Senior Indonesian member of Daesh killed in Syria: police

The Daesh group flag. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019

Senior Indonesian member of Daesh killed in Syria: police

  • Muhammad Saifuddin was killed by shrapnel from a tank shell in late January in eastern Deir ez-Zor province
  • US had placed Saifuddin on a special global counter-terrorism list last August

JAKARTA: An Indonesian militant who appeared on a Daesh propaganda video showing the execution of a hostage and was said to be close to the militant group’s leader was killed in Syria last month, an Indonesian police spokesman and his brother said.
Muhammad Saifuddin, who was known by various aliases, including Abu Walid, was killed by shrapnel from a tank shell in late January in eastern Deir ez-Zor province, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said in a text message.
Prasetyo described him as an Daesh “executioner and soldier.”
Muinudinillah Basri, Saifuddin’s brother, said by telephone he had learned of his brother’s death after receiving a photo of his body.
He had not seen his brother since he left for Syria with his wife and children, he said.
The US government had placed Saifuddin, alongside two militants from Malaysia and the Philippines, on a special global counter-terrorism list last August.
According to the US Department of Treasury’s website, Saifuddin, also known as Mohammed Karim Yusop Faiz, had gone to Syria to join Daesh in 2014 and taken part in the execution of a prisoner in June 2016. He had previously been imprisoned in the Philippines for nine years on charges of illegal possession of explosives and weapons, it said.
Sofyan Tsauri, a former Indonesian militant, said Saifuddin was “an important figure” in Daesh who represented its Southeast Asian contingent and had been close to the group’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Last weekend, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) began an assault seeking to wipe out the last remnants of the militant group’s “caliphate” in the SDF’s area of operations in eastern and northern Syria. The enclave is close to the Iraqi border and comprises two villages. IS still retains territory in the part of Syria that is mostly under the control of the Russian- and Iranian-backed Syrian government.


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”