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Islamic terror peril hits US giants' phone wallets

'We have made the decision to rebrand' says ISIS Isis

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US mobile payments biz Isis has decided to change its name to avoid associations with terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Isis – not an acronym for anything – offers a pay-by-tap platform that allows customers to use their NFC-enabled smartphones to make purchases wirelessly. As such, it competes directly with such services as Google Wallet.

ISIS, on the other hand, is a hardline Sunni Islamic jihadist militant group engulfing Iraq and is operating in Syria; it has become notorious for its strict interpretation of Islam and the harsh brutality of its violence.

A joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon – three of the four largest US wireless carriers – Isis was launched in 2010 and went nationwide in 2013, following pilot programs in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah.

ISIS is a bit older, having been formed in early 2004 by Osama bin Laden disciple Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Since then, the group has conducted a campaign of bombings, beheadings, assassinations, and out-and-out guerrilla warfare, and it recently gained notoriety for having wrested control of the northern city of Mosul away from the Iraqi government.

"However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering," Isis CEO Michael Abbott said in a blog post on Monday. "As a company, we have made the decision to rebrand."

In an unrelated statement, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in a video on Monday from what appeared to be the Great Mosque in central Mosul, in which he called on Muslims to "obey me as long as I obey God." Previously, some analysts had believed al-Baghdadi had been killed during recent fighting.

Abbott, who has not participated in any sectarian violence, said that although his company initially chose the Isis name for its simplicity and because it "brought to life our company and our values," he now feels a change is best for the company, its partners, and its customers. Just what the new name will be, however, he didn't say.

"We are actively working on a new brand, and I'll share more with you as our journey progresses in the coming months," Abbott wrote.

ISIS, meanwhile, is known by various names, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, the Arabic-derived acronym DAISH, or simply the Islamic State (IS). We recommend Abbott steer clear of these, too. ®

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