Eye on Extremism: October 15, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: Two Americans Held Hostage By Iran-Backed Forces In Yemen Freed In Trade

“Two Americans held hostage by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen were freed on Wednesday as part of a U.S.-backed trade that returned more than 200 of the group’s loyalists to the fractured Middle East country, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. A Royal Oman Air Force plane carrying the two Americans and the remains of a third flew out of Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital of Sana’a, hours after the jet and a companion flight brought the militants back to the country following years stuck in Oman. The deal secured freedom for Sandra Loli, an American humanitarian worker held hostage by the Houthis for 16 months, and Mikael Gidada, a U.S. businessman held for more than a year, said Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump who worked on the deal. The pact also included the return of the remains of Bilal Fateen, a third American who had been held by the Houthis. U.S. officials provided only limited information on the three Americans, but said they worked urgently to secure the deal because Ms. Loli’s health was in decline. The deal also included delivery of medical aid for Yemen.”

CNN: 30% Of UK Terror Plots Disrupted By MI5 Were Far Right, Says Security Chief

“The new head of MI5, the UK's domestic security service, has warned that nearly 30% of the major terror plots it has disrupted at a late stage since 2017 have been from far right extremists. Ken McCallum said that the pan-European threat from the far right was increasing with “bitty, but meaningful international connectivity.” In his first engagement with reporters since taking the job in March, McCallum said far-right extremism was not on “the same scale as Islamist extremist terrorism. But it is growing: of the 27 late-stage terrorist attack plots in Great Britain disrupted by MI5 and counter-terror policing since 2017, eight have been right-wing extremist.” He added that was not the case for the four years before 2017, and that “quite a few young people [are] attracted to this ideology, which does tend to suggest this threat will be with us for some years to come.” Yet he added that the far right, while showing signs of international links, was not yet “a kind of coherent global movement,” like al Qaeda or ISIS “where you have a sort of unifying purpose and single organization that pools things together.” Individuals, “often acting in comparative isolation,” were often fueled by “social processes, to do with individual's own needs and self view,” McCallum said, and the far-right ideology was often “tacked on after someone has moved in that direction.”

United States

Milwaukee Independent: Rise Of Vehicular-Based Terror Attacks On Peaceful Protesters Marks New Trend In America’s Civil Unrest

“In Seattle, a man in a black sedan car barreled into a large demonstration protesting the killing of George Floyd. After he stopped, he got out and shot a protestor at point blank range. The crowd scattered in terror. The man calmly left the area. Meanwhile, in Buffalo a woman screaming racial slurs slammed her truck into an anti-racist demonstration. Incidents like these have become commonplace all over America. Wherever there are protests over racial injustice, there often are acts of violence against them. Indeed, according to Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats, there were 104 separate incidents of drivers crashing into protests between May 27 – the date of the George Floyd killing – and September 5, including 96 civilians and 8 police vehicles. The motivations behind some of the incidents are unknown or contested. Vehicular based terror attacks have been common for many decades in some parts of the world, but are only recently gaining a grizzly popularity in the United States. Perhaps the most infamous incident was the 2017 Charlottesville attack, where James Alex Fields Jr. plowed through a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators, protesting the far-right gathering happening in the Virginia town.”


The Wall Street Journal: Turkish-Backed Syrian Fighters Join Armenian-Azeri Conflict

“Hundreds of fighters from Syrian militias allied with Turkey have joined the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, and hundreds more are preparing to go, according to two Syrians involved in the effort. Turkey quickly declared its support for Muslim-majority Azerbaijan, whose people speak a Turkic language, in the escalating conflict between two former Soviet republics near the border with Russia—an area in which Moscow has historically been the dominant influence. On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised the issue of Middle East fighters in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar. And on Tuesday, Russia warned of the possible “transfer of terrorist fighters” from the Middle East to Nagorno-Karabakh. A senior Turkish official rejected claims that Ankara was involved in sending Syrian fighters to the Caucasus. “Those claims, which are intended to distract attention from Armenia’s 30-year occupation of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, are not true,” the official said. Azeri officials have also denied using foreign mercenaries.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: 900 Syrian ISIS Suspects Referred To Court In East Euphrates

“The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration courts began the prosecution of ISIS suspects after around 900 Syrian prisoners were referred to the People's Defense Court in Qamishli for trial. Social Justice Council of North and East Syria member Khaled Ali said the court is currently looking into the cases of around 900 ISIS suspects accused of fighting or having links to the terrorist organization. He said the laws applied in the trial are those included in Decree No. 20 that was issued by the Legislative Council of North and East Syria. About 19,000 ISIS mercenaries, including 12,000 Syrians, are held in the Autonomous Administration prisons in northeast Syria. On Saturday, the Autonomous Administration said all prisoners serving time for petty crimes, those suffering from incurable or terminal diseases and those aged over 75, will be released from prison. However, the amnesty excluded people charged with betrayal, espionage, honor killing, sexual abuse, and trading with or consuming drugs, in addition to commanders in terrorist organizations like ISIS. Ali called for establishing an international court to prosecute the foreign ISIS members held in the prisons of the Autonomous Administration that includes suspects from 55 countries.”


Daily Sabah: Security Forces Arrest 8 Syrian, Iraqi Daesh Terrorist Suspects

“Turkish police are holding seven Syrians and an Iraqi national for suspected links to the Daesh terrorist group, security sources said Wednesday. The Syrians were nabbed in anti-terror operations in the western province of İzmir, said sources who wished to remain anonymous. The arrested are accused of working for the terrorist group, with one suspect still at large. Separately, police rounded up an Iraqi allegedly linked to the terrorist group in central Niğde province. Although the terrorist group has been largely defeated in Iraq and Syria, its presence still poses a threat, as individuals following its ideology encourage others to carry out violence. European analysts warn that Daesh attacks carried out by isolated individuals who are not under the watch of intelligence services have become more common. Turkey recognized Daesh as a terrorist group in 2013 and since then has suffered numerous attacks at the hands of the organization including four armed assaults, seven bombings and 10 suicide bombings resulting in the death of 315 with hundreds more injured. In response, Turkey launched military and police operations domestically and abroad, capturing top Daesh members in counterterrorism efforts at home and in Syria.”


The Washington Post: Taliban Offensive In Helmand Threatens U.S., Afghan Peace Efforts

“A Taliban offensive in southern Helmand province has raised concerns here that a growing wave of insurgent violence could undercut fledgling intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar and sabotage a U.S.-Taliban pact reached in February. The multiday assault in several areas near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, was partly quelled by Afghan forces Tuesday with support from U.S. airstrikes, but thousands of families were forced to flee the surrounding areas, highways were blocked, and some Taliban fighters were reported Wednesday to still be advancing into the city. The complex attack appeared to have been planned before President Trump tweeted last Wednesday that he wanted to bring all U.S. troops home by Christmas, a significant shift in policy that immediately put the Taliban in a stronger bargaining position at the peace talks, which have been bogged down in disputes for a month. But it also appeared to violate the intent, if not the letter, of the U.S.-Taliban deal, which included Taliban pledges to avoid attacking Afghan cities, reduce violence in general and cut ties with terrorist groups. In return, the United States agreed to gradually withdraw all troops by May, as long as the insurgents met those conditions.”


The Associated Press: Pakistan Says Roadside Bomb Kills 6 Troops In Border Region

“Pakistan’s military said seven troops were killed in separate incidents on Wednesday in the country’s northwest, in a region along the Afghan border that until recent years had served as a base for Pakistani and foreign militants. Six soldiers, including an officer, died in North Waziristan, when their army patrol struck two roadside bombs, while a seventh soldier was killed in a firing incident in the border Bajur region. The military said the shooting had come from the Afghan side of the frontier. The attack in North Waziristan also wounded several others, and a second soldier was wounded in the Bajur attack on a border security post. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Both Bajur and North Waziristan are former tribal regions of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban took responsibility for a powerful roadside bombing in North Waziristan that targeted a military vehicle, killing three soldiers and wounding four. Similar cross-border attacks in in July and September in Bajur killed two Pakistani soldiers.”


The Christian Post: Last Of 21 Christians Martyred By ISIS In Libya Finally Laid To Rest After 5 Years

“The remains of a Ghanaian Christian beheaded by the Islamic State terrorist group on a Libyan beach in an execution video in 2015 has finally been laid to rest in Egypt. Cairo-based journalist Farid Y. Farid reported on Sept. 29 that the body of Matthew Ayariga was finally laid to rest alongside the 20 Coptic Christians who were beheaded beside him on a beach in Sirte, Libya, in a video released by the jihadi death cult in February 2015.  “His remains finally arrived today to #Egypt to be laid to rest, w/his Coptic brothers, after 5+yrs of his body not being claimed,” Farid, who has had articles published in The New York Times and other outlets, tweeted.  Farid provided a link to an article by Watani Newspaper, an Egyptian weekly newspaper widely read by Coptic Christians. The article reports that the families of the Coptic Christians celebrated the remains of the martyr.  “We collapsed with great joy because the martyr Matthew is dear to us, and he is one of our children because he was martyred with our children and adhered to his Christ,” a mother of two of the martyred Coptic Christians told Watani News. “We thank our master because He succeeded in returning the remains of the martyr so that he would be next to his [brothers] in the church.”


Leadership: Nigeria: Blame Poor Infrastructure For Boko Haram Attacks, Presence In Northern Borno, Special Rapporteur

“A special rapporteur has blamed poor infrastructure for the continous presence of Boko Haram terrorits in northern Borno and recent attacks on the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum. Professor Philip Daheeda of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja, made this revelation in a detailed report on behalf of the Save Humanity Advocacy Centre (SHAC). Daheeda said it uncovered the actual circumstances surrounding the attack after leading the SHAC together with other credible non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations on a fact-finding mission to Northern Borno. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja, Prof. Daheeda said the troops have made substantive progress in the north of Borno, particularly the Kukawa/Baga axis once regarded as the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency due to its proximity to the Lake Chad Basin. He further disclosed that the radical sect has been significantly incapacitated and have now turned to guerrilla tactics, planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) on routes frequently used by IDPs returning to their communities.”


Washington Examiner: 'Al Shabaab Presents A Future Threat To America' Says AFRICOM After Trump Somalia Plans Made Public

“President Trump’s reported plans to pull U.S. troops from Somalia were not warmly embraced by U.S. Africa Command, which reacted hesitantly and underscored al Shabaab's continued terrorist threat to the American homeland. “Somali Armed Forces are making progress, but the threat al Shabaab presents requires international assistance,” U.S. Africa Command’s Air Force Col. Chris Karns told the Washington Examiner. “Al-Shabaab presents a future threat to America,” he said, “They have communicated as much in their videos and in their intent. This is a dangerous network that requires pressure placed on its forces.” The American combatant command, which has been ordered by Trump to vacate its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, is responsible for neutralizing terrorist threats on the African continent. In Somalia, 650 to 800 American soldiers help train Somali forces, monitor al Shabaab, conduct intelligence sharing, and other security assistance activities. But having boots on the ground in far-flung parts of the world does not jibe with the Trump doctrine. News of Trump's desire to remove U.S. troops from Somalia was first reported by Bloomberg Tuesday. AFRICOM forces have been part of the international effort to strengthen Somali security institutions since 2008.”

Dalsan Radio: Somalia: Somali Intelligence Agency Seize 79 Tons Of Bomb-Making Sulphuric Acid

“Somalia's National Intelligence and security agency (NISA) said its troops have seized 79 tonnes of sulphuric acid smuggled into the country for use by al-Shabab militants to make explosives. “We have seized 79 tonnes of sulphuric acid and arrested a number of people who smuggled it into the country and were transporting it to the al-Shabab militants,” NISA said in a tweet. The agency added that investigations were ongoing and the suspects will be arraigned later in court. Military court in Jubaland sentences Alshabab militant death Police in Puntland destroy bottles of Alcohol and Hashish. Somalia Marks 66th Anniversary of Its Blue Flag It did not reveal when the seizure was made. This comes as the horn of Africa marks the third anniversary of the 14 October 2017 bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed over 600 people. Al-Shabab did not say it carried out the attack, although it frequently stages attacks in the capital.”


Mozambique News Agency: Alleged Terrorist Recruiter Released

“The Mozambican police have released 39 year old Joseph Adremane Kumucho, who had initially been accused of recruiting young men to join the islamist terrorists waging war in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique” reports that Kumucho was arrested by the defence and security forces on Saturday in Mueda district, and then transferred to Montepuez in the southern part of Cabo Delgado. The newsheet's sources say that Kumucho was released after his family and friends convinced the authorities that they had arrested the wrong man. Failure to gather sufficient evidence has been a recurrent problem for the police in Cabo Delgado, and is why many of those charged with terrorist offences have been released. In six trials held in the provincial capital, Pemba, 130 alleged terrorists were acquitted and 126 were convicted. They were sentenced to prison terms of between two to 40 years for crimes against state security, against state organisation, for instigating violence and collective disobedience, and possession of prohibited weapons. Most of those convicted are Mozambicans but they also include citizens of Somalia, Tanzania and Burundi.”


Voice Of America: Man Who Attacked Paris Police Officer Sentenced To 28 Years

“A Paris court on Wednesday handed down a 28-year jail term to the Algerian man who attacked a police officer with a hammer in 2017 as officers guarded Notre Dame Cathedral. Farid Ikken, now 43, was convicted of attempted terrorist murder. Beginning with the 2015 terror attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo magazine staff, in which 17 people were killed, France has been the site of several such incidents. Many of the attacks have targeted French security forces. In 2017, Ikken a former doctoral student, yelled, “This is for Syria,” before he charged officers outside the well-known tourist site. One officer was struck in the head with the hammer. Ikken was shot and wounded by other officers. Prosecutors said that during a search of Ikken's home, police found a declaration of allegiance to Islamic State in a self-filmed video on his computer. They say he appeared to have acted alone. The trial began Monday. On Tuesday, Ikken testified that he had no regrets for his role in the incident, adding he still felt a “satisfaction of duty accomplished” after the attack.”


The Guardian: Neo-Nazi Leaders Of Greece's Golden Dawn Sentenced To 13 Years

“The neo-Nazi leaders of Golden Dawn have each been sentenced to 13 years in prison by a court in Athens, at the end of a historic hearing. The neo-fascist group was officially laid to rest as its disgraced former MPs were shown little mercy by a three-member panel of judges. Last week the court ruled that Golden Dawn lawmakers had operated a criminal organisation under the guise of being a democratically elected party. A public prosecutor proposed lengthy prison terms for 57 defendants convicted of murder, assault, weapons possession and either running or participating in the criminal outfit, and on Wednesday a total of more than 500 years behind bars was handed down by the tribunal. The court, which almost unanimously dismissed pleas for leniency, went into recess following the announcement to deliberate on whether the sentences would be suspended pending appeal. Defence lawyers had argued during the marathon legal proceedings for sentences to be reduced, citing their clients’ good behaviour, honourable family lives and even love of animals. Under Greece’s revised penal code, the maximum prison sentence for the crime of heading a criminal gang is 15 years.”


Forbes: ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ But For Terror Attacks: Game Trains Police To Get Facebook Data Fast

“When a terrorist strikes, getting information fast from a tech giant can make the difference between police catching the suspects, or another attack taking place. That’s the premise of a new game created by Europol, the European body responsible for connecting the continent’s myriad policing agencies and helping them investigate major crimes. Right now, police officers are often confused by the process. What data can they request from which provider? Can they retrieve any encrypted content from the likes of Apple or WhatsApp? What legal mechanisms should they be using? What’s the best language to use to ensure they get the information they want quickly? The game, exclusively shown to Forbes ahead of its release to law enforcement partners and their 4,500 officers on Wednesday, hopes to make sure police know the answers to those when an emergency happens. It looks much like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire but crossed with a create your own adventure game and without the options of phoning a friend or asking the audience. It opens with a hypothetical terror attack in which a gunman has started firing at people on a city street, killing 15 and injuring many others. When the player arrives on the scene, they learn that the suspect has fled but had worn a body camera to livestream the event.”