Eye on Extremism: September 14, 2020

Arab News: Hezbollah’s Links With Irish Terror Group Exposed

“…Irish and British security services suspect that the New IRA’s links with Iran-backed Hezbollah may have led to the import of arms including mortars and assault rifles. MI5 agent McFadden is now in witness protection after his work led to the arrest of 10 people in Northern Ireland on terrorism-related charges. His operation found that Hezbollah and the New IRA opened communications around 2017. Members of the New IRA then traveled to Lebanon in 2018 to meet with Hezbollah representatives, where British security services suspect they procured the weapons. Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, has been a long-time supporter of Iran, Hezbollah’s key international ally and patron. In the aftermath of the US killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January this year, Saoradh representatives signed a book of condolences at the Iranian Embassy in Dublin. Hezbollah is known to have fostered relationships with terrorist organizations and criminal groups across the Middle East and further afield. The Counter Extremism Project notes Hezbollah’s extensive cooperation over the smuggling of “people and contraband” into the US with Mexican drug cartels, and their profiting off the Colombian cocaine trade. Hezbollah also maintained a relationship with Spanish terror group Eta until it was disbanded.”

Reuters: Saudi Coalition Attack Houthi Military Sites In Yemen's Sanaa: Al-Arabiya

“Saudi Arabian-led coalition fighter jets early on Sunday attacked barracks and military sites of the armed Houthi movement in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya reported. The coalition also destroyed four Houthi drones at Al-Delmi air base north of Sanaa, Al-Arabiya said, citing local sources. There was no immediate official confirmation from the coalition, which launched air strikes on two sites in Sanaa a day earlier. Those strikes followed a Houthi claim it had attacked an “important target” in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday using a ballistic missile and drones. The coalition did not confirm an attack on Riyadh but said it had intercepted and destroyed ballistic missiles and explosive drones launched towards the kingdom on Thursday. Bombings in Sanaa city have been relatively rare since September 2019, when Saudi Arabia launched indirect talks with the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which it has been at war with since 2015. The conflict has killed 100,000 people and led to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The Houthis took over the Yemeni capital Sanaa and most other cities in 2014 after ousting the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.”

United States

Fox News: Defense Secretary Esper: Since Sept. 11 Attacks, Our Heroic Military Has Successfully Fought Terrorism

“Exactly 19 years ago, Al Qaeda launched a vicious attack on our homeland by using four hijacked airlines as tools to murder nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children at New York City’s World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on a quiet field near Shanksville, Pa. No one could have fathomed on that bright and clear September morning just how much the world would change in the wake of the darkest and most vicious terrorist attack in our nation’s history. It was an evil assault on our citizens, our institutions, and on our fundamental ideals themselves — freedom, human rights and respect for the American way of life. In their attempt to break the spirit of our people and fracture the foundation of our republic, the terrorists underestimated Americans’ resilience, resolve and determination to fight for our values. Almost two decades after that fateful day, we have dealt devastating blows to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world by eliminating key leaders, cutting off resources, and crippling their attempts to orchestrate future attacks. In doing these things, we not only protect our nation’s people and everything they represent, but also continue to honor the rarified valor that emerged out of the devastation on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Fox News: Wolf Says 'Lone, Homegrown' Terror Threat Is Top DHS Focus 19 Years After 9/11

“Nineteen years after Al Qaeda attacked America, the terror threat to the United States has “changed and it's morphed over the years,” Acting Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf told “Special Report” Friday. “From a threat perspective, we still see a number of the traditional threats that we battled on 9/11,” Wolf told host Bret Baier. “[We see in] counterterrorism some of the foreign terrorist organizations that are still certainly a threat to the homeland, but we see more of a domestic threat here in the country as well over the last several years. “The threat has changed and it's morphed over the years,” Wolf added, “but we continue to do the work at the department to confront all threats.” Baier noted that in February, FBI Director Chris Wray had confirmed that the FBI is engaged in active domestic terrorism investigations in all 50 states. “The lone, homegrown offender that is going to do some kind of incident here in the homeland is certainly a concern for the department,” Wolf agreed. “That's the threat we are focused on today. “As you've seen in the last several years, most of the attacks on the homeland have come from lone offenders or small cells of individuals,” he added. “And that's where the focus is and again, we do all threats at the department, so while we are focused on one, we certainly do focus on the wide range of threats based on the homeland.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Coalition Strikes ISIS Hideout In Rural Kirkuk Amid Fresh Attacks

“The International Coalition against the so-called Islamic State on Sunday conducted an airstrike against a hideout of the terror group in rural parts of the disputed Kirkuk province, killing at least two suspected terrorists. “On the order of the Joint Operations Command, the International Coalition Air Force carried out an airstrike on ISIS terrorist targets” in the Wadi al-Shai area, killing two suspected members of the terror group and destroying the hideout and a motorcycle, said a statement from the Iraqi military communication center. Wadi al-Shai, a known hiding place for members of the Islamic State—as the Coalition has described it in the past—is located in the southeast of Daquq district of Kirkuk, a province disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government. The valley area also has characteristically rugged, difficult to navigate terrain, which other militants in the past have used as their base of operations. In recent days, Iraqi forces have conducted several operations, chiefly led by the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, against Islamic State members, with the military recently announcing the arrests and killings of multiple alleged leaders in the terrorist organization.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Taliban Prisoners Linked To Killing U.S. Troops Are Released Ahead Of 9/11 Anniversary

“President Trump warned in characteristically over-the-top terms during a political rally in Michigan on Thursday night that Joe Biden, if elected, would invite “terrorists” into the suburbs by raising the cap on the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. He made these comments as the Afghan government – under pressure from his administration – reluctantly released high-value Taliban prisoners who were allegedly involved in killing American troops. That jarring split screen happened on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which originated in Afghanistan, where the Taliban provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the plot that killed nearly 3,000 people. “We’re getting along very, very well with the Taliban,” Trump said at a news conference earlier Thursday.  The president announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will fly to Doha, Qatar, for the start of formal peace talks this weekend between the Taliban and the Afghan government. As the precondition for starting these talks, six Taliban prisoners accused of playing a role in the killings of American, French and Australian nationals were released from Afghan custody on Thursday and flown to Doha.”

The Wall Street Journal: Afghanistan And Taliban Begin First-Ever Direct Peace Talks

“The Afghanistan government and the Taliban began on Saturday their first direct talks to end nearly two decades of fighting, a negotiation brokered by the U.S. as part of its plan to withdraw from its longest war. Officials from the warring sides have convened in Doha, Qatar’s capital, for the talks, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attending the opening ceremony. “Today is a truly momentous occasion,” Mr. Pompeo said at the ceremony. “Afghans have at long last chosen to sit together and chart a new course for your country. This is a moment to dare to hope.” In the face of steep odds, Afghanistan’s leaders said they want to put the country’s conflict behind them. “We have come here with good will and good intentions,” Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan government delegation, said in opening remarks Saturday morning. “We want all of the people of Afghanistan to be reunited under one roof again.” The U.S. and the Taliban signed a conditional peace agreement in February that involved a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the course of 14 months. In exchange, the insurgents pledged not to attack U.S. troops, to prevent al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from operating in Taliban-controlled areas and to discuss a long-term cease-fire with Kabul.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Three Lebanese Soldiers Killed During Raid On Militant's House, Army Says

“Three Lebanese army soldiers were killed when they came under fire while raiding the home of a wanted militant in northern Lebanon, the army said in a statement overnight. The patrol from Lebanese army intelligence was attacked with gunfire and a hand grenade when it raided the house near the city of Tripoli in the Minyeh Jabal al-Bedawi area, the army said. A fourth soldier was seriously wounded.”

Libya

The New York Times: Russian Attack Jets Back Mercenaries Fighting In Libya

“More than a dozen attack jets that Russia sent to Libya this year are conducting ground strikes and other combat missions in support of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside a beleaguered commander in his campaign to oust the government from Tripoli, the capital, a top American military official said on Friday. The Pentagon’s Africa Command revealed in May the deployment of at least 14 MiG-29 and Su-24 jets to Libya, underscoring Moscow’s deepening role in a sprawling proxy war, where its Libyan ally, the commander Khalifa Hifter, had experienced a series of setbacks that dealt his campaign a major blow. The planes were flown from Russia to Syria, where their Russian markings were painted over to camouflage their origin, American military officials said. The aircraft were then flown into Libya, in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. At the time, the scope and scale of the aircrafts’ missions were unclear. Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the Africa Command’s director of intelligence, said on Friday that the Russian planes, flown by crews from the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private military company whose mercenaries provided a major boost to Mr. Hifter’s assault on Tripoli last fall, had carried out several ground strikes and other missions.”

Africa

The Washington Post: Burkina Faso’s Wildlife Reserves Have Become A Battle Zone, Overrun By Militants And Poachers

“The land used to be a tourist magnet, a haven for elephants and lions. Now park officials in the West African nation of Burkina Faso say extremists have turned wildlife reserves into a battlefield, targeting rangers and exposing endangered animals to poachers. “One of my colleagues was killed right in front of me,” said Brahima Kabore, 34, a ranger in the country’s east. The forest takeover marks another violent chapter in Burkina Faso’s four-year fight against militants loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who are vying to control vast swaths of West Africa. The government-protected reserves offer a double dose of value to armed groups, analysts say: secluded places for hideouts and illegal poaching activities to exploit. Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups are working together in West Africa to grab large swaths of territory Attacks have doubled in Burkina Faso’s rural areas every year since 2016, forcing more than a million people from their homes in what the United Nations has called the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The conflict has also devastated tourism in the country, which drew crucial income from campers, hunters and animal lovers. Now leisurely excursions throughout the verdant, hilly terrain are unthinkable, park officials say. Even the guardians have retreated.”

The Associated Press: Moroccan Police: IS Cell Dismantled, Was Plotting Attacks

“Moroccan authorities say police arrested five people suspected of plotting suicide bombings and being part of an extremist network linked to the Islamic State group. One suspect set off an explosive as police moved in during coordinated raids in four cities, and one officer was injured when another suspect attacked him, according to a statement Thursday from the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations cited by the state news agency MAP. Authorities seized explosive belts, detonators, pressure-cookers loaded with nails, ammonium nitrate and other chemicals suspected of being used for explosives, and IS paraphernalia, the statement said. The police operations were carried out in Tangiers, Tiflet, Temara and Skhirat. The statement said the suspects were in the “advanced stages” of plotting suicide bombings against unidentified sensitive targets. More than 1,000 Moroccans are believed to have joined IS between 2013 and 2017 as it seized territory across Syria and Iraq. Moroccan authorities carry out periodic sweeps of terrorism suspects.”

The Wall Street Journal: Sudan Deal To Settle Embassy Bombing Claims Stalls

“A split among Senate Democrats threatens to derail a U.S.-brokered deal to help Sudan establish a stable civilian government and resolve terror victims’ claims against the former regime of Omar al-Bashir, which harbored al Qaeda in the 1990s. In its latest form, the deal would see Sudan’s new reformist government pay $335 million to compensate more than 700 victims of al Qaeda’s 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In return, Washington would remove Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and restore its sovereign immunity from additional liability in U.S. courts. At least two senior Democratic senators, however, say the deal is inadequate, according to congressional aides, and want to see greater payouts for foreign victims of the terrorist attacks. They also want to make Sudan compensate an additional group of victims—those of al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, for which Sudan denies complicity. The U.S.-brokered plan is aimed at opening the impoverished nation to commercial investment and more aid from international organizations, while protecting its assets from plaintiffs in terrorism-related lawsuits.”

Foreign Policy: Mozambique Can’t Contain Its Insurgency Alone

“On Aug. 11, militants with links to the Islamic State captured the port of Mocímboa da Praia in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The extremists have so far managed to hold the port city, signaling that the national government may have lost control over the conflict in its resource-rich north that began with a few attacks in 2017. The capture of Mocímboa da Praia, the gateway to a $20 billion offshore liquified natural gas project led by the French multinational Total, shows that the insurgency is growing in size and sophistication, mutating into a force that may be difficult to contain. Mozambique’s security forces are ill equipped to deal with the militants. Many soldiers sent to Cabo Delgado are inexperienced in combat, poorly trained, and suffer from low morale.  Instead, Mozambique’s government has taken a haphazard approach to the conflict on its own. Given the poor showing of its military, its lack of financial resources, and its ill-defined strategy, The odds appear stacked against Mozambique. the odds appear stacked against Mozambique. The absence of coordinated external assistance has given the insurgency the opportunity to take Mocímboa da Praia and perhaps to spread into southern Africa.”

United Kingdom

Reuters: UK Counter-Terrorism Police Arrest Man Over London Package

“British police said counter-terrorism officers arrested a man on Saturday on suspicion of attempting to cause an explosion over a package sent to an address in north London earlier this week. Police said the man, in his 20s, had been arrested by armed officers in Cambridge, central England, over the suspicious item sent to a property in Cricklewood in north London on Thursday. “Specialist officers attended and made safe what was assessed to be a small improvised explosive device,” they said in a statement. The man is being questioned at a south London police station while two addresses in Cambridge are being searched. There was no risk to the local community, police said.”

Daily Mail: Mother Of ISIS 'Beatle' Launches New High Court Challenge Over Priti Patel's Decision To Share Evidence With The US As Court Hears Prosecutors Will Decide 'Imminently' If He Will Face Trial In UK

“The mother of a suspected ISIS 'Beatle' has slammed Priti Patel's 'unlawful' decision to share evidence with the US in a fresh High Court challenge. Alexanda Kotey, 36, and El-Shafee El-Sheikh, 32, are accused of belonging to a cell of executioners in Syria - nicknamed The Beatles because of their British accents - responsible for killing a number of Western captives. El-Sheikh's mother Maha Elgizouli is bringing a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice in London over the Home Secretary's decision to provide material to US authorities under a 'mutual legal assistance (MLA)' request. At a hearing in London today, Ms Elgizouli's lawyers argued that Ms Patel's decision was unlawful as it is incompatible with the Data Protection Act. They are asking the court to order that no material should be provided to the US. The Supreme Court lifted a court order stopping the UK from sharing vital evidence with Washington last month - a week after Attorney General William Barr notified Britain that the US will not seek the death penalty against El-Sheikh and Kotey. The court had previously ruled that the UK could not provide evidence against the pair to the US so long as the death penalty remained a possibility.”

France

Agence France-Presse: Al-Qaeda Threatens Charlie Hebdo For Republishing Mohammed Cartoons: SITE

“Al-Qaeda has threatened French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo with a repeat of a 2015 massacre of its staff, after it republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the SITE observatory said on Friday. Al-Qaeda in its publication One Ummah had warned that Charlie Hebdo would be mistaken if it believed the 2015 attack was a “one off”, after the magazine printed the “contemptible caricatures” in a defiant issue that marked the start of the trial in Paris of suspected accomplices in the attack. The comments came in an English edition of the Al-Qaeda publication that purported to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States carried out by the terror network. It said it had the “same message” for the France of President Emmanuel Macron as it did for his predecessor Francois Hollande who was president at the time of the 2015 attacks. It said France under Macron “gave a green light” to the republication of the cartoons. Twelve people, including some of France's most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, whose no-taboo style, including publishing cartoons of the prophet, had divided the country.”

Technology

The Straits Times: Facebook Removing Posts Linking Oregon Blazes To Extremist Groups

“Facebook has started removing false claims that the deadly wildfires in Oregon were started by various left-wing and right-wing groups, a spokesman for the social media company said, after the rumours left state officials inundated with queries for information. Since early last week, state officials in the United States have been attempting to debunk misinformation on social media that has blamed extremist groups on both sides for the deadly blazes. Facebook, which earlier was attaching warning labels to such posts, decided to move to the stricter approach after “confirmation from law enforcement that these rumours are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public”, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement on Twitter. Mr Stone called the decision “consistent with (Facebook's) past efforts to remove content that could lead to imminent harm given the possible risk to human life as the fires rage on”. One of Facebook's third-party fact-checking partners, PolitiFact, wrote last Thursday on its website that dozens of posts blaming Antifa - a largely unstructured, far-left movement - for the fires had been flagged by Facebook's systems, and that collectively the posts had been shared thousands of times.”