These photos are new ones from our team on the ground in Pakistan,which has continued the effort to distribute food and supplies to the victims of the Muslim mob that descended on Joseph Colony near Lahore.
These photos are new ones from our team on the ground in Pakistan,which has continued the effort to distribute food and supplies to the victims of the Muslim mob that descended on Joseph Colony near Lahore.
“I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists — young men with south London accents — shot to kill. And not a Syrian in sight. This wasn’t what I had expected.” — John Cantlie, British photographer
More than 1,000 Muslims from across Europe are currently active as Islamic jihadists, or holy warriors, in Syria, which has replaced Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia as the main destination for militant Islamists seeking to obtain immediate combat experience with little or no official scrutiny.
As the number of European jihadists in Syria grows, European officials are beginning to express concerns about the threat these “enemies within” will pose when they return to Europe.
In Britain, for example, Foreign Secretary William Hague recently said, “Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today. This includes a number of individuals connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries. They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive, some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives.”
British authorities believe that more than 100 British Muslims have gone to fight in Syria in the hope of overthrowing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and replacing it with an Islamic state.
Many of the British Muslims in Syria have joined extremist groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the most dangerous and effective Sunni jihadist group fighting against the Assad regime. Jabhat al-Nusra, linked to al-Qaeda, was declared a terrorist organization by the United States in December 2012. Due to a steady flow of money and arms from backers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni Muslim countries, the group has grown in size and influence.
According to the British newspaper The Independent, most of the British Muslims participating in the fight against Assad “are not deemed to be doing anything illegal” and are thus able to reenter Britain without any problems. The paper reports that only a small number of those who have returned to Britain from the fighting in Syria have been arrested, but all for one specific offense: their alleged role in the July 2012 kidnapping of a British freelance photographer, John Cantlie, after he crossed into Syria.
Cantlie, along with Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans, was abducted by a group of British jihadists near the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria. Both men were later rescued by “moderate” fighters linked to the Free Syrian Army.
After his release from captivity, Cantlie expressed astonishment at the number of “disenchanted young Britons” fighting in Syria. In an account of his experience published in The Sunday Times on August 5, 2012 (site operates behind a pay wall), Cantlie wrote: “I ended up running for my life, barefoot and handcuffed, while British jihadists — young men with south London accents — shot to kill. They were aiming their Kalashnikovs at a British journalist, Londoner against Londoner in a rocky landscape that looked like the Scottish Highlands. Bullets kicking up dirt as I ran. A bullet through my arm, another grazing my ear. And not a Syrian in sight. This wasn’t what I had expected.”
Cantlie quoted one man, who claimed to be a former supermarket worker in Britain, as threatening him: “You are spies. You work for MI5 [British domestic security agency], you work for MI6 [British foreign intelligence agency]. Prepare for the afterlife. Are you ready to meet Allah?”
Oerlemans has described a similar experience in Syria. In an interview with the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblat he said: “The jihadists had genuine British accents, from Birmingham, Liverpool. A British Pakistani told how he had grown up with British playmates. He tried so hard to be British.”
In France, the daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on March 13, 2013 that “at least 50″ and “as many as 80″ French citizens are fighting with jihadist groups in Syria. The number is far higher than the “handful” claimed by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls to be operating alongside Islamists in Mali, or the estimated number of Frenchmen who went to Bosnia, Iraq or Afghanistan to wage jihad.
Leading French anti-terrorism Judge Marc Trévidic told Le Figaro that the presence of so many French jihadists in Syria presents French authorities with an uncomfortable paradox. Because France officially supports the effort to overthrow the Assad regime — France was the first Western country to recognize Syria’s rebel council as the country’s legitimate interlocutors — it is difficult for the French government now to come out and say that it does not support those who are fighting the war.
Trévidic said Syria was a natural destination for French jihadists. There are no visa requirements for French citizens to enter neighboring Turkey, where it is easy to find Syrian contacts and then cross a porous border. He also said that trained and experienced jihadists, once back in France, could become a dangerous problem for the authorities.
“No one,” Trévidic said “is trying to stop them going into Syria;” he then referred to their fight as an “authorized jihad.” He added: “It is particularly complicated to qualify their adventures in Syria as acts of terrorism. But let’s not be fooled. A good proportion of them are going there in the hope of helping to establish a radical Islamic state. The actual terrorism will begin just as soon as the Assad regime is defeated.”
The interview with Trévidic came just two days after French police arrested three suspected Islamists in the town of Marignane, near Marseille. Police found weapons and explosives at the home of one of the suspects, all French citizens between the ages of 18 and 27.
Paris prosecutor François Molins said on March 11 that the three men may have been planning an attack to commemorate the first anniversary of the shooting rampage in the southern city of Toulouse by Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old French Islamic jihadist of Algerian origin who killed three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi with close-range shots to the head.
“The investigation before their arrest,” Molins said, “showed that they were training for making improvised explosive devices based on a jihadist radicalization, a glorification of Mohamed Merah, and an affirmed desire to go into action.”
Molins added, “The investigation showed we were faced with a veritable laboratory for making improvised explosive devices.” During the search of the home of one of the detainees, police found two pistols, a revolver, 50 grams of acetone peroxide (TATP, a powerful explosive), 150 kilograms of nitrate, and two liters of acetone, which Molins said would have enabled the production of 600 grams of TATP.
The tremendous devastative force of TATP, which is relatively easy to make but difficult to detect, has made it a weapon of choice for Islamic terrorists, who often refer to it as “The Mother of Satan.” Molins said the mixture of acetone with 150 kilos of nitrate “could have caused considerable damage for a radius of several hundred meters.”
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the arrests in Marignane shows that France “faces an enemy from within which is the fruit of a process of radicalization.”
In nearby Holland, the Dutch public broadcasting system, NOS television , reported on March 12 that the Netherlands has become one of the major European suppliers of Islamic jihadists. According to NOS, about 100 Dutch Muslims are presently active as jihadists in Syria; most have joined the notorious Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group.
As in other European countries, Dutch counter-terrorism experts are worried that Dutch jihadists will bring their war-fighting skills back to the Netherlands.
On March 13, the Dutch government raised its alert level for terrorist attacks from “limited” to “substantial.” In a statement, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), a government agency within the Security and Justice Ministry, said: “The chance of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests abroad has risen. Close to a hundred individuals have recently left the Netherlands for various countries in Africa and the Middle East, especially Syria.” The agency said individuals fighting for radical Islam abroad could return and “inspire others in the Netherlands to follow in their footsteps.”
The Dutch daily newspaper Trouw reported on March 16 that the Justice Ministry lacks measures at its disposal to prevent Dutch jihadists from embarking on their foreign adventures. The paper noted that Dutch courts have so far been unable to prosecute Dutch jihadists for travelling to foreign battlefields.
Trouw describes the trial in a Rotterdam court of three Dutch Kurds, arrested in November 2012 just before travelling to Syria to join jihadist fighters there. Prosecutors accused the three of “taking preparatory actions for the purpose of committing terrorist offenses.” But the case is pending because it remains unclear which terrorist actions the three were planning to commit in Syria. Two of the three have been released from jail.
In neighboring Belgium, the daily newspaper De Standaard reported on March 11 that at least 70 members of the outlawed Sharia4Belgium, a Muslim group that wants to turn Belgium into an Islamic state, are actively fighting in Syria. The paper noted that that most of the Belgian jihadists are “young people, between the ages of 17 and 25, who grew up here. They are young people without qualifications and often with criminal records. They come from Antwerp, Brussels, Mechelen and Vilvoorde.”
De Standaard reports that the Belgian security services are “particularly concerned about what will happen when the military-trained “drop-outs,” after the war from Syria, return to our country.” The paper adds that it has been difficult to prosecute jihadists in Belgian courts, as the uprising against Assad is “generally regarded as legitimate.”
The newspaper pointed to a recent court case in the Belgian city of Mechelen, where 13 Muslim extremists were acquitted of having membership in a terrorist organization. The court said that although there was evidence that the jihadists travelled to Chechnya in Russia, there was no evidence that they fought there as members of a terrorist group.
In Denmark, the daily newspaper Politiken reported on March 3 that a 30-year-old Danish convert to Islam, Abdel Malik, had been killed in fighting near the Syrian city of Homs. The newspaper said that an Islamic Facebook page , created to protest a comedy show that pokes fun at Denmark’s immigrant and Muslim community, has established a fund to help support Malik’s family, which includes a wife who is also a convert to Islam, and four young children.
Malik’s death came two weeks after another Danish citizen, Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane was also killed while fighting with rebels in Syria. Abderrahmane, born to a Danish mother and an Algerian father, is known for the two years he spent in American custody at the Guantanamo military base after being captured in Afghanistan in 2001.
According to an article in US News & World Report, Abderrahmane was released in February 2004, despite reservations from American security officials, because the Danish government had threatened to withdraw its troops from Iraq if he were not released.
In 2007, while working as a mailman in Copenhagen, Abderrahmane was convicted of stealing two passports and three credit cards, and of withdrawing 110,000 kroner ($20,000). Abderrahmane refused to testify during the trial: he denied the legitimacy of the Danish court to try Muslims. He spent ten months in jail, but the stolen money was never recovered.
In an interview with the Politiken newspaper in September 2011, Abderrahmane said he was not afraid to die fighting for Islam. “Jihad means serving God and by doing so you achieve justice,” he said.
According to Mehdi Mozaffari, a professor of Islam at Aarhus University, Abderrahmane is now being regarded as a martyr: “He has become a symbol, especially for young Muslims. You could say that he has become known as a sort of Muslim Che Guevara.”
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on March 1 that Abu Ahmed, the Imam of the Quba Amager mosque in southern Copenhagen, referred to Abderrahmane as a “real man” and said it was “heroic” to die in holy war in Syria.
The newspaper also said that Ahmed had joined forces with a Danish Salafist group, Hjælp4Syrien.dk , and that together the two are engaged in a propaganda campaign aimed at encouraging young Danish Muslims to take part in the jihad in Syria. Hjælp4Syrien.dk says Danish jihadists should support the war in Syria “financially, physically and verbally.” On its Facebook page, the group shows an image of a young Muslim with a machine gun, who is apparently willing to die for Allah.
Meanwhile, European Muslims are celebrating so-called “Martyrs’ Weddings” for jihadists killed in Syria. The Middle East Media Research Institute on March 4 published photographs of one such wedding, held in an undisclosed location in Europe — presumably France — to symbolize the deceased’s wedding to the virgins of Paradise.
Jihadist movements are staging these weddings as a means of encouraging young men to join their ranks and adopt the ideology of jihad and martyrdom, based on the Islamic belief that every martyr is rewarded with 72 black-eyed virgin brides in Paradise.
Iranian authorities have released on bail three members of the evangelical Church of Iran who were detained on charges linked to their Christian activities, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, March 20.
Surush Saraie, Mohammad Roghangir and Massoud Rezaie were released by midnight Tuesday, March 19 after spending over five months behind bars, said Firouz Khandjani, a Church of Iran council member.
“They have been released in the city of Shiraz from the Adel Abad prison on a bail of $80,000 each,” he added. “I think it’s an answer to prayers that they are free. Of course the bail money is too much.”
The Church of Iran, one of the country’s largest house church movements, has been facing a crackdown by authorities who oppose the spread of Christianity in the strict Islamic nation, Christians said.
It was not immediately clear when the trial against the Christian men would resume. Two other Christians detained with them, Eskandar Rezaie, Shahin Lahooti, are expected to be released as early as next week after the Iranian New Year, Khandjani said.
Parvaneh Sarabadi is a Christian woman who converted from Islam to Christianity with her husband around two years ago. One of their relatives who works for the Islamic regime and has security support from the government, found out about their faith and eventually killed her husband in a conflict.
In her interview with Mohabat News she added that her husband’s murderer also subjected her to physical harassment, sexual abuse and severe mental pressure. Having no one to support her, and knowing that her testimony would not be accepted in the Islamic judicial system of Iran, she was forced to leave the country against her will. She crossed the border illegally and after many difficulties managed to arrive in Sweden where she sought asylum. Shortly after her arrival, she began ministering in a local church in the city of her residence. However, despite confirmations from the church regarding her claim, and the support of a number of the Human Rights advocacy groups, her asylum application was turned down by the Swedish Immigration Board Office. She is currently at risk of being deported to Iran.
She is currently being held police detention. On another occasion, on February 15, she was put on a plane heading to Iran, but when she as well as other passengers objected, the pilot said he wouldn’t fly the aircraft if she was on board. The police officers then took her back to detention and treated her badly as if she were a criminal.
In addition to collecting signatures for a petition in support of Ms. Sarabadi, a group of social activists also held protests and announced that according to international laws, she should be released and be granted her rights as a religious and political refugee. One of the many protests held in her support took place on the morning February 15, when police tried to send her back to Iran.
The protest was held in partnership with the church of Falun. A number of Ms. Sarabadi’s friends and supporters gathered in front of the police detention center in Falun. Another group held a protest in front of the Immigration office in Stockholm in expressing their objection to the decision of Immigration authorities regarding Ms. Sarabadi’s deportation.
Nevertheless, Ms. Sarabadi’s lawyer has said that he is following up on her case and going through the legal process to annul the Immigration Board’s decision and request that they review her case again. The lawyer says, “I think the support of all media, Refugee and Human Rights advocacy organizations is necessary and sincerely ask for their help. Publicizing Parvaneh’s situation through the media, especially in Europe, the advocacy of Human Rights organizations, as well as protests in support of Parvaneh’s refugee claim can be of great help”.
Considering the brutal treatment of the Islamic regime of Iran towards religious and political dissidents, and the death sentence for Christian converts who are apostates in the Iranian regime’s eyes, it is clear that deporting religious and political asylum seekers to Iran can put their lives at risk. This is why many social and political activists put all their efforts into stopping the deportation of asylum seekers to Iran.
According to Human Rights activists, a large protest was held in Sweden on March 9, 2013, against the inhuman situation of asylum seekers and refugees in the country and the harsh measures taken by Swedish police to deport them. The protest was held in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo, and Isala with thousands of participants.
The Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) in Setu in Bekasi, West Java, was demolished on Thursday afternoon, according to a church leader who said that a lawsuit would be filed against the local administration.
“It’s over. The church was demolished at around 2:45 p.m.,” Rev.Torang Parulian Simanjuntak told The Jakarta Post over the phone today.
HKBP Setu congregation members went to the church on Thursday morning to attempt to stop the demolition of the church as public order officers (Satpol PP) arrived at the location. They held a prayer service and prayed in the church, hoping that the demolition would not happen.
A bulldozer arrived at the location around 11:00 a.m. Members of the church’s congregation began to cry and scream while some tried to prevent the bulldozer from moving closer to the church. Many broke down when it began to tear apart the walls of the church located on Jl.MT Haryono. They called on the Satpol PP officers, asking them to stop the demolition.
The Satpol PP officers prevented people from getting closer to the church to secure the demolition process. Several officers of the Bekasi Police who were deployed to the location tried to calm down the congregation members. Church elders also tried to calm their followers.
Torang said the demolition was illegal. “The Bekasi regent should have first given us the demolition order; but we have never received any letter from the regent,” he said.
HKBP Setu has struggled to obtain a building permit for the church which was built in 1999.
“We will soon file a lawsuit against the Bekasi regency administration,” said Torang, adding that the church’s congregation would still hold their services near the demolished church.
Hamas wants be dropped from the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations not because it has changed, but because it feels that the world has changed, and that many naïve Westerners are now willing to tolerate its radical ideology and terrorism.
Hamas leaders are working hard these days to have their movement removed from the U.S. State Department list for Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The Hamas leaders are hoping to persuade a number of European Union countries to support their bid.
Hamas wants to be removed from the list without changing its strategy or charter, which call for jihad [holy war] and which do not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas is also not prepared to dismantle its armed group, Izaddin al-Kassam, as part of its effort to persuade the US and EU to drop it from the list of terrorist groups.
Nor is Hamas prepared to stop smuggling weapons or give up thousands of rockets and mortars that it possesses in various parts of the Gaza Strip.
And of course Hamas is not prepared to renounce violence in the context of its effort to seek legitimacy in the international community.
The Hamas initiative comes at a time when senior officials of the movement, including Khaled Mashaal, continue to talk about their dream of replacing Israel with an Islamic state. In addition, they are continuing to call on Palestinians to abide by the “armed resistance” as the only option for achieving their goal.
Ironically, the Hamas request to be removed from the list of terrorist groups coincides with reports about the Islamist movement’s involvement in terror activities in neighboring Egypt.
According to these reports, Hamas was behind the August 2012 killing of 16 Egyptian border guards in Sinai. Hamas has also dispatched thousands of its men to Cairo to protect Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi against his political opponents, the reports revealed.
Although Hamas has denied the reports, there are increased signs that the movement is cooperating with other Islamic fundamentalist groups in Sinai to turn the peninsula into a base for jihadists from different parts of the world. Some of these jihadists are believed to be linked to groups that are affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Hamas claims that it has won the secret backing of a number of EU governments — a claim denied by the EU.
The Hamas demand was first raised by the movement’s prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, during a meeting with European supporters in the Gaza Strip last month.
Ghazi Hamad a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, says that his movement is putting pressure on several countries to change their position toward his movement. He believes that there has already been a “positive change” in the minds of Western and Arab societies toward Hamas.
It is not clear what Hamas bases its optimism on. But sources close to Hamas revealed that some Arab leaders, including Egypt’s Morsi and Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, have promised to work toward convincing the Americans and Europeans to remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations.
Both Morsi and al-Thani, according to the sources, have raised the issue with US and EU officials over the past few weeks.
The two Arab leaders have argued that removing Hamas from the lost would actually have a moderating effect on the movement and boost the prospects of peace in the Middle East. They have also claimed — according to the sources — that removing Hamas from the list would pave the way for unity between the movement and Fatah.
The Hamas campaign to be removed from the list of terrorist groups also coincides with growing cooperation between the movement and other radical groups in the Gaza Strip, primarily Islamic Jihad.
During the last war in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad militiamen formed a joint command to coordinate rocket attacks against Israel. More recently, it was revealed that Fatah’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, also helped Hamas fire rockets at Israel in recent years.
The Americans and most EU countries are opposed to Fatah’s efforts to achieve unity with a movement that remains on their list of foreign terrorist organizations.
In private, however, Fatah leaders say they are also opposed to removing Hamas from the list out of fear that such a move would legitimize the movement and pave the way for the creation of a separate state in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas wants to be dropped from the list not because it has changed. Rather, Hamas wants to be removed from the list because it feels that the world has changed, and that many naïve Westerners are now willing to tolerate its radical ideology and terrorism.
Anyone who supports Hamas’s bid should also vote in favor of removing Al-Qaeda from the same list.
Hundreds of Muslim villagers in Egypt’s south have attacked Christian-owned stores in search of a girl whose family claims was abducted.
The villagers assaulted the stores Tuesday and surrounded two churches in the city of al-Wasta in Bani Suef province in Egypt’s south. Security forces guarded the churches. No casualties were reported.
The college-aged girl disappeared around one month ago. The crowd accused local Christian of kidnapping her.
Bani Suef’s prosecutor, Hamdi Farouk, said there was no reason to believe Christians were involved in her disappearance.
Security chief Ibrahim Hudeib said the girl left her house with her gold and passport in hand and may have fled with a local Muslim boy.
Past clashes have been sparked by rumors of conversion, Muslim-Christian love affairs and the construction of churches.
(The Associated Press)
The death toll has risen to 41 in the wake of Monday’s suicide bombing of a bus station in Kano, Nigeria. Many believe Christians were the target of the bombing because it took place in a primarily Christian neighborhood. Two suicide bombers, believe to be connected to Boko Haram, rammed a car full of explosives into a bus station on Monday. The initial explosion was followed by a series of explosions. Sixty five other people were wounded in the attack.
Wounded survivors on Tuesday described the terrifying scene of a suicide attack at a Nigerian bus station that killed at least 41 people, the latest violence to hit the restive north.
The Monday attack saw two suicide bombers ram their car into the bus station in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city, setting off a huge explosion that hit five buses, police spokesman Magaji Majia told AFP.
A rescue official said late Tuesday that the attack left 41 people dead, while Majia said 65 were injured.
The police had earlier given a toll of 22 dead, but the rescue official, who requested anonymity, later told AFP that 20 victims were counted at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital and an additional 21 bodies were reported at the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack and said his government would continue “its unrelenting war against terrorists.”
But the government has so far shown little ability to halt violence linked to an insurgency by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
The bus station targeted on Monday primarily services passengers heading to the mostly Christian south of Nigeria.
It was also attacked in January last year in a blast that wounded several people.
Authorities have not said who was behind the bombing and there has been no claim of responsibility, but it was similar to previous attacks by Boko Haram.
Its deadliest assault yet occurred in the northern city in January 2012, when at least 185 people were killed in coordinated bomb and gun attacks.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
The country’s main Christian association CAN — currently led by evangelicals — issued a statement on Tuesday saying recent attacks “were a signpost of the intended extermination of Christians and Christianity from northern Nigeria.”
Boko Haram’s targets have included symbols of government authority, churches and Muslims it views as collaborating with the government.
A suicide bombing of UN headquarters in the capital Abuja in 2011 killed at least 25 people.
The group has claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state, though its demands have repeatedly shifted.
It is believed to include various factions with differing aims. One splinter faction, Ansaru, appears to have focused on kidnapping foreigners.
Boko Haram itself had not claimed any kidnappings until recently, when it said it was behind the abduction of a French family of seven over the border in Cameroon.
Many analysts have said poverty and neglect of northern Nigeria, which remains underdeveloped when compared to the oil-rich south, have helped feed the insurgency.
Despite the country’s oil reserves, most of Nigeria’s population lives on less than $2 per day, with corruption deeply rooted.
The military’s violent response to the insurgency has also worsened the situation, according to rights groups and activists in the region.
Violence linked to the insurgency in northern and central Nigeria, including killings by security forces, have left some 3,000 people dead since 2009.