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Mumbai youth who joined Islamic State killed in Syria, terror outfit calls him ‘martyr’

In an official acknowledgment, the Islamic State on Tuesday confirmed the death of Aman Tandel, the Kalyan youth who left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State, a report published in DNA said.

The Islamic State paid tribute to Tandel on Telegram, a social networking site. While hailing him a “martyr”, the message added that he died in Raqqah — a city under the control of the terror group, the report said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A report published in The Hindu on Thursday said that security agencies confirmed the death of the Kalyan youth. “We cannot say when and how it happened, but on the basis of accounts provided by the family and other foreign agencies, it is confirmed that Tandel died in clashes in Syria,” the paper quoted an official as saying.

In November, the family of Aman Tandel received an unknown call from Turkey informing them of his death in an airstrike, reported Mid Day.

Tandel, an electrical engineer, along with two others, travelled to Iraq on the pretext of a pilgrimage in June 2014. He is the second India-born Islamic State fighter to be killed after Saheem Tanki — who is believed to have been killed in August 2015, The Hindu reported.

Meanwhile, a Mumbra-based youth Tabrez Tambe, who reportedly joined the Islamic State, came under the scanner of the Maharashtra ATS after the investigation agency refused to accept his claim that he is incarcerated in Libya, reported Mumbai Mirror.

Tambe reportedly called his brother Saud two weeks back and informed him of his arrest by Libyan authorities, the report added.

However, the ATS claims it has not yet received any report on his detention from Libya. The investigative agency believed that Tambe might be faking the story to avoid being arrested in India.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 17:23 IST

WB terror suspect raised ISIS flags in Kashmir, says NIA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday revealed that suspected Islamic State operative Mohammad Masiuddin also known as Musa, who was earlier this month interrogated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his alleged terror activities, had waved flags of the terror outfit during his stay in Kashmir earlier this year.The revelation came after filing charge sheet against Masiuddin stating that the 27-year-old was planning terror attacks in India after being directed to do so by his Syria-based handler.Masiuddin was arrested in July this year following which it was revealed that he had been directed to target foreign tourists instead of Indian locals by his handlers.”Investigation has established that on the instructions of his handler, Abu Suleiman, Musa went to Srinagar in May, 2016, to carry out a Lone Wolf attack on foreign tourists. He also participated in a Friday congregation at the Jama Masjid and waved the ISIS flag. He even planned to kill foreigners near the Mother Teresa House at the Ripon Street in Kolkata,” the NIA said on Monday.A senior J&K police official told DNA that local investigators did not find possible links between Kashmiri youth and the terror outfit. The NIA revelation might however prompt local authorities to dig out travel details of Masiuddin who hails from Labhpur in Birbhum district of WB.According to official sources in the NIA, the accused had visited two locations, one in Srinagar and other in Kolkata, and selected them as venues where he was supposed to carry out an attack using the 13 inch knife that was allegedly recovered from him following his arrest in July.This was after Masiuddin had allegedly gotten in touch with ISIS handler Shafi Armar, who is wanted by Indian agencies for activities during his time with Indian Mujahideen. The NIA also revealed that Musa met Abu Suleiman during his visit to India twice in March, 2015 and May, 2016. Suleiman encouraged him to use secured encrypted chat applications. The probe agency said Forensic Analysis of the electronic gadgets seized from the accused contained pdf files like How to survive in the West- Mujahideen, The Mujahideen Explosives Handbook by Abdel-Aziz.

Watch: Father Tom, Indian priest abducted from Yemen, appeals to Pope, Centre to secure his release

Kochi: An Indian Catholic priest abducted from Yemen this year appealed to Pope Francis and the Union government through a purported video to secure his release from his captors.

“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,” said priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala.

“Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,” he said in the video, a day after Christmas. Father Uzhunnalil, who looked very weak, appeared to be reading out from a text placed before him.

The veracity of the video, which was uploaded from You tube and Facebook, could neither be independently verified nor was the period when it was shot known.

Father Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group Islamic State which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in city of Aden in southern Yemen.

He claimed his captors have made many contacts with the Government of India — President and Prime Minister.

“I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard,” he said.

He said reports had said everything has been done to get his release, “but in reality nothing” has been done. Father Uzhunnalil said a news reporter abducted in the Middle East was released as she was from France.

“I am from India and not considered. Dear people, I pray you all, ask you all, beg you all to do your might to help me to save my life. I need hospitalisation soon. Please come to my help quickly,” he said.

The Union Government has said efforts are being made to secure Uzhunnalil’s release, but such attempts take time. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken to various countries through which contacts can be established in Yemen.

Swaraj had said it takes more time to secure release of people who are held captive and asked the MPs to keep “faith” in government’s efforts to trace the abducted priest.

First Published On : Dec 26, 2016 18:31 IST

Militant hideout raided in Bangladesh

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sound of an explosion and several gunshots were heard in the Bangladeshi capital on Saturday as police’s elite counter terrorism unit laid siege to a three-storey building where heavily-armed militants, belonging to a Islamist group behind the July 1 terror attack, are holed up.”The inmates have vowed to fight us with grenades… we are repeatedly asking them to give up,” Dhaka s police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mian told reporters at the scene at Ashkona area of the capital. He said two women already came out from the three-storey building with their children.Police said three militants believed to be operatives of neo-Jamaatun Mujahideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB) were inside the building.”One of the three is a son of a slain neo-JMB leader but we are yet to know the identity of two others,” Mia said.The outfit, said to be inclined to the Islamic State, was behind the July 1 terror attack on a Dhaka cafe in which 22 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed. The commissioner has said police wants to capture the militants alive without using force “as any miscalculation could appear deadly in this densely populated neighbourhood”.Another official at the scene said one of the two women who surrendered was the wife of a slain renegade ex-army major who was killed on September 2 this year in a police encounter during a nearly identical raid at Dhaka’s Mirpur area. The other woman was the wife of a neo-JMB leader.Witnesses said police was repeatedly asking the inmates to surrender using megaphones but they were threatening to detonate grenades tied to their bodies. Ambulances and fire fighting units were kept stand-by outside the building while elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and plainclothesmen cordoned off the area.

Hyderabad: Eight persons named by NIA in charge sheet for attempting to carry out terror strike

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Eight persons were named by NIA on Thursday in a charge sheet for allegedly attempting to carry out a terror strike by using explosive devices similar to those used by ISIS cadres during last year’s Paris attacks. The charge sheet was filed before a special NIA court at Hyderabad under various sections of IPC, Explosive Substances Act, Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.They have been charged with entering into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the country by collecting weapons and explosive materials to target public places including religious sites and sensitive government buildings in various parts of the country. Those named in the charge sheet are Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi alias Fahad, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani alias Abu Abdurrahman, Habeeb Mohammed alias Abu Shaibah, Mohammed Ilyas Yazdani alias Abu Mansoor, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan alias Abulhasan, Yasir Naimathullah alias Naimath Ullah Hussaini, Mohd Ataullah Rahman alias Ghouse and Abdul Raoof alias Mohammed Almashrifi.The NIA said that during raids at various premises on June 29, several electronic gadgets, mobile phones, hard discs, semi-automatic pistols, air rifle, pellets, target boards, explosive precursor chemicals were recovered. These can be used for preparation of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), an explosive material used in the Paris attacks.As many as 129 people were killed on November 13, 2015 when ISIS cadres used TATP substances while carrying out terror strikes at three places in Paris. TATP is easy to make, easy to set off, and susceptible to accidental detonations. The NIA also found urea, nitrate explosive and equipment for manufacturing like pet jars with liquids, capacitor, gas stove with cylinder, weighing balance, nails, knives, quartz alarm time pieces, bundle of wire.Forensic analysis of electronic gadgets seized from the accused showed online radicalisation of the accused by watching videos of ISIS, discourses and lectures of radical Islamic preachers, such as Anwar Awlaki, Abdu Sami Qasmi, Meraj Rabbani, Tausif ur Rehman, Jerjees Ansari and Zakir Naik, the agency said. Investigation has established that the members downloaded and followed ISIS propaganda videos, ISIS magazine “Dabiq”, which convinced them that ISIS was fighting for the rights of the Sunni Muslims, it said.The group associated with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (the ISIS) and pledged their allegiance through the Bay’ah to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph of the Islamic State and formed a group called Jhund ul Khilafa Fi Bilad Al Hind (Army of the Caliph from the South India), it further said. Investigation has established the group used different methods of communication to connect within themselves and with overseas ISIS handlers, it said. This included the use of the dark net through Tor browser, use of encryption applications such as Orbot, Amn al Mujahid, an encryption program by Al-Fajr Media Centre which is an exclusive distributor of Al Qaeda’s Propaganda, Chatsecure, Telegram, and encrypted email systems, it added.They deliberately used secure communication and encryption to evade detection by law enforcement agencies. Investigation conducted so far has successfully established all the accused are members of a terrorist gang, the agency said. Each member played his role in the conspiracy. There were several meetings conducted by the members over the period where many decisions were taken on the course of action to be taken in furtherance of the conspiracy, it said.The group made efforts to go and join the ISIS ranks, took instructions from the handler, formed a terrorist group, pledged Bay’ah to the ISIS, recruited others, contributed money, utilized the funds so collected to procure raw materials, mobile phones, SIM cards, firearms, ammunition, explosive precursors, in pursuance of the terror conspiracy.All the accused conspired with a common intent to commit terrorist acts and threaten safety, security and integrity of the nation, the NIA said.

New international law first protection for atheists

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>US President Obama became the first leader to strengthen the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act — the Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act— on December 16. In its new avatar, the Act protects religious believers around the world. But also, for the first time, atheists and other non-religious persons have been given explicit protection under the law.The original version established the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a religious freedom watchdog that has charted abuses against minorities across the world. The new law, named after a Virginia Congressman who championed the original version, extends protection to atheists as well.“Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs,” the Act states for the first time, “and the right not to profess or practice any religion.”It also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs,” and enables the State Department to target “non-state actors” against religious freedom, like the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and other extra-government groups. Including atheism was a four-year process involving meeting with members of the State Department to raise awareness of the persecution of nonbelievers.Non-theist groups have been lobbying Congress on behalf of imprisoned and persecuted atheists in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere. Atheists here have faced imprisonment, lashings and execution, sometimes at the hands of violent mobs. In September, a Saudi man was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for professing his atheism via Twitter.The new version of the bill will strengthen the existing law in several ways:It directs the president to sanction individuals who carry out or order religious restrictions.It instructs the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to report directly to the US Secretary of State.It requires all foreign service officers to be trained in the “strategic value of international religious freedom.”

Cairo church bombing kills 25, raises fears among Christians | Reuters

By Ahmed Mohammed Hassan and Ali Abdelaty
| CAIRO

CAIRO A bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49, many of them women and children attending Sunday mass, in the deadliest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in years.The attack comes as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi fights battles on several fronts. His economic reforms have angered the poor, a bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has seen thousands jailed, whilst an insurgency rages in Northern Sinai, led by the Egyptian branch of Islamic State. The militant group has also carried out deadly attacks in Cairo and has urged its supporters to launch attacks around the world in recent weeks as it goes on the defensive in its Iraqi and Syrian strongholds.There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but exiled Brotherhood officials and home-grown militant groups condemned the attack. Islamic State supporters celebrated on social media. “God bless the person who did this blessed act,” wrote one supporter on Telegram.The explosion took place in chapel, which adjoins St Mark’s, Cairo’s main cathedral and the seat of Coptic Pope Tawadros II, where security is normally tight.At the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned what he called the latest in a series of “brutal terrorist attacks” and said he was praying for the dead and wounded.The chapel’s floor was covered in debris from shattered windows, its wooden pews blasted apart, its pillars blackened. Here and there lay abandoned shoes and sticky patches of blood. “As soon as the priest called us to prepare for prayer, the explosion happened,” Emad Shoukry, who was inside when the blast took place, told Reuters.”The explosion shook the place… The dust covered the hall and I was looking for the door, although I couldn’t see anything… I managed to leave in the middle of screams and there were a lot of people thrown on the ground.”

Security sources told Reuters at least six children were among the dead, with the blast detonating on the side of the church normally used by women. They said the explosion was caused by a device containing at least 12 kg (26 pounds) of TNT. Police and armoured vehicles rushed to the area, as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the compound demanding revenge for the attack that took place on a Muslim holiday marking the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday and weeks before Christmas. Scuffles broke out with police. A woman sitting near the cathedral in traditional long robes shouted “kill them, kill the terrorists, what are you waiting for?…. Why are you leaving them to bomb our homes?”

“EGYPTIAN BLOOD IS CHEAP”
Though Egypt’s Coptic Christians have traditionally been supporters of the government, angry crowds turned their ire against Sisi, saying his government had failed to protect them.”As long as Egyptian blood is cheap, down, down with any president…” they chanted. Others chanted “the people demand the fall of the regime”, the rallying cry of the 2011 uprising that helped end Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.Sisi’s office condemned what it described as a terrorist attack, declaring three days of mourning and promising justice. Al-Azhar, Egypt’s main Islamic centre of learning, also denounced the attacks. Orthodox Copts, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people, are the Middle East’s biggest Christian community.

Copts face regular attack by Muslim neighbours, who burn their homes and churches in poor rural areas, usually in anger over an inter-faith romance or the construction of church. The last major attack on a church took place as worshippers left a new year’s service in Alexandria weeks before the start of the 2011 uprising. At least 21 people were killed.Egypt’s Christian community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014, ruthlessly targeting religious minorities. In 2015, 21 Egyptian Christians working in Libya were killed by Islamic State.The attack came two days after six police were killed in two bomb attacks, one of them claimed by Hasm, a recently-emerged group the government says is linked to the Brotherhood, which has been banned under Sisi as a terrorist organisation.The Brotherhood says it is peaceful. Several exiled Brotherhood officials condemned the bombing, as did Hasm and Liwaa’ al-Thawra, another local militant group. Coptic Pope Tawadros II cut short a visit to Greece after learning of the attack. Church officials said they would not allow the bombing to create sectarian differences. But Christians, convinced attacks on them are not seriously investigated, say this time they want justice. “Where was the security? There were five or six security cars stationed outside so where were they 12 kg of TNT was carried inside?” said Mena Samir, 25, standing at the church’s metal gate. “They keep telling us national unity, the crescent with the cross… This time we will not shut up.” (Additional reporting by Arwa Gaballa, Amr Abdallah, Mohamed Abdel Ghany and Amina Ismail, and Philip Pullella in Rome; Writing by Amina Ismail and Lin Noueihed; Editing by Ros Russell and Raissa Kasolowsky)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 23:02 IST

Syrian army advances in Aleppo but loses Palmyra to Islamic State | Reuters

By Laila Bassam and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
| ALEPPO, Syria/AMMAN

ALEPPO, Syria/AMMAN The Syrian army and its allies made new gains in Aleppo on Sunday, forcing rebels back into an ever shrinking pocket crammed with civilians, but lost control of the desert city of Palmyra to a swift Islamic State attack.Final victory in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city before the civil war, would constitute the biggest triumph yet for President Bashar al-Assad and his coalition of Russian air power, Iran and Shi’ite militias. New army gains on Sunday south of Aleppo’s historic citadel in the besieged insurgent pocket appeared to bring that end closer, with a rebel official saying world powers seemed to be presenting rebels with a choice of “death or surrender”.But the Islamic State attack on Palmyra, 200 km (120 miles) to the southeast, threatens to inflict a serious blow on both Damascus and Moscow, which had trumpeted their capture of the ancient city from the jihadist group in March. Syrian state radio reported on Sunday that the army had evacuated its positions inside Palmyra, whose Roman-era ruins have become an emblem of the nearly six-year conflict. They were redeploying around the city in the face of large jihadist reinforcements after Moscow said its jets had killed hundreds of militants. Islamic State’s advance around Palmyra on Thursday and seizure of the city centre on Sunday despite its months of losses elsewhere showed how far Assad is from regaining control of Syria, even as he stands on the cusp of victory in Aleppo.Analysts have warned that even if Assad defeats the main rebellion, he may still face years of guerrilla insurgency and bombing attacks as he tries to reassert his authority.Heavy shelling and air raids pounded Aleppo’s rebel enclave from midnight on Saturday and throughout Sunday morning, a Reuters reporter in the city said, with explosions at a rate of more than one a minute. Gunfire was also heard. Russian and U.S. officials are meeting in Geneva on Sunday for more talks on an elusive deal for civilians and fighters to leave the city, diplomats said, but the rebel official said the Aleppo insurgents had had no word yet on their progress. FIERCE BOMBARDMENT

Thousands of refugees are still pouring from Aleppo’s areas of fighting. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said more than 120,000 civilians had left the eastern part of the city as the government advance closed in, but that tens of thousands remained.The Turkey-based official from the Jabha Shamiya rebel group, which is present in Aleppo, said that the insurgents’ enclave was reduced to a narrow strip that was full of civilians and under very fierce bombardment. Without external intervention, the struggle would end badly, the official said: “The result will certainly be a complete end of the district, in a tragic way.” The mostly Sunni rebels include groups supported by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies, but also some jihadist factions that receive no assistance from the West. The army seized the al-Maadi district on Sunday morning before rebels were able to return and continue fighting there, said the Jabha Shamiya official. A Syrian military source said the army and its allies had captured the al-Asila and Aaajam districts, southeast of Aleppo’s ancient citadel, as well as the southern portion of the Karam al-Daadaa neighbourhood.

The Observatory also said the army had advanced in those areas. Reuters reporters on a tour of Old City districts captured by the army saw how its historic covered market had been pounded, with ancient quarters reduced to a warren of defensive positions daubed with rebel slogans. “Embrace death for Aleppo” was one. State television showed footage of the east Aleppo fighting: a tank moving slowly along a street as soldiers ran alongside it, smoke and dust billowing around them.

PALMYRA
The civil war has pitted Assad and his allies against rebel groups but also involves a secondary conflict setting all of them against Islamic State.The jihadist group seized Palmyra in May 2015, one of its last major conquests after nearly a year of advances in Syria and neighbouring Iraq that took advantage of the region’s chaos following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Its destruction of some of the best-known ruins and killing of the leading archaeologist in the city provoked global outrage and the army’s recapture of Palmyra was presented by Damascus and Moscow as vindicating Russia’s entry into the war. A video released online by the militant group showed images of the city and its ruins taken from near the medieval castle overlooking the area. The governor of Homs Province, where Palmyra is located, said on Sunday that the government would do all it could to retake the city. Islamic State has suffered a string of setbacks since late last year, losing its once long stretch of territory on the border with Turkey, an important source of supplies and recruits, as well as the city of Manbij. The group is fighting an assault on its most important possession in Iraq, the city of Mosul. It is also under attack north of Raqqa, its Syrian capital, following a series of air strikes that have killed some of its most important leaders.Russian news agencies reported that air strikes had killed 300 militants overnight near Palmyra but that more than 4,000 fighters had still managed to launch the attack on the city. (Reporting by Laila Bassam in Aleppo, Tom Perry in Beirut and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, writing by Angus McDowall; editing by David Stamp)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 21:32 IST

Two Turkish soldiers killed in bomb blast near Syria’s al-Bab: Report

Wed, 7 Dec 2016-03:15pm , Istanbul , Reuters
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Two Turkish soldiers were killed and one was seriously wounded in a vehicle-borne bomb attack near the Islamic State controlled town of al-Bab in northern Syria, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Wednesday.The attack occurred as Syrian rebels, backed by Turkish troops, aircraft and artillery, besieged al-Bab as part of the three-month-old Euphrates Shield operation to push Islamic State and Kurdish militia forces away from Turkey’s border region.

DNA Exclusive: First Indian al Qaeda fighter killed in Syria

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Internationally designated terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusrah, the affiliate of al Qaeda in Syria has publicly announced the first casualty of an Indian fighter in the group. One Abu Salim al Hindi, also known as Abu Salih, was identified as an Indian national by the group in an obit. He is believed to have died in August in the bloody battle between Syrian coalition forces and jihadi rebel groups to break the siege of Aleppo.This is the first time an Indian fighter with al Qaeda splinter group is known to have died in Syria.Fursan al Sham media, an outlet based in Syria run by fighters affiliated with al Qaeda and JFS, released the obit of Abu Salim late Wednesday evening on Telegram channel. The group released details of his death after a three-month delay as it was seeking permission from the family to make the announcement public. “Abu Salim had asked his family be informed upon his death. Before releasing details of his martyrdom through media channels we asked his family’s permission,’’ an Indian fighter who was friends with Abu Salim told DNA. The release says that Abu Salim was the youngest child of his family and had kept contact with them before and after reaching Syria. His family in India is aware that he was in Syria with al Qaeda and he died in August.The obituary written by fellow fighters—known by their social media profiles as Pashtun and Life in Syria—provides a short background and glimpse of an Indian’s journey to the jihadi battlefield in the war-ravaged Levant region. “Abu Salim like many Indians was working for a company outside,” the release says without revealing his real name, identity or background. It however adds that before joining the jihad, Abu Salim was helping families of ‘martyrs’ with funds and logistics. “He once delivered money which reached 15 martyrs’ families,” the obit says. It is not known whether these families were Indian or of other nationalities, but indicates that Abu Salim was in close contact with terrorist groups before joining the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. The armed conflict in Syria that began in 2011 after the mass protests of Arab Spring and the brutal crackdown by President Bashar Assad-led government forces, made Abu Salim determined to “fulfil his obligation of jihad which he had been guided to,” the obit says, adding, “Since a young age he was interested in jihad and after the invasion of Afghanistan, he decided to be a Mujahid… the events in Sham gave him this opportunity.”A large number of foreign fighters, not just from the Arab world but also from Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, fled to Syria to join jihadi and rebel groups fighting the forces of President Assad. It is estimated that the conflict in Syria has led to the largest mobilisation of foreign fighters—over 40,000—since the Afghanistan jihad.The Islamic State’s ideology of Caliphate and call to all Muslims to join the holy war has also lured Indian Muslims who have fled to Syria from their homes in India or from abroad. According to Indian security agencies, around 68 Indians are fighting or staying in Syria as supporters of the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Many of them have joined from foreign countries including the Gulf, which has a large Indian diaspora. Abu Salim is one such case.Salim reached Syria via Turkey, making use of his contacts on social media platform of Twitter, where he found help from another Urdu-speaking foreign fighter. From the time he reached Syria, Abu Salim joined the battle in frontline even without proper military training, the release says. As the battle of Aleppo became intense, he spent days fighting the Syrian-Russian forces. In the first week of August, backed by Russian airstrikes, government loyal forces pounded the rebel held East Aleppo with ground assault. In a bloody confrontation between the JFS militants and pro-regime troops at ‘1070 building complex’ Abu Salim and his commander died. He was newly married.So far seven Indian nationals have died fighting with the Islamic States, including Kalyan resident Aman Tandel whose family received news of his death in Syria. Abu Salim is the first known casualty with IS’ rival group JFS. Canada-based researcher Amarnath Amarsingham, who studies violent extremism and foreign fighters, said many people assume that all foreign fighters are travelling to join ISIS, perhaps because of the media attention the group gets. “But many also join other groups in Syria including JFS. This includes Indians,” he said. Through his research, Amarsingham estimates that around 8-10 Indians have joined JFS in Syria. “The choice of joining IS, JFS or other rebel groups depends on the individual. What’s common amongst Nusra (JFS) fighters is they went to help Sunni Muslims against the regime of Assad. Like Abu Salim, who died during the brutal siege of Aleppo.’’Interestingly, while India banned the Islamic State under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in 2015, thus making any individual joining the group or supporting its activities to be charged with terror offences, AQ-linked Jabhat Fateh al Sham and its affiliates are not proscribed yet.

Kalyan youth who joined Islamic State ‘killed’ in Syria

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a phone call purportedly made from Turkey, an anonymous caller on Saturday claimed that Aman Naeem Tandel, alleged to be an Islamic State (IS) recruit, was killed in an airstrike in Iraq. The call, made to Aman’s father Naeem Tandel in Kalyan, has left the entire Tandel family shocked.Aman, Areeb Majeed, Saheem Tanki and Fahad Sheikh, all from Kalyan, had left for Iraq on the pretext of visiting shrines in Baghdad in May 2014 after they were radicalised online and were induced to join IS. While Majeed returned to India in November 2014, Tanki is believed to have died in suicide bombing in Syria in January 2015.The call came when Naeem was in his residence on the second floor of Kungle apartment in Govindwadi area of Kalyan (West) around 11 pm on Saturday. Naeem was informed that his son had achieved martyrdom in an airstrike.”We are in shock as of now. But we are hoping that the call could be fake. We just want our son to come back. We are yet to be approached by the government officials about the call,” Naeem said.Naeem soon informed his relatives in the locality about the call, and people soon began to gather at his house. Naeem met his friends in a local mosque at Gafoor Don Chowk during namaaz and spoke to his close friends about the anonymous call.Earlier, Areeb Majeed’s family had received a phone call and were informed that Majeed had died fighting for IS. The information turned out to be incorrect, and Majeed returned home via Turkey after he got injured while fighting for IS in Syria.Aman’s family and friends believe that like Majeed, Aman too would return home. Badrudinbhai Khureshi, a neighbour, said: “We don’t believe the call. Earlier too, a similar call was received by Areeb Majeed’s family, but he returned. We believe that Aman too will come back one day.”

Ban on Zakir Naik not the end; India needs vigilance to save Muslim youth

The Indian government’s five-year ban on the supremacist Islamist preacher, Dr Zakir Naik seems to have gratified many people — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — who concern themselves with the pluralistic ethos of the country. But is the story over? How could this eventual ban bring an end to the process of fanatic indoctrination ushering in the age of Internet?

“The story isn’t quite over yet,” says a Firstpost article. “Banning Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years… There is a need to keep a continuous vigil. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be,” it adds.

The above remark is not difficult to understand, bearing in mind that many Muslim youth from Maharashtra left their home to join the Islamic State (IS) earlier this year, some of them allegedly inspired by Naik.

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. CNN-News 18

Peace TV owner Zakir Naik. CNN-News 18

Only recently, an alleged operative of IS was arrested in Sikar district of Rajasthan. This IS sympathiser was involved in raising funds from India, Bangladesh and UAE, and transferring to the IS for the last two years through hawala, PTI had reported.

Here, it is quite pertinent to note that the alleged IS operative was in contact with other sympathisers of the global jihadist organisation via social networking sites. An MBA graduate, who was previously working as an assistant financial manager at a reputed firm in Dubai, he has a wife and children in Mumbai. But instead of caring for his family and earning a livelihood — the most essential duty in Islam — he joined “those who are fighting for a cause”, and is “completely remorseless” in supporting the IS!

There are two crucial points that emerge from this instance of fanatic indoctrination:

First, at a time when extremist preachers like Naik and his organisation, IRF are banned in India, it is equally important to unravel “the cause” which attracts Muslim youth to such indoctrination and join the IS.

Second, as it is clear from the above incident, Muslim youth in India are being indoctrinated through online and digital channels a lot more as compared to the offline activities of the extremist Islamist outfits. Thus, countering online fanaticism is more urgent a challenge before India than banning a radical organisation and a preacher for a few years. Though the latter too is a gigantic task to accomplish, it is no less lethal than the violent spade of terror that attacks through bomb blasts from Mumbai to Kolkata and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Coming back to the first point, the major “cause” which lures the youths to quit their education and career and join a global jihadist outfit like IS is the apocalyptic theory being misconstrued by the Islamist preachers today.

The apocalyptic worldview or millenarian thesis of the radical Islamist preachers is a large part of the attraction for Muslim youth even in India. As propagated by the IS ideologues, we are living in “end-time” (an era close to the doomsday). Therefore, the IS exhorts the Muslim youth to engage in the end-times battle, al-malhama, an Islamic synonym of the Christian theory of Armageddon which refers to the final war between human governments and God.

Though nearly all world religions have prophesies on the end-time, much of the violent political abuse of this concept is seen across the Muslim world. The very apocalyptic theory was an inspiration behind the ideologues of al-Qaeda as well. Much before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Jordanian radical Islamist ideologue Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamist mentors also talked about it but they did not give it primacy.

But for IS, the apocalyptic theory or millenarian thesis is central to its violent ideology. It believes itself to be one of the earliest armies to fight the end-time battle to defeat the governments of kuffar (infidels) and establish the puritanical Shari’ah in its global Islamic state. In order to achieve this long-term goal, the IS has actively engaged in the fulfillment of the pre-requisites of its self-imposed caliphate, such as the revival of pre-Islamic slavery in Arabia. The IS mouthpiece in English Dabiq has published an article which concludes that the revival of slavery before the Hour (doomsday) is imperative. The third article in this issue of Dabiq, entitled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour” clearly says: “Enslaving the families of the kuffar (infidels) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shari’ah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet… and thereby apostatising from Islam”.

The anonymous author of this article who seems to be well-versed in the classical Islamic jurisprudence, further writes: “This large-scale enslavement of mushrik families is probably the first since the abandonment of this Shari’ah law. The only other known case – albeit much smaller – is that of the enslavement of Christian women and children in the Philippines and Nigeria by the mujāhidīn there. The enslaved Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers… .”

Image courtesy: Inside the Caliph

Image courtesy: Inside the Caliph

This IS author justifies the enslavement of not only the kuffar and mushrikin (non-Muslims) but also the Muslim sects other than the Salafis who follow the 12th century puritanical Islamic scholar, Imam Ibn Taimiya. Addressing the question whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam) are entitled to enslavement, as they are “deviant” and “apostate” Muslims, the author avers: “Yazidi women and children (are to be) divided according to the Shari’ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations (in northern Iraq).”

In a foot-note, the author also takes up the question of whether the enslavement would be meted out to the different groups of the Shiites. The answer is as follows: “The enslavement of the apostate women belonging to apostate groups such as the rāfidah, nusayriyyah, durūz, and ismā’īliyyah is one that the fuqahā’ (Islamic jurists) differ over. The majority of the scholars say that their women are not to be enslaved and only ordered to repent because of the hadīth, ‘Kill whoever changes his religion,'” it says referring to Sahīh al-Bukhārī, one of the six hadith collections of Sunni Islam. “But some of the scholars including Shaykhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah and the Ahnāf (Hanafis) say they may be enslaved,” the author adds.

Notice the resemblance between the above remark of the IS ideologue in Dabiq and that of the star Salafist preacher in India, Naik answering a similar question in one of his public talks. Naik justified rather more heinous crime of slavery, “sex slavery” with his masterful misuse of the religious texts of Islam. In the same tone and tenor as that of the IS author, Naik justified sex slavery in 2010 in his public speech (check this video) on the question, “Is sex allowed with slave women in Islam.”

Similarly, Naik’s views on death penalty for those who are declared “apostates” have no conflict with what the IS author has pointed out. According to him, if somebody wanted to convert to any faith other than Islam, the capital punishment would be the most “humane punishment” for such a person. This video of his talk on “capital punishment for apostates” leaves no doubt in the complete replication of Naik’s theology to the inhuman ideology of IS and Taliban.

Thus, through his TV channel and in other so-called Islamic Da’wah programmes, Naik has preached precisely what IS ideologues have. Several articles in Firstpost have candidly exposed Naik as an Islamist supremacist who speaks of sex slaves, wanton killing of apostates and justifies the terror crimes as heinous as suicide bombing. At a time when the world’s progressive Islamic scholars are outraged at the pre-Islamic practice of keeping sex slaves that the IS has now revived, Naik has justified the vile custom.

Just as Dabiq misleads the ordinary English-speaking Muslims of the Middle East, the first Salafist television in India, Peace TV founded and conceived by Naik has misguided scores of English-speaking Indian Muslims who are either gullible or oblivious to the grave threat posed to the tolerant Indian Islam.

At a time when the IS is flogging the fiction of its pre-conceived apocalypse in its bid to revive the vile pre-Islamic custom of slavery and establish its own caliphate, Naik and many other self-styled preachers of Islam have helped the extremist cult expand in the Muslim community the world over. But merely banning the extremist indoctrinators is not sufficient enough to stem the tide. As clearly evidenced above, this extremist tribe is growing more rapidly in the virtual world. The online media is being increasingly used to spread the Islamist radicalism. Therefore, the government needs to provide digital literacy to the Indian youth and civil society organisations, religious scholars and media experts to counter the online indoctrination of the Muslim youth and rescue them from the extremist ideologies.
The author is a scholar of comparative religion, classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. Write to him at: [email protected]

First Published On : Nov 21, 2016 15:57 IST

ISIS operative arrested in Rajasthan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The anti-terrorist squad of Rajasthan has arrested an alleged Islamic State operative in Sikar district who was involved in collecting and transferring funds for the terror organisation from Dubai.”The accused identified as Jamil Ahemad (41) works in Dubai. He is a sympathiser and operative of ISIS. He had been raising funds from India, Bangladesh and UAE and transferring to the ISIS for the last two years through hawala,” ADG-ATS Umesh Mishra said. “He was on our radar for some time. He came to India recently and visited his ancestral house in Fatehpur eight days back. He was picked up by us interrogation and was placed under arrest yesterday,” he told PTI.Ahemad was in touch with other ISIS operatives on social media platform. An MBA graduate, Ahemad was working as the Assistant Financial Manager at a reputed firm in Dubai since 2003. He has a house in Mumbai where his wife and children live, Mishra said. “Our one team is in Mumbai and conducing searches at his house with the help of Mumbai ATS,” he said today.Mishra said that the accused, who has been arrested under prevention of unlawful activities act, has revealed his connections in the ISIS and says that he has no regret. “He is completely remorseless and supports the organisation. He said that those (terrorists) are fighting for a cause,” the officer said, adding, that he is being interrogated.

Zakir Naik saga: IRF ban marks end of an eventful story for Dongri preacher

Not many people outside the Muslim community knew Zakir Naik before he came under the scanner of security agencies and the media in the wake of the 1 July attacks in Dhaka. It may be recalled that on that day, terrorists killed 22 civilians and two police officers before five of them were killed. Immediately after the attack, a report appeared in one of the Bangladesh dailies that some off the terrorists, who participated in the attack, were inspired by Naik’s preaching. The paper later backtracked from its statement, but the controversy it triggered did not die down.

This created waves in India.

The media took this case up in a major way. Naik began appearing in national headlines almost on a daily basis and mostly for the wrong reasons. Even religious leaders from the Muslim community stood up against Naik and asked their members to refrain from listening to his speeches, saying his talks encourage violence and hostility towards non-Muslims. Some supported him too. The media frenzy continued and has not died down since then. Fearing arrest, Naik refused to return to India even when his father passed away recently.

On Tuesday, when the Narendra Modi government banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, Naik’s eventful story of the past two decades seemingly came to an end.

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Zakir Naik. Screen grab from YouTube

How did it all begin?

The son of a physician and educationalist, Abdul Karim Naik, Zakir Naik too is a qualified medical practitioner, who never really practiced medicine.

Instead, his interest was in religious preaching from the very beginning. Naik called himself a student and an expert of ‘comparative religion’ but most of his speeches advocated the supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik loved to play with words by selectively picking and interpreting religious scriptures to establish how Islam is one true religion and the remaining set of beliefs aren’t pure.

During his several speeches in India and abroad, he justified war against Islam’s enemies and in one instance, even ‘suicide bombing’, saying if there is a need to defend the religion from its enemies, there is no harm in self-sacrifice. The preacher also used his television channel, Peace TV to air his speeches. Naik exhorted that Muslims love their country more than anyone and will follow the law of the land, as long as it doesn’t come in the way of the law of creator. Thus, he put the idea of religion above the idea of patriotism and constitutional responsibility of every citizen to his country.

A closer look at previous speeches by the 51-year old showed certain dangers to the religious harmony of the country.

Naik’s illogical arguments about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but convincing enough to those who believe in Islam’s supremacy. In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vante Mataram”, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.

In another, Naik endorsed Osama Bin Laden and Taliban as fighters of Islam and argued why Taliban and Bin Laden were not necessarily damaging the Islam. In one his videos, Naik says:

If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama Bin Laden. If he is terrorising the terrorist I’m with him. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations is also wrong. I’m with those people who are holding the Quran. Even the full world is against them, I’m with them (sic)”

In short, Naik has been clever in his speeches not to get trapped by investigators by playing with words. But, ultimately, he couldn’t convince the investigators as evidenced by the Modi government’s action.

To be sure, Naik has been preaching for more than two decades. The content of his speeches has been pretty much the same all along. But, there was no investigation against him till recently. As Firstpost has noted before, during UPA rule, in 2013, a communication had gone to the Ministry of Home Affairs from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh about the potential threat caused by Naik’s speeches. This was based on a complaint submitted to the PMO. But, the matter ended there.

It took the Dhaka attacks for the Indian government to wake up to the problem (possibly due to media pressure) and initiate action against the Islamic preacher.

The deeper problems

But, it weren’t just his speeches that got Naik into trouble. The alleged links between his organisation IRF and terrorist activities in the country intensified the scrutiny of investigators on Naik and his organisation’s activities. Naik’s name was linked to cases in Kerala in which youths have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State. The Kerala Police has claimed that Arshi Qureshi, guest relations officer of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has links with the Islamic State. This raised questions on the way Naik’s NGO has been using funds, especially money coming from abroad in the form of donations. Early this months, the government banned foreign funding for Naik’s organisations. Naik has so far refused to return to the country and has addressed the media only through web conferences and television interviews.

It is unlikely that he’ll return to the country in the near future since that could lead to his immediate arrest.

The story, however, isn’t quite over yet. Banning Naik’s IRF will not undo the messages he has preached to youth all these years. There is a need to keep continuous vigil. Following the government’s five-year ban, reports suggests that Naik’s lawyers will seek legal recourse against the government’s decision. But, this won’t be easy since government action against the NGO is under the under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Naik might be planning his next moves sitting in Dubai, where he is currently believed to be.

But, the government’s action puts an end to the Naik episode, for now at least.

First Published On : Nov 16, 2016 14:02 IST

Third time lucky? India to pitch for Masood Azhar’s placing on UN sanctions list to China again

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India will take up with China the issue of backing New Delhi’s move for placing JeM chief Masood Azhar on the UN sanctions list against individuals and groups linked to terror groups al Qaeda or Islamic State and check illegal supply of arms to insurgents in the northeast.Home Minister Rajnath Singh will also tell Meng Jianzhu, a top aide of Chinese President Xi Jinping, to stop the practice of Beijing issuing stapled visas to people of Arunachal Pradesh and discuss ways of enhancing anti-terror cooperation when the two leaders meet in Delhi over dinner on Tuesday.Meng, Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China, will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and have talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Wednesday. “All our concerns will be raised before the Chinese leader, who is incharge of internal security of that country,” an official said.China has twice blocked India’s efforts to include Azhar, alleged mistermind of the terror attacks on Pathankot air base and an army camp in Uri, on the UN’s sanctions list containing names of individuals and groups linked to the al Qaeda or Islamic State. New Delhi had expressed concern in the past over the supply of Chinese arms and ammunition to insurgent groups operating in the northeast.India also strongly objected to the practice of China issuing stapled visas to people belonging to Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The Home Minister and the Chinese leader will discuss how to enhance anti-terror cooperation, issues related to liberalisation of the visa regime and other issues of mutual interest, the official said.On the other hand, if China raises the issue of the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh, India will tell the visiting side that the Tibetan spiritual leader is a guest and he is free to visit anywhere in India. Beijing has already objected to the Dalai Lama’s proposed visit to the Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims is a disputed territory.

Islamic State losing ground but still a threat: analysts

Paris: The Islamic State group has been eroded by international efforts to crush the jihadist group but its ability to mount devastating attacks on the West remains very real, defence and security experts say.

As France prepares to mark the first anniversary of the Paris attacks by the group on 13 November, analysts say military defeats in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria will almost certainly not make its Western targets any safer.

“Depriving ISIS of control over population centres and sanctuary to raise funds and train fighters, and breaking it up as key organisation, matters,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), using another name for the group.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. ReutersKurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. Reuters

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters drive vehicles at the front line during a battle with Islamic State militants. Reuters

“Defeating it in any practical sense, however, will not begin to deal with the lasting threat,” he added.

It was in June 2014 that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi proclaimed the creation of a caliphate in land the group had seized in Iraq and Syria and urged Muslims who shared the group’s vision to join them.

Thousands of foreigners answered his call, among them several French and Belgian men who would go on to slaughter 130 people in a Paris concert hall and at bars and restaurants.

The bloodshed in Paris contributed to strengthening the resolve of the West to fight IS.

A year on, Iraqi forces backed by the air power of the United States and countries including France are locked in fierce fighting to re-take Iraq’s second city of Mosul from the jihadist group.

On Sunday, a US-backed Kurdish and Arab force said it had begun an assault on the city of Raqqa, IS’s stronghold in Syria.

Recruits drying up

These military efforts have led to a sharp reduction in the number of foreigners making the trek to join IS forces in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon says from 2,000 a month in early 2015, the figure is now just 200.

Tighter controls on the Turkish border — the main gateway to Syria — and improved surveillance by European intelligence have also helped stem the flow of foreign recruits.

The military onslaught on IS has also slowed the production of the slick, blood-drenched propaganda which has played a prominent role in attracting recruits.

The number of articles or videos posted online by the jihadists’ official media outlets dropped by 70 percent, from 700 items in August 2015 to 200 a year later, according to a report by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the elite US West Point military academy.

The author of the report, Daniel Milton, said while IS’s main selling point was the creation of its self-proclaimed caliphate, it was now “struggling to maintain the appearance of a functioning state”.

Most experts agree, however, that crushing IS’s hopes of establishing the caliphate will not diminish its ability to launch attacks against the West.

‘Powerful magnet’

“In the minds of supporters in the US, EU, North Africa, and elsewhere, the appeal of the Islamic State has not dissipated with its territorial losses. For some, the group remains a powerful magnet that attracts violence and a sense of belonging,” the US-based Soufan security analysis group said recently.

It is possible that the group’s losses in Mosul and elsewhere “could lead to an increase in external support, and a corresponding increase in the threat of terrorism around the world,” it added.

While IS may now find it harder to launch complex operations such as the Paris attacks, Western governments fear an increase in attacks by individuals who are merely inspired by the group.

“We are probably in a phase with fewer spectacular operations but more individual acts, with inspiration coming through from the Internet,” said Didier Le Bret, who was France’s national intelligence coordinator until September this year.

French authorities, for example, suspect a French-born IS propagandist, Rachid Kassim, guided an attack in July in which an elderly priest was murdered. Kassim, who is thought to be based in Syria, used the encrypted message system Telegram.

Another growing threat is the return of foreign fighters to their countries of origin as IS’s territory shrinks.

Joby Warrick, the American journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize this year for his book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, believes 40,000 foreigners have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight.

He told AFP some will come home and try to resume normal lives. “Others will be, perhaps, these Trojan horse-type figures, ones that will be interested in carrying out terrorist attacks,” he said.

The challenge for law enforcement and for intelligence agencies would be “to separate those that have terrorist ambitions from the ones who just want to get on with regular lives, and perhaps be helpful, in the sense that they can counter the ISIS message,” Warrick said.

Le Bret meanwhile said regardless of its military defeats “IS retains its main strength — weakening our society from the inside”.

The group has proven adept at exploiting social divisions in France, where both the Paris attacks and the assault on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 hardened attitudes in some quarters towards the Muslim community.

And the jihadists have also sought to destabilise North African countries such as Tunisia, believing that weakening their economies is the best way to create new supporters.

US embassy warns Americans of IS attack

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The US Embassy in New Delhi has issued a travel advisory to American citizens warning of increased threats of attacks by terrorist organisation the Islamic State (ISIS) against foreign travellers. The advisory issued on Tuesday has warned Americans to be vigilant while travelling to religious sites, markets and festival venues.Although there is no presence of IS group within India, security agencies have detained more than 50 suspects in connection of setting IS inspired terror modules in the country. The US advisory has come close on the heels of reports that suspects were planning to attack foreign nationals on behalf of IS in order to gain recognition and world wide attention for their acts. In at least two such cases involving suspects arrested in Kolkata and Kerala recently, police officials said they were looking for foreign nationals as a target. The suspects were told to decapitate the foreigners, film the act and send the video to their handlers (leaders) which would be later claimed by IS.The IS module in neighbouring Bangladesh picked on foreign nationals as its target who were shot at or hacked by machetes.

U.S. issues travel advisory for India amid fears of Islamic State attacks | Reuters

U.S. issues travel advisory for India amid fears of Islamic State attacks | Reuters

Updated: Nov 1, 2016 23:09 IST

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NEW DELHI The U.S. embassy in New Delhi issued a security message to American citizens in India on Tuesday to be vigilant following reports that Islamic State may be planning to attack targets there.”Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India,” the advisory said, warning of an increased threat to places frequented by Westerners such as religious sites, markets and festival venues.ISIL is an acronym for the jihadist organisation, which has seized territory in Iraq and Syria.

“All U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness,” the advisory said.

Officials from the National Investigation Agency, India’s counter-terrorism unit, has been quoted as saying that an Indian man arrested last month in Tamil Nadu and charged with terrorism offences had been an active member of Islamic State in Iraq.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Gareth Jones)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Brics Summit in Goa: The grouping wasn’t tough on terror, nor did it mean to

Terrorism was apparently the focus of the just-concluded Brics Summit in Goa.

And to an extent, it was.

After all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked tough on the awful phenomenon in all his speeches over the course of the weekend, going so far as to refer to Pakistan as ‘the mothership of terrorism‘. It’s almost a certainty that he brought up terrorism, particularly the sort gift-wrapped and sent across the border from our considerate neighbours to the North West, over the course of all his bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Brics and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summits.

TV news channels and news websites ran excerpts from the joint statement — known as the Goa Declaration — issued by the leaders of Brics countries, highlighting this part:

We strongly condemn the recent several attacks, against some Brics countries, including that in India. We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any acts of terrorism, whether based upon ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic or any other reasons. We agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating international terrorism both at the bilateral level and at international fora.

Other sections of the Goa Declaration went into great detail about specific aspects. The Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and ‘other terrorist organisations designated by the UN Security Council’ received a mention. So too did ‘terrorist activities in Afghanistan’, terrorism in Africa, chemical and biological forms of terror, ‘foreign terrorist fighters’, ‘International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation’ and so on.

It was a lot like a symposium on climate change, where everything under the sun is discussed and noted, except greenhouse gases. And no, it is not the intention of this piece to refer to terrorism emanating from Pakistan as a greenhouse gas.

The intention is, however, to point out that these pronouncements on terror are nothing new and do little to indicate that India has prevailed upon the group to examine — much less seek a crackdown on — the biggest source of terror attacks in India. The intention is also to point out that a failure to get Pakistan, whether in name or in the form of a reference to the Uri/Pathankot attacks, is actually something of a setback from India’s point of view. The simple mention of “recent several attacks, against some Brics countries, including that in India (emphasis added)” is frankly insufficient.

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Here’s one question that will arise at this point: Modi more than made his views clear to all the countries at the Brics and Bimstec summits, so why does India need that to be part of a joint statement — which in itself, is not legally binding?

Let’s address the second part first. A Brics joint statement is largely a set of goals that all five countries will strive to achieve. It is not legally binding. However, what it does project is a sense of unity and agreement on a an issue. It sends the world a message that all five of these countries — that together account for over half the world’s population and more than a quarter of its GDP — stand together on a particular issue. By daintily stepping around a particular issue, the statement betrays the notion that not all members agree on a particular point, in this case, Pakistan’s role in fomenting terror.

But, the statement spoke at great length about terrorism, you may well reiterate. And that is true. But none of these aspects of terrorism are contentious. No one disagrees that the Islamic State must be wiped out. No one disagrees that chemical and biological weapons in the hands of terrorists are a bad thing. No one disagrees that terrorism in Africa — perpetrated by the likes of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and their ilk — must be stamped out. These are truisms.

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma at the press statement during the Brics Summit in Goa on Sunday. PTI

Benaulim: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian president Michel Temer, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Xi Jinping and South African president Jacob Zuma at the press statement during the Brics Summit in Goa on Sunday. PTI

It’s instructive, at this point, to look at previous Brics declarations to see how little the grouping’s view of terrorism has truly changed since the first summit.

Yekaterinburg (Russia), 2009

“We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reiterate that there can be no justification for any act of terrorism anywhere or for whatever reasons. We note that the draft Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism is currently under the consideration of the UN General Assembly and call for its urgent adoption.”

The Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) has only really faced opposition from the US, Israel, a handful of Latin American countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation bloc. None of the Brics members are opposed to it and so, this part of the statement didn’t really add all that much.

Brasilia (Brazil), 2010

“We condemn terrorist acts in all forms and manifestations. We note that the fight against international terrorism must be undertaken with due respect to the UN Charter, existing international conventions and protocols, the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions relating to international terrorism, and that the prevention of terrorist acts is as important as the repression of terrorism and its financing. In this context, we urge early conclusion of negotiations in the UN General Assembly of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and its adoption by all Member States.

Brazil and China express their sympathy and solidarity with the people and Governments of Russia and India which suffered from recent barbaric terrorist attacks. Terrorism cannot be justified by any reason.”

A slightly more elaborate section on terrorism found its way into the second ever Bric (South Africa was yet to become a member) joint statement. However, aside from lip service that condemned terror attacks in Russia and India (presumably referring to the Germany Bakery blast in Pune), there was nothing new. The CCIT made a return.

Sanya (China), 2011

“We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism. We believe that the United Nations has a central role in coordinating the international action against terrorism within the framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with principles and norms of the international law. In this context, we urge early conclusion of negotiations in the UN General Assembly of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and its adoption by all Member States. We are determined to strengthen our cooperation in countering this global threat. We express our commitment to cooperate for strengthening international information security. We will pay special attention to combat cybercrime.”

Information security and cybercrime made their debuts in the 2011 edition of the Brics Summit. Opinion on whether or not Russia and China are the right candidates to speak about ‘combat(ing) cybercrime’ will be reserved. But again, it was much of the same.

Delhi (India), 2012

“We reiterate that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any act of terrorism in any form or manifestation. We reaffirm our determination to strengthen cooperation in countering this menace and believe that the United Nations has a central role in coordinating international action against terrorism, within the framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with principles and norms of international law. We emphasise the need for an early finalisation of the draft of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UN General Assembly and its adoption by all Member States to provide a comprehensive legal framework to address this global scourge.”

Most notably, the language used in the Delhi Declaration was far more dramatic than the previous joint statements: ‘Emphasise the need’, ‘countering this menace’ and ‘global scourge’. Great copy, no doubt, but what did it really do to push the agenda along?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma shake hands after issuing the press statement. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian president Michel Temer, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Xi Jinping and South African president Jacob Zuma shake hands after issuing the press statement. PTI

Durban (South Africa), 2013

“We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism. We believe that the UN has a central role in coordinating international action against terrorism within the framework of the UN Charter and in accordance with principles and norms of international law. In this context, we support the implementation of the UN General Assembly Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and are determined to strengthen cooperation in countering this global threat. We also reiterate our call for concluding negotiations as soon as possible in the UN General Assembly on the Comprehensive Convention on International terrorism and its adoption by all Member States and agreed to work together towards this objective.”

The UN General Assembly’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy found a mention in this particular joint statement, but a clear pattern had already emerged by the fifth Brics Summit: Keep it general and keep pushing for CCIT.

Fortaleza (Brasil), 2014

The Fortaleza Declaration was an interesting change from the norm as it spent around four or five pages on the violent (and verging on, if not directly related to, terrorism) problems in Africa, West Asia (Syria and Iraq) and Afghanistan. And while Al-Qaeda was named, the usual throwaway line — which one assumes is meant to cover India — also made an appearance for good measure:

We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification, whatsoever, for any acts of terrorism, whether based upon ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic, or any other justification…

Ufa (Russia), 2015

With the Syria eyeballs-deep in chaos and the purview of the Islamic State having spread to Europe and beyond, this statement appropriately spent a lot of time on the situation in Syria. The Al-Nusrah Front and Islamic State were mentioned by name and several crises in Africa were highlighted. But those hoping to see the insertion of something relating more closely to India in the statement had to make to with the usual:

“We reiterate our strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress that there can be no justification-…”

You get the idea.

It’s worth noting here that the number of mentions that ‘terror’ has found in joint statements has gone up over the past three summits, which is encouraging. Unfortunately, a large part of this is linked to the turmoil in West Asia that is spilling over across the world, and the intensification (in intent, if not action) of international condemnation of the Islamic State.

Getting back to Indian interests, while the Goa Declaration was incredibly detailed in its identification of sources of terrorism (37 mentions of ‘terror’ is testament to that), the fact that neither Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad nor Jamaat-ud-Dawah found any mention in the statement should have come as a surprise to no one. China, the country that refuses to recognise Masood Azhar (JeM leader) or Hafiz Saeed (JuD leader) as terrorists, is after all a key member of Brics. Therefore, getting the grouping to agree on anything meaningful regarding the source of terrorism that targets India was always going to be a tough task.

Perhaps the bar of expectations had been set too high — maybe unfairly so — after India’s resounding success of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit boycott, wherein Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka joined India in refusing to go to Islamabad (to protest against Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of foreign policy) for the annual high-level meet of the grouping. But, Saarc is no Brics. Both groupings must be seen as what they are.

Saarc is a regional grouping where all matters that affect South Asia are discussed. India enjoys a great deal of support within Saarc.

Brics is a non-regional grouping where the primary agenda is to create an alternate financial architecture that seeks to give equal opportunities to developing economies — something, it has been argued, the present Bretton Woods institutions do not. The New Development Bank, launched by Brics, is a step in that direction. Acting on terrorism aimed at India, however, is not part of the grouping’s raison d’être. India enjoys the support of Russia and to an extent, South Africa and Brazil. But China, among whose allies Pakistan features highest, is a different kettle of fish. Competing interests mean New Delhi will never have the backing of Beijing in issues that also relate to Pakistan.

And so, terrorism may well have been the focus of the summit, but terrorism aimed at India will never figure that high on the Brics agenda.

Twitter is a graveyard of bullies, will close down in 5 years: Chetan Bhagat

New Delhi: Bestselling author Chetan Bhagat Bhagat, who has often been the target of social media trolls, feels Twitter has become a “graveyard of bullies”.

Hitting out at Twitterati who gang up against celebrities, he says their actions stem from a “mob-like mentality”.

Chetan Bhagat. AFP

Chetan Bhagat. AFP

“It has become a graveyard of bullies. Trolls have made Twitter negative to a point where celebrities have stopped talking much on the platform,” Bhagat told PTI.

According to him, celebrities are increasingly shifting to other social platforms like Instagram to avoid the “negativity”, predicting that Twitter’s end is round the corner.

“I think Twitter is going to suffer and in five years it will close down like Orkut and Myspace. Because, people are moving to platforms like Instagram.”

“Only writers and media persons are there. All actors and other celebrities are gone. They are on Instagram now!” says the writer, who has close to 9 million followers on Twitter.

Bhagat, however, continues to be active on the platform to promote his books and use it for his “publicity”.

“When my book is out, I deliberately go there. I know the medium is like a minefield and it has only become negative. When people are using my name to write negatively about me and get a few laughs and attention, then I will also use it for my publicity,” he says.

Besides announcing the release of the trailer of his latest book One Indian Girl, Bhagat has also been using Twitter to promote the film adaptations of his books, the latest being, Half Girlfriend starring Shraddha Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor.

His latest “publicity” stunt on the platform was asking his readers to post picture of their copy of One Indian Girl in a beautiful backdrop, the best of which he would retweet.

The author was trolled with pictures of the book on a weighing balance with a pile of old newspapers and in the hands of an Islamic State militant about to execute a hostage by making him read the book among others.

Talking about his tweets on the Uri attack and subsequently on the surgical strikes, the 42-year-old author feels that social media is a space that must be used for free speech.

“Writers are supposed to say what they feel is right. Sometimes it could be pro, sometimes anti-government. Writers who say I am only going to take an anti-government position are stupid. When my government does corruption I will speak against it but when they are retaliating on a terrorist attack I will support them,” he says.

Coimbatore: NIA questions three youths suspected with links to ISIS

Wed, 12 Oct 2016-08:55pm , Coimbatore , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three youths with suspected links with Islamic State (IS) were picked up by NIA on Wednesday and are being questioned to probe their alleged association with another suspect arrested from Kannur in Kerala. The NIA had already questioned 13 youths, residing in and around GM Nagar in South Ukkadam in the city during the last 10 days on their reported links with Abu Basheer, one of the six arrested from Kannur earlier this month for being part of an ISIS inspired module who allegedly conspired to carry out terrorist acts.They were in the Facebook and telephone contact list of Basheer. Laptops, mobile phones and some electronic gadgets were also and seized from them.

After arrest of six suspected IS activists, NIA continues ‘follow up work’ in Tamil Nadu

Chennai: After the arrest of a Tamil Nadu resident for his alleged links with terror group Islamic State (IS), the National Investigating Agency’s (NIA) sleuths are questioning suspects in the state. NIA on Thursday said it has arrested Subahani Haja Moideen, a resident of Kadayanallur in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, for allegedly “joining and supporting the activities of the IS,” a terror outfit banned in the country.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

He was picked up by NIA on 3 October from his residence and after questioning he was arrested on Wednesday, the NIA said. NIA’s action also follows the arrest of six men in Kerala on 2 October, including 29-year-old man Abu Basheer alias Rashid alias Buccha – from Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore District.

Abu Basheer was among six persons held for being part of an IS inspired module who allegedly conspired to carry out terrorist acts. Also, 26-year-old Swalih Mohammed T alias Yousuf alias Abu Hasna, a resident of Chennai and native of Kerala, was also among the six men and he was working for a corporate firm here that runs a chain of resorts.

Against this background, NIA is continuing what officials called its “follow up work and questioning.” “NIA officials are holding inquiries based on their inputs. Suspects are being questioned in districts including Coimbatore and Tirunelveli,” a senior police official told PTI.

To a question, he said though “inquiries” were made on Thursday too “with some men here” by NIA sleuths, it does not appear to be “the probe connected to the IS inspired module”. “Searches were made and some questioned in respect of Swalih Mohammed who was residing in Chennai,” he said.

To another question, the official said, “Nothing can be said as of now on questioning of suspects and others who may be in a position to aid probe as these are all part of routine investigation.” He said Tamil Nadu Police was “just supporting NIA” in its probe and will not be able to comment more on the matter.

NIA gets custody of six suspected Islamic State activists in Kerala

NIA gets custody of six suspected Islamic State activists in Kerala

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Kochi: A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Monday sent six youths — suspected to be activists of Islamic State — to the NIA’s custody till 14 October.

These youths — all aged below 30 — were arrested from north Kerala on Sunday.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The National Investigating Agency told the court that these young men were part of a 10-member group.

One of them had returned from Qatar 10 days ago. His wife and sister denied he had anything to do with the IS terror outfit.

The relatives and friends of the other accused too expressed surprise over the development.

On Sunday, the NIA said it had busted a terror module with the arrest of the six persons who were accused of conspiring to execute terror acts.

The investigating agency had registered a case at its Kochi branch under law provisions dealing with criminal conspiracy, waging or attempting to wage war against the government etc., and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Bangladesh acquits student suspected in July cafe attack | Reuters

Bangladesh acquits student suspected in July cafe attack | Reuters

Oct 2, 2016 23:28 IST

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DHAKA A man who was dining in a Dhaka cafe when it was attacked by Islamist militants and who was later detained as a suspect has been acquitted of terrorism charges and released on bail, police said on Sunday.Tahmid Hasib Khan, 22, was at the Holey Artisan Bakery on the evening of July 1 when it was stormed by militants, beginning a 12-hour siege in which 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, two police officers and six suspected attackers died.In video footage filmed by witnesses and militants, Khan appeared holding a pistol and talking to the hostage-takers, but police said forensic analysis had shown the Toronto University student had been forced to do so. Based on these findings and there being no witnesses or other evidence of Khan’s involvement in the attack, a court in Dhaka had acquitted him, Masudur Rahman, spokesman of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police told Reuters.

Khan is the second person to be released without charge in an investigation that has led to only seven arrests, leading to criticism of the police by some newspapers and social media.The cafe attack was the worst in a recent escalation of violence by Islamist militants in Bangladesh that has included a rise in killings of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million.

Although Al Qaeda and Islamic State have been making competing claims of responsibility, the government has dismissed suggestions that Islamic State has a presence in Bangladesh, even though ‘selfies’ of some of the attackers posing with an automatic rifle were posted on the jihadi group’s propaganda outlets during the siege.Khan’s case, and that of another man, Hasnat Karim, who has British and Bangladeshi dual citizenship, has also drawn criticism from human rights groups who say they were illegally detained and denied access to a lawyer.

Karim and Khan were among 32 survivors rescued by police and taken into custody for questioning. Karim, a 47-year-old engineer, was at the cafe with his family to celebrate his daughter’s 13th birthday. (Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Kerala: NIA takes five people with suspected Islamic State link into custody

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Five persons with suspected links to Islamic State (IS) were taken into custody in the district on Sunday by National Investigation Agency (NIA). Police said the NIA picked up the five persons at Kanakamala near Panur in the district.However, they did not disclose any further details. Recently 21 persons from Kerala were suspected to have joined the IS after being reported missing by their families and police have registered a case and are investigating. More info awaited.

Tweeting Jihadism: How the online onslaught of Islamic State can be countered

This part two picks up from the previous part where the author discusses how the Islamic State terrorists use Twitter to drive communications over other social media platforms and Twitter’s crackdown on hundreds of thousands of these pro-Islamic State accounts. The author also explains how social media platforms, particularly Twitter, ‘serves as a breeding ground for the terrorists’. 

Numerous research findings have corroborated the vital functioning of online media in the process of radicalisation. Mass communication portals and social networking sites are facilitating the interconnection between the radical preachers and Islamic State sympathisers, like Anjem Choudary, and the gullible Muslims. This situation has triggered an academic debate on the online media’s key role in mediating and popularising the extremist narratives among a section of the Muslim audience.

According to the Times of India report, it was the US-based non-profit think tank RAND Corporation which studied the Twitter accounts supporting Islamic State between July 2014 and May 2015. The think tank found that over 75,000 accounts were tweeting pro-Islamic State messages about 60 times a day on an average, which made them 50 percent more active than their online detractors.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Prior to this report, RAND also carried out a rigorous research on ‘radicalisation in the digital era’. Based on case studies, it primarily explored how individuals were engaged with the internet during the process of their radicalisation. For instance, a study held by RAND titled “The use of the internet in 15 cases of terrorism and extremism” has developed a nuanced understanding of the role of the online media in radicalisation. Some of the fundamental questions that this study sought to address are: How the radical Islamist groups are using the internet to indoctrinate radicalism into an individual’s mind, and what are the ways in which a radical Islamist’s online engagement relates to his offline activities?

RAND’s study also offers precise and useful recommendations for framing policy responses to the use of the digital media in the process of radicalisation. It argues that the digital media is an enabling technology in the case of growing Islamist radicalisation and thus this ‘online onslaught’ can best be tackled online only.

Empirical evidence in this study supports the hypotheses that internet eases the online process of radicalisation and that it acts as an ‘echo chamber’ (a place where individuals find their ideas supported and echoed by other like-minded individuals). But this evidence relies only on a few cases which buttress the point that internet facilitates the radicalisation of Muslim users of certain Islamist websites and online portals. Although it is not the only driver of the radicalisation process. However, there is no substantial evidence in this study to corroborate the main hypothesis that the study holds. For instance, the online media maximises the potentials of self-radicalisation or that it occurs without any physical contact.

Several other think tanks have studied the scope of ‘digital radicalisation’ from an anti-terrorism perspective.

A research journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism published a detailed report titled, “Tweeting the Jihad: Social Media Networks of Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq” in 2015. Jytte Klausen, the compiler of this report, did a social network analysis of the data on Twitter users, mostly militants, based in Western Syria. He used a snowball method with 59 starter accounts to collect data about the most popular accounts in the network at large from January to March 2014. The researchers engaged in this study used their own Twitter accounts to identify potential foreign fighters in Syria. A total of 60 accounts were initially identified but one was inactive at the time, and therefore excluded from analysis.

Klausen also used the social network analysis (SNA) tool in order to recognise the crucial disseminators of content that drove the traffic on Twitter. Using a snowball method, the original accounts were treated as “starter nodes” in a network of followers creating a larger dataset that covered the entire network. The snowball method captured a particular network that comprised only a slice of the global network of the Twitter. However, the analytical platforms of this study could not encompass the larger scope of the dataset for the whole of Twitter’s network. Due to lack of capacity of the analytical platforms, there could not have been more sophisticated analytical description.

Another American think tank like RAND – Brookings Institution – based in Washington, D.C, found in its “Twitter Census” that Islamic State supporters used at least 46,000 accounts between September and December 2014. Alarmed at this increasing trend of Twitter jihadism, the social media network’s daily suspensions of terror-linked accounts have jumped to 80 percent since 2015. Twitter has suspended an additional 2,35,000 accounts since February 2016, after halting 1,25,000 accounts since the middle of 2015, most of which were related to Islamic State.

However, experts believe that merely blocking the jihadist accounts on Twitter is not a guarantee for their complete elimination. Since the beginning of February 2016 when Twitter began this crackdown, terrorist accounts have started migrating to Telegram. Nevertheless, Telegram channels of the terror indoctrinators are also being shut down just like the Twitter accounts. But in recent years, several accounts promoting terrorism, particularly Islamic State, have used Facebook as their platform.

Clearly, just blocking the jihadist accounts on certain social platforms is not the solution. Also, a well-thought-out, well-reasoned, coherent and effective counter-narrative against the extremist rhetoric is imperative.

In this gigantic anti-extremism moderate, Islamic scholars and thinkers can help. Since the jihadist indoctrination and recruitment of the Muslim youth has been on the rampage in the cyber world, the ‘online de-radicalisation’ is desperately required.

In this task, the fundamental questions that should be grappled with are: What drives online radicalisation to rely on a religious justification? – How operative is the “ideology” within the process of online radicalisation? What is the significance of “idealism” and “theodicy” and how these could be interpreted and implemented? – As most terrorists loudly claim to be inspired by Islamism, what is the moderate response of the Muslims to the violent extremist ideology; and how they interpret Qur’an and Hadith – the two primary sources of Islam – to counter radicalisation?

Omar Ashour, the author of “The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements”, wrote a paper ‘Online De-Radicalization? Countering Violent Extremist Narratives: Message, Messenger and Media Strategy’. Based on his empirical knowledge of the impact of religion on radicalisation, he explored the role of the ‘new media’ or the online media in indoctrinating the violent extremist narratives into the young and impressionable Muslim minds. At the same time, he also examined how the online media and internet, as opposed to its effects on radicalisation, can play an effective role in promoting a counter-narrative to facilitate the process of online de-radicalisation.

The very first question Ashour addressed was: Whether online counter-extremism is possible? In conclusion, he offers what could be a ‘concrete solution’ in his mind to ‘online radicalisation’. He opines that the ongoing online extremist indoctrination can only be countered by an online de-radicalisation. To work out an effective and impacting counter-narrative, he avers, we need to channelise digital media – websites, online newspapers, blogs, wikis, internet TV and most importantly social media.

Indeed, without an online counter-narrative, we cannot tackle the onslaught of the extremist Islamist narratives. But it is very unsettling that no such strategy has been evolved to control the ongoing digital radicalisation even in the US, UK or India. Ironically, this is too difficult a task for even these countries of the best tech-savvy people. One still fails to understand it. If the government-led high-tech teamwork is not capable enough to battle the jihadist radicalisation, no wonder that the executives from Twitter, Telegram, Apple Snapchat, Facebook, MTV to Buzzfeed still fail to tackle the online onslaught of the Islamic State.

The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Write to him at [email protected]

The Radicalisation Series: Analysing the threat to Muslim youths in India

The issue of the radicalisation of Indian Muslims is one that has been gaining momentum for a while now. While some continue to swim in the ‘this only happens in other country’ sea of denial, others are beginning to grasp the gravity of the situation and suggesting ways to counter it. In an exclusive four-part series on radicalisation in India, Tufail Ahmad examines a variety of conditions and scenarios that have made it possible to radicalise youths in Maharashtra, Hyderabad, Kerala and indeed, India as a whole. The first part of the series follows:

From early 2014 through this year, the radicalisation of Indian Muslims in favour of the Islamic State (or IS) has not ceased, although intelligence agencies have succeeded in preventing dozens of youths from leaving India to join the jihadi group. A review of media reports over the past three years indicates that the number of affected youths — ie those who left for Syria, others who were stopped from leaving India and counselled, and those under surveillance — is around 350. This figure is on the lower side, but does not take into account the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Radicalisation is the process of directly and indirectly motivating Muslims to participate in jihadi terror, based on religious teachings and grievance-nurturing by Islamic preachers, the Urdu press and other Islamic media. Radicalisation has always existed in India leading to bomb blasts on many occasions, but that it could pose a serious challenge to the security of India was realised first in mid-2014 when four youths left Mumbai for Iraq and Syria — one of them, Areeb Majeed, returned later from Turkey, where he had ended up for medical treatment after being wounded in Syria.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

From then till now, around a dozen states have witnessed incidents of radicalisation including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Assam, Punjab (for pro-Khalistan radicalisation), Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In the run-up to Republic Day this year, at least 14 suspects were arrested. In June, five youths were arrested in Hyderabad, leading to two more arrests in July. Around two dozen youths, who were known to each other, left Kerala in early July for Syria. In the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, four youths were arrested in July. The argument here is this: Radicalisation in India has not ceased since 2014, leaving no room for complacency.

Political correctness forces analysts not to see the ideological nature of the jihadi terror. A usual shortcut is to blame the internet for radicalisation. This is contrary to evidence. In the 20th Century when there was no internet, the streets of Lahore looked much like the streets of Paris today. In December 1926, Swami Shraddhanand was killed by Abdur Rasheed, perhaps the first lone-wolf jihadi, for publishing Satyarth Prakash, a book critical of Prophet Muhammad. In 1929, Rajpal of the Rajpal Publisher of Lahore, was killed, much like the editors of Charlie Hebdo magazine and exactly for the same theological reason, by Ghazi Ilmuddin for publishing the book. The Islamist poet Muhammad Iqbal praised him. Hyderabadi leader Asaduddin Owaisi is not the first Muslim leader to offer legal aid to IS suspects. Ilmuddin’s case was defended in court by MA Jinnah.

In modern times, Sufism, supported by the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, is presented as peaceful. In 1936, Murid Hussain, a Sufi from Chakwal in the present-day Pakistan, went on to kill Dr Ram Gopal after he was visited by Prophet Muhammad in dream. The alleged reason for killing was that an animal was named by Gopal after the prophet. Major Nidal Hasan, who shot dead his colleagues at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, is not the first Muslim soldier to be radicalised. In 1937, Miyan Muhammad of the Indian Army shot dead a Hindu soldier in Karachi. In 1942, Babu Merajuddin killed his Sikh officer Major Hardyal Singh allegedly for questioning the sacrifice of animals on Eid-al-Azha, the feast of sacrifice. Guantanamo Bay is also not the first offshore prison for jihadis. Lone-wolf attackers were sent by British officers to Andaman Islands.

While the Mumbai’s four had left India before Abu Bakr Al-Baghadi declared himself on June 30, 2014 as the caliph of all Muslims, soon his call for all Muslims to perform Hijrah (migration) to the IS in the Iraq-Syria region caught the imagination of youths. Hijrah marks the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina where a large number of people had converted to Islam. It has special connotation in the minds of Muslims. In India, the pattern of Hijrah over the past three years showed two trends: One, Indian Muslim youths based in London, Qatar, the UAE, Afghanista-Pakistan region, Singapore and Australia travelled directly to Syria to join the ISIS; two, some youths left directly from India for Afghanistan, Iran and some West Asian capitals to join the IS or were prevented from boarding flights at Nagpur and Hyderabad, or stopped in Kolkata.

In July 2015, a note prepared by the Home Ministry noted: “As per available intelligence inputs, very few number of Indian youth(s) have joined ISIS after travelling to Iraq and Syria. Further, intelligence/security agencies have foiled the plan of some youth(s) to travel to Iraq/Syria who are under counselling and monitoring at present. A certain number of IS sympathisers are also under surveillance by security agencies.”

A report dated 28 September, 2015, published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, put the number of those under surveillance at 250. As of last July, it appears that the number of Muslim youths arrested over the past three years in different states of India for pro-IS radicalisation is at least 60. Reports in the press indicate that at least 30 Muslims from India could be present in Syria with IS and there are some Indians based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. While the fundamental reasons for radicalisation and justifications for jihad are rooted in Islamic teachings, glorification of Islamic history and grievance mongering, one must bear in mind that the jihadi threat to India emanates also from the rise of jihadi movements in West Asia and the inability of the big powers to stabilise the situation.

Unless that happens, security agencies in India will need to remain alert.

FP-Radicalisation-Series

Stay tuned for the next three parts of the series:

Part Two: Radicalisation of Muslim youths in Maharashtra
Part Three: Radicalisation of Muslim youths in Hyderabad
Part Four: Radicalisation of Muslim youths in Kerala

Tufail Ahmad is a former BBC journalist and the Executive Director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif

dna Morning Must Reads: India, Syria to intensify security consultations; Govt mulls advancing Union Budget by a month; and more

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>1. Islamic State threat: India, Syria to intensify security consultationsUpgradation of security consultations, tighter traveller screening on anvil. Read more.2. Government mulls advancing Union Budget by a month to 31 JanuaryThe government is mulling advancing Union Budget to January end so as to complete the budget exercise before the beginning of the new fiscal. Read more.3. Bihar: Enormous discharge of water into Sone, Ganga, leads to worst flood since 1975Nine deaths have been reported from Bhojpur, while two each were reported from Bhagalpur and Vaishali. Read more.4. 28-year-old JNU student allegedly raped by AISA activist in hostelThe incident is said to have taken place inside the campus on August 20. Read more.5. Akshay Kumar ‘owns’ Independence DayAfter back-to-back releases on two ID weekends, he will return next year with ‘Crack’. Read more.

Hyderabad terror arrests signal deepening roots of Islamic State in India

Recent arrests of Hyderabad-based youths by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with their links to the Islamic State, signal the deepening presence of Islamic terror organisations in the country. In the recent years, the terror organisation has had a visible change in its operative strategy in the recent years to use internet to attract youth.

The NIA, on Wednesday, took 11 persons into custody after identifying them as Islamic State operatives.

“They came under the scanner after behavioural changes were noticed in them. On the basis of information passed on by the locals, the NIA kept a tab on their activities”, The Hindu quoted an official as saying.

More worryingly, those arrested were also found to be in possession of ammonium nitrate and other chemicals that are used in making highly destructive IEDs, The Hindustan Times reported.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The development is also critical since at least two of those detained were engineering graduates while one is believed to be a management graduate. Their handler, Yusuf al-Hindi, is reported to be in Syria.

Add to it, the city of Hyderabad is increasingly becoming the terror back office of India.

Besides the Islamic State, in the last few years, militants belonging to Islamic terror outfits such as Lashkar and SIMI have also been caught in Hyderabad.

Building a homegrown breed of militants seems to be the new strategy of the terror outfit. Up till now, 54 suspected IS sympathisers have been arrested across India. The prospect of “freelance jihadists” is worrying intelligence agencies.

“ISIS modules being set up in India is more dangerous than some youth wanting to travel to Syria,” a counter-terror official was quoted by the India Today as saying.

In January this year, the NIA arrested six suspected IS sympathisers from across the country. Union Home Ministry officials also believed that they might have been radicalised online, The Hindu reported.

The report also added that several low intensity explosives, detonators, wires, batteries and hydrogen peroxide and other material that can be assembled into IEDs.

The Islamic State has repeatedly invoked the 2002 Gujarat riots, Babri demolition, Kashmir and the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riots to incite Muslims to revolt against the dispensation. In a video released in May this year, the Syria-based terror group for the first time trained its guns against New Delhi.

“We will return,but with a sword in hand, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar”, Aman Tandel, a Mumbai based student who escaped to Syria was seen threatening.

According to Intelligence Agencies, six Indian nationals have been killed in Iraq and Syria. A total of 23 Indians have gone to Syria, while only two of them have returned.

Hyderabad: NIA arrests 5, detains 6 after suspected ISIS terror module busted

Five youths were arrested and six others including a techie were detained by NIA which claimed to have busted a “terror module” that is suspected to be linked to the Islamic State (IS) group after conducting searches at different locations in the old city in Hdyerabad. Some graduates were among those detained after the searches, the agency said.”We have arrested five accused persons so far. Questioning and verification of the role of remaining six suspects are going on,” an NIA statement said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NIA sleuths also recovered weapons, ammunition, urea, acid, some chemicals, electronic gadgets and other incriminating material besides Rs 15 lakh in cash from their possession, officials of National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Hyderabad Police said, adding the youths were working at the behest of IS handlers.”Searches were conducted by NIA over some suspected terror activities that were planned to be carried out in the city,” a senior intelligence officer told PTI.Based on credible information that some youths hailing from Hyderabad and their accomplices have entered into criminal conspiracy to wage war against India by collecting weapons and explosive materials to commit terrorist acts, the searches were conducted at at least 10 locations since early hours of today with assistance of Hyderabad Police, the officer said.Meanwhile, the raids also gave the BJP ammunition to attack the Telangana government and accused it of displaying “criminal neglect” in preventing Hyderabad from becoming a “safe haven” for terror elements.”NIA busted an ISIS module in Hyderabad and raids are still underway. BJP questions TS (Telangana State) government on its criminal neglect in preventing Hyderabad and old city from becoming safe havens for terrorists,” BJP state unit spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao said in a statement.

NIA busts Islamic State module in Hyderabad, detains 11

The National Investigative Agency (NIA) on Wednesday busted an Islamic State module in Hyderabad based on inputs from Intelligence Bureau (IB), reported CNN-News 18. According to ANI, 11 people linked to the terror outfit have been detained so far.

“Raids are going on at three to four places in the old city are. NIA is doing it. The local police is assisting them. Searches are being conducted over some suspected terror activities that were planned to be carried out in the city,”  The Finincial Express quoted a senior intelligence officer as saying.

In major anti-terror swoop across the country ahead of the Republic Day this year, the NIA had taken into custody 14 suspected  Islamic State sympathisers.

According to Firstpost, in November 2015, a report prepared by the intelligence agencies revealed that the 150 people, mostly from South India, are believed to be attracted to the IS and sympathetic to the group’s activities.

Over the past couple of years, the IS — despite having no presence in the Indian subcontinent — has acted as a strong luring factor for the youth.

The NIA raids come at a time when advocates and lawyers have intensified a strike that has been on for over three weeks, reported Deccan Chronicle.

Prohibitory orders are in place in the entire area and search operations are still going on.

Out of the ashes

After a bomb attack killed an Indian guard at a mosque in Kuwait, two local men began a fundraising campaign for his family which has flourished beyond expectations, reports the BBC’s Sumaya Bakhsh.

dna Morning Must Reads: Impact of Brexit on global economy; Google, Facebook blocking ISIS videos and more

1. Brexit vote adds to uncertainty over global economy, impact won’t be seen soonBritain voted on Thursday to leave the European Union. Full report here.2. India NSG membership: Dragon leaves Elephant licking wounds at Seoul<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 16 countries raised procedural issues during the meeting in Seoul. Full report here.3. Karnataka: Three seniors arrested for alleged ragging Dalit nursing student from KeralaThe victim is still being treated a hospital in kerala and her internal organs have been severely damaged. More details here.4.Google, Facebook quietly move toward automatic blocking of extremist videosLeading tech giant have deployed system to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos. Full report here.5. Ek Baar Phir: Arjun-Pari pair up againFor Mubarakan, the actor who never repeats the director or heroin, is set to break this pattern. More details here.

dna Morning Must Reads: Pro-Islamic State group issues hitlist; Brexit; Salman Khan and IOA, and more

1. Pro-Islamic State group’s hit list names 285 Indians; caliphate releases personal details of targetsLone wolf threat: Personal details of 4,481 random individuals from around the world made public to create fear psychosis. Read more here2. Britain votes on EU membership after tight and bitter campaignOpinion polls show support for ‘In’ and ‘Out’ almost equal | Political fallout to reach beyond Britain. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>3. Rape remarks: IOA may drop Salman as goodwill ambassadorIndian Olympic Association (IOA) has threatened to drop him as goodwill ambassador of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympics if an immediate “public apology” for his irresponsible ‘rape’ comment doesn’t come through. Read more here4. Upgraded Kindle e-reader unveiled by Amazon today, to be sold at US $80Amazon unveiled an upgraded Kindle on Wednesday, aiming to boost its e-reader sales with a thinner, lighter device at a low price. Read more here5. Unbelievable fares, but few air tickets: industry body complains to Ministry, DGCAWith the peak travel season well over, domestic airlines in India have begun luring fliers with so-called deep discounts. Read more here

Pro-Islamic State group’s hit list names 285 Indians; caliphate releases personal details of targets

As many as 285 Indian nationals – many of them average people who never in their life may have harboured animosity towards the Islamic State (IS), despite disproving the group’s horrific killings – are among those to find place in the 4,000-odd ‘kill list’ drawn by a pro-IS group from across the globe.The civilian target list, drawn by pro-IS United Cyber Caliphate and released on Wednesday on its private Telegram channel, gives personal details of the picks, and exhorts lone wolves to find and attack them.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A propaganda imagery (see pic) with the words “O individual wolves out there in the world, Kill the Cross wherever you find it,” and “Kill them strongly…kill them hardly” with the hashtags, “#very important kill list” and “#Kill them immediately,” was flashed along with the list.The data in the excel sheet format contains names and addresses of 4,681 random civilians from around 18 countries including US, Britain, Canada, France and India. Jihadi intelligence agencies SITE and Flashpoint undermined the threat from the kill list as the personal details of people were taken from open sources on the web which is freely accessible. The hacking group, UCC, is believed to have ‘repackaged’ information available in public and collated the details from various platforms into one list, making it to appear like a targeted kill list.It is thus unlikely that pro-IS supporters hacked a large set of database or is handpicking individual accounts. “While its methods and tactics continue to convey a relatively low and unsophisticated skill set, the group’s association with IS creates the potential for real world effects, and high propaganda value,” Flashpoint analysts reported.This is the second such kill list, published by the same group this month, to inspire lone wolves to take revenge for Muslims. The list appears to be in line with the IS propaganda which asks followers who can’t make the ‘hijrah’ (migration) to Syria and Iraq for jihad, to act in their countries and kill ‘kufars’ (non-Muslims) wherever they can find them.Shortly after the Orlando shooting, where a neurotic gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in a nightclub popular among the LGBT community killing 49 and called 911 to pledge his allegiance to IS, the group’s supporters started disseminating propaganda calling for individuals to attack people from western countries. Last week, UCC released the first list with 8318 names of nationals from US, Canada, UK and Australia.The purpose of releasing such a list publicly on web is reflective of the group’s tactics to spread fear psychosis amongst general public. Interviews of individuals, whose names appeared in Canada and US, showed they had no idea how their details reached the hands of IS men but are now feeling insecure knowing that the group has information on them. Although not considered of any imminent threat, authorities in US and Canada contacted people in the list to warn them to keep a watch.Although only a handful of Indians are known to have joined IS and died in fighting, the group has not staged any attack in India. The National Investigating Agency had arrested more than 50 people suspected of subscribing to IS ideology and Caliphate. “We are not aware of the kill list. But the possibility of lone wolves acting cannot be refuted. Agencies are keeping a close watch on such suspects to avert any attack,” said one senior officer.

Two Indians from Dehradun, among 25 killed in Kabul blast: MEA

Kabul/New Delhi: Two Indians are among 25 people killed in a string of bombings across Afghanistan on Monday. The two Indians were working for a private security company Sabre International and probably deployed at the Canadian Embassy.

Kabul_blast_380

Afghan security forces inspect the minibus that was hit by a suicide attacker at the site of the incident in Kabul on Monday. Reuters

In the first attack, a Taliban suicide bomber hit a minibus carrying foreign security guards in Kabul along the main road to the eastern city of Jalalabad. The Taliban also claimed a second smaller blast in south Kabul.

The third blast took place in a market in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup in New Delhi said, “We have learnt that 2 Indian nationals, Ganesh Thapa and Govind Singh from Dehradun died tragically in the blast in Kabul today morning.”

“Government is in touch with the families of Indian nationals and is working with the Afghan government to repatriate their mortal remains at the earliest,” he said.

Fourteen Nepali security guards working for the Canadian Embassy in Kabul were also killed in the first blast.

The attacker too was killed on the spot and the blast also damaged several civilian vehicles and shops nearby.

Both the Islamic State terrorist group and the Taliban claimed responsibility for the bloodbath.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, said over 20 people were killed or wounded in the attack. It said its “fighters” carried out the operation.

The attacks come days after the US announced an expansion of the US military’s authority to conduct air strikes against the Taliban, a significant boost for Afghan forces which have limited close air-support capacities.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Orlando nightclub shooting | Reuters

CAIRO Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said on Sunday that the Islamist militant group was responsible for the shooting that killed at least 50 people in a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” Amaq said.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Narendra Modi delivers sucker punch as US Congress eats out of his hand

Narendra Modi‘s oratory skills have never been in doubt but while delivering an extempore speech addressing a joint session of US Congress at the Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the prime minister transcended the geographical boundaries of a head of state and appeared as a world leader, a global statesman and a man deeply aware of India’s and his own place in history.

And in doing so, he captivated with such élan an audience of hardened US lawmakers for a lengthy period of 47 minutes that his speech was interrupted by no less than 10 standing ovations and 69 rounds of vociferous, spontaneous applause.

Modi’s epochal speech will go down in history as one of his finest. He peppered it with quotable quotes, humour, wit, poetry and punchlines yet at the same time delivered a stern message to the US Congress that they must refrain from sponsoring terrorism.

In fact, the audacity with which he stood inside the House chamber and lectured the US Congress on their folly of “rewarding” India’s neighbour (no prizes for guessing the name of the country) who indulges in incubating terror was matched only by the applause that he received for his plain-speaking.

It was all very surreal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. APPrime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

“Distinguished members, not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in South Asia, and globally, terrorism remains the biggest threat.

“In the territory stretching from West of India’s border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Laskhar-e-Taiba, to Taliban to (Islamic State). But, it’s philosophy is common: Of hate, murder and violence,” said Modi.

“Although its shadow is spreading across the world, it is incubated in India’s neighbourhood. I commend the members of the US Congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains.

“Refusing to reward them is the first step towards holding them accountable for their actions,” said the prime minister, the first head of Indian state among five to articulate to the US lawmakers the deep consternation India suffers from when it finds US aid is being used by Pakistan to foment acts of terrorism against us.

Political scientist and assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program Dr C Christine Fair, author of the seminal book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, has written extensively on how Pakistan continues to deceive the US into delivering billions of dollars of aid and military assistance while supporting terrorism and being an irresponsible nuclear weapons state.

She thinks Pakistan is able to do so because it perpetrates terror through varied proxies and uses “soft power” to cultivate American sympathies through “hospitality,” well-spoken lies and military tourism.

And this is exactly what Modi pointed out to the US Congress on Wednesday.

“The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation. And, base it on a policy that isolates those who harbour, support and sponsor terrorists; that does not distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists; and that delinks religion from terrorism.”

But it wasn’t all sermonising.

With impeccable sense of timing, Modi drew peals of laughter from the House chamber while joking that the US Congress was known for its “bipartisanship” and “harmony” in the backdrop of an acrimonious race to the White House between US Presidential nominees. It was one of several lighthearted moments that punctuated Modi’s address and it marked a clear shift in relationship between the two countries who are increasingly breaking new grounds while shedding mutual distrust of the past.

“Mr Speaker, I’m informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious,” Modi said as the House chamber erupted in laughter. “I am also told that you are well-known for your bipartisanship.”

“Well, you are not alone,” he said while waving a finger.

“Time and again, I have also witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament, especially in our Upper House,” he said as the gathering burst into another round of cheer.

A part of Modi’s address to the joint session of US Congress was also meant for domestic consumption. He elaborated on his “long and ambitious to-do list” which he hopes to complete by 2022, the 75th anniversary of Independence.

” My dream is to economically empower them through many social and economic transformations,” he said, while laying out his plan: “A vibrant rural economy with robust farm sector; a roof over each head and electricity to all households; to skill millions of our youth; build 100 smart cities; have a broad band for a billion, and connect our villages to the digital world; and create a 21st Century rail, road and port infrastructure.

And mindful of his pulpit, he added a line which he knew the Americans would love to hear.

“These are not just aspirations; they are goals to be reached in a finite timeframe. And, to be achieved with a light carbon footprint, with greater emphasis on renewables.”

Expectedly, he received another standing ovation.

The concluding lines of his speech was a quote from a Walt Whitman poem To Think of Time (Canto 7).

“The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments, the baton has given the signal”, to which he added a line: “And to that, if I might add, there is a new symphony in play.”

This was Modi at his eloquent best, an orator par excellence and a politician at the top of his game. America was owned.

NIA files chargesheet in Delhi court against suspected IS member

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday filed a chargesheet in a Delhi court, accusing suspected Islamic State supporter Mohammed Naser of motivating people to join the terror outfit and waging war in certain Middle East countries and India.

According to court sources, the NIA filed the chargesheet before District Judge Amarnath during the in-camera proceedings. The court then listed the matter for 9 June.

Naser, 23, a resident of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, was arrested on 11 December, 2015, after his deportation from Sudan.

“Naser used the web-based social media platform and joined a number of chat groups and communicated with his associates both within and outside india,” the chargesheet said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“…to recruit Muslim youth in India to join the IS and to transfer them to Iraq and Syria to commit terror attacks and wage war in the middle eastern countries as well as in India,” it added.

The NIA said Naser confirmed to his father that he had joined the IS and it was not possible for him to return to the mainstream.

“Investigation has brought on record the incriminating evidence, including documentary and digital, which include text messages, chats, graphic arts and ‘jihadi’ literature on IS. The same were recovered from the electronic device as well as social media platforms used by the Naser,” said the chargesheet. It was filed in connection with the NIA case dated 9 December, 2015, against the IS.

On 13 January, the NIA forwarded the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to the US and the United Arab Emirates and one letter rogatory to Sudan for collection of documents as well as digital evidence against Naser, the chargesheet said.

The chargesheet has been filed under Section 125 (waging war against any Asiatic power) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 18 (punishment for conspiracy), 18-B (punishment for recruiting of any person or persons for terrorist act), 38 (offence relating to the membership of a terrorist organisation) and 39 (offence relating to the support given to a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, as amended).

The chargesheet said the investigation against the other accused persons will continue under Section 173(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Arnab Goswami-style journalism is killing the essence of debates

On the Monday edition of Times Now’s show The Newshour, editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami referred to journalist Asad Ashraf as a ‘cover for the Indian Mujahideen’. The following is Asad’s own take on that particular situation and the present state of journalism as a whole:

As I sit to write this piece, images from the day Arnab Goswami called me a ‘cover for the Indian Mujahideen’ in his studio, return to my mind. If it’s merely the thought of being called a terrorist that scares me, I wonder what it would be like for those who are implicated in cases of terrorism on false charges.

The takeaway from the events of that day not only jolt me, but also present a very grim picture of the time in which we are living. Journalism, once a respected profession has become a tool of hoop-la into the hands of certain promoters who use it as a mechanism to build public opinion and manufacture consent.

Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami. Image courtesy: Facebook.

File image of Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. Image courtesy: Facebook

I am sorry but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Arnab, arguably the most well-known face of Indian TV journalism today is setting a precedent that is very dangerous for the future of this country.

He is teaching a whole bunch of young journalists, who follow him, not to question the narratives propounded by the state machinery, to believe every word of it and call every detractor an ‘anti-national’. While in a democracy where journalism is considered the Fourth Estate, it is the duty of journalists to continue to be watchdogs.

He is bifurcating opinion into the plain binary of national and anti-national

Someone who agrees with him is a nationalist, while others are anti-national. In the name of debate, he is actually running media trials.

One can only imagine the absurdity of a situation, wherein he calls me a sympathiser of the Islamic State and a cover for the Indian Mujahideen just because I pondered over certain loopholes in the police version of the Batla House encounter.

However, what must have really annoyed Arnab is the fact that I not only questioned the authenticity of the encounter, but also the video — that was supposedly released by the Islamic State — featuring one of the ‘absconders’ of the Batla House encounter. And that this came mere months after Arnab allegedly played doctored videos of JNU students on his show must have hit him where it hurts the most.

As a journalist, with an acumen for investigation, Arnab should not only have agreed with me but should have also tried to investigate whether that video was at all genuine.

But on the contrary, I was asked by him that if it was a ‘fancy-dress competition’?

Why not? It could have been a fancy-dress competition — a bit like hoax calls. Don’t we have hoax calls about bombs being planted?

Did the video undergo forensic examination before being aired on Arnab’s Newshour and becoming a matter of debate?

Tasleem Rahmani of the All-India Muslim Council, was right in pointing out the fact that even the employees of Times Now were not sure about the authenticity of that video as they ran the ticker, ‘#BatlamaninISIS’ below the screen followed by a question mark.

But logic ceases to exist when it confronts Arnab Goswami on his Newshour show.

And what replaces it seems to be pure rhetoric woven into allegations and accusations.

However, I realise that I am myself engaging in things of which I have been accusing Arnab, and I am keen to maintain a thick line of difference between myself and him.

Therefore, when I talk about Batla House, I would use reason and logic to substantiate my claims — something that has serious doubts about the credibility of the police theory hovering around this encounter.

The guy apparently featuring in the Islamic State video — Bada Sajid  who allegedly fled from the Batla House encounter — has been declared dead twice before this video surfaced, according to media reports. Any well-meaning person would be curious to understand how a man who has died twice — once in Syria and then in Afghanistan — is alive again to send threats to India. But as I said, reason and logic have no place in Arnab’s ‘fish market’ which he calls The Newshour.

If Arnab had bothered to go through the postmortem reports of the two boys killed in that encounter, he might have sat and contemplated his position, rather than shouting at the highest pitch in his studio and presenting himself as the jury. However, the wish to contemplate would only be aroused if there was an inner desire to investigate and reach out for the truth. Arnab, on the other hand, forces himself to believe things that suit his interest are more important than knowing the truth, probably because truth will never fetch him as much TRP as the ignorance of it will.

For TRP-chasers, ignorance is bliss. Then why should one come out of that comfortable zone of ecstasy?

Not least for those who have nothing to offer him except some respect and love. But love and respect have lost their meaning.

Atif Ameen and Sajid who died in that encounter had been hit by a bullet in the back and the head respectively, whereas the police claimed that there was a gun-battle from the front as soon as the cops entered the flat. Both of the deceased had injuries on their bodies that were caused after being hit by some flat object, clearly indicating that the boys were beaten before being shot. All these facts are on record.

If one examines the locality where the encounter took place, it wouldn’t be difficult to ascertain at first sight that it is nearly impossible for anyone to flee the encounter scene in such a heavy presence of the police force in the narrow lanes of Batla House.

Investigations also revealed that these boys had submitted their original documents in the police station while filling up the tenant verification form before renting out a flat. Even the most foolish man, who is a part of such a big conspiracy, will not make that mistake.

Why was a magisterial inquiry as per the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India not conducted after the encounter?

This is among the many questions that will continue to haunt our democracy if legislators, executives, and the judiciary do not come together to rectify the mistakes committed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.

However, I would still refrain from calling this encounter ‘fake’, until a judicial probe is conducted into the matter, and I certainly wish that the findings of the probe actually come as a slap in our collective faces. But I doubt that will happen, which disheartens me.

Before I conclude, I agree that other journalists have the right to point out the defects in my investigation and pave the way for a constructive debate, in a bid to restore the essence of journalism and bring back the journalism of a time when ideas were debated. I fail to understand why the debates have been reduced to ‘us versus them’ and have turned into scuffles between inflated egos. Debate is about engaging with each other in search for the truth and not screaming at each other to score brownie points.

If things do not change for the better, the ultimate loser, in the end, will be journalists and journalism.

The author is a journalist with Tehelka

Court extends the period of probe against three ISIS sympathisers

A special court has extended the period of investigation till June 10 against three accused persons, recently deported from UAE for their alleged ISIS links, in a case of alleged conspiracy to carry out terror strikes in India and other countries.According to the sources, special judge Rakesh Pandit extended period after National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the court that the probe was still underway in the case. The court also extended the judicial custody of accused persons — Sheikh Azhar Al Islam, Mohammad Farhan Shaikh and Adnan Hussain — till June 10.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”After going through the entire material brought before me, the period of investigation and judicial custody of accused persons is extended till June 10. Let they be produced before the concerned court on June 10,” the judge said in an in-chamber proceeding.The source said that the NIA, in its application, had submitted that a lot of work was remaining in the investigation in the case.Earlier, the agency had told the court that the accused persons were required to be interrogated to unearth the larger conspiracy of ISIS in India and abroad.It had also told told the court that they were active supporters of Islamic State and remained in close contact with several active members of IS using internet, telephone and other means of communication in furtherance of its activities.It had told that there was a larger criminal conspiracy of IS activities in India and abroad including recruitment of resident and non-resident Indians by the IS and the accused persons were involved in it.Adnan, who hails from Karnataka, Farhan who is from Maharashtra and Sheikh Azhar from Jammu and Kashmir were arrested on January 29 by the NIA after being deported from the UAE.

No threat to India from IS, claims Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said there is no threat to India from Islamic State (IS) as people of the Muslim community are against the IS.

Rajnath Singh. AFPRajnath Singh. AFP

Rajnath Singh. AFP

“Along with the alertness of the security, the Muslims in India are against the IS. They cannot grow in India as Muslims won’t allow them,” Singh said in an interview to ETV.

Speaking about underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, Singh said: “He would be nabbed and brought back to India.”

“Dawood is an international terrorist and there is need to take the help of international agencies to nab him. All the relevant documents against Dawood have been given to Pakistan,” the home minister said.

Singh claimed that in last two years the internal security of the nation has been strengthened and Terrorism, Naxalism and Maoism was controlled to a large extent.

He said both official and non-official reports justify this. On Pathankot attack, the minister said the security agencies have given right reply to the 2 January attack.

Singh also said Congress was gradually “losing people’s faith”. “In coming days Congress will lose its political clout,” the minister said.
When asked about the “surgery” needed in Congress, Singh said: “It is their internal matter”, adding that there was a need for Congress to introspect.

Our kids not in new IS video: Kalyan youths’ kin

The families of the two Kalyan youths, who have allegedly joined terror outfit Islamic State (IS), claimed on Friday that the new video released by the group doesn’t feature their children. The IS video was released on Thursday.Four Kalyan youths – Areeb Majid, Fahad Shaikh, Saheem Tanki and Aman Tandel – had left with 22 other pilgrims to visit shrines in Baghdad in May 2014, where they reportedly joined IS. Areeb Majid was soon brought back to India with the help of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), while Saheem Tanki died there, according to the video. The two others are still there, and their families maintain that they have not heard from them in the last eight months.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is being suspected that the youths are playing a major role in recruitment of Indians for IS. In the new video, which mainly targets Indian audience, speakers threaten to take revenge for various incidents on violence in the country, including the Godhra carnage.”We have seen the pictures and the video of a boat, with militants armed with Kalashnikovs. The speakers couldn’t be seen clearly as everyone had a beard and was wearing a turban, but they did not resemble our kids,” said Naeem Tandel, Aman’s father. “We are still hopeful that they will return home safely before doing anything wrong,” he added.Iftikar Khan, Fahad Shaikh’s maternal uncle, said, “The picture is not of Fahad. We have not heard from them for the last 8 months. It will be sad if they actually get involved in such activities, but the pictures and video are not theirs.”Meanwhile, highly placed sources in the ATS said, “We are verifying the claims in the video. It seems the two youths are playing a major role for the Indian militant division of IS. They left two years ago, and their appearance could have changed since then. But nothing is confirmed as of now.”

Recruitment war heats up between IS and al Qaeda in the sub-continent

The bloody rivalry between al Qaeda and Islamic State that took roots in the ongoing conflict in Syria, now seems to be spilling over in South Asia. The Indian sub continent is emerging as a new turf for the global jihadi groups to recruit and draw battle-lines. To attract recruits from India – which has the world’s second largest followers of Islam but have stayed averse to the violent jihad – al Qaeda and Islamic State group have released propaganda videos revealing India’s glorious Islamic past when the country was ruled under Sharia law and chiding the community for not joining the holy war against the taghouts (idolators).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This week the al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), headed by Maulana Asim Umar, released the English subtitled version of ‘Shariah or Democracy’ video while the IS released ‘Bilad al Hind, between hope and pain’, on Telegram, directly addressing the Indian Muslim community, inciting them to revolt against their life under democratic governance and cow worshipping Hindus and follow the path of Shariah.Blaming the British crusaders for destroying and eliminating the Islamic system that flourished in India under the Mughal rule and the onset of democracy which further suppressed the Muslim community, AQIS chief Umar rebukes the Indian Muslims for co-habiting and living under a man-made system as against Shariah-based religious laws. “It is a wonder that 65 years after the British left, some people still adhere to their sinister system (man-made democracy) and declare it mandatory for our progress and stare in surprise to those who want to restore the Islamic system,” Ironically, Umar, identified as Sanaullah Khan, who left his village in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh as a teenager and later joined al Qaeda in Pakistan-Afghanistan, belongs to a family whose ancestors strived in India’s freedom struggle and condemn jihad in the name of religion.The AQIS, established in September 2014, shortly after IS declared a Caliphate on its captured territory in Syria and Iraq in July, focusing its operations in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. The total strength of the group is not known, but it has presence of handful of Indians particularly from Umar’s native town of UP, who went to fight jihad in Afghanistan. The group’s leadership is believed to be based in the North Waziristan area of the Af-Pak region. Although AQIS has not made any attacks, the Delhi Special Cell last year claimed to have busted a module of five members including the alleged India head, who were trained and planned to conducts blasts.The IS group on the other hand, has lured over a dozen young men from India in its group who are attracted to the ideology of the Caliphate and returning back to the basics of Islam. In its video, the group invokes theology to cast India as a land of Shirk ruled by polytheists and idolators in complete disdain of tawheed, the concept of oneness of Allah followed by Muslims. It castigates Muslims in India for deviating from the fundamental teachings of Islam and adapting practices of the mushkireen (disbelievers). “Those Muslims who are refraining from jihad and are running after the petty glory of small world should see the agenda of the kufr, how they are bent on eliminating Muslims,” the narrators say in Arabic, with images of riots and dead bodies looming in the background, in the IS video.Both the groups attempt to put the sectarian tensions between the Muslim community and majority Hindu into the context of global jihad, equating the demolition of Babri Masjid, riots in Gujarat, Assam, Muzaffarnagar and the conflict in Kashmir, as slaughtering of the ‘Islamic identity’. The IS makes use of its Indian fighters who unable to endure the injustice, travelled to Syria under the Caliphate rule and have now vowed to avenge.“Oh brothers and sisters, they (Hindus) have become the rulers of your life, they can kill you whenever they want, for any reason, like sometimes for slaughtering a cow. Our mothers and sisters are not safe, nor our businesses. Hindus are forcefully trying to convert Muslims, but the worst is that our religion is being mocked at,’’ addresses the masked jihadi, Ahmad Farouq al-Hindi with an evident stutter in Urdu to his Indian Muslim brethren. “Is there still a space for any more humiliation and disgrace. Are you still not able to generate the spirit of avenge and jihad within you ?,’’The IS also targets the Muslim clergy in India for hobnobbing with the idolatory communities and dissuading Muslims away from the honest faith while confusing them with ideas of patriotism while declaring the holy jihad as haraam. “You continue to remain passive and refrain from Jihad in which lies your success and which is fard (mandatory),’’ coerces the narrator in Arabic in the new IS video.The sub-continent with a large number of followers of Islam is an attractive base for jihadi groups to discharge radical propaganda, inciting them to fight for the glory of Islam and their identity.Al Qaeda and IS have a similar campaign currently operational in Bangladesh wherein both the groups are vying to establish a base and recruit fighters to wage jihad. The groups have targeted liberal, secular, bloggers, activists and non-Muslim communities or anyone who mocks Islam through brutal killings and beheadings. The local police however suspects that few local Islamist members particularly from the Jamait e Islami and Jamatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh have established contact with both the groups and as such there is no presence of the jihadi leaders of al Qaeda and IS in the country.Indian intelligence agencies as well believe that the propaganda of al Qaeda and IS group is devoured on social media platforms by ignorant youth, but the number of those trying to actually joining the groups is limited.

Court extends judicial custody of 14 ISIS operatives

A special court on Wednesday extended till May 24, the NIA custody of 14 suspected ISIS operatives, arrested from across the country for allegedly recruiting and financing people to join the terror group. According to court sources, during an in-camera hearing, District Judge Amar Nath allowed the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) plea seeking extension of the custody of the accused.Earlier on April 21, the probe agency had told the court that the accused were involved in a larger conspiracy of the outfit, in India and abroad, including recruitment of resident and non-resident Indians. The terror group has captured vast territories in Iraq and Syria. The NIA had told the court that the probe in the case was spread over different parts of the country and abroad. Those whose custody was extended are — Mohd Aleem, Mohd Obaidullah Khan, Nafees Khan, Mohd Shareef Moinuddin Khan, Asif Ali, Najmul Huda, Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh, Mohd Abdul Ahad, Suhail Ahmed, Syed Mujahid, Mohd Hussain Khan, Mohd Afzal, Imran and Abu Anas.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They were arrested from different parts of the country for allegedly recruiting and financing people to join the terror organisation. The NIA had earlier told the court that the accused, in the course of interrogation, had admitted to “their involvement in this case about recruiting and financing persons willing to join the Caliphate of ISIS at Syria”.They were arrested under several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC. A case was registered by NIA on December 9, 2015 against unknown and unidentified persons involved in the activities of Islamic State (IS) in India and Asian powers in peace with India.

India needs to tackle West Asia tangle deftly in its quest to be a genuine regional power

It is difficult to overstate the geopolitical dynamism of West Asia these days, where careers are waiting to be made and dissertations to be written. Admittedly, the region has always been generous in this regard but the thawing of the international sanctions regime against Iran subsequent to its nuclear understanding with the West and the emergence of the terrorist enterprise Islamic State have shaken up regional alliances and opened up new opportunities for international actors, novice and veteran. Among these new entrants, India is a tentative power with a light footprint in the region but whose growing economic potential will inevitably push it to form more substantial relationship with its near neighbours.

Foreign policy abhors dynamism. It is often viewed with suspicion as it usually means a change in too many variables in a short time for the community to cope with. Henry Kissinger’s overtures to China in the early 1970s are one example and a more recent one is President Barack Obama’s perseverance in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. With Delhi and the West Asia, the leg irons come with three cuffs: the stability of oil supplies, $35 billion in remittance from the seven-million-strong Indian diaspora in the region, and the hope that friendly relations with the Islamic world will yield indirect benefits in suppressing Pakistan’s terrorist ways. Valid concerns though they may be, India has not been served well by those restrictions and the events over the past two years may hold some hope for readjustment.

Looking to recover from decades of economic sanctions, Iran seems India’s obvious gambit in any new outlook on the West Asia front. The benefits of a cozy relationship with Tehran have been spelled out several times since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed.  For Iran, it would increase sales to what is already its second largest client for crude oil and the potential of a gas pipeline between the two countries, via Pakistan or undersea, promising a very lucrative relationship. This arrangement is obviously beneficial to India who is looking to emerge as a major regional crude oil refining hub but in addition, Delhi hopes that its automobile industry, IT sector, and pharmaceutical companies will also make inroads into the Iranian market. It works to Delhi’s advantage that Tehran’s interest in partnerships with Western companies and their technology will have to take a back seat as the plummeting price of oil has made some of it out of reach for now.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The value of Chabahar is economic as well as strategic for both states through sanctions have caused India to drag its feet on the project until now. However, the strategic dimension has diminished of late: any ambition Delhi might have harboured about squeezing Islamabad by encircling it with India-friendly regimes in Kabul and Tehran seems unlikely to come to fruition as both governments are more worried about the emerging threat of Islamic State in the region. It is rumoured that Iran has actually started funding and supplying the Taliban against Islamic State over the past few months. Sentiments in Afghanistan are similar — Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, formerly of the Northern Alliance that India and Iran both supported, has called for Russian assistance in arming Afghanistan against the rising threat of Islamic State. Together with Iran, China, United States and Pakistan, Dostum is also hoping to negotiate a peace with the Taliban. With Indian investments and aid coming in trickles, neither Kabul nor Tehran are willing to bet with India and stand firm against Islamic State as well as the Taliban.

Unhappy with the United States’ emollient approach to Iran, Saudi Arabia has been reconfirming old alliances while forging new ones. In this, it has had some extraordinary tactical success with Israel, who is just as worried about residual Iranian nuclear potential, and some unexpected failure with Pakistan who recently shied away from participating in the US-backed Saudi invasion of Yemen. Furthermore, Pakistan has over the years, moved from supporting a transitional government in Damascus to firmly opposing the overthrow of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Riyadh sees this as Islamabad’s  ingratitude considering how the Arab monarchy generously bankrolled the Islamic republic’s covert nuclear programme in the 1980s and provided generous economic assistance whenever needed.

Although the Pakistani military has in the past served as the Arab monarchy’s sword — a relationship that goes back to the early 1960s — Islamabad is wary of getting caught in the sectarian crossfire between Riyadh and Tehran lest it brew trouble at home. Saudi Arabia has the same leverage on Pakistan that it does on India — over two million diaspora that send over $18 billion in remittances. Realistically, however, this threat is overplayed: expelling hundreds of thousands of workers can only be a gradual move and will in the short term have a downward impact on the economy of all concerned. Moreover, trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is heavily skewed by the former’s import of oil from the latter; Iran would be only too glad to make up any disruptions as it battles for a greater market share. Pakistan’s reliance on the House of Saud has reduced since China has taken a more active interest in bankrolling its South Asian client for strategic as well as economic reasons.

Perhaps as a sign of its displeasure, Riyadh has reached out to India. Just days before Indian prime minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Saudi Arabia last month, Riyadh announced sanctions against four individuals and two organisations in Pakistan involved in financing terrorist operations. After Saudi Arabia extradited to India three terrorists — Fasih Mehmood, A Rayees, and Zabiuddin Ansari — four years ago, some have wondered if this is the beginning of a deep-seated change in the kingdom’s views on South Asia. They did not need to wonder for long because a couple of days after Modi’s visit, Riyadh joined Islamabad in voicing support for the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination. The monarchy seems only interested in using India as an occasional jab to its Islamic ally rather than a durable relationship. One option for India is to similarly develop closer ties with the kingdom’s uneasy neighbours (Qatar and Oman come to mind) as its own leverage. In the meantime, playing up the Saudi card will keep the pressure on Islamabad.

Despite its flowery language about Israel and the Jewish people, India’s new alleged bonhomie is yet to show itself in any meaningful way. There has been little change in the South Asian state’s voting pattern at the United Nations; in fact, it recently endorsed an embarrassingly anti-Semitic UNESCO resolution much to the disappointment of Jerusalem and the pro-Israel lobby at home. The Jewish state’s newfound congruence with the most influential Arab power — the one with the deepest pockets, at least — gives India room to develop relations across a broad spectrum of interests, from defence, counterterrorism, and nuclear energy to medicine, agriculture and education without fearing an immediate Muslim backlash. Modi’s delay in visiting Israel symbolizes all that is wrong with the relationship – goodwill, converging interests, and sweet words that don’t amount to much.

Truth be told, India will not amount to much in West Asia in the foreseeable future despite its hydrocarbon bill — it lacks the defence technology, economic power, social capital such as universities and think tanks, diplomatic investment, and military boldness that the region demands. In all fairness, the South Asian democracy has a gargantuan task at home, rebuilding its economy, institutions, and military power after nearly seven decades of socialism and weak democracy. Yet if Delhi shrinks from seizing opportunities, however slim, to realign its neighbourhood to its interests, it may wake up to an even more adverse environment tomorrow. Between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Israel, there exists an opportunity for India to begin emerging as the regional power that it always obliquely boasts of being. Delhi must not hesitate to re-imagine West Asian geopolitics and invest decisively and meaningfully in projects that will enhance its interests. Although the region looks bleak, there has been no time in recent years when it was as susceptible to realignment as it is now.

Take a deep breath! Sri Sri’s comments on Malala aren’t hypocritical… at all

No, no, Sri, Sri is not god, god.

In the Indian belief system, it takes 1,008 Sris to attain divinity. And since Ravishankar has only doubled his Sris so far, he has a long way to go.

Double Sri, I presume, knows this. So he is competing with lesser mortals like Malala Yousafzai. Good for him. Malala has still not started insisting on an extra Mohtarma before her name, so Ravishankar has a decent start over the teenager in the battle of titles.

The only problem is the Nobel Peace Prize the teenager already has in her kitty.

But, on Monday, Sri Square brushed that achievement aside like a trinket won at a kindergarten sack race to re-establish his lead. That girl did nothing to deserve it and is, thus, an unworthy achiever, he argued.

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

File image of Sri Sri Ravishankar. Image courtesy: Art of Living website

No, I don’t think this has anything to do with the Art of Envying. Also, nobody saw him eating sour grapes, considering the fact that he was in drought-stricken Latur, where such succulent fruits are more precious than a Nobel.

In the universe that Ravishankar lords over, not breathing deep enough pretty much amounts to doing nothing. Since Malala would not have taken enough deep breaths while on the ventilator after taking a bullet in the neck from the Taliban, Double Sri is perfectly entitled to hold her in contempt.

In fact, even before she defied death and breath, Sri may have found Malala unworthy for holding her breath while going to school in spite of fighting a fatwa from the Taliban against schooling for girls.

Such is our life and it’s an interesting time when someone who teaches us our natural instincts — deep breathing for instance — considers himself worthy of a Nobel. In a parallel universe, even Vātsyāyana could have done so for teaching us the 56 ways of performing Sudarshan Sex.

A friend recently shared his formula for happiness on Facebook.

Drink single malts and dance, he said, looking a good 10 years younger than he actually is. At 40, his tresses are not as black and long as Double Sri’s at 59. But he too appears to be completely at peace with himself. If Nitish Kumar doesn’t become the Prime Minister of India, I foresee this proponent of drunken dancing — as against Sri’s formula of breathing and dancing — as a perfectly legitimate guru of happiness in a few years.

The point is, when you can ensure people are completely at peace with themselves by teaching them to breathe, fornicate, drink, dance — essentially the things that make us humans happy — those like Malala who get the Nobel for resisting terrorists and getting a bullet in return are simply wasting their time.

Ravishankar has proved this many times. A few years ago, Double Sri made a surprise visit to meet the violent Gujjars demanding reservation in Rajasthan. He taught them to breathe, dance and left the same evening.

Unfortunately the Gujjars didn’t. They continued to block roads, highways and railway tracks till Chief minister Vasundhara Raje gave them more than a few extra breaths: The promise of reservation and the luxury of home-cooked food to their leader Kirori Singh at her official residence.

A few years later, they returned on the tracks. But Sri Sri didn’t.

Similarly, Guruji is believed to have offered to calm the agitated minds of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. Ravishankar claims he had sent a missive to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his fighters for peace through dialogue. Unfortunately, the IS sent him a photo of a decapitated head that vaguely resembled his own in return.

“I tried to initiate peace talks with the (IS) recently but they sent me a photograph of a beheaded body of a man. Thus, my effort for a peace dialogue with the IS ended,” he said.

In many ways, Ravishankar can do with a Nobel, if not for the honour, at least for the money. Last heard, his organisation was still to pay the fine imposed by the National Green Tribunal for meddling with the ecology around the Yamuna.

But, Sri Sri has vowed to never accept the Nobel. It is political, he told farmers at Latur while quenching their thirst with deep breaths and yogic postures.

He may not yet be Sri Sri 1,008 god incarnate.

But you can certainly not accuse Padma Vibhushan Ravishankar of hypocrisy.

dna Morning Must Reads: Mumbai Indians beat Kolkata Knight Riders; funding trail on India’s Islamic State module; and more

1. Maharashtra aspirants in a fix after Supreme Court orders NEET from this yearState sticks to CET on May 5 as candidates say preparing for CBSE syllabus-based NEET not possible within three months. Read more here2. dna exclusive: Dawood’s ex-aide serving life in JJ shootout case to be brought back to city from UPDon Dawood Ibrahim’s former aide and dreaded gangster Subhash Singh Thakur, sentenced to life in the JJ hospital shootout case, will finally be brought back to a Mumbai jail after 12 years. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>3. Funding trail on India’s Islamic State module leads to DubaiInvestigations into the Indian module of Islamic State (IS)-inspired Junood-al-Khalifa-e-Hind, is leading a trail to Dubai. Read more here4. IPL 2016: Mumbai Indians bid sweet farewell to home, beat Kolkata Knight Riders by 6 wicketsIn their last home game this season, Mumbai Indians defeat Kolkata Knight Riders by 6 wickets after unbeaten fifties from Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard. Read more here5. I thought they dialled a wrong number: Sunny LeoneIn a candid chat, Sunny opens up about how building rapport with the big guns of Bollywood has helped her change a lot of perceptions. Read more here6. US, India top list of countries seeking Facebook account detailsWhile the US made 19,235 requests seeking details of 30,041 accounts, India forwarded 5,561 requests referring to 7,018 accounts. Read more here

Case of ‘mistaken identity’: Suspected IS recruit held at Pune airport released

34-year-old Mohammed Ismail, who was detained on Tuesday in Pune by NIA investigators, suspecting him of being an ‘Islamic State recruiter’, has been released. Ismail’s detention could have been a case of ‘mistaken identity’, a said senior government official said in New Delhi.

Ismail’s father, Rauf Ahmed, said that he received a call from his son around 11 pm on Wednesday that he had been released and was in Mumbai, reports The Hindu.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Ismail was detained at the Pune airport on Tuesday, as he was leaving the country and flying to Dubai for onward journey to Syria.

Officials had identified him as Raoof Ahmed, a resident of Bhatkal in north Karnataka. “The person detained at the Pune airport also had Raoof in his name and since he is from Bhatkal,the intelligence agencies could have mistaken him for a terror suspect,” The Hindu reports the official as saying.

Security agencies have been keeping a strict vigil after his name cropped up during internet chats with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is being monitored by sleuths to look for possible followers of the terror group, active in parts of Syria and Iraq.

They said Ahmed was detained as the Union Home Ministry had issued a Look Out Circular against him sometime back.
At least 14 youths have been arrested early this year by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as part of its probe on indoctrination of youths by the banned terror group.

With inputs from PTI

Indian priest kidnapped in Yemen is safe, could be freed soon, says Catholic group

An Indian priest abducted by gunmen in Yemen last month is safe and could be released soon, a Catholic group said on Sunday, quoting the Indian foreign minister.

File image of Father Thomas Uzhunnalil. IBN Live

File image of Father Thomas Uzhunnalil. IBN Live

Father Tom Uzhunnalil was captured from the southern Yemeni city of Aden by gunmen who killed at least 15 people at an old people’s home in an attack that was condemned by Pope Francis.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said a delegation met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj who said the government was working to secure the priest’s safe return.

“She has assured us Father Tom is safe and negotiations are on for his release which could happen very soon,” said Father Joseph Chinnaiyan, deputy secretary of the CBCI.

Media reports last week said the priest was killed by Islamic State militants on Good Friday, although no one has claimed responsibility for last month’s attack in which gunmen killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard. Reports also suggested that the Indian government was not sure about the involvement of Islamic State.

Father Chinnaiyan said the reports were inaccurate.

According to the IBN Live, the Catholic priest had appeared in a video recently released by his abductors, asking for help. The report added that through the video, his abductors had demanded millions of dollars in ransom.

Aden has been racked by lawlessness since Hadi supporters, backed by Gulf Arab military forces, drove fighters of the Iran-allied Houthi group from the city in July last year.

International aid groups have pulled most of their foreign staff from Yemen due to security concerns.

With inputs from agencies

Not dead? Indian priest Tom Uzhunnalil kidnapped in Yemen ‘could be freed soon’

An Indian priest abducted by gunmen in Yemen last month is safe and could be released soon, a Catholic group said on Sunday, quoting the Indian foreign minister.Father Tom Uzhunnalil was captured from the southern Yemeni city of Aden by gunmen who killed at least 15 people at an old people’s home in an attack that was condemned by Pope Francis.The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said a delegation met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj who said the government was working to secure the priest’s safe return.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”She has assured us Father Tom is safe and negotiations are on for his release which could happen very soon,” said Father Joseph Chinnaiyan, deputy secretary of the CBCI.Media reports last week said the priest was killed by Islamic State militants on Good Friday, although no one has claimed responsibility for last month’s attack in which gunmen killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard.Father Chinnaiyan said the reports were inaccurate. Aden has been racked by lawlessness since Hadi supporters, backed by Gulf Arab military forces, drove fighters of the Iran-allied Houthi group from the city in July last year. International aid groups have pulled most of their foreign staff from Yemen due to security concerns.

Judge for yourself: Sushma asks twitterati to respond to Manish Tewari’s jibe about crucified Indian priest

New Delhi: A tweet by Congress leader Manish Tewari on Tuesday asking why the BJP government “did nothing” about the alleged crucifixion of an Indian Catholic priest by Islamic State jihadists in Yemen attracted a lot of censure on the social media platform, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking twitterati to “reply” to Tewari.

Tewari tweeted: “So ISIS allegedly crucified Father Thomas Uzhunnali  BJP Govt did nothing. Why because he was a Christian? Mr PM he was also a fellow Indian.”

Sushma Swaraj, who has been active on twitter in reaching out to Indians abroad in need of help, tweeted: “Friends – I have liked some tweets. Please see them and judge for yourself. Then reply to @ManishTewari.”

A Catholic priest on Tuesday said there is no confirmation yet about the “crucifixion” of the Indian priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnallil.

However, Tewari’s tweet attracted a lot of flak.

One twitterati asked: “What has the BJP got to do with this? And if your memory still works, remember how you people let Sarabjeet (Singh) die in Pakistan.”

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTIUnion External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Another reasoned: “That’s ok..He’s clutching at straws ….Very few straws left…Even he knows it’s a ridiculous thing to say.”

Another twitterati remarked sarcastically: “Please tell the entire nation what the Congress would have done to save the Father? So that India & also the world can follow your strategy.”

Social media and media houses have disseminated news on the alleged crucifixion of Uzhunnallil by IS terrorists on Good Friday, 25 March, after they abducted him from a home for the elderly in Aden, Yemen.

The Indian priest was kidnapped on March 4 after IS terrorists barged into the care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa in Aden in 1992, and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, one of them from India.

The external affairs ministry has said there is no confirmation of the news of the alleged crucifixion.

IANS

Prominent Pakistani cleric tells India and Pakistan to unite in their fight against terrorism

One of the most prominent Sufi scholars and Pakistani clerics called on India and Pakistan to unite in their fight against terrorism, on the last day of the World Sufi Forum. Dr Muhammad Tahir Ul Qadri addressed thousands of people in New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, telling both countries to put their decades-old enmity behind them as they had a common enemy in terrorism. Dr Qadri, a politician, scholar and the founder of a Lahore-based NGO working for interfaith harmony, was greeted passionately by the massive crowd gathered for him. Thousands rose to their feet to salute and raise loud slogans in his praise. In his fiery speech, Qadri exhorted the world to unite against terrorism, condemned the Islamic State and expressed grave concerns over the radicalisation of youth that was resulting in them joining the IS, from different parts of the world. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“When people don’t have the means to light a fire, to cook a meal to erase their hunger, that’s when their children fall into the hands of terrorism,” said the cleric. “India and Pakistan must unite to spend their money on eradicating poverty, fight this hunger, spend on economic prosperity, education, health, jobs for all. Only then will they defeat terrorism and hatred.”Qadri also asked several countries to change their school, university, madrassa, educational institutes’ curriculae to include discourses on peace, harmony, spirituality, morality and humanism. “Why are not taught the ways of peace, of humanism, of counter terrorism, of dialogue?’, he asked, indicating that India and Pakistan, too, needed to come together in dialogue. “For 50 to 60 years, in the name of Islam, conflict has been created in the world,” he said. “Wars have been fought and billions of dollars have been spent. Different agencies also use terrorist groups for their own ends on different borders. They use them and discard them, so new terrorist groups, such as the IS, keep rising.”He added that in Islam for almost 1,300 years ways of peace and love had existed alongside ways of strife and conflict, dividing even Muslim communities among themselves. It was Sufism that spread the word of love and tolerance among people. “In 1,300 years, I have not heard of a single Sufi calling another Muslim a kafir,” he said.“Every religion has shared values of love, harmony, tolerance. Groups like Daesh (IS) have no relation to Islam. It is all of humanity’s responsibility to fight and uproot them,” he said to thunderous applause.

Suicide bomb kills five, wounds 36 in Istanbul shopping district | Reuters

ISTANBUL/ANKARA A suicide bomber killed himself and four others in a central Istanbul shopping and tourism district on Saturday, wounding at least 36 people in the fourth such attack in Turkey this year.

The blast sent panicked shoppers scurrying into side alleys off Istiklal Street, a long pedestrian avenue lined with international stores and foreign consulates, a few hundred metres from an area where police buses are often stationed.

The attack will raise further questions about NATO member Turkey’s ability to protect itself against a spillover of violence from the war in neighbouring Syria.

Turkey faces threats from Kurdish militants, whose insurgency has spread from the largely Kurdish southeast and who Ankara sees as closely linked to a Kurdish militia in Syria, and from Islamic State fighters, who have also recently targeted it.

Germany shut down its diplomatic missions and schools on Thursday, citing a specific threat. Meanwhile, U.S. and other European embassies had warned their citizens to be vigilant ahead of Newroz celebrations this weekend, a spring festival largely marked by Kurds which has turned violent in the past.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, which two senior officials said could have been carried out by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), fighting for Kurdish autonomy in the southeast, or by an Islamic State militant.

Both groups have targeted Turkey in recent months. A PKK offshoot claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in the capital Ankara over the past month, which killed a total of 66 people. Islamic State was blamed for a suicide bombing in Istanbul in January which killed at least 12 German tourists.

One of the officials said the bomber had planned to hit a more crowded location but was deterred by the police presence.

“The attacker detonated the bomb before reaching the target point because they were scared of the police,” the official said, declining to be named as the investigation is ongoing.

Another official said investigations were focusing on three possible suspects, all of them male and two of them from the southern city of Gaziantep near the Syrian border. There was no further confirmation of this.

Armed police sealed off the shopping street where half a dozen ambulances had gathered. Forensic teams in white suits searched for evidence as police helicopters buzzed overhead.

“I saw a body on the street. No one was treating him but then I saw someone who appeared to be a regular citizen trying to do something to the body. That was enough for me and I turned and went back,” one resident told Reuters.

Istiklal Street, usually thronged with shoppers at weekends, was quieter than normal as more people are staying home after a series of deadly bombings.

Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu confirmed that 36 people had been wounded, seven of those were in serious condition and at least 12 of them were foreigners.

Three Israeli citizens may be among those killed and 11 were injured, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said, adding Israel was sending a plane to bring back some wounded.

Turkish officials said one Iranian and one Israeli were among the dead.

Ireland said “a number” of Irish were hurt, while broadcaster NTV said two Icelandic citizens were also injured.

INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION

Turkey is still in shock from a suicide car bombing last Sunday at a crowded transport hub in the capital Ankara which killed 37 people and a similar bombing in Ankara last month in which 29 died. A PKK offshoot claimed responsibility for both.

However, the Istanbul suicide bombing, which killed German tourists in January, struck at its historic heart and was blamed by the government on Islamic State.

The latest attack brought widespread condemnation.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on an official visit to Istanbul, said it showed “the ugly face of terrorism”, while France condemned it as “despicable and cowardly”.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg described the attack as “another terrorist outrage against innocent civilians and ally Turkey” on Twitter, while Germany urged tourists in Istanbul to stay in their hotels.

Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a Kurdish-rooted opposition party, condemned the bombing.

“Just as in the Ankara attack, this is a terrorist act that directly targets civilians,” the HDP said in an e-mail.

Turkey is a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It is also battling the PKK in its own southeast, where a 2-1/2-year ceasefire collapsed last July, triggering the worst violence since the 1990s.

In its armed campaign in Turkey, the PKK has historically struck directly at the security forces and says it does not target civilians. However, recent bombings suggest it could be shifting tactics.

One of the Turkish officials said the PKK was looking to carry out attacks during the Newroz holiday.

The PKK’s umbrella group said in a statement its movement opposed targeting civilians and condemned attacks on them.

At the height of the PKK insurgency in the 1990s, the Newroz festival often saw clashes between Kurdish protesters and security forces.

(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, Asli Kandemir, Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler in Istanbul, John Irish in Paris, Paris Hafezi in Ankara, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Hans-Edzard Busemann in Berlin; Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Writing by David Dolan and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alexander Smith)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

dna Morning Must Reads: From plane crash killing 61 in Russia to Indo-Pakistan World T20 clash

1 JNU row: No regrets, proud of being jailed for sedition, says Umar KhalidHours after his release from Tihar jail in a sedition case, JNU student Umar Khalid said he has no regrets of being jailed and was rather proud of being booked under the said charges. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2 Russia: Flydubai Flight 981 crashes, 61 reported deadA Boeing 738 passenger jet crashed as it was landing at the Rostov-on-Don airport in southern Russia, CNN reported on Saturday, citing Russia’s Southern Regional Emergency Center. Read more here3 Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam held in Brussels for Paris attacksEurope’s most wanted man was captured after a shootout in Brussels in a major coup for authorities investigating November’s Islamic State attacks on Paris.Salah Abdeslam, 26, the first suspected active participant taken alive, was being held overnight in hospital with a slight leg wound, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced at a news conference alongside French President Francois Hollande. Read more here4 World T20: High voltage India v/s Pakistan clash at EdenOn the evening of March 19, when the entire world joins hands to preserve energy for their future generations, the Eden Gardens will be the only place where people will be expending energy to celebrate the spirit of brotherhood under bright floodlights.The occasion can’t be more appropriate and ironic to escape the wrath of environmentalists.Read more here5 Bollywood Retrospect: Introducing little-known composer Iqbal Qureshi through 5 songsVery little is known about music director Iqbal Qureshi. He composed music for 25 Hindi films from 1958 to 1986. Despite a limited discography for small banner films, his music won him a niche fan following. It should be noted that there was another music director named Iqbal who composed for films during the same period as Iqbal Qureshi. Read more here

Suspected ISIS sympathiser arrested from West Bengal

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested an alleged ‘sympathiser’ of banned ISIS terror group from West Bengal.The agency identified the youth as one Ashiq Ahammed alias Raja, a resident of Hooghly district of the state.Ahammed, who was arrested yesterday, will be produced before a special court in Delhi today for further custody.The agency had registered a case in this regard in December last year on charges that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been “engaged in radicalisation of Indian youths and motivating them to join the terrorist organisation. As a result of which some Indian nationals have already joined it or are in the process of joining it for committing terrorist acts in the conflict zone of Iraq, Syria and Libya.” NIA has earlier arrested 14 youths in the case after a nationwide crackdown.

dna Morning Must Reads: From Vijay Mallya’s jibes at media to Ghulam Nabi Azad compares RSS to ISIS

1. Vijay Mallya takes a dig at media, says it didn’t look for him in the obvious place Liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Sunday said that he is being hunted down by media in UK. Read more here2. Ghulam Nabi Azad kicks up row, compares RSS to ISISAt the JUH conference, attended by a battery of political leaders, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad created a row, by drawing a parallel between ISIS and RSS. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>3. Vijender Singh continues the winning streak, beats Alexander HorvathThere was no stopping Indian boxing star Vijender Singh as he notched up his fourth successive knockout professional win by pummelling Hungary’s Alexander Horvath in under three rounds. Read more here4. Anupam Kher ko gussa kyon aata hai?He may not formally be in politics but Anupam Kher is in the proverbial eye of many a political storm with his tweets, comments and speeches on everything from elections to intolerance. Read more here5. Islamic State using birth control to keep supply of sex slaves: ReportThe Islamic State is using several forms of contraception to maintain its supply of sex slaves, the New York Times reported on Saturday. Read more here

RSS slams Ghulam Nabi Azad’s comment linking RSS with ISIS, considers legal action

The RSS on Saturday took strong exception to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad seeking to draw a parallel between it and ISIS, saying his remark shows the party’s intellectual bankruptcy and unwillingness to deal with fundamentalist forces like Islamic State.”Azad comparing ISIS with RSS exhibits the intellectual bankruptcy of Congress and its unwillingness to deal with fundamentalist and cruel forces like ISIS,” RSS leader J Nand Kumar told reporters here.He said Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest decision making body of RSS, will discuss legal action on the matter. “We are altogether here… will discuss and consider legal action,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier, Azad addressing the ‘National Integration Conference’ organised by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in Delhi sought to draw a parallel between ISIS and RSS over their alleged attempts to divide communities, saying Muslims oppose both the Islamic State and the Sangh Parivar. “We see among Muslims too, who have become reason of destruction of Muslim countries today… there are some forces behind it… but we need to understand why Muslims are taking part in it, why they are getting trapped.
ALSO READ BJP sees red after Ghulam Nabi Azad compares RSS with ISIS, demands apology”So, we oppose organisations like ISIS, the way we oppose RSS. If those among us, in Islam, too do wrong things, they are no way less than RSS,” the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said.

Islamic State has held 39 captives from India since June 2014: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: The 39 Indians, who have been held as captives by the dreaded Islamic State in Iraq since June 2014, are believed to be still alive, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Lok Sabha Wednesday, as she asserted the government is making all efforts to bring them back.

Out of the 40 Indians from Punjab who were kidnapped by IS militants from a construction site in Mosul in June 2014, one of them escaped and made a claim that the remaining captives might have been killed.

The Indian government had however denied the claim. During the Question Hour, Swaraj referred to a recent meeting in which foreign ministers from Arab countries and 15 ministers participated and said the leaders of two major nations had told her that the abducted Indians were alive.

Swaraj said that if the Indians were stranded, the government would have brought them long back but they are in the captivity of terrorists. “I completely don’t believe that those people are dead… If we believed that boy’s version then I would have told this House that all are dead. But we don’t believe the boy’s claim and that is why we are searching for the people,” she said.

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTIUnion External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Swaraj also said there has been no “big exodus” of Indians from foreign countries in the wake of steep fall in crude oil prices which has adversely affected job prospects. She was responding to a query on what action the government plans to take as many companies overseas were sending back Indians amid decline in oil prices, a matter of concern to Kerala that has a large number of NRIs.

This is a future problem and the government is aware about it, Swaraj said. Emphasising that welfare of Indians living abroad was a priority for the government, Swaraj said it is working from all sides to address problems faced by them. Whenever such problems are brought to her notice, “I look at it personally and in case of emergency situations, we try to address the issue within 24 hours”, she said.

In such situations, “I don’t look at a person’s language, state or religion. For me, they all are Indians,” Swaraj said while expressing confidence that such problems would be resolved completely. The Minister came in for praise from some members in the House for the handling of problems faced by Indians abroad, including rescuing them and ensuring their return home.

BJD and AAP members appreciated Swaraj for her efforts. BJD’s Baijayant Panda said the response from the Ministry has been “outstanding” and there has been a dramatic improvement in this regard. Besides thumping of desks by members from Treasury benches, BJD’s Baijayant Panda and AAP members Dharamvir Gandhi and Bhagwant Mann appreciated the Minister for helping Indians facing difficulties in foreign countries.

The AAP members thanked her for taking speedy action in ensuring the rescue and return of around 19 people, hailing from Punjab, from Saudi Arabia. Opposition members, including those from the Left, were also seen thumping benches. In response, Swaraj said she thanked the members for their sentiments. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan too was heard saying that it was the Minister’s day on Wednesday.

PTI

NIA court extends judicial custody of IS suspects Abdus Sami Qasmi, Azhar Iqbal till March 30

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Saturday extended the judicial custody of Islamic State suspects Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi and Azhar Iqbal till March 30. Qasmi, a Delhi-based Islamic scholar, known for his fiery speeches, was arrested on February 5 from Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi District.The NIA has claimed that Qasmi had been ‘delivering provocative and inflammatory speeches and was instigating youth for anti-national activities’. While other suspect 23-year-old Azhar Iqbal was arrested from Bhopal on February 1 by the NIA.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to the agency, Iqbal was allegedly in the higher category of members of the group -Junoon al Khilafae-Hind, as he was tasked with finding new recruits. It is learnt that he was in touch with Yusuf al-Hindi alias Shafi Armar, who was an Indian Mujahideen member but shifted to the IS- held areas in Syria and Iraq.Iqbal knew at least two of the four suspects arrested by the Delhi police from Uttarakhand a few weeks back.