Eye on Extremism: September 15, 2022

The Sydney Morning Herald: Sydney Terrorist Leader Hamdi Alqudsi Found Guilty Of Planning Attacks

“Hamdi Alqudsi has been found guilty of planning a series of attacks as leader of a Sydney terrorist organisation known as the Shura in 2014. The verdict was handed down by a NSW Supreme Court jury on Thursday. Alqudsi knowingly directed the activities of the Shura from August to December 2014. His plans included attacks on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the Garden Island Naval Base in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo, a courthouse and the Australian Federal Police. Hamdi Alqudsi, 4, is on trial accused of leading a Sydney-based terror cell in 2014. The Shura, which means consultative council or consultation council in Arabic, was formed in 2013. Its initial intention was to send fighters from Australia to Syria in the war against government or coalition forces. After these aims were disrupted by the AFP and NSW Police, the group then shifted focus to domestic terrorist activity. Alqudsi was the leader of the group, positioning himself as “commander of the boys” and “emir of the Shura” and holding meetings at his homes in Revesby and St Helens Park, Sydney. He, along with many Shura members, pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a ceremony at Wattamolla Beach on August 31, 2014. IS accepted this pledge about two weeks later.”

Reuters: Syria May 'Return To Larger-Scale Fighting,' U.N. Warns In New Report

“Syria's simmering 11-year war is at risk of boiling up once again with a return to large-scale combat after several frontlines across the country flared up in recent months, the United Nations warned on Wednesday in a new report. "Syria cannot afford a return to larger-scale fighting, but that is where it may be heading," said Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chair of the U.N.'s Syria commission. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions made homeless since protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 escalated into a civil war that drew in foreign powers and left Syria carved into zones of control. Fighting has cooled in recent years after Iran and Russia helped Assad recapture 70% of Syrian territory, the United States backed Kurdish fighters that defeated Islamic State militants, and Turkey set up a buffer zone near its border. But the United Nations said fault lines between various areas are now starting to heat up again. "We had an idea at some point that the war was completely finished in Syria," Pinheiro told journalists in Geneva, adding that incidents documented in the report proved this was not the case.”

United States

The Washington Times: FBI Insiders Say White Supremacy Threat Overblown As Biden Opens Summit About Racists, Extremists

“President Biden will convene a forum Thursday at the White House aimed at confronting what civil rights groups, local officials and academics say is an explosive rise in extremism and White supremacy that threatens the core of America’s democracy. The “United We Stand” summit builds on the administration’s push to root out racially motivated domestic violent extremists. The threat sparked a sweeping strategy that included the creation of a specialized Justice Department unit to combat domestic terrorism. Mr. Biden will deliver the keynote address to highlight the administration’s response to hate and “put forward a shared vision for a more united America,” officials said. Current and former FBI agents tell The Washington Times that the perceived threat has become overblown under the administration. They say bureau analysts and top officials are pressuring FBI agents to create domestic terrorist cases and tag people as White supremacists to meet internal metrics. “The demand for White supremacy” coming from FBI headquarters “vastly outstrips the supply of White supremacy,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have more people assigned to investigate White supremacists than we can actually find.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Death Toll From Overnight Bombing In Pakistan Rises To 8

“Eight people have been killed in a roadside bombing that targeted an anti-Taliban village elder’s vehicle in northwestern Pakistan, police said. Saeed Khan, a senior police official in Swat, said the slain head of a village peace committee, Idrees Khan, was traveling in the area when the roadside bomb hit his vehicle. He said that initial reports suggested the bombing killed five but later they concluded eight people had died, including two policemen. We're following changes at the palace after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Get the Post Elizabeth newsletter for updates. In a statement, Mohammad Khurasani, the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban militant group — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — claimed responsibility. He said that the slain head of the peace committee had been supporting security forces for the past several years. The Pakistani Taliban have been holding peace talks since May in Kabul, Afghanistan. But isolated militant attacks and security raids on militant hideouts have continued, raising fears these talks could break in the coming months, if not weeks. A formal cease-fire between Pakistan and the TTP is still in place. The talks in Kabul are hosted by the Afghan Taliban, a separate group allied with the Pakistani Taliban. The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan a year ago. That takeover has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban, whose fighters and leaders, officials say, have been hiding in Afghanistan.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israeli Officer, 2 Palestinian Militants Killed In Shootout

“Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops near a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday, killing an Israeli army officer, Israel's military said. Palestinian officials said that troops killed the two gunmen. The overnight incident was the latest in a string of deadly clashes in recent months in the northern West Bank, where Israeli troops conduct nightly raids. Most of that fighting, including Wednesday’s, has taken place near the city of Jenin, which is known as a bastion of Palestinian militants. The military said soldiers spotted the two militants approaching Israel’s separation barrier in the northern West Bank and that it dispatched forces to the area. It said the two suspects began shooting automatic weapons at troops, who returned fire. The Israeli army said that Maj. Bar Falah, 30, was killed in the shootout. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli army was holding the bodies of the two men. It identified them as Ahmad Abed, 23, and Abd al-Rahman Abed, 22, both from a village near Jenin. The Israeli military confirmed that Ahmad Abed was a member of the Palestinian Authority security services, which coordinate with Israel in an uneasy alliance against their common foe, the Hamas militant group.”

The Times Of Israel: US Official Says White House Is Very Troubled By Rising West Bank Violence

“US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf says the Biden administration is working to ensure continued security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority amid the ongoing spike in West Bank violence. In a phone briefing about her recent trip to the region, Leaf says the US is very concerned about the deteriorating security situation, which was at the top of her agenda during meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. But while acknowledging that Israeli-PA security coordination can help curb the violence, economic improvements for Palestinians are also critical, Leaf says, adding that the US is working to promote such steps. She highlights the granting of 4G cellular access to Palestinians and opening the Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24/7 — two announcements made by the US during President Joe Biden’s July trip to the region, which Leaf says she pushed to ensure would be implemented. Asked about the status of Israel-Lebanon maritime talks, Leaf says “they’re progressing” and that “both parties are showing a good constructive engagement.”

The Times Of Israel: Financial Offenses Tied To Terror Funds, Organized Crime In Israel Soared In 2021

“A report by a government agency released Wednesday found a sharp increase in financial crimes connected to organized crime and terror financing in 2021 over the previous year’s figures. According to the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, which operates under the Justice Ministry, organized crime’s share of all financial crimes grew from 6.8 percent in 2020 to 19% in 2021. Organized crime in the Arab sector has become a severe problem in recent years. The scarcity of financial services for many Arab Israelis has seen criminal organizations stepping into the vacuum and offering black market loans and other services to Arab citizens, generating funds for these groups and contributing to their growing power and increasing violence. In addition, the report found that terror financing also grew as a percentage of financial crimes in Israel from 9% in 2020 to 14.6% in 2021. Fraud, deceit, and counterfeiting comprised the largest part of financial crime in 2021 at 23%, while tax crimes (11.2%), bribery and corruption (8.7%) and the drug trade (4%) were the other major realms of such crime.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Deputy Minister Blames Al-Shabaab For Sowing Clan Hostility

“The Deputy Minister of Information of the Somali government, Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adalla, said that when Al-Shabaab was defeated in the battlefields, they started to sow hatred and animosity among the Somali communities. The deputy minister made the remarks at an event to mark the tourism day held in Mogadishu. He warned the Somali people against Al-Shabaab's plot to pit the Somali communities against each other. Al-Adala has added that they are after people who are in charge of confronting the Somali tribes. “The Somali government is working for people to live and develop, while Al-Shabaab is after destruction, killing and this country continues to be in trouble,” Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adalah. The minister's blame comes as communities in the country's central regions have started a rebellion to liberate themselves from the Al-Shabaab.”

Mali

AFP: Mali Commander Urges People To Flee Extremist-Hit Northern Area

“A well-known Malian commander has urged civilians to flee part of a northern region recently attacked by ISIS fighters, in a rare admission of the security problems facing locals. “There are no armed forces or any entity to guarantee the security of the population in these areas,” General El Hadj Ag Gamou said in a message circulating on WhatsApp. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Gamou is an ethnic Tuareg who has played a prominent role in the fight against ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group in the Gao region. His undated audio message in the Tamashek language, authenticated to AFP on Wednesday, was a rare admission from such a senior source of the severity of the situation in area. It referred specifically to the village of Djebock and neighboring localities between the towns of Gao and Talataye. “The enemy will surely take control of these areas because no security is there to stop them,” Gamou warned. He said he “strongly” urged locals to leave and “settle in large cities for their safety and that of their herds while waiting for stability to return.” The Sahel country is in the grip of an extremist campaign that began in the north in 2012 alongside a local Tuareg insurgency. Extremist massacres spread in 2015 to the center of the country and to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.”

France

AFP: Widow Of Bataclan Attacker Jailed In France After Repatriation: Sources

“The widow of one of the extremist attackers who stormed the Bataclan concert venue in Paris in November 2015 has been repatriated to France and charged with associating with terrorists, sources close to the case said on Wednesday. The woman, identified as Kahina El H., was among a group of 51 women and children brought back from detention camps in northeast Syria, where they have been held since the fall of the ISIS group. For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app. The repatriations are hugely controversial in France, which has largely refused to bring citizens accused of joining terrorist groups in Syria or Iraq to return home to face justice, citing security risks. The European Court of Human Rights condemned France on Wednesday over its refusal to repatriate two of its female citizens from Syria, where they are being held after travelling to the country to join their Islamist partners. French authorities should re-examine the request by the women’s parents to allow them to return home, the court said. The government has long refused such a move, saying extremist fighters and their families must face local justice. The parents, supported by rights groups, have sought in vain for approval to bring them home from French authorities, which until July had returned only a handful of women and children on a “case by case” basis.”

Deutsche Welle: France Ordered To Revisit Repatriation Requests Of 'Islamic State' Wives

“The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ruled that France must re-examine repatriation requests from two French women who travelled to Syria with their partners to join the so-called 'Islamic State', and the children they gave birth to there. Responding to a suit by the womens' parents, the court said that France's refusal to bring the women back was a violation of the right to “enter the territory of the state of which (one) is a national.” The court ordered the government to pay one set of parents €18,000 ($18,000) and the other €13,200 in damages and costs. “The law has triumphed,” the father of one of the women, who gave only his first name, Albert, said after the ruling. “I hope that they are not going to spend another winter over there, my grandson is only three and a half years old and that's all he's ever known.” The two women and their children are currently in a Kurdish-run detention camp in Syria that holds tens of thousands of suspected relatives of IS fighters. Rights groups say that at least 75 of the women and 160 of the children are French. In court, the families argued that the children and grandchildren had been subjected to inhumane treatment and degrading conditions during their prolonged stay in Syria. They took the case to the European court in Strasbourg after a French judge ruled that Paris could not be held responsible for the living conditions of the Syrian camps since “it was not exercizing its jurisdiction there.”

Europe

The Jerusalem Post: Israel, European Union Sign Intel Sharing Agreement In Bid To Tackle Terror

“Israel Police concluded an agreement with the European Union on Wednesday to share intelligence with the EU's Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, more commonly known as Europol. As per the new deal, Israeli law enforcement will be able to share and receive intel with their European counterparts in real-time. The deal focuses on information in relation to serious crime and terrorism. Haim Regev, the Israeli ambassador to the European Union who was present to sign the dotted line, wrote on Twitter that he was “happy to conclude” the negotiations with Europol, noting the deal marks “another milestone in strengthening cooperation between Israel and the EU.” Israel's new intelligence capabilities are set to significantly strengthen police's ability to maintain public safety, a government statement read. It was crucial for Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev to secure the agreement with his tenure as minister likely coming to an end soon, he said following the news of the deal. “As crime and terrorism reach an unprecedented level worldwide, it was important to finalize the drawn-out negotiations to strengthen the cooperation between the agencies. “The enemy in front of us has become elusive, sophisticated and increasingly bankrolled,” the public security minister claimed. “This agreement will strenghen Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry's capabilities.”

Technology

Axios: Congress Will Quiz Tech's Product Chiefs On Extremism

“Top tech executives in charge of product design for Meta, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok will be grilled on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Driving the news: The ways that online extremism can lead to real-world violence and tech product design can promote dangerous content will be the focus of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee hearing. Why it matters: Congressional hearings spotlighting tech CEOs have regularly devolved into efforts by questioners to shape “gotcha” moments, but this time, lawmakers say they're aiming for substantive answers about algorithms, design and how business decisions are made. Details: Witnesses will include: Chris Cox, chief product officer, Meta Neal Mohan, chief product officer, YouTube Vanessa Pappas, chief operating officer, TikTok and Jay Sullivan, general manager of Bluebird, Twitter. Two former tech product execs from Meta and Twitter and a tech policy expert from a think tank will appear on an earlier panel. What they're saying: Social media platform design can push people toward “increasingly extreme and even dangerous content like white supremacist and anti-government ideologies that have motivated recent domestic terror attacks — one of the most serious national security threats we face today,” Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.”

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