Eye on Extremism: September 21, 2020

The Washington Post: Deadly Airstrike In Afghanistan Kills At Least 10 Civilians, 30 Taliban Fighters Despite Ongoing Peace Talks

“While representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban talk peace in Doha, the sides continue to launch deadly attacks in Afghanistan, leaving dozens dead. On Saturday, at least 10 civilians and more than 30 Taliban fighters were killed in two airstrikes by Afghan government planes in the northern province of Kunduz, according to local officials. The Defense Ministry said no civilians were harmed in the attack but announced an investigation into the incident Sunday. Two local officials, including a deputy police chief, were assassinated Saturday in Paktika province. No one claimed responsibility, but Afghan officials believe armed groups linked to the Taliban are behind a string of similar attacks. The peace talks, launched last week between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha, were hailed as a historic opportunity to end decades of war. But while the sides have met a handful of times, they haven’t agreed on the basic format of the negotiations, including which issues will be discussed and in what order. The continuing violence is “a big concern for us,” said Faraidoon Khwazoon, a spokesman for the Afghan government delegation. Khwazoon said the delegation will include a cease-fire in its agenda because all Afghans want to see violence reduced.”

Reuters: Bahrain Says Foiled 'Terrorist Attack' Backed By Iran In Early 2020

“Bahrain’s interior ministry said on Sunday it had foiled a “terrorist attack” early this year that was backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The statement confirmed earlier media reports about an alleged planned attack and added a timeframe. Earlier on Sunday Saudi state television Al-Ekhbariya and Bahraini newspaper Akhbar al-Khaleej reported that interior ministry investigations found that a new group called the “Qassem Soleimani Brigade” had planned to attack several public and security structures in Bahrain. The reports had not given a timeframe. “We want to make clear that this case goes back to early 2020 and it is currently being looked into by the relevant court,” the ministry statement said. Iranian authorities were not immediately available for comment. In the past, Tehran has denied any involvement in Bahrain’s domestic affairs. Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and other international naval operations, has often accused Shi’ite Muslim Iran of seeking to subvert the kingdom, which has a Shi’ite majority and is ruled by Sunnis. It was the only Gulf Arab state to witness a sizeable pro-democracy uprising in the 2011 “Arab Spring”, from a largely Shi’ite opposition movement, which it quashed with Saudi and Emirati help.”

Syria

The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State, Defeated U.S. Foe, Still Brims With Cash, Ambition

“Islamic State remains flush with cash despite setbacks in the past year, holding financial reserves and a range of revenue streams that U.S. and Western security officials warn could pay for a dangerous resurgence. The extremist organization and its affiliates have assets ranging into the hundreds of millions of dollars across the Middle East and Central Asia, according to the officials and government records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Islamic State’s grip across a large swath of Syria and Iraq was broken last year when a military coalition dismantled its caliphate, cutting off much of its income from oil sales, tax-collection and extortion, and the local banks it had seized. But the group still extorts local populations in areas it controls or has supporters; receives income from businesses it seized during its rule; and collects payments from human trafficking, U.S. and Western officials say. Its affiliates command a growing share of illicit tobacco markets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and donors in several Middle Eastern countries work on raising funds, the officials say. “The underlying conditions that allowed for the rise of ISIS remain,” Marine Gen. Frank  McKenzie, in charge of U.S. Central Command, said last month.”

CNN: Dutch Pursuit Of Torture Case Against Syria Prompts Terror Accusation From Damascus

“The Syrian government accused the Dutch government of supporting terrorism on Saturday in response to the Netherlands' invocation of an anti-torture convention against Damascus. The rebuke comes a day after the Dutch government said it is seeking to hold the Syrian government accountable for widespread human rights violations under international law, including the UN Convention against Torture. “The Assad regime has committed horrific crimes time after time. The evidence is overwhelming. There must be consequences,” Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok said in a statement published on the ministry's website. Blok said the Syrian government had been informed of the decision by a diplomatic note, which called on Damascus to cease human rights violations and offer reparations to victims. “International organizations have repeatedly reported serious human rights violations for years. Large numbers of Syrians have been tortured, murdered, forcibly disappeared, and subjected to poison-gas attacks, or have lost everything fleeing for their lives,” the Dutch government statement said. The Dutch government asked Syria to enter into negotiations, saying that doing so is “a necessary first step in dispute settlement.”

Iraq

France 24: Iraqi Minister Of Foreign Affairs Warns: 'In Some Areas, IS Activities Are Increasing”

“Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein spoke to FRANCE 24 about the challenges facing his country and the whole region. He said the Islamic state group (IS) was still a threat and that the number of ISIS fighters and their networks was higher than a recent UN estimate of 10,000 in Iraq and Syria. “We are sure we can defeat IS,” he says, “but we need cooperation with many other countries.” Fuad Hussein stressed that in visits to Tehran and to Washington, the Iraqi Prime minister had urged both countries to refrain from fighting a proxy war on Iraqi soil. He also said Iraq's relations with Turkey, which had soured after Turkey killed three Iraqi military last month, were improving. 'We hope we will begin soon with a new stage of dialogue', he said, revealing that the Iraqi prime minister had been invited to Turkey to meet president Erdogan and that the Turkish foreign minister would soon visit Baghdad to prepare that visit. He stressed however that Turkish troops currently in Iraq needed to leave and that the issue would be addressed during that meeting.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Want 'Islamic System' Of Government As Focal Point Of Afghan Talks

“Delegates of Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban continue finalizing “rules of negotiations” for a power-sharing deal a week after the two foes launched their historic U.S.-brokered direct peace dialogue. Meanwhile, battlefield hostilities between Afghan forces and Taliban insurgents continued to inflict heavy casualties on both sides and deepen a mutual trust deficit at the negotiating table. Airstrikes carried out by Afghan forces against Taliban positions in northeastern Kunduz province Saturday reportedly killed at least 12 civilians and injured 10 others. Defense ministry officials said the attack killed more than 40 insurgents and that investigations into reports of civilian casualties were underway. A Taliban statement said the airstrikes killed 23 civilians, including women and children, and injured 17 others. It was not immediately possible to verify claims made by either side. The insurgents have rejected calls for a cease-fire until they negotiate a broader political deal over the future of Afghanistan in the dialogue being hosted by Qatar. The two negotiating teams have held daily meetings but have shared few details about the intra-Afghan dialogue that began September 12 in Doha, the Qatari capital.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Attacks Surge In Northwest Pakistan As Afghan Peace Effort Brings Shifting Sands

“Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces in northwest Pakistan raising fears of a revival of their insurgency and a return of lawlessness as brighter prospects for peace in Afghanistan herald shifting Islamist alliances. The ethnic Pashtun border region was for years a haven for militants who fled the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But the Pakistani military cleared out the strongholds in a 2014 offensive, driving most of the fighters into Afghanistan. But since March, al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban, facing the risk of losing havens on the Afghan side of the border if their Afghan Taliban allies make peace there, have unleashed a wave of attacks on the Pakistani security forces. Bolstering their bid to re-establish themselves in the border lands, the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), struck an alliance in July with half a dozen small militant factions. “The group’s capability and military strength has increased, as has their reach,” said Mansur Khan Mahsud, executive director of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre. September has seen near daily incidents, from roadside bombs to sniper attacks, to ambushes and the killing of residents accused of collaborating with government forces.”

India

Reuters: India Arrests Nine Al Qaeda Militants Planning 'Terrorist Attacks'

“India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) said on Saturday it has arrested nine al Qaeda militants who were planning attacks in several locations including the capital New Delhi. “The group was planning to undertake terrorist attacks at vital installations in India with an aim to kill innocent people and strike terror in their minds,” the country’s main counter-terrorism arm said in a statement. Those arrested “were motivated to undertake attacks at multiple places” including the capital region. Six of the militants were arrested in the eastern state of West Bengal and while three in the southern state of Kerala, the NIA said, adding the individuals were “associated with Pakistan sponsored module of al Qaeda”. A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Pakistan has often denied giving material support to militants. India has stepped up an offensive against militants in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir and elsewhere. Last year, Indian forces killed the leader of an al Qaeda-affiliated militant group in Kashmir, triggering protests in parts of the disputed region. In the latest raids, the NIA seized sharp weapons, domestically made firearms and locally fabricated body armour.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israel Charges East Jerusalem Woman With Aiding Hezbollah

“An Israeli court on Friday charged a Palestinian woman from east Jerusalem with membership in a terrorist organization after Israel's internal security service said the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah had recruited her five years ago. Yasmine Jaber was arrested in early August. The Shin Bet internal security service said she was recruited by Hezbollah operatives at a conference in 2015 and asked to recruit others in east Jerusalem. It said she traveled to Istanbul on a number of occasions to meet Hezbollah operatives and communicated with them via social media. Her family issued a statement denying the allegations. They said the length of her interrogation and the fact that Israel has not named any other members of the alleged cell show that the allegations are false. Israel views Hezbollah as its most immediate military threat. The two sides fought to a devastating stalemate in 2006. Since then, Hezbollah has vastly expanded its arsenal of rockets and is now believed to be able to strike virtually anywhere in Israel. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it shortly thereafter. Israel considers the entire city to be its unified capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.”

Nigeria

Voice Of America: Gunmen Overrun Police Base In Northern Nigeria

“Two police officers were killed when some 100 gunmen attacked and overran a police base in Nigeria's northwestern Sokoto state on Thursday. The gunmen, disguised in military uniforms, struck a police base in the Tangaza local government area around 1 a.m. local time. Authorities say a divisional police officer and an inspector there were overpowered and killed, and their firearms confiscated.  The suspects also abducted two women believed to be wives of prominent businessmen in the area.  In May, at least 60 people were killed in an attack in the same region. A leader of the International Association of Educators for World Peace, Darlington Abdullahi, says Thursday's attack bears the mark of terrorist groups found in northeastern Nigeria.  “A lot of the insurgents or terrorists disappeared from there and started shifting to other ungoverned spaces within our nation,” Abdullahi said. “And that's when many of them began to shift to the northwest where issues now began to come up.” Boko Haram has been active in northwest Nigeria for over a decade and is known for attacking police outposts but has not been blamed for this particular incident.  Abdullahi says the attackers aim to lower public confidence in security officials and the government.”

Sahara Reporters: Boko Haram Terrorists Kill Three Persons In Borno Communities

“Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists have attacked two villages in Borno, killing no fewer than three persons while others were injured. SaharaReporters gathered that the insurgents attacked Gareri and Kuwami communities both in Magumeri Local Government Area. Magumeri is North and about 40km drive from Maiduguri, the state capital, which had witnessed series of Boko Haram attacks. Residents said many of them escaped to the bush to avoid being abducted during the attacks. “Two people were killed at Gareri while one person was killed by the gunmen in Kuwani,” a security source told SaharaReporters.”

Somalia

Deutsche Welle: Somalia: Al-Shabab Attacks Intensify As Election Looms

“More than a dozen attacks by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab were recorded in Somalia this week, with civilians and military officers among the casualties. The upsurge in violence comes despite ongoing airstrikes by the US military on the group. The attacks come as Somalis prepare to go to the polls for a staggered general election. The process is due to start with legislative elections on November 1 and culminate in a presidential election by the beginning of 2021.   The dates were announced on Thursday following the resolution of a drawn-out dispute over the electoral model between the federal government in Mogadishu and the leaders of regional states. After a series of talks, the two sides reached a consensus on an indirect election similar to that held in 2016. Some of the leaders had pushed for universal suffrage, last in force in the country half a century ago. Somalis who have sought refuge abroad in the face of drought, famine and al-Shabab attacks and counterattacks had also hoped to return home to cast their ballots in a one-person, one-vote election. The legislative election will see 101 electoral delegates vote in the members of parliament, who will then elect the president. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's mandate expires in February.”

Africa

The North Africa Post: Explosive Materials Seized During Recent Dismantling Of Terrorist Cell

“The results of an expertise carried out by the forensic science laboratory reveal that all the materials seized during the dismantling of the terrorist cell on September 10, are used in the manufacturing of explosive charges. The Attorney General at the Rabat Court of Appeal announced on Saturday that the materials seized by Morocco’s anti-terror bureau (BCIJ) on September 10 are used in the manufacture of explosive devices. In a statement, the Attorney General said scientific and technical expertise, carried out by the forensic science laboratory, found out that the materials are sensitive and could explode with simple exposure to heat. The pressure cookers, cylindrical tubes and explosive vests seized in the raid are used to prepare explosive devices that project nails and metal screws when triggered remotely by electrical circuits or by pressure on vests. The expertise also confirmed a complete match between the chemicals, liquids, gas bottles and light bulbs seized in the different places inspected. The BCIJ (Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation) arrested five suspects for their affiliation with ISIS on September 10 in the Northern city of Tangier, and in Tiflet, Skhirat, and Temara near Rabat.”

Shabelle Media Network: Kenya: Al-Shabaab Militant Jailed For Attack On U.S. Base In Kenya

“A military court in Somalia has sentenced a militant Islamist to life in prison for his role in a deadly attack on a US base in Kenya. Farhan Mohamud Hassan was also convicted of being a member of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate headquartered in Somalia. Its fighters cross the border into Kenya to carry out attacks. A US soldier and two contractors were killed in January's attack on the base in the coastal region of Lamu. It was the first attack by al-Shabab on US forces in Kenya, which has troops in the 20,000-strong Africa Union force battling the militants in Somalia. The US often carries out airstrikes in Somalia to target al-Shabab. Hassan added that he joined al-Shabab in 2010 and took part in many attacks in southern Somalia.”

Europe

The National: Calls For Expired Swedish School Permits To Be Axed After ISIS School Exploits Loophole

“Politicians in Sweden are calling for tougher measures on school permits after a controversial school with links to the Muslim Brotherhood exploited a loophole. The Romosseskolan school, which runs Muslim independent schools, sparked controversy when it announced it was expanding into an education building that was shut down after allegedly employing former ISIS fighters as teachers. Earlier this year it was accused of gender segregation in lessons and faced criticism over its policy of not allowing pupils a choice over whether they attended prayer sessions. It had been awarded a permit in 2015 prior to these incidents to create a new school which expired in 2017. However, it has been allowed to use the permit as school officials believed they would fail in a court bid to reject the continued use of it as they claim they had not made the timetable for its use clear. Sweden's Liberal party school policy spokesman Roger Haddad is now calling for an overhaul of the system which bans the use of old permits and takes the school governance into account. The principal of the Romosseskolan school, Abdirizak Waberi, is also the former president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations, which is believed to be the European arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The National: Irish Terrorists In Hezbollah Weapons Sting Met With Iranian Embassy Officials

“Members of an Irish group arrested on terrorist charges after seeking arms from Hezbollah met with officials at Iran’s Dublin Embassy, security sources told The National. Former members of the Provisional IRA reactivated Hezbollah contacts to obtain finance and weapons for the New IRA (NIRA). The Irish terrorists have been seeking advanced bomb-making technology developed in Iran and Lebanon that would allow them to penetrate police armoured vehicles in Northern Ireland, intelligence sources said. Nine members of the NIRA, including two women, were arrested last moth after a long-running undercover operation run by MI5, the British security service. Among those who appeared in court after the arrests was Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, a Palestinian, who was held on remand by a court and charged with a count of preparatory acts of terrorism. He reportedly travelled to a NIRA meeting, where he was alleged to have briefed the accused about the situation in Palestine.ber sources said that at least two people now in custody were at a commemoration ceremony in the embassy following the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani who was killed by a US drone strike in January.”

Asia

Voice Of America: Observers Remain Skeptical As Uzbek Government Says Religious Extremism Rising

“Uzbekistan’s State Security Service says there is a revival of religious extremist activities in the Central Asian country, but the government’s history of alleging extremism accusations to target political opposition has led some observers to view the warning with suspicion. The country’s security body in recent months has announced several operations against extremist activities, including an operation on September 8 in the capital, Tashkent. Six Uzbek citizens were detained for allegedly distributing material on Telegram, the encrypted messaging app, to “call for and encourage going to Syria to join the ranks of an international terrorist organization.” Uzbekistan has a population of nearly 33 million, with about 94% identifying as Muslims, according to the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of the remaining population, 3.5% of the population identifies as Russian Orthodox. The remaining roughly 3% includes small communities of Catholics, ethnic Korean Christians, other denominations of Christian faith, Buddhists, Baha’is, members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and atheists.”