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Man planning ‘Jihadi madarsa’ arrested in Bengal

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Hyderabad: A man from West Bengal who was allegedly planning to start a Jihadi madarsa for terrorist training was arrested, police said on Friday.

Alimul Islam Mandal was arrested when he came to meet Mohammed Nasir, a Bangladesh-born Pakistani national who illegally entered India, in Cherlapally jail here.

According to police, Mandal, 29, is a labourer from Baltha village in Bengal’s South Dinajpur district.

Nasir and Mandal worked together in a blanket factory in Haryana’s Panipat and they along with others decided to start a madrasa to impart Jihadi training.

Nasir had told police during interrogation that he, Mandal and another person conspired to set up the jihadi madarsa.

Mandal therefore came to Hyderabad to meet Nasir for charting out further plans for their unlawful activities, said a police statement, adding a close vigil was kept on those coming to meet Nasir and other illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar lodged in the jail.

Nasir and three other illegal immigrants and two local brokers had been arrested on August 14. Two more accused were arrested subsequently.

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Terror Has a New Name : Former al-Qaida Members Launch New Militant Group ‘Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan’

Inspired by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s slain founder, the group has vowed to continue its struggle through “jihad” against “infidel and apostates”

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A Pakistani militant holds a rocket-propelled grenade in Shawal, in Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan,

Karachi, September 11, 2017 : A new al-Qaida-inspired militant group, which has recently emerged in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi claims to act as a platform for militants who have grown disaffected with the Islamic State militant group (IS) in the country.

The group, Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, was reportedly formed by two former al-Qaida members who had severed ties with the organization in early 2017. Since then, the group has been involved in several attacks in Karachi, according to Pakistani counterterrorism authorities.

“The Ansar al-Sharia group started killings in Karachi since the beginning of this year and claimed responsibility for killing an army officer on Faisal Highway [in Karachi],” Major General Mohammad Saeed, the head of Rangers paramilitary security force in Karachi, told local media. He added the group has been focusing attacks on “the police only.”

The group was allegedly created to operate as a platform for militants who have parted ways with IS in the country, it said in an online statement. It claimed to be active in several parts of the country.

“We give glad tidings to Muslim Ummah that a large number of Mujahideen from Karachi, Punjab and tribal areas are leaving ranks of IS and announce disassociation with [it],” the group said in an announcement through a Twitter account, adding that IS has “spread differences” and “secession instead of unity.”

The group has vowed to continue its struggle through “jihad” against “infidel and apostates.”

Though the newly-emerged group asserts no official affiliation with al-Qaida and other foreign militant organizations, the group said its ideology is inspired by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s slain founder.

VOA was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the Twitter account.

According to the counterterrorism department of Karachi police, Ansar al-Sharia has a presence in areas between Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.

“Unfortunately, according to the names that have come up in the investigation, their kill team has three young men who have masters [degrees] in applied physics,” Maj. Gen. Saeed said.

Pakistani media reported the terror outfit also has female members. Police have reportedly arrested four women, including a doctor, suspected of membership in the group.

Pakistani authorities have vowed action to seize members of the group in the country, including in Karachi.

ALSO READ Study shows that Islamic State terror cells in Europe are led by former al-Qaida terrorists

A police officer has reportedly been arrested for links with an alleged Ansar-al-Sharia member in Karachi, Pakistani media reported.

Al-Qaida’s branch in South Asia, known as al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has been active in the region. Several militant groups in Pakistan that had an ideological association with bin Laden’s al-Qaida, have pledged allegiance to AQIS.

Much of AQIS’s power is concentrated in Karachi and IS has also claimed presence in in Pakistan’s largest city. (VOA)

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Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

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Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


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Pakistani Militant Group Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) Now Targeting Women as New Jihad Recruits through their Magazine

Pakistan's first women's magazine, urging potential female jihadists to join the ranks of the Pakistani militant group and to devote themselves to the cause of jihad

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Pakistani women offer prayers at a shrine in Islamabad. VOA
  • TTP magazine published its first ever edition for women, urging them to join as Pakistani militants and fight for Jihad
  • Pakistan’s counter-terrorism unit thinks of this development as a dangerous move
  • Its extensive reach on social media is powerful and deemed dangerous for the youth

Pakistan, August 06, 2017: Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) has recently published its first women’s magazine, urging potential female jihadists to join the ranks of the Pakistani militant group and to devote themselves to the cause of jihad.

The magazine, Sunnat-e-Khaula (The Way of Khaula), is named after a young female fighter during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, according to local media accounts in Pakistan. The magazine is another effort on part of the country’s Taliban to renew their efforts to reach out to millions of Pakistani women and recruit them to their militant cause.

In an advice column for the magazine, the militant group urges women to “distribute literature reflecting on the obligation of jihad, arrange physical training classes for sisters. Learn how to operate simple weapons. Learn the use of grenades.”

While the magazine is accessible to only a handful of people, the news of its launch has been widely circulated on social media platforms in Pakistan, amplifying its reach and making its core content available online to a vast number of Pakistani youth.

Power of digital media

Some experts warn that, contrary to popular belief, middle-class students with access to digital media are more prone to radicalization than those of the madrasas.

The Pakistani Taliban, which is losing territory because of various Pakistani military operations, are increasingly resorting to using varied media platforms to promote and propagate their ideology.

“Social media is an effective tool in the hands of extremists. TTP launching of a magazine for women is important in many ways,” professor Khadim Hussain, an expert on militancy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, told VOA.

“They are using an effective model used by Islamist political party Jamate Islami and extremist outfit Hizbut Tehrir to reach out to the new generation,” said Hussain, author of The Militant Discourse: Religious Militancy in Pakistan.

Influence of women

Hussain said he thought TTP’s magazine wanted to capitalize on the influence that women have in their households, which he argued is something that is not easily visible.

“It provides an expanded reach without tracing the jihadi footprints easily,” he said.

Maria Sultan, a defense analyst in Pakistan, agreed with Hussain’s analysis, adding that the Taliban have a reason to target the country’s female population.

“Taliban believe by capturing women’s attention they can re-establish their network that has been destroyed by the Pakistan army through several military operations in the Northwest region in recent years,” Sultan said.

“Pakistan will have to implement [its] National Action Plan fully to stop Taliban’s’ reach to the masses,” she added.

Pakistan’s National Action Plan, a comprehensive 20-point strategy devised in 2015 to fight extremism, calls for “strict action to be taken against literature, newspapers, and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance” in the country.

ALSO READ: Pakistan’s Northwest Province Struggles To Fight Against Terror Financing

Dangerous to youth

Qibla Ayaz, the former dean of the faculty of Islamic and Oriental Studies at the University of Peshawar, called the TTP magazine launch a dangerous development for the youth of the region, “since the new generation is all there on the social media. [The Islamic State] militant outfit has adopted the same social media strategy for its recruitment, and it seems to be a problem here, too.”

He said he thought the problem was not limited to Pakistan and called for a counter-extremism narrative across the Muslim world to counter it.

“We have not developed a well-constructed counter-extremism narrative,” he said. “I think all the leading voices around the Muslim world need to come together and come up with a joint strategy against it [extremism].”

The magazine reportedly has articles about prominent Muslim women from the early era of the emergence of Islam, sharing their experiences and advising women of faith to fully implement the code of Islam in their lives.

The magazine interviewed a woman who said she was the wife of TPP leader Fazlullah Khorasani. She advocated for the benefits of early-age marriage and defended her own at age 14 to Khorasani.

Pakistani claims

Since 2014, Pakistan has conducted large-scale counterterrorism operations in its restive Northwest region in an attempt to eradicate Taliban influence and militancy. It claims its troops have successfully eliminated and dismantled terrorism and militant infrastructure in the region.

U.S. and Afghanistan officials, however, have long accused Pakistan of being selective in its crackdown on militants. They claim Islamabad targets only groups, including TTP, that pose a threat to Pakistan’s interests and overlook other militants who are using the country’s territory to plan attacks on Afghanistan and India. Pakistan has denied those allegations.

In the 2016 edition of its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, the U.S. State Department criticized Pakistan for failing to take action against the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban. (VOA)