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Arrow Eye on Extremism - January 24, 2020

Eye on Extremism
January 24, 2020

Today's Headlines: January 24, 2020

The New York Times: Afghanistan President: Pakistan Still Shelters Insurgents

“Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that Pakistan continued to give sanctuary to an insurgent group that helps the Taliban in its war against Kabul and the United States, directly contradicting an earlier statement by Pakistan's prime minister. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan told reporters at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the Haqqani network, which the United States has designated as a terrorist group, had no activities or bases in Pakistan. “And you believed him?” Ghani, also at Davos, asked on Thursday. “One can also say that the earth does not revolve around the sun.” “This is a denial that is not helpful. We need to engage in a constructive engagement where the special relation between the Taliban and Pakistan ends. It is good for both countries and it is good for the region and the world.” Reuters has contacted Pakistan's Foreign Ministry for comment. Ghani also said that talks between the United States and the Taliban showed few signs of progress. Afghanistan has long said it wants a full ceasefire before Kabul will join the talks. “The outcome the public seeks is an end to violence,” he said. “We want to see that the Taliban accepts a political process.”

France 24: Malian Army Says Six Soldiers Killed, Several Wounded In Overnight Attack

“Six soldiers were killed and several were wounded in an overnight attack in central Mali, the army said Thursday, in fresh violence in the war-torn West African state. The troops came under fire late Wednesday from “unidentified armed men” in Dioungani, an area in central Mali's volatile Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, the army said on Twitter. Local authorities and inhabitants have blamed the attack on jihadists. The army gave a “provisional toll” of six dead and several wounded, without giving further details. Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since. Despite some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, plus a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Local Malian troops are frequently attacked. On Tuesday, two soldiers were killed in the Mopti region when their convoy hit a roadside bomb.”

The Guardian: Revealed: The True Identity Of The Leader Of An American Neo-Nazi Terror Group

“The Guardian has learned the true identity of the leader and founder of the US-based neo-Nazi terror network the Base, which was recently the target of raids by the FBI after an investigation into domestic terrorism uncovered their plans to start a race war. Members of the group stand accused of federal hate crimes, murder plots and firearms offenses, and have harbored international fugitives in recent months. The Base’s leader previously operated under the aliases “Norman Spear” and “Roman Wolf”. Members of the network do not know his true identity due to the group’s culture of internal secrecy. But the Guardian can reveal that “Norman Spear” is in fact US-born Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, who has a long history of advertising his services as an intelligence, military and security contractor. He has claimed, under his alias, to have served in Russia and Afghanistan. The revelation of his identity comes after a months-long investigation by the Guardian into Nazzaro and the activities of the Base.”

United States

New York Daily News: Three Suspects Linked To Extremist Group Wanted To Spark ‘Civil War’ At Virginia Gun Rally, Court Docs Say

“One of three suspected white supremacists arrested for allegedly planning to use a pro-gun rally in Virginia to launch a “civil war” was ordered to remain in federal custody after a judge labeled him a “very dangerous person.” Canadian national Patrik Mathews, who is accused of being in the United States illegally, was ordered on Wednesday to be detained on two federal gun charges pending his preliminary hearing at the end of the month. The 27-year-old, who also previously served as a Canadian Armed Forces reservist, was arrested earlier this month alongside 33-year-old Brian Lemley Jr. from Elkton, Md., and 19-year-old William Bilbrough of Denton. All three men are alleged members of “The Base,” a white supremacist group that frequently discusses, among other things, “recruitment, creating a white ethno-state, committing acts of violence against minority communities” — including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans — “the organization’s military-style training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices,” according to a criminal complaint.”

WMUR: Keene White Nationalist Accused Of Making Threat Through App

“A white nationalist from Keene who pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges stemming from a torch-lit rally at the University of Virginia is facing new charges of extortion and making threats. Christopher C. Cantwell, 39, was arrested Thursday morning in Keene by FBI agents. Officials said he was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with extortion and sending interstate threats. According to the indictment, Cantwell allegedly sent an instant message through the Telegram Messenger app to a man who uses the online pseudonym "VM." The indictment alleges that Cantwell threatened to sexually assault the man's wife if he didn't give him information he wanted about someone else. Cantwell pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon. He is being held until a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday. A four-day trial is planned for March. Cantwell pleaded guilty in July 2018 to two counts of assault and battery after he was accused of using pepper spray against two counter-protesters during a march the night before a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Under the plea agreement, Cantwell was barred from Virginia for five years. He maintained that he used the pepper spray in self-defense.”


Reuters: U.S. Says No Uptick In Violence From Islamic State In Syria, Iraq

“The United States has seen no uptick in Islamic State activity in Iraq and northeastern Syria, U.S. special representative for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday, weeks after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad. Jeffrey said U.S.-led coalition operations have been on pause in Iraq as the focus has been on force protection and talks with the Baghdad government on the way forward after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel foreign troops. The lawmakers were furious at the Jan. 3 drone strike on Iraqi soil that killed Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s drive to extend its influence across the region, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. “We have not seen an uptick in violence in Iraq by Daesh in this period,” Jeffrey told reporters at the State Department, using a term for Islamic State. Jeffrey said officials will meet in Copenhagen on Wednesday to discuss the way forward in the U.S.-led operation against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. “The coalition is very, very much committed to this mission,” Jeffrey said. Jeffrey acknowledged the pause in Iraq could hamper the fight against Islamic State if it continues.”

BBC News: Syria War: Jihadist Assault 'Kills Dozens Of Soldiers'

“Up to 40 Syrian soldiers have been killed in an assault by hundreds of militants in north-western Syria, according to Russia's defence ministry. The ministry, which supports Syria's government, said there were several attacks in which the militants seized two settlements in Idlib province. Syrian state media said members of a jihadist alliance had set off car bombs and used heavy fire as they targeted positions in the Maarat al-Numan area. But they did not mention casualties. A Syrian military source was cited as saying army units were redeployed to the area and eventually repelled the attacks “with high efficiency”. A spokesman for National Liberation Front rebel alliance, Naji Mustafa, said the assault had taken place earlier this week. Idlib is the last stronghold of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad and home to three million people, of whom 76% are women and children. Meanwhile, rescue workers reported that Russian air strikes killed at least eight civilians across the region on Thursday. The Syria Civil Defence, whose volunteers are known as the White Helmets, said a women and her two children had died in the village of Arnabah after midnight, and that three children and two adults died when the town of Saraqeb was bombed. On Tuesday, air strikes by Russian and Syrian government warplanes reportedly killed at least 28 people, including a family of eight in the village of Kfar Taal.”

Reuters: Militants Set Off Car Bombs, Storm Army Positions In Syria's Idlib: State News Agency

“Militants in Syria set off car bombs and used heavy gunfire to storm army positions in Idlib on Thursday, state news agency SANA reported. The militant attack forced the army to redeploy and clashes were ongoing, SANA added. Idlib is the last rebel-held swathe of territory in the country and hundreds of thousands of people in the area have fled in recent weeks amid heavy airstrikes by Russian and Syrian forces.”


The New York Times: Afghanistan Is Ready For Major U.S. Troop Reduction, Ghani Says

“Afghanistan is prepared for a major reduction in United States forces there, President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday, adding that he had given that message to President Trump, a step toward winding down the costly American military presence as diplomats struggle to finalize a peace deal with the Taliban. About 12,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 eight years ago. The eventual withdrawal of those forces has been one of the strongest pieces of leverage American negotiators have in talks with the Taliban to end the 18-year war. A gradual reduction in United States troops in the country has taken place since 2018, despite the absence of a settlement emerging from peace negotiations in the Gulf state of Qatar over the past year. Mr. Trump declared the talks “dead” in September, just as the two sides were on the verge of finalizing an agreement. They later resumed, but have since stalled. Mr. Ghani has been a vocal critic of the United States’ negotiations with the insurgents, because the talks have excluded his government. But speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, he said he had told Mr. Trump that the Afghan government was ready for a further reduction of 4,000 American troops, one-third of those remaining.”

Voice Of America: Polio Remains Threat In Militant-Hit Areas Of Afghanistan And Pakistan

“Afghanistan and Pakistan witnessed a spike in reported polio cases last year, further highlighting what local officials call an imminent threat to the border region between the two countries caused by militant threats and misinformation. “2019 has really been a bad year for polio eradication in Pakistan,” Rana Muhammad Safdar, Pakistan national coordinator for polio eradication, told VOA. “Misconceptions about the vaccination and polio eradication are seen as a Western agenda especially after the Shakil Afridi episode,” said Safdar, referring to a Pakistani doctor who allegedly helped the CIA to track and ultimately kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011 through a fake hepatitis vaccination program. In Afghanistan, officials say parents refused to immunize their children because of fear of being targeted by the Taliban, which sees medical teams as a threat to its control in the region. “One of the reasons for Taliban’s oppositions to house-to-house vaccination is that they suspect the vaccinators might spy on them,” said Hedayatullah Stanikzai, a polio eradication representative to the Afghan health ministry. Polio is a disabling and potentially deadly infectious viral disease.”

Xinhua: 1 Civilian Killed, 6 Others Injured In Grenade Attack In Afghanistan

“One civilian was killed and six others were injured after a few militants attacked a medical store with grenade in Dawlatabad district of the northern Faryab province on Wednesday, police spokesman in the restive province Abdul Karim Yurash said Thursday. The militants threw a grenade to a medical store in Dawlatabad district on Wednesday evening, killing the owner of the store and wounding six others, the official said. He said police had arrested one person in this regard and the arrested man admitted to his affiliation with the Taliban outfit. Taliban group has yet to make comments. Dawlatabad district in the Faryab province with Maimana as its capital 425 km northwest of Kabul, has been the scene of Taliban-led militancy over the past few years.”


CNN: Libyan Tied To Benghazi Attack Sentenced To 19 And A Half Years

“A Libyan man who acted as a scout for the Islamist militia that stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012 was sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison Thursday by a federal judge in Washington. Mustafa al-Imam was convicted last summer of destroying property at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan city and conspiring to support terrorists, but he escaped more severe punishment when a jury was unable to reach a verdict on more than a dozen other counts, including murder charges related to the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Judge Christopher Cooper, who delivered the sentence, said al-Imam was not simply “guilty by association” but had likely acted as the “eyes and ears” of the attack's mastermind that night. Cooper also evoked the separate siege of the US Embassy in Baghdad late last year, noting that he was punishing al-Imam in part to deter other would-be attackers from targeting US diplomats and service members abroad. “Those folks are very exposed and very vulnerable targets, as recent events have shown,” Cooper said. “Anyone contemplating harming them needs to know they will face serious consequences.”

The New York Times: Libya's Neighbors, Global Envoys Seek Solutions To Conflict

“Top diplomats from Libya's neighboring countries and beyond met in the Algerian capital on Thursday amid intensifying international efforts to end the conflict tearing apart the oil-rich North African country. The meeting brought together foreign ministers from Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia and Mali. All of the nations but Mali border Libya, and all have suffered fallout from the fighting between the forces of Libya's U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and eastern-based forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter. World powers are pushing both sides to respect a tentative truce. “Libya has been in turmoil. The conflict there has increasingly turned into a proxy war by foreign powers that are far away and much less affected by what is happening,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who also took part in the meeting. Maas, whose country hosted a Libya peace summit on Sunday, said much of the fallout from the conflict, including organized crime, terrorism, smuggling of weapons and humans, and flows of refugees, has been borne by Libya's neighbors. “It is therefore the neighbors that have the most interest in peace and stability in Libya,” he said.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Tunisia Repatriates ISIS Children From Libya

“Libyan authorities handed over to Tunisia on Thursday six Tunisian children of militants killed in the city of Sirte in 2016. Six Tunisian children, aged three to 12 years old, along with a dozen others of different nationalities, had for three years been cared for by The Libyan Red Crescent in Misrata. The issue was criticized by NGOs in Libya and Tunisia which accused Tunisian officials of “dragging their feet” on efforts to repatriate the children. The Libyan Red Crescent said Thursday it met with a Tunisian delegation that traveled to Misrata to repatriate the children. During their stay at the charity in Misrata, “the children received all sorts of care and services. The main objective was for their return home to live with their relatives,” said the Red Crescent. A year ago, Tunisian forensic police took DNA samples from the children to confirm their nationality before evacuating them out of Libya. The head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, announced the liberation of Sirte from ISIS in December 2016. But the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar took control of the city earlier this month. Since April, Haftar has been waging a military offensive on the capital, Tripoli.”


Council On Foreign Relations: Borno State Increasingly Isolated As Boko Haram Threatens Roads

“Over the last couple of weeks, Boko Haram has increased attacks on the road from Maiduguri to Kano, the only remaining safe highway of the six major roads that connect Maiduguri with the rest of the state and country, according to Nigeria media. A major report on the increasing isolation of Maiduguri closely follows Boko Haram attacks on transmission lines supplying the city with electricity. Destroyed bridges and frequent attacks on travelers have cut off not only Maiduguri residents, but many other residents of Borno state from accessing or travelling to Borno’s neighboring states. In response, the Nigerian army has evacuated many villages along the highway, causing hardship and anger among the residents and friction between the governor of Borno state and the army. Borno state and its capital, Maiduguri, have been ground zero for Boko Haram. Mohammed Yussuf founded the movement in Maiduguri, the police murdered him there in 2009, and Boko Haram emerged there in 2011 as a deadly terrorist movement. By 2015, Boko Haram controlled a territory as large as Belgium in Borno and adjacent Yobe and Adamawa states. The Nigerian army, assisted by Chadian forces and South African mercenaries, pushed Boko Haram back.”

All Africa: Nigeria: Terrorists Kill 8 Soldiers In Borno

“No fewer than eight soldiers including a lieutenant have been killed, and many others injured, with several missing after insurgents of the Islamic West Africa Province (ISWAP) attacked a military formation in Kaga Local Government Area of Borno State on Tuesday, security sources have said. The ISWAP stormed a remote village of Mainok at about 1pm along Maiduguri/Damaturu road in Kaga LGA and opened fire on troops digging trenches to protect their base. The security source said two gun trucks belonging to 121 Task Force Battalion were also forcefully taken by the ISWAP but later recovered by the Police Force. “We thought they were a friendly force because they rode on a Police Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and headed towards us while we were digging trenches to fortify our base near Mainok town. “They then opened fire on our soldiers, unfortunately, eight soldiers including a lieutenant were killed instantly and many of our soldiers are still unaccounted for,” the source said. Similarly, Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives of Borno Police Command on Tuesday successfully foiled an ambush and killed five Boko Haram insurgents at Mainok village after they attacked a military base earlier.”


Washington Examiner: ISIS Launches Attacks In Africa While Pentagon Shifts Focus To 'Great Powers' Russia And China

“An Islamic State affiliate recently launched a series of violent assaults in West Africa, according to a British military publication that monitors terrorism and insurgency. Over the past two months, ISIS has killed more than 150 African troops in Niger, Jane's Defense Weekly reported. A Jan. 9 attack killed 89 soldiers, the publication said, noting that “the attack was the third major such operation since 10 December, with at least 174 Nigerien soldiers having been killed by militants operating under the Islamic State's Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya during the period.” The attacks show the growing focus of ISIS on the Sahel region of Africa, and its loyalty to ISIS central leadership, the publication said. The uptick comes at a time when the Pentagon is reviewing its deployments around the world and considering a possible drawdown of the roughly 7,000 U.S. troops in Africa. “We’ve begun a review process where I’m looking at every theater, understanding what the requirements are that we set out for, making sure we’re as efficient as possible with our forces,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters in December. Esper said yesterday that no decisions have been made but confirmed that he wants to shift resources to focus more on “great power” competition with Russia and China.”

RFI: Survivors Of Burkina Jihadi Attack Tell Of Terror And Escape

“Mechanic Robert Ousseni Sawadogo was tinkering with repairs in his Burkina Faso village when dozens of militants suddenly streamed into the marketplace on motorbikes opening fire on anyone in their path. Their faces wrapped in turbans, the jihadists split up, cutting off escape routes as villagers fled. Sawadogo managed to escape, but others near him were cut down in Monday's attack that left 36 people dead. “They rode through the market on motorbikes and they opened fire,” Sawadogo said. “They closed down the three entrances to the market. When they attacked, we ran. I managed to escape, but others close to me didn't.” Hundreds of people fled the area in Sanmatenga province, trekking past existing camps for displaced people to reach Kaya, a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Ouagadougou. The assault is the latest to target civilians in northern Burkina Faso, where the poorly trained and under-equipped armed forces are struggling against a rising jihadist threat. Militant attacks have killed more than 750 in Burkina Faso since 2015 when jihadist violence to spill across from neighbouring Mali and spead across the Sahel region. Violence has displaced more than half a million people in Burkina Faso alone.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Rugby Boy, 16, Denies Right-Wing Terrorism Offences

“A 16-year-old boy has appeared in court charged with seven terrorism offences. The teenager, from Rugby, Warwickshire, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to preparing acts of terrorism. He also denied six counts of possessing documents useful to a terrorist. The charges are linked to alleged extreme right-wing activity. The counts involving alleged terrorist documents relate to “homemade” firearms manuals. The boy is due to stand trial on 24 February.”


The Guardian: Germany Bans Neo-Nazi Group Combat 18 Deutschland

“Germany is banning the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland in what the country’s top security official said was a “clear message” against far-right extremism and antisemitism. More than 200 police officers carried out raids in six German states early on Thursday, seizing mobile phones, computers, unspecified weaponry, Nazi memorabilia and propaganda material, the interior ministry said. The group had spread “far-right extremism and antisemitic hatred” in German society by producing neo-Nazi music and staging concerts for extremist bands, Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, said. The group is an offshoot of Combat 18, which was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National party (BNP). The number 18 is intended to represent the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, A and H, the initials of Adolf Hitler. The German chapter of Combat 18 “enjoys great respect within the far-right extremist scene” and is regarded as a symbol of violent extremism, Seehofer said. Some of the group’s members were convicted of illegally importing ammunition to Germany as they returned from firearms training in the Czech Republic in September 2017.”


BuzzFeed News: Clearview AI Says Its Facial Recognition Software Identified A Terrorism Suspect. The Cops Say That's Not True.

“Clearview AI, a facial recognition company that says it’s amassed a database of billions of photos, has a fantastic selling point it offers up to police departments nationwide: It cracked a case of alleged terrorism in a New York City subway station last August in a matter of seconds. “How a Terrorism Suspect Was Instantly Identified With Clearview,” read the subject line of a November email sent to law enforcement agencies across all 50 states through a crime alert service, suggesting its technology was integral to the arrest. It’s a compelling pitch that has helped rocket Clearview to partnerships with police departments across the country. But there’s just one problem: The New York Police Department said that Clearview played no role in the case. As revealed to the world in a startling story in the New York Times this weekend, Clearview AI has crossed a boundary that no other tech company seemed willing to breach: building a database of what it claims to be more than 3 billion photos that can be used to identify a person in almost any situation. It’s raised fears that a much-hyped moment, when universal facial recognition could be deployed at a mass scale, is finally at hand.”

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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