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US and UAE launch centre to 'counter terrorist propaganda'

The Sawab Centre will work to counter the Islamic State group narrative by promoting 'tolerant voices from the region'
IS group fighters running towards what they say is a power plant in the southern Libyan city of Sirte (AFP)

The United States and United Arab Emirates jointly announced on Wednesday the establishment of a new centre “to counter terrorist propaganda” in relation to the Islamic State group, an official statement said.

US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel and UAE Minister of State Anwar Gargash participated in the event announced by Washington, which launched the Sawab Centre.

“The Sawab Centre will use direct online engagement to counter terrorist propaganda rapidly and effectively, including messages used to recruit foreign fighters, fundraise for illicit activities, and intimidate and terrorise local populations,” said a statement.

The centre name, Sawab, means “correct” in Arabic and is a reference to it being the “right path”, as opposed to the ideology spread by IS and other groups of its ilk.

IS has gained notoriety for its social media presence through which the group has recruited foreign members and written prolifically about its activities in Iraq, Syria and beyond.

The new centre will seek to counter the IS narrative by engaging in online debate and selecting figures to promote in the fight against regional militancy.

“The Sawab Centre will increase the intensity of online debate by presenting moderate and tolerant voices from across the region and amplifying inclusive and constructive narratives,” the launch statement said.

A video accompanied the centre’s launch, which outlined the organisation’s aim to fight back against IS’s “destructive ideology”.

Details of funding for the centre have not been made public but it is expected that the UAE will shoulder much of the financial burden for a project estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars.

“Emiratis are taking the lead on the cost,” Rashad Hussain, the US special envoy and coordinator for strategic counterterrorism communications, told the Associated Press.

The centre, manned by 15-20 full-time staff members, will promote stories of “ex-radicals” and attempt to educate people about the Muslims suffering IS acts of violence.