Resources updated between Monday, September 21, 2015 and Sunday, September 27, 2015
September 26, 2015
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September 24, 2015
Islamic extremists in Bangladesh appear to be taking their war on secular writers and bloggers beyond the South Asian country's borders.
A hit list purporting to be from the militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team has been sent out threatening people in Europe and North America.
"Let Bangladesh revoke the citizenship of these enemies of Islam," a statement accompanying the list says. "If not, we will hunt them down in whatever part of God's world we find them and kill them right there."
The list contains nine people in the United Kingdom, eight in Germany, two in the United States, one in Canada and one in Sweden. CNN isn't reporting any of the names on the list.
The demand to revoke their Bangladeshi citizenship doesn't make sense in all the cases, as some of those mentioned don't have it.
But the menacing language is deeply troubling in a year in which at least four bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh after posting articles critical of Islam online.
"This international threat to writers and bloggers is an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression," said Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, a group that defends bloggers' rights worldwide. "Such threats often have a chilling effect on expression, encouraging individuals and organizations to self-censor for fear of violent reprisal."
People on previous list attacked
Islamist militants in Bangladesh have posted a hit list of writers they view as opponents of Islam before -- and acted on it.
Late last year, Reporters Without Borders said that a group calling itself Ansar al Islam Bangladesh published a list of writers it saw as opposing Islam.
Months later, blogger Asif Mohiuddin, whose name was on the list, said that at least nine of those on it had been killed and many others attacked.
Last month, police in Bangladesh arrested three suspected members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, one of them a British citizen, in connection with the killings of Avijit Roy and Anant Bijoy Das, two of the prominent bloggers attacked this year.
'One of the most active terror groups'
Dr. Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow at the South Asia Terror Portal in New Delhi, said last month that Ansarullah Bangla Team, more commonly known as Ansar Bangla, is a terrorist group that emerged recently.
It is believed to be linked to al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, a branch of the international terrorist network that formed in recent years, he said.
Ansar Bangla is "one of the most active terror groups in Bangladesh now," and has been officially banned by the government there, he added. "There is a battle going on in Bangladesh between fundamentalists and secularists," Singh said. "A blogger like Niloy Neel, the last one who was killed, was openly questioning fundamentalist thought. Organizations like Ansar Bangla wanted to shut him up -- and scare others into not talking."
Imran Sarker, president of the Blogger and Online Activists' Network in Bangladesh, said the struggle between hardliners and free thinkers began in early 2013, "when the liberal bloggers got united and started a movement against radicalization of the society by the militant groups.
Four shocking killings
The brutal killings of the four bloggers this year have shocked many people in Bangladesh and beyond.
In February, Roy, a Bangladesh-born American blogger, was killed with machetes and knives as he walked back from a book fair in Dhaka. A month later, Washiqur Rahman, 27, was savaged by two men with knives and meat cleavers just outside his house as he headed to work at a travel agency in the capital.
Das, 32, was set upon with cleavers and machetes in May as he left his home on his way to work at a bank in northeastern Bangladesh. And less than two weeks ago, Neel was hacked to death in his Dhaka apartment.
Activists have criticized the initial response from Bangladeshi authorities to the killings.
September 22, 2015
September 21, 2015
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr's name is well-known in eastern Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of the country's Shia minority and the scene of a burgeoning protest movement.
Ali, 21, is the nephew of Shia cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was jailed and sentenced to death for his fiery speeches against Saudi Arabia's ruling House of Saud dynasty, which has controlled the Arabian Peninsula since the 1930s. Sheikh al-Nimr was detained and then sentenced to death on terrorism charges as well as "waging war on God" for his speech during anti-government protests in Qatif, a city that saw massive street protests followed by a bloody crackdownby the Saudi authorities in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Most of the 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia live in al-Ahsa and al-Qatif districts in the country's eastern province, which also contains the bulk of the kingdom's oil. Ruled by a Sunni monarchy and under a strict interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, Shia are often portrayed as heretics or agents of Riyadh's major rival, Iran.
It was revealed this week that Ali's appeal against the death penalty has been denied and he will be put to death by the Saudi authorities, first beheaded and then his body strapped to a cross and left to rot.
Ali was arrested in 2012 when he was 17 years old for taking part in a protest. According to anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, Ali was tortured and forced to sign a confession in 2012 and after two years he was sentenced to death in May 2014.
During his "trial", Ali raised the claims of torture but no investigation took place and the court used the confession to sentence him, the charity claims.
He was convicted under a range of charges, from the most seemingly innocuous to the gravely serious. As well as being accused of being part of a terrorist organisation, carrying weapons and targeting security patrols with Molotov cocktails, Ali was also charged with encouraging others to protest using his BlackBerry and explaining to others how to give first aid, Reprieve claimed in a statement on 17 September.
Ali's family allege that his connection to Sheikh al-Nimr is the real reason for the case, as well as the ongoing crackdown against Shia activists in the east of the country, which has gone largely unreported due to heavy restrictions on both the local and international media in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, activists in Qatif and elsewhere in the eastern province said that the rise of Islamic State and its virulent anti-Shia rhetoric had led to a surge in attacks on Saudi Shia. Just weeks afteractivists spoke to IBTimes UK about their concerns, a suicide bombing ripped through a mosque near Qatif, killing more than 30 people.
Reprieve claims that Ali was arrested without a warrant, has never been given access to his lawyer and was not informed of the charges until halfway through the proceedings. The first word that his family received about his case was this week, when it was revealed that his appeal had been turned down. As is tradition in Saudi, families are not informed at any time when the execution will take place.
Despite global condemnation, the Saudi Government has continued to carry out executions at a high rate since King Salman came to power in January 2015. On 6 May, the Kingdom carried out its 79th execution of the year, and it is already close to surpassing its 2014 total of 87 executions. The Saudi government maintains all cases are tried in accordance with Sharia law, and with strict fair trial standards observed.
According to Amnesty International Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, with only China and Iran carrying out more judicial killings. But while execution is often applied to criminals, Saudi Arabia has not executed a political prisoner for decades.
At least 55 people were killed by three bomb blasts in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Sunday, according to a local hospital official.
The bombs that detonated at about 7:20 p.m. also injured 85 people, Tunde Sotanmi, the security chief of the State Specialist Hospital Maiduguri, told reporters in the city on Monday. Casualties may continue to rise, he said.
Nigerian army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman confirmed the attacks, though said details weren't immediately clear. The explosives were detonated at a mosque, a dining area and an computer center, according to Hassan Ibrahim, a local pro-government militia member in the city.
"The attacks signify a high level of desperation on the part of the Boko Haram terrorists," Usman said in a statement on Monday. "There is need for more vigilance, security consciousness and prompt reporting of suspicious persons or group of persons in their midst."
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Boko Haram militant leader Abubakar Shekau said in an unverified audio recording posted over the weekend that Nigerian authorities aren't winning a six-year war against the insurgent group.
Nigeria's military said Sept. 19 it "captured" the villages of Jerre and Dipchari in northeast Borno State and rescued 62 people fleeing from Bitti and Pulka villages as it pushed "for the final defeat of the Boko Haram terrorists." President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in May, has ordered the armed forces to end the insurgency by mid-November.