Twitter suspends account of Somali Islamist insurgents

Updated 25 January 2013
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Twitter suspends account of Somali Islamist insurgents

NAIROBI: The Twitter account of Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shabab insurgents was suspended Friday, days after they posted photographs of a French commando they killed and threatened to execute Kenyan hostages.
A message from Twitter on the English-language @HSMPress account read that the account had “been suspended,” without elaborating.
However, the Shabab’s Somali- and Arabic-language accounts continue to operate, and the extremists used their Arabic account to denounce the suspension as censorship.
“This is new evidence of the freedom of expression in the West,” the message read.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a senior Shabab official said that the suspension of their twitter account was making us proud and that their account was “the true source of valuable information that reflected the true picture of Somalia.”
The Shabab official said “that the cry of the French and Kenyans forced the account to be suspended.”
“We have thousands of ways to pass our message...it is unfortunate that organizations that call themselves the guardians of freedom of expression are silent about the closure of our twitter account,” he said.
On Wednesday the Shabab used the account to release a link to a video of several Kenyan hostages they said they will execute within three weeks if the Kenyan government does not release prisoners held on terrorism charges.
Earlier this month they posted graphic photographs of a French soldier killed during a failed bid to release a French agent whom the Shabab had held for more than three years. They later used Twitter to announce the hostage’s execution.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault denounced the publication of the photographs as a “particularly odious display.”
Twitter warns that accounts can be suspended if they violate its rules, which include the publishing of “direct, specific threats of violence against others,” according to regulations posted on its website.
Users are also blocked if they use Twitter “for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities.”
Last year the Shabab used the account — which was opened in December 2011, and most recently had more than 20,000 followers — for a series of exchanges with Kenya’s army spokesman, taunting the Kenyans after they invaded southern Somalia to attack the Islamists.
Shabab fighters are on the back foot in Somalia, reeling from a string of losses as they battle a 17,000-strong African Union force as well as Ethiopian troops and Somali forces.
The Shabab would use their account to goad Kenya’s army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir, calling the Kenyan military “inexperienced boys.”
And, after Chirchir warned that herds of donkeys were a potential target — since they were viewed as Shabab convoys — the Islamists retorted that Kenya’s “eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned.”
In January 2012, during a live web chat platform that the US State Department used to engage with international media, Washington’s senior adviser for innovation Alec Ross said terrorist organizations should be “dismantled and destroyed.”
“And so for me to think about whether they should have the right to use Twitter or not, I go to a more fundamental question, which is: Do they have the right to exist or not? And my answer to that is no. ... Shabab and other institutions that are purveyors of terror are going to get absolutely no sympathy from me, and they certainly aren’t going to see me advocate for their rights,” Ross said.


Arabs ‘crazy’ about British royals

Updated 24 April 2018
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Arabs ‘crazy’ about British royals

  • Cafe Diana's owner Abdul Basset Daoud named his shop 30 years ago after the late Princess Diana 30, who lived across the road in Kensington Palace
  • People from the Middle East really respect the Queen and not just because she is old, says one Arab restaurant owner

LONDON:  The cakes are ready, the flowers are ordered and the drinks are on ice. At the Cafe Diana in London’s Notting Hill, all was in place for a celebration marking the birth of Britain’s newest royal, the baby boy born Monday  morning to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

“Of course, we’re having a party. We always do,” said manager Fouad Fattah.

The same was true a few kilometers away at the Fatoush restaurant, where manager Alaa William Chamas kept a watchful eye on the news headlines and a lookout for extra police traffic heading towards at St Mary’s Hospital, the venue for the royal birth. “We’re expecting a busy evening,”  he said. 

While an element of celebration might be expected at some British establishments,  Cafe Diana and Fatoush are Middle Eastern-owned and run. But they are embracing the latest royal event —  as well as the forthcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle next month —  with all the enthusiasm of the most ardent monarchists.

“Are Arab people interested in the British royal family? Are you kidding? They are crazy about them!” said Lebanese-born Fattah, 55, who throws a party for his customers on every notable royal occasion.

 

Royal neighbor 

Cafe Diana forged a very real link with the royal family 30 years ago,  when the owner, Abdul Basset Daoud, decided to name his cafe after his royal neighbor, the late Princess Diana, who lived across the road in Kensington Palace.

He put up the sign at around Christmas time in 1988 and to his amazement, she came in two weeks later. She had seen it as she drove out with her bodyguard and it had made her smile, she told him, so she decided to drop in for a coffee.

It was not her only visit. She came again a couple of weeks later and Basset Daoud asked her if he out up a photograph of her. She returned the next day with a black and white studio. Then she began dropping in regularly, sometimes alone and often with her sons for a full English breakfast.

“The boys loved it. We are not a five-star restaurant. This is just an ordinary  neighborhood coffee shop. She wanted the princes  to experience things like normal kids,” said Fatah. 

“She didn’t mind queuing like any other customer. She usually sat with her back to the room. The other customers did not realise who she was until she stood up and they got a real shock.” 

And that, he insists, is why Arabs love the British royals.

“It’s because we can see them. They are not far away from the people. When the Queen goes out, there are just two cars with her, not 200. If the Queen goes past and you wave at her,  she waves back. You can shout out to the royals and they just smile.”

The walls of the cafe are now covered in  photographs of the princess, both formal portraits and informal snaps with the staff, and letters thanking them for sending her flowers for her birthday. The last is dated July 1, 1997, just two months before she died.

“Everyone who comes here wants to talk about the royal family,” said Fattah. “There was a lady from Kuwait who came in recently and she was crying her eyes out. I gave her a cup of tea and asked what was wrong. She said, ‘I loved Diana so much’.”

 

Arab love

It is much the same at Fatoush, a popular Lebanese restaurant on Edgeware Road, in the heart of what has been dubbed “Arab Street.”

Chatting over coffee, manager Alaa William (“Yes, that really is my name”) Chamas was adamant. 

“Arab people LOVE the British royal family. If they are living here, they really care about them. If they are visiting, they just want to talk about how they visited Buckingham Palace,” he said.

“I’m not interested!” boomed an unseen voice from the kitchen. “Be quiet!”  Chamas boomed back. Having admonished his wayward employee, Chamas returned to his theme.

“When there is a wedding in the royal family, the public are invited to share it. Now there is a new baby and they share this with the people.

“People from the Middle East really respect the Queen and not just because she is old. Some other rulers are also old but nobody thinks much about them. In some places, the people fear their rulers. Here they see that the Queen is loved.”

At the nearby Simit Sarayi cafe, manager Mukhtar Mohamed agreed. “It’s because the British royal family seem so accessible. You can visit Buckingham Palace — actually look round where they live! Arab visitors who have been coming to London for years follow all the news about the royals and they buy every souvenir they can get their hands on. If it’s got a picture of the Queen or Diana or William and Kate  on it, they want it. With Prince Harry getting married in a few weeks, they are buying like crazy.”

Back at Cafe Diana, Fattah is recalling a poignant visit by Harry a few years after the death of his mother.

“He must have been about 16 or 17. He was with his uncle, Prince Andrew, and he had just been to the barber next door to get his hair cut. On the way back to the car, he put his head round the door of the cafe and said, ‘Hi.’ Then he looked at all the photos and smiled and left.”

In four weeks’ time, Prince Harry is getting married. Cue for another party? “Absolutely!”