Eye on Extremism: October 9, 2020

BuzzFeed News: Ukraine Deported Two American Members Of A Neo-Nazi Group Who Tried To Join A Far-Right Military Unit For “Combat Experience”

“Ukraine has deported two men from a notoriously violent American neo-Nazi group who tried to set up a local branch and join a far-right military unit to gain combat experience in the war-torn country, according to two Ukrainian security service officials. The men, both US citizens, are members of the neo-Nazi group known as Atomwaffen Division (AWD), one of the Ukrainian officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News. Both officials declined to provide the men’s names and other personal information. It was not immediately clear whether the men were being deported back to the US. A video from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) showed an agent alongside the two men with their backpacks in tow at an airport check-in counter. The deportation of the American neo-Nazis comes as US security officials warn that violent domestic extremists, including white supremacists, pose the greatest terror threat to the US and ahead of next month’s presidential election. During last week's debate, President Donald Trump gave a shoutout to one such group of extremists, the Proud Boys.”

The National: Hundreds Of Pieces Of Online Terrorist Propaganda Uncovered In The Balkans

“Almost 350 pieces of ISIS and Al Qaeda online propaganda in Eastern European languages have been discovered in a day of targeted action in the Balkans. Experts have repeatedly warned that ISIS is looking to the Western Balkan bloc as it attempts to regroup and attract new recruits. The crime agency Europol’s specialist online abuse branch, the EU Internet Referral Unit (EU IRU), said Tuesday it carried out a day of action focused on bringing down terrorist propaganda in Western Balkan partner countries. “The referral action targeted online content disseminated by members and supporters of Al Qaeda, ISIS and affiliated groups,” the EU IRU said in a statement. “The counter terrorism units from the participating countries, together with the EU IRU, looked into jihadist propaganda material, such as video tutorials, nashids and social media accounts, which incited violence. “The content was spread in the languages of the Western Balkan countries mainly by local supporters of the targeted jihadist organisations.” In total, the investigation uncovered 346 pieces of propaganda on 27 different media platforms. Specialist units from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia participated in the action day.”

United States

CBS News: Feds Bust Alleged Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

“Federal and state authorities in Michigan unveiled charges against 13 people accused of separate plots to kidnap Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer over coronavirus restrictions she imposed in the state, detailing the harrowing allegations in court papers on Thursday. Six suspects face federal charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and were arrested Wednesday. A criminal complaint filed in federal court Tuesday and unsealed Thursday identifies the suspects as Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta. The six are accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home and place her on trial for treason before the November election. Seven more people linked to a militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen are in custody on state charges, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. The seven are accused of attempting to find the home addresses of law enforcement officers to target them, making threats of violence intended to “instigate a civil war” and engaging in planning and training to attack the Michigan capitol building and kidnap government officials, including Whitmer.”


Agence France-Presse: The 'Beatles': IS Jihadists With Taste For Torture

“Their hostages called them the “Beatles” because of their British accents. And within the ranks of the Islamic State group the four-man kidnapping cell, two members of which appeared in a US court by videolink on Wednesday, also enjoyed a grim sort of notoriety. “The cell was infamous, even inside ISIS, for their cruel and harsh methods. There seemed to be no bounds to their sadistic methods, including crucifixion, waterboarding and tormenting their hostages with mock executions,” Anne Speckhard and Ardian Shajkovci of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism in Washington said in a report. There was no apparent physical resemblance between the two dishevelled men with thick beards flown to the US from Iraq on Wednesday and their pop namesakes. Alexanda Kotey, 36, (“Ringo” to the hostages) and El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, (“George”) are accused of conspiring to murder four American hostages. They are also suspected of involvement in the beheading of two Britons, Alan Henning and David Haines, and several other hostages including two Japanese nationals. The cell's alleged ringleader Mohamed Emwazi, a Londoner nicknamed “Jihadi John” after appearing in several beheading videos, was killed in a US airstrike in Syria in November 2015.”


The Guardian: 'A Threat From Within': Iraq And The Rise Of Its Militias

“The dust had barely settled on the fall of Iraq’s second city when the call came. It was June 2014 and Islamic State had just captured Mosul, the prize in a fight for control of a country already scarred by more than a decade of war. Just four days after the city’s capture, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shia cleric in Iraq, issued a fatwa urging Iraqis to volunteer in the fight against the militants. Tens of thousands of mostly young men from the poor Shia south and Baghdad suburbs flocked to recruiting centres, military camps and militia headquarters. One such gathering took place in a sprawling compound in eastern Baghdad, where a large crowd of young men packed into a lecture hall. Excited to volunteer for the fight against Isis, they came with plastic shopping bags stuffed with clothes and little else. Many of the prospective fighters wore brightly coloured bermuda shorts, their mood as carefree and as boisterous as if they were going on a picnic. Some were wearing green bandanas with the logo of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, formed in 2006 by the military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and closely associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.”


Reuters: Trump Pledges To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan By Christmas; Taliban Cheer

“Afghanistan's Taliban group on Thursday welcomed an announcement by President Donald Trump that he would pull out all U.S. troops from the country by Christmas. It was “a positive step towards the implementation of (the) Doha agreement,” a spokesman for the Islamist group, Mohammad Naeem, said in a statement. Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday: “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” It was unclear from his Tweet whether Trump was giving an order or verbalizing a long-held aspiration. The Doha agreement, a landmark deal signed between the U.S. and Taliban in February, drew up plans to pull out foreign forces from Afghanistan after two decades of war. In exchange, the insurgent group promised security guarantees including negotiating a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government. Trump's announcement came just hours after national security adviser Robert O'Brien said the U.S. had less than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan currently and would go down to 2,500 by early next year.”

Asian News International: 6 Afghan Security Force Members Killed In Taliban Attack, 15 Taken Captive

“At least six Afghan security forces were killed, six others were wounded, and 15 others were taken captive by the Taliban after the group attacked a security checkpoint in northern Kunduz province on Wednesday night, a security source said, TOLOnews reported. The incident took place at 8 pm (local time) in the Imam Sahib district, the source said. “The Taliban also stole a humvee vehicle of the security forces and some weapons after the attack,” he said, as quoted by TOLOnews. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.”


Daily Post: Nigeria: Boko Haram Arms Supplies Arrested

“The Defence Headquarters says the troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have arrested a foreign arms and logistics supplier for the Boko Haram /Islamic States of West Africa States Province (ISWAP) terrorists. The Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, disclosed this while giving updates on military operations across the country on Thursday in Abuja. Enenche said the suspect who is a Nigerien national, was arrested by troops at a location close to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camp in Diffa Region of Niger Republic on Oct. 3. He said the arrest followed a credible intelligence on terrorists’ convergence at Chinguwa Village in Niger Republic close to Gashigar in Mobbar Local Government Area of Borno. Enenche encouraged the public to continue to avail the troops with information that would assist them in their operation. He applauded the gallant troops for their aggressive fighting and confidence-building patrols.”


Bloomberg: Islamist Militants Free Mali Opposition Leader, Three Europeans

“Islamist insurgents released Mali’s main opposition leader, Soumaila Cisse, following his abduction in March while campaigning for parliamentary elections. The 70-year-old was freed alongside a French aid worker and two Italian citizens, the office of the prime minister said in a statement. The four were being flown from the northern town of Tessalit near the Algerian border to arrive in the capital, Bamako, on Thursday. Civil-society groups earlier this year criticized the government for not doing enough to obtain the release of Cisse, whose vehicle was ambushed near the desert city of Timbuktu. The French aid worker, 75-year-old Sophie Petronin, was seized four years ago, while the Italians had been held by jihadists for about two years. Jihadist groups with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have targeted mainly westerners for abductions for years and are believed to have financed many of their operations with ransom. At least 200 militants were freed earlier this week in exchange for the four hostages, a government spokesman said by phone.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Whitemoor Prison Terror Attack Inmates Handed Life Terms

“Two serving prisoners have had their jail terms extended to life for the attempted murder of a prison officer inside a maximum security jail. Brusthom Ziamani, 25, and Baz Hockton, 26, stabbed “kind and helpful” Neil Trundle at HMP Whitemoor, Cambridgeshire, on 9 January. The two men were convicted of attempted murder at the Old Bailey on Wednesday. The judge, Mrs Justice May, told Ziamani his “adherence to extremist ideology clearly persists”. The assault on Mr Trundle is the first terrorist attack to occur inside a British jail. Ziamani is five years into a 19-year sentence for a 2014 plot to behead a soldier, inspired by the 2013 murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. The convicted terrorist would have been eligible for parole in 2027, but the judge said he must serve at least 21 years. Hockton - who is three years into a 12-year jail term for a stabbing attack - will serve a minimum term of 23 years. Mrs Justice May said she was satisfied he was “inspired by extremist beliefs” and had a “terrorist connection”. She told him: “Your current twisted view of Islam needs to change.” Hockton was also sentenced to a concurrent 10-year term for wounding a prisoner with intent to cause grievous bodily harm at Swaleside prison, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, in April last year.”


Associated Press: Dutch Court Convicts Six Men Of Plotting Massive Jihadi Attack

“A Dutch court convicted six men Thursday of plotting a large-scale jihadi attack on a public event and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 10 to 17 years. Rotterdam District Court said in a statement that the men were planning to open fire with AK-47 assault rifles at a festival and to detonate a car bomb in late 2018. They also wanted to wear explosive vests and detonate them when police arrived. However, intelligence agencies tipped off police and an undercover operative was able to infiltrate the gang and ultimately thwart their preparations before any attack took place. The suspects were arrested by heavily armed police in September 2018. The ring leader, a man of Iraqi descent, was sentenced to 17 years. The names of the defendants weren't released in line with Dutch privacy rules. The gang “wanted to hit the civilian population and the police in the Netherlands with a bloody attack with a large number of innocent victims,” the court statement said. “Thanks to the timely intervention of Dutch government services, they were not able to carry out their plans.”


The Guardian: US-Inspired Rightwing Extremism An 'Insidious' Threat To Australia, Study Finds

“Rightwing extremism poses a “creeping threat” to liberal democracy in Australia, according to a new study that investigates how extremists are using online networks to spread radical narratives. The study – which focuses mainly on New South Wales because it was funded by the state government – identified networks involving mostly male and under-35 users who were attracted to “the theme of white identity under threat”. It noted the influence of American populist politics – including Trumpism – in rightwing extremist discussions in Australia. Researchers from Macquarie and Victoria universities said rightwing extremists were “very good at appropriating the language of conservative political opinion” and called on Australian politicians to ensure “our system of politics is protected from these very insidious and ongoing threats”. The research examined 30 Australian rightwing extremist group pages on Facebook and 37,422 tweets from 3,321 users identified as being in NSW on Twitter. It also examined archived message boards focused on NSW and Australian issues on Reddit, 4chan and 8chan, and looked at thousands of interactions on the platform Gab.”


Foreign Policy: Indians And Central Asians Are The New Face Of The Islamic State

“As white nationalists across the world have gained prominence through racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic acts, the world’s focus on terrorism seems to have shifted. Many experts on extremism now focus heavily on the far-right in its many incarnations as an important driver of terrorist threat. But this myopic approach ignores the dynamism that the Islamic State injected into the international jihadist movement, and the long-term repercussions of the networks it built. In particular, the Indian and Central Asian linkages that the group fostered are already having repercussions beyond the region. This threat emerged most recently with the attack by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) on Jalalabad prison in early August. The attack showed a level of ambition that distinguished the group from many of the Islamic State’s other regional affiliates. Part of a bigger global push to do something about colleagues rotting in prisons, it was also a way of signaling how the group’s approach to freeing its prisoners differed from the Taliban’s. In ISKP’s eyes, the Taliban are in essence surrendering in their peace negotiations with the U.S. government. But the most interesting aspect of the attack was the roster of fighters involved—a multinational group that included Afghans, Indians, Tajiks, and Pakistanis.”

The Defense Post: How Southeast Asian Terror Networks Exploit Family Ties

“The August Jolo twin suicide bombing attacks in the Philippines demonstrated how familial ties are continuously exploited to forward the Islamic State (IS) agenda. The two-stage suicide attack was conducted by two female terrorists, Indah Nay and Nana, the wives of deceased terrorists Abu Talha and Norman Lasuca. Family involvement in terrorist attacks is not uncommon. In fact, it is becoming a strategic thrust for IS and the terror groups that have sworn allegiance to the organization. Against this backdrop, this article explores how terrorist groups in Southeast Asia have exploited familial ties — to devastating effect. Radicalization can be a lengthy process. Iranian Professor Fathali Moghaddam coined the term “staircase of radicalization” to explain the complex process, which involves aggravating grievances and moral disengagement. However, radicalization through kinship ties appears to hasten the process. Radicalization along this route develops individuals with unconditional loyalty for the radical organization. Associate Professor Julie Chernov Hwang claimed that some individuals are “born into jihad,” explaining that they have been socialized by their living environment to adopt an extremist worldview. Terrorism expert Sidney Jones calls this phenomenon “inherited jihad.”


The Washington Post: Michigan Kidnapping Plot, Like So Many Other Extremist Crimes, Foreshadowed On Social Media

“In June, one of the suspects in the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took to the relative privacy of a Facebook group to make clear his brewing hatred. Adam Fox called Whitmer a “tyrant bitch,” according to an FBI affidavit, and declared, “I don’t know boys, we gotta do something… give me some ideas of what we can do. “ Such online declarations, brimming with anger and potentially violent intent, have become staples of extremism-fueled crime news in recent years, from police killings to synagogue massacres to bombing plots. Before they become real, they percolate online, courtesy of a social media ecosystem that is ubiquitous, barely moderated and well suited to helping aggrieved people find each other. Fox and other suspects in the plot to kidnap Whitmer (D) left a trail on social media that, viewed with the hindsight of Thursday’s announcement of their arrests, looks both troubling and troublingly familiar — a line of rage that flows from online memes to real-world violence that at times has become deadly. There’s a YouTube video of one suspect, Brandon Caserta, pretending to fire a weapon while wearing a sleeveless shirt that used an obscenity to describe what he’d like to do to “THE GOVERNMENT.” Visible in the closet behind him are Hawaiian shirts — common symbols of the violently anti-government Boogaloo movement. In a TikTok video, Caserta is shown wearing such a shirt.”

The Hill: Justice Department Rolls Out Report Detailing Cryptocurrency Security Threats

“The Justice Department on Thursday rolled out a framework for cryptocurrency enforcement, detailing increasing security concerns around the use of virtual currency. The Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, developed by the attorney general’s Cyber Digital Task Force, lays out the threats and enforcement challenges involved with the use of cryptocurrency, along with strategies used by the Justice Department in response. “Innovations in technology often change the world for the better. And yet, criminals, terrorists, and rogue states can use those same innovations for their own illegitimate ends, imposing great costs on the public,” the task force wrote in the report. “Today, few technologies are more potentially transformative and disruptive—and more potentially susceptible to abuse—than cryptocurrency.” “Despite its relatively brief existence, this technology already plays a role in many of the most significant criminal and national security threats our nation faces,” Sujit Raman, the chair of the task force, wrote in the report’s introduction, specifically highlighting concerns around the use of cryptocurrency for criminal activities and in money laundering schemes.”