Eye on Extremism: September 24, 2020

The Washington Post: China Is Building Vast New Detention Centers For Muslims In Xinjiang

“A huge Brutalist entrance gate, topped with the red national flag, stands before archetypal Chinese government buildings. There is no sign identifying the complex, only an inscription bearing an exhortation from Communist Party founding father Mao Zedong: "Stay true to our founding mission and aspirations." But the 45-foot-high walls and guard towers indicate that this massive compound — next to a vocational training school and a logistics center south of Kashgar — is not just another bureaucratic outpost in western China, where authorities have waged sweeping campaigns of repression against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority. It is a new detention camp spanning some 60 acres, opened as recently as January. With 13 five-story residential buildings, it can accommodate more than 10,000 people. The Kashgar site is among dozens of prisonlike detention centers that Chinese authorities have built across the Xinjiang region, according to the Xinjiang Data Project, an initiative of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), despite Beijing’s claims that it is winding down its internationally denounced effort to “reeducate” the Uighur population after deeming the campaign a success.”

Agence France-Presse: Barcelona Attack Cell To Go On Trial In November

“Three men face trial at Spain's top criminal court on November 10 over their involvement in the 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby resort that killed 16 people, judicial sources said on Wednesday. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the double attack which left another 140 people wounded on August 17 and 18 in the city and Cambrils, a seaside resort about 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the south. The three men are accused of helping the attackers, one of whom rammed a van into pedestrians on Barcelona's Las Ramblas boulevard killing 14 people. The driver then went on the run, killing another person, but was shot dead by police several days later. Several hours after the Barcelona rampage, five of the driver's accomplices staged a second attack driving into pedestrians in Cambrils and stabbing a woman who died of her injuries. All five were shot dead by police. Prosecutors are seeking prison terms of between eight and 41 years for the trio with the heaviest penalty expected for Mohamed Houli Chemlal who is on trial for belonging to a jihadist organisation and possessing explosives. Chemlal, who was 21 at the time, survived a blast at the house where the cell was preparing explosives.”

United States

Bloomberg: White Supremacists Top Terrorist Threats Within U.S., Wolf Says

“President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the agency in charge of curbing domestic terrorism told senators that White supremacists have become the “most persistent and lethal threat” to the U.S. from within the country. “White supremacist extremists, from a lethality standpoint over the last two years, particularly when you look at 2018 and 2019, are certainly the most persistent and lethal threat when we talk about domestic violent extremists,” said Chad Wolf, who has been heading the Department of Homeland Security in an acting capacity since late last year. The response is notable considering that Trump and Attorney General William Barr have sought to portray the nation as besieged by “left-wing” agitators fomenting violence in protests over racial injustice. After a series of attacks blamed on racism and bigotry in 2019, Trump told reporters that he doesn’t consider “white nationalism” to be a growing problem. Wolf also told senators that the U.S. faces threats of election interference from Russia, China and Iran and that “Russia looks to denigrate former Vice President Biden.” Wolf said there’s no current intelligence proving that Iran or China have yet carried out attacks.”

North Jersey: Was A Hamas Terrorist Paid Blood Money After Killing A Teaneck Woman? Congress Wants To Know

“Nearly a quarter-century ago, Sara Duker of Teaneck was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem. Now the U.S. government may finally confirm a dirty little secret about that killing — that the Hamas leader who orchestrated the slaying of Duker and two dozen others on a Jerusalem bus in 1996 is being quietly paid by Palestinian officials while behind bars in Israel. The under-the-table payments by the Palestinian Authority to operatives for Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad terror groups that participate in attacks in Israel have long been a source of controversy in Israel as well as in the United States, especially in North Jersey, with its large concentrations of Jewish and Palestinian residents. But U.S. officials have routinely steered clear of drawing attention to these payments, in part to preserve some measure of diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority. Now that is about to change. On Wednesday, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the Democrat from Wyckoff who represents part of Teaneck, introduced a special House of Representatives resolution to condemn payments to Hassan Salameh, a high-ranking Hamas leader who orchestrated the plot that killed Duker, then 22 and a recent honors graduate of Columbia University’s Barnard College.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: South Carolina Man Supported ISIS, Planned ‘Netflix Worthy’ Attack On US, Feds Say

“An Elgin, South Carolina man allegedly planned attacks on American soil, and wanted to carry out violence on behalf of ISIS, a federal affidavit shows. Kristopher Sean Matthews, who also went by the alias “Ali Jibreel,” communicated and conspired with other ISIS supporters over a period of months, including a Texas man named Jaylyn Christopher Molina, according to the documents from the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio. Matthews and Molina remain in custody, accused of “conspiring to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization,” according to the documents. Fort Worth ISD delays optional, in-person learning at schools 2 more weeks to Oct. 19 The charge carries a possible 20 year prison sentence. Authorities arrested both men Monday, KSAT reported. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. The FBI used online covert employees and confidential sources to track Matthew and Molina, according to the affidavit. An FBI investigator recounts conversations between Matthews and others in a secretive chat group wherein they profess their loyalty to ISIS, their hate for the United States and western nations, and their desire to support the extremist terrorist group however they can.”

Syria

Agence France-Presse: ‘28 Dead’ As IS, Govt Forces Clash In Syria’s Raqqa

“Clashes in Syria between pro-regime forces and Islamic State group jihadists, along with air strikes, have killed at least 28 fighters in the northern province of Raqqa, a war monitor said Tuesday. “IS has since Monday carried out several attacks on Syrian army and allied positions and checkpoints in the Badia (desert) of Raqa, killing 13 members of regime forces,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, told AFP the regime has retaliated with waves of air raids, killing 15 jihadists either in the strikes or fighting on the ground. Since its defeat in Syria in March 2019, IS has carried out regular deadly attacks on the army and Kurdish forces. In August, the jihadists claimed an attack near the city of Deir Ezzor that killed a general and two other soldiers of the Russian army forces allied to the Damascus government.”

Iraq

Arab News: Iraq’s President Warns Fight Against Terrorism Far From Over

“The fight against terrorism is far from over in Iraq despite the country freeing its cities from Daesh, President Barham Salih said on Wednesday. Speaking at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Salih said that “transnational extremism continues to exist in the forms of sleeping cells scattered across Iraq including the desert regions,” and that the country cannot let its guard down now. He added that Iraq should not underestimate the danger represented by terrorism and the possibility that it may reemerge. The president said he hoped to receive aid from friendly countries to help stop the financing of lawless organizations and extremism. He added that low oil prices and the economic consequences of COVID-19 have caused major challenges to Iraq but that it continues to fight the pandemic. Iraq has recently recorded several thousand new coronavirus infections each day, and the total now exceeds 300,000. More than 8,000 people have died in the country so far and doctors are terrified of being attacked by the relatives of those who have died from the disease. Salih also spoke about another scourge that has ravaged his country for years — endemic corruption. He said the problem had “contributed to the destruction of Iraq for many years.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Violence Plagues Afghanistan As Peace Talks With Taliban Struggle To Take Off

“Deadly violence in Afghanistan has marred the first-ever direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban, underscoring the high stakes that face the warring sides as they struggle to get negotiations off the ground to end nearly two decades of fighting. Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban kicked off a historic first round of U.S.-brokered talks in Qatar’s capital nearly two weeks back ago. But as the two teams wrangle over the agenda and framework for talks that are likely to drag out for months, if not longer, both factions have accused the other of ramping up attacks against their people in recent days. The Afghan government has called for an immediate cease-fire as a first priority of the talks. The Taliban, whose greatest leverage is the ability to inflict violence, has so far refused. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani repeated that call Wednesday in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, saying the U.N. had a crucial role to play in helping the Kabul government uphold their shared values at the Doha peace talks with the Islamist group. “At those talks, the Afghan people have a clear and urgent priority: a cease-fire,” Mr. Ghani said. “An urgent end to the violence will more than anything else give us a chance to progress.”

Al Jazeera: Some Freed Taliban Returned To Battlefield: Top Afghan Official

“A number of Taliban prisoners who were released by the Afghan government as a condition for peace talks have taken up arms again, top official Abdullah Abdullah says. Abdullah, who chairs Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation and is overseeing the government’s peace efforts, said on Tuesday that discussions with the Taliban in Qatar so far have been positive. However, he said, some – though not a majority – of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners released by the government as a condition for talks had resumed the fight against Kabul. “I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made,” Abdullah said during an online conference with the US Council on Foreign Relations. Abdullah said talks between the two sides had begun in Doha on a positive note, as the delegations built familiarity with each other. Yet he said the level of violence inside Afghanistan has not fallen and he called on the US, which launched the peace process with its own deal with the Taliban in February, to pressure the armed group to agree to a ceasefire. The US also involved Pakistan, which maintains ties with the Taliban, in the Doha agreement.”

Al Jazeera: Taliban Kills 28 Police Officials As Doha Peace Talks Continue

“The Taliban launched a wave of attacks on security checkpoints in southern Afghanistan overnight, killing a total of 28 Afghan policemen, officials said. Zelgai Ebadi, a spokesman for the Uruzgan governor, said Taliban fighters offered 28 local and national police officials a chance to go home if they surrendered on Tuesday night, “but after taking their guns, the Taliban killed them all”. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the attacks and said the armed group carried them out after the police in the area refused to surrender to the fighters. Another local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the toll at least 28 police officials, adding that three others managed to escape. Reinforcements were not able to get to the outposts to save the officers but Ebadi said Afghan security forces were later back in charge of the checkpoints. The violence comes as Taliban leaders and Afghan government-appointed negotiators started the long-delayed peace talks in Qatar earlier this month. The negotiations are meant to end the fighting and establish a plan for a post-war society. Wednesday’s killings come after at least 14 Afghan police and soldiers were killed overnight on Sunday.”

Lebanon

Jewish News Syndicate: Arms Depot Operated By Hezbollah Explodes In Southern Lebanon

“A Hezbollah arms depot exploded in the village of Ain Qana in southern Lebanon on Tuesday was caused by a “technical error,” a security source told Reuters. The blast, which reportedly did not cause many injuries, comes weeks after massive multiple explosions at the Beirut Port on Aug. 4 that resulted in nearly 200 deaths, thousands of injuries and caused extensive damage throughout the capital city of Beirut. Morevoer, it has rocked an already unstable country. A second security source told Reuters that the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah has set up a security perimeter around the site of the blast in the group’s stronghold. Video of the wreckage shows a completely destroyed and charred area. The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution last month that slightly reduced the number of U.N. peacekeepers (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon.”

Egypt

Reuters: Three Egyptian Policemen, Four Militants Killed In Prison Break Attempt

“Three Egyptian policemen were killed while preventing four Islamist militants on death row fleeing a Cairo prison on Wednesday, the interior ministry said. All four militants were killed in the failed attempt to escape from Tora prison, it added in a statement. Three of the prisoners named in the statement were convicted in 2018 with establishing and joining a militant group called Ansar al-Sharia and killing at least 10 policemen in a series of attacks between August 2013 and May 2014. The fourth was convicted in 2018 of killing a Christian doctor, local newspapers said. The interior ministry statement did not give further details. Ansar al-Sharia announced its formation in Egypt in July 2013, saying the army’s ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in the same month was a declaration of war on its faith and threatening to use violence to impose Islamic law.”

Libya

Reuters: Eastern Libyan Forces Say They Killed Islamic State Leader

“Eastern Libyan forces said on Wednesday they killed the leader of the Islamic State group in North Africa during a raid in the southern desert city of Sebha earlier this month. The Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman Ahmed al-Masmari said Abu Moaz al-Iraqi was among nine militants killed during the raid but was only identified afterwards. Islamic State in Libya was formed by al Qaeda militants who took advantage of the chaos after the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi to seize territory and launch attacks. The group took control of the central coastal city of Sirte in early 2015 and established a presence in the vast southern desert as well as active affiliates or cells in major cities. However, it was driven from Sirte in late 2016 and its influence since then has been limited to occasional attacks including one on National Oil Corporation’s headquarters in 2018 and another at the Foreign Ministry in 2019, both in Tripoli. Masmari said Abu Moaz al-Iraqi, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi, had entered Libya in 2014 and became the group’s leader in 2015 when his predecessor was killed. Islamic State’s global threat has reduced in recent years after its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria was militarily defeated and much of its leadership killed.”

Nigeria

Pulse Nigeria: 'Nigeria Still Battling Violent Boko Haram Insurgency,' Buhari Tells UN

“President Muhammadu Buhari has told world leaders that Nigeria is still battling violent extremism from terrorist group, Boko Haram, as well as bandits. The president has claimed for years, since he was first elected in 2015, that the Islamic sect was 'technically defeated' and posed no significant operational threat to the country. Many of his past claims were usually ridiculed by the public, especially in light of numerous attacks carried out by Boko Haram which has terrorised the northeast for over a decade. The group has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions from their communities since the group's insurgency escalated in 2009. President Buhari slightly altered his rhetoric about the terrorist group during his address at the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) late on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. The 77-year-old noted that sophisticated terrorist attacks are a global problem and that world leaders must unite to tackle it in order to ensure collective security. He appealed for stronger backing from the UN Counter-Terrorism bodies and neighbouring countries to snuff out Boko Haram terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin, where they have based operations over the past years, and the wider Sahel region.”

Somalia

Shabelle Media Network: KDF Soldier, Five Alshabaab Militants Killed In Mandera Ambush

“Kenyan soldiers participate in a joint military exercise with US Marines (not in photo) 15 january 2004 at Manda Bay near the coastal town of Lamu. The exercices are aimed at improving the Kenyan force's “crisis response.” Kenya Defence Forces troops on Monday killed five Shabaab militants after they ambushed a military convoy. The ambush happened in Lafey, Mandera County near the Kenya-Somalia border. While security bosses have dodged questions regarding the incident, reliable reports say one KDF soldier was killed and two others left injured as they attempted to contain the militants. Sources say the terrorists ambushed KDF officers along Alungu-Elwak Road on morning hours using grenades and guns. According to the sources, the Kenyan troops were heading to an airstrip when the militants laid an ambush, prompting gunfire. Other than the five militants who were killed, others are said to have escaped with injuries. The incident happened five days after two traders on a motorbike were attacked by suspected Al shabaab militants along Fino-sheikh Barrow road, Lafey Sub County. The two survived the ambush.”

Africa

Reuters: Sudan Discusses Arab-Israeli Peace And Terrorism List With U.S.: Statement

“Sudan and the United States have discussed how Khartoum could advance Arab-Israeli peace, authorities said on Wednesday, adding the talks also covered the removal of the former hardline foe of Israel from a U.S. list of terrorism sponsors. Meeting in the United Arab Emirates, a Sudanese delegation and U.S. officials held talks on how peace could stabilise the region and secure a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, the ruling sovereign council said. The UAE, a leading regional partner of the United States, and Bahrain normalised ties with Israel this month in deals brokered by Washington, the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to break a longstanding taboo. In August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the issue of Sudan establishing ties with Israel during a visit. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told him at the time he had no mandate to do so. A Sudanese team led by General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, head of the council, flew to the UAE on Sunday to hold talks with U.S. officials on several issues including the removal of Sudan from a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Islamic State: Relatives Of British Hostage Braced For Coming Trial

“On 22 November this year it will be exactly eight years since the British photojournalist John Cantlie was kidnapped by the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, along with the American journalist James Foley. Mr Foley was murdered by his captors. So too were the British and American aid workers and journalists David Haines, Steven Sotloff, Kayla Mueller, Peter Abdurrahman Kassig and Alan Henning. Mr Cantlie's fate is still unknown. IS forced him to appear in its propaganda videos, criticising the West in what appeared to be scripted addresses to the camera. But he has not been seen since 2016. Two of the alleged members of the gang dubbed “The Beatles”, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, were captured in 2018. Since then, they have been in a legal limbo but recent developments in the US mean the way is now clear, in theory, for their trial to go ahead in the US. For the first time, Mr Cantlie's sister Jessica Pocock has spoken publicly of her eight-year ordeal, telling the BBC of the enormous relief she and the other hostage families feel at finally getting their day in court. “This” she tells me, “is the first really good thing to have come out of this whole situation.”

The Guardian: Children Showing Interest In Extremism, Says Senior Officer

“Children as young as 13 are talking about committing acts of terrorism, against a backdrop of rising extremism during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has warned. Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu told MPs on the home affairs select committee that counter-terrorism networks had not recorded a rise in terrorism-related material during the coronavirus outbreak, but interest in extremism was on the rise. The head of counter-terrorism policing said his “greatest single fear” was the ability of rising extremism to incite vulnerable people towards terrorism. He said: “What I am seeing – particularly in the rightwing terrorism space, and this is anecdotal, so it’s not academic – is an increase in lots of young people being attracted to this. “So we are seeing people as young as 13 starting to talk about committing terrorist acts.” Basu said the ideology could be mixed or hard to define but “they’re just interested in violence”. “When you’ve been locked down, with social media having such an influence on every single one of us in our daily lives, and you’re able to sit there and just take all that in on a permanent basis with no other form of distraction or protective factor around you, and I’m thinking schooling, employment, other friends, family members who are not influenced or potentially extremist themselves, that is a concern.”

Europe

Middle East Eye: France, Spain Deny US Claim That Hezbollah Is Storing Explosives In Europe

“European countries have denied assertions by a top US official that Lebanon's Hezbollah has moved and stored bomb-making material throughout Europe to "conduct major terror attacks whenever its masters in Tehran deem it necessary". Speaking in his official capacity to the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on 17 September, US State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said he "can reveal" that Hezbollah has moved caches of ammonium nitrate through many European states, including Greece, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain and Switzerland. Sales's allegations about Hezbollah-linked explosives in Europe came weeks after an enormous explosion caused by tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. Ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive substance often used in fertilisers. Sales said that the Lebanese group has used first aid kits with cold packs that contain the chemical compound to move it throughout the continent. Since he delivered his remarks, France and Spain have challenged Sales's account, and according to the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, an inquiry by law enforcement agencies in Athens failed to substantiate the US official's claims.”

Technology

NBC Chicago: Lawsuit Asks Court To Force Facebook To Ban Militia Posts In Wake Of Kenosha Shooting

“The suit - which also names, the so-called “Kenosha Guard,” its commander Kevin Mathewson, and 17-year-old alleged gunman Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with the fatal shootings of two protesters during unrest in Kenosha - claims Facebook failed to delete pages and posts by the Kenosha Guard, which called for armed civilians to enter Kenosha amid the protests that erupted after police shot Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times, leaving him paralyzed. The plaintiffs, citing a Buzzfeed story, argue that Facebook received more than 400 complaints about the post but that the company's content moderators conducted several reviews and decided the post didn't violate Facebook's anti-violence policies. The Kenosha Guard removed its post the day after the shootings and Facebook took down the militia group's entire page later that day, Buzzfeed reported.  “Despite over 400 reports of the Kenosha Guard’s event page and its call to arms, as well as the violent rhetoric throughout, Facebook failed to remove the page from its site until after several deaths, injuries, and extensive harassment occurred,” the lawsuit states. “This shirking of responsibility is not the first time Facebook’s failure to act has resulted in real-world injuries.”