Eye on Extremism: September 15, 2020

Jewish News Syndicate: Serbia Designates Hezbollah In Its Entirety As Terror Group

“The United States applauded Serbia on Sunday for announcing that it will designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the move “another significant step limiting this Iranian backed terrorist group’s ability to operate in Europe.” He also noted that it was an “important action,” especially in the aftermath of Serbia normalizing economic relations with Kosovo on Sept. 6 that included Belgrade committing to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “There is no doubt that the dominoes are falling on Hezbollah’s European operations, where it has continued to plot terrorist attacks, procure military technology and raise much-needed funding,” said Pompeo. “The United States continues to call on the European Union and European nations to designate or ban Hezbollah in its entirety, and recognize the reality that it is a terrorist organization root and branch with no distinction between its so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings,” added Pompeo, referring to the fact that Brussels has only designated Hezbollah’s military wing as such.”

The Guardian: Venezuela Announces Terrorism Charges Against Alleged US 'Spy'

“Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has announced charges of terrorism and weapons trafficking against an alleged US “spy” who was detained last week in the South American country. The man, named as Matthew John Heath, was plotting attacks against the country’s oil industry and electricity system, Tarek William Saab, chief prosecutor, said on state television on Monday. Saab showed pictures of equipment allegedly seized from the group, including a grenade launcher, plastic explosives, a satellite phone and a bag of US dollars. Saab added that three Venezuelan citizens, including one member of the military, were arrested and charged with treason as part of the alleged plot. “They tried to fill the country with blood,” Saab said. “The Venezuelan state has managed to neutralize the plans to attack the oil industry and national electric system.” Authorities said cellphones taken from the men when they were arrested last week include images of a large bridge in Zulia state and dilapidated oil refineries in Falcón state. “Everything here could qualifies as a lethal weapon designed to cause harm and to promote assassinations, crimes against the people of Venezuela,” said Saab, who also accused the US man of planning to open a drug trafficking route through Venezuela.”

United States

New York Post: NYPD Union Chief Calls Shooting Of LA Deputies ‘Domestic Terrorism’

“The president of the NYPD sergeants’ union condemned the weekend ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County deputies as “domestic terrorism” — and demanded that nationwide elected officials “take a stand on such crimes against humanity.” The deputies, a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old man, were inside a parked patrol car in the southern LA County city of Compton Saturday night when a lone gunman walked up and opened fire, disturbing surveillance video shows. They were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. In an open letter to elected officials early Monday, Sergeants’ Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins called the attack a symptom of “the unbridled violence plaguing our nation.” “It continued unabated this weekend with the attempted assassination of two police officers in Los Angeles,” Mullins wrote. “As they were battling for their lives, scores of protestors descended on the hospital, blocked entrances, and chanted that the officers should die.” “By any standard, what happened in Los Angeles constitutes terrorism, and the American people deserve to know if elected officials, regardless of their party affiliation, stand with the angry mobs or with law enforcement, who are perilously on their own in this battle against American ideals,” he declared.”

Iraq

Voice Of America: Iraqi, Peshmerga Forces To Step Up Anti-IS Joint Effort

“Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga forces will increase their cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, an Iraqi military official said. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said Sunday that joint efforts are under way to ensure the security of Iraq’s border with Syria, as IS militants continue to exploit the instability in both countries to launch attacks on Iraqi territory. “The Peshmerga forces are part of the Iraqi national defense system, and now there is joint coordination between the federal forces and the Peshmerga to protect those areas that lie between their lines of presence,” Rasool said in a statement to the Iraqi News Agency. “It is very important during the next phase to coordinate with the Peshmerga forces in order to carry out joint operations within these areas, as well as sharing intelligence,” he added. The Iraqi official noted that there is a new understanding between the two sides to establish coordination centers for their anti-IS campaign. Rasool’s statement comes days after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, where he and Kurdish leaders discussed among other issues the continued fight against IS, also known as ISIS.”

Afghanistan

BBC News: Taliban Talks: US Peace Envoy 'Not Happy About' Release Of Prisoners

“The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan has told the BBC he was “not happy about” a controversial deal to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in order to secure historic peace talks. However, speaking to the BBC's Lyse Doucet, Zalmay Khalilzad added that “you have to make hard decisions”. Asked about reports of ex-prisoners returning to fight, Mr Khalilzad said they “do not have any evidence”. Peace talks between Afghan leaders and the Taliban began in Qatar on Saturday. This is the first time the Afghan government has held peace talks with the militant Islamist group. The aim is to end 19 years of conflict in the country.  The release of 5,000 prisoners was a condition, agreed between the US and the Taliban after their peace talks last year, to begin these negotiations. The Afghan government was not involved in making the agreement, and had concerns about releasing thousands of militants. Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned that the prisoners' release was a “danger” to the world, AFP news agency reported at the time. “Until this issue, there was a consensus on the desirability of peace but not on the cost of it,” Mr Ghani said.”

NBC News: U.S. Commander: Intel Still Hasn't Established Russia Paid Taliban 'Bounties' To Kill U.S. Troops

“Two months after top Pentagon officials vowed to get to the bottom of whether the Russian government bribed the Taliban to kill American service members, the commander of troops in the region says a detailed review of all available intelligence has not been able to corroborate the existence of such a program. “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, told NBC News. McKenzie oversees U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. continues to hunt for new information on the matter, he said. “We continue to look for that evidence,” the general said. “I just haven't seen it yet. But … it's not a closed issue.” McKenzie's comments, reflecting a consensus view among military leaders, underscores the lack of certainty around a narrative that has been accepted as fact by Democrats and other Trump critics, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has cited Russian bounties in attacks on President Donald Trump. U.S. intelligence agencies have for years documented Russian financial and military support to the Taliban, but a Russian program to incentivize the killing of American service members would represent a significant escalation.”

Reuters: Fight And Talk: Facing Negotiations, Taliban Almost Took Key Afghan City

“Khan Agha has endured years of violence in Kunduz, but it was the Taliban’s attack on the strategic city in northeastern Afghanistan, as the government and insurgents were preparing for historic peace talks, that unnerved him. “Like me, the majority of Kunduz residents are living in fear,” Agha, a 46-year-old driver, told Reuters. “Looking at what’s going on, anything could happen at any time.” The Taliban offensive, encircling and almost seizing Kunduz late last month, came just weeks before the Kabul government sat down with their sworn enemies in Doha on Saturday to start historic talks aimed at ending 19 years of war that has killed and wounded more than 100,000 civilians. The opening ceremony for the talks in the Qatari capital, replete with calls for peace from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a grand hotel and a host of dignitaries on video link urging a ceasefire, contrasted sharply with the recent violence on the ground in Kunduz. Just hours after those talks started, Taliban and Afghan government forces clashed across Afghanistan, officials said, underscoring the uphill challenge of ending the long war.”

Voice Of America: Majority Of Americans Support Trump’s Deal With Taliban To End Afghan War

“A new U.S. public survey has found that two-thirds of supporters of President Donald Trump “strongly” or “somewhat” support his deal with the Islamist Taliban to extricate the United States from the 19-year war in Afghanistan. Nearly 60% of supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also favor the landmark U.S. agreement with the Afghan insurgent group, according to a poll conducted by New York-based Eurasia Group Foundation. “Ending the war in Afghanistan is extremely popular, and Americans of all political persuasions want to honor the recent agreement,” the foundation noted in its findings released Monday.  The deal signed in February 2020 commits all U.S. troops to leave the South Asian country within 14 months, ending what has become America’s longest war. In return, the Taliban have agreed to disallow terrorist groups such as al-Qaida to operate in the country and begin peace talks with rival Afghan factions to end decades of hostilities in the country. Fewer than 10% of those surveyed opposed the accord, while one-third remained neutral. “Since last year, the portion of respondents who believe the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan until all enemies are defeated has dropped by half — from 30% to 15%,” the survey noted.”

Pakistan

Radio Free Europe: Military Says 'Terrorist Commander' Killed In Northwestern Pakistan

“The Pakistani military says it has killed a “terrorist” commander and three other militants in the country’s northwest. “In a major breakthrough, terrorist commander Ihsan Ullah, alias Ihsan Sanray, along with 3 other terrorists were killed during an Intelligence Based Operation (IBO) today in Ghariom, Shaktu near the inter district boundary of North and South Waziristan,” army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar tweeted on September 13. The spokesman said Ihsan Sanray had “masterminded numerous terrorist activities,” including recent attacks in the Shaktu area that claimed the lives of a lieutenant and a captain. He did not provide further details. The Pakistani military has claimed it had cleared North Waziristan of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan -– also known as the Pakistani Taliban -– and other militant groups following a major offensive that was launched in 2014, but the region has been the scene of an increasing number of attacks on security forces and targeted killings of civilians. On September 12, at least one Pakistani soldier was killed in a roadside bomb blast in North Waziristan. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.”

Saudi Arabia

Gulf News: UAE Condemns Al Houthi Terror Attacks On Saudi Arabia, Yemen

“UAE has strongly condemned the Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia’s firing of missiles and drones at civilian and economic facilities in Saudi and Yemeni cities. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry also condemned the continued attacks on the city of Marib, which hosts more than two million displaced civilians fleeing from militia-controlled areas in Yemen. The humanitarian situation in Yemen has greatly worsened as a result of these attacks, the statement added. The UAE expressed concern about the Houthis’ continued rejection of the efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths. Griffiths is pushing for a permanent ceasefire in Yemen to resume humanitarian and economic measures and start the political process to reach a political solution. The Houthis’ aim is to prolong the crisis and complicate the efforts of the United Nations and the international community to end the Yemeni crisis, the statement said. It indicated that the continuation of these attacks and threats illustrates the nature of the danger facing the region from the Houthi coup, and considered it a new evidence of these militias’ endeavour to undermine security and stability in the region.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Pompeo Says Hezbollah Weapons Risk Torpedoing French Efforts In Lebanon

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday warned France that its efforts to resolve the crisis in Lebanon would be in vain without immediately tackling the issue of Iran-backed Hezbollah's weaponry. President Emmanuel Macron has spearheaded international efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after decades of corrupt rule led to its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. But unlike Washington, which deems the heavily armed and politically powerful movement a terrorist group, Paris says its elected arm has a legitimate political role. The United States last week expanded its sanctions related to Lebanon by blacklisting two former government ministers it accused of enabling Hezbollah. That has raised questions as to how much the U.S. and France are coordinating as Lebanon's factional rivalries struggle to form a new government. "The United States has assumed its responsibility and we will stop Iran buying Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems and then selling weapons to Hezbollah (and) torpedoing President Macron's efforts in Lebanon," Pompeo told France Inter radio.”

Middle East

Voice Of America: Israel Sentences Jewish Extremist To 3 Life Terms

“In Israel, a Jewish extremist who was convicted of three counts of murder for throwing a firebomb that killed three members of a Palestinian family has been sentenced to three life terms in prison. It is rare that convicted Jewish extremists receive such a long sentence, but the judges — in their ruling — said that 26-year-old Amiram Ben Uliel acted out of racist ideology. Ben Uliel has never expressed remorse. Dressed in a white shirt and wearing a large white skullcap, he was sentenced to three life sentences in prison. The firebomb attack five years ago in the West Bank village of Duma was one of the most brutal Jewish terror attacks in recent years and contributed to a wave of Israeli-Palestinian tension. Israeli politicians, however, condemned the attack, which claimed the lives of Saad and Riham Dawabshe and their 18-month-old son, Ali. Only one person survived — a five-year-old named Ahmed. Ahmed’s grandfather Hussein, who is rearing the boy, said the verdict will not bring back the dead. He said the court’s decision will not return anything to Ahmed. The grandfather said he just does not want another child to go through the trauma that the boy experienced. Ben Uliel had an accomplice who was a minor at the time. He will be sentenced in the coming days.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Granting Amnesty To Boko Haram Terrorists Cannot Bring Peace, Says Senator Ndume

“Senator Ali Ndume, lawmaker representing Borno-South at the National Assembly and Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, has again kicked against the amnesty granted to Boko Haram members. Senator Ndume made the declaration while speaking with newsmen at the weekend in Abuja. He insisted that extending state pardon to erstwhile members of the terror group when the war against their activities was still ongoing would not bring the required lasting peace. He said, “Majority of Nigerians are against the way that the Operation Safe Corridor is being conducted. It is wrong to be granting amnesty to repentant terrorists when the war is still far from being over. The war must be over before we start doing that. The military could open up the corridor, allow everybody to enter and start profiling them and keep them somewhere as prisoners of war and train them. After the war, they could be reconciled with the victims of their unfortunate actions. “That is what is being done all over the world. The current arrangement where the repentant insurgents are granted amnesty without apologising to the victims and the state, cannot bring about the required peace.”

Africa

Bloomberg: ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero In Court On Terrorism Charge Denied Bail

“Paul Rusesabagina, a former Rwandan hotel manager who sheltered people during the nation’s 1994 genocide appeared in court on charges including terrorism. He was denied bail. His lawyers David Rugaza and Emeline Nyembo had asked that Rusesabagina be granted bail, partly on health grounds. The prosecution argued that he will be taken care of. Rusesabagina said his responses to alleged crimes against him were documented in files before the court on Monday. An outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina was portrayed as a hero in the Oscar-nominated 2004 Hollywood movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ for helping shelter over 1,200 people from extermination squads. The 66-year-old Belgian citizen with permanent residency in the U.S., was presented to the media by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau on Aug. 31, after he was arrested at Kigali International Airport. The case was adjourned until Sept. 17.”

United Kingdom

UnHerd: Why Is The Manchester Bomber’s Praying Not Relevant?

“This week the Manchester Arena inquiry heard that the bomber was seen “praying” before his attack which claimed 22 innocent lives. Reporting of this detail caused a stir on social media, and some headlines were changed as a result. The concern was that reporting on Abedi praying would lead to ordinary Muslim prayer being seen as a “predictor” or “indicator” of terrorism, and therefore increased suspicion and profiling of Muslims. So is it relevant that Salman Abedi was praying? The obvious answer is — as someone about to kill themselves and others in exchange for eternal reward — yes, because every action Abedi took in the lead-up to his attack is relevant. Prayer alone, of course, would predict no such thing and be no reason for suspicion. But security professionals are trained to be alert to behavioural patterns that are outside the norms of a given situation. A young male loitering unaccompanied by a busy music venue for over an hour with an oversized backpack amid a heightened jihadist terror threat would have been well outside typical crowd behaviour at the time, even without praying. That he was approached by passersby on at least one occasion before the explosion was indicative of his atypical behaviour.”

BBC News: Lisa Smith: Trial Of IS Accused Former Soldier Set For 2022

“A former Irish soldier charged with membership of terrorist group Islamic State and funding terrorism, will go on trial in 2022. Lisa Smith, 38, from Dundalk, County Louth, appeared at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin on Monday morning. She denies being a member of terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) between 28 October, 2015 and 1 December, 2019. She also denies financing terrorism by sending 800 euros in assistance to a named man on 6 May, 2015. If convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison. The trial is expected to last 12 weeks. A trial date has been set for 11 January 2022. At Monday's brief hearing, reported by RTÉ, Ms Smith was remanded on continuing bail.”

The Independent: Manchester Arena Bombing: Victims’ Families Tell Inquiry Their Lives Have Been ‘Torn Apart’ By Attack

“Moving tributes have been paid to victims of the Manchester Arena suicide bombing at the public inquiry into the terror attack. Poignant memories from family and friends remembering the 22 people murdered in the May 2017 attack were heard on Monday as the commemorative hearings phase of the inquiry began. Eilidh MacLeod, 14, from the island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, Martyn Hett, 29, from Stockport, John Atkinson, 28, from Manchester, and Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Leeds, were the first four tributes to be heard, with the rest to follow over the next two weeks. Roderick and Marion MacLeod sat in the hearing in Manchester as a video tribute was played for their daughter, the second of their three girls. It began with images of a sunrise over the mountains and beaches of Barra, set to traditional Scottish bagpipe music, one of Eilidh's passions. Ms MacLeod said: “Eilidh was a very special girl, of course she was, she was mine. “Even though she was only 14 she was loving life. My whole world has been shattered into pieces.” Another video began with a portrait photo of Mr Hett, followed by a compilation of home videos of him as a young boy to later social media posts and recordings made by friends and his partner Russell Hayward.”

Europe

Reuters: Swiss Probe Terrorism Link To Fatal Stabbing Of Portuguese Man

“Swiss federal prosecutors took charge of a homicide investigation, saying on Monday they could not exclude a terrorist motive for the fatal stabbing of a Portuguese man in the western town of Morges at the weekend. Police in Vaud canton had said the 29-year-old victim who lived in the area was fatally injured in the attack on Saturday evening and a suspect had been taken into custody. “A possible terrorist motive for the crime in Morges cannot be ruled out,” the Office of the Attorney General said in a statement, noting the suspect had already been under investigation and had been known to the Federal Intelligence Service since 2017. It gave no other details about the case.”

Canada

Montreal Gazette: Families Push To Repatriate Children Of Canadians Who Joined Islamic State

“Families of Canadians who left for Syria to support the militant group Islamic State gathered Monday to press for the Trudeau government to repatriate their children. They met with journalists in Montreal on Monday, accompanied by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice and immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield. A video production team reached camps where these children live to record a documentary. The families used that fact to reject the government’s argument that it would be too dangerous to send Canadians to repatriate the children. There are 26 children born to Canadians who left for Syria, including 13 who are under the age of 6, Handfield said. The lawyer asked the government to do more for the children. “These children didn’t choose anything,” he said. “These children didn’t decide to go fight in Syria or Iraq. These children are not responsible for the decisions of their parents.” Boulerice, the deputy leader of the NDP, noted that “other countries were capable of doing it” and said he fails to comprehend why the Trudeau government is hesitating to act. “It must be a political decision” he said, wondering if the government was “traumatized by the financial compensation given to a child soldier held in Guantanamo,” referring to Omar Khadr.”

Technology

The Washington Post: Violent Memes And Messages Surging On Far-Left Social Media, A New Report Finds

“Months of civil unrest have coincided with a significant rise in social media posts critical of police that sometimes are laced with violent themes, including calls to destroy property and attack officers, according to research released Monday morning. The report, by the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), which previously has studied right-wing violence from groups such as the “boogaloo boys,” warns that some left-wing groups have embraced similar social media tactics, including memes and humorous catchphrases, to spread their messages and possibly help coordinate offline activity. The researchers pointed to possible signs of such coordination associated with riots in Seattle, Portland and other cities on July 25, involving fires, looting and property damage. The report acknowledges that left-wing political actors, including those who embrace the antifa movement, have been responsible for far less violence than white supremacists and other right-wing ones — a finding consistent with the conclusions of law enforcement and other threat analysts. But the researchers found the growing use of memes a worrying sign and argue that the spread of dehumanizing rhetoric on the left could set the stage for more serious incidents by what the report called “network-enabled mobs.”