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Old 01-31-2020, 03:15 PM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - January 31, 2020

Eye on Extremism
By: Counter Extremism Project - January 31, 2020

Eye on Extremism as of January 31, 2020:

The Wall Street Journal: Taliban-Led Attacks In Afghanistan Hit 10-Year High

“Taliban and other enemy attacks in Afghanistan hit a 10-year high in the final quarter of 2019, U.S. data shows, the latest indication of the growing violence ravaging the country as Washington seeks to negotiate an exit. A surge in attacks followed the interruption in U.S.-Taliban talks last year. President Trump briefly called off talks in September, just as both sides were on the cusp of an accord to end the U.S. role in the 18-year war, blaming the decision on a Taliban attack that killed a U.S. soldier. Should the U.S. have a stronger presence against Taliban forces in Afghanistan? Why or why not? Join the conversation below. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent U.S. government watchdog agency also known as Sigar, released the data on enemy attacks in its quarterly report to Congress on Friday. The agency collects the figures from the U.S. military. The Taliban is the largest antigovernment group in Afghanistan. The report showed that 23 U.S. soldiers were killed and 192 wounded last year, the highest number since most U.S. and NATO troops pulled out in 2014. The report didn’t provide details on specific injuries. The Taliban and other insurgents launched 8,204 attacks in the last quarter of 2019, the highest number since the military began keeping records in 2010, the report said.”

Financial Times: Hong Kong Says Radical Protesters Are Plotting Bombing Campaign

“The Hong Kong government has privately warned diplomats it is bracing for a bombing campaign by radical pro-democracy protesters as the territory enters its 10th month of demonstrations. Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, has told at least one western diplomat that bombings are likely and that her administration was on high alert following police seizures of homemade bombs and materials as well as other weapons in recent months. Her concerns have been repeated by John Lee, Hong Kong’s security secretary, and Chris Tang, commissioner of the Hong Kong police, in meetings with western diplomats. They have warned of expected attacks using improvised explosive devices, guns and homemade bombs. A sustained bombing campaign targeting police and the Beijing-backed government would be a dangerous escalation for a protest movement that began with enormous peaceful marches but has grown increasingly confrontational. Police on Tuesday said they had found three IEDs within 48 hours, including a homemade bomb that exploded in a toilet at Caritas Medical Centre. No one was hurt in the blast, which damaged a toilet cubicle.”

WTOP: 5 Key Terrorism Developments To Watch For In 2020

“Experts are warning that terrorists could have some surprises in store in 2020. In this week’s edition of The Hunt with WTOP national security correspondent JJ Green, Dr. Hans Jakob Schindler, Sr. Director of the Counter Extremism Project, says there are several key issues to keep in mind.”

Reuters: International Crisis Looms As 700,000 Flee Syria's Idlib: U.S. Envoy

“An assault on rebel-held northwest Syria by government forces has pushed some 700,000 people to flee toward the Turkish border and raised the specter of an international crisis, U.S. Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey said on Thursday. Backed by Russian air power, government forces have advanced on Idlib at a rapid clip since last week, taking back dozens of towns and upending a region where millions have taken refuge since the start of Syria’s nearly nine-year war. The campaign has ratcheted up tensions between Moscow and Ankara. Turkey fears a fresh wave of migrants piling across its border and has a dozen observation posts in Idlib, part of a de-escalation agreement it says Russia is now violating. Speaking at an online news briefing, Jeffrey said that in the last three days Syrian government and Russian warplanes had hit Idlib with 200 air strikes “mainly against civilians”, and that several Turkish observation posts had been “cut off” by the government advance. There are “massive movements of troops pushing back hundreds of square kilometers and setting - I think now - 700,000 people who are already internally displaced on the move once again towards the Turkish border, which will then create an international crisis,” said Jeffrey.”

United States

The Washington Post: Michigan Plan Pleads Guilty In Plans To Join Islamic State

“A Michigan man accused of making plans to leave the United States to fight for the Islamic State group pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge. Mohamud Muse, of Lansing, acknowledged that he made a video pledging loyalty to the group and had planned to travel to Somalia at some point in 2019. Muse and two other men were arrested a year ago at the Grand Rapids airport where his brother, Muse Muse, was starting a journey to Somalia to join the Islamic State, according to federal authorities. Mohamud Muse was aware that the Islamic State is a “designated foreign terrorist organization,” his plea agreement states. Muse Muse pleaded guilty on Jan. 7. Charges are pending against a third man, Mohamed Haji. The three are naturalized U.S. citizens born in Kenya."

Associated Press: Judge To Sentence Coast Guard Officer Accused Of Terror Plot

“A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling guns and drafting a hit list of prominent Democrats and TV journalists is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday for his guilty plea to firearms and drug offenses. Christopher Hasson, 50, faces a maximum of 31 years in prison at sentencing by U.S. District Judge George Hazel. He pleaded guilty in October to possessing unregistered and unserialized silencers, being a drug addict in possession of firearms and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller. Federal prosecutors recommended a 25-year prison sentence for Hasson. They have called him a domestic terrorist and self-described white nationalist who was intent on carrying out mass killings. But they didn’t file any terrorism-related charges against him. Defense attorneys urged Hazel to spare Hasson from a prison term and sentence him to jail time served since his February 2019 arrest. Hasson’s lawyers accused Justice Department prosecutors of fabricating a bogus narrative that the married father of two grown children was planning a terrorist attack. After Hasson’s arrest, prosecutors filed a memo in which they said the Coast Guard officer “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

CBS Detroit: 72-Year-Old Arrested For Making Terrorist Threats Against Michigan’s Secretary Of State

“The Michigan Police Department says a 72-year-old man is in police custody after making threats against Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. It happened Wednesday where police say the Groveland Township man made threats on Benson’s voicemail and then spoke to a person in her office and made similar threats. MSP says after further investigation and evidence collection, a search warrant was executed at the man’s address and he was taken into custody. Weapons and evidence were seized according to MSP and the suspect was interviewed and lodged at the Oakland County Jail.”


The Guardian: Isis Starting To Reassert Itself In Middle East Heartlands, UN Warns

“Islamic State has begun to reassert itself in its heartlands in the Middle East and continues to seek opportunities to strike in the west, the United Nations has said. A report to the UN security council based on recent intelligence from member states describes how the group is mounting increasingly bold insurgent attacks in Iraq and Syria, calling and planning for the breakout of its fighters from detention facilities and exploiting the weaknesses of local security forces. The report portrays an organisation that has suffered significant setbacks but is tenacious, well-funded and still poses a considerable local and international threat. Though Donald Trump said Isis had been “largely defeated”, the claim has been repeatedly questioned by analysts, allies and some senior US officials. A Pentagon report warned of a resurgence in August, before the killing by US special forces of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph and former leader of Isis, in October. The new leader of Isis is believed to be Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi, who is also known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi. He is one of the group’s founding members and led the enslavement of Iraq’s Yazidi minority and oversaw operations around the globe.”

Reuters: Kurdish-Led Authorities In Northeast Syria Plan Local Tribunal For IS Fighters

“The Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northeastern Syria is planning to organise a local tribunal to try IS fighters held captive in the region, a representative of its foreign relations committee said on Thursday. “We have a plan to start proceedings on site,” Abdulkarim Omar, the representative of the foreign relations committee of the administration that runs the northeastern quarter of Syria, told reporters in Helsinki after meeting with Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto. Fearing a public backlash, many European countries have refused to repatriate their nationals who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State and who are now being held captive by local authorities since IS lost its last territory in Syria in March last year. A full international “ad hoc” tribunal has previously been ruled out, as such a body could take years to establish and was unlikely to get U.N. Security Council backing. The Kurdish-led local authorities had proposed setting up a local tribunal in March last year. Omar said now the aim was to begin proceedings within three months. “The crimes have been committed there so the evidence and the witnesses are also there,” he said.”


Business Insider: How Iran And Qassem Soleimani Shaped The Fight Against ISIS, According To An Aid Worker Who Saw It First-Hand

“The Baghdad that Christa Waegemann knew wasn't always violent. “My favorite moments were driving around the city, feeling its heartbeat,” she tells Business Insider. “Traffic jams allowed me to people-watch and observe the street life of the city. Baghdad was crumbling everywhere but still had a charm and sometimes a cosmopolitan air.” Yet working as country director for the local Iraqi organization Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid (HM) in 2016, Waegemann spent most time confined to her office/home for security reasons. Then at 29, and the first expat at HM, she lived outside the Green Zone, in the upper middle-class district Karrada. “All you need is one person who gets it in their head to kidnap you,” Waegemann says, “or one person to pass information onto ISIS.” The terror group never conquered the capital, but it had a grip on the city nonetheless. On July 3, five months after Waegemann's arrival in Iraq, an ISIS suicide truck slammed into the popular Hadi Center in Karrada. The blast killed 324 people. Waegemann lived just a few streets away. “Hearing the explosion, I sat up in bed thinking 'that was a bomb,'“ she remembers, “and then I promptly went back to sleep. I had gotten too accustomed to Baghdad's regular bomb and mortar noises.”


The Washington Post: Iraq Says U.S.-Led Coalition Has Resumed Operations Against ISIS

“Iraq said Thursday that its military has resumed operations with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, after their joint mission was suspended amid calls for foreign troops to leave. A statement from the office of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said the missions have resumed in an attempt to maximize progress against the regrouping Islamist militants ahead of a new U.S.-Iraqi agreement that could lead to a significant reduction of the U.S.-led coalition’s troop presence. “In view of the continued activity of ISIS terrorist gangs in many regions of Iraq and for the purpose of exploiting the remaining time for the international alliance,” Abdul Mahdi’s office said, “it was decided to undertake joint actions that provide facilities for our forces.” The joint operations and training missions were suspended after President Trump ordered the killing in Baghdad of a renowned Iranian military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Unilateral and unannounced, the U.S. drone strike inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq, empowering Shiite political factions in parliament to urge the troops’ expulsion. Although Thursday’s announcement did not come as a surprise, it underscored growing sensitivities surrounding the mostly U.S. troop presence.”

Kurdistan 24: In Iraq, 33 Children Convicted Of ISIS-Related Terrorism In 18 Month Period

“Nearly 400 individuals were tried in Iraqi courts between mid-2018 and late 2019 on terrorism charges for alleged affiliation to the Islamic State /including 33 minors who were found guilty, the United Nations said on Tuesday. In a new report, the UN raises “serious concerns” about ongoing unfair trials in Iraq against those accused of affiliation to the Islamic State for reasons that include institutional blocks to effective representation, the over-reliance on confessions, and the use of torture. The findings are based on independent monitoring of 794 criminal court trials of defendants mainly associated with the Islamic State from May 1, 2018 through Oct. 31, 2019. According to the data published in the report, 60 minors were tried during the period researched. Of the 33 children who were found guilty, 23 were handed sizable sentences of between 11 and 19 years in prison, while the rest will serve 10-year sentences. Of adults tried, 104 males and one female were given the death penalty. Another five women received life sentences. “Those responsible for widespread atrocities against the Iraqi population must be held to account for their crimes, and it is important that the victims see that justice is delivered.”


Washington Examiner: Taliban Targets US Troops As Peace Deal Remains Elusive

“The Taliban have seized on the Monday crash of a U.S. surveillance plane as the latest rallying cry against the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, as attempts to revive peace talks are showing little signs of progress. “After 18 years, the war has not only been costly for them on the ground but now, even the skies have turned against them,” said a Taliban statement issued Tuesday, as reported by Middle East Media Research Institute. “The recent battlefield victories of the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan against the air force of the Americans are a proof that with the passage of time, more losses will be inflicted on the invaders and this time they will no longer be able to use their air supremacy like they have been using it for the past two decades,” the statement said. NO EVIDENCE THE PLANE WAS SHOT DOWN: The U.S. military is still investigating the crash of the U.S. Air Force Bombardier E-11A aircraft in a Taliban-controlled area of Ghazni Province, but officials are dismissing the Taliban claims as opportunistic propaganda. “There are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire,” said Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Afghanistan in a tweet.”


Radio Free Europe: Soldiers, Militants Killed In Shoot-Out In Northwestern Pakistan

“Two Pakistani soldiers and five militants have been killed in a shoot-out in the northwestern region of North Waziristan, the military says. The army said on January 30 that the militants holed up inside a compound in the Dattakhel area opened fire when security forces surrounded them. Officials told RFE/RL that the militants killed in the overnight operation were involved in target killings and blasts caused by improvised explosive devices in the area. There have been no immediate comments from the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or other militant groups. Pakistan launched a massive military operation in North Waziristan in 2014 to cleanse the region of militant groups. But the region bordering Afghanistan has continued to be the scene of violent attacks, targeted killings, and land-mine blasts.”

Middle East

The New York Times: Israeli Airstrikes Hit Gaza After Militants Fire 3 Rockets

“The Israeli military said on Friday that it launched “wide-scale” airstrikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip shortly after Palestinian militants fired three rockets into Israel, two of which were intercepted. There were no reports of casualties or major damage from the exchange of fire overnight, which came amid heightened tensions after President Donald Trump released his Mideast plan, a U.S. initiative aimed at ending the conflict that heavily favors Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians. Palestinians have called for large protests after Friday prayers, including at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem that is sacred to Muslims and Jews. The plan contains mixed messages about the fragile understandings governing the holy site, which could provoke a backlash there. Gaza has been relatively calm in recent months as Egyptian and U.N. mediators have worked to shore up an informal truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the coastal territory. Hamas has curbed rocket fire and rolled back weekly protests along the frontier that had often turned violent. In return, Israel has eased the blockade it imposed on Gaza after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority in 2007.”


Premium Times: Weapons Used In Nigeria Killings Also Used By Al Qaeda In Mali — Report

“A study by a London-based research group has revealed that arms used in the farmers/herders conflict in North-west Nigeria come from the same source as those used by the terror group, Al Qaeda, in Mali and other Sahel countries. The report, Nigeria’s Herder-Farmer Conflict, conducted by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), focuses its primary findings on Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna States in Nigeria. Mike Lewis, author of the report and head of investigative arms research for CAR, told Radio France International (RFI) on Wednesday that researchers found the weapons amongst herders to be the same as those used in an attack by an Al Qaeda-aligned group in Mopti, central Mali. The report also said sophisticated arms are also being smuggled from Turkey into Nigeria. Mr Lewis said the study tracked weapons such as manufactured shotguns made in 2014 and smuggled by sea through the port of Lagos as well. “Attackers in different countries are actually using weapons, not just of the same type, but almost certainly from the same batch and that is passed through the same people. “And what that tells you is that there are very specific sources of illicit weapons that are providing the tools of violence for armed groups and also terrorist groups right across the Sahel,” Mr Lewis said.”


Reuters: Suspected Islamist Militants Kill At Least 30 In Congo - Local Officials

“Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 30 people overnight in attacks on villages in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials and civil society leaders said on Wednesday. Four villages were raided by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group, in the west of Beni territory, which has seen a surge of violence since Oct. 30, when the army launched an large-scale offensive against the rebels. Local administrator Richard Kivanzanga said 32 people had been killed in the attacks to the west of the city of Oicha. Among the victims was an Anglican pastor in the village of Eringeti, said Omar Kavota from local rights group CEPADHO. “The victim had the misfortune to pass them on his way to the field with his wife,” Kavota said in a statement. In December, President Felix Tshisekedi said he had sent 22,000 troops to fight the ADF, including special forces, and that they had succeeded in dismantling nearly all of the ADF’s bases. Attacks have eased in January, but in total at least 265 people have been killed since November, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative that maps unrest in Congo’s restive east, where the ADF has been operating for more than two decades.”

Reuters: Algeria Captures Man Planning Suicide Attack: Defense Ministry

“Algeria’s army has captured a man planning a suicide attack targeting peaceful anti-government protest marches in the capital, the defense ministry said on Thursday. The man, named by the ministry only as Bachir R, was arrested in the Birtouta district of Algiers on Wednesday with an explosive belt, it said in a statement, without providing further details. Algerians have been staging weekly mass protests each Friday for nearly a year to demand the departure of the ruling elite despite promises by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to carry out political reforms. The demonstrators rejected a presidential vote in December that led to the election of Tebboune as the successor to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to resign in April last year after ruling for 20 years. Tebboune has promised to meet some of the protesters’ demands, including by amending Algeria’s constitution to give a greater role to the government and parliament. Algeria endured a decade of violence in the 1990s between the government and Islamist militants that left an estimated 200,000 people dead.”

Voice Of America: Burkina Faso To Arm Civilians In Fight Against Extremists

“Burkina Faso’s parliament has approved legislation permitting the military to use civilian volunteers in the fight against Islamic extremism. The decision shows just how much help soldiers need in dealing with attacks across the West African country. Burkina Faso’s military has been criticized for killings carried out during its fight against militants. Observers warn that arming civilians with little training could lead to more claims of human rights abuses. Defense Minister Cheriff Sy said earlier this month that all volunteers would receive two weeks of training. The training would include subjects like how to use weapons and discipline. Sy said, “We want to prevent these volunteers from becoming militias.” Volunteers must be 18 years old. Sy said they will face what he calls a “moral investigation” before being permitted to serve. Volunteers will receive extra money once their service is completed. He added that health benefits would be paid to those who are wounded while on duty. Burkina Faso’s military receives training and assistance from France and the United States. However, it has struggled to contain the spread of militant groups. Sy said the use of civilian volunteers would permit the military to do more against extremists.”

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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