Eye on Extremism: September 13, 2022

CBS News: Some 9/11 Families “Outraged” Over Potential Plea Deals For Five Defendants Held At Guantanamo Bay

“CBS News has confirmed military prosecutors and defense attorneys are negotiating potential plea deals that could take the death penalty off the table for five defendants charged in connection with the 9/11 attack – and some families of victims are upset by the news, reports CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge. The five defendants (including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described architect of 9/11) are all held at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and were formally charged in 2008 with helping to plan the attack. But their cases have stalled over access to CIA evidence and, recently, over COVID delays. Sunday marked 21 years since the terror plot that killed nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil. Among the victims was pilot Charles Burlingame. On 9/11, al Qaeda terrorists took over Burlingame's American Airlines Flight 77, slamming it into the Pentagon. “He was living his dream,” Burlingame's sister, Debra, told Herridge. Burlingame was more than a war hero to his family, who affectionately called him Chic. “He was really our touchstone,” said Debra. “He still is.” Before this year's anniversary, Debra shared his story at New York's 9/11 Memorial.”

Reuters: Pakistan Court Extends Imran Khan's Bail On Terrorism Charges

“A Pakistani court on Monday extended former Prime Minister Imran Khan's pre-arrest bail for eight more days on terrorism charges relating to a speech in which he allegedly threatened police and judicial officers, his lawyer said. Khan, who appeared in court in person, was booked in the case by police in August. This is the fourth time he has secured pre-arrest bail in the matter. read more “Bail is extended till 20th September with the same sureties,” Khan's lawyer, Babar Awan, told Reuters. Khan has denied he threatened the officials, saying his words were taken out of context. “This amounts to making a mockery of the anti-terrorism law; making a mockery of our country,” he told journalists outside the court on Monday after he secured his bail. The terrorism case is one of a spate of legal woes for Khan, who was ousted as prime minister by a parliamentary vote in April. The court said last week it would indict Khan in a contempt of court case in coming days in a matter that poses a threat to his future as it could see him disqualified from politics for at least five years. Khan, who still enjoys widespread support, has been holding political gatherings across the country to pressure the government into holding snap elections. Officially, general elections are not due until November next year.”

United States

Axios: Married Couple Who Plotted To Kill Americans For ISIS Plead Guilty

“An Alabama woman and New York City man have pleaded guilty to trying to fight for the ISIS terrorist group. Driving the news: Arwa Muthana, 30, and her husband, James Bradley, 21, attempted to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS, prosecutors say. Bradley had also allegedly expressed a desire to support ISIS by committing a terror attack in the U.S. Details: In 2020, Bradley told an undercover law enforcement officer about the possibility of attacking the U.S. military academy in West Point, according to the Justice Department. He allegedly said that if he couldn't leave the U.S., he'd do “something” in the U.S. instead. The two also “accessed, posted and distributed extremist online content,” the DOJ said. After much planning, Bradley and Muthana set out to travel to the Middle East via a cargo ship departing from New Jersey on March 31, 2021, prosecutors say. They were arrested as they were boarding. Later, Muthana allegedly said during an interview that she was “willing to fight and kill Americans if it was for Allah.” Worth noting: Muthana is the older sister of Hoda Muthana, who joined ISIS after traveling to Syria in 2014, AL.com notes. The younger Muthana has since expressed interest in returning to the U.S. while being detained in a Kurdish refugee camp with her young son. A judge ruled in 2019 that the U.S. is not obligated to help her return, and the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal this year.”

Washington Examiner: Al Qaeda Releases Book Detailing 9/11 Planning On Anniversary Of Terror Attacks: Report

“Al Qaeda leaders reportedly released a book over the weekend detailing the timeline leading up to the 9/11 terror attacks, coinciding with the 21st anniversary of the attacks that left almost 3,000 people dead in three locations. The book was written by one of the group’s senior leaders, Abu Muhammad al Masri, who was killed in Iran in 2020, according to the News Agency of Nigeria. The book details the timeline of the attack, noting that al Qaeda began planning attacks on the United States in 1996 with the intention to drag the U.S. military into a long-term war, the outlet reported. An Egyptian pilot initially suggested flying a civilian plane into “an important and symbolic American building” while carrying thousands of gallons of flammable materials, according to the book. Group members were then chosen in 1998 to enlist in further combat training and enroll in aviation schools, the outlet reported. On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked three U.S. planes and crashed two into the Twin Towers in New York City and another into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane was also hijacked, but passengers were able to overcome the pilots and crash the plane in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It’s believed the plane was either headed toward the Capitol or the White House.”

Syria

Associated Press: Islamic State Militants Kill 6 US-Backed Fighters In Eastern Syria

“The Islamic State group killed six U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in eastern Syria saying on Monday that the killing was in retaliation for an ongoing operation inside a sprawling camp housing tens of thousands of family members of the extremist group. The ISIS-linked Aamaq news agency released a video showing the shooting of the six members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces near the eastern village of Ruwaished where they were captured alive and later shot dead late Sunday. Despite their defeat in Syria in 2019, when ISIS lost the last sliver of land its fighters once controlled, the extremists' sleepers cells have continued to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq where they once held large parts of the two countries. The latest attack occurred in Syria's eastern province of Deir el-Zour bordering Iraq, and where U.S. troops are based at an oil facility known as the Omar Field. Last week, the U.S. military said SDF fighters arrested dozens of ISIS militants and rescued four women who were being held chained inside tents at the massive al-Hol camp that houses ISIS families. The operation that has been ongoing for three weeks is part of an effort to dissolve a major ISIS network at the camp, which is widely seen as a breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS extremists.”

AFP: US Centcom Urges Nations To Bring IS Relatives Home From Syria

“The head of the US armed forces' Central Command Monday urged countries from around the world to repatriate their nationals from a northeast Syrian camp housing jihadists' wives and children. Al-Hol camp holds around 56,000 people -- mostly Syrians and Iraqis, but also around 10,000 who consist largely of wives and children of Islamic State (IS) fighters originating from further afield. Many were taken to the camp during the defeat of the jihadist group's self-declared caliphate by US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces in 2019. “I encourage all of the countries that have citizens there to repatriate, rehabilitate and reintegrate” camp residents, CENTCOM's General Michael Kurilla told reporters in Jordan's capital Amman. Syria's Kurds -- who run a semi-autonomous adminstration in northeast Syria -- have repeatedly begged countries to repatriate their citizens. But such calls, despite being echoed by the United Nations, have largely fallen on deaf ears, due to fears returnees might pose a security threat back home and trigger a domestic backlash. IS, a Sunni extremist group, seized around a third of Iraq and swathes of war-torn Syria in 2014, recruiting foreign jihadists from around the world, before it was gradually ground down by US-backed forces on both sides of the border.”

Reuters: Tribal Spies In Syria Help U.S. Win Drone War Against Islamic State

“When the U.S. military targeted Islamic State commander Maher al-Agal with a drone strike in northern Syria in July, there was little chance it would miss. The reason? Revenge. With Islamic State's last battle-hardened forces holed up in remote areas, the United States is turning to the aid of tribesmen burning to exact revenge for the atrocities unleashed by the group when it ruled over swathes of Syria and Iraq. Still thirsty for vengeance eight years after the group, which is also known as Daesh, massacred hundreds of their clan, Sheitaat tribesmen in Syria had planted a tracking device on the motorbike Agal was riding when he was killed, one of the people who tracked him down said. The tribesman, whose account was confirmed by a Western intelligence officer in the region, said tribal relatives in contact with the Islamic State commander's immediate family had secretly been keeping tabs on him for months in northern Syria.”

Yemen

AFP: Blast Kills 6 Separatists On Anti Al-Qaeda Sweep In Yemen

“An explosion caused by an improvised device killed six Yemeni separatist fighters on Monday during an anti-jihadist sweep in the south of the war-ravaged country, security sources said. “Four Yemeni soldiers were killed and six others wounded in an IED explosion targeting a military vehicle” during a campaign targeting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Abyan province, a security official told AFP. Two of the wounded later died of their injuries, the same official later said. A second security source confirmed the original toll and the revised toll. On September 6, 21 separatist fighters and six AQAP members were killed when an attack by the jihadists punctured months of relative peace. Yemen has been gripped by conflict since Iran-backed Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year. AQAP and militants loyal to the Islamic State group have thrived in the chaos. A UN-brokered ceasefire has drastically reduced fighting between the government and Huthis since April, but outbreaks of violence continue. The anti-Huthi camp includes motley groups such as the separatists targeted by Monday's IED blast.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Israeli Security Forces Arrest 12 Palestinian Terrorism Suspects

“In the latest of nightly raids by Israeli security forces ]— dubbed Operation Break the Wave — the IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police operated at a number of towns in the West Bank overnight, arresting 12 suspects, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced. The security forces operated in the towns of Surif, Bayt Awa and Khirbat Carmel near Hebron as well as the Ayda and Jalazone refugee camps, Silwad near Ramallah, and A-Ram near Jerusalem. Border Police officers and the IDF Nahal unit operated in Jenin, arresting four people suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons. During the operation in Jenin, shots were fired and explosives, as well as Molotov cocktails, were thrown at the soldiers, who responded with gunfire.  Additionally, one of the suspects that the security forces were trying to arrest attempted to escape, during which the soldiers shot at him under arrest protocols, and he was hit. Palestinian media has noted at least two injuries as a result of clashes with Israeli troops throughout the night. More weapons were confiscated in Beit Jala and Abu Dis in the Etzion regional area. Additionally, two suspects were arrested.”

Nigeria

Reuters: Five Aides Killed After Gunmen Attack Nigerian Senator's Convoy

“Gunmen in Nigeria killed five aides including security personnel during an attack on the convoy of a Nigerian senator in southeastern Anambra state on Sunday evening, the senator's spokesman said on Monday. Senator Ifeanyi Ubah's convoy was attacked in Enugwu-Ukwu, a community in the Njikoka local government area of Anambra but he escaped without injuries because he was travelling in a bullet-proof vehicle, spokesman Kameh Ogbonna told Reuters. Ogbonna said he was in the same car with Ubah at the time of the attack, which he described as an assassination attempt. Police said they were investigating the incident and would give an update later. Unknown gunmen have been responsible for a series of attacks on politicians, security forces and government targets in the southeast, where separatists are agitating for secession. The government accuses outlawed separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the attacks and other criminal activities in the region. IPOB denies the charge and says it seeks non-violent means to achieve its aims.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Claims Killing Of Nigerian Army Personnel, Policeman In Borno, Yobe

“The Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), formerly known as Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihād, has claimed that its fighters killed a soldier and a policeman during different attacks on security agencies’ checkpoints in Borno State. According to ISWAP, the soldier was killed during an attack on a military checkpoint in Gamboru, Ngala Local Government Area of the state. Gamboru, near Lake Chad, is a market town near the Cameroon border. The terror group also claimed a policeman was killed on Saturday during an attack on a checkpoint in Geidam. It added that it razed down an operational vehicle belonging to the police. Since the death of JAS leader, Abubakar Shekau, ISWAP has been consolidating its grip in locations around Lake Chad. The sect’s membership has swollen with the defection of hundreds of Boko Haram fighters under Shekau. The Nigerian Army has repeatedly claimed that the insurgency has been largely defeated. The terror group has caused over 100,000 deaths and displaced millions of individuals mainly in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states.”

Somalia

Voice Of America: Somali Military Says Offensive Retakes 20 Villages From Militants

“Somalia's military says an offensive in the central Hiran region has captured 20 villages that were occupied by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. A Somali National Army commander, Captain Mohamed Ibrahim Daud, told VOA by phone Monday that army troops backed by armed locals have killed more than 100 al-Shabab fighters and also “liberated” 20 villages from the al-Qaida-affiliated group. He said the retaken villages include several key locations in Hiran region, including the small town of Fidow near Somalia's border with Ethiopia. Daud said troops captured another 20 militants alive. He acknowledged that the army received air support during the operations, without naming a country. In a statement issued Sunday night, Somali Information Ministry said the operations were the first step in implementing the government's vision of fighting terrorism and getting rid of al-Shabab “all over the country.” “The Somali government is committed to remove al-Shabab as a threat to the Somali people,” the statement said. Abdulkarim Abdulle, a Mogadishu-based independent security analyst, told VOA via WhatsApp that local militias are determined to work with the security forces to eliminate al-Shabab in the regions.”

Africa

Associated Press: Mozambique's Jihadis Spread Into Most Populous Province

“Extremists allied with the Islamic State group have spread their attacks further south into Mozambique's most populous province, Nampula, including an assault on a Catholic mission in which an Italian nun was among those killed. The extremists first struck the province earlier this month and have sustained the offensive, attacking rural centers and beheading some residents. Their insurgency had been confined to Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province, where an estimated 4,000 people have been killed and 950,000 displaced over four years. The violence has also disrupted big economic projects, including one by the France-based TotalEngergies to produce liquified natural gas and the development of a large mine to extract graphite to make lithium batteries for Tesla motors. The extremists' push into Nampula comes despite the deployment for more than a year of a military force from the 16-nation Southern Africa Development Community, along with troops from Rwanda, in support of the Mozambican military. The Islamic State Mozambique Province group has claimed responsibility for setting fire to two churches and more than 120 homes of Christians last week in Nampula province.”

AFP: Soldiers And 'Terrorists' Dead In Burkina Faso Attack

“Two soldiers died and a dozen “terrorists” were killed on Monday during an attack against a military detachment in Burkina Faso's militant-hit north, the army said. The landlocked African state is in the grip of a seven-year-old insurgency that has claimed more than 2,000 lives and forced some 1.4 million people to leave their homes. The army said in a statement that a “complex attack targeted the military detachment of Deou” in the Sahel region on Monday morning, when “attackers tried to infiltrate their security apparatus”. The statement said that after the attack, there were “two fallen soldiers and a dozen wounded... on the enemy side, a dozen soldiers were neutralised, weapons and motorcycles were recovered”. Military statements often use the word “neutralised” to indicate those killed. Although the army statement did not give more details about the attack, the phrase “complex attack” generally refers to the combined use of explosives and weapons. Reinforcements are on the way to the area, the military said. Burkina Faso has been facing increasingly frequent and deadly attacks by terrorist groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda or the so-called Daesh (Islamic State), targeting civilians and soldiers since 2015.”

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