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Global Islamism Monitor - No. 35
Edited by Ilan Berman and Garrett Lynch
January 18, 2017
EGYPT'S COSTLY COUNTERTERRORISM POLICY...
The Egyptian government is waging a wide ranging and expensive war against assorted Islamic radicals, the country's head of state has outlined. In a recent interview with the ONTV channel, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi explained in detail the "huge" costs associated with his government's ongoing counterterrorism efforts. These costs have included a militarization of the Sinai, where - according to official Egyptian government estimates - there are now 41 army battalions and up to 25,000 soldiers, as well as local police units, engaged in the fight against the Islamic State's "Sinai Province," previously known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. (Cairo Al-Ahram, January 10, 2017)
...FACES LEGISLATIVE LIMITS
One area where Egypt's government is not expanding its counterterrorism authorities, however, is in the arena of citizenship. In early January, the legislative and constitutional affairs committee of the Egyptian parliament struck down a draft law proposing that "convicted terrorists" be stripped of their citizenship. The law would amend article 26 of the country's nationality law, issued in 1975, "so that the prime minister be granted the right to strip citizens found guilty of committing terrorism crimes of their nationality," the bill's author, independent MP Mustafa Bakri, has outlined. But legislators struck down the measure on constitutional grounds, noting that prevailing law dictates "that there should not be any sort of discrimination among citizens even in terms of penalties leveled against them," no matter their crime. (Cairo Al-Ahram, January 2, 2017)
CURTAINS FOR BH?
Is Nigeria's premier Islamist threat on the ropes? Officials in Lagos believe so. In late December, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari publicly announced that Book Haram, the radical movement which became the Islamic State's West Africa Province in March 2015, has been driven out of its "final enclave" - a redoubt known as "Camp Zero" and located in the Sambisa Forest in the northeastern part of the country. According to Buhari, the "gallant troops" of the Nigerian military have succeeded in breaking the back of the organization, although mop up operations against the group (including the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls held by the group since 2014) will continue. (USA Today, December 24, 2016)
HAMAS' EVOLVING CYBER CAPABILITIES
Israel's security services have unearthed a sophisticated cyber capability on the part of the Palestinian Hamas movement. A joint operation the Israeli Defense Forces and the country’s internal security agency, known as the Shin Bet, has found that the Gaza-based terrorist group boasts a sophisticated cyber-unit - one believed to have been trained and supported by foreign experts in cyber warfare. Hamas' cyber-unit has reportedly used social media outlets to set "honeypot" traps, employing attractive profile pictures, usually of young women, to entice IDF personnel and digitally gain access to their cellphones and thereby obtain important information on IDF units, their training processes, and even plans for future operations. And while Israel's security services have managed to uncover this initiative, officials in Jerusalem do not rule out the possibility that the organization may have succeeded in obtaining some classified information as a result. (Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2017)
THE TALIBAN TAKE THE OFFENSIVE
Earlier this month, more than 30 people were killed and 70 others injured in a major suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that their target had been a minibus carrying government staff from the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan's main intelligence service. A further 14 people were killed and dozens more injured the same day in separate attacks in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Notable among those wounded were Kandahar's provincial governor and the UAE's ambassador to the country. In contrast to the Kabul incident, the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the latter attacks. Nevertheless, the growing frequency of such high-profile killings highlights the ongoing security threat posed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups to the country's stability. (Reuters, January 10, 2017)
In 2016, the nation of Turkey emerged as a major target of terrorism. Last year,h major urban centers like Istanbul and Ankara were bombed no fewer than 20 times, resulting in the deaths of some 225 civilians. The violence was attributable both to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a longtime insurgent threat to the Turkish state, and to a spike in Islamic State activity stemming from the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria. Worryingly, however, the spike in ISIS activity isn't simply spillover from the Syrian war; rather, analysts say, the group may be coming to view Turkey as prime territory for expansion, given its past involvement as a safe haven and stopover point for Islamic radicals seeking to cross the common border with Syria and join the fight against the Assad regime.
The Turkish government's response to the rise in Islamic State attacks, meanwhile, has been to lump them, along with PKK activities, in with the failed July 15th coup attempt, declaring them all to be "provocations" instigated by foreign enemies seeking to undermine the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In turn, the government has utilized recent terrorist activity and other "provocations" to foster Turkish nationalism and a sense of unity while also using them to justify further crackdowns on civil rights and free press inside the country. (Al-Monitor, January 6, 2017)