Eye on Extremism: September 12, 2023

The New York Times: U.S. Seeks To Repatriate Family Of 10 Americans From Camps In Syria

“The State Department is working to repatriate a family of 10 American citizens stranded in Syria, where they are among the tens of thousands of people effectively imprisoned in desert camps and detention centers from the war against the Islamic State, according to officials. The transfer would make them the largest group brought back to the United States from northeastern Syria, where they are being held by a Kurdish-led militia. The American government has repatriated 40 such citizens since 2016 — 25 children and 15 adults, according to the State Department. The group consists of Brandy Salman, 49, and nine of her children, who range in age from about 6 to about 25, and all appear to have been born in the United States. Ms. Salman’s husband, who was from Turkey, seems to have taken her and their children into Islamic State territory around 2016 and was apparently later killed. The detention centers in northeastern Syria typically hold the families of suspected Islamic State militants. Much remains unclear about the family’s interactions with the group before the collapse of the so-called caliphate.”

Associated Press: Roadside Bombing In Northwestern Pakistan Kills A Security Officer And Wounds 9 People

“A roadside bombing targeted Pakistani security forces Monday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing a security officer and wounding nine people, including three civilians, police said. The Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack. The improvised explosive device went off near a van belonging to the Frontier Corps as it was driving along the key Warsak Road in Peshawar. Police spokesman Bilal Ahmed Faizi said the bomb also wounded three passersby. An investigation was underway, police officer Syed Ashfaq Anwar said. The wounded were moved to the Peshawar military hospital. The outlawed Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, have intensified their attacks on Pakistani security forces since pulling out of a unilateral cease-fire agreement with the government last November. They are a separate group but are allied with the Afghan Taliban, who took over Afghanistan in August 2021, following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from the country. The takeover emboldened the TTP, who often carry out attacks near the Afghan border and elsewhere in the country.”

United States

Reuters: Terror Victims Get No Help From US Supreme Court’s Latest Ruling On Jurisdiction

“The United States government and the family of a U.S. citizen who was stabbed to death in a 2018 attack outside a shopping mall in the West Bank were hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27 ruling in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co would be a lifeline for plaintiffs with Anti-Terrorism Act claims against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. Instead, the Supreme Court’s Mallory decision sank plaintiffs’ hopes of reviving their lawsuit at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 2nd Circuit ruled on Friday that family members of Ari Yoel Fuld, the slain U.S. citizen, may not proceed with their lawsuit against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority because U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to hear the case, despite a 2019 federal law that was specifically intended to establish venue in U.S. courts for Anti-Terrorism Act claims against those defendants. Congress enacted the 2019 law, known as the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, in response to a series of appellate rulings in which the 2nd and D.C. Circuits held that Anti-Terrorism Act plaintiffs could not show why their lawsuits against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority should be heard in U.S. courts.”


BBC: Canada Truck Attack: Trial Begins For Man Accused Of Killing Muslim Family

“Nathaniel Veltman, 22, faces four counts of terrorism-motivated first degree murder, and one attempted murder charge at a trial in Windsor, Ontario. He is accused of deliberately running over the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out on an evening walk in London, Ontario, in 2021. Mr Veltman has pleaded not guilty. The case marks the first time a jury in Canada is hearing legal arguments on terrorism related to white supremacy. Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44, were killed in the attack - along with their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Mr Afzaal's mother Talat Afzaal, 74. The couple's nine-year-old son was seriously hurt but survived. Prosecutors have argued that Mr Veltman, who was 20 at the time of his arrest, was motivated by hate and white nationalist ideologies when he allegedly jumped the curb with his truck and struck the Afzaal family, who were Pakistani-Canadian Muslims. He "left his home with a specific purpose in mind: to find Muslims to kill", prosecutor Sarah Shaikh told the court's 14 jurors on Monday during opening arguments.”


Voice Of America: Pakistan Warns Afghan Taliban Not To Build Illegal Border Structures

“Pakistan on Monday defended its decision to close the main border crossing with landlocked Afghanistan, saying Taliban authorities were trying to build "unlawful structures" on its territory and "resorted to indiscriminate firing" when challenged. Traffic through the busy historic Torkham transit point for trade and travelers was suspended last Wednesday after border security forces exchanged fire, killing a Taliban guard and a civilian on the Afghan side. "Pakistan cannot accept the construction of any structures by [the Afghan government] inside its territory since these violate its sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Monday. She responded to a Taliban Foreign Ministry statement accusing Pakistani forces of opening fire on Afghan forces while they were doing "repair work on an old security post constructed several years ago." Sunday’s Taliban statement warned that the border closure could "adversely affect" relations between the two countries. "On 6th September, instead of a peaceful resolution, Afghan troops resorted to indiscriminate firing, targeting Pakistan military posts, damaging the infrastructure at the Torkham Border Terminal, and putting the lives of both Pakistani and Afghan civilians at risk when they were stopped from erecting such unlawful structures," said Baloch in a statement.”


Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs: Extremist Islam Challenges Fatah In Lebanon

“On July 30, 2023, fighting broke out in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon after the assassination of a senior officer from Fatah, Maj. Gen. Abu Ashraf Al-Aramoushi. The attackers were believed to be members of Jund al-Sham, an Islamist faction affiliated with al-Qaeda. Al-Aramoushi, a commander of the Palestinian national security forces in Sidon, was assassinated in Ain al-Hilweh with his three bodyguards on July 30, 2023. The Lebanese army called for an immediate ceasefire. Under an agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Lebanese government, Lebanese military forces are prohibited from entering Palestinian refugee camps. Instead, the maintenance of security in these camps falls under the purview of Palestinian factions through a joint security force. In the wake of these recent battles, hundreds of families from Ain Al-Hilweh fled their homes. Eight UNRWA-run schools, which would typically provide shelter to the homeless, are in the control of the Islamist forces. At the same time, nearby Sidon does not permit the refugees’ relocation. A tent encampment established there by the UN had to be dismantled.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israel Accuses Iran Of Building Airport In Southern Lebanon To Launch Attacks Against Israelis

“Israel accused Iran on Monday of building an airport in southern Lebanon to be used as a launchpad for attacks against Israelis across the border, signaling a possible escalation in tensions between the regional foes. Speaking at a high-profile security conference hosted by Reichman University near Tel Aviv, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Iran has been building a runway that slices through forested mountains just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Israel’s northern border. Gallant displayed satellite photographs that he said showed the site, where the Iranian national flag and the flag of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group could be seen. Gallant alleged that Iran “is planning to act against the citizens of Israel,” using the runway as a base. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Hezbollah declined to comment on Israeli accusations. The defense minister did not specify when the satellite photos were taken. The location he gave was near the hilly Lebanese city of Jezzin, across the border from the Israeli town of Metulla. Hezbollah earlier this year invited journalists to watch a military exercise in a nearby town in southern Lebanon.”

The Times Of Israel: Islamists In Palestinian Refugee Camp In Lebanon Say They Will Honor Ceasefire

“Islamist factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp said Sunday they will abide by a ceasefire after three days of renewed clashes killed at least five people and left hundreds of families displaced. Fighting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and Islamist groups has rocked southern Lebanon’s Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp since Friday. Fatah and other factions in the camp had intended to crack down on suspects accused of killing one of their military generals in late July. Besides the five killed, 52 others were wounded, Dr. Riad Abu Al-Einen, who heads the Al-Hamshari Hospital in Sidon that has received the casualties, told The Associated Press. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, however, stated that four people were killed and 60 others wounded. Islamist factions in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp said Sunday they will abide by a ceasefire after three days of renewed clashes killed at least five people and left hundreds of families displaced.”


Garowe Online: Somalia: Regional Lawmaker Among Several Killed In Al-Shabaab Explosion

“One regional lawmaker and city council member were killed on Monday following an Improvised Explosive Device [IED] explosion in central Somalia, officials said, just as the military seized a strategic town, with the war against Al-Shabaab taking shape. According to authorities, Mohamed Mohamud Ahmed alias Mohamed Yare, who serves in the Galmadug state assembly, and Abdullahi Ibrahim Shaaciye, a member of the Dhusamareb Local Council, were killed in El-Garas town, where they had gone to visit troops in the frontline. Two other individuals accompanying the two were killed in the explosion which Al-Shabaab militants have already taken responsibility for. The militants had been flushed from the town by the Somali National Army [SNA] who retook the strategic town from the militants on Monday morning. Government troops retook El-Garas which authorities said would help the military to approach some of the towns still under the militants in the Galgaduud region. President Hassan Sheikh visited troops on the frontline a few days ago, where he encouraged soldiers to continue fighting.”


Cipher Brief: UN Peacekeepers On The Way Out As Terrorists Gain Ground In Mali

“…”The threat for the United States and Europe emanating from West Africa, including Mali, is currently growing. Although it is correct to argue that both ISIS and al-Qaeda are basing their local influence and social support on already existing local grievances, ISGS and JNIM continue to subscribe to the extremist terrorist ideology of ISIS and al-Qaeda, respectively,” said Dr. Hans Jakob-Schindler, Senior Director of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP). “One core aspect of either one of these terrorist ideologies is the obligation to attack those that are seen as enemies, for which in the al-Qaeda variant, the West is prioritized, and in the ISIS variant relates to everyone else outside ISIS, including targets in the West. Therefore, with the growing influence of these affiliates in West Africa and with the consolidation of their influence in the region, we have to expect increasing efforts in this regard.”

Reuters: Commercial Flights Halted To Mali's Timbuktu Amid Islamist Blockade

“Sky Mali, the only commercial airline flying to Timbuktu in Mali's interior, has cancelled flights there due to insecurity, it said on Monday, deepening the isolation of the northern city which has been under a month-long Islamist blockade. Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient trading centre on the edge of the Sahara desert, has been suffering from a shortage of food and aid supplies since a local affiliate of al Qaeda cut off access by road and river in mid-August. Two residents told Reuters that they heard shell fire near the city's airport on Monday morning. Sky Mali later issued a statement saying it had suspended all flights to and from Timbuktu until further notice, citing a security alert. "We heard several shell shots at Timbuktu airport. Flights are cancelled," said resident Mohamed Ag Hamaleck. "Now Timbuktu is completely closed. The access roads are cut, the boats no longer come," he said by phone. The city has been surrounded by violence ever since French forces liberated it from militants in 2013 after an uprising. The Islamists later regrouped and have spread from northern Mali to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.”


European Council On Foreign Affairs: A Necessary Trade-Off: Why The EU Needs To Cooperate With Niger’s Post-Coup Government On Counter-Terrorism

“Jihadist groups have rapidly gained territory across the Sahel over the past year. They threaten to spread further to the Gulf of Guinea, destabilising not only the Sahel but also Ghana and Benin, with knock-on effects for migration, possible state collapse, and increased terrorist attacks abroad. But after military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and now Niger, Europeans’ ability to respond militarily is constrained by unconstitutional governments. The alarming spate of coups across the Sahel pits two European priorities against one another – values and security; democracy and counter-terrorism. European governments refuse to provide security support to unconstitutional governments and are therefore unable to tackle security threats through security cooperation. This creates an additional problem for Europe: when it closes the door to security support, the private security company Wagner waits in the wings, willing to provide support to the Sahel’s post-coup governments. These operations may indirectly aid Wagner or even put European and Wagner operations on a collision course. “

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On September 15, 2019, a truck bomb exploded outside of the Al-Rai Hospital in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate, killing 12 civilians and injuring many more. There were no immediate claims of responsibility. 

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