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The Problem with Pondoks and terror in Southern Thailand

Alexander Athos

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There is a potent mix of Islamic extremism, cultural isolation, political instability and crime in Thailand’s Southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala that have led to over 6,000 murders and double as many injuries from various terrorist acts over the last 11 years.

Many have pointed the finger at radicalization in the Islamic schools (pondoks) as part of the problem because of the increasing influence of the intolerant Wahhabi sect that funds these institutions.

‘The war in southern Thailand is long-running and threatens to spread.’ “On May 16 this year, a bomber walked unnoticed into a toy store in the main street of Yala, a town in southern Thailand only a few hours’ drive from the country’s main tourist beaches, and left a shopping bag packed with explosives. Minutes later, a mobile telephone in the bag detonated the bomb that ripped through the store, one of three dozen blasts over three days in May that injured 22 people and terrified the town’s population of 65,000…More than 180 teachers have been killed (and government schools burned down) mostly because they are seen as a symbol of Thai rule…Don Pathan, the independent consultant who lives in Yala town and has been following the conflict for 20 years, says he has been told a council of about a dozen Muslim clerics presides over the insurgency.The clandestine cell structure appears to be deliberately set up in such a way that members may not be personally acquainted with others under the overall command and operate on a need-to-know basis. The insurgents have no political wing, leaving them with no forum to publicly air their goals… Militants have recruited children as young as 14, according to Child Soldiers International….Eighty-three year-old Buddhist Klean Sangam-pai says for decades Buddhists and Muslims lived happily side by side in her village in Pattani. But in 2004 militants shot her son dead and three years later beheaded her husband and torched his body and their family house.”

It is no coincidence that the rising lawlessness and violence along the Malaysian border are committed by radicalized Malay speaking Muslims who form the majority of the population and seek independence from Thai laws and authority. As the majority of the populations in these provinces are Muslim, terror does not take the form of indiscriminate bombings and attacks against civilian targets but rather against government institutions such as police, army and schools and also targeted assassinations of Non-Muslims by black clad terrorists. The violent Southern Malay speaking (Pattani Malay/Jawi) Muslims of Thailand (44% of the total Muslim population of 7 million out of a total Thai population of 65 million) are to be contrasted with the Northern Thai Muslims (56%) who are Thai speaking, moderate and integrated into Thai society.

The worry for the Thai authorities is that the Southern insurgents are now getting training and support from the global Wahhabi Salafi petro dollar ‘Islamic awakening’ terrorists through their SE Asian affiliates such as JI in Indonesia. This often plays out in Southern extremists demanding that education in schools be Islamic, in Arabic or Malay and resist Thai language as culturally anti-Islam. One of the modern drivers of the violent conflict is that thousands of Thai Muslim students (follow the example of their cult hero Haji Sulong who was indoctrinated in Mecca) go overseas to study in radical Sunni educational facilities in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Cairo and Indonesia and so get ‘infected’/indoctrinated by the Wahhabi puritanical and intolerant strain of Islam. They return as radical hate preacher imams (ustas/ustaz/Tok Gurus) such as Mahamu Mama aka Pador Mamu to set up radical mosques and Islamist schools (pondoks). Incredibly 80% of all students in these three Southern Thailand provinces attend a religious school (pondok) guaranteeing instability in the region for generations to come.

According to this news site, a threatening letter sent to a Buddhist teacher in southern Thailand. The translation reads:

“Kru Bow Kru Koy Kru Kai [the name of the teacher], the Thai Buddhist get out. Don’t work here. Not guarantee for safety. Go to teach at Krongpinang at Nibongchanoopatum. We know and can follow where you are, what you teach, and how you go. We, Pattani state, do not want Thai Buddhists teachers. This is the first warning. You are also the Thai Buddhist [Kafir Siam]. We are Allah people and don’t get involved with them. Get out. Allah protects people who believe in Allah only.”

It is therefore not unusual to see monks protected by Thai military in these Southern Thai provinces.

It is little surprise that when Muslim students return to their Southern Thai mosques from Wahhabi funded institutions abroad that the rate of bombings, kidnappings, beheadings and shootings have dramatically increased. Just last month another wave of terrorist bomb attacks took place in Yala Province believed to be the work of Hikmat Allah Abadan (Brotherhood of the Eternal Judgment of God).

Mass Wahhabi Salafi radicalization of intellectual elites drives terror in this troubled region channelling regional political discontent into a broader clash of civilization paradigm of the global jihadists.

One center of such destabilization is the religious educational facility called theYala Islamic College founded in 1998. It is funded by International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi based organization that espouses the intolerant Wahhabi ideology. This facility churns out hate preachers that then go and brainwash Muslim youth in the pondoks into the radical Wahhabi Salafi sect of Islam.

“Since 2001 the civil society in the three southern Thai provinces has experienced a widespread imposition of legalistic Salafi norms and the reality on the ground is today very different from what it was in former southern Thailand.Salafism has heavily eroded Patani cultural identity and current insurgent groups have extreme religious goals, such as an Islamic Caliphate. On 26 July 2009 Abu Yasir Fikri, President of PULO, and the “emir” of the Group of Mujahidin Islam Patani (GMIP), Me Kuteh, agreed to join forces. Abu Yasir Fikri was allowed to speak on behalf of the GMIP on all political issues. The agreement included a section in which they agreed to form a unified military force, the Patani Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA would be commanded by the First Deputy Military Commander of the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO). On 18 April 2009, PULO outlined a solution to conflict at the OICsTwelfth Meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts to consider the Conditions of Muslim Communities and Minorities in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.” (Note OIC: Organization of the Islamic Conference changed its name to Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2011). Taken from South Thailand Insurgency

Terrorists use pondoks such as Yuwa Muslim School in Pattani province as centres of radicalization and support. In January 2015 Thai military had to shoot three terrorists using that facility.

Puritanical hate text books funded by Wahhabis now proliferate among the Southern Thai Muslims. One example is the notorious ‘Berjihad di Pattani’.The text was based on writings of Sayyid Qutb Maulana Abul al Maududi and the al-Farida al Gha’iba by Muhammad Farraj (the text that inspired the Jihadist murderers of President Sadat of Egypt in 1981).It is published in Kelentan, Malaysia and uses selective texts from the Quran to extol violent jihad against all non-Sunni people. The book directs true Muslims to even kill their parents if they do not fight in the way of Allah by opposing the Thai authorities, Buddhist monks and Thai educational facilities and teachers and as jihadi warriors joining the religious war against non-Muslim people.

The majority of moderate Muslims in Thailand’s North are resisting this perto-dollar extremist Wahhabi takeover of Islam in the South. They publish counter narratives to try and inoculate Muslim youth from Wahhabi/Salafi radicalization. The anti-radical text ‘Facts about the Distortion of Islamic Teachings as Appeared in The Struggle for Pattini’, is an example of this heroic effort.

What is happening in Southern Thailand is but a part of a global problem associated with the spread of an intolerant and puritanical strain of Islam, the Wahhabi/Salafi. Whilst the Wahhabi schools do not teach bomb making 101, they certainly espouse an ideology of bomb thinking.

” Contemporary Islam is witnessing a crisis of authority both in religious and sociopolitical arenas. This is being caried out by the clashing of the puritans (comprising fundamentalists, militants, extremists, radicals, fanatics and jihadists) and the moderate (consisting of modernists, progressives, and reformers) sections of the Muslim community all over the world.

The modern phenomenon of Islamic resurgence seeks to bring back Islamic values, practices, institutions and law back into the lives of Muslims. It seeks tp re-create an Islamic ethos, an Islamic social order, at the vortex of which is the human being guided by the Quran and the Sunnah. This phenomenon is reflected in an increase in the use of Arabic religious terminology, wearing of Arabicized attire by males, donning of the hijab by women, segregation between the sexes and a decrease in interreligious communication combined with an urgent urge to establish an Islamic state in the case of Muslim majorities and an Islamic society in the case of Muslim minorities….

Historically, Islam in Thailand has been of the syncretistic type (Kuam Tua (Malay)/Khana kau (Thai) which involved the intermingling of local practices with normative Islam. It had been tolerant…but this has changed gradually (into) Salafi-Wahhabi oriented Islam (Kuam Muda (Malay)/ Khana mai (Thai). (The Wahhabi influence started) in 1926 with the arrival to Bangkok of Ahmad Wahab (an Indonesian who studied Wahhabism in Mecca but who was exiled by the Dutch from returning to Indonesia). (This hard line strain merged in the 1960’s with the growing Salafist movements such as ) Young Muslim Association of Thailand….In the 1970’s, the spread of the Saudi petro-dollar sponsored program of Islamic resurgence led to the emergence of the Thai Salafi reformism with Saudi Wahhabism resulting in the gradual marginalization of the khana kau section of the Muslim community. ..The first instance of Salafi-Wahhabi reformist ideas coming to Southern Thailand was with Haji Sulong who was a Malay Msulim…educated in Mecca…Islamic resurgence has been a continuing phenomenon within the Malay speaking Muslims of Southern Thailand until today…with the aim of establishing a pure Islamic society through religious activism and proselytism. Wahhabi reformers such as Dr. Ismail Lufti and his Yala Islamic College (who eschews any nomenclature of ‘Wahhabi’ and prefers to call his movement ‘ahl as-Sunnah’), which is sponsored by Saudi benefactors, have engaged in undertaking the puritan reformation….(characterized by) :

•             rigid literalism

•             intolerance

•             supremacist psychology

•             restriction of women

•             opposition to rational thought

•             hostility to artistic expression

“The Wahhabism (holds) the old ethnocentric belief that only Arabs can represent the one and true authentic Islam…that Bedouin culture (was) the one and only true Islam… (at it’s inception in the Eighteenth century it was a device to reject Turkish dominance)…the Wahhabi’s of today take the culture of Saudi Arabia and universalize it into the singularly true Islam.” Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft Wrestling Islam from the Extremists’, pp 52-53

“The Islamization of the southern conflict occurred in the 1980’s through the external influence of Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan and the impacts of Global Muslim related events such as the wars in Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. …the majority of Southern Thai Muslims identify themselves with the Shafii school of ISlamic law and shun Wahhabism…the arrival of Wahhabi Islam in southern Thailand resulted in rifts within local Islam which even caused theological splits within families…the traditional Malay Muslims are resisting puritanical Wahhabi, viewing it as a threat to their culture…(nevertheless the coming of the Wahhabi extremism has contributed to increasing radicalization in religion and politics).”

Alexander Athos is a writer and businessman.He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (European History) Personal background Alexander was christened Orthodox brought up Catholic and now Evangelical Christian with an acceptance of the best in Christian tradition and a respect for genuine people of faith from other cultures. Political inclinations: Christian intellectual who has an eclectic predisposition to understanding global and national political and social trends and seeking to influence them for good by thoughtful and persuasive discourse.

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Terrorism

Pulwama Attacks: Pakistan takes on India again

Sisir Devkota

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The attacks by Jaish-e-Muhammed on Indian security forces has come at a tricky time; Modi led government’s reaction to the killings, and the preparations for the 2019 general elections, are two events, that are going to intrigue imagination of wide possibilities. Forty men lost their lives, in the kind of barbarism that India expects from Pakistani non-state actors. Mind the assertion; if media sources in India can prove that Masood Azhar-the master mind, controlled the entire event from a military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan has landed itself in a great limbo. Masood Azhar is no longer a non-state actor in Pakistan; instead he is a Pakistani non-state actor. Pay attention, there is a difference.

The fact that India failed to anticipate such an attack, again, is beyond sound logic. Terrorist attacks on armed convoys over bordering highways, is but a chilling script that keeps the Indian administration on their toes. Mind the lapse. What a miss!

What happened?

Nobody in India and elsewhere predicted this. PM Narendra Modi did not see this coming. Not the intent, but the magnitude of casualties. For this alone, Pakistani non-state actor(s) calculated brilliantly. They intercepted a psychological lapse of a strong, yet busy Prime Minister. Let us also pretend that there was a rare moment of blunder by the Indian intelligence. That leaves us to the only realistic assumption of what might have happened.

For many years, India has maintained the vocal discourse of Pakistan’s deceitful personality in dealing with transnational issues. The Pulwama killings would have choked Narendra Modi, reminding him the lesson of how a wild animal can never be tamed. More so, not when they promise to not hurt you. Imran Khan is an icon, but no excuses this time, the blood is in his hands. From an observatory perspective, one cannot help but conclude that there is an element of serious political assurance turning into fraudulence.

After-effects

Two months prior to the 2019 general elections, the Indian Prime Minister has woken up to the challenges, that nobody in India would have not predicted. Still, the Pulwama attacks has placed him in a very awkward position. It is a well-documented fact that India can carry out surgical strikes, just like it has in the recent past. Equally, it can only be fair to assume that Pakistan will be ready this time. The story will lose all plot, if Pakistan, like India fails to anticipate another precision attack on its border. Mind the context, it actually means something more.

Reportedly, PM Modi threatened against Pakistani aggression; however, India stands on crossroads. From the Pakistani logic, time has subsided India’s options. Imagine another strike gone wrong in the enemy’s territory. Imagine a full-fledged war, overtaking the carousal of national elections. Islamabad is ready this time. In the worst case, they have managed to manufacture a predictable excuse to penalize India’s confronting military creativity. Pay attention, there are little choices. And the consequences are alarming.

Pakistan’s credibility

Regardless of all legitimate Indian accusations, Pakistan would be less worried, by Indian threats to isolate them diplomatically. While the current Indian rhetoric might be another disguise before their jets ignite for a military crackdown; Pakistan has and will operate with their elements of non-state actors. Hence, there is no question about credibility. Mind the change in Pakistani attitude. Before, non-state actors were merely a means to their ends. Now, the Pakistani military is on the front foot, itching for an Indian reaction. Calculations have been made. The Pulwama attacks are a testimony to their intentions. The international community will be hoping that India will let go this time; take it under their chin, once again. There is an acute wish to avoid a situation of hypocrisy. Given a foreseeable Indian aggression, Pakistan will seek international assurance based on equality. The rules apply the same for everyone.

Distinctive

For good reasons, the Pulwama killings will presumably lead to a peaceful solution. The Indian reaction will be gold for academic books, that are based on solving inter-state disputes. India owes a reaction to all kinds of anticipative communities, on a platform that Pakistan has calculatedly fished for their arch-rivals. The ball is in India’s court. A moment of magnifique for Narendra Modi, or a strategic tit for tat for Pakistan? Mind the set-up. Evenly poised!

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ISIS Smuggler: Sleeper Cells and ‘Undead’ Suicide Bombers Have Infiltrated Europe

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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Authors: Anne Speckhard, Ardian Shajkovci & Hamid Sebaly

Europe is bracing for a new wave of jihadist attacks by terrorists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State, what “you might call ISIS 2.0,” as Interpol chief Jürgen Stock recently told reporters. Some previously imprisoned jihadists are being released from jail, others are returning to Europe—and to prison—while still others, we have learned, have never been known to police and operate as “sleeper cells” waiting to be mobilized.

It is in the face of such concerns that U.S. intelligence chiefs have warned, despite President Donald Trump’s assertions to the contrary, that ISIS is still far from defeated.

Last week, the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) interviewed 18 ISIS cadres held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) closely allied with U.S. coalition forces in Syria. Two of the prisoners interviewed were former members of the ISIS intelligence operation known as the “emni,” sometimes also written as “amni.”

One of them, a Tunisian named Abdel Kadr, was a 35-year-old athletic-looking and obviously clever individual, who had illegally smuggled himself into Europe in 2008 and then managed to get legal residency, to live and work there, by marrying a German. Abdel Kadr claimed to have “found religion” and also, like many foreign fighters, to have been moved by the plight of Syrians assaulted by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, which caused him to leave Germany for Syria in 2014, driving an ambulance loaded with humanitarian supplies.

Abdel Kadr ultimately joined and served ISIS until he was captured by the YPG last year. He appears to have had high-level access in ISIS and was open to discussing what he knows while also seeking not to incriminate himself.

Regarding the ISIS emni, Abdel Kadr says there are both internal and external emni networks in ISIS, the former enforcing security within the self-declared caliphate and the latter sending operatives outside of it, to be sleeper cells organizing attacks in Europe and globally. They are not police but intelligence operatives, he said. “They live 24 hours per day with a mask. They are chosen specially for this. They have their own houses, special families. They have been chosen specially, and many were sent back to Europe.”

People smuggling

Prior to joining ISIS, Abdel Kadr had been a human and goods smuggler based in Germany, working between Turkey and Europe. He said he joined the Islamic State alongside his friend Dominic, a white German convert to Islam. Dominic wanted to return to Germany to work as an undercover operative for ISIS and, being fair-skinned with no known criminal history, he believed he could do so undetected. (He should not be confused with Dominic Musa Schmitz, a Salafi who wrote a book in German in 2016 about his disillusionment with Salafi Islam.)

“There are a lot of those who were trained by ISIS to go into Europe,” said Abdel Kadr. The emni member who trained and facilitated many of them was also a white European, an Austrian who went by the kunya, or pseudonym, of Abu Musa al-Almani.

“He was in charge of Germany,” Abdel Kadr explained. “He spoke around seven languages: German, Dutch, French, Arabic, and German with the accent of Austria. He was an Austrian native with long hair and a red beard,” Abdel Kadr said. “He was from a wealthy family in Austria and a convert from Christianity. I met him in Syria, but he was moving everywhere.” He was traveling back and forth via Turkey.

“I heard about this wave that they prepared for Europe,” Abdel Kadr told us. “They asked me if I’d like to go back to Germany. They were saying to me if you want to go back don’t worry about money, but they don’t know how I think.”

Abdel Kadr was content at that time inside ISIS doing business on the side and making considerable profits. And he had a ready excuse for begging off from such a mission. “I have seven pieces of shrapnel in my body,” he explained. “If I pass through an airport they will catch me.” Also, he looks like the Arab he is, and is liable to fall prey to profiling. “They were sending athletic guys who look European back into Europe,” Abdel Kadr told us.

The ISIS emni asked Abdel Kadr to return to his former human smuggling trade. “They wanted me to make logistics and coordination because before I joined ISIS and came, I was smuggling people between Turkey and Greece.” That was when Abdel Kadr was living in Germany with his German wife, making thousands of dollars smuggling Bengalis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans who had already made their way into Turkey on into Europe. The back trails across the border were primitive and rough, he said, but he knew them. “Our bridge to cross the river was a tree we cut for that purpose.”

ISIS intelligence “knew I was a people smuggler. All my German friends knew I was a smuggler,” Abdel Kadr explained. “Abu Musa al-Almani, who was in charge of Germany, came to me in Raqqa with Dominic and asked me about the smuggling. He said, ‘Dawlah [the State, ie. ISIS] needs you. The whole nation of Islam needs you.’”

The emni asked Abdel Kadr to help them smuggle trained operatives back into Europe following the routes from Turkey into Greece that he had previously exploited. Abdel Kadr claims he refused. “I took my injuries as an excuse to escape from this, I have a screw in my leg, shrapnel [from a bomb attack]. It took seven kilometers walking to get across to Greece. My role was five kilometers up to the tree [bridge]. Someone else took them inside, an Algerian guy.”

Abdel Kadr claims that he told ISIS he was no longer fit enough to do it. It may be true that he refused, as he was at the time engaged in a smuggling and trade operation inside ISIS, enriching himself there, or he may in fact have re-engaged in his former trade but did not want to tell us.

The Undead

According to Abdel Kadr, when the emni was going to send a European back to attack they would first falsely announce inside ISIS, and on their external media, that he had been killed fighting or in a bomb attack. But later, it would be revealed that he was actually alive and had successfully attacked in Paris or Brussels, for instance, and had been “martyred” there.

In the case of most suicide attacks in Europe, according to Abdel Kadr, the death of the operative is announced by ISIS a few months earlier, when in fact, “they took them to a camp to train them. Then after you get a communiqué about their action in Europe. The communiqué on this date stated he died in France or Belgium, but for ourselves, seven or eight months before [we had heard] they were announcing his death.”

The same was true of Dominic, according to Abdel Kadr. “ISIS said he was killed, but it wasn’t true. He lived next to me and when I went to see his wife and children inside the ISIS area [in Tabqa, near Raqqa], they told me, ‘He is not killed, but we don’t know where he is.’” Abdel Kadr already knew Dominic’s desire to return to Europe to serve ISIS.

“He’s alive somewhere,” Abdel Kadr told us. “Up to now, there is no communiqué [about his actions in Europe].” Abdel Kadr, who is imprisoned by the YPG and says he is now totally disillusioned with ISIS, claims to have tried to thwart any possible attack by Dominic by alerting German and European intelligence about his friend’s “disappearance” and fake death announcement inside of ISIS.

“There are 1,000 partisans in Europe,” Abdel Kadr claims. “They have a big plan to introduce hundreds of refugees from all nationalities of the world,” he claims, saying ISIS was able to insert them into the refugee streams flowing into Europe. Many are sent to Europe with false passports. “They are processed by surgery, training and language and they send them as sleeping cells. In Turkey they give them hair transplants, surgically change their eyes, even the eye color.” (Presumably that would be with contact lenses.)

At least two of the attackers who struck Paris in November 2015 had entered Europe among refugees and carried false papers.

In 2015, Harry Sarfo, a German whose family originally was from Ghana, and who’d grown up in Britain, working as a postman there before he joined ISIS, was pressured by the ISIS emni to train and return to attack in Germany. He told the authorities, and later Der Spiegel and The New York Times, about his training and knowledge of these ISIS emni activities.

ISIS was telling Europeans to book short vacations in resorts in the south of Turkey, take many pictures, and then come to train for a short time with ISIS to be sent back to join sleeper cells in Europe. Without overstaying their Turkish visas and with the strong alibi of the resort booking and pictures to confirm it, they passed suspicions if questioned by security about their activities.

Abdel Kadr confirmed that this indeed was happening. “They are able to bring a youth into ISIS and then back into his family without the knowledge of his parents. They send him home to Europe after one year in training with ISIS,” he states. “There are some people who came with European faces for a short time and went back through Turkey,” he explains. “Like my friend, Dominic. I think he’s living in Europe,” Abdel Kadr concludes.

When asked about this case and others like it, a high-level YPG security official explains that his organization is doing everything it can to stop such operations. The YPG says it has caught and now holds in its prisons over 3,500 foreign fighters, many of them Europeans.

But the Kurds feel frustrated knowing that these foreigners streamed in through Turkey, some of them received medical help inside Turkey when injured, and most of the logistical supplies and extra food supplies for ISIS were delivered across the Turkish border.

Although the YPG has provided the core ground force working with the Americans to defeat ISIS, President Trump’s decision to withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops providing logistical and other support leaves the organization in a vulnerable position. The Turkish government insists that the YPG is a branch of the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK, which Ankara and many other governments, including the U.S., deem a terrorist organization.

The YPG says the Turks have actually been complicit with ISIS. “They call us the terrorists” another YPG military intelligence officer told us, “but we are fighting terrorism every single day, losing our lives by the thousands doing so and trying to keep Europe safe from such people. We are fighting terrorism, while others are helping them to come and go, in and out of Syria, across our borders.”

Author’s note: Article first published in The Daily Beast

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Eschatological beliefs and ISIS

Adeel Abbas Mangi

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There is no single definition of terrorism which might be accepted fully; however, terrorism normally emerges when disempowered communities try and combat what they perceive as injustice and oppression on this planet. Emerging as asymmetrical warfare between state and non-state actors, international norms of War are violated by focusing on civilians and exploiting media exposure to create fear.

Throughout history, it has spread in various forms ranging from secular terrorism to religious extremism. In today’s world, the most deadlykind of terrorism was created by using Islamic state narrative prompted underneath the umbrella of eschatological beliefs.

By definition, eschatology is part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. Followed by all religious theologies including Muslim, Jews, Christians, Hinduism and Zoroastrians, the apparent fall of the last stronghold of the Islamic state was no surprise to terrorism scholars.

After the fall of Aleppo, Raqqa and the Syrian city Dabiq last October; consequently, Islamic State (IS) demolished the 842-year old Al Nuri mosque.

However, apocalyptic beliefs were not widespread throughout the Middle-East before the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003.It was the military invasion that radically transformed the landscape of eschatological ideologies, resulting in widespread apocalyptic thinking.

One such Sunni Salafist caught up in this groundswell of apocalyptic was Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, a bloodthirsty madman; even Osama bin Laden (OBL) didn’t agree with his brutal tactics war agenda of beheading the shite Muslim. Zarqawi became the leader of Al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq after he fled from Afghanistan.

Zarqawi followed an apocalyptic extremist ideology while OBL had a less grandiose view about an imminent end to the contemporary world. For example, before the U.S drone strike on Zarqawi in 2006, Zarqawi famously acknowledged that “the spark has been lit here in Iraq and its heat will continue to intensify by Allah’s permission until it burns the crusader’s armies in Dabiq(Syria)”.

Having strategically less significance, Dabiq was a small Syrian town but IS used it for their political interests. Mainly because this city is where the battle called Armageddon will happen according to eschatological beliefs. Most importantly, ISIS is still operating its propaganda magazine named Dabiq.

After Zarqawi died, a man named Abu Ayyub al-Masri having close ties with Al Qaeda took over charge of Middle East operations in Iraq, during his tenure the group was re-branded as the Islamic State of Iraq. In line with Masri’s political aims, his primary apocalyptic focus was the appearance of the Mahdi(messianic figure in Islam) who is referred to in the Prophecies as the leader of the battle of Armageddon in  Dabiq.

Even though Masri made a number of strategic decisions based on his eschatological convictions. On the whole, the Islamic state of Iraq has been using this propaganda to maximize the recruitment process in their organization.

As a result, they have gained a cosmic fan following all over the world including the Middle East, Europe, America and Asia. Since Masri’s death in the Iraqi city of Tikrit in 2010, Abu Baker al-Baghdadi took over the charge of this“black banner army”. Syrian civil war, resulted in formation of Al-Qaeda affiliate now known as the Fateh al-Sham group.(Al-Nusra front)

In 2013 Baghdadi shocked the world by announcing that Al Nusra front is now under command and control of ISI(Islamic State of Iraq) right after this merger it became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(Levant). Baghdadi announcement was forming a caliphate just like Ottoman Empire, albeit ISIS never recognized the Ottoman Empire as legitimate.

Nevertheless, Baghdadi smartly maintained the eschatological beliefs even after the death of Masri, though the focus had been changed under the leadership of Baghdadi.

With continuous shifts in political stance of ISIS, there is a huge possibility that it will have new targets in the coming future.  For example, since it began to lose territory, it sharply changed its strategy from inward state building to outward foreign attacks with the help of lone wolves or small groups.As a result, this technique started a new phenomenon more like transnational terrorism.

Openly calling the younger generation as the cubs of the caliphate, these methods for inculcating radicalization were found to have direct links with the American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Finally, the self-proclaimed caliphate of ISIS collapsed in both Syria and Iraq. However, this does not mean it will not re-emerge in the future there are a lot of ISIS sleepers cells and supporters across globe.

To conclude, terrorist outfits come and go, but the ultra-modern variation within this museum of eschatological ideologies is an Islamic state. Disseminated with eschatological ideologies, a few of them tried to convey about the apocalypse to exploit it. Therefore, terrorist outfits have reassessed current affairs and spread mis-interpretations of eschatological beliefs to further their own agenda.

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