Archive for category Islamic state

The Guardian view on Charlie Hebdo: those guns were trained on free speech

Editorial
The Guardian
7 January 2015

Jihadi Kalashnikovs murdered journalists in Paris, but their aim was at stifling liberty of expression everywhere. The condemnation must be unequivocal

Events in Paris today were beyond belief, indeed beyond words. The adjectives are simply not there to capture the horror unleashed by weapons of war in a civilian office. But the murder of at least a dozen French citizens, including 10 journalists on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, was beyond belief in another sense too.

Whatever faith-based or other objections there may once have been to the publication’s provocative editorial judgments are now entirely beside the point. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” runs the famous formulation. When men and women have gone to their deaths for nothing more than what they have said, or drawn, there is only one side to be on. The hooded thugs trained their Kalashnikovs on free speech everywhere. If they are allowed to force a loss of nerve, conversation will become inhibited, and liberty of thought itself will falter too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reforming Islam – Where change comes from

Erasmus
Economist
Jan 7th 2015

WHEN news came of today’s appalling terrorist attack in Paris, I was in the middle of drafting an Erasmus post with some thoughts on the question: can we expect Islam to undergo its own version of the Reformation, or to produce its own Martin Luther? The subject is addressed, in quite an intelligent way, in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, an American journal, and it is a topical one because various modern figures, from the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen to Egypt’s military ruler Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have been described, however improbably, as Muslim answers to Martin Luther.

Today’s ghastly events in France make the question even more pressing, because some people will undoubtedly say: this is proof, if proof were needed, that Islam is incorrigibly and by its very nature violent, intolerant and incapable of accepting the liberal ideal of free speech. And if that view gains traction, many Muslims will in turn conclude that in the face of such unremitting hostility, there is no point in even trying to explain their faith to others or seeking accommodation with their neighbours. So the stakes are very high. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberty and laughter will live on

Simon Schama
Financial Times
January 7, 2015

It was a bloody attempt to wipe away a smile. But they will never kill satire, writes Simon Schama

The murder of satire is no laughing matter. The horrifying carnage at Charlie Hebdo is a reminder, if ever we needed it, that irreverence is the lifeblood of freedom. I suppose it is some sort of backhanded compliment that the monsters behind the slaughter are so fearful of the lance of mirth that the only voice they have to muffle it is the sound of bullets. Magazines such as Charlie Hebdo are in the business of taking liberties, even outrageous ones, but they exist so that we never take the gift of disrespect for granted.

Liberty and laughter have been twinned in the European tradition for more than three centuries and have together proclaimed as precious the right to ridicule. Graphic satire first arose as a weapon in the atrocious and prolonged religious wars that divided Catholics and Protestants. Read the rest of this entry »

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Paris Attack Underscores a Deeper Malaise

Geopolitical Diary
Stratfor Global Intelligence
January 8, 2015

Wednesday’s deadly attack against a French satirical publication has the potential to upset relations between European states and their Muslim citizenries. The strategic intent behind such attacks is precisely to sow this kind of crisis, as well as to influence French policy and recruit more jihadists. Even though Islamist extremism is, at its core, an intra-Muslim conflict, such incidents will draw in non-Muslims, exacerbating matters.

Three suspected Islamist militants attacked the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo with high-powered assault rifles, killing 12 people. Among the dead are the editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier, who was on a hit list appearing in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine for “insulting the Prophet Mohammed.” Eyewitness said they heard the attackers shouting, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed,” and chanting, “God is Great” in Arabic. This is the third such attack in a Western country in less than three months. The Paris incident involves perpetrators who displayed sophisticated small arms and small unit training.

Whether or not these attacks are the handiwork of self-motivated grassroots jihadists and cells or of individuals tied to international jihadist entities, such incidents aggravate tense relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. This is all the more significant in Europe, where states are experiencing the rise of right-wing nationalism and Muslim communities have long experienced disaffection. The jihadist objective is to get the states to crack down harder on Muslim communities in order to further their narrative that the West is waging war on Islam and Muslims. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pentagon: We’re gaining on ISIS

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
January 7, 2015

Pentagon: ISIS momentum stalled but threat remains

Washington (CNN)—It’s not yet “mission accomplished,” but the Pentagon may be edging closer to its goal of stopping ISIS.

“We very much see ISIL largely in a defensive posture inside Iraq, that whatever momentum they had been enjoying has been halted, has been blunted. That has stayed steady over the last couple of weeks,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Briefing reporters on Tuesday, Kirby said the change is occurring mainly in Iraq for now.

“We know we have destroyed hundreds and hundreds of vehicles, artillery positions, checkpoints. We know that we have killed hundreds of their forces,” he said, though he could not say specifically how many had been killed. “We don’t have the ability to count every nose that we schwack.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Police storm Sydney cafe to end hostage siege, three dead

By Lincoln Feast and Colin Packham
Reuters
Dec 16, 2014

SYDNEY – Heavily armed Australian police stormed a Sydney cafe on Tuesday and freed a number of hostages being held there at gunpoint, in a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which three people were killed and four wounded.

New South Wales police said two men, aged 34 and 50, and a 38-year-old woman died. The attacker was among the fatalities.

Heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades filled the air shortly after 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT on Monday).

Moments earlier at least six people believed to have been held captive managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from the cafe, and police later confirmed that they made their move in response.

So far 17 hostages have been accounted for.

Medics tried to resuscitate at least one person after the raid and took away several wounded people on stretchers, said a Reuters witness at the scene in downtown Sydney. Bomb squad members moved in to search for explosives, but none were found.

The operation began shortly after a police source named the gunman as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault as well as being an accessory to murder. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside the battle for Ask.fm, the site where Islamic State recruited three American teens

By Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post
December 12, 2014

When three teenage girls from Denver left their homes for an Islamic State camp in Syria two months ago, their parents — and the FBI — were quick to search social media for clues to their escape. And in the weeks since the girls were intercepted in Frankfurt and returned home, it’s become pretty clear that they were indeed radicalized and recruited online.

But while accounts of similar Western recruits have fingered major social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, or popular messaging platforms like Kik, a report out from NPR claims another social network, Ask.fm, was actually the major force at play.

Which means Ask.fm — late of several recent cyberbullying and teen suicide scandals — may now officially qualify as the worst-reputed social network on earth. But don’t tell that to the site’s new owner, the blue-chip Internet company IAC: Ask.fm’s new owners are confident they can save the site, trolls and terrorists be damned.

“I absolutely believe rehabilitation is possible if you do the right thing,” said Doug Leeds, the site’s CEO. “There is that perception that [Ask.fm] is a parent’s worst nightmare … but safety is our first priority.”

Unfortunately for Leeds, that reputation has dogged Ask.fm since its beginning. The anonymous question-and-answer site — both a pioneer and an early warning, in the anonymous networking space — was founded in Latvia in 2010, and quickly grew to more than 100 million users in 150 countries. Its premise, both simple and mind-numbingly self-involved, is perfect for the teenage set: Essentially, when you log into Ask.fm, you’re greeted by a series of personal questions other users have left for you, with no indication of who wrote them or how they know you in real life.

You, in turn, get to pontificate to the anonymous masses on topics like “what do you do to fall asleep?” and “what’s the most delicious fruit?” — as well as, naturally, ask anonymous questions, yourself. Read the rest of this entry »

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India-based Twitter account hailing Islamic State jihadists shut down

Chris Johnston
The Guardian
11 December 2014

Owner of the ShamiWitness account, with almost 18,000 followers, was an executive at a company in Bangalore

A Twitter account followed by supporters of Islamic State (Isis) has been shut down after a reporter exposed the Indian man who had sent thousands of tweets about the jihadist group.

Channel 4 News revealed on Thursday night that the owner of the ShamiWitness account was an executive at a company in Bangalore called Medhi. It did not reveal his full name because he said his life would be in danger if he was identified.

However, after being tracked down he agreed to shut down the account, which hailed foreign Isis fighters who were killed as martyrs.

ShamiWitness had almost 18,000 followers and the tweets were seen an estimated 2 million times a month. They were mostly sent from his smartphone.

Mehdi said he would have joined Isis, but that he could not leave his family: “If I had a chance to leave everything and join them I might have … my family needs me here.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Germany jails Islamic State jihadist Kreshnik Berisha

BBC News
5 December 2014

A German man has been jailed for three years and nine months for joining Islamic State (IS) militants, in the first trial of its kind in Germany.

A court in Frankfurt convicted Kreshnik Berisha of membership of a foreign terrorist organisation.

Berisha avoided the heaviest sentence of 10 years after admitting he spent six months with IS in Syria last year.

German authorities believe more than 500 German citizens have travelled to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria.

The domestic intelligence agency estimates that 60 have died there in combat or suicide attacks, and 180 have returned to Germany, according to the AFP news agency. Read the rest of this entry »

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ISIS in Gaza

by Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute
December 5, 2014

When One Radical Group Believes Another Is Not Radical Enough

It is always dreamlike to see one Islamist terror group accuse the other of being too “lenient” when it comes to enforcing sharia laws. But it is not dreamlike when a terrorist group starts threatening writers and women.

That is what is happening these days in the Gaza Strip, where supporters of the Islamic State are accusing Hamas of failing to impose strict Islamic laws on the Palestinian population — as if Hamas has thus far endorsed a liberal and open-minded approach toward those who violate sharia laws.

Until this week, the only topic Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were talking about was how to rebuild homes and buildings that were destroyed during the last war between Hamas and Israel.

Now, however, almost everyone is talking about the Islamic State threats against poets, writers and women. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kurds Defend Kobani From Islamic State

Huffington Post/AP
12/04/2014

KOBANI, Syria (AP) — The men and women of Kobani call one another “heval” — Kurdish for ‘comrade’ — and fight with revolutionary conviction, vowing to liberate what they regard as Kurdish land from Islamic State group militants.

Amid the wasteland and destroyed buildings, a sense of camaraderie has developed among the town’s defenders who have for more than two months doggedly fought off the advances by the extremists.

Often, members of the same family can be found on the front lines.

Nineteen-year-old Shida’s father was a fighter before her. After he was killed, she gave up hopes of becoming an artist and decided she must follow in his footsteps to honor his example. She says her mother supports her decision. One of her six brothers is also fighting, the rest of her siblings are living in Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State crisis: UK gives £20m to keep Lebanon safe

By Paul Wood
BBC
1 December 2014

The Lebanese army’s Brig Gen Ali Mourad got a WhatsApp message from the Islamic State (IS). It was short and to the point. “We are the heroes of Qalamoun,” it said, referring to the mountains on Syria’s border with Lebanon, “and we’re going to kill you.”

Gen Mourad has a robust attitude to this threat.

“We want them to come, these terrorists,” he told me, at one of the heavily fortified positions paid for by the British government.

“We are waiting for them [here].

“When we see them, we shoot them, all the time.”

We were at Tango Ten, the 10th of 12 new posts built so far with UK money and expertise along Lebanon’s border with Syria. It looked down over a dusty plain to the snow-covered mountain that is controlled by various jihadist groups and used by them as a base to launch attacks.

The Lebanese soldiers at Tango Ten say they come under fire almost every night. They used to crouch behind a few tyres filled with concrete, “eyes like saucers, gripping the 50-cal [heavy machine gun,” said one of the former British army officers advising the Lebanese. Now they have proper defences, and morale is good.

Tango Ten had shades of Northern Ireland in the guard tower and Afghanistan in the Hesco barriers – which are earth-filled defensive walls. There was even a fleet of Land Rovers parked inside.

The UK has spent some £20m to stop the jihadists from invading Lebanon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iran Bombing Islamic State In Iraq, U.S. Official Confirms

Akbar Shahid Ahmed
Huffington Post
12/01/2014

WASHINGTON — The list of countries bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq has thus far featured a host of classic United States partners — Canada, the U.K., France. Now, it looks like the U.S. has a new quasi-partner in the air: Iran.

The U.S. is aware of Iranian bombing activity in the same national airspace where planes aligned with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State are operating, a defense official told The Huffington Post Monday evening.

The official said he believes the Iranian bombing is unlikely to end as long as the Shiite-dominated nation feels threatened by the Sunni extremist group, also called ISIS. The bombing will not require a U.S. response unless Iran presents an immediate threat to U.S. forces in the air, he said.

“We are aware of that. I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily concerned with it — we kind of have our eyes on it,” the official said. He noted that the Iranian bombing has been taking place near the Iranian border, in a different part of Iraq than most U.S. and coalition activity. The official said he could only confirm reports of the bombing on the condition of anonymity. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Happens When Islamic State’s Foreign Fighters Return?

By Cam Simpson
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 01, 2014

In 1982 an Egyptian engineer and Islamist named Muhammad abd-al-Salam Faraj wrote a religious pamphlet for his brothers. It was widely distributed that year after Faraj was convicted and executed for leading the plotters who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Faraj titled his pamphlet The Neglected Duty. That duty was to wage jihad.

Faraj debated whether the violent struggle should primarily be local or international. He believed jihadis have a duty to overthrow secular regimes in Arab and Muslim lands before striking against “non-believers” in other countries. In his pamphlet, Faraj framed his answer to the local vs. global debate this way: “To fight an enemy who is near is more important than to fight an enemy who is far.” The phrases “near enemy” and “far enemy” are still used by jihadi groups today as they debate what paths to take.

That issue amounts to far more than an ideological debate in the corridors of U.S. intelligence agencies and their counterparts in Europe. Record numbers of jihadis have been crossing international borders to volunteer with Islamic State and other groups in the fight against “near enemies” in Syria and Iraq. Security chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic, especially in Europe, say they are consumed daily with trying to track and stop them. Already, some have allegedly been involved in plotting or carrying out attacks against the “far enemy” in the West after returning home. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside the Islamic State’s capital: Red Bull-drinking jihadists, hungry civilians, crucifixions and air strikes

Mark Townsend
The Observer
30 November 2014

Activists tell of the Isis elite living in relative luxury as civilians face poverty, hunger, inflation and power shortages

The beleaguered inhabitants of Raqqa, self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State (Isis), are suffering widespread hunger, crippling inflation, chronic power shortages and poverty so acute that emergency soup kitchens have been set up.

With no journalists, local or foreign, able to operate inside Syria’s sixth-largest city, courageous local activists have given the Observer a detailed account of life under the jihadists’ totalitarian regime, a rare glimpse of everyday life in the city.

Their testimony reveals the evolution of a community brutally divided into haves and have-nots, with Isis enjoying well-resourced services including “private” hospitals and a relatively high standard of living as many residents struggle to make ends meet.

Crucifixions of Isis opponents have taken place in Raqqa’s Paradise Square, as well as frequent beheadings and lashings for offences as minor as smoking a cigarette. Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, founder of a network of activists called Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, told the Observer: “Isis kills a lot of people, we see a lot of executions, a lot of beheadings. I have seen about five people crucified in the city. People are now calling Paradise Square Hell Square.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State relaxes vetting of foreign jihadists in a bid to boost recruits

By Ruth Sherlock
Beirut
Telegraph
24 Nov 2014

Exclusive: safe house operatives working for Isil tell the Telegraph they have dropped security restrictions in order to swell the ranks joining the caliphate

The Islamic State in the Levant has relaxed “vetting” procedures for foreign jihadists joining the group, and expanded military training camps in a drive to build its “Caliphate”, safe house operatives and defectors have told The Telegraph.

The group has apparently largely dropped security measures designed to ensure that foreign recruits are not undercover spies, in favour of boosting numbers.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [Isil’s leader] has called for all Muslims to come to their land, so the process is much less stringent,” said Abu Ahmed, a Syrian living neighbouring in Turkey who runs a safe house and helps funnel jihadists into the country. “Almost any Muslim who wants to travel now can. They want everyone to come.”

Abu Ahmed who spoke to The Telegraph using a pseudonym, agreed to meet in a quiet café in Urfa, a small town on the Turkish border in Syria that is on the primary route for foreign fighters crossing into Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three unfinished business which Najib should present to Parliament before it adjourns next Thursday until next March

There are three unfinished business which the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should present to Parliament before it adjourns next Thursday until March next year.

The first is the Report of the Royal Commission of Illegal Immigrants in Sabah (RCIIIS), which is meant to end once-and-for-all the 40-year problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah which had multiplied 15 to 19 times in four decades from 100,000 in the seventies to 1.5 million to 1.9 million at present.

If the Report of the RCIIIS, which was presented to the Federal Government on May 14, is not presented to Parliament next week for a full parliamentary debate, it could only mean one thing – that there is complete absence of political will to resolve the long-standing problem of illegal immigrants in Sabah and the establishment of the Royal Commission of Inquiry was just a Barisan Nasional electoral ruse for the 13th General Election in May 2013 to secure votes for BN from the people of Sabah, and for which it succeeded.

Furthermore, the establishment of the Joseph Pairin Kitingan Review Committee for the RCIIIS Report announced by Najib in Kota Kinabalu last week is just the latest “merry-go-round” sleight-of-hand to kick the problem of illegal immigrants of Sabah into a distant and indefinite future, while the problem snowballs to pass the two million mark for illegal immigrants in Sabah – reducing native Sabahans to a minority and foreigner status in their own land! Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Peter Kassig Was The Islamic State’s Greatest Threat

Hussein Rashid
Huffington Post
11/17/2014

With each bloody act, Islamic State militants demonstrate their need for self-importance overrides any moral, ethical, or religious boundary. Peter Kassig’s beheading is a microcosm of all the Islamic State wants, and religion is not high on that list.

Kassig converted to Islam and took the name Abdul-Rahman, servant of the Merciful. By many accounts, his conversion was genuine and the result of the love he felt for the people he met while providing aid in Syria. His former military service could have made him reluctant to return to a region in conflict. Instead, he chose to go back and help people, risking his life to do so.

In comparison, the Islamic State exacerbates a worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria. It works to prevent aid workers like Kassig from doing their job. A broken population that has no hope is the best recruiting environment it can hope for. If Syrians get aid from Americans, it would destroy the narrative that Islamic State militants are caring for Muslims.

The Islamic State specializes in media manipulation. It uses videos of its executions to gain a response from more powerful adversaries, thus giving it more legitimacy. The world “Islamic” ties the group to something grander than political machinations and 15th-century wars. Its video game-style recruitment material exhibits a mastery of the language of modernity.

Ultimately, the group is a product of modernity, not religion. Read the rest of this entry »

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ISIS uses beheadings, other violent acts to crush civilians, UN report says

by Zachary R. Dowdy
Newsday
November 14, 2014

UNITED NATIONS — Beheadings, stonings and mutilation are common weapons of terror employed by the Islamic State in its campaign to subdue civilian populations that have come under its control in Syria, according to a UN monitoring group.

“ISIS has perpetrated murder and other inhumane acts, enslavement, rape, sexual slavery and violence, forcible displacement, enforced disappearance and torture,” according to a 15-page report released Friday by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. “These acts have been committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population in Aleppo, Ar-Raqqah, Al-Hasakah and Dayr Az-Zawr governorates.”

It documents the group’s violation of international humanitarian law and commission of both war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined by the Geneva Convention.

The report is among the most extensive to document the savagery attributed to the Sunni Islamic group whose origins, the report said, stem from the evolution of an Al Qaida offshoot, Al Qaida in Iraq, which established itself in 2004 and rebranded itself as Islamic State in Iraq in 2006. Read the rest of this entry »

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GMM: Can democrat Islamists curb extremism?

Free Malaysia Today
November 14, 2014

Global Movement of Moderates hold roundtable discussion on the moderate approach of democracy versus war.

KUALA LUMPUR: Democrat Islamists can be a solution to curb extremism worldwide as they provide a moderate approach in today’s global world through the ballot box, said academicians and politicians.

International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) lecturer Dr Maszlee Malik said Democrat Islamists, made famous after the Arab Spring, allowed Muslims to control their fate through the ballot box rather than war or in the hands of leaders who were dictators, thus ending any grievances they might have had.

“The idea of democrat Islamists has existed for a long time. Radical groups emerge because they found there was no hope for Muslims to enjoy justice, human rights and good governance,” he said at a roundtable discussion on Democrat Islamists organised by the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) together with IIUM’s Fiqh Department.

Chairman of London-based Al-Hiwar TV channel Dr Azzam Tamimi, said that the success of the Arab Spring was a promising event that allowed for democracy in the Middle East and at the same time made the militant group Al Qaeda into an irrelevant movement.

“The success of the Arab Spring as we saw in Tunisia and Egypt was very promising, showing that this is the way forward. Some of the leaders of Al Qaeda were actually stressing fear that this model was succeeding, because it was proving them wrong,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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