A 2700-year-old Jewish Tomb in Al Qosh at Risk from Islamic State in Iraq

Jewish tomb being at risk of a possible ISIS attack in Al Qosh of Iraq is being protected by the locals and a Christian family has taken over the responsibility of preservation of the site

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Tomb of Prophet Nahum in Al Qosh. Wikimedia
  • The tomb of Jewish prophet Nahum is at risk courtesy of a possible attack from ISIS
  • The 2700-year-old sacred spot at Al Qosh in Iraq faces a major threat which stirs up the locals
  • The history of the Jews in Iraq and the stories concerning the prophet and his tomb add to the antique and religious sentiments of the residents as they carry on guarding the place
  • Assyrian Christian Shajaa has taken up the responsibility of protection of the tomb following the tradition of his family

Sept 16, 2016: A 2700-year-old sacred site is in a danger of an ISIS attack. The sacred place is the tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum who had predicted the impending doom upon Assyrian dynasty and the fall of the capital, Nineveh. Situated in Al Qosh of Northern Iraq, the sacred synagogue that houses the tomb is on the verge of experiencing the same fate due to the ISIS warfare.

Being located in a distance of only 15 kilometers from the frontline of ISIS, the threat to the holy place is enough to cause a stir among the local residents of the area. They remain anxious with a rising concern of a potential attack on that area. They have sought for help for preserving the holy site. A resident of Al Qosh, Ghazwan Elias, spoke for the locals and stated that with their very limited ability they are carrying on the task of preserving the sacred place.

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The prophet has frequently been regarded as the ‘Elkoshite’ i.e. “of El Qosh” or “of Al Qosh”. Apart from that, some of the crumbling antique walls which are ornamented with the holy script of Hebrew also testify the fact that the tomb is actually of the prophet. It has been heard from local sources that right before the departure of the Jews from Iraq, the sacred spot used to be a much-visited shrine that reportedly saw the gathering of millions of worshippers annually. This adds to the sentiment of the residents and strengthens the motive of protecting the tomb of Nahum.

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It has been reported that an Assyrian Christian, born and brought up in Al Qosh, Asir Salaam Shajaa, has taken over the responsibility of guarding the place with great vigor. Convinced as he is, he claims the remains under the holy tomb are really of the prophet. He was found saying that his forefathers were left in charge of guarding the sacred shrine when the last of the Jews left Al Qosh and since then all the generations of his family have been traditionally protecting the tomb.

Preservation and protection of the sacred tomb have thus been a highly concerning issue. God forbids that the ancient holy synagogue does not come to face the wrath of the ISIS in future as the locals fear.

– by NewsGram Team

  • Antara

    Preservation of that much an old and sacred place is utterly necessary!

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President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

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The president of Egypt Urges world leaders to take decisive action against states supporting terrorism. Pixabay

Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi Egypt
The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. VOA

The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.

Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.

Upcoming conference

El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.

Egypt
This photo provided by the office of Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, dignitaries including Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gather, for a photo during a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Egypt. VOA

He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”

El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.

After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Maritime border agreement 

El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

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Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital.  He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)

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English-speaking ISIS Supporters Exploit Messaging App

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up

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The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this illustration, April 13, 2018. VOA

English-speaking Islamic State supporters are refusing to give up on the terror group’s ability to remain a force in Syria and Iraq, according to a new study that examined their behavior on the Telegram instant messaging service.

The report, “Encrypted Extremism: Inside the English-Speaking Islamic State Ecosystem on Telegram,” released Thursday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, looked at 636 pro-Islamic State channels and groups in the 16 months from June 2017 through October 2018.

It found that even as the terror group was losing ground in Syria and Iraq to U.S.-backed forces, and even as IS leadership was encouraging followers to start looking to progress in IS provinces elsewhere, English-speaking supporters turned to Telegram to reinforce their faith in the caliphate.

“These are supporters that like to fight uphill battles,” report co-author Bennet Clifford told VOA. “What supporters are trying to do when they’re engaging with this conversation is attempt to shift the narrative away from loss and provide justifications for it.”

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – An Islamic State flag is seen in this photo illustration. VOA

At the same time, these English-speaking supporters sought to amplify their beliefs, supplementing official IS propaganda with user-generated content while also increasing the distribution of instructional material on how to carry out attacks.

“I think it’s part of an attempt in some cases to spin the narrative their way,” Clifford added.

Attraction of Telegram

IS supporters first started flocking to Telegram, an instant messaging service that promises speed and encryption for private communications, in 2015 as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook began a crackdown aimed at Islamic State’s often violent and gory propaganda.

Since then, IS has been hooked by Telegram’s promise that it will not disclose user data to government officials and by the service’s ability to let supporters organize and share large files, including video.

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“No other platforms appear to have developed the same balance of features, user-friendliness, and basic security that could warrant a new switch,” the report said.

That ease of use has long worried counterterrorism officials, who have watched as IS has used the online ecosystem to help plan and carry out the November 2015 attacks in Paris, attacks on a Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016 and the attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul just weeks later.

English-speaking facilitators

In those cases, the attackers appear to have been given instructions from IS officials in Syria and Iraq. But Telegram has given rise to several key English-speaking facilitators who have been operating on the periphery.

English, ISIS, Supporters, Messaging
FILE – Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East, is surrounded by reporters after attending a hearing at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 3, 2017. VOA

One of them, according to Clifford and co-author Helen Powell, was 36-year-old Karen Aizha Hamidon, who helped mobilize sympathizers from the United States to Singapore to join the terror group or its affiliates.

Hamidon, who was arrested by Philippine authorities in October 2017, has also been linked to efforts to establish an IS province in India.

Another key player, 34-year-old Ashraf al-Safoo, took a different approach before being arrested last October by the FBI in Chicago.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, al-Safoo was a key member of the Khattab Media Foundation, which used hacked social media accounts on platforms like Twitter to disseminate IS propaganda.

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“Much of the propaganda created and distributed by Khattab promotes violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’s media office,” the Justice Department said in a statement using a different acronym for the militant group.

While both Hamidon and al-Safoo are now in custody, showing the ability of law enforcement to penetrate their Telegram operations, others are likely to replace them because of the ongoing need of Islamic State’s English-speaking supporters to communicate and find larger audiences.

“While there are a number of disadvantages for Islamic State supporters in the use of Telegram from a security perspective they’ll continue to do it because their balance of outreach and operational security,” Clifford said. “There’s not another alternative at this point in time.” (VOA)

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Iraq Suffers Pollution Crisis with Burning Trash and Factories Emitting Smoke

"For about a week or ten days now we haven't been able to sleep or work. We just sitting around because of this smoke, said Jabbar, a builder

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A municipal worker extinguishes a fire inside the garbage at a rubbish dump in Baghdad, Iraq, May 30, 2019. VOA

As if life was not bad enough for Adnan Kadhim – he lives in a slum where municipal authorities dump Baghdad’s rubbish – now someone is setting the waste on fire, making his children sick.

As the United Nations marks World Environment Day on Wednesday, Iraq is suffering a pollution crisis, with trash piling up across the country and thick clouds of smoke produced by inefficient factories hovering above Baghdad.

“The dirt, our children are sick, our families are sick. My daughter has asthma, and I had to take my family to the hospital last night. We had to go at 2 am to give her oxygen. What have we done wrong to deserve this?” asks the 48-year-old, with mountains of rubbish behind him.

No one in his unplanned neighborhood within Baghdad’s southeastern Zaafaraniya district knows who is setting the rubbish on fire, and their complaints to government and municipal authorities have fallen on deaf ears because they are technically not supposed to be living in the area.

pollution crisis
A municipal worker drives a shovel machine to extinguish a fire inside the garbage at a rubbish dump in Baghdad, Iraq, May 30, 2019. VOA

“For about a week or ten days now we haven’t been able to sleep or work. We just sitting around because of this smoke, said Jabbar, a builder.

“Every day, it starts at sunset and doesn’t stop until the morning. You can see the tractors (shoveling trash) in front of you. We are being destroyed. We implored the government, and no one did anything, we went to the municipality and still nothing,” he added.

Officials say Iraq suffers from the lack of a formal waste management system, but that they are working on introducing one which they hope will alleviate the country’s numerous environmental hazards which also include pollution from oil production – Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest producer of crude oil – and other industries.

“I am sorry to say there are no hygienic official landfills. All what we have are unorganized areas for waste collection,” said Deputy Environment Minister Jassim Humadi. “We are working hard today to issue legislation establishing the National Center for Waste Management.”

Increasing pollution rates and other “environmental challenges” could be linked to rising rates of chronic diseases such as cancer and respiratory issues, as well as birth deformities, he said. Iraq is working with the international bodies on a plan to help it clean up, he added.

Change is Costly

Business owners say they are doing what they can to operate in a more environmentally-friendly manner but that it is too costly. The government needs to help them do so, they argue.

pollution crisis
A general view of brick factories as smoke rises from the stacks in the town of Nahrawan in Baghdad, Iraq, June 3, 2019. VOA

At a brick factory in Nahrawan, east Baghdad, ovens running on crude oil are releasing thick smoke, making it hard to breath, or see anything.

“Crude oil, if burned in an incorrect way, the way we burn it, of course has emissions. The new ovens which we are upgrading to will reduce these emissions by 60 percent, but that should not be the ceiling of our ambitions,” says Ali Rabeiy, the factory owner.

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More environmentally-friendly ovens can fashion bricks and produce only 5 percent of the current harmful emissions, and some even produce none, he said, but they cost anywhere between 4 and 6 billion Iraqi dinars ($3.2-4.8 million), which is not financially feasible for a business like his.

($1 = 1,186.4300 Iraqi dinars) (VOA)