Eye on Extremism: October 5, 2020

The Wall Street Journal: France’s Emmanuel Macron Targets ‘Islamic Separatism’ With Proposed Law

“French President Emmanuel Macron took aim at radical Islam Friday, announcing plans to outlaw what he called “Islamic separatism” in communities where he said religious laws are taking precedence over civil ones. Mr. Macron said the law, if passed, would empower authorities to shut down associations and schools that he said indoctrinate children, and monitor foreign investment in religious organizations in France. It would also improve public services in poor suburbs, he said. The bill, which will go before Parliament early next year, risks escalating tensions between Muslim groups in France and authorities who enforce the country’s strict secularism. France began introducing bans on wearing Islamic dress such as face coverings in public areas years ago. Since then, the social and economic alienation of French Muslims has only deepened. Groups that practice radical forms of Islam, Mr. Macron said, were trying to create a parallel society governed by different rules and values than those espoused by the Republic. “What we need to take on is Islamic separatism,” Mr. Macron said, during a visit to Les Mureaux, a suburb northwest of Paris.”

Associated Press: Mali Releases 180 Jihadists In Likely Prisoner Exchange

“Malian authorities have released 180 Islamic extremists from a prison in the capital and flown them to the country's north, an official confirmed late Sunday, fueling speculation that a prominent opposition politician held by jihadists could soon be freed after more than six months in captivity. The militants who abducted Soumaila Cisse back in late March were believed to be seeking a prisoner exchange with the Malian government. Some 70 men were released on Saturday and another 110 on Sunday, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. There was no immediate comment late Sunday from Mali's transitional government, which was only recently put in place more than a month after the country's democratically elected president was ousted in a military coup. Cisse, a 70-year-old who has run for Mali's presidency three times, was campaigning ahead of legislative elections not far from Timbuktu at the time of his abduction. His bodyguard was killed in the attack, and the only proof of life has been a handwritten letter delivered back in August.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: Homeland Security To Grant Millions To Groups To Combat White Supremacists And Other Extremists

“The Department of Homeland Security, through a little-known program, intends to distribute millions of dollars to groups focused largely on combating white supremacists and other far-right extremists, even as President Trump has sought to play down their threat. Homeland Security’s new Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention program announced $10 million in grants in recent weeks to several organizations dedicated to stopping white supremacist and far-right violence, and identifying extremists of all kinds. The new initiative is a revamped version of an Obama administration program that focused more on countering homegrown Islamic terrorism. That effort was criticized for being overly broad and ineffective … The Counter Extremism Project was awarded $277,755 to collaborate with another organization, Parallel Networks, to work with inmates at a California correctional facility in San Diego County who adhere both to white supremacist or jihadi ideology—or are involved with prison gangs or groups that espouse extremist ideas. The organizations will develop a curriculum—one for white supremacists, and the other for jihadis—aimed at providing alternative narratives to extremist ideology that will be administered both in person and through email correspondence.”

New York Post: Ex-Nazi Hunter Wants US To Deny Entry To Alleged Terrorism Sponsor For Harvard Post

“A Manhattan lawyer famous for hunting Nazis is urging federal authorities to deny entrance into the US to an alleged terrorism sponsor who is scheduled to teach at Harvard University. In a recent letter to Attorney General Bill Barr, Neal Sher cites “an overwhelming amount of publicly available evidence” to suggest that Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, incited terrorist violence when he helped establish a fund that pays the surviving families of suicide bombers killed during their acts of terror. “At a time when all nations are working to combat the scourge of terrorism, this ‘pay to slay’ policy does nothing but incentivize and encourage terror,” writes Sher, the former head of the federal Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations, in the Sept. 16 letter to Barr. Erekat was recently named a Fellow of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs for the current academic year, and is scheduled to arrive for in-person classes in the spring semester, according to Sher. The prestigious appointment came shortly after the Palestinian authority donated nearly $2 million to Harvard between 2017 and 2019.”

Syria

The National: ISIS Supporters Channel Funds To Free Families In Syria Camps

“ISIS supporters across Europe are using fund-raising apps to smuggle women and children out of detention camps in Syria, it has been reported. Female supporters of the terror group are getting funds from sympathisers in Britain and other European countries to pay for illegal transport. Camp inmates have been using mobile phones to make emotional appeals to a network of supporters about their squalid living conditions. It is understood that hundreds of European women who became ISIS brides and had children are stuck in the camps after their husbands were either killed or jailed. To help them escape, sympathisers in Britain have set up and promoted an international crowdfunding operation that relies on an encrypted messaging app, The Sunday Times reported. The cost to release a woman and three children is between $10,000 and $15,000. “If 10 people send $1,000 each, we will reach the goal,” a woman, purportedly being held in a camp, posted on Facebook. “Or if 20 people give $500 each, we will reach it as well. Free your sisters from the camps. Spread the word.” The post was shared by at least a dozen women across England. With many stripped of their citizenship, the British women are unlikely to return home by legal means.”

Afghanistan

Al Jazeera: Deadly Car Bomb Targets Gov’t Building In Afghanistan’s Nangarhar

“At least 15 people have been killed and more than 40 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack that targeted a government building in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, officials said. There were fears that the death toll could rise after the explosion on Saturday at the entrance of an administrative building that also housed some military facilities in the Ghani Khel district. “The car bomb detonated at the entrance of the district headquarters building. Several armed attackers tried to enter the building after the attack but were killed by security forces,” the governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP news agency on Saturday. “As a result, 13 civilians including one woman and four children were killed. Two members of security forces were also killed,” he said. Forty-two people, including four security forces members, were wounded, Khogyani added. Provincial police spokesman Farid Khan confirmed the details. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Armed groups such as ISIL (ISIS) and the Taliban have carried out attacks against the Afghan government, national security and defence personnel and civilians.”

Radio Free Europe: Is The Taliban Seeking A 'Sunni Afghan Version' Of Iran?

“The Afghan government and the Taliban will need to find compromises on a plethora of contentious issues to reach a peace settlement -- from civil liberties and women’s rights to the country's name and flag. The most crucial issue facing the warring sides is the makeup of Afghanistan’s future political system, which is currently an Islamic republic that is modeled on Western-style democracy. An extremist Islamist group, the Taliban is seeking to transform the Afghan state into a theocracy. The militants see the current system as the product of a U.S. “occupation.” The internationally recognized government in Kabul is seeking to preserve as much of the current constitutional order as possible, including key democratic tenets like women’s rights, free speech, and competitive elections. The Taliban has admitted that it cannot revive its Islamic Emirate, the official name of the brutal regime that ruled from 1996-2001. An international pariah that was targeted by U.S. sanctions and air strikes, the regime committed gross human rights abuses and persecuted women and religious minorities. Fragile and deeply divided, the Afghan government has come to the peace negotiations that started on September 12 in the Gulf state of Qatar in relative weakness.”

Pakistan

Radio Free Europe: Pakistani Army Kills Two Militants In Operation In North Waziristan

“The Pakistani army says it has killed two militants in a shoot-out in the North Waziristan district, a former militant stronghold in the country’s northwest. A third, a militant, was arrested in the military operation in the town of Mir Ali in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on October 4, the army statement said. Describing them as “hardcore terrorists,” the statement said the militants had been involved in multiple attacks on civilians and security forces. This was the second such operation in the area in recent days. Two militants were killed by the army on the Mir Ali outskirts on October 2. The remote tribal area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan has long been a sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups. But the military claims that troops cleared the area in a major offensive that was launched in 2014. Occasional attacks have continued.”

Yemen

Arab News: Yemen Kills Three Al-Qaeda Militants, Captures Two In Raid In Mahra

“Yemeni security forces, backed by the Arab coalition, killed three Al-Qaeda militants and captured two others in a raid on their hideout on Friday in Al-Ghaydah city, the capital of the western province of Mahra, local media and residents said. Large explosions rocked many districts in the city of Al-Ghaydah on Friday morning as security forces raided a building, triggering a gunfire battle. “The explosions began shaking the city at nearly 2.30 a.m. and lasted for nine hours,” a resident who preferred to remain anonymous told Arab News by telephone, adding that security authorities sealed off the area, preventing people from leaving their homes. Army troops and security forces also intensified security measures and checkups at the province’s main entrances. Local media said that when security forces were about to storm the building, an Al-Qaeda militant blew up his explosive-laden belt, killing himself and two others. Two other militants surrendered during the raid, local media reported. Mohammed Ali Yasser, the governor of Mahra, did not answer Arab News calls. Al-Qaeda in Yemen, also known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, has suffered fatal blows since early 2016 when Arab coalition-backed Yemeni forces pushed them out of their main strongholds in southern Yemen after killing a large number of their operatives.”

Middle East

Foreign Policy: The End Of The Age Of Insurgency

“This week marks 20 years since the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The years that followed witnessed bus and café bombings perpetrated by organizations wrapped in the banners of insurgent political Islam, most importantly Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Their tactics—including suicide bombings and the deliberate targeting of civilians—were borrowed from an earlier generation of Islamists, the Shiite jihadis of the Lebanese group Hezbollah. The history of the past 20 years marks the rise of the revolutionary political idea of insurgent political Islam—but also its sudden decline. For a distinct period, bottom-up Islamism was the most vital political ideology in the Middle East, capturing the energy that was once invested in pan-Arab nationalism in an earlier era. Islamism’s ongoing eclipse is no less stark than the similar decline of its predecessor ideology. The Second Intifada was the first eruption of political Islam in its insurgent form against a Western democracy (Sunni Islamism had already risen against and been defeated by the Syrian and Algerian regimes in the 1980s and ‘90s, respectively.) It felt unfamiliar at first, but would quickly become a harbinger. One year later, as Israel was still in the middle of its assault of suicide bombings, al Qaeda destroyed the twin towers in New York.”

Africa

Al Jazeera: Ethiopia: Suspects In Killing Of Musician Charged With Terrorism

“Ethiopia on Friday filed terrorism charges against four suspects in connection with the killing of a popular political singer whose death ignited days of deadly protests, a spokesman for the attorney general told the Reuters news agency. The assassination in June of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a musician revered by the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, sparked days of violence in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region in which more than 178 people were killed. More than 9,000 individuals including politicians, activists and journalists were arrested in the aftermath of the biggest protests in recent years. Last week, 2,000 people were charged in connection with the violence. Among them was prominent media mogul and Oromo opposition politician Jawar Mohammed, charged with violating anti-terrorism, telecom fraud and firearms laws. State-run media the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said on Friday the individuals charged with terrorism were working with other suspects still at large to assassinate prominent individuals, to create chaos and remove the government.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Rugby 'Nazi' Teenager Guilty Of Right-Wing Terror Offences

“A teenager told police he was “nine to 10” on a scale of terror, with “full on Nazi Hitler” being a 10. The 17-year-old, from Rugby, Warwickshire, has been found guilty of preparing for acts of neo-Nazi terrorism. Prosecutor Matthew Brook said evidence showed the teenager wanted to create a firearm capable of “smashing heads” after joining a far-right group. The teenager said he had not intended any act of terrorism. Judge Paul Farrer QC remanded the teenager in custody until a sentencing hearing on 6 November. He had previously pleaded guilty to nine charges in relation to possessing documents likely to be useful to a terrorist. Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court deliberated for more than 15 hours over four days before unanimously convicting the teenager, who was 16 at the time of the offences, of preparing for terrorist acts between April and September last year. At the start of what was a re-trial, Mr Brook said the boy had praised the terrorist who carried out a mass shooting last year in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people at two mosques.”

BBC News: Man Found With 'Make A Bomb In Your Mother's Kitchen' Instructions

“A man was found with al-Qaeda magazines on his phone, including an article about how to make a bomb in your mother's kitchen, a court heard. Another article demonstrated how to create a machine with rolling blades to mow down the enemies of Allah, Birmingham Crown Court was told. Salim Youssoufi faces four counts of intentionally downloading the documents. Mr Youssoufi, of Coventry Road, Birmingham, denies the charges. Prosecutor Matthew Brook said the Italian national, 26, had a copy of a summer 2010 edition of al-Qaida's “Inspire” periodical, which had a front cover article entitled “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mum”. It is also claimed Mr Youssoufi had downloaded the autumn 2010 edition featuring a “virtual guide to becoming a terrorist”, written by former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He is also said to have had other editions with articles about “destroying buildings”, and one edition released to mark the bombing of a UPS cargo plane in September 2010. Mr Youssoufi was arrested on 13 December and his mobile phone seized, Mr Brook said. “Contained on that telephone were four documents - electronic files - which contained terrorist information.” An Islamic State “propaganda video” showing an execution was also found on the defendant's phone, he said with an edited version played to jurors.”

The Independent: Prisoner Accused Of Launching Terror Attack Inside Jail Claims He Translated Isis Propaganda ‘To Improve French’

“A prisoner accused of launching a terror attack inside jail has told a court he translated Isis propaganda videos to practice his French. Brusthom Ziamani claimed it was a coincidence he was carrying the last speech of a suicide bomber in his pocket while attacking a prison officer at HMP Whitemoor. The 25-year-old Muslim convert admitted giving the transcript to his co-defendant, Baz Hockton, and said it was from one of 64 videos from an illicit SD card. Mr Ziamani said he put the paper in his pocket after it was returned and had “forgotten about it” when the pair attacked a prison officer while shouting “Allahu akbar” and wearing fake suicide vests. “It was a speech from a French Isis jihadi that I translated into English,” he told the Old Bailey on Friday “At the same time I was taking notes I improved my French with it as well.” Asked by prosecutor Annabel Darlow QC why he would write out the last words of Isis suicide bombers, Mr Ziamani replied: “I’m not saying I was agreeing with it, I was just translating it. “He was speaking eloquent French as well, it’s very rare that I hear French stuff in this country on TV.” The court heard that the defendant spoke French as his first language as a child, because his parents had moved to Britain from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

France

Associated Press: 8 Charged In French Cryptocurrency Scheme To Finance Jihadis

“France's anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said Saturday that eight people have been charged for their alleged involvement in a complex scheme financing Islamic extremists in Syria through the use of cryptocurrencies. Two suspects have been handed preliminary charges of financing terrorism and terrorist conspiracy in a judicial investigation opened Saturday. The same preliminary charges have been given to another suspect in a related case. Five other people who have been charged with financing terrorism will be sent to trial by the end of the year, the statement said. The prosecutor's office said French police arrested a total of 30 people around the country in the case. Most were released without charges. Earlier this week, a statement from the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said search warrants are out for the two main figures in the scheme, French jihadis who have likely been in northwestern Syria since 2013 and are suspected of creating “the architecture of this network of terrorism financing.” The scheme was initially uncovered by a team within the French Economy Ministry that traces fiscal fraud, money laundering and terror financing. This week's police operation targeted a financing network that has been active since 2019.”

Germany

The New York Times: Germany’s Far Right Reunified, Too, Making It Much Stronger

“They called him the “Führer of Berlin.” Ingo Hasselbach had been a clandestine neo-Nazi in communist East Berlin, but the fall of the Berlin Wall brought him out of the shadows. He connected with western extremists in the unified city, organized far-right workshops, fought street battles with leftists and celebrated Hitler’s birthday. He dreamed of a far-right party in the parliament of a reunified Germany. Today, the far-right party Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials, AfD, is the main opposition in Parliament. Its leaders march side by side with far-right extremists in street protests. And its power base is the former communist East. “Reunification was a huge boost for the far right,” said Mr. Hasselbach, who left the neo-Nazi scene years ago and now helps others to do the same. “The neo-Nazis were the first ones to be reunified. We laid the foundation for a party like the AfD. There are things we used to say that have become mainstream today.” As it marks the 30th anniversary of reunification on Saturday, Germany can rightly celebrate being an economic powerhouse and thriving liberal democracy. But reunification has another, rarely mentioned legacy — of unifying, empowering and bringing into the open a far-right movement that has evolved into a disruptive political force and a terrorist threat, not least inside key state institutions like the military and police.”

The New York Times: Attack At German Synagogue During Sukkot Raises Anti-Semitism Fears

“A man wearing army fatigues and wielding a shovel attacked and badly injured a Jewish student coming out of a synagogue in Hamburg on Sunday, less than a year after an assault on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle turned deadly. Security guards and police officers deployed to the Hamburg synagogue, where people were marking the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, swiftly subdued and arrested a 29-year-old man, whose name the authorities did not disclose. The suspect was carrying a piece of paper with a swastika in his pocket, the German news agency DPA reported. The 26-year-old victim, who was wearing a kipa, or skullcap, when he was attacked, suffered grave head wounds and was taken to a hospital, the police said. “This is not a one-off case, this is vile anti-Semitism and we all have to stand against it,” the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, wrote on Twitter. Germany has seen the number of anti-Semitic crimes nearly double in the past three years. Last year alone, the government recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, culminating in the attack on the synagogue in Halle on Oct. 9. In that attack, a gunman tried and failed to force his way in during services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and then killed two people elsewhere.”

Associated Press: Wife Of German Rapper Convicted Of Terrorism Charges

“The widow of a German-born rapper who joined the Islamic State extremist group in Syria and was killed in an airstrike was herself convicted Friday of membership in a terrorist organization. The Hamburg state court sentenced Omaima A., 36, to three years in prison, the dpa news agency reported. The Hamburg-born woman of Tunisian heritage, whose last name wasn't provided in line with German privacy laws, was also convicted of failing to properly care for her children, weapons violations and aiding in the enslavement of a Yazidi girl. The woman followed her first husband to Syria in 2015 and lived in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa with their three children, according to the court. After her husband was killed in 2015, she married his friend, German rapper Denis Cuspert, who went by the stage name Deso Dogg before giving up the profession and joining IS. Cuspert, who toured in the U.S. in 2006, lent his voice to record anthems for the militants to use in recruiting videos they circulated online. The U.S. government designated him a “global terrorist.” The Pentagon initially said in 2015 that Cuspert was killed in an airstrike, but withdrew the claim the following year. In 2018, Islamic State announced the Cuspert had been killed in an airstrike in Syria.”

Europe

Associated Press: Swiss Arrest 4 Suspected Of Ties To Islamic State, Al-Qaida

“Authorities in Switzerland say they have arrested four people on suspicion of having ties to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. The federal prosecutor's office said police searched three houses in the western canton (state) of Fribourg early Friday as part of two criminal investigations into alleged extremist activity. The suspects are alleged to have violated Swiss law banning involvement with al-Qaida, IS and related organizations. Prosecutors said the four people detained are also suspected of having “supported or participated in a criminal organization.” They identified the four suspects only as a 28-year-old Kosovar woman, a 29-year-old Macedonian, a 26-year-old Kosovar man and a 34-year-old Swiss-Kosovar dual national. “As they had been in contact with each other, the house searches and arrests were all carried out at the same time,” prosecutors said. Further information, including which of the suspects had ties to which group, wasn't immediately available.”

Canada

Al Jazeera: Canada: Murder Raises Fresh Concerns About Far-Right Violence

“Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was sitting outside a mosque in Toronto’s west end last month when a man approached him and stabbed him in the neck with a knife. The brazen killing, which police later accused 34-year-old Guilherme (William) von Neutegem of carrying out, sent shockwaves across Canada’s largest city and stirred fears among Muslim and other minority groups experiencing an uptick in racism. Weeks later, after von Neutegem’s ties to a white supremacist ideology were reported, experts say Zafis’ murder is evidence of a dramatic rise in the number of right-wing hardline groups in Canada and raises questions as to how well Canadian authorities are addressing far-right violence. “We have over 300 white supremacist groups operating in Canada,” said Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), an advocacy group. “That’s why, when we see things like what happened to our brother Mohamed Zafis, with his killing being at the hands of a man who has connections to neo-Nazi white supremacy, we are shocked but we are not surprised,” Farooq told Al Jazeera.”

The Guardian: Did The 'Caliphate Executioner' Lie About His Past As An Isis Killer?

“For months, unbeknown to his classmates and neighbours, a self-professed executioner was living freely in Canada’s largest city. But in 2018, his exploits were made public on a blockbuster podcast produced by the New York Times, in which the man who called himself Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi confessed to a string of grisly crimes as a member of the Islamic State’s religious police. The revelations prompted fear and outrage across Canada. Political rivals accused the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, of letting a “bloodthirsty” terrorist loose on the streets of Toronto. Recently, however, the story took an unexpected turn. When the Royal Canadian Mounted police finally laid charges last week against 25-year-old Shehroze Chaudhry – the man behind Abu Huzaifa – they weren’t for any crimes in Syria. Instead, he was charged under Canada’s hoax laws: police argued that his identity as a ruthless killer was a lie. The son of Pakistani immigrants, Chaudhry spent much of his youth in the city of Burlington in Ontario. After high school he travelled to Lahore for university. In 2014, at 17, Chaudhry is believed to have traveled on his Pakistani passport to Syria.”