Jihadi groups hail Trump’s travel ban as victory

Washington, Jan 30 (IANS) Jihadi groups celebrated the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying the new policy validates their claim that the US is at war with Islam, a newspaper here reported.

Comments posted to pro-Islamic State social media accounts predicted that President Trump’s executive order would persuade American Muslims to side with the extremists, said a report in the Washington Post on Sunday.

One posting hailed the US President as “the best caller to Islam”, while others predicted that Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East.

“[Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi has the right to come out and inform Trump that banning Muslims from entering America is a ‘blessed ban’,” said one posting to a pro-Islamic State channel on Telegram, a social-media platform.

The writer compared the executive order to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Islamic militant leaders at the time hailed as a “blessed invasion” that ignited anti-Western fervour across the Islamic world, said the Post.

Several postings suggested that Trump was fulfilling the predictions of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Al Qaeda leader and preacher who famously said that the “West would eventually turn against its Muslim citizens”. Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

“When US President Donald Trump says ‘We don’t want them here’ and bans the Muslim immigrants from Muslim countries, there is one thing that comes to our mind,” said another posting, beneath a banner of al-Awlaki and his quote.

Another posting on the Telegram channel “Abu Magrebi” said Trump’s actions “clearly revealed the truth and harsh reality behind the American government’s hatred towards Muslims”.

“Jihadists would have to argue to lengths that Obama, Bush, and others held anti-Islam agendas and hated the religion — not just radical terrorists,” said Rita Katz, founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private organisation that monitors jihadi websites.

“Trump, however, makes that argument a lot easier for them to sell to their followers,” she said.

The reaction to the ban from Islamic State sympathisers came as current and former US officials also expressed concern that the temporary ban would undermine the global fight against violent Islamic militants.

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he worried about the ban’s impact on Muslim troops fighting alongside Americans to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“The effect will probably in some areas give ISIS some more propaganda,” McCain told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

Robert Richer, a 35-year CIA veteran and former chief of the agency’s Near East division, said the ban was a “strategic mistake” that could undermine future efforts to recruit spies and collect vital information about terrorists and their plans.