Eye on Extremism: October 13, 2022

Associated Press: Taliban Say Afghanistan Secure Enough For Big Projects

“The Taliban said Wednesday there is enough security across Afghanistan to restart major economic projects that stopped due to decades of war, despite a slew of attacks rocking the country since the group seized power more than a year ago. The Taliban have struggled in their transition from insurgency and warfare to governing amid an economic downturn and the international community withholding official recognition. Foreign aid stopped when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. World governments piled on sanctions, halted bank transfers and froze billions more in Afghanistan’s currency reserves. Taliban-appointed government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Afghanistan has the opportunity to connect with the rest of the countries in the region, highlighting China as a key part of the nation’s economic development. “In the last Cabinet meeting, it was decided that the Silk Road, which will connect Afghanistan with China, must be built. This historic road can play a great role in the economy of the country,” he said at a seminar about regional connectivity. “It is a great opportunity, we have good security and it is the time to start major economic projects.’”

Reuters: Slovak PM Condemns Shooting That Killed Two Outside Gay Bar

“Slovakia's prime minister condemned a shooting that killed two people outside a gay bar in the capital Bratislava, saying on Thursday that extremism had no place in the country. A gunman killed two people and wounded another near the Teplaren bar in the city centre late on Wednesday. Police said they found the suspected attacker dead on Thursday morning. Officers have not released any details on the suspected motive. Slovak media reported the main suspect had posted messages with the phrases "hate crime" and "gay bar" hashtagged on Twitter. "It is unacceptable that anyone should fear for their life because of the way they live," Prime Minister Eduard Heger said in a statement. "I strongly condemn yesterday's attack in which two people died. No form of extremism is allowed." The Duhovy PRIDE Bratislava (Rainbow PRIDE) group said it was shocked by the attack.”

United States

New York Post: ISIS Bride Tania Joya: ‘My Crime Was Being An Idiot, Joining A Really Bad Idea’

“Tania Joya, who was married to John Georgelas, once known as the highest-ranking American in ISIS, does not want to be blamed for her ex-husband’s misdeeds. “My crime was being an idiot and getting married too young and joining a really bad idea,” she says in a new documentary, “A Radical Life,” which begins streaming Thursday on Discovery+. “That was my mistake but it’s not a crime.” The documentary takes an unfiltered look at Joya’s journey from British schoolgirl to Jihadi bride to single mother living in Texas. She was born in 1983 to a “culturally Muslim” Bengali-Bangladeshi family, the daughter of an airline employee and a caterer. Joya experienced racism while growing up in London, she says in the documentary; according to a 2017 Texas Monthly interview, this even included her tormenters using the roof of the family’s car as a toilet. A childhood surgery on a misshapen leg reportedly led to constant worrying about her health, which in turn led to her becoming a more devout Muslim. As she was mocked in public and scorned by her own family for wearing a full-length jilbab and face-covering veil, she turned to a community of other extreme worshipers — which helped lead to her becoming radicalized after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Syria

AFP: 13 Killed In Two Days Of Syria Rebel Clashes: Monitor

“Thirteen people, mostly fighters, have been killed in two days of ongoing clashes between rival factions competing for power in northwest Syria, a war monitor said Wednesday. Fighting between two pro-Turkish Syrian rebel groups began in the town of Al-Bab in northern Aleppo province before spreading to other areas and drawing in other factions, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group headed by ex-members of Syria's former Al-Qaeda franchise, has also weighed in, it added in a statement. HTS mostly controls Syria's main rebel-held northwestern region of Idlib, but other rebel groups are also active, with varying degrees of backing from Turkey. Dozens of factions are competing for influence in northern Syria, leading to the current “chaos”, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Even if clashes began with a dispute between two groups, other factions took advantage of the opportunity to fight their opponents,” he added. The death toll includes three civilians, the Observatory said, with AFP correspondents reporting that schools and markets had closed in Al-Bab, and dozens had fled the Afrin countryside further west. HTS was able to control the town of Jindires near Afrin Wednesday and a number of other villages in its vicinity, the monitor said.”

Al Monitor: Islamic State Terrorizes Business Owners In Northeast Syria

“The areas controlled by the Kurdish forces in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor province in northeastern Syria have recently witnessed growing activities by Islamic State (IS) cells, which are terrorizing business owners and forcing them to pay “zakat” (obligatory charitable payment). On Oct. 3, IS militants blew up a money exchange and money transfer shop called Al-Iman Office in the town of al-Azbah, in the northern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, after its owner refused to pay zakat. No casualties were reported, but the shop was severely damaged. One of the shop owner’s relatives told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “IS members detonated an explosive device they had planted in front of the office located in the popular market in al-Azbah, after the owner refused to pay zakat as demanded by IS.” He said, “In early September, IS members reached out to the shop owner via WhatsApp, requesting him to pay a specific amount as zakat. He did not respond to their request so they planted an explosive device [near his shop] on Sept. 25, which failed to detonate. Hours before their second attempt on the evening of Oct. 3, they had sent him a message threatening to kill him and destroy his office because he had not paid zakat.” The source noted, “Fortunately, the explosive device went off while the office was closed, and no one was injured in the explosion.”

Associated Press: Syria: Blast Targeting Military Bus Kills 18 Soldiers

“A bomb exploded near a Syrian military bus Thursday, killing 18 soldiers and wounding 27 others, Syrian state media reported citing a military source. Similar attacks over the past years have killed and wounded dozens of soldiers in government-held parts of the war-torn country. Last March, militants attacked a military bus near Palmyra in central Syria, killing 13 troops and wounding 18 others. Syrian authorities in the past have blamed such attacks on Islamic State group militants who have been active in southern and central Syria, despite losing territorial control in the country since 2019.”

Iraq

The Washington Free Beacon: Iraqi Official With Alleged Ties To Iranian Terror Proxies Granted Entry To United States

“An Iraqi official with alleged ties to the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies traveled this week to the United States for high-level meetings amid a global energy crisis that has sent oil prices skyrocketing. Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail, Iraq’s oil minister and acting finance minister, is listed as an official Iraqi government participant for World Bank meetings scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., according to a list of participants published by the organization. He is also expected to hold meetings with Biden administration officials, according to sources familiar with the matter. A coalition of Republican lawmakers want to know why the Biden administration is “roll[ing] out the red carpet” for Ismail and how he was able to obtain a U.S. visa. Three Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress are pressuring the Biden administration to reconsider engaging with Ismail, citing his alleged ties to Iran’s terrorist regime and the country’s efforts to evade U.S. economic sanctions. Under Ismail’s leadership, Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization “has a track record of business dealings with Iran, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Iranian-backed terrorist organizations Asa’ib ahl al-Haq and Katai’b Hezbollah,” Reps. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) wrote on Wednesday to the White House, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Urge US To Review New Sanctions, Calling Them Hurdle In Furthering Ties

“Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban government Wednesday criticized new U.S. sanctions against some of its leaders as an “impediment to the development” of ties between the two countries. The reaction comes a day after the United States announced a new visa restriction policy as punishment for current or former Taliban leaders and others “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, repressing” Afghan women and girls through restrictive policies and violence. “Such decisions can adversely affect bilateral relations,” a Taliban foreign ministry statement said. “All disputes  should be resolved through diplomatic channels and decisions that do not serve the interest of the two sides should be reviewed,” it added. The statement questioned the timing of the U.S. decision, saying it was announced after talks last week in Doha involving high-level officials of the two countries where “almost all important issues” were discussed in detail. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in unveiling the sanctions on Tuesday, said that immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Blinken called on other governments to join Washington in taking similar actions to collectively send a message to the Taliban that only a government that represents all Afghans and respects their human rights could be considered legitimate.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: West Bank Suspects In Contact With Hamas Planned Terrorist Attacks -Shin Bet

“In the last two weeks, a Shin Bet investigation of four suspects from the West Bank found that they were in contact with a Hamas operative from the Gaza Strip in order to plan and carry out shooting attacks against Israeli targets. The suspects were in contact with Bilal Basharat - a Hamas operative who was released from prison as part of the Shalit deal, was deported to the Gaza Strip, and operates within the 'Hagada Headquarters,' which is a Hamas body located in the Gaza Strip and its mission is to promote military terrorist activity in the West Bank. Basharat instructed the suspects to purchase weapons and collect information from the area in order to carry out shooting attacks on behalf of Hamas against civilian targets and IDF soldiers. The operatives of the squad were arrested and a weapon they had purchased was also seized. In addition, terrorist funds were seized and transferred to the squad on behalf of the Hamas headquarters.”

Nigeria

Punch Nigeria: Troops Kill 19 Terrorists In Failed Ambush

“Troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces successfully thwarted an ambush by Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province Terrorists in a fresh pushback. Our correspondent gathered that the troops of 21 Armoured Brigade, Bama thwarted the ambush during a fighting patrol between Kumshe and Banki axis of Borno State in the early hours of Tuesday. An intelligence source, who confirmed the incident, said soldiers repelled the terrorists after the non-state actors detonated an Improvised Explosive Device and followed it with rapid gunshots. The special forces were said to have repelled the attack, killing 19 insurgents, with no casualty on the side of the military. “The terrorists detonated Improvised Explosive Device and followed with continuous gunshots which was immediately repelled by the gallant troops,” the source said. He, however, noted that on Hilux vehicle belonging to the military was destroyed while some soldiers sustained injuries during the encounter, and were being treated at the Brigade Headquarters in Bama.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Al-Shabaab Attacks Pro-Government Militia In Hiran

“A heavy battle between the Somali army along with locals and Al-Shabaab was reported in El-Ma'an area located on the outskirts of Jalalaqsi town. The fighting erupted after Al-Shabaab fighters launched an attack on bases belonging to Ma'wisley, a pro-government militia helping SNA in the war against the militants in Hiran. The residents reported a tense situation on Tuesday morning as the warring sides exchange heavy and small weapons in combat, which comes amid intensified army operations. Somali troops have gained control of dozens of villages in central Somalia from Al-Shabaab since last month with officials in Hiran saying the militant group suffered heavy losses.”

Africa

Foreign Policy: Negotiating With Insurgents In Burkina Faso

“Late last month, military officers in Burkina Faso seized power in the country’s second coup this year. In both cases, the main justification was the leadership’s failure to curb violence from groups linked to the Islamic State and al Qaeda. The insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about 10 percent of the population. This week on our podcast The Negotiators, we tell the story of one community leader in Burkina Faso who set out to negotiate with the insurgents so that members of his community could return to their homes. His story might be familiar to people who follow conflicts in other areas—including Afghanistan—where, in the absence of a broader peace process, people at the local level engage in their own small-scale diplomacy. Journalist Sam Mednick, who covered these community-led negotiations in Burkina Faso for the New Humanitarian, reports this episode with us. The Negotiators is a partnership between Doha Debates and Foreign Policy. About The Negotiators:  Conflicts don’t just get resolved on their own. Most are settled through a grueling process of give and take, usually behind closed doors. On the new podcast The Negotiators, Foreign Policy is teaming up with Doha Debates to put listeners in the room. Hosted by FP deputy editor Jenn Williams, each episode will feature one mediator, diplomat, or troubleshooter, describing one dramatic negotiation.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: Three Years After The Synagogue Attack In Halle, Germany Mourns

“This week, Jews in the eastern Germany city of Halle mourned the third anniversary of the October 9, 2019 attack on a local synagogue by a violent antisemite. Officials held events in commemoration of the Yom Kippur attack that did not merely stop at the house of worship, but continued with the murders of two individuals who were nearby at the time. The gunman is now serving a life sentence in prison. “The veneer of civilization is very thin. Humanity can quickly turn to inhumanity and barbarism.” In commemoration, on Sunday, public transport in the city ceased for around a minute at 12:03 p.m., the time the attack started, and church bells rang throughout the city. The premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff of the Christian Democrats (CDU), laid a wreath and in a speech urged the community to take a clear stance against antisemitism and racism. “The veneer of civilization is very thin. Humanity can quickly turn to inhumanity and barbarism,” he said, calling the bullet-damaged door of the synagogue “a powerful memorial.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also commemorated the attack, writing on Twitter: “This anniversary reminds us never to look away. We remember the victims and reaffirm our determination to fight right-wing extremism in every form.”

Southeast Asia

Nikkei Asia: 20 Years After Bali Bombings, Indonesia Confronts Extremism Online

“Indonesia's government has made progress in stopping Islamic terrorism in the two decades since bombings killed more than 200 people here in 2002. But its fight has moved onto social media platforms where extremist thought remains only a screen scroll away. A memorial service was held in the tourist district of Kuta on Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of the deadly attacks. The survivors and their families stood before a plaque that listed the names of those killed in the bombings. Bali is welcoming back tourists lost during the pandemic. But the survivors of the bombings still carry the physical and psychological scars from that that October night 20 years ago. One of them is Thiolina Marpaung, who heads the Isana Dewata Foundation that assists survivors and their families with their day-to-day lives. Thiolina, 49 years old, was in a car that night with work colleague Dewa Rudita, now 55, heading to an event in Kuta. They were caught in traffic along Legian Road when a car exploded five vehicles in front of them. The blast set fire to their own car, but the two co-workers managed to escape with their lives. Thiolina now has trouble seeing after shards of glass struck her eyes and still visits a doctor once every two months. Dewa was burned badly on his left arm and elsewhere, leaving prominent surgical scars. He is so traumatized by the terror attack that he cannot approach the site.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

Without doubt, the secularists are evil and more malicious than the polytheists and secularism is farther astray from the path and more malicious than polytheism. The secularists who are associated with Islam even [merely] by identity are considered apostates by a group of scholars. The Jews, Christians, those who worship graves, and many polytheists and unbelievers have committed lesser acts of unbelief than the secularists.

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Salafist propagandist Mar. 1, 2021
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