Eye on Extremism: September 20, 2022

Associated Press: 6 Men Face Trial Over Links To Gunman In 2020 Vienna Attack

“Six men with alleged links to a sympathizer of the Islamic State group who carried out a deadly shooting in Vienna in 2020 will go on trial next month, a court in the Austrian capital said Monday. Four people were killed in the attack on Nov. 2, 2020, and the gunman also died. More than 20 other people, including a police officer, were wounded. Assailant Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual national of Austria and North Macedonia, had a previous conviction for trying to join IS in Syria. The six men who are now scheduled to go on trial aren’t accused of direct participation in the attack but allegedly helped or influenced Fejzulai as he prepared for the shooting. The Vienna state court said that the trial will start on Oct. 18 and will last several months, the Austria Press Agency reported. The defendants, aged between 22 and 32, face charges that include participation in terrorist crimes and membership in a terrorist organization. The oldest is accused of securing two firearms for Fejzulai in 2020 via an intermediary. APA reported that DNA from the suspects helped lead to the indictment.”

The National: ISIS Supporter Jailed For Department Store Stabbing In Switzerland

“Switzerland's federal criminal court on Monday convicted a Swiss-Italian woman of attempted murder and ties to the terrorist group ISIS after she stabbed two women in a department store. The attacker, who is in her late 20s but was not identified by name, was sentenced to nine years in prison. The verdict comes after a four-day trial in Bellinzona over the November 24, 2020, attack in the Manor chain department store in the southern Swiss city of Lugano. The suspect was quickly detained and the two women who were attacked — seemingly at random — survived. Regional police said at the time that one had suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries, and the other had minor injuries. In its ruling, the court said the attacker had used a knife to try to decapitate the victims “while praising ISIS”. “For the court, the defendant acted with a total absence of scruples, a particularly odious motive and goal, and showed no signs of wanting to repent or make serious apologies, either during the investigation or court proceedings,” the court said. The attack was a rare instance of violence linked to Islamist extremism in Switzerland, which was largely spared the wave of such violence that has hit other countries in Europe and around the world over the past two decades.”

Iraq

The National: Iraqi Security Forces Kill Eight ISIS Militants In Country’s North

“Fighting broke out late on Sunday between Iraqi forces and ISIS in northern Iraq, killing eight militants and two security members. The Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilisation Forces, a state-sanctioned paramilitary group mainly comprising powerful Iran-backed militias, conducted a search operation in Jazerat Al Hadar south of Mosul, the government said. “As the forces tried to break into one of the terrorists' dens, a terrorist blew up himself up,” the Joint Operation Command said. Backed by aerial support from the Iraq Air Force, security forces clashed with the militants. Eight militants and two PMF fighters were killed, the Joint Operation Command added. Several other security members were wounded, it said. Handout pictures show security forces posing for a photo next to the broken bodies of the dead militants, which are piled in a military pickup truck. In mid-2014, ISIS overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a “caliphate” in occupied territory. Backed by a US-led international coalition, Iraq announced victory against ISIS in late 2017 after three years of gruelling fighting that left many of the occupied cities in ruins. However, the terrorist group's cells continue to mount hit-and-run attacks, particularly in vast desert regions of northern and western Iraq near the border with Syria.”

Pakistan

AFP: Roadside Bomb Claimed By Pakistan Taliban Kills Eight In Northwest

“A bomb killed the former head of a pro-government militia and seven others in northwestern Pakistan, officials said Wednesday, in an attack claimed by the local Taliban. The blast happened Tuesday night in Kabal town in the Swat valley, which was largely ruled by the Pakistan Taliban during a 2007-2009 insurgency. For years, Islamabad encouraged tribal vigilante forces known as peace committees to defend their villages against militants. Most have been disbanded since the insurgency was largely crushed and security improved across the country. Swat district police officer Zahid Nawaz Marwat told AFP that former peace committee head Idrees Khan was killed when his pick-up truck was hit by a roadside bomb. Another local police official confirmed the death toll, which included two local policemen, two private guards and three laborers. The attack was claimed by the outlawed Tehreek–e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who said Khan was involved in the killing of their members. The group also claimed responsibility for a clash with Pakistani military in which three soldiers were killed Tuesday in Kurram district, bordering Afghanistan. The TTP declared an indefinite ceasefire in June to facilitate peace talks being brokered by Afghanistan, but there have been regular clashes since then despite both sides saying the truce was still on.”

Axios: Pakistan Court Orders Police To Drop Terrorism Charges Against Imran Khan

“A Pakistani court on Monday ordered police to drop terrorism charges against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Reuters reports. State of play: The charges stemmed from a speech Khan gave last month, in which he allegedly threatened police and judicial officers after one of his aides was denied bail in a sedition case. The Islamabad High Court said Khan’s comments were not punishable under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law.

What they are saying: “This is actually an order to quash the charges,” Babar Awan, one of Khan's lawyers, told Reuters. “It only proves that these are trumped-up charges, and just a tool for political victimization.” The big picture: Since being ousted from office in April through a no-confidence vote in parliament, Khan has faced several other cases that could derail his political future. The high court is scheduled to indict Khan on Thursday for threatening a judicial officer in a contempt of court case, per Reuters. If convicted, he could be disqualified from politics for at least five years. The Pakistani judiciary is also reviewing foreign funding for Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party that an election commission found unlawful. Khan in recent months has held large rallies across Pakistan, calling for snap elections. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has so far rejected Khan's demands.”

Yemen

Arab News: Yemen Troops Seize Control Of ‘Major’ Al-Qaeda Position In Abyan

“Yemeni military forces have retaken a major military facility and surrounding mountains from Al-Qaeda in the southern province of Abyan, consolidating gains made against the militants within their strongholds. Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a military spokesperson for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, told Arab News on Monday that their forces had fully taken control of a significant military base used by Al-Qaeda militants in the Omaran valley in Abyan. Sappers have combed the valley in search of landmines and improvised explosive devices that the militants may have planted. “This is an Al-Qaeda international military facility. We discovered a lot of mortar shells, ammunition, and IEDs hidden in the camp,” Al-Naqeeb said, adding that permanent military forces would be stationed in the valley to prevent Al-Qaeda from resuming operations. Early last week, pro-independence Yemeni forces launched an offensive in Abyan and the province of Shabwa with the aim of eradicating Al-Qaeda from the area, including a chain of mountains that connects the two provinces with Houthi-held Al-Bayda.”

Lebanon

Reuters: Iran Ready To Offer Lebanon 600,000 Tonnes Of Fuel, Al Manar TV Reports

“Iranian officials told a Lebanese technical delegation visiting Tehran on Tuesday that Iran could offer Lebanon 600,000 tonnes of fuel over five months to help ease its power shortages, Lebanese TV station Al-Manar reported. If the fuel deal goes through, it would be Iran's first supply of fuel directly to the Lebanese state after it previously sent some to its ally Hezbollah, a powerful armed movement that is part of Lebanon's coalition government. Lebanon has struggled with outages for decades but its economic meltdown since 2019 has drained state coffers, slowing down imports of fuel for government plants. That has left most of the country with just one or two hours of state-provided electricity per day and forced households to rely on subscriptions to private generators that have skyrocketed as global fuel prices spiked. Iran earlier this month offered Lebanon a "gift" of fuel in the specifications required to run Lebanese power plants, sources told Reuters, with no details on the type of fuel.”

Middle East

Haaretz: Two Palestinians Convicted Of Terrorism For Stoning A Jewish Family's Car In Jerusalem

“Two Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were convicted in Jerusalem District Court on Monday of terrorist offenses and other charges for throwing stones at a Jewish family's car in East Jerusalem in May of last year. The defendants, Mohammed Sabitani and Mahmoud Abu Al-Hawa, were found guilty of injuring a baby who was in the car at the time.”

Newsmax: Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Offers To Pay Palestinians To Post Videos Of Terror Attacks

“The Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are seeking to incentivize more violence against Israelis by offering $200 payments to anyone who posts a video to TikTok of such an attack, according to a report by Israel's Channel 12 news. The payout practice is seen as an attempt to provoke copycat shootings and to glorify the Palestinian perpetrators, and is being introduced as the Israeli security establishment shifts into high alert mode ahead of the Jewish high holidays, which begin next week, and an exponential rise in shooting attacks in Israel. Israel has also heightened its security measures as the IDF operation “Break the Wave” aims to eradicate Palestinian terrorism emerging from cities in Judea and Samaria. In recent months, the area has seen several attacks and attempted attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers, sometimes during the IDF's night raids for capturing known terrorists. On Wednesday, two Palestinian Arab gunmen shot and killed IDF Major Bar Falah, 30, while trying to breach a fence adjacent to the Gilboa Crossing, or Jalama checkpoint, in northern Samaria, not far from the Arab city of Jenin in the Jezreel Valley. After shooting at Falah, the two terrorists were killed in the exchange of fire; one of the gunmen had been a member of the Palestinian Authority's counter-intelligence force.”

Nigeria

Sahara Reporters: Report Reveals How Boko Haram, ISWAP Use Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram To Recruit, Spread Propaganda In Nigeria

“Institute for Security Studies has called on governments across the African continent to mount pressure on tech companies to deal with terrorism on the internet, especially on social media platforms. The institute in its report revealed that members of one of the most dreaded terrorist groups, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), are skillfully exploiting WhatsApp and Telegram to organise and carry out their criminal activities across the West African region. According to the report, many groups, especially Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are embedding the internet deeper into their operations in the West African region, and they are using it to recruit and organize criminal activities. The Punch quoted the report as stating: “Groups such as the Boko Haram breakaway faction, Islamic State West Africa Province, appear to rely on messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram to communicate internally and externally because they prefer these apps’ encrypted nature. ‘Telegram is becoming the new frontline for terrorist groups in Africa,’ warns Mr Bukarti. ‘On last count, ISWAP had over 50 Facebook and Telegram accounts.’ Furthermore, ‘there’s no scrutiny; nobody seems to care in Africa.”

Africa

Reuters: Tunisia's Anti-Terrorism Police Detain Former Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh

“Tunisia's anti-terrorism police detained for one day Ali Laarayedh, a former prime minister and senior official in the Islamist opposition Ennahda party, after an investigation into suspicions of sending jihadists to Syria, lawyers said on Tuesday. In the same case, the police postponed the hearing of Tunisia's Islamist opposition leader and speaker of the dissolved parliament Rached Ghannouchi to midday on Tuesday, after waiting for about 14 hours. It is expected that Laarayedh will appear before a judge on Wednesday, lawyer Mokthar Jmayi told Reuters. "We are shocked..the file is completely empty and without any evidence", Samir Dilou, another lawyer said. Ennahda denies accusations of terrorism, calling it a political attack on a foe of President Kais Saied. Ghannouchi, 81, has accused Saied of an anti-democratic coup since he seized most powers last summer, shutting down the parliament and moving to rule by decree, powers he has largely formalised with a new constitution ratified in a July referendum.”

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