On February 15, 2017 the Uzbek jihadist group of Katibat Imamal Bukhari from Central Asia, also known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, issued a special statement titled “Who are we?” The statement was published by the group leader, Abu Yusuf Muhojir, on his page on Telegram, which then was distributed via other social media among other Central Asian terrorist groups in the Middle East.
The statement clearly emphasized the extremist doctrine of the jihadist group and strategic targets set forth by Katiba tImamal Bukhari. For the full disclosure of the radical ideology of the group and its jihadist platform, we have analyzed the statement which, in our opinion, poses a serious threat not only to the integrity of the Islamic Ummah, but also to other world religions such as Christianity and Judaism.
The statement focuses on the issue of jihad and the commitment to wage a war against “infidel forces” of the West. The statement starts, as it usually does among radical Islamists, with the expression of endless love to Allah and his messenger Prophet Muhammad. Then it says, that “Rasulullah Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam (Prophet Muhammad) said that on the way to Allah you should choose jihad since Allah opens one of the gates to heaven only to those who follow jihad and give their lives in the name of Allah.”
The statement gives a brief description of the Katibat Imamal Bukhari group. That’s possibly why the statement is called “Who are we?”According to the statement, “the Katibat Imama lBukhari group consists of Muslims of Turkestan (an old name of Central Asia), who fought for the establishment of a Sharia regime in Fergana Valley, but due to religious views had to flee the repressions of kafir regimes. The Mujahideen of Katibat Imamal Bukhari have come to the land of milk and honey of Sham (Syria) following the call of Allah to help the suppressed Muslims of the Middle East to overthrow the infidel regimes and strengthen the Islamic laws in the liberated territories.”
In the statement, Katibat Imam al Bukhari has described its the main religious concept as “a jihadist one based on the Quran and Sunnah’s of the Prophet Muhammad [Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam].” Also, the statement says that “the strategic position of Katibat Imam al Bukhari is to establish the Islamic state in Syria and in the homeland of Turkestan (Central Asian states), where people would live and obey the laws of Allah. And only when the group achieves its goals, Allah would be pleased with the determination and faithfulness of his servants.”
The ideological doctrine has identified four immediate goals of Katibat Imam al Bukhari:
- To overthrow the bloody regime of Bashar Assad and to establish afair Islamic system of ruling the land of milk and honey of Sham (Syria).Along with that, to keep on pursuing jihad to bring true Islamic freedom to Muslim brothers from Turkestan (Central Asia);
- Towage a violent fight in order to establish the Islamic religion among people, in communities and in states;
- To take an active part, as well as to wage a military fight in order to promote the Islamic Ummah;
- To train the army of Mujahideenout of the younger generation in order to secure the future of Islam and to protect all Muslims.
Also, Katibat Imamal Bukhari has identified its foreign policy priorities, which is the evidence of the international “ambition” of the jihadist group. In particular, the ideologists of the group find it necessary to establish a contact with the outer world and to cooperate with other Islamic jamaats on the basis of the Muslim brotherhood only.
The final part of the statement sets a task for the Mujahideen of Katibat Imam al Bukhari to be prepared to protect the Islamic values from the attacks of the Western crusaders and their hostile religions. The followers of Salafism and Takfirism are known to consider the Christianity and Judaism as the archenemy of Islam.
“In case of conflicts with other Islamic jamaats within the Muslim Ummah, they should follow the principles of mutual understanding and mutual forgiveness”, said the statement. In conclusion, the statement has noted that all decisions on foreign affairs and military issues are made by the Shura (Council) of Katibat Imam al Bukhari.
Analysis of the statement showed that the main goal of Katibat Imam al Bukhari is the armed struggle against the secular regimes of Central Asia and the overthrow of Bashar Assad’s power in Syria. Jihad is the main tool of the group, which tries to establish Sharia laws in society and in the state. In other words, Katibat Imam al Bukhari leads a jihad for the establishment of the Caliphate, which poses a serious threat not only to the countries of Central Asia, but also to the West. The group recently joined the jihad against the US on the Jerusalem issue. The leader of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Abu Yusuf Muhojir, posted on his Telegram page a call for the protection of the Palestinians and for jihad against the godless regimes of Western countries, and for the Muslims of Central Asia to join the jihad as the only way to resist the aggression of the US and its Zionist allies.
However, the “novelty” in its ideological doctrine is the group’s desire to establish international cooperation with other Islamic jamaats and jihadist groups based on the Muslim brotherhood. In this way, Katibat Imam al Bukhari is trying to become a serious participant in the jihadist movement in the world.
Today Katibat al-Imam Bukhari is fighting in Syria as part of the al Qaeda-linked rebel coalition Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. The Katibat al-Imam Bukhari detachment was created in Afghanistan on the basis of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and pledged loyalty to the Taliban. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2012, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, on the recommendation of Al-Qaeda, moved to the province of Idlib and distinguished itself as one of the major rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad. Part of the jihadists of the Katibat al-Imam Bukhariis based in Afghanistan today and is fighting together with the Taliban.
After the murder of the former leader, the group’s jihadists lost their morale. On April 27, 2017, during the evening prayer in the mosque of a Syrian city of Idlib, the leader of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari Sheikh Salahuddin was killed based on orders from Al Baghdadi by an Uzbek militant from South Tajikistan, who was a member of ISIS. The Islamic State distributed the following statement via Telegram messenger in this regard, “The emir of detachment of the Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Sheikh Salahuddin, was punished according to Sharia law for all the betrayals he committed.”But the overthrow of ISIS played into their hands.
The Uzbek militant from Tajikistan, known as Abu Yusuf Muhojir, was appointed the new leader of the group. The social networks have characterized him as a military strategist who has lead a series of successful operations against the army of Bashar Assad. From his video messages posted on YouTube it may be concluded that Abu Yusuf Muhojir has religious knowledge, oratorical skills, and leadership skills required in order to inspire the militants to perform holy jihad. About 600 militants are known to fight in the Katibat al-Imam Bukhari group together with their families, and unlike pro-ISIS’ militants from Central Asia, the group has managed to survive and maintain its combat effectiveness.
ISIS at Davos
President Trump is attending the alpine gathering of the global elites in Davos this month but he wouldn’t have been so keen had he known that the World Economic Forum was trying to invite the leaders of ISIS to attend Davos 2015. That bit I got to know back in the summer of 2014 as a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and got it straight from the WEF Associate Director responsible for inviting Middle Eastern leaders.
What exactly would be the intention of having ISIS at Davos? Would ISIS leaders have been rubbing shoulders and sharing drinks with the leaders of the free world away from public eye? Did ISIS leaders attend incognito in the end? These are the questions that popped into my mind, as I started thinking about President Trump’s visit to Davos.
Let’s rewind back to the summer of 2014. As a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum between 2014 and 2017, I attended a cocktail party for Global Shapers from around the world in August 2014, whom the WEF had gathered in Geneva, Switzerland. We were at one of the most chic places in Geneva – Buddha Bar – with its two floors reserved for the private party of around 100-200 Global Shapers — the WEF’s group of VIPs below the age of 33.
In the midst of the party, I spoke to an Associate Director who at the time was working for the World Economic Forum and was responsible for inviting the political leaders from the Middle East to Davos. You can imagine my surprise when he told me that the WEF was trying to invite ISIS leaders to the global elites gathering in Davos in 2015. “Iraq is gone”, told me the WEF Associate Director. What was apparent from his words was that ISIS were now seen as the new power in the Middle East to be reckoned with, and the World Economic Forum was planning to give ISIS the legitimacy and recognition of a political actor, just like any other. My jaw dropped to the floor — just as Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said on another occasion at the NATO London Summit.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights where I was working at the time had long condemned ISIS for horrific crimes against humanity. My colleagues at the time – seasoned investigators at the UN Syria human rights commission who had seen it all – were telling me that the ISIS atrocities they were documenting were like nothing they had seen before. International criminals were the Davos desired attendees “committed to improving the state of the world” – the WEF’s motto at the time. It is remarkable how the bad guys that win could become “committed to improving the state of the world”. The World Economic Forum doesn’t really broker peace agreements, so what would ISIS leaders be doing in the company of billionaires who surely would have had interest in the newly ISIS-governed Syrian and Iraqi oil-rich territories?
At the time in 2014, ISIS had a stronghold over Iraq and Syria, while battling the Kurds on the ground, and the US on air. To invite ISIS to Davos meant that the Western, liberal society had accepted defeat. It was waving the white flag, while the Kurds were fiercely defending their territories and the US was pushing hard against ISIS. I never knew if in the end ISIS attended the 2015 Davos Summit, but the intention was certainly there on the part of the World Economic Forum, according to the WEF Associate Director. “We are trying to get them to come”, he told me at the summer cocktail.
Today in 2020, things of course look different. The caliphate is gone. ISIS are largely captured, defeated and on the run. US President Trump boasted the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019 in northwestern Syria. This time, the World Economic Forum – using its measure of sheer power and sticking with the strong – was not going to invite ISIS to Davos 2020. This much was clear.
The revelation that they might have rubbed shoulders with ISIS leaders would not sit well with the European and American top leaders who sometimes make trips to the mountain summit held every January in the Swiss Alps. European constituencies’ opinions on ISIS are clear: Europeans are largely opposed to EU countries accepting back for trial any ISIS fighters. That constituency predisposition defines also European leaders’ stance on the issue, which is a big, resounding no-go. Europeans are largely resisting the US on taking any ISIS fighters back for trial, or even worse, rehabilitation.
As I will be watching and commenting on the Davos gathering starting in a couple of weeks, I will remember that ISIS were once desired guests there. The Forum generally disinvites guests only when there are no repercussions – and not on moral grounds but rather on the grounds of loss of power. The Ukrainian delegation, for example, was disinvited in 2014 over the Ukrainian government’s treatment of peaceful demonstrators, but we knew that the Ukrainian regime’s song was sung by that time. Why a terrorist group like ISIS would have been invited by the WEF is beyond comprehension. Or maybe not. In the end, we are talking about the World Economic Forum. Sheer power and wealth will always be in vogue and the defining factor there.
‘Unprecedented terrorist violence’ in West Africa, Sahel region
The top UN official in West Africa and the Sahel updated the Security Council on Wednesday, describing an “unprecedented” rise in terrorist violence across the region.
“The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets,” Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), told the Council in its first formal meeting of the year.
“The humanitarian consequences are alarming”, he spelled out.
In presenting his latest report, Mr. Chambas painted a picture of relentless attacks on civilian and military targets that he said, have “shaken public confidence”.
A surge in casualties
The UNOWAS chief elaborated on terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger, which have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.
“Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States”.
He also flagged that the number of deaths in Burkina Faso jumped from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 last year.
And displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries.
Mr. Chambas explained that “terrorist attacks are often deliberate efforts by violent extremists” to engage in illicit activities that include capturing weapons and illegal artisanal mining.
Terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, especially in peripheral areas where the State’s presence is weak.
“In those places, extremists provide safety and protection to populations, as well as social services in exchanged for loyalty”, he informed the Council, echoing the Secretary-General in saying that for these reasons, “counter-terrorism responses must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations”.
The Special Representative outlined that governments, local actors, regional organizations and the international community are mobilizing across the region to respond to these challenges.
On 21 December, the ECOWAS Heads of State summit “adopted a 2020-2024 action plan to eradicate terrorism in the sub-region”, he said.
Calling “now” the time for action, Mr. Chambas drew attention to the importance of supporting regional Governments by prioritizing “a cross-pillar approach at all levels and across all sectors”.
Turning to farmer-herder clashes, which he maintained are “some of the most violent local conflicts in the region”, the UNOWAS chief highlighted that 70 per cent of West Africa’s population depend on agriculture and livestock-rearing for a living, underscoring the importance of peaceful coexistence.
The Special Representative also pointed to climate change, among other factors, as increasingly exacerbating farmer-herder conflicts.
“The impact of climate change on security also spawns a negative relationship between climate change, social cohesion, irregular migration and criminality in some places”, he upheld.
Stemming negative security trends
The UNOWAS chief noted that in the months ahead, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger would be democratically electing their leaders and maintained that “all-too-worrying” security trends must not distract from political developments.
“Unresolved grievance, incomplete national reconciliation processes and sentiments of manipulation of institutions and processes carry risks of tensions and manifestations of political violence”, he warned.
In the months ahead, Mr. Chambas stressed that UNOWAS would continue to work with partners on the national and regional levels to promote consensus and inclusiveness in the elections.
“As UNOWAS’ mandate is renewed, we count on the Council’s continued full support”, concluded the Special Representative.
New Report Proposes Global DNA Synthesis Screening System to Counter Biotech Terror
Rapid advancements in commercially available DNA synthesis technologies – used for example to artificially create gene sequences for clinical diagnosis and treatment – pose growing risks, with the potential to cause a catastrophic biological security threat if accidentally or deliberately misused.
A new World Economic Forum and Nuclear Threat Initiative report, “Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction: A global Framework for Accessible, Safe and Secure DNA Synthesis,” gathers opinion from a group of global public- and private-sector experts who propose standardized screening practices to counter the threat.
Since scientists demonstrated the means to create a full viral genome in 2002, DNA synthesis technologies have become increasingly available and frequently used by scientists and engineers around the world. These technologies support myriad advancements in synthetic biology, enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of industries including energy, food, agriculture, health and manufacturing. Further advances in technology hold great promise for sustainable development and a safer and more secure society.
At the same time, new approaches to DNA editing and synthesis have made it easier to manipulate biological agents and systems, increasing the risk of a catastrophic accidental or deliberate biological event. These technologies make it possible to create pathogen or toxin DNA that could be misused. For example, in 2018 researchers published work detailing the synthesis of horsepox virus, an extinct virus related to smallpox, using synthetic DNA fragments purchased from a commercial provider. This demonstrated the potential for creating other viruses via commercially available technologies.
Although many DNA providers practice screening procedures, this approach is voluntary and is becoming increasingly expensive. As access expands and the cost of DNA synthesis declines, more DNA is likely to reach the market via additional providers, significantly expanding the user base. In the next two to three years, a new generation of benchtop DNA synthesis machines, enabled by enzymatic DNA synthesis methods, could become available without guidance or norms to prevent misuse.
This report, endorsed by an international expert Working Group, recommends a global system for synthetic DNA screening practices by developing an international, cost-effective, and sustainable mechanism to prevent illicit practices and misuse. The new framework improves the existing voluntary guidelines because it standardizes screening processes, is accessible to new players in the market, and provides valuable feedback data to evaluate the screening – all at lower cost.
“Biotechnology is at the centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To deliver on the promise of the biotechnology revolution, we must seize opportunities to develop and deliver life-advancing innovations while simultaneously and urgently addressing potential risks associated with a growing and democratized bio-economy,” said Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Health Care at the World Economic Forum.
The report also proposes that companies, international organizations and governments should explore options for the sustainable oversight and the maintenance of this proposed DNA sequence screening mechanism. DNA synthesis capabilities, in addition to other emerging technologies, can benefit from a larger system of common global life-science norms overseen by a globally recognized entity.
“Global DNA synthesis screening can be a critical tool to reduce the risk that life-science technologies could be deliberately misused to carry out biological attacks or accidentally result in a high-consequence or catastrophic biological event. The time is now,” said Ernest J. Moniz, Co-Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
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