When Muhammed Aatique pleaded guilty on Sep. 23, 2003 to being part of northern Virginia jihad network, he acknowledged that the paintball games played by him and his fellow jihadists were "conducted as sort of a military training." Another member of the network, Nabil Gharbieh, told the court how Muslims regsarded paintball as a form of jihad.
These admissions come to mind on learning that the Tampa branch of the Muslim American Society is hosting a paintball game today in Ocala, Florida. (Paintball is a fast-moving war simulation in which competitors shoot paint-filled bullets at each other.) Here is its poster announcing the event:
MAS Paintball flyer
Note MAS's repeated emphasis on the manhood of the participants – "Serious Manly Brothers Only!!" "We're going to separate the men from the Boys," and "if you're really a man join us." Also worthy of attention is the implicit violence of "We're going to separate ... The guns from the toys."
Abdul-Qaadir al-Mujahid, of Muslim Paintball Games of Kentucky, USA.
Likewise, the "Muslim Paintball Games of Kentucky, USA" make one wonder. "This will, Insha Allah, be an ongoing event that is open to any Muslim(s) who wishes to join us." The group appears defunct, however, with no events listed since 1999. The page includes five pictures of "Brothers who get down!!!" and I reproduce one here, that of Abdul-Qaadir al-Mujahid. (October 10, 2004)
Oct. 11, 2004 update: The Muslim American Society has taken down the paintball flyer and the above picture is small, so I have posted a full-sized version.
Oct. 12 2004 update: It's interesting to note that Islamists are not recent arrivals to the game of paintball but claim more or less to have invented it. In an article in Paintball Times, Mohammed Alo writes that he, Sami Khan, their brothers and some friends in medical school "decided to play paintball" in 1990, when they were high school students in the Toledo, Ohio area. Two years later, they began publishing what later became Paintball Times.
Mohammed Alo is (or has been – the dating is not clear) secretary of the United Muslim Association of Toledo, a clearly Islamist organization (to see this, one need go no further than its constitution, which states, "The Quran and the Sunnah are the constitution for Muslims. No article is valid unless it conforms to these laws"). In addition, Alo writes nasty anti-Israel articles (such as this one and this one) for UMAT and he has spoken for the Muslim Student Association, Wahhabism's contribution to the North American campus.
(Full disclosure: I have no particular fondness for UMAT, which claimed to have blocked me from a presidential appointment in 2000 – when I was not up for one – and in 2003 both sponsored a form letter calling on Fox News not to put me on television and the Senate not to approve my appointment to the U.S. Institute of Peace.)
The Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society in Vancouver
Comment: The connection between paintball and jihad is one an enterprising researcher might look into.
Oct. 21, 2004 update: The Canadian Press broke the news today that Sheik Younus Kathrada, an immigrant from South Africa who teaches at the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society in Vancouver, calls overtly for military jihad and attacks on Jews. It also turns out that one of his pupils was Rudwan Khalil Abubaker, 26, an explosives expert who was one of four men killed in Chechnya earlier this month in a shootout with Russian special forces. Naturally, the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society in its "BC Muslim Youth" program offers paintball as one of its activities ("Field Trips: These are our monthly FUN activities. We will go skiing, bowling, paint balling, horse back riding, etc to have fun in a sound Islamic environment").
Jan. 13, 2005 update: A CBC timeline on accused Canadian terrorist Mohammad Momin Khawaja contains some interesting entries:
Momin begins working at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Momin meets Younes Lasfar. Momin and his brother Qasim begin playing paintball games with Younes.
The same group of friends begin visiting a shooting range once or twice a month to shoot pellet guns. They sign in using fake names. Later, Younes gives two rifles and ammunition to Momin who registers them and stores them under his bed.
Jan. 18, 2005 update: In the Virginia "paintball" trial that ended in June 2004, the U.S. government proved that the Pakistan Islamist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba was purchasing American equipment with military uses (such as parts for an unmanned aerial vehicle) via its American friends. Very interesting is to note, in Government Exhibit 2A20a, that a Lashkar-e-Taiba official asked Masoud Khan (one of those on trial, convicted of conspiring to levy war against the United States and of providing support to Lashkar-e-Taiba) to purchase for him paintball equipment. Here is an excerpt from the exchange of e-mails:
order as flows
1, 8 tipman 98 custom paintball gun package fromm extrempaintball.com price 160 u.s dollars
2, 50000 JT Elite Premium Paintball 2000 rnd case $33.95 from the paintball store.com
3, 4 Level 1 GT Commando2 Package $139.95 from thepaintballstore.com
4, 1 MP1000 SYS price 750 i have attached the form fill and fax it to them
Comment: One cannot be sure why a terrorist organization would be ordering paintball equipment, but it certainly appears to be in the context of war preparations.
June 18, 2005 update: Today is the day when the New York branch of the Council on American Muslim Professionals, known as CAMP, gets together for three hours, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., of paintball. They are meeting at the Paintball Arena in West Babylon, New York and have no less than a 18,000 square-foot area booked for the CAMP teams. The announcement, complete with the graphic below, indicates that all the equipment is provided for the $50 fee, including semiautomatic paint guns, 500 paint balls, camoflauge, CO2, goggles, and headgear.
July 16, 2005 update: Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a young Canadian Muslim locked up for more than a year, may well be connected to the jihadis responsible for the 7/7 London attacks, reports Colin Freeze in the Globe and Mail. In addition, he has paintball games in his background, and of a particularly suspicious sort.
By several accounts, Khawaja watched the 9/11 attacks in horror but it also stimulated his curiosity and his piety. He grew a beard and prayed daily. He studied computers and in his spare time
he began playing paintball with some friends. Given the Sept. 11 backlash, they thought it prudent to do this somewhat surreptitiously: When making plans on the phone, they said they were about to play "hockey" and gave themselves Western names like Robert and Matthew when they talked about doing this. "You never know who is listening in and reading our e-mails," [his friend Younes] Lasfar told the CBC. "So maybe they might not hear about it and we'll just play in peace."
Sep. 17, 2005 update: Ali Asad Chandia, 28, a legal permanent emigrant from Pakistan who lives in College Park, Maryland, was indicted yesterday of helping Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Pakistani terrorist group, acquire various useful items, including an electronic autopilot system, video equipment for use on model airplanes, and 50,000 paint balls.
Nov. 17, 2005 update: A BBC inquiry into the radicalization of Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four London suicide bombers, found that "Khan became part of a tight-knit group of young, radicalised Muslim men from Dewsbury, Leeds and Huddersfield. The men used to spend time paintballing, trips that would take place immediately after watching extremely violent videos depicting Muslim suffering around the world."
Feb. 10, 2006 update: The Muslim American Society of Tampa will be holding its MAS Olympics 2006 on March 11-12, reports Joe Kaufman. Of course, the event includes paintball. A flyer advertises paintball for 13 to 16 year-olds, with the following statement: "We're trying to separate the men from the Boys, The guns from the toys, The real ones from things that just make noise."
Jul. 15, 2006 update: Mubin Shaikh, a pious Muslim, started in October 2005 to serve as a paid police informant, infiltrating a group of 17 Muslim males Canadian law enforcement had been following, and which was later charged with a preparing a terrorist plot in Toronto and Ottawa. Shaikh started by going to a meeting in Toronto, where one of the men approached him and asked him about his commitment to jihad. "I told him exactly what he wanted to hear. I got pulled over to the side. They gave me the lines, what's happening in Iraq, Afghanistan. They're raping our women, killing our children, and that's the thing, the emotional things that they use." Shaikh then boasted of his six years the Royal Canadian Army Cadets and his training from the Canadian Armed Forces reserves, which prompted his new friends to ask him to direct their guerrilla combat training in Washago, Ont. The training took place during the Christmas 2005 holiday season, where, police allege, the group used both real guns and paintball guns to train.
Aug. 29, 2006 update: Islamist paintball has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, according to a New York Times article by Serge F. Kovaleski, "Young Muslims in Britain Hear Competing Appeals," that investigates the ways that recruits are pulled into the jihad network. Two excerpts:
In the midst of an afternoon drizzle in June, Ali Zafar, 19, was approached by several young men who nonchalantly mentioned that they were affiliated with the East London Youth Forum and were curious about his views on the war in Iraq. To Mr. Zafar, it seemed like a strange solicitation, because the forum promoted itself as a community organization that sponsors paintball games and works with Muslims on social problems like drug abuse. "They ask you about Iraq or Lebanon and then they go on about stuff like the caliphate and that things are not the way they should be," he said. "When you are just walking home, they will tell you to come to a meeting, and that they will get you on the right path." ...
In East London, Hamzah Mahmood, 15, said that he had encounters with people linked with the youth forum, and that they had asked for his e-mail and home addresses. He said he declined. "They try to pump you up with football and paintball so they can get in your head," he said.
Sep. 10, 2006 update: The New York Times informed us glancingly about the East London Youth Forum; today, the The Sunday Times (London) provides an undercover investigative report by Abul Taher and Ali Hussain on the Cheetham Hill Youth Forum, filling out the picture whereby, as its headline puts it, "Paintball imams spread militancy." It introduces the concept of paintball imam into the vocabulary and provides a vivid sense of what these imams can achieve via their quasi-military training with a group of young Muslim men.
The party of youths pulled on their blue overalls, snapped shut their visors and, taking aim with their paintball guns, prepared for four hours of licensed mayhem. But the men who pursued each other last Sunday morning through the wooded grounds of Delta Force's paintballing park near Congleton, Cheshire, had little in common with the stag parties and company teams nearby.
Instead of listening to corporate pep talks between sessions, the young Asian men were instructed by an imam dressed in fatigues on the need to unite Muslims worldwide in an international empire. One senior member of the group, who is a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT), which Tony Blair has proposed should be banned, insisted that devout Muslims should refuse to vote in British elections. ...
Undercover Sunday Times reporters were present last Sunday to witness first-hand the early stages of the radicalisation of young Asians by Islamic militants. The reporters watched 10 youths, in their late teens or early twenties, arrive and were invited to join the session. During a lull in the game, they were approached by an imam, Ashraf Bader, 34, who was with the group. Bader, wearing a fleece jacket and jeans, described Osama Bin Laden as a "Muslim brother" and said it was the "responsibility" of every Muslim to bring back the caliphate, or a pan-Islamic government.
Kasim Shafiq, a senior member of the group and who said that he was a member of HT, declared that Muslims should not vote in British elections. "Our own shahadah [creed] tells us that the authority and law do not belong to the non-Muslims, so why are we going to vote for non-Muslims?" he said. Shafiq, 27, an IT specialist, added: "If you think that you can win power, if you look at the logistics of how this country works . . . you've got to change the [minds and opinions of the] whole of the cabinet towards Islam, you've got to change the whole of the army towards Islam, then you will gain power."
The group organising the paintballing activity, the Cheetham Hill Youth Forum, states it is a community body that works on social problems in the inner-city district of Manchester. ... The Asian group paid no attention to the 300 or so other players at the six-acre site, although they kept their voices down when, at the end of a game, the winning team called "Allahu Akbar [God is great]". During one game, a player said: "I've been shot." His team-mate replied: "Don't worry, the shahid [martyr] never dies." ...
One young Asian, who has taken part in past events organised by the Cheetham Hill Youth Forum, said it was a sophisticated recruitment operation. "They organised paintballing, five-a-side football and other social events to persuade parents to let their sons go off with them," he said. "The kids' fathers have little idea what their sons are getting up to because they work 18 hours per day as taxi drivers, and the mothers are uneducated. Many of the HT leaders have jobs in the corporate world, so they borrow bonding techniques used on management courses."
Sep. 14, 2006 update (1): Law enforcement has been watching at least some paintball facilities since 9/11, Karla Adam and Alan Cowell reveal today in the International Herald Tribune in the aftermath of the Sep. 1 arrest of four men charged with terrorism-related offenses.
One of the men, Ugandan-born Yassin Mutegombwa, 22, was charged on three counts of weapons training "for the purposes connected with the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism" near Pondwood Farm on June 18 and near the Matley Wood Caravan and Camping site in Lyndhurst, on England's south coast, from April 28 to May 1 and June 2 to June 4.
Mick Holdaway, owner of Pondwood Farm, which includes a 14-acre, paintball site, said the police Special Branch had the area under surveillance since right after Sept. 11, with the anti-terrorism squad joining it in 2004. The Special Branch asked, "Do you get brothers over in your paintball area doing training?" Then the anti-terrorism squad asjed, "Is it O.K. that we do surveillance?" Holdaway said "yes" to both, "feel free." Of note too is the manager of the paintball facility who leases the site from Holdaway at Pondwood Farm: Shahid Chowdhary, a 42-year-old father of eight and self-described staunch Muslim.
Sep. 14, 2006 update (2): Erick Stakelbeck looked into this topic in a piece for CBN News titled "Paintball Terrorists," relying on research by Jeffrey Epstein, president of America's Truth Forum, and terrorism analyst Laura Mansfield.
Mansfield supplied CBN News with an al-Qaeda tape posted on a Muslim message board in the U.S. It begins with images of missiles taking out America, then moves on to a speech by Adam Gadahn, an American-born member of al-Qaeda. Next come scenes of two men playing paintball. But that's not all. The men also conduct mock suicide bombings, and practice explosives training. But most of the footage shows them playing paintball, until the video ends with this chilling message: "Feel the rush! High speed paintball!" and then more images of missiles hitting America.
Epstein said, "It shows a tie. It's as if al-Qaeda put this thing together to get the message out to their citizens or their followers on how to train using paintball, and what's expected of them." If that is the case, jihadists are listening. One of the London subway bombers, Mohammed Khan, was an avid paintball player. Likewise, 17 Toronto Muslims charged this summer with plotting terrorist attacks in Canada used paintball to train. ... Another Canadian Muslim charged with planning terrorist attacks, Mohammed Khawaja, played paintball. Here in the U.S., two Georgia Muslims charged earlier this year with plotting attacks against u.s. targets played as well. ...
Dr. Mohammed Alo runs Paintball Times, the largest paintball Web site in the United States. Alo, a Muslim, has been playing paintball since he was a teen. ... Alo says paintball is just a game, and that it's nothing like real warfare. "If you're using paintball to train for some kind of military activity or some kind of terrorist plan, then your plan is most likely gonna fail. And I would consider these people idiots," Alo asserted.
But Epstein said paintball may be the next best thing. "Paintball is a relatively inexpensive way to target practice," Epstein said, "as opposed to spending a larger amount of money on securing modern weaponry and ammunition." ... the Muslim Students Association, has sponsored several paintball outings. The group's online publication has called paintball an "excellent way to learn about combat." The Muslim Students Association was founded by the Saudi government. It's active on campuses throughout the United States and Canada. Alo has spoken at Muslim Students Association events. He says they're not radical.
Sep. 17, 2006 update: In an event taking place today, the Muslim Student Association of the University of Queensland (in Australia) hosts an "Inter-MSA" paintball skirmish against its counterparts from Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology.
Sep. 22, 2006 update: Mansfield and Epstein, joined by Joe Kaufman, provide more information in "Paintballing for Allah" at FrontPageMag.com. They point to a recent video found on the website of the Young Muslims (YM) – the youth arm of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) – that includes previously unseen footage from the High Speed Paintball range in New Hope, Alabama, with "suggestive images [that] could easily be construed as training for terrorist attacks." No doubt, they conclude, "for Muslim extremists throughout the West, this has become the preferred method of preparation for waging jihad."
The authors review the game's connections to radical Islam and look at the important figure of Mohammed Alo, editor and C.E.O. of The Paintball Times website. They provide a couple of new instances of Islamist paintball:
- The Muslim Student Association at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an aviation school, sponsors frequent paintball outings; and
- The Muslim Paintball Games of Kentucky website, established in August 1999, lists as one of its competitors a name containing the term "Al-Mujahid." Note that the games are "open to all brothers." Five pictures of "brothers" on the site in combat gear and paintball guns are worth a look.
Nov. 4, 2006 update: The connection between paintball and radical Islam is becoming public knowledge and the Muslim Student Association is taking steps in self-defense. Ahead of a paintball event today at the Panther Creek Paintball Facility in Iola, Texas, MSA included a "Guidelines for MSA Paintball" that includes this noteworthy passage:
A final reminder. Post 9-11, innocent public activities by Muslim groups have sometimes been perceived as suspicious by well-meaning but paranoid neighbors, leading to unfortunate consequences in some cases. In light of this, it must be clear that any irresponsible behavior that could create misunderstandings may result in the expulsion of the participant(s) involved from the activity.
Nov. 18, 2006 update: The Lebanese Student Association of McGill University sponsored a paintball match today with a distinctly military overtone, as seen in its flyer for the event.
Nov. 27, 2006 update: Syed Maaz Shah, 19, a Pakistani immigrant, and a University of Texas at Dallas sophomore in majoring in electrical engineering, was arrested by FBI agents on two federal firearm violations. His alleged gun possession came to light in the course of an investigation of two Houston men, Kobie Diallo Williams, 33, and Adnan Babar Mirza, 29, subsequently arrested on charges of conspiring to aid the Taliban. Muslim Student Association president, K.M. Ahmed Subhani, expressed surprise at the arrest of Shah, an active member of the Muslim community. "The closest I would say he's ever been to a firearm is a paintball gun."
Dec. 22, 2006 update: The organizers of the "Texas Dawah Convention VI" that begins today offer eleven reasons to attend. The third of them reads:
This year we will have amazing recreational activities, and programs including indoor rockclimbing, as well as basketball tournaments. We will have a guest Shaykh that will come by to shoot air ball with the brothers!
Comment: Why would "a guest Shaykh" be shooting air ball with the brothers?
May 3, 2007 update: Douglas J. Hagmann of Northeast Intelligence Network writes about the potential utility of paintball practice, quoting an unnamed law enforcement source
the men involved in what has become known as the "paintball jihad" case are good examples of activities by Muslim men in the U.S. that is on the rise. In addition to buying weapons and whatever else they can get their hands on, they are practicing urban combat. Since it has become more difficult for them to leave the country or train with actual weapons, they will get together and train using paintball guns. They will engage in paramilitary-style training right under our noses, and lie about it to our faces. They are protected, in some cases, by the religious Imams, some who even encourage or schedule such outings.
We're talking about professional Muslim men, mosque leaders, leaders within our communities who are actually helping young men train for the eventuality of urban combat. They know what they are doing, yet they lie right to our faces about these activities... and we're told by our supervisors that we have to accept what they tell us at face value when they know damn well they are lying.
May 9, 2007 update: The Fort Dix Six – six Islamists accused of planning to attack Fort Dix, New Jersey, "to kill as many American soldiers as possible" – trained for their mission in part by playing paintball. They also bothered their neighbors by firing paintballs off the back porch of their rented house.
July 6, 2007 update: The Florida men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings, the "Liberty City Seven," practiced with paintball, according to the FBI.
the men allegedly honed their battle skills with paintball drills in the woods outside of Miami. ... Members of the group would often go paintball shooting as a form of military training in woods south of Miami, Augustin told the FBI. "The training was realistic and [Liberty City Seven member Rotschild] Augustin was told that he 'had to be careful' to avoid public scrutiny," an FBI summary said. On one occasion, a member of the group put up a U.S. flag that the others used as target practice with their paintball guns, Augustin told the FBI.
July 7, 2007 update: The "annual Brothers' Paintball Tournament" sponsored by the Muslim Student Association at the University of Waterloo takes place today, 12pm - 4pm at Flag Raiders Paintball:
Cost: $25/person (includes admission, equipment, and 100 paintballs)
Eating too much? Did bad on your midterms? Sister rejected your marriage proposal? No worries! PAINTBALL is BACK! Come out to the annual Brothers' Paintball Tournament for a fun-filled day.
To sign-up, please e-mail Zaki at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday June 20.
Important Note: All attendees must observe mature conduct at all times. Those who do not follow the facility rules will be expelled from the games at the discretion of the MSA and/or the facility.
July 13, 2007 update: A federal jury in Scranton, Pennsylvania convicted Michael Curtis Reynolds, 49, of plotting to blow up Alaska and Transcontinental pipelines and other energy installations, of attempting to enlist al Qaeda militants to help him do so, and of possessing a hand grenade – all this to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. He faces a maximum 57 ½ years in prison. (He, incidentally, was trapped by Shannen Rossmiller.) According to Reuters, the divorced father of three "had a succession of jobs in electronics, and once in a paintball field."
Sep. 22, 2007 update: For a lengthy response to this blog and the comments on it by the Muslim Student Association of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (which I mentioned in passing on Sep. 14, 2006), see "The Issue Regarding Daniel Pipes." The MSA there betrays a curious inability to distinguish between Islamists and terrorists.
Oct. 11, 2007 update: The case of Mohammed Hamid, 50, who also calls himself "Osama bin London," came up in the trial of the London 21/7 foiled bombers, as reavealed by David Farrell QC, for the prosecution. Here are extracts from an article by Owen Bowcott, "Jihad camps were preparation for murder, court told," in the Guardian.
An alleged organiser of military-style training camps in Britain for jihadis urged his followers to carry out murderous atrocities and "see how many you can take at the same time", Woolwich crown court was told yesterday. ... Many of the paintball sessions, indoctrination meetings and combat drills he organised across England were attended by a number of those who later carried out the failed 21/7 London bombings, it was said. ...
"From 2004 onwards," Mr Farrell told the jury, "Hamid was involved in the organisation of camping trips to various parts of the United Kingdom, and visits to paintballing sites at which military-style training of the participants took place. The training and imposition of discipline in association with the teaching provided by Hamid and [Atilla] Ahmet ... was designed to foster ... a feeling that they were training for jihad against the kuffar, or non-believers." ...
Atilla Ahmet, 43, accused of inciting young British Muslims to terrorism.
Mr Hamid invited potential recruits he met on his stall to his home in east London, the court heard. "Assisted by Ahmet, [he] was a recruiter, groomer and corrupter of young Muslims," Mr Farrell said. After the 7/7 London bombings, Mr Hamid sent a text to one of those who later participated in the 21/7 attacks. "Assalam bro," it read, "we fear no one except ALLAH, we will not change our ways, we are proud to be a Muslim an we will not hide ..." The court also heard a covert recording in which he encouraged a recruit to carry out killings. The prosecution said that when the defendants were arrested in September 2006, extremist material was seized including CDs and DVDs "glorifying terrorism; [showing] the murders of innocent people, including their beheading, suicide bombings and the like." ...
A paintballing combat trip was held at the Springwood Centre in Tonbridge, Kent. The visit was even filmed by a BBC documentary crew and later broadcast in a programme entitled Don't Panic, I'm Islamic. The meetings organised by Mr Hamid and Mr Ahmet in London served as preparation for training weekends and paintballing days, Mr Farrell said. "Both Hamid and Ahmet were obsessed with security, informants and MI5."
For video from the trial, see a YouTube extract.
Nov. 10, 2007 update: The Muslim Student Association at the University of Oregon announces for today:
(Nov 10th | 2007) Paintball
We will play all day in an open field in albany & we will eat there too.
Paint Balling Gun Fight In a Forest
Registeration: E-mail email@example.com
Time: Saturday Nov.10th , 2007 at 10:00 am.
Nov. 18, 2007 update: Finally, "sisters" get into the act, thanks to the Muslim Student Association at the University of Western Ontario:
Sunday, November 18th, 2007
Flagswipe Paintball and Laser combat followed by dinner at the Greek Mykonos restaurant
Car pooling - Meet in Prayer room at 2 pm, take-off after Asr prayers
$25/person + dinner (optional)
Please sign up during Friday prayers or in the Prayer Room by Friday, NOVEMBER 16th, 2007 and Deposit $5 required.For more information Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"Don't Panic, I'm Islamic" T-shirt.
Dec. 5, 2007 update: Note the glancing mention in the paragraph two above about the BBC. Two months later, it's taken center stage in the courtroom, explains Adam Sherwin of The Times (London) in "BBC 'took terrorist trainers paintballing'." The BBC paid in February 2005 for Mohammed Hamid and his fellow defendants Muhammad al-Figari and Mousa Brown to go on a paintballing trip at the Delta Force centre in Tonbridge, Kent
The men, accused of terrorism training, were filmed for a BBC programme called Don't Panic, I'm Islamic, screened in June 2005. The BBC paid Mr Hamid, an Islamic preacher who denies recruiting and grooming the men behind the failed July 2005 attack, a £300 fee to take part in the programme. ...
Nasreen Suleaman, a researcher on the [BBC] programme, told the court that Mr Hamid, 50, contacted her after the July 2005 attack and told her of his association with the bombers. But she said that she felt no obligation to contact the police with this information. Ms Suleaman said that she informed senior BBC managers but was not told to contact the police.
Ms Suleaman told the court that Mr Hamid was keen to appear in the programme. She said: "He was so up for it. We took the decision that paintballing would be a fun way of introducing him. There are many, many British Muslims that I know who for the past 15 or 20 years have been going paintballing. It's a harmless enough activity. I don't think there is any suggestion, or ever has been, that it's a terrorist training activity."
The court was told previously that Mr Hamid taunted police on his return from an alleged terror training camp in the New Forest where exercises included somersaults, pole-vaulting and paintballing.
Ms Suleaman said she was not aware that Ramzi Mohammed and Hussein Osman, two of the July bombers, had joined Mr Hamid at the Tonbridge paintball centre on July 3, 2005. Ms Suleaman said that Mr Hamid was agitated after the July attack. She said: "I think he was worried that perhaps the men might call him because they were on the run at the time. I think he was very, very shocked about the fact that the men he knew were accused of this." ...
Phil Rees, who produced the show, told the court that he was impressed by Mr Hamid's sense of humour while looking for someone to appear in the documentary. He said: "I think he had a comic touch and he represented a strand within British Muslims. I took it as more like a rather Steptoe and Son figure rather than seriously persuasive. I saw him as a kind of Cockney comic." Mr Rees, who now works for the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera, gave Mr Hamid a signed copy of his book Dining With Terrorists.
As the expression goes, you couldn't make this up.
May 28, 2008 update: Faisal Kutty, a Canadian Islamist, has posted a page at Facebook, "Muslim Guys Who Wish to Play Paintball and Not Be Suspected," that starts with this assertion:
love to play paintball, but unfortunately like camping and flying, these activities have become a little dangerous for Muslim men to engage in. I say enough is enough and wish to start a civil disobedience campaign to get as many Muslim men as possible to come out and play paintball. I know we have a lot more important things to worry about -- but what the heck, shooting your friends with a paintball gun is a lot more fun than some of the other things I can keep my myself busy with.
Kutty then provides a list of clues to infiltrators into paintball groups:
They ask you 20 very nosy questions every time they see you;
They ask you about friends and their political and religious views;
They always want to meet you in a donut shop;
They say they work for the government but never mention the department;
They want to be your best friend but don't give you their last name or sometimes even their real first name;
They treat you like your an expert on the community and let you wax eloquent about the community, Islam, your friends, leaders, mosques, charities, Islam/West relations, Salafism, Wahabism, Islamism, halalism, trainingism, campingism, and how you think the world's problems could be solved;
They keep asking you if you have an uncle called Usama;
They keep asking you if you like Usama;
They keep asking you if you know where Usama is;
They ask you when you plan to travel outside the country so they can have their friends over there receive you and pick you up directly from the airport;
They call you first thing when you eventualy get home after you were interogated overseas or after you get turned back at the U.S. border; of course they knew before your family and real friends about the whole incident...
Kutty suggests that any five of these characteristics means the "friend" is from the "CSIS, RCMP, FBI, CIA, MOSSAD" or other similar agencies.
June 11, 2008 update: The "Toronto 18" trial is underway, and paintball had a role in their practice to attack various high-profile Canadian targets (power grids, Parliament buildings, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation headquarters, and the Toronto offices of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), claims Mubin Shaikh, the police mole who penetrated their group. Isabel Teotonio reports in the Toronto Star:
They were supposed to be like the "Mujahideen in Chechnya," so they followed a simple diet of canned tuna and pita bread. Their paintball games were designed to mimic the "battlefield," so they played games in which they were instructed to kill the non-believers. And they wanted to show that they were "serious" so they made a video that was to be sent to "the leadership of Afghanistan" and to imams in Toronto who were "sympathetic" to their cause. Those were just some of the activities alleged members of a homegrown terror cell participated in when they attended a so-called terrorist training camp, the Crown's star witness said yesterday when he testified for the first time in open court. ... "There was clear, overt, military context to the training," said Shaikh, adding attendees at the December 2005 camp also went through an elaborate obstacle course, fired a 9-mm Luger handgun, and listened to extremist Islamist indoctrination.
Shaikh provided more detail about the paintball training that took place on Dec. 18 in a rural area in Washago, about an hour and a half north of Toronto.
Although not everyone was aware of the camp's purpose, all in attendance ran the obstacle course, played paintball and participated in the making of the video. The paintball games were supposed to resemble the Chechen rebellion against Russia, with the alleged leader telling participants "this is like the battlefield in Chechnya" said Shaikh, who played the role of a sniper instructed to kill the "kuffar," an Arabic word meaning non-believers. During the games, the alleged leader could often be found on the sidelines "encouraging, exhorting, frequently yelling out" at the players words of encouragement such as: "Don't you have any honour in your religion? Fight them, fight them." Shaikh also said that a video was shot to "advertise," and demonstrate "that we were serious about what we wanted to do." They even choreographed a scene of them walking up the hill in an arrowhead formation with a black flag that contained religious text in white writing. Such a flag, said Shaikh, is commonly associated with terrorism. The "primary target audience of the video," said Shaikh, was "the leadership in Afghanistan."
Sep. 25, 2008 update: In a Toronto 18 ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice John Sproat rejected defence arguments claiming that the paramilitary camps were a religious retreat or recreational. He noted that participants marched, played paintball games, shot a 9-mm handgun, and heard lectures on waging war on the West during a camp north of Toronto in December 2005. ""It is inconceivable to me that by the end of the camp there was any doubt about its purpose."
Nov. 8, 2008 update: A Philadelphia-area MSA e-mail announces a game of "laser tagging" – a more advanced version of paintball. .
When: Saturday, 11/8 @ 3:30 PM
The Philly MSAs are going Laser tagging this Saturday, November 8th at 3:30pm!!
We will be going to Ultrazone in Bensalem, PA via car. This is a great opportunity to network with other MSA's as well as have a fun evening.
Nov. 19, 2008 update: Back to the Fort Dix Six (see the May 9, 2007 update, above), whose trial is now underway, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Talk of paintball and AK-47s dominated the cross-examination of Mahmoud Omar yesterday as the star prosecution witness finished his 11th day on the witness stand in the Fort Dix terrorism trial. ... defense attorney Michael N. Huff quizzed Omar on a number of conversations and events - including a March 2007 paintball game at a South Jersey farm - that already had been the focus of detailed testimony. Omar, a paid FBI informant who secretly recorded more than 200 conversations during a 16-month investigation, compared paintball with an Army training exercise. In fact, the government alleges that several of the defendants engaged in the games as preparation for an assault on the Fort Dix military complex. The defense has argued that playing paintball was an innocent activity engaged in routinely by defendants Dritan, 29, Shain, 27, and Eljvir Duka, 25, three of the five defendants. ...
jurors yesterday saw a transcript of a conversation in which Dritan Duka, Huff's client, said, "I love this. . . . It's fun." The conversation took place in March 2007 on one of two occasions in which Omar and the Dukas played paintball. During that same excursion, Duka and Omar discussed gun purchases, with Omar suggesting that he had a supplier who had access to assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Duka said he would take "two or three" AK-47s, Russian-made rifles. While the prosecution has alleged that the guns were to be used in a jihad-inspired assault on the military base, Duka in the same conversation told Omar that he wanted the weapons for target shooting.
Dec. 7, 2008 update: For once, an analyst has picked up on this theme. In "From paintball to Mumbai," Terence Jeffrey reviews the record of the northern Virginia "paintball jihadis" and connects them to the recent terrorism assault on Mumbai.
The defiant words a former third-grade teacher spat at a judge in Alexandria, Va., in April are more poignant now that sources in the Indian and U.S. governments are saying they believe Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a Pakistan-based terrorist group, was behind the mass murder in Mumbai, India, last week. "What government was supposed to be intimidated by my actions?" Ali Asad Chandia asked U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton at the April hearing where the judge reconfirmed Chandia's 15-year prison sentence, according to the Associated Press. "Do you think the government of India will feel intimidated by a few boxes of paintballs?"
Chandia taught at an Islamic school in the Maryland suburbs before being convicted in 2006 of "providing material support to terrorists."
In a Jan. 23, 2008, opinion affirming Chandia's conviction but remanding his sentence to the district court for reconsideration, Judge Blane Michael of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals summarized the government's case against the schoolteacher. "Specifically, the government alleged that (LET official) Ajmal Khan traveled to the United States to secure high-tech equipment and other materials for LET and that Chandia provided material support to Ajmal Khan during his trips," wrote Judge Michael.
"The alleged material support included picking up Ajmal Khan at the airport, providing him access to a computer and e-mail at Chandia's residence, and assisting him in shipping paintballs to Pakistan for LET use in military training operations." How many paintballs? "Chandia was found guilty of ... helping Khan ship 50,000 paintball pellets from the U.S. to Pakistan," reported the Associated Press.
Others who (like Chandia) attended the now-closed Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va. - which is about 11 miles from the U.S. Capitol - did more than ship paintballs. Judge Allyson Duncan of the 4th Circuit explained their activities in a Sept. 1, 2006, opinion affirming the convictions of Masoud Khan, Seifullah Chapman and Hammad Abdur-Raheem on terrorism-related conspiracy charges.
"Khan, Chapman and Hammad attended the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., where Ali Timimi, a primary lecturer, spoke of the necessity to engage in violent jihad against the enemies of Islam and the 'end of time' battle between Muslims and non-Muslims," wrote Judge Duncan. "Several of the attendees, including Chapman and Hammad, organized a group to engage in activities in preparation for jihad. In the spring of 2000, members of the group began simulating combat through paintball exercises and practices at firing ranges," the judge wrote.
How did this tie-in to LET and India? "Members of the group had ties to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the military wing of a Pakistani organization initially founded to conduct jihad against Russians in Afghanistan," said Judge Duncan. "One member of the paintball group, Mr. Hamdi, openly discussed wanting to go to fight in Kashmir and ultimately die as a martyr in combat. Hamdi traveled to Pakistan in August 2000 and was admitted to the LET camps," wrote the judge. "While there, he fired on Indian positions in Kashmir. Upon his return, he rejoined the paintball group and informed the others about LET's mission to destroy India, Israel and the United States."
In the summer of 2001, Chapman traveled to LET camps in Pakistan. Then came the attacks of Sept. 11. "That night, Timimi argued that the attacks should not be condemned," wrote the judge. "He was thereafter not invited to lecture at Dar al Arqam, and tapes of his speeches were destroyed. However, on Sept. 16, 2001, Timimi met with the paintball group, including Khan and Hammad, at a member's house. Timimi said the Sept. 11 attacks were justified and that it was the obligatory religious duty of those present to defend the Taliban against the American troops that were expected to invade Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda. The discussion focused on training at the LET camps as necessary preparation to fight with the Taliban against the United States. Several of the members, including Khan, expressed their intent to train at the LET camps and to fight in Afghanistan after their training was complete. For purposes of their travel, they agreed that Khan would be their 'emir,' or leader."
Khan then traveled to Pakistan, where he trained at LET camps for about six weeks, according to Duncan. "The evidence reflects that LET broadly disseminated its goals for the destruction of India, America and Israel on its Web site and elsewhere," the judge said.
July 4, 2009 update: The Muslim Student Association in Australia also sponsors paintball, in this case between teams from three universities.
Aug. 15, 2009 update: An interview with a Singaporan researcher into jihadi websites, Nur Azlin Mohamed Yasin, includes this information about local groups:
When analyst Nur Azlin started monitoring the websites in early 2007, most of the content was in the form of articles urging Muslims to fight back against perceived oppression, she recalled. ... In late 2007, computer hacking manuals started to appear on Southeast Asian websites, uploaded by individuals in online forums, she said. ... "By early 2008, we started to see bomb-making manuals and bomb-making videos," Nur Azlin recalled. With the appearance of these manuals—taken from Arabic websites—the reaction from forum participants got more virulent, as they goaded each other to take action rather than stay passive supporters or sympathisers, she said.
In one of the exhanges, participants tried to organise arms training but some said they did not have money to buy AK-47 assault rifles, Nur Azlin said. A group called "Indonesian Airsoft Mujahideen" stepped in and offered to facilitate their training using air rifles and paintball machines, which are widely used for play sessions at corporate training seminars in Asia. "They would rent the place much like a team-building activity," Nur Azlin said. "They used this training in the meantime that they don't have their AK-47s."
Oct. 25, 2009 update: Taking place in Michigan:
THIS WEEKS EVENTS... UPDATE!!!
Event will start at 10:30 Sharp at No Limits Action Extreme park!
When: Sunday October 25th from 10:30 am - 4:00 pm
Where: 14511 Lange Rd, Taylor, MI 48180
For more info contact
email@example.com (734)-972-1134 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov. 15, 2009 update: Taking place again in Michigan:
Who: Wayne State University Muslims' Student Association
When : Sunday, November 15th
Time : 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
Cost: ONLY $35 (if you pay before Nov 6th)
Bring ALL your friends
If you have any question contact:
Apr. 10, 2010 update: At the University of Florida:
Islamist paintball at the University of Florida.
Islam on Campus Paintball
In appreciation of the hardwork of our members, join IOC for paintballing at Rocky Creek Paintball Field this Saturday, April 10th from 12pm-5pm. Everything (for paintballing) is paid for by IOC! Please arrive on TIME! Everyone has to be "trained" and we will pray Dhuhr prayer before we paintball. Also, if each person can bring $3 for pizza that would be appreciated. To reserve your spot, please sign up HERE. There are only 25 spots for brothers and 25 spots for sisters, so make sure you sign up!
July 9, 2010 update: A paintball publication, 68 Caliber, has noted the "huge number of US, UK and Canadian company logos that appeared on player uniforms" in Iran and asks, "Iranian Paintball: Is It Legal?" The article sketches out seven ways the paraphernalia could have reached Iran.
Nov. 26, 2010 update: The Muslim Congress Youth Camp in Florida features a "Faith, Fun & Family Camp" on Nov. 26-28 that, of course, includes paintball.
The Muslim Congress Youth Camp features paintball.
Mar. 26, 2012 update: For how a terrorist organization relies on paintball, see "Paintballing with Hezbollah" by Mitchell Prothero.
And with this entry, I close down the Islamist paintball blog, except to add the occasional bibliographic item. The point has been made, more examples won't add much.
Nick McCarthy, "Pictured: ISIS terrorists training at Hockley Heath paintball centre. Humza Ali among four terror recruits who posed for pictures with paint guns." Birmingham Mail, 15 December 2016.