Eye on Extremism: September 9, 2020

Reuters: US Blacklists Ex-Lebanese Ministers Over Hezbollah Ties, Vows More Action

“The United States expanded its sanctions related to Lebanon on Tuesday, blacklisting two former government ministers it accused of enabling Hezbollah and warning that more actions targeting the Iran-backed Shi'ite group were coming.  In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had designated former Lebanese Transport Minister Yusuf Finyanus and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for engaging in corruption and leveraging their political power for financial gain.  “Finyanus and Khalil were involved in directing political and economic favors to Hezbollah and involved in some of the corruption that made Hezbollah's work possible in Lebanon,” David Schenker, a senior State Department official for the Middle East, told a briefing call.  “This should be a message both to those who cooperate with Hezbollah, those who enable Hezbollah, but also Lebanon's political leaders,” Schenker said. He added that “everyone should absolutely expect” more sanctions.  The Wall Street Journal in August reported that some U.S. officials wanted to designate Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and a former foreign minister who heads the largest Christian political bloc in the sectarian power-sharing system.”

New York Post: ISIS Suspects Sentenced To Thousands Of Years In Prison For NYE Nightclub Attack

“A Turkish court on Monday sentenced an Islamic State suspect to life in prison over the New Year’s Eve attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that left 39 people dead in 2017. The suspect, Albulkadir Masharipov of Uzbekistan, was convicted of 39 counts of murder and one count of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. He was handed 40 separate life sentences without parole. The court also sentenced him to a total of 1,368 years in prison for the attempted murder of 79 people who escaped the attack with injuries. Ilyas Mamasaripov, who was accused of aiding Masharipov, was sentenced to a total of 1,432 years, on charges of aiding murder, aiding attempted murder, and aiding an attempt against the constitutional order, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Of the 58 other defendants in the case, 11 were acquitted of the charges, while others received various sentences for membership in a terror organization, the agency said. Early on Jan. 1, 2017, an assailant shot his way into Istanbul’s Reina nightclub where hundreds were partying to celebrate the New Year. The assailant escaped from the scene and the Islamic State group later claimed the massacre. Several revelers jumped into the waters of the Bosporus to escape the attack. Most of the dead were foreigners.”

United States

CNN: Texas Man Arrested For 'Zoombombing' A University Class Lecture With A Bomb Threat

“A Houston resident was accused of interrupting a virtual University of Houston lecture with a bomb threat and by proclaiming his association to ISIS, the US Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Texas said Tuesday. Ibraheem Ahmed Al Bayati was arrested on September 4 for making threats or conveying false information to destroy by means of fire or explosives and making a threat over interstate commerce charges. Al Bayati, 19, allegedly interrupted a lecture on Zoom, a video conferencing app, on September 2 saying, “what does any of this have to do with the fact that UH is about to get bombed in a few days?” prosecutors said. Al Bayati then repeated an Arabic phrase meaning “Islamic State will remain” before leaving the call that caused the students to gasp, prosecutors said. From simple camping trips to coast-to-coast explorations, the rentable fleet of 100,000 RVs means you can have outdoor adventures without risking you and your loved ones’ health. A spokesman from the University of Houston told CNN in a statement on Tuesday that Al Bayati was never enrolled as a student and “in most instances of 'Zoombombing,' meeting login information was compromised -- a student shared the online class link with Al Bayati.”

Fox News: Ex-FBI Informant In 1993 Islamic Terror Cell Says They Would Pray For God To ‘Enhance The Explosion’ Of Their Bombs

“A former FBI informant who was embedded in an Islamic jihadic terror cell in New York City following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing said they constantly prayed to God to enhance the explosion of their bombs in their upcoming attacks. “We used to fantasize about how great that the Hudson River will leak into the Lincoln Tunnel and the whole long tunnel immediately, simultaneously together, my God, Manhattan would be drowning,” Emad Salem, the ex-FBI asset, says in Fox Nation's series “The Rising Crescent,” which details the decade before September 11, 2001. In the series, Salem recounts how a loose-knit terror cell connected to Al-Qaeda was operating in the New York area and officials missed many clues that could have prevented 9/11, the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil. Three months after the 1993 bombing, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000, the then-informant requested a safe house where he could help the jihadists build the bombs for the next attack. “You could see them mixing fuel oil and the fertilizer,” said Bill Gavin, former FBI deputy assistant director. “They had to pray so many times a day and they’d kneel down and pray and then come back and mix the bombs again.”

SOFREP: White Supremacy & Domestic Terrorism In The United States

“…The Base is a neo-Nazi network founded in 2018 by an extremist under the alias “Roman Wolf.” The group shares similarities with AWD. Like AWD, James Mason is a noted inspiration for The Base’s movement. The concept of unifying the white race and invoking a race war through violent means is central. According to the Counter Extremism Project, The Base primarily operates as a training apparatus for small two to three-man cells spread across the country (their exact locations are unknown). Once vetted and allowed into the group’s communications channels, recruits and members have access to information from the fields of explosives, guerilla warfare, counter-surveillance, weapons training, and other military tactics. Similar to AWD, digital propaganda is also a tool to further the group’s message into mainstream online communities. The exact number of members is not known, and the process of getting through the vetting is intensive. Suspected members have been arrested for a potential attack on a pro-Second Amendment rally in Virginia in January 2020, although no violent attacks under their name have been reported thus far.”

Syria

Agence France-Presse: Syria Kurds Transfer Some IS-Linked Foreign Families From Camp

“Syrian Kurds have started to transfer the “least radical” foreign women and their children linked to the Islamic State group out of an overcrowded in northeast Syria to begin rehabilitation, an official said Tuesday. So far 76 families have been transferred since July from Al-Hol to the Roj camp at their request after showing remorse over their ties to the jihadist group, Kurdish official Sheikhmous Ahmed told AFP. He did not give their nationalities, but Kurdish authorities say foreigners in Al-Hol hail from around 50 countries. After years of spearheading the fight against IS with backing from a US-led international coalition, Syria's Kurds hold thousands of foreigners suspected of supporting the extremist group in their custody. These include alleged fighters in jails, but also thousands more women and children related to them in displacement camps -- many in the sprawling tent city of Al-Hol. Aid groups have repeatedly deplored living conditions in the camp where more than half of its 65,000 inhabitants are under the age of five, and Kurdish authorities reported the first coronavirus case among residents in late August. “The Roj camp has been expanded in coordination with the United Nations... and the international coalition to transfer foreign IS children and women after they asked to leave Al-Hol,” Ahmed said.”

Iran

Radio Farda: Iran Sentences Iraqi, Iranian Is Teens To Prison Over Planned Attack

“A court in Tehran has sentenced two Iraqis and one Iranian to prison over their participation as minors in a purported suicide mission planned by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, according to the government-run Iran daily. All were said to be part of a 21-member team that had crossed the Iraq-Iran border some three years ago to carry out the planned attack, which was not described in any detail. Their sentences were handed down on September 6. Reports on trials of alleged IS members in Iran are rare. The extremist group has regularly threatened Iran in the past. The Iraqis, who were 14 and 17 at the time of their arrest, were each sentenced to five years in prison on the charge of “moharebeh,” or waging war against God, which in Iran may be punished by death. They got additional one-year sentences for possessing weapons. They will reportedly be handed over to Iraq's intelligence service. The Iranian national was 16 at the time of this arrest, according to Iran daily, and was sentenced to five years in prison on similar charges. The report says the three were not given the death penalty because they were under the age of 18 at the time of their arrest.”

Arab News: Daesh Alive And Well Thanks To Iran’s Militias

“The territorial defeat of Daesh was simply the first of a long series of phases needed to destroy the terrorist organization and its ideology completely. This may be the first time a US-led campaign has knocked down buildings and destroyed cities and claimed victory over a terrorist insurgency. But Sunni insurgencies are not defeated by punishing Sunni population centers and destroying cities in bombing campaigns. Insurgencies are grown when a sectarian government indiscriminately targets and disappears Sunni males in the tens of thousands. The children of non-affiliated Sunni males killed or imprisoned while awaiting execution for being Daesh collaborators will grow up to seek revenge. They do not have to believe in a terrorist ideology to use the group as a vehicle for revenge. The way Sunni areas of Iraq were destroyed in the anti-Daesh campaign simply reset the conditions that led to the terror group to begin with. The Iraqi government and the militias that destroyed Sunni towns, with US air power in support, took territory away by destroying city blocks and infrastructure. But Daesh can now conduct an attack anywhere in Iraq.”

Afghanistan

Reuters: U.S. Envoy Meets New Taliban Chief Negotiator As Afghan Peace Talks Near

“U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a meeting in Doha with the head of the new Taliban team due to open peace talks with a team representing the Afghan government, the Islamist insurgent group said on Tuesday. The negotiations, the result of an agreement between Washington and the Taliban, are to begin in Doha after the release of the last half-dozen or so of 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The Afghan negotiators had been expected to fly from Kabul to Doha this week, but are awaiting a signal from the Afghan government that the release - to which Western governments have objected - is going ahead. In Doha, the head of the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and the new head of the Taliban’s negotiating team, Abdul Hakim Haqqani, met with Khalilzad and Qatar’s deputy prime minister on Monday, Taliban spokesman Dr Mohammad Naeem said in a statement shared on Twitter. “Issues related to the prisoners’ release and immediate start of the intra-Afghan talks were discussed,” Naeem said. Talks with American officials had for the last two years been led by Baradar, who signed a peace deal with Washington this year that paved the way for an international troop withdrawal and intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Reuters: Roadside Bomb Attack Misses Afghan Vice President, But Kills 10

“A roadside bomb in Kabul targeted first Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Wednesday morning but he escaped unharmed, his spokesman said. The attack killed at least 10 people. The Taliban denied involvement in the attack, which comes just ahead of long-awaited peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar’s capital Doha. “Today, once again the enemy of Afghanistan tried to harm Saleh, but they failed in their evil aim, and Saleh escaped the attack unharmed,” Razwan Murad, a spokesman for Saleh’s office, wrote on Facebook. He told Reuters the bomb targeted Saleh’s convoy and some of his bodyguards were injured. Saleh appeared in a video on his social media accounts soon after, saying he had sustained a minor burn on his face and an injury to his hand in the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a post on Twitter that Taliban fighters were not involved in the blast. The former intelligence chief and the senior of President Ashraf Ghani’s two vice-presidents, has survived several assassination attempts, including one on his office last year that killed 20 people.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Fighters Attack Previously Spared Afghan Province

“For the first time in two decades of conflict in Afghanistan, a historically secure province, Panjshir, has come under attack. Authorities say several members of the Taliban kidnapped locals on Tuesday, with residents saying they have taken up arms to help Afghan security forces. The Taliban struck the outskirts of Panjshir province in northeastern Afghanistan, officials said. The province has never been attacked in nearly two decades of war although the Taliban had a presence in nearby provinces, like Nuristan, Baghlan, Badakhshan, and Kapisa. Provincial officials said the militants took over several Afghan security force outposts in the Afshar district. District official Mohammad Sohrab told VOA that about 60 militants came from Nuristan province. He also accused the Taliban of taking a number of villagers hostage and holding them in a mosque. Residents picked up arms and helped the security forces against Taliban, according to one local witness, Mahi Udin. The attack came at a time when the nation was commemorating the 19th anniversary of Ahmed Shah Masood’s death.”

Pakistan

Asia Times: Pakistan Destined For Terror Finance Blacklist

“Pakistan’s bid to curb money laundering and terror financing hit a political wall when the opposition-dominated upper house recently voted down two related bills tabled by the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). The move will thwart Prime Minister Imran Khan’s effort to have Pakistan lifted from a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list of countries tagged as prone to illicit financial activity, and reaffirm perceptions that the country cossets terror groups, their leaders and their financial activities. The FATF, a Paris-based intergovernmental global watchdog that sets international standards for combating money laundering and terror financing, including in relation to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, compiles a rating list of perceived at-risk countries. FATF blacklisting is fraught with financial dangers, particularly for countries like Pakistan which are dependent on international lending and investment. Institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Asia Development Bank (ADB) exercise extra caution when dealing with nations on the FATF’s blacklist, while ratings agencies tend to downgrade FATF-designated nations.”

Nigeria

Daily Post Nigeria: Boko Haram: 611 Teachers Killed, 910 Schools Damaged In Nigeria By Terrorists – UN

“The United Nations, on Tuesday, revealed that from 2009 until December 2018, 611 teachers were killed and 910 schools damaged or destroyed in Nigeria by terrorists. It, therefore, urged the Nigerian government to prioritise school safety and learners’ protection. The UN stated that education in emergency partners are appealing for $55 million USD to provide emergency education to 3.1 conflict-affected children in the northeast Nigeria this year. A statement by the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Activities, OCHA on the first international day to protect education from attack said, so far this year, only $3.3 million USD, a mere 6 per cent of the total needed has been received. The statement observed that, protracted conflict in the north-east has had devastating impacts on education. “From 2009 until December 2018, 611 teachers were killed and 910 schools damaged or destroyed. More than 1,500 schools were forced to close and some 4.2 million children in the north-east are at risk of missing out on an education,” the statement said. It also observed that hundreds of girls have been abducted, some even from their own schools, which are meant to be safe zones.”

Africa

Voice Of America: Boko Haram Attacks Leave Cameroon Villagers In Need Of Aid

“Cameroonian villagers along the Nigerian border need humanitarian aid after deadly Boko Haram attacks displaced at least 7,000 people, authorities and rights groups say. Villagers have been fleeing their homes since early August because of attacks, which killed at least 22 people and wounded 29.  Cameroon authorities say a suicide bomber hit the village of Goldavi last week, killing seven people and wounding 14 others. For the past seven years, the village hosted 18,000 displaced people who sought refuge from Boko Haram, according to the United Nations.  Sixty-four-year-old Cameroonian Maahamat Doudje was among those who fled Goldavi. He said after receiving three goats and a bag of rice, he is sure of having at least one meal a day for the next few weeks.   FAO representative Fulbert Haiba Daliwa said the group is working to help those whose livelihoods have been disturbed by the militants. Many people, he said, have lost everything to Boko Haram.  Forty-eight-year-old Alida Wakilou, a spokeswoman for female displaced in Goldavi, said the women and children have been living in hunger since last week's attack.”

United Kingdom

The Guardian: 'Significant Flaws' By Police Led To Delays In Treating Manchester Arena Victims

“Experts will tell an inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing that “significant flaws” by police led to a series of devastating delays in tending to victims. The public inquiry into the terrorist attack was told on Tuesday the force did not declare a major incident until three hours after Salman Abedi’s attack at the Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people and injured 260. Around 14,000 fans were at the concert on 22 May 2017 when Abedi, 22, detonated his homemade bomb packed with shrapnel in the foyer known as the City Room outside the arena. On the second day of the hearings in Manchester, Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said the bombing “cried out for an effective, coordinated response” but that the inquiry would hear evidence of a number of failings. He said that evidence included details of a commanding officer initially believing reports of the incident to be a hoax and quickly becoming overwhelmed once a live incident was declared. Greaney also told the inquiry that policing experts said a senior GMP commander was “ultimately accountable for the significant flaws in the GMP response.”

France

The Associated Press: Charlie Hebdo Artist Seized By Gunmen Recalls Sheer Terror

“The Charlie Hebdo caricaturist who was forced at gunpoint to open the satirical newspaper’s door to two al-Qaida extremists described on Tuesday the moments of sheer terror from the attack in January 2015, and the feelings of guilt and powerlessness she endured long afterward. Corinne Rey had tears in her eyes but her voice was clear as she testified at the trial of 14 people accused of helping three men plot the Jan. 7-9, 2015, attacks in Paris. Seventeen people, including 12 in and around Charlie Hebdo’s offices, four at a kosher supermarket and a policewoman, were killed. All three attackers were killed in subsequent police raids. Rey had left the weekly editorial meeting a little early to go downstairs for a smoke when the gunmen came in the door, calling her by her pen name, Coco, and ordering her to take them to the Charlie Hebdo offices. She walked upstairs between the two men armed with assault rifles. Only at the moment when Rey described leading them accidentally to the wrong floor of the building did she falter, crouching down in the courtroom and holding her arms over her head in a replay of her reaction as the gunmen realized her mistake. Saïd and Chérif Kouachi targeted Charlie Hebdo because they believed the newspaper blasphemed Islam by publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.”

Southeast Asia

Australian Associated Press: Militants Killed In Philippines Clash

“Five suspected Islamist militants have been killed in a clash with government troops in the southern Philippines, the military says. Two soldiers were also wounded in the fighting that erupted before dawn in a village in Zambooanga Sibugay province, about 780km south of Manila, said Brigadier General Leonel Nicolas, an army brigade commander. The troops were pursuing members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group who were allegedly planning to carry out kidnappings in the region based on reports received from sources, Nicolas said. “Locals tipped off the authorities of the presence of these terrorist groups which resulted to the timely response of our troops,” he said. Troops also recovered four high-powered firearms after the 30-minute firefight in President Roxas village, said Captain Clint Antipala, an army division spokesman. Last month, authorities blamed Abu Sayyaf for twin suicide bombings in Jolo town in nearby Sulu province, killing seven soldiers, a police officer and six civilians. The bombers were believed to be the widows of two Filipino militants. The Abu Sayyaf is the most violent Islamist militant group in the Philippines and has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country, as well as high-profile kidnappings for ransom.”

Technology

Newsweek: Zuckerberg Asked If Facebook Will Be Seen As ‘Accelerant Of Social Destruction,’ Gives Lengthy Pause

“Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg took time to respond after being asked if his platform will be considered an "accelerant of social destruction." In an interview aired Tuesday by "Axios on HBO," the billionaire social media CEO was seen pausing for at least five seconds after being asked how history will judge his site, which critics accuse of spreading hate, extremism and misinformation. "Um, I have a little more confidence in democracy than that. And I hope my confidence isn't misplaced," Zuckerberg told Axios co-founder Mike Allen. "But what we do, and I think a lot of what the internet does overall, is it gives individuals more power. It gives individuals more voice to share their experiences. "Some of the times when I see people concerned about social media, some of those organizations are ones that used to be previous gatekeepers, in some cases had very noble missions to try and inform people, but in practice also served to lock a bunch of people out of the ability to get their experiences recorded and shared in the world."