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Homeland Security News

A collection of open-source homeland security and terrorism news from around the world.
Date: Feb 5, 2021

The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen has been under arrest since October, and the terror group has suffered an erosion of its ranks caused by desertions, according to a United Nations report released Thursday.

The report marked official confirmation that AQAP chief Khalid Batarfi had been detained, following unconfirmed reports. His arrest represents a propaganda embarrassment for the group, which promotes the idea of "martydom" among its followers, and could provide potentially invaluable intelligence to counterterrorism efforts led by the United States.

Batarfi was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al Awlaqi, died during an "operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah Governorate, in October,” according to the report to the U.N. Security Council from a U.N. monitoring team that tracks Al Qaeda, Islamic State and other extremist groups.

Read more: NBC News

The Ephrata lawyer accused of threatening to kill government officials in the Washington, DC, area had the means to do it, according to police documents detailing his arrest.

In their Jan. 21 search of a car belonging to Kenelm L Shirk III, state police found an AR-15 rifle, two handguns, “a large quantity of ammunition” (including 30 rounds of .380 bullets), rope, gloves and about $5,000 in several rolls of $50 bills. The items were found after Shirk was arrested at a Sheetz near Shippensburg.

Police detained Shirk after his wife called to report that her husband had threatened her life and was planning to attack government officials in the nation’s capital.

Read more: Lancaster Online

The U.S. Justice Department is considering whether to charge members of far-right groups involved in the deadly Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol under a federal law usually used against organized crime, according to two law enforcement sources.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, enables prosecutors to combat certain ongoing racketeering crimes such as murder, kidnapping, bribery and money laundering. The 1970 statute provides for hefty criminal penalties including up to 20 years in prison and seizure of assets obtained illegally through a criminal enterprise.

The sources, a current law enforcement official and a former official who recently left the federal government, said using the RICO statute to charge people involved in the Capitol violence is being debated within the Justice Department, with no final decision made. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read more: Reuters

The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Thursday continued its effort to assess what transpired leading up to the deadly insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

“Today, we will begin to shed light on why these warnings were not heeded,” said Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss. “The irrefutable fact is that the threat of right-wing and more specifically, white nationalist terrorism has been growing for years.”

Among those who testified was the Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who outlined a seven-point plan to curb domestic terrorism.

Read more: KOMO

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the threat from the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups in conflict areas including Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, but the threat remains comparatively low in non-conflict areas despite a series of attacks in Europe, U.N. experts said in a new report.

The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Thursday that the threat continued to rise in conflict zones in the last half of 2020 because “the pandemic inhibited forces of law and order more than terrorists” who were able to move and gather freely despite COVID-19 restrictions.

The panel said U.N. member states, which it didn’t name, assess that as restrictions from the pandemic ease in various locations, “a rash of pre-planned attacks may occur.”

Read more: Global News (Canada)