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ISIS sympathizers are anti-nationals, not misguided youths

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ISIS

By Nithin Sridhar

The threat posed by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) to the safety and security of India is continuously increasing day after day.

On 22 January, the National Investigation Agency, or NIA arrested 14 people from various cities for planning attacks on different parts of India. Jihadi literature, cash, and circuits for detonating bombs were among the items found in their position. According to the media reports, they belonged to a group that called themselves ‘Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind’ (Army of Caliph of India), suggesting their links with the Islamic Caliphate.

The crackdown clearly brought forward four facts:

  1. Terror networks with links with ISIS has already been established in India. These networks may be working directly under ISIS or they may have borrowed the ideology of ISIS and working in conjunction with them.
  2. These terror networks are very widespread and not limited to any particular region or state. The NIA had arrested those 14 people from six cities spread across four states–Bangalore, Tumkur, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Lucknow.
  3. The group has reportedly said that they had plans to topple the Indian government and impose Sharia rule. They had further planned to obtain huge amounts of weapons and were in constant touch with ISIS.
  4. The arrests also revealed the return of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) into India under the banner of ISIS. Those who were arrested revealed that they had been guided by Mohammad Shafi Armar alias Yousuf from Bhatkal who handles Ansar-ul-Tawhid (AuT), formed by IM militants.

Add to this the Zee News report brought out on January 28. The report stated that at least 30,000 people in India are in contact with ISIS and they were all ready to wage war against India. The report further noted how ISIS has created an underground community of hackers who are trying to retrieve sensitive data, which ISIS plans to use in its attacks on India.

In my previous article- ‘Why India should not ignore IS threat’, I had mentioned about the three possible threats from ISIS: Indian youths joining ISIS, ISIS giving new lease to militancy in Kashmir, and ISIS joining hands with other terror groups to infiltrate and destabilize India.

It appears that ISIS has already achieved a fair amount of ground on all the three counts. Its influence on Kashmiri youth in increasing and If the Zee News report is indeed correct, then ISIS has not only managed to bring outfits like IM under its fold, it has already started creating a huge network of its own in India. After all, 30,000 sympathizers is no small number.

The threat of ISIS to India is real and non-ignorable and it needs measures that are strict and non-compromising. Thus, the arrest of 14 ISIS activists who were planning to plant multiple bombs across India is a welcome step. The arrest also shows how Indian Intelligence agencies are deeply monitoring ISIS related activities. Yet, there are few areas where more stringent actions are required.

Regarding the arrest of 14 people, NIA officials have been quoted as stating: “They have been under the radar for past few months. When we came to know that they are in the process of procuring explosive material and weapons, we arrested them.” Though, this reveals that agencies are minutely monitoring various activities, it also reveals how an arrest was made only at the last moment when the group was in the process of procuring explosive material. In other words, if the agencies had failed to nab the group at the last moment, these people may have succeeded in carrying out their attacks and killing hundreds of people.

The Indian government must implement a policy wherein anybody who is being contacted by ISIS recruits and/or who is being exposed to Jihadi and ISIS literature and/or who in any way exhibit sympathy for ISIS must be detained, questioned, and de-radicalized immediately. If, de-radicalization is doubtful to succeed, such suspects must be arrested and tried.

More importantly, India has shown a lenient attitude towards people who are being deported back to India from countries like UAE, where they were either found to be planning to go to Syria or were linked to ISIS in some other way or had sympathies and affinity towards ISIS ideology. Just two days ago, UAE detained three such Indians, who were allegedly planning to carry out terror attacks on India and few other countries. In 2015, around 30 people were sent back from UAE on similar grounds.

The Indian establishment has largely treated them leniently by simply questioning them, making them undergo De-radicalization process, and letting them off. Though, they have kept a watch of such people, the threat from these people are very high. Despite of all the counseling, there is no surety that these people have been sent back to India to act as sleeper terror networks that may become activated few years down the line.

In the light of the grave risk posed by these suspects, India should explore the option of revoking their citizenship and not allowing them to land in India. But, such a move may come with humanitarian issues, and may lead to further radicalization among the families of such suspects. An alternate to this option could be to arrest all such deported people and try them and send them to jail, where de-radicalization programs can be conducted. They must undergo punishment and de-radicalization together. This will ensure that those who return back are isolated from the rest of the society so that they do not exert any influence on the rest and also not work as part of any underground movement.

The government should also consider taking up a few long term measures to fight increasing extremism among the Muslim community. Two such measures could be enrolling of Muslims into Police forces and deploying them in Muslim dominated areas, and paving the way for Muslim communities to take up various vocational businesses and become economically prosper.

Another problematic area is media’s discourse on the issue. Their entire discourse aims to portray ISIS sympathizers as ‘misguided youths’. It is very important for Indian society to recognize the Islamic State as a Caliphate and thus any sympathies, any allegiance shown by Indians towards ISIS automatically translates into them becoming anti-nationals. Add to this how ISIS has already called India as its enemy and in a sense has declared a war on it.

Thus, it is high time that public discourse about ISIS sympathizers stop treating them as misguided youth and start treating them as enemies of the State who have allegiance to the Islamic Caliphate. As long as the Indians remain under the false impression that Islamic State is just a terror organization and not a Caliphate, Indian society will not be able to develop a proper response mechanism. (Photo: abcnews.go.com)

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Syria ISIS
Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Kurdish Red Crescent: IS Attacks Kill at Least 50 in East Syria

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Syrian Democratic Forces
A female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces stands near a military tank in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria. voa

Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.

A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs, the source said.

The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir el-Zour and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said earlier that at least 18 people had been killed.

The dead included refugees fleeing the fighting in Deir el-Zour as well as members of the Kurdish Asayish security force, the observatory reported. Syrian state television said dozens had been killed in the attack.

The jihadist group has lost swaths of its territory in both Syria and Iraq this year and is falling back on the towns and villages of the Euphrates valley southeast of Deir el-Zour.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is pressing it from the north, and a rival offensive by the Syrian army, supported by allies including Iran and Russia, is attacking it from the west.

On Wednesday, Islamic State said it had carried out an attack in the capital, Damascus, where three suicide bombers detonated their devices near a police headquarters, killing two people and wounding six.

Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in eastern Syria is the worst in the country this year and that airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.(VOA)

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Will the Latest Message From Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Provoke New Attacks in the West?

IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses in United States and Europe

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Islamic State
This image taken from a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (VOA)

Washington, September 30, 2017 : U.S. intelligence officials examining the latest audio statement claiming to be from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say, so far, they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

However, there are questions as to whether the message from the leader of the collapsing, self-declared caliphate will cause IS operatives to spring into action. Some analysts see Baghdadi’s continued call to arms as almost a shot in the dark, aimed at rekindling interest despite the terror group’s fading fortunes in Syria and Iraq.

The still-early U.S. intelligence assessment comes just a day after the Islamic State’s al-Furqan media wing issued the 46-minute audio recording featuring Baghdadi, in which he calls on followers to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner.”

“Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed,” he says.

islamic state
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter takes cover behind a wall on a street where they fight against Islamic State militants, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Despite such threats, U.S. officials say the release of the latest audio message is not changing Washington’s approach.

“We are aware of the tape,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday. “But whether it’s al-Baghdadi or any member of ISIS, the Trump administration’s policy is destroying ISIS in Iraq, Syria and around the globe.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Still, intelligence and counterterror officials, both in the United States and in Europe, warn that IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses on the ground.

“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week, calling IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”

And while Western counterterror officials say the expected wave of returning IS foreign fighters has yet to materialize, the experience and skill sets of the operatives who have made it back home are ample reasons to worry.

But some caution the new Baghdadi audio message may have more to do with the terror group’s long-term strategy than its desire to carry out attacks in the near term.

“The broadcast boosts morale by contextualizing the hardships facing the group as their losses accumulate by reminding Islamic State militants and their supporters that day-to-day actions are part of a broader struggle, and metrics of progress shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum,” according to Jade Parker, a senior research associate at the Terror Asymmetrics Project (TAPSTRI).

ALSO READ  intelligence officials , Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Furqan, war, enemies, threats, US officials, raqqa, National Security Council, isis, Iraq, Syria, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, terrorism, Terror Asymmetrics Project ,

Parker also believes that while it is “extremely unlikely” the latest Baghdadi audio will spark or accelerate any IS plots, it might prevent fraying within the organization’s ranks.

“Baghdadi’s silence during the final days of IS’s battle for Mosul was a sore point for many IS fighters and supporters who felt confused and abandoned by their leader,” she added. “This statement was likely released in part to avoid that sentiment with respect to the fight to retain ground in Raqqa.” (VOA)