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FTO Capital

If the definition of the word “terrorist” has seemed somewhat flexible to many Americans in recent years, that state of befuddlement is shared by the U.S. government. The difficulties of defining a “terrorist” were on display on Capitol Hill when a high-ranking State Department official declared one of the most violent Islamist organizations in Africa to be a “terrorist” organization, while explaining that it was not a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

As Penny Starr recently wrote in an article for CNSNews, when it comes to the Nigerian Jihadist group Boko Haram, being a terrorist organization in a foreign country does not actually make that organization an FTO—at least in State Department logic. In Starr’s words:

The administration on June 21 listed three Boko Haram leaders as “specially designated global terrorists” (SDGTs) but stopped short to designating the group as an FTO under U.S. law, a step some Republican lawmakers have long been urging.

Individuals and entities listed as SDGTs have any assets they may hold in the U.S. frozen, and Americans are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights on Tuesday, Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs, spoke about the decision.

“Before we prescribe actions, it is important that we understand what Boko Haram is and what it is not,” he said in his prepared remarks. “The truth is that our understanding is limited at best.

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The limitation of Carson’s understanding of the terrorist nature of Boko Haram became abundantly clear when Rep. Chris Smith (R–N.J.) confronted him by declaring the Jihadist group to be, in fact, a terrorist group. As Starr quotes Carson:

“Boko Haram’s emergence as a terrorist organization in Nigeria predates the current government, and irrespective whether there is a Christian leader or a Muslim leader in the country, as long as the social, economic problems exist in the North to the extent that they do, there will be a reaction which may in fact — as this one does — take on political consequences,” he said.

As reported previously for The New American, there is little doubt that Boko Haram is an Islamist terrorist organization. The Jihadist group murdered 450 people in 2020 and had already killed another 620 in the first half of this year. Boko Haram regularly targets Christian churches and government officials as it wages its war to purge northern Nigeria of any non-Muslim presence as it seeks to impose sharia law on the inhabitants of that region.

But as Starr reports, the FTO designation is one which carries specific legal ramifications, while being described as a “terrorist” does not. As the State Department explains on the official FTO website:

Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are foreign organizations that are designated by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. …

The Bureau of Counterterrorism in the State Department (S/CT) continually monitors the activities of terrorist groups active around the world to identify potential targets for designation. When reviewing potential targets, S/CT looks not only at the actual terrorist attacks that a group has carried out, but also at whether the group has engaged in planning and preparations for possible future acts of terrorism or retains the capability and intent to carry out such acts.

Given the record of Boko Haram, and its express intentions for the future of Nigeria, it seems inexplicable that the organization would not be designated an FTO. Just how many people does an organization have to murder in an attempt to overthrow a government and impose sharia law before it becomes a terrorist organization? How, in the modern age, does a campaign to violently purge an entire region of a nation on religious grounds not count as terrorism?

Furthermore, it appears that Islamist terrorists in Kenya are adopting the tactics of the Nigerian group in their attacks on churches, even as Muslims in that country are attempting to block the government in Nairobi from adopting anti-terrorist legislation, even as Iranians are allegedly attempting to smuggle hundreds of pounds of explosives into the country to strike at Western targets within that nation. Bernard Momanyi reported for AllAfrica.com that Muslims were worried that anti-terrorism legislation outlawing all efforts to ‘intimidate’ the public would be detrimental to Muslims:

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Among the changes they want is the definition of terrorism as outlined in the Bill to ensure security forces do not end up harassing people in the name of fighting terror.

«Any act that intimidates the public or a section of the public is considered an act of terrorism, it is in our view that the definition (be) redefined to include specific activities,» Director General of the group Fazul Mahamed said when they presented a memorandum to the Internal Security Ministry.

Though divided by great distances in Africa, Nigeria and Kenya face a similar problem posed by a religiously-diverse population in which Muslim terrorist organizations are threatening the stability of those nations. Many Americans would agree that U.S. intervention is clearly not the answer — the governments of Kenya and Nigeria have a responsibility to deal with their problems which their nations confront from domestic terrorism. However, with the State Department charged by law with the responsibility of designating FTOs, the position of the United States governments regarding Boko Haram is confused — at best — when government officials will not call a terrorist a “terrorist.”

Photo: In a Dec. 25, 2020 file photo, medical officials treat a victim of a bomb blast at a Catholic church near Nigeria’s capital at Suleja General Hospital in Suleja, Nigeria. The radical Muslim sect, Boko Haram, claimed the attack and another bombing near a church in the city of Jos: AP Images

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Resource Center

Background Information on Certain FTOs with Aliases Appearing as Potential Fundraising Front Organizations

Aleph (Aum Shinrikyo/Aum Supreme Truth)

U.S. FTO Designation Date: Aum Shinrikyo first designated as FTO in October 1997.

Background on Aum Shinrikyo: A religious cult established in 1987 by Shoko Asahara, Aum was an organization obsessed with the apocalypse. Approved as a religious entity in 1989 under Japanese law, the group ran candidates in a Japanese parliamentary election in 1990. Over time the cult began to emphasize the imminence of the end of the world and stated publicly that the United States would initiate Armageddon by starting World War III with Japan. On 20 March 1995, Aum members simultaneously released the chemical nerve agent sarin on several Tokyo subway trains, killing 12 persons and injuring up to 6,000. The group was also responsible for other mysterious chemical accidents in Japan in 1994. Its efforts to conduct attacks using biological agents have been unsuccessful. However, Aum’s successful use of chemical weapons remains a concern and represents the first such attack by a religiously motivated substate group. At the time of the Tokyo subway attack, the group claimed to have 9,000 members in Japan and up to 40,000 worldwide. Japanese police arrested Asahara in May 1995, and authorities sentenced him in February 2004 to death for his role in the attacks of 1995. The Japanese Government revoked its recognition of the Aum as a religious organization in October 1995, but in 1997 a government panel decided not to invoke the Anti-Subversive Law against the group, which would have outlawed the cult. In 2000, Fumihiro Joyu took control of the Aum following his three-year jail sentence for perjury. Joyu was previously the group’s spokesman and Russia Branch leader. Under Joyu’s leadership the Aum changed its name to Aleph (the first letter of the Hebrew language) and claims to have rejected the violent and apocalyptic teachings of its founder. Since 1997, the cult has continued to recruit new members, engage in commercial enterprise, and acquire property, although the cult scaled back these activities significantly in 2000 in response to public outcry. The cult currently maintains an Internet homepage and remains under close police surveillance. Aum has also been ordered to pay compensation to survivors and families of the dead. Since 1995, Aum’s membership has fallen to about 2,000.

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AKAs: Aleph Aum Supreme Truth A.I.C. Sogo Kenkyusho A.I.C. Comprehensive Research Institute


Kahane Chai and Kach

U.S. FTO Designation Date: Kahane Chai and Kach first designated as FTOs separately in October 1997.

Background on Kahane Chai and Kach: Stated goal is to restore the biblical state of Israel. Kach (founded by radical Israeli- American rabbi Meir Kahane) and its offshoot Kahane Chai, which means “Kahane Lives,” (founded by Meir Kahane’s son Binyamin following his father’s assassination in the United States) were declared terrorist organizations in March 1994 by the Israeli Cabinet under the 1948 Terrorism Law. This followed the groups’ statements in support of Dr. Baruch Goldstein’s attack in February 1994 on the al-Ibrahimi Mosque— Goldstein was affiliated with Kach—and their verbal attacks on the Israeli Government. Palestinian gunmen killed Binyamin Kahane and his wife in a drive-by shooting in December 2000 in the West Bank. The group has organized protests against the Israeli Government. Kach has harassed and threatened Arabs, Palestinians, and Israeli Government officials, and has vowed revenge for the deaths of Binyamin Kahane and his wife. These organizations are suspected of involvement in a number of low-level attacks since the start of the al-Aqsa intifadah. In April 2002, Israeli police arrested a former Kach spokesman in connection with an attempt to leave an explosive-packed trailer outside a Palestinian girls’ school and hospital in East Jerusalem. However, reports vary on Kach’s involvement with this plot. The planned July 20, 2005 Israeli withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza and parts of the West Bank has heightened concerns that ultranationalists may perpetrate attacks against Palestinians or attempt to assassinate Israeli leaders.

AKAs: Rabbi Meir David Kahane Memorial Fund American Friends of the United Yeshiva
American Friends of Yeshivat Rav Meir
Friends of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva

Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (Real IRA)

U.S. FTO Designation Date: Real IRA first designated as FTO in May 2001.

Background: The Real IRA (RIRA) formed in early 1998 as the clandestine armed wing of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, a “political pressure group” dedicated to removing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland. RIRA also seeks to disrupt the Northern Ireland peace process. The 32-County Sovereignty Movement opposed Sinn Fein’s adoption in September 1997 of the Mitchell principles of democracy and nonviolence and opposed the amendment in December 1999 of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which had previously laid claim to Northern Ireland. Despite internal rifts and calls by some jailed members—including the group’s founder Michael “Mickey” McKevitt—for a cease-fire and the group’s disbandment, the group pledged additional violence in October 2002 and continued to conduct terrorist attacks, bombings, assassinations, and robberies. Many RIRA members are former Provisional IRA members who left that organization following the Provisional IRA cease-fire, and who bring to RIRA a wealth of experience in terrorist tactics and bombmaking. Targets have included civilians (most notoriously in the Omagh bombing in August 1998), the British military, the police in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland Protestant communities. Since October 1999, RIRA has carried out more than 80 terrorist attacks. RIRA’s most recent fatal attack was in August 2002 at a Londonderry Army Base that killed a construction worker. In June 2003 raids, Irish national police interdicted two large-scale vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, each weighing more than 1,000 pounds. Five RIRA members were arrested during the raids. In 2004, RIRA conducted several postal bomb attacks and made threats against prison officers, people involved in the new policing arrangements, and senior politicians. RIRA also planted incendiary devices in Belfast shopping areas and conducted a serious shooting attack against a Police Service of Northern Ireland station in September. The group has also engaged in smuggling and other non-terrorist crime in Ireland.

Jamaat ud Dawa – JUD (Lashkar e Tayyiba – LT)

U.S. FTO Designation Date: Lashkar e Tayyiba First Designated as FTO in December 2001.

Background: LT was formed in 1990 as the military wing of the Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), a Pakistani-based Islamic fundamentalist organization. The MDI recruited volunteers to fight as mujaheddin against Soviet occupation during the 1980s, and many of its members trace their military expertise to this campaign. The group had close ties with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where it continued to train and educate its members until the U.S.-led campaign forced them to relocate. After the Afghan campaign, many mujaheddin militants, among them LT fighters, found their way to the Kashmiri conflict. Most LT members are non-Kashmiri Pakistanis that were trained in madrassas (Islamic seminars). The group enjoyed massive Pakistani support until Dec. 26, 2001, when the United States designated the group a foreign terrorist organization. That same month, Pakistan froze LT assets at America’s request, and approximately three weeks later Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf included the organization in a list of banned terrorist groups. Subsequently, LT reorganized in an attempt to separate its military actions in Kashmir from its religious undertakings in Pakistan. LT doctrine, heavily influenced by MDI’s fundamentalist views, strives for a pan-Islamic rule in Central Asia. Some of its leaders and publications encourage greater ambitions, calling for a worldwide jihad. However, an analysis of LT operations and target selection points toward a predominantly anti-Western and anti-Indian agenda. Like Harakat ul-Mujaheddin and Jaish-e-Muhammad, the group strives for the secession of J&K from India and inclusion into a pan-Islamic entity in the Pakistani model. LT has carried out tens, if not hundreds, of attacks against Indian troops and civilians in Kashmir. Traditionally, the group uses small arms, explosives, and rocket propelled grenades, but like many fundamentalist militias, LT fighters have engaged in suicide missions in recent years.

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Background on Jamaat ud Dawa (JUD): Following the [U.S.] designation of Lashkar E-Tayyiba (LT) in December 2001 and Pakistan’s banning of the group in January 2002, LT renamed itself Jamaat ud Dawa (JUD) in an effort to evade sanctions. Despite the name change, the same leaders that form the core of LT remain in charge of JUD. While JUD claims to be a “humanitarian” organization, it continues to voice its support for violence against civilians. A recent article in a JUD magazine, for example, praised suicide attacks around the world, including by the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad among others. Given its shared leadership, JUD continues to use LT’s vast network of mosques, madrassas, and fundraising offices throughout Pakistan to raise money and recruit members. JUD has also used its “relief” wing, Idara Khidmat e Khalq (IKK), to exploit humanitarian disasters such as last year’s earthquake in an effort to raise money to support its terrorist agenda.

    • LT was added to the U.N. 1267 list in May 2005. The U.S. designated JUD/IKK in April 2006.
    • LT founders Hafez Mohammed Saeed and Abdul Rehman Makki also lead JUD.
    • Recent attacks by LT militants in the Kashmir valley have killed scores of civilians and injured hundreds more.
    • JUD recently hosted funeral prayers for Zarqawi, during which LT/JUD Emir Saeed praised Zarqawi, whose “martyrdom,” he said, “will further boost the morale of Muslims.”
    • A recent editorial on the JUD website implored Muslims to help Palestinians and Lebanese by “strengthening the jihad that is taking place in Muslim lands to free them from infidels.”
    • LT/JUD used its network of hundreds of offices, madrassas, mosques, and fundraising booths to capitalize on the outpouring of humanitarian support following the October 2005 earthquake to raise money for terrorism.

    Socorro Popular Del Peru/People’s Aid for Peru (Sendero Luminoso/Shining Path)

    U.S. FTO Designation Date: Sendero Luminoso/Shining Path First Designated as FTO in October 1997.

    Background: Former university professor Abimael Guzman formed Sendero Luminoso (SL) in Peru in the late 1960s, and his teachings created the foundation of SL’s militant Maoist doctrine. In the 1980s, SL became one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere. Approximately 30,000 persons have died since Shining Path took up arms in 1980. The Peruvian Government made dramatic gains against SL during the 1990s, but reports of recent SL involvement in narcotrafficking and kidnapping for ransom indicate it may have a new source of funding with which to fuel a resurgence. Its stated goal is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a communist peasant revolutionary regime. It also opposes any influence by foreign governments. In January 2003, Peruvian courts granted approximately 1,900 members the right to request retrials in a civilian court, including the imprisoned top leadership. Counterterrorist operations targeted pockets of terrorist activity in the Upper Huallaga River Valley and the Apurimac/Ene River Valley, where SL columns continued to conduct periodic attacks, including indiscriminate bombing campaigns and selective assassinations. Peruvian authorities captured several SL members in 2003. In June 2003, an SL unit kidnapped 71 Peruvian and foreign employees working on the Camisea gas line in Ayacucho Department. The trial of Guzman, who was arrested in 1992, was scheduled for November 5th, 2004, but was postponed after the first day, when chaos erupted in the courtroom.

    AKAs: Socorro Popular Del Peru
    Sendero Luminoso
    People’s Aid of Peru

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