an appeal made by Kotleba, came despite a closing plea that lasted nearly eight hours. It marks the first time a court in Slovakia has sentenced a member of parliament to prison. Kotleba stood trial after he presented three poor families with checks for €1,488 ($1,756) in 2017. The number 1488 has a symbolic meaning for neo-Nazis and white supremacists, referring to a 14-word racist slogan and the Nazi salute “Heil Hitler,” which begins with the eighth letter of the alphabet. The court accepted the prosecutors' argument that the racist references were intentional. Kotleba, 43, denied the charges. “I'm not aware of having committed any crime,” he told the court. If the ruling is confirmed by the Supreme Court, Kotleba will lose his parliamentary seat, as set out in the Slovakian constitution.”