Eye on Extremism: September 13, 2021

NBC News: Are We Safer Now Than We Were On 9/11?

“Two decades after the 9/11 attacks put terrorism at the center of American foreign policy, some of the same Taliban figures who harbored the planners of that operation in Afghanistan are back in power, including an interior minister with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. But despite the collapse of the American-backed government in Kabul, many national security experts say the U.S. remains much less vulnerable to international terrorism than it was when New York and the Pentagon were struck. “Absolutely, we're safer,” Michael Leiter, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “We're safer here at home, because we’ve got an integrated intelligence community and law enforcement in a way that we never had, pre-9/11,” he added. “We're safer globally, because we have a network of allies who have similar structure set up. ... None of that means we're safe, but we are absolutely safer than we were 20 years ago.” President Joe Biden’s counterterrorism adviser, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, echoed that sentiment in remarks this week at the Atlantic Council. “We have learned since 9/11 how to protect Americans from terrorism,” she said. “It isn’t fail-safe, and terrible things still happen. But through a combination of actions abroad and at home, we have thus far been able to disrupt and prevent another 9/11-style attack.”

The Washington Post: Taliban Fighters Tighten Grip In Rebellious Panjshir Region With Killings And Food Control, Witness Says

“Taliban fighters have imposed a withering siege in Afghanistan’s rebellious Panjshir province, denying residents food and carrying out some extrajudicial executions of civilians, a tribal elder who recently fled the province said Friday, adding to a growing list of alleged abuses carried out by the militant group. A Taliban spokesman denied that the movement’s fighters had killed any civilians in Panjshir, a northern region that has been a last redoubt for anti-Taliban fighters. The latest accusations came as U.N. officials decried other alleged Taliban abuses, including reprisal killings and beatings and fatal shootings of protesters across the country. Taken together, the accusations have painted a bleak picture of Taliban rule in the weeks since the Islamist militants took power and pledged to govern inclusively, respect women’s rights and press freedoms, and avoid retaliatory actions against former adversaries. An interim government named by the Taliban this week consists entirely of Taliban members, includes no women and eliminates the ministry in charge of ensuring opportunity and rights for women and girls. A Taliban spokesman, defending the appointments, said they were the result of discussions held “all over the country.”

United States

CNN: Twenty Years Later, Case Of Five Accused Of Plotting 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Remains Stalled

“On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, pretrial hearings in the nine-year-long case against five men accused of plotting and executing the attacks continued in a heavily guarded military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While the hearings this week were the first to be held in-person for a year and a half because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the case that aims to provide family members of the nearly 3,000 victims of September 11 with justice remains hamstrung by personnel changes and dozens of outstanding motions. In the first week of in-person pretrial hearings since February 2020, lawyers spent time in court asking the latest in a series of judges about his experience and knowledge of the issues in the years-long case, including torture and the death penalty. In the last hearing of the week on Friday, lawyers debated one of several outstanding motions about what evidence defense attorneys will get from the US government regarding the time the detainees spent in CIA custody in undisclosed locations, known as “black sites,” in the early 2000s. The five accused, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- who has been dubbed the mastermind behind the attacks, have been detained and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.”

New York Post: Pennsylvania Couple Who Gave Relatives Money To Join ISIS Sentenced To Prison

“A Pennsylvania couple has been sentenced to federal prison after they sent thousands of dollars to two relatives to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Shahidul Gaffar, 40, and Nabila Khan, 35, originally from Bangladesh, admitted to sending nearly $5,600 to Khan’s brothers in the South Asian country prior to them traveling to Syria in early 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The pair was sentenced Thursday to 18 months and two years in prison, respectively, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Gaffar, a naturalized citizen who has lived in the US for 26 years, insisted he didn’t hate America and successfully ran restaurants in Montgomery County. “God bless America, God bless the United States,” Gaffar told District Judge Joshua Wolson. Khan, a legal permanent resident, insisted she and her husband gave her brothers the funds out of love for family rather than loyalty to the militant group or its violent ideology. “I’m really sorry about everything I did,” an emotional Khan told Wolson. “It has cost my family a lot.” One of Khan’s brothers, Ibrahim Khan, was later killed while fighting in Syria in 2019. Khan’s second brother, Junaid Hasan Khan, remains missing and is presumed dead, the Inquirer reported.”

Iran

The Jerusalem Post: Iran Training Terror Groups To Operate Advanced UAVs

“Iran is training militias from various countries to operate advanced unmanned aerial vehicles at Kashan Base, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Sunday. Gantz, who was speaking at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy at Reichman University in Herzilya, said that the Islamic Republic is training militias from Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria at the airbase north of the city of Isfahan and is trying to teach them how to manufacture Iranian drones. “Iran has created ‘emissary terrorism’ under the auspices of organized terror armies that help it achieve its economic, political, and military goals. Iran is trying to transfer its knowledge that will enable Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Also in the Gaza Strip, to produce advanced UAVs,” he said. According to Gantz, terror operatives from those countries are being trained on flying Iranian UAVs at the base “which is the cornerstone of Iranian aerial terrorism in the region.” According to Gantz, the Houthis in Yemen and Shiite militias in Iraq have dozens of advanced UAVs that they have used against Saudi Arabia or American forces in the region. In the coming years, hundreds of these UAVs will be in Syria and there are constant attempts to smuggle advanced UAVs to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Iraq

Associated Press: Drones Target Northern Iraqi Airport After 2 Month Lull

“Explosives-laden drones targeted Irbil international airport in northern Iraq late Saturday where U.S.-led coalition troops are stationed with no reports of casualties, according to security forces and officials in Kurdish-run region. Kurdistan's Counter-Terrorism Service said at least two drones carrying explosives targeted the airport in a statement. It said the attack did not lead to any casualties. Lawk Ghafuri, spokesman for the semi-autonomous northern region, said the explosives struck outside of the airport and dismissed reports the attack had impacted flights. He said the airport remained open and an investigation was ongoing by Kurdish authorities. The attack is the first following a two month lull in drone and rocket attacks to target the U.S. presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq. On July 8, rockets landed in and around the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, which houses the U.S. Embassy. It caused material damage but no casualties. Until recently the attacks were a frequent occurrence. The U.S. has blamed Iran-backed militias for attacks. More recently, the attacks have become more sophisticated, with militants using drones instead of Katyusha rockets.”

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Federal Police Killed In Suspected ISIS Attack In Disputed Kirkuk

“A suspected ISIS cell attacked late Saturday an Iraqi federal police unit south of Daquq district, Kirkuk province, killing or wounding several officers, a security source told Kurdistan 24. At least three federal police members were killed in the attack, and multiple others were wounded, the source said. A roadside bomb exploded on a reinforcements vehicle that deployed to the area, they added. Following its territorial defeat in 2017 at the hands of the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, ISIS remnants regularly launch attacks in the disputed territories amid a persistent “security vacuum,” as Kurdish officials have described it. The Iraqi military conducted an operation to root out suspected ISIS cells in rural parts of Nineveh province last week. The campaign came shortly after dozens of gunmen believed to be ISIS fighters killed at least one Iraqi soldier and kidnapped a civilian in an attack on a village in the disputed Kirkuk province countryside.”

Afghanistan

Associated Press: Taliban Flag Rises Over Seat Of Power On Fateful Anniversary

“The Taliban raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace Saturday, a spokesman said, as the U.S. and the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The white banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission. The flag-raising marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said. The composition of the all-male, all-Taliban government was announced earlier this week and was met with disappointment by the international community which had hoped the Taliban would make good on an earlier promise of an inclusive lineup. In a tweet, Afghanistan’s first president to follow the 2001 collapse of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai, called for “peace and stability” and expressed the hope that the new caretaker Cabinet that included no women and no non-Taliban would become an “inclusive government that can be the real face of the whole Afghanistan.”

The Hill: Panetta: Taliban Hasn't Changed, Will Provide 'Safe Haven For Terrorists'

“Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Taliban that took over Afghanistan last month has not changed since it last ruled the country and warned that the insurgent group would “continue to provide a safe haven for terrorists.” “I think that the Taliban taking over Afghanistan is pretty much the same Taliban that controlled Afghanistan on 9/11,” Panetta told Greta Van Susteren in an interview to be aired on Sunday. “And that was pretty much confirmed recently, when they appointed hardliners to their government, people who were in power on 9/11, and in addition, appointed Haqqani as interior minister, a global terrorist, really, to be interior secretary and in charge of internal security.” Earlier this week, Sirajuddin Haqqani, an FBI-wanted militant, was named as the acting interior minister. The FBI allege he was involved in a 2008 incident in which six people died following a Kabul hotel attack. The agency also accuses him of being involved in planning an attempted assassination of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In the span of over a week in August, the landscape in Afghanistan drastically changed as major cities and areas were overtaken by the insurgent group.”

India

ANI: 25 Indian IS Sympathisers May Sneak Into India From Afghanistan: Intel Reports

“A group of 25 Indians having allegiance with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) who are supposed to be a big threat to India, may enter into Indian territory from Afghanistan as they broke open various jails when Taliban took over the country last month, the intelligence inputs are suggesting. These 25 Indians are on the wanted list of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for having alleged links with the terror group ISIS. However, the NIA officials, privy to the ongoing investigation in ISIS cases, said that they were not aware of the present status of these 25 Indians but investigations have established that all of them migrated (hijarat) to Afghanistan and joined ISIS in the Nangarhar province. Considering inputs, an alert has already been issued at all Indian airports and seaports, manned by the Bureau of Immigration (BoI), to ensure that these ISIS suspects could not sneak into India from Afghanistan. Most of these 25 are belong to the IS-inspired module in Kerala and they fled to Afghanistan on different periods sometime between 2016 and 2018 to join ISIS. The NIA got inputs about these ISIS sympathisers during its probe into several IS-inspired modules active in Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.”

The Times Of Israel: New Jihadist Outfit Continues To Expand In India

“According to a recent report published in Kerala-based newspaper Daily Janmabhumi, a new jihadist group named ‘Al Kerala Military Brigade’, which follows the ideology of Islamic State has been gradually expanding its network and number of fighters. A report published by the ‘Anti-terror Cyber Wing’, Kerala has already emerged into a breeding ground of Islamic terrorists and the number of sleeper cells of the ISIS in Kerala is above 3,200. The report further says that approximately 40 percent of the sleeper cell members of ISIS-Kerala are women while majority of them are converted Muslims. These sleeper cell members are trained to manipulate discussion in social media, spread Jihadist ideology and lure people towards terrorist activities. Members of these groups also are trained to use various types of weapons while some of them are experts in bomb-making. The report also states that there is sleeper cell in all the major sectors including movie and entertainment industry. Such people are lured by offering money, sex and high paying jobs outside India, especially the United States, Britain and European nations. It may be mentioned here that, a large number of people from Kerala are travelling to Iraq and Syria for joining Islamic State, while there also are significant number of people joining Hamas and the Taliban.”

Yemen

Associated Press: Yemeni Officials Say Houthi Attack Destroys Aid Warehouses

“Yemeni officials said the country’s Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile and explosive-laden drones at a Red Sea port on Saturday, destroying humanitarian aid warehouses. The attack on the port city of Mocha on Yemen’s western coast was the latest blamed on the Iranian-backed Houthis, who have in recent weeks accelerated their offensives on government areas, as well cross-border attacks on neighboring Saudi Arabia. The rebels did not claim responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the Houthis. A Houthi spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try restore Hadi to power, and threw its support behind his internationally backed government. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Lebanon

Bloomberg: Hezbollah Tightens Its Grip On Sinking Lebanon

“The most basic foods have become political assets in economically devastated Lebanon. And no one’s tapped that currency of oil, milk and bread like Iran-backed Hezbollah. Designated a terrorist group by the US, it has galvanized its power by taking on more functions of a state hollowed out by an imploding economy and sectarian feuding. By offering food, cash and medical services amid widespread poverty in this once-middle class nation, the militant group has become a lifeline for many. On a global scale, Hezbollah’s influence resonates as Iran’s most powerful proxy militia. In Syria, it has lost hundreds of combatants, but through its cooperation with Russian forces has been exposed to more sophisticated fighting that it can apply to other arenas. It still sporadically trades fire with Israel, including a calibrated exchange last month that didn’t cause casualties. Critics say Hezbollah profits from Lebanon’s misery, giving no incentive to fix it. A 36-year-old Lebanese father of two who opposes the group but lives in one of its strongholds said he was forced to turn to Hezbollah to survive. Relatives got him a card that won access to the group’s discount warehouses in his Shiite community stocked with goods from Lebanon, Syria and Iran.”

Nigeria

Daily Trust: Nigeria: 120 Bandit Gangs Operate With 60,000 AK47 Rifles In 6 Northern States - Study

“A lecturer at the Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Dr Murtala A. Rufa'I, has said that there are 120 gangs of bandits operating in six northern states. He said each of these groups, operating in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger, has in its possession more than 500 AK 47 rifles. The university don also said over 12,000 persons have lost their lives to banditry in Zamfara State since 2011. According to him, about 250,000 livestock had been rustled, 120 villages' destroyed and over 50,000 villagers displaced by bandits in the period under review. The lecturer disclosed these at a public lecture organised by Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, as part of its seminar series on banditry in the North West. Presenting a paper, titled, “I am a Bandit: A Decade of Research in Zamfara Bandit's Den”, Rufa'I said he had had a one-on-one interaction with some of the bandits' leaders. He explained that these gangs of bandits basically engaged in the mass killing of innocent people, cattle rustling, kidnapping, gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) and other related human rights abuses.”

United Kingdom

Bloomberg: U.K. Spy Chief Says MI5 Stopped 31 Terror Plots In Four Years

“The U.K. foiled 31 “late-stage” terrorist plots in the past four years, the chief of the country’s domestic intelligence agency said as he highlighted the risks posed by the new Taliban regime in Afghanistan. MI5 chief Ken McCallum’s revelation emphasizes the scale of the problem still faced by security services as they seek to protect the British public two decades after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. “We do face a consistent global struggle to defeat extremism and to guard against terrorism,” McCallum said. “The terrorist threat to the U.K., I am sorry to say, is a real and enduring thing,” he told BBC Radio on Friday. “While the recent plots have been “mainly Islamist extremist” there’s also been a “growing number of attack plots from extremist right wing terrorists.” McCallum also said also “there is no doubt that recent events in Afghanistan will have heartened and emboldened some of those extremists.” “Overnight you can have a psychological boost, a morale boost to extremists already here or in other countries, so we need to be vigilant,” he said. “The big concern flowing from Afghanistan alongside the immediate inspirational effect is the risk that terrorists reconstitute and once again pose us more in the way of well-developed sophisticated plots of the sort that we faced  in 9/11 and the years thereafter.”

The National: Arson Attack On Mosque Attended By Manchester Arena Bomber Salman Abedi

“UK police are treating an arson attack on a mosque once attended by the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi and his family as a hate crime. Didsbury Mosque, in Manchester, which has previously received arson threats, was set on fire late on Friday night. Mosque leaders have praised neighbours who put out the flames with their coats. “If it was not for the actions of two of our amazing neighbours on Burton Road, who saw the flames and put them out with their coats, we hate to think what could have happened,” they said. “We cannot thank them enough.” No one was injured in the blaze, which was attended by crews from the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service for more than two hours. The mosque has released CCTV footage of the incident and is urging the community to stay vigilant. “Please do not let hate divide us or win,” it said. On Saturday, the community held a Stand Up to Racism vigil outside the mosque. Deputy leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, condemned the attack. “This is a despicable act designed to create fear and hatred,” he said. “Manchester has consistently shown it is a city that stands together and will not allow extremists to divide us.”

Europe

Associated Press: Post-9/11, Europe’s Weak Spots Make It A Jihadist Target

“In the 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, a mixture of homegrown extremists, geography and weaknesses in counterterrorism strategies have combined to turn Europe into a prime target for jihadists bent on hurting the West. Europe watched open-mouthed as the 9/11 attacks unfolded across the Atlantic. Life on the Old Continent, too, would be transformed by those events, with hundreds of people killed and thousands injured at the hands of Islamic extremists in the following years. Since 9/11, Europe has witnessed many more jihadist attacks on its soil than the United States. Why? A variety of reasons, analysts say. Over the past decade or so, “what we’ve seen in Western Europe is an unprecedented jihadist mobilization,” says Fernando Reinares, director of the program on Violent Radicalization and Global Terrorism at the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid. Evidence of that, he says, is not only the bombings, vehicle rammings and stabbings that have tormented Western Europe in recent times, but also the tens of thousands of European Muslims who felt compelled to join insurgent terrorist groups during recent wars in Syria and Iraq. Western Europe has struggled to integrate significant Muslim populations into mainstream society.”

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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