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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 Militants
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.

[sociallocker][/sociallocker]

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)

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‘World’s Oldest’ Buddha Statue Unearthed in Pakistan During Excavations

A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

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Buddha Statue
Buddha Statue is found excavated in Pakistan. Pixabay.

Islamabad, November 17: A centuries-old sleeping Buddha statue has been unearthed during excavations near Bhamala Stupa in Haripur district of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology And Museums Director Abdul Samad told Dawn News: “The 48-feet-long sleeping Buddha statue dates back to the third century, which makes it the world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue.”

He said that archaeologists found the statue, with its head intact, during excavations near the Bhamala Stupa.

“We have discovered more than 500 Buddha-related objects during excavations, in addition to the 48-feet long ‘sleeping Buddha’,” he said.

The latest discoveries by the archaeologists have opened new chapters in the history of the ancient Taxila Valley Civilisation.

“This is one of the few sites in the world to have the cruciform Stupa, which was reserved for Buddha himself,” Samad had said. (IANS)

 

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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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Journey of a Jihadist from a Herdsman to killing of US Soldiers in Niger

Niger still in search of Duonduo Chefou

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Niger
A Fulani cattle herder walks with his cows outside the city of Tillaberi, southwest Niger, about 100 km south of the Mali border, Niger, Nov. 1, 2017.

When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as many other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.

He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.

Yet on Oct. 4 this year, he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied U.S.-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West’s mission in the Sahel has become.

The incident sparked calls in Washington for public hearings into the presence of U.S. troops. A Pentagon probe is to be completed in January.

Who is Doundou Chefou?

Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari
Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger Nov. 1, 2017.

Niger Defense Minister Kalla Mountari poses for a portrait after an interview with Reuters, in Niamey, Niger Nov. 1, 2017.

Asked by Reuters to talk about Chefou, Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari’s face fell.

“He is a terrorist, a bandit, someone who intends to harm to Niger,” he said at his office in the Nigerien capital Niamey earlier this month.

“We are tracking him, we are seeking him out, and if he ever sets foot in Niger again he will be neutralized.”

Like most gunmen in so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which operates along the sand-swept borderlands where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, Chefou used to be an ordinary Fulani pastoralist with little interest in jihad, several government sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as their pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.

For now, analysts say the local IS affiliate remains small, at fewer than 80 fighters. But that was also the case at first with al-Qaida-linked factions before they tapped into local grievances to expand their influence in Mali in 2012.

The United Nations this week released a report showing how IS in northern Somalia has grown to around 200 fighters from just a few dozen last year.

The U.S. military has ramped up its presence in Niger, and other neighboring countries, in recent years as it fears poverty, corruption and weak states mean the region is ripe for the spread of extremist groups.

A map of Niger with the capital city, Niamey, highlighted.

Niger
A map of Niger with the capital city, Niamey, highlighted.

Genesis of a jihad

For centuries the Tuareg and Fulani have lived as nomads herding animals and trading — Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara, and the Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan beneath it.

Some have managed to become relatively wealthy, accumulating vast herds. But they have always stayed separate from the modern nation-states that have formed around them.

Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons over the years has made the rivalry ever more deadly.

A turning point was the Western-backed ouster of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg from the region who had fought as mercenaries for Gadhafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armories.

Some of the returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to try to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement that was soon hijacked by al-Qaida-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years.

Until then, Islamists in Mali had been recruiting and raising funds through kidnapping. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.

Turning point in 2013

Boubacar Diallo, President f the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi
Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of more than 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger.

Boubacar Diallo, president of the livestock breeders association of north Tillaberi on the Mali border, goes through a list of more than 300 Fulani herders killed by Tuareg raiders in the lawless region, during an interview with Reuters in Niamey, Niger,

Amid the violence and chaos, some of the Tuareg turned their guns on their rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.

In November 2013, a young Nigerien Fulani had a row with a Tuareg chief over money. The old man thrashed him and chased him away, recalls Boubacar Diallo, head of an association for Fulani livestock breeders along the Mali border, who now lives in Niamey.

The youth came back armed with an AK-47, killed the chief and wounded his wife, then fled. The victim happened to be the uncle of a powerful Malian warlord.

Over the next week, heavily armed Tuareg slaughtered 46 Fulani in revenge attacks along the Mali-Niger border.

The incident was bloodiest attack on record in the area, said Diallo, who has documented dozens of attacks by Tuareg raiders that have killed hundreds of people and led to thousands of cows and hundreds of camels being stolen.

“That was a point when the Fulani in that area realized they needed more weapons to defend themselves,” said Diallo, who has represented them in talks aimed at easing communal tensions.

The crimes were almost never investigated by police, admits a Niamey-based law enforcement official with knowledge of them.

“The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani’s cattle,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. “The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves.”

‘Injustice, exclusion and self-defense’

Gandou Zakaria, a researcher of mixed Tuareg-Fulani heritage in the faculty of law at Niamey University, has spent years studying why youths turned to jihad.

“Religious belief was at the bottom of their list of concerns,” he told Reuters. Instead, local grievances were the main driving force.

Whereas Tuareg in Mali and Niger have dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani have generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on.

“For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination, and a need for self-defense,” Zakaria said.

One militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.

Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which was loosely allied to al-Qaida in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.

After French forces in 2013 scattered Islamists from the Malian towns they controlled, al-Sahrawi was briefly allied with Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaida veteran.

Today, al-Sahrawi is the face of Islamic State in the region.

“There was something in his discourse that spoke to the youth, that appealed to their sense of injustice,” a Niger government official said of al-Sahrawi.

Two diplomatic sources said there are signs al-Sahrawi has received financial backing from IS central in Iraq and Syria.

Enter Chefou

How Chefou ended up being one of a handful of al-Sahrawi’s lieutenants is unclear. The government source said he was brought to him by a senior officer, also Fulani, known as Petit Chapori.

Like many Fulani youth toughened by life on the Sahel, Chefou was often in and out of jail for possession of weapons or involvement in localized violence that ended in deals struck between communities, the government official said.

Yet Diallo, who met Chefou several times, said he was “very calm, very gentle. I was surprised when he became a militia leader.”

U.S. and Nigerien sources differ on the nature of the fatal mission of Oct 4. Nigeriens say it was to go after Chefou; U.S. officials say it was reconnaissance mission.

One vehicle lost by the U.S. forces was supplied by the CIA and kitted with surveillance equipment, U.S. media reported. A surveillance drone monitored the battle with a live feed.

The Fulani men, mounted on motorbikes, were armed with the assault rifles they first acquired to look after their cows. (VOA)