Eye on Extremism: September 25, 2020

The New York Times: U.S. Prepares To Take Sudan Off List Of States That Support Terrorism

“The Trump administration is preparing to remove Sudan from a list of states that sponsor terrorism, seeking another foreign policy victory before the election but putting at risk the compensation for victims of terrorist attacks that American courts have concluded were carried out with Khartoum’s support. Sudan has been on the terrorism list since 1993 and, as a result, has been restricted from receiving the global assistance that would help stabilize its new government and foment democracy. Its delisting is widely expected in the next few weeks, according to four people with direct knowledge of the plan by the State Department. That would also clear the way for Sudan to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel in an accord similar to those the Trump administration helped the Jewish state cement this month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and that President Trump celebrated at the White House last week with a promise that other nations would soon join them. A full diplomatic accord between Israel and Sudan would be difficult, if not impossible, while Sudan remains on the American terrorism list.”

The New York Times: U.S. Commandos Use Secretive Missiles To Kill Qaeda Leaders In Syria

“U.S. Special Operations forces, with no fanfare, killed a top Qaeda leader in northwest Syria in an unusual drone strike nearly two weeks ago. They used a secretive weapon — a so-called Ninja Hellfire missile on which the explosive warhead is replaced by long blades to crush or slice its victim while minimizing risks to any civilians nearby. It was the second time in three months that American commandos have killed a senior Qaeda leader in northwest Syria with these specially designed missiles. The strike illustrated the complexities of carrying out operations against terrorist groups in a part of the world where the United States and Russia have been warily pursuing their own objectives and occasionally coming into conflict. The recent ramming of an American ground patrol by a Russian armored vehicle escalated tensions between the two rival powers in northeast Syria. The clash prompted the Pentagon last week to dispatch Bradley fighting vehicles and more fighter jet patrols to reinforce the more than 500 American troops helping stamp out remnants of the Islamic State there.”

United States

Motherboard: Neo-Nazi Terror Leader Said To Have Worked With U.S. Special Forces

“The leader of one of the most violent neo-Nazi terror groups in decades was paid by the Pentagon and worked with U.S. Special Forces on targeting and counterterrorism, according to new information. VICE News has learned that the leader of The Base, 47-year-old New Jersey native Rinaldo Nazzaro, was a Pentagon contractor who in 2014 worked with Special Operations Command (SOCOM), one of the most secretive elements of the U.S. military and the tip of the spear in the war against jihadist terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. A person familiar with the matter said Nazzaro, who had at least a top secret security clearance for a time, was among a group that briefed special forces officers on military targeting and counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East in 2014. (Previously, the BBC reported that Nazzaro was an FBI analyst and a Pentagon contractor.) This information matches up with details of his service that Nazzaro shared with other members of The Base in encrypted chats obtained by VICE News.”

Iran

The Washington Free Beacon: Saudi King Slams Iran’s Funding Of Terrorism In U.N. Speech

“The 84-year-old King Salman of Saudi Arabia blasted Iran for its production of “chaos, extremism, and sectarianism” on Wednesday in his first speech to the United Nations since taking the throne in 2015. “[Saudi Arabia]’s hands were extended to Iran in peace with a positive and open attitude over the past decades, but to no avail,” Salman told his fellow U.N. members.  “Time and again, the entire world witnessed how the Iranian regime exploited these efforts in order to intensify its expansionist activities, create its terrorist networks, and use terrorism, and in the process squandering the resources and wealth of the Iranian people for the purpose of its expansionist projects which produced nothing but chaos, extremism, and sectarianism.” Salman cited Iran’s efforts to destabilize Yemen, Lebanon, and its launching of over 700 drone and missile strikes through proxies on Saudi Arabia to date. In Yemen and Lebanon, Iran uses proxy forces such as Houthi militias and the terrorist group Hezbollah to inflict violence. Salman blamed Hezbollah for the massive explosion in Beirut in August that killed nearly 200 people. The Saudi king also briefly touched on coalition efforts to root out ISIS and al Qaeda groupings in Yemen as a part of the larger efforts Riyadh has made in combating extremism in the region.”

Iraq

The National: Israel Admits ISIS Fighter In Iraqi Prison Is Its Own And Permits His Return

“Israel has acknowledged the existence of an Arab Israeli ISIS fighter who has languished in solitary confinement at a northern Iraqi prison without trial for more than two years, according to a letter obtained by The National. It says he would be allowed to return home if he can reach Israel’s borders from Iraq, despite a lack of formal ties between the two countries. When US forces captured Mohammed Khalid in a December 2017 raid in eastern Syria following four years spent fighting for ISIS across the group's self-proclaimed state, Israel kept the case of the Palestinian from Israel's Arab-majority Northern Triangle area, and his whereabouts, in the dark. But after The National interviewed him at an Iraqi Kurdish counter-terrorism facility and tracked down his family in northern Israel, the Israeli government finally acknowledged his existence in the state’s first comments on his case, one fraught with legal implications and that counter-terror experts said was the first they had witnessed of a state refusing to even recognise a foreign fighter as its own – let alone allow his repatriation. All evidence pointed to Israeli knowledge about his case despite its denials. Before Khalid’s capture, the family say they were questioned about him on numerous occasions at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.”

Turkey

Daily Sabah: Turkey Foiled 152 Daesh Terrorist Attacks In 2020, Interior Minister Soylu Says

“Turkish security forces have foiled 152 terrorist attacks by Daesh terrorists in the past year, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said Wednesday. “We prevented 152 terrorist attacks by Daesh in 2020, and confiscated 26.8 tons of explosives ... We also foiled terrorist attacks by the PKK and DHKP-C,” Soylu said in a live broadcast on TGRT Haber, adding that Turkish security forces work around the clock to ensure security. In 2013, Turkey became one of the first countries to declare Daesh a terrorist group. The country has since been attacked by Daesh terrorists multiple times with at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bomb attacks and four armed attacks killing 315 people and injuring hundreds more. In response, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad to prevent further attacks. In the fight against the PKK terror group, Soylu said 162 PKK terrorists have laid down their arms so far this year as a result of persuasion efforts by police and gendarmerie forces. The number of terrorists who surrendered through persuasion efforts in the last three years exceeded 700, he said.”

Afghanistan

Agence France-Presse: 65 Taliban Insurgents Killed In Eastern Afghanistan

“Afghan security forces have killed 65 Taliban militants during an intense battle in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Thursday, as fighting rages between the two sides despite ongoing peace talks. The latest bloodshed came late Wednesday after the Taliban stormed a military headquarters building in the Wazi Khwa district of Paktika province. “The fighting lasted several hours and in a retaliatory attack by the Afghan forces, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties,” Paktika police spokesman Shah Mohammad Arian told AFP. “In the clash, 65 Taliban fighters were killed and 35 others were wounded. Unfortunately, three police forces were martyred and six others wounded.” Bakhtiar Gul Zadran, the head of Paktika provincial council, confirmed the information. The Taliban did not immediately comment. The violence came a day after the Taliban said they had killed 28 Afghan paramilitary policemen in Uruzgan in southern Afghanistan. The violence comes as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting in Doha, where they are trying to find a way to end 19 years of war. A hopeful start to the peace talks September 12 was immediately marred by fresh violence across Afghanistan.”

Foreign Policy: Feeling Abandoned By Kabul, Many Rural Afghans Flock To Join The Taliban

“Arman Omari grew up among guns, drugs, and airstrikes, with control of his village changing hands several times throughout his teenage years and with women largely absent from public life. He learned to shoot before learning to write his name. Sitting in an unfinished building in Momand Dara district in the eastern province of Nangarhar, not far from the village in Achin district where he grew up, Omari, 25, explained that he didn’t see a future for his family the way Afghanistan is currently run. The gap between relatively well-off urban areas and rural areas like his—bereft of clinics, schools, or jobs—has only grown after nearly two decades of fitful efforts at governance from leaders in Kabul. That’s why last month he made a fateful decision—like so many others, especially from rural Afghanistan. “I joined the Taliban because the government is corrupt,” said Omari, a slender man with greasy, shoulder-length hair, a trimmed beard, and kohl-rimmed eyes. “There are two overriding laws—one for the rich and one for the poor. People like me have no opportunities, and I’m hoping this will change with an Islamic system in place,” Omari said.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Visa, Mastercard Called Upon To Cut Ties With Palestinian Terror Funding

“Mastercard and Visa have been warned to immediately cut ties with banks operating in the West Bank or risk legal liability for funding terror. They have also been advised not to provide services for a new bank being set up by the Palestinian Authority, as it is being created explicitly for the purpose of continued terror funding. Since its creation in 1994, the PA has paid monthly salaries to terrorists and the families of killed terrorists in so called 'pay for slay' payments. These payments to date have been processed through banks operating in the PA controlled territory. However, recent Israeli anti-terror legislation which applies to the PA-controlled areas in the West Bank prohibits, inter alia, any bank transaction that funds, promotes, assists, or rewards the performance of an act of terror. Following the law change in May, banks in the West Bank initially moved to close terrorists' accounts to avoid vulnerability to criminal and civil proceedings, but have since been leaned on by the PA to keep them open until a new bank owned by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) can be created to handle the payments. This option was chosen over an alternative solution of transferring the accounts to the PA Postal Bank, as that bank cannot provide credit.”

Nigeria

Deutsche Welle: The Nigerian University That Defies Boko Haram

“The University of Maiduguri, commonly known by its acronym UNIMAID, is the largest institute of higher learning in northeastern Borno State. Its alumni include the state Governor Babagana Umara Zulum and some of his counterparts elsewhere, Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff Tukur Yusuf Burati and Senate President Ahmed Lawan. UNIMAID dates back to the 1970s. The university has admitted thousands of students each year since. The emergence in Maiduguri of the radical Islamist Boko Haram in the early 2000s has left a mark but never forced the institution off track.  The outlawed group wants to create an Islamic caliphate around the Lake Chad region. In 2009, security forces captured and killed Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram. But the group's ideology and violence have continued to spread, even beyond Nigeria. The militants frequently rampage through the region and specifically targets the education system — infrastructure, learners, and teachers. Women pursuing an education it deems inappropriate are at high risk. A long deep trench shields the university from militants. German musicology researcher Dr. Nepomuk Riva has never been to Maiduguri — its too dangerous.”

Africa

Voice Of America: Millions Newly Displaced By Escalating Conflict, Violence This Year

“Mid-year stocktaking by the Switzerland-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre finds escalating conflict and violence in the first half of this year have triggered an upsurge in the numbers of people fleeing their homes and becoming newly displaced within their own countries.   Around 14.6 million people in 127 countries have been newly displaced between January and July because of natural and man-made disasters.  This is about one million more than in the first half of last year.  The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre report finds conflict and violence have sparked around one third or 4.8 million new displacements, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. IDMC director Alexandra Bilak says Syria tops the rank of countries with the highest increase in newly displaced.  She says the military offensive in the country’s northwest province of Idlib has prompted more than 1.4  million civilians to flee their homes.  “DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo that also has seen a sharp increase in violence and armed violence and insecurity, particularly in its northeastern province of Ituri, which has also led to, as Syria 1.4 million new displacements,” she said.”

The Republic: Suspected Extremists Abduct 3 Non-Muslims In Kenya’s North

“Officials in Kenya say three non-Muslim bus passengers were abducted by suspected Islamic extremists in Kenya’s northern Mandera county that borders Somalia. Armed gunmen, believed to be Somalia’s al-Shabab rebels, stopped a bus about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Lafey town and ordered everyone out. The attackers picked three passengers from 54 on the bus and ordered the rest to leave, regional police chief Rono Bunei told The Associated Press Thursday. “We are still pursuing them in an effort to rescue them alive. We are wondering how they (the attackers) knew the three were on board the bus,” he said. He said it’s not clear why the bus did not have a police escort, a requirement for commercial transport traveling in Mandera county which has been hard hit by violence from Somalia’s extremists. Al-Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight the rebels. Since 2011 Somalia’s rebels, who are linked to al-Qaida, have launched scores of deadly attacks in Kenya. The government repeatedly said since 2014 that it is mandatory for public buses traveling through Mandera county to have armed police escorts. Al-Shabab rebels have often attacked buses and have singled out and killed non-Muslim passengers.”

France

The Jerusalem Post: French Trial Of 2015 Terror Attacks In Paris: Testimonies Of Survivors

“As the French trial of the January 2015 terror attack in Paris continues, the testimonies of the kosher supermarket victims' families and hostages were heard this week. One after the other, those affected by the terrible killings of the kosher supermarket in Paris were recounting their part of the story, their feelings as well as how the last few years were impacted by this tragic attack that either robbed them of a loved one, or left an unerasable trauma on their memory.  During Tuesday's and Wednesday’s proceedings, witnesses and relatives of the four Hyper Cacher victims — Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Michel Saada and Philippe Braham — spoke before the court. The father of Yohan Cohen, one of the four victims murdered by the Islamist gunman Coulibaly, broke down during court testimony on Tuesday as he recalled the virulent antisemitism behind the atrocity. “Why this gratuitous wickedness, why this hatred of the Jew?” screamed Eric Cohen before the Paris courtroom where 14 suspects in the three days of terrorist attacks that gripped the French capital are currently on trial. Cohen remembered that on the day of the attack, while terribly worried for Yohan, he was given the incorrect news that there had been no fatalities during the siege at the market.”

Germany

The New York Times: Germany Dismisses Military Intelligence Official After Neo-Nazi Scandals

“After a series of scandals involving far-right extremists in the German military, the government on Thursday dismissed the head of its military counterintelligence service, the body tasked with monitoring extremism inside the armed forces. Christof Gramm, who has led the agency since 2015, will take early retirement next month, according to a statement by the defense ministry. A successor has yet to be named. It is the latest sign that after years of neglect, political leaders are moving to confront an issue that has become too dangerous to ignore. During Mr. Gramm’s five years at the helm of the service, the number of cases of far-right extremists inside the military, some hoarding weapons and explosives, has multiplied alarmingly. Thursday’s announcement came three months after Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer disbanded one of four fighting companies in Germany’s elite special forces, the KSK, because it was considered to be riddled with extremists. Investigators had discovered a trove of Nazi memorabilia and an extensive arsenal of stolen ammunition and explosives on the property of a sergeant major who had served in the KSK since 2001. Several soldiers in his company had flashed Hitler salutes and sang Nazi rock at a party, according to a witness statement.”

Europe

The National: New IRA Links Confirm Hezbollah’s Growing Terror Threat In Europe

“The latest allegations that senior representatives of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia met with members of a breakaway Irish terrorist group have highlighted the growing extent of the Iranian-backed organisation’s operations in Europe. For decades, Hezbollah's primary focus has been the Middle East, where the terrorist organisation – working in conjunction with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – has been responsible for conducting attacks designed to create political instability and discord. In recent years, however, it has gradually expanded its operations farther afield, with its terror cells operating from locations in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Now there is fresh evidence that it is investing in its terrorist network in Europe by establishing arms caches in several countries and building links with terrorist and criminal organisations on the continent. The most recent proof of this has emerged after members of an Irish dissident group were arrested on terrorism charges last month following claims they met with Hezbollah officials at Iran’s embassy in Dublin.”