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Old 03-25-2020, 07:55 AM
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Arrow Eye on Extremism - March 25, 2020

Eye on Extremism
March 25, 2020

As of March 25, 2020:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Congress Seeks Answers As Extremists Plot To Exploit Pandemic

“Experts who monitor extremist groups say it’s difficult to know how seriously to take the threat. “On one hand, it could possibly be looked at possibly as an attempt on humor,” said Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher with the Counter Extremism Project, which monitors extremist groups in America and internationally. Fisher-Birch said the posts that attracted the attention of the FBI and Homeland Security are similar to others that predated the pandemic. They encourage action but without a specific plan. However, he said it is impossible to say if an individual extremist might attempt to carry out the suggestion. This is particularly true among “accelerationist” groups, so called because they look for ways to accelerate the downfall of society in the belief that whites would rebuild a racially pure replacement. “These are people who have violent intent, especially with accelerationists who are looking at this as an opportunity,” Fisher-Birch said.”

Politico: Those Who Intentionally Spread Coronavirus Could Be Charged As Terrorists

“People who intentionally spread the coronavirus could face criminal charges under federal terrorism laws, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official said Tuesday. In a memo to top Justice Department leaders, law enforcement agency chiefs and U.S. Attorneys across the country, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said prosecutors and investigators could come across cases of “purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.” “Because Coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’… such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes,” Rosen wrote. “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.” Rosen did not say whether any such threats or intentional exposures had been reported or whether his warning was simply precautionary. The Justice Department has also set up a task force to address hoarding and price gouging related to supplies urgently needed for the fight against the virus. Attorney General Bill Barr said during a briefing at the White House on Monday that hoarding of supplies like masks would be prosecuted. However, memos issued by Barr and Rosen on Tuesday said the Department of Health and Human Services has yet to formally designate the health-related items the administration wants covered by the Defense Production Act.”

All Africa: Somalia: Govt Says Senior Al-Shabaab Operative Captured In Operation

“Somalia's elite forces captured a senior al-Shabaab militant in the Lower Shabelle region, the Information Ministry said Tuesday. “The elite 1st Danab Advanced Infantry Battalion conducted an operation that resulted in the capture of a high-profile senior al-Shabaab member in the vicinity of Wanlaweyn. This operation was a massive win for the Federal Government of Somalia, the Federal Member States, and the Somali Security Force,” according to a statement. The militant was identified as Ibrahim Mohamed Roble who operated in the region. U.S. African Command also confirmed the operation and said: “This successful operation, led by our Somali partners, demonstrates progress.” Wanlaweyn, is located 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of the capital of Mogadishu. The Somali military on Sunday arrested Somali-based the al-Qaeda affiliated group intelligence chief in Lower Shabelle. Meanwhile, on Monday, at least seven soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb blast that targeted a military vehicle near the newly liberated town of Janaale, according to a local official who spoke to Anadolu Agency. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.”

United States

ABC News: Homeland Security Warns Terrorists May Exploit COVID-19 Pandemic

“A Department of Homeland Security memo sent to law enforcement officials around the country warns that violent extremists could seek to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by carrying out attacks against the U.S. “Violent extremists probably are seeking to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 to incite violence, intimidate targets and promote their ideologies, and we assess these efforts will intensify in the coming months,” according to the intelligence bulletin, compiled by the agency's Counterterrorism Mission Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. At this time, DHS said it has “no information indicating any active plotting is underway,” but that it has observed certain extremist groups, both foreign and domestic, looking to spread misinformation about the coronavirus. The memo, which was circulated on Monday, comes after assurances from FBI Director Chris Wray in a video message that agents would be even more vigilant in monitoring threats to the U.S. as the virus spreads. “With all the worry and uncertainty out there, we want the public to know that there are still things they can count on: We're here, and we're going to stay here, to protect them, no matter what,” Wray said.”

U.S. News & World Report: New Jersey Slaps Terror Charge On Man Over Alleged Supermarket Cough Threat

“A New Jersey man has been charged with making terroristic threats after he was accused of coughing on a supermarket employee and saying he was infected with the coronavirus behind the ongoing pandemic, authorities said Tuesday. George Falcone, 50, was issued a summons for terroristic threats in the third degree and other charges over the incident, according to the office of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. In a Facebook message to Reuters on Tuesday, Falcone denied the accusations, saying, “Didn't cough on anyone and never mentioned corona.” According to Grewal, Falcone was in a Wegman's supermarket in Manalapan, New Jersey on Sunday evening when an employee asked him to step back from prepared foods while she covered them. Instead, prosecutors said, he leaned toward her and purposely coughed, laughing and saying he was infected with the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness known as COVID-19 that can be severe or fatal. Falcone went on to tell two other employees that they were lucky to have jobs, and initially refused to identify himself when approached by a police officer.”


The Washington Post: How This Closing Chapter Of Syria’s War Has Become Its Most Brutal

“Maher Shardan and his neighbors spent a recent afternoon perched on a ridge, at a popular spot that looked out on lush farms, towns on the city's outskirts — and in the distance, the armies of several nations locked in a furious battle. With tea and cigarettes, they were watching a pivotal clash over the fate of Idlib, a province engulfed by some of the most destructive violence of Syria’s nine-year war. The battlefield on the horizon was around Saraqeb, a town with the misfortune to be situated near the junction of strategic highways. Like many places in Idlib, it had been emptied of people, and the combatants — loyal to Syria, Turkey or Russia — were pounding a town’s bones. Warplanes carried out airstrikes, raising a row of towering gray plumes on the horizon. “This is every day,” Shardan said, as the sound of shelling grew louder. “I sleep with bombing. I wake to bombing.” In a war with too many terrible chapters to count, the fighting in Idlib and surrounding areas has been singularly brutal, spreading destruction over a large swath of Syria while uprooting nearly a million of its citizens. The violence has been drawn out by seesaw clashes that left towns like Saraqeb wasted and empty. The nature of the standoff in the province, between emboldened Syrian government forces and die-hard opposition fighters, has made Idlib an especially daunting and tragic riddle to solve.”

Al Monitor: Does Turkey Have The Will To Take On Jihadis In Idlib?

“The coronavirus pandemic is dominating the news in Turkey today, steering public attention away from Idlib, Syria, where Ankara is increasingly caught between a rock and a hard place. The situation in the northwestern Syrian province continues to be volatile, despite the fragile cease-fire reached between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in Moscow on March 5. The jihadi groups that Ankara has maintained some degree of contact with in the region remain Turkey’s Achilles’ heel in its dealings with Russia over Idlib. These groups also pose an obstacle to Ankara as it tries to achieve its immediate goals in the province. Turkey’s principal aim is to establish safe zones there to house the millions of Syrian refugees it hosts. The refugee issue has become a heavy burden for the country, which now faces additional problems and financial uncertainties due to the COVID-19 crisis. Russia’s position has not changed. It insists that jihadi groups in Idlib have to be eliminated before military operations can be finally terminated. The main group in Russia’s crosshairs is Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), which Moscow continues to refer to by its original name, Jabhat al-Nusra. The Moscow Summit on March 5 once again tasked Ankara with removing HTS and related groups from Idlib.”

Al Monitor: SDF Calls For Humanitarian Truce In Syria Amid Coronavirus Crisis

“The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which partnered with the US-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State, has called for a humanitarian truce and committed to suspending most military operations in northeast Syria so that warring parties can deal with the coronavirus. “The Syrian Democratic Forces calls on all parties of the Syrian conflict to refrain from any military initiatives or actions,” the SDF said in a statement late today. “We hope that this humanitarian truce will help to open the door for dialogue and political solution and to put an end to the war in the world and Syria,” the US-backed group said, while adding that its members would defend themselves in the event of an attack. On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate global cease-fire “to focus together on the true fight of our lives” and allow humanitarians to reach populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. The SDF announcement came a day after the Kurdish-led group marked the one-year anniversary of its territorial defeat of the Islamic State in the group’s final stronghold of Baghouz in March. In the time since, the SDF has been stretched thin, fending off attacks from Islamic States sleeper cells and Turkish forces.”


Kurdistan 24: Coalition Tallies Airstrikes Against ISIS In Iraq And Syria

“The Coalition against the so-called Islamic State released, on Tuesday, a statement providing statistics on its airstrikes targeting the terrorist group during January and February. The Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), “conducted a total of 18 strikes consisting of 48 engagements in Iraq and Syria” during February, the statement said. “In Iraq, CJTF-OIR carried out 10 strikes against Da’esh targets,” the Coalition statement noted, using the Arabic acronym for the terrorist group. Those 10 strikes consisted of 38 engagements. CJTF-OIR explained that a strike is “one or more kinetic engagements” in the same location “to produce a single, sometimes cumulative effect in that location.” “For example,” the CJTF-OIR statement continued, “a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone Da’esh vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of Da’esh-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use.”


The Washington Post: Gunmen Attack Sikh Religious Gathering In Kabul, Killing 4

“Gunmen stormed a religious gathering of Afghanistan’s minority Sikhs in their place of worship in the heart of Kabul’s old city on Wednesday, killing at least four people, a Sikh lawmaker said. Within hours, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Those killed included a child whose body was brought to a Kabul hospital, the emergency services and the hospital said. At least 15 people were wounded. Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said police responded promptly to the attack on the Sikh place of worship, known as a Gurdwara, with shooting was still underway. The lawmaker, Narindra Singh Khalsa, said he rushed over to help after receiving a call from a worshipper inside the Gurdwara telling him of the attack. There were about 150 worshippers inside the Gurdwara at the time of the attack, he added. Several of the worshippers were being held hostage by the gunmen who were lobbing grenades at the Afghan special forces, Khalsa said, but added he couldn’t say how many were being held. The Interior Ministry said the first floor of the Gurdwara had been cleared but that Afghan special forces, aided by international troops, were moving slowly throughout the remainder of the building. The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant postings and groups, said IS claimed responsibility for the attack on the group’s Aamaq media arm.”

Voice Of America: US General Seeks Reduced Violence To Limit Spread Of Coronavirus In Afghanistan

“The U.S. commander of a NATO-led military coalition in Afghanistan warned Tuesday that continued hostilities would make it “impossible” to counter the spread of COVID-19 in the country, where four foreign troops are among dozens of people who tested positive for the disease. In a video conference with senior Afghan security leaders, Gen. Scott Miller of the Resolute Support Mission stressed the virus has affected the entire world and threatens both foreign and Afghan forces battling the Taliban. “The focus on this particular virus has to be on preventing the spread, which is difficult under even normal circumstances, but almost impossible if we have violence,” Miller said. The general emphasized that for a focused counter-coronavirus campaign, all parties to the Afghan conflict need to reduce violence. Afghan authorities Tuesday confirmed 32 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national tally of infections to at least 74, including one death. The public health ministry said most of the cases happened in western Herat province on the border with Iran, and those affected are returnees from the neighboring country, where the virus has already killed around 2,000 people and infected 25,000.”


Voice Of America: Coronavirus Likely To Delay Pakistan Exit From Terror Financing Watchdog List

“As Pakistan faces a spike in reported cases of COVID-19, experts on the South Asian country say the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan will likely fall short of meeting Financial Action Task Force demands in time to be delisted from the FATF’s “gray list.” Pakistani officials say the spread of the global pandemic is beginning to take its toll on their resources. Sen. A. Rehman Malik, former interior minister of Pakistan and chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, wrote a plea to the FATF Monday, asking for Pakistan's removal from the list in order to devote all its resources and attention to the coronavirus. In September of 2011, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik is interviewed by Reuters in Islamabad. “I, therefore, solicit your review of the circumstances, particularly in the light of (the) COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing humanitarian concerns, to remove the name of Pakistan from the FATF’s Grey List, enabling us to exercise our full potential in collaborating in the global fight against the pandemic,’’ Rehman said in a letter to FATF president Xiangmin Liu. The so-called gray list limits access to the global financial system for countries that fail to meet their responsibilities to stop terror-funding and money laundering.”


Asharq Al-Awsat: Casualties In Renewed Tripoli Clashes Amid Coronavirus Threat

“Clashes in the Libyan capital Tripoli renewed for a third straight day between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA). Spokesman for the GNA forces said six were killed and six wounded in Tripoli shelling in 48 hours, accusing the LNA of lying about respecting the UN-brokered ceasefire. He accused the LNA of violating the ceasefire and amassing its forces south of Tripoli. “We consequently ordered our forces on the frontlines to repel them,” he added. An official at the GNA’s health ministry said six civilians were killed and six wounded in arbitrary shelling of the town of Ain Zara and the al-Khila and Souk al-Jomaa areas. He predicted the figures to rise in coming days. The fighting erupted even as Libya reported its first coronavirus case and as the rival governments in the east and west imposed curfews to prevent the spread of the disease. Differences emerged on Tuesday between the GNA’s interior ministry and the Tajoura municipality over the curfew. The town insisted on imposing a 24-hour curfew, while the GNA only sought a partial one. In the east, authorities eased the 24-hour curfew and instead opted to impose one from 3pm to 7am.”


The New York Times: Islamic State Claims Mozambique Attack Close To Gas Projects

“Militant group Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Mozambique just south of the site of gas projects worth $60 billion being developed by the likes of Exxon Mobil and Total. Insurgents attacked the town of Mocimboa da Praia on Monday, briefly occupying some areas and its army barracks before being pushed out on Tuesday, Mozambique authorities and security analysts said. Islamic State claimed the attack through its Amaq news agency, which said dozens of soldiers and police officers had been killed or injured. The government has not provided a figure of dead or injured. “Military sources told Amaq that Islamic State fighters attacked five army and police barracks in the town,” the agency said in Tuesday's report, adding that weapons, ammunition and other equipment had also been seized. Government spokesman Filimao Suaze said the retreating attackers had left a “trail of destruction and dead bodies”, and that security had been beefed up in the area. While Islamic State has claimed a spate of recent attacks in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to the gas developments following one of the biggest gas finds in a decade off its coast, Tuesday's claim of responsibility is the first matched by rare official confirmation of an attack.”


The Guardian: Eight German Neo-Nazis Jailed Over Planned Attacks

“Eight members of a German neo-Nazi cell have been jailed after a court found them guilty of forming a “terrorist organisation” that was planning a campaign of violence. The higher regional court in Dresden sentenced the accused, aged between 22 and 32, to prison terms ranging from two years and three months to five and a half years for the ringleader of the group that called itself “Revolution Chemnitz”. The trial, which lasted six months, was closely watched in Germany where concern has been growing over an increasingly militant far-right scene. A racist gunman shot dead nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the western city of Hanau last month, stunning the country and prompting the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to urge citizens to resist the “poison” of xenophobia and hatred. The eight jailed on Tuesday were part of the hooligan, neo-Nazi and skinhead scene in and around the city of Chemnitz in Saxony state, in Germany’s former communist east. They banded together in an online chat group in September 2018, shortly after the murder of a German man by a Syrian sparked anti-migrant street riots in Chemnitz.”

Southeast Asia

Voice Of America: More Violence Feared As Myanmar Names Arakan Army A Terrorist Organization

“The Arakan Army (AA) militant group and its political arm, the United League of Arakan (ULA), in Rakhine state has been officially designated as a terrorist organization, the government of Myanmar announced Monday, saying the group has “incited fear” and disrupted stability of the country by attacking government and civilian targets. According to the order, signed by Minister of Home Affairs and head of the Central Committee for Counterterrorism Soe Htut, AA and ULA were responsible for “serious losses of public security, lives and property, important infrastructures of the public and private sector, state-owned buildings, vehicles, equipment and materials.” The order said President Win Myint blacklisted the group under Section 15 (2) of the Unlawful Associations Act of the country because of its actions, which posed “a danger to law and order, peace and stability of the country and public peace.” Founded in 2009 by Rakhine Buddhists who seek self-governance, AA has been fighting government forces in sporadic skirmishes that began escalating in late 2018. The group says it has recruited about 7,000 fighters and formed alliances with other anti-government forces to “protect our Arakan people” from the grip of the central government in Naypyidaw.”

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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