Eye on Extremism: September 19, 2023

Associated Press: The Taliban Have Detained 18 Staff, Including A Foreigner, From An Afghanistan-Based NGO, It Says

“The Taliban have detained 18 staffers, including a foreigner, from a nongovernmental organization based in Afghanistan, the nonprofit group said Friday. NGOs have come under greater scrutiny since the Taliban seized control of the country two years ago. The Taliban introduced harsh measures and barred Afghan women from education beyond the sixth grade as well as from public life and work, including working for NGOs. A U.S. watchdog reported earlier this year that the Taliban are harassing NGOs operating in the country. The International Assistance Mission said 18 of its staff were taken away by the Taliban on two separate occasions this month from the NGO’s office in central Ghor province. The 18 detained were taken to Kabul, the group said. “We are unaware of the circumstances that led to these incidents and have not been advised of the reason for the detention of our staff members,” it said in a statement. “The well-being and security of our colleagues are paramount to us, and we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety and secure their swift release.””

The New York Times: Drone Attack Kills 3 Counterterrorist Fighters In Iraqi Kurdistan

“A drone attack on a small airport killed three members of an elite Iraqi Kurdish counterterrorism task force that operates in the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Three task force members were also wounded in the attack on the airport, which is about 17 miles southeast of Sulaymaniyah, the second largest city in Kurdistan. Turkey and more recently Iran have targeted Kurdish militants from their countries who shelter in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The airport, mostly used by small agricultural planes for spraying pesticides, was recently repurposed to also be used as a training camp for Kurdish counterterrorism forces. The elite forces were focused primarily on Islamic State fighters in recent years, but other Islamic militant groups now also move through Iraq’s porous borders with Iran and Turkey. The Iraqi government announced early on Tuesday that the drone was launched by Turkey and called on Ankara to halt such attacks.”

United States

Financial Times: US Pushes Saudi Arabia And UAE To Heal Divisions Over Yemen

“The US is pushing for a trilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as it worries that differences between the Gulf neighbours could upend its efforts to secure a lasting peace deal in Yemen. The initiative, led by US Yemen envoy Tim Lenderking, could result in talks as early as this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, people familiar with the matter say. It comes as a senior delegation from the Houthi group that has held the Yemen capital Sana’a since 2014 publicly visits Riyadh for the first time for talks on ending the civil war. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have increasingly been at odds as Riyadh seeks to assert itself as the region’s financial hub, a spot long held by the UAE. Their rivalries have occasionally spilled into other countries where they both have interests, and they have disagreed over their approach to the war in Yemen, from which the UAE withdrew its troops in 2019.”

Voice Of America: Muslim American Mayor Sues US Government Over Terror Watchlist

“A New Jersey mayor barred from a White House event earlier this year is among a dozen Muslim Americans suing the U.S. government over its continued use of a terror watchlist created after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mohamed Khairullah, the five-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, was invited along with other Muslim elected officials to attend an Eid celebration at the White House in May but was told shortly before the event that he wouldn't be allowed to enter the compound. The Secret Service did not explain why it turned him away but a new lawsuit brought by Khairullah and 11 others claims he was barred because his name was on the terror watchlist between 2019 and 2022. "After approximately August 2022, after Defendants removed Mr. Khairullah from the watchlist, they continued — and continue, to this day — to retain records of his past watchlist status and use them to harm and stigmatize him," the lawsuit says.”

Syria

Associated Press: Attack On Turkish-Backed Opposition Fighters In Syria Kills 13 Of The Militants, Activists Say

“A Kurdish-led force attacked Turkish-backed opposition fighters in northern Syria on Monday, killing at least 13 of the militants, activists said. The opposition activists blamed the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces for carrying out the assault, though the U.S.-backed group did not claim responsibility. Turkey says Syria’s main Kurdish militia is allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands of people. Turkey since 2016 has conducted three major incursions into northern Syria to clear areas under Kurdish control and create a buffer zone near its border. Since then, the two groups have routinely clashed, while Turkey has also conducted airstrikes and drone attacks on targets in Kurdish-controlled areas. According to opposition activists, SDF forces tried to infiltrate the opposition-controlled city of Tal Battal in northern Aleppo province, attacking positions belonging to Turkish-backed militants and the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al Sham.”

Iraq

National: Iraq Finds Irregularities In Post-ISIS Construction Deals

“Projects by Iraq's state-run fund in charge of rebuilding areas damaged in the war with ISIS are mired in irregularities, a government investigation and audit committee has found. Since taking office in October last year, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani has been scrutinising deals signed by the previous government and has ordered a series of investigations over alleged corruption. Critics claim that the moves are aimed at rivals of his main backers, the Iran-backed political factions who form the biggest parliamentary bloc. The investigation focused on projects implemented by the Reconstruction Fund for Areas Affected by Terroristic Operations and financed under the Emergency Law for Food Security and Development. Parliament approved the law in June last year to help the country meet its most pressing needs as political wrangling over forming a new government delayed the passing of a budget.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: UN Chief Urges Taliban To Lift 'Unjustifiable' Education Ban On Afghan Girls

“The United Nations secretary-general Monday renewed his demand for Afghanistan's Taliban to allow teenage girls to attend high school. "This is an unjustifiable violation of human rights that inflicts long-lasting damage on the entire country," Antonio Guterres said on X (formerly Twitter). "Girls belong in school. Let them back in," he added. His statement marks two years since the de facto rulers imposed an education ban. The Taliban seized power from an internationally backed government in August 2021 and have since imposed sweeping restrictions on Afghan women's access to education and work. They have banned girls from school beyond sixth grade, making Afghanistan the only country in the world with restrictions on education for females. Guterres told reporters last week that the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan "is absolutely central to all concerns" and would be on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly session starting Monday in New York.”

CBS: U.S. Woman Arrested In Afghanistan Among 18 Aid Workers Held For "Promoting Christianity," Local Official Says

“Almost 20 staff members of a charity organization operating in central Afghanistan, including one U.S. national, have been arrested by regional officials in the Taliban-controlled nation, a spokesman for the provincial government in Ghor province told CBS News. The 18 detained aid workers were arrested for "propagating and promoting Christianity," a violation of the Taliban's strict regulations on all non-governmental groups, according to Abdul Wahid Hamas, the spokesman for the regional administration in Ghor province. Hamas told CBS News that all 18 individuals were transferred to the capital Kabul for further investigation. He said previously that one foreign national, an American woman, was among the detained NGO workers. A local employee of The International Assistance Mission (IAM) in Ghor province also told CBS News, on the condition that he not be named, that the detained foreign employee was a U.S. woman who works at the office.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: IDF Prepares To Demolish Homes Of 3 Palestinians Charged In June Terror Attack

“Israeli troops early Tuesday morning prepared to demolish the homes of three Palestinians who have been charged with helping Hamas terrorists kill four Israeli civilians in a shooting attack in June. Forces measured four homes belonging to the three suspects in the West Bank village of Urif, to prepare for the building’s possible demolition, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. The suspects — Bassel Shehadeh, Hamed Sabah, and a third unnamed Palestinian — who were indicted in August, were “partners in the planning and execution of the shooting attack,” the IDF said Tuesday. The trio were charged by military prosecutors with intentionally causing death — the West Bank military court’s equivalent of murder — and several other security offenses. As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as well as their accomplices. The efficacy of the policy has been hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.”

Somalia

Reuters: EU Temporarily Holds Back Food Aid In Somalia After UN Finds Widespread Theft

“The European Union executive has temporarily suspended funding for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia, two senior EU officials told Reuters on Monday, after a U.N. investigation found widespread theft and misuse of aid meant to avert famine. The European Commission gave more than $7 million in aid to the WFP's operations in Somalia last year, a fraction of the donations of more than $1 billion it received, U.N. data shows. EU member states gave much more money on a bilateral basis. It was not immediately clear whether any would also suspend aid. Balazs Ujvari, a spokesman for the European Commission, neither confirmed nor denied specifically a temporary suspension but said: "So far, the EU has not been informed by its U.N. partners of a financial impact on EU-funded projects. "Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor the situation and abide by our zero-tolerance approach to fraud, corruption or misconduct."”

Associated Press: African Union Says Its 2nd Phase Of Troop Withdrawal From Somalia Has Begun

“The second phase of the African Union troop withdrawal from Somalia has begun, the bloc said Monday. The pullout follows a timeline for the handover of security to the country’s authorities, which are fighting al-Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa — the Somalia-based al-Shabab. Last year, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a new African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, known as ATMIS, to support the Somalis until their forces take full responsibility for the country’s security at the end of 2024. The mission is aiming to pull out at least 3,000 more troops by the end of the month, out of the originally 19,626-strong AU force. In the first phase, some 2,000 AU troops drawn from various member states left Somalia in June, handing over six forward operating bases. On Sunday, the Burundian contingent handed over the Biyo Adde forward operating base in the south-central Hirshabelle state, near the capital of Mogadishu, to the Somali national army. Commander Lt. Col. Philip Butoyi commended the progress made by the Somali forces.”

Germany

The New York Times: How Germany’s Extreme Right Seized On The Martial Arts Scene

“...The festivals — which are often declared political events, making them harder to ban and ensuring that any profit will be tax-exempt — typically feature a right-wing extremist speaker or seminar, according to Hans-Jakob Schindler, the Berlin-based senior director of the Counter Extremism Project. And while mixed martial arts tournaments in Europe typically feature fighters from different racial groups, these events allow only white fighters to take part. “They’re trying to broaden the capture area,” Mr. Schindler said. “You get people to buy the T-shirt, you can get them to come to one of the festivals. And you slowly begin speaking them to them about how the political system is bad. And so you draw them in a bit more subtly than you did in the past.” In the promotional videos for the largest extreme-right combat tournament, called “Kampf der Nibelungen,” or “Battle of the Nibelungs,” there are no far-right symbols or slogans on display. Focused instead on the boxing ring, the ring girls and the heavily tattooed fighters, the only indication that the event is out of the mainstream is that the participants’ faces have all been blurred.”

India

BBC: How Hardeep Singh Nijjar's Murder In Canada Fuelled Tensions With India

“On a mid-June evening in the busy parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the city of Surrey, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in his truck by two masked gunmen. Months later, the unsolved killing continues to reverberate, in Canada and across borders. Hundreds of Sikh separatists took to the streets in Toronto, along with a handful others in cities like London, Melbourne and San Francisco, in early July to protest the Indian government, which they believe is responsible for his death. Most recently, in September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being behind Mr Nijjar's death, saying that Canadian intelligence had identified "credible allegations" of a link between his death and agents of the Indian state. The Indian government has denied any hand in the murder. The outrage following the 45-year-old's killing has brought to light a long-standing issue of some groups demanding a separate homeland for Sikhs, who are a religious minority that make up about 2% of India's population.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

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