Friday, December 12, 2014

ISIS: ShamiWitness is Fake

ISIS: ShamiWitness is Fake Bengaluru executive says he is ...
16 hours ago - ISIS: ShamiWitness is Fake Bengaluru executive says he is not behind pro-IS Twitter handle @ShamiWitness Agencies New Delhi, December 13, 2014 First ...

Bengaluru executive says he is not behind pro-IS Twitter handle @ShamiWitness
Agencies  New Delhi, December 13, 2014
First Published: 09:37 IST(13/12/2014) | Last Updated: 09:45 IST(13/12/2014)

Facing the heat from intelligence agencies, Bengaluru-based executive Mehdi Masroor Biswas has now denied he is the man behind terror group Islamic State’s (IS) most influential Twitter handle, @ShamiWitness.

In an interview to Indian Express, Mehdi said that his claims to the UK-based Channel 4 on supporting IS was just a ruse to get television reporter off his back.

"When Channel 4 called me first and asked if @ShamiWitness was my Twitter handle, I did not oppose outright rejection would not have convinced them. I therefore decided to admit that I was indeed @ShamiWitness in the hope that they would not air the programme," said Mehdi in an interview to Indian Express.

"But I am telling you that I am not @ShamiWitness. Somebody must have hacked my email account which I used as and used it to upload stuff. I have been framed. Someone must have planted this," he said.

Channel 4 reported on Wednesday night that a man identified as Mehdi, an executive working with an “Indian conglomerate” based in the Karnataka capital, ran the Twitter account which has over 17,000 followers — two-thirds of whom are foreign fighters fighting for the IS in Iraq and Syria.

He had posted thousands of tweets using his mobile, praising IS and motivating people to join the jihadi group. These tweets were reposted thousands of times and seen by millions until the account was closed following the Channel4 report.

He posted the video of the beheading of US aid worker Peter Kassig within minutes of it being uploaded to the Internet and followed it up with several reposts.

Already saddled with the crisis over IS taking 39 Indian workers hostage in Iraq and the return of a Kalyan youth after he joined the terror group, the Indian establishment swung into action following the Channel4 story.

Sources said the intelligence bureau (IB) and Bangalore police were working in tandem to capture Mehdi, who is apparently on the run after he told Channel4 police were looking for him but he “won’t resist arrest”.

Counter-terrorism officials quashed reports of his arrest in the evening, saying someone with Infosys was questioned but he was not the man they were looking for. “If he (Mehdi) is found, he will be handed over to the NIA, which is investigating all IS-related cases,” one of the officials said.

Local intelligence sources said tracking him would be easier if Twitter, whose servers are located in the US, provides the IP (Internet protocol) address and access to the (now inactive) handle.

But Bengaluru police commissioner MN Reddi refused to accept this line. “Just because Twitter’s server is located abroad and there are barriers don’t mean there are no other ways of tracking the suspect down,” he said.

Indian officials have contacted their British counterparts for more details about Mehdi’s account and the posts he had sent to preach the IS ideology of terror. They also sought assistance from Twitter headquarters, though the social media platform preferred to take a cautious approach by “carefully examining the ramifications”.

The terror group has been known to push its jihadist agenda through the social media, especially for recruitment, and Mehdi was a prominent disseminator of pro-IS material who was “talking the talk and walking the walk” unseen and unheard from a cellphone in Bengaluru.

Join the discussion…

'Shami Witness': Twitter's top Islamic State 'jihadi' outed as a fake
A major English language, pro-Islamic State Twitter account turns out
to be run by a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing executive in Bangalore, India.
Dan Murphy, Staff writer
December 12, 2014
Social media, for good or ill, has become an important part of
covering conflict and a conduit of propaganda for its combatants.
Supporters of the Islamic State have taken enthusiastically to Facebook,
Youtube, and Twitter, reposting and broadcasting videos of gruesome
beheadings and paeans to their martyrs as fast as the services try to
take them down.
Interested in the war in Syria?
Follow the right Twitter accounts and you have access to battlefield
videos and photos (many real, some faked), statements and propaganda
from various sides, and a window into the lives of individual fighters
as well as Syrians just trying to survive that gruesome civil war.
if you're not careful, you'll also be following seemingly knowledgeable
accounts run by people at least as far away from the battlefield as you
How much do you know about the Islamic State?
Enter "Shami Witness," the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Walter Mitty of the Syrian Jihad.
Test your knowledge
How much do you know about the Islamic State?
In Pictures
From Islamic State to Taliban: Who's who in world of terrorism
Photos of the Day
Photos of the day 12/11
The account, which tweeted almost
exclusively in fluent English, courted the interest of academics and
journalists covering the war, and developed a following among analysts,
journalists, and jihadi wannabes from Bradford in the UK to Mumbai in India. A majority of Shami Witness's Twitter followers were people claiming in English to be men who had joined IS in Syria and Iraq. He had nearly 18,000 followers in all.
polite to a fault in personal interactions, he also spread vicious
sectarian rhetoric, called for the death of "apostates" fighting both
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and IS's self-declared caliphate in
Iraq and Syria, and sought to downplay some of IS's worst abuses, like
the enslavement of Yazidi women for their sexual gratification.
cash from subjugated people in exchange for their lives? A legitimate
Islamic tax, he said. If a UK citizen blew himself up in a suicide
attack for IS or otherwise died in the conflict, he was the first to
rush out congratulations to the new "martyr."
Yesterday, Britain's Channel 4 blew Shami Witness's cover
– describing him as an executive at an conglomerate in Bangalore, India
with little desire to upend his comfortable life for their extreme
ideals he espoused online. He told the station that while he'd like to
go fight in Syria, "my family needs me."
Channel 4 declined to
identify him beyond the name "Mehdi" – since he said that doing so would
put his life in danger – though it's fairly trivial to figure out his
full identity with what was revealed. His Facebook profile (since
deleted) was filled with pictures of pizza nights out with friends,
discussions of action movies, and fond reminiscences of Hawaiian-themed
parties at work.
It seems that Mehdi was a Walter Mitty without
the charm – urging death and destruction by others far from his
comfortable home, and pushing a version of Islam that demands the
submission of all other faiths and individuals to its will, while living
at the prosperous center of India's tech industry.
Writing on Joshua Landis' Syria Comment blog, Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, says he was one of those taken in, allowing Mehdi to write two pieces for his blog. (An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified Mr. Landis as the writer of the linked piece.)
"For all this, a mea culpa is the appropriate response. Those who say
that Shami’s rise was partly facilitated by analysts giving him space to
express his views are right: regardless of agreeing with his views or
not, his prominence was increased," Tamimi writes, while going on to
consider what real importance he had, if any.
As for
Shami and the question of recruitment, no definite case has yet been
shown to demonstrate that a foreign fighter/would-be recruit ended up
joining/trying to join IS because he had been following Shami’s tweets
or had interacted with Shami on direct messaging. Evidence in this
regard can only be gleaned from the testimony of foreign fighters or
would-be recruits. It will be of interest to see what emerges, if
One interesting tidbit for the
conspiracy-minded is that Mehdi managed to keep his Twitter account open
following the company's purge of many accounts involved in the
dissemination of the beheading videos of captives like the Americans
Peter Kassig and James Foley. For months, some had speculated that
perhaps he was being operated by an intelligence service as a way to
track the Westerners who had joined the Islamic State, or were hoping to
do so.
But that doesn't seem likely anymore. There are millions
like Mehdi in the world, who channel their boredom with day-to-day life
and a desire for a more heroic role for themselves into video games. He
simply found a game that could be played in the same way with real world
consequences. And many ended up unwittingly playing along with him.
Source: Christian Science Monitor
...and I am Sid Harth
Source: HT

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