Eye on Extremism: October 3

Huff Post: White Nationalist Coast Guard Lieutenant Likely To Plead Guilty In Domestic Terror Case 

“Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant who federal prosecutors called a “domestic terrorist” and accused of stockpiling weapons as part of a plot to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” will likely plead guilty in federal court in Maryland on Thursday. The court docket in Hasson’s case indicated that a rearraignment was scheduled for noon on Thursday. The news was first reported by The Washington Post, which quoted a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland stating that rearraignment “in general” indicates that a defendant is changing their plea. Hasson had pleaded not guilty when he was first arraigned on the counts he is facing, so it now appears he plans to plead guilty when he appears in court. The prosecution of Hasson ― who allegedly amassed an arsenal as he plotted to murder prominent Democrats and reporters ― demonstrated some of the issues federal officials run into in “challenging” domestic terrorism cases. Domestic terrorists have killed more Americans than terrorists associated with designated foreign terrorist organizations in recent years, but federal officials have much broader capabilities to target individuals who support foreign terrorist organizations.”

Fox News: Afghanistan Security Adviser Says Hard-Line Taliban Members Defecting To ISIS, Merging With Al Qaeda

“More than 18 years after U.S. forces entered Afghanistan and usurped the Taliban government from power, the country remains a patchwork of progress, pain, and bloodletting. While the territorial dominance and perpetual attacks orchestrated by the Taliban remains at the forefront of the fragile nation’s woes, the presence of other insurgent groups and blatant threats to U.S. interests also lurk in the periphery.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iran Opens a Second Front Along Israel’s Border

“Israel is fighting off Iranian expansion across the Middle East, but danger for the Jewish state lurks near its own borders. Painstaking work by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their loyal proxies has succeeded in laying the groundwork for a second Iranian front with Israel in the Golan Heights. The first front is to Israel’s north in South Lebanon. The Golan, which Israel won from Syria in 1967, lies further east. Though Israel rules the skies, the Syrian land adjoining Israel’s border appears increasingly to belong to Iran. Reports from both Israelis and Syrian opposition groups have revealed glimpses of the methods the Iranians and their allies have employed to build a military infrastructure on the Syrian side of the Golan.”

Reuters: Malian Army Families Demand Answers After Deadly Raids Against Soldiers

“Hundreds of wives and children of Malian soldiers demonstrated on Wednesday in the capital Bamako, demanding information from the government after at least 25 soldiers were killed and 60 went missing in attacks by suspected jihadists. The raids on Monday on two army camps in central Mali were among the deadliest this year against soldiers struggling to repel increasingly brazen attacks by militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.”

The New York Times: Facebook Encryption Eyed in Fight Against Online Child Sex Abuse

“The New York Times reported on Saturday that Facebook Messenger, which is not encrypted, accounted for nearly two-thirds of reports last year of online child sexual abuse imagery. On Wednesday, the Justice Department said that Facebook as a whole was responsible for 90 percent of the reports. Law enforcement agencies say encryption is a major obstacle in child sex abuse, terrorism and other investigations. “There are really good reasons to have end-to-end encryption, but we have to acknowledge it comes with trade-offs,” said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped develop technology in 2009 for detecting online child abuse imagery. He suggested scanning for abuse content by making a fingerprint of an image before the message was encrypted, and then comparing the fingerprint with a database of known illegal material. “I don’t think there’s a technical barrier here,” Dr. Farid said. “They’re doing this because they want to avoid liability.”

Vice: New Video May Signal Dangerous Change For Neo-Nazi Terror Cell

“The video shows James Mason, the author of influential works that advocate for lone-wolf violence by white supremacists, joined by 12 masked men who are all members of Atomwaffen Division (AWD). This video is notably less violent than previous Atomwaffen videos. Instead it showcases what Joshua Fisher-Birch, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, described as a change in the group's approach to propaganda. Fisher-Birch said the new video shows the group’s "intention to enter a new violent phase" by acting before law enforcement acts. "Escalating conditions of violence and disorder are the exact type of situation that a group that follows Mason’s book Siege hope for, because it can lead to the collapse of government institutions and control," said Fisher-Birch.”

Syria

Financial Times: The Men Making A Fortune From Syria’s War

“This summer, a pair of Syrian brothers journeyed across Europe. Their story did not begin with a rubber dinghy afloat on the Aegean and a scramble for safety on to a Greek island: a well-worn route for many Syrian refugees fleeing a conflict that has lasted eight years and taken an estimated half a million lives. Instead, these brothers landed in Cannes; their transportation, a plane, then a pair of Ferraris; their extravagances documented on social media and culminating on the party island of Mykonos.”

Reuters: Russia Watching Closely After Turkish Move On Syria Safety Zone: Kremlin

“The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Moscow was watching closely after Turkey said it would act alone on its plans to form a “safe zone” in the northeast of Syria, which is a close ally of Russia. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey had no choice but to act alone as too little progress had been made with the United States on forming a “safe zone”, his most direct indication of a cross-border offensive.”

The Washington Times: In Syrian Endgame, U.S. Officials See Challenge From ISIS, Bashar Assad

“Defeating the Islamic State inside Syria is going to require more pressure from American forces and allies, even as the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad continues to use chemical weapons on civilians, senior Trump administration officials warned Wednesday. “In order to [achieve] a political solution to the Syrian conflict, … the Syrian government’s behavior towards people and for the region is going to have to change,” said Joel Rayburn, the State Department’s special envoy to Syria, at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “That’s the path out of the conflict,” he continued. “That will require serious pressure from the United States and from the rest of the international community.” The persistence of the Islamic State — despite the loss of its “caliphate” to U.S. and allied forces last year — and the increasing aggression of the Assad regime pose a dilemma for President Trump, who has made clear his desire to end the U.S. military mission in the country. Mr. Rayburn said it was crucial to prevent a resurgence of the terrorist group and “rehabilitate” the detainees who were relocated to refugee camps, where Islamic State operatives have been reportedly been actively recruiting both in person and online since at least mid-July.”

The National Interest: Can ISIS Make A Comeback?

“U.S. forces in northern Iraq, working with partners on the ground, are confident that the remnants of the Islamic State can be confronted, two years after ISIS lost the last pockets of land it held. It has been five years since Washington committed forces to Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. Today, operating with a relatively small footprint across central and northern Iraq, the operation is continuing but there are questions on the ground about what comes next and whether an ISIS resurgence is in the works. Lt. Col. Jace Neuenschwander, a battalion commander in Task Force Nineveh which is part of the U.S.-led coalition effort, says that ISIS has tried to adapt to finding new places to exploit gaps in security in Iraq to stay alive. Located near Mosul, Neuenschwander and several hundred personnel are part of the tip of the spear in terms of identifying an ISIS resurgence. “[ISIS have] had a hard time staying alive,” he says. ISIS keeps a low profile and is losing ground, safe havens and smuggling routes. His sector, which stretches around the city of Mosul towards the Syrian border is “not as active as it once was” and the Iraqi Security Forces are doing a good job.”

Iran

The National: The Only Way To Address Hezbollah Is Through Iran – Not By Targeting Lebanon

“These are difficult times politically and economically for Lebanon. More worryingly, the US appears to have abandoned prioritising stability in its approach to the country. The mood in Washington is shifting decisively towards raising the pressure, whatever the consequences. Economically, Lebanon’s financial situation is deteriorating, with the government and central bank barely managing to keep up a facade of stability. The Lebanese pound has long been pegged to the US dollar at a rate of $1 to LBP1,500 (about Dh3.65). However, in recent months the central bank has squeezed the purchase of dollars, to the extent that most commercial banks will only allow it in limited amounts, forcing those who need dollars to buy them from money-changers, who charge LBP1,600 (Dh3.9) to the dollar. Officially, the fixed rate of LBP1,500 to the dollar still applies officially and the central bank will change at that rate for certain merchants in need of bigger amounts to pay for imported necessities. However, for the vast majority of Lebanese citizens who have to operate through money-changers, the value of the pound has effectively depreciated, exacerbated by the fact that many sellers are being charged in dollars by importers and driving up prices.”

Washington Examiner: Inside Iran's Escalating Threat To Americans

“While domestic attention this week is focused on the Ukraine impeachment saga, our foreign policy attention is on China and North Korea. But we would do well to keep a close eye on Iran as well. As U.S.-Iran tensions escalate and Iranian attacks, such as the recent strikes against Saudi oil facilities, go largely unpunished, there is a growing risk that Iranian hardliners will attack U.S. interests. My specific concern is that Iran will go beyond shooting down American drones, and instead endanger American lives. There are two issues here.”

Iraq

Reuters: Iraq Declares Curfews As Gunfights Rage And Protests Spread Nationwide

“Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Wednesday declared a curfew in Baghdad until further notice after at least seven people were killed and more than 400 were injured during two days of nationwide anti-government protests. Curfews were imposed earlier in three southern cities while elite counter-terrorism troops opened fire on protesters trying to storm Baghdad airport and deployed to the southern city of Nassiriya after gunfights broke out between protesters and security forces, police sources said. “All vehicles and individuals are totally forbidden to move in Baghdad as of 5 am today, Thursday, and until further notice,” Abdul Mahdi said in a written statement. Travelers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity, and water departments, and religious pilgrims are exempt from the curfew, the statement said. It was up to provincial governors to decide whether to declare curfews elsewhere. Curfews were imposed in Nassiriya, Amara and Hilla as protests that began on Tuesday over unemployment, corruption and poor public services escalated. Demands on Wednesday included the “fall of the regime” and protesters set government and political party buildings ablaze in two other southern provinces.”

Iraqi News: Military Intelligence Kill IS Leader, Four Aides In Northern Iraq

“Iraqi military intelligence announced on Wednesday that a notorious leader of the Islamic State militant group and four of his aides were killed during a military operation in Salahuddin province, north of Iraq. “Troops of the Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate, in cooperation with the 88th brigade of the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Iraqi Air Force, carried out a military operation in Hamrin Mountains in Salahuddin, leaving an IS leader and four of his aides dead,” Alghad Press quoted the directorate as saying in a press statement. The IS leader was identified as Talib Garw al Azzawy, the directorate said. The troops also destroyed nine terrorist hotbeds in the operation, added the statement. Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014. A government campaign, backed by a U.S.-led international coalition and paramilitary forces, was launched in 2016 to retake IS-held regions, managing to retake all havens, most notably the city of Mosul, the group’s previously proclaimed capital.”

The Washington Times: ISIS Fighters Find Refuge, Rebuild Networks In Northern Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga Warn

“The black-clad figures are barely visible through binoculars from atop this mountaintop lookout in northern Iraq. One crouches near stagnant water at the end of a dry riverbed. His companion stands over him and then walks out of view beneath an escarpment, moving without any apparent fear of exposure. From their position on top of the mountain, the Kurdish peshmerga, the renowned armed forces of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, say Islamic State fighters are living in caves in the no man’s land between Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on the plains below. This area of northern Iraq includes disputed territories of the central government in Baghdad and the regional authorities in Irbil. It is in ungoverned spaces like this where Kurdish officials say ISIS is rebuilding its networks and running guns between clusters of caves to desert holdouts. The development is troubling after the grinding struggle and sacrifice involved in rolling back the Islamic State group and its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria over the past three years. President Trump has said the caliphate, which once covered a broad swath of territory and such major cities as Mosul and Fallujah, has been “decimated,” but security analysts say the Islamic State has been scattered but not defeated and still claims the allegiance of thousands of fighters.”

Turkey

Al Monitor: Islamic State's Money Transfer Network Busted In Turkey

“Turkey’s Middle Eastern borders have always been porous and prone to smuggling and clandestine crossings. After the Syrian turmoil broke out in 2011, long-standing smuggling routes became supply channels for armed rebels, including the Islamic State (IS). Having lost control on the ground, IS may be unable to use the smuggling routes as before, but its cross-border dealings are far from over. IS members, it turns out, have resorted to traditional methods of money transfer via exchange offices and jewelry companies they have set up in Syria and Turkey, called al-Haram, al-Hebo, al-Khalidi and Saksouk. On Sept. 19, the Turkish police detained 22 suspects accused of running transnational money-transfer networks for IS in simultaneous raids on 37 locations in eight provinces across the country. The police operation, which focused on al-Haram in particular, followed the US Treasury’s Sept. 10 announcement of counterterrorism sanctions on al-Haram, al-Khalidi, al-Hebo, Saksouk and individuals associated with those entities. Al-Haram was set up as a company dealing in foreign exchange, trade and transport.”

Afghanistan

Fox News: Afghanistan Security Adviser Says Hard-Line Taliban Members Defecting To ISIS, Merging With Al Qaeda

“More than 18 years after U.S. forces entered Afghanistan and usurped the Taliban government from power, the country remains a patchwork of progress, pain, and bloodletting. While the territorial dominance and perpetual attacks orchestrated by the Taliban remains at the forefront of the fragile nation’s woes, the presence of other insurgent groups and blatant threats to U.S. interests also lurk in the periphery. “Many Taliban commanders, hardliners that did not want to join the peace process. We had intelligence that showed they are going to join ISIS. That threat may increase over a period of time,” Afghan National Security Adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, told Fox News on Tuesday. “For the time being, ISIS is not a strategic threat to us. We have been able to get rid of them in places they have taken hold. But if the peace process goes wrong and doesn’t really integrate all of the Taliban, the hardliners may join ISIS, which is when it will become a strategic threat to us and our international partners.” Last month, President Trump abruptly canceled the year-long Doha talks after the death of an American soldier in a Taliban-executed bombing, throwing the future of the talks into disarray.”

The New York Times: To Disrupt Elections, Taliban Turn To An Old Tactic: Destroying Cell Towers 

“There are several reasons Afghan officials are struggling to determine how people voted in the presidential election last week — possible fraud, misplaced biometric data and the country’s vast geography. But there is one factor that has complicated the effort more than any other: the Taliban’s tactic of destroying cellphone towers. Afghanistan’s growing cellular network has long been considered a benchmark for the country’s modernization and growth. But the destruction of the towers prevented voting officials from communicating with election workers in the country, while instigating fear and intimidation in the affected areas. The Taliban have sought support in the rural hamlets and towns that harbor militants, even as they fight the government in Kabul. The cellphone tower strategy augments the group’s more conventional, and deadly, forms of insurgency. There were scores of attacks on election targets on Saturday that killed police officers and wounded civilians. While officials praised the Afghan security forces for their performance in defending against widespread smaller attacks, the Taliban still managed to create a cloud over the elections.”

Xinhua: 5 IS Militants Killed In Drone Strikes In E. Afghanistan

“At least five Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed in NATO-led coalition drone strikes in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, the provincial government said Wednesday. “The coalition pilotless planes fired missiles on two militants' compounds in Wazir Tangai locality of Khogyani district on Tuesday, killing five IS militants,” the government said in a statement. Some weapons and ammunition belonging to militants were also destroyed, according to the statement. The IS militant group has not made a comment on the report yet.”

Pakistan

Voice Of America: US, Taliban Peace Negotiators Arrive In Pakistan

“U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political negotiators have arrived in neighboring Pakistan amid a renewed diplomatic push to resurrect peace talks between Washington and the insurgent group. The Taliban delegation arrived in Islamabad early Wednesday hours after the Khalilzad-led team landed in the Pakistani capital. Both the teams will stay in the country for several days. While both sides insisted they are visiting Pakistan for official meetings with representatives of the host government,  Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA “I don’t rule out” direct talks between the 11-member insurgent team and the U.S. delegation.  He said the Taliban delegation will stay in Islamabad until October 6. The widely unexpected visits come several weeks after President Donald Trump abruptly called off the yearlong U.S.-Taliban talks just when the two adversaries had come close to signing a peace agreement that could have ended the 18-year-old Afghan war, America’s longest overseas military intervention. A U.S. embassy spokesperson told VOA Khalilzad, who led the U.S. team in the peace talks with the Taliban, is in Islamabad “this week participating in consultations” with Pakistani counterparts.”

Yemen

Gulf News: Al Houthis Changing Demography Of Yemeni Capital

“Yemen’s Iran-aligned Al Houthi extremists are seeking to carry out a demographic change in the capital Sana’a that has been under their control for about five years, a Yemeni newspaper has disclosed. The militants’ plan is based on bringing loyalists from the provinces of Hajjah in north-western Yemen, Saada in the far north, and Amran in the centre and re-settling them in Sana’a, independent online newspaper Aden Al Ghad said, citing local sources.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Yemen: Houthis Continue To Blackmail Sanaa's Merchants

“The Houthi militias are once again targeting merchants and small shopkeepers in Sanaa by blackmailing and threatening them as well as illegally imposing huge sums of money on them under different pretexts. Traders and shopkeepers in the capital told Asharq Al-Awsat that the coup militias raided earlier this week a number of barbershops, bakeries, and laundries and forced them to pay 20 percent of their income, claiming it was for “Khoms”. Traders confirmed that the armed militias stopped at their shops and threatened them in a humiliating manner in case they do not pay the required amount. They said Houthis even raided women’s workplaces like hairdressers. The merchants and shopkeepers reiterated their rejection of these continuing levies, demanding to end the militias’ injustice. They said, in separate interviews with Asharq Al-Awsat, that the illegal money deduction imposed by the militias are described as Khoms, war effort, taxes, or Zakat. Also, the coup militias issued a new circular preventing merchants in Sanaa from using new editions of monetary categories issued by the Central Bank in Aden. Another circular required merchants to pay royalties and financial levies under the pretext of “food convoys to support the militia on fronts.”

Middle East

The Hunt: Why Has AQAP Been So Silent?

“CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler joins host J.J. Green to discuss the status of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered to be one of world's most innovative and dangerous terror groups. Schindler notes that AQAP is just as big a threat as it’s ever been.”

The Jerusalem Post: 13 Arrested Overnight In West Bank For Terror-Related Activities

“During the night, 13 wanted suspects were arrested by IDF soldiers, Border Police and Israeli police on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity, civil terror and violent order violations against civilians and the security forces. Reports also stated that one person arrested in the Palestinian city of Ramallah early on Thursday morning was a suspect connected to the murder of Rina Shnerb near the settlement of Dolev. The suspects were taken away for questioning. IDF soldiers also carried out operations through the night and seized a cache of find illegal weapons in the city of Nablus.”

Somalia

Reuters: Somali Commandos, U.S. Air Strike Repel Islamist Insurgent Attack

“Cameras picked up the two white trucks carrying bombs and fighters through the bush towards Somalia’s most secure military base, home to U.S. special forces, foreign trainers and the Somali special forces they mentor. The alarm was raised. By the time the al Shabaab insurgents were a few hundred yards from the perimeter of Baledogle military airfield on Monday, Danaab - Somalia’s elite commandos - were waiting, their trainers beside them. One truck bomb detonated far from the perimeter fence. Eight attackers in uniforms jumped from the other, but Danaab soldiers gunned them down almost immediately, said a Somali security official. Then the second truck was hit by a U.S. air strike. The explosion was captured on video footage provided to Reuters by two security experts. Al Shabaab, an Islamist militant group, has launched a string of complex attacks in the past two months on Somali security forces, African Union peacekeepers and - on Monday - European Union and U.S. forces. But local and international security officials dismissed Monday’s attack on Baledogle - which followed a separate bomb attack on an Italian military convoy - as a high-profile stunt rather than a serious assault.”

Africa

The Guardian: 'We Cry And Cry': Pain Endures For Mothers Of Missing Chibok Schoolgirls

“Last week, Yana Galang left her small farm in Borno state, Nigeria, in the care of seven of her eight children and travelled by bus and train for the first time to the capital, Lagos. From there, she became the first member of her family ever to board a plane, and came to New York. The mother of one of the 112 Nigerian schoolgirls of Chibok still missing after being abducted by Boko Haram in 2014 came to the city during the UN general assembly, on a mission to remind the world that – five years on – their children still have not been brought home. Galang feels the world had forgotten about the kidnapped girls.”

Europe

El País: In Spain, Summer Surveillance Triggers Alerts For Returning Jihadists

“Between mid-July and mid-September, Spanish police monitoring travel across the Strait of Gibraltar detected 46 individuals suspected of being returning jihadists, according to a European Commission report. Part of a border control effort dubbed Operation Minerva, the 46 anti-jihadist alerts did not result in any arrests as there were no existing warrants against the suspects. As part of Operation Minerva, officers from the National Police and Civil Guard were deployed at Spain’s busy seaports of Algeciras, Tarifa and Ceuta, a Spanish exclave city located on the northern coast of Africa. Law enforcement experts from 16 other EU states and observers from the United States were also present. The European Commission report shows that for the nearly two months that Operation Minerva was in place, and during which time 1.7 million people returned to Europe in 372,000 vehicles, authorities found 220 undocumented migrants, recovered 21 stolen vehicles, confiscated 1,629 kilograms of drugs as well as weapons, and made over 480 arrests. The report underscores that the operation also served to open new lines of investigation into terrorist activities, after officers detected 46 individuals suspected of being returning jihadists, known by the police as foreign terrorist fighters.”

Southeast Asia

Fair Observer: Sri Lanka Stands Up To Extremism

“On July 30, a remarkable event took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, when representatives of multiple religions — Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism — came together to express solidarity with the victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks that shook the island nation in April. Three churches celebrating Easter Sunday mass, as well as three luxury hotels filled mostly with foreign tourists, were targeted. The National Tawheed Jamaat, in concert with the so-called Islamic State (IS), orchestrated eight attacks across the capital and cities around the island. At least 259 people were killed and scores more injured. In some cases, entire families perished. With no history of jihadist violence, the attacks came as a shock. Since January 2017, there were reports from multiple Muslim community members about the National Tawheed Jamaat becoming increasingly sympathetic with Islamic State ideology and its methods. Furthermore, the US and India warned about impending attacks weeks in advance. Despite these warnings, the Sri Lankan government did not arrest individuals who joined IS (which later claimed responsibility for the attacks), because at the time joining foreign terrorist groups was not a criminal offense.”

Technology

The New York Times: E.U.’s Top Court Rules Against Facebook in Global Takedown Case

“Europe’s top court said on Thursday that an individual country can order Facebook to take down posts, photographs and videos and restrict global access to that material, in a ruling that has implications for how countries can expand content bans beyond their borders.”