Eye on Extremism: September 11, 2020

Yahoo News: FBI Warns Of Increasing Extremist Threats To The 2020 Elections

“The FBI is warning police nationwide to expect an increase in election-related threats — and, potentially, violent attacks — from domestic extremists, according to a recent bulletin reviewed by Yahoo News. Domestic violent extremists “across the ideological spectrum likely will continue to plot against government and election-related targets to express their diverse grievances involving government policies and actions,” the FBI says in a recent election-focused bulletin sent to law enforcement across the country. The FBI document says that as of the beginning of August, the bureau has observed violent extremists “threatening 2020 political candidates or events, including threats against current candidates for President, presidential conventions, and counter protestors at campaign rallies, as well as individuals committing arson or sending threatening packages targeting political party offices.” Those threats, the FBI document continues, “likely will increase as the election approaches, despite the current focus of many [domestic violent extremists] on the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest.” This uptick in threats is coming from some of the same groups that showed up at protests in recent months looking for opportunities to become violent, according to Nate Snyder, a former Obama counterterrorism official who reviewed the FBI bulletin.”

Al Jazeera: Coup Makers Launch New Round Of Transition Talks With Mali Actors

“Mali's military rulers have launched a three-day “national consultation” with political parties, unions and members of civil society groups, facing questions at home and pressure from abroad over their plans for returning the country to civilian rule. About 500 people were expected to attend Thursday's forum taking place at a conference centre in the capital, Bamako. The talks mark the second round of discussions between the officers who last month overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and civilian representatives, many of whom had campaigned fiercely for him to step down during weeks of protests against the country's economic woes and spiralling security crisis. At stake is how the military government intends to make good on its promise, made just hours after the August 18 coup, to restore civilian governance and stage elections within a “reasonable” timeframe. Approximately 100 supporters of the M5-RFP, the anti-Keita alliance which led the protests against him, clashed with police at the entrance to the conference centre, delaying the start of Thursday's talks. Early jubilation among many Malians over Keita's exit has been superseded by questions and also divisions about the speed of the handover and the military's role in the transition period.”

United States

The Washington Post: This 9/11 Anniversary Arrives With The End Of The War On Al-Qaeda Well In Sight

“Remnants of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that launched the 9/11 terror attacks 19 years ago remain active throughout the world. But it is now possible to see the contours of how the war against al-Qaeda ends. The United States had three aims in this war: strengthen the country’s border defenses, pursue our enemies and facilitate our allies’ ability to lead the counterterrorism fight. We have succeeded in making it extremely difficult for terrorists to enter the United States to conduct cataclysmic attacks, and we have bolstered our allies’ capabilities. As for pursuing our enemies, the campaign to defeat al-Qaeda began immediately after 9/11, when committed Americans and like-minded partners sallied forth to destroy the terrorists’ havens in Afghanistan and to wreck their command-and-control capabilities. Al-Qaeda can still direct others to commit acts of violence, as seen by the heinous killing of three Americans in Florida at Naval Air Station Pensacola last year, but it is no longer capable of conducting large-scale attacks. Although I am now the director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a member of the intelligence community, my roots are as a soldier. My active service began on Dec. 5, 2001, with deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Houston Chronicle: Teen Accused In Zoom Bomb Threat At UH Once Radicalized In Support Of ISIS, Sister Says

“A Richmond teen charged with making a bomb threat during a Zoom lecture for the University of Houston was released on bond at a very different Zoom gathering before a federal magistrate Thursday. Seated in a courtroom in an olive green jail uniform, a face mask and handcuffs, Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati told FBI officials he was joking when he “Zoom bombed” a UH geology class last week. Al Bayati is not enrolled at UH, but is rather an honors student at Houston Community College who lives with his parents and works full time at Amazon, his lawyer said. Al Bayati, 19, is accused of making a threat involving explosives and making a threat through interstate commerce. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon said the conduct he’d been charged with was “salacious,” but the evidence thus far did not indicate Al Bayati was a threat or a flight risk. His $200,000 unsecured bond allows him to continue school and work until his hearing. The judge, lawyers and an FBI agent made their appearances remotely through the Zoom app. But four of Al Bayati’s childhood friends showed up in person to support him; the judge told them to sit several rows behind him in the empty courtroom.”

Sheboygan Press: Sheboygan Man Charged With Terrorist Threat For Facebook Post On Rioting, Looting After Shooting

“A 22-year-old Sheboygan man was charged with a felony for Facebook posts about looting and rioting after the July 2 shooting in which a Sheboygan police officer shot and killed Kevan Ruffin Jr. Shawn D. King was charged last week with making terrorist threats and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. A warrant was issued Sept. 3 for King. According to court documents: Several citizens reported King's posts to Sheboygan County Crime Stoppers and the Sheboygan Police Department. The first post the morning of July 2 said “WE NOT WAITING FOR NOTHING OR NOBODY IF Sheboygan DONT GO UP IN FLAMES TONIGHT IT WOULD BE ONLY BY GODS GRACE!! WE PROTESTING WE RIOTING AND MIGHT EVEN LOOT SO GET READY YOU RACIST MFS CUZ WE COMING TO MAKE SOME NOISE FOR A WHILE.” A second post shortly after the first referenced a story from the Sheboygan Beacon about a man arrested for threats and possessing a firearm, noting that the man was still alive after resisting arrest and making threats with a gun. In a third post, made in the afternoon that day, King said he never said he was going to destroy anything or hurt anyone and was sorry if his posts alarmed people.”

Afghanistan

NBC News: Afghan Government To Start Talks With Taliban, Raising Hopes For Peace After Decades Of War

“A start date for talks between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation that includes members of the government will begin Saturday, in a diplomatic breakthrough that could bring the country a step closer to peace after four decades of war. Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Naeem said in a statement that the group “would like to declare its readiness to partake in the inauguration ceremony of Intra-Afghan negotiations” between Sept. 12 and Sept. 22. He added that the talks are to be held in Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office. The announcement comes on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. that precipitated the invasion that toppled the Taliban almost 19 years ago. As the government of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had sheltered Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader and the architect of those attacks, before U.S. led coalition forces overthrew them. Senior members of the current Afghan government will also attend the negotiations in Doha at the behest of President Ashraf Ghani, the government said in a statement. Welcoming the talks, President Donald Trump told a news conference Thursday, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would attend the negotiations.”

Reuters: Prisoners Sought By Taliban On Flight To Doha, Peace Talks This Weekend

“Six prisoners sought by the Taliban left Kabul on a flight to Doha on Thursday evening, two government sources told Reuters, as the insurgents confirmed they would start long-awaited peace talks on Saturday. The prisoners, who are accused of insider attacks on Afghan forces and whose release was objected to by some Western powers, are to be kept under supervision in Qatar’s capital where United States-brokered peace talks will also initially take place. “The six will remain in Qatar until the end of November and could be transferred back to Kabul,” one of the sources told Reuters. Taliban political office spokesman Muhammad Naeem said in a statement the group would take part in talks starting on Saturday, beginning with an inauguration ceremony. The Afghan government negotiating team was scheduled to fly to Doha on Friday for peace talks, according to a Presidential Palace statement. Three government and one diplomatic source confirmed talks were expected to begin this weekend after months of delays. U.S. President Donald Trump in a news conference announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was heading to Doha later on Thursday for the start of the talks. Pompeo in a statement said the talks presented a historical opportunity that must not be squandered.”

Africa

Bloomberg: Ethiopian Opposition Leader Charged With Terrorism, Lawyer Says

“Ethiopian authorities charged an opposition party leader and seven other people with terrorism following violent protests that erupted in the capital earlier this year after the killing of a musician. Eskinder Nega, the leader of the Balderas for Genuine Democracy party, was accused of inciting clashes and seeking to overthrow the government through violent means, according to his lawyer, Henok Aklilu. Four other members of Balderas are among those charged, he said. “I believe this is politically motivated,” Henok said by phone Thursday. The charges were reported earlier by the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corp. Authorities arrested more than 9,000 people during the protests in Addis Ababa, which were sparked by the assassination of Haacaalu Hundeessa on June 29. The singer-songwriter was a popular voice during protests by the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, for reforms in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front that led to the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prison on terrorism charges under former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, but was released after seven years when Abiy came to power.”

Reuters: Suspected Islamists Kill At Least 53 In Eastern Congo

“Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 53 villagers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province this week, a local official said on Thursday. The authorities blamed the attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group active in eastern Congo since the 1990s. The militia has killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019, according to U.N. figures, despite repeated military campaigns aimed at destroying it. On Tuesday night into Wednesday, ADF fighters attacked the villages of Tsabi and Tondoli, around 120 km (75 miles) south of the city of Bunia, officials said. Etienne Babawela, a local village chief, said 53 bodies had been discovered so far. “We don’t know how many deaths there will be tomorrow,” he said. “It’s as if they had lots of time on Tuesday and Wednesday while they were killing people.” The United Nations says violence attributed to the ADF has soared since the start of the year, following the launch of a large-scale army campaign. In response, the ADF abandoned its bases, split into smaller, more mobile groups, and took revenge on civilians. Several attacks attributed to the ADF have also been claimed by Islamic State, although researchers and analysts say there is a lack of hard evidence linking the two groups.”

Europe

RFI: Norway Arrests Terrorist Suspect Linked To 1982 Paris Attack On Jewish Restaurant

“Norwegian anti-terror police on Wednesday arrested a suspect linked to a 1982 attack in a Jewish neighbourhood in Paris that left six people dead and 22 injured, police said. “The PST (anti-terror police) arrested a man in the city of Skien on a European arrest warrant issued by the French authorities,” spokeswoman Annett Aamodt told AFP. “A European arrest warrant has been issued by the French authorities, it will be carefully examined to see if the conditions are met,” she added. The man is suspected of being part of a group of Palestinians throwing grenades burst into the Jo Goldenberg deli on Aug. 9, 1982, and sprayed machine-gun fire. Six people, including two Americans, were killed, and 22 injured in the attack. Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet said it was the second time that France had requested the man arrested. French authorities announced nearly 33 years after the attack that international arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects, now in their late 50s and early 60s, who are believed to have been members of the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organisation. Souhaur Mouhamad Hassan Khalil Al-Abbassi was arrested in Jordan in 2015. He is one of three suspects in the attack sought by French authorities.”

Technology

The National: Internet Watchdog Warns On Live Broadcast Of Terror Attacks Online

“Behind the outsized online presence of the global social media giants sits a counter-terrorism agency that is forging a fightback against the spread of extremism. Eighteen months after the attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was broadcast live online by the gunman, few doubt the challenge a similar episode would pose for the major social media companies. For Nicholas Rasmussen, executive director of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, the shock waves from Christchurch still haunt those who police online content. “Christchurch could certainly happen today but I think what could happen today would be you would get a co-ordinated, cohesive response that would narrow the window, not maybe to zero or five seconds, but would narrow the amount of time that awful content would be available to a global audience on mainstream platforms,” he told The National. The GIFCT was set up in 2017 in response to pressure on Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter to staunch the spread of extremism online. As the former British prime minister Theresa May noted at the UN General Assembly meeting in September that year, the average lifetime of ISIS propaganda online at the time was 36 hours.”

Engadget: Twitter Bans Far-Right Extremist Group The Oath Keepers

“Twitter has banned the accounts of far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers and its founder, Stewart Rhodes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group is one of the US's largest anti-government movements. It claims to have tens of thousands of members, many of whom identify as former law enforcement and military. The group recently tweeted there would be "open warfare against the Marxist insurrectionists (its shorthand for Black Lives Matter activists) by election night." A spokesperson for Twitter told Engadget it banned accounts associated with the Oath Keepers for violating its policies on violent extremist groups. "There is no place on Twitter for terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups and individuals who affiliate with and promote their illicit activities," the company says on the policy page. "We examine a group's activities both on and off Twitter to determine whether they engage in and/or promote violence against civilians to advance a political, religious and/or social cause." In 2015, some of the group's members, armed with assault rifles and other weapons, were present at the Ferguson protests that occurred on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.”