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IS is luring youth through labyrinth of Facebook accounts

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Melbourne: Islamic State (IS) recruiters are actively targeting and attempting to recruit Australian teenagers via social media, a study of the Facebook posts of the radical group shows.

The study by surveillance expert Robyn Torok, who has been watching IS recruiters at work on social media since 2010, outlines how the online recruiters cash in on young people’s feelings of alienation, as reported by agencies.

Initially, recruiters identify potential targets by monitoring Facebook conversation threads.

Torok said IS recruiters were targeting teenagers online because they were especially vulnerable as they were trying to establish their identities.

They closely observe their target’s online behaviour, seeing how frequently they post and how they respond to geopolitical issues, and get to know their hobbies and interests.

Then they begin to interact with them, joining in on conversation threads and trying to create a relationship built through common connections.

The recruiter shows empathy when the target reveals emotional problems. They encourage them to talk about their worries and treat them as valid problems.

The recruiter then adds the target as a Facebook friend and begins to talk about political issues, posting comments like “the government is always sticking its nose in Muslim affairs”.

To make their arguments sound more believable, the recruiter may assume many different Facebook identities, all of which support their grievances.

“I have noticed one person who can have 52 different accounts and have 20 friends on one account and they are all the same person,” Torok said.

Two key moments in this process are when the recruiter finally makes the call to Islam, to a target, or invitation to become a Muslim, and when the recruit takes the declaration of faith.

The final stage is when recruiters encourage radical recruits to avenge perceived injustices and empower themselves by taking action.

“But we need to remember that not all radicals become terrorists and not all terrorists are recruited online,” Torok wrote in another article.

The findings were presented recently at a security conference held by Edith Cowan University in Perth.

(IANS)

(Picture credit:ibrabo.wordpress.com )

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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Syria
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

Also Read: Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)