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Terrorism And State Sponsored Terrorism: A Case Study Of Kashmir

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This article examines the concept of terrorism[1] and state sponsored terrorism[2]. How they contradict each other and share common grounds. It basically targets the security of state which creates instability and horrifies masses. It generally affects the locals that have no concern with their activities and pursued ideology. It aimed at conceptualizing it in theoretical and practical bases. It focuses on how the role of terror group is misinterpreted and how other groups are coming under this domain. The scholarly works of different scholars have been cited and compared in order to create an understanding of the concept mostly by considering data obtained using secondary sources. The findings show that the concept has evolved and modified after 9/11 incidents giving it a new status. Further, as per the practicality state sponsored terrorism greatly differs from main terrorism. State sponsored terrorism has been misused by state and non state actors.

Terrorism is a vast and varied phenomenon. We cannot define it in one dimension. Its application varies with situation. Harming of population in any way is termed as an act of terrorism. It is confusing if acts are committed by legitimate or illegitimate actors. Therefore, it is important to distinguish different violent means from the wider umbrella of terrorism. So, the interests that are achieved using this mode can be cited differently and misuse of the concept will be avoided.

An old concept with a modern definition is what we call as terrorism. Since, it has evolved over time and because of globalization[3] it is attaching multiple themes to it. According to CDI research analyst (Mark Burgess, 2003) the concepts root is some 2000 years ago. It is used to be one dimensional but now the leaves and branches giving it a multidimensional look. Some used to legitimize it even being an illegal act. It is against humanitarian law[4]. Therefore, there is a need to understand the proper concept of terrorism. It has no link with individual crimes if not targeted the large audience. Further, how massacre, genocide can come in this broad term. A clarification on conceptual ground is needed to form a foundational basis for understanding. It is mainly associated with far-right extremism.

 Terrorism a phenomenon commonly known as violent form of violence inflicted upon masses by a group for their means and gains. It is associated with the psychological aspects as this school of thought would in general or in specific defines the approaches employed and deployed. However, it can be termed differently as desired by the one who is describing that violence as how it has been perceived. Moreover, referring to this and based on interest approach there is no single definition of this concept, and no specific consensus can be drawn. It is directly linked to the measurement of terror-by-terror group and its analysis of the suffering on the victims. Even, after decades question still arises whether terrorism is legitimised in law or in legal terms or not? Who initiates this and what contributes to it? Do its practitioners are part of the organisation solely or any normal person can become its prey. Terrorism has multiple dimension and ideologies attached to it. This is the reason that it remains the central theme in different types of terrorism based on subjectivity. Further, the factorial representation or agents to promote terrorism are very much active since the end of bipolar world. The term terror is general and was coined during French revolution[5] against the act being committed. Now, as the world progress it begins to see a new shift and modified this broader concept. As noted, terrorism can be done by any group, state or non-state actors and can be legitimised or legalised in the name of law. When this sort of analysis starts by a state, and it perceived any threat and tries to respond it through its means and favourable interests and conditions against any other state is termed as state sponsored terrorism. One could argue that a state sponsor terrorism is solely a strategy that exists independent of any other violence and states are not accountable for their actions. It can be done by the state or may be used against any state based on the perpetrator. Now as it seems clear how state promotes or flourished the use of competent non state actors to fight back states enemy. So, ultimately it initiates a debate that whether we consider or take state sponsored terrorism as a new phenomenon or sub type of terrorism. It is indeed a modification of terrorism. The case of Kashmir is an evident case that while encountering violence from the parties like India and Pakistan the notion of terrorism acquires the shape of a new phenomenon and particularly during Modi regime it has depicted and displayed a new character of terrorism while legalising it through policies. One state freedom fighter becomes a terrorist for others and vice versa. So, it points out stark difference that leads to a revival of other phenomena boost and backed by the term terrorism. General terrorism and state sponsored terrorism are two different things in practical while theory may define it in the same perspective. As words and actions don’t support each other.

The phenomenon of terrorism is used by both leftist and rightist organization within and outside state. It is shaped and triggered by an ideology which later became the cause to harm people. The essential of terrorism includes violence, killing and massacre at large level. The ones who are utilizing this source are also normal people. So, the point that sympathy should be forwarded to them is a falsified notion. Proper functioning state of mind is ensured which is different from brain washing techniques. Based on the existing mindset of terrorist works which requires money for the operations will not be accomplished without financial support (Michael Freeman, 2011). This can be considered as one aspect of sponsorship[6] either from a legitimate or an illegitimate body, including states and non-state actors in the existing domain. It in turn is used to harm civilian population. So, looking at this because one may find out as per the official record that how this sponsorship is important and how money and financial activities can assist terrorist in achieving the said target. The series of 9/11 [7]attacks which horrifies the entire world forced us to think of its accomplishment in terms of financing.[8] For instance, the estimated costs of attacks on world trade Centre[9] was about $19,000 which makes up a huge amount that can be given for a specific task if sponsored or contributed. Putting aside the notion of financing, the other activities in accomplishing a terrorist attack includes that the terrorist require and acquire modern technology with updated software and a proper channel for communication[10]. So, a generalized view of terrorist is not simple, and it is manifolded. This is the reason their tracing and affiliation cannot be easily identified. Another very core element includes the legitimate cause which drives whole of this terrorists’ activities. When you are selling a branded thing free it will invite people. As they want to enjoy the perks and privileges. This ideology can in turn attract public and increase recruitment. It is a fancy business term but follows the same suit ideally. It ultimately leads to gain public support which is very important. Due to negative connotations one reason why, terrorist seek compliance from getting state sponsorship is because of funds a proper channel and support and in return state fulfills its own interests and have a control on their activity. From taking hold of resources like ISIS[11] to global affiliation with networks like AL QAEDA[12] they had had a purpose indeed. In this way state sponsored terrorism comes under terrorism.

Why terrorism emerges or flourished is one of the unaddressed questions that needs a logical answer and interpretation from the situation (Tore Bjorgo, 2005). It is like a disease that develops from time to time in mustering courage. It does indicate the problems, symptoms and out of that you must propose a solution but if not, timely action has been taken it will take the shape of violent episodes of violence. Further, as it attaches psychological and behavioral adaptation, so it is based on how one perceived and react to it. Moving further to define it in a more specified way it needs to identify its association with different phenomena’s that are dealing with violence. Terrorists as an ideal picture state them in any way will eventually turned down the effect. (Jitka Maleckova, 2005)

It is not just the economic dimension but the political sentiments or any other ideology driving factor can be a triggering mechanism for such acts. However, such activities and activists greatly vary in developed and developing states. (Sageman, 2004). The gap between first world countries and third world countries sparks a debate that is linked to revival of terrorism being originated from a particular society. The conditions may deteriorate in states that is facing humanitarian crisis. But the deprivation in terms of economy cannot be a single source for terrorist as their origin. (Kreuger and Maleckova, 2003). Like, a fine example of Osama bin laden. He has pursued an ideology that is not money driven. Further, a typology has been given by Schmid’s to make an outcome of different approaches to define terrorism. It is very important to know the starting point of a ladder that gives rise to a broader concept of worldwide terrorism. It is involved in political domain associating it with that of politicization of religion[13]. It must be separated from criminal approach that also harms local bodies. The international law which is described as the command of a sovereign also pointed the difference in individual liability for criminal acts and atrocities for spreading terrorism. It also includes socio cultural dynamics of a particular society. The religious perspective is most of the time is being misquoted that promote violence in any group then reaching a level of terrorism by killing and justifying it too with that statement. One of such assumptions is that of suicide bombing sin which they are trained in a such a way that this illegal act becomes a source for divine satisfaction extracting source from religion (Stein, 2003). Sometimes, a state can compelled a group to become terrorist by formulating such policies (Sarraj, 2003). For instance, the role of Modi regime and the dictation of RSS[14] in case of Kashmir can be easily seen as the practical application. As Durkheim[15] school on sociology describes different phenomena one of such is linked to terrorism and defines altruistic suicide[16]. Terrorism directly affects humanity as elaborated by Kofi Annan and is described as a process to spread your agenda by winning hearts and minds of people. It is giving rise to a dispute among masses, civilizations, and states. Not state sponsorship is the only cause of terrorism across the globe. The use of coercive measures is not the only way to harm people within and outside territorial jurisdiction. A concept that is not considered by the terrorists. When we study the psychological parameters of a terrorist why cannot we analyze victims from this point. Civilian casualties are a matter of grave concern for authorities in power. Terrorism basically is the slow destruction of the might of the country if it is state sponsored then ultimately it weakens the opponent state (S.K Shiva, 2001) it challenges the national security mainly as global concerns are expanding. The idea of terrorism is a planned task not an unintended one because of calculated data and visible outcomes (Walter,1990) (Shiva 2001) (Reich 1990)

    

Terrorism can be studied through the lens of realism. Realism has been accountable while studying states which are considered as the primary actors. Yes, states are the primary subjects, but it is having such essentials which make it the one. The population or in short, the individuals the local masses and their worth has been ignored. Looking for national interests only the corporate elites are benefitted. The state centric approach should be replaced with population centric one. Further, within a state there is lack of uniformity. It can be controlled with coercive measures just like it exists in anarchic international system. Not everyone in the state shows compliance with state policies so a deviation can be seen. What if any group challenges the sovereignty of state internally? It tries to de stabilize a state. Power maximization has always been perceived as a negative step against minorities. The alliance formation within realist society against threats can be seen and analyzed with the perspective of globalization. But the reemergence of other actors which are not considered as legitimate bodies known as non-state actors is affecting the realism’s essence as the only competitor in international world. The way it has failed to address the phenomenon of terrorism and other varying aspects. The point that only globalist tend to seek power is no more the reality. Other groups are now included in this domain. And the claim of innocence self-help is being rejected with the deployment of mercenary armies.

Further, terrorists and mercenaries have common ground to perform. Being a paid person, they accomplished foreign task pursuing their ideology. They work for money and are illegitimate bodies. Under the same concept, comes the practitioners of violence and perpetrators that have no faith and morality for humanity. They are referred as guerrillas, armed groups, freedom fighters, militias, rebels and non-state groups. All are accused of committing violence. Some set their targets, and some violates the laws for public. All these terms are contrasting and are misused. The reason is because of inter changeably used to refer to violence. All these phenomena have contributed to threaten the state peace and stability leading to security dilemma situation which state must face, therefore. Among this category, a widely used term is that of terror group which horrifies general public at large because of its disapproval at state official level. This group works and operate selectively this is the reason why every act is not terrorism.

Liberation and freedom of Kashmir is more a matter of ideology involving politics and religion and so it is a task that must be accomplished by state (Yossef Bodansky). Both the parties to a conflict are accused of state sponsored terrorism using different terminologies like jihadis, freedom fighters etc. even, the role of mercenaries cannot be ignored. These all are being used by state as tactics and strategies to adopt in order to achieve selective interests. The diverse culture in the region is somehow depended on and extracted from religious practices. Different scholars have contributed to study dimensions of terrorism involving multiple cause. It is same as if one element is missing the other causes attach to it drives it in the society. Therefore, different types of terrorism have been discussed earlier in the historical perspective. It also includes state sponsored terrorism as one of its types which is making use of the word as per your demands and interests. However, looking at the interpretation of state sponsored terrorism it is interest-based action policy which can be used within as well as outside the premises of state. It can be carried out using weapons or playing cards with policy makers. Any action and effort by state that is affecting state masses at large level in any way which may include physical, mental, or psychological harm in the form of violence. Different areas of Kashmir are facing militancy and state sponsored terrorism. It occurred in form of waves and this wave is still on going in Kashmir. As per the report from official sources concluded that almost 1807 freedom fighters have been sanctioned in Kashmir with their ultimate dependency. This figure shows that it may act as in favor or against each party. The 9/11 events have brought negative fame to Pakistan as the role of jihadis have been misinterpreted and misused at the same time (Murphy,2013) it further spread this notion at large. It highlighted political instability and socio-cultural dynamics which is to some extent is correct but not entirely the reasons that will be discussed. Moreover, the enemies tried to link it with civil military relations following coup. The same was responded in an official manner in the United Nations measures to eliminate international terrorism while listing state sponsored terrorist activities of India. There is direct clear demonstration of state sponsored terrorism that has increased since Modi regime came in power. The role of BJP government in traumatizing Muslims is visible to all. Sometimes, it is through direct military action and intervention and sometimes through coercive measures and policies like the abrogation of articles giving it a last try to the problem. Nonetheless it has also funded such groups that are anti Muslims and targets Pakistani. Along with that its effort to destabilize neighboring state Pakistan has been reported with proofs. For instances the case of Kul Bhushan Jadhav can be highlighted as a proxy and a way of promoting state sponsored terrorism. The major role is that of RSS. RSS is a militant organization which has radical approach towards minorities. It is dictating Modi majoritarian government and as a result increased violence can be seen.

As it is more related to society and people and so their opinion matters a lot. The time frame is being analyzed since when Modi regime came in power (2014-2019) as specifically during this time period Kashmir conflict went through major policy shifts that were considered as an act of state sponsored terrorism.

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but contemporary terrorism is a modified one with multiple dimensions. The 9/11 events have given it a new status. The state which is a main harm can vary from simple to complex methods. The policy harming initiative is the latest addition in the domain of terrorism. Many phenomena related to violence has been there since decades, but none was used to define terror of terrorists.

 Modi regime is being dictated by RSS for the cause of akhund Bharat. They have introduced new measures of harm as being inspired from Hitler’s ideology.

State sponsored terrorism perpetrators and paid mercenaries are working in similar way. A contrast can be seen in practical application and theory. Terrorists’ accountability is worldwide, and state sponsored terrorists are charged as per rule of law. Modes of harming is not restricted to just weapons policies can targets them too.

Terrorism is now an element of our society. It needs a solution. It can only be done if one would have enough knowledge to identify its roots and analyses it in proper direction. Sometimes, lack of direction can be a tool for directing its shift to state sponsored terrorism. State is now very much involved in promoting violence through state sponsored terrorists which is a different phenomenon. Though associated with the killings of people and can operate as an independent entity but are fully supported by state. One would argue that terrorists are also owned by their respective organizations, but they are banned, unofficial entities that are not the sovereign representative. When an official claim is being made it can drive an outcome which is more vulnerable. Looking at current dynamics of state sponsored terrorism operating in Indian soil it can be visualize from a separate angle thus giving it a status of new aspect and a tool in assisting government to achieve its targets ultimately making a rigid society.


[1] Terrorism is basically an act of violence with wide scale demonstration of terror. For details see, Walter Reich, ’Origins of terrorism psychologies, ideologies, theologies, state of mind’1990

[2] For details see, ’overview of state sponsored terrorism’’

[3] Globalization is a phenomenon where we are interacting with people and as a result, we see increased interconnectedness between and among states in form of trade, cultural exchange, investment etc. for details see, Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe, ’The globalization of terrorism’’ 2001

[4] Humanitarian law is a branch and subset of wider international law. It is aimed at protecting humans under the articles of UDHR. Humans are the primary subject of this law.

[5] It is also defined as revolution of 1789 that was seen as an era of unrest in France. For details see, French revolution 1787-1799

[6] Sponsorship refers to a sum of amount that is provided to any person or organization by a company for specific person. Sometimes, any individual can also sponsor such groups for interests.

[7] Also known as September 11 attacks. These attacks were carried by Islamic radicals and extremists as per the claim against united states. It caused heavily casualties of masses and injured in huge numbers.

[8] Here the term implies that how money helps terrorist in fulfilling the requirements of spreading terrorism across the globe.

[9] A plaza or a multipurpose building situated in New York city. This building was targeted during September 11 attacks. It casts a deadliest impact on American soil. It is involved in regulating trade.

[10] It is important in terms of practicality of operations. Well, equipped not only enhanced your skills but increases chances of execution of your interest in a better way.

[11] An offshoot of current AL QAEDA but now working independently in Syria and Iraq. The efforts were made by united states to counter its activities as a terrorist organization.

[12] A militant organization founded by Osama bin laden. They intervened in Afghanistan to counter soviet invasion.

[13] By this terminology it is making use of religion and misinterpretation in politics for personal gains.

[14] It is a group known as Sangh Parivar that is flourishing Hindutva ideology in India. They are against minorities particularly towards Muslims. They want to make a greater India as inspired from Hitler’s ideology. The concept is that of Akhund Bharat.

[15] Emile Durkheim is a French social scientist that is excelled in sociology. His methods revolve around sociological theories explanation.

[16] It is one type of suicide that is defined by Emile Durkheim. As the concept explains this in terms of group. It is scarifying your life for your associated group as positive gesture.

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Terrorism

Human rights must be ‘front and centre’ in the fight against terrorism

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A family runs across a dusty street in Herat, Afghanistan. (file photo) UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

Responses to terrorism must be anchored in the rule of law, human rights, and gender equality to ensure their effectiveness, Secretary-General António Guterres told a UN-backed counter-terrorism meeting that opened in Málaga, Spain, on Tuesday. 

“As a moral duty, a legal obligation, and a strategic imperative – let’s put human rights where they belong: Front and centre in the fight against terror,” Mr. Guterres said in a video message to the High-Level International conference on Human Rights, Civil Society and Counter-Terrorism

The two-day event is taking place against the backdrop of the growing threat of terrorism across the globe, and the resulting increase in related legislation and policies. 

Assault on human rights 

During the conference, governments, international organizations, civil society and human rights defenders will examine how to formulate terrorism responses that comply with human rights and the rule of law, and ensure meaningful participation of civil society in counter-terrorism efforts. 

“This gathering reflects a central truth. Terrorism is not only an attack on innocent people. It represents an all-out assault on human rights,” said the Secretary-General. 

The threat is growing and global, he added, listing examples such as the continued expansion of Da’esh and Al-Qaeda in Africa, and resurgent terrorism in Afghanistan. 

The UN chief spoke of how extremist groups are targeting women and girls with gender-based violence, including sexual violence, while terrorists are also using technology to “spread and export lies, hatred and division at the touch of a button.” 

Meanwhile, xenophobia, racism and cultural and religious intolerance are accelerating. 

Reaffirm core values 

Mr. Guterres warned that at the same time, global responses to terrorism can make things worse. 

“In the name of security, humanitarian aid is often blocked – increasing human suffering. Civil society and human rights defenders are silenced – particularly women. And survivors of terrorism and violence are left without the support and access to justice they need to rebuild their lives,” he said. 

The Secretary-General called for reaffirming commitment to core values, including by investing in health, education, protection, gender equality, and justice systems that are accessible to all people. 

This must also include safeguarding humanitarian action, respecting international law and “opening the door to civil society – and especially women – to meaningfully engage with counter-terrorism efforts.” 

Ensuring long-term efforts 

The high-level conference is jointly organized by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and Spain. 

In his opening remarks, Mr. Vladimir Voronkov, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, stressed that “countering terrorism helps protect human rights, but only if human rights are protected while countering terrorism.”  

Moreover, he added the violation or abuse of human rights only plays into terrorists’ hands, as they seek to provoke heavy-handed and indiscriminate responses from security forces. 

“Terrorists do this with the aim of undermining public confidence in the ability of governments to protect their own citizens.  That is why a human rights-based approach is not aimed at challenging or frustrating counterterrorism initiatives,” he said. 

“On the contrary, it’s essential to ensure effective, long-term, and sustainable counter-terrorism efforts.” 

Global strategy 

The conference follows a virtual dialogue held last year with human rights and civil society partners, also convened by the UNOCT and Spain.   

Several thematic sessions will focus on issues such as human rights, the rule of law and principled humanitarian action in the context of counter-terrorism efforts; and support for victims and survivors of terrorism. 

Prior to the opening, a workshop and six side events were held to accelerate momentum and commitment towards implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced manner. 

The strategy, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2006, includes measures that range from strengthening State capacity to counter terrorist threats to and better coordinating the UN’s System’s counter-terrorism activities. 

The Foreign Minister of Spain, José Manuel Albares Bueno, who also addressed the opening ceremony, expressed high hopes for the conference.  

“The diversity of the themes is a true reflection of the comprehensive nature of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in its seventh review, which was co-facilitated by Spain and adopted by consensus by the General Assembly in June last year,” he said. 

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The UK’s “Separation Centres”: Re-visiting counter-terror measures

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Prisons are breeding grounds for radicalisation within their walls and recruitment for terrorism acts carried out post the inmates’ release. The leaders’ personality and ability to cultivate a cult-like following among the potential recruits mould the fruition or failure of these security threats worldwide. While this is not a novel security challenge, as the following portion about the rise of the Islamic State attests, the Boris Johnson-led administration appears to now bolster its efforts to confront the complex reality.

For example, the emergence of the Islamic State traces its roots to Camp Bucca in Iraq, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, its earliest leader, received absolute leeway in conducting his virulent sermons and fomented the surge in radical recruits. His followers eventually assumed leadership positions in one of the deadliest terrorist outfits of the modern era. However, the prison officials had essentially allowed him to run amuck due to his ability to contain in-fighting and resolve tensions between his fellow jihadist prisoners, despite his record of violence displayed during the Sunni insurgency after the United States-led invasion in 2003. Having found themselves in a foreign land and inadept at recognising the socio-cultural and sectarian sensitivities, the American officials presumably refrained from challenging the status quo that had emerged within the camp to minimise tensions and violent episodes engulfing the Iraqi state. However, this meant that the radical Islamist narrative spun by him and disseminated by his followers played a central role in laying the foundations of the carnage and the now dismantled “caliphate” that would follow suit.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation strategy is now being revamped. Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, has announced the strengthening of a team, to the tune of £1.2 million, to assist the British government in devising a framework to segregate radically influential and “charismatic” Islamist terrorists from at-risk inmates serving their sentence. This would primarily happen by isolating them in specialised centres to house such high-risk prisoners. Nevertheless, there is a catch. The challenge that this administration will face is in determining who poses a substantial threat and will find a place in the centres. Although three of them are currently operational, until April 2022, only 15 individuals in one prison have made it to the list.

Mr. Raab asserted that the current dispensation is “going to take a more decisive approach in [our] prisons, not allowing cultural and religious sensitivities to deter [us] from nipping in the bud early signs of terrorist risk.” He argued his case by underlining how the right to socialise in prisons traditionally accorded as per the Human Rights Act would remain suspended. In addition, inmates making their arguments against their referrals to such centres would find it a mounting challenge to plead their claims successfully. Furthermore, the empowered Prison Governors will notably have considerable authority to strike down any attempts by radical inmates to undermine national security and instigate chaos spurred by radicalisation.

Driving the policy change

On the surface, this comes on the heels of the recommendations made by Jonathan Hall QC, an independent reviewer of terrorist activities in Welsh and English prisons. Nevertheless, it is improbable to disassociate this policy decision from the debates concerning the viability of Prevent, which is a core tenet of the UK’s counter-radicalisation strategy. It was initially introduced in 2003 by former Prime Minister Mr. Tony Blair. Understandably, the brutal assassination of former parliamentarian Sir David Amess in October 2021 and the subsequent conviction of Ali Harbi Ali for life, the perpetrator in April 2022, have triggered the incumbent administration to counter the catapulting national security crisis decisively.

On the other hand, violent incidents within jails in the recent past are the root of why Mr. Raab appears driven to confront this dilemma head-on. In May 2020, HMP Belmarsh’s-High Security Unit, one of the most secure prisons countrywide, witnessed a horrifying attack on Paul Edwards, a prison officer. He nearly lost his life due to a near-fatal assault by a trio of inmates. He was punched, thrashed, and struck with a chair after Hashem Abedi (the “emir” and brother to Salman Abedi; the Manchester Arena bomber), Muhammed Saeed, and Ahmed Hassan (Parsons Green Bomber) stormed his office. Led by Abedi, Saeed and Hassan were radicalised to retaliate against perceived unfair treatment by prison authorities.

Reportedly, these individuals were housed along with other violent criminals, sowing seeds for intensifying attacks, where discussions about their upcoming trials and information about jihad and terrorism were frequently exchanged. 

What is worrisome is that this prison has served as the scene for a spill-over to its other corners. Mohiussunath Chowdhury, who was imprisoned in HMP Belmarsh on terrorism charges after his sword attack on police officers stationed outside the Buckingham Palace in 2017, had a close affiliation with fellow jihadis, including Hassan, Abedi, and Mohammed Emwazi, the Islamic State terrorist infamously known as “Jihadi John.” He was re-convicted in 2020 for planning terrorist attacks after being cleared of prior charges in 2018. Additionally, Sudesh Amman, who stabbed two people and was subsequently shot dead in February 2020, also had a prior conviction.  He was jailed for possession and dissemination of terrorist propaganda, before securing an early release days before his knife attack. He and Chowdhary were imprisoned around the same time.

It is equally problematic to discover that Anjem Choudhary, a militant and radical Islamist preacher who, until recently, was banned from making public speeches, and Usman Khan, the London Bridge attacker, are the by-products of a militant Islamist climate cultivated within the same prison as terrorists mentioned above. Khan and Choudhury also spoke alongside each other at a conference in 2009 about Sharia. Individuals like Khan were also mandated to undergo a de-radicalisation initiative termed “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” alongside his fellow detainees.

The Do’s of counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation success & the need for overhaul

These are only a few of several examples within one prison to delineate why the British government is attempting to revamp its counter-terrorism strategy. Under a common roof, the amalgamation and collusion of violent extremist beliefs, followed by constant reinforcement undermines the stable ecosystem within and outside prisons. Moreover, despite their resources an well-trained personnel, the security agencies – MI5 and MI6 require adequate preparation and time to re-engage and subdue such terrorists between their release and their subsequent targeted attacks. During that time frame, these radicalised individuals persons have the potential for these radicalised persons to inflict more violence than before.

Therefore, the government’s rationale is evident and well-understood.

Overall, the presumption is that if such “separation centres” are set up and all high-risk terrorists isolated, the violence within and outside jails will become manageable, if not completely eradicated. This would provide the government, law enforcement, and security agencies sufficient room to re-allocate their resources and personnel towards nipping in the bud any potential radicalised recruits in the public domain before they join violent extremist organisations or carry out terrorist acts. It will also prevent the radicalisation of violent criminals and pre-trial prisoners as they remain disassociated from radical elements.

However, to ensure the centres’ success, challenges such as overcrowding, shortage of specially trained armed and civilian personnel (including de-radicalisation experts), and insufficient funds to procure advanced surveillance for monitoring the detainees’ daily activities need to be overcome. The government must also ensure that it sets up a core committee, comprising a therapists, a prison official, and a social welfare worker, and a law-enforcement and security officer (each), for each of these centres. In addition, 4 to 5 members to evaluate the successes and challenges after every months and accordingly underscore the scope of improvement and loopholes the centres face is also required. Only through a state of heightened monitoring, and constant re-evaluation can the administration hope to weed out terrorism and radicalisation from mainstream society and its fringes. Additionally, the political will of subsequent leaders and perseverance of MI5 and MI6 will also have a significant contribution to determining whether this initiative succeeds or whether is doomed to fail.

On the other hand, in conjunction with the government, the prison officials must also ensure prisoners being housed in such centres should not come into contact, particularly through illicit means, lest they develop a jihadist solidarity, strengthen their beliefs, and harm those safeguarding these places. Moreover, parameters, including the number of people these high-risk individuals have radicalised within and outside prisons, and those who have committed terrorist attacks post their release, the rigidity of their ideological indoctrination, record of violence, cyber activities, conduct as inmates, and the severity of crimes for which they have been convicted, should collectively feature into the framework laid down to decide who will be referred to the separation centres.

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U.S. Hunts Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi Groups

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KTJ Uzbek jihadists

The US Department of the Treasury and the State Department successfully and effectively conduct counter-terrorism operations against ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups, putting constant and systematic pressure on them. The war on terrorism is fought on many fronts: diplomatic, intelligence, covert, sanctions, law enforcement, and military. Over the past two decades, the US designated the most vocal and violent Islamist extremist groups from Central Asia as the “Specially Designated Terrorist” (SDT) и “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (FTO). Under the provision of the Act “Farrakhan Amendment,” US law enforcement freezes any assets and finances of global terrorist groups, designated SDT and FTO. The US has recently added the Uzbek jihadi group of Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad to global terrorist organizations.

US designated Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad

On March 7, 2022, the US Department of State added Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorist organizations. In addition to this designation, KTJ has been added to the UN Security Council’s ISIS and al-Qaeda sanctions list, which requires all UN member states to implement an asset freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against Uzbek jihadist of KTJ.

The US designation noted that “al Qaeda-affiliated KTJ operates in Syria’s Idlib Province alongside Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and cooperates with other designated terrorist groups such as Katibat al-Imam al-Bukhari (KIB) and Islamic Jihad Group (IJG)” from the post-Soviet Central Asia.

The US Department of State’s statement also noted that “in addition to engaging in terrorist activities in Syria, KTJ has also been responsible for conducting external attacks, such as the St. Petersburg metro attack in Russia in April 2017 which killed 14 passengers and injured 50 others, as well as a suicide car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek in August 2016 which wounded three people.”

The State Department further stated that as a result of the designation, all property and interests in property of KTJ are blocked, and foreign financial institutions that conduct any transaction on behalf of KTJ could also be subject to US sanctions.

Uzbek Jihadists in Syria denounce US designation of KTJ

On March 13, a week after the State Department designated KTJ as a global terrorist organization, the Shura Council of KTJ released a statement denouncing the US move. In its own statement, which was released on its Telegram channel, the major Uzbek jihadi faction questions the greatness of the US, as their decision was unfair. The KTJ states that “no matter how powerful a government or society might be, it will not be great in the eyes of people if it does not rule with justice and eliminate oppression.”

Uzbek Jihadi group in Syria denounces its designation by the US and claims that “KTJ consists of people who responded to the cries of the oppressed in Syria, because protecting the oppressed people is the duty of all humanity.”

KTJ leader Abdul Aziz al Uzbeki

The major Central Asian militant group further asserted that “it is not the policy of KTJ to launch attacks outside Syria” and its members have nothing to do with the suicide attacks on Russia’s St. Petersburg metro and the Chinese embassy in Bishkek in 20016-2017. At the end of their statement, KTJ ideologists claim that “our group does not belong to al-Qaeda or ISIS.” However, this claim is absolutely false.

It is noteworthy that al-Qaeda became the ideological mentor and inspirer of Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik radical Islamists from the Fergana Valley, opening the door to global jihad. KTJ was created by Sirojiddin Mukhtarov (alias Abu Saloh), an influential ethnic Uzbek jihadi Salafist from Kyrgyzstan’s Osh region, in northern Syria in 2013. Under his leadership, KTJ pledged allegiance (Bayat) to al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and joined the Al Nusrah Front in September 2015. Al Nusrah was an official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria at the time which described itself as al-Qaeda in the Levant.

During the preparation of this material, a group of experts on political Islam listened to KTJ’s bayat once again, in which Abu Saloh clearly pronounced the name Ayman al-Zawahiri and swore allegiance to al-Qaeda. Despite the fact that al-Qaeda and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the successor of al-Nusra, parted ways ‘peacefully’ in 2016, the Uzbek battalion remains loyal to al-Qaeda. KTJ has never disavowed its bayat to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Moreover, during this time, KTJ demonstrated its deft ability to spread the al-Qaeda ideology into the Fergana Valley and among Central Asian migrants in Russia.

To date, KTJ is the most combat-ready, well-equipped and largest foreign battalion in Idlib province, on a par with the Uyghur Salafi-Jihadi group of Turkestan Islamic Party from Chinese Xinjiang. Both are waging jihad under HTS’s auspices against Bashar al-Assad regime. The approximate number of Uzbek militants is about 500 people. It is known that long a hotbed of armed resistance and a center of al-Qaeda-related operations, northwest Syria has become a safe haven for Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz militants and their families.

The KTJ current leader Ilmurad Khikmatov (alias Abdul Aziz al-Uzbeki) is also one of al-Qaeda’s devoted followers. In April 2019, Abdul Aziz, an ethnic Uzbek of the Fergana Valley and former deputy emir of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Afghanistan, was elected the new leader of KTJ. According to a UN Security Council’s report dated 3 February, 2022, “KTJ’s capability is undermined by conflict between the current group leader Abdul Aziz and the former group emir Abu Saloh.” But this is a superficial assessment of the situation taking place among the Uzbek jihadists in Syria.

Noteworthy, Abu Saloh was removed from the leadership of KTJ under pressure of HTS for openly supporting its strongest jihadi opponent, al-Qaeda-affiliated Hurras al-Din (HD), which directly challenged the leader of HTS Abu Mohammad al-Jolani. It is also known that KTJ new leader Abdul Aziz swore bayat to al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afg-Pak border zone as member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2008. Indeed, at that time, IMU became one of the strongest non-Arab al-Qaeda-linked groups in Central and South Asia. Abdul Aziz trained at the Haqqani Network’s military hub of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, which also hosted an al-Qaeda camp.

So, militant Salafism is the fundamental basis of KTJ’s jihadi ideology. In accordance with its ideological doctrine, the group aims to overthrow the five “tahut” (godless) regimes of post-Soviet Central Asia and build a single Caliphate with Sharia rule in the Fergana Valley. During the Jummah Khutbah, the new imam of KTJ and its major ideologist, Ahluddin Navqotiy, constantly glorifies Jihadi-Salafi scholars from the medieval to the present, such as Ibn Taymiyyah, Muḥammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, al-Qaeda’s senior figures such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Yahya al Libi, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and prominent modern jihadi thinkers Abu Qatada al-Falastini and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.

Thus, KTJ’s claim of no ties to al-Qaeda is a complete lie. Today, Uzbek jihadists of KTJ continue to benefit from close and trusted ties to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the HTS, who act as an ideological mentor and militant umbrella for many foreign fighter groups from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

US continues pressure on Central Asian jihadi groups

This is not the first time that the US government has designated Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups as a global terrorist organization and imposed sanctions against them. It is known, the US State Department has designated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list on September 25, 2000. The IMU was the veteran of the Central Asian jihad, first paving the hijrat to Afghanistan and establishing close relations with the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and al Qaeda in 1998. The IMU leader Tahir Yuldash (2009) and its military emir Juma Namangoni (2001) were killed as a result of US missile airstrike.

On June 17, 2005, the US State Department designated the Islamic Jihad Union to the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. The IJU is a splinter faction of the IMU, and a substantial number of its members are from Central Asia. The IJU has been waging jihad in the Afghan-Pakistan region for more than a decade. It maintains close ties with al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US missile airstrike has killed several top IJU leaders, including its emir, Najmuddin Jalolov, in drone strikes in North Waziristan 2009.

According to the recent UN Security Council report, “IJU actively participated in fighting alongside the Taliban in the capture of Kabul and therefore its fighters now experiencing greater freedom of movement in the country. IJU, led by Ilimbek Mamatov, a Kyrgyz national, and his deputy, Amsattor Atabaev, of Tajikistan, is assessed to be the most combat-ready Central Asian group in Afghanistan. It operates primarily in Badakhshan, Baghlan and Kunduz Provinces.” Further, the UN report notes that “Central Asian embassies based in Afghanistan have observed with concern that several leaders of IJU have travelled freely to Kabul. In September 2021, Mamatov and Dekhanov separately visited Kabul.”

On December 29, 2004, the US State Department designated Uyghur Salafi-Jihadi group the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement to the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL). The group leaders Hassan Mahsum (2003) and Abdul Shakur al-Turkistani (2012) were killed in US drone strike. However, on November 5, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo removed ETIM from the Terrorist Exclusion List in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

On March 22, 2018, the US State Department designated Uzbek jihadi group Katibat Imam al Bukhari to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorist organizations. Currently KIB wages jihad in Syria under the HTS umbrella against the Bashar al-Asad regime. KIB is now led by ethnic Uzbek from Tajikistan, Abu Yusuf al-Muhajir, who has a close and trusting relations with Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Minister of the Interior of the Taliban government and leader of the powerful al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. The group also operates in northern Afghanistan, specifically Faryab, or other ethnically Uzbek areas. KIB, like the IJU and KTJ, is also a splinter of the IMU and pledged loyalty to the Taliban.

In conclusion, the US government’s designation of Central Asian and Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups as a global terrorist organization provides a positive impetus to global counterterrorism efforts. Such a move will certainly help the governments of Central Asia and the Middle East in cutting off the channels of financial, material and military assistance to extremist groups associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS.

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