Whitney Webb — Mint Press Oct 30, 2018
A new report has exposed the past collaboration of Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat and influential neo-conservatives with the “most influential Twitter account” of the terror group Daesh, also known as the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS). That collaboration helped promote the account, which posted under the Twitter handle @shamiwitness, as an “expert” on foreign jihadists while also helping to promote the account’s pro-Daesh messaging.
However, instead of being an “expert,” the account was run by an Indian marketing executive living in Bangalore by the name of Mehdi Biswas. Biswas used the account to help recruit foreign extremists and lead them to Syria — where they participated in the slaughter of religious minorities, among other atrocities.
The explosive report, written and self-published by journalist Mark Ames, extensively details how Western accounts and figures closely associated with influential government-funded think tanks helped to elevate the ShamiWitness account from “a cretinous troll” into a credible “ISIS expert” who was subsequently promoted by Middle East correspondents from The New York Times and other mainstream publications.
At the height of his popularity, the ShamiWitness account – which was voluntarily deleted in 2014 by its owner after a Channel 4 News exposé – had over 17,000 followers and was followed by two-thirds of foreign jihadists with a presence on Twitter. When Twitter would ban an extremist’s account, ShamiWitness was key to promoting the new account created to replace the banned one. ShamiWitness also helped guide foreign extremists to battlefields in Syria and actively recruited individuals to join Daesh through his social media accounts, according to a report published earlier this year by George Washington University.
In addition, the ShamiWitness account promoted sectarian violence committed by Daesh in Syria and elsewhere and regularly shared videos of Daesh execution and beheading videos. The account also mocked female Kurdish fighters who were raped by Daesh after being captured and defended Daesh after Amnesty International accused the group of torturing children as young as eight, claiming that the group tortured only teenagers ages 14 and up.