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Obama calls for nations to discredit extremists

19 February 2015, 08:02

Washington - President Barack Obama will call for nations around the world to stand together and discredit the voices of violent extremism on Wednesday, at a conference with representatives from 60 countries.

Obama is expected to tell delegates to a White House summit on violent extremism that the fight against groups like the Islamic State cannot be won with military might alone.

"We must stand united internationally and here at home," Obama wrote in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece foreshadowing the speech expected later on Wednesday.

"We know that military force alone cannot solve this problem. Nor can we simply take out terrorists who kill innocent civilians," he wrote.

"We also have to confront the violent extremists - the propagandists, recruiters and enablers - who may not directly engage in terrorist acts themselves, but who radicalise, recruit and incite others to do so."

The three-day conference in Washington aims to forge a united front following extremist attacks in France, Denmark, Syria and Libya.

Sessions are focused on allowing delegates - most from cities, local government and non-governmental groups - to share experience of what works in tackling extremism.

Among those attending is Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, where attacks by Islamist gunmen on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly magazine and a kosher supermarket left 17 people dead.

"We must promote cities that are more inclusive," Hidalgo told participants.

Also read: Kerry to visit Egypt to push anti-ISIS coalition

"In Paris, our goal is to take the exact opposite view of the 'no-go zones' dreamed up by some," she added, referring to a Fox News report that implied part of the French capital were off-limits.

A White House official said Obama would talk about how anti-radicalisation efforts fit within a broader counter-terrorism strategy.

He will talk about how "we must continue to counter and discredit the voices of extremism and hatred, address exploitable grievances, and empower the very communities that are too often targeted by extremists to remain resilient against these efforts," the official said.

"He also will make the point that, in taking these steps, America must remain true to its core values as a nation that has thrived on the diversity at its core."

'Twisted interpretation'

The summit has been in the pipeline for months, but has been given deeper significance after several similarly inspired attacks, including on a cultural centre and on a synagogue in Copenhagen which left two people dead at the weekend.

On Sunday, a video emerged apparently showing Islamic State jihadists beheading 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya.

The White House has been criticised for not specifically focusing the meeting on combating Islamic extremism.

The Obama administration has stated it does not believe jihadist groups should be lumped together with ordinary Muslims.

"Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world's Muslims," Obama said in the op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

Sessions on Wednesday highlighted existing anti-extremist programs in Boston, Minneapolis-Saint Paul and greater Los Angeles, which involve community policing and other tactics.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also stressed the leaps extremists have made in using social media to recruit and incite.

"We see very effective and slick use of the internet by terrorist organisations," he told the conference, contrasting communications of today with Osama Bin Laden's "grainy films taken on the foot of a mountainside".

"Compare that with some of the product we see put out today - in just a very short period of time we've come a long way in terrorist organizations' ability to communicate."



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