British benefits payments used to fund Paris and Brussels attack suspects' campaign of terror, court hears

By Martin Evans, crime correspondent Lexi Finnigan
24 NOVEMBER 2016
The Telegraph

The jihadists suspected of carrying out the bomb and gun attacks in Paris and Brussels used British benefits payments to fund international terrorism, a court has heard.

Mohamed Abrini - who became known as the "man in the hat" following the deadly attack on Brussels airport in March, was handed £3,000 by two men in Birmingham before flying to Paris and disappearing.

He had been sent to collect the money by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is suspected of being one of the ringleaders of the attacks across the French capital just months later in which 130 people were killed.

Zakaria Bouffassil, 26, from Birmingham is accused of handing over the cash which had been withdrawn from the bank account of Anouar Haddouchi, a Belgian national, who had been claiming benefits while living in the West Midlands with his wife.

Kingston Crown Court heard how thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money continued to be paid into Haddouchi's bank account, even after he had left Britain for Syria and had begun fighting for Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil).

Mr Bouffassil, 26, who is also originally from Belgium is accused of giving Abrini a large amount of cash during a secretive meeting in a Birmingham park last July.

He was accompanied by Mohamed Ali Ahmed, who has already admitted the charge.

On the opening day of their trial, jurors heard how some of the most notorious and wanted terrorists in Europe had used British taxpayers' money to fund their activities in Syria and elsewhere.

Max Hill QC, prosecuting, said: “There is no doubt that the money was handed over with the intention of assisting acts of terrorism.”

He went on: “The intention could not be more clear. Haddouchi had left the UK to fight for Daesh in Syria. Abrini came to collect the money in the UK.

“The destination would include Syria and specifically Daesh, either to Haddouchi himself or to other fighters. In other words the cash was handed over to Abrini with the intention of assisting others to commit acts of terrorism.”

Mr Hill explained that Haddouchi had left Britain for Syria in the summer of 2014.

He told the jury: "His TSB account at times contained some £7,000 or more. The figure fluctuated over time because benefits payments were still going into the account, even though Haddouchi had left the country."

He said the money had been gradually withdrawn in cash sums on various dates between 30 May 2015 and 23 November 2015.

The court heard that hours after collecting the money,  Abrini visited the Grosvenor Casino in Birmingham where he took a photograph of a gambling machine on his mobile phone.

Mr Hill said the actual use of the money is 'not part of the criminal offence charged against' Boufassil and, even if Abrini did gamble some of the money in a casino, 'that does not undermine the criminal offence.

“Even terrorists spend money on food and drink, whether in a casino or elsewhere,” he explained.

Abrini then travelled to Manchester where he spent the night before trying to catch a flight to Paris.

However when he discovered there were no direct flights he returned to Birmingham by coach before finally leaving the UK on July 16.

In March this year Abrini captured on CCTV alongside Ibrahim El Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui, who detonated bombs hidden in suitcases killing 12 people at Brussels airport.

Another 20 people died in an attack on Maalbeek metro station less than two hours later.

Jurors were also told he is also wanted by the French authorities in connection with the attacks in Paris last November.

Boufassil denies one charge of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and the trial continues.

Trojan Horse school governor’s son was killed fighting with Isil

By: John Bingham, religious affairs editor
22 NOVEMBER 2016

A former governor of a group of schools at the centre of the so-called “Trojan Horse” affair has spoken of how her 19-year-old son was radicalised by Islamic extremists and eventually died fighting with Isil in Syria.

Nicola Benyahia was among a group of board members from the Park View Educational Trust in Birmingham who stood down in July 2014 at the height of the uproar into allegations that hard-line Muslim groups had attempted to infiltrate schools in the city.

An official review by the former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief Peter Clarke concluded there was "disturbing" evidence of attempts to take control of schools to spread an ultra-conservative brand of Islam, leaving children "vulnerable" to radicalisation.

Mrs Benyahia, 46, a British convert to Islam, has recently set up a support group to reverse the process of radicalisation, working with experts to identify “triggers” in vulnerable young people.

But she believes that the Trojan Horse affair could have been used as one of the triggers to the radicalisation of her son, Rasheed.

The teenager, an enthusiast for the acrobatic craze free-running, disappeared in May last year and travelled to the so-called Islamic State where he was killed six months later in a Coalition drone strike.

In an extensive interview with the BBC she offers a rare glimpse into the experiences of families of those who have travelled to join Jihadist networks, Mrs Benyahia describes how the teenager gradually changed during the course of 2014.

Mrs Benyahia, a care manager and counsellor, details how, with hindsight, changes in her son’s mood and outlook chart a process similar to grooming by a group of people she believes he met after joining late night Islamic study circles in the city.

She singles out two elements in their family life at the time which she believes may have made him more vulnerable to extremists: a rocky patch in his parents’ marriage and her own experience in being caught up in the Trojan Horse affair.

She said that despite concerns about what was happening she had hoped to stick it out as a governor because she wanted a progressive Muslim female voice to be heard on the board.

But she fears the case might have been used by extremists to turn him against Britain.

“I could see a great man that he was going to become and it was just taken away in the last year of his life,” she said.

“They just ruined him.

“They lured him into something he knew little about.

“He didn’t have any understanding or comprehension about what he was walking into.

“His softer nature and that vulnerability in him was manipulated [by saying] ‘Oh this is the Caliphate, this is what you must do, if you don’t do this, if you don’t do this journey then you’re not a believer, you’re not a Muslim, you’re not a good Muslim’.

“That would have got to him more than anything.” 

She recounted how he became increasingly preoccupied and angry about events in the Muslim world, especially Syria, during the course of 2014 and was particularly animated by news of the establishment of a so-called Islamic State.

But around New Year 2015, Rasheed, who had been doing an apprenticeship in electrical engineering, presented her with a diamond necklace, for which he had saved up, with a note reading: “Mama - no matter how much gold and how many precious stones are used, it's never enough to show how precious you are to me.”

She now believes this marks the point at which he had made up his mind to travel to Syria.

“I think that was his goodbye present to me,” she said.

“At that point he had made the decision to go - and that was his way of saying so.

“I think that was how he was saying goodbye to me.

“That calm, I now know, is one of the tactics that the recruiters deploy.

“They tell their recruits to avoid tension, to be placid, to not bring attention to himself and just go along with what his parents wanted.

“He was over decision time and into preparation mode.”

German police detain five 'IS recruiters'

November 8, 2016

German police on Tuesday arrested five men suspected of links to the Islamic State group, who allegedly sought to recruit fighters for the jihadists.

"The five accused formed a pan-regional Salafist-jihadist network, with the accused Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A. taking on the leading role," said a statement from the prosecutors' office.

The 32-year-old Iraqi leader of the group, who also goes by the alias Abu Walaa, is one of the most influential Islamist preachers in Germany, said Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

"The aim of the network led by him is to send people to IS in Syria," said federal prosecutors.

Turkish national Hasan C. and German-Serb Boban S. were allegedly tasked with teaching the recruits Arabic as well as indoctrinating them with Islamist content.

While the group's leader had the authority to approve and organise any departures to Syria, he allegedly left the actual implementation of the plans to the two other men detained Tuesday, German national Mahmoud O. and Cameroonian Ahmed F.Y.

The five men were arrested in the northern state of Lower Saxony and in North Rhine-Westphalia.

At least one young man and his family has been sent by the network to join IS in Syria, prosecutors added.

Burkhard Freier, who leads North Rhine-Westphalia's domestic security service, said the group had "no concrete plans of attack."

The probe will focus on two elements, he said: "first on the radicalisation of young people and secondly, which is something that the investigations must still prove -- was there people smuggling, was there ideological conditioning and ideological preparation for a departure to Syria."

Hasan C. was in contact with two teenagers with Islamist backgrounds who were arrested over an explosion that wounded three people at a Sikh temple in the western city of Essen in April, said Freier.

According to figures released in May by German intelligence services, 820 jihadists have left Germany for Syria and Iraq.

Almost a third have returned and 140 were killed while abroad, while around 420 are still in Syria or Iraq.

Germany has so far been spared large-scale jihadist attacks.

But it was shaken by two assaults claimed by IS and carried out by asylum seekers -- an axe rampage on a train in Wuerzburg that injured five, and a suicide bombing in Ansbach in which 15 people were hurt.

Police said last month they had foiled an alleged plot by a Syrian refugee to bomb one of Berlin's airports.

From Hanover to IS: The case of Safia S.
October 26, 2016

A German court has begun a trial of a 16-year-old German-Moroccan girl, identified as Safia S, for an alleged terror attack. The prosecutors accuse her of stabbing a police officer and links with the "Islamic State" (IS)

The court decided to exclude the media from the trial that started on Thursday, aiming to protect the young defendant from "continued exposure and the related stigma."

Another 20-year-old suspect is also facing charges for not reporting Safia ahead of the February stabbing.

The knife attack in Hanover was the culmination of a long process of Islamic radicalization. Safia S. told police that her attack had been spontaneous. But investigators are telling a different story: The search for a motive quickly led authorities to believe that it may have been a terrorist attack. Safia S. is suspected of having contacts to radical Islamists. Surveillance video from the Hanover train station show Safia S. staring at two police officers as they move through the station. Because the officers find that she is acting suspiciously, they ask to see her ID. Then she attacks.

A search of the contents of her cellphone expose her long path to radicalization. In their search, investigators found chat transcripts between Safia S. and members of IS. According to an investigation conducted by North German Public Radio's (NDR) "Panorama 3," program,  Safia apparently wrote the following in a chat from November 14, 2015 - the day after the Paris terror attacks: "Yesterday was the happiest day of my life, Allah bless our lions, who were in action in Paris yesterday."

The German-Moroccan girl wears a headscarf. Online, the high school student presents herself like so many others her age: selfies in front of her bedroom mirror, photos with girlfriends, images of cats. She swoons for Justin Bieber and Allah. "A girl that quotes the Koran is not a threat," her father says in an interview with NDR. Her mother gave her a devout upbringing. She had to go to mosque every Friday and she memorized the Koran. Yet that is where the young girl came into contact with men who were dangerously manipulative.

Did authorities underestimate the threat?

In 2008, at the age of seven, Safia S. appeared alongside the controversial Salafist preacher Pierre Vogel in a YouTube video. In it, she recites Koran verses with a soft voice. Vogel presented her as "our little sister in Islam" in Salafist propaganda videos, and when presenting her to supporters, as follows: "This is the new generation of Muslims, I am proud of you. Learn the Koran by heart and on Judgement Day you will move up a step for each verse you recite."

The investigation has shown that authorities in Lower Saxony had videos like these before the knife attack. The state domestic intelligence office was even investigating the young girl for preparing a serious crime in November 2014. Safia S. is also said to have had contact with the 20-year-old German-Syrian Mohamed Hasan K. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating him as a suspect involved in planning the supposed terror attack that led to the cancellation of an international soccer match in Hanover. Since he had knowledge of Safia's plans he is also a co-defendant in her trial. K. was able to flee Germany, but was arrested in Greece at the end of September.

What brought on the knife attack?

Safia's family was not blind to her radicalization. Even her grandmother called the police to inform them. Authorities got in touch with the family in mid-December and met with them in mid-January. Safia's radical ideas finally became evident when she left the country on January 22. She flew to Istanbul - her destination: IS in Syria. Her brother had already left just a few weeks earlier. But Turkish authorities detained him at the Syrian border. 18 years old at the time, he was then sent to prison.

After she left, Safia's mother reported her daughter missing to local authorities. Then she went after her daughter. In February, mother and daughter returned to Germany. The police were waiting for them when they arrived at Hanover airport.

First 'IS' attack in Germany

According to federal prosecutors, the teenager contacted IS members in Istanbul, at which point she was contracted to carry out a "martyr attack" in Germany. She also uploaded a video to an internet news agency claiming responsibility for a terror attack. It was not until March that authorities found IS instructions for a knife attack. Therefore authorities now consider the train station attack to be the first IS contracted terror attack in Germany. She faces up to ten years in prison.

Fatal mistake

Ever more mistakes have been uncovered in the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, an investigative committee of the state parliament in Hanover is looking into the case. Could authorities have headed off the threat by detaining Safia S. in early February? A teacher and a school administrator contacted authorities after her detention at the airport as well.

A precarious memo sent to federal agencies by the State Office of Criminal Investigation of Lower Saxony (LKA) is among the investigative mistakes that has been discovered. The memo contains the line, "All-clear in the case of Safia S." And further: Upon examination, no concrete connection to IS found. The 15-year-old poses no threat. The date: February 25. Just one day later that assessment turned out to be a grave miscalculation.

Islamic hate preacher who recruited ISIS poster girls travelled through Europe 'like a popstar on tour as he brainwashed teenagers'

•    Mirsad Omerovic aka Ebu Tejma is on trial in Austria

•    Recruited Samra Kesinovic and Sabina Selimovic, who became public face of jihad
•    He was also involved in 166 defections of European youngsters to ISIS
•    Had YouTube channel aimed at Muslims aged between 14 and late twenties


PUBLISHED: 11:30 EST, 22 February 2016
Daily Mail

An alleged Islamic hate preacher reported to have been the terror mastermind who recruited the Austrian jihad 'poster girls' and more than 160 others was travelling Europe 'like a popstar on tour', a court heard.

Mirsad Omerovic, 34, known by the Islamic name of 'Ebu Tejma', was arrested in November last year at the council flat he shared with his pregnant wife and five children.

Authorities believe Omerovic, originally from Bosnia now on trial in Austria's southern city of Graz, recruited Samra Kesinovic, 17 and Sabina Selimovic, 16, who became the public face of jihad.

He was also involved in a further 166 defections of European youngsters to fight in holy war.

Omerovic flat was stuffed with jewellery, cash and savings books worth a fortune when it was stormed by Austria's elite heavily-armed police special forces team WEGA. He had also been spotted driving top-of-the-range sport cars.

Opening his trial in Austria, the prosecutor told the court that Omerovic's 'main message was that Islam needed to be spread to the world through jihad.'

He added that Ebu Tejma was travelling through Europe 'like a popstar on tour'.

And he added that the popstar analogy was particularly appropriate because Omerovic even had his own YouTube channel aimed at young Muslims aged between 14 and their late twenties.

He added it offered 'to carry out brainwashing on those that viewed it'.

The two Austrian teens became the terror organisation's latest PR coup when they turned out to be poster girls for the death cult, and featured on ISIS websites carrying AK-47s and surrounded by groups of armed men.

Neither however has been seen for almost a year, with a Tunisian ISIS returnee telling investigators that Samra had been forced to become a sex slave who was offered as a present to new fighters, and that she was later stoned to death when she tried to escape.

With regards to Sabina, a United Nations official revealed a girl 'of Bosnian origin from Austria' - believed to be Sabina - had died fighting in Syria.

Both had allegedly become radicalised by Omerovic. When they had left their homes, they left a note for their families which read: 'Don't look for us. We will serve Allah and we will die for him.'

As well as the two girls, Omerovic has also been linked in with the recruitment of more than 160 others who eventually joined ISIS.

The valuables that were seized at his home had all been provided by Muslims radicalised by the preacher and his cronies in a network that reportedly extended across the country and into the rest of Europe.

The prosecutor also claimed that on his computer a file that was a guide to making an explosive device was found. It was a guidebook to making an explosive device that could be detonated by mobile phone.

His arrest has been seen as a major blow against the terrorist group's activities and now the trial under judge Stephan Mertens is taking place in part behind closed doors to protect the identity of witnesses.

It is the first time a Muslim has been charged with murder through terrorism in Austria and he is also accused of inciting a co-accused in the murder of 'infidels' which could result in up to 20 years in prison.

The co-accused is a 28-year-old Russian who was targeted by police because of his violence as the right-hand man of Omerovic.

He is accused of carrying out numerous murders of civilians in Syria as well as the shooting of sex slaves and forcing others out of their homes.

Security service insiders claim that he was not only one of 200 leading jihadists, but was also one of the leaders of the so called 'Bosnian cell' based in the Meidling district of Vienna that it was 'one of the most important logistic and financial support centres for jihadist activities in Europe', according to the 'Vecernje novosti', a local newspaper in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Austria has been concerned for years over fears that the country was becoming a hub for terrorist activities after inviting thousands of Muslim refugees into the country during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

It meant Vienna provided a fertile breeding ground for Omerovic and his network. The Austrian newspaper the Krone claimed that 'there was scarcely a single recruit in Europe for Jihad in which he and his group were not involved'. In preparing the case, the prosecutor also asked German Islam expert Guido Steinberg to analyse YouTube videos that Omerovic had made.

Originally from the small Serbian town of Tutin, Tejma was known in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a preacher of hatred and intolerance, who very soon found himself allied with the extreme form of Islam known as Wahhabism – an ultra-conservative, Saudi brand of Salafism.

According to Austrian anti-terrorism authorities, Tejma appeared on their radar more than three years ago, when he began uploading videos onto his YouTube channel.

His arrest followed two years of investigation by intelligence officials that had been tapping his communications, monitoring his phone calls and building up a picture of his network - which then prompted the arrests on November 28.

One of those connections is allegedly a direct line to the caliph of ISIS terrorism, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Investigators saw a constant stream of Salafist Muslims during their operation on Tejma.

Salafism is the fastest-growing Islamic movement in the world. It is rooted in the 19th century where it emerged as a way of combating the spread of European ideas and values.

But in recent years, it has come to be associated with the jihad of extremist groups that advocate the killing of innocent civilians. Lawyers for Omerovic told the court that he would claim to have done nothing more than teaching Islam as he had been trained to do so in Saudi Arabia.

Security services recorded a constant stream of Salafist preachers, often accompanied by Mujahedin fighters travelling up from Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the mosque and the imam has been appearing in online videos revealing that it is every Muslim's duty to join jihad if an Islamic state is under attack from non-believers.

Opening the case, the prosecutor in Graz added in conclusion that there were 'so many already from Austria who were young men and women who went to Syria and have been killed'. They added: 'The ISIS ideology is an enormous danger to our society that needs to be seriously tackled.' 

Britain's jihadi bride groomer:

Schoolgirl radicalised in London mosque recruited her three classmates to join ISIS in Syria
•    Sharmeena Begum, 15, fled East London home to join ISIS in December
•    Three months later, three of her closest school friends also fled to Syria
•    Initially families blamed internet for grooming Bethnal Green Academy girls
•    Now it's claimed Sharmeena was groomed inside the East London Mosque and persuaded three friends to join her at the meetings

Daily Mail
1 August 2015

A teenage jihadi bride who groomed three of her school friends to join her in Syria to fight for Islamic State was radicalised at a women’s charity based at one of Britain’s biggest mosques, it has been claimed.

Sharmeena Begum became one of the youngest British teenagers to join the murderous IS terror group when she fled from her home in East London and travelled to Syria last December aged 15.

Three months later, three of her closest school friends – Amira Abase, 16, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15 – also fled to Syria, triggering an international search to rescue them.

Islamic leaders and some of their family members blamed the internet for grooming the four schoolgirls, who were all pupils at Bethnal Green Academy in Tower Hamlets, East London.

But now it is claimed that Sharmeena was first radicalised inside the East London Mosque, Whitechapel, allegedly by women from a group called Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). She then allegedly groomed three friends to join her at the meetings.

The IFE previously attracted controversy because one of its founders is a suspected Muslim extremist accused of 18 murders and war crimes in his native Bangladesh.

Family members and relatives of the teenager broke their silence and told The Mail on Sunday that they suspect rogue individuals within the IFE’s women’s wing, known as the Sisters Forum or Muslimaat, advised her to travel to Syria in the wake of her mother’s death. The IFE has denied the claims.

But in a series of interviews, the MoS has been told:

Sharmeena was groomed at the Sisters Forum when she was extremely vulnerable as she was coping with her mother’s death from cancer. Members of the group allegedly told her she would join her mother in heaven if she died fighting for IS in Syria.

She encouraged her three friends to attend meetings at the East London Mosque, which has always denied links to Islamic extremism.

Sharmeena borrowed £500 from her grandmother, saying she needed it for shopping but instead used the cash to buy a plane ticket to Turkey and from there travelled to Syria.

She also duped her grandmother into handing over her passport, saying it was needed for a school project.

Two months ago, Sharmeena, now 16, phoned her family to reveal she had married a Syrian IS fighter.

Sharmeena’s father, Mohammed Nizam Uddin, 38, has revealed that he saw a sudden change in her when his wife, Shahnaz Begum, died of lung cancer in January last year at the age of 33.

Until then, Sharmeena had been a clever schoolgirl who enjoyed the music of Rihanna, loved watching EastEnders and studied hard as she had dreams of becoming a doctor.

But Mr Uddin, a waiter in an Indian restaurant, said: ‘I told the police that Sharmeena definitely changed after her mother died.

Sharmeena began attending the East London Mosque regularly and started wearing Isamic clothes such as the hijab. Mr Uddin thought his daughter’s new interest in Islam was her way of coping with her mother’s death and so did not show any concern.

He said: ‘She used to tell me to take her to the East London Mosque as she wanted to go and pray there. Sometimes she used to call me to pick her up from there.’

Mr Uddin was careful not to blame the mosque or groups within it for his daughter’s radicalisation, but his brother-in-law said the rest of the family blamed the IFE’s women’s group for poisoning the young girl’s mind.

Baki Miah, 35, a step-uncle to Sharmeena, said: ‘They told her things like, if she goes and dies in Syria, she would go to paradise, where she would meet her mother.

‘I am 500 per cent sure that she was groomed at the East London Mosque. She was spending most of her time in the mosque, after school and all the time, she was spending in the mosque.’

After Sharmeena arrived in Syria in December, she contacted her grandmother and her father to tell them that she was there.

Family friend Shahidur Rahman, 47, a restaurateur from Wembley, North London, said: ‘When Sharmeena went to Syria, she called her dad up, and one time she said, “If I die here, then I will go to my mother.”’

In February, Amira, Kadiza and Shamima caught a flight from Gatwick to Istanbul after telling their families they were going to revision classes at their school. Despite a tearful appeal by their families on national television, and an international manhunt launched to rescue them before they crossed into Syria, the three girls were smuggled into IS territory.

A separate investigation by internet news channel Vice News, broadcast today on its website, claims that by the summer holidays last year, Sharmeena was determined to travel to Syria, and that she in turn radicalised her three best friends at school, under the noses of parents and teachers.

The girls were in the same year at Bethnal Green Academy – a mixed-sex, multicultural secondary school rated ‘excellent’ by Ofsted – and had been close friends for years.

Although the Vice documentary, which is called Groomed By The Islamic State, does not implicate the mosque, Mr Miah said that Amira, Kadiza and Shamima also used to attend the Sisters Forum events with Sharmeena.

But now all the girls are believed to be in Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS in Syria, having been married off to fanatical fighters.

Last month, the MoS revealed how Amira had married the notorious Australian fighter Abdullah Elmir, 18, who is called ‘Ginger Jihadi’ because of his long red hair.

We also revealed how Amira callously mocked the 38 victims of the the Tunisian massacre by texting LOL [laugh out loud] to an undercover reporter when she was informed of the incident.

Sharmeena’s father said his daughter called her grandmother in East London two months ago and revealed that she was married.

But the girls’ distraught families insist they had no hint that their daughters were being radicalised in any way, despite some suspicious behaviour in the months leading up to their disappearance. Amira’s mother Fetia and her husband Abase Hussen, 47, told Vice News that her daughter was bombarded with calls and messages on her phone in the run-up to her leaving for Syria.

In broken English, she added: ‘She asked me, “I don’t want to contact anyone, I want to change my number.” She said, “Just leave it mummy, I just want to change my sim card or my mobile.”

Despite sharing a bedroom with her daughter, she thought the teenager was staying up late spending time on her laptop to revise for her GCSE exams, rather than anything sinister.

Fetia added: ‘We share same bedroom. You know she sleeping two o’clock, 3 o’clock. I’m with her on the computer. I’m with her always. How can she plan this, she can’t, she revise all the time all the night, I don’t know.’ Now Fetia realises the horrible significance of this, adding: ‘Someone was pushing her.’

The families of Amira, Shamima and Khadiza issued a statement last night saying: ‘Our daughters may have attended the East London Mosque to pray, but to our knowledge have never been associated or a part of the Islamic Forum of Europe.

'The Mosque and even the IFE have a strong track record of speaking out against and condemning extremism, this is well known within our community.’

Scotland Yard declined to comment, saying that investigations into the girls’ journey to Syria were continuing. Two women, aged 20 and 21, from North London, were arrested in February after apparently encouraging Sharmeena to travel to Syria.

Their identities have not been released and it is not known if they are connected to the East London Mosque or the Sisters Forum. They have been bailed to a date later this month.

Last night the mosque strongly denied playing a role in the radicalisation of Sharmeena and her three friends. In a statement, the mosque’s lawyers said it was attended by thousands of worshippers each week ‘so it is possible, indeed probable, that one or more of the girls attended at some point’.

But they added: ‘The ELM in all its statements, both written and verbal, has been unequivocal in condemning ISIS and in warning people not to travel to Syria.’

The IFE refused to comment. However, sources close to the group denied the four schoolgirls were known to the organisation. They added that the group organises many public meetings and events that are open to the public.

One of the IFE’s founding leaders was Chowdhury Mueen Uddin, 64, who is accused of at least 18 murders as well as war crimes in his native Bangladesh during its bloody war of independence in 1971.

ISIS suspects reportedly arrested in Moscow suburb

Published time: 24 Jul, 2015
Russia Today

More than 30 people have been detained in a suburb of the Russian capital on suspicion of recruiting for the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISL) terror group, social media reports suggested on Friday.

Russian Interior Ministry officials have confirmed to RT that they made arrests in Balashikha, about 20 kilometers east of Moscow. However, they didn’t comment further on the issue.

The arrests took place in a mosque on Pervomayskaya Street, where IS affiliates were allegedly distributing extremist materials and hiring recruits, according to a post on the town’s community Facebook page.

A mosque employee told RT that security officials only checked the worshipers’ documents, and everyone has been released.

Russian intelligence services have recently recorded a rise in the number of Russian citizens recruited by the IS militants, who are rampaging through parts of Syria and Iraq. According to different estimates, there are currently from two to five thousand Russians fighting for the jihadists, head of the Anti-terrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Andrey Novikov, told Interfax last month.

There have been incidents of IS attempts to recruit Russian students, among which is the case of Lomonosov Moscow State University philosophy student Varvara Karaulova. She was caught trying to cross the Turkey-Syria border to join the terror group, along with 13 other Russian citizens in June.

According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, 20,000 foreign nationals from about 100 countries around the world were estimated to be fighting for various militant groups, including IS as of January. Nearly a fifth came from Western Europe, with the UK and Germany topping the list, it added. Other countries, whose influx exceeds 1,000 people, include Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Isis recruiting 'highly trained foreigners' to produce chemical weapon

Sunday 07 June 2015

The terrorist group Isis is recruiting “highly trained professionals” to make chemical weapons – and has already used them in an attack.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said the group was now undertaking "serious efforts" to develop their chemical weapons arsenal.

Speaking to the Australia Group, which is composed of nations against chemical weapons, she said: “Da’esh [Isis] is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons,” Ms Bishop added.

Ms Bishop’s speech is the latest concern that Isis is attempting to acquire nuclear and chemical and biological weapons, after India warned the extremists could obtain a nuclear weapon from Pakistan.

It was reported in March that Isis had been attacking Iraqi soldiers with roadside bombs containing chlorine gas in fighting around Tikrit, after footage emerged showing plumes of orange smoke emerging for the bombs.

It follows similar allegations that the extremists had released toxic gases in the eastern district of Kobani, during the siege of the town on the Syrian border, although it could not be confirmed.

Ms Bishop added: “Apart from some crude and small scale endeavours, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponise chemical agents has been largely aspirational.

“The use of chlorine by Da’esh [Isis], and its recruitment of highly trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development.”

They seek to undermine and overthrow that order – and as we have seen, are prepared to use any and all means – any and all forms of violence they can think of to advance their demented cause.

Obama administration let anti-gay Muslim leader into U.S.

By Kenneth R. Timmerman
March 2, 2014
New York Post

Even as the Obama administration denounced what it called anti-gay legislation in Arizona and the president sat out the Sochi Olympics because of Russia’s crackdown on same-sex couples, the State Department allowed an Islamic preacher who called for the death penalty for homosexuals into the country for a tour of hate.

Sheikh Mohammad Rateb al-Nabulsi was issued a visa for a 17-city tour of US mosques to raise money and support for the Syrian uprising. He arrived New Year’s Day.

The radical Syrian cleric has made no secret of his virulent anti-gay views. Appearing April 28, 2011, on al Aqsa TV, the official network of the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza, al-Nabulsi said: “Homosexuality involves a filthy place and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

The radical’s remarks were translated into English and widely distributed in the diplomatic and intelligence communities. The independent Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, translated a 2¹/₂-minute segment from the speech, in which al-Nabulsi explained with clear contempt the spread of homosexual practices in Western countries.

In addition to his anti-gay pronouncements, Sheikh al-Nabulsi has publicly endorsed holy war against Westerners and Jews as well as suicide bombings against Israel, America’s democratic ally in the region.

“All the Jewish people are combatants,” he said in a religious edict that appeared in Arabic on his personal website.

“[The Israelis] do not have a regular army; they have a reserve army, and all the people can fight, so this is essentially an entirely aggressive entity from A to Z. This is the Sharia ruling.”

“The enemy . . . says ‘suicide operations’ to deceive Muslims, that this is suicide, but we should call them ‘martyrdom operations,’ ” he said.

The Muslim leader came to the United States for a fundraising tour for a newly formed coalition of radical Islamist militias fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian civil war has cost more than 100,000 civilian lives, according to United Nations’ estimates.

The cleric’s tour was sponsored by the Syrian American Council and Shaam Relief, groups that are spearheading a massive lobbying campaign to convince Congress to support an anti-Assad alliance of Islamist groups, some of them with reported ties to al Qaeda.

During his month-long tour, al-Nabulsi spoke in Arabic to audiences from coast to coast. His appearances, heavily promoted on Facebook, began in Spring Hill, Fla., on Jan. 1 and included a stop in Jersey City. There are no publicly available records of how much money he raised.

The Syrian American Council submitted al-Nabulsi’s visa request to the State Department’s Syria desk. A Department official told the American Media Institute that all visa requests, especially for individuals from countries on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, get scrutinized.

“Every visa applicant undergoes a screening to detect connections to terrorism, and that includes inputs from multiple federal partners,” the official said.

Asked whether al-Nabulsi’s televised remarks calling for killing homosexuals and Jews should have banned him from travel to America, a second State Department official, specializing in visa requests, pointed to Section 212(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which covers a broad range of terrorist-related activity, including promoting the use of violence and incitement. Nonetheless, the visa was issued.

“Under current policy, a foreign national applying for a US visa who is known to have promoted jihad and suicide bombings would be ordinarily deemed ‘undesirable’ and denied a visa,” according to a report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a Washington, DC-based group founded by investigative reporter Steven Emerson.

After the Investigative Project on Terrorism published translations of these and other comments from his website, al-Nabulsi issued a statement on Jan. 18, denying that he promoted the killing of civilians.

“It is not permitted to kill civilians, non-combatants, using any method, regardless of their national, ethnic or religious background,” he said in a statement distributed by the Syrian American Council.

Both State Department officials contacted by the American Media Institute regarding al-Nabulsi’s visa referred to his retraction and suggested that “false reporting” was responsible for the furor over his visa.

Within days of AMI’s contact with the State Department, al-Nabulsi removed the reference to killing Jewish civilians from his website.

“They say one thing in Arabic and another in English,” Emerson said. “Deception is part of the arsenal of war, and these guys have perfected deception to an art. They know how to play America and our vulnerabilities so their disinformation is accepted as the truth.”

Or chances are the Obama administration simply wants to look the other way. To avoid offending Muslims, they ignore hate speech.

Wooing Recruits To Radical Islam Like 'Dating'

Feb. 18, 2010

Dina Temple-Raston

National Public Radio

NPR News Investigation: A former member of the radical Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir explains the psychology and tactics of enticing new recruits. Although he never met Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bombing suspect, Shiraz Maher recruited people like him.

Shiraz Maher stands outside the Regent's Park Mosque in central London trying to look inconspicuous. Young men brush by him on the way to midday prayers.

Maher, 28, used to be a member of a radical Islamist organization called Hizb ut-Tahrir. HuT, as it is known, has been agitating for a Muslim superstate for decades.

Maher joined when he was in college and was part of the organization for four years. He was in charge of its operations in northeast England. These days, he looks more like a graduate student than a radical Islamist. He has a trimmed goatee, a stylish haircut, dark-rimmed glasses, and is wearing a blazer.

The Christmas Day bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, used to attend Regent's Park Mosque for evening prayer when he lived in London as a university student from 2005 to 2008.

While it is unclear exactly where and when Abdulmutallab embraced radical Islam, law enforcement officials agree that he didn't do so alone. Someone indoctrinated him, they say.

That was one of the things Maher used to do when he was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir — bring in recruits.

Maher and Abdulmutallab never met. But as a recruiter, Maher knew — and wooed — people like him.

How To Find And Cultivate An Extremist

He offered NPR his insights into how a recruiter might convince a young man like Abdulmutallab to embrace radical Islam.

"You can move from being a very ordinary Muslim or even a non-practicing Muslim and still be radicalized," Maher says. "That was certainly the case with myself. When I was in my first year at university, I didn't pray at all. In fact, I would describe myself as an atheist at times. It was after Sept. 11 that I wanted to go and speak to people, and find out what Islam had to say about this. That journey, meeting all these radical people, led to me being sucked into that."

There is a guard at the front gate of the mosque. He motions to any women wanting to enter that they must cover their hair before going farther. The mosque complex is enormous. There is a large courtyard in front, surrounded on three sides by low buildings. An enormous gold dome and minaret loom overhead.

Abdulmutallab used to come to this mosque for evening prayers, starting in late 2005, according to his posting on an Islam-oriented Web chat room. He said this mosque, also known as the Central London mosque, is his favorite in London.

Identifying Potential Recruits

A year before Abdulmutallab arrived, Maher was at the Regent's Park Mosque on a very important night in the Muslim calendar — the night Muslims believe the Quran was revealed. He remembers that the mosque was packed that evening. Worshippers were flowing out of the mosque and into the courtyard.

It happened to be the same night that U.S. forces launched the Fallujah offensive in Iraq. It was 2004. As the crowd grew, members of Maher's group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, began making fiery, anti-American speeches.

"There was a lot of anger, a lot of chanting and sloganing, and essentially a lot of recruiting, as well," Maher says. "On an event like that, what you would do is you would have your speakers giving their talks, but the crowd would be filled with your members. They would be speaking to other people assessing who is there to just listen but doesn't agree, and those who are listening and getting increasingly interested."

That is the initial step in the recruiting process: identifying possible recruits. They would be people who are joining in the chanting; people who seem angry.

"Once you identify people who are interested, you take their numbers, you find out where they live, and you begin a very strong one-to-one cultivation," Maher says. "Usually we would turn people around in three to four weeks and then assess where they were at."

The Assessment

Maher says recruiters look for people who not only embrace the ideas of political Islam, but also show an eagerness to act on them. For someone like Abdulmutallab, for example, simply knowing a great deal about the Quran would not have been enough, he says. There has to be that political component — a small ember of activism that recruiters can fan to flame.

Maher walks into the mosque's main prayer hall. The men's section is about the size of a high-school gymnasium. The walls are white. The carpeting is blue. The women pray in a slightly smaller space upstairs, decorated in the same way.

Every Saturday after midday prayers, Maher says, members of Hizb ut-Tahrir used to call people over to the left-hand side of the prayer hall, and would make a public speech.

"When I was part of the organization in 2003 and 2004, on a Saturday you could get 300-odd people turning up," Maher says. "And the talks were political, always political, nothing else. You would talk to people and take details down; and after you get details, you talk to these people away from the mosque."

Maher adds: "It is almost like the Western equivalent of going to the nightclub, getting the girl's number, then dating her away from the nightclub so no one can move in on your turf, basically."

The Indoctrination

Generally, new recruits aren't indoctrinated in mosques — a trend that the FBI and intelligence officials in the U.K. have known for some time.

Recruiters may find people who want to embrace a more radical form of Islam there, but they take them elsewhere to actually indoctrinate them. That's why intelligence officials are less worried about people who continue to attend prayers at a mosque. Their concern ramps up when people leave the mosque and set up their own prayer meetings elsewhere.

"I always say it is very seductive," says Maher, trying to put his finger on why Abdulmutallab got swept up in radical Islam. "When I was running the north [of England], I was 21 or 22. I was youngest guy there. There were guys in their 40s, and I would tell them what to do, and they would listen. That's hugely powerful."

Abdulmutallab's friends in London say he was quiet and isolated. Maher says that is a combination that is attractive to recruiters. It plays into their hands.

"When you are starting to feel alienated from society, radical Islam gives you a great outlet and release from it," he says. "Radical Islam says, 'Yes, that is fine that you feel isolated. Islam can never be at home and comfortable within the West.' So therefore, the more upset you feel, the better Muslim you are becoming because, as they see it, these things will never mix."

Crossing The Line

Maher says his former group doesn't get involved with terrorist attacks. He said Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political arm in the Islamist movement. It advocates setting up a Muslim caliphate, but says it doesn't want to achieve that through violence.

At graduate school for Islamic studies, Maher came to the conclusion that HuT's interpretation of the Quran was wrong, and that led him to quit, he says.

But some of its former members — even people Maher knew — have been linked to violence. Maher was at Regent's Park Mosque recruiting that night in 2004 with one of them.

"The guy who attempted to bomb Glasgow Airport three years later was here that evening with me," he says. "We drove down from Cambridge together."

That guy was Bilal Abdullah. He was one of two men who drove a Jeep Cherokee filled with propane tanks into the airport terminal at Glasgow in 2007. Abdullah survived the attack. He is currently in Belmarsh prison, in southeast London, serving 32 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder and cause explosions. Maher testified against him at trial.

Officials aren't certain when Abdulmutallab actually crossed that same line and decided to mix Islam and violence. But he has allegedly told the FBI that he saw himself as a warrior for God.

Pakistan discovers 'village' of white German al-Qaeda insurgents

Investigators have discovered a "Jihadi village" of white German al-Qaeda insurgents, including Muslim converts, in Pakistan's tribal areas close to the Afghan border.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi and Allan Hall in Berlin
25 Sep 2009

The village, in Taliban-controlled Waziristan, is run by the notorious al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which plots raids on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

A recruitment video presents life in the village as a desirable lifestyle choice with schools, hospitals, pharmacies and day care centres, all at a safe distance from the front. 

In the video, the presenter, "Abu Adam", the public face of the group in Germany, points his finger and asks: "Doesn't it appeal to you? We warmly invite you to join us!"

According to German foreign ministry officials a growing number of German families, many of North African descent, have taken up the offer and travelled to Waziristan where supporters say converts make up some of the insurgents' most dedicated fighters.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has a foothold in several German cities, has capitalised on growing concern over the rising profile of German forces in Afghanistan. Their role has become increasingly controversial in Germany in recent weeks after dozens of civilians were killed in an air strike ordered by German officers.

Last night a foreign ministry spokesman told The Daily Telegraph they were now negotiating with Pakistani authorities for the release of six Germans, including "Adrian M", a white Muslim convert, his Eritrean wife and their four year old daughter, who were arrested as they were making their way to the "German village". They are particularly concerned about the welfare of the child.

They are being held in custody in Peshawar after their arrest in May shortly when they crossed the border from Iran. They are understood to have left Germany in March this year.

The spokesman said negotiations were "under way" with Pakistani authorities "concerning a group of German citizens" and that it had been aware that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had been recruiting in Germany "since the beginning of the year".

Their recruitment drive has been led by "Abu Adam", a 24-year-old German believed to be of Turkish or North African descent who was raised with fellow Jihadi, Abu Ibrahim, in the smart Bonn suburb of Kessenich.

Adam, whose real name is Mounir Chouka, received weapons training from the German army as part of his national service, and later spent three years training at the Federal Office of Statistics where colleagues described him as a "nice boy".

He left in 2007, telling colleagues he was joining a trading firm in Saudi Arabia, but is believed to have joined a terrorist training camp in Yemen.

In another recruitment video released earlier this year he urged supporters to: "Die the death of honour."

Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan intelligence officer, who describes himself as a friend of Osama bin Laden, said he was aware of a German contingent and that there were a number of Swedish converts too who had arrived in Pakistan "for Jihad".

"The Europeans are there [in Waziristan]. The most dedicated people there are from Europe. They will do anything for Islam. They are not there because their fathers are Muslim, but by choice," he said.


Thai Rebels Recruiting in Schools, Study Says

The New York Times
June 21, 2009

BANGKOK — Insurgents in southern Thailand are using a network of Islamic schools to recruit fighters, but their movement does not appear to be linked to Al Qaeda or other foreign Islamist groups, according to a study due to be released Monday.

Since an increase in violence five years ago, analysts have sought to pinpoint the primary motivations of an insurgency that has left more than 3,400 people dead in towns and villages only several hours away from Thailand’s most popular beach resorts.

The 20-page study, by the International Crisis Group, describes a homegrown movement of Malay Muslim fighters seeking independence from Thailand and built around longstanding resentment toward the Thai Buddhist majority. Thai officials have in the past attributed the violence to the drug trade and other criminal activities.

A group known as the National Revolutionary Front-Coordinate was the main force in recruiting an estimated 1,800 to 3,000 fighters drawn from more than 100,000 students in southern Thailand’s Islamic school system, the report says.

“The classroom is the point of first contact,” the report says. “Recruiters invite those who seem promising devout Muslims of good character who are moved by a history of oppression, mistreatment and the idea of armed jihad to join extracurricular indoctrination programs in mosques or disguised as football training.”

The Crisis Group said the report was based on 16 months of interviews with religious teachers and students — all of whom are unnamed — involved in underground activities.

Violence in southern Thailand has been overshadowed by the political crisis in the country, but the southern insurgency remains one of the region’s most deadly and intractable ethnic conflicts.

Until recent weeks a two-year crackdown by the Thai military appeared to be reducing violence in the area. But tensions flared this month when a group of masked gunmen opened fire on a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque, killing 10 people and seriously wounding 12. Since the start of this month, 36 people have been killed and more than 100 have been wounded in the region.

The victims of the attacks are often Buddhists, notably teachers and government officials, but more than half of those killed in the past five years were Muslims, many labeled by the insurgents as collaborators or spies for the Thai government.

The insurgents use many of the same methods in their recruitment — oath-taking, indoctrination and military training — as other jihadist groups. But the difference in southern Thailand, the report says, is that recruiters “appeal to Malay nationalism and the oppression of Malay Muslims by Buddhist Thai rulers” rather than invoking a universal Islamic state or a global jihad.

A pamphlet found at an Islamic school during a raid by security forces in 2005 offered a window into the teachings.

“Our land is crying and calling and waiting for independence and fraternity,” the pamphlet said. “We have been treated as second-class citizens or like children of slaves.”

The insurgents are helped in their recruitment by reports of torture by the military, disappearances and extrajudicial killings. A Muslim lawyers group counted 74 reports of torture of detainees between June 2007 and April 2008.

The recruitment is secretive, and even in schools where insurgents are active, “not all school administrators, teachers and students may be aware of what is happening, let alone consent to it,” the report says.

The government has tried to offer an alternative to the traditional community-based Islamic schools, where instruction is often only in the Malay language, but has met deadly resistance. Over the past five years, 115 public school teachers and education officials have been killed and 200 schools burned in what Human Rights Watch called a “sickening trend.”


Islamist Radicals Use Web to Reach Asian Youth

Monday, March 09, 2009

SYDNEY —  Extremist groups in Southeast Asia are increasingly using the Internet and social networking to radicalize the youth of the region, said a new security report released Friday.

Internet usage in Southeast Asia has exploded since 2000 and extremist groups have developed a sophisticated online presence, including professional media units.

"For extremist groups in our region, the internet is an increasingly important tool for recruitment to violence," said the report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"Importantly, they aren't attacking only the West, but are drawing on their narrative to attack the governance arrangements of regional states," said the report titled "Countering internet radicalization in Southeast Asia" (

The report said online extremism first appeared in Southeast Asia in early 2000, particularly in the Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu language cyber-environment.

Since then Internet usage in the region has exploded and so too have extremist Web sites, chat rooms and blogs.

The number of radical and extremist Web sites in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu -- the official languages of Indonesia and Malaysia, which are very similar -- rose from 15 in 2007 to 117 in 2008.

Of those, sympathetic Web sites rose from 10 to 16 and sympathetic blogs and social networking rose from zero to 82.

Between 2006 and July 2007, radical regional websites have disseminated Al Qaeda and Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah propaganda videos, pictures and statements, it said.

In Indonesia, which has battled extremist Muslim groups responsible for bombings, Internet usage rose from 2 million in 2000 to 20 million in January 2008.

The country now represents 80 to 90 percent of visitors to 10 radical and extremist Web sites in the region, said the report.

The Philippines, which has a Muslim insurgency, has seen Internet usage rise to 14 million from 2 million in 2000, Malaysia 14.9 million from 3.7 million and Thailand 8.5 million from 2.3 million in the same period.

"The Bahasa [Indonesia] and Malay language websites include sites manned by radical and extremist groups, Islamic boarding schools (pesantrens), and groups of individuals who sympathize with and support the ideology of violent jihad," said the report.


One of the first appearances of a "tradecraft manual" was in August 2007 in the then forum, Jihad al-Firdaus. The forum had a section on electronic jihad, including several hacking manuals.

In 2008 the region's first sophisticated bomb-making manual and bomb-making video were posted on the Forum Al-Tawbah, which is registered in Shah Alam, Selangor and Malaysia, said the report.

But it said there had been no serious attempt to plan militant operations in these forums, adding further details of their activities were in private messages or personal emails.

Extremists were using a variety of technology to spread their message. "Blogs and personal social networking accounts provided more than half of the increase in 2008," said the report.

Militant groups have also become internet media savvy.

The Mujahidin Syura Council, an extremist group that claims to operate in southern Thailand, launched an official media wing in July 2008 as a blog on Google, said the report.

The Khattab Media Publication's blog is mainly written in Malay and was used to announce the start of a new military campaign, codenamed Operation Tawbah (Operation Repentance).

Another group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, often produces high-quality videos of its activities and uploads them onto YouTube.

Many of the videos focus on the failings of the Indonesian government and the need to implement sharia law and establish an Islamic caliphate, said the report.

"Extremist groups without access to mainstream media place great value on having online media units to boost their reputations and recruit people via the internet," it said.

The report said that regional governments had done little to stop the rise of online radicalization, partly because attempts to regulate cyberspace have been a political minefield.

It said while Web sites inciting violence are subject to criminal laws in some countries, there are often no specific regulations covering the internet.

"Some governments don't want to appear un-Islamic by coming down hard on Islamist groups, and some don't want to appear undemocratic by seeming to rein in freedom of expression in cyberspace," it said. "The problem of online radicalization crosses national borders and will require a concerted international response."