Eye on Extremism: September 12, 2022

AFP: Belgium's Biggest Trial Opens, Six Years After Worst Bombing

“Six years after Belgium's deadliest peacetime attack, a Brussels court will this week host a landmark trial that survivors hope will mark a step forward in their recovery and that of their nation. The case against alleged members of an Islamic State (IS) group cell that launched both the March 2016 suicide bombings in Brussels and the November 2015 attacks in Paris will begin Monday. The Belgian attacks, in which three suicide bombers hit Brussels airport and a crowded underground metro station, killed 32 people and shattered the lives of hundreds of survivors. Nine alleged jihadists, including the cell's 32-year-old French ring-leader Salah Abdeslam, will face a variety of charges. One, thought to have been killed in Syria, will be tried in his absence. The trial will be the largest ever staged in front of a Belgian jury, with 960 civil plaintiffs represented and the sprawling former headquarters of the NATO military alliance converted into a high-security court complex. Abdeslam, already convicted in France and sentenced to life for his role in Paris, will not attend Monday's preliminary hearing, his lawyer said. But many of the victims of the attacks are planning to attend the trial from day one, seeking understanding and closure following the carnage.”

The Wall Street Journal: 9/11 Ceremonies Honor Victims 21 Years After Terrorist Attacks

“Ceremonies commemorating the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were held in lower Manhattan, Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Sunday, the 21st anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. In New York, the families of victims gathered for a ceremony inside the 9/11 Memorial plaza in lower Manhattan. The annual reading of the victims’ names paused for a moment of silence at six points, marking when each aircraft crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and when the World Trade Center towers fell. President Biden attended the memorial service at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., which was struck at 9:37 a.m. by a hijacked American Airlines flight in 2001. Under a cool, drizzling rain, he paused at the large wreath in front of the podium, then touched his hand to his heart as he stepped away to take a seat for the reading of the victims’ names. “To all the families and loved ones who still feel the ache, that missing piece of your soul, I’m honored to be here with you once more to share this solemn rite of remembrance and reflect on all that was lost in the fire and ash on that terrible September morning, and all that we found in ourselves to respond,” Mr. Biden said, when it was his turn to speak.”

United States

Axios: DHS Chief Warns Of “Emerging Threat Of The Domestic Violent Extremist”

“Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told MSNBC on Sunday the “threat landscape” has evolved in the 21 years since the 9/11 attacks from concerns about foreign terrorists to domestic extremists. What he's saying: “Back when 9/11 occurred, in those years we were very focused on the foreign terrorist, the individual who sought to do a severe harm to enter the United States and do us harm,” Mayorkas said during his interview with MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart. “It's then evolved, we began to be more and more concerned about the individuals already resident in the United States radicalized by a foreign terrorist ideology,” Mayorkas continued. “Now we are seeing are seeing an emerging threat ... over the last several years of the domestic violent extremist,” he added. “The individual here in the United States radicalized to violence by a foreign terrorist ideology, but also an ideology of hate, anti-government sentiment, false narratives propagated on online platforms, even personal grievances.” The big picture: Mayorkas pledged to make tackling domestic violent extremism a “National Priority Area” following the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection and announced last year the DHS was directing $77 million to state and local authorities to combat the rising problem.”

Fox News: 'Jihad Against Americans' Suspect In String Of Seattle-Area, New Jersey Murders Sentenced To Another 93 Years

“A man accused of going on a killing spree as part of a “jihad against Americans” was sentenced on Friday to nearly a century behind bars in connection to three murders in Washington state in 2014. Ali Muhammad Brown, 37, had already been serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for a fourth murder later that same year in New Jersey, but sentencing for three counts of premeditated murder in Washington state did not come until Friday in King County Superior Court. Judge Jim Rogers sentenced Brown to another 1,118 months. He is to serve that 93-year sentence consecutively, which should ensure he dies in prison. Brown, an accused ISIS sympathizer, fatally shot 30-year-old Leroy Henderson along a stretch of a road in Skyway, a community south of Seattle, in April 2014 “as a test” to see if he could kill for the cause of avenging U.S. policy in the Middle East, Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton said. Five weeks later, Brown allegedly killed another two men, 27-year-old Ahmed Said and 23-year-old Dwone Anderson-Young, after allegedly targeting them because they were gay, The Seattle Times reported. He met them on the gay dating site Grindr and spent time with the two friends at a since-closed gay club in Seattle before killing them later that night.”

Syria

Al Monitor: Senior US Commander Sounds Alarm Over Syria’s Islamic State Prison Camps

“The commander of all US military forces in the Middle East made an urgent appeal to the international community after visiting the al-Hol camp for Islamic State detainees in northeast Syria on Friday. Describing al-Hol as a “humanitarian catastrophe” and a “flashpoint of human suffering,” US Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla urged governments around the world to repatriate their citizens from the camp “and rehabilitate them if needed.” More than 90% of al-Hol's detainees are women and children, with 70% under the age of 12, Kurilla noted in a statement following his visit Friday. Most lack sufficient access to running water and other basic necessities to support life. “ISIS seeks to exploit these horrific conditions. With approximately 80 births in the camp each month, this place is a literal breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS,” Kurilla said. Why it Matters: The four-star general’s visit marked the first time ever an American official has entered into the al-Hol camp and spoken with detainees, a military official told Al-Monitor. Kurilla previously stopped at the camp in April during his first tour of the Middle East as CENTCOM commander. US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-GA) also visited the camp in July, though that trip was not coordinated with Kurilla’s trips, the official said.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: 2 Senior ISIS Members Killed In Iraqi Strikes On Hamrin Mountains

“Two senior ISIS commanders were killed in an Iraqi air strike in the Hamrin Mountain range, in the Salah al-Din province, announced the Iraqi Security Media Cell (SMC) on Saturday. The operation was carried out based on intelligence information provided by the Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency (FIIA) at the Ministry of Interior to the Iraqi Air Force. ISIS hideouts were destroyed in the operation. Terrorists Mohammed Rashid Jassim, known as Abu Hudhaifa, and Abu Fatima Askari, were killed in the attack. The statement said Abu Fatima is the commander of ISIS in the Salah al-Din province. He was considered to be one of the most dangerous terrorists for his operations against security forces and civilians in recent years. In a related development, the SMC announced the killing of four terrorists on the banks of Hamrin Lake in the Diyala province. Three of the terrorists were killed in two air strikes while the fourth was killed during clashes with security forces. The forces also destroyed three motorcycles, a number of explosive devices, explosive material, and two terrorist hideouts. Asked whether ISIS was still a threat in Iraq, head of the Center for Strategic Studies Dr. Moataz Mohieddin told Asharq Al-Awsat the organization suffered setbacks with the killing of its leaders Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi.”

Yemen

Arab News: Yemen Military Forces Drive Al-Qaeda Out Of New Areas In Abyan, Shabwa

“Yemeni military and security forces have taken control of a large swath of valley and mountainous areas in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, which have long been considered safe havens for Al-Qaeda militants. Local media and officials said that military and security forces led by the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council stormed the arid and mountainous Khaber Al-Marakesha, an area in Abyan known for nearly 10 years as an Al-Qaeda hideout and the cradle of some militants, including Jalal Baliedi, a senior Al-Qaeda leader killed by a US drone in the same region in 2016. Other military forces, including the Giants Brigades and the Shabwa Defense Forces, are on the verge of completely pushing Al-Qaeda militants from the Al-Musainah region and are now fighting their way into a long and rugged valley called Mouthab. Residents told Arab News that the military forces encountered stiff resistance from Al-Qaeda militants who planted landmines and booby traps to obstruct their progress deeper into those rugged areas. “The Al-Qaeda militants were outnumbered by the attacking forces and were unable to halt their advances,” a local journalist who preferred anonymity said, adding that the militants fled to a chain of rugged mountains between Abyan, Shabwa and Al-Bayda.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Over 300 ‘Significant’ Terror Attacks Foiled So Far This Year, Shin Bet Chief Says

“Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar said on Sunday that his security agency has foiled more than 300 “significant” terror attacks so far this year, as the Israeli military has ramped up operations in the West Bank under its direction. “We foiled 312 significant terrorist attacks, stabbings, shootings, suicide attacks, and have made 2,110 arrests” since the beginning of the year, Bar said at a conference at Herzliya’s Reichman University. At the same time, Bar cited a massive increase in shooting attacks against troops and civilians in the West Bank — 130 this year so far, compared to just 98 in 2021, and 19 in 2020. Bar said Israel is required to boost its activity in the West Bank to foil further attacks, and that troops operating there are “a protective blanket” for Israeli citizens. But he added that such operations come at a cost to Palestinians, with innocent people harmed and the status of the Palestinian Authority further declining among the local population. To calm the tensions, Bar said the PA’s security services must be strengthened. “The Palestinian public wants this too, but it takes two to tango,” he said.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Nigerian Military Says Over 250 Militants Killed In Operation

“Nigeria's military says it has killed more than 250 Islamist militants with the Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) groups in attacks over the past two weeks. A military spokesman said Nigerian troops also rescued three abducted Chibok schoolgirls, who the militants had held captive since 2014. Nigeria's defense ministry authorities made the announcement Thursday during a security update in the capital of Abuja. Defense spokesperson Musa Danmadami said military forces carried out highly successful air bombardments and ground clearance operations in Operation Hadarin Kai between August 25 and September 8. He said in the early stages of the operation, troops attacked insurgents in isolated villages in northeast Borno and Yobe states and killed 52 terrorists. He said troops arrested 14 other fighters and rescued 22 hostages, including three “Chibok girls” who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. Danmadami said troops even scored more success during operations in the Bama district of Borno state on September 3, when air and land attacks wiped out Boko Haram and Islamic State hideouts. “Feedback from various sources reveal that over 200 terrorists were neutralized including five high profile commanders. Their enclaves were bombarded, the airstrikes resulted in the neutralization of a large number of insurgents, while the land components mopped up the fleeing terrorists.”

Mali

Fox News: Attack By ISIS Affiliate Leaves 30 Dead In Mali As Fallout From European Withdrawal Continues

“An ISIS-affiliated terrorist group killed roughly 30 people during an attack in Mali last week, according to a coalition of militias that were forced out of the area. The Platform, a pro-government coalition of militias, says they were attacked by hundreds of ISIS-allied militants on Tuesday in Mali's Gao region, according to Reuters. The assault left three Platform fighters dead, along with roughly 30 civilians. “Reinforcements dispatched by the Platform reached the town where they discovered the massacre as well as hundreds of women and children who had been wandering the town without food for two days,” the Platform wrote in a statement. The group says militants also burned food stores and looted shops, according to Reuters. The assault comes weeks after French troops withdrew from Mali, a country some have referred to as “Africa's Afghanistan.” The country saw 2,700 deaths in the first six months of 2022. France had maintained a group of 5,100 peacekeeping troops in the region but withdrew in mid-August due to anti-European sentiment. Mali is currently run by a military junta, which seized power via a coup in 2021. The government refused airspace rights to Germany's UN aircraft, leading the country to severely limit its operations in the region as well.”

Africa

Reuters: Fifteen Killed, Hundreds Of Houses Burned In Eastern Congo Attack

“Suspected militiamen carrying guns and knives killed at least 15 people and burned hundreds of houses during an attack overnight on a market in a town in eastern Congo, local officials and a resident said on Friday. The raid, near the town of Djugu, is the latest in a string of violent attacks in the eastern Ituri province, where rival groups fight over land and resources. “I was spending the night in my shop and suddenly I heard bullets and people moaning,” said resident Lokana Maki. “We have so far seen 15 dead and more than 300 houses burned and other people injured and even kidnapped.” The death toll was confirmed by local chief Richard Venna and by a local civil society member. The attackers were likely from the CODECO militia, whose ranks are drawn mainly from the ethnic Lendu farming community, which carries out regular attacks on Hema herders in the eastern Iruri province, Venna said. CODECO could not be reached for comment. The attack took place not far from the site of another CODECO massacre in February in which at least 60 people were killed at a camp for a displaced people. Much of eastern Congo has seen a spike in violence this year, frustrating residents who say the army and the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, is not doing enough to keep people safe.”

Europe

Reuters: Appeal Starts In Paris Court Over Charlie Hebdo Attack

“An appeal trial will begin on Monday in a Paris court as two men found guilty of helping Islamist militants prepare the 2015 deadly attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris seek to overturn their convictions. The two men - Ali Riza Polat and Amar Ramdani - are among 14 convicted in December 2020 as accomplices of the attackers, who were themselves killed by police soon after the killings. Polat and Ramdani have denied involvement in the attacks and are the only convicted accomplices to appeal. They received the heaviest sentences. On Jan. 7, 2015, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a killing spree in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, whose satire on race, religion and politics tested the limits of what society would accept in the name of free speech. They killed 12 in an attack claimed by al Qaeda. The following day, Amedy Coulibaly, an acquaintance of Cherif Kouachi, killed a female police officer. Then, a day after that, he killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket. In a video, he said he acted in the name of Islamic State.”

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