Eye on Extremism: September 9, 2021

The New York Times: As Taliban Crush Dissent, New Leaders Face Cascading Challenges

“Only one day after the Taliban named an acting cabinet to lead the nation they spent two decades trying to conquer, the dizzying challenges that accompanied victory were coming into sharp relief Wednesday. Tensions flared with neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan’s longstanding humanitarian crisis deepened. And the militants’ brutal crackdown on dissent threatened to further erode public trust. The Taliban, who witnesses say crushed several small protests around the country on Wednesday, have been rounding up scores of demonstrators and subjecting them to abuse in overcrowded jails, according to journalists who were present. The repression followed a Taliban announcement Tuesday that protests would not be allowed without government approval.  Wednesday in front of a police station in Kabul — one of the first accounts of journalists being abused since the Taliban came into power. Nemat, a videographer for Etilaat-e Roz, a local newspaper, said that he and his colleagues had just arrived in the street where several dozen women were gathered with placards and a loudspeaker when Taliban militants from the police station seized his camera and arrested him.”

The Wall Street Journal: France Opens Trial Into Paris Terrorist Attacks

“France opened a trial Wednesday that will examine the origins and fallout of terrorist attacks that ripped through the French capital nearly six years ago, killing 130 people and rattling the national psyche. The trial is part of France’s struggle to confront one of the bloodier chapters in its modern history. Last year, a French court convicted 14 people of helping carry out the January 2015 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo’s newsroom and a kosher grocery store. That trial reopened historical wounds and marked the start of a new cycle of violence, including the beheading of a middle-school teacher in October last year. The trial will delve into the coordinated attacks that unfolded on Nov. 13, 2015, targeting France’s national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and cafes across Paris. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attacks. “It’s important to me to stand up and to say that this isn’t OK, and we’re never going to forget,” said Helen Wilson, a Los Angeles native who was inside the Bataclan on the night of the attack with her former boyfriend, who was killed in the gunfire. Ms. Wilson and other survivors are expected to testify at the trial. Fourteen defendants will appear in person at the trial, including the sole surviving militant of the attacks that night, 31-year-old Frenchman Salah Abdeslam.”

United States

Fox News: House Homeland GOP 'Urgently Concerned' With Terrorist Wanted By FBI In Taliban Government

“Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are warning that the safety of Americans who remain in Afghanistan is “in the hands” of the Taliban’s new interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of a designated terror organization and one of the FBI's most-wanted terrorist operatives. The top Republican on the committee, Rep. John Katko, and the top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism, Rep. August Pfluger, wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, first obtained by Fox News, laying out their concerns after the Taliban announced the formation of its new government in Afghanistan – including Haqqani as interior minister. “As you are aware, the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan continues to pose increased terrorism risk to Americans both at home and abroad,” they wrote to Mayorkas. “With American citizens and our Afghan allies awaiting permission from the Taliban to leave the country on chartered flights – a previously unthinkable scenario that is wholly unacceptable to the American people – we are urgently concerned about the Taliban’s naming of one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist operatives, Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a terrorist group known as the Haqqani network, as the country’s acting interior minister,” they wrote.”

Syria

Kurdistan 24: SDF-Backed Force Arrest Four ISIS Suspects Near Al-Hol

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced late Wednesday that the internal security forces, also known as Asayish, arrested four suspects with alleged links to the Islamic State (ISIS) near al-Hol camp. In a tweet, the SDF's Coordination and Military Operations Center said that the ISIS cell was stopped from “planning further attacks” and that “weapons and equipment were confiscated.” Moreover, the SDF confirmed that the Coalition provided vital support. Col. Wayne Marotto, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, affirmed in a tweet that the Coalition coordinates every day with “our SDF partners to provide them with the ability to effectively prevent a Daesh (ISIS) resurgence and promote regional stability.” Five ISIS suspects were arrested in two recent Asayish operations, he said. Also, last Sunday, the SDF announced that the Asayish arrested one ISIS suspect in Deir al-Zor. Although the SDF and the coalition announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria in March 2019, sleeper cell attacks persist in what appears to be a deliberate campaign to destabilize northeastern parts of the nation, primarily in cities, towns, and rural tracts of land once under the extremist group’s control. The coalition and the SDF have had success reducing ISIS sleeper cell activity in northeast Syria.”

Iraq

Asharq Al-Awsat: German Prosecutor To Head UN Probe Into ISIS Crimes In Iraq

“United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday appointed German prosecutor Christian Ritscher as head of the UN team investigating crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq. Ritscher succeeds Karim Asad Ahmad Khan of Britain, who was sworn in as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in June. The UN team aims to support the government of Iraq in its indictment of ISIS members by collecting, preserving and storing evidence that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In May, the team said it had gathered clear and convincing evidence that ISIS had committed genocide against members of Iraq's Yazidi minority. Ritscher previously served as a federal public prosecutor in Germany and has more than 30 years' experience in international and domestic criminal prosecutions, the UN said in a statement announcing his appointment.”

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban To Allow 200 Americans, Other Foreigners To Fly Out Of Kabul

“Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities are allowing some 200 Americans and other foreign citizens to leave the country on a flight to Qatar scheduled for Thursday, the first such departure by air since U.S. forces withdrew last month, Qatari and American officials said. A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 landed in Kabul on Thursday afternoon, marking the resumption of international passenger operations at the Afghan capital’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Guarded by a squad of Qatari special forces, it was expected to depart later in the day. The flight will be followed by daily air links to foreign countries, a senior Qatari official said. The Qatari official said it wasn’t an evacuation flight as all of the passengers hold foreign passports and, if required, visas for their destinations, and have been ticketed by the airline. Qatar facilitated the transportation of the passengers to the airport in a convoy of minibuses parked Thursday morning in a Kabul hotel, one of them with a bullet hole through the windshield. The buses entered the airport shortly after 2 pm local time.”

Reuters: India, Russia Warn Against Terror Groups Operating From Afghanistan

“India and Russia believe that foreign militant groups operating from Afghanistan pose a threat to central Asia and to India and agreed to deepen anti-terrorism cooperation at a meeting of their national security chiefs on Wednesday, officials said. The Islamist Taliban swept to victory in Afghanistan last month after two decades of fighting and announced a provisional government that has met with a guarded reception from the international community. India and Russia were both deeply concerned at the developments in Afghanistan, an Indian government official said, following a meeting between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in New Delhi. The two sides agreed the Taliban must be held to their promises, which included respect for basic human rights, including for women, and not to allow their territory to be used by militants groups. “There was convergence of views on the presence of international terrorist groups in Afghanistan and threat from terrorism to Central Asia and India,” the official said. India fears that militant groups that operate from Pakistan may also use Afghan territory to orchestrate attacks and says Pakistan should be held responsible because of its close links to the Taliban.”

Yemen

CBS News: 20 Years After 9/11, Al Qaeda Is Still A Threat. Yemen's Largely Forgotten Civil War Has Let The Terror Group Thrive.

“It's been almost 20 years since the September 11 attacks that prompted the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Washington's declaration of a “war on terror.” But almost 2,000 miles away from Afghanistan, the group that launched the attacks on America is still operating with impunity. Al Qaeda has taken advantage of the chaotic civil war in Yemen not only to survive, but to plan and carry out attacks on Americans and their allies. CBS News correspondent Holly Williams got rare access to join Yemeni troops as they fight a bloody conflict that gets so little attention, it's sometimes referred to as “the forgotten war.” Yemeni government forces brought Williams and a CBS News photographer to the front line, where they're fighting for control of a barren expanse of desert. The troops are battling Houthi rebels who've seized the capital city of Sanaa and huge swathes of land around it. The Saudi Arabian government invited CBS News to witness the conflict first-hand. The Saudis back Yemen's government and, along with the U.S., accuse Iran of arming the rebels. Both sides have been accused of committing war crimes over the course of the conflict, which is entering its eighth year.”

Middle East

The Times Of Israel: Security Prisoners Riot In Jails As Terror Groups Protest New Curbs On Inmates

“Palestinian security prisoners set fire to a number of cells in the Ketziot and Ramon prisons in southern Israel on Wednesday, amid escalating unrest over new restrictions on inmates following the escape of six security prisoners from a high-level prison earlier this week. Violence was reported in several other facilities and the Prisons Service said it was on high alert, bracing for further clashes. The fires in seven cells in Ketziot were started by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) members who refused to be moved between sections, Hebrew-language media reports said, after the Israel Prisons Service began to move PIJ inmates between facilities following Monday’s jailbreak. Five of the escapees were members of PIJ. The Metzada Unit, an elite force within the prisons service that deals with disturbances, was headed to the prison located in Israel’s Negev desert to assist with the ongoing unrest. Reports indicated that the fires were brought under control after a short while. There were no reports of injuries in the blazes. Shortly afterward, two cells were set on fire in different wings of Ramon prison, also in the Negev, the Prisons Service said. Both blazes were brought under control after a short while, it added.”

Libya

Newsweek: Is ISIS Making A Comeback In Libya?

“In July, a U.N. panel of experts released a new report on global terrorism, with some alarming conclusions. In it, they noted that East and West Africa have been the world regions hardest hit by terrorism over the past year, and that terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria are fast becoming “an entrenched insurgency.” One data point was conspicuously absent from their survey. Nowhere in the report was the threat posed by the previously dormant Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya mentioned. That's a glaring omission because the Libyan franchise of the world's most dangerous terrorist group could now be poised for a strategic comeback. A bit of history is in order. ISIS first emerged in Libya in 2015, when the group launched its first attack on the Corinthia Hotel in the country's capital, Tripoli. At its peak, the group was estimated to have around 5,000 fighters in Libya, and to control over 125 miles of the coastline. During its rise and rule, ISIS' Libyan franchise maintained a close relationship with the group's core leadership, including direct communications, funding, specialized training and advising. Its largest stronghold was in Sirte, where it was able to establish its own system of governance. However, it also maintained bases in Derna and in Sabratha in the country's west.”

Mali

The Defense Post: Burkina Faso, Mali Agree Joint Force Against Jihadists

“Burkina Faso and Mali agreed Tuesday to mount joint military operations against jihadist groups who have ravaged Africa’s Sahel region, Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara said Tuesday. On a visit to the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou, Camara met with Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to discuss the security situation in the region and bilateral cooperation, the Malian minister said. Since emerging in northern Mali in 2012, jihadist groups have expanded into Burkina Faso as well as Niger. Violence has ravaged the countries notably in the “three borders” region, a huge territory straddling the frontiers of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso that has long been troubled by land feuds, trafficking, desertification, and a fragile state presence. Thousands have died and millions have fled their homes. “The challenge we face is shared, and the response needs to be comprehensive,” Camara said. “We must face this challenge together.” He said Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goita and Burkina’s Kabore “share the same vision in the framework of the fight against terrorism (and) their goal is to find a solution to this problem that has made our brave populations suffer so much.”

Africa

Reuters: Cameroon Sentences Four Men To Death For Shooting Attack On School

“A court in Cameroon has sentenced four people to death for their roles in a shooting attack on a school last year that killed seven children and wounded 12 others, according to a court document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. A military court in Buea, the capital of Cameroon's South West region, found the men guilty of terrorism, assassination, and attempted secession, according to its judgment, which was issued on Tuesday. The men were sentenced to execution by firing squad in the town square, but their sentences are likely to be converted to life imprisonment. Cameroon has not executed any of the hundreds of prisoners sentenced to death since 1997. South West is one of two regions where English-speaking secessionists have been battling government forces since 2017 over perceived marginalization by the French-speaking majority in Cameroon. Both sides have committed atrocities during the conflict, which has killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. The court document did not say on what basis it had found the men guilty of secession. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which drew condemnation in Cameroon and abroad. Lawyers for the four men sentenced were not immediately available for comment.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Terror Threat To Swindon 'Likely To Be Right Wing'

“Right-wing extremism is the most likely terrorist threat in Swindon, a new report claims. The report, written by the Swindon Prevent Board, will be presented to the town's borough council next week. It says while the Covid-19 lockdowns have slowed suspicious activity, they may have given an opportunity to increase radicalisation. The report said 13 cases were referred to the Prevent team in Swindon in 2020-21 as being of concern. Of those, 85% of the people involved were men and 38% were under 18, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Although this is a reduction from previous years, the Prevent Board said that is probably down to the lockdowns. The government's Prevent programme placed a duty on local authorities, police, education and health teams, to help curb radicalisation and stop people from engaging in political violence and terrorism. The Swindon Prevent Board report said: “Extreme Right-wing terrorism remains the highest risk in Swindon. “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented additional opportunities for extreme right-wing terrorists to spread hate and disinformation online. “Prevent referral data across the region suggests that the young and vulnerable continue to be exposed to concerning extreme right-wing terrorist material online.”

France

CNN: Main Suspect Tells Paris Attacks Trial He's 'An Islamic State Soldier'

“The main suspect in a jihadist rampage that killed 130 people across Paris described himself defiantly as “an Islamic State soldier” on Wednesday, upsetting some survivors who took it as a threat at the start of the trial into the 2015 attacks. Salah Abdeslam, 31, appeared in court dressed in black and wearing a black face mask, one of 20 men accused of involvement in the gun-and-bomb attacks on six restaurants and bars, the Bataclan concert hall and a sports stadium on Nov. 13, 2015. Asked his profession, the French-Moroccan removed his face mask and told a Paris court: “I gave up my job to become an Islamic State soldier.” He is believed to be the only surviving member of the group that carried out the attacks. The other suspects are accused of helping to provide guns and cars or organize the attacks, which also injured hundreds and scarred the nation's psyche. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by Islamic State, which had urged followers to attack France over its involvement in the fight against the militant group in Iraq and Syria. Victor Edou, a lawyer for eight Bataclan survivors, said Abdeslam's statement was “very violent.” “Some of my clients are not doing too well...after hearing a statement that they took as a new, direct threat,” he said. “It's going to be like that for nine months.”

New Zealand

Voice Of America: New Zealand To Overhaul Terror Laws After Auckland Supermarket Stabbings

“New Zealand is reviewing its terror laws after a knife-wielding Sri Lankan man attacked shoppers at an Auckland supermarket before being shot dead by the police. Authorities said he was inspired by the Islamic State group. The proposed New Zealand’s Counter Terror Legislation Bill would criminalize the planning of a terror attack. It would close what critics have said is a loophole that has allowed suspected extremists to continue posing a threat. The attacker was under police surveillance but was recently released with a year-long probation. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Saturday that there is a plan to pass the new law by the end of this month. Andrew Little, the minister responsible for the intelligence agencies, said in a statement to Parliament Tuesday that New Zealand must learn from the September 3rd Auckland supermarket attack and remain vigilant to keep the community safe. “New Zealand was not immune to the threat of terrorist violence in March 2019,” he said, “and we are not immune now, and we will not be in the future.” Andrew Geddis, a law professor at Otago University, says defining what constitutes the planning of a terrorist attack could be problematic.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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