Category : Terrorism

(CNN) Attack on Catholic church in Burkina Faso leaves 6 dead

Six people were killed Sunday during mass at a Catholic church in central Burkina Faso, according to state media.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed the church in Dablo on Sunday morning, killing six men, including the priest, identified as Father Simeon Yampa. The attackers then set fire to the church and other buildings in the area, the Burkina Information Agency reported.

Read it all.

Posted in Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism, Violence

(Scotsman) Gavin Matthews: We must find the right response to Sri Lanka Easter Sunday massacre

The foundational idea of Easter is that Jesus was ‘given’ to the world. Behind the religious violence of his death, we are invited to believe that, “God so loved the world that he gave his son”, and that Jesus “laid down his life for his friends”. Our first instinct should then be to give to the victims of religious violence and persecution. The Christian charity csw.org.uk works tirelessly for the freedom of religion and belief for people of all faiths and none. Giving to an organisation such as this might be our first response.

Then, on Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman soldiers, he famously cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” – and this should frame our second response.

Jesus recognised that the foot-soldiers who were setting about his physical destruction were not the authors of his agonies, but were mere pawns in bigger schemes. Critically though, Jesus didn’t send his followers off to indiscriminately kill Roman citizens in response, but prayed for their salvation.

Today, offering Christian forgiveness does not mean that the state should not pursue justice through due process. However, it does mean that we cannot indulge in acts of revenge or hostility to anyone or any community, or propagate cycles of violence.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(WSJ) Easter Attacks Leave Muslims Shaken and in Fear of Reprisals

In the days after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, a group of local men gathered outside the home here of one of the bombers to establish what they called a neighborhood watch—and prevent the Muslim family inside from committing more terrorist acts.

Inside, the bomber’s family grappled with grief over what one of their own had done and fear that his actions could bring reprisals against their Muslim minority.

“It is very hard to face people because of what he did, even just going outside is difficult,” said a sister of the bomber, 22-year-old law-school graduate Ahamed Muath Alawudeen. As she spoke, cries of her distraught mother echoed off the tile floors of the spacious home in an upscale Colombo neighborhood.

Since the Islamic State-linked attacks killed more than 250 people at Sri Lankan churches and hotels, Muslims have reported getting detained in security sweeps for simply carrying the Quran. In other cases, they have been refused access to public buses and taxis. On Sunday night, an apparent car accident in the city of Negombo, the scene of one of the bombings, led to a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, news reports showed.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who make up less than 10% of the island nation’s population, have seen lesser sparks turn into fury against them. Last year, in days of religious riots, mobs of Buddhist extremists targeted Muslims for beatings.

Security forces now deployed across the Sri Lankan capital to prevent more terrorist attacks are also on alert for sectarian reprisals.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Economist) The West’s new front against jihadism is in the Sahel

One cannot generalise easily about African jihadist groups. Some are strictly local, having taken up arms to fight over farmland or against corrupt local government. Some adopt the “jihadist” label only because they happen to be Muslim. Many young men who join such groups do so because they have been robbed by officials or beaten up by police, or seen their friends humiliated in this way.

worrying groups are adherents of is that seek to hold territory. An offshoot of Boko Haram, for example, is building a proto-caliphate in northern Nigeria.

Jihadist groups of all varieties are expanding their reach in the Sahel and around Lake Chad. Last year conflicts with jihadists in Africa claimed more than 9,300 lives, mostly civilian. This is almost as many as were killed in conflict with jihadists in Syria and Iraq combined. About two-fifths of those deaths were in Somalia, where al-Shabab frequently detonates car bombs in crowded streets. Many of the rest were in Nigeria, where the schoolgirl-kidnappers of Boko Haram and its odious offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, shoot villagers and behead nurses.

However, the area that aid workers and Western spooks worry about most is the Sahel. In Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso the number of people killed in jihad-related violence has doubled for each of the past two years, to more than 1,100 in 2018….

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Posted in Africa, Burkina Faso, Niger, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NR) Dealing with the Shock of an Evangelical Terrorist

So if the concern isn’t over theology — or any specific, known teaching of the church — then why the alarm bell?

It should warn us about our vulnerability. The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church. And as we see the spread of the very kind of online hate that seduced the Poway shooter, it’s incumbent upon the church to wake up and deal with this modern, deadly incarnation of the very old sin of white supremacy.

In 2015 and 2016, when my family was in the crosshairs of the alt-right — with my adopted daughter the subject of vile and vicious online memes — members of my church (and my Christian friends from across the nation) were shocked and appalled. The vast majority didn’t even know online communities such as 4chan or 8chan existed. Some were completely unfamiliar with terms such as “meme” or words like “sh**posting” or even “trolling.”

Even folks who were far more wise to the Internet’s ways assured me that there was no real risk. The sh**posters and trolls were in it for the “lulz,” the laughs. They just wanted to inflict — and mock — our family’s pain. In hindsight, that complacency was foolish.

Now we know. Now we have no excuse not to know. Among the many malevolent forces that stalk our children — including the children of the faithful — is a new form of an old evil.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(CNN) Houses of worship worry: Who’s next?

A massacre in New Zealand on jumah, the Muslim weekly communal prayer.

Suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches on Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar.
On Saturday, another attack inside a sanctuary, this one on the final day of Passover, a sacred time commemorating Jews’ escape from violence and oppression in ancient Egypt.
Saturday’s shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California, came six months to the day after the worst anti-Semitic violence in American history, when an accused white supremacist slaughtered 11 Jews inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
After Saturday’s attack, Chabad, an Orthodox Jewish movement, addressed the recent spate of sacrilegious violence, of which it was the latest victim:
“The fact that these G-dless acts have multiplied of late underscores with even greater urgency the critical need for proper moral education for our youth, rooted in the belief in a Supreme Being — Whose Eye that Sees and Ear that Hears should preclude anyone from devaluing the life of another human being.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(ABC Aus.) ISIS ‘leader’ mentions Australian jihadist and Sri Lanka Easter bombings in first appearance in five years

A man purported to be reclusive Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made reference to the Sri Lanka Easter bombings and an Australian IS member in what appears to be his first appearance in five years.

The recently-released propaganda video appears to offer evidence that al-Baghdadi is alive, after many had speculated he had been killed or seriously injured.

The US has vowed to track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State group after the release of the video.

In the video, a man purporting to be al-Baghdadi acknowledged defeat in the group’s last stronghold — the Syrian village of Baghouz — but vowed a “long battle” ahead.

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(AFP) Jihadists kill pastor, four others in Burkina church attack

Sunday’s raid took place in the small northern town of Silgadji near Djibo, the capital of Soum province.

“Unidentified armed individuals have attacked the Protestant church in Silgadji, killing four members of the congregation and the main pastor,” a security source told AFP.

“At least two other people are missing,” the source added.

It was the first attack on a church since jihadist violence erupted in Burkina Faso in 2015.

Former colonial ruler France has deployed some 4,500 troops in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups.

“The attack happened around 1:00 pm, just as the faithful were leaving the church at the end of the service,” a member of the church who did not want to be identified told AFP.

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Posted in Africa, Burkina Faso, Parish Ministry, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Egyptian Copts who once expressed hopes for more safety under President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi say their situation is worsening instead

Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority is facing a surge in sectarian attacks, with increased instances of violence and threats from Muslim neighbors forcing churches to close and casting a pall over Orthodox Easter on Sunday.

In one recent incident that echoed many others, residents of central Egypt’s Sohag province were seen in a video recorded earlier this month and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal beating their male Coptic Christian neighbors with sticks as women screamed, leading to the shutdown of a local church, according to Coptic groups and a human- rights organization that documented the incident.

Nowhere has the assault on Copts been worse than in Minya province, some 130 miles south of Cairo on the western bank of the Nile, the site of at least three mob attacks on Coptic churches since August. On Jan. 11, a crowd waving wooden clubs jeered at a group of Copts as they fled in a pickup truck through narrow streets. “Leave! Leave!” the crowd chanted, as seen in a video filmed by residents and corroborated by church officials. The Coptic church in the village was closed indefinitely. The month before that incident, a police officer shot dead a Coptic man and his teenage son following a dispute, triggering angry protests by Christians in the area. The officer was sentenced to death earlier this month for the killing.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Sri Lankan Accused of Leading Attacks Preached Slaughter. Many Dismissed Him.

Zaharan Hashim, a radical Muslim preacher accused of masterminding the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, never hid his hatred.

He railed against a local performance in which Muslim girls dared to dance. When a Muslim politician held a 50th birthday party, he raged about how Western infidel traditions were poisoning his hometown, Kattankudy.

There were, Mr. Zaharan said in one of his online sermons, three types of people: Muslims, those who had reached an accord with Muslims, and “people who need to be killed.”

Idolaters, he added, “need to be slaughtered wherever you see them.”

Mr. Zaharan has been described by Sri Lankan officials as having founded an obscure group with inchoate aims: a defacement of a Buddha statue, a diatribe against Sufi mystics.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Statement from Archbishop Ben Kwashi, following the Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka

Greetings to you in Peace.

Yesterday suicide bombers unleashed death and destruction as unsuspecting Sri Lankan Christians gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Together with those killed in hotels, the death toll has reached 310, with many more injured, and our hearts go out in prayer for all who have been caught up in these deeply traumatic events.

News of this atrocity came through just before I preached at All Souls Langham Place and let me repeat what I said then, “The resurrection of Jesus is a total defeat of death and of those who would want to use death to scare people off from faith in Jesus. His resurrection has made death powerless against all who believe in Jesus Christ.”

At our recent conference in Dubai, Gafcon resolved to stand with the Suffering Church and this will be a leading agenda item for our Primates Council as it meets in Sydney next week. Meanwhile, in this Easter week let us remember that the one who drew alongside two sad and discouraged disciples on the Emmaus road was the Risen Christ who yet still bore the wounds of the cross. By death he has destroyed death and he will be with us until the very end in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Risen Lord be with you!

 

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Gafcon General Secretary

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, GAFCON, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? How Western liberalism’s peculiar relationship to its Christian heritage leaves non-Western Christians exposed

The murderous radicals who set off bombs and killed hundreds on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka chose their targets with ideological purpose. Three Catholic churches were bombed, and with them three hotels catering to Western tourists, because often in the jihadist imagination Western Christianity and Western liberal individualism are the conjoined enemies of their longed-for religious utopia, their religious-totalitarian version of Islam. Tourists and missionaries, Coca-Cola and the Catholic Church — it’s all the same invading Christian enemy, different brand names for the same old crusade.

Officially, the Western world’s political and cultural elite does its best to undercut and push back against this narrative. The liberal imagination reacts with discomfort to the Samuel Huntingtonian idea of a clash of civilizations, or anything that pits a unitary “West” against an Islamist or Islamic alternative. The idea of a “Christian West” is particularly forcefully rejected, but even more banal terms like “Western Civilization” and “Judeo-Christian,” once intended to offer a more ecumenical narrative of Euro-American history, are now seen as dangerous, exclusivist, chauvinist, alt-right.

And yet there is also a way in which liberal discourse in the West implicitly accepts part of the terrorists’ premise — by treating Christianity as a cultural possession of contemporary liberalism, a particularly Western religious inheritance that even those who no longer really believe have a special obligation to remake and reform. With one hand elite liberalism seeks to keep Christianity at arm’s length, to reject any specifically Christian identity for the society it aims to rule — but with the other it treats Christianity as something that really exists only in relationship to its own secularized humanitarianism, either as a tamed and therefore useful chaplaincy or as an embarrassing, in-need-of-correction uncle.

You could see both those impulses at work in the discussion following the great fire at Notre-Dame. On the one hand there was a strident liberal reaction against readings of the tragedy that seemed too friendly to either medieval Catholicism or some religiously infused conception of the West. A few tweets from the conservative writer Ben Shapiro, which used phrases like “Western Civilization” and “Judeo-Christian” while lamenting the conflagration, prompted accusations that he was ignoring the awfulness of medieval-Catholic anti-Semitism, and also that his Western-civ language was just a dog-whistle for white nationalists.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Easter, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Crux) John Allen–Easter attacks on churches in Sri Lanka are tragic, but hardly surprising

Sadly enough, there’s now an ugly and utterly predictable dynamic on Easter Sunday: Somewhere in the world, full churches will be attacked and some number of Christians will die for no other reason than that they chose to attend services to celebrate what is supposed to be the faith’s great celebration of life.

Today, it happened in Sri Lanka, where, as of this writing, at least 138 people have been killed and more than 560 injured after coordinated bomb blasts hit a number of high-end hotels and churches across the country.

At St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, located in a heavily Catholic neighborhood north of Colombo known as “little Rome,” more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

In all, three churches and three hotels were struck in what seemed a calculated attack on “foreigners” – both the sorts of foreign visitors who stay in four and five-star hotels, and faiths perceived as “foreign” by nationalists and extremists.

Read it all.

Posted in Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Carl Anderson–The Next Big Threat to Iraq’s Christians

Before visiting Iraq last month, I met with Pope Francis. He told me that “a Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East.” Baghdad’s ambassador in Washington often says that “Iraq is not Iraq without its minorities.” Consider these sentiments as Christian towns in Iraq increasingly look neither Christian nor Iraqi—but Iranian.

The public identifies the threat against Christians in Iraq and Syria as emanating from Islamic State. After a hard-fought war, ISIS is no longer a territorial power. But the religious minorities persecuted under the caliphate remain in peril, thanks to the Iraqi government’s tolerance of Iranian influence.

Five years ago, ISIS swept through Northern Iraq, killing and displacing hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. The Obama and Trump administrations each declared ISIS’ actions “genocide.” The proof lay not only in the dead but in the collapse of communities that had survived for millennia. There were as many as 1.5 million Iraqi Christians before 2003. Today some 200,000 remain.

Read it all.

Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

‘Why Kill the Innocents?’ Sri Lankans Mourn Bombing Victims

The little room, like much of Sri Lanka, could hold no more grief.

All day Monday, through the steamy heat, mourners quietly stepped inside and paused in front of a sealed coffin containing what was left of Sneha Savindi Fernando.

Sneha was 11 years old and standing in line for communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when she was blown apart.

“Why did you leave me?” her grandmother cried, sitting in front of the coffin and rubbing its sides, the anguish tight in her hands. “There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?”

It was a question all of Sri Lanka was asking.

The day after suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on half a dozen hotels and churches across this island nation, Sri Lanka remained in shock. The death toll continued to climb, with the authorities saying the attacks had killed at least 290 people.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) Manchester Arena attack memorial site revealed

A permanent memorial to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing will be located close to the scene of the attack, the council has confirmed.

A site between Hunt’s Bank and Deansgate, near the city’s cathedral, has been “earmarked” after consultation with families, a spokesman said.

Prof Malcom Press of the Manchester Memorial Advisory Group said choosing a location was a “significant step”.

He added that the design had not been decided upon and would “not be rushed”.

The location was announced as plans for a “more intimate” commemoration of the second anniversary of the 22 May 2017 attack were revealed.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Parish Ministry, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) The Evolution of ISIS: From a Rogue State to a Tiny Sliver

Beginning in 2016, the Islamic State lost ground nearly as quickly as it had captured it.

In Iraq, security forces backed by the United States, and elsewhere Iranian-backed Shiite militias, ousted the group, retaking Mosul in mid-2017 and officially declaring the group defeated in the country by the end of the year.

American-backed, Kurdish-led forces regained territory in Syria, including Raqqa in October 2017. Along Syria’s eastern border, forces backed by the Assad government and Russia also took back territory. But many of the cities once held by the Islamic State are shells of their former selves. In Raqqa, two-thirds of the city was destroyed in the coalition fight against the group. In Mosul, centuries-old mosques and markets were reduced to rubble.

But even as territory has been wrested from the Islamic State, the group has continued to spread its ideology online and encouraged supporters to carry out attacks worldwide. While the state it once declared has largely disappeared, it remains a significant threat, experts say.

Read it all.

Posted in Syria, Terrorism

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism

Archbishop of Canterbury: “Hatred of Muslims is blasphemy”

Much of what I was going to say has already been said. The killings in New Zealand are monstrous. The response of New Zealand, all its people, with Muslims in the forefront, is beautiful and inspiring. What they say to each other we say to you. Those who attack Muslims in THIS country or elsewhere attack every human being. You are not “the other”, you are us. Those who act out of hate for Muslims act out of hate for all here. Those who acted or supported the actions in New Zealand attack all of us.

For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you. Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language and history for hatred commit blasphemy.

We will work with Bishops in the Church of England to see how we can be more effective in visible signs of togetherness.

We educate one million children in Church of England schools and have 8000 clergy. We will renew what we do in our Near Neighbours scheme. We will work with bishops to see how we can be more effective in dioceses.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Islam, Terrorism

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

Church leaders offer prayer and solidarity after New Zealand mosque attacks leaves 49 dead

Anglican archbishops in New Zealand, Australia and England have spoken out after gunmen attacked two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. At 9 pm Friday NZDT (8 am GMT), the official death toll from the terror attacks stood at 49 people with another 39 being treated in Christchurch Hospital. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush told a press conference that 41 people were killed at the al-Noor mosque on Deans Avenue; and seven at the Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Another person died at Christchurch Hospital.

The City of Christchurch was put on lockdown after news of the attacks emerged at around 1.40 pm NZDT (12.40 am GMT). Four people have been arrested. One, a man in his twenties described as a white supremacist, has been charged with murder and will appear in court tomorrow (Saturday). One armed man arrested near the scene has been ruled out of involvement. Police are continuing to investigate whether two other people arrested at the scene with firearms were involved in the attacks.

The Bishop of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, issued a statement on behalf of the leaders of churches in Christchurch city and Canterbury province. “Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved,” the statement said. “No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs.

“We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.

“We are upholding you all in our prayers. We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer. We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism, Violence

(NZ Herald) Terror Attacks on New Zealand Mosques; 49 Dead

A horrific shooting at a Christchurch mosque was livestreamed for 17 minutes by the gunman.

Australian police have identified the shooter as Brenton Tarrant – a white, 28-year-old Australian-born man. Twitter has shut down a user account in that name.

The gunman published an online link to a lengthy “manifesto”, which the Herald has chosen not to report.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed an individual taken into custody was an Australian-born citizen. He called him “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

Sky News reported that the man’s home town of Grafton was in shock, trying to come to terms with how a “polite, well-mannered young man” came to find himself on a path that led to Christchurch.

He was a student at the local high school and went on to work at a gym, where his former boss said he regularly volunteered his time to train kids for free.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(BBC) ISIS women defiant in face of lost caliphate

As the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria enters its final stages, the BBC’s Jewan Abdi says the mood amongst many of the jihadists’ supporters who have left the area, including many women, remains defiant.

The encampment in the village of Baghuz is barely more than a few holes in the dirt covered with blankets. It is squalid and filthy.

But above it flies the black Islamic State flag, fresh and clean. IS fighters had raised it only the day before, an act of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

“That’s a sign they will fight,” says a soldier belonging to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the front lines battling the jihadists.

Just 24 hours later the battle resumed. It was the end of a ceasefire that had seen more than 12,000 leave in the preceding few days.

Read it all.

Posted in Middle East, Terrorism, Women

(Observer) Nigeria election marred by vote buying, tech failures and violence

Nigeria’s long-awaited presidential election went ahead on Saturday, marred by heavy gunfire in the north-east, killings in the south and reports of technology failures and vote buying across the country.

Some voters arrived at polling stations at 3am to ensure their ballot was counted in an election dominated by the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, and a former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism, Violence

(60 Minutes) The Chibok Girls: Survivors of kidnapping by Boko Haram share their stories

Rebecca: Yes, they say if you didn’t convert to Islam you wouldn’t get home alive. That’s what they say.

Here are some of the girls two years ago right after they were released, alive but looking like concentration camp survivors, haunted and numb. This is Rebecca, skin and bones.

Lesley Stahl: I heard you were eating grass.

Rebecca: Yeah. Some of us eat that. And we are just be patient and live like that. No food. No anything.

Look at them today, in their 20s. They’re healthy and full of spirit at a school created just for them, paid for by the Nigerian government and some donors, where they are making up for lost time.

They’re from Northern Nigeria, where life can be hard and opportunities for women are limited. Now, in their Wi-Fi-equipped dorms, they have smart phones, and lap tops and their own beds.

They go back to Chibok to see their parents twice a year; over Christmas and during the summer.

Read it all (video highly recommended).

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Nigeria, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Terrorism, Theology, Women, Young Adults

(NYT) The English Voice of ISIS Comes Out of the Shadows

More than four years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public to help identify the narrator in one of the Islamic State’s best-known videos, showing captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves and then being shot in the head.

Speaking fluent English with a North American accent, the man would go on to narrate countless other videos and radio broadcasts by the Islamic State, serving as the terrorist group’s faceless evangelist to Americans and other English speakers seeking to learn about its toxic ideology.

Now a 35-year-old Canadian citizen, who studied at a college in Toronto and once worked in information technology at a company contracted by IBM, says he is the anonymous narrator.

That man, Mohammed Khalifa captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, Violence

(NYRB) Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq

Now, more than four years after the black-clad men conquered Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq, a third of the country remains pulverized, both physically and socially. Overlaid across territory that has been reclaimed from the Islamic State is a patchwork of various sectarian militias that now claim fiefdom. Thousands of families with alleged links to ISIS are exiled, their birthrights reduced to being names on militias’ wanted lists, their dignity violated in irreversible ways. Rather than address this deep residue of fears and feelings of injustice felt by many, Iraq has foolishly declared the Islamic State defeated, as though its threat were now confined to the country’s past. But the signs of the ISIS’ resurgence are troubling, and the sense of grievance that fired it in the first place remains just as palpable—and just as unresolved.

The intelligence that my colleagues and I in the Kurdistan Region Security Council have collected is disturbing. Over the past fifteen months, hundreds of attacks linked to the group took place in areas that were supposed to have been freed from ISIS. Pushed out of Mosul, Islamic State fighters have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar—territory they know well. From the city of Hawija to the westernmost town of Tal Afar, these guerrillas are mounting ambushes against Iraqi security forces in attacks the scale of which has not been seen in years.

What makes these fighters so much more of a threat now is their ability to make good on their promise to hunt down those they accuse of betraying them. In a night raid last October, after security forces had retreated to nearby bases, Islamic State assassins dragged a village chief from his home, and summoned locals to a public place, where they executed him. Even in parts of Mosul itself, reconquered in 2017 by government forces after a long and costly campaign, the ominous black-and-white ISIS flag has flown again in recent months, causing panic and fear in village after village. Credible threats have also forced the Iraqi authorities to relocate prisoners to prevent their escape in the event of a brazen attack like the prison breakouts the group has pulled off in the past.

The reasons for the return of ISIS are obvious. For years, the conventional approach to stopping the group has depended on airstrikes and local proxy forces; stripping away territory and revenues from ISIS has been the marker of success. But this is a gross misunderstanding of the group. The original synergy between former Iraqi officers and jihadists that created al-Qaeda in Iraq led to a calculating organization capable of learning from its mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

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Posted in Iraq, Terrorism

(NYT) ‘It’s Not Getting Better’: Nigeria Braces for Election Day as Frustrations Boil

Nigeria is bracing for what could be a tight election this weekend. Threats of violence loom.

In the northeast of the country on Tuesday, a convoy heading to an election event and carrying Kashim Shettima, a state governor, was attacked by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamist group which operates in the region. At least three people were killed, officials said. Many of the governor’s entourage fled into the bush after militants dressed as soldiers and riding in stolen military vehicles attacked, local news media reported.

The incident drew attention to another of Mr. Buhari’s 2015 pledges: to destroy Boko Haram. Far from being crushed, Boko Haram has recently been gaining strength.

In the south, militants in the oil-rich Delta threatened to disrupt the economy, presumably by blowing up pipelines, if Mr. Buhari were re-elected. At a rally for the president in Rivers State this week, at least four people were killed in a stampede. Election officials reported fires in several sites where ballot materials were being stored.

Tensions have been so high that after the American ambassador to Nigeria called on both campaigns to carry out fair elections, Mr. Buhari’s party called his statements “implicit attacks against the government.”

Mr. Buhari and Mr. Abubakar, who each have pledged to accept the election results peacefully, wrapped up final appearances this week at rallies across the country, where thousands turned out wearing dresses, rings, hats and scarves plastered with their candidates’ photos.

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Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) Jihadists Behind Bars Pose New Threats for Europe

A terrorism trial starting here on Thursday highlights the difficulties Europe’s courts and prisons face containing the spread of jihadist ideology behind bars.

Mehdi Nemmouche, a 33-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, faces life in prison for allegedly shooting and killing four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014. But once in prison, law-enforcement officials warn, terror suspects and convicts breed even more plots and spread their ideology to other inmates.

European prisons are fertile recruiting ground for new terrorists despite efforts in France, Belgium and other European countries to isolate dangerous and radicalized suspects in dedicated wards to prevent them from proselytizing. The perpetrators in several recent attacks were radicalized in prison, including Mr. Nemmouche and an alleged accomplice also on trial, say prosecutors. In Belgium, which has the highest per capita rate of returnees from Syria and Iraq in Europe, one third of 125 returnees were in prison in early 2018, according to the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank….

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Posted in Belgium, Europe, France, Prison/Prison Ministry, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence