Information and news about terrorism

The United States government is launching an internal investigation into a December 12 drone strike in Yemen. The drone strike was meant for an al-Qaeda militant, but ended up hitting a wedding party, killing 12 civilians and leaving more injured. A local journalist soon after took images of the strike and turned them over to a human rights organization working in Yemen called Reprieve. That group then turned it over to NBC News, the resulting actions allowed many to say that the U.S. ‘turned a wedding into a funeral.’

The U.S. released a statement acknowledging the attack while also stating that officials are now reviewing what happened. This is one of the few times the U.S. government has mentioned or confirmed that a drone strike is being questioned. A U.S. official, after declining to give any sort of identification, stated that, “Given the claims of civilian causalities, we are reviewing it.”

Some are calling this a ‘wake up call’ that highlights the problems with the U.S. drone campaign. There are even reports that the target of the strike Shawqui Ali Ahmed al Badani, a mid-level militant, ended up escaping the attack. Others on the ground in Yemen said that Badani wasn’t even present at the time. Baraa Shiban, a human rights activist who was in the area at the time, said that he had not heard any reports that Badani was in the area. He explained that, “Badani was from a different region so he would have been a stranger in the region.” He, furthermore, added that he believes that the US acted on incorrect intelligence.

This drone strike has, moreover, garnered a strong reaction against the U.S. within Yemen. To illustrate this, the Yemen parliament passed a resolution that called for an end for all drone strikes in Yemen shortly after the wedding day drone strike. Official numbers provided by the U.S. government claim that they have carried out 59-69 drone strikes in Yemen, resulting in between 287-423 deaths, both civilian and militant. Though more strikes are suspected to have been carried out by the U.S., they have not been officially confirmed.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: NBC, RT
Sources: Reprieve

As of November 13, 2013, Boko Haram is now considered a terrorist group by the United States.

Boko Haram (Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad) is an Arabic term that means “Western education is sacrilege.” As a jihadist group, Boko Haram is considered to be one of the most violent movements in contemporary Islam, using aggressive brutality to achieve their end goal: to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law while also ending what the group considers to be westernization.

2. Boko Haram honors and promotes the concept of vengeance.

July 2009 brought Boko Haram some setbacks. A clash with Nigerian Government forces led to the deaths of hundreds of members of the jihadist group. Former leader Muhammad Yusuf, who created the group in 2001, was also captured. This capture led to Yusuf’s televised execution, as well as the deaths of his father-in-law and other sect members.

In response to this event, Boko Haram began a series of violent attacks in northeast Nigeria.

“We are responsible for the attacks in Maiduguri, Damaturu and Potiskum,” said Abul Qaqa, a supposed spokesman for Boko Haram. “We carried out the attacks to avenge the killings of our brothers by the security forces in 2009. We will continue to wage war against the Nigerian state until we abolish the secular system and establish an Islamic state.”

3. The death toll of Boko Haram is in the thousands.

Responsible for over 400 killings in 2011 alone, the group’s death toll raises daily. In fact, it said that Boko Haram is guilty of over 4,700 murders.

4. The group has strong ties to Al Qaeda and has even threatened the United States.

A January 2012 United Nations report cited regional officials as saying that “Boko Haram had established links with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.” Apparently, some of the group’s “members from Nigeria and Chad had received training in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb camps in Mali during the summer of 2011.”

Abubakar Shekau, the current leader (also known as an “emir”) of Boko Haram, did not denounce these ties.

“Don’t think that jihad stops with the death of imams, because imams are individuals,” Shekau says. “Don’t you see and think how many sheikhs and men were martyred, like Sheikh Abdullah Azzam [the co-founder of al Qaeda], Abu Musab al Zarqawi [the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq], Abu Omar al Baghdadi [the emir of al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq], Osama bin Laden, Abu Yahya al Libi [a top al Qaeda leader], Abu Yusuf Muhammad bin Yusuf al Nigiri [the former emir of Boko Haram], and others ….”

“Do not think jihad is over,” Shekau said. “Rather jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.”

5. Among Boko Haram’s thousands of victims are innocent civilians, including women and children.

The group set fire to a Mamudo boarding school that ended up killing 42 students and teachers. They killed 200 people in the village of Baga. Bombings of churches, schools, and various other places have earned the group their terrorist affiliation.

The fate of Alhaji Muhammadu proves the aforementioned point as well. Muhammadu was fatally shot when walking home on February 9. His son explained that his father had told the police about a booby-trapped car in the neighborhood. Boko Haram found out.

Two masked men on a motorcycle shouted: “Just try that again. Now you are dead,” recalled the son, Sudaifu Muhammadu, a 27-year-old student at Bayero University, shuddering.

“They are all around,” Mr. Muhammadu said.

6. The country’s poverty levels seem to have a negative impact on the situation overall.

The Nigerian state, the typical enemy of the jihadist group, is largely due to the nation’s enduring poverty, according to analysts. Despite Nigeria’s oil wealth, 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Since 2004, there has been an increase in national poverty, with about 75 percent of the population considered to be poor.

Reasons for attacks seemed quite clear to the Nigerians living with the fear of impending violence: injustice and misgovernance by political officials.

“The leaders are not concerned about the common man,” said Abdullahi Dantsabe, squatting in his open-air stall where he sells cooked yams.

Ado Ibrahim, a 22-year-old sugar cane vendor, was in agreement. He stated that another flare-up was “possible, as long as injustice persists.”

7. The local police are not as helpful as they were expected to be.

 National Geographic writer James Verini recalled a woman he met at a hospital in Kano this year.

“She’d been selling water in the bus station the day of the bombing. Her young daughter had been helping her,” Verini said. “When the car exploded, the girl vanished. In the darkness the woman called out for her. When her daughter didn’t respond, she began looking for a body. When she couldn’t find a body, she looked for an arm, a leg, clothing, a shoe, anything. She found nothing. She told the police what had happened, but they didn’t care and ordered her to leave. The woman’s husband went to every hospital in Kano, to no avail.”

The woman has not seen her daughter since that day.

– Samantha Davis
Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Aljazeera, Counsel on Foreign Relations, New York Times, National Geographic


Poverty in Pakistan has allowed the Taliban to flourish.  By promising food security, shelter, protection, and education, the Taliban has been able to gain support in this region. But the Taliban’s presence has had a detrimental effect on Pakistani schools, a strategy that has kept the region impoverished and under Taliban control.  “Education is a prerequisite for development,” said Shakil Ahmad, author of “The Taliban and Girl’s Education in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Education is also the key to releasing Pakistan from the grips of the Taliban. When a population does not understand basic politics or economics, it is easy to manipulate them. As a result, most Pakistani schools have either been bombed or taken over by Taliban members, who turn the schools into recruitment programs, where students are taught extremism and trained for terrorism.

For women, the Taliban’s crusade against education is especially damaging. Taliban rule means a strict interpretation of Islamic and Pashtun customary law, which states that women are not allowed to work outside the home, go unveiled, or leave the house without a male family member.  Religious police roam the streets, handing out harsh punishments for anyone in violation of Pashtun.  All girls’ schools were outlawed in January 2009, and  the Taliban threatened that anyone caught educating a girl or any girl receiving an education would be blown up or attacked with acid.

By now, most of the world knows of Malala Yousafazi, the teenage girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban while on her way to school.  This was not a random incident; she was targeted for speaking out in favor of girls’ education.  Today she has fully recovered, and now leads the Malala Fund, an organization to improve education for girls in the developing world.  The mission is a simple one with seemingly insurmountable challenges—educate girls where education is outlawed.  However, Malala believes in taking small steps: her mantra is “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Lund University Department of Sociology, Malala Fund
Photo: Center for Economic Research in Pakistan

More than a year ago, Mohamed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origins, shot seven people in three different assaults. Among the victims, three were military personnel shot during two different attacks in a two day span in the French city of Montauban, one was a teacher, and three were children, killed after Merah’s attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Merah claimed to have an affiliation with Al-Qaeda, and was known by the French secret services for his extreme views and was considered a potential threat. Even though he had been under surveillance for some time, police forces were still unable to prevent Mohamed Merah’s attacks.

Since 9/11, radical Islam has become a major security concern for the U.S. and other countries. The World Wide Web and the ease of access to Islam extremists’ thoughts have played a major role in the spread of radical ideologies.

Recent discoveries at Merah’s older brother’s in-law’s house have shown that access to radical Islam propaganda is almost as easy as a simple click. In a hard disk belonging to Merah’s brother, a digital library composed of several thousands of texts was found. These texts are both a guide for newbie jihadist as well as a guide to salafi indoctrination.

The websites visited by the murderer show the role of the Web in the spread of the radicalization of Islam. The websites appear in the headlines of searches of key words such as “Sharia” and “Jihad.” They espouse a more radical Islam centered around a rigorous defense of the Jihad. Translated in many languages, these websites are capable of reaching a larger public and thereby pose a greater threat.

Internet surveillance has become a national security priority in countries all over the world. And even when sites are censored because they are deemed dangerous, they often reappear with a different name.

The Internet, by facilitating access to ideas worldwide, has been greatly beneficial to the public, who can now hope for more transparency and easier access to knowledge. Nevertheless, this facilitated access to ideas has also become the unfortunate tool of many terrorist groups, who use it for both recruitment, financial purposes and as a source for their propaganda.

To this day, no international standard has been established to regulate the content of the internet available to the public. Each country makes its own rules, and there is little to no regulation at an international level. The challenge now is to create an international standard in order to avoid abusive censorship and promote freedom of speech and the spread of ideas in a context of mutual respect.

– Lauren Yeh

Sources: Washington Institute, Islam Et Verite, The Independent, Huffington Post
Photo: AIM