‘Islamic State’: Will it survive a post-caliphate future?

Losing ground in its power base in the Middle East, the “Islamic State” militant group’s future appears as open as ever. DW spoke to counter-terrorism experts and scholars to discuss the likelihood of its survival.

Islamic State militants celebrate after commandeering an Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah in 2014

“I announce from here the end, the failure and the collapse of the state of falsehood and terrorism, which the ‘Islamic State’ declared from Mosul,” said Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi after a months-long campaign to drive the militant group from the strategic city.

While the devastating military campaign to liberate Mosul from the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militant group proved successful, it has yet to spell the end for a band of militants that rallied together in 2006 and, a decade later, transformed into a global phenomenon.

In the wake of the victory in Mosul, international efforts have shifted to uprooting the militant group from its Syrian bastion in Raqqa. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led alliance of homegrown combatants, have made gains in the battle for Raqqa, but hundreds if not thousands of fighters have managed to flee towards the Syrian-Iraqi border and elsewhere outside the region.

The militant group rose to notoriety in June 2014, when it launched a vicious military campaign and captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, culminating in the occupation of Mosul. By the end of the month, the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate from the historic Great Mosque of Mosul.

“In my view, IS is at heart an Iraqi organization, so its defeat in Iraq will break its back, even if remnants continue here and there, or if violent individuals or groups in non-Arab countries use its name,” Yezid Sayigh, senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center told DW, referring to the group by an alternative acronym.

Map showing IS-controlled areas

‘Decentralized jihad’

Despite its losses, the militant group continues to hold ground in parts of Iraq and Syria, especially near the border region. Tomas Olivier, counterterrorism and intelligence manager at the Netherlands-based Twickelerveld Intelligence and Investigations, told DW that even in the face of open conflict in Iraq and Syria, IS has managed to export its operational branches outside of the region to places in North Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and Eastern and Western Africa.

“The most disturbing fact about the current IS organization is their flexibility in response, even after defeat, in which they apparently managed to establish a series of operational hubs throughout the Western hemisphere with the proven capability to – in military terms – strike ‘on demand’ or based on ideological motivation,” Olivier said.

The former senior officer at the Dutch defense ministry added that while monitoring the group’s latest online activity, he witnessed an increase in disconcerting messaging to commit attacks against the “crusaders” by any means necessary.

“IS is promoting a decentralized jihad with specific attention to lone wolf attacks in the West and against coalition targets throughout the world, from the streets of Manchester to Marawi in the Philippines,” Olivier said.

The prospect of criminality

In the wake of the militant group’s rise in 2014, more than 5,000 European nationals traveled to the Middle East to fight alongside IS. With the loss of territory in the region, international authorities have warned of the potential fallout of foreign fighters returning to their home countries in Europe and elsewhere.

A study published last year by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College in London showed that roughly half of all European foreign fighters had a criminal record prior to radicalization.

In its May issue, the IS magazine “Rumiyah” showcased terror tactics for supporters, calling on them to acquire weapons to commit attacks “by means of gun dealers and underground criminal networks – for those capable of attaining those connections.” The article showed the group’s willingness to use networks beyond its conventional or religious ones.

In fact, many of the militant group’s members who committed attacks in Europe had a history of petty crime, including Berlin attack suspect Anis Amri and Salah Abdeslam, who handled logistics for the deadly 2015 Paris attacks.

Ian Oxnevad, a Middle East scholar at the University of California, Riverside, told DW that one counter-terrorism strategy to tackle the problem of returning foreign fighters is pushing them towards criminal activity by clamping down on their financial networks.

“For example, if you have former fighters with ISIS in a cell in northern Italy, but all the money they’re using to sponsor terrorism isn’t integrated into the financial system, they have to be able to maintain that funding. So they may turn to crime,” Oxnevad said.

“If they’re committing burglaries, bank robberies or black market auto parts trading, it increases their likelihood of being arrested as opposed to accepting donations.”

Watch video25:59

Europol’s Rob Wainwright | Conflict Zone

Ideology without end

While the prospect of IS’ military defeat in Iraq and Syria has raised hopes for the militant group’s end, the ideas that propelled it to notoriety continue to be accessible via social networks, digital repositories and online archives.

Oxnevad noted that even if the group is “gone off a map,” that doesn’t mean the ideology that propagates such extremism will cease to exist, especially given the statehood declaration made by al-Baghdadi in Mosul.

“You see it with neo-Nazi groups and the Third Reich, certain people in the American South and the Confederacy. Presumably you see the same thing in Russia with the Soviet Union,” Oxnevad said.

“You have the idea of recapturing something that was lost, or at least recreating it. That is something that the world will just have to safeguard against in anyway possible.”

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Terror attacks leave Barcelona and Madrid at odds, as ever

Terrorism tends to bring together nations. Not so in Spain, where the Barcelona attacks have exposed the central government at loggerheads with Catalonia over their drive for independence. Hagar Jobse reports.

Demonstrators for an independent Catalonia hold up a sign shaped like handcuffs that reads Spanish democracy

“When will the solidarity march with Barcelonatake place in Madrid?” This comment, tweeted on Tuesday by Barcelona resident Alex Montes, 37, has been retweeted over a thousand times as it strikes a chord among Catalans and Spaniards from other parts of the country. “Do not turn this tragedy into a political discussion,” one person replied. Others said that the past few days had shown that Spain and Catalonia are disconnected from each other as if they were two separate states.

Para cuándo la manifestación masiva en Madrid por los atentados en Barcelona?Aquí para el 11M salimos 1,5 millones a la calle.

Montes says his tweet was meant to address the alleged lack of support from the government in Madrid to the city of Barcelona in the wake of last week’s attacks in the Catalan capital. “After the terror attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004, one and a half million people came together in the streets of Barcelona to march against terrorism and show their solidarity with the Spanish capital. On Saturday there will be a massive march in Barcelona against terrorism. You might expect a similar protest would take place in Madrid, right? But no, so far nothing has been organized.”

‘Resilient Barcelona’ stands up against fear

Watch video03:51

Terror in Barcelona

After the August 17 Barcelona attacks, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for unity across the country. But so far, it is in short supply. On the contrary, the attacks have made it painfully clear how serious the tensions are between Spain’s central government and the region of Catalonia.

For years the Spanish and the Catalonian governments have been in conflict over the question of Catalonian independence. The region, in which the Catalan language is widely spoken, already enjoys extensive autonomy in education, health care and policing. A substantial number of Catalans want to see their region acquire even greater autonomy by becoming an independent nation. Catalonia is Spain’s wealthiest region; it accounts for 18.8 percent of Spain’s national GDP. There is a widespread feeling among Catalonians that the Spanish government takes more from their region than it returns – a sentiment which has intensified since the severe economic crisis that hit Spain in 2008.

‘Abandoned by Madrid’

Tensions between Madrid and Catalonia’s pro-independence government have become even greater since December 2016, when Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont announced that a referendum on independence would be held on October 1, 2017. The Catalan government insists the referendum will be legally binding, while Spanish government has already declared it illegal.

Catalonia’s Islamic extremism problem

Montes, born in Barcelona to a Belgian mother and Andalusian father, was raised in a Spanish-speaking family and never learned to speak Catalan. Even so, he has been a supporter of the independence cause for several years. He says that, like him, many Catalans feel abandoned by the Spanish state. “Catalonia does not profit from being part of Spain at all. Very little public money is invested in this region. It feels like the Spanish state does not care about us.”

In the wake of the attacks, several Spanish politicians have stressed the importance of putting political differences aside. When Rajoy and Puigdemont made a joint appearance before the press last Friday, for a moment it seemed as if they would be able to do so. Rajoy declared that Madrid and Catalonia would work closely to fight terrorism, while Puigdemont thanked the prime minister for being present at the emergency meeting in Barcelona.

A woman holds a sign reading: Barcelona stands united against terrorismBarcelona may be united, but the rest of the country isn’t necessarily united with it

But later in the day Puigdemont declared that the tragedy would not change anything when it came to about Catalonia’s fight for independence. When the names of the first victims were announced during the night, Catalonia’s regional interior minister Joaquim Forn distinguished between the Catalan and Spanish victims as if they were of different nationalities.

Catalonian independence rears its head again

Moreover, the three days of national mourning Rajoy announced after the attacks went unnoticed in large parts of the country. “In August there are always many local festivities in different parts of Spain,” Montes says. They all continued after Thursday, while after the Madrid attacks of 2004 the whole country was paralyzed for days.”

Public discord

Spanish King Felipe VI is expected to be among the thousands of people attending Saturday’s anti-terrorism march in Barcelona. Rather than becoming an opportunity for Spaniards to unite against terrorism, the march is already being appropriated to fuel the independence debate. The radical leftist pro-independence party CUP has said it will stay away as long as the king is present. Many Catalan separatists reject the royal family, which they associate with the idea of a centralized Spain and incompatible with the independence of Catalonia.

King Felipe stands next to his wife and two daughters as he opens parliamentSome Catalans see the king, as a representative of Spain, as a problem

Although the country’s intelligence services have an excellent reputation for foiling terrorism plots and arresting alleged jihadists, it has become apparent that they have botched cooperation with the Catalan police. Last Saturday, for example, Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido announced the terrorist cell that carried out the attacks had been dismantled, contradicting information from Catalonia’s police force. Regional Interior Minister Forn corrected him, pointing out that according to Catalonia’s regional police force, which was leading the investigation, the suspected driver of the van that rammed into crowds on Las Ramblas was still at large. Catalonia has also accused the central government of not providing enough access to information from CITCO, the Spanish intelligence agency tasked with preventing domestic terrorism and organized crime.

Catalonia, for its part, may have ignored a December 2016 letter from the Spanish security forces that advised the regional authorities to introduce additional security measures in frequently visited spots in Barcelona.

Barcelona revolts against those pesky tourists

The strain between Barcelona and Madrid over independence could lead to serious problems in the future, says terrorism expert Carlos Igualada. “Because of the current tensions, it has become really difficult for the two governments to have a meaningful dialogue on issues like security. Effective cooperation between national and local security forces is essential when it comes to preventing attacks like the one in Barcelona. Apart from the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, most Spain-based jihadists are from the Catalonia region.”

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Terrorism and Food Security: The Looming man-made Famine in Nigeria

 

With the end of the ongoing war with Boko Haram still nowhere in sight, the least the world expects of Nigerian leaders is to maintain a united front with a view to ensuring that the developmental objectives of the economy remains on track. Recent developments, especially as it affects food security in this embattled West African nation, may tend towards a man-made famine situation, if everything possible is not done to halt that tendency.

For about the third year now, a new face of terror has swept through the length and breadth of Nigeria; especially the middle-belt area, consisting of Benue and Plateau states, and the Eastern, Western and South-South states of Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo states.

Photo published for Fulani herdsman sentenced to 2 years imprisonment in Ekiti » YNaija

Known variously as the ‘’Janjaweed’’ militia, ‘’the sons of Futa Jalon’’, and ‘’Fulani herdsmen’’ by most Nigerians, these herdsmen who drive their cattle all the way from the Savannah north to the middle-belt and southern states where lush green grass for cattle can be found, are a new brand of cattle breeders who are armed with AK 47 rifles, and who go about pillaging, raping, killing and destroying whole villages and farms under the pretext that farmers resist their access to grass (feed) for their cattle.

There were stirrings of what was about to come during the electioneering period of 2014-2015, before the Presidential election which ushered in the government of General Muhammadu Buhari. Initially, skirmishes between farmers and cattle herdsmen were limited to the Benue/Plateau area where the Fulani settlers had been on the necks of the indigenous people, intent on taking over their land, resulting in deaths and destruction of properties, and at times, whole villages.  All this while, grazing in most of the southern states were restricted to the highways beyond villages, and there were no reasons whatsoever for clashes. The problem, for most southerners got closer home just before the advent of the Buhari administration; clashes ensued; people were slaughtered as they tried to resist the armed Fulani herdsmen.

With the advent of the Buhari government, the problem degenerated into something worse; the Obi of Ubulu-Ukwu in Aniocha-North local government area was abducted and killed by some Fulani herdsmen who had invaded in the guise of finding food for their cattle. In the Western Yoruba area, Fulani militant herdsmen invaded the farm of former Secretary of the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, killed some of his farmhands, and abducted him. It took the intervention of agents of the Federal government before he was released.

From Enugu state in the east, to the farthest flung villages in the west, nowhere is sacrosanct to the Fulani herdsmen; they stampede their cattle from place to place; trampling and pillaging as they move through schools, villages, and what have you, and any resistance was silenced with shots from ready rifles and machetes. Along the roads to Abuja from both the East and the West, the said Fulani herdsmen wreak havoc; using their cattle to block the highway, and then killing and pillaging passengers of vehicles who were forced to stop.

 

This reporter had a personal experience of what is going on all over the country; which our leaders have preferred to ignore by playing the ostrich. I travelled to my village in Delta State for the funeral obsequies of a prominent son of the village in January, and took some time to visit my undeveloped land. In place of the economic and plantain trees we had spent some funds planting over time, what I saw was plain wasteland. In addition, I observed that the whole area had been subjected to rampant burning; the whole swath of land, as far as the eye could see, was similarly burnt. I was later meant to understand that those herdsmen deliberately set fire to whole lands; farmsteads in which farmers left standing, dry okra, maize, yam and other plants that were meant to be seed for the next planting season; for purposes of ensuring that grass/weed would grow in their stead unhindered on such land, for their cattle, and that trapped and burnt animals like rabbits, antelopes etc. would become ready source of meat for them.

As I shook my head in unbelief at the carnage on my land which stared me in the face, and started the long walk to the remnant of the once tarred road which connected my town to the next town, I felt a prompting to take one last look at the land, and that was the exact time these all-white herd of cattle came into view, ghost-like as they entered into and marched through my land. I beat a hasty retreat for fear of becoming part of the murderous Janjaweed militants’ statistics.

By the time I got back to the village and narrated what I encountered, I was heralded with tales of rapes, shootings and slaughter which had gone on all over the place. It was unbelievable that such atrocities could be allowed to go on in any country in the 21st Century. In most towns and villages I learnt, no one goes to farm alone anymore; women were routinely raped when alone and even in pairs without male company, and men were simply shot for no reason whatsoever. It is simply shameful. It was while I was ruminating on the implications of all I had seen and heard that I saw the following video on the menace Fulani herdsmen and their cattle have become in Edo State.

 

video

It was while thinking about the implications on food security for the economy, of the actions of the Fulani herdsmen that it dawned on me that we are most likely, as a nation, heading towards a period of prolonged famine. The situation was made worse by the fact that firstly, our own Federal Government, to all intents and purposes, seems to be ranking the interest of those armed herdsmen, most of whom are non-Nigerians above the interest of bona fide Nigerians. Secondly, and in retrospect, it would seem that the armed cattlemen are merely acting out a script. How come, one must ask, hasn’t the government devised a way to disarm those cattle bandits who are armed with assault rifles illegally?

Secondly, as anyone who is interested in what is currently happening in Nigeria would know, the problem of the Fulani herdsmen has led to the writing of the National Grazing Reserve Council Bill. From a post authored by one Dr. Austin Monye, the would-be Law seeks to create a council to be chaired by a chairman to be appointed by the President. The council shall have the power to appropriate any land anywhere within Nigeria and pay whatever compensation it deems fit; not the value of the land.

The appropriated land shall be assigned to herdsmen who shall use same for grazing purposes. If the former owner of the appropriated land wishes to challenge the appropriation; if he feels that the council wrongly appropriated his land, then he could go to court to challenge the said appropriation. Before he goes to court, the appropriated must first of all notify the Federal Attorney General who must consent to the action before the appropriated can sue. If the Attorney General refuses to give his consent, the appropriated has lost his land forever. When passed, the law shall apply to every parcel of land in Nigeria, making it superior to the Land Use Act.

Moreover, in order to be entitled to any form of compensation, one must have and present proof of ownership such as survey plan, Deed of Ownership, Deed of Conveyance, etc.

According to Dr. Monye, ”that Bill is a deliberate attempt to take our lands and hand them over to to Fulani cattlemen since only the Fulanis rear cattle in Nigeria. That law, when passed, shall fulfil the directive of Uthman Dan Fodio and other northern leaders to take over other parts of Nigeria.”

He concluded: ”That law will destroy Nigeria. All over the world, ranches are established and used to rear cattle. The farmers buy land and put their cattle there. There is no country where the land of citizens are compulsorily acquired for the purposes of cattle grazing, and given free of any charge to the rich cattle owners. This is evil, and designed to favour the Fulanis where the President comes from. We must resist the passage of that bill into law to save Nigeria, and to protect our future generations. We must defend our land and protect our children.”

 

 

 

 

Brussels attacker: Bomb making materials found in home

Belgium’s prosecutor says the man behind a bombing at Brussels central station may have supported the “Islamic State” extremist group. Investigators also found materials used to make explosives in the 36-year-old’s home.

Belgian police outside a house in Brussels

Police who raided the suspect’s home found “possible chemical substances and materials were found that could serve to make explosives,” Belgian federal prosecutor’s spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said Wednesday.

The Moroccan national, identified by the initials O.Z., was shot dead by a soldier at Brussels main train station on Tuesday after trying to detonate a nail bomb.

“The preliminary results of the search carried out in the residence of the suspect O.Z. in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, showed that he probably made the bomb there,” Van Der Sypt said in a statement.

Investigators said they also found indications that the suspect had “sympathies for the terrorist organization IS.”

Brussels on alert 

Belgian will keep its current terror alert level at three on a scale of four, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, added security forces will be deployed across the country. Authorities also said that no events would be canceled, but warned those planning to attend not to carry backpacks with them.

Watch video03:15

Brussels explosion – DW’s Max Hofmann reports

Security will be particularly beefed up at the 50,000-seat King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, where British rock band Coldplay is scheduled perform later on Wednesday.

Michel chaired a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday morning, after which he reported that authorities have no information suggesting further attacks are imminent.

Following the meeting, he tweeted: “We will not let ourselves be intimidated by terrorism. We will always defend our values of liberty and democracy.”

Brussels central station remained shut overnight, re-opening at around 8 a.m. local time (0600 UTC) on Wednesday.

Brussels has been on high alert since a group of suicide bombers carried out attacks at the Brussels airport and a subway station in March last year, killing 32 people.

Attacker details coming to light

Belgian media reported that the assailant lived in the largely immigrant Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, a home and transit point for a number jihadis who carried out terror attacks in Brussels and Paris last year.

Read more: Molenbeek: Kicking away terror

Belgian authorities have carried out a host raids in the area over the past year.

Watch video00:31

Brussels suspect dies after ‘terror’ blast

Assailant used nail bomb in attack

Authorities revealed that the attacker detonated a suitcase containing nails and gas bottles. The passenger approached a group of around passengers at the station before grabbing his suitcase and causing a “partial explosion,” Van Der Sypt said.

“Fortunately nobody was hurt,” he added. “It could have been much worse. It is clear that he wanted to cause more damage than he did.”

The man left his luggage before it exploded a second time. He then charged at a soldier at the scene while screaming  “Allahu Akbar” (God is great). The soldier opened fire, killing the suspect.

Earlier reports had claimed that the attacker had worn an explosive belt, although those claims were dismissed.

dm/sms (AFP, dpa, AP)

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Taliban storm police headquarter in eastern Afghanistan

Taliban gunmen and a suicide bomber have attacked a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least five officers and injuring 22. The assault comes as the US is preparing to send more troops to the country.

Afghanistan Selbstmordanschlag (Reuters/S.Peiwand)

The attack began Sunday morning when a suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives at the main entrance of the police headquarters in the eastern city of Gardez in Paktia province.

The blast cleared the way for the other six attackers who stormed the police station and targeted Afghan officers.

Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said two gunmen were immediately killed by Afghan police, while the other others held out for hours. It took Afghan security forces most of the day to kill the last gunmen.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

“Around 6:20 (local time) this morning, a martyr attack was conducted by our mujahideen against a special forces base in Gardez, Paktia,” Mujahid said.

“First a car bomb detonated then our mujahideen entered the building, opening fire on police,” he added.

In April, the Taliban launched their “spring offensive” against Afghan and international forces stationed in the war-torn country.

Read: Opinion: Observe and reflect on Afghanistan

Deteriorating security situation

The so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militant group and the Taliban have launched numerous attacks in Afghanistan in the past few months, with experts saying that President Ashraf Ghani’s government is failing to protect citizens.

Read: ‘China and Russia want US out of Afghanistan’

“The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated further. Afghan security forces control only about 57 percent of the country’s territory. Around 2.5 million people live in areas controlled by the Taliban and nine million more live in contested areas,” Nicole Birtsch, an Afghanistan researcher at the Berlin-based think tank, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW.

“The number of civilian victims, including many children, remains high. And many people are internally displaced due to the fighting between government forces and the Taliban,” she added.

Sunday’s attack came as the Pentagon is getting ready to send some 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan.

The latest wave of US troops will mainly be deployed to train and advise Afghan forces, following warnings by top US commanders in the region that the local military was facing a resurgent Taliban and a rising threat posed by IS.

Read: Afghan soldier attacks US troops near Mazar-i-Sharif

Watch video25:59

Quadriga – Afghanistan – No way forward?

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Germany’s Islamic organization DITIB under fire for skipping ‘March Against Terror’

On Saturday, thousands of Muslims in Cologne will take to the streets in a “March Against Terror.” But Germany’s largest Islamic organization, DITIB, will not be taking part. This decision has drawn strong criticism.

Duisburg Moschee DITIB (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Weihrauch)

Aydan Özoguz, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the German commissioner for immigration, refugees and integration, cannot hide her dismay. She has no sympathy for DITIB’s decision not to take part in a Muslim anti-terror demonstration.

“To be frank, it is no longer understandable. I also believe that DITIB is hurting itself the most, especially its own members who, in part, find this call for action good,” she said, adding that these members regard the board’s decision as an affront.

Muslims plan to hold a demonstration under the motto “Not with us” in the German city of Cologne on Saturday to promote peace and show that they are against Islamic terror. Organizers who are associated with the liberal Islam scholar Lamya Kaddor are expecting tens of thousands of participants. The event was heavily advertised on social media.

DIBIT, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, Germany’s largest Islamic organization with a network of around 900 mosques and 800,000 members, regards the demonstration as an affront. In a press release, the group has accused organizers of engaging in sensationalism and expressed concerns that Muslim anti-terror demonstrations would stigmatize Muslims themselves.

Like Aydan Özoguz, Cemile Giousouf also cannot understand DITIB’s argument. She is the integration commissioner for the joint parliamentary group of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Giousouf does not see an “objective reason to refuse to participate in the planned demonstration against Islamic terror.”

Deutschland Zentralmoschee in Köln (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Becker)The DITIB mosque in Cologne was inaugurated in early June

Accusations of espionage and infighting

DITIB is going through hard times. Imams from the organization allegedly spied on community members in Germany who were suspected of being followers of Fetullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric accused by the Turkish government of being behind the country’s failed coup last July. The federal prosecutor’s office has begun investigations into the imams. Trouble is also brewing within the organization itself. The entire federal executive committee of DITIB’s youth organization quit in mid-May because liberal attitudes were not tolerated.

Turkey expert Christoph Ramm from the University of Bern says the recent disputes have arisen at an inopportune moment.

“In the past, DITIB was sort of regarded as ‘everybody’s darling,’ for example, at the Islam Conference,” he said. “It was predictable and based on a secular understanding of Turkey and the people there were familiar. Contrary to other smaller, opaque Islamic associations, it was a welcome dialogue partner for politicians.”

In the course of the failed coup in Turkey in the summer of last year, DITIB became one of the “bad guys,” according to Ramm. He says that most of all, allegations of espionage and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies that were pursued in Germany through DITIB – like the controversial referendum campaign – cast  a bad light on the association.

Aydan Özoguz Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration (picture alliance/dpa/M. Becker)Özuguz says she doesn’t understand DITIB’s position

Public funding

In Berlin, there is a cross-party consensus on DITIB’s refusal to take part in the demonstration. Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the Green Party, agrees with Özoguz and Giousouf. He described the excuse for DITIB’s refusal as “more than flimsy,” adding: “It is beyond me why DITIB does not use the opportunity to send a clear signal of solidarity.”

To integration commissioner Özoguz the problem lies in the fact that decision-makers in associations like DITIB have never really settled in Germany, “although the members for have, for the most part.”

“By that I mean that many were born and raised here,” she said. “But the association, especially the board of directors, is still linked to Ankara in many respects and it attempts to somehow also exert its influence abroad.”

However, DITIB does not seem capable of surviving only off Ankara’s support and without help from Germany. After payments to the association were temporarily suspended because of the espionage affair, the money has been flowing into its accounts again. According to the German Ministry of Family Affairs, “It was decided that funding for projects that have already been approved would resume under consideration of all relevant aspects.” DITIB has received around 6 million euros ($6.7 million) in funding from the German government since 2012.

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Who is the ‘Islamic State’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

From domestic insurgent group to global terror organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has transformed the “Islamic State” into what it is today. Amid reports of his death, DW examines the life of the world’s most wanted man.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Bildnis in Flammen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali Mohammed al-Badri, rose to international notoriety in 2014 as the leader of the self-styled “Islamic State” (IS) militant group ravaging parts of Syria and Iraq.

On Friday, Russia’s defense ministry announced it conducted airstrikes in May that killed several leaders of the militant group, adding that al-Baghdadi may also have died during the assault.

While his adolescence is shrouded in narratives of piety and reticence, the rise of al-Baghdadi as one of the world’s most recognizable criminals has its notable beginning in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Before the ‘Islamic State’

In response to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Baghdadi formed a militant group to join a growing insurgency against occupation.

In 2004, al-Baghdadi was detained by US forces and held in both the controversial Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca detention centers. He reportedly spent more time in Abu Ghraib, an infamous facility known for torture committed by American forces in Iraq.

Al-Baghdadi was released later that year with a large group of low-level prisoners. Several media outlets have claimed that the militant leader had been held by US forces for much longer, however, these allegations have not been substantiated by government records.

In 2006, al-Baghdadi’s troop of insurgents joined others to form the Mujahideen Shura Council. The alliance of several Islamist militant groups later disbanded and formed an organization calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq, commonly referred to at the time as al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bildergalerie zum ARD Special über Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi IS AnführerPeople who knew al-Baghdadi have described him as an individual who clung to religious teachings in his youth

‘Global terrorist’

It is unclear how al-Baghdadi rose through the ranks of al Qaeda’s Iraqi division but in 2010, he was declared the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq following the assassination of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (no relation), who led the group since its formation in 2006.

As the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, al-Baghdadi was responsible for the group’s attacks in Baghdad and surrounding areas, which included high-profile suicide bombings targeting Iraqi security services and Shiites.

Following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, al-Baghdadi vowed reprisal attacks against the US and its allies in Iraq.

Read more: ‘Islamic State’ gold remains hard to trace

In October 2011, the US state department announced that al-Baghdadi, referring to him by his birth name al-Badri, had been deemed a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Since then, the US has maintained sanctions against him along with a multi-million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture or death.

Break with al Qaeda

In 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the Islamic State in Iraq’s expansion into Syria. He claimed that the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, had joined forces with his group, and as such, announced the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (known variously as IS, ISIL, ISIS).

Read more: Raqqa: The human cost of degrading the ‘Islamic State’

Al-Baghdadi’s announcement that the Nusra Front had joined his group was contested by the organization’s leader, who appealed to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri decreed that al-Baghdadi should remain in Iraq and not pursue activities in Syria, a decision al-Baghdadi effectively ignored and spelled the end of the Islamic State in Iraq’s allegiance to al Qaeda.

In January 2014, IS took control of Raqqa and expelled the Nusra Front from the Syrian city. The capture of Raqqa pushed al Qaeda to disavow IS in February, saying it “is not a brand of the al Qaeda group.”

From caliph to shadows

IS rose to notoriety in June 2014, when it launched a blitzkrieg campaign and captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, culminating in the ransacking and occupation of Mosul.

On June 29, speaking from a pulpit in the historic Great Mosque of Mosul, al-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate and shorted the group’s name to Islamic State.

Read more: Mosul: the last stand for ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq

However, religious leaders, mainstream scholars of Islam and the wider Muslim community has repudiated the re-establishment of the Islamic institution and al-Baghdadi’s claim to be caliph.

Since the public announcement, al-Baghdadi has effectively drifted into the shadows of the so-called caliphate, where he continues to orchestrate the development and expansion of the militant group as a terror phenomenon that spans the globe. With his possible death still unconfirmed, it remains to be seen what impact this could have on the Islamic State.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate from a historic mosque in Mosul, a city in which his duties as a top leader in al-Qaeda focused onAl-Baghdadi announced the creation of a worldwide caliphate from a historic mosque in Mosul

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