Radical Voice of Ibn Siḥmān: Wahhābism’s Chief Spokesperson and Critic of the Ottoman Empire

Following excerpts adapted from the author’s latest book, “Wahhābism: The History of a Militant Islamic Movement” printed by Preston University Press

This book has its origins in a much more modest plan to study the life and career of a single Wahhābī religious scholar, Sulaymān ibn Siḥmān. Born in the western Arabian region of ʿAsīr in the mid–nineteenth century, Ibn Siḥmān migrated at an early age to central Arabia, where he rose to become one of the leading Wahhābī scholars of his generation. At the time of his death, in 1349/1930, he was the most prolific author in the Wahhābī movement’s history, having written numerous refutations, in prose and in verse, of the movement’s many enemies. His prodigious literary output shed extraordinary light on the travails of the Wahhābī community during a tumultuous half-century that witnessed both the decline of Saudi political power in the late nineteenth century and its later resurgence in the form of the modern Saudi state in the early twentieth century. His writings also helped to clarify what the Wahhābīs stood for and believed at this time. Ibn Siḥmān, along with his colleagues, was adamantly opposed to what he saw as the mainstream religious currents in the Islamic world, in particular the popular customs of grave visitation, which he considered to be polytheism. Those who participated in such customs, or merely tolerated them, were in his view not Muslims at all but, rather, polytheists and were to be condemned as such. Ibn Siḥmān pronounced takfīr on the Ottoman Empire on the grounds that it espoused polytheism, he opposed the travel of Wahhābī Muslims to any area outside Wahhābī control, and he repeatedly stressed that true Muslims were duty-bound to show hatred and enmity to those deemed polytheists. Wahhābism was, at this point, still a radical Islamic movement: intolerant, adversarial, and uncompromising. Ibn Siḥmān was that movement’s chief spokesman and defender. He was perhaps the most important Wahhābī scholar alive during the turn of the twentieth century, yet almost nothing had been written about him in English.

The problem with writing a biography of Ibn Siḥmān, however, was that in the context of Wahhābism his religious views were not exactly novel. His fiery tone and passion for refutations were to some extent unique, as was his penchant for writing in verse, but the ideas that he articulated were anything but original. Nor should they have been, as this was not a religious community that prized originality in the first place. Ibn Siḥmān’s role, as he understood it, was to continue the mission (daʿwa) of Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, the eponymous founder of Wahhābism, by reiterating his ideas and those of his successors among the Wahhābī scholars. Appropriately, his writings were shot through with lengthy quotations of earlier Wahhābī authorities, including, in addition to Ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb, Ḥusayn ibn Ghannām, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Ḥasan Āl al-Shaykh, ʿAbd al-Laṭīf ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Āl al-Shaykh, and Ḥamad ibn ʿAtīq. These were the leading lights of the Wahhābī tradition from its inception up to the late nineteenth century, and to a very large extent they bore a consistent religious message. That message consisted of an emphasis on purifying the religion of all perceived elements of polytheism, as well as a requirement that true Muslims dissociate from, and show hatred and enmity to, the so-called polytheists. What these scholars represented, together with Ibn Siḥmān, was what might be called traditional or unreconstructed Wahhābism—a radically exclusivist and fiercely provocative Islamic movement. This militant Wahhābism was the version championed by the movement’s religious authorities for nearly two centuries, from the 1150s/1740s to the 1340s/1920s, when the modern Saudi state sought to tame the Wahhābī religious establishment and come to an accommodation with the broader Islamic world. In this context, Ibn Siḥmān’s writings can be seen as the last major articulation and defense of the militant Wahhābī heritage.

In the course of my research on Ibn Siḥmān, I gradually came to the realization that I could not tell his story without first coming to grips with the Wahhābī tradition that he so passionately sought to defend. Accordingly, the scope of my inquiry broadened to include the entire Wahhābī period from the movement’s origins in the 1150s/1740s up until the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1351/1932. Here I found that much work remained to be done. With few exceptions, Western scholars of Islam had not taken a serious interest in Wahhābism. A great deal of source material had yet to be scrutinized, and some had yet to be uncovered. Much of the secondary literature fundamentally misunderstood key aspects of Wahhābī history and doctrine, and while several important and pathbreaking studies of the Wahhābī movement were available, none of these adequately captured what I found to be one of the key Wahhābī doctrinal tenets—namely, the duty to show hatred and enmity to those accused of polytheism. There was also a gap in the literature as regards the nature of the Wahhābī doctrine and its relationship to the ideas of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. All of this would need to be addressed in a proper study of Wahhābism from its origins to the period up to and including the founding of the modern Saudi state. The result of my expanded research is a book of considerably wider scope than a biography of Ibn Siḥmān. It probes the nature of the Wahhābī doctrine, examines the early history of the Wahhābī movement, and covers the efforts of subsequent Wahhābī scholars to refine, preserve, and defend the Wahhābī heritage into the early twentieth century.

While the book was written primarily with a view to understanding Wahhābism on its own terms and in its own context, it should be noted that it is also informed in some degree by my parallel interest in the modern Sunnī jihādī movement. In recent decades, jihādī groups and actors have embraced the premodern Wahhābī tradition as their own, seeing it as the embodiment of sound Islamic creed with its emphasis on doctrinal exclusivism and militant activism. Wahhābism has become the jihādī movement’s ideological backbone. Wahhābī texts abound on jihādī websites and are frequently quoted by jihādī scholars and leaders, who see themselves as the proper heirs of the Wahhābī tradition. There is of course more to jihādī ideology than the premodern Wahhābī tradition; the influence of certain Muslim Brotherhood ideas remains key. However, to the extent that Wahhābism forms a crucial part of jihādī ideology, this book may be read for background on the ideology of modern Sunnī jihādism.

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The Taliban and the Islamic State Continue to Fight for Afghanistan’s Future


On April 25, 2023, U.S. officials confirmed that the Taliban had killed the head of the Islamic State (IS) cell operating in Afghanistan. Though his identity has not been revealed, the IS leader is believed to have masterminded the 2021 Kabul airport attack that killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. military personnel.

His assassination marks the latest escalation of violence between the Taliban and IS in Afghanistan this year. Several senior Taliban officials were killed or targeted in March 2023 by IS, while several IS leaders in Afghanistan were killed by the Taliban in January and February.

The Taliban, a loose Pashtun-centric political movement active across Afghanistan and Pakistan, previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The U.S. withdrawal and ensuing collapse of the Afghan government in 2021 allowed the Taliban to re-establish their rule over the country, but they have been prevented from gaining full control thanks to IS, which has existed in the country since 2014.

Initially, many Taliban members were supportive of IS’s ability to seize territory and challenge U.S. and Western forces in Syria and Iraq in 2013 and 2014. Yet despite their common U.S. and Western enemies and shared hardline Sunni interpretation of Islam, the Taliban’s animosity arose after IS began to establish itself on Afghan territory and attract Afghans to its cause.

At the time, Taliban forces had failed to make territorial gains and had recently begun another round of negotiations with the U.S. government. The Taliban had also traditionally suppressed the Salafist brand of Islam in eastern Afghanistan in favor of Hanafi Islam, making IS’s Salafist leanings attractive to many Afghans in the region. There was also significant division across the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leadership, further allowing IS to poach members.

Several high-ranking members switched allegiance to IS in 2014, which also found support from smaller regional militant groups. But of significant importance was IS’s ability to attract disillusioned members of its rival, Al Qaeda, to its ranks. Disagreements over policies, tactics, and leadership caused Al Qaeda to disavow IS in 2014, and they have competed for dominance over the global jihadist movement since. The Taliban’s close relationship with Al Qaeda only made IS more resolute in challenging them in Afghanistan.

In January 2015, IS announced its vision to create the province of “Khorasan,” which would include much of Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, and is part of IS’s effort to establish a global caliphate. The group began to expand more rapidly across Afghanistan while accusing the Taliban of being “filthy nationalists” and neglecting Islam in favor of their ethnic and national base.

As clashes between the Taliban and Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) intensified in 2015, the Taliban’s then-leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, wrote a letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging him to abandon recruitment in Afghanistan and insisting the war against the United States should be led by the Taliban. But it failed to dissuade the IS leadership, who were also aided in part by the Afghan Army’s initial decision to avoid fighting IS to focus on the Taliban.

As IS emerged as a serious threat to Afghanistan’s stability, however, both Afghan and U.S.-led international forces increasingly came to focus on the group in the country. IS targeting of religious minorities also brought it into further conflict with parts of the Afghan population. Despite an initial expansion, IS lost significant territory and fighters from 2015 to 2018, while from 2019 to 2020 many of its fighters and leaders surrendered to authorities.

The Taliban, in comparison, had steadily increased its influence in Afghanistan, convincing the Afghan and U.S. governments to commit to talks to end the war. The Doha Agreement in 2020 put forth a withdrawal timeline for foreign soldiers, saw thousands of Afghan and Taliban soldiers released in a prisoner swap, and the Taliban pledged to prevent terrorist groups from operating in Afghanistan. IS denounced the agreement, accusing the Taliban of deviating from jihad to please “their U.S. masters.”

But suggestions of IS’s demise in Afghanistan by then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proved short-lived, particularly as Afghanistan was engulfed by the power vacuum caused by the U.S.’s departure. IS’s numbers were also bolstered by thousands of prisoners who escaped or were freed from Afghanistan’s prisons.

While IS’s estimated 4,000 members in Afghanistan as of 2023 pale in comparison to the Taliban’s roughly 80,000 troops, its guerilla warfare campaign, similar to the one used effectively by the Taliban against U.S. forces, has made it a formidable opponent in parts of the country. By the end of 2021, the group had killed or injured more people in Afghanistan than any other country, and clashes between the Taliban and IS are common occurrences.

On top of attracting more members to IS’s ranks, the Taliban fears IS will erase what little legitimacy it has as a governing force by keeping Afghanistan unstable. The Taliban’s leadership remains plagued by division and lacks any international recognition. The Taliban is also now fighting IS-K largely alone and without the high-tech weaponry and air support enjoyed by the previous Afghan government forces. And having been beaten back in Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan provides IS-K one of the few places where it can expand, causing the group to double down in the country.

To shore up their position, the Taliban leadership has sought to engage with other governments. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are cautiously cooperating with the Taliban, while Pakistan, which has a complex history of working with the Taliban, continues to conduct dialogue with them. The Taliban is also courting IndiaChina, and Russia, which seek to stabilize the country and potentially exploit Afghanistan’s estimated $1 to $3 trillion in mineral wealth.

Pressure is on the Taliban to get results. Chinese and Russian citizens and infrastructure in Afghanistan have been targeted by IS, drawing criticism. And though the Taliban has said it will not allow its territory to be used to attack its neighbors, IS has already tested this in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The Taliban’s ongoing cooperation with Al Qaeda (exemplified by the assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul in 2022) continues to dissuade Western cooperation, coupled with the Taliban’s crackdown on women’s freedom in Afghanistan. Reversing their more radical policies could in turn instigate more defections to IS.

Having fought the Taliban for two decades, a rapprochement with the Taliban would be a difficult sell to Western audiences. But having already worked with the Taliban to evacuate its citizens in August, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated the possibility of coordinating with the Taliban to defeat IS in 2021. Nick Carter, his British counterpart, expressed a similar sentiment as well. U.S. officials have also stated that they “do not support organized violent opposition” to the Taliban.

With the Afghan government disbanded (many members have joined the Taliban or IS) and the weaknesses associated with the National Resistance Front, there is little viable opposition that Western forces can support. Yet The U.S. “over-the-horizon” approach to ignoring the Taliban to deal with IS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan has its own consequences—a drone strike intended for the mastermind behind the 2021 Kabul Airport attack instead ended up killing 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children.

Nonetheless, the Taliban’s assassination of the individual responsible in April 2023 may encourage soft coordination and informal diplomacy with other countries, including the U.S. Yet because the Taliban remains dependent on cooperation with extremist groups like Al Qaeda, its formal international isolation risks becoming long-term.

Providing a haven for groups like Al Qaeda and promoting a strict interpretation of Shariah law is also a double-edged sword. These conditions helped IS establish itself in Afghanistan, aided further by the poverty and lack of basic services in many parts of the country. IS will continue to attempt to weaken the Taliban militarily, exploit its divisions, and erode its claims to have restored peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s instability since the 1970s remains ongoing, and the country continues to be a hotbed of regional concern, great power rivalry, and ideological clashes. While most foreign governments view IS as a greater threat, this may not be enough for the Taliban to end its vulnerable isolation and help Afghanistan achieve peace and stability.

Overcoming the Naxal Challenge


10 police personnel and a driver were killed in an ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on April 26. An explosive device (IED) was used to blow up the police personnel’s vehicle when returning from an anti-Maoist operation.

The failure of the security forces to observe SOP even as the Naxals have been active during the period of what is known as the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign or TCOC has resulted in a major setback.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel stated that the State will “end Naxalism in the state soon”. “Pressure is being created on Naxals, so they did this act of cowardice. Naxalism will be uprooted,” CM Baghel was quoted by news agency ANI. He added, “Their sacrifice will not go to waste.”

Union home minister Amit Shah spoke to Baghel and promised help to the state government to overcome the menace. “Anguished by the cowardly attack on the Chhattisgarh police at Dantewada. Have spoken to Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister and assured all possible assistance to the state government. My condolences to the bereaved family members of the martyred Jawans,” the HM tweeted.

Despite the political commitment to overcome the insurgency in Chhattisgarh and other States witnessed for the past three decades now the ambush in Dantewada is a grim reminder of the continued operational challenges posed by Left Wing Extremism in India, thus complacency needs to be avoided.

Even though the area of operations for the Naxals have been greatly reduced, yet their potential to carry out such attacks remains high.

Police COBs & Terrain

While the police – state and central have increased their presence in the heartland of Abujmadh by establishing Company and Forward Operating Bases the vast forested terrain renders is virtually impossible to avoid movement of small groups of Naxals who can exploit the gaps in security to carry out such ambushes though the numbers have come down over the years.

The geographical tri-junction of Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Odisha located right at the southern tip of Sukma district in the south Bastar region is an area that witnesses the maximum number of such incidents including the deadly 2010 Maoist ambush in Dantewada district where 75 CRPF and one Chhattisgarh police personnel were killed.

Maoist PLGA

While several Maoists leaders and cadres have surrendered, arrested and killed, the strength of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) continues to pose a threat of such attacks. The area of the ambush is controlled by the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the Maoists and led by the ‘elusive’ Hidma, stated to be the commander of the PLGA battalion no. 1 which is accused by police agencies of planning and executing hundreds of ambushes against the forces over the last two decades.

Darbha divisional committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Maoist leader Jagdish and his team had planned the IED blast and the explosives were planted a day before the attack. Jagdish alias BubraKuharami was reportedly present at the site of the attack.

Darbha Division Committee called it an “act of resistance” against alleged atrocities and killings by security forces, who, it added, have turned Bastar into a security camp. The Maoists also alleged that drone attacks were being carried out by the security forces. “In such a situation the public has no option but to resist…in the recent act of resistance the PLGA forces attacked the DRG,” the statement read. The Maoists also intended to motivate the local tribal youth to join the group and desist the police.

While the Maoist central leadership is said to be old and jaded, there appear to be a number of younger commanders as Jagdish and Hidma who are capable of launching such attacks and thus there is a need for continued caution.

Under such circumstances adopting well established Standard Operating Procedures for movement and operations assumes importance. Conduct of the movement by the police personnel needs to be examined.

Adherence to SOP

The local guard unit personnel were a part of a four-vehicle convoy carrying personnel of district reserve guard (DRG), a special anti-Maoist unit of the state police. Around 150 DRG jawans were sent to Aranpur police station from Dantewada on April 25 following specific inputs on the movement of Maoists. An encounter ensued in the early hours on April 26 and two suspected Maoists were detained, police.

The Maoists team under Jagdish were reportedly awaiting return of the police team and sprung the IED based on information of movement of the convoy from informers on the route awaiting at Aamaa Pandum (celebrated with mangoes) barriers by tribal to collect donations.

Lack of a Road Opening Party at a time when four unprotected vehicles were moving in a convoy has also been questioned. Though it is claimed now that demining procedure as part of a road clearance operation was carried out before the troops passed along it, but the IED could not be detected as it was possibly dug in and planted after the demining had been carried out.

The road had been constructed of bitumen in 2014 or 2015 and during rain, the road shoulder had washed away and a four-foot hole was created which was exploited by the Naxals to plant an IED through a tunnel. “Even before this incident, IEDs have been placed under pucca roads. We have removed mines from the stretch in the past as well.”

Initiative – Advantage Naxals

In a militancy scenario where the terrorists hold the initiative they have an advantage which was evident in Dantewada.

By trailing the police or possibly luring them to an operation, the Darbha Division Committee was expecting return of the party and possibly knew well the timing of their return to spring an ambush.

The DRG personnel exhausted from their operation were possibly lacked the vigil desired and moved in a convoy rather than staggering with inherent protection.

It is difficult to maintain a high level of alertness for long periods which can be exploited by the Naxals.

It is such factors where counter insurgents need large number of boots on the ground – for rest, recoupment, turnover of patrolling and operational parties. Hopefully lessons will be learnt to avoid such unfortunate operational mishaps in the future.

Beyond COBs

While the Central and state police forces have done well to deploy COBs, these need to be employed as pivots for raids and offensive operations in the zone of influence apart from establishing an intelligence grid for active acquisition of information and neutralisation of the Naxals.

Integrating villages in the neighbourhood with tangible programme of fraternisation is also the role of the COB personnel. These are complex tasks capacity for which will have to be build up through a structured progamme.

Sri Lanka: Conspiracies Misguide Easter Attack Reconciliation — What is the Way Forward?


by Jude Amory

The Easter attack of 2019 will forever be etched in the memories of the people of Sri Lanka, as a day of tragedy and sorrow that shook the nation to its core. The country’s Christian minority was gathering at their places of worship to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The serene sounds of the morning were shattered by a series of deafening explosions. The blood-curdling screams of innocent worshippers echoed through the air, as they became the target of a ruthless and cowardly attack. The devastation that ensued was unimaginable – bodies strewn on the church floors, streets filled with shattered glass and debris, multiple explosions being reported across the country and countless lives ruined forever. The devastation on this celebratory morning was backed by an ideology of hate and destruction yet the repeated question of “Who perpetrated the Easter Attack?” is a node of mere division and misinformation to an obvious truth.

In moments of tragedy, it is natural for people to seek answers and make sense of the inexplicable. However, in doing so, we must be wary of the dangers of succumbing to baseless conspiracy theories and misguided speculation. The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka were a heinous act of terrorism that claimed the lives of over 270 innocent people. The attackers were driven by a perverted ideology that thrives on hatred, violence, and the glorification of death. It is a destructive ideology that seeks to divide communities, sow seeds of discord and create chaos. To suggest that the attack was a grand political plot or that it was an inside job is to deny the obvious truth that is staring us in the face – this was the work of Islamist terrorists who are willing to use violence and bloodshed to advance their twisted agenda. To engage in such discussions is not only futile but also dangerous, as it risks taking us further away from the truth and closer to the abyss of hatred and violence.

Who is Responsible for the Easter Sunday Attack?

The attacks were carried out by groups affiliated with the Islamic State, and their targets were mainly churches and hotels. In compliance with international Islamist extremist agenda, Zahran Hashim and his National Tawhid Jam’ath (NTJ), followed the tenets of Salafi Wahhabism, an extremist Islamist ideology that is known for its intolerance towards other religions and cultures.

Salafi Wahhabism is a puritanical and extremist interpretation of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century. It promotes a strict adherence to Islamic law and a rejection of any modern or Western influences. Its followers believe in a literal interpretation of the Quran and the Hadiths, often manipulating this fundamentalist interpretation to radicalise, recruit and propagate hate. This ideology has been criticised for its intolerance of other religions and its encouragement of violence against non-believers.

Zahran Hashim was a fervent believer in this ideology and the NTJ shared his extremist views. The group was known for its extremist rhetoric and had been on the radar of Sri Lankan intelligence agencies for some time prior to the attacks. 48 hours after the attacks, then leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, took responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka as being under the direction of the larger Islamic State and as part of its regional caliphate agenda. Al-Baghdadi’s message was complimented with a video of Zahran and the other suicide bombers pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and to its leader al-Baghdadi, as released on the Amaq News Agency – the Islamic State’s media centre.

Zahran and his group of suicide bombers pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State caliphate with the Islamic State flag as backdrop.

Although Zahran’s grand plan was much more comprehensive than a single consolidated attack, he was unable to execute as he feared that law enforcement could thwart his attempts if waited longer. Having insufficient time to radicalise enough people to the extent of suicide, Zahran himself agreed to die in the bombing, wrongly claiming himself a martyr of Islam. The leader of the attack is Zahran. Unlike when al-Qaeda-leader directed the attack on the United States on 9/11, NTJ-leader Zahran directed the attack and also participated in it in Sri Lanka.

Why was the Attack carried out?

Emanating from the Gulf, the Salafi Wahhabi doctrines hijacked multiple peaceful Islamic religious ideals. Like the concept of ‘Tawhid’, meaning the oneness of Allah, was exploited by Zahran and other extremists to portray themselves as the true carrier of the Islamic faith, the concept of ‘al-Wala’  wal-Bara’’ was also used by the terrorists for destruction.

Al-Wala’  wal-Bara’ is a concept in Islam that refers to the allegiance and disavowal of individuals and groups. It is often translated as “loyalty and disavowal”. The concept is based on the idea that its followers should be loyal to Allah and His Messenger, and should disavow anything or anyone that opposes their teachings. This concept has been widely associated with extremist groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State. These groups have used the concept to justify violence against non-Muslims and to create a strict separation between themselves and those who do not share their beliefs.

In addition to ideological concepts, Zahran and his NTJ used real-world opportunities to recruit and radicalise. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition and the multiple subsequent conflicts in the Middle East were fodder for the extremists to justify attacks against Christians and Westerners. In his farewell message, Zahran indicates that he intends to hurt Christians and Westerners as revenge for the attacks against terrorists (who he claims as true believers) in Baghuz, a town in Eastern Syria which was the final stronghold of the Islamic State Caliphate that fell in early 2019.

Further, Zahran cites the attacks against the Christchurch Muslims by right-wing extremist Brenton Tarrant as an attack against Islam by Christians and justified his choice of churches and hotels to target Christians and Westerners alike.

Why did Conspiracy Theories Emerge?

Despite the clear evidence that the attacks were carried out by an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group following an extremist ideology of hurt and destruction, there are still people who propagate and believe in conspiracy theories that suggest the attacks were an insider job. The conspiracy theories are propagated by three main groups; opposition politicians, Islamic organisations, Catholic Church leadership.

Opposition politicians use the ‘insider job’ argument as a means of political defamation and to score points for political gain. This served as mechanism to trump rival political bases both on religious lines as well as political affiliations.

Islamic organisations were also promotional or at least tolerant to the ‘insider job’ theory as a mechanism to whitewash the heinous attack being associated with the Islamic religion in itself. However, it is important to note that the Zahran and his terrorist outfit are in no way a representation of Islamic values but rather a psychopathic killer cowering behind an Islamist ideological rendition. However, it is also true that Islamic religious bodies like the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) failed to identify radical Salafi Wahhabi preachers in their institutions and this has led to the proliferation of conspiracy theories that seek to shift blame away from the actual perpetrators of the attacks.  The ACJU has not done enough to combat the spread of extremist ideology in Sri Lanka, and some of its members had fuelled conspiracy theories perhaps in attempt to clear their name. The ACJU must take responsibility for its failures and work to address the root causes of extremism in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, it must also be mentioned that on Easter Sunday 2023, ACJU finally released a clear message that the Easter Sunday attack was conducted by Islamic extremists and that the community must come together to reduce radicalisation.

The Catholic Church, led by its Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has also been promoting these conspiracy theories, which have far-reaching consequences for national security. Due to a lack of communication about the attacks after Easter 2019, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church were kept in the dark about the status quo of the procedure and investigation of the attacks. Failure to timely and accurately inform led to the creation of doubt of a political conspiracy behind the attack. Although it is understandable why Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church are skeptical about the status of the investigation, blatant propagation of misinformation and conspiracy is counterproductive to the efforts at gaining justice, reducing community radicalisation and strengthening interfaith harmony.

Fr. Cyril Gamini, a prominent speaker in support of the ‘insider job’ theory with Sheik Arkam Noormaith, the Secretary General of the ACJU, at the insurrection of the President’s House in 2022. [Photo: Special Arrangment]

Effects of Online Falsehoods and Misinformation

Online falsehoods and manipulation have changed the public perception of the Easter Sunday attack. Today, multiple segments of the public no longer identify religious extremism as the key driver of the attack. The conspiracy theory that government intelligence conducted the attack has gathered significant momentum, which is deeply concerning. If religious extremism is not addressed, follow-on attacks are likely. Justice will not be served to the victims, and the security and intelligence community, criminal-justice, and prisons system will be severely undermined.

The misinformation being spread about the Easter Sunday attack also has the potential to sow the seeds of radicalisation among the Muslim community. The spread of such unfounded theories, especially those that blame the government or non-Muslim groups for the attack, can create a sense of victimhood among Muslims and exacerbate existing grievances, thus pushing them further towards radicalisation. This can be a dangerous path to tread, as it can ultimately lead to more extremist views and even violence. It is therefore crucial that conspiracy theories are debunked and a clear communication plan be established by the government to remove the translucent veil that hinders clarity.

How can the Government counter the Conspiracy Theories?

Communication, communication, communication. The government must take a proactive role in countering such narratives by providing factual information and addressing concerns. This can be done through the use of government websites, social media platforms, and public announcements. The government can also work with credible media outlets to provide accurate information and debunk false claims. Consecutive governments have failed to structure a strong communication strategy which have led to multiple misinformation and disinformation tactics used to exploit an uninformed public.

The government can also engage with the Muslim community to build trust and encourage open communication. This can include establishing community outreach programs, engaging with local mosques and Islamic institutions, and promoting interfaith dialogue. In addition, the government must strengthen its laws against hate speech, incitement, and extremist content. The Anti-Terrorism Act must act as a deter to the propagation of hate speech and radicalization within the communities in Sri Lanka. This can include stricter penalties for those who spread false information or incite violence. Additionally, the government can work with social media platforms to remove extremist content and promote more responsible online behavior.

What Must the Public Demand?

Instead of asking “Who perpetrated the Easter Attack?”, to which there is a clear answer already, the public must rather demand why the government failed to prevent the attack due to negligence and demand what is being done to punish the officials who failed to act on the intelligence of the attacks. It is unacceptable that such a horrific attack could take place without any warning or preventive action being taken by the authorities. A transparent ruling and sentencing must be carried out against the officials who failed to act in time, which will support the strengthening of the country’s national security apparatus that can help prevent further violence.

The Way Forward

As Islamist terrorism is a result of ideological extremism after exclusivism, it is paramount that interfaith harmony be promoted through religious dialogue and communication. It is also important to recognise that Islam is a peaceful religion and that Muslims are a peaceful people. The vast majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka are peaceful and reject the extremist ideology of Salafi Wahhabism. Sufi Muslims, in particular, have lived side-by-side with other races and religions in Sri Lanka for centuries, promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We must not allow the actions of a few extremists to tarnish the reputation of an entire religion and its followers.

In addition to the propagation of conspiracy theories, the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka also brought to light the dangerous and extremist ideology of Salafi Wahhabism. This ideology has been used by terrorist groups like the Islamic State to justify their violent actions and recruit new members. Having witnessed the destruction of hateful fundamentalist ideologies such as Salafi Wahhabism, the Sri Lankan government and intelligence community must act to prevent radicalisation and ensure de-radicalisation is conducted to strengthen the Islamic community against foreign ideologies of hate.

The conspiracy theories which have gained traction through media, religious leaders and political opposition, have led to a dangerous erosion of trust in the government and the intelligence services. The government must immediately take action to secure the information space against misinformation and disinformation about the Easter Attack and immediately take action against those who failed to act in time.

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka were a tragic event that shook the nation and the world, being the largest Islamic State-backed attack outside of Iraq and Syria. While the government and security forces have taken some steps to prevent future attacks and tighten security, its measures remain inadequate on the community level. Only through understanding and tolerance can Sri Lanka and the world hope to prevent such horrific events from happening in the future. It is imperative that all Sri Lankans work together to promote unity and understanding, and reject any dangerous ideology of hatred and violence.

Jude Amory is a national security analyst.

India: The Cock and Bull Story of Pulwama


In a recent interview Satya Pal Malik, the former member of the Narendra Modi-led government and the former Governor of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir has alleged that the Indian prime minister silenced him on the security lapses which led to the 2019 Pulwama attack. According to him, Modi played a dirty game by concealing the truth from his own nation and tried to fix and frame Pakistan in a matter which actually had nothing to do with Pakistan. In other words, Malik has simply defended and supported Pakistan’s stance on the Pulwama Attack of February 2019. Intentionally or unintentionally, his statement on the Pulwama Attack has turned the table in real sense. It has been proved that whatever happened there in Pulwama was the action of some indigenous groups already active in India; however the negligence and non-professional attitude of the Indian security organizations provided these groups a strong support. Satya Pal Malik has also pointed towards the same incompetence and carelessness of the Indian security organizations in his recent interview. It is also on record that the Modi government expressed no surprise after the Pulwama incident though it was no doubt a tragedy which claimed lives of more than forty CRPF personnel and left five critically injured. Instead of lamenting over the killing of those ‘sons of the land’ and instead of taking to task those responsible for this mishap, the Modi Sarkar started playing old dirty game of blaming Pakistan simply as a routine practice.

According to Satya Pal Malik, Mr. Modi had asked him to ‘stay quiet’ about the security lapses he allegedly raised with the government. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had also advised him to keep silent over the alleged lapses. Malik said that he was well aware of the fact that all the onus of the attack will be put on Pakistan to reap electoral benefits. Actually by maligning the facts, Mr. Modi tried to kill two birds with one stone; on one hand he attempted to disrepute and defame Pakistan and on the other hand he tried to nurture the anti-Muslim feelings among the extremist section of the Indian society. For the last many years it has been Mr. Modi’s routine practice to follow and promote the Hindutva philosophy which directs its followers to adopt a strategy resulting in conversion of a constitutionally secular India into an ethnic Hindu state. Mr. Modi, being a staunch follower of that philosophy ever plans and struggles to push all minorities to a second-class status in India including the Muslims who are more than 200 million in number. Same is the case with the Christians, the Sikhs, the Buddhists and as well as with the low-caste Dalits.

With reference to the Pulwama Attack a very important fact is that some sections of the Indian media started raising hue and cry against Pakistan, without any confirmation, just after the incident. The noise they made was not for those soldiers whose lives were wasted in that incident; it was only against Pakistan. It seemed that on the direction of Mr. Modi, they already had tailored the desired or required propaganda material. It is something very positive on the part of some Indian media houses that they tried their utmost to bring the truth to the public even at that time. Though they didn’t support Pakistan but they tried to expose the negligence and inability of the Indian security organizations; the ‘Hindu’ is also one of such media sections. In a report published on 21st February 2021, the Hindu said, “There were at least 11 intelligence inputs between January 2, 2019, and February 13, 2019, pointing to a macabre “Qisas (retribution) mission” in the making, one that culminated eventually in the attack on a security convoy in Lethpora, Pulwama. But the government was deaf to all these.”

India’s one of the most reliable magazines, The Frontline has something more shocking to reveal on the issue. In an investigation report on the issue the magazine said, “In the aftermath of the attack, which took place eight weeks before the 2019 general election, there was relentless mobilization of emotion by the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), calling for avenging the attack and projecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the sole protector of the national interest. Prime time television hugely aided the politicization of national security issues, more so after the aerial raid at Balakot by the Indian Air Force on February 26, when one news bulletin after the other claimed, without evidence, that at least 300 Pakistani terrorists had been eliminated in that bombing.” The Frontline concluded its analysis by saying that ‘the election returns proved that the BJP’s muscular nationalism campaign was the predominant, if not the only, factor that facilitated Modi’s landslide victory’. India is not just a vast piece of land; it is the name of a centuries’ old culture, civilization and traditions. India has ever been a home to countless artists and artisans who created eternal type of master-pieces in the field of poetry, singing and architecture etc. Secularism has ever been the real beauty of India. Anyone who tries to deprive this country of its original and genuine colour of secularism could never be a well-wisher of it. For the sake of personal gains and subjective motives, no one must be given a free hand to deface the serenity of the Land of Art and Culture. All involved in misleading and deceiving the world through different false flag operations must be seriously taken to task.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Tides of Terror


On April 8, 2023, two Army soldiers were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Bara tehsil (revenue unit) of Khyber District.

On April 3, 2023, two Policemen were killed by unidentified terrorists while they were on patrol duty in the Tapi area of Kohat District.

On March 30, 2023, four Policemen, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Iqbal Mohmand, were killed while another six Policemen were injured when terrorists attacked a Police check post in Lakki Marwat town (Lakki Marwat District).

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has recorded a total of 124 Security Force (SF) fatalities so far in 2023 (till April 16). During the corresponding period do 2022, there were 50 SF fatalities and, through 2022, there were 173 SF fatalities.

Fatalities in the SF category in KP have seen a rising trend since 2018, when they doubled from 26 in 2017, to 52, with the exception of 2020. There were 69 fatalities in 2019, 57 in 2020 and 108 in 2021.  

The situation is the same for the whole of Pakistan. SF fatalities increased from 137 in 2019 to 178 in 2020, 226 in 2021 and 379 in 2022. In 2023, 222 SF fatalities have already been recorded.

With the collapse of ‘official’ talks between the Government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on November 28, 2022, the latter stepped up attacks on security forces.

According to KP Police data, 125 Police personnel have been killed and another 212 sustained injuries in militant attacks across the province during the first quarter of 2023. A total of 25 cases of militant attacks were registered with the Police during the first three months of the year. According to Police data, 15 militant attacks were reported against the Police in January 2023, in which 116 personnel were killed and 189 injured. Three militant attacks were reported in February 2023, in which two Police personnel were killed and another five were wounded. Seven cases were registered by the Police in March 2023, in which seven Policemen were killed and another 18 were wounded.

In the worst attack targeting Policemen during the first quarter of 2023, on January 30, 2023, a suicide attacker detonated his device himself inside a mosque in the Police Lines area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. The suicide bomber was present in the first row of the worshippers at the mosque. At least 84 persons, including 83 Policemen, were killed and another 220 were injured in the blast. Sahibzada Noor Ul Amin, Imam of the mosque, was also killed in the blast. Capital City Police Officer, Peshawar (CCPO) Ejaz Khan, disclosed that close to 300 to 400 Policemen usually offered prayers at the mosque. Two Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders, Sarbakaf Mohmand and Omar Mukaram Khurasani, claimed that the attack was “revenge” for the killing of Khalid Khorasani, the chief of TTP’s splinter group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), in the Barmal District‎ of the ‎Paktika Province of Afghanistan, on August 7, 2022. However, TTP central ‘spokesman’ Muhammad Khorasani denied any involvement in the attack.

The SFs have killed 114 terrorists in 2023, thus far, yielding a SF:terrorist kill ratio of 1.07:1. During the corresponding period of 2022, the ratio was 1:1.44. Through 2022, it stood at 1:1.35. 

The SFs’ position on the ground has evidently weakened, and has also resulted in a substantial jump in civilian fatalities, from 71 in 2021 to 119 in 2022. 12 civilians have already been killed in the current year. 

Meanwhile after a TTP attack on the Sarband Police Station in Peshawar on January 14, 2023, in which three Policemen, including Sardar Hussain, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Badaber, and his two Police guards, were killed, KP Inspector General of Police (IGP), Moazzam Jah Ansari, disclosed that sniper weapons were used by the terrorists for the first time in Peshawar, while these “are being used in Bannu, Lakki Marwat and DI Khan” as well.

Indeed, a report released by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on March 31, 2023, noted that the weapons left behind by US Forces when they pulled out from Afghanistan in 2021, and that had been seized by the Afghan Taliban, have reached terrorist groups, mainly the TTP, operating in Pakistan, principally in KP. Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based researcher who tracks the TTP, claimed that the group’s access to sophisticated combat weapons has had a “terrifying” impact, especially on the relatively lesser-equipped Police forces in Pakistan.

Indeed, according to a report released on December 19, 2022, the KP Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) lacks the capacity to fight terrorism. The report noted that the KP CTD had a staff of 2,135 against an authorized strength of 3,161. This put an average strength across KP’s 34 districts at 62 personnel per district. As against Punjab’s massive fleet of 1,466 Police vehicles, KP has a mere 448.

On February 1, 2023, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif blamed the KP Government for its failure to equip the Police and civil armed forces to counter terrorists, questioning the manner in which the provincial Government had spent funds to the tune PKR 417 billion received from the Federal Government since 2010. During the Federal Cabinet meeting, the PM demanded, “Where did these funds go even though the National Counter-Terrorism Authority and Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) had been established?” The PM said that the nation wanted the KP Government to be held accountable for the rise of terrorism in the Province.

Meanwhile, on December 27, 2022, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah disclosed that there were around 7,000 to 10,000 TTP fighters in the region, and they were accompanied by 25,000 members of their families. This statement was later confirmed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan who, on January 10, 2023, revealed that his government had planned to resettle TTP militants in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), with the help of the Afghan Taliban. Imran Khan stated that the fall of Kabul and the rise of the Afghan Taliban to power provided Pakistan with a ‘golden opportunity’ to deal with the TTP threat. “The Afghan Taliban pressurised the TTP, which had over 5,000 fighters among its 40,000-strong group, to go back to Pakistan and we took a number of steps to deal with it,” he had added.

In a report released on February 14, 2023, the US Institute of Peace (USIP), a US-based think tank noted, that “amid Pakistan’s economic crisis and the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban have re-emerged as an increasingly potent threat”. The report further asserted that the “Taliban’s determination to continue supporting the TTP, even in the face of intensified pressure from Pakistan” was worrisome.

The surge in attacks on SFs in KP in particular and the country at large, at a time when Pakistan is facing acute socio-political economic crisis, is likely to continue, with very little hope of any reversal in this trend in immediate future. 

Separatist Somaliland Escalates War on Somali Unification Movement

Casualties mounted in Las Anod as the troops of Somaliland, a separatist breakaway region from Somalia with no international recognition of its claim to sovereignty, continued attempts to reoccupy the city. Las Anod is at the heart of the unionist movement to reunite the region with Somalia.

On March 18, attacks by the Somaliland army left over 280 people injured and 47 dead, Jaama Mohamed Mursal, a medical doctor at the Las Anod General Hospital told Peoples Dispatch. The hospital has been severely damaged in the bombardment ongoing since early February.

Somaliland is a self-proclaimed republic formed in 1991 as a separatist state, breaking away from Somalia’s northwestern region after the civil war. It spans a strip of land of almost 137,600 square kilometers along the south of the Gulf of Aden—a crucial shipping route, including for petroleum, connecting the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. It is now facing what many observers regard as an existential threat as the unionist movement for reunification with Somalia spreads across Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC), which is over a third of what Somaliland regards as its territory.

The protests calling for reunification began in December 2022 in the city of Las Anod, where a declaration was passed in February proclaiming SSC as a part of Somalia. The document deemed the presence of Somaliland administration illegal. Somaliland has since been shelling the city.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

U.S. claim of ISIS strength in Afghanistan rejected by Kabul


The Afghan caretaker government has dismissed Washington’s claim over the alleged stronger presence of Daesh, or Islamic State (IS), in Afghanistan as utterly fabricated.

“The statements of U.S. officials about the number of IS militants in Afghanistan are not true. Daesh militants have already been reduced in ranks and suppressed,” chief spokesman of the Afghan caretaker administration Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.

U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Michael Kurilla, according to media reports, has said “IS is stronger today in Afghanistan” and warned of a possible IS attack on the interests of U.S. and allied nations within six months.

Brushing aside the baseless allegations by the U.S. general on the IS strength in Afghanistan, Mujahid said on his Twitter account, “The interest of the U.S. officials in this matter and their grandiosity is aiding and abetting the IS insurgents, which should be stopped.”

The Afghan caretaker government, which has downplayed Daesh, or the IS group, as a serious threat, has vowed to crack down on any armed opponents in the war-ravaged country.

The Afghan security forces have killed four armed militants affiliated with the rival IS group in two separate operations on the outskirts of Kabul over the past week.

Indian investigators link Coimbatore car blast to Sri Lanka Easter bombings

Those involved in last October’s car explosion in front of Coimbatore’s Sangameswarar temple operated an Islamic State (IS) module inspired by Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka, the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe has found, the Hindu reported.

Hindu’s report reads further as follows;

A source privy to the investigation said that the agency has unearthed material and digital evidence which showed that the 12 persons who have been found to be involved in the blast so far were inspired and radicalised by Hashim.

The evidence showed that they watched multiple videos of Hashim. Jameesha Mubin, the suspected mastermind of the Coimbatore blast, recorded a video of himself before carrying out the attack on Sangameswarar temple, as is typically done by IS suicide bombers. The farewell video was shot in a style similar to the one shot and released by Hashim before the Easter Sunday bombings. In the video, Mubin said that he wanted to become a shaheed (martyr). The module is believed to have had plans to release the video. However, that did not happen.

“Evidence strongly support that they acted like an IS module inspired by Hashim,” said the source, adding that the agency could not find links to any outside handlers in the module’s operation so far.

Common link

The investigation into the Coimbatore car blast, in which Mubin was killed, has also revealed that Hashim was the common point of inspiration for the IS module behind the car blast and another module headed by Muhammed Azharudheen, which was busted by the NIA in June 2019. Mr. Azharudheen was a Facebook friend of Hashim himself.

Y. Shiek Hidayathullah, an associate of Azharudheen in the first IS module, was also arrested for his alleged role in the car blast. Mr. Hidayathullah’s brother Sheik Safiullah and two others, namely Mohammed Hussain and A. Shajahan, were arrested by the Coimbatore city police a few days later in June 2019. The police had found that they planned to carry out a terror attack on places of worship using a truck laden with explosives.

“Several materials were seized from the trio by the police. They also studied how to make explosives. The investigation has found common links from the first module to the latest one,” said the source.

Preventing bail

NIA is nearing the completion of its investigation into the car blast and is planning to submit a chargesheet against 11 accused (Mubin was killed in the blast) before April 21. Chargesheeting the 11 persons, currently in judicial custody, before April 21 is also aimed at preventing them from getting the benefit of statutory bail in the UAPA case after 180 days. (It is normally a 90 day period, and was extended by the court to 180 days on the request of the investigating agency.) 

South African Trade Unionists Demand Freedom for U.S. Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

On March 10, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) marched to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria to demand freedom for journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been incarcerated for more than 40 years in the United States.

This march to demand his release was organized as part of an ongoing month-long global solidarity campaign that was launched on February 16 and involved a host of organizations, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in the U.S. The campaign comes at a time when a judgment based on an appeal, which “would allow for a retrial” in the matter, is expected soon due to the discovery of previously unseen exculpatory evidence.

A former member of the Black Panther Party, 68-year-old Abu-Jamal has been convicted for the killing of a police officer, Daniel Faulkner, in Philadelphia in 1981.

Abu-Jamal had been targeted and surveilled by state forces since he was a young teenager. His trial and subsequent sentencing in 1982 were marked by official misconduct, corruption, and blatant racism, with the original presiding trial Judge Albert Sabo declaring that he was going to “help them fry the [racist slur].”

Abu-Jamal has been incarcerated under inhumane conditions, including severe medical neglect.

“The struggle for the civil rights movement in the 1960s captured the imagination of the world. Figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior, and Malcolm X became global icons—they fought and died for human justice,” NUMSA national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a speech outside the U.S. Embassy on March 10. “To our disappointment as peace loving South Africans, a Black man in America is always guilty in the eyes of the police.”

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

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