Eye on Extremism: September 16, 2020

The New York Times: U.S. Military Seeks Authority To Expand Counterterrorism Drone War To Kenya

“The U.S. military’s Africa Command is pressing for new authorities to carry out armed drone strikes targeting Qaeda-linked Shabab fighters in portions of eastern Kenya, potentially expanding the war zone across the border from their sanctuaries in Somalia, according to four American officials. The new authorities, which must still be approved by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and then President Trump, do not necessarily mean the United States will start carrying out drone attacks in Kenya. Nevertheless, they would give Africa Command permission under certain circumstances to expand the counterterrorism drone war into another country. The push for the expanded authorities traces back to a Shabab attack in January on a military base in Kenya that housed United States troops, the officials said. The attack on the airfield at Manda Bay killed three Americans and caused millions of dollars in damage. U.S. commanders scrambled immediately after that attack to track and kill the Shabab hit team that had infiltrated the base from Somalia, securing permission on the fly to carry out a drone strike on them in Kenyan territory, according to the officials. But they never attacked because the militants — retreating to Somali territory — eluded them.”

Pakistan Today: National Assembly Passes Bill To Curb Terrorism Financing

“The National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday passed the Anti-Terrorism (Third Amendment) Bill, 2020 aimed at using new techniques to investigate terrorism and its financing. The bill was moved by Faheem Khan. The legislation is an important one as it seeks to implement laws against terror financing and money laundering so that Pakistan does not make the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) black list. The bill states that for 60 days the investigation officer will have a permit to use certain techniques to ascertain where the money to fund the terrorist activity was received from. These techniques include tracking down communications and monitoring the computer systems of the suspects. A written request to the court can be given to obtain an extension for 60 more days. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also introduced in the House by Amjad Ali Khan. The bill proposed amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, penalising the intentional ridiculing and defaming of the armed forces of Pakistan or any of its member. A person guilty of such offence will be punished with imprisonment for a term up to two years or fined for up to Rs500,000. The purpose of this amendment is “to prevent hatred and disrespectful behavior against the armed forces.”

The National: Wedding Invitations And Terrorist Plot Lists Helped To Convict Returning Foreign Fighters

“Battlefield evidence, including wedding invitations and terrorist plot lists, have been used across Europe to prosecute returning foreign fighters, a report revealed. ISIS and Al Qaeda militants have been prosecuted by at least 10 EU nations with help from battlefield evidence provided by the US. The 2020 Memorandum on Battlefield Evidence, published by crime agency Eurojust on Tuesday, showed its use in prosecutions had grown in the past two years. Evidence included photos depicting crimes committed against civilians, fingerprints on explosive devices and emails describing terrorist plots. In more unusual examples, the discovery of wedding invitations, marriage certificates and wills also helped win convictions. “While there are many challenges in obtaining such data and making sure it meets the criteria for admissible evidence, it has paved the way for bringing terrorist suspects to trial,” the report said. “Since 2018, cooperation with the US authorities has also been developing in this area. While the 2018 Eurojust Memorandum on Battlefield Evidence reported limited experiences of using battlefield evidence, the 2020 report shows that, during the past few years, several countries have used such evidence in their criminal proceedings against foreign terrorist fighters and other persons suspected of criminal offences during armed conflicts.”

United States

Bridgewater Courier News: NJ Man Admits To Supporting Foreign Terrorist Organization

“A Bernards man admitted in federal court Tuesday to concealing his attempts to provide support to Hamas, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Jonathan Xie, 21, of the Basking Ridge section, pleaded guilty via video conference before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp to one count of concealing attempts to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement. Xie admitted that he knowingly concealed and disguised the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the attempt to provide material support and resources to Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya and the Islamic Resistance Movement, an organization that is commonly referred to as Hamas, according to the statement. Xie admitted that he knew Hamas was a designated foreign terrorist organization and has engaged in terrorist activities. He said he attempted to conceal the attempted support believing it would be used to commit or assist in the commission of a violent act, the statement said. In December 2018, Xie sent $100 via Moneygram to an individual in Gaza who Xie believed to be a member of the Al-Qassam Brigades — a faction of Hamas that has conducted attacks, to include suicide bombings against civilian targets inside Israel, according to the statement.”

Syria

Al Monitor: How The Islamic State Found A Haven In Syrian Desert

“The Islamic State (IS) operations against Syrian regime and pro-Iranian targets have recently intensified, causing additional losses among those forces despite the military operation that Russia launched on Aug. 25 against IS in the Syrian desert, known as Badiya, in central Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sept. 7 that IS “carried out separate attacks and set up ambushes in separate areas of Badiya, over the past week. The organization’s operations included bombings, attacks and ambushes, and were concentrated in al-Shula area west of Deir ez-Zor, the desert of Boukamal to the east of Deir ez-Zor, the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadin road, the Hamima-third station road toward the city of Palmyra in the eastern countryside of Homs, the Rusafa area in the countryside of Raqqa, the Ithria area in the eastern countryside of Hama and the desert of Sweida.” Following the killing of a Russian general at the hands of IS, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced Aug. 25 the launch of a military operation against IS in Badiya under the name of “White Desert.” A Russian military spokesman said in a statement, “The terrorists are impeding the return of social and economic life in Syria, and they are also working to hinder normalization between the local Arab tribes and the authorities [in reference to the Syrian regime].”

Iran

Newsweek: Iran Dismisses Israel-UAE-Bahrain Deal As 'Strategic Mistake' As Hezbollah Calls For 'Military Resistance'

“As Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed historic peace deals in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Iran dismissed the agreement as a "strategic mistake" and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah called for "military resistance" in support of the Palestinians. Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said that "any step taken to formally normalize relations" with Israel is a "strategic mistake," Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported. "The oppressed people of Palestine and Muslims who have lived with the Palestinian cause will not admit any normalization of relations," he said. Rabiei said that the deals were "not for the benefit of the people residing in the region, but in favor of the [reelection] campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump." Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General of Hezbollah Naim Qassem said the agreement between the two Gulf Arab states and Israel would not benefit Palestinians. He called for an armed response.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Iraq, Counter-IS Coalition Kill, Capture Islamic State Figures

“Iraqi commandos killed a suspected Islamic State (IS) financier and captured an IS leader in an operation in western Anbar province on Monday, according to Iraq’s Defense Ministry. Soldiers of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) were dropped in al-Rutba district by helicopters of the US-led coalition, coalition spokesperson Capt. Jose Uriarte told Al-Monitor via email. Iraq’s Security Media Cell described the killed suspect as a “major financier” of IS in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province. Neither a spokesperson for Iraq’s Defense Ministry nor one for Iraq’s CTS returned requests for comment. Iraq’s security forces have arrested more than a dozen suspected IS operatives across the country over the past several days. The CTS said today its soldiers thwarted an attempted bombing in a Baqubah market. Earlier this week, Iraq’s Defense Minister Juma Inad Saadoun visited the Anbar Operations Room to discuss continuing operations against IS cells in the western desert. On Saturday, Iraqi forces got into a skirmish in the Anbar desert with suspected IS militants, the Defense Ministry said. Iraq’s military also continues to uncover weapons stashes in the desert near the Syrian border, the Defense Ministry said.”

Afghanistan

The Associated Press: UN Welcomes Afghan Talks With The Taliban, Urges Cease-Fire

“The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday welcoming the start of negotiations between Afghan representatives and the Taliban, encouraging the warring parties to engage in good faith and aim for a permanent cease-fire and political settlement to their 19-year conflict. The resolution, which also extended the U.N. political mission in Afghanistan into next September, also strongly encourages the parties “to continue pursuing confidence-building measures including additional reductions in violence.” Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who drafted the resolution with Indonesia, called the weekend’s start of negotiations in Qatar “a major achievement which we have all been waiting for for many years.” “It is indeed in Afghan hands to define the future path of their country – just the way it should be,” he said, but he reiterated that “the violence must stop now” and “there has to be a sustainable ceasefire.” Heusgen said the resolution’s unanimous adoption showed international support for the talks and stressed that the United Nations and Afghanistan’s regional and international partners “will do their part to support and facilitate this process.”

Bloomberg: Taliban Tell Afghan Government They Have No Aim To Seize Power

“Taliban leaders told their government counterparts at the Afghan peace talks they wouldn’t seek to seize power and that their struggle was to free the country from foreign forces and establish an Islamic system. “Our battle is not for taking power but for the independence of our country from foreign occupation and the establishment of an Islamic system,” the group’s chief negotiator, Abdul Hakim Haqqani, told the government delegation Tuesday, according to a series of tweets by his spokesman. The government is holding the first peace talks in 19 years with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, where the group has an office, facilitated by the U.S. Both sides are looking to end the two-decade war that’s killed or wounded tens of thousands of Afghans and cost the U.S. more than $900 billion. Hakim Haqqani said the Taliban is bound by the Feb. 29 peace agreement reached with the U.S. and urged the U.S. and its allies to live up to their obligation under the pact to pull out of the country within 14 months of signing of the agreement.”

Reuters: Pompeo Says Fewer Than 200 Al Qaeda Left In Afghanistan Today

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that there are fewer than 200 al Qaeda left in Afghanistan today. Pompeo was speaking at an Atlantic Council event.”

Libya

The Associated Press: Libya East-Based Force: 7 Militants, Foreign Fighters Killed

“Libya's east-based army claimed on Tuesday that its troops killed at least seven Islamic State militants, including foreign fighters, in a raid on their hideout in the country’s south.The statement from the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces said a six-hour firefight overnight with the militants took place in a neighborhood of the city of Sabha, 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital, Tripoli. The force, led by commander Khalifa Hifter, said the dead include three militants from Saudi Arabia, an Australian, an Egyptian and two Libyans. Hifter's troops shared graphic photos of the dead, along with their alleged passports to show their identities. The troops also detained two women, a Libyan and an Egyptian, in the raid. A pro-Hifter news website, al-Marsad, reported that three of Hifter's forces were also killed. Libya is divided between two rival administrations, based in the country's east and west, with an array of fighters and militias, backed by various foreign powers allied with each side. In the years after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi, IS and other extremists had managed to gain a foothold in the country, benefiting from Libya’s remote stretches near the borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Niger and Tunisia.”

Nigeria

Vanguard: Nigeria's 3rd Place In Global Terrorism Ranking Disappointing, Says APC Group

“The APC Consolidation Group, a group in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC-CG, has described Nigeria's latest ranking as third in the Global Terrorism Index,GTI, as not only disappointing but also embarrassing, saying the rating had confirmed its position that the nation's service chiefs were not on top of its security situation. To this end, it reiterated its call that President Muhammad Buhari relieves the security chiefs of their positions, saying anything contrary would portray the president as being insensitive to the security of lives and property of citizens which it noted,the president swore in the constitution to protect. The National Coordinator of the group, Dr Usman Mohammed, in a statement Monday morning,in reaction to the latest Global Terrorism Index report which places Nigeria as occupying the third position among countries worst hit by terrorism, globally,insisted that APC-CG was disturbed given what it noted,government had expended so far to free the country of security threats. The group which had in a recent statement, called on the president to sack the service chiefs as according it,they were not indispensable to be done away with on the face of daily security threats confronting the country,insisted that the president must see reason with its position and immediately do the needful.”

Somalia

Air Force Times: Al-Shabab Growing More Emboldened In Targeting US Troops

“Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida offshoot based in Somalia, is growing more emboldened in targeting U.S. troops, according to U.S. Africa Command’s director of intelligence Navy Rear Adm. Heidi Berg. “We do assess that there is a definitive shift in focus on conducting attacks against the U.S.” Berg told reporters Friday. “We’ve watched that take place over the course of a couple of months.” Violent extremist groups including ISIS-Somalia, Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb exist in Africa. But Berg claimed that al-Shabab is particularly worrisome, and noted that the organization’s propaganda and public announcements are “reminiscent” of al-Qaida’s prior to the 9/11 attacks. “We currently assess that al-Shabab is the most capable terrorist group on the African continent in terms of the ability to potentially threaten Western interests regionally,” Berg said. The comments come days after a U.S. service member was injured in an al-Shabab attack on Sept. 7 where militants used a vehicle as an improvised explosive device and mortar fire. AFRICOM reported last week the service member, who was among U.S. and Somali troops conducting an advise, assist and accompany mission at the time of the attack, was in stable condition and receiving treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.”

Mali

Washington Examiner: New Army Unit Tools African Militaries Fighting Terrorists In Mali

“Pulling an M-36 Puma MRAP, a mine-resistant vehicle, out of desert sand is a safe enough practice for U.S. Army soldiers such as former logistics commander Maj. Mike Pachucki, but for African militaries, every second counts, and it could be deadly. African peacekeepers are frequently targeted by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists on the far-flung roads of northern Mali. Moments lost in a vehicle recovery operation afford extra minutes for a deadly ambush. “Our job is to help partner nations build capability, build capacity,” Pachucki told the Washington Examiner by phone from Fort Benning, Georgia, discussing a three-week deployment to Senegal. The West African nation invited the Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigade in March to conduct training on vehicle maintenance and care in harsh desert climates such as the Sahel, a vast region encompassing Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Pachucki's 12-soldier advisory team was one of the first deployed to the African continent and included Army experts in field artillery, engineering, logistics, intelligence, and more. Nearly half the Senegalese soldiers Pachucki and 1st Sgt. Tobias Santiago helped train had already served in Mali.”

Africa

Agence France-Presse: Burkina Army ‘Dismantles’ Jihadist Base, Says Kills Two

“Two jihadists were killed during an operation to break up a jihadist base in northern Burkina Faso, the West African state’s army said Tuesday. The raid in the Tongomayel area took place last Friday led to the “dismantling of a terrorist base,” the army said in a statement. “Result: two neutralized terrorists (and) the seizure of improvised explosive devices and various materiel,” it added. The day before, the army had lost four soldiers in a newly-formed regiment on a reconnaissance mission near Mentao, in the same province of Soum. On Saturday, a gendarme, or policeman, died in the center-north of the country, the army said. Northern Burkina Faso has been badly hit by jihadists who started making incursions from neighboring Mali in 2015. More than 1,100 people have lost their lives and over a million have fled their homes. The former French colony is one of the world’s poorest countries, and its armed forces are under-equipped and poorly trained. Last year, 4,000 died in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger jihadist attacks or ethnic violence fomented by the insurgency, according to the UN.”

The North Africa Post: Senegal: Suspected German Terrorist Arrested In Dakar

“Senegal has arrested at Blaise Diagne international airport a German national wanted by his country and the Interpol for terrorism. Auerbacher Marius Falk, 30, was arrested at the airport on Sunday, September 13, as he was about to enter Senegal illegally, news portal Le360.ma reports. The German citizen, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by his country’s justice system and handed over to Interpol, was in possession of a false passport stating he has Vietnamese nationality and was a pilot. However, the airport’s information system, the SeriPort application, immediately reported a dangerous and wanted individual, border police officials said. The man was immediately arrested and then placed under arrest warrant. The individual wanted by German authorities reportedly fought as terrorist in Syria. Surprisingly, Senegal is not the first African country the man has visited since being under the international arrest warrant. He sojourned in Kenya and Tanzania and made brief trips to Guinea Bissau, Gambia and even South Africa. While in Kenya, he reportedly got married. Immediately informed of his arrest, German embassy in the West African country started his extradition process, the online media reports.”

United Kingdom

Sky News: British Child Caught Up In Islamic State Conflict Rescued From Syria

“The UK has rescued a British child from Syria as part of efforts to help unaccompanied or orphaned minors caught up in the fallout from the conflict with Islamic State. A repatriation team left Syria with the child on Tuesday, Sky News understands. The rescue mission was led by Martin Longden, the UK's Syria envoy. Further details about the child's identity cannot be reported for legal reasons. Last year the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would take “the necessary and secure steps” to repatriate minors who are unaccompanied or whose parents have been killed. “These are children who have experienced the worst horrors of war and bringing them home is the right thing to do,” he said in a statement. The UK has already brought home a small number of British children from northeast Syria where thousands of men, women and infants from dozens of different countries have been held in camps since the collapse of Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate. It is understood that there are more British minors in these displacement camps. Save the Children, a UK charity, said last year that as many as 60 British children might be stranded. But it is not clear how many of that number are on their own or how many are still with one or both parents.”

BBC News: Explosives Accused 'Interested In White Supremacy'

“A man accused of storing grenades, mines and chemical weapons at his farm had an interest in Nazi Germany and white supremacy, a court has heard. Russell Wadge was charged after counter-terrorism police raided his property in Trimsaran, Carmarthenshire. Newport Crown Court heard large stocks of chemicals found in June 2019, “could kill or injure” when combined. Mr Wadge, 58, denies 28 charges of possessing explosive devices and chemical weapons. The court heard Mr Wadge “proudly admitted” making hydrogen cyanide, “one of the most rapidly acting poisons known to man”. Tom Little QC, prosecuting, said: “We need to consider the B - word - not Boris but Brexit. “There were those frustrated by the delays to the Brexit process who were agitating, but they did not have access to this range of chemicals.” He said hydrogen cyanide was discovered in the freezer, and a pint-glass containing a liquid with a sticker indicating poison was found “between the salad cream and ginger beer” in the fridge. The jury heard internet searches showed significant interest in the white supremacist terror attack in New Zealand in 2019. When questioned by police, Mr Wadge said he did not believe in any extremism and had a “keen interest” in chemistry. However, Mr Little said: “This is not a case about naïve enthusiasm in chemistry - we say it is so much more.”

Southeast Asia

The Diplomat: Bangladesh’s Long Road Ahead In Countering Terrorist Fundraising

“In early May, a Spanish court sentenced a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin to seven years in prison for financing and supporting terrorism. The convict, Ataul Haque, brother of the head of Islamic State’s technological wing (killed in a targeted U.S. drone strike in Syria in 2015), had reportedly sent  47,000 euros from Spain to Bangladesh via China using an informal channel known as “hundi.” The money, reportedly intended to finance the activities of the Islamic State in Bangladesh, was seized and its carriers and recipients had been arrested by Bangladeshi authorities in late 2015. Ataul Haque is one of many sources through which Bangladeshi militants have, and continue to, access financial resources. Although external funding for terrorism, such as the case mentioned above, remains an important challenge, funding from internal sources in Bangladesh is no less important. The latter sources of terrorist fundraising in Bangladesh can be garnered through self-funding, criminal activities, and legitimate businesses. Funds raised from domestic fronts are arguably harder to detect, especially as they tend to be enmeshed within a broader and deeply entrenched economic ecosystem that includes legitimate businesses.”