Eye on Extremism: September 5, 2023

Associated Press: Insurgents In Syria’s Northwest Kill At Least 9 Soldiers As Fighting Surges In Other Areas

“Al-Qaida-linked militants attacked an army position in northwest Syria on Friday, killing at least nine government soldiers and wounding others, opposition activists said. There was no immediate word from the government. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said nine soldiers died as well as one of the attackers, who belong to the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, the strongest insurgent group in northwest Syria. It said 12 soldiers and one HTS member were wounded in the attack. Taher al-Omar, an opposition activist who closely follows HTS, said the attack in the northwestern province of Latakia killed 18 soldiers and several others. The attack came less than a week after insurgents in northwest Syria attacked an army position, killing and wounding more than 30 troops.”

Reuters: Israel Halts Gaza Exports At Key Crossing After Explosives Found -Ministry

“Israel said on Monday it was temporarily stopping commercial goods from leaving the Gaza Strip through a main border crossing after security officers thwarted an attempt to smuggle out explosives. The Defense Ministry said inspectors at the Kerem Shalom border crossing found several kilograms of "high-quality explosives" in a shipment, hidden in the lining of clothes, which they suspect was meant to reach "terrorist elements." The ministry said exports from Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, through the crossing would be renewed in line with a situational assessment. Palestinian border officials said they were told by Israel the crossing would be closed "until further notice." Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt, who cite security concerns, since 2007 when Hamas took control. The blockade has taken an economic toll and most Palestinians in Gaza depend on foreign aid.”

United States

The New York Times: Hezbollah Sanctions Case Highlights Frailties In The Art Market

“Earlier this year, a Lebanese art collector was accused of money laundering and violating terrorism-related sanctions in a federal indictment that focused attention on the reported beneficiary of some of his activities: the militant group Hezbollah. The collector, Nazem Ahmad, had been identified by U.S. authorities as a top financier of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based group that the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization. The indictment, in April, charged Mr. Ahmad with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him in 2019, by using a network of businesses to conceal millions of dollars in transactions involving art and diamonds. Eight others were also charged. The indictment led to headlines around the world. But less discussed has been the extent to which it detailed, with example after example, how the art market had, by the government’s accounting, played a significant role in Mr. Ahmad’s scheme.”

Voice Of America: US Envoy Explores Resolution To Lebanon-Israel Border Dispute

“A U.S. special envoy visited Lebanon this week in a bid to de-escalate border tensions between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, Lebanon’s military and political powerbroker. Amos Hochstein, the U.S. special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security, brokered an historic maritime boundary agreement between warring Lebanon and Israel last October. Now, a war of words has escalated in recent months between Hezbollah and Israel over the land border while they prepare for possible conflict, even as they deny seeking one. Professor Habib Malik of the Lebanese American University told VOA that “the tensions, whether real or partly staged, will not lead to any military showdown between Hezbollah and the IDF,” referring to Israeli Defense Forces. Rather, Malik said, the U.S. envoy’s visit was to “oversee the deep-sea oil and gas exploration in Block 9, to explore a deal on the land border with Israel, and also to try and calm rising tensions between Hezbollah and Israel on the border.””

NBC News: Neo-Nazi Groups Spew Hate Outside Disney World And Near Orlando, Officials Say

“Groups of neo-Nazis and white supremacists spread antisemitic, white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ messages outside Disney World and in the nearby Orlando, Florida, area Saturday in the latest examples of rising antisemitism in the U.S., officials said. About 15 people wearing clothing and bearing flags emblazoned with Nazi insignia demonstrated outside the entrance to the Disney Springs shopping center, said the Orange County Sheriff's Office, which said deputies were dispatched around 10:40 a.m. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization dedicated to countering extremism, participants carried antisemitic, white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ flags and signs. The group consisted of members of the neo-Nazi groups Order of the Black Sun, Aryan Freedom Network and 14 First, a now disbanded group that has been absorbed into the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., according to the ADL.”

Syria

Middle East Institute: Deir Ez-Zor’s Tribes Reach A Breaking Point

“Years of simmering tensions between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and local populations in northeast Syria have exploded this week into still-expanding battles across much of Deir ez-Zor. The current violence was triggered by the SDF’s Aug. 27 arrest of Ahmed al-Khubayl (“Abu Khawla”), the emir of the Bakir tribe and commander of the SDF’s Deir ez-Zor Military Council. Five days later the chaos shows no sign of subsiding — in fact it appears to be spreading as more towns and clans take up arms against the SDF.”

Washington Examiner: US Warns Of Return Of ISIS Amid Violence In Syria

“Military commanders warned Saturday that the Islamic State terrorist group could exploit tensions and violence in Syria to mount a return to prominence. In a statement, the United States-led multinational military formation known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve called for "an immediate end to the continued clashes in the Deir ez-Zor region" in eastern Syria. "Destabilization of the region caused by the recent violence has resulted in tragic and needless loss of life," the statement reads. "It is imperative that all local leaders resist the influence of malign actors who promise many rewards but will deliver only suffering to the peoples of the area. This poses dire consequences and only allows for a situation that nobody welcomes — the resurgence of our common enemy — Daesh." The United States military and intelligence services often use the Arab acronym "Daesh" for the Islamic State. It is more popularly known in the West as ISIS.”

Iraq

Iraqi News: Iraqi Security Arrests 4 Terrorists Belonging To ISIS

“The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service arrested on Monday four terrorists belonging to the terrorist group ISIS. The four suspects included a terrorist who was an explosive expert in the terrorist group, according to the Iraqi News Agency (INA). The Iraqi Security Media Cell (ISMC) explained in a statement that security officers arrested one terrorist in the city of Kirkuk and two terrorists in areas in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. In December 2017, after about four years of confrontation with the terrorist group ISIS, Iraq announced the liberation of its entire territory after the terrorist group controlled about one third of the country. After the elimination of the terrorist group ISIS, Iraqi security is continuing to launch operations to eliminate remnants of the terrorist group in the governorates of Nineveh, Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah Al-Din, Anbar, and the outskirts of Baghdad. ISIS has occupied large areas of Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi authorities have confirmed more than once their commitment to eliminating terrorist groups in the country and tightening restrictions on the use of weapons.”

Afghanistan

Scripps News: 2 Years Later, A Look Back At The US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

“..."It's a very, very active terrorist area, where you have al-Qaida under protection of the Taliban, ISKP opposing the Taliban, but the Taliban not being able to really push hard against ISKP, in order not to risk even more defections, and with the Haqqani Network, one of the most powerful factions in the Taliban movement, there are links to ISKP, they have been cooperating until August 2021. And those links have not been totally severed. So there's even inside the Taliban, a disagreement on how to deal with this group," said Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project.”

Associated Press: 3 Pakistani Soldiers, 1 Militant Killed In Separate Shootouts During Raids Along The Afghan Border

“Two soldiers and one militant were killed in a shootout during an overnight military operation against militant activity in the northwest alongside the border with Afghanistan. A military statement late Friday said that security forces initiated an operation in Miran Shah, the main town of North Waziristan, “to eliminate remaining terrorists” after receiving concrete intelligence reports about the presence of militants. It said as troops closed in on the location, a group of militants was spotted and intercepted, triggering an intensive shootout, resulting in the death of the army major leading the operation and another soldier. One militant was killed and another was wounded. The army said they conducted another raid on a militant hideout in Tirah valley in the Khyber district near the border with Afghanistan where a soldier and a militant were killed early Friday.”

CBS: Former Afghan Interpreter Says Taliban Tortured Him For Weeks But U.S. Still Won't Give Him A Visa

“As Massoud walked down a Kabul street one cold Sunday morning, looking for a day job to feed his family, pickup trucks full of armed Taliban members stopped in front of him. He told CBS News the men aimed their AK-47s at him, he was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to an office of the Taliban's General Directorate of Intelligence. For more than a month, Massoud's family had no idea where he was. They searched everywhere, including hospitals, until they arrived at the Taliban's intelligence department.  "After six weeks of searching, they found me at the Taliban's 040 intelligence department," Massoud told CBS News in a phone interview. He said during the first 15 days of his imprisonment, he was "beaten, struck with electric shock sticks, electrocuted, waterboarded and hanged upside down." His crime? Massoud worked for the U.S. military as an interpreter from 2011 to 2013, including a year spent working with U.S. Navy SEALs. (CBS News is not using the real name of Massoud or the other former interpreter interviewed for this story to protect them from possible retaliation.)”

USA Today: Biden Calls Jacksonville Shootings A `Terrorist Act' Driven By Racial Hatred

“President Joe Biden on Saturday called the fatal shootings of three Black residents in Jacksonville, Florida, last week a “terrorist act” that must be denounced. “Silence is complicity,” Biden said during a trip to Florida to view the damage of Hurricane Idalia. “We must not, we will not, remain silent.” Biden said he would have more to say about the shooting in the future, “but I did want to mention it while I was here.” The shooting occurred at a Dollar General store in New Town, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. The store is also near Edward Waters University, a small historically Black university with about 1,000 students. A white man wearing a mask and carrying a gun painted with a swastika killed three Black people inside a Dollar General store Aug. 26 in what authorities described as a racially motivated attack in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The gunman, who shot and killed himself at the store after killing two men and a woman, carried an "AR-style" rifle and a handgun bearing a swastika.”

Pakistan

Outlook India: Pakistan: Tehreek-I-Taliban Pakistan Kills 9 Soldiers In Suicide Bombing In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

“…The think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP) notes that TTP has had close links with the Afghan Taliban and terrorist group Al Qaeda. "The TTP’s founding leadership and rank and file had spent the decade preceding the group’s formation fighting alongside both al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, and the tribal militants who would later form the TTP harbored al-Qaeda members in Pakistan following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan," notes CEP.”

Outlook India: Weapons Left Behind By US In Afghanistan Now With Pakistan Taliban Militants: Pakistan PM Anwaar-Ul-Haq Kakar

“…"The TTP was founded in late 2007 by a group of Pakistani militants who had previously fought in Afghanistan alongside both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the group has maintained close ties to both organizations since...The TTP’s founding leadership and rank and file had spent the decade preceding the group’s formation fighting alongside both al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, and the tribal militants who would later form the TTP harbored al-Qaeda members in Pakistan following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan," says think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP).”

Somalia

Garowe Online: Somalia President: I Have No Doubts, We Shall Win Al-Shabaab War

“The Somali National Army [SNA] with support from international partners will win the war against Al-Shabaab militants, President Hassan Sheikh maintains, while defending the recent withdrawal of troops from liberated towns, terming the move as "strategic". Last week, the Somali National Army started withdrawing troops from the frontline, following massive setbacks in Cawsweyne village where dozens of soldiers are believed to have been killed by Al-Shabaab. The militants struck just after soldiers had seized the town from them. In an interview on Friday, President Hassan Sheikh maintained that despite the setbacks on various fronts, the army will eventually liberate the country from the chains of Al-Shabaab militants, who are fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia. According to him, the government is remobilising the troops to hold the areas already recovered and move forward, following the downfall in Cawsweyne. The government has remained mum over the attack in which Al-Shabaab claimed to inflict massive losses on the national army.”

Africa

Reuters: Uganda Arrests 5 More, Recovers Explosives In Kampala Bomb Plot - Police

“Ugandan police have arrested another five people and discovered five more explosives around the capital Kampala in a bombing plot linked to an Islamist rebel group, the force said. Based in the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) pledges allegiance to the militant movement Islamic State and has for years hit civilians and military targets in both Congo and Uganda. Ugandan authorities detained a first suspect with a bomb in a bag outside a packed church on Sunday, triggering a manhunt that led to a further five arrests and the retrieval of five more improvised explosive devices, police said. The bombs were safely detonated and items including nails, batteries and powder detonators were recovered, the police said in a statement late on Monday. "A threat environment still exists ... which calls for vigilance as they (Ugandans) go shopping, travelling at places of worship, partying and celebrating, for any suspicious objects, unusual activity or behaviour," police said.”

Reuters: Uganda Detains Man Suspected Of Planning Bomb Attack On Church

“Police in Uganda said on Sunday they had detained a 28-year-old man entering a church in the capital Kampala with an explosive device he planned to use for an attack there. Authorities were hunting three other men also believed to have been sent on similar bombing missions elsewhere in Uganda, police said. The motives were unclear, but the Islamic State (IS)-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has previously carried out deadly bomb attacks in Uganda. ADF was originally a Ugandan rebel group but was routed more than two decades ago and fled into the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where it has since been based. The detainee, named as Kintu Ibrahim, was detained as he was about to enter a Pentecostal church, Lubaga Miracle Centre, in the Lubaga suburb of south Kampala. Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango told journalists security personnel had picked up intelligence about attacks planned on places of worship and that they had tracked Ibrahim.”

United Kingdom

Spectator: Why Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Had To Go

“Simon Byrne, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland’s beleaguered police force, has stepped down. It’s about time. The country’s police service, created to oversee a changing society in the aftermath of the Good Friday agreement, has been reeling from a succession of scandals. These stories – not least involving the leak of details about 10,000 police officers and staff on the internet – have had a catastrophic impact on trust inside and outside the organisation.”

Europe

Associated Press: Russia Arrests Mathematician On Terrorism Charges Minutes After His Release From Prison

“Authorities in Russia arrested a mathematician on terrorism charges Monday after he had just completed a prison sentence for hooliganism, the latest step in a years-long Kremlin crackdown on political opponents. Azat Miftakhov, 30, was detained minutes after his release from a penal colony over 900 kilometers (559 miles) east of Moscow, according to Russian media reports. His lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, told Russian state news agency Tass that Miftakhov was charged with justifying terrorism and refused to plead guilty. Miftakhov was arrested in 2019 and accused of attacking a Moscow office of the Kremlin’s ruling United Russia party, allegations he rejected. At the time, he was a postgraduate student pursuing an advanced degree in math and professed anarchist views. He accused authorities of torturing him in detention.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 15, 2019, a truck bomb exploded outside of the Al-Rai Hospital in Syria’s Aleppo Governorate, killing 12 civilians and injuring many more. There were no immediate claims of responsibility. 

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