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US-led coalition launches new counter-terrorism centre in Abu Dhabi

US-led coalition launches new counter-terrorism centre in Abu Dhabi

The Sawab Centre will use direct online engagement to counter terrorist propaganda used to attract foreign fighters to ISIL’s cause

The US-led coalition, formed to fight the radical Islamist group ISIL, has launched a new counter terrorism centre in Abu Dhabi.

The new institution, called the Sawab Centre, will mainly counter ISIL’s online reach among the Arab youth and support the coalition’s military operations in Iraq and Syria, the US state department said in a statement.

“The center, named after the Arabic word for ‘the right and spiritual path’, will use direct online engagement to counter the terrorist messaging that is used to recruit foreign fighters, raise funds, and terrorise local populations,” the statement added.

US undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs Richard Stengel visited the UAE to launch the Sawab Centre.

The new centre will monitor ISIL’s content in order to help the coalition generate more research based messaging to deal with the terror group, the local daily The National reported. The centre will also develop real time content in response to events on the ground in Syria and Iraq to back the coalition’s actions, the report said.

Local state news agency WAM reported that the centre will use social media tools to “amplify moderate voices” and “counter religious misinterpretations that are being propagated by ISIL”.

The Sawab Centre’s launch comes as the US president Barack Obama acknowledged in a recent briefing that the coalition needs to address ISIL’s “hateful propaganda” in addition to air strikes.

“No amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction,” he said.

The US-led coalition has been bombing ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria for a year but the radical group has managed to trump the coalition’s efforts as it continues to attract a steady stream of foreign fighters to its cause.

Although Gulf countries and their European peers have taken a number of measures including criminalizing travel to areas such as Syria and Iraq, ISIL continues to find favour among the Muslim youth.

The US had previously established centres to counter ISIL in the online medium but analysts say that such steps were largely ineffective.

According to a recent UN report, more than 25,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries have joined fundamentalist groups such as ISIL and Al Qaeda. The number of people drawn to such groups saw a sudden surge within the last year, the report added.

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