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‘Operation Twilight’ could last long, says Bangladesh military

Today was the fourth day of 'Operation Twilight' carried out by Bangladesh military to flush out militants hiding in a building in Sylhet

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Bangladesh military (File photo) Image courtesy:, wikimedia commons

Dhaka, March 27: It was stated by Bangladesh’s military today that their operation to flush out Islamist militants from a five-storey building in Sylhet could last long as there still remain several more “well-trained operatives” inside the hideout.

According to PTI reports, Eight persons have lost their lives in the ‘Operation Twilight’ so far. Today was the fourth day of the military operation in this northwestern city which is about 236 km from the capital, Dhaka.

Witnesses have reported about experiencing explosions and sporadic gunfire today from the five-storey building in Sylhet, after a relative lull last night. ‘Operation Twilight’ was launched by the military to get rid of the militants from the hideout.

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According to the locals, burst of automatic weapons and explosions could be heard once again after 6 am. “We heard sporadic gunshots and explosions,” a resident in the northeastern city told media.

“There are several more well-trained operatives active inside the hideout,” Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan mentioned in conversation with reporters in Sylhet. He pointed out that the assault was far from over and hinted at “considerable risks” involved in it.

Ahsan added that the militants came prepared with small arms, explosives and grenades and managed to lay out booby traps at different corners of the building cooking up a situation that slowed down the progress of the military mission at the building. “The entire area has become risky. Considering the overall situation, it will take more time for the operation to complete,” he told the reporters.

The operation was launched after a suicide bomber blew himself up at the international airport in Dhaka in an attack on Friday night which was claimed by the ISIS. This incident came a week after a similar attack on a RAB camp in Dhaka.

On Saturday, two powerful bombs tore apart a crowd near the hideout, killing six people. Among the dead, two were police officers. The injured count is nearly 50, including two army officers who are currently serving the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

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Army stated that the two militants chose to blow themselves up detonating suicide vests after being shot by army commandos on ground floors of the building. According to their assumptions, more militants are still inside.

The Islamic State terror group’s presence in the country has been rejected by Bangladesh after the responsibility for Saturday’s retaliatory attack was claimed by the militant organization.

Meanwhile, residents who lived in the building where the operation is taking place said that the militants virtually pushed them in a hostage situation h by warning them of bombs implanted on their way out of the place.

The residents were brought out by the commandos from the top of the building who made their way there from the rooftop of an adjacent structure.

Banker Ranajit Das, a tenant of the house who was evacuated along with his five family members, said until commandos rescued them and evacuated the premises, militants’ warnings prevented them from coming out. “They (militants) said bombs were implanted downstairs which would blow us up if we try to leave,” he mentioned.

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The evacuation of the civilians was executed by the para-commandos from the top floor of the building placing roof to roof ladders from an adjacent building. They moved out residents from one floor after another until they reached the second floor stairwell, where they came across improvised explosive devices placed on the stairs.

Since 2013, Bangladesh has been the witness of a torrent of attacks on secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities. A massive crackdown on militants was launched by the country specially after the dreadful Dhaka cafe attack.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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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)