Eye on Extremism: October 18, 2022

Associated Press: US Hits Al-Shabab Finance Facilitators With Sanctions

“The Treasury Department said Monday that it has sanctioned a group of high-ranking members of the Somalia-based al-Shabab militant group, who act as key middle men between the group and local companies in Somalia. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed the sanctions on more than a dozen individuals from Somalia and Yemen who are involved in al-Shabab’s financing operations which in turn use those funds to assist in weapons procurement and recruitment activities. One member is accused of using digital currency to launder money for the group. Along with the Treasury sanctions, the State Department on Monday designated five al-Shabab leaders for diplomatic penalties. “Treasury is focused on identifying and disrupting al-Shabab’s illicit networks operating in Eastern Africa,” said Brian E. Nelson, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “We will continue to take action against the weapons smuggling and fundraising activities of al-Shabab and other al-Qaida affiliates.” Al-Shabab officially became an affiliate of al-Qaida, the Islamist association founded by Osama bin Laden, in 2012. The group maintains strong connections to al-Qaida’s senior leaders has financed al-Qaida’s efforts worldwide. The U.S. says Al-Shabab generates around $100 million per year through extorting local businesses and individuals, collecting fees on goods, and facilitating illicit trades.”

AFP: Six Men Go On Trial Over Vienna Jihadist Shooting

“Six men accused of helping a gunman who carried out Austria's first deadly jihadist attack go on trial in a Vienna court on Tuesday. On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai went on a shooting rampage in downtown Vienna, killing four and wounding 23 others before police shot him dead. In the wake of the EU member's deadliest shooting in decades, the Austrian government and in particular its intelligence service were accused of failing to monitor the Islamist movement in the country. According to the federal prosecutors' charge sheet seen by AFP, the six defendants -- all men aged between 21 and 32 years old -- were not directly involved in the deadly attack, but are suspected of actively helping Fejzulai prepare for the shooting. The six men -- four Austrians, a Chechen and a Kosovar -- are accused of “enabling ... or otherwise promoting” the execution of the crimes “due to their shared affiliation with the radical Islamist scene and the terrorist organisation IS Islamic State,” the confidential court document said. The accused face charges ranging from participating in terrorist crimes in connection with murder to involvement or membership in a terrorist group. All except one have been held in custody on remand in the lead-up to the trial.”

United States

Associated Press: Canadian Who Lived In Southern California Gets 20 Years For Recruiting Islamic State Fighters

“A Canadian national who lived in Southern California was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. prison on Monday for helping at least a half-dozen Canadians and Americans join Islamic State in Syria in 2013 and 2014 — including the first known American to die fighting for the militant organization. Abdullahi Ahmed Abdullahi directly funded “violent acts of terrorism,” including the kidnapping and killing of people in Syria, U.S. Atty. Randy Grossman said in a statement. Abdullahi acknowledged in a plea agreement that he helped a resident of San Diego, Douglas McAuthur McCain, join IS. McCain was killed in Syria while fighting alongside IS fighters against Syrian opposition forces in 2014. Prosecutors also said Abdullahi provided money to send an 18-year-old cousin from Minneapolis to join IS fighters in Syria, as well as three other cousins from Edmonton, Canada. The men all died in combat, according to the U.S. government. Abdullahi was detained by Canadian authorities in 2017 and extradited to the U.S. two years later. He pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists in 2021. He also admitted to robbing an Edmonton jewelry store in January 2014 to raise money to fund the foreign fighters. Weeks after committing that robbery, Abdullahi sent money to McCain so he could go to Syria.”


Reuters: Inter-Rebel Clashes Resume In Northwest Syria After Collapse Of Truce

“Rival Syrian rebel groups in northwestern Syria resumed heavy clashes a day after a fragile truce ended five days of bloody fighting in the last remaining opposition enclave, residents and rebels said on Monday. The main jihadist rebel group, Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), listed as terrorists by the United States, Turkey and others, forced factions from the Turkey-backed opposition National Army to accept a peace deal on Saturday that expanded its grip. Both sides traded accusations that they had reneged on provisions of the Turkey-brokered deal, which pulls fighters from Afrin and other cities back to their respective frontlines and paves the way for a unified civilian administration. Intense fighting raged near rugged terrain around Kafr Jana village in northern Aleppo where both sides sent reinforcements. Residents fear the jihadist group seeks to capture the strategic border city of Azaz, the administrative centre of the mainstream Turkish-backed opposition government. A commander in a mainstream faction that is staying on the sidelines who requested anonymity said the jihadist group was approaching the main Bab al Salamah border crossing with Turkey, northwest of Azaz. Infighting has weakened the Syrian opposition since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. Their turf wars have helped Assad and his allies recover significant ground.”

Al Monitor: Islamic State Claims Over 125 People Killed In Syrian Operations In 2 Months

“In the weekly issue of the Islamic State's (IS) al-Nabaa newspaper on Oct. 7, IS announced that its cells carried out 59 military operations in the span of 68 days, from Aug. 1 through Oct. 5. The operations caused the death of 103 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and 19 soldiers of the Syrian government forces, according to al-Nabaa. Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria had the largest share of IS operations in the past two months with 30 attacks, including shootings, explosive devices, ambushes and two car bombs, which caused the destruction of 34 military vehicles across the province, according to IS’ newspaper. Zain al-Akaidi, a journalist based in the Kurdish-controlled Deir ez-Zor countryside, told Al-Monitor that “IS focused its attacks on Kurdish areas in the Deir ez-Zor countryside.” “This is because of several reasons, mainly the weak security services of the Kurds and the rampant corruption and violations within Deir ez-Zor’s military council of the SDF headed by Ahmad al-Khabil,” he said. “This is not to mention the widespread presence of IS cells in several locations in Deir ez-Zor, which is open to the Syrian desert. Also, IS operatives move around easily in the area as they are supported by local tribes that provide the group’s members with protection and support to keep targeting the SDF,” Akaidi added.”


Associated Press: 2 Indian Laborers Killed In Kashmir Grenade Attack

“Two Indian laborers in disputed Kashmir were killed in a grenade attack which police blamed on militants fighting Indian rule. Police said Tuesday that a suspect arrested in the attack was a “hybrid terrorist,” a term authorities use for alleged undercover militants who slip back into normal lives and lack police records. Police said the grenade was lobbed at the two workers in their rented dwelling in southern Shopian district on Monday night. The men were taken to a hospital, where they died, police wrote on Twitter. The two victims were from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and were in Kashmir as day laborers, who commonly work in apple orchards or in construction. The incident came two days after assailants fatally shot a Kashmiri Hindu man in Shopian in violence police also blamed on militants. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting against New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, but Pakistan denies the allegation. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Security Forces Arrest Alleged Terrorists; East Jerusalem Clashes Rage On

“IDF soldiers entered Nablus on Sunday evening to arrest Hamza al-Azzi, who was wanted under suspicion of taking part in terrorist activity. At the same time, IDF soldiers and Border Police officers worked together in the village of Karawat Bani Hassan to arrest another wanted person allegedly connected to terrorist activity, as well as to confiscate terrorist funds. Both of the people arrested were transferred for further investigation by security forces. This was just as there were additional reports of violent clashes between security forces and rioters in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported four people injured so far as a result of said clashes. These clashes come just as Israel has reached a state of increased tension in the West Bank, with security forces having entered Jenin last Friday so as to operate against terrorist groups in the region. During the operation, there was an exchange of fire during which three Palestinians were killed. One of them was Abdullah Ahmed, a doctor from Ramallah who has previously taken part in shooting at security forces. The other two were Mateen Dabaya, a gunman for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, and Abdullah Abu al-Teen, a senior member of the armed wing of Fatah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.”


Voice Of America: Regional Governor In Somalia Puts Bounty On Al-Shabab Chiefs

“A governor in central Somalia has announced rewards of up to $25,000 for anyone who kills an Islamist militant with the al-Shabab terrorist group. The governor of Hiiraan region also directed military and clan militias to kill the wives and mothers of al Shabab members. Rights groups and security experts expressed alarm at the call for extrajudicial killings. Hiiraan regional governor Ali Jeyte announced at a news conference Sunday that his administration will reward those who kill al-Shabab militants in the ongoing war in the central Somalia region. The governor’s remarks came amid intense fighting in the Hiiraan and Galgaduud regions in central Somalia against al-Shabab. Unlike in the past, civilians have joined with the military to wage war against the militant group. “Whoever kills an al-Shabab fighter will be given $5,000,” he said. “Those who kill senior al-Shabab commanders will be given $10,000 while anyone who kills top leaders like Ali Dhere (al-Shabab spokesperson) will get a reward of $25,000.” Ongoing joint operations between the military and civilians have been hailed as decisive actions against al-Shabab which still controls large swathes of territory in south-central Somalia. The Somali government has said it will deploy all means necessary to finish off the militant group. According to Jeyte, that includes going after al-Shabab family members.”


Reuters: Three U.N. Peacekeepers Killed, Three Injured In Mali Attack

“Three United Nations peacekeepers were killed and three others seriously injured when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in northern Mali on Monday, a U.N. spokesperson said. Islamist militants, some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, have been waging an insurgency in northern Mali for the last decade. The peacekeepers were on a mine search and detection patrol in the northern commune of Tessalit, in Kidal region, when they were hit, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “We send our deepest condolences to the families of the peacekeepers, to our colleagues in the mission and we wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured,” Dujarric said. MINUSMA - the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali - currently has about 12,000 military personnel deployed in the country. At least 174 peacekeepers have been killed in hostile acts in Mali since the start of the mission in 2013, making it the deadliest U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world.”


Bloomberg: Europe Weighs Funding Rwandan Troops In Fighting Islamic State

“The European Union is considering providing financial support to Rwandan troops fighting an armed Islamic State-linked force in Mozambique’s gas-rich northeastern region. The insurgency by Islamist fighters that began in the region in 2017 has left more than 3,000 people dead and displaced nearly a million, and prompted French energy company TotalEnergies SE to suspend a $20 billion natural gas project. Were production to begin, it would offer Europe an alternative source of supplies at a time when Russia is restricting gas sales to the continent. The EU is “discussing the provision of support to the Rwandan deployment in Mozambique,” said Nabila Massrali, spokeswoman for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “We will not comment on it until a decision is taken.” Talks with member states are at an advanced stage, with the proposal receiving strong support from France, Germany and Italy, said two EU officials, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The rationale for the deal aligns with the bloc’s desire to help the continent provide African solutions to African problems, while simultaneously upholding peace and security and securing a huge gas reserve off the Mozambican coast, the people said.”

AFP: Jihadist Fears Cast Shadow On Niger-Benin Border

“Observers of troubled West Africa have long fretted that jihadists who have rampaged across the Sahel are eyeing a southward push to the Gulf of Guinea. But for people living on the border between Niger and Benin, that concern is already a daily reality. “We live in fear,” said Sani Harouna, a fisherman who earns a living on the Niger River, which marks the border between the two countries. To the north of the great river lies the vast, semi-desert state of Niger, the poorest country in the world by the UN's development index. The country is battling two insurgencies that have swept in from its neighbours. One is a longstanding Boko Haram campaign on the southeastern border with Nigeria, while the other is a dynamic seven-year offensive in the southwest. It swept in from Mali, where al-Qaeda and Islamic State group jihadists are active, and has also pushed into neighbouring Burkina Faso. To the river's south lies Benin, one of a trio of coastal states along with Togo and Ivory Coast which analysts fear are next in line. Last month, armed men attacked a customs post in Malanville, Benin's closest town to Niger, killing two men. “The terrorists are on the border, and if they are pursued in Benin, they will fall back to Niger,” said another fisherman, Mamane Sani Harouna. “It's these waters that must be watched -- they can make it easier for the terrorists to infiltrate, and around here there are too many wooded areas” that can serve as boltholes, he said.”

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