Pakistan steps up online war against Daesh

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Updated 18 March 2018
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Pakistan steps up online war against Daesh

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has launched a drive to purge social media platforms of Daesh recruiters, as it was revealed during investigations how the militant network recruits young and impressionable Pakistanis via Facebook and Telegram.
Shaikh Mohammed Imran, a Daesh recruiter who was arrested earlier this month, said he used to lure young people on Facebook before adding them to the group’s Telegram channel.
“Social media has no boundaries, so it is a challenge for us to curb the online activities of Daesh, including recruitment of our youth,” Ihsan Ghani, chief of NACTA, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
However, he said that numerous measures had been taken in recent years to stop the online activities of the militant outfit, though a lot more was still needed to be done.
“Daesh presence on social media is worrisome for us,” he said. “NACTA, along with other institutions, is doing a lot of work to check the online presence of not only Daesh but also other militant outfits.”
To counter online terrorism and extremism, Pakistan has also blocked at least 10 websites and 1,447 web addresses in the past two years. However, security agencies are still struggling to develop a cogent mechanism to purge social media of the presence of militant groups.
“Modern tools are now used to promote, recruit and train militants besides funds collection and transfers,” says a 37-page report, “Cultivating Peace National Action Plan,” published by NACTA on Dec. 31, 2017.
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) earlier this month arrested a militant, Imran alias Saif-ul-Islam Khilafati, from Karachi for operating at least 50 social media accounts to recruit young people for Daesh.
“It is a daunting task for us because the militants neither need an office nor huge resources to operate on social media websites,” Ghani admitted.
“The militants target the youth active on social media to brainwash and recruit them,” he said, adding that it is also the responsibility of society and parents to keep an eye on children who use the Internet and social media platforms.
NACTA has also been compiling data of Pakistanis who joined Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past couple of years to avoid any backlash in case they returned to their country. Daesh has effectively been defeated in Syria and Iraq, and the outfit is now trying to spread its tentacles in different areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Ghani informed Arab News that a permanent “fusion center” had been established within NACTA where all relevant institutions, including intelligence agencies, gave their regular input about Pakistani members of Daesh.
“A monthly meeting in the fusion center reviews progress of the relevant institutions for tracking down the Daesh-linked militants,” he said. “Our security institutions quickly clamp down on the militants who return from the Middle East.”
However, he denied the claim that thousands of Pakistanis had joined the militant outfit in Syria and Iraq to establish the so-called caliphate in the area.
“There is no evidence of any large-scale movement of Pakistanis to join Daesh in the Middle East,” he said. “But yes, they are in their hundreds and we are keeping an eye on them.”
NACTA and other relevant institutions have gathered data about Pakistanis joining Daesh in Syria and Iraq from airports, land routes via Iran, and border security agencies.
Khawaja Khalid Farooq, former Inspector General of Police and security analyst, told Arab News that Daesh had developed its influence in Balochistan and Sindh provinces, and social media provided the group with an effective tool to recruit people.
“Our youth is most vulnerable to Daesh recruiters and just blocking a few websites or web pages won’t help address the problem,” he said. “There is a need to present counter narratives on social media to educate our youth about the true teachings of Islam.”
He added that Daesh could pose a major security threat to Pakistan if our state institutions failed to counter it immediately.
Ghani, however, denied any organized presence of Daesh in Pakistan and pledged to eliminate its “random rebels.”
“They [Daesh] are not in a position to harm us,” he said. “We have restored peace through multiple security operations and will maintain it.”


Bosnians welcome UN verdict against Karadzic

A woman reacts after the verdict on former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes, in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Bosnians welcome UN verdict against Karadzic

  • ‘He should never be allowed to go free,’ Bosnian diplomat tells Arab News
  • Families of victims who traveled to The Hague hailed the verdict

JEDDAH: Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, widely known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” has had his sentence for genocide and war crimes increased to life in prison.

He was appealing a 2016 verdict in which he was given a 40-year sentence for the Srebrenica massacre in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the town of Srebrenica by Bosnian-Serb forces in July 1995. Karadzic, 73, was also found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The UN court said the 40-year sentence did not reflect the trial chamber’s analysis on the “gravity and responsibility for the largest and greatest set of crimes ever attributed to a single person at the ICTY (the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).”

The ruling by the judges on Wednesday cannot be appealed, and will end one of the highest-profile legal battles stemming from the Balkan wars.

Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding Judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out the damning judgment.

The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by The Hague’s war crimes court. His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the Bosnian conflict, which left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose a sentence of just 40 years, given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes. Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.

Families of victims who traveled to The Hague hailed the verdict. Mothers, some elderly and walking with canes, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.

Halim Grabus, a Bosnian-Muslim diplomat based in Geneva, told Arab News that the verdict “will act as a deterrent against the criminals responsible for the genocide of Muslims during the 1992-1995 war. He (Karadzic) should never be allowed to go free. He deserves maximum punishment.”

Grabus was in Bosnia during the war, and witnessed the scorched-earth policy of Karadzic and his fellow generals.

Grabus said it was not possible in today’s world to expect total justice, “but the verdict is important for the victims and survivors of Karadzic’s genocidal politics and ideology of hate.” 

A large majority of Serbs “continue to justify what he did, and continue to carry forward his hateful campaign against Bosnian Muslims,” Grabus added.

“Many of the killers of Muslims during the Bosnian war are still roaming free. They need to be arrested and brought to justice.”

Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian-Serb wartime military commander, is awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence. Both he and Karadzic were convicted of genocide for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre.