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Maldives: A Tiny country whose 200 Young men have joined ISIS in Middle East

ISIS has been successfully radicalizing the youth in Maldives through the use of internet and social media

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A screen grab of a video purportedly released online by Islamic State shows militants threatening to launch strikes on the Maldives, Aug. 31, 2015. Image SOurce: BenarNews
  • The Maldivian government has asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from ISIS
  • The rise of the digital age is exposing the Maldivian youth to terrorism and turning them into radicals
  • Recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act criminalizes defamation and fines anyone spreading false information

The Maldivian couple was still struggling with the shock of their 22-year-old son being locked up in a Turkish prison after Muslim radicals almost recruited him.

“On July 12, we woke up and found him gone, his passport missing. Two days later, we got news that he was arrested in Turkey while attempting to travel to Syria to join a radical outfit,” the man’s father told a BenarNews reporter who was visiting the couple’s home in a congested by-lane of Male, the capital of the Maldives, late last month.

“As a family, we are shattered,” he said, “but relieved at the same time. At least we won’t have to live with the shame of knowing our son is killing innocent people in the name of Islam.”

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The father, who wished not to be identified, said he was well aware that his son might be looking at a life behind bars if he were sent back to the Maldives. Its government recently announced jail terms of up to 20 years for those attempting to go abroad to fight  for Islamic militant groups.

“He will get what he deserves. I only hope he gets a chance to repent,” the man said of his boy, whose identity he also shielded.

His son is one of more than 200 Maldivians who have left the Muslim-majority Indian Ocean archipelago – better known for its pristine beaches and high-end tourist resorts – to fight in the Middle East alongside militant outfits including the Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the country’s main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Soufan Group, a U.S.-based security and intelligence firm that tracks terrorist threats worldwide.

The number of Maldivians fighting for these radical groups abroad is relatively high given the country’s small population of 345,000, according to a 2013 census.

The Maldives has the world’s second highest per capita of people fighting for IS, behind Tunisia, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), an American think-tank. One out of every 500 Maldivians has joined the Mid-East extremist outfit, according to research by the NBER.

At least 20 Maldivians have died in battle in the Middle East, said the Twitter page of Bilad Al Sham Media group, which appears to be run by Maldivian militants in Syria. BenarNews could not independently verify this figure.

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And even though the government of President Abdulla Yameen puts the figure at no more than 50, there is cause for concern, said a former top police official in Male.

“Even going by the number the government is stating, it is a worrisome trend considering the small population of the Maldives,” he told BenarNews.

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Mohamed Irfan (alias Abu Yushaw Maldif) is shown before he died fighting for the al-Nusra Front in Syria, Sept. 20, 2015. [ Bilad Al Sham Media]
Opposition exaggerating figure: governmentThe government said the opposition was exaggerating the number to bring disrepute to the Maldives, whose population is largely Sunni Muslim.“No bona fide security analyst has said or confirmed the figure which has been repeated by those with close associations to former President Nasheed; who themselves fail to attribute this number to any credible source, much less ones that can be independently corroborated or verified,” Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, Yameen’s international spokesman, told BenarNews.He was referring to Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s democratically elected leader. Until Nasheed was elected in 2008, the Maldives had endured decades of autocratic rule. But he resigned in February 2012, saying a coup had forced him out. Nasheed now lives in exile in Britain, where he has received refugee status.Shihab, however, added that the present government was taking the threat posed by terrorism seriously, but he declined to say how many Maldivian youths had been stopped from leaving the country to join extremist outfits in the Middle East, or if the country had a de-radicalization strategy in place.In February, President Yameen established the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) specifically to investigate cases of radicalization in the Maldives. In June, the president followed that up by submitting a policy paper on “Terrorism and Violent Extremism” to parliament for added recommendations with the aim of strengthening national security and contributing to the global fight against terror, Shihab said.Government in denial

But security analysts described NCTC as a sham.

“It [the NCTC] is a façade to pacify critics,” Azra Naseem, a Maldivian counter-terrorism expert at Ireland’s Dublin City University, told BenarNews. “It is based in the Maldives National Defense Force – making counter-terrorism a military issue rather than a policing issue. And as far as the public has been allowed to know, there are only two members of staff on it.”

She said the government’s main policy was one of “denial and obfuscation,” making it almost impossible for researchers and journalists to get accurate figures because the “government is working actively to cover things up.”

“The government is afraid that if it becomes known that an increasing number of Maldivians are leaving to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters, it would harm the country’s exclusive tourism industry.  Rich Western Europeans, toward whom most of the Maldives’ tourism industry is geared, would not want to book expensive holidays in a country known for production of jihad,” Naseem said.

“If the tourism industry is damaged, the miniscule percentage of rich Maldivians who control it would suffer and many of them bankroll the Maldives government. So the current regime downplays the number of Maldivian jihadists, pretends it is a problem that does not exist, and labels anyone who speaks about it a traitor,” she added.

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A tourist resort is pictured in the distance from Villingili island, the Maldives, July 24, 2016. [Rohit Wadhwaney/BenarNews]
Taboo topic 

On the streets of Male, an island of close to 6 square km (2.3 square miles) that is crammed with 130,000 residents, no one wants to speak of the growing threat of radicalization, not openly at least.Naseem, one of the few Maldivians who agreed to comment on the subject on the record, explained why.“I would not be surprised if the new Anti-Defamation Act is brought to bear on those who speak of this problem,” she said, referring to the recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act. It criminalizes defamation and includes provisions to impose fines of up to U.S. $130,000 on anyone caught spreading false information.

“This government really wants to depict the problem of radicalization as a fictitious one concocted by the opposition to harm the country and by ‘jealous’ Western countries who do not want the Maldives to prosper because it is a Muslim country,” she said.

‘We are very vulnerable’

Yet on Thursday, the Maldivian government for the first time publicly conceded its vulnerability to radicalization as it asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from IS and reports of radicalization among youths.

The chief of the NCTC will be visiting New Delhi on Aug. 29 to discuss specific requirements to tackle the terror threat, Maldivian Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim told the Press Trust of India.

“Because of our small size, we are very vulnerable and we have sought India’s help in strengthening our mechanisms to tackle threats of terrorism,” Asim said.

The request came barely two months after India’s Intelligence Bureau sent a classified report to agencies indicating that the growing IS influence in the Maldives could prove to be a threat to the Indian sub-continent, whose southwestern coast lies about 320 km (200 miles) away.

The IS has been “successfully using the internet and social media in influencing youths in the island nation and is determined to expand its network further,” the report said, while putting the figure of the outfit’s sympathizers in the Maldives at about 500.

New threat from online recruitment

Acknowledging that the number of potential terror recruits in the Maldives was well beyond the figure the government had been stating, the former senior police official from Male said the problem of radicalization in the archipelago was an old one.

“Radicalization of Maldivian youth came to the fore back in 2004, when several Muslim groups came to the Maldives in the garb of helping people affected by the tsunami and began preaching radical Islam,” the former cop said on condition of anonymity.

“And now, with almost every one of the near 350,000 Maldivians connected to the internet, radicalization of our youth is easier than ever,” he said.

Counter-terrorism expert Naseem agreed.

“There are several websites dedicated to publishing jihadi literature. A lot of books published by leaders of IS and al-Nusra are translated into Dhivehi and made available to Maldivians to download and study.

“Despite the government’s claim that they are clamping down on this, this material is very easily accessible,” she said. (BenarNews)

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Is Islamic inequality a conspiracy against the God?

Islam was conducted in a sense it was never meant to be

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Muslims
An eternal religion like Islam is always targeted for its preachings. Wikimedia Commons

Religion was the purest creation by humans to guide them to a better life, but it is clear that religion is being misused by many to create chaos and misery.

Islam, which is the World’s second largest religion, has become to symolize as the largest religion of devastation. A religion that believes that there is only ‘One God’ and that is their God, has now come to stand for turbulence and violence.

Historically too, Islam has always been linked with ‘terrorism’, but what gave rise to this scenario? The synopsis of this situation is not the right interpretation of ‘Quran’. The term ‘Jihad’ which literally means ‘to strive for the betterment of society’ has been deceitfully presented which leads to production of terrorists like Kasab (he quoted it in his letter to his family). The greed for 72 virgin women, which is just a story, makes them a ‘person of mass destruction. ‘ In the name of God, some ‘juvenile’ people choose the path which they are not familiar with.’

Islamic Terrorism
It is often stated that most of the ‘Terrorists’ are Muslims.Wikimedia Commons

A religion should always teach and preach about equality but Islam surely fails when it comes to their women. They are not so privileged as men are in an Islamic society. Why is it so? Does religion discriminate between two on the basis of gender? Why a Muslim man is taught to think about 72 virgin women but a Muslim woman is told to consider one man as her god? Why a man has a right to marry thrice but a woman is allowed to marry just once?

Islamic scholar Imam Tawhidi’s tweet raised a question on the fairness of the Islamic religion.

The disparity is not limited here. A woman who leaves her home, her parents, her career and even her surname; a woman who makes a home a home; a woman who sacrifices her everything for a man; is the one who is out thrown from her own home just by saying ‘Talaq, Talaq, Talaq’. Is a relation between a husband and wife established on these three words? Why only Muslim men favoured with such power?

Culture of Hijab
Women are meant to cover their full body in Islam. Wikimedia Commons

The word ḥijāb in the Quran refers not to women’s clothing, but rather a spatial partition or curtain. However, the preachers of Islam say that women should get all her parts covered by confidently stating that it is mandated in the Holy Quran. Yet another example of inequality on the basis of gender but the compelling truth is that these customs and thesis are created by the human itself and not Islam. This is how Islam is misused to spread fallacious beliefs among the people and making their life miserable.

Does Islam need to reform? Or do preachers of Islam need to introspect and reform?

– Sumit Buchasia of NewsGram. Twitter @sumit_buchasia

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New York terror attack: 8 dead, suspect in custody (Third Lead)

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New York, 1st November’2017: At least eight persons have been killed and 12 seriously injured in New York after a driver of a truck mowed down people on a cycle path in Lower Manhattan in US.

The attack happened on Tuesday, when the city was celebrating Halloween, one of the most festive days in the New York calendar.

The pavements were crowded with kids in costumes and there were still children trick-or-treating just yards away, the BBC reported.

The spot is also just yards away from Ground Zero, a site which reminds all New Yorkers of the 9/11 attack in 2001. It did not take police long to confirm that the city had once again been the target of terror.

Five of these victims were Argentine nationals, Efe news quoted a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Buenos Aires as saying.

The 29-year-old man who emerged from the white pick-up truck was shot by a police officer and arrested.

The media named him as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who came to the US in 2010 and settled in Florida, a CNN report said.

A note was found in the truck that referred to the Islamic State (IS), a law enforcement source told CBS News.

Around 3.05 p.m., Saipov drove a truck onto the West Side Highway bike path.

The truck entered near Houston Street. It was a rental from Home Depot, the home improvement chain said.

The driver continued down the path, hitting bicyclists and pedestrians.

Further down the path, the truck collided with a school bus at Chambers Street.

After the collision, the driver exited the truck with a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Witnesses said the suspect yelled “Allahu Akbar”, law enforcement sources told CNN.

A note found in the truck claimed the attack was carried out in the name of IS, a senior law enforcement official confirmed to CNN. The note was in English.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was a “cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians”.

de Blasio added: “We know that this action was intended to break our spirit. But we also know that New Yorkers are strong, New Yorkers are resilient and our spirit will never be moved by an act of violence and an act meant to intimidate us.”

US President Donald Trump tweeted: “My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!”

Former US President Barack Obama tweeted: “Michelle and I are thinking of the victims of today’s attack in NYC and everyone who keeps us safe. New Yorkers are as tough as they come.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday condemned the attack in a tweet: “Strongly condemn the terror attack in New York City. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased and prayers with those injured.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “appalled by the cowardly attack”. “My thoughts are with all affected,” she said.

“Together we will defeat the evil of terrorism” and the “UK stands with NYC”, Xinhua news agency quoted May as saying.

Five of the eight killed in the attack were identified as Argentine nationals, who were celebrating their 30th graduation anniversary at the Argentine Polytechnic School of Rosario, Efe news reported.

The statement released by the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs, identified the five as Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernan Ferruchi.

The New York authorities said that it was a lone wolf attack. It was not part of a wider conspiracy or plot, BBC reported. But this is an active crime scene at the moment. They are still trying to piece together precisely what happened.(IANS)

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Islamic Terrorism Strikes New York Again: #NYCStrong But Who will Bell the Cat of Islamists?

The suspect was is a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the U.S. in 2010.

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Islamic Terrorism in NYC
Bicycles and debris lay on a bike path after a motorist drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people, Oct. 31, 2017, in New York. VOA

At least eight people were killed Tuesday and more than a dozen others were injured when a man drove a rented truck onto a busy bike path in New York City.

“Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called it a “lone wolf” attack, saying there’s no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot. The incident took place near the World Trade Center memorial in lower Manhattan.

Islamic Terrorism hits New York City again
A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others is seen as New York City first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.VOA

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said around 3:05 p.m., a man driving a rented Home Depot pickup truck entered the bike path, striking riders and pedestrians. The truck also struck a school bus, injuring two adults and two children.

The man then “exited the vehicle brandishing two handguns,” O’Neill said.

A paintball gun and a pellet gun were later found at the scene. He was shot in the abdomen by police and taken into custody.

He underwent surgery and is expected to survive.

Police said the driver shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great” when he got out of the truck. But when O’Neill was asked whether the suspect shouted the phrase, he replied: “Yeah. He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” though he declined to elaborate.

The New York Police Department said they will increase the number of police throughout the city “out of an abundance of caution.”

Law enforcement officials, who refused to be identified, told media outlets the suspect was was a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan named Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the U.S. in 2010.

The Cato Institute told VOA only about 40,000 Uzbeks have entered the United States as migrants in the last 20 years, of those only 2 percent arrived as refugees.

David Bier, a policy analyst at the Washington-based think tank, said he believed this is the first time an Uzbek national has killed anyone on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack.

As of March 2017, three Uzbek nationals had been convicted of terrorism offenses. Ulugbek Kodirov who entered as student visa holder in 2008 and later radicalized on the Internet was convicted of threatening to kill President Obama in 2011. Fazliddin Kurbanov who entered as refugee in 2009 attempted to build bombs for an attack in 2013. Abdurasul Juraboev who immigrated after winning the green card lottery in 2011 was convicted of attempting to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the incident and will be continually updated as more details are known. “Our Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected,” she said.

Trump later tweeted, “We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!” Followed by: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

Department of Homeland Security said Acting Secretary Elaine Duke had been briefed and the department was “closely monitoring the situation.”

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said “Argentine citizens died” in the attack, but it hasn’t said how many. (VOA)