Eye on Extremism: October 14, 2022

Reuters: Lebanon MP Sanctioned By US Says He Played Behind-The-Scenes Role In Border Talks

“A leading Lebanese politician who is sanctioned by the United States said on Thursday he played a behind-the-scenes role in U.S.-brokered talks to delineate Lebanon's maritime boundary with Israel by liaising with Hezbollah. Gebran Bassil, a Christian member of parliament and former minister, was sanctioned in 2020 for alleged corruption and material support to Hezbollah but denies the accusations. He told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Thursday that despite the sanctions, he was personally involved in U.S.-mediated negotiations to draw the sea border between Lebanon and Israel. "It's only normal that I have a role. Everybody knows this - it's my obligation and it's my duty," he said in his office on the outskirts of Beirut. "I can link politically with the parties inside and outside... and clearly, we succeeded.”

The Washington Post: Bus Bombing Kills 18 Syrian Troops, Wounds Dozens

“A bus bombing on Thursday killed 18 Syrian soldiers in a Damascus suburb and wounded at least 27 others, Syria’s state media reported citing a military source, as fighting in the country’s north picked up. 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. In northern Syria, members of an al-Qaida-linked group captured a town that had been held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters since 2018. The capture of the town of Afrin by members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for the Levant Liberation Committee, which is the strongest militant group in the rebel-held northwest, came after days of fighting between rival insurgent groups in the area. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said HTS captured some 30 military posts in the area from Turkey-backed groups. The fighting was triggered by last week’s killing of a citizen journalist and his wife who were shot dead while on a motorcycle in the northern town of al-Bab. A Turkey-backed group was blamed for the killing and since then it has come under attack by several insurgent groups, including HTS.”

United States

Forbes: Most Republicans And Democrats Think Misinformation Is Fueling Hate Crimes And Extremism, Poll Finds

“The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats think misinformation is fueling hate crimes and political extremism, according to a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which found nearly three-fourths of voters view false information as a “major problem.” Some 72% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats believe misinformation is leading to a spike in hate crimes, including violence motivated by race, religion or gender, while 80% of Democrats and 70% of GOP voters believe false information is causing more extreme political views as well. Almost all Americans—91%—think misinformation is a problem, while 70% of voters are worried they’re exposed to it, according to the survey, which was conducted among 1,003 votes from September 9 to 12. About three-fourths of voters said they had avoided sharing a post on social media because they didn’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation, while 50% said they decline to share posts most of the time to avoid perpetuating false information. Some 50% say the false information is sparking distrust of the government. As many as 650,000. That’s how many Facebook posts between Election Day and January 6 promoted false claims suggesting the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate, or about 10,000 posts a day, according to one ProPublica and Washington Post investigation.”

Syria

AFP: New Details Found In Syria On Missing ISIS Hostages: Rights Group

“New details on the ISIS extremist group’s former detention centers for foreign hostages in Syria and on grave sites offer clues on where victims may be buried, a rights group said Thursday. The US-based Syrian Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC) said it had managed to pinpoint the exact locations of seven detention facilities once run by the extremist group.  It said it had identified three potential burial grounds after monitoring US court proceedings against a member of the notorious ISIS kidnap-and-murder cell dubbed “the Beatles.” The four-member cell, named after the pop band by their captives because of their British accents, was allegedly involved in the abductions of at least 27 people in Syria from 2012 to 2015. The hostages, some of whom were released after their governments paid ransoms, were from at least 15 countries, including the United States, Denmark, France, Japan, Norway and Spain. The ISIS tortured and killed their victims, including by beheading, and released videos of the murders for propaganda purposes. The rights group said that, to corroborate information and trace hostage movements, it conducted further interviews with former hostages, victims’ relatives and a second ISIS “Beatles” member who pleaded guilty in the United States.”

Voice Of America: Jihadist Group Takes Over Strategic Town In Northwest Syria

“A powerful jihadist group has taken over a strategic town in northwest Syria following days of clashes with several militia groups who were controlling the area, local sources said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as al-Nusra Front, entered the town of Afrin on Thursday after its former rulers withdrew their forces, according to residents and a monitor group. Afrin, a Kurdish-majority city, had been under the control of Turkish-backed armed groups since 2018 after a Turkish military offensive that ousted Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara considers terrorists. A resident in the town told VOA that he witnessed “tanks and military vehicles belonging to [HTS] rolling into Afrin after the other militias who were previously in our city abandoned their positions and left with their vehicles and equipment.” The resident, who declined to reveal his identity because it could endanger him, added that “he heard about very small skirmishes between the two sides in a few parts of the city, but the militiamen didn't really resist the oncoming militants.” HTS is an Islamist group that has been in control of most of Idlib province in northwest Syria, one of the few areas that are outside the control of Syrian government forces.”

Daily Sabah: Turkish Forces Eliminate PKK's So-Called Brigade Chief In Syria

“The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) on Friday eliminated a member of the PKK terrorist organization who served as a so-called brigade chief in Syria. Nejdet Dağlarer, code-named “Geli Serhat,” was added to MIT's target list due to his activities for the PKK in Türkiye and actions against the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Syria, according to security sources. The terrorist joined the rural cadres of the terrorist organization PKK in 2009, and continued his armed activities in the Şemzinan region of Hakkari in 2012, on the Iranian border. After carrying out terrorist activities in Türkiye, he moved to Iraq and then to Syria in 2016 where he served in the Aleppo region for a long time. While in Syria, he played an active role as a guide for the terrorist group in the areas where the TSK was conducting its Olive Branch and Peace Spring counterterrorism operations. Dağlarer was also in charge in 2020 of overseeing the PKK's tunnel network in Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani. The terrorist was in charge of the "Çavreş" brigade, which is made up of the PKK's rural cadres, at the time he was eliminated by Turkish forces.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israeli Settlers Rampage In Palestinian Town In West Bank

“A group of Jewish settlers rampaged through a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank on Thursday, attacking shops and residents with stones and iron bars, according to Palestinian reports and amateur video from the scene. Over 40 Palestinians were reported wounded. It was the latest violence in the northern West Bank, where the Israeli military has been conducting nightly arrest raids against suspected Palestinian militants. Unrest also erupted in the contested city of Jerusalem. Israeli police unleashed live rounds, tear gas and stun grenades on Palestinians throwing stones, firecrackers and firebombs, marking the biggest spasm of violence in the city in months. Clashes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem wounded 18 Palestinians late Thursday, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported, saying Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians with stones and clubs. The confrontations followed similar unrest across several neighborhoods in east Jerusalem the night before. It was not immediately clear what sparked Thursday’s rampage in the northern West Bank, but Palestinian militants in the area have carried out several roadside shootings in recent weeks. The area is home to a number of hardline settlements, whose residents often intimidate Palestinians and vandalize their property. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the area, said some 70 settlers from the hardline settlement of Yitzhar appeared in Hawara, on the outskirts of the city of Nablus, without warning.”

Nigeria

Associated Press: Nigerian Separatist Leader Acquitted Of Terrorism Charges

“A Nigerian separatist leader accused of terrorism and instigating violence in the country’s southeast was acquitted Thursday by a local court, his lawyer told The Associated Press. The Nigerian Court of Appeal dismissed the government-filed charges against Nnamdi Kanu in Abuja, the nation's capital, after a jury faulted the legality of the case against him, according to Ifeanyi Ejiofor, his lawyer. Kanu is yet to be released from custody. The Indigenous People of Biafra separatist group that Kanu leads has been pressing for the southeast region to break away from the West African nation and become independent. But the Nigerian government said he uses the group known as IPOB to instigate violence, leading to the deaths of many in the country’s southeast. Kanu had been facing trial for alleged treason and terrorism but escaped Nigeria in 2017 while on bail. He was rearrested in June last year and brought back to Nigeria from an undisclosed country. The separatist leader, who also holds British citizenship, pleaded not guilty at the resumption of his trial which his group has said is being used to stifle his secessionist campaign. The campaign reminds many of the short-lived Republic of Biafra that fought and lost a civil war from 1967 to 1970 to become independent from Nigeria. An estimated 1 million people died in the war, many of starvation.”

Somalia

Sky News: From Farmers To Fighters - How A New Somali Militia Has Risen Against Al Shabaab

“Deep in the Buloburde bush in the Hiiraan region of central Somalia, there's a ragtag regiment gathering around a missile launcher. Huddled tightly with their ears pressed against a small black phone, they receive intelligence and feed it back to the troops positioning the launcher. The Ma'awisley militia is made up of farmers turned fighters and is in the front line of the battle for Somalia's stability. It is the new weapon of choice in the 16-year effort to eradicate al Shabaab, the terrorist group linked to al Qaeda. This war is one without a conventional front line. Instead, there are territories around the country where al Shabaab entrench themselves in the community and frequently launch attacks. Now, these communities are rising up against them. “We are fighting for the right cause, for the people, for this nation and for the faith until Somalia is peaceful,” says Ma'awisley commander Ali Shiri in Bal'ad - another hotspot just an hour outside the capital Mogadishu. Primarily, they are protecting their families and farms. The lands they have long harvested are now parched by prolonged drought and stalked by al Shabaab fighters seeking money and food. WFP Regional Director Michael Dunford visit to an IDP camp in Adadle district in the Somali region where he met the communities and heard directly from them on the impact of the drought.”

Mali

AFP: Mali Bus Blast Leaves At Least 11 Dead: Sources

“At least 11 people were killed and 53 injured when a bus hit an explosive device in central Mali on Thursday, according to a hospital source. The explosion occurred on the road between Bandiagara and Goundaka in the Mopti area in the early afternoon, a security source said. The region is known as a hotbed for extremist violence. For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app. Earlier, police and local sources gave a provisional toll of 10 dead and many seriously injured. “We have just transferred nine bodies to the clinic. And it's not over yet,” said Moussa Housseyni of the local Bandiagara Youth Association, adding that they were all civilians. Mali has long struggled with an extremist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. Mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are among the extremists weapons of choice. They can explode on impact or be detonated remotely. A report by MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, found that mines and IEDs had caused 72 deaths in 2022 as of August 31. Most of the victims were soldiers -- but more than a quarter were civilians, it said. Last year, 103 people were killed and 297 injured by IEDs and mines.”

Africa

AFP: Benin Foils 'Terrorist' Attack, Kills 8 Gunmen, Army Says

“Benin's army has said it foiled a “terrorist” attack in the country's northwest, killing eight gunmen suspected of operating from neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Security forces have faced more than a dozen militant incursions since last year, as concerns mount over the spread southward of violence from the Sahel linked to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. In the early hours of Wednesday, “terrorists attempted to infiltrate Materi [town] ... where they were planning to launch a complex attack,” military spokesperson Ebenezer Honfoga said. The gunmen were ambushed in a “security set up” and detonated an improvised explosive device they had been about to install, he added in a statement released on Wednesday. They then “tried to attack the Beninese armed forces position that was in the area” but faced retaliation. “At least eight terrorists were killed” and important equipment was retrieved, the official added, without giving further details. Benin has suffered attacks on troops defending against Islamist militants from Burkina Faso and Niger, but criminal gangs and smugglers also operate in the area. Benin's government admitted in May that the north of the country had been the target of around 20 attacks by armed groups, though it did not use the word “jihadists.”

United Kingdom

Daily Mail: Ex-Pub Landlord, 42, Denies Sending Islamic State In Syria Thousands Of Pounds From Covid Bounce Back Loans

“A former pub landlord denied sending thousands of pounds in coronavirus bounce back loans to fund ISIS in Syria and possessing videos which would be 'useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism'. Tarek Namouz, of no fixed address, appeared at Kingston Crown Court in south-west London on Thursday via video-link from Wandsworth jail. The court heard that the 42-year-old is accused of entering into an arrangement for money or other property to be made available to another which may be used for terrorism. Namouz pleaded not guilty to eight counts of entering into funding an arrangement between November 13 2020 and May 25 2021. He also pleaded not guilty to two counts of possessing terrorist information in the form of two videos, which the court heard was likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, on May 25 2021. A trial, expected to last two weeks, has been set to begin at Kingston Crown Court on November 21. Namouz, who spoke only to confirm his name and to enter his pleas, was remanded in custody.  In May 2020, six weeks into the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown, the then chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the bounce back loan scheme.  In total £47bn was paid out in loans to help keep small British businesses afloat during the unprecedented lockdown.”

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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