The murder in Toulouse and Montauban France this month of 7 innocent people including three school children was committed by a Wahhabi-Salafi-Jihadi-Takfiri cult member Mohamed Merah.
Even though known to authorities to be an extremist and being ‘watched’ and even though the Americans also knew of him and put him on a no-fly to US list, he could not be arrested authorities say because French Prime Minister Francois Fillon argues, “Belonging to a Salafist organisation is not an offence in and of itself…We cannot mix up religious fundamentalism with terrorism, even if we know there are elements that unite them.”
Perhaps Monsieur Fillon would do well to (take a leaf out of his mother’s book and) study history. Who was behind most of the terrorist attacks in the West since 1990? The media made it look like ‘nutters’ like the underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and ‘freaks’ like Richard Reid the Shoe bomber were ad hoc potential criminals who just so happened to have a background that included coming from an Islamic background. However if one looks carefully at the global Jihadi attacks for the past 20 years and Mohammed Merah’s path into the cult behind his motivation for the attacks one will see that the same cult was behind many others radicalization that lead to terrorist attacks in the West. Then Prime Minister Fillon will know what France is up against and understand that their new foe is no less organized committed and lethal than the Nazi’s were and that their Republic is in great danger unless they deal with the extremist conveyor belt of this cult at its source and help strengthen traditional Islam which is in as much mortal danger as the French State. If Fillon does not ‘join the dots’ Toulouse will only be the beginning.
Mohamed was born in France from Algerian parents and grew up with his three brothers and two sisters in a troubled high-rise estate called ‘Les Izards’, home to a large North African population, in Toulouse, South West France. He was first arrested at 16 for stealing and again at aged 18 and 20. Even though he had a reputation for extremist tendencies on his own housing estate in Toulouse and his brother Abdelkader Merah, had links to jihadists in Libya, Mohamed’s path to radical Islam began when he was 18 in Toulouse in 2007 while serving a prison sentence for robbery.
He was like so many troubled Muslim youths approached by Salafist groups like Forsane Alizza (FA- The Knights of Pride) and encouraged to progress his study their cult which was their brand of militant Salafi ‘Islam’ from their radical mosques or private ‘prayer groups’ and if suitable for mission training Al Qaeda operatives then arranged for the acolyte go to Pakistan for deeper indoctrination into the cult and specialist weapons and bomb training when he got out.
Forsane Alizza aka ‘Sharia4France’ is ostensibly an anti-Islamophobia group but authorities say it is a terrorist organization that used the mantra of anti-Islamophobia to mask its deeper purpose of radicalizing disenchanted youth from Islamic backgrounds. They followed the rhetoric of fellow terrorists like Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to recruit disillusioned youth from Islamic communities in the West away from the traditional Islamic faith of their parents who immigrated to the West and instead adopt their cult. Their cult made everything from their plight to the perceived injustice of Muslims around the world easily understood in a populist way and in the vernacular. The converts were shown a way out of their sin and into heaven by taking the express lane of radical militancy to attack all enemies of the Wahhabi-Salafi Jihadi’s (the only true Muslims) whether they be Crusader-Zionists in AF-PAK, Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims or Moderate Sunni Muslims (all apostates in the cults eyes to be excommunicated (Takfiri) and worthy of death) or non-Sharia democracies in the West. The ultimate goal of the cult is establishing a kind of ‘Third Reich’ Salafist caliphate stretching from Chechnya to the Philippines that will restore pride and power to “Muslims” (the ones that are left after the bad Muslims have been enlightened as to the true ‘path’ or eliminated); hence their name Forsane Alizza -The Knights of Pride.
Forsane Alizza has links to other radical Islamist groups in Europe, such as al-Muhajiroun / ‘Islam4UK’ in Britain and ‘Shariah4Belgium’, ‘Muslims Against Crusades’ as well as ‘Revolution Muslim’ in the United States. Al-Muhajiroun means “the Emigrants”. The name comes from their ‘target market’, the children of traditional Islamic parents who immigrated to the West. These Islamo-Fascist cult’s modus operandi is not unlike the Hitler Youth movement of the Nazi’s, brainwashing the youth with magazines, and sending them to specialized indoctrination schools and camps with their ‘brothers’ and SS style (Mujahedeen) elite training, how to be ‘good Muslims’ just like the Nazi’s did in the 1930’s by teaching the ‘jugend’ how to be ‘good Germans’. The devotees would then have no qualms about the war ahead and what had to be done to the ‘untermench’ (Jews, Crusaders and Takfiri or moderate/traditional Muslims). The allies upon liberating Eastern Europe could not believe how civilized people could commit the atrocities that the Einsatzgruppen did especially against women and children. These Hitler Youth graduates were formed into heartless death squads responsible for the murders of over 1,000,000 people, mainly Jews including women and children in occupied Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1944.
It is no surprise then that when today’s Wahhabi Salafi Takfiri Jihadi’s strike whether its Bali, Beslan or Toulouse, they do so without mercy and show no remorse afterward if they survive. Indeed they often laugh and smile chanting “Allahu Akbar” like the Bali mass murderer Amrozi bin Nurhasyim did when sentenced by an Indonesian Court rejecting his defence that his actions in 2002 planting bombs that indiscriminately killed 202 tourists because he was seeking to ‘strike at America and its allies, especially Israel’ were justified under Islam.
Similarly, the Chechen war of nationalism against Russia turned into an Islamist cause and with it came the Islamo-Fascist propaganda that could justify any form of atrocity on ideological grounds. From the mid 1990’s Saudi charities like Al-Haramain , Benevolence International Foundation (BIF was started by OBL’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa who also funded 9/11’s precursor the Bojinka Plot), and Wahhabi extremist commanders like Ibn al-Khattab poured millions of dollars and thousands of human resources into establishing several military training and religious indoctrination camps in Chechnya. After the US launched its war in Afghanistan even more Mujahedeen troops and preachers poured into Chechnya subsidizing and thereby taking over traditional Chechen Sufi mosques and Islamic schools spreading Wahhabi-Salafi extremism. This culminated in the 2002 Moscow theatre siege and then the even more devastating and heartless 2004 Beslan massacre in which Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi’s took hostage and murdered 335 innocent Russian school children. The message sent by the terrorist cult is that there are no moral boundaries for them.
Groups like AF and Al- Muhajiroun have apart from their proselytizing role for the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi cult have also been involved in many public confrontational incidents including wild demonstrations against the West.
In the UK al Muhajiroun has many modern incarnations/name changes to stay out of the slow moving UK Terrorist Legislation definitions of proscribed Terrorist Organization (such as al-Ghurabaa (AG), the Saviour/Saved Sect (SS), Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’aah, Call to Submission, Islamic Path, London School of Shiria, Muslims Against Crusades, Supporters of Sharia and Islam4UK and has been closely linked with Hizb ut-Tahrir). Al Muhajiroun has been associated with the radicalization of Muslim communities away from their traditional moderate beliefs to the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi cult.
Abu Hamza (al-Masri)
Prominent figures include ex-Imam of the radical Finsbury Park Mosque, Abu Hamza al-Masri who discipled the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Anjem Choudary al-Masri’s successor.
It was Finsbury Parks 2ic Choudary who in 2006 arranged a notorious demonstration in London against the Danish cartoons stating “Behead those who insult Islam…Europe take some lessons from 9/11…you will pay demolition is on its way.”
According to surveys carried out by respected Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), a significant number of UK nationals convicted of Al-Qaeda related terrorist offences had links to FA’s British ‘sister group’, al Muhajiroun (Islam4UK) as a ‘gateway’ into terrorism, providing ideological indoctrination at the beginning of the Salafist extremist “path” and later access to Al-Qaeda recruiters in their Wahhabi funded Mosques who would then prepare them for terrorist ‘finishing schools’ in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, North West Pakistan and ‘blooding’ in FATA with Afghanistan insurgents.
In France it can be about the French laws banning women from wearing a full veil (niqab) in public places and posted a number of well-produced videos of its protests in French cities. Forsane Alizza promoted on its website the Wahhabi- Salfai-Takfiri-Jihadi group Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine ‘Inspire’ which has a section dedicated to helping terrorist sympathizers in the West carry out attacks on Western targets.
AF has since been banned by French Interior Ministry for inciting racial hatred in January 2012.
FA’s Mohammed Achamlane, aka Abu Hamza
FA’s leader Achamlane then simply changed its name to ’Force de Défense Musulmane sur Internet’, which says its only mission is to have so called “Islamophobic” material removed from French websites.
The main thing to note about the Islamic Clerics that propagate the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi cult’s beliefs is that they legitimize notions of murder as acts of divine Islamic ordinance and so are direct causal links to the acts of terrorism that follow.
Mohamed Merah’s ‘path’ in the cult was not unlike his fellow countryman, Zacarias Moussaoui (involved in 9/11). He too was from parents who had a traditional Islamic faith from their homeland (Morocco for the Moussaoui family). Unlike Merah, Zacarias Moussaoui had intellect having a master’s degree in International Business from South Bank University in London, having enrolled in 1993 and graduated in 1995. However that intellect did not stop Moussaoui from being proselytised by al Muhajiroun who radicalized him as thoroughly as Forsane Alizza messed with Mohamed Merah’s mind.
Mohamed Merah went to Afghanistan and Pakistan several times between 2008 and 2011 to further his ‘studies’, as they all do. On his first trip in 2008, Mohamed went to Pakistan to be further radicalized before being sent to al Qaeda insurgency operations group in Afghanistan under the leadership, Hamza el Alami, a French Moroccan.
In fact in 2008 he was captured fighting against the US and coalition forces with Al Qaeda insurgents and imprisoned in Kandahar but escaped in a mass breakout in 2008.
In 2011 he may have met with Umar Patek, an Indonesian Salafist terrorist involved in the Bali bombings just before he was caught in Abbottabad Pakistan (the same town OBL was killed later that same year by US Navy Seals). If so then what happened in Toulouse may well have had direct Al Qaeda support and sanction in addition to local sign off from the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi’s in France.
Upon his return it was obvious that he had been brainwashed AF-PAK, he tried to indoctrinate Muslim youngsters in his neighbourhood by showing them video footage of men being decapitated (perhaps it was the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002 by the self-confessed fellow Wahhabi Salafai Takfiri Jihadi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the 9/11 mastermind).
Mohamed Merah went about his killing in Toulouse school playground without remorse and in fact filmed all three attacks as he was doing them (just like his hero Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did when he gruesomely videotaped beheading Daniel Pearle).
Mohamed Merah despite the fact that both he and his brother were on the police ‘radar’ for involvement with Jihadist causes was not put under surveillance and so was able to amass a huge stock pile of weapons and began to plot his ‘glorious heroic martyrdom’ by murdering school children.
In 2008, the Frenchdomestic intelligence service, the DCRI (Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence) was formed as a merger between the Central Directorate of General Intelligence (RG) and the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST). The Toulouse massacres just goes to show that merely creating a bureaucracy without addressing the legal definitions of who a terrorist is, will not stop these atrocities in the future.
French authorities (including Bernard Squarcini chief of domestic intelligence service, the DCRI (Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence) faced justifiable criticism as to why the convicted Jihadist had not been more closely watched and allowed to amass such a large arsenal of weapons. Perhaps it was Mohamed’s close association with a so-called ‘anti-Islamophobia’ group that used the media that caused ‘political correctness’ to turn their gaze away in fear that they may unleash controversy in an election year.
Anti-terrorism chief Francois Molinssaid Mohamed Merah had trained with Al Qaeda terrorists in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, and had been planning to kill two soldiers and a policeman. Merah, described himself as an “Islamic warrior” who wanted to take revenge for what was happening to Muslims in the world.
His first murder was on March 11 in Toulouse where he killed an off duty soldier Sgt Imad Ibn Ziaten outside a gym.
Then on March 15 in nearby Montauban he killed two off duty but uniformed soldiers, Corporal Abel Chennouf, 24 and Private Mohamed Legouad, 26 and seriously injured a third 28-year-old Corporal Loic Liber who is still in a coma. In the attacks on the two soldiers in Montauban after shouting out “Allah Akbar”, he acted calmly, stopping to change the magazine of his pistol. Witnesses described how he had turned over one of the wounded men who was trying to crawl away, and fired three more shots into him.
Then on March 18 he dined out with his brother Abdelkader (who as well known to police because in 2007 he was arrested for supporting Salafi jihadists travelling to Iraq to push out Christians and Shia’s and establish their own Islamic Republic based on their cult. But there was insufficient evidence to charge him). One wonders what topics were discussed on the eve of the horrors that were to befall the children at the local Jewish school the next day.
The next day March 19 this self-professed ‘Islamic warrior’ decided to “bring France to its knees” as he later told police during the siege at his flat and so he set off for a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Reminiscent of what his Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi ‘brothers’ did in Beslan with such monstrous lack of feeling for children, he set upon a killing spree at the school. Mohammed Merah casually killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, who tried in vain to shield his sons from Mohamed. Their father dead, Mohamed took his time and murdered at close range Mr Sandler’s two young sons, 4 year old Gabriel and 5 year-old Arieh. He actually had only wounded Arieh with his first shot so walked after him as the five year old was desperately crawling away and then came up to him and shot him.
Then he turned his attention to a beautiful little eight year old girl Miriam whom he chased into the courtyard, caught her by her hair and raised a gun to shoot her. The gun jammed at this point and Merah changed weapons from what the police identified as a 9-mm pistol to a .45 calibre gun, and having time to think about what he was doing to this poor little girl nevertheless shot 8 year old Miriam in her temple at point-blank range.
Mohammed Merah was shot dead by Police after a two day siege in his flat on March 22, 2012.
During the siege he wanted “to die as a mujahedeen with a weapon in his hands and he would therefore go to paradise. Whereas if it was policemen who were killed, for them it would be too bad…. he had expressed no regrets other than “not having claimed more victims” and was proud of having “brought France to its knees.”
The French authorities need to see this tragedy in context of how the Wahhabi-Salafi-Takfiri-Jihadi’s operate at source and upon execution and change their laws to interdict terrorist instigators before these tragic mass murders take place.
Terrorist groups exploiting COVID-19 in Sahel
COVID-19 is complicating an already complex security situation in the Sahel, with terrorist groups exploiting the pandemic as they step up attacks on national and international forces, the UN’s peacekeeping chief said on Friday.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that the last six months have been particularly challenging as the G5 Sahel group of nations – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – deploys a joint force to restore stability to the vast African sub-region.
“We are seeing attempts by terrorists and other groups in the region to capitalize on the pandemic to undermine State authority and destabilize Governments”, with innocent lives being lost daily, schools shuttered and many people denied access to basic social services, he said.
Years to rebuild
“It will take years to rebuild affected communities in the Sahel even under the best of circumstances (as well as) sustained efforts to ensure that nobody is left behind”, added the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations.
“In the face of such loss and devastation, we cannot be passive.”
Mr. Lacroix was briefing a videoconference meeting of the Council as the United Nations considers options for beefing up its support for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, including through its MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali.
He said that the Joint Force is making “tangible and encouraging progress” in building up its ranks and establishing a command structure based in Niamey that will cooperate with other international forces in the Sahel.
Military operation ‘progressing well’
Those efforts have led to an ongoing major military operation, code-named Sama, that is “progressing well”, he reported.
With financial support from the European Union, MINUSMA – the French acronym for the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali – is providing “life support consumables” (food, water and fuel) within its mandate.
Mr. Lacroix warned, however, that the Mission is running at maximum capacity and cannot do more for the Joint Force within its current Council-defined mandate and resources.
Comprehensive support package needed Expanding on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Joint Force, he called for a comprehensive support package, funded by Member States through their assessed contributions to the UN.
“This would not only allow for predictable and sustainable support, it would also make it easier to pursue a long-term strategy to phase out this support and to render the Joint Force autonomous,” he explained.
It would also free up MINUSMA to focus exclusively on supporting the peace process and stabilization of central Mali, he added.
“The G5 Sahel Joint force is on the right track, but there is still a long way to go”, he said, adding that a stronger Joint Force is only part of a comprehensive international approach for the Sahel that includes improving governance, eradicating poverty and protecting human rights for all.
Finland’s Challenges Facing Potential Repatriation of ISIS Detainees
Authors: Anne Speckhard and Gabriel Sjöblom-Fodor*
The northern country of Finland represents a peculiar example in the international debate on ISIS foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and returnees. Known mainly for its celebrated educational system, welfare policies, wondrous scenery and as the home of Santa Claus, it found itself grappling with the same dilemma of returning FTFs facing other Western states after the fall of ISIS. As it turns out, the small well-off nation had one of the highest per capita rates of Muslims per population joining ISIS in the world, followed only by countries like Belgium and Sweden. According to the Finnish security services, SUPO, around 80 adults and “dozens” of children are known to have left, but the actual numbers might be even higher. Some also initially traveled before the rise of ISIS to join other rebel groups fighting Bashar al-Assad, but later ended up with ISIS. Around 25 are believed to have returned, and again this number might be higher, with some returning home under the radar. According to a report for the Finnish Ministry of Interior by Saarinen & Malkki, the returnees seem mostly disengaged from violent action, even though the Takfirist-Jihadi methodology, which rejects all others as unbelievers who can be killed – even other Muslims not from their sect – and was at the heart of ISIS state-building philosophy, is still alive. In some of these returnees, violence has been forsaken for the time being, but this Takfiri mindset is still present, which is concerning for future radicalization and potential return to violence.
Unlike other Western nations, who face a conundrum of having to deal with dozens, sometimes hundreds of its citizens imprisoned in the camps in Syria run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Finland faces a different situation in regard to potential repatriations as many of their FTFs are presumed to have died in battle or are otherwise missing. Finland today has only around 11 women and approximately 30 children in Syria, who for the most part are detained in the SDF-controlled al-Hol camp, with the rest dead or missing. Even though the numbers are low, and are thus much easier to manage for repatriations than for example those of Great Britain or France, by now three successive Finnish governments, the Sipilä, Rinne and following current Marin government, have seemingly been at loss for how to deal with the issue with all fearing political repercussions of repatriating even only the women and children. An anonymous official from a Western European government was quoted as saying that Western governments generally prefer the status quo to remain, as their governments will bear political responsibility for any attacks carried out by any individual it repatriates.
Initially, on the 27th of June, 2019, almost three months after the fall of the last ISIS stronghold in Baghuz, Syria, former Prime Minister Antti Rinne (Social Democrats) and current Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson (Swedish People’s Party) announced that Finland will not repatriate anyone who had served and lived under ISIS. The only “solution” offered was that if they somehow made it to a Finnish embassy they would be assisted. The closest operating one is in Erbil, Iraq, requiring a passport to cross over from Syria and the prospect for former ISIS members of re-arrest and imprisonment in Iraq. Of course for those imprisoned in SDF camps and prisons travel to Iraq is an impossibility without government support and facilitation and, even then, there are no guarantees that the Iraqis will let anyone formerly associated with ISIS pass through Iraq without arresting them.
Minister of Interior Maria Ohisalo (Greens), however, shortly thereafter signaled a different course in a series of tweets stating the government was “looking into many alternative perspectives,” evoking strong criticism from many quarters, including her own party. She maintained, however, that solutions were urgently needed for the situation of underage children, citing Finland’s commitment to international treaties on the welfare of children. Following this, Rinne changed course on July 4, 2019, by stating that the government now also intends to work to find a solution for the women as well. He also met with relatives of the detainees. “I heard the relatives describe the conditions of those at the al-Hol camp. I told them that the Finnish state has been working hard to find a solution to the situation,” he said, according to YLE English. Relatives of the women shortly thereafter published an editorial, claiming that they had not understood the consequences of their actions and that the relatives were ready to cover any expenses for repatriation.
How to work with and address the adult women became the next issue with suggestions to carry out individual assessments of them, dealing with each on a case-by-case basis. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, however, deemed that carrying out assessment work at the camps was not feasible under current circumstances due to safety concerns. “As the minister I was in a very difficult position, because the Ministry and the Minister for Foreign Affairs are responsible for the safety of Finnish citizens in danger, but my ministry had no solution,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto stated to the daily Helsingin Sanomat, as quoted by YLE in English. In the meantime, numerous legal experts and representatives of humanitarian organizations began to emerge to criticize the government’s handling of the question. The topic was also hotly debated on most national opinion pages.
Meanwhile, the Finnish security services (SUPO) maintained throughout, and maintains till this day, that the women, and also the children, might be national security risks if returned and they remain, as a result, critical towards repatriation. It should be pointed out that security services in every country normally state that security risks such as ISIS returnees who are not imprisoned require 24/7 monitoring until they are judged no longer a risk and that is both expensive and difficult to maintain over time for any considerable number of individuals. In this regard, SUPO seems unfamiliar or critical of the possibility of treatment options with rehabilitation and reintegration of these individuals as a potential answer to long-term monitoring.
The issue of repatriations continues to cause serious friction at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, with minister Haavisto disagreeing with his staff on a way forward, to the degree that the conflict leaked into the public. The heart of the question lay in whether a political decision or not was needed for the Ministry to initiate repatriations, with the Foreign Minister pursuing a need for urgent repatriation, in the light of the statement of the Chancellor of Justice about citizens in need, and his staff wanting to wait for the relevant political decision to be made. Allegations were also made that the Foreign Ministry did not properly inform other government bodies of the process. The Foreign Minister was also alleged to, under suspicious circumstances, have replaced an official who went against him in the matter. The Foreign Minister was subsequently accused of misconduct for acting out of hand in the matter but later cleared of all charges. A special envoy was named to deal with all matters concerning repatriation; however, the identity of this envoy has not been made public nor the nature of the work.
On Dec. 12, 2019, Haavisto brought up the notion of case-by-case assessments, this time during a parliamentary question session, where he gained support for that line by the Center and Left parties, even though the Center party was somewhat split. The other parties held differing opinions, other than the far-right True Finns Party who were against. The chairwoman of the Center party and Minister of Finance, Katri Kulmuni, however, shortly thereafter was forced to apologize after she posted an Instagram post expressing herself in a somewhat ridiculing manner about what to do with the women at al-Hol. Newly elected Prime Minister Sanna Marin, however, stated it is not the politicians’ responsibility to make individual assessments, that this is up to government officials and authorities. She did, however, with reservations, support the idea of repatriating women. The Kurdish authorities, on their side, will not separate children from mothers, making repatriations of only children a moot point, which also led to the issue becoming stalled in Finland.
During this time, it was claimed that there was a plan called Operation Korpi at the Foreign Ministry to repatriate both women and children. Initially there was confusion in regard to its nature. This operation was said to be made up of the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, the Social and Public Health Ministry, Central Criminal Police, border control authority, the Helsinki and Uusimaa/Nyland health district and the Vantaa/Vanda city social authorities. First alleged to be for swift repatriation of children and possibly mothers, it was claimed it was instead an emergency plan in case al-Hol camp were to disintegrate in a manner like Ain-Issa camp did during the Turkish incursion when hundreds of women escaped, some making their way, via Turkey, back into Europe.
How dangerous the women really are is also greatly contended. Several journalists, such as Antti Kuronen of Yle (who won an award for his reporting on the topic) and Sami Sillanpää of the daily Helsingin Sanomat and Sonja Saarikoski of Image Magazine, were able to reach in person or talk to Finnish women in the camps via illicit phones the women in the camps often use. The stories emerging were mostly those of regret, suffering, frustration and disillusionment, with a few exceptions. Not all want to return home and some remain loyal to violent ideologies. Some of the women, whose comments were widely disseminated in the Finnish press, stated their ongoing support for ISIS in an overzealous fashion and did not wish to be repatriated as they waited for the ISIS “Caliphate” to rise again. Another thing quoted was that they did not wish to return to “intolerant” Finland where they will face abuse, get ostracized and be spat at on the street. ICSVE’s own sources note that some of the Finnish women in Camp al Hol are somewhat suspicious of each other and do not live together at the camp – which makes sense given this spectrum of pro- and anti-ISIS sentiments among them.
Finland, as the last country among the Nordic countries to do so, had established a link with the SDF in September. Most EU countries had been reluctant to interact on an official level with a nonstate actor, particularly one claimed by Turkey to be tied to the PKK. However, U.S. military sources that ICSVE has spoken to repeatedly state that they were never aware of attacks launched by the SDF from Syria into Turkey, except in self-defense once Turkey unleashed their incursion into North East Syria in fall 2019. Likewise, Amy Austin Holmes documents in her report that Arabs, not Kurds, currently make up the majority of the SDF.
On Jan. 20-29, 2020, the foreign minister, Dr. Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Commission of the Syrian Kurdish self-administration of North East Syria, visited Finland to hold discussions on what to do. He presented the idea to hold trials in Syria, which had also been presented to EU officials. A leaked document of the talks with the EU was later revealed, but when Dr. Omar announced that the Kurdish plan was met with “consideration” by the Finnish Foreign Ministry, it later claimed any positive stance had been ‘exaggerated’. It is unknown how far the plan, or any plan, has gone as the epidemic of COVID-19 soon thereafter shifted the focus of Finnish authorities.
In consideration of the widespread refusal of EU countries to repatriate their ISIS detainees from SDF territory, it is interesting that one of the Finnish women held in Camp al Hol told a journalist, “It is surprising that people in Finland are so afraid of us. There are only about ten of us.” This is a frequent comment made by ISIS women to ICSVE researchers as well, stating that they are totally disillusioned of ISIS, never took part in violence and no one should fear them. Indeed, the question of these women and their children’s potential level of danger or threat to Finnish national security has been one of the main questions underpinning the raging discussion. Takfiri-Jihadism and its contemporary workings, and how to effectively deal with it, is basically an entirely new phenomenon in Finnish society that authorities, politicians, media and researchers are often still very much struggling to understand. In some cases this has led to problematic conclusions being aired, such as seeming inabilities to tell the difference between disengagement from violent groups and actions and deradicalization where violent ideology itself is renounced, and the belief that deradicalization can only happen if sought voluntarily, or else it is not possible, among other things.
Of importance, in our ICSVE sample of 239 ISIS returnees, defectors and prisoners we have found a great deal of “spontaneous deradicalization” occurring among ISIS detainees as they were clearly disillusioned, some immediately upon entering ISIS territory and others over time, by ISIS’s inability to live up to its claims of creating a utopian Islamic State. Instead they found ISIS leaders in particular to be un-Islamic in their practices, overly brutal and corrupt. One woman told ICSVE researchers about how commanders would swiftly send the “young, sincere” men, often foreigners, who were the true believers in the cause out to the front as cannon fodder or on suicide missions, leaving the corrupt alive safely away from any fighting. Another disillusioned woman in the camps, for instance, told ICSVE that she didn’t need a deradicalization program – that ISIS itself was the best deradicalization program she could have ever undergone.
We know that no one joins a terrorist group except that the group appears to meet some inner needs such as belonging, dignity, purpose, significance, adventure, love and, in the case of ISIS, the claim of Islamic living. Likewise, extremism develops along certain cognitive lines, often starting off with overzealousness or strong idealism triggered by outside factors. In the case of many of the women who joined ISIS, Bashar al-Assad’s atrocities against the Syrian civil population acted initially as a strong motivation. This, and the following anarchy in Syria, was then tapped into by extremist Muslim preachers globally to promote the idea to establish a “true” Islamic state, as in their opinion, tracing their ideas back to Sayyid Qutb, the ideological father of modern Takfiri philosophy, there are no true Islamic countries or even true Muslims anymore. Anwar al Awlaki and other preachers had already, and continued to popularize the idea that a “vanguard” of chosen believers are obliged to initiate revolutions and fight everyone disagreeing or opposing until their narrow interpretation of religion is victorious, notions Qutb borrowed and “Islamicized” from Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin along with the ’ends justify the means’-methodology, which ended up becoming the backbones of ISIS ideology, a group that ironically claims to represent the most pristine and ancient understanding of Islam.
These extremist preachers and subsequently ISIS recruiters were able to lure, convince or seduce those emotionally affected by the suffering in Syria by both playing upon this suffering as well as pointing out the level of discrimination faced by Muslims in Finland and in the West generally, especially women and Muslims who hold to very orthodox or politicized interpretations of their faith and dress or live in ways that can engender abuse from Islamophobes and stigmatization from Western society overall. It should be remembered that the dominant societies in the Nordic countries, as well as in many other parts of northern Europe, with their high level of liberalism and strong secularism, have moved beyond religion and many are religious in name only. Thus for immigrant Muslims living in insular communities amongst them and holding religious piety in a high regard, there can be a great deal of feelings of alienation and perceived judgment as well as not being able to navigate the behaviors of mainstream societies, which differs completely in norms and behaviors concerning religious rules for conservative Muslims. A common grievance has also been that these societies are experienced as being tolerant only in theory but not wholly in practice, with some religious Muslims feeling a pressure to conform and to abandon parts of their religious identities or they would not be able to succeed in the societies in which they reside. This causes some to withdraw, and hatred and fear easily develop on both sides. For Muslims adopting stricter interpretations, including converts to some conservative or politicized groups of Islam, the struggle to adhere to very strict beliefs and combine their faith with living in a secular society can become too much to bear. In claiming its bold new Islamic State Caliphate, ISIS offered an answer and an opt-out for many of them. The idea of an Islamic utopia was presented and they were invited to build it with dignity and honor, and to fight for it, while jobs and housing and marriages were also guaranteed to those who agreed to go and join. For many this was a long-desired answer to a painful struggle to fit in and adhere to narrow religious interpretations unable to pair with living in a liberal mainstream society that often finds their differing beliefs at best strange and quirky or, at worst, threatening and dangerous. This factor also demonstrates the need for mainstream society to find ways to accommodate more conservative elements of society in ways that are tolerant while not allowing for violent expressions.
At ICSVE, we have interviewed dozens of Europeans who said they left Europe for Syria out of a combination of feelings of outrage and humanitarian concern for Assad’s victims as well as desire to live under Islamic ideals. Women in particular, and their male partners, frequently cite discrimination including being spat on for wearing a niqab, frustrated attempts to be employed, or move ahead as a Muslim in the workplace as push factors for leaving. In Finland, it was seemingly extra hard to oppose the Takfiri call, as there were not enough community actors with the legitimacy to those affected by it to effectively counter it, even though some attempts were made. The Sunni Muslim community in Finland are mostly made up of groups which in the eyes of Takfiris hold no religious legitimacy whatsoever, such as Sufis, Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Islamists or the historic Tatar community (usually Sufis and known for being very liberal) among others, which they all excommunicate. Thus once someone fell into their clutches they often wouldn’t reach out to others for differing opinions nor approached in any effective way by other credible groups about what they were being fed as the “true” Islam. In other countries, Sweden or the UK for instance, the Takfiri call faced stiff opposition from Islamic conservative religious groups, who were able to limit, theologically delegitimize their narratives to a wider audience of Muslims in the risk zone and even sometimes halt their activities altogether. This may be key to understanding how to rehabilitate some upon their return as well as these conservative groups developed key strategies in knowing how to talk potential ISIS recruits from being fooled by the group into joining. The issue is as much about theology as it is about national security, and both need to be taken into consideration when making assessments.
After experiencing war, terror and the hypocrisy of ISIS claims to defend Islam and Islamic values while they kept continuously violating them in the most grotesque manners on every possible level, the initial overzealousness and idealism of many who went to join them has passed into disillusionment and disappointment for many now-former adherents. Many have, as mentioned above, started to spontaneously deradicalize without any rehabilitation program in place. Some, however still cling to the ISIS ideology. A key feature of Takfiri groups is that they take general sacred texts about divine salvation for Muslims and apply them to their group only, making it appear for followers as if their group alone will be saved and all others damned. They then outwardly conform to certain descriptions found in the texts held sacred by Muslims describing how the saved group should be to lure people into it, convincing them only this group adheres to the truth and questioning or leaving it will lead to disbelief and eternal damnation.
This is a common theme that cults use to scare their members from ever questioning or exiting their cult. For someone who is seeking the “truth” and fears damnation this can be a powerful motivation not to seek conflicting information or advice outside the group. This also creates overzealousness as well as anxiety in followers, who think that if they do not support their group (in this case ISIS), directly or indirectly, or at least believe in its message, they will face eternal damnation, which in Muslim belief involves an eternal punishment in hellfire. This is also one of the security risks for returnees. As long as they continue to believe they are religiously obliged to believe in a violent ideology, and that this ideology is the only route to salvation, or feel their self-identity attacked by the society they are living in, they may pretend to have given it up, or actually give it up for a time, but later re-engage and act out those beliefs, sooner or later. We saw this in the recent case of Usman Khan who reverted to his former adherence to jihadist thinking and suddenly turned upon his rehabilitation team who he likely felt were symbolic of oppressors and killed them.
Likewise, without help to rebuild the lost sense of identity that was handed over to the cult, in this case ISIS, it might be too painful to truly disengage from the group and the individual will stick to their ISIS identity for psychological reasons, even if hidden for reasons of expediency. Likewise, the insularity and belief systems of the group that one returns to is important to consider for a full recovery. The violent ideas of ISIS and its precursor, al Qaeda, have spread throughout Europe for decades now creating in some communities a de facto acceptance of many violent ideas including support for suicide terrorism. A systematic and holistic treatment program is necessary to address all of these factors for a successful repatriation to occur. Thus, it is important when considering repatriations in any country to be sure that there are knowledgeable and skilled psychologists, counselors and religious scholars who can address all of these issues to rebuild the individual to walk away from violent extremism and become truly resilient, rehabilitated and reintegrated well into society.
As of now, Finland does not have any government-backed rehabilitation program for extremists as the former government-backed program, Radinet, was closed down due to termination of funding in early 2019, ironically coinciding with the final battles against ISIS and the fall of Baghuz. The success of Radinet is also subject of debate and has yet to be assessed. Talks for a new program to be set up have been conducted but have not yet materialized. It might also be considered if the current strategy, involving the Prevention cooperation and Anchor groups, with actors like police, local officials and social workers, currently possesses the right resources to deal with this matter from the ideological, psychological and security perspectives it demands, owing to needs for a comprehensive and holistic approach to these issues which are themselves systemic rather than residing on an individual level only.
While it is still too early to say with certainty that successful repatriations have occurred, Finland can also look to Belgium to the case of Lara Passoni, who went as an ISIS wife but returned home to Belgium to face prosecution, after which she was given a stay of sentence. She now lectures high school students about the dangers of believing the lies of groups like ISIS. Her ICSVE counter narrative video can be viewed here. Similarly Irish Lisa Smith has returned successfully to Ireland and is living at home on bail and has not appeared to be a serious security risk as she is transitioning through the justice system. Her ICSVE counter narratives can be viewed here, here, here and here. While others have returned and are still a serious threat, the lesson appears to be to take each case individually and do a careful assessment, prosecute when possible to maintain maximum leverage and, if needed, build strong individualized rehabilitation and reintegration programs around them. In this way only can we address the issues of instabilities in Syria that could lead to more ISIS detainee escapes, which in the women’s camps happen all too frequently, and the safe return of children whose mothers may have chosen badly, but who as children brought or born into ISIS are themselves entirely innocent and deserve to be protected and brought home.
Gabriel Sjöblom-Fodor is a researcher who specializes in the study of religious community work in the countering of violent extremism and extremist narratives, and how this work impacts national security. His focus is on deradicalization and prevention of violence using theological and psychological counseling, as well as the specific politico-religious and social roots of modern violent extremism. He has a background in journalism and in politics, and has also previously consulted political parties on the topic of countering extremism in Sweden, such as the Center party and Christian Democrat party. In 2015 he embarked on a research project that aimed to investigate how Muslim religious communities countered extremist narratives and recruitment to violent extremism. The focus lay in how theological and counseling debates and methods, where the extremist narrative is deconstructed, have been used, and continue to be used, in the Nordic context by religious actors. This was done through interviewing religious leaders and actors who witnessed close-up the call to violent extremism during the rise and peak of the ISIS “Caliphate” and were able to witness first-hand these processes and engage with radicalized individuals, recruiters and FTFs. This research continues. Gabriel has also consulted and assisted in several research projects on the topics of religious extremism, Salafism and radicalization. He has also written several news articles on the topics as well as appeared in several publications. At ICSVE, Gabriel is working on the issues of EU repatriations, research into violent extremism and prevention and interventions to disrupt terrorist recruitment and delegitimize terrorist groups.
Author’s note: first published in Homeland Security Today
Sri Lanka’s fight against LTTE terrorism: In retrospect
Authors: Ms. Nathasha Fernando and Ms. Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa
On the 19th of May 2020 Sri Lanka celebrated the National War Heroes Day and there was a surprise: Tamil Ealam Cyber Force attacking and defacing several government websites.
The Sri Lankan civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan state ended in May 2009. The LTTE was known to the world as a ‘terrorist group’, ‘insurgents’, and alternatively as ‘guerilla fighters’. A number of countries in the world has proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist organization especially following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 during which a global pledge was made to rid the world of terrorism. The Council of European Union pursuant toUNSC Resolution 1373/2001 formulated the European Union Terrorist List proscribing the LTTE as a terrorist organization up to date. In 2009, the LTTE was brutally annihilated by a resolute military assault by the Sri Lankan state armed forces. Although the LTTE were militarily annihilated, their ideology is promulgated in other ways through an extensive international diaspora and especially warfare in the cyber domain.
How Sri Lanka won the war
The failure of the peace-talks in 1990, 1995, and 2002 pointed out there was no way to fight against terrorism other than by military means. There were international commentators whom opined war could not be won militarily such as General A.S Kalkat and opposition leader Ranil Wikremasinghe who downplayed and mocked Sri Lanka’s military victories against the LTTE. In 2007, Sri Lankan military victory at Thoppigala was belittled by Wikremasinghe as “nothing to crow about”. Therefore with the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the president of Sri Lanka in 2005, appointment of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as secretary of defense, and several notable military men to head Sri Lanka’s tri-forces, the war was won to the dismay of the skeptics working against Sri Lanka’s national interests.
Sri Lanka’s military victory was the result of courageous leadership and a solid grand-strategy. Although 4 percent allocation of the GDP to defense strained fiscal resources, financial assistance was sought from Iran, Libya, Russia and Pakistan. European Union, US and Canada assisted diplomatically by proscribing LTTE as terrorists aiding the government to limit LTTE foreign financing. Sri Lanka’s navy played a key role to cut of LTTE logistical lines and cripple the LTTE Sea Tigers. The intelligence wing of the military was also able to manipulate a defection from within LTTE internal ranks. The defector Karuna Amman was key to obtaining vital information on LTTE command structure and operations.
Tamil Ealam Cyber force
The LTTE political wing had been active even though the war ended in 2009. Sri Lankan government has been weak in countering the legitimacy of the LTTE claim of the Ealam, ‘Tamil Homeland’ in the cyberspace. The global Tamil community is one of the largest Diasporas in the world. The LTTE cyber strategy is to conduct “cyber-attacks”, use cyberspace for amassing funds, and support ideological propaganda. The LTTE has attempted to deface and hack the government of Sri Lanka’s websites several times. According to cyber security analysts, the virtual Elam that had been created by the post-war new generation of Tamils in exile are formulating new narratives of Ceylonese history portraying a government in exile; a different approach to reclaiming Ealam. Through websites such as www.tamilnation.org, www.eelam.com,www.tamilcanadian.com,www.tamileelamnews.com,www.tamileditors.com,www.eelamweb.com, and www.tamilnet.com content is aimed at redefining the notion of state and nation in a technocratic era. Some notable issues that are continuously represented in these website contents are government’s continued militarization of North, accusations of war crimes, government denial of war crimes and issues that denigrate the image of Sri Lanka internationally.
A raucous Tamil diaspora
According to a study by The International Crisis Group, the interplay between diaspora Tamils and the LTTE is complex and misunderstood. As SharikaThiranagama points out “all tigers are Tamil, but not all Tamils are tigers”. It was both state and LTTE violence that forced Tamils to seek political asylum abroad. These Tamils have a strong sense of victimization and injustice with guilt and shame for leaving Sri Lanka when their brethren fell in battle. These sentiments were manipulated by Prabhakaran in the 80s to establish links between LTTE cadres and Tamils in other countries who blended within Tamil communities in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and India while bureaucracies’ in Canada, Norway, Switzerland and Australia were infiltrated. Most funding was stopped by the government in 2009 with the arrest of KP-Selverasa Pathmanathan. Post war, the diaspora is still active and the real danger lies in how diaspora groups alter the history of Sri Lanka which misleads second and third generation of Tamils growing up in foreign countries to mistrust the Sinhalese.
In retrospect, the battle with virtual Ealam is the biggest and the most difficult war to win. It requires a national, regional and international cybersecurity strategy with experts working together. There are several national agencies for cyber security in Sri Lanka such as Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team Coordinating Centre and Air Force Cyber Operations Centre. The government’s Cyber Security Strategy from 2019-2023 is aimed at countering cyber-attacks but much more needs to be done to create counter narratives to LTTE-driven ideology and narratives of virtual Eelam spread across the web and on social media.
This article is written by Ms. Nathasha Fernando and Ms. Ayodhya Krishani Amarajeewa.
Enterprises Are Building Their Future With 5G and Wi-Fi 6
Eighty-six percent of networking executives believe that advanced wireless will transform their organization within three years, and 79% say the...
Terrorist groups exploiting COVID-19 in Sahel
COVID-19 is complicating an already complex security situation in the Sahel, with terrorist groups exploiting the pandemic as they step...
At both the local and the global level, the crisis we have faced up to together has shown the importance...
Philippines drug campaign directive seen as ‘permission to kill’
A campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines that began in 2016 has led to the killing of at...
India must follow Supreme Court orders to protect 100 million migrant workers
The Indian Government must urgently comply with a Supreme Court order to ensure the wellbeing of more than 100 million...
“Sustainability as the New Normal” a Vision for the Future of Tourism
To mark World Environment Day, the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) announces its...
Emergence of New World Order out of Sino-US clash
The United States of America and China’s relation has many up and down since the outbreak of Taiwan Strait status...
Middle East2 days ago
Who are the real betrayers of Egypt, Critics or Sycophants?
Europe3 days ago
From Russia with Love: Controversy Around the Russian Aid Campaign to Italy
Diplomacy2 days ago
Chinese soft power winning hearts and minds
Americas2 days ago
Geopolitical Competition Logic as Seen From U.S.-Soviet Union Differences
Economy3 days ago
Iron Fist for Pacific East
Defense3 days ago
Gulf Sands Shift as Anchors of Regional Security Loosen
East Asia3 days ago
China and Hong Kong
Economy2 days ago
The COVID-19 Pandemic and the “Phoenix” of the Globalized Technological Capitalist System?