Eye on Extremism: September 10, 2021

The Washington Post: Countries Are Establishing Relations With The Taliban Even Though None Has Offered Formal Recognition Of The Militant Government

“Nearly a month after its takeover, there has been no formal recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. But that step appears increasingly irrelevant, at least for the short and medium term, as countries around the world have established varying degrees of relations with the militant regime. For some, including the United States, the need to extricate their remaining citizens and Afghan partners has imposed acceptance of the Taliban as the sole national authority. At the same time, the Biden administration has pledged to continue humanitarian aid that has amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few months alone. “There is no diminution in our humanitarian assistance to the people of . . . any country around the world where we may have differences, including profound ones,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday. “We do not express those disagreements by taking it out on the people.” Many of Afghanistan’s closest neighbors in Central and South Asia are consulting with one another in search of a unified policy that will prevent them from being overcome with refugees and maintain security in the region. Others, including China and Russia, see the Taliban ascension as an opportunity, both to highlight U.S. failure over 20 years of warfare and nation-building, and to boost their own regional sway.”

NBC News: From Al Qaeda To QAnon: How The Department Of Homeland Security Has Had To Evolve Since 9/11

“When then-President George W. Bush commissioned the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he was clear about the new agency’s top goal — to be “one department whose primary mission is to protect the American homeland.” In other words, to prevent another foreign attack on American soil. Twenty years after the attacks, DHS is now the third-largest federal agency, with nearly 230,000 employees, and is most visible for its role in enforcing immigration laws at the southern border. This week, two former DHS secretaries and current Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reflected on the agency’s evolution and whether the agency formed in the wake of 9/11 was built to respond to threats such as cyber intrusion and domestic violent extremism, which they say now eclipse the threat of foreign terrorist organizations. Michael Chertoff served as DHS secretary from 2005 to 2009 under Bush. He was the second person to hold the post, and in those early years, he recalls, “we had to build pretty much from scratch.” He arrived less than two years after the creation of DHS and shortly before Hurricane Katrina would expose the shortcomings of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which had just become part of the newly formed agency.”

United States

NBC News: Federal Judge Says Moussaoui Trial Proved Civilian Courts Can Handle Terrorism Cases

“The federal judge in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person ever put on trial in the U.S. in the 9/11 attacks, said Thursday that the trial proved that civilian courts can successfully handle terrorism cases, despite the abundant challenges. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema presided over the lengthy trial in Alexandria, Virginia. The courthouse is near the Pentagon, which was one of the three targets hit by terrorist hijackers 20 years ago this week. She made rare public comments about the trial during a panel discussion hosted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Virginia. “I think our approach to terrorists should be really an approach to criminals. They shouldn't get any heightened respect or treatment,” she said. Brinkema noted that when the trial was over, Moussaoui asked to withdraw his guilty plea and sought a new trial. He assumed he would get the death penalty; when he did not, he said he realized he could get a fair trial even with American jurors, she recalled. Moussaoui, who came to the U.S. from France, was arrested in 2001 28 days before the 9/11 attacks. Officials at a flight school in Minneapolis told the FBI that they were suspicious of Moussaoui's desire to learn only how to operate a Boeing 747 jetliner. They said he told them it as “an ego boosting thing.”

Syria

The Guardian: Syria Cement Plant At Centre Of Terror Finance Investigation ‘Used By Western Spies’

“A cement plant in Syria at the centre of a terror financing investigation in France was used by western intelligence agencies to gather information on hostages held by Islamic State, sources connected to the operation have said. A Jordanian intelligence officer who was central to the spying effort has confirmed to the Guardian that the Lafarge factory, which continued operating after the terrorist group overran eastern Syria, in one of the most controversial episodes of the war, was the regional hub of a failed effort to rescue up to 30 hostages. Those IS held included the American journalist James Foley, British photographer John Cantlie and Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, two of whom were later confirmed to have been killed. France’s highest court ruled this week that Lafarge could yet be investigated over allegations of complicity in crimes against humanity over its dealings in Syria, saying that a previous decision to strike out the charge was flawed. The company is under formal investigation in France over efforts to keep operations going through the peak of the terror group’s rampage in 2013-14.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: Iraqi Forces Arrest ISIS Members In New Security Campaign

“Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces continue to chase ISIS members in the north of Iraq staring from Kirkuk, which witnessed on Saturday a massacre that killed dozens from the federal police. Major General Yahya Rasool, the spokesperson for the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, said that Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces are achieving victories in eradicating ISIS in the country. A total of eight terrorists were arrested in various regions upon accurate intelligence information. Moreover, Rasool said anti-terror unit snipers took out some of the militants in three provinces including Kirkuk. The operation came after a deadly ISIS attack on a federal police outpost south of Kirkuk on Sunday, which left 13 members of security forces dead and wounded dozens. Also, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad arrived in Kirkuk on Wednesday heading a high-level security delegation following the attack to be briefed on current security measures, state media reported. The delegation included Defense Minister, Army Chief of Staff, military adviser to the prime minister and deputy of joint operations, and others. Member of Iraq's Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee Abdul-Khaleq al-Azzawi considered the developments in Rashad in Kirkuk as a blatant security violation.”

Afghanistan

CNN: He's On The FBI's Most-Wanted List And Is Now A Key Member Of The Taliban's New Government

“Nothing says you are renouncing al Qaeda quite like appointing a member of al Qaeda to a top cabinet position in your new government. The Taliban on Tuesday appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani to be Afghanistan's acting interior minister, a job analogous to running the United States Department of Homeland Security, with the FBI thrown in for good measure. The United Nations in a report issued in June noted that Haqqani “is a member of the wider Al-Qaida leadership, but not of the Al-Qaida core leadership.” (In 2011, Haqqani gave a rare interview to the BBC and was asked whether he had links to al Qaeda. He dodged the question and without elaboration referred the interviewer to the Taliban's stated policy on the issue.) The appointment Tuesday makes Minister Haqqani the first member of al Qaeda to be elevated to a cabinet position anywhere in the world. He is also on the FBI's most-wanted list. The Bureau has a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest, while the US State Department is offering up to $10 million. The only terrorist with a higher price on his head is al Qaeda's current leader, Ayman al Zawahiri. Sirajuddin Haqqani's appointment underlines just how hard-line the new Taliban government is going to be.”

Foreign Policy: Islamic State-Khorasan’s Reach Extends Far Beyond Afghanistan

“In a grim reminder of the threat posed by Islamic State-Khorasan, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, a lone suicide bomber detonated roughly 25 pounds of explosives at Kabul airport on Aug. 26, killing 13 U.S. troops and up to 170 other people. The U.S. military responded less than 48 hours later with an unmanned airstrike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, killing two suspected Islamic State-Khorasan members. A second airstrike targeting a suspected Islamic State-Khorasan suicide bomber followed in Kabul a day later—killing as many as 10 civilians. Islamic State-Khorasan is a violent extremist group familiar to terrorist watchers: It has carried out scores of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan since first establishing itself in 2015. Islamic State-Khorasan also maintains a lively presence on social media and encrypted messaging platforms across South and Central Asia. Many media outlets have highlighted the Taliban’s strategic use of the internet for social control. But with internet use growing exponentially across the region, Islamic State-Khorasan is potentially even more destabilizing than the Taliban, given its potential to reaching an ever-widening audience.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Nigeria Says It Seizes 14 Tonnes Of Fertiliser Meant For Boko Haram Bombs

“Nigerian troops have seized 14 tonnes of fertiliser that the insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram had planned to turn into roadside bombs, the army said on Thursday. Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people in bombings during its 12-year war against the armed forces in northeast Nigeria, a conflict that has spilled over into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon and caused an estimated 350,000 deaths. The army said it had broken up a urea fertiliser syndicate that supplied the insurgents with materials to make IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. Troops seized 281 bags of urea, each weighing 50kg, at two locations in northeastern Borno and Yobe states, military spokesman Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said in a statement. He said the insurgents were “desperately acquiring IED materials to make explosive devices with which to unleash terror on innocent civilians, in a bid to remain relevant and present a posture of potency”. Boko Haram, whose leader Abubakar Shekau died in May, has been in a conflict with splinter group-turned-rival, the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP). The Nigerian army said last week that close to 6,000 insurgents had surrendered in recent weeks.”

Africa

Long War Journal: Analysis: The Islamic State’s Expansion Into Congo’s Ituri Province

“Over the last few months, the Congolese branch of the Islamic State’s Central African Province (ISCAP), known locally as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has sustained a large-scale offensive in southern Ituri Province. This marks a significant shift from its normal areas of operation in the neighboring Beni territory of North Kivu province. Based on numbers from the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), the ADF has been responsible for 66 attacks in southern Ituri which have left at least 207 people dead since June 1. Additionally, the group kidnapped at least another 171 people during these raids. The strikes have targeted both civilians and uniformed members of the Congolese security forces, or FARDC. These numbers account for nearly 60% of all ADF operations in the last three months. In contrast, ADF’s Ituri operations only accounted for just 33% of its overall activity between March (when the KST began tracking incidents in Ituri) and May. These numbers represent an 82% increase in Ituri-based activity since June 1. For its part, the Islamic State has claimed 20 operations in Ituri since June in addition to releasing 81 photos and 2 videos from the attacks. Ituri-based attacks have accounted for 72% of all Islamic State claims in the DRC since June.”

France

The Independent: ‘You’ve Had Five Years To Speak!’: Isis ‘Soldier’ Silenced In Paris Court During Bataclan Trial

“A self-confessed Isis “soldier” was silenced in a Paris court during the trial of suspects alleged to have carried out the 2015 Bataclan terror attack. Salah Abdeslam began shouting during Thursday’s proceedings from behind a glass partition in the specially built court in the centre of the French capital, but then had his microphone switched off. “The victims from wars in Syria and Iraq – will they be able to speak?” Abdeslam demanded. Claiming that he had been judged guilty before the verdict, Abdeslam continued: “In principle, we should be presumed innocent before being judged.” He also told Jean-Louis Peries, the president of the court, that he did not “endorse your justice”. Abdeslam said that three of those also accused – Mohammed Amri, Hamza Attou and Ali Oulkadi – were not aware of the plot to shoot and blow up innocent people in Paris. “They helped me, but they knew nothing at all,” he said. “They are in prison but did nothing.” In turn, Judge Peries said: “Let’s leave this discussion.” Abdeslam replied: “Sir – don’t be selfish. There are other people who want to hear me.” It was at this point that Judge Peries switched off Abdeslam’s microphone, meaning his ranting could not be heard in the vast courtroom. Judge Peries said: “You’ve had five years to comment.”

New Zealand

Associated Press: New Zealand Feared An Extremist Inspired By Islamic State But Found No Way To Stop Him

“Immigration officers feared him. So, too, did prosecutors, prison officials and police. They thought he could launch a terror attack at any moment. Even the prime minister wanted him deported. Yet in the end, nobody in New Zealand was able to stop an extremist inspired by the Islamic State group from walking free from prison in July. Seven weeks later, he grabbed a knife at an Auckland supermarket and began stabbing shoppers, injuring seven in a frenzied attack last week. Court records, interviews and agency accounts explain how years of red flags weren’t enough to stop him. Here’s a timeline: October 2011: Ahamed Aathil Samsudeen, 22, arrives in New Zealand from Sri Lanka on a student visa. The following month, he withdraws from his studies and makes a claim for refugee status. April 2012: Immigration officials decline his refugee claim, saying they found inconsistencies and an unreliable medical report. He appeals, and an immigration tribunal takes a fresh look at the case. December 2012: Samsudeen, a Tamil Muslim, tells the tribunal that, if he’s sent back home, he’ll face persecution because of a falling-out between his father and a former colonel from the Tamil Tigers insurgent group.”

Southeast Asia

The Straits Times: Laws Like Internal Security Act Have Helped Singapore Prevent Terror Attacks

“Singapore's laws have enabled the authorities to act quickly on cases of suspected radicalisation and prevent terrorist attacks like the recent stabbing in New Zealand, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam. The Internal Security Act (ISA) allows law enforcement to detain people at an early stage as they are thinking of or planning attacks, he noted, adding that it also gives such suspected radicals better prospects for rehabilitation. Speaking to reporters on Friday (Sept 10), he said there have been many serious terror incidents in various regions in the 20 years since the terror attacks in the United States on Sept 11, 2001.Every country handles the threat of terrorism differently, and Singapore's approach is based on a few key fundamentals, he added. The minister listed good intelligence, a zero-tolerance approach towards violent extremism and strong inter-communal relations, as well as the ISA, as factors that help Singapore deal with the limited number of radicalised cases that emerge. He brought up the terror attack in the city of Auckland last Friday (Sept 3), where police shot and killed a violent extremist after he stabbed and wounded at least six people in a supermarket. The attacker, who lived in New Zealand for 10 years, had been a “person of interest” to the authorities there for about five years and was arrested multiple times.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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