Eye on Extremism: October 6, 2020

NBC News: ISIS Terrorists Known As The 'Beatles' Likely To Be Brought To U.S. In Coming Days

“Two of the British Islamic State terrorists dubbed the "Beatles," accused of involvement in the murders of U.S. hostages in Syria, are likely to be brought to the United States in mid-October, according to two government officials. The men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, who are being held in U.S. military custody in Iraq, are accused of taking part in the kidnappings of international hostages, including U.S. aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Kotey and Elsheikh admitted their involvement in the captivity of Mueller for the first time in an interview obtained exclusively by NBC News, which aired in July. Mueller was tortured and sexually abused before her death in 2015. In the interview, the men also admitted for the first time to having beaten Foley, who was beheaded on camera by the leader of the so-called Beatles, Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed by Hellfire missiles fired from a CIA drone in 2015.”

BBC News: Manchester Arena Inquiry: Terror Threat 'Not Adequately Assessed'

“Four risk assessments carried out prior to Manchester Arena attack “failed to adequately assess” the terror threat at the venue, an inquiry has heard. Security expert Colonel Richard Latham said the risk of a suicide bombing at a venue like the Manchester Arena should have been “crystal clear”. The terror threat level at the time of the 2017 bombing was classed as severe. The public inquiry, scheduled to last into next spring, is looking at events before, during and after the attack. Twenty two people were killed and many more injured when Salman Abedi detonated an explosive as fans left the Ariana Grande concert. What is the Manchester Arena inquiry? The inquiry, which is taking place at Manchester Magistrates' Court, heard how Mr Latham along with Dr David BaMaung have jointly analysed more than 1,000 documents relating to the Manchester Arena attack. This has accumulated in three reports, which review the adequacy and effectiveness of security at the arena, what lessons ought to be learned and what changes need to be made.”

United States

CBS News: China, Russia And White Supremacy Top DHS' First Public Threat Assessment

“The Department of Homeland Security has concluded its first-ever “Homeland Threat Assessment,” a comprehensive report designed to educate the public on the largest threats facing the country. The report, first obtained by CBS News, highlights major threats posed by China and Russia and identifies white supremacists as posing the “most persistent and lethal threat” of all domestic violent extremist groups. In an exclusive interview, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said the report “touches on all the major threat streams that I look at on a daily basis.” In September, a senior DHS official alleged in a whistleblower complaint that Wolf told him to withhold an intelligence notification on Russian activities because it “made the president look bad,” and claimed senior Trump administration officials urged analysts to downplay the threat of violent white supremacy. But Wolf told CBS News on Monday that the Homeland Threat Assessment was free from political influence. “I am obviously aware of those complaints,” he said. “I think if you look at the document, Russia is mentioned somewhere in the document between 30 and 40 different times, so if we were trying to downplay Russia, we didn't do a very good job, I would say.”

Syria

The Washington Post: Kurdish-Led Zone Vows To Release Syrians From Detention Camp For ISIS Families

“Authorities in northeastern Syria said Monday that they were preparing to release thousands of Syrian families from a detention camp holding civilians displaced during the final battle to defeat the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. Conditions inside al-Hol displacement camp, a sprawl of tents perched in the desert west of Hasakah city, have alarmed humanitarian groups and in some cases aided the radicalization of women and children who spent years under Islamic State rule. Health-care services for the roughly 65,000 camp residents are almost nonexistent, and children who began their education inside the group’s caliphate often have little to no access to schooling. Sewage leaks into tents, and wild dogs prowl the perimeter for food. “A decision will be issued to empty the Syrians from the camp completely,” said Ilham Ahmed, president of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Council’s Executive Committee, which is responsible for governing the area. She made the announcement in a video shared on the body’s Twitter page. “Those who remain in the camp will not be the responsibility of the Self-Administration,” Ahmed said, referring to an autonomous region in northeastern Syria. It was not clear what this would mean in practice.”

Iran

Arab News: Foreign Terror Cells The Backbone Of Iran’s IRGC

“Since 1979, Iran has set up many terrorist cells in foreign nations and trained and armed militants abroad in order to pursue its hegemonic ambitions, export its revolutionary ideals, carry out assassinations, and undermine other countries’ national interests and scuttle their foreign policy objectives. After the Iran-Iraq War, the ruling clergy became very interested in creating terror cells in other countries because they give the regime several advantages, including being less costly in comparison to launching direct attacks against other countries. These cells also give the regime the advantage of anonymity, making it very difficult for other governments to directly connect Tehran to terrorist attacks and hold the Iranian leaders accountable. Over the last four decades, the regime has succeeded in building a worldwide network of terror cells. Only last month, Saudi Arabia broke up an Iranian-trained cell, arresting 10 people and seizing weapons and explosives, including “electrical components used in the making of explosives such as capacitors, transformers and resistors, gunpowder, chemicals, Kalashnikov rifles, guns, sniper rifle, live ammunition, machine guns, blades, military clothes, and wireless communication devices.”

Iraq

Foreign Affairs: The Death And Life Of Terrorist Networks

“The Islamic State (or ISIS) is quietly “rising from the ashes” in parts of Iraq and Syria, but this is not the first time that it has recovered from a near-death experience. Its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, also reconstituted itself after nearly being defeated in 2007–8. ISIS has demonstrated extraordinary resilience; about half of all terrorist organizations fail in their first year, but it has survived for the better part of two decades despite fighting against an international coalition assembled to defeat it. This resilience may seem surprising, but it should not. Over recent decades, militant groups with the kind of vast international network of affiliates, allies, and supporters that ISIS has assembled have proved difficult to defeat. Alliances have helped ISIS expand and gain influence in good times and have relieved pressure by deflecting attention toward affiliates in bad times. Without defeating this whole network, accordingly, it will be hard to fully finish off the core group. The value of alliances in geopolitical competition between states has been frequently noted in the past few years. It turns out alliances are just as important to often-stateless militant groups. The difference between a terrorist group with ideologically aligned allies and a terrorist group without them can mean the difference between survival and defeat—as the ongoing fight to destroy ISIS is making all too clear today.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Nabs High-Ranking Terrorists From Multiple Groups

“As Turkey’s fight against terrorism continues both through internal and cross-border operations, security forces have killed two high-ranking terrorists while arresting a far-left terror suspect as well as 25 Daesh-linked foreign nationals. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Monday announced on Twitter that two high-ranking terrorists, one of which was sought under the red category and the other in the orange category, were killed. According to the Interior Ministry’s statement, the terrorists were killed by the provincial gendarmerie command in Tunceli province’s Ovacık rural area on Oct. 2 as part of the Lightning-4 anti-terrorism operation. The terrorist in the red category was determined to be Ali Kemal Yılmaz, code-named Özgür, the so-called Tunceli head of the Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey (TIKKO) terrorist group. Yılmaz participated in the terrorist group in 2007 and was an expert on mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The other terrorist in the orange category was Gökçe Kurban, code-named Asmin, and was responsible for the women in the TIKKO. TIKKO is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist Leninist (TKP/ML).”

Afghanistan

Agence France-Presse: Nearly Two Decades After US Invasion, Afghans Fear Taliban Return

“Almost two decades after the United States launched what would become its longest-ever war with air strikes on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime, the hardline group are in a stronger position than ever. The invasion on October 7, 2001 quickly toppled the militants, who had harboured Al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in America just weeks earlier. Nineteen years after their brutal Islamist regime collapsed, the Taliban are pushing for a return to power, having signed a landmark troop withdrawal deal with Washington in February and currently holding peace talks with the Afghan government. Fearful that the Taliban have changed little since the darkest days of their regime -- when they killed women accused of adultery, attacked minority religious groups and barred girls from going to school -- many Afghans worry about a new era of Taliban influence. “I remember the Taliban regime like a nightmare. We are scared for our future and my daughter's future,” said Kabul resident Katayoun Ahmadi, a 26-year-old mother. She recalled seeing severed hands and fingers on Kabul's streets following amputations for petty crimes under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Sharia law.”

Voice Of America: Attack Kills 8 In Afghanistan As President Visits Doha

“A car bomb attack on the convoy of the governor of Afghanistan’s Laghman province killed at least eight people, including four of the governor’s bodyguards. Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal survived but was wounded, along with at least 40 others. Yarmal’s spokesman, Asadullah Dawlatzai, said several civilians were killed in the early Monday attack in the provincial center. Separately, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani arrived in Doha Monday where he will meet the Afghan team negotiating with the Taliban, according to Dawa Khan Meenapal, the deputy presidential spokesman. After nearly three weeks of talks that started on September 12, the teams are still negotiating the ground rules for what are widely expected to be long, complicated and grueling discussions. The Taliban want their agreement with the United States, which was signed in February, to serve as a pillar of future negotiations. That deal allowed for a comprehensive ceasefire between the two sides to be “announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.” The Afghan negotiating team wants the process to be based on the recommendations of a loya jirga, or a traditional grand assembly of Afghans that has called for an immediate ceasefire, as well as preserving the Afghan constitution and the democratic system of governance during the negotiations.”

Yemen

Reuters: Saudi-Led Coalition Stops Houthi Terror Attack In Red Sea – Report

“The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen foiled an “imminent terrorist attack” by Iran-aligned Houthis in the south of the Red Sea, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV said on Monday. The coalition discovered and destroyed a remotely-controlled explosive-laden Houthi boat near Yemen's port district As-Salif, Al-Arabiya TV added.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Terrorist Felt 'Like Bride On Wedding Day' Ahead Of Her Planned Attack

“Palestinian terrorist turned non-violent peace activist Shifa al-Qudsi felt “like a bride on her wedding day,” when she attempted to carry out a suicide bombing in Netanya, she told Channel 11 last month. On April 11, 2002, during the Second Intifada, Qudsi planned to disguise herself as a pregnant woman by wearing a maternity dress under which she was to conceal 33 pounds of explosives. Her motivation, she would later claim in a documentary, was the destruction of her home in Tulkarem by the IDF. The plan was to detonate it somewhere in Netanya after 5:00 a.m., but she was arrested at 2:30 a.m. before she could carry out the attack. However, her memories of planning and preparing the attack are still fresh in her mind, liking the joy she felt to being “like a bride on her wedding day, who is preparing to go to her groom. That’s the only thing that went through my head. I’m preparing to go to my groom, can you imagine?” It seems she was being literal in this comparison, explaining that if she died a martyr she believed she would marry a male martyr in heaven, according to Palestinian Media Watch. The comments she made reflected interviews she gave in prison in 2002 after her arrest, in which she told an interviewer that suicide bombings weren't suicide, but were in fact “a martyrdom-seeking operation.”

Africa

Arab News: Morocco Says Arrests Four Daesh-Linked Militant Suspects

“Morocco on Monday arrested four suspects allegedly linked to Daesh who were plotting “dangerous and imminent terrorist” attacks, the judicial police said. The four Moroccan men, all in their 20s, were detained in the northern city of Tangiers during a raid in which police fired warning shots, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) said in a statement. They were planning to “destabilize security in the kingdom... through terrorist methods inspired by operations” carried out by Daesh militants in Syria and Iraq, the statement added. Bladed weapons and electronic equipment were also seized, it said. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the ability of the security authorities in Morocco to thwart dangerous and imminent terrorist plots and to dismantle the terrorist cell aimed at destabilizing the security and stability of Morocco. The Ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s support for the measures taken by Morocco to achieve security and stability and to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms, Saudi Press Agency reported. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also praised the vigilance of the security authorities and said it stands with Morocco in all measures it takes to combat extremism and terrorism to preserve its security, stability and territorial integrity.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Westminster Holocaust Memorial Would Be 'Trophy Site' For Terrorists

“Plans for a Holocaust memorial next to Parliament would create a “trophy site” for terrorists, the former independent reviewer of terror laws has warned. The memorial has been proposed for Victoria Tower Gardens on Millbank. But a planning inquiry has been told by Lord Carlile that the landmark would be a “self-evident terrorism risk”. The plan was previously rejected by Westminster City Council, but the final decision will be made by the government following the public inquiry. In his written evidence to the inquiry, Lord Carlile said: “From my extensive experience of observing, analysing and discussing terrorism issues with front-line practitioners, I have absolutely no doubt that the proposed site raises a clear - indeed self-evident - terrorism risk. “I give this warning with regret, but with total conviction. This would be a threat to the public, and also a potential threat to Parliament.” The project features 23 large bronze fin structures and an underground learning centre. It was announced in 2016 by then Prime Minister David Cameron, who said it would be dedicated to the six million Jewish men, women and children and other victims murdered by the Nazis. However, several senior Jewish figures have also voiced their opposition to the location of the memorial, while the Royal Parks said it would have a “significant harmful impact” on the area.”

The Independent: Boy, 15, Accused Of Preparing For Isis Inspired Terror Attack Says He ‘Didn’t Mean’ Martrydom Vows

“A boy accused of preparing for an Isis-inspired terror attack when he was 14 years old has said he did not mean what he said in a series of extremist videos. The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, said he had learned Islamist terminology from the dark comedy film Four Lions. Giving evidence at Leicester Crown Court on Monday, he called videos where he claimed he would “carry out jihad” evil, adding: “I don't mean what I said.” The defendant allegedly tried to create “bottle bombs” and filmed himself setting out his wish to become a martyr and teaching others how to carry out their own attacks. While being questioned by defence barrister Mary Prior QC on Monday, he denied planning to kill anyone or be martyred while “carrying out jihad”. He said he had learned to make “bottle bombs” from a YouTube video and had picked up the term “kuffar”, to refer to non-Muslims, from the film Four Lions. Questioning the teenager on his behaviour as a whole, Ms Prior said: “Why are you doing this?” “I don't really know,” the schoolboy replied, adding that he was upset by watching the “nasty” videos he made. He is charged with preparing acts of terrorism after rapidly developing “extreme views” associated with Isis at the start of the year.”

France

Associated Press: Trial Opens For Failed Islamic State Attack On French Church

“A 29-year-old Algerian man went on trial Monday in Paris accused of killing a woman and trying to blow up a church near Paris, a failed 2015 attack that investigators say was orchestrated by Islamic State extremists in Syria. Instead of bombing a Sunday Mass in the Paris suburb of Villejuif, Sidi Ahmed Ghlam shot himself in the leg and was soon arrested. The incident came amid a series of Islamist extremist attacks in 2015-2016 that rocked France. Another Paris court is currently holding a two-month trial into the January 2015 attacks that killed 17 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket. While all the gunmen in those attacks were killed by police, Ghlam survived his attempted bombing three months later, and began a monthlong trial starting Monday on charges of murder and attempted terrorist murder. Ghlam, who faces life in prison if convicted, denies wrongdoing. Nine other defendants are being tried alongside him. Seven are believed to have provided logistical assistance such as weapons and protective vests. The other two are extremists accused of guiding his attempted attack, who are believed to be in Syria and possibly dead.”

Technology

The Verge: Twitch Clarifies Its Ban On Terrorism And Extremist Content

“Twitch has updated its community guidelines, the rules that govern the site, to clarify its ban of terrorist and extremist content. The move appears to be in order to strengthen its language around that sort of material. Here’s what it added, per Engadget: Twitch does not allow content that depicts, glorifies, encourages, or supports terrorism, or violent extremist actors or acts. This includes threatening to or encouraging others to commit acts that would result in serious physical harm to groups of people or significant property destruction. You may not display or link terrorist or extremist propaganda, including graphic pictures or footage of terrorist or extremist violence, even for the purposes of denouncing such content. Updating its community guidelines is a smart way for Twitch to further elucidate how it plans to deal with offending material in the future. This new definition of terrorist and extremist content is interesting because it’s actually quite general: it’s easy to imagine this logic being applied to ban, say, depictions of white supremacist violence on the platform. All that said, what’s most interesting about this update is hidden in the last line of the new text: “You may not display or link terrorist or extremist propaganda, including graphic pictures or footage of terrorist or extremist violence, even for the purposes of denouncing such content.”

The Times: Far Right Recruiting Children On YouTube

“Extremist far-right groups are using livestreaming events on YouTube to recruit children as young as 12 to spread their message. Counterterrorism experts say that a growing number of “extremely young” British teenagers are being drawn towards neo-Nazi and fascist ideologies by groups targeting them online. Tactics include live interviews on YouTube with teenagers who are considered rising stars of the far right, livestreamed chats aimed at the “Gen Z” age group born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, and the exploitation of computer-gaming platforms.”