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352 items tagged "ISIS"

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Egypt's ISIS affiliate kills police driver in the Sinai

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 August 2016 08:51
Sinai ISIS affiliate kills police driverEgyptian security officials on Thursday said a police driver kidnapped this week has been publicly shot dead in Sinai by suspected jihadists from the local Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate.
 
The officials, quoted by The Associated Press, said three terrorists and the policeman arrived Thursday at el-Arish's residential al-Masaeed district in a green pickup truck.
 
The policeman, blindfolded with his arms and legs tied by a robe, was then brought out and shot twice in the head.
 
He had been kidnapped by the jihadists Tuesday while driving a police car in el-Arish. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
 
Egypt has been fighting an insurgency in the Sinai which began shortly the 2011 ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak and has gotten even worse since the army ousted former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
 
Most of the terrorist attacks in the Sinai have been claimed by the Sinai Province terrorist group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS.
 
Among the attacks claimed by Sinai Province in recent years were the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai.
 
The group has also claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks from the Sinai Peninsula on southern Israel.

As the Arab world crumbles, new alliances emerge

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Thursday, 25 August 2016 21:31
ISISSeveral looming challenges pose a clear and present danger to the Arab world's ability to continue as a viable culture and functioning political system. At the head of the list are Iran, Islamic State, and the deterioration of the status of the state itself in countries where terror, motivated mainly by Islam and its dictates, is on the rise.
 
The Iranian challenge received a boost last year from the signing of Iran's Nuclear Agreement with the West and the billions of dollars accompanying it, part of which will be invested in pouring more boiling jet fuel on the epicenters of Middle Eastern bloodshed and tension – Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – in a way that poses a direct threat to certain key countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The agreement will also make it easier for Iran to export the revolution to other parts of the world, starting with Europe and the United States.
 
The Islamic State challenge continues to threaten Syria and Iraq directly, but its influence is increasing in other focal points such as Libya and the Sinai Peninsula. Jordan, too, has been the scene of activities meant to prepare the population for the day after the monarchy, when an Islamic State-type regime can come to power. Although Islamic State lost territory in its battles with the Iraqi and Syrian armies, it is far from losing its ongoing ability to spread terror and propaganda and its defeat is not at all a sure thing.
 
The modern Arab state – as an ideology and political entity – is facing several difficult questions. Many of its citizens ask why they are forced to live in states created, designed and planned by the West to promote its own interests. Why, they ask, must they live under dictatorships where a ruling elite runs an economically and morally corrupt government?  Social media are the main platform for expressing these opinions and serve as the stage where large numbers of people take part in a public debate that puts their own countries in the dock.
 
There is a not insignificant number of people in the Arab world who have reached the conclusion that it is time to act against their own states by means of intimidation, threats, terrorist acts and murder. The main leader of this trend is the Muslim Brotherhood and the political Islamic organizations it spawned.
 
These organizations make use of social media to organize, plan, get new volunteers, all the while sending their messages anonymously and without the constraints of government censorship.
 
A clear example of the deteriorating situation is the terror state that was established in Gaza nine years ago, in June 2007, when an Islamic terrorist organization – Hamas – took over an area that is home to over one million people and established an entity that is the political implementation of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology. The Arab world is paralyzed and prevented from reacting because every word against Hamas is immediately interpreted as being pro-Israel and therefore totally unacceptable in Arab circles.
 
The disastrous situation was actually strengthened when wealthy and important states such as Qatar and Turkey stood behind the Hamas state and aided it financially and politically, while Iran provided it with military support.
 
Meanwhile, the same phenomenon is developing in Lebanon, where the Hezbollah terrorist organization is taking over an entire country and turning it into a state run according to decisions made in Tehran. The most crucial decision that Iran made for Lebanon was throwing the country into the midst of the fierce civil war raging in Syria between Assad and his enemies.
 
This challenging state of events has been ruling the Arab scene for years with no solution in sight.  Iran not only is not disappearing, its influence is getting stronger by the day. Islamic State is also not disappearing, despite the West's declaration of war against it. The modern Arab state is not seen as a legitimate answer, causing the internal terror fueled by Islam to get more and more powerful.
 
In the past, the United States was a stabilizing factor that preserved the political systems in the region, but it has decided to step back and leave the area ripe prey for Iran, Sunni Jihadists, Turks and lately the Russians who have arrived to secure their own interests. Sadly, those who suffer most from this maelstrom of problems are peaceful citizens who once suffered under dictatorships and now suffer under Jihadist swords. They are fleeing en masse to Europe.
 
Israel
 
Israel can be accepted more easily while the Arab world is In this miserable situation because it does not pose a threat to any nations except the two terrorist mini states that have arisen in the Middle East: the Gazan Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Islamic State will also be a potential target for Israel from the second that its territory reaches any Israeli border, so that Israel has been transformed from being a problem to being a solution to problems.
 
The first Arab country to realize the Israel solution was Egypt, which shares Israel's concern about terror and Islamic State, especially since  IS has established a branch in the Sinai. Al Sisi's Egypt, since 2013, works stubbornly and steadily, with minimum sensitivity, against Hamas.  Egypt closed the Rafiah Pass almost hermetically, and has almost entirely eliminated the tunnel system  into Egypt that the Gazans worked hard to dig. Those tunnels were not used only for weapons smuggling – an entire circus once arrived in Gaza that way!
 
Rumors have it that Israel is helping Egypt in the shared struggle of both countries against Islamic State's "Sinai Province," an organization that was once called "Ansar Beit al Maqdis" and was affiliated with al Qaeda, and whose hands are smeared with the blood of hundreds of Egyptian civilians and soldiers.
 
It has reached the point where the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukri, refused to accuse Israel of engaging in terror when it battles Palestinian Arabs. In his opinion, "Israel's history forces it to grant an important place to security because Israeli society is faced with challenges that demand strict attention to security, control of the area and the sealing of any breaches in its protective shield." He might well say the exact same words regarding Egypt.
 
Shoukri also noted that it is impossible to accuse Israel of terror since there is no accepted international definition for terror. This remark is actually a complaint aimed at all the Islamic countries which refuse to define terror in legal terms because doing so would by definition point to Islam as the factor motivating most terrorists today. The US government is not eager to identify the connection between Islam and terror either, so that his words seem to be pointed in that direction as well.
 
This week Israel struck Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for that organization's launch of a rocket at Sderot, an insult to Israeli sovereignty. Israel's reaction was what its enemies like to call "disproportionate.")It would be interesting to see what they would do to anyone who dared to launch a rocket over their borders.) This time, however, the reaction was barely heard  because most sane people in this world realize exactly what Shoukri, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, was talking about.
 
In contrast, the Turkish regime seems to have lost some of its ability to think rationally accused Israel of reacting disproportionately, of pointless violence that will not be allowed to go away quietly despite the newly signed reconciliation agreement, all this while using the old , tired rhetoric of former periods that divided the world into infidels and believers. Erdogan has not yet noticed that the world is divided differently today, between those who believe in political detente and those who cause trouble – among them Turkey, the country that played the most crucial role in making the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq possible.
 
Erdogan's treaty with Hamas puts him on the wrong side of history. He, naturally, attempts to cover up and obscure his Islamist leanings by renewing Turkey's ties to Israel, Russia and NATO, but he cannot hide his abhorrence for al Sisi's Egypt and for Israel, because both of these countries are a unified front against the Islamic terror that he, Erdogan, supports wholeheartedly.
 
In the current situation, now that Israel has switched from being the problem to being a solution, relations with Israel have ceased to be an embarrassment and many countries, both Arab and non-Arab, do not deny that they have some sort of relations with the "Zionist Entity."
 
The other challenges, the real ones, threaten the very existence of any political order in the Middle East and countries in the region and outside it understand that Israel is the one to rely on for stability.
 
Considering all that, it is most definitely strange that there are still people in this world who believe that establishing a Palestinian Arab state is a positive and necessary step, despite the inevitability of it soon becoming another Hamas state.
 
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky, op-ed and Judaism editor.
 
Dr. Mordechai KedarDr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.

Iran 'foils 50 planned ISIS attacks'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 20:34
ISIS-Iraq-AttackIran claimed on Monday that a team of jihadists linked with Islamic State (ISIS) were paid 600,000 euros to carry out a bombing campaign at 50 locations in Tehran and other big cities in the country, Reuters reported.
 
Officials in predominantly Shiite Iran have said in recent weeks that Sunni jihadists from Islamic State are targeting the country, according to the report.
 
Two weeks ago, Iranian intelligence authorities said they had foiled a large-scale terrorist attack, arresting 10 suspected terrorists, and had seized about 100 kilograms of explosive material that was to be used in car bombs, and suicide and other bomb attacks in busy public places.
 
A 15-minute documentary which aired on Iranian television on Monday featured interviews with two arrested terrorists in which they explained the planned operations, according to Reuters.
 
Footage from a hidden camera which featured in the documentary showed members of the group allegedly purchasing and transporting chemicals and household products that could be used to make explosives.
 
Near the end of the documentary security agents armed with machine guns and wearing black balaclavas and body armor were shown raiding a house and handcuffing suspects, according to Reuters.
 
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard have fought against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as part of their support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
 
Guard members and volunteers are also fighting against Sunnis in Syria in support of President Bashar Al-Assad.
 
Iranian security forces announced in May that they had arrested a dozen ISIS fighters in the east and west of the country and also more than 50 sympathizers who were promoting the group's ideology on the Internet.
 
In the meantime, Iran is well-known for its own backing of terrorism in other countries, mainly through its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.
 
A recent report by the U.S. State Department identified Iran as the world's leading sponsor of terrorism.
 
Iran rejected the report, calling it "false" and saying it is further evidence of the "lack of credibility of reports by the U.S. State Department."

ISIS looks to exterminate Yazidi minority

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 16 June 2016 19:10
Israeli Aid Set to Christian Yazidi Refugees of ISISUN report reveals thousands of Yazidi sex slaves still held by ISIS terrorists.
Arutz Sheva Staff
 
Islamic State jihadists are still committing genocide against the Yazidi minority in Iraq and Syria, United 
 
Nations rights investigators said Thursday.
 
“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing," Paulo Pinheiro, head of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) for 
 
Syria said in a statement.
 
"ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of 
 
atrocities," he added, using another acronym for the jihadist group.
 
The Yazidis are neither Muslims nor Arabs and follow a unique faith despised by ISIS.
 
The Kurdish-speaking minority is mostly based around Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq.
 
In 2014, IS jihadists massacred Yazidis in Sinjar, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee, and capturing 
 
thousands of girls and women as spoils of war.
 
The UN warned last year that the group appeared to be committing genocide against the Yazidis, but the 
 
COI's report "They came to destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis", published Thursday, was more 
 
conclusive.
 
Based partly on interviews with survivors, the report found that IS "sought to erase the Yazidis through 
 
killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment."
 
The group was holding Yazidis in conditions "that bring about a slow death," and was transferring Yazidi 
 
children from their families to live with ISIS fighters, "cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their 
 
own religious community," the report said.
 
It showed that men and boys over 12 were separated from their families, and those who refused to 
 
convert to Islam were killed, while thousands of women and girls, some as young as nine, were sold in 
 
slave markets.
 
The report said some 3,200 Yazidi women and children were currently being held by IS, mainly in Syria, 
 
where the females were used as sex slaves and the young boys were being indoctrinated and trained as 
 
fighters.

Satellite proves ISIS destroyed 1,500-year-old monastery

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 31 January 2016 01:03
ISIS destroyed 1500-year-old monasterySatellite photos on Wednesday confirmed the reports of activists from last August, revealing that Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists have demolished the nearly 1,500-year-old St. Elijah's Monastery near Mosul to rubble.
 
Associated Press asked satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe this month to photograph St. Elijah's, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, and then compare the images with previous pictures from the same site.
 
The results, published by AP on Wednesday, reveal the monastery has indeed suffered the same fate as hundreds of ancient sites in Iraq and Syria, having been destroyed by ISIS jihadists.
 
Imagery from last August showed the 27,000-square-foot building of stone and mortar overlooking Mosul, with 26 rooms including a sanctuary and chapel.
 
A comparison with imagery from last September, a month later, reveals "that the stone walls have been literally pulverized," said analyst Stephen Wood, CEO of Allsource Analysis.
 
"Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of gray-white dust. They destroyed it completely," added Wood.
 
St. Elijah's was built in 590 CE; back in 1743 CE, around 150 monks refused to convert to Islam and were massacred by a Persian general at the site.
 
The site was damaged in 2003 when a tank turret that was blown off in the middle of nearby fighting smashed a wall, and Iraqi troops dumped garbage in the monastery. Then the US Army's 101st Airborne Division took over the site, but defaced ancient murals by painting their logo on the walls.
 
Afterwards a US military chaplain recognized the importance of the site, and he started an initiative to preserve it - but then ISIS took over the region.
 
Catholic priest Reverend Paul Thabit Habib, currently living in exile in Erbil, Iraq, reacted with shock to the photos.
 
"Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled," he said. "We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land."
 
That response was echoed by Roman Catholic US Army chaplain Jeffrey Whorton, who previously conducted Mass at the monastery.
 
"Why we treat each other like this is beyond me. Elijah the prophet must be weeping," he said, citing the Jewish prophet appropriated in the name of the monastery.
 
ISIS and other jihadists in Iraq and Syria have been responsible for the destruction of numerous ancient sites, including the shrines of Jewish Biblical prophets; ISIS turned Jonah's tomb into a "fun park" in Mosul last June. Likewise Ezra's tomb has been turned into a mosque.

Iraqi air force kills ISIS leader's second deputy

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 20 January 2016 07:58
Assi Ali Mohammed Nasser al-ObeidiThe second deputy of Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed during an Iraqi air force strike in the city of Barwana, just east of Haditha, the Iraqi military said Saturday, according to CNN.
 
The man in question, Assi Ali Mohammed Nasser al-Obeidi, was a top ISIS military commander in western Iraq and eastern Syria, Iraq's Joint Operations Command said.
 
Obeidi had been a brigade commander in the special forces of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards, a fugitive from Abu Ghraib prison and a former prisoner in Camp Bucca, a spokesman of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, Col. Mohammed Ibrahim, told CNN.
 
Haditha is located 145 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, a city which the Iraqi forces just recently liberated from ISIS after a lengthy battle.
 
In recent weeks, the U.S.-led international coalition fighting ISIS has announced similar killings, noted CNN.
 
In late December, it said multiple figures within ISIS senior leadership had died over a few weeks. One of the leaders killed was Charaffe el Mouadan, an operative closely linked to the ringleader of the November attacks in Paris, a spokesman for the coalition said.

Saudi Grand Mufti says ISIS are 'Israeli soldiers'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 January 2016 08:40
Abdul Aziz Al-AsheikhSheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a whopper of a conspiracy theory on Monday, claiming that Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists are actually "Israeli soldiers."
 
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, Asheikh said ISIS members are "harming" Islam and Muslims.
 
"They cannot be considered as followers of Islam. Rather, they are an extension of Kharijites, who rose in revolt against the Islamic caliphate for the first time by labeling Muslims as infidels and permitting their bloodletting," said Asheikh.
 
The Grand Mufti then spoke about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's threat against Israel made in an audio recording on Saturday, in which al-Baghdadi said, "Palestine will not be your land or your home, but it will be a graveyard for you."
 
"This threat against Israel is simply a lie. Actually, Daesh (ISIS) is part of the Israeli soldiers," claimed Asheikh.
 
Ironically Jürgen Todenhöfer, the only Western journalist allowed into ISIS territory, reported this week that the jihadists revealed to him during his 10-day stay among them that the IDF is the only army they fear.
 
Asheikh's claims echo those made by the Iranian semi-official Fars News Agency back in October, when it claimed an IDF colonel had been captured fighting for ISIS in Iraq. The conspiracy theory was patently false, not least of all from the absurd dog tag number the paper listed for the supposed soldier.
 
Iranian officials have long claimed Israel and the US created ISIS, with Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's Basij paramilitary force, just last month claiming Israel was behind the lethal Paris attacks, as opposed to ISIS. Asheikh's comments would seem to show that while Iran and Saudi Arabia are fierce Shi'ite-Sunni rivals, they unite in blaming Israel for ISIS.
 
While ISIS is an enemy, rather than a tool, of Israel, the brutal jihadist group does have support from a large swath of Israel's Arab population.
 
ISIS supporting terrorists have on a number of occasions tried to attack Israel from within, including several homegrown ISIS cells.
 
A poll last month found that 18.2% of Arab Muslim citizens of Israel do not consider ISIS to be a radical terrorist organization, and that they are not ashamed of the brutal jihadist group. That figure jumped to 28.1% among Arab citizens who are supporters of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel.

Egyptian Air Force jets enter Gaza airspace in bombing raids

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 31 December 2015 11:17
Egyptian helicopter over the SinaiThe Egyptian Air Force (EAF) began intensive bombardment near the Gaza Strip this morning in the area surrounding the Egyptian town of Rafah. According to Palestinian media reports EAF planes entered into the airspace of Gaza itself.
 
The target of the air raids are positions belonging to ISIS's Egypt branch, known as "Sinai Province." Arabic language Sky News reported 15 fatalities thus far due to the bombings.    
 
Hamas at times helps ISIS supporters in the Sinai Peninsula by supplying them with weapons and supplies smuggled out of the strip. Reports of bombings within the strip itself have increased tensions between Egypt and Hamas.
 
Recently Egypt has been flooding the smuggling tunnels that Hamas has set up connecting the strip to Sinai, causing the tunnels to collapse while killing the Hamas operatives inside. Last week a high ranking Hamas operative, Abed al Rahman Salah al Mubashar, who was one of the kidnappers of Gilad Schalit, was killed in a tunnel collapse due to flooding.
 
Continued Egyptian bombardment and floodings threaten the drinking water reserves of those in the strip, which are already in danger of salt contamination due to overuse. Tensions spiked on Friday when a Palestinian teen was shot to death after swimming across the border into the Sinai peninsula.
 
Hamas is very limited with regards to making any sort of response against the Egyptian Air Force. While Hamas does have a supply of shoulder mounted anti-aircraft missiles, it is unlikely that they would risk a direct confrontation with Egypt that would result from a direct attack on an Egyptian fighter jet.    

Erdogan warns: Iran 'will pay' for rumors Turkey buying ISIS oil

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 11:36
Turkeys Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkey on Sunday said it was "astonished" by Iranian accusations that Ankara is supporting Islamic State (ISIS) and involved in oil dealing with the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
 
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a statement there was nothing in Tehran's accusations to take "seriously."
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he had warned his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over some Iranian media reports that he and his family were involved in oil trade with ISIS jihadists.
 
Erdogan said that he spoke with Rouhani on the phone and told him: "You will pay a high price if it continues like that." He added that the Iranians later removed the news from their website.
 
Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Bilgic confirmed the telephone conversation between the two presidents and said any attempts to distort its content were "not only immoral but also equal to hiding the truth from neighboring Iranian people."
 
In response to Erdogan, Iranian foreign ministry on Friday called for "mutual politeness and respect in relations," according to the Iranian media.
 
"The continuation of policies and positions that, wanted or unwanted, have led to the support of terrorism in Syria and Iraq, only escalate the current crisis in the region and increase problems for countries that continue such policies," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber-Ansari said according to IRNA.
 
Russia and Iran are major backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
 
Turkey is supporting rebels who have been fighting Assad and has joined a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria earlier this year.
 
Bilgic said Turkey pursued "principled policies" for a peaceful solution to problems in its region.
 
He said Ankara was not taking "seriously the terrorism accusations made by the states which led to the escalation of the crisis in cooperation with the Damascus regime," referring to Iran and Russia.  
 
Turkey is currently at loggerheads with Russia after downing one of Moscow's warplanes on November 24.
 
Russia has accused Erdogan and his family of involvement in oil trade - charges blasted as "slander" and "immoral" by the Turkish strongman.
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last month that Turkey's downing of the Russian fighter jet "sends the wrong message to the terrorists" in Syria.

Iraq urges Turkey to 'immediately' withdraw troops

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 10:07
Iraqi forces withdraw from TikritBaghdad demanded Saturday the immediate withdrawal of forces it said Turkey illegally deployed in Iraq, which is struggling to assert its sovereignty while receiving foreign assistance against ISIS.
 
AFP reports that a senior officer from the Kurdish forces in the region - which are allied to Ankara - downplayed the deployment as a routine training rotation but a Turkish paper said it was part of deal to set up a permanent base.
 
The Turkish troops, tanks and artillery were sent to Nineveh, a northern province largely held by ISIS, in an area currently controlled by Kurdish forces but also claimed by Baghdad.
 
Facing major political pressure as a result of statements by American officials, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has taken an increasingly hard public line on foreign forces in Iraq over the past week, terming the deployment of ground combat forces a "hostile act."
 
"The Iraqi authorities call on Turkey to... immediately withdraw from Iraqi territory," a statement from his office said.
 
"We have confirmation that Turkish forces, numbering about one armored regiment with a number of tanks and artillery, entered Iraqi territory... allegedly to train Iraqi groups, without a request or authorization from Iraqi federal authorities," it said.
 
The deployment "is considered a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty," it added.
 
Major General Nureddin Herki, the commander of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the area, said the newly-arrived Turkish troops were part of a routine rotation in a training programme accompanied by a protection force that has since returned to Turkey.
 
"Before some time, a number of Turkish officers arrived to train Hashad al-Watani forces in the Zilkan base," Herki said in a statement, referring to volunteer anti-ISIS fighters.
 
"Another team arrived to the camp to replace the previous team, and the mission of the [new] force that came was only to protect the trainers and return the previous team to Turkey," he said.
 
Herki rejected reports that a large Turkish force had deployed to take part in an operation to recapture the nearby city of Mosul from ISIS.
 
Political pressure on PM
 
But Turkish media reported much more major deployment than that described by Herki.
 
"Turkey is establishing a base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul with 600 soldiers," Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its front page.
 
The newspaper said that an agreement to do this was concluded early last month between Iraqi Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani and then Turkish foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu.
 
The Peshmerga forces deployed in the Bashiqa area are loyal to Barzani's party, which has close ties to Ankara.
 
Baghdad's relations with Turkey have improved recently but remained strained by Ankara's relationship with Barzani and differences over the Syrian civil war.
 
Abadi has repeatedly said Iraq needed all the help it could to fight ISIS but is also walking a fine line between receiving that support and projecting sovereignty.
 
The Turkish deployment is just the latest in a series of challenges he faced over the past week that have pushed him to take a hard line on foreign forces helping Iraq against ISIS, which overran large parts of Iraq last year.
 
Calls from two American senators for the number of US troops in Iraq to be tripled combined with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's announcement that Washington would send a special forces contingent to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria put Abadi under heavy pressure.
 
Shi'ite paramilitary forces dominated by Iran-backed militias came out strongly against the US, and Abadi issued his own series of increasingly strident statements on foreign forces.

France and Britain to boost cooperation on ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 09:25
France and Britain to boost cooperationFrench President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron have agreed to "intensify their cooperation" in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, Hollande's office said in a statement Saturday.
 
The two leaders spoke by phone, with Hollande congratulating Cameron on winning a recent vote in the British parliament to start bombing ISIS targets in Syria, the French presidency said, according to AFP.
 
"The two leaders agreed to further intensify their cooperation in the fight against Daesh (ISIS) both in the Syrian campaign and in the exchange of information," the Elysee Palace said.
 
France began intensifying its air strikes against ISIS in Syria in late November, two days after the group carried out the deadly attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.
 
Britain was already carrying out anti-ISIS air strikes in Iraq but had not joined the air strikes in Syria until Thursday, just hours after parliament gave its approval, a vote which was a victory for Cameron, who suffered an embarrassing defeat in parliament in 2013 when MPs voted against British military action against the Assad regime in Syria.
 
Britain’s change of policy with regards to air strikes in Syria came following the Paris attacks, and after Cameron told lawmakers that Britain shouldn’t wait until an attack on its territory to take action against ISIS.
 
News of the cooperation between Britain and France came hours before a man carried out a stabbing attack at the London underground, injuring three people while saying he was carrying out the attack “for Syria”.

As world focuses on Syria and Iraq, ISIS tightens grip on Libya

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 06 December 2015 08:57
ISIS tightens grip on Libya(AFP) The Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS or IS) has strengthened its grip in its Libyan stronghold Sirte, as new recruits and foreign fighters join its ranks while world attention focuses on Iraq and Syria.
 
Experts and sources in Libya say Sirte has become a new focal point for the jihadist group as it comes under increasing pressure in its traditional Iraqi and Syrian power bases.
 
"It is clear 'IS central' made an investment on Libya a long time ago," in a strategy dating back almost two years, said Mattia Toaldo, policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
 
"Foreign fighters from North Africa are increasingly flocking to Sirte rather than going all the way to Syria."
 
Exploiting the chaos in Libya as rival militias and governments battled for power, ISIS seized Sirte in June, beheading and putting on crosses the bodies of militiamen who had been fighting them in the coastal city.
 
Officials in the army loyal to the internationally recognized authorities in the east say Sirte, the hometown of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has become a destination of choice for new recruits.
 
"Sirte is now the center... where new recruits are trained and instructed in the ideology of IS," said Mohamed Hijazi, a spokesman for the military led by General Khalifa Haftar.
 
"Hundreds of foreign fighters have flowed in from Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria to be trained and ready to carry out attacks in other countries," said an army colonel who spoke on condition of anonymity.  
 
A foreign ministry source said the number of ISIS recruits in Sirte was "several thousand" and growing, thanks to the "pressure" the jihadists are being put under in Iraq and Syria.  
 
Another government official, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS, said the "strikes against Daesh (in Iraq and Syria) could force it to relocate its leaders and command centers to Libya."
 
The United Nations, in a report issued on Tuesday, estimated that the number of ISIS fighters in Libya is 2,000 to 3,000, including 1,500 in Sirte.
 
'Everything has changed'
 
"Everything has changed in Sirte. Daesh fighters roam the streets as though at home," said a former leader in Sirte's local council.
 
"They do checks to make sure people aren't skipping prayers and enforce sharia law, and women are rarely seen" in public, said the former official who fled to Misrata, located half-way along the coast to the Libyan capital.
 
ISIS strives to give the impression that life in Sirte is normal, staging events to publicize the opening of new bakeries or butcher shops while distributing videos of punitive amputations.
 
A recent Arab media report even claimed ISIS in Sirte was attempting to build an air force.
 
Islamic State recognizes that the chaotic situation in Libya offers it the opportunity to develop its influence network," said risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft.
 
"It is likely to be able to maintain a substantial presence that supports its network across the region for as long as the civil war persists."
 
In Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the situation in the conflict-riddled country will be "the big issue in the coming months", noting how "terrorism constantly mutates."
 
Former colonial power Italy is pressing for an international summit on Libya along the same lines as a recent conference in Vienna aimed at ending the nearly five-year-old war in Syria.
 
It has set a December 13 date for a conference in Rome aimed at preventing the total collapse of Libya and halting the advance of ISIS.
 
But for now there is no political solution in sight to end Libya's conflict, with UN-brokered talks on the formation of a national unity government failing in the autumn and yet to resume.
 
Meanwhile, the jihadist group is trying to expand its zone of influence to Ajdabiya.
 
Controlled by militias loyal to the recognized government, the city lies between Sirte and Benghazi in an area where most of the country's oil and gas terminals are clustered.
 
ISIS is also fighting in some parts of the cities of Benghazi and Derna.
 
"ISIL is an evident short- and long-term threat in Libya," said Tuesday's UN expert report, using another name for ISIS.
 
But it added that the jihadists face "strong resistance from the population as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances."

ISIS beheads Russian 'spy', threatens Putin

Category: News
Created on Friday, 04 December 2015 08:41
ISIS beheads Russian spyIslamic State (ISIS) released a new scare video Wednesday, this time targeting the Russians. 
 
The video, entitled "You Shall be Disappointed and Humiliated O Russians," shows the beheading of an alleged Chechen spy - a 23 year-old who admits on camera to passing along information to Moscow from Syria and Iraq about the 605 Russian citizens who left to join the jihadists. 
 
The "spy" added that the Russians are having difficulty keeping track of the foreign nationals, due to the common practice of changing names upon joining the organization. 
 
The terrorist speaks in Russian before decapitating his victim, stating, "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin, you dog, we attacked [Syrian President Bashar] Assad prior to your arrival as well as the Americans and their allies - we will also attack you."
 
Russia began airstrikes on ISIS in Syria in late September. 
 
The film was shot in the ISIS "capital" of Raqqa, Syria. 
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ISIS's Sinai commander in Gaza for Hamas talks

Category: News
Created on Friday, 04 December 2015 08:06
shadi meneiShadi al-Menei, the commander of the Islamic State (ISIS) branch Sinai Province, is currently in Gaza on a secret visit to speak with Hamas leaders.
 
The surprising revelation reported late Thursday by Channel 2 exposes the deep level of coordination between the terrorist organizations, which has been kept tightly under wraps.
 
Al-Menei held talks with the heads of Hamas's "armed wing," the Al-Qassam Brigades, about expanding the cooperation between the groups according to the report.
 
The channel notes that Hamas is being aided by ISIS in order to smuggle in weapons through the cross-border tunnels that Egypt's army has not yet destroyed, and in return is providing Sinai Province with advanced weapons such as Cornet anti-tank missiles which ISIS has used in Sinai against Egypt - including against an Egyptian patrol ship.
 
The head of Sinai Province, which was called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before pledging loyalty to ISIS, has been a wanted man in Egypt for several years. Last May it was thought that he had been eliminated, but later it emerged that he survived the attempt.
 
Al-Menei is responsible for the terrorist attack on Highway 12 in 2011, in which nine Israelis were murdered. He also orchestrated rocket fire on Eilat, Israel's southernmost port city.
 
Back in July Israel announced it had information that Hamas had supplied ISIS with the weapons it used in a particularly brutal attack on Egyptian soldiers that left over 70 dead. Likewise, Hamas commanders were revealed as having supplied organizational support in the attack.
 
Days after the revelation, a senior IDF officer said Hamas was cooperating with Sinai Peninsula to keep its influx of weapons going through smuggling tunnels, and prepare for its next war against Israel.
 
Hamas, for its part, repeatedly rejected announcements by Israel that it is aiding ISIS, which is also gaining a foothold in Gaza itself through local Salafist groups voicing support for ISIS. Those groups are in conflict with Hamas, but are also not official branches of ISIS like Sinai Province is.
 
"Hamas is fighting ISIS in the Strip, but on the other side there is cooperation between Hamas elements from Gaza and ISIS in Sinai," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) explained in July.

Syria: Al Qaeda rebels kill key ISIS commander

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 07:45
Abu Ali al-BaridiThe leader of a jihadist Syrian rebel faction that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS) was killed Sunday in a suicide attack by rival jihadists, a monitoring group said.  
 
"Abu Ali al-Baridi, head of Al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade and nicknamed 'The Uncle', was killed in a suicide attack by Al-Nusra Front," Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said Baridi and two of his group's top leaders were killed in the town of Jamlah in the southern Syrian province of Daraa bordering Jordan.
 
Baridi's faction pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and operated in the south of the country, Abdel Rahman said.
 
Al-Nusra's official Twitter account confirmed it had attacked Baridi, calling it a "heroic infiltration operation."
 
The two jihadist factions had been clashing in Daraa "for months", Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that Al-Nusra fighters fired celebratory gunshots when they learned "The Uncle" had been killed.
 
At least 32 fighters from Al-Nusra, Al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade and other Islamist groups died in intra-rebel clashes earlier this week.
 
"With this assassination, Al-Nusra has asserted its control on the southwestern front of Daraa province, near the border with (Israel's) Golan," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Daraa province is largely under opposition control and is dominated by the pro-West Southern Front alliance, while the provincial capital is divided between regime and rebel forces.
 
Al-Nusra and ISIS were originally both part of Al-Qaeda's network in Syria, but ISIS split into its own faction in early 2014 and the groups have been fighting each other ever since.

Yazidis torch Muslim homes in revenge for ISIS genocide

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 07:24
YazidisMembers of Iraq's Yazidi minority, which was brutally attacked by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, looted and burned Muslim homes in Sinjar after its recapture from the jihadists, witnesses said Sunday.
 
ISIS overran the northern town last year, targeting Yazidis - whose faith it considers heretical - in a campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape that the United Nations has described as a possible genocide.  
 
Yazidis fleeing the ISIS onslaught in August 2014 told AFP that some of their Muslim neighbors enabled the attacks, identifying them for the jihadists.
 
Sinjar was recaptured from ISIS on Friday in a major operation led by forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and backed by US-led air strikes.  
 
"Muslim houses were looted and burned," especially those that had "Sunni" written on them after ISIS seized the town, said one witness, who declined to be named.  
 
An AFP journalist saw houses in Sinjar that had been marked "Sunni", possibly as a means for ISIS to identify which homes should be protected.
 
"I saw one of the mosques burned at the hands of Yazidis," the witness said.
 
A second witness, who also asked not to be identified by name, also reported seeing Yazidis looting Muslim homes and setting them alight.
 
Kurdish security commanders denied that burning and looting was taking place, and accounts of the unrest could not be independently confirmed.  
 
Rights group Amnesty International documented attacks by Yazidi militiamen against two Sunni Arab villages north of Sinjar in January, in which 21 people were killed and numerous houses burned.
 
Looting and burning has followed the recapture of other areas in Iraq from ISIS, sparking resentment among residents and posing a threat to long-term stability. 

ISIS mass grave of Yazidi women found

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 15 November 2015 11:03
mass grave of YazidiA mass grave believed to hold the remains of dozens of Yazidi women executed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group was found Saturday in northern Iraq, officials said.
 
The grave, which has not yet been excavated, is located on the edge of the town of Sinjar, which was captured from ISIS this week in an operation led by Kurdish security forces and backed by US-led air strikes.
 
The area is infamous for a brutal ISIS campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape against Yazidis, a minority group whose faith the jihadists consider heretical.
 
The grave contains the bodies of some 78 women aged between 40 to around 80, according to younger women who had been enslaved by ISIS, witnessed the executions and later escaped, said Miyasir Hajji, a Sinjar council member.
 
"It seems the (ISIS) terrorist members only wanted young girls to enslave," Hajji said, a reference to jihadists using women as sex slaves who can be bought and sold.
 
Mahma Khalil, the local official responsible for the Sinjar area, confirmed that the grave had been found, and said it is believed to contain some 80 victims.
 
ISIS overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to a mountain overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the jihadists.
 
The United Nations has described the attack on the Yazidis as a possible genocide.
 
Aiding the Yazidis was one of Washington's main justifications for starting its air campaign against the jihadists last year.

ISIS Paris attack: What do we know so far?

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 November 2015 12:56
Paris-AttacksFollowing is a summary of what is known so far about Friday's attacks in Paris that left at least 128 murdered:
 
Islamic State claim
 
The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. It said "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" conducted a "blessed attack on... Crusader France."
 
Clues to the attackers
 
The main lead for French police is a Syrian connection. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the assailants and police believe members of the group may have trained in Jihadist areas. The attackers seemed to be fit and well-trained, a police source said.
 
Witnesses say they were young and very self-assured. Police identified a Frenchman, previously known to police, as "very likely" being one of the assailants.
 
One or more of the attackers shouted out in French, which points to others also being French nationals.
 
Authorities hope DNA tests and fingerprinting on the attackers' corpses will yield further clues.
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A foreign base?
 
Witnesses say the attackers drove up in a Belgium-registered car. This may mean the group operated from outside France, but police are not ruling out local support. Another pointer to foreign involvement is the arrest of a man in Bavaria, Germany, carrying automatic weapons and explosives, who could have a link to the Paris attacks, according to a Bavarian minister.
 
Coordinated operation
 
The simultaneous attacks on the Stade de France during an international match, on restaurants and a concert hall - all within 30 minutes - carry the hallmarks of a masterminded assault to spread fear and confusion. In August, a Frenchman arrested on his return from Syria, where he spent time in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, mentioned an ISIS order to target a concert hall, according to a police source.
 
Investigators into terrorist attacks in January, which targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, say the assailants received instructions from the Iraqi-Syrian border region controlled by ISIS.
 
The modus operandi: A first for France?
 
These attacks differ from previous ones in France, in their scale and operational style, say investigators.
 
Suicide vests in particular are a first. French police say this points to a highly-skilled bomb maker still at large.
 
"An explosives expert never takes part in attacks, he is too valuable for that. So he's out there somewhere," former intelligence chief Claude Chouet told AFP.
 
France's response
 
France is throwing everything it has into the probe. All investigating judges are on alert. All French anti-terror units have been mobilized. The entire force of the so-called Judicial Police specializing in criminal probes, totaling 2,000 agents, has been deployed.
 
The state of emergency declared by President Francois Hollande gives police wide powers, especially for night raids. Anti-terror judges are standing by.
 
France has asked for assistance from foreign intelligence services, especially in Europe.

ISIS murders at least 128 in Paris

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 November 2015 12:33
paris-shootingIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists on Saturday claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 128 people in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium.
 
French President Francois Hollande also blamed the Islamic extremist group for the bloodshed and called the coordinated assault on Friday night at six different sites an "act of war."
 
The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the attackers appeared to confirm fears over the threat posed to Europe by extremism in the Middle East.
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The attacks were "prepared, organized and planned overseas, with help from inside (France) which the investigation will establish," Hollande added on Saturday.
 
The streets of the French capital were eerily quiet on Saturday, as authorities declared a state of national emergency following the worst attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
 
While many locals and tourists stayed indoors out of fear, hundreds gathered spontaneously at blood donation centers. At the spots where lives had been lost only hours before, well-wishers passed to place flowers and candles.
 
"They didn't stop firing"
 
Shocked survivors told how eight terrorists, all wearing suicide vests, had stalked the city Friday night gunning down people at bars and restaurants indiscriminately at one of the busiest times of the evening.
 
In the worst of the bloodshed, four men armed with assault rifles and shouting "Allahu akbar" (Allah is greater) stormed into the Bataclan concert venue.
 
They mowed down dozens of people at a sold-out show by American rock group Eagles of Death Metal before executing hostages one by one, witnesses said.
 
"They didn't stop firing. There was blood everywhere, corpses everywhere. Everyone was trying to flee," Pierre Janaszak, a radio presenter who was at the concert, told AFP.
 
The gunmen were heard raging at Hollande and his decision in September to begin air strikes on Islamic State jihadists in Syria.
 
"I clearly heard them say 'It's the fault of Hollande, it's the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria'," Janaszak added.
 
Three of the terrorists blew up their explosive belts as heavily armed anti-terror police ended the siege at around 12.30 a.m. local time, while a fourth was hit by police fire.
 
Another attacker blew himself up in nearby Boulevard Voltaire.
 
A police officer who took part in the storming of the building told AFP: "It was horrible inside, a bloodbath, people shot in the head, people who were shot as they were lying on the ground."
 
ISIS claims responsibility
 
In a statement posted online Saturday, ISIS said "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" conducted a "blessed attack on...Crusader France."
 
It said the targets of Friday's attacks "were carefully chosen." The statement also made reference to French air strikes on ISIS in Syria.
 
It said France was guilty of "striking Muslims in the caliphate with their aircraft" and threatened further attacks "as long as it continues its Crusader campaign."
 
The death toll of 128 does not include the eight attackers, the first suicide bombers to strike in France.
 
The assault also left at least 250 wounded, 100 of them seriously.
 
In a sombre address, Hollande said the multiple attacks were "an act of war... committed by a terrorist army, Daesh, against France," using another term for ISIS.
 
France has been on high alert since January when jihadist gunmen murdered 17 people in Paris in attacks targeting satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.
 
Another disaster was narrowly averted in August when a gunman was overpowered on a packed high-speed train in northern France.
 
No arrests had been made by midday Saturday. Police were screening hours of CCTV footage of the attack sites and were attempting to identify the body parts of the attackers.
 
Hollande declared three days of mourning, and in a sign of the nervousness in the capital, sports events were canceled, many museums were closed and public demonstrations were banned.
 
The attack claimed by ISIS would mark its third high-profile attack outside of its areas of control in recent weeks. On Thursday it claimed dual suicide bombings in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, leaving 45 dead.
 
Earlier this month it apparently planted a bomb on a Russian Metrojet passenger airliner, killing all 224 people aboard.
 
Global condemnation
 
Hollande himself had to be hastily evacuated from the Stade de France on Friday night when suicide bombers detonated explosives belts outside the stadium during a friendly football international between France and Germany.
 
At first, few of the crowd grasped the significance of what was happening and the game continued. When news began filtering in, people surged onto the pitch.
 
US President Barack Obama led international condemnation, saying it was "an attack on all of humanity," and New York lit the new World Trade Center in the red, white and blue of the French flag in sympathy.
 
Obama is one of dozens of world leaders expected to attend key UN climate talks just outside the French capital from November 30.
 
Authorities had already tightened security at France's borders on Friday, hours ahead of the carnage in Paris, while European governments held emergency security meetings to respond to the crisis.
 
In the wake of the attacks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani postponed his visit to France that was due to begin on Monday.
 
Other targets
 
As well as the sports stadium in northeast Paris and the centrally located concert hall, several restaurants were also targeted, including a popular Cambodian eatery in the trendy Canal St. Martin area, where at least 12 people died.
 
Outside the Cambodian restaurant Saturday, mourners placed flowers, a candle and the French national flag, which had "Fluctuat nec mergitur" written on it - the Latin slogan of Paris, which means "It is buffeted by the waves, yet remains afloat."
 
Around 18 people were also shot in nearby Rue de Charonne, with a cafe and a Japanese restaurant apparently targeted.
 
French media reacted with horror.
 
"War in central Paris," splashed center-right daily Le Figaro, with Le Parisien saying: "This time it's war."
 
Other reactions were a mix of fear and defiance.
 
Concert-goer Charles, who spoke to AFP at the Bataclan, said he would refuse to be cowed by the scenes of terror he had experienced.
 
"Life goes on. We won't give in to fear," he said. "I'm going to a concert on Tuesday. Keep rocking!"

Intercepted ISIS calls discuss downing Russian plane

Category: News
Created on Friday, 13 November 2015 11:45
downing Russian planeUS intelligence officials intercepted calls between ISIS members in the Sinai Peninsula and their superiors in Syria, in which the terrorists bragged about downing a Russian plane, NBC reports.
 
The officials added that an additional message preceded the crash and stated that there would be "something big in the area," though it did not mention anything about a plane.
 
The latest beliefs among experts is that a bomb the plane, Metrojet Flight 9268, was destroyed as the result of an explosion in its luggage bay.

ISIS frees 37 kidnapped Syrian Christians

Category: News
Created on Friday, 13 November 2015 11:30
ISIS frees 37 kidnapped Syrian ChristiansISIS released 37 Syrian Christians Saturday, most of them women, who were among more than 200 people kidnapped in February, an NGO said.
 
The group of Assyrian Christians consisted of 27 women and 10 men, most of them elderly, the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights.
 
They arrived on Saturday morning in the town of Tal Tamr in the Khabur region of Hasakeh province in northeastern Syria, the group said.
 
AFP reports that the releases were confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which said most of those freed were from other towns in Khabur.
 
The former hostages were among a group of 220 Assyrians captured by ISIS when they overran parts of the region in February.
 
Since then, a trickle of prisoners has been released, with between 140 and 150 believed to be still held by ISIS.
 
The Assyrian Monitor said the releases were the result of negotiations carried out by the church, but other reports suggest ISIS has been paid to free the hostages.
 
Assyrians numbered about 30,000 among Syria's 1.2 million Christians before the country's conflict began. They lived mostly in 35 villages in Hasakeh.
 
In February, ISIS overran many of the villages, but Kurdish forces later expelled them.
 
ISIS has captured hundreds of hostages, including Christians from different denominations, in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.
 
Elsewhere, the Britain-based Observatory said at least 10 civilians, among them a child and a woman, were killed in air strikes on rebel-held Douma, outside Damascus.
 
The group said the strikes were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, but could not confirm.
 
The Observatory's director Rami Abdel Rahman said the toll was expected to rise because of the number of people seriously wounded.
 
Douma lies in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus and is a frequent target of government air strikes.
 
The Observatory also said Saturday that the toll in Thursday air strikes on the town on Albu Kamal on the Syrian border with Iraq had risen to 49 people, at least 31 of them civilians.
 
It had previously said at least 22 people were killed in the strikes, but it was not able to confirm who was behind the attacks.
 
Russia, Syria's government and a US-led coalition are all carrying out bombing in Syria, sometimes operating in the same areas.
 
The Observatory said at least four of those killed in the attacks on the ISIS-held town were children.

Pentagon welcomes advance of ISIS-fighting alliance

Category: News
Created on Friday, 13 November 2015 08:50
ISIS-fighting allianceA coalition including Syrian Arab groups regained a swath of territory in northeastern Syria from Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, a US military spokesman said Wednesday, calling it an encouraging success.
 
The fighters, who are from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its Syrian Arab Coalition subgroup, regained 87 square miles (255 square kilometers) near the town of al-Hawl, US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.
 
The group "conducted an attack ... driving ISIL back," Warren said by videoconference from Baghdad, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.
 
"This is not a large tactical action," he said, but "we are encouraged by what we saw."  
 
The spokesman said the operation had pitted "well over a thousand friendly forces" against "several hundred enemies" in the vicinity, after heavy US airstrikes had cleared the way.
 
Warren said the United States intended to "reinforce" the action, seeming to hint at further ammunition air drops to US-allied groups after those that took place last month.
 
The Syrian Democratic Forces were formed in mid-October as an alliance between the powerful Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and other Syrian rebel groups.
 
The Pentagon's announcement came just a day after The New York Times published an article calling into question the capabilities of the SDF and the Syrian Arab Coalition.
 
Referring to the SDF, The Times said that "nearly all the group's fighting power comes from ethnic Kurdish militias" - suggesting it was not quite the coalition of Arabs and Kurds it claimed to be.
 
Meanwhile, the name "Syrian Arab Coalition," one senior official said, was "an American invention." The group is supposed to have 4,000 to 5,000 fighters.
 
The US military has been struggling to show substantial results of its support for anti-ISIS forces.
 
It has already scrapped a $500 million program to build a rebel army to fight ISIS, after many candidates failed to pass the screening process and one group gave equipment to an Al-Qaeda affiliate.
 
After the debacle, the United States decided simply to supply equipment and air support to certain rebel groups, particularly in northern Syria.
 
In mid-October, it parachuted 50 tons of small-arms ammunition and rockets to rebels fighting ISIS.  
 
The White House announced on Friday that US President Barack Obama had authorized the first sustained deployment of special forces to Syria, reversing a long-standing refusal to put US boots on the ground.
 
The president approved the deployment of "fewer than 50" special operations personnel in the north of the war-ravaged nation, but Warren said no special operations forces were on the ground in the latest operation.  
 
The al-Hawl offensive was supported by 17 air strikes that included A-10s - an anti-tank aircraft often called the "Warthog" - and an AC-130 Spectre gunship, a ground attack plane, from Incirlik, Turkey, Warren said.
 
The agreement by Turkey, a NATO ally, to allow US forces to fly Syria missions from Incirlik has given a boost to the US effort.
 
Warren called the recent advance of allied forces a "validator" for the latest US operation.
 
In Syria, the SDF and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which seeks to document abuses in that country's civil war, have confirmed the death during the al-Hawl offensive of a Canadian national fighting for ISIS.
 
An SDF spokesman said the man died Wednesday during a suicide attack by a jihadist.

Traditional Islam: the cause for terror in Israel and worldwide

Category: Islam
Created on Thursday, 12 November 2015 10:58
islamIslamic State (ISIS) has begun targeting Israel in its videos, including one recent film with a terrorist addressing Israelis in Hebrew.
 
To gain perspective on the situation, Arutz Sheva spoke to Dr. Ephraim Herrera, author of the book Jihad: Fundamentals and Fundamentalism.
 
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"The Islamic State does mean what it says," Herrera began. "For the Islamic orthodoxy, the Jews are the first enemy of Islam." 
 
Herrera explained that this hatred stems from the Jews being the first to oppose the prophecy of Mohammed when Islam first debuted in the seventh century. 
 
More than that, however, Islam - like Christianity - blames Jews for the death of their greatest prophet and founder. The fact makes Jews a universal target, bereft of partisan politics that other terror groups use to justify murder, i.e. the "Occupation." 
 
"According to Islamic tradition, the Jews have killed Mohammed - they poisoned him," he said. "You have to pay attention to the fact that in these clips of Islamic State, calling to kill all the Jews, they do not speak about the territories, or about the economic or social problems facing the Palestinians. The basic problem is an ontological one." 
 
The specific language ISIS uses - 'a war of stones and trees' - is based on classical Islamic texts as well, he noted, stating that the End of Days will see the land itself tell Muslims to come and kill Jews. 
 
Beating ISIS, beating tradition
 
ISIS's entire foundation of existence is, too, based on classical Islam, he said. 
 
"First, the aim is not only on Israel: it's on the world," he stated. "Their goal is to conquer the world, because this is the goal of the traditional Islam: to have all the world under the rule of Islam." 
 
To combat this, Dr. Herrera urged the West not only to fight by air, but to send in ground forces. He cited recent victories in Syria, including at Homs, which have succeeded despite myriad air bombardments. 
 
"The West has to be aware of a problem which could become tremendous very fast," he said. He drew on the history of Islam's development, noting that a small band of Mohammed's followers established an empire rivaling the Roman Empire within 100 years. 
 
Not a problem of race, but of religion
 
Dr. Herrera also shot down the Israeli misconception that the problem of terror in Israel is an Arab problem; rather, he said, it's a Muslim problem. 
 
The recent terror wave is based on ISIS-related ideals, he noted, including working with lone wolves, who cannot easily be identified. 
 
"Even if the damage [a terrorist] causes is less tremendous than a bomb or something like that, it had benefits for them," he emphasized. "The population is afraid of this terror, children are warned not to go outside, the economy is weakened, and then they hope, as a second stage, people leave." 
 
And while the current wave of Palestinian Arab incitement claims over and over again that Jewish presence on the Temple Mount has "caused" the terror, "in Islam, Jerusalem is not important." 

Al-Qaeda leader urges Muslim unity against West and Russia

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 21:24
Ayman al-ZawahiriAl-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri is calling on Muslim supporters to band together to confront the “threat” from the West and Russia in Syria and Iraq, Reuters reported on Sunday.
 
The call came in the latest recording from the Al-Qaeda leader and, in it, he suggested greater unity between his and Islamic State (ISIS).
 
"The Americans, Russians, Iranians, Alawites, and Hezbollah are coordinating their war against us -- are we not capable of stopping the fighting amongst ourselves so we can direct all our efforts against them?" he said in an audio recording released on the Internet on Sunday, according to Reuters.
 
It was not clear when the recording was made but references to Russian “aggression” suggest it was made after Russia began airstrikes against opposition groups and Islamic State in Syria on September 30.
 
In September, Zawahiri released a recording in which he said he viewed ISIS’ claim to be a caliphate as “illegitimate” but would join them in fighting Western and secular forces in Iraq and Syria if necessary.
 
"My mujahideen brothers in all places and of all groups ... we face aggression from America, Europe, and Russia ... so it's up to us to stand together as one from East Turkestan to Morocco," Zawahiri said in Sunday’s recording.
 
Despite fierce fighting in Syria between ISIS and a coalition of powerful jihadist groups which included Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, Al-Nusra and ISIS had temporarily agreed to work together several months ago.
 
However, by June this year that alliance seemed to have ended, when ISIS jihadists beheaded 12 men from rival Syrian rebel movements. Three of those killed in the new video were from Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the Damascus area, and a fourth from Al-Nusra Front.
 
Zawahiri also released a recording in September in which he called on young Muslim men in the United States and other Western countries to carry out attacks in their countries.

Anti-ISIS activists beheaded in Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 November 2015 09:27
Anti-ISIS activists beheadedThe beheaded bodies of a Syrian activist opposed to the Islamic State (ISIS) group and his friend were found early Friday in the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, his group told AFP.
 
Ibrahim Abdul Qader, 20, and his friend Fares Hamadi "were found beheaded at the friend's house this morning," Abu Mohammad, a founder of the "Raqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently" group, said via the Internet.
 
The group, which documents abuses in areas under ISIS control in Syria, accused the jihadist organization of the murders on its Facebook page.
 
If ISIS was indeed behind the attack in Turkey it would indicate their strong presence over the border from Syria, despite Turkey's alleged campaign against ISIS which has instead targeted Kurdish forces to a far higher degree, indicating the true goal of Ankara.
 
Turkey's role regarding ISIS was placed in question after documents were seized in July showing Ankara cooperated with ISIS by taking part in ISIS's cross-border black market oil sales.
 
According to Abu Mohammad, both men were from Raqa city, the de facto capital of ISIS in Syria. Hamadi was also in his early 20s.
 
Abdul Qader had escaped to Turkey a little over a year ago.
 
Members of the activist group had been killed inside Syria in the past, but this is the first time a member had been killed outside the country, Abu Mohammad added.
 
Turkey's Dohan news agency reported Friday that "two Syrian journalists were beheaded" in Sanliurfa, and that seven Syrians had been arrested by Turkish police.
 
Sanliurfa is 55 kilometers (35 miles) from Turkey's border with Syria's Raqa province, a major ISIS stronghold in the country.
 
Turkey has long been accused by Syrian opposition activists, Kurdish fighters and sometimes even Western partners of allowing ISIS members to slip back and forth across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) frontier with Syria.
 
Bloody bomb attacks in southern Turkey, including an attack in July that claimed 32 lives in Suruc, have been blamed on ISIS, though the group has never claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Iraq Steps Up Anti-ISIS Coordination with Iran, Syria, Russia

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 01 October 2015 12:36
Families fleeing the violence in the Iraqi city of MosuIraq, Russia, Iran and Syria have agreed to set up an intelligence committee in Baghdad, a spokesman said Sunday, a further sign of Moscow's growing role in the region's conflict.
 
Iraq welcomed the creation of the cell as a chance to help harmonize often competing efforts in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.
 
"It's a committee coordinating between the four countries, with representatives of each country, in the field of military intelligence and aimed at sharing and analyzing information," Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office, told the AFP news agency.
 
He added the cell would focus on "monitoring the movements of terrorists... and degrading their capacity".
 
A statement from Iraq's Joint Operations Command said the deal with Moscow comes amid "growing concern over the presence of thousands of Russian terrorists engaged in criminal acts with Daesh," an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
Russia's Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev earlier this month estimated that 1,800 Russian citizens are fighting for ISIS, while reports have suggested Moscow is deliberately letting militants take their jihad (holy war) away from its own borders.
 
Hadithi would not say whether the new cell had already begun its work. There was no comment on the issue from Damascus and Tehran.
 
A Russian "military-diplomatic source" quoted by Russian news agencies said the center in Baghdad would be managed on a rotational basis, with Iraq taking the lead for the first three months.
 
"The main functions of this center will be collection, processing and analysis of information regarding the situation in the Middle East in the context of fighting the Islamic State group, distributing this information to the relevant parties and quickly forwarding it to the general staffs of these countries," the source was quoted by AFP as saying.
 
The move comes as Moscow boosts its military presence in neighboring Syria, deploying more troops and warplanes to an air base along with new arms deliveries to President Bashar Al-Assad's regime, a longstanding ally.
 
The United States was so concerned about reports of Russia’s increased presence in Syria that Secretary of State John Kerry phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a total of three times in ten days to discuss the situation.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow for talks with Putin earlier this week. During the meeting with Netanyahu, Putin sought to calm Israeli concerns over the deployment of Russian soldiers in Syria, telling the Israeli Prime Minister his forces would act "responsibly," and noting the Syrian regime was in not fit state to attack Israel.
 
The United States has a $500-million program to train and equip vetted moderates recruited from among the rebels fighting Assad, but it has faced repeated setbacks.
 
Washington's strategy in Iraq, built on an air campaign and the deployment of several thousand military trainers and advisers, has also come under increasing fire as failing to produce results.
 
Moscow has sold fighter jets and weaponry to Iraq but has taken the back seat as Iran and the U.S.-led coalition -- which also includes France and Britain -- often competed to be Baghdad's top partner in the war against ISIS.
 
A decades-long backer of the Damascus regime, Moscow has steadfastly supported Assad throughout four and a half years of a conflict that has killed more than 240,000 people and triggered the worst migrant crisis in Europe since World War II.
 
Western powers have recently softened their stance categorically rejecting a role for Assad in any political solution to the conflict in Syria.
 
Abadi's spokesman said enhanced intelligence cooperation would positively affect operations against ISIS, which proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq last year.
 
"Having a broader base of intelligence thanks to cooperation with these three countries as well as with the coalition will give our security forces more opportunities to achieve victory in the war against terrorism," Hadithi said, according to AFP.

ISIS Kills Two Egyptian Soldiers in Sinai

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 01 October 2015 11:59
ISIS chiefs have reportedly given British women prominent roles Photo credit- TwitterTwo Egyptian soldiers were killed and 16 wounded by a roadside bomb today (Saturday), Associated Press reports. A northern Sinai branch of ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack.
 
The interior ministry states that the explosion occurred in the provincial capital of el-Arish, when a parked car blew up as a vehicle carrying soldiers passed.
 
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on Islamist groups in Sinai, particularly ISIS and Hamas. The measures taken include evicting residents along the border with Gaza, flooding the area to destroy tunnels, and extended military operations.
 
The army frequently announces that it has killed more terrorists, though attacks against security forces and civilians have not significantly abated.

German Reporter Reveals ISIS Plans 'Nuclear Tsunami'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 18:25
ISISA veteran German journalist who became the first to gain access as an embedded reporter with Islamic State (ISIS) revealed the jihadist terror group plans to bring nuclear annihilation across the globe.
 
The journalist, Jurgen Todenhofer (75), released his findings in a book called "Inside IS - Ten Days in the Islamic State," reports the UK's Daily Express on Friday.
 
Todenhofer, who previously was an MP in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party before turning to journalism in 2000 as a war reporter, spent ten days with ISIS.
 
He was overseen during his visit by "Jihadi John," the ISIS terrorist from the UK named Mohammed Emwazi who gained fame in gruesome beheading videos.
 
According to the journalist, the West is unprepared for ISIS. He writes that "the terrorists plan on killing several hundred million people. The west is drastically underestimating the power of ISIS."
 
ISIS intends to get its hands on nuclear weapons, says Todenhofer, calling the group a "nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history."
 
Those warnings are made all the more stark by the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East sparked by the Iran nuclear deal, with rival states such as Saudi Arabia eyeing their own nuclear arsenal leading to a higher proliferation - and a higher chance that nuclear weapons could fall into ISIS hands.
 
Describing how he got the close-up expose with ISIS, Todenhofer detailed the intense negotiations with "the leadership of the Caliphate, via Skype, over several months, hammering out the security details."
 
"Of course I'd seen the terrible, brutal beheading videos and it was of course after seeing this in the last few months that caused me the greatest concern in my negotiations to ensure how I can avoid this. Anyway, I made my will before I left."
 
In speaking about the extent of ISIS's power, he noted, "they now control land greater in size than the United Kingdom and are supported by an almost ecstatic enthusiasm the like of which I've never encountered before in a war zone. Every day hundreds of willing fighters from all over the world come."
 
"They are the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life. I don't see anyone who has a real chance to stop them. Only Arabs can stop IS. I came back very pessimistic."
 
Those pessimistic warnings highlight criticism against the limited Western campaign against ISIS.
 
US President Barack Obama, after initially calling ISIS a "JV team" of Al Qaeda before they shot to power, admitted in June he has no strategy to fight the jihadist group.

Netanyahu: Israel Must Become a World Power

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:23
Binyamin NetanyahuPrime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered a glimpse into his strategic aspirations Thursday at a Jewish New Year's reception at Mossad headquarters, which also marked 65 years since the intelligence arm's founding.
 
"We cannot solve the basic problems of the Middle East,” he said. “They are revealing themselves in their full force, and today our enemy is a double enemy: it is radical Shi'ite Islam that is led by Iran and its proxies, and the Sunni one, currently led by ISIS (Islamic State).”
 
"They fight each other, but they agree that we have no place in this Muslim region, as they see it. The alliances change, they rise and fall and rise again and send arms in various directions, including ours.”
 
"There is one certain rule,” Netanyahu intoned: “No one strikes an alliance with the weak. Our true defense in the years of the state's existence and the 65 years that the Mossad is marking now, is the strength of the state of Israel. It is this strength that we maintain.”
 
"In the face of this changing world, Israel must be a power. Not just a regional power, but in some spheres, a world power.”
 
Three days ago, Netanyahu met Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss regional arrangements.
 
Netanyahu said he was determined to stop arms deliveries to the Hezbollah terrorist group that has been aiding Assad forces, and accused Syria's army and Iran of trying to create a "second front" against Israel. Iran has deployed hundreds of additional soldiers from its Revolutionary Guards Force in an effort to prevent flagging pro-Assad forces crumbling in the face of concerted rebel offensives on their western heartlands.
 
Putin for his part said Russia's actions in the Middle East "always were and will be very responsible," and downplayed the threat by Syrian forces to Israel.  
 
"We know and understand that the Syrian army and Syria in general is in such a state that it isn't up to opening a second front - it is trying to maintain its own statehood," he said in comments broadcast on Russian television.

Sinai: Egypt Claims it Killed 500 Terrorists in 16 Days

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:20
Egypt Killed 500 Terrorists in 16 DaysThe Egyptian military claimed Wednesday to have killed more than 500 jihadi terrorists over the previous 16 days, as it gears up for the second phase of an intensive counter-terrorism operation in the restive eastern Sinai Peninsula.
 
Scores more terror suspects were also arrested during the operations.
 
According to the state-controlled Al Ahram, the first 16-day phase of "Operation Martyr's Right" achieved all of its primary objectives, including "destroying terrorist hideouts and artillery storage facilities."
 
"This operation reflected the cohesion between the army, police and the people of Sinai – as well as the unprecedented welcoming [of the people of Sinai] of joint cooperation to control the security situation and to regain their rights of security and stability," the army said in a statement.
 
The operation also extended to parts of western Egypt where armed Islamist groups have gained a foothold. 
 
On Monday, soldiers killed 10 terrorists in the Bahariya Oasis. Authorities say they were planning attacks against tourists and other "foreign interests" during the festival of Eid al-Adha, which began Wednesday.
 
The second stage of the operation will be aimed at restoring order and the rule of Egypt's central government to Sinai, which has been almost entirely ungoverned since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
 
The operation was launched to flush out terrorists from the so-called "Sinai Province" of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, which has carried out a series of deadly attacks against Egyptian civilians and security forces in the region.
 
Egypt and Israel both allege the jihadists are being aided by Islamist terrorist groups in neighboring Gaza - including Hamas. As part of the operation Egyptian security forces have begun flooding tunnels dug buy Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups from Gaza into Sinai, to prevent the movement of terrorists and weapons between the two territories.
 
Egypt has launched several military operations in Sinai to put down a years-long Islamist insurgency, which escalated after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. However despite previous similar declarations of victory the insurgency has raged on.

Putin Considering Unilateral Airstrikes Against ISIS

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 12:15
Russian President Putin  ReutersRussian President Vladimir Putin, determined to strengthen his country’s only military outpost in the Middle East, is preparing to launch unilateral airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) from inside Syria if the U.S. rejects his proposal to join forces, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday.
 
Putin’s preferred course of action, though, is for America and its allies to agree to coordinate their campaign against the terrorist group with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army, which the Obama administration has so far resisted, according to a person close to the Kremlin and an adviser to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.
 
Russian diplomacy has shifted into overdrive as Putin seeks to avoid the collapse of the embattled regime of Bashar Al-Assad, a longtime ally of Russia, who’s fighting both a four-and-a-half year civil war and Sunni extremists under the banner of Islamic State.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow for talks with Putin on Monday, followed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.
 
During the meeting with Netanyahu, Putin sought to calm Israeli concerns over the deployment of Russian soldiers in Syria, telling the Israeli Prime Minister his forces would act "responsibly," and noting the Syrian regime was in not fit state to attack Israel.
 
Putin’s latest proposal, which Russia has communicated to the U.S., calls for a “parallel track” of joint military action accompanied by a political transition away from Assad, a key U.S. demand, according to a third person who spoke to Bloomberg.
 
The initiative will be the centerpiece of Putin’s one-day trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly on September 28, which may include talks with President Barack Obama, the officials said.
 
Putin’s military buildup in Syria in recent weeks has alarmed U.S. officials who are still outraged by his annexation of Crimea and support for the insurgency in Ukraine, which prompted the American and European sanctions that have helped push Russia’s economy into recession.
 
The United States was so concerned about reports of Russia’s buildup that Secretary of State John Kerry phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a total of three times in ten days to discuss the situation.
 
The U.S. is willing to discuss coordinating strikes to avoid hostile incidents with Russian planes, but America and its allies haven’t received a “concrete” proposal from Moscow and won’t include Assad’s forces in the effort, an official in Washington told Bloomberg, speaking on condition of anonymity.
 
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, didn’t respond immediately to a text message seeking comment.
 
Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported that Russia is building two new military bases on the Syrian coast. The information was based off of private satellite photographs.
 
The two sites are believed to be a weapons storage facility and a military outpost near the city of Lattakia, Assad’s Alawite heartland, and home to a sizable military force.

Qaeda Leader: ISIS is 'Illegitimate' - But we Might Work with It

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 10 September 2015 10:05
Ayman al-Zawahiri - terrorist leaderThe leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on Wednesday said that rival group Islamic State (ISIS) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are “illegitimate”, but also said his followers would join them in fighting the Western-led coalition in Iraq and Syria if possible.
 
Speaking in an audiotape on the internet and quoted by the Reuters news agency, Zawahiri said, "We don't recognize this caliphate."
 
It was not clear when the recording was made but references to events suggest it was made at least eight months ago.
 
ISIS has declared a caliphate in large parts of Iraq and Syria under its control and sought to expand its power in the Middle East.
 
Despite rivalries between the two Islamist organizations, Zawahiri suggested there was still room for cooperation when it came to combating the West.
 
"Despite the big mistakes (of Islamic State), if I were in Iraq or Syria I would cooperate with them in killing the crusaders and secularists and Shiites even though I don't recognize the legitimacy of their state, because the matter is bigger than that," he said, according to Reuters.
 
Zawahiri did not elaborate, but his comments raised the possibility he could seek cooperation with the movement that has in many ways eclipsed Al-Qaeda.
 
While Al-Qaeda has specialized in high profile bombings, ISIS seems bent on seizing and holding territory in its quest to create a self-sustaining caliphate.
 
Despite fierce fighting in Syria between ISIS and a coalition of powerful jihadist groups which included Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, Al-Nusra and ISIS had temporarily agreed to work together several months ago.
 
However, by June this year that alliance seemed to have ended, when ISIS jihadists beheaded 12 men from rival Syrian rebel movements. Three of those killed in the new video were from Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the Damascus area, and a fourth from Al-Nusra Front.

ISIS Offers Reward for Killing Al Qaeda Leader

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 11:29
Reward for Killing Al Qaeda LeaderThe ongoing rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda has reached new heights this week, with ISIS distributing "Wanted Dead" posters for several key Al Qaeda commanders - including the group's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri
 
The posters began circulating earlier in August and were apparently the work of ISIS's official branch in Libya. ISIS has been fighting various other militias for control in the North African country, which has slipped into a state of lawlessness after the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
 
In the initial stages of the campaign, dozens of posters were released offering bounties for the heads of the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) - an Al Qaeda-linked Islamist coalition that is currently battling ISIS for control of the eastern Libyan city of Derna.
 
The MSC has proven a tough adversary and has thwarted ISIS's attempts to take the city thus far. However, several of its leaders have indeed been successfully targeted since the campaign started. According to the Long War Journal, "Each time one is killed, the Islamic State’s supporters release a new version of the graphic, changing the format and color to signify his death."
 
Other Libyan militia heads have also been targeted.
 
But the campaign soon expanded beyond Libya, to include the leader of Algeria's Al Qaeda branch (Al Murabitoun).
 
And on Sunday, ISIS released the most provocative poster yet, placing a bounty on the head of Al Qaeda's elusive leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over after the 2011 assassination of Osama Bin Laden by US Special Forces.
 
ISIS - or "Islamic State," as it refers to itself - officially broke off from Al Qaeda in February 2014, after a protracted power-struggle between Zawahiri and ISIS's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 
 
Soon after, Baghdadi declared a "Caliphate" in areas of Syria and Iraq under ISIS control, and named himself "Caliph," or supreme Muslim leader. The move further infuriated Al Qaeda, which did not recognize Baghdadi as Caliph.
 
Since then, the two groups have been locked in a bloody war, particularly in Syria, with each referring to the other as "apostates." 
 
Still, an open call to kill Al Qaeda's leader - who is currently believed to be hiding in the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region - marks a new benchmark in the animosity between the two terrorist groups.

ISIS Destroys Ancient Temple in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:56
wilya-homs-scrn-grab-palmyra-shrines-blastIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists have destroyed a temple at Syria's ancient ruins of Palmyra, activists said Sunday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
 
The move realizes the worst fears archaeologists had for the 2,000-year-old Roman-era city, after the extremists seized it and beheaded a local scholar.
 
Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites and a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits near the modern Syrian city of the same name. Activists said ISIS used explosives to blow up the Baalshamin Temple on its grounds, the blast so powerful it also damaged some of the Roman columns around it.
 
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday night that the temple was blown up a month ago. Turkey-based activist Osama al-Khatib, who is originally from Palmyra, said the temple was blown up Sunday.
 
Both said the extremists used a large amount of explosives to destroy it, according to AP. They relied on information from those still in Palmyra and the discrepancy in their accounts could not be immediately reconciled, though such contradictory information is common in Syria's long civil war.
 
The fate of the nearby Temple of Bel, dedicated to the Semitic god Bel, was not immediately known. ISIS supporters on social media also did not immediately mention the temple's destruction, according to AP.
 
In June, Islamic State blew up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which they regarded as pagan and sacrilegious.
 
The group’s destruction of artifacts was condemned by the UN’s cultural body, UNESCO, which described it as an attempt to strip the people of their heritage in order "to enslave them".
 
The Sunni extremists, who have imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across their self-declared "caliphate" in territory they control in Syria and Iraq, claim ancient relics promote idolatry and say they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism.
 
However, they are also believed to sell off looted antiquities, bringing in significant sums of cash.
 
Al-Khatib said the Baalshamin Temple is about 500 meters (550 yards) from the Palmyra's famous amphitheatre where the group killed more than 20 Syrian soldiers after they captured the historic town in May.
 
In another atrocity in Palmyra, ISIS jihadists last week beheaded an antiquities scholar in the city and hung his body on a column in a main square.
 
The scholar, 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, had worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra.

'Defeat ISIS on the Ground, Like the Nazis Were Defeated'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 20 August 2015 07:34
Mordechai KedarOn Thursday, an engineering student from the Kinneret Academic college in northern Israel was charged with joining Islamic State (ISIS). 
 
To examine the growing phenomenon of young Israeli Arabs joining the jihadist group, Arutz Sheva spoke to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, well-known expert on the Middle East and Islam and a regular columnist for Arutz Sheva. 
 
"(ISIS) is already not an organization; it's a country," Dr. Kedar stated, noting the student "is not the first" and that a wide variety of people have already joined ISIS from within Israel's borders - including a doctor from Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. 
 
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Some 60 Israeli Arabs have already joined ISIS, he said. 
 
But what does Israel plan to do about it?
 
"Israel is a strong country and I believe it has already sent a message to ISIS," he opined. 
 
Kedar explained that ISIS "is no longer an organization, it's a country." Likening it to Nazi Germany, he said that the only way to defeat it would be by fighting it on the ground, the way the Nazis were defeated.

ISIS Leader Kept American Captive as Sex Slave

Category: News
Created on Monday, 17 August 2015 10:36
The head of ISIS reportedly kept a 26-year-old woman from the US as a hostage and sex slave, according to both US officials and the victim's family.
 
Kayla Mueller's family told the London-based Independent that the FBI informed them about Kayla's abuse and that she had been tortured. The Bureau said it had obtained its information by interviewing other hostages and the wife of another senior ISIS member.
 
The fact that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself treated Mueller this way suggests that ISIS's frequently-reported abuse and rape of women is endorsed on all levels.
 
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersHuman Rights Watch released a report several month ago in which it accused ISIS of perpetrating war crimes in its treatment of female Yazidi prisoners, many of whom were forced to serve as sexual slaves for fighters.
 
ISIS has even published a magazine in English, in an article entitled "Slave Girls or Prostitutes" argues that Islam permits raping captives, pointing out that Muhammad "took four slave-girls as concubines."
 
Mueller was taken captive in August 2013 as she left a hospital in Aleppo, Syria. ISIS announced that she was killed earlier this year. The US government has confirmed Mueller's death, but not the jihadist organization's claim that she died due to a Jordanian bomb that was dropped on her building.

ISIS's Sinai Province Executes Croatian Captive

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 13 August 2015 20:46
Tomislav Salopek was brutally killedThe Sinai branch of Islamic State (ISIS), Sinai Province, announced on Wednesday that it has executed Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek, who it captured on July 22 in Cairo.
 
This marks the first execution of a Western hostage by Sinai Province, with the ruthless murder taking place in the Sinai Peninsula.
 
Sinai Province last Wednesday published a video in which it threatened to murder the 30-year-old the father of two within 48 hours if Egypt did not release "Muslim women" prisoners, but that deadline came and went.
 
In the film, Salopek read from a script and noted he was working as a topographer for a French company named Compagnie Générale de Géophysique in Cairo when he was captured.
 
He was reportedly abducted by armed terrorists while driving to work in a company car in Cairo, on a road that was not deemed dangerous.
 
Sinai Province previously went by the name Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, before pledging allegiance to ISIS earlier this year and being accepted as an official branch of the Islamist terror group.
 
The group has already conducted several executions, including against an Arab "Israeli spy" forced to dig his own grave, but this is the first time a Western captive has been executed by the group.
 
Just last month Sinai Province attacked the Italian consulate in Cairo, marking its first strike on a Western target in the country.
 
It has been highly active, launching numerous large-scale attacks on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, and likewise striking an Egyptian patrol ship with a rocket last month.

Turkey Revealed to be Cooperating with ISIS

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 16:30
Davutoglu-NATO-ISISDamning evidence was found when US special forces killed Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Sayyaf in May, revealing that NATO-member Turkey has in fact been collaborating with the brutal jihadists.
 
The British Guardian reported on Sunday that when Abu Sayyaf's compound was raided in eastern Syria, it was discovered that Turkey is the main buyer of smuggled ISIS oil which was managed by Abu Sayyaf to economically prop up the terror group.
 
The report quoted a senior Western official, who told the Observer that the findings at the compound showed direct deals between Turkish officials and ISIS leaders is "undeniable."
 
"There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,” the official said. "They are being analyzed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara."
 
"We are at a phase in this war where things that have been in the shadows for a long time are now being exposed to daylight. Hezbollah is dominant in the west of Syria, and the Turkish role, however you wish to define it, is also becoming clearer. This is an important time for them. Will they now see ISIS as a threat to their own sovereignty? ...A lot of damage has been done from this."
 
ISIS was allowed to transform into a major regional power thanks to an estimated $1-4 million a day in oil sales during a period of six months beginning in late 2013.
 
While Abu Sayyaf's oil smuggling operation has been cut in scope, tankers still carry crude oil from the refineries captured by ISIS to the Turkish border.
 
One ISIS member said in the report of his group that "they need the Turks. I know of a lot of cooperation and it scares me. I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organization too hard. There are shared interests."
 
He added that the US-led airstrike campaign has done nearly nothing in limiting ISIS.
 
Strikes on ISIS - only meant to harm Kurds?
 
Turkey has openly given its support to other jihadi groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, such as Ahrar al-Sham that largely follows Al-Qaeda's ideology, as well as the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front.
 
"The distinctions they (Turkey) draw (between opposition groups - ed.) are thin indeed,” said the western official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
 
Evidence of that cooperation has come in the form of a video showing how the Turkish government smuggled weapons in to Syria to aid jihadist forces, in a botched attempt in which agents were arrested on the border.
 
Just last Thursday after a deadly suicide bombing blamed on ISIS, Turkey finally ended its long opposition to attacking ISIS, opening an airbase to US usage and launching airstrikes against the jihadists.
 
However, it also has used the opportunity to declare war on Kurdish forces in Syria and Turkey, with experts predicting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the campaign as a pretext to fight the Kurds - particularly after his party lost badly in elections to a pro-Kurdish party.
 
With the new developments in Turkey's attacks on ISIS, a European official in Ankara said Western diplomats can now talk about ISIS with the Turks "as long as we describe them as ‘those who abuse religion.'"
 
"This isn’t an overhaul of their thinking. It’s more a reaction to what they’ve been confronted with by the Americans and others. There is at least a recognition now that ISIS isn’t leverage against Assad. They have to be dealt with.”

ISIS Expelled From Syrian Provincial Capital

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 15:29
amartins-syria-raqqaSyrian troops and Kurdish fighters ousted the Islamic State (ISIS) group from Hasakeh Tuesday, more than a month after the jihadists launch an assault on the northeastern city, a monitoring group said. 
 
Government troops and Kurdish forces, who share control of the city, had been battling since June 25 to push ISIS forces out of the city, which is the capital of Hasakeh province.
 
ISIS "was expelled by the army from Zuhur, the last district in which it was present in Hasakeh, and its fighters have been pushed to the southern outskirts of the city," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
At least 287 ISIS fighters, among them 26 minors, had been killed in the fight for Hasakeh, as well as strikes by the US-led coalition outside the city, he said.
 
Another 120 soldiers and pro-regime militiamen and several dozen Kurdish forces were also killed.
 
State news agency SANA said Syria's armed forces "dealt great blows to the Daesh (ISIS) terrorists...in Zuhur" Tuesday, but did not say the jihadists had been pushed out of the city.
 
"Army units advanced again into Zuhur, where they executed a special operation against the terrorist hotbeds," it reported.
 
ISIS has attacked Hasakeh city several times, but the latest assault was the most serious yet.
 
Its forces initially seized several districts in the southern part of the city, with Kurdish fighters and regime troops mobilizing against them.
 
The Observatory said ISIS had used at least 21 car bombs and several suicide bombers during the month-long campaign.

United States and Turkey to Create 'ISIS-Free Zone'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 03 August 2015 08:28
Erdogan - ObamaThe United States and Turkey have agreed to work together to drive Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from northern Syria, senior American officials said Monday, according to the AFP news agency.
 
The announcement came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to press ahead with parallel strikes against Kurdish militants.
 
The potentially game-changing accord with the U.S. was revealed as Turkey fuelled the growing anger of its Kurdish minority by shelling a Kurdish-held village in northern Syria while its warplanes continued to pound Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.
 
Referring to Islamic State by the acronym ISIL, a senior American official told AFP that Ankara and Washington aimed "to establish an ISIL-free zone and ensure greater security and stability along Turkey's border with Syria."
 
Details of the zone "remain to be worked out", the official, who asked not to be named, said during a visit by President Barack Obama to Ethiopia, while adding that "any joint military efforts will not include the imposition of a no-fly zone" -- a long standing Turkish demand.
 
It would however entail Turkey supporting the "partners on the ground" already fighting ISIS extremists.
 
But many question whether Turkey is more interested in limiting Kurdish capabilities in Syria and Iraq than tackling ISIS.
 
Davutoglu, meanwhile, said Turkey would press ahead with military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) until the group disarmed.
 
"We will continue our fight until we obtain a certain result," he told ATV television, urging the Kurdish separatists, who have waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey, to deliver on its 2013 promise to lay down arms.
 
State Department spokesman John Kirby reiterated that Turkey had a "right to defend itself" against the PKK, which the U.S. also labels a terrorist organization
 
At the same time, Kirby said the "fight against ISIL is not in cooperation with, coordination with or communication with the PKK. Our fight against ISIL is with 62 other nations in this coalition who are helping us go after these guys."
 
Turkey has called an extraordinary NATO meeting for Tuesday over its "anti-terror" offensive against the Kurdish rebels and ISIS.
 
French President Francois Hollande, in a telephone call Monday with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "thanked his counterpart for the vigorous action against Daesh and for strengthening Turkey's engagement alongside the (anti-IS) coalition", his office said.
 
The French statement made no mention of the anti-Kurdish strikes, noted AFP.
 
The Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- which routed ISIS from the flashpoint Syrian town of Kobane early this year with the help of Western air strikes -- said Turkish tanks hit its positions and those of allied Arab rebels overnight in Zur Maghar village in Aleppo province, wounding four rebels and several villagers.
 
But Turkish officials denied the military was deliberately targeting Syrian Kurds and said it was responding to fire from the Syrian side of the border.
 
Davutoglu told a group of Turkish newspaper editors that Ankara's intervention in Iraq and Syria would "change the balance" in the region, but ruled out sending ground troops into Syria.
 
Turkey has given the United States the green light to use its Incirlik air base to attack ISIS after months of tough negotiations.
 
Davutoglu said Ankara's demands for a no-fly zone were addressed "to a certain extent", according to the Hurriyet daily.
 
"Air cover is important, the air protection for the Free Syrian Army and other moderate elements fighting Daesh," he said, according to AFP.
 
"If we will not send ground forces -- and that we will not do -- then certain elements that cooperate with us on the ground must be protected," Davutoglu added.

Kurds Cut Key ISIS Supply Route in Northern Syria

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 August 2015 09:36
Kurds Cut Key ISIS Supply RouteKurdish fighters seized a key town in northern Syria from ISIS on Monday, cutting a supply lifeline from the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital, a monitor said. 
 
"The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) took full control of Sarrin on Monday after three weeks of intense clashes," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Sarrin lies along the M4 highway, which ISIS uses to transport fighters and supplies between Aleppo province and the group's de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in the east, Abdel Rahman said.
 
The town's capture cuts off ISIS's main access route to parts of Aleppo province, where the jihadists are fighting both Kurdish forces and rebel groups.
 
"Sarrin was also used as a base for IS to attack the Kurds in Aleppo province, so those attacks will probably decrease as well," he told AFP using an alternative acronym for the so-called "Islamic State" group.  
 
Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from the flashpoint town of Kobane some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Sarrin, said the YPG were still combing through the town to clear it of potential ISIS suicide bombers.
 
YPG forces began their offensive on Sarrin on July 6 with air support from the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
 
The capture of the town, which lies on the east bank of the Euphrates river, is the latest victory for Kurdish forces in Syria against ISIS.
 
They defeated IS forces in Kobane in January, expelling them with the help of coalition air strikes.
 
And on June 16, they pushed ISIS out of Tal Abyad, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border used by ISIS to bring in weapons and fighters to Raqqa.
 
The Syrian conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011, but has developed into a multi-front civil war involving Kurds and jihadists of both ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as other rebels and regime loyalists.
 
Kurdish advances come on the same day as Kurdish fighters in Syria say their positions were bombarded by the Turkish army.
 
The Turkish military denied targeting Syrian Kurds after Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said tanks shelled Kurdish-held villages in northern Syria, a Turkish government official said on Monday.
 
"The ongoing military operation seeks to neutralise imminent threats to Turkey's national security and continues to target ISIS in Syria and the PKK in Iraq," the official told AFP, referring to the Islamic State and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is linked to the YPG and its political branch, the PYD.
 
He said the Syrian Kurdish "PYD, along with others, remains outside the scope of the current military effort."
 
In a statement, the YPG said Turkish tanks hit its positions and those of allied Arab rebels in the village of Zur Maghar in Aleppo province. 
 
The "heavy tank fire" wounded four members of the allied rebel force and several villagers, the YPG said.
 
It said there was a second, later round of shelling against Zur Maghar and another village in the same area.
 
The Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said: "We are investigating claims that the Turkish military engaged positions held by forces other than ISIS."
 
Turkey has launched a two-pronged "anti-terror" cross-border offensive against jihadists and the PKK militants after a wave of violence in the country, pounding their positions with air strikes and artillery. 
 
Early on Monday, Turkish police detained 15 people with suspected links to ISIS in the Hacibayram district of the capital Ankara, the state-run news Anatolia news agency reported.
 
Eleven of the 15 detainees were foreigners, Anatolia said, adding that the operation was backed by around 500 police officers who raided several addresses.
 
The Turkish official told AFP the operations against ISIS and PKK were continuing, adding that a total of 900 people had been detained so far with links to ISIS, PKK and other leftist organisations.
 
"We are fighting against all terrorist organisations," said the official.

US Backs Turkish Strikes against Kurds

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 02 August 2015 08:15
U.S. Air Force graphic depicts WaveRider ReutersThe White House on Sunday backed Turkey's right to conduct airstrikes against Kurdish militants, after waves of air and artillery strikes put a fragile ceasefire in jeopardy.
 
"Turkey has a right to take action related to terrorist targets," said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes after strikes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).  
 
"The US of course recognizes the PKK specifically as a terrorist organization," Rhodes said, while welcoming parallel Turkish action against ISIS.
 
"You have seen of course much more assertive Turkish action in both Syria and Iraq in recent days," said Rhodes.
 
The strikes on the PKK threw into doubt a ceasefire between Kurdish separatists and Turkey in place since 2013, and could unbalance regional alliances.  
 
Two Turkish soldiers were killed by a car bomb in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country late Saturday, after separatist rebels warned they would no longer observe the truce after Ankara's air strikes.
 
While the United States has blacklisted the PKK, it has close ties with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, which is also tackling the Islamic State.
 
The main Kurdish force fighting ISIS in Syria - the People's Protection Unit (YPG) - is also closely tied to the PKK.
 
"We encourage our different partners in this fight to work together," said Rhodes.  
 
The air strikes came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey that the authorities blamed on both the PKK and ISIS. However most airstrikes have been focused on Kurdish targets, fueling accusations that the Turkish government is in cahoots with Islamists - including ISIS - in their battle against Kurdish militias in Syria.

'Jihadi John' Reportedly Flees ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 01 August 2015 21:20
Jihadi JohnNotorious ISIS executioner "Jihadi John" is believed to have fled into unknown Syrian territory.
 
A source told the British Mirror that Jihadi John, real name Mohammed Emwazi, fears he is no longer useful to the jihadist group and that he is being hunted by UK and US special forces.
 
The source claims that ISIS would drop Emwazi "like a stone or worse if they feel he is no longer of any use to them," adding that "it is possible he will end up suffering the same fate as his victims."
 
Seeing danger from both sides, he reportedly ran away from the ISIS-controlled portion of Syria. s Reports suggest he may have joined a different jihadist group in Syria.
 
Emwazi is a 26-year-old British citizen who starred in a number of ISIS propaganda videos as he executed prisoners and threatened world leaders. Though he covered his face in the videos, his perfect London-accented English made him famous around the world.
 
Intelligence analysts managed to identify the masked killer with a British citizen who immigrated from Kuwait as a child and was reported missing in 2013.

Kurdish Assassins Kill Islamists in Revenge for ISIS Bombing

Category: News
Created on Friday, 31 July 2015 08:39
Kurdish PKK - ReutersA militant group allied to Turkey's outlawed Kurdish party has shot dead in Istanbul an alleged member of ISIS who had fought in Syria, media said Thursday.  
 
The reports come amid soaring tensions in Turkey following Monday's suicide bombing in the town of Suruc on the border with Syria that killed 32 and that the authorities blamed on ISIS.
 
The man, named as Mursel Gul, was assassinated late on Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkish media including the Hurriyet daily and state Anatolia news agency reported.
 
The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), seen as the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement, reports said.
 
The YDG-H statement said that the man had come to Istanbul seven months ago to receive treatment after being wounded while fighting with ISIS against Kurds for the flashpoint town of Kobane in Syria.
 
The group said it had been tracking his movements for three months and alleged Gul had himself been planning attacks in Istanbul.
 
"We will continue our operations against the ISIS gang and have identified many of them and will execute and punish them," it added.
 
"The Suruc murderers will be brought to account," it said.  
 
Anatolia said the the killers, posing as cleaning salesmen, had fired four bullets into Gul's body.
 
Anti-terror police launched an investigation and have found no links between Gul and ISIS, it claimed.
 
Kurds have repeatedly accused the Turkish government of aiding ISIS and other jihadist groups fighting against Kurdish forces in Syria, both by turning a blind eye to their activities in Turkey and providing them with medical and even military aid. The Turkish government has repeatedly denied the claims, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
 
The PKK's military wing had Wednesday claimed the murder of two Turkish police as revenge for the Suruc bombing, raising fears the fighting raging in Syria between Kurds and ISIS is spilling over onto Turkish territory.
 
Meanwhile, Turkish media reports said an Islamist named Ethem Turkben had been killed by masked men at his home in the southern city of Adana in a killing also suspected to have been carried out by PKK-allied militants.
 
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for self-rule for Kurds in the southeast that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
 
It declared a truce in 2013 after the government opened secret peace negotiations with its chief Abdullah Ocalan, but the current violence has put this under threat.

Israel Gave Jordan 26 Cobra Choppers to Fight ISIS

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 30 July 2015 09:04
IDF Cobra helicopterIsrael has given retired US-supplied Cobra combat helicopters to Jordan to help it fend off insurgent threats on its Syrian and Iraqi borders, a US official with knowledge of the deal told Reuters Thursday.
 
The supply of the choppers was initiated last year and has been approved by the US, which provided mechanical overhauls for the aircraft before they were transferred into Jordanian hands, free of charge.
 
"These choppers are for border security," the American official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters. He said about 16 Cobras were involved, though some may have been used by the Jordanians for spare parts.
 
Jordanian and Israeli officials declined comment, as did the Pentagon.
 
Jordan is gearing up for a possible invasion by Islamic terror groups, local media reported in mid-June. 
 
According to reports, King Abdullah II, while touring border areas near Iraq and Syria on June 15, offered to arm Bedouin tribes living in those areas - on both sides of the border - to fight against Islamic State and Nusra Front, which threaten Jordan from the east and north. 
 
Abdullah's concern has been growing in recent weeks, reports said, over the fact that after 3,000 bombing raids by the US and its allies, ISIS has not been beaten back – and seems only to get stronger.
 
With the organization solidifying its rule in much of Iraq and Syria - and in line with its pledge to expand its “Islamic caliphate” to the entire world, starting with the Muslim countries - Abdullah believes that Jordan is high up on ISIS's list for an attempted takeover.
 
Meanwhile, Jordan faces another danger from the north.
 
The Nusra group, a fundamentalist organization associated with Al Qaeda, controls much of the area on the other side of the Syrian border. This group, too, has expansionist plans, and the open frontier between Syria and Jordan is almost an open invitation to incursions by the group.
 
Abdullah stated that it was Jordan's obligation “to assist Arab tribes in Iraq and Syria,” hinting that he would rely on the tribes as a first line of defense against incursions by ISIS and Nusra.
 
The tribes living on both sides of the border have close ties, and Abdullah believes that they would aggressively defend their areas from invasion by the Islamist groups, reports said.

Turkey on the Brink?

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 30 July 2015 08:03
Turkey on the BrinkThe Turkish military on Thursday pounded positions held by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Syria after a Turkish soldier was killed by fire from an area controlled by the jihadists.
 
The clashes - the most serious yet between the Turkish army and ISIS - came after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday, blamed on ISIS, sparked an upsurge in violence.
 
A day after the fatal shooting of two police claimed by Kurdish militants as "revenge" for the suicide bombing in the town of Suruc on the Syrian border given Turkish support of Syrian jihadists, a policeman was shot dead in the majority Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.
 
The soldier was killed from fire from an area controlled by ISIS in Syria in the Turkish border region of Kilis, the state Anatolia news agency said. The Dogan news agency said four soldiers had been wounded.
 
Turkish tanks from the fifth armored brigade then responded by opening fire on targets controlled by ISIS jihadists in Syria, NTV television said, adding that one ISIS terrorist had also been killed.
 
Thirty-two people - mainly young activists, one as young as 18, preparing for an aid mission to Kurds in Syria - were killed on Monday in a devastating suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
That attack marked the first time the government had explicitly blamed ISIS for a strike in the country.
 
It also inflamed tensions with Turkey's Kurdish minority, which is unhappy over the government's opposition to support of Kurdish militias fighting ISIS inside Syria.
 
Turkey has been accused of colluding in the past with ISIS extremists in the hope they might prove useful in its aim of knocking out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ankara has always vehemently denied the claims.
 
Another policeman killed
 
The military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) claimed the killing of the two police in the border town of Ceylanpinar, accusing the two slain officers of collaborating with ISIS extremists.
 
Aged 24 and 25, they were given a funeral ceremony with full honors outside police headquarters in the regional center of Sanliurfa, their coffins draped in the Turkish flag.
 
"The martyrs never die, the people will never be divided," dozens of police chanted, using a well known patriotic slogan.
 
The state Anatolia news agency said the three suspects had been arrested in early morning raids and were being questioned, without giving further details.
 
In the latest violence one Turkish policeman was shot dead and another badly wounded in an attack Thursday by armed men during a routine traffic check in Turkey's majority Kurdish-city of Diyarbakir, hospital sources said.
 
Meanwhile the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), seen as a youth wing of the PKK, claimed it had shot dead an alleged former ISIS fighter in Istanbul late Tuesday.
 
Turkish officials have confirmed a 20-year-old Turkish man linked to ISIS carried out the suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
Media reports named the bomber as university student Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz from Adiyaman in southeastern Turkey.
 
"Measures to secure border"
 
The unrest has intensified fears that the battle raging between ISIS jihadists and Kurds inside Syria is now spilling over onto Turkish territory.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said after a cabinet meeting late Tuesday that the government had discussed an "integrated system" to secure the frontier with Syria.
 
Turkish media reported Wednesday that the measures were set to include sending zeppelins into the air several hundred meters high to monitor the border and building a concrete border wall.
 
Turkey also plans to put in place two fences separated by a military patrol road at the border, complete with observation towers at some locations, the Hurriyet daily said. A moat will also be dug at some points.
 
Turkey has long been accused by its Western partners of failing to properly control the 911-kilometer (566-mile) frontier and even of colluding with ISIS, allegations it fiercely denies.
 
In places, the border has been marked only with a crude wire-mesh fence ridden with holes that has provided easy passage to terrorists and smugglers.
 
Turkey has so far stopped short of playing a full role in the US-led coalition assisting Kurds fighting ISIS terrorists who have taken swathes of Iraq and Syria.
 
However the Hurriyet daily reported on Thursday that Ankara had finally given the green light to US forces for use of the Incirlik air base in the campaign against ISIS in Syria.
 
It said that the accord was finalized in telephone talks Wednesday between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Barack Obama.
 
The unrest comes at a critical time for Turkey following elections in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan lost its overall majority in parliament for the first time since coming to power in 2002.

Wanted Egyptian Terrorist Calls for 'Holy War' Against Sisi

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 20:43
Hisham al-AshmawyOne of Egypt's most wanted men, a former special forces officer turned Islamist terrorist commander, condemned President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday and called for a holy war against his government, Reuters reported.
 
An audio message attributed to Hisham al-Ashmawy, who security officials suspect masterminded the recent car bomb assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor, said the country is "overpowered by the new pharaoh" Sisi.
 
Ashmawy is part of a small but highly dangerous succession of former Egyptian army officers who have joined jihadist groups, complicating Sisi's efforts to confront what he calls an existential threat from extremism.
 
With their knowledge of the Arab world's biggest army and training, they pose a security threat to Egypt which faces an insurgency based in northern Sinai, noted Reuters.
 
"All of you must come together to confront your enemy. Do not fear them, but fear Allah if you are truly believers," said the audio message, which was carried by the monitoring group SITE.
 
The message, according to Reuters, was posted on July 20 on an Al-Qaeda-affiliated forum and coincided with the Eid al-Fitr holiday just marked by Muslims.
 
The audio message features two pictures of Ashmawy in military uniform. He is identified by the nom de guerre of Abu Omar al-Muhajir al-Masri and as Emir of the Al-Murabiteen group.
 
According to Reuters, Ashmawy, who has been on the run for years, formed a cell within the Sinai Province terrorist group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State and has claimed most of the terrorist attacks that have taken place in the restive Sinai.
 
In his message, Ashmawy accused Sisi "and his soldiers" of fighting "our religion" and killing "our men and women".
 
Among the attacks claimed by the Sinai Province since the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
The group has also claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks from the Sinai Peninsula on southern Israel.
 
Sisi, who as army chief ousted Morsi following popular protests calling on him to go, has led a crackdown on terrorist groups since becoming president.
 
As part of the crackdown, the Egyptian army imposed a curfew on Gaza and then began building a buffer zone along the border, following two deadly attacks in El-Arish which killed dozens of soldiers. Egypt accuses Gaza’s Hamas rulers of assisting Sinai terrorists with attacks, though Hamas denies the accusations.

Obama and Erdogan Agree to Cooperate Against ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 20:10
Obama and Erdogan0United States President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a telephone call on Wednesday night to work together to "stem the flow of foreign fighters and secure Turkey's border with Syria," the White House said in a statement, quoted by Reuters.
 
According to the statement, the two leaders also discussed deepening their cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, which has grabbed swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory and declared a caliphate.
 
Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed through Turkey, a NATO member, to join ISIS over the past few years.
 
The conversation between Obama and Erdogan took place two days after a suicide attack in Turkey, in the town of Suruc near the border with Syria, killed 32 people.
 
It was the deadliest attack in Turkey since 2013, and if ISIS involvement is confirmed, would be the group's first suicide attack on Turkish soil.
 
The Turkish government has rejected accusations from the opposition that it has in the past tacitly supported ISIS jihadists operating from Syria and had unwittingly opened the door to the suicide bombing in Suruc.
 
Turkish authorities have cracked down on ISIS networks, arresting dozens of suspects in recent weeks, and the country beefed up its border with Syria with tanks and anti-aircraft missiles as well as additional troops.
 
The White House said Obama had condemned Monday's bombing.
 
"He conveyed condolences on behalf of the American people to the families of the victims, and the two leaders affirmed that the United States and Turkey stand united in the fight against terrorism," the statement said, according to Reuters.
 
It is unclear as of yet how Washington and Ankara will cooperate against ISIS. Turkey has hesitated to join the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
 
American intelligence chief James Clapper recently said Turkey does not place a high priority on fighting ISIS, and added he was not optimistic that Turkey would take a more active role in the war against the jihadist group.

ISIS Bans Private Internet in its 'Capital'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 20:40
ISIS Bans Private InternetThe Islamic State (ISIS) group is banning private internet access in its Syrian bastion Raqa, forcing residents and even its own fighters to use internet cafes where they can be monitored, activists say.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activist group Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently both reported the new restrictions on internet access.
 
The activist group posted online a picture of a leaflet being distributed in the city warning internet providers they had four days to cut private wifi connections.
 
"The following is obligatory on all internet providers: the removal of wifi connections distributed outside of internet cafes and private connections, including for Islamic State soldiers."
 
The document says providers have four days from Sunday to comply with the order.
 
The activist group said the ban was intended to ensure "access through internet cafes only in order to monitor access."
 
The ban will affect not only activist groups like Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which documents ISIS abuses in the city, but also potential defectors from within the group, the Observatory said.
 
"This step is part of the organization's attempt to impose a news blackout on what is going on inside Raqa city," the Britain-based group said. "It has been conducting patrols and raids on internet cafes, searching them for people who are transmitting news."
 
ISIS is also "trying to cut communications between its non-Syrian fighters and their families for fear of them trying to return home," it added.
 
Raqa, in the Euphrates Valley northeast of Damascus, is the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, which controls large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq, where it rules with an iron fist.
 
The internet has been a rare lifeline for activists in the city, and a way for them to document life under jihadist rule.

Hamas Delegation Visits Saudi Arabia

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 19:56
Khaled Meshaal met Saudi King SalmanHamas leader Khaled Meshaal, met Saudi King Salman during a pilgrimage to Mecca, in a rare encounter since a two-year rift, state news agency SPA reported Saturday.
 
It said Meshaal headed a Hamas delegation on a two-day visit for the mini-pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in the west of the kingdom.
 
"The delegation offered Eid greetings" to King Salman during prayers at the Grand Mosque, SPA said, referring to the feast which started Friday following the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
 
It said they also "praised the positive stance of the kingdom's leadership towards the Palestinian cause."
 
A Hamas statement said the delegation, including Meshaal's deputy Mussa Abu Marzuk, also met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , the king's son and defense minister.
 
Ties between Hamas and Riyadh deteriorated after the kingdom threw its support behind the Egyptian army's 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and its crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood.
 
The exiled Meshaal has been based in Doha since he abandoned his base in Damascus in 2012 after the group sided with Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
But the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) may have brought the two together, according to reports Thursday, as Hamas has been battling the rival Islamist group from within Gaza, and Saudi Arabia faces threats from the terror group over its version of Islamic Sharia law, which ISIS insists is not strict enough. 

ISIS Child Soldiers Carrying Out Suicide Attacks

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 12:53
gaza-babyMore than 50 child soldiers recruited by the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria have been killed since the beginning of this year, a monitoring group reported, according to Al Jazeera.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday it had documented the deaths of 52 child soldiers, all under the age of 16, who had been part of the jihadist group’s "Cubs of the Caliphate" program.
 
ISIS provides intense military and religious training to these children throughout its areas of control in Syria. The group has published videos of boys - some appearing to be as young as eight years old - loading and firing guns and crawling through sandy brush as part of military training.
 
The footage also shows children gathered around a table studying religious texts.
 
As many as 31 “Cubs of the Caliphate” were killed in July alone, in explosions, clashes, and air strikes by Syria's regime and the international coalition, reported Al Jazeera.
 
The child soldiers are used to man checkpoints or gather intelligence from areas outside ISIS control, but the group has been increasingly using them to execute prisoners or conduct suicide attacks, the network added.
 
In one case, ISIS released a video of children beheading nine Shiite victims.
 
So far this year, ISIS has used eight children as suicide bombers, most recently in its fight against Kurdish militia in northeastern Syria, and has used as many as 19 children as suicide bombers, according to the Observatory.
 
"This shows that Daesh is exploiting the suffering of the Syrian people," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
The Observatory has received information on dozens more children killed, but that it could not confirm their deaths, the report said.

Turkey Starts Fighting ISIS - In Order to Fight Kurds

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 16:58
Turkey Starts Fighting ISISTurkey is stepping up its role in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) extremists after realizing the threats to its own security from jihadists and responding to pressure from its Western partners, analysts say.
 
Turkish security forces have over the last week arrested dozens of ISIS terrorists and sympathizers, in its most significant raids since the group began to seize swathes of neighboring Iraq and Syria in 2014.
 
Turkey has faced bitter accusations it was not doing enough to halt the rise of ISIS and even secretly colluding with the group - allegations Ankara vehemently denies, but which were strengthened by video showing how Turkish intelligence bungled an arms shipment to Syrian jihadists.
 
But analysts say the Turkish authorities have now clearly understood the domestic threat posed by ISIS, which rules its territory under strict Islamic law exceptional for its brutality.
 
Ankara will also get nowhere in trying to prevent the Kurds, who have been battling ISIS in northern Syria, from establishing their own autonomous region there unless it supports the Western coalition against the jihadists. The US has likewise said it won't support an autonomous region for the Kurds.
 
Turkey sees the main Syrian Kurdish political group the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), as offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in its southeast.
 
"Turkey has realized that it would not receive any support from its allies...to prevent the creation of an autonomous Kurdish area on its border if it failed to respond to their harsh criticism on the fight against ISIS," said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM.
 
Ankara in the past used ISIS as a tool to achieve its goals in the region, from battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to containing Kurdish influence, the former Turkish diplomat told AFP.
 
But Turks now see that "they are in the frontline, risking retaliation from the jihadists themselves," said Ulgen, adding: "They still cannot control their borders and fear ISIS members may slip through its soil among refugees."
 
"Upgraded the threat"
 
Turkish authorities have always pointed to the challenge of controlling a 911 kilometer (566 mile) border with Syria while remaining open to the refugees fleeing the fighting, as well as 38 million tourists a year.
 
But its failure to halt many ISIS recruits traveling to Syria through Turkish soil - including Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of one of the gunmen in January Paris shootings - has piled pressure on Ankara.
 
In recent weeks, Turkey launched a series of raids against ISIS suspects in cities across the country, from Izmir on the Aegean to Gaziantep close to the Syrian border.
 
A Turkish official told AFP the raids targeted the group's sleeper cells and networks inside the country.
 
Last Friday, police arrested 29 suspected ISIS members in Istanbul and other cities for "directing citizens of European countries seeking to join Daesh operations to Syria and Iraq," said the official, using another name for ISIS.
 
The raids came just after a senior US delegation visited Turkey, NATO's only majority Muslim member, to demand more cooperation from Ankara in its campaign against ISIS.
 
"It's now obvious that the Turkish government has upgraded the threat posed by ISIS to among the top ones it is facing, roughly at the same level as the PYD/YPG one," a senior Western diplomat told AFP.
 
"It's a reassessment we've been expecting for a long time."
 
But the Turkish official denied any policy change, saying that Ankara "has successfully curbed the influx of foreign terrorist fighters into the region" as a result of army measures to secure the border and by sharing more intelligence with allies.
 
Turkey has deported more than 1,500 ISIS suspects and banned nearly 15,000 individuals from 98 countries from entering the country, according to the official, who added that Ankara had categorized ISIS as a terrorist group since October 2013.
 
"Too little, too late"
 
Some sources, however, cast doubt over the significance of the latest steps.
 
Turkey has still not given the United States the green light to use the Incirlik air base in the south of the country as a launchpad for bombings against ISIS targets.
 
"This is not a fundamental policy shift, it is mainly circumstantial," another Western source familiar with the matter told AFP.
 
The source argued the raids "targeted only very low-profile ISIS members" and came at a time when "the US is putting a lot of pressure" on Turkey to cooperate more.
 
Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and a member at the US Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said Turkey's latest steps were "welcome" but also "way too little, way too late."
 
"From the US perspective, Turkey has been a massive disappointment in helping to combat Islamic State," he said in emailed comments.

ISIS Hits Egyptian Patrol Ship With a Rocket

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 12:29
ISIS Hits Egyptian Patrol ShipIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Sinai fired a rocket at an Egyptian patrol ship in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, scoring a direct hit and setting it on fire.
 
The coastguard ship noticed the group of ISIS terrorists on the shore and exchanged fire with them, according to Egyptian military statements and witnesses cited by the UK Daily Mail. The ship was two miles off the coast of northern Sinai, and roughly two miles from the coast of Gaza.
 
After the gunfight continued for a certain amount of time, the jihadists unleashed the rocket which caused the ship to retreat. According to the military, no soldiers were killed although several reportedly suffered minor burns.
 
Egyptian army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir wrote on Facebook that there no one on board was killed, but he did not detail how much damage was sustained to the ship or what type of craft it was.
 
Security officials said the ship and others like it regularly patrol the area, and also are used often to transport soldiers and police officers from Sinai to the rest of Egypt.
 
ISIS has been active in Sinai launching numerous large-scale attacks on Egyptian soldiers, ever since last November when the Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis jihadist group pledged loyalty to ISIS and joined the group, switching its name to Sinai Province.
 
ISIS has been expanding its presence as well; on Saturday the group attacked the Italian consulate in Cairo, marking its first strike on a Western target in the country.

US Returns Hundreds of Iraqi Artifacts After Raid on ISIS

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 12:04
US Returns Hundreds of Iraqi ArtifactsThe United States returned Wednesday hundreds of Iraqi artifacts its special forces recovered during a raid in Syria against a man described as the Islamic State group's top financier.
 
Some of the pieces were displayed at the Iraqi national museum during a repatriation ceremony attended by Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab and US Ambassador Stuart Jones.
 
"These artifacts are indisputable evidence that Daesh (ISIS) - beyond its terrorism, beyond its brutality and destruction - is also a criminal gang that is looting antiquities from museums and historical sites," Jones said.
 
"And of course the purpose of this is to sell these items on the black market," he said.
 
The pieces on display in one of the recently reopened museum's main Assyrian halls Wednesday were small items, including coins, statuettes and jewelry.
 
"The coins for example are from the Islamic period. This is evidence that this terrorism that claims such heritage is blasphemous is trying to profit from it by selling it," Shirshab said.
 
The artifacts were retrieved by the US commandos who carried out a rare raid inside Syria on May 15 during which Abu Sayyaf, a top ISIS figure, was killed.
 
Abu Sayyaf was believed to be the jihadist organization's top financier, and US officials said they were learning a lot by analyzing what the raid had produced.
 
"These are very precious, priceless pieces," said Hakim al-Shammari, head of the exhibitions department at the national museum.
 
He could not estimate the black market value of the recovered artifacts but said they would have made a substantial contribution to ISIS finances.
 
"The revenue they get from selling such pieces is used to finance operations, buy weapons, recruit people and manufacture car bombs, for
example," he said.
 
Officials at Wednesday's ceremony provided few details on exactly where and when the returned artifacts had been looted.
 
ISIS has captured much attention by posting videos of its militants destroying statues and heritage sites on the grounds that they are idolatrous.
 
But experts argue they have mostly destroyed pieces that are too large to smuggle and sell off, and kept the smaller pieces, several of which are already resurfacing on the black market in the West.
 
The US says it has repatriated more than 3,000 stolen artifacts to Iraq since 2005.

Syrian Rebel Leader Killed in Double Suicide Bombing

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 26 July 2015 10:40
Syrian Rebel Leader abi kaled el soryA senior member of the Syrian Ahrar al-Sham rebel group was killed along with six other fighters on Tuesday in a double suicide bombing in northwestern Syria, a monitor said.  
 
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was believed to have been carried out by a group linked to ISIS.
 
The Britain-based monitor said seven members of Ahrar al-Sham, a conservative Islamist rebel group, were killed in the blast near the town of Salqin.  
 
Among them was Abu Abdel Rahman Salqin, described by Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman as "one of Ahrar al-Sham's most senior leaders."
 
Ahrar al-Sham is one of the most powerful rebel groups in northern Syria and belongs to an alliance with Al Waeda affiliate Al Nusra Front that has seized most of Idlib province in recent months.
 
Despite its Islamist ideology, Ahrar al-Sham is opposed to ISIS.
 
In September 2014, 47 members of Ahrar al-Sham's leadership were killed when a blast hit a meeting of its top religious and military chiefs in Idlib.
 
No group claimed responsibility for that bombing, which forced the group to quickly establish a new leadership, but it was also attributed to ISIS.
 
Ahrar al-Sham is one of the oldest and largest of Syria's armed opposition groups, established in 2011 by Islamists released by the Syrian regime early in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.  
 
Over the weekend, the group's foreign relations head wrote an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, criticizing US policies towards Syria.  
 
Labib Al-Nahhas accused Washington of too narrowly defining the term "moderate" and said Ahrar al-Sham had been "unfairly vilified."
 
More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.

ISIS Breaks Own Cruelty Record: Blows Up Baby for Demonstration

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 July 2015 12:54
jihadichildIn arguably one of its cruelest acts yet, the Islamic State (ISIS) has reportedly blown up a baby as part of a demonstration showing how to handle explosives. So reports The Clarion Project.
 
The unparalleled incident took place in Diyala Province, eastern Iraq, this past Friday, according to Sadiq el-Husseini, Security Committee Chairman of the province on behalf of the anti-ISIS forces there. He recounted the event to the local Arabic-language A-Sumeriah News.
 
“The organization booby-trapped the baby in front of dozens of armed ISIS men," el-Husseini said, "and then detonated it from afar.” He explained that the purpose of the operation, including the rigging of the baby and the detonation of the explosives attached to it, was part of an ISIS training exercise teaching various booby-trapping techniques.
 
“The organization doesn’t care about the most basic human values," said el-Husseini. "Their crimes are incalculable, and the blowing up of the baby is the best proof of the threat of ISIS ideology to the state.”
 
The baby’s father was apparently executed some weeks ago, after being accused of taking part in the killing of an Islamic State member.
 
Elsewhere, a jihadist group published a Twitter threat to behead the Statue of Liberty in New York City. A picture of the statue, headless and holding the ISIS black flag, was published Sunday on Twitter. Beneath the picture, which showed the New York City skyline in flames, were the words “Soon the state of the Islamic Caliphate."
 
In other ISIS news, Egypt's Ahram-Online reports in the name of "Iraqi citizens" that an Iraqi woman in Mosul was killed by ISIS women from Russia – for looking at clothing in a market in the city.  The citizens reported that the Russian ISIS women "attacked 12 Mosul girls/married women, beating them severely… They claimed the women had lifted their niqab to look at the merchandise, and also failed to uphold the rule of wearing the correct color himar specified for women."
 
ISIS now requires women to wear color-coded garments denoting their marital status. Married women must wear black, a divorced woman – blue, a widow – green, and an unmarried girl must wear white.

3,000 Palestinians Killed in Syria, No ICC Investigation

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 21:34
40 tons of explosives killed at least 30 Syrian troopsPalestinian Authority officials are quick to accuse Israel of deliberately “targeting innocent Arabs” when IDF soldiers fire at rock-throwers and others who engage in acts of terror against Israelis, but they have yet to comment on the nearly 3,000 Palestinians killed in Syria in recent years.
 
To be precise, at least 2,910 residents of Syria identifying as Palestinians have been killed since March 2011 through July 12, 2015 – the day a report on the matter was released by the “Action Committee for Palestinians in Syria” on the matter. Most of those deaths have been extremely violent, the report said – with hundreds killed each month in bombings, firefights, torture in prison, starvation, mass executions, and drownings as they try to escape to Europe.
 
The number - like other casualty figures from the Syrian civil war - only includes those Palestinians whose deaths have been definitively confirmed, and does not include those missing or otherwise unaccounted for - meaning the toll is likely higher still.
 
Information about the prison torture – in which, the report said, nearly 80 Palestinians have been killed – was smuggled out by a freed Syrian prisoner, who sneaked photos and videos of the torture out of prison. At least 46 Palestinians have been beheaded by ISIS, which took over a neighborhood of Allepo where many of them live.
 
The victims were killed not because of any actions violating Islam, the usual motivation for an ISIS beheading, but as a “message” to Hamas, expressing the group's disappointment that the Gaza terror group has not implemented Koranic (shari'a) law in Gaza. ISIS recently issued a video threat that it would invade Gaza and destroy Hamas for this failure.
 
The PA has never commented on these atrocities; the only statements it has made on Syria is to call for international negotiators to attempt to bring calm between the warring parties.
 
There has been no attempt to bring charges against the government of Syria, ISIS, or any of the Syrian rebel groups in the International Criminal Court, as the PA has been doing against Israel. Israeli officials said that it was "unlikely" that this will ever happen.

Turkey Arrests 45 ISIS Recruits in Southeast

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:56
Turkey Arrests ISIS RecruitsTurkish security forces have over the last three days detained 45 foreign nationals seeking to cross into Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, AFP reported Sunday, citing the Turkish Dogan news agency.
 
If confirmed, the detentions would mark a stepping up of pressure on ISIS by the Turkish authorities after the arrest of 21 suspected members of the group in Istanbul and elsewhere on Friday.
 
Gaziantep has long been seen as a staging post for ISIS recruits who travel to the city by bus after flying from their countries to Istanbul. They then make the short illegal journey over the border to Syria.
 
The Dogan news agency said that on Sunday alone, 25 foreign nationals, mainly citizens of Tajikistan, had been arrested at Gaziantep bus station.
 
It said that police units had been working  intensively at the bus station since Friday and had in total detained 45 people who wanted to cross into Syria to join ISIS.
 
Many would-be jihadists had also brought their families with them, it added.
 
The suspects have undergone health checks and are being interrogated, after which they will likely be deported.
 
In a separate operation, Turkey had on Friday detained 21 suspected members of ISIS, of whom three were foreigners, in several cities including Istanbul, state media said.
 
Turkey has been embroiled in controversy since a video was published in late May showing state intelligence smuggling weapons in to jihadists in Syria. Turkish police have also been revealed to have pro-ISIS sympathies in the past.
 
Western states have repeatedly accused Turkey of not doing enough to halt the flow of jihadists across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria.
 
Ankara was especially criticized over its failure to stop three British teenage girls who crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS in February. The three teens, Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are now feared to have reached the conflict zone and are believed to be staying at a house in the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS.
 
Turkey fiercely rejects the accusations, saying it is making every effort to secure a long border. In turn, it has accused the West of not playing its part to shoulder the burden of hosting 1.8 million refugees from Syria.
 
In an apparent bid to deflect criticism, Turkish authorities have arrested a number of suspected jihadists in recent months.

Turkey Arrests 45 ISIS Recruits in Southeast (2)

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:56
Turkey Arrests ISIS RecruitsTurkish security forces have over the last three days detained 45 foreign nationals seeking to cross into Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists from the southeastern city of Gaziantep, AFP reported Sunday, citing the Turkish Dogan news agency.
 
If confirmed, the detentions would mark a stepping up of pressure on ISIS by the Turkish authorities after the arrest of 21 suspected members of the group in Istanbul and elsewhere on Friday.
 
Gaziantep has long been seen as a staging post for ISIS recruits who travel to the city by bus after flying from their countries to Istanbul. They then make the short illegal journey over the border to Syria.
 
The Dogan news agency said that on Sunday alone, 25 foreign nationals, mainly citizens of Tajikistan, had been arrested at Gaziantep bus station.
 
It said that police units had been working  intensively at the bus station since Friday and had in total detained 45 people who wanted to cross into Syria to join ISIS.
 
Many would-be jihadists had also brought their families with them, it added.
 
The suspects have undergone health checks and are being interrogated, after which they will likely be deported.
 
In a separate operation, Turkey had on Friday detained 21 suspected members of ISIS, of whom three were foreigners, in several cities including Istanbul, state media said.
 
Turkey has been embroiled in controversy since a video was published in late May showing state intelligence smuggling weapons in to jihadists in Syria. Turkish police have also been revealed to have pro-ISIS sympathies in the past.
 
Western states have repeatedly accused Turkey of not doing enough to halt the flow of jihadists across its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria.
 
Ankara was especially criticized over its failure to stop three British teenage girls who crossed the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS in February. The three teens, Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, also 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, are now feared to have reached the conflict zone and are believed to be staying at a house in the city of Raqqa, a stronghold of ISIS.
 
Turkey fiercely rejects the accusations, saying it is making every effort to secure a long border. In turn, it has accused the West of not playing its part to shoulder the burden of hosting 1.8 million refugees from Syria.
 
In an apparent bid to deflect criticism, Turkish authorities have arrested a number of suspected jihadists in recent months.

21 Killed in String of Baghdad Bombings

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 19 July 2015 10:10
Baghdad BombingsA string of bomb explosions, including two suicide attacks, killed at least 21 people and wounded 62 in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad Sunday, Iraqi police and medical sources quoted by AFP said.
 
The northeastern area of Al-Shaab was rocked by two explosions, at least one of which was caused by an attacker who detonated his suicide vest, a police colonel and an interior ministry official said.
 
At least three of the 11 people killed in those blasts were members of the security forces, police said.
 
The double explosion, which occurred near a market, left at least 23 people wounded.
 
A suicide attacker also blew up his car bomb on Adan square, in northwestern Baghdad, just before the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
 
At least six people were killed and 20 wounded in the attack on the square, which was already targeted in February and has been frequently hit over the years.
 
In Al Bunuk area, a car bomb also went off near a popular restaurant, killing at least two people and leaving 11 wounded, the same sources said.
 
Two other people were killed and eight wounded when another explosives-laden vehicle blew up in the Iskan neighborhood.
 
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any of the explosions, but most such attacks are carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group..
 
A years-old midnight curfew was lifted in February after Iraqi forces retook areas around Baghdad from ISIS and a huge car bomb-making cell was dismantled.
 
Attacks have continued since but are less frequent than the previous year.
 

ISIS, which is still battling government forces barely 18 miles west of the capital, has claimed many of the biggest attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country.
 
In April, car bombs in the Baghdad area, including one near a hospital, killed at least eight people. And in May, ISIS claimed responsibility for car bombings at two upscale Baghdad hotels that officials said killed at least nine people and wounded dozens.
 
There had been fears that ISIS would intensify attacks in Baghdad during Ramadan, but with the fasting month nearing its end, there had been no surge in bombings until Sunday.

ISIS Bombs the Italian Consulate in Cairo

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 12 July 2015 11:03
Italian Consulate in CairoIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists claimed responsibility for a lethal car bomb attack on the Italian consulate in central Cairo on Saturday, in an explosion that killed one Egyptian and left ten others wounded according to a health ministry spokesperson.
 
The blast nearly completely destroyed the main entrance to the consulate, shattering windows and flooding the building by causing water pipes to burst. It was possible to hear the blast from various neighborhoods around the capital city.
 
According to the state news agency MENA, two policemen were among the ten wounded.
 
In a message online, ISIS wrote, "through God's blessing, Islamic State soldiers were able to detonate a parked car bomb carrying 450 kg of explosive material on the headquarters of the Italian consulate in central Cairo."
 
"We recommend that Muslims stay clear of these security dens because they are legitimate targets for the mujahideen's (jihadists') strikes," it added, warning of future attacks on sites like the consulate.
 
ISIS has targeted Egyptian soldiers and policemen up until now, with the attack on the Italian consulate constituting the first attack on a Western target.
 
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni reported that no Italian citizens were wounded in the blast, adding, "Italy will not be intimidated."
 
Egypt has been engaged in a fierce struggle against ISIS forces in Sinai, where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis recently swore allegiance to ISIS and changed its name to Sinai Province.
 
The terrorist group has been responsible for several massive lethal attacks, including a multi-pronged assault earlier this month that left 50 Egyptian soldiers dead.

ISIS Jihadists Attack Iraqi Forces in Anbar

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 12 July 2015 10:28
ISISIslamic State (ISIS) group fighters on Friday attacked Iraqi police and soldiers in an area considered a major staging ground for operations to reconquer Anbar province, security sources told AFP.
 
ISIS fighters used suicide car bombs to attack government and allied forces in Khaldiyah, a town in the Euphrates valley that lies between Fallujah and Ramadi, Anbar's two main cities.
 
A police lieutenant colonel said ISIS fighters stormed the town's Al-Madiq neighborhood "following clashes that forced army and federal police to abandon their positions."
 
"Local police and tribal fighters were left alone to fight Daesh in that area," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group that took over large parts of Iraq last year, establishing a “caliphate” in those areas.
 
"After entering Al-Madiq, the organization deployed fighters with suicide vests in houses and streets," the official said.
 
A spokesperson for Anbar tribes fighting alongside the government said federal security forces were attempting to regain the initiative.
 
"The aim of the operation is to regain control of Al-Madiq and kill the suicide attackers before they target security forces and tribal fighters," Sheikh Sufian al-Ithawi said.
 
In its daily online radio broadcast, ISIS said it had launched three suicide car bomb attacks in the Khaldiyah area.
 
It also claimed in a statement that it had killed tens of pro-government fighters and captured a brigadier general, although security officials gave no confirmation.
 
A senior police officer said ISIS fighters fired mortar rounds and rockets at security positions in Habbaniyah, although the attack seemed limited in scope.
 
The Habbaniyah area, further east, is home to the main base from which Iraqi forces are planning their promised reconquest of Anbar and where U.S. advisers and trainers are stationed.
 
ISIS has controlled Fallujah since early 2014 and captured provincial capital Ramadi in May following a three-day blitz that dealt Baghdad its worst military setback in a year.
 
Officials and military commanders have vowed to liberate the entire province but U.S. elite forces faced the toughest battles of their eight-year occupation of Iraq in Anbar.
 
There also appears not be any consensus on whether anti-ISIS forces should first attack Ramadi or Fallujah, which is closer to Baghdad.

FBI says arrested 10 in July 4 plots inspired by ISIS

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 23:36
FBIU.S. authorities thwarted plots to kill people in the United States around the July 4 holiday, arresting more than 10 people who were inspired by ISIS online recruitment, FBI Director James Comey said on Thursday.
 
Comey told reporters dozens of people in the United States who are suspected to be under the influence of Islamic State militants have "gone dark" because of encrypted data.
 
He said the 10 arrests were made within the past four weeks.
 
FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to local law enforcement to be on alert for attacks around July 4. No such attacks occurred.
 
Comey did not give the details on the number of plots thwarted or their targets.
 
He said dozens of people in the United States who are suspected to be under the influence of Islamic State militants have "gone dark" because of encrypted data. 

ISIS's Goal: World Domination

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 23:15
Ephraim HerreraIslamic State has seen a spike in activity around Israel over the past several weeks, with activity not only heating up on the Golan Heights border with Syria, but in Egypt and along Israel's border with the Sinai Peninsula as well. 
 
Arutz Sheva spoke with Dr. Ephraim Herrera, counter-terrorism expert and author of "Jihad - Fundamentals and Fundamentalism," to gain perspective on the situation. 
 
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ISIS's main goal is to achieve worldwide domination through an Islamic holy war, he explained, and the prime enemy is not even the West or infidels (i.e. non-believers), but first those liberal Muslims opposed to complete acceptance of strict Sharia law.
 
This is why, he explained, the group first gained prominence in the largely secular Syria - and why Egypt is a prime battleground as well. 
 
What makes it unique is not only the size of the Caliphate, but the fear and religious fervor it spreads, he added. The reason ISIS is obsessed with decapitation and other savagery is to follow a Quran directive to strike fear in the heart of the enemy. 
 
In light of all this, Egypt's fight against ISIS now could be crucial. 
 
"Up until now, there was no total defeat of Islamic State, anywhere," Herrera said. A defeat could set a precedent which would sow doubt in the heart of Islamists, particularly in that country. 
 
"Egyptians want the Sharia, 80% of them," he said, adding that 70% of Egyptians had voted for the Muslim Brotherhood and for Salafist groups. Economic problems are also a factor. 
 
Herrera noted that the time to stop ISIS is now, however - before it gets even bigger. 

Ramadan Feast Food Poisoning Kills 45 ISIS Terrorists

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 22:45
Food Poisoning Kills 45 ISIS TerroristsForty-five terrorists of the brutal Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist regime died on Monday, not from bullets in the heat of a pitched battle but rather from food at a group 'Iftar' meal breaking the daytime fast Muslims observe during the month of Ramadan.
 
The 45 jihadists all died the same night after partaking of the post-fast meal in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which ISIS seized last June as it began its conquest of mass swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
 
A joyful spokesperson of the Kurdistan Democratic Party told the Kurdish paper Al Sumaria News about the food poisoning and celebrated it, saying the terrorists deserved their fate for the atrocities they have committed in Mosul and elsewhere.
 
The exact cause of the food poisoning remains unclear, but there have been cases of ISIS fighters being poisoning by rival rebel groups in the past.
 
It was reported last November that members of the Syrian Free Army together with local cooks killed dozens of ISIS jihadists in the Fath El-Sahel camp by poisoning their food.
 
Meanwhile the US has been stymied in trying to directly break ISIS's capabilities with an aerial bombardment campaign, with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria still proving unable to check the spread of the jihadists.
 
A highly touted new program by the US to train "moderate" rebels to fight ISIS was revealed on Tuesday to have only succeeded in recruiting 60 fighters.
 
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has accused US President Barack Obama of "losing" the fight against the extremists - making the food poisoning an even more welcome development amid the efforts against ISIS.

ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held Town Near its De Facto Syrian Capital

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 21:13
ISIS Attacks Kurdish-Held TownIslamic State (ISIS) group fighters attacked a town near their de facto Syrian capital Monday in a bid to recapture it from Kurdish and Arab rebel forces, a Kurdish spokesman told the AFP news agency.
 
"ISIS launched a large-scale offensive at dawn... and managed to enter Ain Issa," said Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units.
 
"Clashes are continuing inside the town in the southern part to expel ISIS," he told AFP.
 
Ain Issa is some 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of IS's de facto Syrian capital of Raqa city, and fell to Kurdish and Arab forces on June 23, shortly after they took the border town of Tal Abyad from the jihadists.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said that the ISIS attack had succeeded and jihadist fighters were in control of Ain Issa and several nearby villages after a wide-ranging assault.
 
The Britain-based monitor said ISIS had launched a counter-attack against fronts in both Raqa province and neighboring Hasakeh.
 
Kurdish and rebel spokesmen also said ISIS was engaged in a large-scale attack in the two provinces, but denied Ain Issa had fallen.
 
According to the Observatory, 37 ISIS fighters have been killed and 46 wounded along a front line stretching between the provinces since Monday's assault began.
 
The wounded ISIS members have been taken to hospital in Raqa.
 
"The jihadists were killed and wounded in fighting and shelling," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
There were also Kurdish casualties, but the numbers were not yet known.
 
Kurdish fighters backed by Arab allies seized the frontier town of Tal Abyad from ISIS on June 16, after weeks of fighting during which they captured numerous villages in Raqa province from the jihadists.
 
The fall of Tal Abyad was a major blow for the group, which had used the town as a conduit for weapons and fighters.
 
After its capture, the anti-ISIS forces advanced to Ain Issa, taking both it and a former military base nearby.
 
But in recent weeks, ISIS forces have launched several counterattacks against the Kurds, including in Kobane, a small border town the jihadists had battled to capture for some four months.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.

Europe Fearful ISIS Set to Invade Europe, Via Refugee Ships

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 July 2015 09:46
ISIS Set to Invade EuropeISIS members could infiltrate Europe together with masses of refugees from Libya, Syria, and Iraq – ironically fleeing ISIS terror in their homelands, said Michele Coninsx, head of the EU's judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.
 
Speaking Monday in Brussels, Coninsx told reporters that the EU was working together with other countries to prevent the migration of ISIS terrorists. She declined to specify exactly what steps were being taken.
 
A video released earlier this year by ISIS in Libya and published by the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat shows the two perpetrators of a deadly attack on the Corinthia Hotel in January threatening that ISIS's newly-established presence in the country would be used as a springboard to invade Europe.
 
Although ISIS - or the Islamic State, as it refers to itself - is mainly based in Syria and Iraq, affiliates have been active for some time in parts of northern Africa, particularly in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis jihadist group last year pledged its allegiance to ISIS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But in May the Islamist terrorist group's presence in Libya hit headlines, when it broadcast the brutal mass-execution of 21 Coptic Christians, triggering reprisal air-raids from Egypt and a mass-exodus of Egyptian workers from the country.
 
But the presence of an active Libyan cell - where several Islamist militias pledged allegiance to the group back in late 2014 - is viewed as particularly worrying due to Libya's close proximity to Italy. 
 
Already in March, a top Libyuan general was warning that ISIS could use Libya as a jumping-off point for a European invasion. General Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan army, warned that Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists running rampant in the north African state are set to infiltrate Europe and expand their reign of terror into the West. ISIS will "spread in even the European countries if (the West) does not offer real help to the Libyan people, especially the Libyan army," he told the Associated Press. He warned the ISIS terrorists "will head with the illegal migrants to Europe, where corruption and destruction will spread just like Libya. But there it will be hard to confront them."

Hamas: Israel Sent ISIS to Destroy Us

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 22:01
Hamas terrorist in Gaza0After last Friday admitting Islamic State (ISIS) is active in Gaza after months of denial, Hamas has launched a string of criticism against the jihadist group indicating the deep-seated fears Hamas has that ISIS will realize its threats to seize Gaza.
 
Faiz Abu Shamala, a journalist for the official Hamas paper Palestine, on Sunday tried to harm ISIS's image by posing a series of questions.
 
"Why doesn't Daesh attack international naval ships on the Red Sea and the Israeli tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh?," questioned Shamala, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. "Why does Daesh attack the Palestinian fighters and not the collaborators with Israel?"
 
"Why doesn't Daesh start a war front against Israel from the West Bank which could more greatly affect Israel than from the Gaza Strip? Why does Daesh spread a poster calling for Christians to leave Jerusalem but doesn't publish a similar poster against the Zionists? Why doesn't Daesh act against Israel from the Jordan border and (why) doesn't it attack the Jordanian regime even as the Jordanian air force strikes Daesh targets?"
 
Shamala posed an answer to his own questions with a conspiracy theory claiming that Israel is using ISIS to destroy Hamas, after being "unable" to destroy Hamas in direct warfare.
 
ISIS recently threatened to overthrow Hamas in a video message, expressing animosity to the Gazan offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood for not fully implementing Islamic Sharia law and for being too "moderate."
 
It is believed that ISIS has several hundred to a few thousand active members in Gaza.
 
The ISIS affiliate in Gaza has worked in tandem with the Sinai Province branch of ISIS, which just last Friday fired rockets at southern Israel from the Sinai.
 
Sinai Peninsula has also attacked Hamas in coordination with its Salafist affiliates in Gaza; in May it claimed launching two "bombs" - reportedly 82 mm mortar shells - at Hamas posts in Gaza.
 
The ISIS presence in Gaza goes back to as far as last summer, when members of the group took part in Hamas's terror war against Israel. However, until recently, Hamas tried to play down the group's presence so as to hush up challenges to its iron rule in the coastal enclave.

Egypt Kills 63 Jihadists in the Sinai

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 12:00
Apache helicopterEgypt's military on Sunday launched airstrikes and ground operations that killed 63 Islamists in North Sinai, security sources said, according to the Reuters news agency.
 
The Sinai has recently witnessed some of the heaviest fighting between security forces and Islamists since the army ousted President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
 
Security sources said on Sunday that troops killed the 63 in villages between the towns of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, Reuters reported.
 
The army found four hideouts and attacked them with Apache helicopters and ground troops. It also attacked vehicles belonging to the militants, the security sources added.
 
Islamic State's Egypt affiliate, recently renamed Sinai Province, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since Morsi’s removal.
 
Among the attacks claimed by the group since Morsi's ouster was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
Though the vast peninsula has long been a security headache for Egypt and its neighbors, the removal of Morsi brought new violence that has grown into an Islamist insurgency that has spread out of the region.
 
Just last week, the Islamists carried out a multi-pronged attack in which some 50 Egyptian soldiers were killed.
 
Egyptian government officials have accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of links to Sinai attacks. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement that wants to reverse what it calls a military coup through street protests.
 
Egypt's interior ministry said on Sunday it had arrested 12 Brotherhood members who had formed three cells with the intention of carrying out attacks on policemen, soldiers and military and police bases, according to Reuters.
 
Also on Sunday, the prosecutors referred to trial 22 people charged with planting bombs near targets including the high court and cabinet buildings, state news agency MENA reported.
 
On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said that Egypt had foiled an attempt by the Islamic State (ISIS) group to seize territory and set up an extremist state in the Sinai.
 
Sisi praised Egyptian troops for “foiling a very big plan” and added, “No one can impose on the Egyptians something they don’t want. To reach the Egyptians they have to pass through the army, the sons of Egypt.”

Will Egypt Ask for IAF Assistance in Sinai?

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 11:40
Egyptian TanksHow can Israel deal with the rising threat of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, along its southern border?
 
Middle East expert Prof. Hillel Frisch of the Begin-Sadat Center doesn't rule out possibility that Israel will help Egypt deal with ISIS, by delivering air strikes.
 
“We can only do what the Egyptians ask us to do. If [ISIS forces] gain strength as they have been, and the Egyptians ask for our help – especially aerial help – I'm sure that the Israeli Air Force will be more than willing and forthcoming to meet that challenge.”
 
Frisch said that Israel has an interest in the defeat of ISIS in Sinai, since it poses a threat to tourism in Eilat and to some points along Israel's border. On the other hand, Israel will have a problem letting large Egyptian ground forces into the peninsula, because Sinai needs to remain a buffer zone between itself and Egypt, as stipulated by the peace treaty with Egypt.
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The professor said that in a Machiavellian sense, Israel gains from Egypt's problems with ISIS, since as long as these occupy Egypt's attention, Egypt is not as hostile toward Israel on matters like the Palestinian issue or the nuclear issue.

Sisi: We Foiled an ISIS Attempt to Set Up State in Sinai

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 10:24
ISIS Attempt to Set Up State in SinaiEgyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday said that Egypt had foiled an attempt by the Islamic State (ISIS) group to seize territory and set up an extremist state in the Sinai, reports The Associated Press (AP).
 
Speaking to members of the army in a televised speech which marked his first public remarks since Wednesday’s multi-pronged jihadist attack in the restive peninsula, Sisi said the jihadists had tried to announce “an Islamic state, in their concept, an Islamic State in Sinai” .
 
“These are the messages, very simply, that they are putting out to us,” said the president, adding that the area was now under control.
 
Sisi praised the troops for “foiling a very big plan” and added, “No one can impose on the Egyptians something they don’t want. To reach the Egyptians they have to pass through the army, the sons of Egypt.”
 
Wednesday’s attack, which was claimed by the Sinai Province, ISIS’ affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, lasted a whole day and was unprecedented in its size and coordination. The attack hit a string of army checkpoints and involved multiple suicide bombings and the siege of a main police station with heavy weapons.
 
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday blamed the past week’s violence on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which it said was not only the main source of Islamic extremism, but also coordinated operations on the ground.
 
“All of these attacks were conducted days apart, and showed a level of sophistication and coordination that affirms the presence of organized terrorist activity perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood,” it said in a statement given to reporters on Saturday and quoted by AP.
 
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the timing of the recent attacks make the associations between the Brotherhood and Daesh extremists “apparent,” using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
“This is a matter of motives... I, as I think any Egyptian on the street, will make the educated presumption that this was perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the (online) sites of Muslim Brotherhood rejoiced at the fact,” he said, according to AP.
 
Hours after Wednesday’s attack, Egypt's government adopted an anti-terror law which it said would provide "means to drain the sources of terrorism financing."
 
Sinai Province, formerly known as Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for most of the terrorist attacks in the Sinai over the last few years.
 
Among the attacks claimed by the group since Morsi's ouster was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
On Friday, the group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack from the Sinai Peninsula into southern Israel.

ISIS Video Shows Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient Ruins

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 09:48
Slaughter of Syrian Soldiers on Ancient RuinsThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group on Saturday released a video showing 25 Syrian government soldiers being executed by teenagers in the ancient amphitheater  in the city of Palmyra.
 
The video documented an execution that reportedly happened shortly after the jihadist group captured the city on May 21.
 
It shows the soldiers in green and brown military uniforms being shot dead on the amphitheater's stage in front of an enormous version of the group's black and white flag.
 
The executioners all appear to be children or teenagers and are wearing desert camouflage and brown bandanas.

The killings are carried out in front of a relatively sparse crowd of men and some children watching from the ancient theatre's seats.  
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ISIS reportedly carried out more than 200 executions, including of civilians, in and around Palmyra in the period when it captured the city.    
 
The executions in the Palmyra amphitheater were first reported on May 27 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, less than a week after ISIS captured the city.
 
At the time, Syria's antiquities director Mamoun Abdelkarim said he feared the killings could signal the start of "the group's barbarism and savagery against the ancient monuments of Palmyra."
 
"Using the Roman theater to execute people proves that these people are against humanity," he told AFP.
 
The Greco-Roman ruins at Palmyra are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city's capture by ISIS prompted international concerns for the fate of its spectacular ancient treasures.
 
So far, ISIS is not reported to have damaged the actual ruins, although it has blown up and desecrated Muslim graves in the city and destroyed a statue outside the Palmyra Museum.
 
ISIS has regularly released videos of its mass executions, with slick production and gruesome violence that experts say is a key propaganda tool for

ISIS in Egypt: More Than Meets the Eye

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 07 July 2015 21:42
ISIS in EgyptISIS's escalating campaign against the Egyptian government - culminating in the assassination of the country's chief prosecutor and yesterday's bloody attacks in the Sinai Peninsula - have raised a great deal of questions vis-a-vis the extent and nature of the jihadist group's presence in the Arab world's most populous country.
 
Is ISIS's Egyptian branch - the so-called "Sinai Province" of its "Islamic State" - cooperating with Hamas, or trying to overthrow it? How has ISIS in Sinai managed to withstand a prolonged military assault by the Egyptian army to emerge apparently as strong as ever? How much of a threat does it pose to Israel? Could ISIS really be in a position to carve out a de-facto state in Egypt, as it has in parts of neighboring Libya?
 
In answering these questions Professor Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center For Strategic Studies (BESA), cautions that ISIS's battle with Egypt is far more complicated than its operations in other countries.
 
For a start, the Egyptian army and government present a far tougher foe than any other targeted directly by an official ISIS affiliate.
 
"It's all very well taking over parts of Syria or Iraq," both failed states without effective central government, "but in Egypt they are fighting against a functioning state," albeit a somewhat embattled one.
 
In Libya too, where ISIS has set up a mini statelet, the jihadists are operating amid a total power vacuum, in a country split among numerous warring militias. 
 
To do the same in Egypt - even in the relatively lawless Sinai Peninsula - would be far more difficult, Inbar asserts.
 
"Egypt is determined to enforce its sovereignty over the Sinai," says Inbar.
 
However, Egypt is hamstrung by a number of factors, which have enabled ISIS to withstand and even push back against army offensives.
 
Firstly, there is the fact that Egypt's ability to deploy in the Sinai Peninsula is somewhat limited by the terms of its peace treaty with Israel, which prevents any large-scale deployments without prior consent from Jerusalem.
 
In practice, however, this has not been much of an issue. The close cooperation and clear mutual interest shared by the two countries in dealing with the jihadist threat has meant that Israel is giving the green light to any Egyptian army offensives or airstrikes against jihadists in the Sinai.
 
More significantly then is the fact that in a general sense, the Egyptian central government simply has not invested enough - militarily, economically or administratively - in what is essentially a peripheral province, at a time when it is still consolidating its control over the rest of the country.
 
Somewhat paradoxically, another factor which counts in ISIS's favor in Egypt is its very inability to overthrow the central government. That reality has forced it to pursue more limited, low-cost objectives: perpetuating and expanding the state of lawlessness, and its own foothold, in Sinai, while continuing to carry out individual, high-profile terrorist attacks.
 
This means that, relatively-speaking, "Daesh (ISIS) operations in Sinai are not an expensive effort," says Inbar, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Moreover, the fact that "ISIS Sinai Province" - formerly the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terror group - is an official "Wilayat" or "Province" of the so-called Islamic State, means it has at least some access to the swollen coffers of the world's richest terrorist group to fund the costs it does incur.
 
Finally, the group - both in its current incarnation and previous ones - "has been smuggling weapons for years," giving it time to build up an extensive arsenal.
 
But Inbar also speculates that other regional actors could be helping to fuel the ISIS insurgency in Egypt to further their own agendas.
 
He points to evidence of cooperation between ISIS and Hamas, which is itself at odds with the Sisi regime - though he acknowledges that with the inroads made by ISIS in Gaza this cooperation may well have broken down, as the Hamas regime now sees ISIS as a threat to its own power.
 
"There is some kind of sense of Islamic brotherhood - but at the same time remember they are competitors," both strategically and ideologically, says Inbar, explaining the complicated relationship between the two Islamist groups.
 
For a start, "Hamas is more of a nationalist-Islamic radical group, whereas ISIS is transnational."
 
But beyond the alleged Hamas connection - highlighted by both Israel and Egypt, even as Hamas denies such links exist - Inbar also suggests another of Cairo's regional foes may be playing a role behind the scenes.
 
"I wouldn't be surprised if there is Turkish input in trying to destabilize the Sisi regime," Inbar posits, pointing to the evidence of Turkish collusion and possibly even support for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, where Ankara has seen the jihadists as a convenient tool to block Kurdish autonomy.
 
Turkey's Islamist government - which has strong links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas - similarly has an interest in weakening the anti-Islamist military government in Cairo.
 
So how should Israel deal with an ISIS presence along its southern border?
 
Cautiously, and with restraint, says Inbar.
 
Despite being the only ISIS affiliate bordering Israel, "Sinai Province" has had its hands full fighting the Egyptian army, and has not carried out any major attacks against Israel in the past few years.
 
Close cooperation between Israel and Egypt to contain ISIS means that situation is likely to continue, he says.
 
"Certainly it is a threat for Israel, but it's much more of a threat for Egypt and the Egyptian army right now."
 
For that reason, while Israel cannot afford to sit on its laurels, it must also continue to allow Egypt to play the lead roll.
 
"There is a great deal of cooperation to contain Daesh - they are trying and we are trying to prevent it (from attacking us).
 
"But everything Israel does should be coordinated with Egypt. Sometimes it's better to stay on the sidelines."

Egypt May 'Invite' IDF to Strike ISIS in Gaza

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 07 July 2015 12:28
Egypt-IDF to Strike ISIS in GazaAn Egyptian source has revealed that if after launching a brutal attack in Sinai the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group approaches Gaza, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi may "invite" the IDF to strike it.
 
The source, who is "familiar with Egypt's decision-making process," told Haaretz on Thursday that Sisi may give the green light given that Gaza falls under Israel's responsibility.
 
"The two armies may already be coordinating in preparation for such a possibility," revealed the source. "The Egyptian problem is that a military campaign inside Gaza could lead to breaking down the fences and a mass flight of civilians from Gaza to Sinai."
 
The statement comes after Sinai Province, ISIS's affiliate in the region, conducted a massive coordinated string of attacks on Wednesday that left over 50 Egyptian soldiers dead.
 
Sinai Province, which was formerly Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before swearing allegiance to ISIS and changing its name, has reportedly captured the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid and has mined the roads to block Egyptian forces from entering.
 
ISIS may spread its control to the city of El Arish, and thereby encroach on Gaza, leading to the potential cooperation between Egypt and the IDF.
 
In a video on Tuesday, ISIS threatened to topple Hamas, and likewise threatened the "state of the Jews."
 
Egypt has been willing in the past to confront Hamas, which is a Gazan offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that Sisi's government has violently been putting down.
 
Aside from imposing a siege on Gaza, Egypt has evacuated over 2,000 homes on the Gaza border in occupying part of southern Gaza and creating a buffer zone to block the smuggling of arms between Hamas and Sinai terrorists.
 
Haaretz notes that many of the Gazan evacuees, who were not compensated for their demolished homes or offered alternative housing, have moved to El Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, and may be tempted to join forces with ISIS, which pays comfortable wages to its members.

UNESCO Head Warns Against 'Culture Cleansing' of Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Friday, 03 July 2015 18:33
Culture CleansingThe head of the UN cultural organization, UNESCO, on Wednesday called for a campaign against the "culture cleansing" being carried out by Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.
 
"Extremists don't destroy heritage as a collateral damage, they target it systematically to strike societies at their core," Irina Bokova said in a speech at the Chatham House think tank in London, according to the AFP news agency.
 
"This strategy seeks to destroy identities by eliminating heritage and cultural markers," she said.
 
Several archaeological sites have been attacked by ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria and  their recent takeover of an area including the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria sparked worldwide concern.
 
In April, ISIS released a video in which its terrorists can be seen using rifles and sledgehammers to destroy artifacts at the ancient fortress city of Hatra, famed for its unique blend of eastern and western architecture.
 
UNESCO on Wednesday named 2,000-year-old Hatra as one of its 'Heritage in Danger' sites, joining the likes of the Everglades and the Old City of Jerusalem.
 
The site was listed due to the "destruction inflicted.. by armed groups," UNESCO said in a statement quoted by AFP.
 
Earlier, the jihadists also damaged the site of Iraq's ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and destroyed dozens of pieces from the museum in Mosul.
 
"I think the growing awareness that hard power will not be enough to defeat violent extremism is gaining ground. We need also soft power," Bokova said on Wednesday.
 
"Culture should be part of our response to violent extremism," she added.
 
UNESCO is currently meeting in Bonn in Germany for its 39th committee session until July 8 and will consider at least 36 natural and cultural sites vying to get World Heritage status.
 
It was at the meeting in Germany that Hatra received its special classification.
 
The organization has launched a campaign called "United Heritage" to defend historical sites under threat from jihadists and to counter terrorist propaganda.

Sinai: Egypt Air Force Hits ISIS Positions After Deadly Assault

Category: News
Created on Friday, 03 July 2015 11:53
Egypt Air ForceEgyptian air force F-16 fighter jets pounded jihadist positions in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel, Wednesday afternoon.
 
The airstrikes were in response to a deadly coordinated attack against 15 separate military positions by an affiliate of the ISIS terrorist group, which left at least 50 Egyptian soldiers dead.
 
Egyptian security officials said jets hit ISIS positions in the town of Sheikh Zuweid, where terrorists had virtually taken over the town, setting barricades, beseiging the local police station and mining the streets.
 
The "Sinai Province" of the Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it took place. The jihadist assault involved three suicide bombers and among other things targeted an Egyptian army officers' club.
 
The attack came just one day after Egypt's President Sisi vowed to crackdown on Islamist terrorists, following the assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor in a Cairo bombing on Monday that was also claimed by ISIS.
 
Under Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, airstrikes and other major military deployments in the Sinai Peninsula require Israeli approval, since it is technically a demilitarized zone. Israel has been quick to approve Egyptian offensives against the jihadists on its borders in the past, but Wednesday's attack underscores the resilience of the terrorists, who have been waged a years-long insurgency against the Egyptian government.

50 Egyptian Soldiers Killed in Coordinated ISIS Attack

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:43
egypt-bomb-attackA multi-pronged jihadist attack against the Egyptian military in the Sinai Peninsula has left up to 50 Egyptian soldiers dead, according to local security and medical sources.
 
The attacks, which were claimed by a terrorist group linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), included a suicide car bomb detonated against a military checkpoint at Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai, which caused most of the casualties. There were also apparently multiple attacks on other military checkpoints and an explosive device was detonated on a major highway.
 
About seventy terrorists simultaneously attacked five checkpoints in the area, security sources say, and some 39 terrorists were killed in the clashes, according to the Egyptian military.
 
A police station in the town of Sheikh Zuweid was among the targets of the attacks, witnesses said.
 
Islamist terrorists have launched many attacks killing hundreds of police and soldiers in the northern Sinai. The most active group is the ISIS affiliate called “Sinai Province,” formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
 
"Sinai Province" claimed this latest attack as well, saying in a statement that it attacked 15 separate positions in an assault which involved three suicide bombers.
 
Witnesses reported hearing explosions in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.
 
It has also been reported that several Egyptian soldiers or civilians were abducted.

Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS Fighters in 'Retribution'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:37
Syrian Rebels Execute ISIS FightersA Syrian rebel group operating around Damascus has executed 18 alleged members of the Islamic State group in a video
mimicking the extremist organization's own macabre productions.
 
The video, which emerged overnight, AFP reported, shows fighters from Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) wearing the orange prison clothes that ISIS victims often sport.
 
The ISIS prisoners however are wearing black clothes and chained together wearing ankle and hand shackles with metal balls attached.
 
The nearly 20-minute production mimics many aspects of ISIS's own execution videos, with similar sound effects and visuals.
 
Jaysh al-Islam fighters in the video say the ISIS forces are being executed in part as revenge for the deaths of at least three of the rebel group's members who were beheaded by ISIS.
 
The rebel group also refers to a major battle it fought with ISIS in February.
 
It accuses ISIS of being allied with President Bashar al-Assad's regime against its fighters and those of other Islamist rebel groups.
 
The video includes starkly sectarian language, accusing ISIS of betraying Sunni Muslims and allying with Shiite Muslims and "Nusayris," a derogatory terms for the Alawite sect to which Assad belongs.
 
It also contains lengthy "confessions" from ISIS fighters who claim that they did not fight against the Syrian army while with ISIS.
 
The interrogations appear intended to show that ISIS has focused its fight on other opposition forces, rather than the Syrian government.
 
The last part of the video shows the 18 ISIS fighters in black, kneeling before Jaysh al-Islam executioners who shoot them in the head. The shots are filmed from multiple angles and include gruesome close-ups. 
 
The Islamic State group emerged in Syria in 2013, when it sought to merge with Al-Qaeda's local affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
But Al-Nusra refused, and ISIS has since been at odds with the group as well as Islamist and moderate rebels. In the area around Damascus, its forces have battled Jaysh al-Islam and other rebel organizations.
 
Last week, a video emerged showing ISIS jihadists beheading 12 men from rival groups, among them at least three from Jaysh al-Islam and one from Al-Nusra.

Nervous of ISIS Invasion, Jordan Planning Buffer Zone in Syria

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 11:13
Jordan Vows to Eradicate ISISA jittery Jordan is preparing to create a security zone in southern Syria to fend off a possible jihadist advance across the border, in what would be the first such humanitarian "buffer zone" established in the civil war-torn country.
 
According to the UK Financial Times, sources familiar with the plans say the buffer zone would cover the Daraa and Suwayda provinces, including the provincial capital city of Daraa, where the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad first started in 2011.
 
The aim will be to create a "safe zone" for both civilian refugees and moderate rebel forces, according to the paper.
 
The idea of such a humanitarian buffer zone has been brought up on numerous occasions, particularly by Syrian opposition groups, but was never seriously considered by neighboring countries keen not to become enmeshed in a bloody sectarian conflict.
 
But given ISIS's advances in Syria in particular - despite simultaneous losses against Kurds in the far north of the country - Jordan is now drawing up plans for creating one.
 
Daraa city is currently in the hands of regime forces, but rebels have been making significant gains in the area and some analysts believe the city could fall in the near future. Although the rebel alliance fighting regime forces in the area is not a jihadist one, there are fears ISIS could do as it has done in the past: capitalize on the chaos and gradual withdrawal of regime forces and oust rebels, taking control of the area themselves.
 
Jordan has already been involved in a limited US program to train several hundred moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group. The Hashemite kingdom is also a member of the anti-ISIS air coalition operating over Syria and Iraq.
 
But Jordan's government fears that despite a prolonged air campaign and ground offensives by indigenous forces - in particular Kurdish fighters - which have killed a large number of ISIS fighters, the jihadist group still could launch a cross-border offensive into Jordanian territory.
 
Islamic State has vowed to do just that on several occasions, prompting the Jordanian military to beef-up its presence along the country's porous border with Iraq in particular - where ISIS has come alarmingly close to its borders.
 
But with ISIS is now advancing towards Jordan's far larger border with Syria as well - recently capturing the ancient city of Palmyra and moving towards Daraa - Amman apparently fears that situation could become unmanageable without proactive action.
 
It is unclear whether moderate rebels from the Southern Front have been briefed on the plans, with several rebel commanders saying they hadn't heard anything about it.
 
A no-fly zone would not be officially implemented, but Assad forces would be warned that any attacks on the safe zone would be met with an immediate response.
 
The plan is believed to be backed by western members of the anti-ISIS coalition, but the Times cited key Obama administration officials as being hesitant to commit to any ground operation in Syria.

PA Ignores ISIS Threat to Rid Jerusalem of Christians

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 02 July 2015 10:25
ISIS Threat to Rid Jerusalem of ChristiansPalpably illustrating its indifference to the Arab Christian population's fate, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) unity government on Tuesday largely brushed off the detailed threat by an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Jerusalem to "purify" the city of Christians.
 
The ISIS announcement was posted in the eastern part of the capital city last Thursday, and in it the ISIS affiliate threatened to murder all Christians in the Muslim Arab neighborhoods during the month of Ramadan, starting with Shuafat and on to the Muslim sections of the Old City.
 
It also threatened an attack against the Church of the Nativity located in Bethlehem, Judea.
 
"Infidel Christians" were given a month to leave Jerusalem by the announcement, which warned that if they did not flee of their own volition ISIS would slaughter them during Eid al-Fitr, a feast at the end of the fast month of Ramadan.
 
The PLO government headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah convened on Tuesday, and while the government made mention of the ominous announcement, it did not directly name ISIS, or even explicitly refer to the call for genocide on the basis of religion.
 
Out of 1,737 words in Arabic from the government statement following the meeting, only a mere 21 words were spared to discuss the ISIS threat to slaughter Christians in Jerusalem.
 
"The government emphasized the unity of the Palestinian people, and denounced the dubious announcement seeking to harm the unity of the people and to incite a struggle in the holy city," read the statement.
 
The name ISIS was not mentioned, nor the detailed call to murder Christians.
 
Most of the government statement was dedicated to accusing Israel of "war crimes," as well as noting on holy sites to Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem while claiming the presence of the Jewish First and Second Temple was a "lie," and that Jewish organizations are "contaminating" the Al-Aqsa Mosque located on the Temple Mount.
 
The PLO's indifference to the threat of impending genocide against Christians fits in with the way that Christians have been systematically persecuted under the PA.
 
As a result of various forms of persecution, the Christian population in Bethlehem has nearly disappeared under PA rule, from 60% in 1990 to just 15% last year.

UNESCO Condemns 'Barbaric' ISIS Attacks on Cultural Sites

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 14:32
Ancient City of NimrudThe UN cultural organization on Monday condemned the "barbaric assaults" the Islamic State group has launched on World Heritage
sites in Iraq and Syria, saying they may amount to war crimes.
 
Meeting in Bonn, Germany, UNESCO delegates said the ISIS attacks on sites such as Iraq's ancient city of Hatra recalled the "mindless destruction" by other Islamist extremists in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in Mali's Timbuktu and elsewhere.
 
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said "intentional attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes and historic monuments may amount to war crimes." 
 
In April, the ISIS group released a video in which terrorists can be seen using rifles and sledgehammers to destroy artifacts at Hatra. Earlier the terrorists also damaged the site of Iraq's ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and destroyed dozens of pieces from the museum in Mosul.
 
The UN body also expressed its "deep concern" that ISIS terrorists could destroy the World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria, which they captured in May and have extensively mined.
 
UNESCO said that World Heritage sites in conflict-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria and Yemen also faced heightened threats through "illegal excavations, organized looting and trafficking of cultural objects".
 
UNESCO stressed it denounces the destruction and looting of cultural objects "used as a tactic of war and as a source to fund terrorism", calling for steps against the illegal trade of antiquities and heritage objects from conflict areas.
 
UNESCO is meeting in Bonn for its 39th committee session until July 8 and will consider at least 36 natural and cultural sites vying to get World Heritage status.

ISIS Starts Second Year of its 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 30 June 2015 13:16
ISIS-gunmanThe Islamic State (ISIS) group's "caliphate" enters its second year Monday with the jihadists expanding their territory in Syria and Iraq and their global reach by claiming attacks in Tunisia and Kuwait.
 
The extremist group headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced on June 29, 2014 that it was reviving a form of Islamic government known as the "caliphate," pledging it would "remain and expand."
 
In the year since, the group has gained more territory in Syria and Iraq despite an attempted fightback supported by a US-led coalition air campaign.
 
It has also attracted a string of affiliates - in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere - and sought to project fear on an international scale.
 
Last week, the group claimed responsibility for the attack in Tunisia in which 38 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed at a seaside resort. And it said it was behind a suicide bomb attack against a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait that killed 26 people.
 
ISIS also appeared to be the inspiration for an attack in France in which a man rammed his van into a gas factory and beheaded his boss.
 
"It's not clear that these actions are centrally planned or coordinated by ISIS," said Yezid Sayegh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center think tank.
 
"That said, we may be seeing the start of a long campaign conducted by ISIS members or sympathizers who have been trained and then sent back home to their countries to take their own initiative in planning and conducting attacks, depending on their abilities, resources, and opportunities."
 
Thousands murdered by ISIS
 
Already, ISIS has inspired fear and horror with its rule over territory in Syria and Iraq, where mass killings and brutal executions have become its hallmarks.
 
The group controls about 50% of Syria's territory, though much of it is uninhabited, and perhaps a third of Iraq.
 
In Syria alone, it has executed more than 3,000 people in the year since announcing its "caliphate," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Sunday.
 
Nearly 1,800 of them were civilians, including 74 children, it said.
 
They include more than 200 people killed in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane during an ISIS attack last week, and over 900 members of the Sunni Muslim Shaitat tribe who were killed in 2014 after opposing the jihadist group.
 
There are no reliable figures in Iraq, but the group is believed to have executed thousands there, including as many as 1,700 mostly Shi'ite recruits at the Speicher military base near Tikrit.
 
Thousands more have died battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including Syrian rebels and government forces, Kurdish fighters in both countries, and Iraqi government troops and Shi'ite militias.
 
But few of those forces have had much success against the group, with the Iraqi army in particular facing criticism for abandoning territory to ISIS during a push by the jihadist group in mid-2014.
 
Military, political failures
 
Iraqi government forces have "no clear command structure," said Zaid al-Ali, author of "The Struggle For Iraq's Future."
 
"Clearly Baghdad should have enough forces at its disposal to control territory, but not all the anti-ISIS forces take their instructions from Baghdad," he added. "Some operate as they please, some take instructions from elsewhere."
 
In Syria meanwhile, only Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition have been able to effectively tackle the group, with analysts saying opposition forces and the regime appear to lack the weapons or the resolve to fight the jihadists.
 
Even the anti-ISIS coalition, which is carrying out air strikes in Syria and Iraq and training Iraqi troops on the ground, has had limited success.
 
It has helped ground forces push ISIS from Kobane and Tal Abyad in Syria, and Tikrit and Diyala province in Iraq. But the group has continued to score shocking victories, including the recent capture of Syria's ancient town of Palmyra and the taking of the Iraqi city of Ramadi in mid-May.
 
"The international mobilisation against Daesh has been minimal," said Sayegh, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
 
"But it may be that they cannot do more, because the return of 150,000 US troops to the battlefield is out of the question."
 
Ultimately analysts say ISIS's success is as much the result of political problems as it is military shortcomings.
 
ISIS has emerged because of "the failure of Syria and Iraq and the sectarian divisions in them, as well as corruption and decades of authoritarian rule," Sayegh said.

Kurds End ISIS Murder Spree in Kobane

Category: News
Created on Monday, 29 June 2015 10:54
Kurds End ISIS Murder in KobaneKurdish forces drove Islamic State (ISIS) group terrorists from the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobane on Saturday, after a killing spree by the jihadists left more than 200 civilians dead.
 
Forces of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) stormed ISIS's last remaining position, taking full control of Kobane, a powerful symbol of Kurdish resistance.
 
As they combed the streets for fugitive jihadists, the Kurds found more bodies, taking the civilian death toll to 206, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
Local journalist Rudi Mohammad Amin told AFP that more civilians were still unaccounted for.
 
The jihadists made their last stand in a boys' high school.
 
"The YPG detonated explosives outside of the school, then stormed it," Amin said, speaking via the Internet from near Kobane on the border with Turkey.
 
"This military operation was carried out after ensuring that there were no civilians left in the school."
 
Amin said he believed all the ISIS terrorists inside were killed.
 
The jihadists had entered Kobane at dawn on Thursday disguised in YPG uniforms and seized several buildings in the town's south and southwest.
 
The YPG quickly surrounded the jihadist positions, but it took two days to re-establish control.
 
Some civilians were killed in the streets by rocket or sniper fire, and others were executed in their homes.
 
"Entire families killed"
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the bodies found on Saturday bore bullet marks and appeared to include entire families.
 
"The bodies were found littered in homes and in the streets, lying here and there," he said.
 
The toll included at least 180 civilians killed in Kobane itself, and another 26 executed in a nearby village. At least 300 people were wounded.
 
The ISIS operation was widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats at the hands of Kurdish militia, particularly the jihadists' loss of Tal Abyad, another border town further east, on June 16.
 
"ISIS doesn't want to take over the town. They just came to kill the highest number of civilians in the ugliest ways possible," local journalist Mostafa Ali told AFP on Friday.
 
A total of 16 Kurdish fighters and 54 jihadists were also killed.
 
The Observatory chief said that ISIS had achieved its objective.
 
"You cannot call this last operation a real defeat for ISIS, because it did what it wanted to in Kobane," Abdel Rahman said.
 
In January, Kurdish forces backed by rebel groups and US-led air strikes pushed ISIS out of Kobane after four months of fierce fighting in a hugely symbolic defeat for the jihadists.
 
Further east, government forces launched a counter-attack Saturday against ISIS in the provincial capital of Hasakeh, on the third day of intense clashes.
 
Hasakeh civilians flee
 
According to the UN, at least 120,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in the city, which had a pre-war population of 300,000.
 
The fighting largely took place in the southern Hasakeh, where ISIS seized two neighborhoods on Thursday.
 
The UN estimated that "90,000 people have been displaced, many pre-emptively, to the eastern and northern neighborhoods of the city...as well as to nearby villages."
 
It said another 30,000 people had fled further north and northeast to other cities and towns in Hasakeh province.
 
The Observatory said government reinforcements from further south in Deir Ezzor, including Republican Guard units, had arrived.
 
Kurdish units, who share control of the city with government forces, joined the fighting late on Friday and banned civilians from the streets.
 
ISIS also tried to seize Hasakeh last month, but was pushed back by government forces.
 
On Friday, Information Minister Omran Zohbi called on "anyone who is capable of carrying a gun" to join the fight against ISIS in Hasakeh.
 
"Protecting the city of Hasakeh from the terrorist takfiri (extremist Sunni) attacks is a duty shared among all the sons of the city," Zohbi said.
 
In the southern city of Daraa, fighting continued between government forces and rebel groups including Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.
 
Since Thursday, 60 rebels, 18 government loyalists and 11 civilians have been killed in the fighting.

ISIS Massacres 120 Civilians in Kobane in a Day

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 08:08
ISIS Massacres CiviliansAt least 120 civilians have been killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group since it entered the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane just over 24 hours ago, a monitoring group said Friday.
 
"According to medical sources and Kobane residents, 120 civilians were executed by ISIS in their homes or killed by the group's rockets or snipers," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He described it as one of the group's "worst massacres" in Syria.
 
Another 26 civilians were executed by ISIS on Thursday in a village near Kobane, on the border with Turkey, the Observatory said.
 
"When they entered the town, the jihadists took up positions in buildings at the southeast and southwest entrances, firing at everything that moved," Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said the bodies of civilians, among them women and children, were found in their homes and in the streets.
 
"The jihadists knew that they could not stay and control the town in the face of the Kurdish forces. They came just to kill and strike a moral blow to the Kurds," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurdish activist Arin Shekhmos said: "Every family in Kobane lost a family member on Thursday."
 
ISIS launched a surprise attack on Kobane on Thursday involving three suicide bombers, just over a week after Kurdish militia ousted it from Tal Abyad, another border town further east.
 
Analysts said the assault was revenge for the loss of Tal Abyad.
 
Backed by US air strikes and Syrian rebel groups, Kurdish militia had pushed ISIS out of Kobane in January in one of the jihadists' most dramatic defeats.

ISIS Beheads 12 Men from Rival Groups

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 27 June 2015 07:40
ISIS Beheads Men from Rival GroupsIslamic State (ISIS) jihadists beheaded 12 men from rival Syrian rebel movements accused of fighting against them, in a video released on Thursday, according to AFP.
 
It is the latest in a long series of mass beheadings by ISIS, and comes two days after the group released a video showing it killing 16 people in neighboring Iraq, drowning some of them in a cage.
 
Three of those killed in the new video were from Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the Damascus area, and a fourth from Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and ISIS’ main jihadist rival in the country.
 
While the men, whom ISIS said were captured during a battle, were apparently from Islamist Syrian rebel groups, their heads and beards were shaved, likely as an insult by ISIS, noted AFP.
 
Powerful jihadist rebel groups in Syria, including the Islamic Front and Al-Nusra Front, became locked in fierce fighting with ISIS after allegations that ISIS brutally abused civilians and other opposition fighters battling to topple President Bashar AlAssad.
 
Tensions were further exacerbated when Al-Nusra and other rebel factions accused ISIS of killing Islamist Front commander Abu Khaled al-Suri in a suicide car bomb attack.
 
Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS had temporarily agreed to work together.
 
Thursday’s video comes two days after ISIS released another gruesome video showing it killing 16 "spies" in Nineveh province in northern Iraq.
 
The terrorists killed four men with a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a car, five by drowning in a metal cage, and seven by wrapping explosive cord around their necks and detonating it.
 
Since taking over swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has executed hundreds of people by gunfire and dozens by beheading, while other victims have been stoned to death or thrown from buildings -- much of it documented in videos and photos.

ISIS Sells 42 Yazidi Women to Its Terrorists as Sex Slaves

Category: News
Created on Friday, 26 June 2015 20:50
yazidi-women-isisThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group on Thursday sold 42 Iraqi women it had abducted from the Yazidi religious minority to its fighters in eastern Syria as sex slaves, a monitor said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the women were being treated as "slaves" by the jihadists and were sold "for between $500 and $2,000 dollars."
 
The women were abducted last year in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq where ISIS had launched a wide offensive, the Britain-based monitor said.
 
Earlier this month they were brought to the ISIS-held town of Mayadeen in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province.
 
"Some were abducted with their children but we do not know their fate," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The Yazidis, a religious minority which lives mainly in Iraq's Sinjar region, are neither Muslims nor Arabs and follow a unique faith. They are considered infidels by the jihadists.
 
In 2014, the jihadists massacred Yazidis, forced tens of thousands of them to flee, captured thousands of girls and women as spoils of war and used them as sex slaves.
 
The UN has said the atrocities committed against the small community may amount to genocide.

Eight Iranian 'Volunteers' Killed Fighting ISIS in Syria

Category: News
Created on Friday, 26 June 2015 19:54
Eight Iranian Volunteers KilledEight Iranian fighters have been buried in Iran Thursday after they were killed fighting ISIS in Syria, according to Iranian state media.
 
Three of the men, all of whom were described as "volunteers," were buried in the capital Tehran, while the others were buried in the northeastern city of Mashhad, according to the official IRNA news agency.
 
Thousands of people attended the funerals, it said.
 
Another Iranian state media outlet, Tasnim, published pictures of the men in civilian clothing. Neither outlet gave any indication of their rank or with what specific force they were fighting with.
 
Iran is the main backer of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, supplying his embattled forces with weapons and equipment, and training and equipping numerous loyalist militias - including Hezbollah - to supplement the badly-overstretched Syrian national army.
 
However, though it admits to sending "military advisers," Tehran denies it is deploying combat troops on the ground - despite the steady stream of evidence, including a mounting body county.
 
As that role has become harder to deny, the Iranian regime has been attempting to explain the presence of Iranian fighters on the ground by encouraging "volunteers" from its various military and paramilitary forces to travel to fight in Syria and Iraq - all while still denying the government is actually sending fighters itself.

ISIS Suicide Bombers Strike Near Children's Hospital

Category: News
Created on Friday, 26 June 2015 19:05
ISIS Strike Near Childrens HospitalTwo suicide bombers from the Islamic State (ISIS) group have killed 10 Syrian soldiers in the northeastern city of Hasakeh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday.
 
Separately, at least 13 civilians were killed in a car bomb attack against a mosque in a village near the capital Damascus, the monitor said.
 
All three incidents occurred Tuesday night.
 
"Ten soldiers were killed and 16 others injured in two suicide attacks carried out by ISIS against army positions in Hasakeh," the Britain-based
Observatory said.
 
"The first attack was carried out by three jihadists against a military barracks in the center of town, while the second was carried out by one suicide bomber against a checkpoint near a children's hospital."
 
A third suicide bomber hit a post manned by the Kurdish security forces in the city, causing serious damage to buildings in the area but no deaths.
 
Control of Hasakeh, which is ethnically mixed, is divided between Syrian troops and Kurdish forces.
 
On May 30, ISIS launched a bid to enter the city, but was pushed back after violent clashes with Syrian troops and Kurdish fighters.
 
Elsewhere in the country, the Observatory said 13 civilians were killed when a car bomb exploded in front of a mosque in the village of Al-Tall as worshippers were leaving prayers.
 
State news agency SANA reported the terrorist blast that targeted the mosque, but gave no precise toll.
 
It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack in the town, which lies just north of the capital, where a truce is in place between rebel forces inside and regime troops outside.
 
More than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests before spiraling into a war after a regime crackdown.

'Tis the Season: ISIS Calls for Ramadan Martyrdom

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 09:39
Ramadan MartyrdomIslamic State (ISIS) group spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani called on Tuesday for Muslims to engage in jihad and become martyrs during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
 
Adnani also announced an amnesty for people who fought against ISIS in Iraq's Anbar province, and called on residents who had fled violence there to return home.
 
"The best acts that bring you closer to God are jihad, so hurry to it and make sure to carry out the invasion this holy month and be exposed to martyrdom in it," Adnani said in an audio message posted online.
 
"These are your weapons and this is Ramadan."
 
Ramadan, which began last week, is the month in the Muslim calendar during which believers observe a fast from dawn to sunset every day.
 
Adnani repeated a call by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for those who fled Anbar, where ISIS seized provincial capital Ramadi last month, to return.
 
"Oh people of Anbar, return to your homes and go back to your people," he said.
 
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 275,000 people fled the Ramadi area between April and mid-June.
 
Adnani also announced a "last chance" for tribesmen, soldiers and police, calling on them to "repent" and surrender their weapons as a sign of good faith.
 
He singled out the Jughaifa tribe that is besieged in the town of Haditha, saying it faces utter destruction if it does not surrender.
 
If they do not "repent," then "for generations those passing Haditha will say: 'The Jughaifa were here, and their houses'."
 
As ISIS has previously executed hundreds of security personnel and tribesmen who opposed the group, it is unlikely that many will take up the offer.
 
ISIS launched a brutally effective offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad.
 
Iraqi forces have made major gains in Diyala and Salaheddin provinces north of Baghdad, but much of the country's west is still in ISIS hands.

Kurds Advance on ISIS's 'Capital'

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 24 June 2015 09:16
Kurds AdvanceSyrian Kurds and allied rebels advanced against the Islamic State (ISIS) group on Tuesday, capturing a strategic town a day after seizing a base from the jihadists near their Raqa bastion.
 
A spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and a Britain-based monitor said the anti-ISIS forces had taken Ain Issa on Tuesday, after capturing the nearby Brigade 93 base overnight.
 
"In the last few moments, Ain Issa has come under our full control, along with dozens of villages in the surrounding area," YPG spokesman Redur Khalil told AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said ISIS forces had withdrawn from the town and YPG and rebel forces were now sweeping it to clear mines laid by the jihadists.
 
Ain Issa's fall comes after ISIS ceded control of the Brigade 93 base on Monday night and the border town of Tal Abyad more than a week ago.
 
Ain Issa and Brigade 93 are around 55 kilometers (35 miles) north of Raqa, the de facto capital of ISIS's self-declared Islamic "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.
 
They both lie on a main highway that runs between Kurdish-held territory in Aleppo province to the west and Hasakeh province to the east.
 
The same route links territory held by the Islamic State group in Aleppo and Hasakeh provinces.
 
"It's also a defense line for Raqa," said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst. "Considering that Raqa is a sort of capital of the 'caliphate,' it creates a lot of pressure on ISIS."
 
ISIS "pushed back"
 
The YPG-rebel advance has been backed by air power from the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, with the Observatory saying at least 26 jihadists were killed in international strikes in and around Ain Issa on Monday.
 
"ISIS's defense lines have now been pushed back to the outskirts of Raqa city because the area between Raqa and Ain Issa is militarily weak and they have no fortifications in that area, which is mostly open plains," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The advance is the latest success for YPG forces and their rebel allies, helped by US-led air strikes.
 
On June 16, they captured Tal Abyad on the Turkish border, which had served as a key conduit for ISIS bringing in fighters and weapons and exporting black market oil.
 
Kurdish forces have been chipping away at ISIS territory in the northern Raqa province for months, after successfully repelling a fierce attack by the jihadists on the border town of Kobane in January.
 
The YPG has emerged as "arguably the most effective fighting force against ISIS in Syria," analyst Sirwan Kajjo said after the capture of Tal Abyad.
 
"They are well-organized, disciplined and are big believers in their cause."
 
ISIS destroys mausoleums
 
Khalil declined to comment on where the anti-ISIS fighters would focus their attention next, but suggested an operation against Raqa was unlikely in the short-term.
 
"Raqa is much further away, and well-defended, it would require significant forces and weapons," he said.
 
Civiroglu too said any offensive against Raqa would require lengthy planning and an upgrade to the weapons available to the YPG and its allies.
 
"I don't see that Raqa is the next target. For now they want to consolidate their hold on Tal Abyad and the area around it," he said.
 
Syria's antiquities chief meanwhile confirmed ISIS had destroyed two ancient religious mausoleums in the old city of Palmyra.
 
Maamoun Abdulkarim said the extremists had blown up the tombs of Mohamed bin Ali and Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine, two Muslim figures.
 
The jihadists consider tombstones and mausoleums to be a violation of their strict interpretation of Islamic law, and have regularly destroyed both in areas they control.

New ISIS Low: Caged Drowning, Decapitation Necklaces

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 22:36
Caged DrowningThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) group has spread horror by callously beheading victims and burning them to death - on Tuesday the terror group reached a new low by unveiling gruesome new ways to murder.
 
In a seven-minute video from ISIS's Nineveh branch based in its stronghold of Mosul, the terrorists reinvented their horrific methods of murder on three separate batches of helpless victims.
 
At the start of the clip, several men in the orange jumpsuits worn by victims in ISIS videos are locked in an Opal saloon car in the desert, before a masked ISIS terrorist fires an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) launcher at the vehicle from point-blank range.
 
The car explodes in flame, burning to death the victims trapped inside.
 
If the clip started with incendiary flames, the most horrific moment may have been what follows next, as water is used in a twisted way to drown five men in orange jumpsuits.
 
The group are forced to talk on camera about the crimes of "spying" they were evidently accused of, before being locked in a massive metal cage and lowered into a swimming pool.
 
At first the group stand straight with their legs bound until the cage is lowered in the water. As the water raises ever higher the men become visibly panicked, praying and pacing the tiny cell before the water reaches over their heads.
 
The video then switches to expensive underwater cameras attached to the bars of the cage to show the men thrashing hopelessly underwater before losing consciousness and drowning.
 
The cage is then lifted out of the water again, showing the drowned men lying foaming at the mouth.
 
After the gruesome interlude of watery deaths, the film returns to fiery explosions as another set of seven victims are forced to talk on camera before being led out into a field.
 
There explosive cables are tied around all of their necks as they are forced to kneel in a line. The cables are then detonated, decapitating and horrifically maiming the victims, and all of the gore is captured in HD quality footage.
 
ISIS has used such gruesome films in the past both to recruit jihadists from around the world as well as to strike fear and terror into their opponents.

Syrian Kurds Chase ISIS from Key Base

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 21:58
Syrian Kurds Chase ISISSyrian Kurdish fighters have chased Islamic State (ISIS) members from a key base north of the jihadists' stronghold city of Raqa, a monitoring group said on Monday night, according to the AFP news agency.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units, with air support from the United States, took complete control of the Liwa (Brigade) 93 base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"IS lines of defense were pushed back to the gates of Raqa," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory, added.
 
"The Kurds also entered the outskirts of the town of Ayn Issa, close to Brigade 93... this town has basically fallen in the military sense with the capture of the base," he was quoted as having said.
 
The base was important due to its position overlooking strategic roads linking Raqa to other ISIS outposts in the provinces of Aleppo to the west and Hasakah to the east, the report noted.
 
ISIS had held the military base after capturing it from regime forces last summer.
 
The taking of the base is the second blow inflicted on ISIS fighters by the Kurds in a week after the capture of Tal Abyad, on Syria's border with Turkey.
 
Tal Abyad was a key conduit for foreign fighters and supplies into ISIS-held territory in Syria and for exports of black market oil from jihadist-held fields.
 
Kurdish forces defended the Syrian town of Kobane against ISIS in a months-long battle, and have emerged as some of the most effective forces battling the jihadist group in the year since it declared a cross-border "caliphate" with neighboring Iraq.
 
Cutting off supplies to Raqa is important as it is the de-facto capital of the ISIS self-proclaimed “caliphate”, established a year ago after the jihadist group seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
Recently the group began issuing photo identity cards to males residing in the Raqa province, along with a range of administrative documents.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
ISIS is also enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law in the areas under its control. On Monday, for example, the group executed two youths accused of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

ISIS in Syria Hangs Two Boys for Eating During Ramadan

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 18:07
ISIS in Syria Hangs Two BoysThe Islamic State (ISIS) on Monday hanged two youths after accusing them of eating during daylight hours in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said.
 
"Residents of the village of Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province reported that IS hanged from a crossbar two boys aged under 18 near the HQ of the Hissba", the jihadist police, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.
 
"The children have been suspended by ropes from a pole since noon, and they were still there in the late evening," he added.
 
"Apparently, they were caught eating," Abdel Rahman continued.
 
A placard was attached to the bodies reading "They broke the fast with no religious justification".
 
Throughout the month of Ramadan, which began on Thursday, believers abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset.
 
ISIS, which controls swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq where it has created a self-proclaimed "caliphate", advocates an extreme view of the application of Islamic law, or sharia.
 
Steps taken by ISIS against violations of Islamic include a ban on mannequins in shop displays as well as a ban on singing and dancing at weddings.
 
The jihadists do not hesitate to impose brutal punishments including beheadings, stonings, floggings and crucifixions.

Concern Mounts as ISIS Places Mines in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 13:47
ancient city of PalmyraIslamic State (ISIS) group jihadists have mined the spectacular ancient ruins in Syria's Palmyra, an antiquities official and monitor said Sunday, prompting fears for the UNESCO World Heritage site.
 
The reports came one month after the extremist group overran the central Syrian city, reported the AFP news agency.
 
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said that the group had laid mines and explosives in Palmyra's Greco-Roman ruins.
 
The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said the explosives were laid on Saturday.
 
"But it is not known if the purpose is to blow up the ruins or to prevent regime forces from advancing into the town," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, according to AFP.
 
He said regime forces had launched heavy air strikes against the residential part of Palmyra in the past three days, killing at least 11 people.
 
"The regime forces are to the west outside the city, and in recent days they have brought in reinforcements suggesting they may be planning an operation to retake Palmyra," he added.
 
A political source told AFP that a leading commander had been dispatched to the region to organize an offensive to recapture and secure Palmyra and several key gas fields nearby.
 
Abdulkarim also said Sunday he had received reports from Palmyra residents that the ruins had been mined.
 
"We have preliminary information from residents saying that this is correct, they have laid mines at the temple site," he told AFP.
 
"I hope that these reports are not correct, but we are worried."
 
He urged "Palmyra's residents, tribal chiefs and religious and cultural figures to intervene to prevent this... and prevent what happened in northern Iraq", referring to ISIS destruction of heritage sites there.
 
"I am very pessimistic and feel sadness," he told AFP.
 
ISIS captured Palmyra, famed for its extensive and well-preserved ruins, on May 21, and since that time has regularly heavily mined its territory to make it more difficult to recapture.
 
The city's fall prompted international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value".
 
Before it was overrun, the head of the UN cultural body urged that the ruins be spared, saying they were "an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people, and the world".

One Year On, No Quick Fix to ISIS 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 22 June 2015 10:24
500 Bodies from ISIS Massacre in Tikrit(AFP) A year after its establishment, the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) group's self-declared "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq remains well-funded and heavily armed, and experts say it could be around for years to come.
 
The would-be state headed by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - called Caliph Ibrahim by his followers - has suffered setbacks in the months since it was proclaimed.
 
A US-led coalition is carrying out strikes against the group throughout its territory and this week it lost the key Syrian border town of Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces.
 
But the group has continued to score shocking victories elsewhere, including the seizure of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, and experts say IS and its "caliphate" have the means to last for years.    
 
"The group operates as an insurgency and might shrink in one region and expand in another, but it'll stay with us for the foreseeable future," said Hassan Hassan, associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank's Middle East and North Africa program.
 
 "I see it existing and active for at least a decade."
 
Other experts agree that while the current borders of the caliphate are likely to shift, the entity is far from on its last legs.
 
"The very idea of the caliphate and 'Caliph Ibrahim' will surely remain for many of the movement's members and supporters around the world," said Charles Lister, a vising fellow at the Brookings Doha Center think thank.
 
Well-funded, well-armed
 
IS's success is driven by various factors, chief among them its significant financial resources, superior firepower, and ability to play on the legitimate grievances of local populations in Syria and Iraq.
 
"It remains the richest terrorist group in the world," with weekly revenues of about $2 million (1.7 million euros), said Patrick Johnston, a political scientist at the Rand Corporation think tank.
 
US-led strikes on the group's oil infrastructure and a drop in the price of crude have cut into its funds, but it has found ways to compensate.
 
"Key among them are extortion, taxation, and the sale of looted goods from areas they have captured," Johnston said.
 
More importantly, the group's operating costs are relatively low: it has a steady supply of recruits, particularly foreign fighters, and its vast armory is stocked largely from the spoils of battles against armies and other rebel groups.  
 
Fighters have access to a range of small arms and light weapons, as well as artillery, anti-tank guns and a "seemingly unending supply of pick-up trucks and captured armored vehicles and, in Syria, tanks," according to Lister.
 
He said the group seeks to "ensure a near-constant series of tactical-level victories are won, thereby resulting in the capture of additional weapons supplies."
 
IS also buys arms from the black market, making it "one of the most equipped groups in Syria and Iraq," said Hassan, author of a book on the group.
 
"IS has the weapons, training and means to operate as a small army," he said.  
 
A lack of alternatives
 
The US-led coalition fighting IS has had some successes, but experts say it is constrained by a lack of reliable ground forces and relatively poor intelligence.
 
IS meanwhile has strategically focused its expansion on areas where local government and security is weak.
 
And it quickly implements governance in captured territory, Johnston said, using its bureaucrats and police to consolidate its control.
 
The jihadists use a carrot-and-stick approach with local populations, terrorizing with brutal public executions but also offering relative stability and public services including healthcare and education.
 
"Its popularity is fluid... but generally it still has what it takes to rule without much pressure from within its areas," said Hassan.  
 
"People on the ground still fear the group's retribution, see value in its model of governance, and don't have any other acceptable alternatives."
 
The lack of alternatives has been key to IS's success in Syria and Iraq, where Sunni Muslims feel excluded from the ruling class.  
 
In Syria, Sunnis have led the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.
 
In Iraq, they frequently accuse the Shiite-led government of discrimination.
 
Those dynamics mean a purely military approach to the "caliphate problem" will fall short.
 
"So long as Assad remains in Syria and so long as Baghdad's improvements in representative government do not translate into a shift in perceptions on the ground, IS will always retain a chance of acquiring people's tacit acceptance," Lister said.
 
"Ultimately the only genuine solution to IS is to solve the underlying issues of societal division and political failure that IS has sought to exacerbate and exploit to its advantage."

Terror War: Hezbollah Says it Killed 2 ISIS Commanders

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 21 June 2015 18:13
Hezbollah Killed 2 ISIS CommandersThe Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar TV station reported on Friday that forces of the Iran-backed terror proxy in Lebanon killed two Islamic State (ISIS) commanders and seven ISIS terrorists in two separate attacks near a northeastern border town.
 
Both incidents took place in the chaotic Qalamoun mountainous region near Syria, where ISIS as well as Syrian rebel groups such as the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria Nusra Front are seeking to expand their influence and control smuggling routes.
 
On the outskirts of Arsal on Friday ISIS commander Abu Aisha al-Libi and six other terrorists were killed as they held a meeting at Khirbet Hamam to plan an attack against the eastern city of Baalbek, the Hezbollah paper said as cited by the Lebanese The Daily Star.
 
In the same Khirbet Hamam area, Hezbollah terrorists also reportedly destroyed two military convoys, presumably of ISIS. Another ISIS commander, named as Abu Akrama al-Zouhouri, along with ISIS terrorist Ahmad Abed al-Mohsen were said to have been killed in the attack.
 
The Shi'ite Hezbollah has been propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under Iran's orders, and in the course of those efforts has been fighting the Sunni ISIS as well as Nusra Front, both of which have been active in the Qalamoun area.
 
Reportedly Hezbollah has made recent gains in the region, after repelling an ISIS attack last week in which eight Hezbollah fighters and 50 ISIS fighters were killed according to The Daily Star, in what was said to be the most serious border firefight since Hezbollah got involved in Syria.
 
Then on Tuesday, Al-Manar claimed that the ISIS "emir" for the Qalamoun region Abu Balqis al-Baghdadi was killed in shelling on the eastern outskirts of Arsal, in the Wadi Hmayed area roughly seven kilometers (just over four miles) south of Ras Baalbek.
 
Hezbollah and the Lebanese army reportedly have captured two-thirds of the Qalamoun mountain region back from ISIS and Nusra Front since launching an offensive on May 4.
 
The paper noted that ISIS and the rebel forces are now mostly located in northern Qalamoun, to the east of Arsal and Ras Baalbek.

A Rare Glimpse Inside ISIS 'Model City' - Hell on Earth

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 20 June 2015 18:22
Hell on EarthIt's called Heaven Square, but after the Islamic State (ISIS) group started using the roundabout in Raqqa for gruesome public executions it earned a new name: Hell Square.
 
In the year since the jihadist group announced its "caliphate" last June, its de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa has been transformed into a macabre metropolis.
 
Human heads are displayed on spikes at the central roundabout and crucified bodies hang for days to terrorize local residents, said Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, a Raqqa resident and anti-ISIS activist.
 
"From the first moment of its control over Raqqa, ISIS adopted a policy of horror and terror, resorting to executions, beheadings, cutting off hands and legs, and crucifixion," said Raqqawi, who uses a pseudonym.
 
He belongs to the "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" underground activist group, which documents ISIS abuses in the northern Syrian city and surrounding province.
 
Activists were among ISIS's first targets in Raqqa, but Raqqawi and the group's members have continued to work, providing a rare window into life in one of ISIS's bastions.
 
Raqqa was the first Syrian provincial capital to fall from regime control when rebels seized it in March 2013.
 
But ISIS soon routed those rebels and moved quickly to establish a "model city" under its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, said researcher and writer Hisham al-Hashimi.
 
ISIS wants to run Raqqa "like a central government, with police, services, justice and education," he said.
 
The "good life"
 
The group has taken over all levels of civil administration, rewriting school curriculums, establishing Islamic courts and creating police units - the male "Hesba" force and the female "Khansa Brigades" - to implement Islamic law.
 
It has focused heavily on education, closing the city's schools and universities for a full year while it developed new courses.
 
Mathematics and English are still on the menu, but little else of the old curriculum remains; courses in jurisprudence, jihad and the Koran have been added.
 
"What's the point of physics, chemistry, history or statistics...when we're learning medicine?" says Abu Abdul Rahman al-Shami, the head of Raqqa's hospital, in an ISIS-produced video about life in the city.
 
ISIS has sought to promote an image of the "good life" in Raqqa, with videos showing roads teeming with cars and storefronts full of customers.
 
It touts the implementation of its version of Islam, with life coming to a halt five times every day for prayers and all residents required to declare their assets and pay "zakat" - Islamic alms.
 
It also revels in meting out punishments for crimes ranging from collaboration with Syria's regime and theft to "witchcraft" and homosexuality.
 
The group regularly carries out beheadings, but also stones victims to death or throws them from building tops.
 
Women whose face veils do not cover their eyes are charged a gram of gold, while men who shave their beards pay a fine equivalent to $100.
 
Raqqawi recounted how a woman in a face veil, walking with her husband, tripped in the street, revealing part of her face as she fell.
 
ISIS members swarmed around the couple and threatened to lash her husband if the incident was repeated.
 
"Keep your head down"
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says ISIS has executed 2,618 people in Syria between the founding of its caliphate in late June 2014 and late May 2015.
 
Residents say those who comply with ISIS's rules can find a way to live a "normal" life, and even to benefit from the relative stability, lack of crime and municipal services in Raqqa.
 
"If you follow Daesh's laws and keep your head down, no one will bother you," Raqqawi said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
And for the thousands of foreign fighters who have flocked to ISIS-held territory, there are special perks in Raqqa, an occasional source of tension with Syrian residents who say they are treated as inferior.
 
A French ISIS fighter known as Abu Salman al-Fransi recently extolled the virtues of life in ISIS territory in a video posted online.
 
He said he was born to a Christian family but chose to convert to Islam and join ISIS in Syria along with his wife.
 
"The Islamic State gave us a house and everything we needed to prepare it, thank God, and our salary every month," he said in French.
 
In another such video, a clean-shaven blonde Australian doctor calling himself Abu Yusef al-Australi says he left home to live "in the shadow of the caliphate."
 
Now he works at Raqqa hospital, where foreign fighters are treated for free, while locals pay for care.
 
Dressed in green scrubs and speaking English, he says with a grin: "The situation here has exceeded my expectations."

Jordan Fears Imminent ISIS Invasion

Category: News
Created on Friday, 19 June 2015 16:56
Jordan Vows to Eradicate ISISJordan is gearing up for a possible invasion by Islamic terror groups, local media reported Thursday. 
 
According to reports, King Abdullah II, on a tour this week of border areas near Iraq and Syria, offered to arm Bedouin tribes living in those areas - on both sides of the border - to fight against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, which threaten Jordan from the east and north. 
 
Abdullah's concern has been growing in recent weeks, reports said, over the fact that after 3,000 bombing raids by the US and its allies, ISIS has not been beaten back – and seems only to get stronger.
 
With the organization solidifying its rule in much of Iraq and Syria = and in line with its pledge to expand its “Islamic caliphate” to the entire world, starting with the Muslim countries - Abdullah believes that Jordan is high up on ISIS's list for an attempted takeover.
 
Meanwhile, Jordan faces another danger from the north.
 
The Al-Nusra group, a fundamentalist organization associated with Al Qaeda, controls much of the area on the other side of the Syrian border. This group, too, has expansionist plans, and the open frontier between Syria and Jordan is almost an open invitation to incursions by the group.
 
During a tour of the border areas on June 15, Abdullah stated that it was Jordan's obligation “to assist Arab tribes in Iraq and Syria,” hinting that he would rely on the tribes as a first line of defense against incursions by ISIS and Al-Nusra.
 
The tribes living on both sides of the border have close ties, and Abdullah believes that they would aggressively defend their areas from invasion by the Islamist groups, reports said.
 
Abdullah's declaration set off rumors in the Arab media that Jordan was preparing to seize border areas on Iraq and Syria in order to fend off invaders. That plan was denied by Ahmad Almoumani, an advisor to Abdullah.
 
“Jordan has no plans to expand at the expense of neighboring countries, who we respect and value. We hope to preserve our own independence, and our borders," he stressed. 

Turkey Detains German Reporters for Asking Too Many Questions

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 18 June 2015 04:09
ReportersTurkey on Tuesday briefly detained four journalists covering the seizure by Kurdish forces of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, reportedly because they asked the local governor a tricky question on Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists.
 
Hasan Akbas of the daily Evrensel, Cumhuriyet reporter Pinar Ogunc, Ozlem Topcu of German weekly Die Zeit and Deniz Yucel of German daily Die Welt were all detained, the reporters announced on Twitter.
 
They were held briefly and then released after an identity check, they said.
 
The journalists were working at Turkey's Akcakale border crossing, which saw a huge influx of refugees in the last days due to the fighting between Kurds and ISIS.
 
Turkish media reports, including in Cumhuriyet, said they had been detained at an outdoor briefing for asking the local Sanliurfa governor Izzettin Kucuk a question which he disliked.
 
Akbas and Yucel asked Kucuk if he had a statement on reports that the inhabitants of Akcakale had safety concerns over the alleged presence of ISIS jihadists in their town.
 
"Finished!" Kucuk was quoted as saying, before telling the police to "Take them!"
 
A Turkish official told AFP the journalists had not been arrested but briefly taken for routine identity checks before being released.
 
The incident caused a wave of outrage on Twitter, with users including Cumhuriyet's editor Can Dundar tweeting under the hashtag #nesoriymvalime (What do I ask my governor?).
 
Turkey has repeatedly been accused of collusion with ISIS, allegations it vehemently denies.
 
Cumhuriyet had led the accusations with repeated stories that it says show proof that Turkey delivered arms and even jihadists to ISIS.
 
Media rights groups - which have long criticized Turkey for locking up journalists - have expressed concern over a further decline in press freedoms under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with dozens facing legal proceedings on charges of insulting him.

ISIS Foreign Legion Unleashes Quadruple Car Bombing

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 09:00
Car BombingAt least 11 Iraqi security personnel were killed Saturday in a quadruple suicide car bombing near Baiji that the Islamic State (ISIS) group said four of its foreign fighters carried out.
 
Police and army sources said the four car bombs were unleashed on security targets in Hajjaj, which lies on the road between Tikrit and Baiji in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad.
 
Seven soldiers were killed as well as four members of the Popular Mobilization force, an umbrella for mostly Shi'ite militias and volunteers that has been doing much of the heavy lifting in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
 
At least 27 people were also wounded in the coordinated attack, which saw one of the four car bombs neutralized before it could reach its target, a police colonel said.
 
An army officer said the vehicles used were identical, brand new SUVs that looked like an official convoy.
 
Pictures released by ISIS show the black-clad suicide bombers each standing by one of four black Toyota Land Cruisers.
 
ISIS said in a statement that the bombers were a Kuwaiti, a Palestinian Arab, a Briton and a German.
 
The picture of the German bomber, named Abu Ibrahim al-Almani, shows a red-haired blue-eyed man behind the wheel of his explosives-laden car, smiling and pointing his index finger to the sky.

ISIS in Danger of Losing Key Supply Route from Turkey

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 08:46
ISIS losing Key Supply Route from TurkeyA Syrian rebel alliance has pushed Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists further away from one of its key supply routes from neighboring Turkey, a monitoring group said Saturday.
 
The Islamist rebels ousted ISIS from the village of Al-Bal, which it captured on Tuesday, threatening the Bab al-Salama border crossing, just 10 kilometers (six miles) away, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, according to AFP.
 
The village's recapture late Friday came after heavy fighting, which killed 14 rebels and 15 IS jihadists, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
Further south, the rebels were fighting to defend the town of Marea, on the road between the crossing and the rebel-held eastern sector of the main northern city of Aleppo.
 
Activists said the rebels were simultaneously launching their own attacks on ISIS positions in the area.
 
"The ultimate goal for ISIS is to cut off this crossing," said Abdel Rahman.
 
Mamun Abu Omar, head of a local pro-rebel press agency, said "ISIS is trying to surround the town by occupying the villages all around it."
 
The rebel alliance is fighting both ISIS and government forces in Aleppo province, which is one of the most complex battlegrounds of Syria's multi-front civil war.
 
In some areas, it is supported by fighters of ISIS's jihadist rival, Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front.
 
ISIS fighters control areas in the province's east, and have been laying siege to the Kweyris military airport, still controlled by the regime.
 
Early Saturday, three government officers were killed when their helicopter was shot down by ISIS just outside the airport, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
"All three officers were killed, but it's not clear if ISIS has taken the bodies," he said.
 
Meanwhile, Kurdish militia advanced further into ISIS's bastion province Raqa, in Syria's north, in a bid to capture the key border town of Tal Abyad.
 
The Observatory said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had edged to within 10 kilometers (six miles) southwest of Tal Abyad, used by ISIS as a gateway from Turkey.
 
Backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, Kurdish forces recaptured the flashpoint town of Kobane - which lies west of Raqa province - from ISIS in January.
 
Since then, YPG militia have chipped away at ISIS control along the Turkish border on both sides of Raqa.
 
According to the Observatory, the Kurdish fighters advancing from east and west aim to meet at Tal Abyad and lay siege to the town.

ISIS Video Celebrates a Year to Its 'Caliphate'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 15 June 2015 09:49
ISIS00The Islamic State (ISIS) group Thursday released a propaganda documentary marking a year since it captured Mosul and recounting its surprise at how easily it took over Iraq's second city.
 
The film glamorizes the founding moment of the "caliphate" ISIS proclaimed less than three weeks later as an epic conquest but it also further documents the collapse of Iraq's security forces, reports AFP.
 
The 29 minutes of often previously unreleased footage shows the jihadists being welcomed by Mosul residents, prisoners being freed and soldiers desperately attempting to flee in vehicles.
 
"It was unthinkable that the advance would be so much greater than was planned," said the narrator of the video, which was published on social media on Thursday.
 
"The operation began with cutting the supply lines of the members of the Safavid army," after which the attack was announced, the narrator says, using a term meaning that Iraqi soldiers are beholden to Iran.
 
"Three convoys of military vehicles entered the outskirts of the city coming from the Jazeera area," the narrator says, noting that ISIS forces were heavily outnumbered.
 
The plan was to "control neighborhoods on the right side of Mosul to be a starting point for the mujahedeen (holy warriors) to conquer the remainder of the city."
 
But "the right side of the city of Mosul was conquered and the left side was empty of Safavid soldiers before the men of the Islamic State arrived."
 
The jihadist group's offensive in Iraq began on June 9. By the following day, ISIS-led forces had overrun Mosul - a city of two million - under their control.
 
The lightning advance led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whom fled to the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan.
 
It also saw a complete collapse of multiple divisions of Iraqi security forces, a dismal performance by an army the United States had spent years and billion of dollars training and equipping.
 
The ISIS-led offensive saw the government lose nearly a third of the country, sparking fears the jihadists could even raise their black flag in the capital Baghdad.
 
Mass mobilization by mostly Shi'ite militias and volunteers helped stop the jihadist drive.
 
The United States and Iran have, separately, led efforts to roll back territorial losses but, one year on, Baghdad is still struggling with a weak army.
 
ISIS for its part has survived close to 4,500 air strikes by the US-led coalition and remains a formidable fighting force, thanks in part to the huge arsenal it looted from abandoned government positions in Mosul and elsewhere.

Kurds 'Storm' ISIS-held Town on Turkish Border

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:31
Kurds Storm ISIS on Turkish BorderSyrian Kurdish fighters advanced towards the Islamic State (ISIS) group-held town of Tal Abyad on the Turkish border on Thursday, backed by US-led coalition strikes, a monitor said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forces backed by Arab rebel fighters "stormed the town of Suluk and took control of the eastern part of it," reports AFP.
 
Fierce clashes continued through the day between ISIS and Kurdish forces.
 
Suluk, in the ISIS bastion province of Raqa in northern Syria, lies to the east of Tal Abyad, a key border town that is controlled by the jihadist group.
 
The town is a key target for the Kurds who want to free up the route between Kobane to the west and Qamishli, further east along the Turkish border.
 
With their advance into Suluk, YPG forces are now some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Tal Abyad, and they are also positioned around 10 kilometers to the west.
 
"The Kurds plan to lay siege to Tal Abyad," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The YPG has been backed by US-led air strikes targeting ISIS positions in the area, he added.
 
The latest fighting in the area has prompted a wave of several thousand people to flee into neighboring Turkey, which is already hosting 1.8 million Syrians.
 
Nearly 9,000 refugees have entered Turkey since last week, a Turkish official said on Wednesday.

ISIS Forces 'Israeli Spy' to Dig His Own Grave in Sinai

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 14 June 2015 11:14
Spy to Dig His Own Grave in SinaiFollowing Islamic State's (ISIS) gruesome tradition, an affiliate of the terrorist group operating in the Sinai Peninsula has released a flashily produced execution video of an alleged "Israeli spy" being forced to dig his own grave in the desert.
 
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the Sinai terror group that last November pledged allegiance to ISIS and changed its name to Sinai Province, uploaded professionally edited footage showing the man they accused of being a Mossad spy being murdered, reports the Daily Mail.
 
The video begins with a montage of the bearded man dressed in the classic orange jumpsuit ISIS uses for its victims digging his grave in the sand, and then cuts to the moment he apparently was captured by the terrorist group.
 
He is seen in a lilac shirt speaking on a phone in Arabic under duress, while a masked and armed ISIS terrorist sits next to him. Then he is seen standing in a deep hole in the desert, digging his grave.
 
The victim is then shown in slow motion on his knees muttering to himself while the masked terrorist comes up behind him, and shoots him in the back of the head with a handgun. He is then buried in the grave he dug, with the terrorist using the same spade to cover his body.
 
It didn't take long for the video to be used in ISIS's intensive online recruitment campaign, with supporters of the terror group sharing the video near and far on social media.
 
They claimed the victim had been a spy for the Mossad, reporting to Israel on the movements of the ISIS cell in Sinai.
 
There are roughly 2,000 terrorists in Sinai Province, which had previously been affiliated with Al Qaeda before joining ISIS. The group has also developed a presence in Gaza, where it has has launched attacks against Hamas and threatened to destroy it.

Iraqi Forces Advance in ISIS-Controlled Baiji

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 11 June 2015 19:32
Iraqi Forces AdvanceIraqi forces advanced against the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group in Baiji on Sunday as they battled to retake the strategic town for a second time, officers said, according to the AFP news agency.
 
Baghdad regained control of Baiji -- located on the road to ISIS hub Mosul and near the country's largest oil refinery -- last year, but subsequently lost it again.
 
"Our security forces arrived to the centre of the town of Baiji around 10:30 a.m. (0700 GMT) and raised the Iraqi flag," an army major general told AFP.
 
The officer said that Iraqi forces were shelling "terrorists hideouts" in the town with mortar rounds.
 
A police colonel confirmed that Iraqi forces were making progress, saying they were in control of the city centre and were "advancing toward the northern neighborhoods of the town."
 
Security forces are also fighting to push ISIS out of the nearby Baiji refinery, a vast complex, which once produced 300,000 barrels per day of refined products meeting half of the country's needs.
 
ISIS spearheaded a sweeping militant offensive last June that overran Iraq's second city Mosul in less than 24 hours and then seized much of the country's Sunni Arab heartland, where it  declared itself an Islamic "caliphate".
 
ISIS has been driven out of some areas north of Baghdad, but still holds much of western Iraq.
 
Last week, Washington's envoy for the coalition fighting ISIS said the group is a "global threat" that will take a generation or more to defeat.

Next Stop for ISIS: Algeria?

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 09 June 2015 21:35
Next Stop for ISIS- AlgeriaIslamic State (ISIS) has conquered large parts of Syria and Iraq and set up 'branches' as far away as Libya and the Sinai Desert - but now, it has set its sights on Algeria. 
 
Months after successfully conquering the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, Algerian authorities say that ISIS has attempted to expand westward to conquer the largely-desert border region between the two countries. 
 
On Thursday, the Algerian army raised its alert level to the highest level and has drafted some 50,000 troops to ward off ISIS ahead of an anticipated invasion; authorities cited the Libyan army's inability to defend its Western borders and Sirte's downfall. 
 
An anonymous source told Turkey's Andalou News agency that "the Algerian army received strict orders to shoot immediately in the event of any attempt to infiltrate into the Algerian territory." 
 
Algeria and Libya share a border of over 1,000 km (621 miles) of desert that has been a prime target for Al Qaeda affiliates since the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi in 2011. 

Nusra Front Leader: ISIS Caliphate is 'Illegitimate'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 07 June 2015 15:55
Ansar Bayt al-MaqdisAbu Mohammad al-Golani, the chief of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday described the rival Islamic State (ISIS) group's self-proclaimed caliphate as "illegitimate", AFP reports.
 
The comments came in a the second part of al-Golani’s appearance on the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel. In the first part, which aired last week, he said that his group will not target the country's Alawite minority, despite their support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government.
 
On Wednesday, he criticized ISIS at length and said he did not foresee a reconciliation between the two jihadist groups soon.
 
"They announced a caliphate, but the scholars rejected it as illegitimate. It is not based on Islamic law," al-Golani said, his face hidden from view by a black scarf.
 
The rivalry between the two groups deepened after ISIS declared a caliphate spanning across Syria and Iraq in June 2014, though at one point  the two groups agreed to work together.
 
The conflict between the two groups, al-Golani said, had seen ISIS kill more than 700 members of Al-Nusra in a single battle, as well as women and children.
 
"There is no indication of a solution between us and them at this time. We hope that they repent and return to the Sunni people," he said, adding that the rivalry had allowed the Syrian regime "to flourish."
 
He refused to call ISIS fighters "infidels" -- a term usually referring to non-Muslims -- but instead said they had strayed from the path of Islam.
 
"They did not commit to the orders we had... including not blowing up markets or killing people in mosques," said al-Golani.
 
He also criticized IS for not "being serious in fighting the regime" of Assad.
 
When asked by Al-Jazeera interviewer Ahmad Mansur about Al-Nusra's ties to Al-Qaeda and whether a split was possible, the jihadist leader refrained from answering directly.
 
"The issue is not about leaving Al-Qaeda. It is about who rises up against hegemony," said al-Golani, who said he had fought in Iraq against American forces.
 
As with the first installment of the interview aired last week, an "Al-Qaeda in the Levant" flag featured prominently on the table in front of al-Golani.
 
He said as many as 30 percent of Al-Nusra's members were foreigners, including "a small number of Americans."
 
His television interview comes on the heels of several major victories for Al-Nusra against regime forces in Syria's northwest Idlib province.
 
As in the first interview, al-Golani again rejected political solutions to Syria's four-year war, saying an end to the crisis could only come through "jihad", or holy war.
 
Last week, the jihadist chief had said his group would be willing to protect Syria's minorities if they renounced Assad and "came into the bosom of Islam."
 
He also said he had received orders from Al-Qaeda's central command not to attack the West.
 
"Our mission in Syria is the downfall of the regime, its symbols, and its allies, like Hezbollah," al-Golani said, referring to the Lebanese group fighting alongside the Assad regime.

Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern Syria Border Provinces

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 10:37
Kurds Push Back ISIS in Northern SyriaKurdish militia in Syria wrested control of a dozen villages from the extremist Islamic State group (ISIS) either side of the jihadist's bastion province of Raqqa on Sunday, a monitor said.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), backed by air strikes from a US-led anti-ISIS coalition, seized eight villages from jihadists on the western edges of Raqqa province.  
 
"Kurdish units and their allies advanced and took control of at least eight villages southeast of Kobane, amid air strikes by the international coalition," the Britain-based monitor said.  
 
Kurdish militia and Syrian rebels pushed ISIS back from Kobane, which lies in northern Aleppo province on the Turkish-Syrian border, in January.
 
Since then, YPG units have edged east towards Raqqa, which ISIS declared the capital of its self-styled caliphate last year.
 
Syrian Kurdish fighters also seized control of four villages from ISIS near a border town in Hasakeh, east of Raqqa, the Observatory said.
 
"There are still clashes between the YPG and IS southwest of Ras al-Ain," the monitor said, adding that at least eight ISIS fighters and three Kurdish militia were killed in the fighting.  
 
On Saturday, ISIS launched an assault on Hasakeh's provincial capital, advancing to within four kilometers (less than three miles) of the key city.

ISIS Threatens to Destroy 'Heretical Hamas'

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 10:28
ISIS Threatens to Destroy Heretical HamasA group that is operating in Gaza and which says it is associated with ISIS has claimed that it killed a top Hamas commander. According to the group, which calls itself the Army of the Islamic State, Saber Siam was killed when ISIS operatives placed a bomb on his car, blowing it up with him inside.
 
Siam was killed, the group said, because he was “a partner in a declared war against religion and against Muslims, working for the heretical government in Gaza.” ISIS warned Hamas to immediately “end its war against religion in Gaza” or “face the consequences.”
 
The group also sent out warnings on social media to Gaza residents to stay away from Hamas offices and buildings, lest they find themselves swept up in attacks against the group.
 
It was not possible to verify whether the group was associated with ISIS, or whether it even actually exists. However, Israeli sources confirmed that Hamas has been conducting actions against a group of Salafist rebels it accuses of trying to take over Gaza.

Syrian Christian Beheads ISIS Jihadist in Act of Revenge

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 31 May 2015 10:11
ISIS A Syrian Christian fighter has beheaded an Islamic State group (ISIS) jihadist to avenge people executed by the group in northeastern Syria, a monitor said on Friday, according to AFP.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident took place on Thursday in Hasakeh province, where ISIS holds large areas of the countryside.
 
According to the monitor, the Christian fighter, a member of the minority Assyrian community, found the jihadist in the local village of Tal Shamiram.
 
"He took him prisoner and when he found out he was a member of ISIS, the Assyrian fighter beheaded him in revenge for abuses committed by the group in the region," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The Observatory is based in Britain but has covered the Syrian conflict since it broke out four years ago thanks to a network of sources inside the country.
 
The Christian was fighting in the ranks of Kurdish forces who earlier this month drove ISIS out of more than a dozen Assyrian villages the jihadists had captured in Hasakeh, according to the AFP report.
 
ISIS has carried out a wave of abuses in areas it controls in both Syria and Iraq, including public beheadings, mass executions, enslavement and rape.

ISIS Executes 20 Men in Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 28 May 2015 14:30
ISIS Executes 20 Men in PalmyraThe Islamic State (ISIS) group on Wednesday executed 20 men in front of a crowd in the UNESCO-listed Roman theater of Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor told AFP.
 
Nearly a week after seizing the strategic city, ISIS gathered 20 men they accused of fighting for the regime in the ruins of the theater and shot them dead, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told the news agency.
 
"ISIS gathered a lot of people there on purpose, to show their force on the ground," he said.
 
Syria's antiquities director said he feared the killings were a harbinger of the much-dreaded destruction of the ancient site, considered one of the world's greatest heritage jewels.
 
The jihadist group has damaged priceless historical sites across the region but mainly used its sledgehammers and dynamite on statues and places of worship it considers idolatrous.
 
It seized Palmyra on May 21, a move analysts warned positioned the group to launch more ambitious attacks on Damascus and third city Homs.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about 400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

Kurds Drive ISIS From Christian Villages in Syria

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 22:05
Kurds Drive ISIS From Christian VillagesKurdish forces have driven the Islamic State group from more than a dozen Assyrian Christian villages that the jihadists had captured in northeastern Syria, a monitor said Wednesday.
 
"Following a 10-day offensive, Kurdish fighters took control early this week of 14 Assyrian villages that IS had controlled since February," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Assyrian Christians, who are from one of the world's oldest Christian communities, have been under increasing threat since IS seized control of large parts of Syria.  
 
Thousands of Christians fled an assault by the jihadists in the northeastern province of Hasakeh in February after a spate of kidnappings by IS, which is still holding 210 Assyrians hostage.
 
Assyrians number about 30,000 among Syria's 1.2 million Christians and mostly live in 35 villages in Hasakeh, all of which are now held by Kurdish or regime forces.  
 
Osama Edward, head of the Sweden-based Assyrian Network for Human Rights, said that the Kurds' recapture of the villages "was made possible by intense raids by the international coalition" led by the United States against IS.
 
He said that photos "show a lot of destruction of houses and churches".
 
"Most people are afraid to return because they fear that IS booby-trapped their houses before fleeing," he added.
 
The Observatory also reported that Kurdish militia took control of the strategic village of Al-Mabrukah, southwest of the flashpoint town of Ras al-Ain on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
According to Abdel Rahman, the Kurdish advance could also open the road towards Tal Abyad, a border town used by IS as a gateway from Turkey.  
 
Over the course of 20 days, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) seized control of 4,000 square kilometers of territory from IS in Hasakeh province, Abdel Rahman said.
 
The extremist group's areas of control in Hasakeh are now limited to the province's southern fringes and the border with neighboring Raqqa, he added.  
 
Also on Wednesday, a rights group said the border town of Kobane - where Kurdish forces backed by US-led air strikes pushed back IS in January - was a "city of rubble."
 
Handicap International said four months of fighting and air raids had destroyed 80 percent of Kobane and left its neighborhoods riddled with unexploded devices and booby traps.
 
"What we saw in Kobane was beyond our worst nightmares: a significant part of the city is vastly destroyed and unexploded weapons contamination of all kinds have reached a density and diversity that has been hardly witnessed before," said Frederic Maio, who heads the group's mine action programs.  
 
The rights group called for the removal of weapons and rubble and for civilians to be educated on the danger of unexploded devices when returning to their homes.  
 
Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but evolved into a complex, multi-front war that has left at least 220,000 people dead.

Iraq Cutting Off ISIS Ahead of Offensive to Retake Ramadi

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:45
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersIraqi forces closed in on Ramadi Tuesday and launched an operation aimed at cutting off the jihadists in Anbar province before a major offensive to retake the city. 
 
Ten days after the Islamic State (ISIS) group's shock capture of the capital of Iraq's largest province, a spokesman said the latest operation was only a preparatory move before an assault on Ramadi, reports AFP.
 
The operation will see a mix of security forces and paramilitaries move south towards the city from Salaheddin province, said Hashed al-Shaabi spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi.
 
The Hashed al-Shaabi ("popular mobilization" in Arabic) is an umbrella group for mostly Shi'ite militia and volunteers, which the government called in after ISIS captured Ramadi on May 17.
 
"The operation's goal is to liberate those regions between Salaheddin and Anbar and try to isolate the province of Anbar," Assadi told AFP.
 
He said it had been dubbed "Operation Labaik ya Hussein," which roughly translates as "We are at your service, Hussein" and refers to one of the most revered imams in Shi'ite Islam.
 
The Hashed said 4,000 men were heading to the northern edge of Ramadi.
 
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his US allies had been reluctant to deploy Iran-backed Shi'ite militia in Anbar, a predominantly Sunni province.
 
Anbar's provincial capital had resisted ISIS assaults for more than a year but fell earlier this month after a massive jihadist offensive and a chaotic retreat by security forces.
 
Edging closer
 
The ISIS controls most of Anbar, a huge province which borders territory also under its control in neighboring Syria.
 
Pockets of government control include some eastern areas near the capital, the city of Haditha, parts of the town of Al-Baghdadi and the Al-Asad air base, where hundreds of US military advisers are stationed.
 
Regular forces and Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitaries also made progress south and west of Ramadi, an army lieutenant colonel told AFP, and retook an area called Al-Taesh.
 
"The Iraqi security forces and Hashed al-Shaabi have now cut off all supply routes for ISIS in Ramadi from the south," provincial council member Arkan Khalaf al-Tarmuz said.
 
Washington on Monday moved to appease Baghdad after Iraq's leadership reacted angrily to comments by the Pentagon chief accusing Iraqi forces of "lacking the will to fight."
 
Ashton Carter's remarks to the CNN news channel were widely perceived as unfair in Iraq, where some forces have put up valiant resistance to ISIS assaults.
 
In a call to Abadi, the White House quoted Vice President Joe Biden as saying he "recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past 18 months in Ramadi and elsewhere."
 
Tehran, the main backer of the paramilitary groups that were sent to Anbar's rescue, was gloating and suggested it was Washington that was indecisive in its approach to ISIS.
 
"How can you be in that country under the pretext of protecting the Iraqis and do nothing? This is no more than being an accomplice in a plot," said General Qassem Suleimani, the Revolutionary Guards' commander of foreign operations.
 
The US-led coalition has carried out more than 3,000 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria over the past 10 months.
 
Palmyra video
 
Baghdad and Washington had boasted that ISIS was a waning force after months of territorial losses, but the fall of Ramadi signaled that the jihadist group may have been written off too soon.
 
Its seizure of the city prompted 55,000 residents to flee, according to the United Nations.
 
Many of them have been prevented from crossing into other provinces, for fear they have been infiltrated by ISIS fighters.
 
Some Sunni Arab politicians and activists have described the move as unconstitutional and discriminatory against the minority community.
 
The International Rescue Committee said the restriction was forcing some people to return to conflict areas.
 
"Thousands of people fleeing Ramadi are stuck at checkpoints or being denied entry to safe areas," IRC's Syrian crisis response regional director Mark Schnellbaecher said.
 
"For some people the situation has become so hopeless that they are returning to the conflict in Ramadi."
 
In a twin attack last week, ISIS seized Palmyra in eastern Syria and the nearby ruins of the ancient city, considered one of the world's archaeological jewels.
 
A video posted online by a channel that works only in ISIS-controlled areas showed the UNESCO-listed site, including its famous theater and colonnade.
 
The 90-second undated raw video also includes a brief shot of a street, in which no ISIS fighters or flags can be seen.

Clashes Resume Between ISIS, Palestinian Factions Near Damascus

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:30
Clashes between ISIS and Palestinian FactionsIslamic State group jihadists in Syria are trying to retake positions they lost in previous fighting in the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.  
 
"There is intermittent fighting between Palestinian factions and IS and Al-Nusra Front which are trying to retake positions in the center of Yarmouk," Khaled Abdel Majid, head of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front which is close to Syria's regime, told AFP.
 
When jihadists from the two groups entered Yarmouk on April 1, they took 60 percent of the camp before pulling back into around 40 percent.
 
They currently have a presence in the south near the Damascus district of Al-Hajar al-Aswad.
 
Abdel Majid said Palestinian groups control 40 percent of the camp, in its north, and that some 20 percent makes up the front line.
 
He said Syrian regime aircraft have bombarded Al-Hajar al-Aswad, which is jihadist-held.
 
A security source in Damascus said only that in Yarmouk the fighting "stops and then starts again".
 
Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA, the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians, expressed alarm at the reports of fighting.
 
"UNRWA calls for an end to all actions and hostilities that endanger the security and lives of Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, who endure - and continue to suffer - extreme humanitarian conditions," he said.  
 
Before the Syria conflict erupted in 2011, Yarmouk was home to 160,000 people, both Palestinian and Syrian.
 
UNRWA says that just 18,000 still live there.
 
"There must be active compliance with the obligation to respect and protect civilians in Yarmouk, including by allowing unhindered humanitarian access," Gunness said.

Assad Starts Heavy Bombing of Ancient Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Monday, 25 May 2015 23:52
Ruins of SyriaSyrian regime aircraft launched at least 15 airstrikes in and around the ancient city of Palymra (Tadmor) on Monday, following its fall to the Islamic State (ISIS) group, a monitoring group said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raids on the city were the most intense since the jihadists overran it last Thursday, and indicating that heavy bombing was targeting ISIS captured sites, reports AFP.
 
"Since this morning, government aircraft have carried out at least 15 air strikes in Palmyra and the areas around it," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
He said there were reports of casualties but he had no firm toll.
 
The strikes targeted several areas of the city, including some close to the city's famed Greco-Roman ruins, a UNESCO world heritage site, he said.
 
The Observatory said on Sunday that it had documented the executions of at least 217 people, among them 67 civilians, including 14 children. Some of those killed had been beheaded, Abdel Rahman said, adding that the jihadists had also taken some 600 people prisoner.
 
Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad's troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.
 
The pro-government Al-Watan said Monday that the number of executions had risen to 450.
 
The capture of Palmyra has raised fears that ISIS might try to destroy the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman-era city on the town's edge – as they have destroyed other archaeological treasures in Syria and Iraq.
 
With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad's regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.
 
Reportedly 10-15% of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS - which geographically controls around half of the country's landmass, much of which is sparsely populated - while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

ISIS Conquers Last Syrian Border Crossing to Iraq

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 23 May 2015 20:44
Syrian Border Crossing to IraqThe brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terror group has seized the last of the border crossings between Syria and Iraq held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
Regime forces were left with no choice but to retreat from the border crossing known as al-Tanf in Syria and al-Waleed in Iraq, reports BBC citing the Observatory.
 
The seizure of the crossing is not only a strategic boon for the terrorist organization allowing it to more effectively transfer its resources and supplies between its forces in Syria and Iraq, but also signifies how ISIS is continuing to solidify and expand its hold on Syria.
 
Just on Thursday ISIS terrorists conquered Palmyra, an ancient city with archaeological artifacts feared to now be in danger of destruction.
 
According to the Observatory, ISIS now controls "more than 95,000 sq km (36,679 sq miles)" in Syria, which constitutes no less than half of the country's entire territory.
 
ISIS's hold includes Deir al-Zour and Raqqa provinces, and the group likewise has a strong grasp in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.
 
In neighboring Iraq, ISIS forces have been conquering new ground as well, seizing the strategic city of Ramadi in Anbar province on Sunday after a three-day blitz.
 
Despite the massive gains made by ISIS in spite of the US-led coalition airstrikes against them, US President Barack Obama struck a defiant tone on Thursday, saying, "I don't think we're losing."
 
"There's no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time," Obama said of the loss of the strategic city.

French President: The World Must Respond to Capture of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Friday, 22 May 2015 16:58
Francois HollandeFrench President Francois Hollande on Thursday said the world must respond to Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists' seizure of Palmyra amid fears they could destroy the Syrian city's world renowned ancient monuments.
 
"We have to act because there is a threat against these monuments which are part of humankind's inheritance and at the same time we must act against Daesh," Hollande said, according to AFP, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic name.
 
"It is really upsetting when a site of such riches which belongs to all of humanity falls into the hands of a terrorist group," he added, as he arrived at an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in the Latvian capital Riga.
 
The comments came hours after UNESCO warned that the destruction of the ancient city would be "an enormous loss to humanity".
 
The capture of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old metropolis from the Roman era, reportedly means ISIS now controls more than half of Syria at a time when it is also expanding its territory in neighboring Iraq.
 
In Iraq, ISIS has already sparked international outrage when it blew up the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and smashed artifacts in the Mosul museum.
 
The fear now is the extremists will do the same in Palmyra.

ISIS Threatens Egyptian Judges Over Morsi Sentence

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 21 May 2015 13:18
ISIS Threatens Egyptian JudgesIslamic State has threatened judges in Egypt with death after issuing a decision last week to have former president Mohammed Morsi executed. The terror group issued the threat on Thursday, just days after three Egyptian judges were killed in Sinai.
 
An audio recording on an ISIS site which was said to have been issued by the “Islamic State in Sinai” group featured what the site said was voice of group head Abu Osama al-Missri. 
 
"The Egyptian tyrants cannot jail our brother Morsi. Poison their food, follow them to their homes and neighborhoods, destroy their homes with bombs, if you can,” al-Missri said in the message.
 
An Egyptian court sentenced Morsi to death on Saturday, along with a number of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
 
Current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made it his mission to crack down on Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian branch, Hamas. The cabinet designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group in December 2013, "indefinitely" closed the Rafah border crossing to Gaza, and is now building a separation barrier between Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.
 
The sentence was condemned by the European Union and the U.S.
 
"The court decision to seek the death penalty... was taken at the end of a mass trial that was not in line with Egypt's obligations under international law," the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said in a statement. "The EU opposes capital punishment under all circumstances. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane."
 
The United States also expressed alarm Sunday at the death sentences, saying it has "consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences.”
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday night blasted Egypt for the death sentence, saying it meant that "Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt. The West, unfortunately, is still turning a blind eye to Sisi's coup."

Did Bin Laden Predict Multinational Muslim Holy War?

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:58
Ben Laden - Al-ZawheryAl Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden was obsessed with attacking the US and pleaded with the terror group not to get involved in infighting in the Muslim terror world, according to an AFP exposé released Wednesday. 
 
"The focus should be on killing and fighting the American people and their representatives," Bin Laden wrote, according to a set of declassified documents given exclusively to the news outlet ahead of their official release. 
 
All of the documents were allegedly found by US Navy Seals when they raided Bin Laden's compound in May 2011; they are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s translations of original materials into English. 
 
The documents are being released now due to US President Barack Obama's directive for "increased transparency," according to Jeff Anchukaitis, spokesman for the US Director of National Intelligence's office - as well as in accordance with a law mandating that all Bin Laden documents be reviewed for possible release.
 
CIA officials maintained that the documents had long been planned to be declassified, despite accusations from renowned journalist Seymour Hersh just weeks ago that the Bin Laden affair was heavily doctored for the media and that large parts of the raid were presented to the public with fabricated evidence. 
 
Deeply paranoid, warns of disunity
 
The documents reveal Bin Laden's deep paranoia, and his mindfulness that he was being targeted despite being in hiding in Pakistan. 
 
The terror leader advises against communicating by email, warns followers not to meet in large groups, and at one point, was convinced that a microphone was placed on one of his wives' clothes. 
 
They also reveal that Bin Laden predicted the disunity tearing apart the Muslim world from 2013 onward, to some extent; he called on Al Qaeda to leave internal conflicts with police forces in all Arab countries and focus solely on striking the US. 
 
"We should stop operations against the army and the police in all regions, especially Yemen," Bin Laden wrote. 
 
In particular, a series of scathing letters show Al Qaeda calling on Bin Laden and then-deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri to condemn the beginnings of what would become the Islamic State terror group (ISIS), which disassociated from Al Qaeda in 2013. 
 
"If you still can, then this is your last chance to remedy the Jihad breakdown that is about to take place in Iraq, that is mostly caused by your followers," a group of jihadists fired to Bin Laden in 2007. 
 
He was also apparently taken aback by the 2010-2011 Arab Spring movement and urged jihadists to take advantage of the power vacuum to spread their message of terror. 

ISIS 'Conquers Rome' - On Twitter

Category: News
Created on Monday, 18 May 2015 13:36
ISIS Conquers RomeIslamic State (ISIS) has carried out its threats to invade Rome, according to photos making the rounds on social media.
 
In the photos, one or more people are seen taking a form of 'selfie' involving Italian landmarks and Islamic texts, along with the phrase "Islamic state in Rome." 
 
It is impossible to verify whether the photos are from an actual ISIS supporter or a highly sophisticated internet troll, but the messages have still registered on the radar of anti-terror group SITE. 
 
Most of the photos were posted in April, but they have been brought back to the public eye after a Libyan official told BBC Sunday that ISIS jihadists were actively infiltrating Europe by being smuggled across the Mediterranean Sea as "migrants" or "refugees" seeking asylum. Italy, in particular, insisted as far back as February that ISIS was slowly invading on small boats. 
 
That same month, an ISIS text gave detailed plans to wannabe jihadists how to utilize "sleeper cells" in Europe to form an army and take over the continent from within, using the pro-Palestinian movement as a front; the text explicitly vowed on the group's behalf to conquer Rome by 2020. 

Militias, ISIS Amass for Shia-Sunni Showdown in Iraq's Ramadi

Category: News
Created on Monday, 18 May 2015 09:58
Iraqi Shiite fighters pose with captured ISIS flagReutersShia militias converged on Ramadi Monday in a bid recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz.
 
The loss of the capital of Iraq's largest province was Baghdad's worst military setback since it started clawing back territory from the jihadists late last year.
 
Days after a rare message from ISIS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging mass mobilization, the group also came close to also seizing one of Syria's most famed heritage sites, ancient Palmyra, but the army pinned it back.  
 
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had been reluctant to deploy Shia militias to Anbar province for fear of alienating its overwhelmingly Sunni Arab population.  
 
He favored developing locally recruited forces, a policy that had strong US support.  
 
But militia commanders said on Monday that Ramadi's fall had shown that the government could not do without the so-called Popular Mobilization units (Hashed al-Shaabi) - am alliance of Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias regularly criticized for carrying out war crimes comparable to those of ISIS.
 
Badr militia chief Hadi al-Ameri said the province's leaders should have taken up his offer of help sooner.  
 
The group's Al Ghadeer television said Ameri "holds the political representatives of Anbar responsible for the fall of Ramadi because they objected to the participation of Hashed al-Shaabi in the defense of their own people".  
 
Various militias announced they had units already in Anbar - including around the cities of Fallujah and Habbaniyah - ready to close in on Ramadi and engage the city's new masters.  
 
Massive reinforcements
 
A spokesman for Ketaeb Hezbollah, one of the leading Shia Islamist paramilitary groups, said his organization had units ready to join the Ramadi front from three directions.
 
"Tomorrow, God willing, these reinforcements will continue towards Anbar and Ramadi and the start of operations to cleanse the areas recently captured by Daesh will be announced," Jaafar al-Husseini told AFP, using an Arab acronym for ISIS.
 
The fall of Ramadi, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, came when beleaguered security forces pulled out of their last bases on Sunday.  
 
The jihadists used several waves of suicide car bombs to thrust into government-controlled neighborhoods on Thursday and Friday.
 
The black flag of the "Islamic State" was soon flying over the provincial headquarters and, with reinforcements slow to come, thousands of families fled the city.
 
Anbar officials said at least 500 people died in three days of fierce fighting.
 
"We're continuing to monitor reports of tough fighting in Ramadi and the situation remains fluid and contested," Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann told AFP late on Sunday.
 
Muhannad Haimour, spokesman and adviser to the Anbar governor, said fighting was continuing in some pockets of the city. Iraqi military officials said all main security bases had been abandoned.  
 
Palmyra relief
 
Tensions between Tehran and Washington, Baghdad's two main foreign partners, also played out during the battle for executed dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, which the government took back last month.
 
Abadi met the head of US Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, on Sunday, and on Monday Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan arrived in Baghdad for talks.  
 
In the Syrian half of the "caliphate" Baghdadi proclaimed last year, ISIS failed to notch up what would have been another high-profile military victory on the ground.
 
Regime forces repelled an ISIS advance on the ancient oasis town of Palmyra that had sparked concern that another jewel of the Middle East's architectural heritage could be destroyed by the jihadists.  
 
"IS's attack was foiled," provincial governor Talal Barazi said on Sunday after troops ousted the jihadists from the northern part of the modern town, which they had seized on Saturday.  
 
UNESCO has urged both sides to spare Palmyra, which it describes as one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
 
ISIS fighters remain within a a kilometer (less than a mile) of the archaeological site and its museum of priceless artifacts, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
The Britain-based monitoring group said nearly 300 people have been killed in four days of fighting - 123 soldiers and militiamen, 115 ISIS fighters and 57 civilians.

ISIS Completes Capture of Iraq's Ramadi

Category: News
Created on Monday, 18 May 2015 09:26
ISIS Capture of Iraqs RamadiThe Islamic State (ISIS) group on Sunday sealed its capture of the Iraqi city of Ramadi after a dramatic pullout by Iraqi forces, but was prevented by Syrian troops from taking the heritage site of Palmyra, reports AFP.
 
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged government forces to hold fast in Ramadi and prevent ISIS from making further gains, saying they would have air cover and Shiite militia reinforcements.
 
The effective loss of the capital of Iraq's largest province of Anbar marked one of Baghdad's worst setbacks since it began a nationwide offensive last year to reclaim territory lost to the jihadists in June 2014.
 
ISIS said in an Internet post it fully controlled Ramadi, after a local official admitted the operations command center there had fallen.
 
"God has enabled the soldiers of the caliphate to cleanse all of Ramadi... after storming the 8th brigade. They (now) control it along with a battalion of tanks and missile launchers and in addition to the Anbar operations command," the ISIS statement said.
 
Muhannad Haimour, spokesman and adviser to the provincial governor, said "Anbar operations command has been cleared".
 
A colonel among troops who had withdrawn added, "Daesh has just taken full control of all main security bases", using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
Abadi’s spokesman, however, said troops, tribesmen and elite forces "must hold their positions and preserve them and not allow Daesh to extend to other areas in Ramadi."
 
"There is continuous air cover that will help ground troops there hold their positions while waiting for support from other forces and the Popular Mobilization Units," he said of an umbrella group for Shiite militias.
 
Taking full control of Ramadi, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, would be the most significant victory this year for ISIS, which has suffered a string of setbacks elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.
 
ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi last Thursday.
 
But the group also faced another setback across the border in Syria on Sunday, where government forces drove them out of the ancient oasis town of Palmyra, home to a UNESCO world heritage site.
 
"ISIS' attack was foiled," provincial governor Talal Barazi said after troops routed the jihadists from the northern part of the modern town of Palmyra which they had seized on Saturday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said, however, that ISIS fighters were still just a kilometer (less than a mile) from the archaeological site and its museum housing priceless artifacts.
 
It said nearly 300 people have been killed in four days of fighting -- 123 soldiers and their allies, 115 ISIS fighters and 57 civilians.
 
UNESCO has urged both sides to spare Palmyra, which it describes as one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

ISIS Terrorists Sneaking into Europe as 'Migrants'

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 17:45
Terrorists Sneaking into EuropeIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists are being smuggled into Europe, a Libyan advisor told BBC Sunday, with cooperation of gangs in the Mediterranean. 
 
Abdul Basit Haroun stated that smugglers have been ferrying jihadists to Europe among migrants on refugee boats, with ISIS authorities in North Africa allowing the smugglers to continue their work in exchange - as well as in exchange for half their income. 
 
Haroun insisted that the plan is being carried out due to European Union (EU) police not checking who is and who is not a migrant during naval inspections, and that ISIS terrorists often sit separately. 
 
The EU border control agency Frontex admitted earlier this year that it was possible jihadists were using migration routes to infiltrate European borders.
 
Both Egypt and Italy have warned Europe about terrorists sneaking into its borders on refugee boats, but several experts have waved the warnings off as being motivated by political agendas.
 
In Egypt's case, for example, one expert told BBC that the cries are being seen as an attempt to gain international intervention. 
 
According to BBC, 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean by boat in 2014 and migrated to Europe from Africa. As many as 60,000 people have made the trip in 2015. 
 
The flow of migrants from Africa gained international attention last month, after two boats carrying hundreds of people capsized in the ocean waters. 

British Suicide Bomber Helps ISIS Take Control of Iraqi City

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 14:43
British Suicide BomberFighting in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where the Islamic State group (ISIS) is threatening to take full control, has displaced around 8,000 people in two days, the International Organisation for Migration said Sunday.
 
A renewed ISIS assault, which began late Thursday, saw jihadist fighters seize the government compound in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
 
"An estimated total of 1,296 families (7,776 individuals) have been displaced, and numbers are increasing," the IOM said.
 
The displaced families went to Amriyat al-Fallujah, to the east, but have not been allowed to cross the Euphrates and enter Baghdad province.  
 
Thousands of civilians had already fled the city during previous waves of violence, including an offensive last month.  
 
According to the IOM, the number of people displaced by Iraq's conflict since the beginning of 2014 has reached a new high of more than 2.8 million.
 
Using waves of suicide car bombs, ISIS took over several central Ramadi neighbourhoods on Friday, leaving the last government forces in the city confined to a handful of positions.
 
Among those suicide bombers was a British national - the latest western-born jihadi to die as an ISIS suicide bomber.
 
ISIS-linked social media accounts identified him as Abu Musa al-Britani; his real identity has not yet been confirmed.
 
 
 
According to police sources, fighting took place Sunday in the Malaab neighbourhood in eastern Ramadi, one of the last districts where government forces were still present.  
 
Hundreds of forces were hunkering down in their bases in northern parts of Ramadi, waiting for reinforcements promised by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.  
 
Taking full control of Ramadi, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Baghdad, would be the most significant victory this year for ISIS, which has suffered a string of setbacks elsewhere in the country.

Dozens Dead in Fighting for Syria's 'Ancient Jewel' Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 11:00
AntiquitiesSyrian government troops and militia put up fierce resistance on Sunday to an Islamic State group assault on one of the jewels of the country's heritage, ancient Palmyra.  
 
At least 23 regime loyalists and 29 jihadists were killed as ISIS overran northern neighborhoods of the adjacent modern town of Tadmur late on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
The Britain-based watchdog reported heavy artillery exchanges in the west of the town, close to the UNESCO-listed world heritage site.
 
But Syrian antiquities chief Mamoun Abdulkarim said clashes had subsided by mid-morning as troops pushed ISIS out of the northern part of Tadmur.  
 
"We have good news today, we feel much better," he told AFP by phone, saying he was in contact with staff in Palmyra every half an hour.  
 
"There was no damage to the ruins, but this does not mean we should not be afraid," Abdulkarim added.
 
ISIS had brought up reinforcements from its stronghold in the Euphrates Valley to the east after sustaining heavy losses in its advance on the oasis town northeast of Damascus, provincial governor Talal Barazi told AFP.  
 
The town's peacetime population of 70,000 has been swamped by an influx of civilians fleeing the ISIS advance.  
 
"We are taking all necessary precautions, and we are working on securing humanitarian aid quickly in fear of mass fleeing from the city," Barazi said.  
 
Abdulkarim voiced extreme concern for the ancient site and its adjacent museum, in light of the destruction wreaked by ISIS on pre-Islamic sites like Nimrud and Hatra in neighboring Iraq.  
 
The antiquities chief said he had been "living in a state of terror" that ISIS would destroy Palmyra's well-preserved architecture, regarded as one of the jewels of the ancient Middle East.

Why Now? Baghdadi Message Reaffirms ISIS Leadership

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 10:44
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersThe Islamic State's release last week of an audio message by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reaffirmed his leadership of the group following a six-month silence and rumors over his health.  
 
In his half-hour speech posted on jihadist forums on Thursday, Baghdadi calls for a general mobilization and urges all Muslims to move to the caliphate he proclaimed last year or wage jihad (holy war) wherever they are.  
 
"I think this release partly has to do with rumours of his supposed incapacitation," said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi of the Middle East Forum research group.  
 
Rumors emerged last month that Baghdadi was seriously wounded in a March air strike and had relinquished the organisation's leadership to a terrorist called Abu Alaa al-Afari.
 
"I do indeed think the release is well timed," said Patrick Skinner, an analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.  
 
"It was important for him even in audio to show some level of engagement and persuasion. The group depends on image as much as reality," he told AFP.
 
The recording provides no clues as to Baghdadi's health but largely dispels any notion he is no longer the overall leader of an organisation which now claims branches all over the region, as well as in Asia and Africa.
 
A previous recording, which dates back to November, was also released a few days after rumors that he had been killed or wounded in an air raid.  
 
Thursday's message was not immediately authenticated or dated but the credibility of previous such releases by the group has in most cases stood the test of time.
 
Baghdadi's speech alludes mostly to battles in Anbar province and the Baiji area but not in Tikrit, suggesting it was recorded after the government took it back in early April.  
 
Hassan Hassan, co-author of the acclaimed and recently published "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror", said his assessment was also that the recording post-dated claims of his incapacitation.  
 
"Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new statement was most likely recorded in last five days of April. Almost certain," he tweeted.
 
Secretive structure
 
Afari, an Iraqi from the Tal Afar region who is also sometimes referred to as Abdulrahman al-Qaduli, was little known until last month.  
 
The US State Department listed him - under the same Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli - on its Rewards for Justice website, offering a $7-million bounty for information leading to him.
 
That makes him the Islamic State group's most senior leader on the list behind Baghdadi himself, who is in the $10-million bounty category.  
 
The Iraqi defense ministry issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting Afari may have been killed in an air strike but the US-led coalition cast doubt on the claim.  
 
ISIS' leadership structure remains shrouded in secrecy and there are only a handful of other senior figures on the US list.  
 
Among them are Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the group's official spokesman, and Omar al-Shishani, a Georgian citizen considered one of ISIS' top military commanders.
 
ISIS has its roots in Iraq, where earlier incarnations of the group emerged in reaction to the 2003 US invasion, and Iraqis are thought to be the largest contingent in its higher echelons.
 
The Pentagon claimed in December that coalition air strikes had killed Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a top Baghdadi aide, in December.  
 
In his speech, Baghdadi is very much the fiery chief commander, calling for a general mobilization against the broad alliance of forces battling his organisation.    
 
He says it is an obligation for all Muslims to emigrate to his so-called "caliphate" or wage jihad on their homeland.
 
"His address does have the tone of an 'end of times' approach to the fighting. He is going all in with everything he can, urging his listeners to do the same," Skinner said.
 
He and Tamimi agreed that Baghdadi desperately needed to find new momentum to break out of the recent stalemate, which has seen ISIS fail to make any significant gain in Iraq or Syria.  
 
On the day the recording was released however, ISIS launched a fresh offensive on Ramadi that saw it eventually seize near-full control of Anbar's provincial capital, in what would be its biggest victory in months.
 
On Saturday, ISIS advanced in Syria as well, seizing control of part of the ancient city of Palmyra.
 
However, the jihadist group also suffered a major blow, when US special forces killed one of its most senior military leaders - Abu Sayyaf - in a daring raid in Syria.

US Kills Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Captures His Wife

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 17 May 2015 00:08
abu-sayyafThe Pentagon has announced that a senior ISIS member was killed today (Saturday) in an operation by US Special Operations forces in Syria. No Americans were killed or injured during the mission.
 
"The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies," said Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
 
The wanted man, Abu Sayyaf, organized the jihadist group's oil, gas, and financial arms. Oil provides a major source of ISIS's funding, with analysts estimating the group's oil revenue at up to $3 million per day.
 
As part of the mission, Sayyaf's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured. She is believed to have been involved in ISIS's activities, particularly human trafficking, and reportedly had a captured Yazidi woman as a slave.
 
This mission was authorized by US President Barack Obama, despite his earlier promise to keep all ground forces out of Syria and Iraq. Another Special Operations raid last year attempted to rescue kidnapped journalists, but all the hostages were killed.
 
White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Abu Sayyaf "was killed when he engaged US forces."    
 
His wife was being held in military detention in Iraq.  
 
The raid took place in Al-Omar, one of the largest oil fields in Syria, located in oil-rich Deir Ezzor province. Like much of Deir Ezzor, Al-Omar remains under ISIS control.
 
US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter called the operation a "significant blow" to ISIS.
 
Meehan said US forces based out of Iraq had conducted the raid "with the full consent" of Iraqi authorities.  
 
US forces suffered no casualties, American officials said, without giving details on the number of troops involved.
 
Members of the elite Delta special operations unit descended on Sayyaf's compound in Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, a defence official told AFP.
 
In a firefight, US troops killed "about a dozen" armed terrorists, the official said, on condition of anonymity. At one point, fighting took place "at very close quarters, and there was hand-to-hand combat."  
 
ISIS enters Palmyra
 
In central Syria, ISIS jihadists stormed and seized control of most of Palmyra's northern neighborhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the monitoring group's director.
 
The official Syrian news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying regime forces had prevented IS fighters from seizing a hilltop southwest of the Islamic citadel.  
 
The head of Syria's antiquities department, Mamoum Abdulkarim, meanwhile, voiced extreme concern for the UNESCO world heritage site, located to Palmyra's southwest.
 
"I am living in a state of terror," Abdulkarim told AFP in a telephone call.
 
He said ISIS "will blow everything up. They will destroy everything," if they enter the site, adding that many of Palmyra's artefacts, like elaborate tombs, could not be moved.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and has since inched closer to the ancient metropolis, executing at least 49 civilians in two days, according to the Observatory.  
 
Fearing the destruction of Palmyra, known as the "pearl of the desert," UNESCO has called on the UN Security Council to act in order to save one of the Middle East's historic treasures.
 
48 dead in air raids
 
Meanwhile, in northwest Syria, at least 48 civilians, including nine children, were killed on Saturday in regime air raids on Idlib province, the Observatory said.
 
It said the air strikes targeted rebel-held Idlib city and the towns of Saraqeb and Kafr Awid.
 
Also on Saturday, Turkey's defense minister said armed forces shot down a Syrian helicopter that had violated Turkish air space.
 
"A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometer) limit," Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said, quoted by the Dogan news agency.
 
Syrian state television had earlier indicated the aircraft was a drone and vehemently denied it could have been a manned aircraft.  
 
 In Iraq, ISIS fighters tightened their siege on the last government positions in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters.
 
Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.
 
Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, has been under ISIS control since the jihadists launched a lightning offensive in June 2014.
 
Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, extends from the Syrian, Jordanian, and Saudi borders to the gates of Baghdad.  
 
Military reinforcements have been sent to Ramadi and other parts of Anbar, local officials said, and Iraq's army and the US-led coalition have struck ISIS positions in the area.

ISIS Seizes Part of Ancient Syrian City of Palmyra

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 May 2015 23:40
ISIS flag - ReutersJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS or IS) seized control Saturday of the northern part of Syria's ancient desert city of Palmyra after fierce clashes with government forces, a monitoring group said.  
 
"IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
He said 13 jihadist fighters were killed in ongoing clashes near the Islamic citadel in the city's west.  
 
Abdel Rahman had no details on regime casualties.
 
Most of Palmyra's renowned ruins, including colonnaded streets and elaborately decorated tombs, lie to the southwest of the city.
 
ISIS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and inched closer to the ancient metropolis on Thursday and Friday, executing at least 49 civilians over those two days according to the Observatory.
 
The latest gains by ISIS in Syria come just a day after it seized the government compound in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday and edged closer to what would be their biggest victory in Iraq this year.
 
The loss of the capital of Anbar province, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said would be the next target of government forces after wresting back Tikrit last month, would be a major setback.
 
The government stressed that Ramadi had not fallen yet and announced that a major counter-offensive was under way as Abadi held an emergency meeting with top security officials.
 
ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Thursday.
 
The jihadists seized the government complex at around 2:00 p.m. local time and raised the black flag, a police officer said, giving them nearly full control over Anbar's capital.

ISIS Seizes Iraqi City of Ramadi

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 16 May 2015 12:17
Iraqi City of RamadiIslamic State (ISIS) fighters seized the government compound in the city of Ramadi on Friday and edged closer to what would be their biggest victory in Iraq this year, officials said, according to AFP.
 
The loss of the capital of Anbar province, which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said would be the next target of government forces after wresting back Tikrit last month, would be a major setback.
 
The government stressed that Ramadi had not fallen yet and announced that a major counter-offensive was under way as Abadi held an emergency meeting with top security officials.
 
ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi on Thursday.
 
The jihadists seized the government complex at around 2:00 p.m. local time and raised the black flag, a police officer said, giving them nearly full control over Anbar's capital.
 
ISIS "now occupies the government center in Ramadi and has also raised its flag over the police HQ for Anbar", the police major told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
 
The group itself issued a statement saying its fighters broke into the government complex, and blew up the adjacent buildings of Anbar's governorate and the police headquarters.
 
A senior tribal leader in charge of the coordination of local fighters with regular government forces also confirmed the government complex had fallen.
 
"The only (government) forces still fighting are confined to a few pockets in Ramadi but they have no command post anymore," Sheikh Hekmat Suleiman told AFP by phone.
 
Provincial council member Adhal Obeid al-Fahdawi had described the situation as "critical" moments earlier, and said civilians were fleeing the city center, the second time in a month they have done so following another ISIS offensive in April.
 
"Families are trying to flee on foot, leaving their cars and homes behind, but most areas around Ramadi are under ISIS control," said Sheikh Jabbar Adjadj al-Assafi, a tribal leader.
 
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi broke a six-month silence on Thursday with an audio recording of a speech in which he played up the Anbar battle.
 
As did his previous speech, the audio tape recording released on Thursday comes a few days after media reports that Baghdadi might have been seriously wounded in a strike by the coalition bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
 
ISIS, which also controls parts of Syria, swept across the Sunni heartland of Iraq last year before proclaiming a "caliphate" and attracting record numbers of foreign fighters.
 
An air campaign led by the United States and launched in August helped the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurds in the north turn the tide on ISIS.
 
The jihadists have since lost significant ground but still hold Mosul, the country's second city, and Anbar, whose capital lies 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad.

ISIS 'Barbarians' Threaten to Destroy Ancient Syrian City

Category: News
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 16:59
AntiquitiesIslamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadists have already wreaked in Iraq.
 
IS fighters were battling Syrian troops less than two kilometers (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, Syria's director of antiquities said.  
 
The jihadists reached the oasis town after a lightning advance across the desert in which they overran government forces in fierce fighting that cost the lives of 110 combatants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 
"Palmyra is under threat," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.  
 
Antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim said he was in touch with colleagues still in Palmyra every half hour.
 
"IS has not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter," Abdulkarim told AFP.
 
UNESCO describes Palmyra as a heritage site of "outstanding universal value".  
 
The ancient city stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilizations and its 1st and 2nd century temples and colonnaded streets mark a unique blend of Graeco-Roman and Persian influences.
 
The jihadist advance on the well-preserved remains came as an international conference was under way in Cairo to address the destruction already wreaked by IS on the ancient sites of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq.  
 
'International catastrophe'
 
Foreign affairs and antiquities officials from 11 Arab countries gathered in Egypt to condemn the jihadists' demolition of Iraq's heritage, with sledgehammers, bulldozers and high explosives.
 
Abdulkarim said Syria had not been invited to the conference and that he had not been contacted by any of those attending about the threat to Palmyra.  
 
He told AFP that antiquities officials would try to ensure the safety of artifacts found in archaeological digs over the years which are housed in an adjacent museum.
 
"We can protect the statues and artifacts, but we cannot protect the architecture, the temples," he said.
 
"IS will just destroy it from the outside."  
 
Abdulkarim said he had no doubt that if Palmyra fell to the jihadists, it would suffer a similar fate to ancient Nimrud, which they blew up earlier this year.  
 
"If IS enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction.
 
"If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe. It will be a repetition of the barbarism and savagery which we saw in Nimrud, Hatra and Mosul."  
 
It would not be the first time that government troops have lost control of Palmyra. Rebels held the site from February to September 2013 before government troops recaptured it.
 
One of the ancient city's masterpieces, the Temple of Baal, suffered some damage during the accompanying artillery exchanges.  
 
But those rebels did not share the fanatical devotion of ISIS to demolishing all of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.
 
There was ferocious fighting as the jihadists overran the town of Al-Suknah on Wednesday in their drive across the desert towards Palmyra.  
 
Provincial governor Talal Barazi said that 1,800 families who had fled the advancing jihadists were being sheltered in reception centers in the adjacent modern town of Tadmur.
 
Both sides suffered heavy losses in the battle for Al-Suknah, including senior commanders, the Observatory said.  
 
The army lost 70 men, including six officers. ISIS lost 40 men, including two commanders, one of them the leader of the offensive.
 
Jihadist websites named him as Abu Malik Anas al-Nashwan, who appeared in an ISIS video showing the beheadings of 28 Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians in Libya last month.

ISIS's Second-in-Command Eliminated

Category: Reports
Created on Friday, 15 May 2015 15:23
abd-al-rahman-mustafa-al-qaduliIslamic State (ISIS)'s second-in-command has been killed in a US-led airstrike in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar, the Iraqi Defense Ministry stated Wednesday. 
 
Abdul Rahman Mustafa Mohammed, also known as Abu Alaa al-Afri, was in a mosque struck by US and coalition forces, they said. According to Iraqi government spokesman Tahsin Ibrahim, he was meeting dozens of terrorists in the area, the BBC reported. 
 
Neither the US military or ISIS itself has confirmed the report. 
 
Mohammed has been named as ISIS's "acting leader" after its official chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was injured in an airstrike in March. Recent reports indicate that Baghdadi's spinal injures may have permanently incapacitated him, according to the Telegraph. 
 
Last week, Washington offered a $20 million reward for information on Mohammed and three other ISIS leaders, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, and Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-'Awni al-Harzi.

ISIS Mobilizing in Gaza

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 14 May 2015 13:49
ISIS MobilizingPalestinian Authority (PA) security officials have warned that Islamic State is acting to mobilize in Gaza to serve as an extension of its activities in the Sinai Peninsula. 
 
Journalist Gal Berger reports that the PA knows of eight extremist Salafi groups operating in Gaza in recent years with several hundred members total. 
 
Many of these are former Hamas members who left the organization after it decided to participate in PA "elections" and to integrate into the Palestinian government.
 
Salafi activity is being compartmentalized into different roles in Gaza and funding is allegedly coming from within. 
 
Hamas sources stated that there are several dozens of Salafi activists who have pledged sole allegiance to ISIS, but added that they "do not pose a serious threat" to stability in the region. 
 
Berger noted that a senior member of the Salafi movement in Gaza, named as Adnan Mitt, was arrested last month. Mitt is a former Hamas member. 
 
Last week, sources stated to Maariv that ISIS is threatening to declare war on Hamas and take over Gaza from within. 

ISIS in Sinai Claims Attack on Hamas in Gaza

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 20:27
ISIS in SinaiIslamic State's (ISIS) threats to declare war on Hamas in Gaza after the latter began a crackdown on local Salafist groups appears to be edging to fruition, after an ISIS-affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday claimed launching two "bombs" - reportedly 82 mm mortar shells - at Hamas posts in Gaza.
 
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which earlier this year swore loyalty to ISIS and changed its name to Sinai Province, claimed credit for the attack on a military post of Hamas's "military wing," the Al-Qassam Brigades in Khan Younis, located in southern Gaza.
 
The ISIS forces said they conducted the attack due to Hamas's actions towards Salafists in Gaza, reports Walla!.
 
They warned in a message to Gaza residents: "distance yourself from military and security posts and guard your lives." To the Salafists currently jailed by Hamas, who reportedly have been tortured, they wrote, "we will not give up on saving you."
 
Corroborating the claimed attack, witnesses told AFP they heard explosions close to Khan Younis.
 
But Hamas was in denial, with the spokesperson of its interior ministry Iyad al-Bozum denying to AFP any mortar fire and saying the claim of an attack is "baseless."
 
On Wednesday clashes were reported after Hamas demolished a Salafist mosque, arresting 40 members of the Salafist organization "Islamic State Supporters in Bayt Al-Maqdis."
 
The Hamas move was said to be a response to ISIS's assault on the Palestinian Arab Yarmouk neighborhood in Damascus, during which a senior Hamas official and other members of the group were beheaded.
 
In response to the demolition and arrests, ISIS in Gaza warned Hamas it had 72 hours to release them or else it would kill all of Hamas's personnel one by one.
 
The latest escalation comes after an explosion hit the Hamas general security headquarters in Gaza on Monday, with Salafists claiming credit and saying it was a response to the arrests and torture of Salafists in the Hamas stronghold.

Egypt: 40 People to Stand Trial for Belonging to ISIS

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:49
Trial for Belonging to ISISAn Egyptian prosecutor said Sunday he referred 40 people to trial on charges of belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS) and planning to carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt, reports The Associated Press (AP).
 
The announcement marks the first time people in Egypt's Nile Delta have been accused of belonging to the group, which holds a third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate.
 
Bilal Abu Khadra, a prosecutor in Egypt's Sharqiya province, said that those charged communicated with Islamic State terrorists in Syria.
 
He also said the cell's leader confessed to receiving money from the extremists to recruit and help militants travel to Syria.
 
Khadra said 20 of the defendants are detained, while the others will be tried in absentia, according to AP.
 
ISIS has a presence in Egypt, in the form of the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group which pledged allegiance to ISIS late last year.
 
Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis has declared responsibility for the majority of the attacks in the Sinai since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Among the attacks it has claimed was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
The army imposed a curfew on the region  on October 25, following two deadly attacks in El-Arish, which killed dozens of soldiers and which were also claimed by Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis.

Shadow of Saddam Lives on in Iraq

Category: News
Created on Monday, 04 May 2015 07:42
Izzat Ibrahim al-DuriDozens of Iraqis crowding a Baghdad street fought to glimpse the red-haired man in a glass coffin, hoping to witness the end of a long-feared member of Saddam Hussein's regime.
 
The furore over the dead man - who might be Saddam's deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, though his identity has still not been determined - is yet another sign of the influence the dictator exercises in Iraq more than 12 years after his overthrow.
 
Saddam and his Baath party still haunt Iraqi politics, where links to the former regime can wreck careers, as well as battlefields across Iraq where his former officers have played major roles in militant groups fighting the new government.  
 
Pro-government forces killing the man who may be Duri was "no less important" than the 2006 execution of Saddam himself, said Sheikh Jassem al-Jazairi, an official in the Ketaeb Hezbollah Iranian-backed militia, which handed over the body to the government.
 
Shouts of "Death to Baathists" accompanied the body's departure in an anonymous white van after the chaotic handover, which was guarded by dozens of heavily armed masked militiamen backed by Saddam's nemesis Iran.
 
The Baath took power in a 1968 coup, dominating the country until the overthrow of Saddam's regime by the 2003 US-led invasion.
 
But "the Baath is still active, and everyone who says the Baathists are finished and the Baath party is over defies the truth", said Ihsan al-Shammari, a political science professor at Baghdad University.  
 
Role in insurgency
 
"A symbol like Saddam or Izzat al-Duri may disappear, but many of the (Baath) leaders are still active and are trying to overthrow the democratic political system in Iraq," Shammari said.  
 
Baathists have played a major role in insurgent groups that battled US-led forces and later those of the new Iraqi government, and reportedly in the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group which led an offensive that overran large parts of Iraq last year.
 
Documents obtained by German magazine Der Spiege indicate that a former Iraqi intelligence officer, Samir Abed Mohammad al-Khlifawi, planned ISIS's expansion into Syria and its return to Iraq.
 
And many of ISIS's top military leaders are former Saddam-era military officers
 
Shammari said the documents have convinced many Iraqis that ISIS is just a front organisation for Baathists seeking to regain power.  
 
The Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah Order - a Sunni militant group with close ties to Duri - also took part in the IS-led drive in 2014.
 
Iraq has sought to reduce the influence of Saddam's regime in the post-2003 state via "de-Baathification".  
 
That process and its successor, the Justice and Accountability Commission, dealt with 130,000 cases and barred more than 17,000 people from government, commission chief Bassem al-Badairi said.
 
But critics say de-Baathification has been used by the Shia-led government to victimize Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, which dominated Saddam's regime.
 
Some Saddam-era officers are still serving in the security forces, but other soldiers were put out of work - especially under American viceroy Paul Bremer's decision to disband the army in 2003 - fueling the anti-government insurgency.
 
Career-ending song
 
Abu Mutlak, a staff lieutenant general under Saddam, said he has been reduced to driving a taxi to support his family, and that bitterness over their treatment drove some former colleagues to fight.
 
"How do you want me to take part in building a new political system that dismissed me from everything and robbed me of everything?" he asked.
 
Even seemingly insignificant associations with the former regime can still wreck careers.    .
 
Rafid Jaboori, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's spokesman, resigned last month after a video emerged showing him singing a song praising Saddam more than a decade earlier.  
 
Saddam's regime also lives on in the pain and suffering it caused to its tens of thousands of victims and their relatives.
 
"I still shudder when I hear the name of Saddam on the television or radio, not from fear, but hatred," said Aras Abed, a Kurd who lost 12 family members to Saddam's chemical weapons attack on the village of Halabja in 1988.
 
"I hurt a lot because of my loneliness without my family," he said.
 
But others remember him fondly, especially in comparison to the often-ineffective governments that replaced his regime and the rampant violence plaguing the country.
 
"Whenever I see his picture, my heart beats faster," said Abu Mahmud, who was a high-ranking Baath member.
 
His reaction to seeing today's officials on television is very different: "If they were in front of me, I would take off my shoe and hit them," he said.

ISIS Kills 300 Yazidis West of Mosul

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:31
isis terrorSeveral hundred Yazidi captives have been killed in Iraq by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists west of Mosul, Yazidi and Iraqi officials said Saturday, according to the BBC.
 
A statement from the Yazidi Progress Party said 300 captives were killed on Friday in the Tal Afar district near the city.
 
Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi described the reported deaths as "horrific and barbaric".
 
Thousands of members of the religious minority group were captured last year.
 
It is not clear how they were killed, or why this has happened now, the BBC noted. Many are reported to have been held in Mosul, the main stronghold of ISIS after the terrorists swept through large areas of northern and western Iraq, and eastern Syria in 2014.
 
Yazidis, whose religion includes elements of several faiths, are considered infidels by IS.
 
Thousands fled to the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq after ISIS captured the Yazidi-populated Sinjar district in Nineveh province.
 
ISIS, which has declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria it captured, forced tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee their homes or face certain death. Members of the group have also taken hundreds of Yazidi women captive and have been holding them in schools in Mosul.
 
In January, ISIS released some 200 mainly elderly Yazidis into the hands of Kurdish officials near the city of Kirkuk.
 
Many of them, held in Mosul, had disabilities or were wounded, though no reason was given by ISIS for their release.
 
The UN has said the ISIS campaign of killings, abductions and rape against Yazidis may amount to genocide - but the International Criminal Court (ICC) has made clear that it would not prosecute the group.

Iraq is Losing the 'Psychological War' to ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 02 May 2015 06:37
John-McCain-at-the-forefront-of-neocon-agendaIraqi authorities are on the defensive after the Islamic State (ISIS) group scored a major propaganda victory with attacks in Anbar, undermining confidence in Baghdad's attempts to retake the key province.
 
April began with government forces recapturing the city of Tikrit after a lengthy battle, Baghdad's biggest victory in the 11-month conflict with the jihadists, reports AFP.
 
Then Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that Anbar province, much of which remains under ISIS control, was next.
 
ISIS struck back with attacks in Anbar that shifted the narrative from one of government victory to one of impending defeat - and sparked rumors of a cover-up of the deaths of more than 100 soldiers.
 
"There are no military victories for ISIS in Anbar. What happened there is psychological war," Abadi said on Tuesday in parliament, trying to counter the mounting criticism.
 
"Some of us took part in the psychological war with statements such as 'Anbar fell or will fall.' Anbar is still resisting," he said.
 
After the Tikrit victory and Abadi's announcement that Anbar west of Baghdad was next, ISIS launched attacks in the area of provincial capital Ramadi.
 
Officers said the assaults involved only dozens of fighters, but more than 110,000 people fled, adding to the strain of upwards of 2.5 million displaced since last year.
 
The jihadists first seized Albu Faraj on the northern side of Ramadi, then attacked security forces in the east, taking several other areas, officers said.
 
Army Brigadier General Abdulamir al-Khazraji said the situation was made worse by people collaborating.
 
They began shouting that ISIS "controlled Anbar and the government (buildings) in it, and this caused a state of panic and fear," Khazraji said.
 
A major blow came after ISIS attacked an army post east of Ramadi last Friday.
 
Rumors of heavy casualties
 
Rumors that more than 100 soldiers were killed in the attack swept through social media, assisted by press reports.
 
This was more than double the toll that even ISIS gave, sparking accusations of a cover-up and calls for Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi to go.
 
Unusually, it was supposed government supporters who spread the rumors, not slick ISIS propaganda.
 
"I call you all to join the campaign to remove the traitor Khalid al-Obeidi," one user wrote on Twitter, while some even accused him of being in ISIS.
 
Obeidi called a news conference to say that the toll from the attack was 13, including two top officers. Abadi, Obeidi and Interior Minister Mohammed Ghaban then took to parliament to defend their records and criticize the rumors.
 
"What happened in the media, and the statements of some brother MPs and politicians, was destructive to the morale of the fighters," Obeidi said.
 
Abadi said: "Two-thirds of the battle is psychological. From a military standpoint, we have multiple problems" but have not been defeated."
 
Anbar poses major military challenges. Government forces have not made significant progress in retaking the Ramadi areas lost this month, and much of the rest of the province remains out of their control.
 
Army Staff Major General Mohammed al-Dulaimi said there are not enough Iraqi security forces in Anbar, given its massive size, and they hold only part of Ramadi and a handful of other areas.
 
For ISIS, the propaganda gained from this month's Anbar attacks is vital, following a string of defeats it has suffered elsewhere, including in Tikrit.
 
"I see this as Daesh trying to make themselves relevant again," a senior officer in the US-led coalition against the jihadists told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
"They're an organization that must appear to be going forwards - they must appear to be winning."

Jihad on the Horizon: Al Qaeda, ISIS Clash Along Israeli Border

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 07:37
Head of Al-Nusra FrontRebels and Al Qaeda's Syria affiliate clashed Tuesday with jihadists linked to the Islamic State group (ISIS) along Syria's border with the Israeli Golan Heights, a monitor and an opposition spokesman said.  
 
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP that rebel groups, as well as Al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, fought ISIS-linked Jaish al-Jihad in the border town of Qahtaniya in the southern province of Quneitra province.
 
"These are key battles, because IS now has a presence in Syria's south and because they are close to the ceasefire line with the Golan," said Abdel Rahman.  
 
"This is the first time these groups have clashed with each other," he added.  
 
Abdel Rahman said 12 rebels, including Al Nusra fighters, were killed and Jaish al-Jihad lost seven fighters.
 
"Fifteen members of Jaish al-Jihad were also taken hostage," he said.
 
The clashes took place as Israel announced that two mortar rounds fired from Syria struck northern parts of the Golan Heights, without causing casualties. The IDF later stated that the mortar fire was the result of errant "spillover" from the conflict, and not a deliberate attack.
 
Jaish al-Islam is a relatively new group but is suspected to have very close ties to ISIS, according to Romain Caillet, a French expert on jihadists.
 
Essam al-Rayes, spokesperson for the Southern Front coalition which is fighting Jaish al-Islam, said the ISIS-linked group had a presence in and around the town of Qahtaniya.  
 
Speaking by phone from Jordan, Rayes said tensions among opposition fighters in the town rose after it was suspected that Jaish al-Jihad had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
 
The battles erupted on Monday after Jaish al-Jihad ambushed a Southern Front convoy and killed six rebels, Rayes added.
 
"Al Nusra Front then joined the fight, because Daesh is our common enemy," Rayes said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
Caillet said two Saudi commanders from Al Nusra's southern battalions were killed on Monday night.
 
The Southern Front had been planning a large offensive on regime-controlled areas north of Qahtaniya, but the latest clashes delayed their assault, Rayes told AFP.
 
Last month, rebel groups in southern Syria, including the Southern Front, said they would not cooperate with Al Nusra in future battles, after a dispute over a captured border crossing.  
 
Syria's conflict began in 2011 with peaceful protests, but has since become a complex civil war which has killed more than 220,000 people.

Iraq: ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for Adultery

Category: Islam
Created on Tuesday, 28 April 2015 21:24
ISIS Stones Two Men to Death for AdulteryThe Islamic State jihadist group said it has stoned two men to death for adultery in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, according to a series of photos posted online.
 
One man is shown kneeling blindfolded in front of a group of men who hurl large stones at him until he is lying face down on the ground, blood running from his head.
 
A second man is then killed in the same way, as a crowd including children looks on.
 
It is not known when the stonings took place, and the authenticity of the pictures could not be immediately confirmed.
 
The Islamic State group led an offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, sweeping security forces aside.
 
ISIS has carried out a string of atrocities including videotaped beheadings and mass executions, rape and enslavement in areas it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Erdogan: ISIS is a 'Virus' Working to Destroy Muslims

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 22:22
Recep Tayyip ErdoganTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday referred to the Islamic State (ISIS) group as a “virus” working to destroy the Muslim community, in one of his strongest attacks yet against the jihadist group.
 
Ankara has been repeatedly criticized in recent months for not doing enough to halt the advance of ISIS to its borders, but Erdogan said after meeting Iraqi President Fuad Masum that the ultra-radical group had to be confronted, according to the AFP news agency.
 
ISIS “is an important virus that is working to divide and destroy the Ummah,” Erdogan told reporters, using the term for the global community of Muslims.
 
He added that said other groups had followed the same path but that ISIS had proved more adept at using its resources.
 
“An international strategy is essential to drain this swamp. Even if Daesh [ISIS] is destroyed something will emerge under a different name,” Erdogan was quoted as having said. “Where do its weapons and financing come from? We need to focus on this.”
 
Masum, whose forces are battling to win back swaths of territory that were lost to ISIS including its second city Mosul, echoed Erdogan’s description of the group as a disease.
 
“This virus can pass from this region to other regions. The countries in the region have serious responsibilities,” Masum said, according to AFP.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Ankara had done all it could to close its borders to jihadists but had to remain open to refugees as well as “30-40 million tourists” a year.
 
Davutoglu said ISIS emerged as a result of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s policies and added that the group “carried more risk to Turkey than anyone else.”
 
Indeed, Turkey has come under fire from Western countries for not doing enough to halt the flow across Turkish territory of European nationals seeking to join ISIS jihadists in Syria.
 
However, it has made a number of arrests in recent months and insists it is doing all it can to control the border.
 
Several weeks ago, a British woman was detained by Turkish police on suspicion of seeking to join Islamic State terrorists in Syria, and was later deported back to Britain.
 
Previously, three British teenager boys suspected of trying to travel to Syria were detained by Turkey and later deported to Britain.
 
Earlier this week Turkey appealed for more help in cracking down on foreign fighters flooding to join terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Islamic State Leader Al-Baghdadi Critically Wounded in Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 20:05
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersAbu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and self-proclaimed "caliph" of the caliphate or Islamic state that it has established in large parts of Iraq and Syria, was critically wounded in a US-led coalition airstrike according to sources.
 
The sources told the British Guardian that the strike took place in western Iraq's al-Baaj district of Nineveh, not far from the Syrian border, and timed it as having taken place on March 18.
 
An Iraqi source with connections to ISIS told the paper that Baghdadi was left with life-threatening wounds by the strike, but that he has made a slow recovery - however, the source revealed Baghdadi still has not taken back control of managing ISIS.
 
ISIS leaders held urgent meetings after the strike, making plans to name a new leader out of fears that Baghdadi would not recover. Since then, the source said that ISIS's military and Shura religious councils have taken a leading role in making decisions.
 
A Western diplomat confirmed the airstrike to the paper, saying it hit a three-car convoy between the villages of Umm al-Rous and al-Qaraan. In the strike, which targeted ISIS leaders, three men were thought to have been killed, although officials were unaware at the time that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.
 
Iraqi official Hisham al-Hashimi, an adviser in the fight against ISIS, told the Guardian, "yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him."
 
According to the sources the ISIS leader was laying low in al-Baaj, located around 200 miles west of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul in Iraq.
 
"He chose this area because he knew from the war that the Americans did not have much cover there," a source revealed. "From 2003 (the US military) barely had a presence there. It was the one part of Iraq that they hadn’t mapped out.”
 
Baghdadi previously escaped a near fatal strike last December 14 outside of Mosul, when a US airstrike hit a two-car convoy. His aide Auf Abdul Rahman al-Efery was killed by a rocket strike on one of the cars, but Baghdadi was in the other car that was not struck.
 
The US-led coalition airstrikes have been yielding more results in recent months, taking out both Baghdadi's deputy Abu Muslim al-Turkmani as well as ISIS's Iraqi military operations chief in early December.

Ex-Hussein Intel Officer Planned ISIS's Rise to Power

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 25 April 2015 12:19
Haji-Bakr-ISISAn ex-intelligence officer under the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was "the strategic head" behind the Islamic State (ISIS, aka IS) group and drew up the blueprints for the jihadists' capture of northern Syria, German weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday.
 
Former colonel Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, who was better known as Haji Bakr and was killed by Syrian rebels in January 2014, "had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years," according to the magazine as cited by AFP.
 
The weekly said it had been given exclusive access to 31 documents by Bakr, including handwritten lists and charts, after lengthy negotiations with a rebel group in Aleppo, northern Syria, which came in possession of the pages after ISIS fled the area.
 
The trove "was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover," according to Spiegel, detailing the creation of a caliphate in northern Syria, complete with meticulous instructions for espionage activities, murder and kidnapping.
 
The magazine said Bakr was "bitter and unemployed" after the American decision to dissolve the Iraqi army in 2003. Between 2006 and 2008 he was held in the US military's Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib prison.
 
In the years that followed, his influence grew in jihadist circles, Spiegel reported, and in 2010 Bakr and a group of other former Iraqi intelligence officers placed cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the head of the Islamic State group.
 
The move was reportedly designed to give the group a religious dimension.
 
The weekly quotes an Iraqi journalist as saying career officer Bakr was himself "a nationalist, not an Islamist."
 
The ISIS group, notorious for horrific acts of violence including rape, torture and beheadings, declared a caliphate in June 2014 that has placed large parts of Iraq and Syria under its control.

France Begins to Provide Weapons to Lebanon

Category: News
Created on Friday, 24 April 2015 12:03
Lebanese-army-in-arsal-The first French weapons from a $3 billion Saudi-funded program will arrive in Lebanon on Monday as allies seek to bolster the country's defenses against the Islamic State (ISIS) group and other jihadists pressing along its Syrian border, AFP reported Sunday.
 
Anti-tank guided missiles are set to arrive at an air force base in Beirut, overseen by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Lebanese counterpart, Samir Mokbel.
 
France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communications equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion program.
 
The program is being entirely funded by Saudi Arabia, which is keen to see Lebanon's army defend its borders against jihadist groups, particularly ISIS group and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra, instead of leaving the job to Hezbollah terrorists who are backed by its regional rival, Iran.
 
The contract also promises seven years of training for the 70,000-strong Lebanese army and 10 years of equipment maintenance, noted AFP.
 
"This project is to help us re-establish a Lebanese army capable of responding to new security realities," a French defense official told the news agency.
 
Since the conflict in neighboring Syria broke out in 2011, Lebanon has faced mounting spill-over threats, first from the millions of refugees pouring across the border and increasingly from jihadists.
 
AFP noted that the sharp divisions between religious and ethnic communities in Lebanon have been deepened by conflicting views on the Syrian war, making the country difficult to work with when it comes to supplying weapons.
 
Hezbollah, which is a powerful political force in Lebanon, sent its fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but many Lebanese still deeply resent the Assad regime which effectively colonized the country up to 2005.
 
Meanwhile, Israel remains concerned about any military assistance that might bolster a regional rival or fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which fought a short and brutal war against Israel as recently as 2006.
 
"The Lebanese army is already well-infiltrated by Hezbollah," an Israeli official on condition of anonymity told AFP. "But we understand the necessity of reinforcing the capacity of the Lebanese army."
 
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened Israel, saying that in the next war his rocket barrages would close Israeli sea and airports.
 
In addition to Syria, Hezbollah is also being deployed in increasing numbers in Iraq, as part of Iran's efforts to back Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government against a Sunni uprising led by ISIS.
 
More recent reports claimed Hezbollah fighters and "military advisers" have also been sent to back Houthi rebels in Yemen.
 
At the same time, Nasrallah recently admitted that his terrorist group is incapable of defeating Israel on its own.
 
In an interview with Syrian state TV, the Hezbollah leader explained that despite boasts by himself and other Hezbollah leaders about the group's capabilities, it is incapable of mounting a war against Israel independently.
 
"Are we supposed to lie to our people and ourselves, saying that we are capable of launching a war against Israel, wiping it off the map, and liberating Palestine? Hezbollah is incapable of doing this all by itself," Nasrallah told his interviewer, after being asked why Hezbollah is not using its "sophisticated weapons" to "open a new front" against the Jewish state.
 
"We have never made such claims. We are realistic," he continued.
 
"We are facing a real force," he added, in an unusual nod to the formidable adversary Hezbollah faces in the IDF.

ISIS Video Shows Two Mass-Executions of Christians in Libya

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:13
isisethiopianISIS has released yet another graphic video showing the mass execution of Christians in Libya, and has vowed to continue killing Christians until the world submits to Islam.
 
The grisly footage appeared at the end of a 30-minute video by the Islamic State terror group's Al Furkan media arm, showcasing its treatment of Christians under its control in Syria and Iraq.
 
Several Christians are interviewed in the film, and explained how they accepted "dhimmi" status upon themselves as an alternative to being killed by the jihadists. 
 
Under Islamic law (sharia) dhimmi status is granted to Jews and Christians ("the people of the book"), who opt not to convert to Islam or die. It allows them to practice their religion but with several restrictions designed to humiliate them into recognizing the "superiority" of Muslims, and in addition to paying a special tax to Muslim authorities known as "jizya." 
 
In the video, ISIS claims its jizya tax amounts to four grams of gold for the rich, two grams for "average" people and one gram for the poor.
 
But the worst segment of the video came at the end, when two separate groups of black Christians are shown being frogmarched by masked gunmen, in carefully choreographed scenes bearing a chilling similarity to the execution of dozens of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya last year.
 
Like the Coptic Christian victims, one group is marched along a beach in Libya; the other group is filmed in a desert somewhere inland.
 
The captured men - most likely migrant workers - are introduced as "Worshippers of the cross belonging to the hostile Ethiopian Church," before a masked terrorist speaking perfect English addresses the camera.
 
Repeatedly pointing his pistol at the camera, and speaking with what is possibly an Arab-American accent, he declares the impending spectacle will prove that "the Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap" - likely a reference to operations by Ethiopian forces against Al Shabaab Islamist terrorists in Somalia.
 
Speaking to the Christian world in general, he adds: "you won't have safety, even in your dreams, until you embrace Islam."
 
The video ends showing the kidnapped Christians executed in two groups, apparently in different parts of the country. While one line of captives is mowed down by gunfire, another group are seen screaming in pain and terror as the jihadists saw off their heads, their blood mixing with the sea waves.

ISIS Issuing Photo ID Cards in Syria's Raqa

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:19
ID5The Islamic State (ISIS) group is now issuing photo identity cards in Syria's Raqa province, but only to males, along with a range of administrative documents, a monitor and activists told AFP on Friday.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had begun issuing "identity cards to those without proof of identity and boys over the age of 13 in Raqa province."
 
The Britain-based group published a photo it said was provided by civilian sources showing a laminated card printed with the black and white flag of the Islamic State.
 
It carries the photo of the holder, his name, date and place of birth and his parents' names, and is marked "Wilayat (district of) Raqa."
 
An activist with the anti-ISIS "Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" group confirmed that IS had begun issuing identity documents.
 
The group is requesting "that people who do not have identity papers register at the civil registry in the city as a first step towards getting an identity card," activist Mohamed Saleh told AFP via the Internet.
 
He said its fighters were already receiving the new ID cards, but that civilians were still being registered to receive theirs.
 
The ID cards were not available for women "because printing their photos is considered forbidden."
 
"People don't want the cards, but they don't have a choice," he told AFP.
 
Saleh said residents feared the cards would become compulsory for all those in the province, even if they already have other proof of identity.
 
"That's what happened with their driver's licenses and license plates...Now there are checkpoints where they make sure you have them," he said.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said issuance of the ID cards follows the introduction of a range of other administrative paperwork, including marriage and birth certificates, drivers' licenses and car registrations.
 
Land and building registration documents and permits were also being issued, he added.
 
ISIS has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq since 2013 and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in the land under its control.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control, ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.
 
The group has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.
 
In one case, ISIS members beheaded a person they said was a member of an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting for Assad, only to discover they had accidentally beheaded a fighter belonging to an allied rebel group.
 
In March, the group live-tweeted the amputation of a hand of a man charged with theft in the northern province of Aleppo.

Antiquities Market on Alert for Looted Syrian Spoils

Category: Archeology and History
Created on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:59
Ancient City of NimrudAs armed groups in Syria and Iraq destroy priceless archaeological sites, European authorities and dealers are on high alert for smaller, looted artifacts put on sale to help finance the jihadists' war.
 
Stolen-art expert Chris Marinello, director of Art Recovery International, said he has been shown photographs of items being offered from Syria that were "clearly looted right out of the ground".
 
"You could still see dirt on some of these objects," he told AFP.
 
They included cylinder seals, Roman bottles and vases, although Marinello said it was unclear whether the items were still in Syria, were in transit or had arrived in the key markets of Europe and the United States.
 
Concerns about looting during the Syrian war have increased following the advance of the Islamic State group through parts of Syria and Iraq, and recent propaganda videos showing their destruction of ancient sites such as Nimrud.
 
The UN Security Council in February demanded UN states act to stop the trade in cultural property from those two countries, amid warnings that they represented a significant source of funding for the terrorist group.
 
Experts say it is impossible to put a value on antiquities looted from Syria, which has been home to many civilizations through the millennia, from the Canaanites to the Ottomans.
 
The London-based International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) estimates the entire legitimate antiquities market in 2013 was worth between 150 and 200 million euros ($160-215 million).
 
Marinello said reputable dealers are "being very careful not to touch anything that could remotely be part of this recent wave of looting".
 
But Hermann Parzinger, an archaeologist and president of the Germany-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said there was an "enormous market" from private buyers.
 
He warned that the cultural costs were huge, telling AFP: "The context which is so important to reconstruct the history of these civilizations is completely destroyed."
 
Looted items held back
 
Italy has proposed that world heritage body UNESCO create a military taskforce to protect cultural sites in war zones, but many experts believe little can be done to stop the current destruction.
 
Instead, they are forced to wait until the conflict ends and watch in horror as priceless historic sites are destroyed and the spoils gradually
emerge onto the market.
 
Vernon Rapley, a former head of the art and antiquities squad at London's Metropolitan Police, expects many Syrian items to be held back to avoid flooding the market, as occurred after the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
The looted artifacts were likely to be "hauled up in warehouses either in the country or near the country, and only linked to the art trade in small pieces and at a later stage", he told AFP.
 
Stephane Thefo, who leads an Interpol unit dedicated to fighting the illegal trafficking of cultural goods, agreed that many items may disappear for years - but insisted that tackling the trade was the best way to combat looting.
 
The French policeman would like to see tougher national laws on trafficking of cultural goods, something Germany is currently considering.
 
"We have to act by seeking to narrow markets for the illicit trade, hoping that by curbing the demand, the supply would eventually decrease," Thefo said.
 
Identifying heritage items
 
Identifying looted objects is no easy task, however, not least because cultural crime is rarely a police priority.
 
The law puts the onus on the authorities to prove an item is illegal and a long delay in an artifact being sold, or multiple owners, make it hard to establish provenance.
 
At a conference at the V&A museum in London this week on the destruction of cultural property in conflict areas in Iraq and Syria, Mali, Libya and Yemen, archaeologists stressed the need for proper inventories of heritage sites.
 
They noted that objects that have been photographed and digitally catalogued are more likely to be recovered.
 
Interpol is currently building a database of stolen objects, and James Ede, a London dealer and IADAA board member, urged cultural bodies to share their information with dealers.
 
"This material will necessarily surface on the open market sooner or later. The challenge therefore is to identify it and where possible to return it when it is safe to do so," he said.

ISIS Seizes Parts of Iraq's Largest Refinery

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 10:33
ISIS-Iraq-AttackJihadists from the Islamic State (ISIS) group broke into Iraq's massive Baiji oil refinery, seized some of its facilities and are hiding among fuel storage tanks, officials said Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency.
 
ISIS has attempted repeatedly over the past 10 months to capture the refinery -- the country's largest -- but security forces have managed to fight them off.
 
The group "now controls the oil (training) institute and the products and shipping department and some of the roads in the refinery," a senior official in the state company responsible for northern refineries told AFP.
 
"The force stationed at the refinery is fighting fiercely," the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that an operation to clear the facility will be launched in the coming hours.
 
The terrorists are reportedly hiding among full fuel tanks, and there are fears they will torch them if there is an assault.
 
An army major general said ISIS fighters had attacked from two sides and were able to penetrate several hundred meters into the facility.
 
"Security forces defending the refinery... continue to besiege (fighters) hiding in some limited locations" and among the storage tanks, the officer said.
 
The militants are being tracked electronically and visually, he added.
 
The oil ministry did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the situation.
 
The international coalition providing support to Iraqi forces said it conducted 16 airstrikes in the Baiji area from Monday to early Wednesday.
 
"Coalition airstrikes support (Iraqi) efforts by destroying (IS) buildings, excavators, tactical units, vehicles and weapons," a statement quoted by AFP said.
 
The refinery -- some 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Baghdad -- once produced some 300,000 barrels of refined products per day, meeting half the country's needs.
 
That ended when an ISIS offensive overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June, cutting the refinery off.
 
An Iraqi operation backed by coalition airstrikes eventually broke the siege in October and retook the town of Baiji, just south of the refinery, but the jihadists have since wrested the town back.

50 ISIS Hostages Include Ismaili Minorities

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 16 April 2015 22:39
ISIS HostagesJihadist fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS) group are holding hostage at least 50 civilians, almost half of them women, seized in a raid on a village in central Syria, a monitor said.
 
They were kidnapped from the village of Mabujeh in Hama province on March 31, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights according to AFP.
 
News of the kidnappings had been kept quiet because of ongoing negotiations for their release, but the talks have since faltered, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
Ten of those taken, including six women, are Ismailis, a minority sect that is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. The remaining 40 are Sunni Muslims, including at least 15 women.
 
"There are fears that the women are being taken as slaves," Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Ismailis were kidnapped because ISIS considers them "infidels," and that the Sunnis - although from the same sect as ISIS fighters - were taken because ISIS viewed them as "loyal to the Ismailis."
 
Mabujeh, east of the provincial capital Hama, has a population of Sunnis, Ismailis and Alawites, another offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that is the sect of President Bashar al-Assad and his clan.
 
On March 31, ISIS executed at least 37 civilians in Mabujeh, including two children, by "burning, beheading, and firing on them," the Observatory said.
 
ISIS has regularly targeted minority sects in Syria, especially Shi'ites it accuses of apostasy, as well as Sunnis who it alleges have violated its interpretation of Islam.
 
It has also carried out mass kidnappings of Kurds and Assyrian Christians in Syria, and members of the Yazidi faith in neighboring Iraq.
 
In another attack on a minority village in Syria, a car bomb exploded Friday in the Alawite neighborhood of Hay al-Arman in Homs city, the Observatory said.
 
Abdel Rahman told AFP that one child was killed and at least 10 people were wounded in the explosion.
 
He could not specify who was behind the car bomb, but Syrian state television said a "terrorist attack" had struck the area. Abdel Rahman said Hay al-Arman was under regime control and was a "stronghold" of pro-government militias.
 
Alawite areas in Homs have been under attack by jihadists, including a brutal suicide attack at a school in October 2014 that left 54 dead, among them 47 children.
 
In the northern city of Raqa, which ISIS has declared the capital of its self-styled "caliphate," 16 people were killed in a series of regime air strikes on the city and its suburbs.
 
Since Syria's conflict began in 2011, more than 215,000 people have been killed and nearly half the country's population has become displaced.

ISIS Completely Blows up Ancient City of Nimrud

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 19:00
Ancient City of NimrudThe Islamic State (ISIS) group on Saturday released a video that shows terrorists smashing artifacts at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq before blowing up the site.
 
The undated video suggests that the site, on the Tigris river about 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Mosul, was completely leveled.
 
Destruction at the site was reported more than a month ago but the extent of the damage was unclear at the time.
 
"Whenever we are able in a piece of land to remove the signs of idolatry and spread monotheism, we will do it," one terrorist says at the end of the video.
 
Terrorists can be seen rigging large barrels filled with powder in a room whose walls are lined with imposing gypsum slabs, beautifully carved with representations of Assyrian deities.
 
The ensuing footage shows a massive explosion that sends a huge mushroom of brown dust into the sky.
 
Earlier, ISIS terrorists are seen hacking away at the relief and statues with sledgehammers. One is shown sitting on the slabs and carving them up with an angle grinder.
 
"God has honored us in the state of Islam by removing and destroying everything that was held to be equal to him and worshipped without him," one terrorist says, speaking to camera.
 
In the jihadists' interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines amount to recognizing objects of worship other than God and must be destroyed.
 
The ruins of the city founded in the 13th century BCE were one of the most famous archaeological sites in a country often described as the cradle of civilization.
 
Nimrud, which is on UNESCO's tentative list of world heritage sites, is the later Arab name given to a settlement which was originally called Kalhu.
 
The ancient city was first described in 1820 and plundered by Western explorers and officials over subsequent decades. It was also looted and damaged during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

ISIS Repelled From Key Syrian Military Airport

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 10:19
Strikes-DamascusPro-government forces repelled an attack on a key Syrian military airport by Islamic State (ISIS) group affiliated terrorists, losing 20 fighters but killing almost as many jihadists, a monitor said Saturday.
 
"Militants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group attacked the outskirts of the Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to AFP.
 
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad maintained control over the airport and its surrounding areas despite losing 20 fighters. At least 15 ISIS jihadists were killed.
 
Syria's official news agency SANA said the army had "blocked attempts from ISIS terrorists to infiltrate" areas near the airport.
 
Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria's war.
 
The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by ISIS, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate. 
 
In March, Syrian rebels and Islamist fighters seized the town of Bosra al-Sham, which is south of Sweida but located along the same highway as Khalkhalah airport.
 
Also on Friday, Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate withdrew from a key area along Syria's border with Jordan, the Observatory said.
 
Rebels and the Nusra Front took control of the Nasib crossing in the southern province of Daraa from regime forces last month. Nasib had been under attack by moderate rebel forces, but fell shortly after Nusra joined the ongoing offensive.
 
The jihadists and other rebels held the checkpoint, the duty-free zone between the two crossings, and the customs area. Nusra withdrew from the checkpoint last week and left the other areas Friday.
 
"The other fighters asked them to leave Nasib because they weren't in the fight to begin with," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Kurds counter ISIS offensive
 
ISIS terrorists were also fought back in the northeast province of Hasakeh, where Kurdish militia took on the extremist group in bloody clashes Friday night.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) "retook at least four checkpoints and a number of neighborhoods" around the town of Tal Tamr, Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
He said the Kurds had launched a "counter-offensive" against an ISIS assault on the town that began in February, adding that in the past 24 hours, seven YPG fighters and 24 ISIS terrorists were killed.
 
Though small, Tal Tamr has strategic value because it lies on a road that runs east across the Iraqi border to ISIS's bastion in Mosul, as well as north to the Turkish border.
 
ISIS has seized over a dozen villages around Tal Tamr, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the group was attacking the town to make up for losses in other parts of Hasakeh.
 
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq also conducted air strikes on ISIS positions around Tal Tamr on Friday, he added.
 
The coalition began targeting ISIS around the town last month after Kurdish forces appealed for international action, and has provided air support for the YPG elsewhere in northern Syria, including the flashpoint border town of Kobane.
 
In the northern city of Aleppo, at least five people were killed and dozens wounded in rocket attacks Saturday on the Christian neighborhood of Suleimaniyah.
 
"The death toll will likely rise as there are a number of people in critical condition," Abdel Rahman said.
 
State television reported the attack but said "terrorist shelling" had killed eight people. Government forces regularly pound rebel-held areas from the air, and opposition fighters fire rockets and mortar rounds into regime-controlled neighborhoods.
 
More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war.

Palestinian Yarmouk Forces Unite with Syrian Regime to Beat ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 11 April 2015 05:55
Palestinian YarmoukA group of 14 Palestinian Arab factions said Thursday they backed a joint military operation with the Syrian government to expel Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists from the Yarmouk neighborhood of southern Damascus.
 
After a meeting of the factions in the Syrian capital, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Ahmed Majdalani said the groups supported a coordinated military effort in the camp.
 
The factions support "a security solution that will be carried out in partnership with the Syrian state and will have as its priority maintaining the security of citizens," said PLO official Ahmed Majdalani, according to AFP.
 
"We agreed that there would be permanent cooperation with the Syrian leadership and the formation of a joint operations room with Syrian government forces and the Palestinian factions that have a significant presence in the camp or around it."
 
Majdalani added that Palestinian Arab forces would work in an "integrated" fashion "with the Syrian state to clear the camp of terrorists."
 
But it was unclear whether that position was shared by the Palestinian Arab fighters on the ground inside the camp.
 
The key Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis group fighting ISIS inside Yarmuk was not present at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.
 
The group is opposed to the Syrian government and has cooperated with rebel fighters against ISIS jihadists inside Yarmouk since the extremist organization entered the camp on April 1.
 
The Islamist terrorist group Hamas also did not attend the meeting, an official told AFP.
 
"Refugee camp?"
 
Majdalani said Palestinian Arab backing for a military operation was dependent on any action protecting civilian lives and infrastructure in the battered neighborhood.
 
"The action must take into account the lives of the camp's citizens and avoid massive destruction. It will be carried out in a progressive fashion," he said.
 
There were no further details on when any operation might take place and who would participate.
 
The ISIS conquest of Yarmouk has been garnering widespread media coverage, with the news generally referring to it as a "Palestinian refugee camp" - despite the fact that it was a normative and prosperous Damascus neighborhood.
 
The neighborhood is largely under the influence of Hamas, with senior officials of the terrorist group being among those targeted for executions and beheadings by the ISIS forces who have captured Yarmouk in recent days.
 
In response, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime has offered the Palestinian Arab forces in Yarmouk military aid in trying to repel ISIS from the neighborhood.
 
The move came after the the PLO sent a delegation to Syria to build support for Yarmouk.
 
"Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push ISIS out of the camp," said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi earlier this week.

Syria Offers Palestinians Military Aid against ISIS in Yarmouk

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 April 2015 09:36
Syria Offers Palestinians Military Aid in YarmoukThe Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad said Tuesday it is ready to offer Palestinian factions its firepower to support their battle with the Islamic State group  (ISIS) in the Yarmouk camp on the outskirts of Damascus, which has been evastated by clashes and aerial attacks.  
 
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yarmouk has pushed the UN Security Council to demand greater access to residents trapped between the encroaching ISIS jihadists and besieging government forces.
 
The fierce clashes that began on April 1 have ceased, as ISIS has consolidated its control over the vast majority of the camp, but regime forces continue to drop barrel bombs on the camp, which lies six kilometers (nearly four miles) from central Damascus.
 
In the capital, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad met with a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organisation headed by Ahmad Majdalani.  
 
"Syrian authorities are ready to support the Palestinian fighters in a number of ways, including militarily, to push IS out of the camp," said PLO official Anwar Abdul Hadi, who was at the meetings.  
 
Meqdad said the "Syrian government had used all its efforts to present humanitarian and medical aid to Palestinian refugees and that it had helped them exit Yarmouk safely."
 
"Syria and the PLO are determined to fight terrorism, which has reached Palestinian camps in Syria, notably Yarmouk," he said, quoted by the official SANA news agency.
 
Speaking after meeting with Meqdad, Majdalani told AFP they had "agreed on the need for a unified position for the Palestinian forces in Syria, in coordination with the Syrian government."
 
He said there would be continued cooperation between Syrian and Palestinian leaders "to defeat terrorism in Yarmouk".
 
A meeting among Syria's Palestinian terrorist factions is set for Wednesday to discuss a broader consensus.  
 
If achieved, this rapprochement would be significant for Yarmouk, which had seen fierce clashes since the end of 2012 between regime forces and rebels supported by Palestinian terrorist groups.
 
Most of the Palestinian factions in Yarmouk are opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The main faction in Yarmouk is Aknaf Beit al-Makdis, an offshoot of Hamas, which supports the rebels. But smaller Palestinian factions closely aligned with the regime - most notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) have since joined the fray alongside them.
 
ISIS arrival to Yarmouk sounded alarm bells in Damascus, as it was the closest jihadists had ever been to the capital.
 
Syrian troops currently hold the northernmost part of the camp, which ISIS would need to take to advance further into Damascus.
 
'Worse than a big prison'
 
Camp residents described a disastrous humanitarian situation.
 
"I used to call the camp a big prison... Now, it's different, it's even worse," Samer told AFP via Skype from inside the camp.
 
"There was a young man who was killed next to my house by barrel bombs. We picked him up in pieces."
 
Most of the camp's doctors had already fled, leaving only paramedics to care for the wounded.
 
A sniper shot dead a 12-year-old girl Tuesday on the edge of Yarmouk, another resident said, describing her as a child who "loved singing, music and playing the drums".  
 
On Monday, the Security Council called "for the protection of civilians in the camp for ensuring humanitarian access to the area," said Jordan's ambassador Dina Kawar, the council chair this month.
 
In a meeting with the council, Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, described the situation as "more desperate than ever" for the camp's roughly 18,000 remaining residents.
 
"What civilians in Yarmouk are most concerned about right now is bare survival," he said.  
 
Since 2012, Yarmouk has been under a nearly-impenetrable regime siege that has left about 200 people dead due to malnutrition and lack of medication alone, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
ISIS began an assault on Yarmouk last Wednesday and was initially repelled by Palestinian fighters but has since seized large swathes of the district.
 
At least 39 people, among them eight civilians, have been killed in the fighting, the Observatory said.
 
The Britain-based monitor said ISIS forces were present in the south, west and east of the camp, with Palestinian fighters largely confined to the north, apparently wedged between ISIS and regime positions.   
 
The ISIS attack is just the latest blow for Yarmouk, which was once a thriving, working-class residential district of the capital, home to some 160,000 people, Syrians and Palestinians.
 
In violence elsewhere on Tuesday, at least seven people were killed, including two military commanders, in a car bomb blast targeting a base used by Islamist groups including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front in Marea, a town in Aleppo province of northern Syria, the Observatory said.
 
Reports claimed the bombings were carried out by ISIS, which is locked in a bitter rivalry with Al Qaeda.

ISIS Seizure of Yarmouk 'Harms Palestinian Right of Return'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 April 2015 08:42
Palestinians-YarmoukIslamic State (ISIS) forces this week have taken over the Yarmouk neighborhood in southern Damascus, which is popularly known as a "Palestinian refugee camp," with reports indicating ISIS has been conducting arrests and acts of mass murder.
 
Representatives of the Islamic nationalist forces in Gaza, which are a confederation of the various Palestinian Arab groups, met with the Islamic Jihad headquarters in Gaza, after which an announcement condemning the activities of the "armed gangs" was published without listing ISIS by name.
 
The Islamist nationalist forces in the statement said that ISIS in Yarmouk is committing "genocide and harming the refugee problem and their right of return (to Israel)."
 
The mention of "right of return" refers to the fact that the residents of Yarmouk are the descendants of Arab residents of Israel who left the country during the 1948 War of Independence. Roughly 800,000 of the so-called "Palestinian refugees" left, whereas 850,000 Jewish refugees were forced out of Arab lands in the same time period, although their plight has received no international fanfare.
 
The statement called on the "armed gangs" to immediately withdraw from Yarmouk and release the captives.
 
In the statement, the Gaza representatives expressed their support of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation that was sent to Syria on Monday to try and help residents of Yarmouk.
 
ISIS beheaded at least one senior Hamas figure in Yarmouk, which was largely under Hamas influence. The jihadist group views Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations as enemies, because they do not fully embrace jihad according to ISIS's definition and have not been immediately imposing Islamic Sharia law.
 
That enmity has seen expression in Gaza, where ISIS has expressed its intentions to depose Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Iraqi Forces Battle ISIS in Tikrit a Week after City 'Retaken'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 09 April 2015 08:22
Iraqi ForcesIraqi security forces and allied paramilitaries battled militants from the Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS) in Tikrit on Tuesday, the interior ministry said, a week after the city was declared retaken.
 
The Iraqi forces launched a raid on the basis of intelligence that there were between eight and 15 ISIS members in a hideout in the Qadisiya area of north Tikrit, the ministry said in a statement on the day's operations.
 
"Our security forces were able to kill a number of them while the others blew themselves up after being surrounded," it said.
 
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the "liberation" of Tikrit on March 31, but Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghaban said the following day that "pockets" of ISIS fighters remained.
 
The ministry statement shows that operations to fully clear the city are still ongoing.
 
Bombs also pose a major threat in Tikrit, with Ghaban saying last week that more than 1,000 had already been discovered.
 
ISIS led an offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June, but Iraqi security forces and paramilitary allies backed by a US-led coalition and Iran have regained significant ground.
 
The victory in Tikrit is the biggest by Iraqi forces since the conflict began, but it has been marred by allegations of looting and burning by Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias.
 
ISIS fighters came from the Hamreen mountain range and attacked three checkpoints near the Adhaim dam on Tuesday, which is located some 70 kilometres (40 miles) east of Tikrit, security sources said.
 
The jihadists struck positions manned by paramilitary Popular Mobilisation forces and police, killing seven and wounding 21, an army colonel said.  
 
He said a colonel from the police's elite SWAT force was among those killed. A medical source and a police major in the town of Muqdadiyah confirmed the toll.
 
The area of the attack is near the border between the provinces of Salaheddin, of which Tikrit is the capital, and Diyala, which lies to the southeast and which the government said in January had been retaken from the jihadists.
 
Sporadic attacks have been taking place in several parts of Diyala however and residual IS forces are thought to be hiding in the Hamreen mountains.

Mass Graves Found in Iraqi City Liberated from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 09:19
Mass Graves Found in IraqIraq has exhumed the remains of 47 people believed to have been massacred by jihadists from mass graves in Tikrit, the human rights ministry's spokesman said Tuesday.
 
"The number of remains that were exhumed so far is 47, and they were found in 11 mass graves," Kamel Amin told AFP, adding that the number is expected to rise.
 
Amin said they are believed to have been victims of the infamous Speicher massacre, named for the military base near which up to 1,700 mostly Shi'ite recruits were abducted by the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group last year.
 
But DNA testing is required to confirm their identity, he said.
 
The killing of the recruits - which the jihadist group documented in photos and videos posted online - stoked widespread anger and helped rally support for the battle against ISIS.
 
The mass grave sites were discovered after Iraqi forces retook the city of Tikrit last week in their biggest victory so far against ISIS.
 
ISIS led an offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, but Iraqi security forces and allied paramilitaries have succeeded in regaining significant ground.

Christians Struggle to Maintain Legacy versus ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 08:47
220 assyrians abductedAmid the ISIS assault on Iraq, minorities have borne the brunt. One of those groups is Iraq’s Christians, who before the 2003 US invasion were spread throughout the country with a sizeable community in the northwest.  
 
The majority of Iraqi Christians come from the Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean churches with affiliations mainly to the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most other denominations have had a presence in Iraq, but have never overtaken these Churches, which are among the oldest in the world.
 
But many of those Christian areas have been in the crosshairs of last year’s sweeping military advances by ISIS.
 
“In all towns and villages where ISIS rules, the Christian population has disappeared," says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.
 
"Qaraqosh, a historic Assyrian city, was home to the largest Christian population in Iraq with approximately 50,000 members. Now the city is virtually devoid of its Christian population.”
 
This is not the first time a Muslim conquest has produced trouble for Christians there. In the early 1500s, the infamous Tamerlane swept through the area and beheaded an estimated 70,000 Christians in Tikrit and 90,000 in Baghdad. With that perspective, ISIS has not represented such a catastrophe – yet.
 
“When ISIS took control of Mosul, roughly 20,000 Christians initially stayed, but after the group issued an ultimatum – convert, flee or die – the remaining Christians had no other choice but to leave as well.”
 
“As well as attacks on Christians, there have also been attacks on Christian sites of worship, with deep historical value, particularly to the Assyrian community.”
 
Just last month, ISIS destroyed the Mar Behnam Monastery near the town of Beth Khdeda near the Kurdish border. The monastery had been built in the 4th century to memorialize a Christian martyr. This past Easter Sunday, ISIS also destroyed a church in the Syrian Kurdish (Rojava) city of al-Hasakah. The destruction of Christian heritage, both ancient and modern, is just bricks and mortar. Iraq and Syria over the last 12 years represent merely the latest iterations of existential threats to the Middle Eastern Christian rites.
 
“Less than 1% of the global Christian population lives in the Middle East and, as a result of discrimination, persecution and war, the proportion of Christians in the region has dropped from around 20% at the start of the 20th century to around 5% today. What we are witnessing now is only the latest phase of something that has been going for many decades.”
 
Christianity has been literally decimated by the onslaught in Iraq starting in 2003, then the Syrian Civil War which forced many resettled Iraqi refugees to return to northern Iraq in time for the current assault by ISIS.
 
“The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from approximately 1.5 million prior to the US-led intervention in 2003 to 350,000-450,000 (data is unreliable and some estimate as low as 150,000). Many Christians had originally fled to Syria, but the civil war forced them to return to Iraq.”
 
“However, Christianity will not be eradicated in the Middle East,” says Lenarz. Judging by the moves many of them have made, Christians will remain in the region.
 
“Kurdistan currently host over 100,000 Christian refugees from other parts of the country and Lebanon has announced it will take in an additional 5000 Christian refugees.”
 
Perhaps under the radar of Western media, a large portion of the community has escaped to other parts of the Arab World. Many have gone to the Persian Gulf, where the economy and even the culture is far more open.
 
“The Gulf states, where religious minorities can practice their faith in relative freedom, have seen their Christian population surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10-13 percent and the trend is believed to continue.”
 
Most Christians hail from the Nineveh region in northern Iraq on the border between the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. Nineveh was once the capital of the historic Assyrian Empire, now the epicentre of an embattled Christian culture.
 
Yet, there are apparently silver linings in the storm clouds that are the region’s sectarianism.
 
“In the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq - a traditionally Christian part of the country where over 30,000 members of the community were forced to flee from ISIS – a Christian militia has been established which goes by the name of Nineveh Plains Protection Units (NPU).”
 
“It is approximately 4,000 men strong, is allied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Peshmerga, receives funds from the Assyrian diaspora abroad and training from a private American security company.”
 
The Assyrian International News Agency reports that number might be as high as 5,500. Dr. Duraid Tobiya Zoma, an Assyrian and former adviser to the Governor of occupied Mosul, has said that to end Christians’ marginalization in the unified Iraq in the future that Assyrians “are requesting an autonomous region for Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain to protect them as the indigenous people, who are being extremely affected by ISIS.”
 
Despite attempts to organize the community to defend itself, the signs of a shifting future are already clear. This past Sunday’s Easter was one of emptiness for the community in a way not experienced in centuries.
 
“For the first time in 1600 years, no Christmas and Easter masses were celebrated in Mosul.”

The US is Under-Arming the Kurds against ISIS

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 07 April 2015 11:24
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq0 - ReutersAre the Kurds the West’s last hope in Iraq?
 
There is speculation that the United States and Iran have reached an understanding on the war with ISIS, which worries Israel and Sunni Arab states. If Iran is being encouraged to take the fight to ISIS, it seems the calculus is that only they are capable of beating back the Islamic State given its influence over the Iraqi government and several Shiite militias. Therefore they should be reinforced, so the logic would continue. But Iraqi Kurdistan has also been on the frontlines of the war and does not represent a major enemy for the United States or Israel or the Sunni Arab states.
 
In the past, Arab nationalists would point to Kurdistan as just another example of trying to reduce the Arab World’s power. Today, the Kurds are on the precipice of dull independence with their own seasoned military force – the Peshmerga.
 
“Data varies significantly, but Kurdish officials suggest the Peshmerga force is 190,000 men strong. 35,000 of them are incorporated in the Iraq army,” says Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre.
 
ISIS still has the military advantage in many aspects. While their advance since last summer has been halted in most places, they captured a bundle of modern American military equipment that even Iran would have trouble battling.
 
“What is clear though is that ISIS has access to a modern arsenal of weapons unmatched in the history of terrorist organizations. ISIS acquired a fleet of US-built Humvees during the assault on Mosul when the Iraqi army fled and abandoned weapons and tanks. In addition, ISIS has about 30 T-55, 15 T-62 and 5 to 10 T-72 tanks, as well as armored vehicles, grenade and rocket launchers, dozens of anti-aircraft guns and missile systems and AK-47s assault rifles.”
 
It is also difficult to estimate if the total amount of aid going to the Iraqi Kurds is really enough to fight ISIS, whose exact troop numbers remain elusive.
 
“Nobody seems to know how big ISIS really is. The US puts the number between 20,000 – 30,000 fighters; the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at 50,000; the Russians at 70,000; and some Kurdish officials even as high as 200,000.”
 
The split sovereignty between Erbil and Baghdad – the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi federal government – has complicated the Kurds’ ability to reinforce their arsenal. The issue has gotten mention in a number of circles. Last October, it was clear the United States was heavily reliant on Kurdish ground forces against ISIS, especially when it was Peshmerga who came to the aid of Kobane during the city’s siege.
 
“It has proven difficult for the Kurds to get their hands on modern and advanced weapons because supplier nations made delivery dependent on approval from Baghdad.”
 
It would be very easy for countries like the United States to ignore that rule, but the US realizes that treating Kurdistan independently on this matter lays the groundwork for treating them independently in every aspect. With that, the US and other countries are still going through Baghdad until they have decided they are ready to allow a slide toward full independence – if they decide at all.
 
“The situation has somewhat changed since the Kurds are fighting on the front line against ISIS,” says Lenarz. “Germany, for instance, has announced it will send advanced weapons to the Kurds worth €13 million. However, the Kurdish leadership complains that delivery is slow. Britain is said to have delivered no more than 40 heavy machine guns to the Peshmerga to this date.”
 
The KRG’s representative to the United States, Bayan Sami-Abdul Rahman, complained, “President Obama's Iraq train-and-equip fund, which comes to $1.6 billion, gave us great hope that American weapons would be delivered in early 2015, but since the passage of the law approving the train-and-equip fund, the vast majority of those weapons have not been delivered."
 
The Pentagon has claimed the KRG has gotten over 4 million pounds of equipment and is hardly being undercut, but Rahman has also said the US is wasting time by playing bureaucracy with Baghdad.
 
What Lenarz worries about is a future cut short if ISIS is able to catch the Kurds at a time they are under-equipped. She reiterated that while the Kurds were on the frontlines, their not-so-modern supplies were not going to cut a longer campaign against Islamic State.
 
“Whilst the Kurds have access to 2,000 armored vehicles and rocket artillery systems, a significant part of their weapon arsenal is outdated and dates back to the Soviet era.”

2,000 Evacuated from Syria's Yarmouk as ISIS Advances

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 17:51
2000 Evacuated from SyriaAround 2,000 people have been evacuated from the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus after the Islamic State (aka ISIS) group seized large parts of it, a Palestinian official told AFP Sunday.
 
“Around 400 families, approximately 2,000 people, were able to leave the camp on Friday and Saturday via two secure roads to the Zahira district, which is under army control," said Anwar Abdul Hadi, a PLO official.
 
"The evacuations are continuing on Sunday and some people are now in Yalda (a district under regime control) and waiting to be taken to shelters."
 
Syrian state news agency SANA also reported the evacuations, saying they were carried out in coordination between the army and Palestinian factions and that the government had set up shelters for those fleeing.
 
UNRWA confirmed that 94 civilians, including 43 women and 20 children, had escaped and been given humanitarian support.
 
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Palestinian forces inside Yarmouk are largely surrounded by ISIS fighters who have captured large swathes of the camp since an assault that began Wednesday.
 
Abdul Hadi said most of those evacuated from the camp were being hosted in government shelters, with at least 25 wounded taken to hospital.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, confirmed that "hundreds" of people had been evacuated from the camp.
 
It said at least 26 people, including civilians as well as fighters from ISIS and Palestinian factions, had been killed in the camp since Wednesday.
 
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said it had on Sunday given "life-saving humanitarian support to 94 civilians, including 43 women and 20 children, who fled Yarmouk."
 
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness urged the warring parties to "show maximum restraint so other civilians who wish to leave can be evacuated."
 
"We now have an intense armed conflict raging in the streets, people are cowering in their homes, too terrified to move," he said.
 
"The lives of civilians in Yarmouk have never been more profoundly threatened," the UN agency said in a statement.
 
Since the jihadist advance began Wednesday, regime forces have pounded the camp with shells and barrel bombs, according to the Observatory.
 
Palestinian officials have urged humanitarian access to the camp and called for its residents to be protected.
 
"The Palestinians are paying the price for wars and violence that are not of their making," Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech Sunday.
 
He said a solution must be found "to protect the residents of Yarmouk who have done nothing to deserve this."
 
Yarmouk, in south Damascus, was once home to 160,000 people, Syrians as well as Palestinians, but its population has dwindled to just 18,000 since the uprising erupted in March 2011.
 
The camp is encircled by government forces and was under a tight siege for more than a year.
 
Watchdog groups reported that the Syrian regime was using starvation as a weapon against the populace there, and dozens of people reportedly died of that starvation.
 
An agreement last year between rebels and the government, backed by Palestinian factions, led to an easing of the siege, but humanitarian access has remained limited.
 
Syrian troops remain outside the camp and have set up new checkpoints around Yarmouk, sources said.
 
Palestinian officials have accused Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front of helping ISIS to enter the camp.
 
Among the deaths in the fighting were at least two Palestinian fighters reportedly beheaded by ISIS, said the Observatory and jihadist social media accounts.
 
Elsewhere in the country, the Observatory and Assyrian activists said IS fighters had blown up a church in the northeastern province of Hasakeh.
 
The Assyrian Network for Human Rights said the Virgin March church in the village of Tal Nasri was blown up after Kurdish and Assyrian forces attempted to enter the area.
 
In February, ISIS forces seized 14 majority Assyrian Christian villages along the Khabur river in Hasakeh, and kidnapped at least 220 Assyrians.

ISIS Beheads Senior Hamas Operative in Syria

Category: Reports
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 12:29
isis-beheading-syriaAmong the Palestinian Arab fighters beheaded by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) in Damascus's Yarmouk camp was a senior Hamas figure in Syria, according to emerging reports.
 
On Saturday, senior Israel Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toumeh posted a graphic image which appeared to show the severed head of Sheikh Abu Salah Taha, held aloft by an ISIS fighter in Yarmouk.
 
ISIS has been involved in fierce clashes inside the camp since Wednesday, as it seeks to wrest control of it from Palestinian Islamist rebels aligned with Hamas.
 
As of Sunday morning, ISIS were said to be in control of between 50-90% of Yarmouk, according to various reports. The takeover of the camp - located at the southern edge of the Syrian capital - is the closest ISIS has come to the heart of the Assad regime. Even more alarming for the regime are reports that ISIS's Yarmouk offensive was made possible with the cooperation of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, which until now has been involved in a bloody rivalry of its own with ISIS.
 
Concerns over the possibility of further jihadi advances into Damascus have even reportedly spurred the regime into making the unprecedented move of facilitating military aid to rebels inside the camp to fend off the ISIS assault.
 
Yarmouk has been under siege by government forces for nearly two years, with some 18,000 civilians still trapped inside, and the regime is currently in control of its northernmost areas, to block off any rebel advances further into the capital. Around 2,000 of those remaining civilians have been evacuated over the weekend as the fighting worsens, according to Palestinian sources.
 
Regime airstrikes have also been witnessed in the past several hours, although as yet there is no word on any casualties.
 
Despite that ISIS appears to have the upper hand, and has reportedly set about beheading Palestinian fighters and civilians alike in areas under its control in a grisly campaign of retribution, posting evidence of its atrocities online.

Reports of Shi'ite War Crimes in Tikrit

Category: News
Created on Monday, 06 April 2015 09:45
Shia militiamen battling ISIS in Iraq file - ReutersAmnesty International said Thursday it was investigating reports of serious human rights violations committed by Iraqi government and allied forces in the operation to retake the city of Tikrit.
 
"We are very concerned by reports of widespread human rights abuses committed in the course of the military operation in the area around Tikrit," the rights watchdog's Donatella Rovera told AFP.
 
Security forces backed by paramilitary groups and supported by US-led air strikes retook Tikrit from the Islamic State (ISIS) group over the past few days.
 
Outlying areas in Salaheddin province, which had also been under ISIS control since last year, were retaken gradually over the course of the past month.
 
The operation - Baghdad's largest yet against the jihadists - was seen as a test of the Shi'ite-dominated forces' ability to retake a Sunni area while reining in reprisals against the local population.
 
"We are investigating reports that scores of residents have been seized early last month and not heard of since, and that residents' homes and businesses have been blown up or burned down after having been looted by militias," said Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty.
 
"There have also been reports of summary executions of men who may or may not have been involved in combat but who were killed after having been captured" when not in combat, she said.
 
Rovera said the latest such report was an incident Wednesday inside Tikrit.
 
The government and its coalition partners, the United Nations and rights groups have repeatedly stressed that any military victory against ISIS that comes with sectarian-driven abuses would only sow the seeds of future violence.
 
Pro-government militiamen could be seen looting shops in central Tikrit Wednesday as Iraqi forces sought to consolidate control over the city.
 
Reports of homes being torched by anti-ISIS fighters have been frequent in the course of the month-long offensive. Such allegations are generally denied by commanders on the ground who say the fires were set off by fleeing jihadists or used by their men as a way of detonating ISIS booby traps.
 
Calls for restraint
 
It is still early to assess the Iraqi forces' discipline in reconquered areas only two days after ISIS lost Tikrit and with possibly a handful of trapped jihadists and the bombs they planted across the city still posing a threat.
 
Yet analysts argued the government camp appears to have at least partially succeeded in containing a widespread desire for revenge among Shi'ite fighters.
 
"The government and the religious authorities in Najaf took this issue very seriously," said Zaid al-Ali, author of "The Struggle For Iraq's Future."
 
"They issued a number of warnings and also dispatched hundreds of preachers to the front to remind fighters not to engage in looting, collective punishment or other forms of criminal activity," he said.
 
Fanar Haddad, author of "Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity," agreed the operation could have gone much worse.
 
"While excesses have been committed and there may have even been instances of war crimes, we have yet to see evidence of what was widely feared: a systematic and pre-planned eradication of Tikrit," said Haddad, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute.
 
The US-led coalition, whose aircraft played a key role in breaking the back of ISIS resistance in Tikrit, said calls for restraint and respect of the civilian population paid off.
 
"I think the Iraqi government and the security forces and all those under the command of the security forces know the importance and profile of the issue," a senior coalition military official told AFP.
 
"It's been reinforced again and again down the chain of command, and our information is that that has been a success," the official said on condition of anonymity.
 
"The Iraqis themselves have been very clear that they will - and they know the international community will - investigate breaches in this area and bring to account those who are responsible," he said.

ISIS Seizes Palestinian Camp in Syria

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 04 April 2015 18:41
Yarmouk residents - ReutersThe Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group seized control of most of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus Wednesday, a local Palestinian official told AFP.  
 
"Fighters from IS launched an assault this morning on Yarmouk and they took over the majority of the camp," said Anwar Abdel Hadi, director of political affairs for the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Damascus.  
 
Fighting was continuing inside the camp, he said.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said ISIS was in control of a "large part" of the camp after fighting with Palestinian groups also opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.  
 
Yarmouk was once a thriving neighborhood home to 160,000 Palestinians - descendants of refugees from the Arab-Israeli conflict, who uniquely allowed to "inherit" refugee status by the UN - as well as many Syrians, but has been caught up in the country's fighting and besieged by regime forces for more than a year.
 
Only about 18,000 residents are estimated to remain in the camp after many fled the fighting.
 
Syrian rebels had withdrawn from the camp in February 2014 under a deal that left only Palestinian anti-regime groups inside.
 
The siege has caused significant shortages of food, water and drugs inside the camp.    
 
ISIS, which has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, has fought not only against the Assad regime but also against other rebel groups as it seeks to expand the territory under its control.

Life Under ISIS: No Shaving, Forced Prayer

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 04 April 2015 07:08
Islam0An Aljazeera report shines a light on the dark reality of life under the Islamist dictatorship of ISIS in Mosul, Iraq.
 
The report relies on interviews with former residents of Mosul, conducted in the Kurdish-controlled city of Erbil. Their names have been changed to protect their relatives who stayed behind.
 
One of the residents interviewed is Sidiqa, 50, who was euphoric when ISIS took contol but was in for a rude awakening. "I could not even go out on my own to get groceries," said Sidiqa, a former resident of Mosul. "As a woman, I was not allowed to go out without the company of a male family member."
 
“Billboards across the city instruct women what to wear, recommending long gowns, known as abayas, gloves and a piece of cloth fully covering the face,” Aljazeera says, but young men also suffer from a lack of freedom.
 
"We could no longer go out to coffee shops or recreational places to have fun, as simple as playing pool or smoking hookah," said Faris, Sidiqa's 18-year-old son. "We soon realized they were very interested in recruiting young men, and this meant we were targets. So, we decided to stay indoors as much as possible so as not to attract their attention."
 
ISIS has also redefined the school curriculum. "They removed biology, chemistry, history and even Islamic studies lessons from our school," said Faris, who quit high school after a month of attending his junior year. "They kept math and put heavy emphasis on Arabic and [introduced a new version of] religious studies."
 
Mutasam, a young man in his mid-20s, used to work as an aid worker for a local aid organization. When ISIS fighters entered Mosul last June, he decided to remain.
 
He recalled that a neighborhood barber had his shop closed for awhile and was forced to pay a hefty fine because he gave his customers Marine-style hairstyles that ISIS deemed un-Islamic.
 
"Men have to trim their moustache, and using razors [for shaving] is banned," explained Mutasam. "People are told to grow beards."
 
"If you happened to be on the streets during prayer times, especially in busy market areas, Hisba [ISIS's police force] would force you to go to mosque," recalled Faris. "Of course, we didn't feel we were praying from the heart any more."

Children Behead Victims in New Low for ISIS

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 22:19
Children Behead VictimsIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists have made a name for themselves through their brutality, beheading victims in front of children and having children execute victims with a gun, but in what may be a first for the jihadist group ISIS on Sunday released a video of children beheading a victim.
 
In the video nine apparent Shi'ite victims are beheaded by children, reports Channel 2.
 
At the start of the horrific clip, a child is seen sharpening knives for the inhumane act, as armed youths hustle the victims clothed in orange jumpsuits forward to be butchered.
 
"We won't forget what the (Shi'ite) regime did in the 80s in Hamah," the ISIS spokesperson is heard saying in the video, which evidently was filmed in the western Syrian city of Hamah. "We won't forget a drop of blood that was spilled on this holy earth. We will avenge them."
 
The child executioners belong to ISIS's "Cubs of the Caliphate" children's brigade, which trains children up to the age of 15, at which point they can choose to become full ISIS members with salaries.
 
Last Tuesday the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights revealed ISIS has already trained more than 400 children in Syria as fighters in 2015 alone.
 
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said "ISIS officials try to woo children with money, weapons and teaching them how to drive cars." He noted the children aren't forced to fight, but "since there are no (non-ISIS) schools, no work, this is what kids do during the day."
 
Aside from using the children for intelligence gathering missions, Abdel Rahman said ISIS had already used at least ten children as suicide bombers in Syria and had put together all-child battle units.

ISIS Chemical Weapon Attack - in Indonesia?

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 08:30
ISIS Chemical Weapon AttackIndonesian terrorists believed to have returned from fighting with the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria are suspected of being behind an attempted chlorine bomb attack in a shopping mall last month, police said Wednesday.
 
The homemade device - made up of several bottles and a detonator - was discovered in the mall south of Jakarta after it failed to go off properly. 
 
Police said it was the first such attack ever attempted in Indonesia.
 
National Police Inspector General, Tito Karnavian, said the use of the chlorine resembled tactics employed by ISIS jihadists, who have taken over a vast swath of territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
"It really surprised us," said the former commander of the police's elite counter-terror unit.
 
"This is a signature of ISIS," he added, referring to the jihadists by an alternative name. "It is connected to a group likely already returned from Syria."
 
He said police were pursuing "very good leads" into the bomb attempt but would not reveal further details. Exposure to chlorine gas causes intense irritation to the eyes, skin and airways, and can be deadly.
 
ISIS has been accused of using chlorine, notably in a January 23 car bomb attack on Kurdish forces in Iraq. The Syrian regime has also been accused of carrying out chlorine gas attacks.
 
Indonesia, a hotbed of extremist violence in the past, has largely dismantled the Islamic terrorist networks responsible for a string of deadly
attacks throughout the country in the early 2000s.
 
But the rise of ISIS poses a new threat, with nearly 160 Indonesians confirmed by police as having left to join ISIS, and authorities worried about the potential for radicals to revive extremist groups on their return.
 
Indonesian anti-terror police this week arrested five men who allegedly arranged for a group of mostly women and children to try and enter Syria to join ISIS.

ISIS Massacres Kurds on their New Year

Category: News
Created on Monday, 23 March 2015 08:04
Massacres of KurdsForty-five people, including five children, were killed in attacks on Syrian Kurds as they celebrated their new year, a monitor said Saturday, accusing the Islamic State (ISIS) group of responsibility.
 
The attacks occurred Friday in what was one of ISIS's bloodiest days in Syria as the Sunni Muslim extremist group left dead more than 120 people across the war-ravaged country, reports AFP.
 
"There are now 45 dead from last night's attacks in Hasakeh, as most of those who were in critical condition passed away," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating its toll after reporting that 33 were killed.
 
Two explosions struck as members of Syria's Kurdish minority took part in festivities on the eve of Nowruz, the Kurdish new year, in the northeastern city of Hasakeh.
 
"They were lighting the candles at night, and there were a lot children around," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
There was still no claim of responsibility, but Abdel Rahman told AFP that the Islamic State group was behind the attacks.
 
According to him, the explosions were a few hundred meters (yards) apart from each other, with at least one of them caused by a suicide bomber inside a vehicle.
 
Fear of additional attacks dimmed the spirit of the Nowruz celebrations in Hasakeh on Saturday.
 
"Today is supposed to be a day about freedom, but people were afraid of celebrating," Abdel Rahman said.
 
Hasakeh city is under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and regime forces, but ISIS terrorists have launched attacks on towns nearby.
 
The jihadist offensive has sparked fierce clashes with Kurdish militia in the province, which is strategically located along Syria's borders with Iraq and Turkey.
 
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the "heinous" attacks, while the commander of the Kurdish security forces, Joan Ibrahim, said "the crime that occurred today in Hasakeh will not pass without retribution."
 
The ISIS jihadists also attacked government checkpoints and positions in the central provinces of Homs and Hama on Friday, killing at least 82 members of forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
 
Sixty-two of those deaths were in the province of Hama alone, where ISIS attacked regime points along a key road leading north to Aleppo.
 
In the southern province of Daraa, regime forces struck rebel-held neighborhoods of the town of Busra al-Sham with at least 12 barrel bombs, the Observatory reported.
 
Barrel bombs are weapons crudely constructed of oil drums or other containers packed with explosives and usually dropped from helicopters.
 
The Observatory had no immediate report on death tolls, but human rights groups have criticized the use of barrel bombs for being indiscriminate and killing large numbers of civilians.

ISIS Beheads Kurds in Front of Children in Iraq

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 15:27
isis-beheadingThe Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed to have beheaded three Iraqi Kurdish fighters in an online video and threatened to murder more unless the Kurds stop bombardment of jihadist-controlled areas.
 
Peshmerga forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, backed by US-led air strikes, are battling ISIS in the country's north and have pushed the jihadists back in Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces.
 
The video starts with images of people being brought to a hospital and a voiceover saying that they were wounded by peshmerga rocket fire, reports AFP.
 
The three prisoners, dressed in orange jumpsuits with their hands bound, are later shown kneeling one at a time with masked terrorists standing guard at locations said to have been hit by peshmerga fire, and are then beheaded.
 
People including young children are visible looking on in the background.
 
The video was said to have been filmed in Nineveh province, though the exact location was unclear, and there was no immediate confirmation from Kurdish authorities that the victims were peshmerga.
 
One terrorist addressed Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani, saying that with "every rocket you launch against the Muslims...you will kill one of your prisoners with your hands."
 
In February ISIS released a video purporting to show more than a dozen peshmerga hostages paraded in cages.
 
ISIS spearheaded a sweeping offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last year, and peshmerga forces moved into a swathe of disputed northern territory after federal security forces withdrew.
 
The jihadists have carried out numerous atrocities in areas they control ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and mass rape.

'ISIS Destroyed Christian Civilization and the World Watches'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:18
ISIS Destroyed Christian CivilizationWaiting in an aid line outside Lebanon's capital Beirut, Assyrian Christian Francie Yaacoub remembers the well-stocked home she left behind in Syria as she fled advancing Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists.
 
"We left behind a house full of everything. Why do we now have to stand at the church door?" she asked quietly as she waited to receive aid at the Assyrian diocese of Sid al-Boushriyeh, reports AFP.
 
She is one of hundreds of Assyrian Christians who have arrived in Lebanon in recent weeks after ISIS jihadists stormed their villages in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh.
 
Members of Lebanon's Assyrian community, many of them related to those who fled Hasakeh, are doing their best to welcome the new refugees, but the displacement has left them traumatized.
 
Yaacoub, in her fifties, now lives in a small house with her son, husband and five other Assyrian refugees. Her family fled their village, Tal Nasri, during a terrifying ISIS bombardment last week.
 
"We left in our pajamas. My son walked barefoot, we left without our shoes on," she said. "The shells were falling all around us...We had to flee because the safety of your children is the most important thing."
 
Yaacoub's family was not alone - thousands of Assyrians have been forced to abandon their villages along Hasakeh's Khabur river since ISIS jihadists began an attack there in February.
 
The group has seized at least 11 of the 33 Assyrian villages in the region, and kidnapped more than 200 members of the ancient Christian sect, which numbered around 30,000 in Syria before the war.
 
Many residents fled to the city of Qamishli, or the provincial capital Hasakeh, which are both under Kurdish and Syrian government control.
 
"A great tragedy"
 
Yaacoub and her family went to Hasakeh city first, then traveled on to Damascus before finally arriving in Sid al-Boushriyeh, east of Beirut.
 
Around 300 Assyrian refugees have arrived in the district since the beginning of March, and many lined up on Tuesday afternoon at the local Assyrian diocese to receive aid distributed by the In Defense Of Christians (IDC) group.
 
"The villages of Khabur are empty now, there is no one left except some fighters," lamented Chorbishop Yatron Koliana, as he oversaw the distribution at his diocese.
 
"Our people have experienced a great tragedy in Syria," he added with a sigh, saying that many of the new arrivals were traumatized. "They are depressed. Some of them have chronic illnesses. Their lives are difficult."
 
"How can we be comfortable, living on aid?" asked 50-year-old Simaan, who fled his village Tal Hormuz.
 
He railed against what he called international indifference to the plight of Assyrians under attack by ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
 
"The whole world, from the UN to the United States and Russia, is responsible," he said angrily. "They (ISIS) have destroyed our whole civilization...and the world is watching."
 
Waiting for asylum
 
Many of those receiving aid could not yet imagine a return to villages where they say ISIS fighters blew up churches and looted homes.
 
But staying in Lebanon is not easy. Authorities granted fleeing Assyrians a special exception to tight new restrictions on Syrian refugees imposed at the beginning of this year.
 
An influx of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has tested the country's resources and the patience of its four million citizens.
 
Yaacoub's family, and the five other refugees living with them, are struggling to pay monthly rent of around $500 for their home, with little left over for food.
 
IDC representative Alexei Moukarzel, overseeing the distribution of thousands of food baskets and hundreds of mattresses, criticized a lack of international attention.
 
"The world is not paying enough attention to these groups who have been forcibly displaced," he said.
 
The Assyrians are an ancient Christian community, present in the region for thousands of years, and Koliana and the Assyrian church are determined to ensure the minority continues to be represented in the region.
 
"I urge the Assyrians now in Lebanon...to keep alive the hope of returning to Khabur, because Khabur is our land, and is where our ancestors and martyrs are buried," Koliana told AFP.
 
But many Assyrians fleeing Syria, like the Christians displaced from Iraq before them, are now seeking to leave the region altogether.
 
One man at the diocese, who refused to give his name and spoke in a barely audible whisper, acknowledged that he had no plans to stay. "I'm waiting to get asylum in Australia with my family."

ISIS Crucifixions Terrorize Nineveh Populace

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 March 2015 19:34
ISIS CrucifixionsThe Islamic State (ISIS), which has been destroying churches and forcing thousands of non-Muslim women to serve as sex slaves of the jihadists, and in Nineveh, Iraq, it is enforcing sharia law against Muslims.
 
An ISIS report from Nineveh documents in photos the carrying out of a death sentence against two Muslim locals who were convicted of armed robbery. In accordance with Muslim law, the execution was carried out in the central square, with hundreds of people looking on, including children who were in the front row.
 
Armed ISIS men secured the location and some of them were placed in observation positions in a nearby building. The convicts kneeled with their hands tied behind their backs and their eyes covered with a piece of cloth, while one of the gunmen read out the sentence.
 
Then, the executioner arrived, dressed in black, with a long sword in his hand. The decapitated bodies were crucified and the severed head was tied to one of the cross's beams.
 
Signs that were hung on the body said that the executed person had stolen Muslims' money in an armed robbery, and was therefore sentenced to death and crucifixion.
 
The executions serve ISIS as a means of deterring residents, so that they obey the Islamist terror regime without reservation, and in order to prevent an opposition from forming. At the same time, ISIS is using its control of central cities in Iraq and Syria to implement a re-education of the residents, as part of a plan to create a new jihadist generation that will continue ISIS's conquests.

ISIS Beheads 4 Government 'Recruiters' as Tikrit Advance Slows

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 March 2015 18:57
IslamThe Islamic State terrorist group posted pictures Tuesday of the beheadings of four men it said were recruiters for pro-government militia fighting its terrorists in northern Iraq.
 
The images show four men dressed in black kneeling in an empty street with knife-wielding jihadis standing behind them, after which they are pictured being beheaded.
 
Text accompanying the photographs said the beheadings were carried out in Salaheddin province, where Iraqi troops backed by militia are fighting to retake the provincial capital Tikrit from ISIS.
 
The exact location where the photos were taken was unclear, and their authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
 
A massive anti-ISIS offensive to take Tikrit by Iraqi army troops, Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias and some Sunni tribesmen has ground to a near halt, despite making significant initial gains. Ten of thousands of fighters had their advance slowed against just a few hundred ISIS jihadis by sniper fire, mines and booby traps, and on Monday a senior commander of the Shia Imam Ali Brigades militia was killed in clashes.
 
ISIS spearheaded a sweeping offensive that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last year.
 
It has carried out numerous atrocities in areas it controls ranging from public beheadings to enslavement and rape.

Temple Mount Preacher Urges ISIS to 'Trample' US, Destroy Israel

Category: News
Created on Friday, 20 March 2015 18:34
Visiting the Temple MountIslamic State is "laying siege to America," Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher Muhammad Abed ("Abu Abdallah") insisted in two separate Friday sermons from the Temple Mount. 
 
ISIS jihadists are "laying siege to America, despite its nuclear arsenal," he stated, in the clip, provided by the Middle Eastern Research Media Institute (MEMRI). "They are laying siege to Europe and the fabricated democracy, the great lie."
 
Abed further slammed America for calling Operation Inherent Resolve "the war on ISIS," but also fighting other jihadists in Iraq and Syria, for example Al Qaeda's Al-Nusra Front. 
 
"They are bombing the very idea of a Caliphate, which has taken root among the people of Syria, Iraq, and other Muslim nations," he added.
 
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He then went on to suggest that ISIS is the only vehicle for "freeing Palestine," as it were.
 
"Oh nation of Islam, only a real Caliphate is capable of satiating your hunger, of defending you and your honor, and of liberating your Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of defilers," he said. 
 
In a separate sermon, he slammed Iran for agreeing to nuclear talks, asking, "Do you think America loves you more than it loves Israel?" 
 
He intimated that the US has agreed to the talks and re-established a measure of diplomatic relations with Iran out of fear from ISIS. 
 
"America will be trampled by the hooves of the horses of the Caliph of Muslims, Allah willing," he concluded. 

Iran Deepening Involvement in Iraq's War on ISIS

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 18 March 2015 07:04
Iran in War on ISISIraqi army forces and Shi'ite militias, with the help of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, continue their fight to liberate Tikrit from Islamic State (ISIS), according to local reports Friday. 
 
Iraqi officials explained that Iranian involvement in the region is deepening. 
 
Hadi al-Aamiri, leader of the "Badr" sect of the Iraqi parliament, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Friday that the presence of Iranian advisers accompanying the Iraqi army is "a source of pride." 
 
"Why is there some sensitivity with respect to the presence of Iranian consultants here, when it is known that there are currently more than four thousand American advisers in Iraq?" he asked. 
 
"The Iranian advisers accompany us on the battlefield and give us the best counseling, and we are proud of them, because they will help us to liberate the provinces of Nineveh and al-Anbar fully after we liberate Tikrit and Kirkuk," he continued. "Those who speak against the Iranian advisers should thank and praise them - for without them and without Qasem Soleimani (commander of the Guard's Quds force), Iraq would be under ISIS rule." 
 
Some 30,000 men have been involved in a week-old operation to recapture Tikrit, one of the ISIS fighters' main hubs since they overran large parts of Iraq nine months ago.
 
Iran has been involved in the fight against ISIS before, having bombed the group’s jihadists in eastern Iraq in late 2014.

'Turkey is Backing ISIS'

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 08:17
ISISProf. Efraim Inbar, Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Arutz Sheva that Turkey has been supportive of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, as it pursues greater influence in the Middle East.
 
Some experts have called it a "Neo-Ottoman" foreign policy, to regain influence in places that were once backwater provinces to the Ottoman Empire. 
 
But plans to expand that influence have run into trouble. The relationships with both Israel and Syria have totally collapsed, but Turkey is now looking at influence through the Sunni Islamist movements in the Middle East.
 
"The Islamic Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and ISIS – Turkey does not distinguish between them," says Inbar. "They are helping ISIS with its wounded by treating them in Turkey and with weapons, and turning a blind eye to people coming (to Syria) from Europe. It has become a staging ground."
 
Professor Inbar asserts the controversial proposition that not only is Turkey neglecting the threat of ISIS in the Middle East or remaining passive to it, but actively encouraging it, a position supported by reports of Turkish sympathy to ISIS. Others on the ground do not go so far.
 
According to a report by the Kurdish Rudaw news site, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein said at a conference Thursday, “the Turkish priority is different. The Turkish priority is to remove the regime of (President Bashar al-Assad) in Syria, not ISIS."
 
In Inbar's mind, the way Turkey approached the battle of Kobane – ultimately won by Syrian and Iraqi Kurds - was fully indicative of their attitude toward Islamic State. If they had wanted to do more to liberate the city, they could have.
 
"They were going to allow Kobane to fall. It was only because of Western pressure that they let Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in from Iraq," Inbar said.
 
Changing ties with Kurds?
 
Asked if Turkey's attempts to make a breakthrough in the government's conflict with its Kurdish citizens might be a sign it is growing closer to the Kurds in Iraq and cooling its stance toward Kurdish militias fighting in Syria, Inbar was certain that they absolutely were not.
 
Regardless, Turkey has been making efforts to prop up the government in the Kurdish region of Iraq. A reported $500 million loan from Turkey is a sign they want the region stable, but Inbar says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants one thing out of Kurdistan.
 
"They want energy from the Kurdish area," he says. "This government is less afraid of Kurdish nationalism only because it is more focused on religious Islamic identity and not the ethnic Turkish identity that makes the conflict with Kurds so difficult."
 
Regardless, the money is not a sign they want a strong ally in Iraq to counter Iran - much less ISIS - but merely out of the stability that allows the Kurdish oil to flow. When asked about reports that Turkey has also sent weapons to the Kurdish region, he downplayed their significance while still being surprised that they delivered such aid to the Peshmerga.
 
"They do not want a strong Kurdish movement or government," asserts Inbar, while implying that any such aid would be out of character for Turkey. "Any weapons going to the Kurds would be surprising also because the Kurds have their own."
 
The claims that Turkey has sent small arms to Kurdistan were made by the same Kurdish Presidential Chief of Staff cited above, Fuad Hussein. No one has doubted the aid was sent, though as Hussein himself noted last November, Turkey had until then balked at the chance to send "heavy weapons."
 
Worries about Iran
 
While Saudi Arabia and Israel are concerned about both Iran and ISIS, a Turkey that might secretly be supportive of Islamic State would certainly be troubled by the speed with which Iran's proxies in Iraq are advancing in the ISIS-held Iraqi city of Tikrit.
 
"They do not say it openly, but they are also apprehensive about growing Iranian influence in the Middle East," said the professor. "It is not clear to what extent they're ready to do something on their own, but they might continue to strengthen anti-Assad forces." 
 
Turkey is certainly considering getting more invested in the emerging anti-Iran bloc. Recent visits to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf show that at the least the Arab states "want to use Turkey to help balance things out to Iran, at least to some extent."
 
But if Turkey wants to continue on its more assertive foreign policy path that emphasizes Turkish ambition and a Sunni Islamic identity, it might be inevitable they throw themselves into the enmity between the Iranians and the Saudis.
 
"Growing Turkish involvement is a clear departure from old Kamalist policies and they will certainly incur a cost for Turkey. But that is just another facet of the Islamization of the country," said Inbar.

Iraq's First Christian Brigade Graduates

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 07:58
Christian fighters in Syria - ReutersIraq's first Christian-only brigade of regular forces graduated Thursday to help retake the community's towns and villages from the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
The new brigade will answer to the government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, whose peshmerga fighters are playing a leading role in the war against the jihadists.
 
Fighters paraded and jumped through fiery rings in front of Kurdish and Assyrian officials in the northwestern town of Fishkhabur, near the borders with Syria and Turkey.
 
Most of Iraq's Christians lived in the Nineveh plain, an area between the main ISIS hub of Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Arbil, before ISIS fighters swept in seven months ago.
 
"Around 600 peshmerga from our Christian brothers in the Nineveh plain joined this course, which focused on physical training, military lectures and shooting exercises," said Abu Bakr Ismail, the commander of the training academy.
 
"All the participants are volunteers...and want to liberate their land from ISIS and then protect it," the Kurdish special forces major general said.
 
The new brigade is called the "Tiger Guards" and was formed out of the remnants of an Assyrian force first created in 2004 to protect churches in the region.
 
Up to 100,000 Christians fled their homes overnight in early August when ISIS fighters who had already conquered large parts of Iraq thrust into areas controlled by the peshmerga.
 
The exodus has been described as the worst disaster to befall the minority, which is one of the world's oldest Christian communities.
 
Iraq's Christians have not traditionally had strong home-grown militias and adopted a low profile when sectarian violence flared across the country a decade ago.
 
But those who haven't already fled the country have in recent months shown a willingness to take up arms and take their future into their own hands.
 
Several other Christian groups have formed in recent months in northern Iraq. They do not fall under the peshmerga's command but are hosted and supported by Kurdistan.

Wary Iraqi Forces Tighten Noose on ISIS in Tikrit

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 March 2015 10:03
Iraqi ForcesThousands of Iraqi troops and militiamen laid siege to jihadist fighters holed up in Tikrit on Thursday, wary of rushing into streets littered with bombs and infested with snipers.
 
After making major gains in and around the city on Wednesday, commanders were confident that Baghdad's biggest victory yet against the Islamic State group was only a matter of time.
 
"Now we are moving to the second phase of our plan," Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told reporters in Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital.
 
"We are very keen for our losses to be as low as possible. Time is on our side, we have the initiative," he said on the 11th day of the offensive.  
 
None of the fighting forces involved have provided casualty figures since the start of the operation to wrest back Tikrit, the largest since ISIS captured the city nine months ago.
 
Dozens of bodies are being driven south to Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf almost every day, however, and, while government forces have had the upper hand, ISIS has done damage with suicide car bombs, booby traps and snipers.
 
"We don't want to be rushed because we want to avoid casualties," Police Staff Major General Bahaa al-Azzawi told AFP in Albu Ajil, a village from which Tikrit can be seen across the Tigris river.
 
"Tikrit is sealed off from all sides," he said.
 
Troops and police as well as volunteers from the Popular Mobilization units moved deep into the northern half of Tikrit on Wednesday and finished securing outlying areas.
 
Sunni tribes fighting
 
Tikrit was the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, whose Baath party collaborated with the jihadists when they took over almost a third of the country last June.  
 
With crucial military backing from neighboring Iran and a 60-nation US-led coalition, Baghdad has rolled back some of the losses.
 
It started with operations to secure the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf and bolster Baghdad's defenses, then worked its way north, retaking Diyala province earlier this year.
 
Commanders see the recapture of overwhelmingly Sunni Arab Tikrit as a stepping stone for the reconquest of Mosul further north, Iraq's second city, which once had a population of two million.
 
Analysts say the battle for Tikrit is also a key test of how well the regular army can work with the myriad of militia groups and prevent reprisal attacks against Sunnis.
 
The defense minister, who is himself Sunni, said he was impressed with the level of cooperation and played down concerns that victory in Tikrit could further alienate the minority community.
 
"What caught my attention and was very positive, was that I met a number of fighters, maybe more than 250, who are all sons of Tikrit," he said.
 
"It sends a very positive message to the Iraqi people and lifts the spirit of the security forces," Obeidi said.
 
Concern for civilians
 
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi too hailed the advances made by government forces when he spoke to students at a technology institute.
 
"With our unity we achieve victory and the greatest example of this is today in Salaheddin and Anbar," he said.
 
ISIS launched a spectacular attack on the government-held heart of Anbar's capital Ramadi on Wednesday, using at least 12 simultaneous car bombs.  
 
Seventeen people were killed, mostly members of the security forces, in addition to a minimum of seven suicide bombers.
 
An Australian teenager was reportedly one of them, which Prime Minister Tony Abbott Thursday described as "absolutely horrific".  
 
With Iraqi forces choking jihadist fighters hunkered down in Tikrit's smoldering center, it was unclear how many civilians might still be trapped there.  
 
Shia militia leaders had warned before the offensive began that it would be an opportunity to mete out revenge for the massacre by ISIS in June of hundreds of military cadets at a nearby base called Speicher, most if not all of whom were Shia.  
 
They have since publicly urged their men to refrain from any acts that could tarnish a victory and relatively few reports of abuses have surfaced in nearly two weeks.
 
However, Amnesty International cautioned it was still too early to tell if Tikrit had been a cleaner operation than usual.
 
"For now access to combat areas is restricted and information about abuses may take time to filter out," the rights group's senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera told AFP.

ISIS Blows Up Key Tikrit Bridge to Slow Iraqi Army Advance

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 12 March 2015 10:09
ISIS Blows Up Key Tikrit BridgeThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group blew up the only bridge over the Tigris river in the entire Tikrit area Tuesday as Iraqi forces continued to seal off the city, security sources said.  
 
"The bridge was blown up by Daesh," a police colonel said, using an Arab acronym for the jihadist organisation.  
 
"A whole segment at the western end of the bridge collapsed."
 
An army lieutenant colonel said: "Their goal is to slow the advance of Iraqi troops because the bridge is the only way into Tikrit from the east."
 
The village of Albu Ajil, which Iraqi forces retook on Sunday, is on the eastern side of the river, as is the town of Al-Alam, where Sunni Islamist fighters expelled from rural areas have been regrouping.
 
Ad-Dawr, the other town where ISIS fighters have been trying to resist the huge operation launched on March 2 to retake Tikrit, lies south of the city on the eastern bank of the Tigris.
 
Commanders from the army and the government-controlled Popular Mobilization units - largely made up of Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias - have been closing in on the three urban centers over the past week.  
 
They have said their goal was to lay siege to Tikrit, a Sunni city about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad which has been under ISIS control for nine months.
 
The city, which is the home town of former president Saddam Hussein, is the toughest target for the government troops and allied militias that started winning back lost ground last year.  
 
The operation initially involved 30,000 men backed by Iraqi aircraft.
 
ISIS is believed to have only a few hundred men inside Tikrit, but government forces have said their advance has been slowed by large numbers of roadside bombs and booby traps planted by the jihadists all around the city.

Sisi Appeals for More Military Aid from the United States

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 09:31
Sisi Vows to Respond to BeheadingsEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday appealed to the United States to play a greater role in helping his country fight terrorism, as he urged the creation of an "Arab ready force" to confront the Islamic State (ISIS) and similar groups.
 
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Fox News, al-Sisi addressed the need for what he called a religious "revolution," urging moderate Muslims around the world to "stand up" against terrorists twisting their religion.
 
In the short term, he said, more military might and funding will be needed to confront the extremist threat and questioned whether the U.S. was doing enough for Egypt.
 
The Egyptian President said that while the U.S. has helped Egypt for decades, Egypt needs that help "more than ever," and wants to see a "big response from capable countries."
 
He said the suspension of American equipment and arms to his country has sent a "negative indication to the public opinion that the United States is not standing by the Egyptians."
 
The United States announced in late 2013 it would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Egypt, citing its displeasure with the military's pace of restoring democracy following the ouster of former Islamis President Mohammed Morsi.
 
American law forbids sending aid to countries where a democratic government was deposed by a military coup, though Washington has never qualified Morsi’s ouster as a "coup" and has been cautious about doing so, choosing only to condemn the violence in the country.
 
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed the United States would deliver 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt meant to support Cairo's counter-terrorism efforts. Those helicopters were indeed delivered in December.
 
Al-Sisi told Fox News the need for weapons and equipment remains "dire," and Egyptians "would like to feel that the United States is standing by them."
 
Asked directly how he and other Arab allies view U.S. leadership in the region, he answered briefly in English, "Difficult questions."
 
He also addressed his country's campaign against terrorism weeks after the Islamic State released a video showing 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded. That video triggered Egyptian airstrikes on ISIS targets in Libya -- airstrikes that, according to the Pentagon, the Egyptians did not notify the U.S. of in advance.
 
At the time, even the top Pentagon spokesman acknowledged the U.S. and Egypt have a "complex relationship."
 
While Egypt is not currently launching airstrikes alongside the U.S. and other Arab nations in Iraq and Syria, al-Sisi endorsed the idea of an "Arab ready force" with U.S. backing to take on security challenges.
 
He said this "ready force" could include his country, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and others, and be "capable of defending our national security" and confronting dangers in the region.
 
"We have to admit that terrorism is now a major threat not only to Egypt or even the immediate region, but it is a threat to the stability and security of the whole world," al-Sisi told Fox News. "We can also see that the map of terrorism and extremism is expanding, it is not recessing."
 
He also said it's important to push to "reinstate the right meaning of religion." Addressing the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, he spoke out against what he described as "political Islam."
 
He said the people of Egypt have a "real fear of this kind" of system, adding they feel "these people have turned their lives into a living hell." 

Dempsey: Escalating Airstrikes on ISIS is a Mistake

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 March 2015 12:46
Martin DempseyThe Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday defended the pace of the air war against Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists, warning that escalating bombing raids or sending in more American troops would be a mistake.
 
During a visit to a French aircraft carrier in the Gulf taking part in the air campaign, General Martin Dempsey appealed for "strategic patience" in the fight against the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria, according to AFP.
 
Expanding the air war could risk civilian casualties and play into the hands of ISIS propaganda, he said aboard the Charles de Gaulle.
 
"So we have a responsibility to be very precise in the use of air power. And that means that it takes time" to gather accurate intelligence on possible targets, Dempsey said, adding, "Carpet bombing through Iraq is not the answer."
 
The tempo of military operations also depended on the strength of the Iraqi army and the Baghdad government's willingness to reconcile with an alienated Sunni population, he said.
 
The conflict could be decided on the battlefield relatively quickly, but military operations were only part of a broader effort, said Dempsey.
 
"I do think it's going to require some strategic patience," he said, adding that "these underlying issues have to be resolved".
 
Dempsey spoke in the carrier's hangar alongside his French counterpart, General Pierre de Villiers, who said he shared the American general's view.
 
The coalition faced a "paradox" as Western countries wanted "quick results", but the Iraqi army had to be rebuilt before it could take back territory from the ISIS extremists, de Villiers said.
 
Despite the pleas for a deliberate approach, Iraq on Sunday urged the international coalition to use its air power to help protect the country's archaeological sites before ISIS extremists destroyed more precious artifacts.
 
"We request aerial support," said Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister, Adel Fahad al-Shershab.
 
Recent attacks on Iraq's historic heritage have taken place in the northern province of Nineveh, where Baghdad lacks troops on the ground.
 
On Saturday it was reported that ISIS terrorists had destroyed the ancient city of Hatra, a stunning Roman period ancient fortress city in the Iraqi desert. The group previously began bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and before that  released a video showing its members armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum.
 
Washington has faced criticism from some Arab allies that the air campaign launched in August is ineffective and overly cautious.
 
Hawkish American lawmakers have called for sending in more special operations forces to help guide Iraqi troops in combat and direct air strikes.
 
But Dempsey said there was no need to increase the number of American troops advising and training local forces, as the Iraqi army was not ready for a larger-scale effort.
 
"We've got trainers and advisers that are waiting for some of the Iraqi units to show up," the general said of the 2,600-strong U.S. contingent. "And when they've shown up, a handful of them, they've shown up under strength and sometimes without the proper equipment."

40 Killed as Kurds Battle ISIS for Key Syrian Town

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 March 2015 20:46
Kurds Battle ISISAt least 40 Kurdish fighters and Islamic State group (ISIS) jihadists have been killed in clashes for control of a strategic town in north Syria, a monitor said on Sunday.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that 11 civilians were killed in a government air raid on the rebel-held town of Irbin northeast of Damascus.  
 
The clashes that erupted on Saturday as ISIS launched an offensive aimed at seizing Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province from Kurdish forces have killed 40 fighters on both sides, it said.
 
"Fierce battles broke out during the past 24 hours around Tal Tamr... that killed 40 fighters," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
He said the fighting erupted when ISIS advanced close to the town, but the Kurds called in reinforcements and were able to repel the Islamists.  
 
IS has been trying to capture Tal Tamr because of its strategic location.
 
Taking it would allow ISIS to dominate a key road between the eastern part of Hasakeh and the town of the same name that are held by the Kurds, and also gain access to the Iraqi border and the jihadist bastion in Mosul beyond.
 
Sunday's raid on Irbin near Damascus during which missiles were fired at the town also wounded 50 people, some of them critically, the Observatory said.  
 
It also reported several civilians wounded in regime-held areas of Damascus by rebel rocket fire, without giving a precise toll.  
 
Elsewhere, clashes were still under way around the Aleppo province villages of Handarat and Bashkoy between regime forces and fighters from the Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Nusra Front.
 
The Observatory said that a child and a local Nusra commander were killed in the fighting.  
 
A military source told AFP that loyalist forces had launched an overnight offensive on rebel positions in Handarat after failing to recapture it last month.

Coalition Must Save Iraq Heritage Sites

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 March 2015 20:22
Iraq Heritage SitesThe US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group must try to protect archaeological sites being destroyed by the jihadists, Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister said Sunday.
 
ISIS recently smashed priceless artifacts at the Mosul museum, then bulldozed the city of Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century BC.
 
The jihadists may now have turned their attention to the extremely well preserved fortress city Hatra, which is over 2,000 years old and a UNESCO world heritage site, with the United Nations condemning its reported "destruction."
 
"The sky is not in the hands of the Iraqis, the sky is not in our hands. Therefore, the international community must move with the means it has," Adel Fahad al-Shershab told AFP in Baghdad.
 
"We request aerial support," Shershab said.
 
Asked specifically if he wanted coalition strikes to protect archaeological sites, he responded: "What I request from the international community and the international coalition is to carry out air strikes against terrorism wherever it is found."
 
The attacks on Iraq's archaeological heritage took place in ISIS-held areas in the northern province of Nineveh, where Iraq does not have security forces that are able to respond on the ground.
 
But targeting terrorists destroying archaeological sites would be a departure for the coalition, which is carrying out strikes aimed at weakening ISIS military capabilities in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
 
"The site of Hatra is a site in the desert where it is possible to see any infiltration" from the air, Shershab said of the ancient city, which features a unique blend of eastern and western architecture.
 
"It was expected that they (ISIS) would destroy it," he said.
 
But it remains unclear whether large-scale destruction was carried out at Hatra, whose thick walls and large buildings withstood two Roman invasions in the 2nd century AD.
 
Shershab said his ministry had not been able to officially confirm what had happened because the area is held by ISIS.
 
The jihadists spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, and Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition and Iran are battling to push them back.
 
ISIS tries to justify the destruction of antiquities by saying they are idolatrous, but experts say the group traffics in them to fund its self-proclaimed "caliphate" and destroys only those pieces that are too bulky to be smuggled.
 
Shershab echoed the point on Sunday: "They say 'it is haram' (forbidden by Islam). At the same time they are selling (artifacts) and benefiting financially."
 
The timing of the attacks suggests they are more for propaganda purposes than a matter of religious conviction, as the terrorists have controlled the areas where the sites are located for close to nine months.

Moroccan Mother Arrested for Recruiting Women to ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 March 2015 18:46
iraq-women-afpA Moroccan woman was arrested at a Spanish airport Saturday on suspicion of recruiting European and North African women to join the Islamic State group, authorities said, according to AFP.
 
The suspect, named as Samira Yerou, was sent to Spain by Turkish authorities after they caught her trying to illegally enter Syria, Spain's
interior ministry said. Spain had issued an international arrest warrant for the woman.
 
Spanish authorities, who believe Yerou was seeking to meet up with ISIS, took her into custody after she flew into Barcelona-El Prat Airport.
 
Yerou "could have played an important role in recruiting and sending of women sympathizers of the terrorist group in Europe and Morocco," the ministry said.
 
She was with her three-year-old son when trying to get into Syria. The boy's father filed a complaint when Yerou and the child disappeared from the Spanish city of Rubi, which is near Barcelona, in December.
 
"The child is in perfect health and has been reunited with his father," the ministry said.
 
Like many European countries, Spain is battling against the radicalization of young people seeking to join up with ISIS in Syria and Iraq and it has dismantled several recruitment networks in recent months.
 
Spanish authorities believe about 100 Spaniards have joined Islamists in Iraq and Syria, a relatively low figure when compared with the
number of French, British and German nationals who have sought to fight with the group.
 
Overall, about 550 young women have joined ISIS, according to an estimate from London-based think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Pledges Allegiance to ISIS

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 March 2015 18:50
boko-haramThe leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist group, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) group in an audio recording released Saturday.
 
"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi," said the voice on the message, which was believed to be that of Shekau and was released through Boko Haram's Twitter account.
 
Qurashi is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS which has proclaimed a "caliphate" in parts of Syria and Iraq.
 
Shekau spoke in Arabic, but the message contained French and English subtitles.
 
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the message.
 
Shekau was not pictured, a contrast from most of Boko Haram's past messages in which the Islamist leader has been shown, often in close up shots.
 
But Shekau did identify himself in the recording, which was accompanied by the subtitles and a graphic including an image of a radio microphone.
 
There have in recent months been signs of closer ties between the Nigerian jihadists and the Islamic State group, with both using similar ways of communicating with the outside world. Boko Haram has notably begun releasing videos that resemble those made by ISIS.  
 
Boko Haram has been waging a six-year uprising against the Nigerian stat to implement an Islamic state of its own in the country, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.  
 
Analysts have long debated the extent of Boko Haram's ties to other jihadist groups, but the evidence was never clear.

ISIS Destroys Ancient City of Hatra

Category: Reports
Created on Saturday, 07 March 2015 18:29
Hatra IraqThe United Nations' cultural body on Saturday condemned the "destruction" by the Islamic State jihadist group of Hatra, a stunning Roman period ancient fortress city in the Iraqi desert, according to AFP. 
 
The destruction of the UNESCO world heritage site was reported two days after the Iraqi antiquities ministry said that ISIS bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, and a week after the jihadists released a tape of them smashing artifacts in the Mosul museum.
 
"The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing under way in Iraq," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said.
 
Hatra is an extremely well-preserved city with a unique mix of eastern and western architecture, located in a desert area about 60 miles (100 kilometres) southwest of the northern jihadist hub of Mosul.
 
"Official sources today reported the destruction of the World Heritage property of Hatra," the organisation said in a statement.
 
The UNESCO statement did not say when or how Hatra, which was built around 2,200 years ago, was destroyed, nor was any Iraqi official able to provide such details.
 
Mohammed Nuri, an MP from southern Nineveh province, where Hatra is located, said that "until this moment, there are no confirmed reports that Hatra has been destroyed."
 
"Hatra is somewhat isolated, and residents are not nearby," he said. "I have not heard of someone who physically saw the destruction taking place."
 
A statement from Iraq's tourism and antiquities ministry also condemned the destruction of the city, but it only cited media reports and did not directly confirm the incident.
 
Arab capital
 
However, after smashing statues in the Mosul museum and at an archaeological site in the city, ISIS terrorists reportedly warned a guard that they would go on to destroy Nimrud and Hatra.
 
But razing the entire site of Hatra, whose thick walls and large buildings withstood two Roman invasions in the 2nd century, would be no small undertaking.
 
UNESCO describes Hatra as "a large fortified city under the influence of the Parthian Empire, the capital of the first Arab kingdom, and bearing the roots of Islamic Arab cities."
 
"This is a direct attack against the history of Islamic Arab cities, and it confirms the role of destruction of heritage in the propaganda of extremist groups," Bokova said.
 
She co-signed the statement with Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).
 
The jihadists try to justify the destruction by saying the statues and sites are idolatrous, but experts say they traffic antiquities to fund their
self-proclaimed "caliphate" and destroy only those pieces that are too bulky to be smuggled.
 
The timing of the attacks also indicates that they are more for propaganda than religious purposes, as there were more than eight months in which the terrorists controlled the areas where the sites are located.
 
"This is part of their propaganda, it is designed to shock us," said Eleanor Robson, professor of ancient near eastern history at University College London.
 
Powerless
 
The Islamic State group, which conquered nearly a third of Iraq virtually unopposed nine months ago, has built a reputation as the most violent group in modern jihad by beheading and crucifying its victims in public or on tape.
 
But Iraq's allies, led by the United States and Iran, have since come to the rescue and helped organize a major counter-offensive that is steadily shrinking ISIS's footprint.
 
After being forced out of the province of Diyala earlier this year, the jihadists are now fighting off a huge assault on the city of Tikrit as
government and allied forces continue to work their way north towards the main ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
 
The spate of attacks on heritage sites in a region described as the cradle of civilization has sparked a global outcry and drawn comparisons with the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of the Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan.
 
Hatra is one of only four UNESCO world heritage sites in Iraq and one of its most famous archaeological treasures.
 
"It was ruled by Arab kings and thrived as a major staging post along the famous Silk Road of ancient times linking the East to Palmyra (in Syria) and further on to the shores of the Mediterranean," said Ihsan Fethi, an Iraqi architect and heritage expert.
 
The archaeological world had been resigned to the prospect of Hatra's destruction.
 
"Now we are confronted with our worst fears -- a senseless and fanatical campaign of destruction and about which we can do very little," Stuart Gibson, a UNESCO expert on museums, had told AFP before reports of Hatra's destruction.

UAE Airstrikes Hit ISIS Oil Pipelines

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 March 2015 18:03
Mariam Al-MansoThe United Arab Emirates said Saturday its warplanes had carried out raids against oil installations held by the Islamic State group, which controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
 
The state news agency WAM did not say where the raids struck, only that UAE fighter jets took off overnight Friday from their base in Jordan, another partner in the US-led coalition against the jihadists.
 
"UAE Air Force F-16 squadron deployed to an airbase in Jordan conducted fresh air strikes last night against the terrorist organization (ISIS)," WAM said.
 
The planes hit several ISIS "operation and extraction points along crude oil pipelines in order to dry up the terror group's sources of funding", it said, adding they all returned safely.
 
It was the second reported air strikes by UAE aircraft since February 16 when warplanes from the Gulf federation also took off from Jordan and hit oil refineries held by ISIS.
 
The location of last month's strikes was not specified either.
 
The UAE suspended participation in the US-led coalition against ISIS in December amid reported differences with Washington on ways and means of rescuing downed coalition pilots.
 
But it resumed air strikes in February and deployed a squadron the F-16s to Jordan after jihadists murdered a Jordanian pilot captured in December when his place went down over Syria.
 
ISIS released a video in early February showing the burning to death of Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
Coalition strikes have frequently targeted oil facilities run by ISIS which has made huge profits from illegal oil sales.
 
A UN report in November estimated that ISIS was earning between $850,000 and $1.6 million daily from oil sales.

Charities Cut Funds to Rights Group Linked to 'Jihadi John'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 March 2015 14:51
Jihadi JohnTwo charities have stopped funding a rights group in contact with the man thought to be Islamic State group executioner "Jihadi John" before he left for Syria, Britain's charities regulator has said.
 
Rights group Cage describes its work as supporting people arrested or raided as a result of the "war on terror" following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
 
It worked with Mohammed Emwazi for over two years and, when he was identified by the Washington Post as "Jihadi John" last month, its research director Asim Qureshi described him as a "beautiful young man" and blamed British intelligence for radicalising him.
 
That claim was described as "reprehensible" by Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman.
 
The Charity Commission, a government body, said Friday that two charities, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Roddick Foundation, have ceased giving money to Cage and will not do so in future.
 
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust had given £271,250 (376,000 euros, $408,000) to Cage between 2007 and 2014 while the Roddick Foundation - set up by the late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick - gave £120,000 between 2009 and 2012.
 
The Charity Commission said that public statements by Cage had "heightened concerns about the use of charitable funds to support their activities."
 
"In our view, those statements increased the threat to public trust and confidence in charity and raised clear questions for a charity considering funding Cage's activities as to how the trustees of those charities could comply with their legal duties as charity trustees," it added.
 
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust said in a statement that it had come under "intense regulatory pressure" to cease funding Cage.
 
"In the light of regulatory pressure and to protect the interests of all our grantees and the other work of the trust, we have decided to publicly confirm that we will not fund Cage either now or in the future," it added.
 
Cage spokesman Amandla Thomas-Johnson said it respected the charities' decisions and thanked them for their past support.
 
"Cage will remain committed to its principle of speaking truth to power and calling for accountability and transparency," he added.
 
"We will not hesitate in performing our role as whistleblowers and as advocates for due process."

ISIS Begins Bulldozing Ancient Iraqi City

Category: News
Created on Friday, 06 March 2015 15:40
ISISThe Islamic State (ISIS) group began bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq on Thursday, the government said, in the jihadists' latest attack on the country's historical heritage.
 
ISIS "assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles," the tourism and antiquities ministry said on an official Facebook page and was quoted by AFP.
 
An Iraqi antiquities official confirmed the news, saying the destruction began after noon prayers on Thursday and that trucks that may have been used to haul away artifacts had also been spotted at the site.
 
"Until now, we do not know to what extent it was destroyed," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century BC, lies on the Tigris around 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Mosul, Iraq's second city and the main hub of IS in the country.
 
The destruction at Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, came a week after the jihadist group released a video showing its members armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum.
 
That attack sparked widespread consternation and alarm, with some archaeologists and heritage experts comparing it to the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
 
According to ISIS’s extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith.
 
The group spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran Nineveh province, where Mosul and Nimrud are located, and swept through much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland.
 
Iraqi security forces and allied fighters are battling to regain ground from the jihadists with backing from an international anti-ISIS coalition as well as neighboring Iran.
 
Major operations to drive ISIS out of Nineveh are likely months away, however, leaving the province's irreplaceable historical sites at the mercy of the group’s terrorists who have no regard for Iraq's past.

UNESCO: ISIS Antiquities Destruction in Iraq a 'War Crime'

Category: News
Created on Friday, 06 March 2015 09:18
islamic-state-iraq-nineveh-cultural-heritage-political-violenceThe head of UNESCO condemned on Friday the destruction of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq by the Islamic State group, saying it amounted to a "war crime." 
 
"I condemn with the strongest force the destruction of the site at Nimrud," Irina Bokova said in a statement.
 
She said she had already spoken with the heads of the UN Security Council and International Criminal Court (ICC) on the issue.
 
"We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime," she said. "I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity's cultural heritage."
 
ISIS "assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles," Iraq's government said on Thursday.
 
An antiquities official said the destruction began after noon prayers on Thursday and that trucks may have been used to haul away artifacts.
 
"UNESCO is determined to do whatever is needed to document and protect the heritage of Iraq and lead the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural artifacts, which directly contributes to the financing of terrorism," said Bokova. "At stake is the survival of the Iraqi culture and society."
 
The destruction at Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, came a week after the jihadist group released a video showing its members armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum.
 
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That attack sparked widespread consternation and alarm, with some archaeologists and heritage experts comparing it to the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
 
According to ISIS’s extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith.
 
The group spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran Nineveh province, where Mosul and Nimrud are located, and swept through much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland.

Official: US Military Specifically Targeting 'Jihadi John'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 March 2015 10:23
Jihadi JohnA senior US senator said on Sunday that US forces were specifically targeting ISIS terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, the London man dubbed "Jihadi John" believed responsible for videotaped executions of several US and other Western hostages.
 
"Oh, yes. He's a target. There should be no question about that," former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein told CBS television's "Face the Nation."  
 
The comments came not long before a major operation commenced Monday to take the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit from ISIS, also known as "Islamic State" (IS), which has turned the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein into a jihadi stronghold.
 
Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds.
 
Government forces have been working their way north in recent months, notching up key victories against IS but Tikrit, which has resisted them several times, is their toughest target yet.  
 
Building on recent successes, commanders voiced hope that the broadest operation since IS overran swathes of the country last June would be a step towards the liberation of Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq.  
 
"Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north)," a senior army officer on the ground told AFP by telephone.  
 
The operation began in early morning after being announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the previous evening.
 
The army officer said the forces involved in the battle were from the army, police, counter-terrorism units, a government-controlled volunteer group known as the Popular Mobilization units and local Sunni tribes opposed to IS.  
 
"The attack is being carried out using fighter jets, helicopters and artillery targeting Tikrit to secure the advance and cut supply routes," he said.  
 
Military sources said Iraqi warplanes were involved but it was not immediately clear whether foreign air support - Iranian or from the US-led coalition fighting IS - was also called in.
 
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According to both Iraqi and Iranian media, Qassem Soleimani - the commander of the Al-Qods Force covert operations unit of Tehran's elite Revolutionary Guards - was in Salaheddin province to help coordinate operations.
 
Appeal to spare civilians
 
Abadi urged the security forces on Sunday to spare civilians during the offensive.
 
Speaking from Samarra, the other main city in Salaheddin province, he appeared to be addressing fears of reprisals against the Tikrit area's Sunni population.
 
"The priority we gave to the armed forces and all the forces taking part alongside them is to preserve the security of citizens," he told reporters.  
 
On social media, he called "for utmost care in protecting civilian lives and property."  
 
Hadi al-Ameri, the Popular Mobilization commander and a central figure in Iraq's fightback against IS, appealed to Tikrit residents on Saturday to leave their homes within 48 hours so government forces could "wrap up the battle of the revenge for Speicher."
 
Speicher is a military base near Tikrit from which hundreds of new, mostly Shiite, recruits were kidnapped before being executed in the early days of the IS offensive that swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad last June.  
 
Shia Islamist militias - fighting alongside the Iraqi army but trained and funded by Iran - have vowed to avenge the Speicher executions, sparking fears of mass killings against Sunnis if Tikrit were to be recaptured.
 
Some Sunni tribes in the Tikrit area have been accused of direct involvement in the Speicher massacre.  
 
Abadi appealed to residents to turn against the jihadists, who have suffered a string of military losses since Iraq's foreign partners stepped up their support.
 
"I call on all those who were misled and made mistakes in the past to lay down their arms today. This may be the last chance," Abadi said, suggesting some could be granted amnesty.

Iraq: Major Military Offensive Begins to Seize ISIS Stronghold

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 March 2015 09:34
Major Military Offensive against ISIS StrongholdSome 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded Sunni jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State terror group's main strongholds.  
 
"Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north)," an army lieutenant colonel on the ground told AFP by telephone.  
 
Iraqi forces are also "moving along side roads to prevent Daesh's escape," he said, using an Arab acronym for IS (also known as ISIS), which has controlled the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein for nearly nine months.    
 
The operation, which is one of the most ambitious undertaken by Baghdad to roll back the gains made by IS last June, began in early morning after being announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the previous evening.
 
The army officer said the forces involved in the battle were from the army, police, counter-terrorism units, a government-controlled volunteer group known as the Population Mobilization units and local Sunni tribes opposed to IS.
 
"The attack is being carried out using fighter jets, helicopters and artillery targeting Tikrit to secure the advance and cut supply routes," he said.
 
Military sources said Iraqi warplanes were involved but it was not immediately clear whether foreign air support - Iranian or from the US-led coalition fighting IS - was also called in.  
 
Appeal to spare civilians
 
Abadi urged the security forces on Sunday to spare civilians during the operation.
 
Speaking from Samarra, the other main city in Salaheddin province, he appeared to be addressing fears of reprisals against the Tikrit area's Sunni population.
 
"The priority we gave to the armed forces and all the forces taking part alongside them is to preserve the security of citizens," he told reporters.
 
On social media, he called "for utmost care in protecting civilian lives and property."  
 
Many of the Shia Islamist militias - which, though fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, are financed, armed and trained by Iran - have been accused of committing widespread atrocities against Sunni civilians.
 
Hadi al-Ameri, the Popular Mobilisation commander and a central figure in Iraq's fightback against IS, appealed to Tikrit residents on Saturday to leave their homes within 48 hours so government forces could "wrap up the battle of the revenge for Speicher."
 
Speicher is a military base near Tikrit from which hundreds of new, mostly Shiite, recruits were kidnapped before being executed in the early days of the IS offensive that swept through much of the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad last June.
 
Shiite militias in particular have vowed to avenge the Speicher executions, sparking fears of mass killings against Sunnis if Tikrit were to be recaptured.  
 
Some Sunni tribes in the Tikrit area have been accused of direct involvement in the Speicher massacre.
 
Abadi appealed to residents to turn against the jihadists, who have suffered a string of military losses since Iraq's foreign partners stepped up their support.
 
"I call on all those who were misled and made mistakes in the past to lay down their arms today. This may be the last chance," Abadi said, suggesting some could be granted amnesty.
 
Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river around 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad.

Top ISIS Commanders Killed in Air Strike

Category: Reports
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 08:25
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first appearance in Mosuls Great Mosque - ReutersAn Arab satellite television network report claimed Thursday that a US-led coalition airstrike against Islamic State targets in areas they control has killed a “large number” of the organization's top commanders.
 
It is not yet clear if ISIS' top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed.
 
The report on Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the US-led coalition as saying that the airstrike at a location on the Syria-Iraq border resulted in the deaths of “dozens” of top ISIS commanders.
 
The group was meeting in the city of Ka'im, and coalition forces, alerted to the meeting by ground intelligence, took advantage of the situation to eliminate the commanders.
 
Iraqi sources said that al-Baghdadi was set to attend the meeting, and may have been on his way there when the coalition planes struck. The fighters that carried out the strike were flown by French pilots.
 
Reports from the region indicated that coalition forces struck hard in a number of ISIS-controlled cities, and that damage across the area occupied by the terror group was widespread.
 
Witnesses said that ISIS militia ordered people to remain in their homes until further notice, and that fresh forces from neighboring states had poured in to help fight the coalition forces.

1,000 Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 01 March 2015 07:34
Assyrian Christian Families Flee Syria JihadistsNearly 1,000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their homes in northeastern Syria after jihadists kidnapped dozens of members of their community, an activist said on Wednesday.  
 
Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network, said they had fled in fear after jihadists from the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) took the Assyrian Christians hostage early this week.
 
"Since Monday, 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and another 150 in Qamishli," a Kurdish town on the border with Turkey, Edward told AFP.
 
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Edward said that, according to his sources in the community, ISIS terrorists had kidnapped "between 70 and 100 people, mainly women, children and the elderly."    
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said earlier that ISIS had taken 90 Assyrian Christians hostage in Hasakeh province since Monday.
 
Assyrian Christians, who are from one of the world's oldest Christian communities and whose presence in the Middle East predates Islam, have been under increasing threat since ISIS seized control of large parts of Syria.  
 
The group, which also holds swathes of Iraq, last year declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control and has committed widespread atrocities.
 
A native of part of the region where 35 Assyrian villages are located, Edward said "the jihadists broke into houses at around 4:00 a.m. while everyone was asleep" on Monday.
 
ISIS has since Monday captured at least a dozen villages in the area, Edward said, including his wife's hometown of Tal Shamiram.
 
"When she tried to reach her uncle by telephone, a man replied and said: 'This is the house of the Islamic State,'" Edward said.  
 
He said the hostages were taken to Shaddadi, an ISIS stronghold in Hasakeh province.  
 
The jihadists had been intimidating the Assyrian villagers for several weeks, he said, including by threatening to remove crosses from their churches.  
 
"People were expecting an attack, but they thought that either the Syrian army - which is just 30 kilometers (20 miles) from there - or the Kurds or the (US-led) coalition's strikes would protect them," he added.
 
A US-led coalition launched strikes against ISIS positions in Syria in September.
 
"ISIS has been losing territory because of the international coalition's strikes and they took the hostages to use them as human shields," Edward said.
 
The crisis for Christian communities in ISIS's crosshairs bears many chilling similarities to the plight of Syria's Yazidi community, which has been ravaged by massacres and forced expulsions at the hands of the jihadists.

ISIS Destroys Artifacts in Iraq Museum

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 28 February 2015 22:33
ninewa-museumThe Islamic State group released a video Thursday in which terrorists in Iraq are seen destroying ancient artifacts that included idols, which are prohibited by the Muslim faith, AFP reports. 
 
The five-minute video shows terrorists at the museum in Mosul knocking statues off their plinths and smashing them to pieces with sledgehammers.
 
In another scene, a jackhammer is used to deface a large Assyrian winged bull at an archeological site in the city, which the Sunni extremist group captured last summer.
 
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"Muslims, these artifacts behind me are idols for people from ancient times who worshipped them instead of God," said a bearded terrorist speaking to the camera.
 
"The so-called Assyrians, Akkadians and other peoples had gods for the rain, for farming, for war... and they triedassyria-museum-artifacts-baghdad-iraq to get closer to them with offerings," he goes on.
 
"The prophet removed and buried the idols in Mecca with his blessed hands," he said, referring to the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
 
Experts said the items destroyed include original pieces, reconstructed fragments and copies.
 
They include many pieces from the Assyrian and Parthian eras dating back several centuries before the common era.
 
Iraq's Assyrians are now a Christian minority who consider themselves to be the region's indigenous people.
 
Several Assyrian villages were seized by ISIS fighters in neighboring Syria in recent days and at least 220 Assyrians kidnapped in the process.
 
The jihadists have controlled Mosul, Iraq's second city, since seizing it in a June offensive that saw them conquer large parts of the country.
 
They have systematically targeted minorities in and around Mosul and destroyed heritage sites, sparking global indignation.

Libya: ISIS Bombers Threaten to Invade Europe

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 26 February 2015 09:41
isis-attackA video released by ISIS in Libya and published by the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat shows the two perpetrators of a deadly attack on the Corinthia Hotel in January threatening that ISIS's newly-established presence in the country would be used as a springboard to invade Europe.
 
The footage itself is believed to have been taken in western Libya, where a rival parliament has been set up in the city of Tripoli amid ongoing violent unrest between various warring factions in the country, which has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
 
The two terrorists - who were killed during the deadly attack on January 17 which left 10 others dead, including an American and two French citizens - are identified as foreign fighters "Abu Ibrahim" from Tunisia and "Abu Salman" from Sudan.
 
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The masked Sudanese jihadist begins the video with a call for Libyans to "rise up" against the western-backed Libyan government, which is based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.
 
His Tunisian partner - whose face is uncovered but blurred out - claims that ISIS intends to use its bases in Libya to "open the gates" to the "Maghreb," or northern Africa. 
 
Although ISIS - or the Islamic State, as it refers to itself - is mainly based in Syria and Iraq, affiliates have been active for some time in parts of northern Africa, particularly in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis jihadist group last year pledged its allegiance to ISIS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
 
But just last month the Islamist terrorist group's presence in Libya hit headlines, when it broadcast the brutal mass-execution of 21 Coptic Christians, triggering reprisal air-raids from Egypt and a mass-exodus of Egyptian workers from the country.
 
It highlighted concerns over ISIS's ability to recruit and set up bases beyond its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, raising the prospect it could export its religious war throughout the region.
 
But the presence of an active Libyan cell - where several Islamist militias pledged allegiance to the group back in late 2014 - is viewed as particularly worrying due to Libya's close proximity to Italy. 
 
Libya is a regular smuggling route for illegal immigrants and refugees into Europe, something the Tunisian terrorist is clearly aware of, as he vows that the group plans to use Libya as a base to spread into the European continent.
 
Thousands of western-born Muslims are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, most of whom are from Europe, leading European and other western intelligence agencies to warn of the potential for radicalized and battle-hardened ISIS recruits returning home to carry out attacks.
 
Although no western fighters are known to be operating in Libya, the establishment of an ISIS presence so close to Europe will be viewed with considerable concern by European security agencies.

Iraq Irate at US for Giving Date of Mosul Campaign

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 08:38
ISIS-captured Mosul file - ReutersIraqi officials have expressed irritation and analysts skepticism at the US prediction that an offensive to retake Iraq's key city of Mosul from jihadists could be launched in April-May.
 
Mosul is a major hub for the Islamic State (ISIS) group and holds special significance as the place where jihadist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.
 
It has been under the jihadists' full control since the second day of their June offensive in Iraq, but federal and Kurdish forces have been slowly closing in, reports AFP.
 
An official with the US Central Command said last week that "the mark on the wall we are still shooting for is the April-May timeframe."
 
The rationale is to launch the operation before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which will start in mid-June, and searing summer temperatures, he said.
 
US President Barack Obama's envoy for the international coalition against ISIS, John Allen, said in October that any attempt to wrest back Mosul, Iraq's second city, could be a year away.
 
Iraq's defense minister, Khaled Obeidi, was irate that the Pentagon would call a date for the Mosul battle.
 
"A military official should not disclose the date and time of an attack," he told reporters on Sunday. "The timing is up to (Iraqi) military commanders. Where this American official got his information from, I don't know."
 
In a possible sign of the sensitivities of such issues, these comments were cut out of video footage of his press conference subsequently posted online by the defense ministry.
 
Together with Iran, the United States has been Iraq's top foreign partner in the war against ISIS and has launched almost daily strikes around Mosul since August 2014.
 
Some Iraqi officials have been gung-ho about a Mosul offensive, arguing that no more time could be wasted to claim the country back, but preparations have been slow.
 
Mosul, biggest operation ever for Iraqi army
 
Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker and senior leader in the Sarayat al-Salam Shi'ite militia, argued it was more pressing to liberate the western province of Anbar, which borders Baghdad.
 
"We need more time (for Mosul)...maybe by the end of the year," he told AFP. "The army needs more training, equipment, and arms to be able to do this."
 
"Yes we want to liberate Mosul and we support its liberation, but there are important flashpoints that need to be secured and we should not stretch ourselves too thin," Zamili said.
 
Mosul is a large city whose population was estimated at close to two million prior to the June 2014 ISIS assault.
 
Ten years ago, it took 10,000 highly trained US marines to clear Fallujah, a city the fraction of Mosul's size.
 
With Mosul, "the challenge is enormous, it would be a bigger operation than the post-Saddam Iraqi military has ever accomplished," said Nate Rabkin, the managing editor of the Inside Iraqi Politics newsletter.
 
Months of coalition air strikes have weakened ISIS's grip on the Mosul region, cutting some supply roads and destroying some of the military equipment they had seized from the army.
 
But the US Central Command official said 20,000-25,000 federal, Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces would be needed to defeat 1,000-2,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul.
 
"It would be extremely difficult to get these numbers of Iraqi army forces or ministry of interior forces into Mosul by summer 2015," said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute.
 
The United States officially has hundreds of forces in Iraq, advising and training the army, but there is no sign that process is near completion.
 
Beyond just finding the manpower, the Iraqi army would need to achieve a quantum leap in logistics to coordinate and supply different forces in a broad operation.
 
Relations between the autonomous Kurdish government and the federal authorities in Baghdad, currently strained by a revenue-sharing dispute, would also have to improve.
 
Knights said the timeframe given by the Pentagon official may have been more of a political message that a blurted military secret.
 
"I think it is a misstatement of US policy," he said, arguing that everything so far suggested Washington was trying to slow Baghdad's schedule down rather than pushing for quick action. "Maybe Iraq wants to go next week, and this is our attempt to hold them off till later."

ISIS Kidnaps 90 Christians in Syria, Says Monitor

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 11:05
ISIS Kidnaps 90 ChristiansJihadists from the Islamic State group (ISIS) have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians in northeast Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The Britain-based monitor said the abductions took place on Tuesday after ISIS seized two Assyrian villages from Kurdish forces in the province of Hassakeh, reports AFP.
 
The abduction raises particular concerns after ISIS last Sunday released video showing its terrorists beheading Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
 
US-led air strikes against ISIS in Syria have killed more than 1,600 people, mainly jihadists, since they began five months ago, the Observatory said Monday. Almost all of those killed were jihadists from ISIS and Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Nusra Front, though the Observatory also documented the deaths of 62 civilians.
 
The strikes that began on September 23 reportedly killed 1,465 members of the Islamic State group, most of them non-Syrians. Another 73 fighters from Nusra Front were killed, along with a man from a rebel group being held prisoner by ISIS in the group's de facto capital Raqa.
 
Washington and a small coalition of Arab countries began strikes against ISIS in Syria last year, expanding US-led operations with a broader coalition already underway against ISIS in Iraq
 
New Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Monday vowed "lasting defeat" of ISIS as he summoned top generals and diplomats to Kuwait to review the war effort against the jihadists.
 
Only days after taking office, Carter convened the extraordinary meeting of more than two dozen senior military officers, ambassadors and intelligence officials at the sprawling US Army base of Camp Arifjan.
 
Speaking to American troops at the base before the talks, Carter said the US-led coalition was "pressing" the ISIS group "very ably from Kuwait and elsewhere."
 
"And we will deliver lasting defeat, make no doubt," he said.

Egyptians Flock Home from Libya After ISIS Beheadings

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 08:26
isis-mass-execution-coptic-egyptian-christians-5Almost 15,000 Egyptians have flocked home from war-torn Libya via the border crossing at Sallum, AFP reported on Monday, citing state media.
 
Egyptian and Libyan warplanes hit Islamic State (ISIS) targets inside Libya last week, after the jihadists released a gruesome video showing the beheadings of a group of Coptic Christians it kidnapped.
 
Cairo has since urged the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians working in Libya to leave, and also chartered planes to fly many of them home from Tunisia, Libya's western neighbor.
 
At least 14,585 have heeded the call and returned through Sallum in northwest Egypt, state news agency MENA reported.
 
It said they included 3,018 Egyptians on Monday alone, but did not specify how many were Christian, noted AFP.
 
A transport ministry spokeswoman in Tunisia said at least 1,000 Egyptians who had fled Libya have been airlifted home on planes chartered by Cairo since Friday.
 
Late on Monday a plane carrying 231 Egyptians airlifted from Tunisia earlier in the day landed at Cairo airport, the fifth such Egypt Air flight bringing Egyptians home, an airport official was quoted by the news agency as having said.
 
On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said 13 ISIS targets were hit in the raids on the group last week, and called for a “unified Arab force” to fight the growing terrorist threats in the Middle East.
 
"The need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day," he said in a televised address, noting that Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have offered to send troops as Egypt steps up its efforts to battle ISIS.
 
"The challenges in the region, and facing our countries, are huge challenges, and ... we can overcome those challenges once we are together," Sisi added.

Fatah Member: How Come ISIS Does Not Attack Israel?

Category: News
Created on Monday, 23 February 2015 00:36
ISIS-Iraq-AttackA senior official in Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement wondered in a recent television interview why the Islamic State (ISIS) is not attacking Israel.
 
The answer, according to Fatah Central Committee member Sultan Abu Al-Einein, is simple: the conduct of ISIS is "an extension of the Zionist enterprise".
 
Al-Einein’s comments were made in an interview which aired on February 5 on the Lebanese NBN TV channel. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated the interview.
 
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“I consider [ISIS’s] conduct to be an extension of the Zionist enterprise. I really don’t get it. If these people claim that the Israelis are the enemies of Allah...in Quneitra, they are situated along a 12 km border with the occupied Golan, but they have not shot and killed a single Israeli. Not even once,” said Al-Einein.
 
“Their wounded receive treatment from the Israelis,” he continued. “Where did this love story come from? Does Israel support at least some of them? How? Why?”
 
It should be noted that the West often praises Fatah as a “moderate peace partner” of Israel, distinguishing it from Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist group by some Western countries.
 
Nevertheless, Fatah continues to incite to terrorism against Israel, as well as advocate for its destruction.
 
In November, after several stabbings and "car rampages" murdering Israelis near the Jerusalem light rail, Fatah took to Facebook to publish a slew of cartoons, videos, and other media praising the attacks and calling for more terrorism against Israelis and Jews. 
 
Days earlier, the ruling faction of the PA called for a "day of rage" against Israel on its page after Israeli security forces killed Mu'taz Ibrahim Khalil Hijazi, the terrorist behind the Yehuda Glick assassination attempt. 
 
Senior Fatah member Jibril Rajoub has in the past said that Jews deserved the genocide inflicted on them by the Nazis. He previously declared that if the PA had a nuclear bomb, it would use it against Israel.
 
Al-Einein himself was documented on PA TV expressing his support for the terrorist murder of Israeli man Evyatar Borovsky.

Slain Hostage's Father Slams American No Ransom Policy

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 22 February 2015 23:55
ISIS flagThe father of American hostage Kayla Mueller, who died while held by the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, on Sunday accused the Obama administration of putting its policy of not paying ransoms "in front of American lives", reported AFP.
 
ISIS fighters claimed Mueller, who was seized in the Syrian city of Aleppo in August 2013, was killed in a February 6 coalition air strike that buried her in rubble.
 
American officials have pushed back, saying the circumstances of the 26-year-old aid worker's death remain unclear.
 
The girl's father expressed strong reservations about the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to negotiate with or pay ransom to foreign groups that have kidnapped Americans, as the Mueller family broke its media silence.
 
"We understand the policy about not paying ransom," Carl Mueller told NBC television's "Meet the Press."
 
"But on the other hand, any parents out there would understand that you would want anything and everything done to bring your child home. And we tried. And we asked. But they put policy in front of American citizens' lives," he added.
 
Other Western countries, in contrast, are known to have paid large ransoms to free hostages.
 
The United States did make one controversial swap in the past year, when it swapped five Taliban terrorists in exchange for soldier and longtime captive Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
 
In addition, an ex-diplomat last month claimed that Washington considered swapping a known Al-Qaeda terrorist imprisoned in the U.S. for jailed Americans in Qatar.
 
The interview with Mueller, his wife Marsha and his son Eric was conducted Saturday. Excerpts aired Sunday, with the full interview set for broadcast Monday on other NBC programs.
 
Asked whether President Barack Obama's administration did enough to free her daughter, Marsha Mueller said, " I think they wanted to. But I think again, it's the policy. And I don't think anyone had any idea this group would be as powerful as they were."

New ISIS Video Shows Kurdish Fighters Paraded in Cages

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 22 February 2015 15:17
Kurdish Fighters Paraded in CagesThe Islamic State jihadist group released a new video on Sunday purporting to show captured Kurdish peshmerga fighters paraded through Iraqi streets in cages.  
 
The video shows 21 captives presented as 16 peshmerga fighters, two Iraqi army officers and three policemen from Kirkuk, a city about 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Baghdad.
 
The captives, in orange jumpsuits with their heads lowered, are led to cages in a square surrounded by concrete walls and masked ISIS fighters carrying pistols.
 
A bearded man in a white turban warns the peshmerga against fighting ISIS.  
 
Then the caged captives are shown being paraded through the streets on the back of pick-up trucks, as dozens of residents and armed men look on.  
 
Later, some of the prisoners are interviewed by an Islamist holding a microphone bearing ISIS's logo.
 
The date and location is not specified in the video, but Kurdish sources told AFP it was filmed a week earlier in the main market of Hawija, an ISIS-held town some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kirkuk.  
 
The video does not contain any explicit threats to the captives but they are shown at the end kneeling before masked men holding automatic weapons or pistols, with an implied threat of the fate that awaits them.
 
The video also features images from previous ISIS videos, including of the killing of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burned alive in a cage, and the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, mainly from Egypt, in Libya.
 
A peshmerga commander in Kirkuk, General Hiyowa Rash, told AFP that the peshmerga hostages had been captured on January 31 "when Kurdish fighters repelled a terrorist attack by ISIS targeting Kirkuk."  
 
ISIS seized swathes of Syria and Iraq last year, declaring an Islamic "caliphate" and committing widespread atrocities.

Kurds Advance Towards ISIS De Facto Capital

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 February 2015 21:21
Kurds fighterSyrian Kurdish and rebel forces, backed by US-led air strikes, advanced on Thursday into Raqa province, where the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS) group has its de facto capital, a monitor said.
 
"The YPG (Kurdish People's Protection Units) and rebel forces captured 19 villages in Raqa province," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reports AFP.
 
"The US-led international coalition played a key role in the advance, bombing the IS(IS) positions and forcing its fighters to withdraw," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
The advance comes as Kurdish and rebel forces push outwards from the border town of Kobane, from which they expelled ISIS forces after more than four months of fighting.
 
Since driving ISIS out of Kobane on January 26, Kurdish and allied forces have taken much of the surrounding countryside in northern Aleppo province and begun pushing east into neighboring Raqa province.
 
They have captured some 242 villages around Kobane, including the 19 in Raqa province, according to the Observatory.
 
They are now 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Tal Abyad, another Kurdish-majority border town overrun by ISIS.
 
Located 65 kilometers east of Kobane, the town is used by ISIS fighters to cross into Turkey.

ISIS Kidnaps More Egyptians

Category: Reports
Created on Saturday, 21 February 2015 18:23
Copts killed in libyaIn what appears to be a gathering battle, Egyptian officials said Thursday that Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in Libya have kidnapped ten Egyptian nationals.
 
The kidnappings took place in Tripoli, where fighting between ISIS, the Libyan government, and other rebel groups is taking place.
 
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that it had received word of the kidnappings earlier Thursday. They had no information on the identities of the victims, and ISIS has not commented on the report.
 
On Sunday, Egypt offered to evacuate the thousands of its citizens who are in Libya when ISIS beheaded 21 Coptic Christians last week. In response to those beheadings, Egyptian fighter jets on Monday bombed ISIS targets in Libya, the first time Egypt has admitted doing so.
 
Between 40 and 50 ISIS men were killed in the joint attacks by the Egyptian and Libyan militaries, according to Saker al-Jarushi, a commander in Libya's air force quoted by Reuters. He added that weapons and communications centers were also hit.
 
If the reports were true, it was likely, sources in Egypt said, that ISIS had staged the kidnappings in retaliation for that attack. Egypt will now have to develop a retaliation for that attack, the sources said, and it was possible that the retaliation would be greater than the attack on Monday, in an attempt to break what could turn into a degenerative pattern of action on both sides that could lead to all-out war.
 
The report of the kidnapping comes a day after Italian officials expressed serious concerns that they could face an invasion by Islamic State forces, In a video of the executions Sunday, a masked ISIS terrorist threatens the group's next move, saying that ISIS “will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our prophet, peace be upon him.”
 
In an interview with the Associated Press, Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said that Italy was prepared to contribute as many as 5,000 troops on a mission to liberate Libya from ISIS, if Western states were to decide to undertake such a mission.
 
However, he said, Rome was willing to wait until the UN Security Council decided on collective action. The issue of the ISIS incursion into Libya is now under discussion by the Council.

Libya Asks UN to Lift Arms Embargo

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 21 February 2015 17:58
Libia-ONU-Consejo-Seguridad-eliminar-embargo-armasLibya's foreign minister on Wednesday demanded that the UN Security Council lift an arms embargo on his country, so it can fight the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Dairi spoke to an emergency session of the council amid regional alarm after ISIS over the weekend posted a video of the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
 
Al-Dairi stressed that Libya is not asking for international intervention, but said the international community has a "legal and moral responsibility to lend urgent support" and that the region, including the Mediterranean, is in danger.
 
"If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists," he warned, according to AP. He told reporters he wanted to see the same attention paid the danger in Libya as has been paid to Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led coalition is battling ISIS.
 
The UN first imposed the arms embargo on Libya in February of 2011, during the civil war in that country between dictator Muammar Qaddafi and rebels.
 
Libya has been unstable since Qaddafi was overthrown in late 2011, with militia that helped oust him now controlling large parts of the North African country and regularly fighting each other. The threat from ISIS has only added to that instability.
 
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the foreign minister of neighboring Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, called for a naval blockade on arms heading to areas of Libya outside the control of "legitimate authorities." He did not rule out troops on the ground in Libya and said his country was seeking international support "by all means."
 
Jordan was circulating a draft resolution on the issue to fellow council members later Wednesday, noted AP.
 
On Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi called on the United Nations to approve a new coalition for airstrikes in Libya, where the extremists have set up their first major affiliate outside of Iraq and Syria.
 
Countries in the region have been stepping up to offer support to Libya since the video of the beheadings emerged. Both Italy and Algeria during the council meeting expressed their willingness to participate in international efforts.

ISIS's War of Water and Electricity

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 19 February 2015 09:47
Islamic State TerroristsIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists have spared no brutal methods in their conquest of Iraq and Syria, executing by burning, stoning and beheading, but a cruel new tactic the group is using to expand its reach involves cutting off civilians from the basic necessities of water and electricity.
 
In fighting the "atheists," a term it applies not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims opposing their iron-fisted rule, ISIS has cut off electricity to wide areas in the Damascus region of Syria after its members succeeded in detonating the gas pipe supplying the electric power station.
 
Meanwhile in the Anbar Province of eastern Iraq ISIS cut off the water to the strategic city of al-Baghdadi during its eventual conquest of the city last Thursday.
 
The water cut-off took place after ISIS seized five pumping stations drawing water from the Euphrates River. The Anbar Province head asked the Iraqi government for urgent aid in fear that the water disconnect could cause a humanitarian disaster.
 
Al-Baghdadi did indeed witness a disaster, but one caused by fire and not water - in capturing the city ISIS terrorists brutally burned 45 people to death according to the local police chief, who added that several areas of the city are still under siege.
 
Elsewhere in Iraq, ISIS terrorists abducted 120 civilians from the al-Abid and al-Nasara tribes in the northeast of the city Takrit, and there is a fear that all 120 have been executed.
 
The Moroccan Akhbar El-Yom newspaper reports that one of the ISIS members published a warning stating that soon Morocco and Spain will be targeted in attacks, including suicide bombings, explosives and exploding cars.
 
According to figures of the Moroccan government, 1,500 of the country's citizens left for Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS.

Meet the 'Foreign Legion' of the Anti-ISIS Christian Militia

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 19 February 2015 08:24
Kurdish YPG fighters on the frontline against ISIS in Ras al-Ain northern Syira - ReutersDecked out in his US army-issued fatigues and a lip stud shining from his mouth, the young American fighter cuts an unusual figure in the northern Iraqi town of Al-Qosh.
 
He served in the US army in Baghdad in 2006-2007 and has now returned to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group with Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian militia whose name is an Assyrian-language phrase conveying self-sacrifice, reports AFP.
 
The 28-year-old, who goes by the pseudonym Brett, has become the figurehead of an emerging movement of foreigners coming to Iraq to support Christian groups.
 
Bearing a tattoo of a machinegun on his left arm and another of Jesus in a crown of thorns on his right, Brett jokingly refers to himself as a "crusader."
 
ISIS never captured Al-Qosh - but it came close enough for its mostly Christian population to flee to the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan, together with tens of thousands from Mosul and the Nineveh plains.
 
"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," Brett says, speaking from a Dwekh Nawsha base in the Kurdish city of Dohuk.
 
"But here we're actually fighting for the freedom of the people here to be able live peaceably, to be able to live without persecution, to keep the church bells ringing," he added.
 
The mass exodus that took place in mid-2014 has put the continued existence of one of world's oldest Christian communities into question.
 
With Kurdish peshmerga fighters now clawing back land around Mosul, some Christians are keen to take up arms for their survival and Dwekh Nwasha is only one of several recently formed groups.
 
"Foreign fighters' battalion"
 
Also acting as a recruiter, Brett says he wants to establish a "foreign fighters' battalion" for the militia.
 
In his first week in charge, he brought in five volunteers from the United States, Britain and Canada, all of whom he says have military or contracting experience.
 
The foreign contingent is tiny compared to the thousands of foreigners who have joined ISIS, but interest is growing and Brett says he has 20 more volunteers already lined up to join.
 
Brett's first recruit was Louis Park, a mild-mannered Texan who retired from the Marines in December.
 
"I did not adjust well at peace time," he said with dipping tobacco tucked in his lip. "I wanted to get back out here."
 
After serving in Afghanistan, Park says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder "and some other things" that barred him from combat deployments.
 
As early as October 2014, he began saving money to join the fight against ISIS.
 
Park says he travelled to Iraq to continue defending his country, even though Dwekh Nawsha - with barely a few hundred fighters in its ranks - sees little frontline action.
 
"I'm patriotic as hell," he says. "If my government won't fight them I will."
 
The growing contingent of foreign recruits have a variety of reasons for joining Dwekh Nawsha.
 
Andrew, an older man from Ontario, Canada, came because he heard about "slaughterhouses" where ISIS allegedly cuts people up for organ trafficking.
 
There is no concrete evidence that such places exist but the rumor has been widely circulated by evangelical organizations, especially in North America.
 
A video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya released on Sunday and entitled "A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross" sparked a fresh surge of calls on social media for tougher Western action.
 
"Internet cowboys"
 
One seven-year US army veteran called Scott says he was planning to join the Syria-based Kurdish "Popular Protection Units" (YPG) until he found out they were "a bunch of damn Reds."
 
Other foreigners in Dwekh Nawsha say they also were turned off by what they see as the socialist streak in the YPG, an affiliate of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party whose months-long battle against ISIS in Kobane attracted many volunteers.
 
Alan Duncan, a prominent British foreign fighter and veteran of the Royal Irish Regiment, recently left the YPG for similar reasons.
 
He told AFP that an exodus of foreign fighters from the YPG has begun, naming several well-known volunteers currently fighting for the group he says plan to leave in the coming days.
 
Jordan Matson, a former US soldier who has become the poster boy of YPG foreign fighters, argued that some volunteers may have lost their nerve when confronted with the intensity of the fighting in Kobane.
 
"Most of the Internet cowboys have come to realize this isn't a normal deployment," he told AFP. "So they lose the stomach to come or stay."

US, Turkey Agree to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 15:36
Syrian RebelsThe United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" on a deal to train and equip Syrian rebel forces, the State Department said Tuesday.
 
"As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
 
"We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon," she said, without providing any further details about the train-and-equip program, which is expected to begin next month.
 
The announcement puts an end to months of difficult negotiations between allies Washington and Ankara on how to train Syrian rebel forces to eventually take on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Last month, the Pentagon said it would send nearly 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar as part of the effort.  
 
More than 400 trainers would be backed by a similar number of support troops that will provide help with logistics, communications and intelligence, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. 
 
The total troop number "for this mission could approach 1,000," Kirby said on January 16. "It might even exceed that."  
 
The US government hopes the effort can begin by late March, so the first rebel forces trained can be operational by year's end, according to the Pentagon.   
 
The goal is to train more than 5,000 Syrians in the first year of the program.
 
But such a deal with Turkey specifically raises some difficult questions about its own murky role in the Syrian conflict.
 
Turkey's Sunni Islamist government openly backs the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime, and has repeatedly called for international intervention to remove the Syrian dictator. 
 
But many - including Turkey's Kurdish community - says Ankara's support for the rebels is also geared towards a more sinister objective of snuffing-out Kurdish hopes for self-determination in the region. They accuse Turkey of directly supporting Islamist rebels including Al Qaeda's Nusra Front and even ISIS in their battles against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
 
Turkey denies those charges, but has failed to explain how Islamist fighters and weapons destined for jihadists are able to flow freely through its borders into Syria.

Egypt strikes back, but how far will ISIS fight go?

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 13:34
avenge Egyptian blood EgyptVowing to “avenge Egyptian blood,” Egypt’s military forces on Monday unleashed abrupt-yet-foreseeable airstrikes on ISIS targets in Libya.
 
The early-morning bombing came as a rapid response to ISIS’ release of a gruesome video showing the execution of 21 Coptic Christian hostages, who had reportedly been held hostage since January.
 
Egypt is currently not part of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition striking militant targets in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, but events in Libya and a militant insurgency in the Sinai may force President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to ramp up his plan of action.
 
Is Egypt’s aerial campaign a quick, jabbing response to the killings, or more of a lasting, longer-term approach?
 
‘Hit hard’
 
“Although some may assume that Egypt is now on the sidelines, in reality Egypt is part of the anti-ISIS coalition and will remain so for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Joseph A. Kéchichian, an American scholar, historian and political scientist, told Al Arabiya News on Monday.
 
“Cairo will hit hard against extremists, both at home and elsewhere, since it understands that the confrontation is existential between those that wish to impose the [ISIS] ‘Caliphate’ – and its extremist views – and those that support the nation-state system that aims to introduce gradual reforms,” Kéchichian added.
 
The footage released by ISIS’ media arm, with the title “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” showed the 21 Coptic hostages, handcuffed and wearing orange jumpsuits, in what has become a familiar scene in the militant group’s recent spate of grisly videos.
 
In a statement to Al Arabiya News Channel, Libyan Air Defense Commander Saqer al-Joroushi said “more air strikes will be carried out today and tomorrow in coordination with Egypt.”
 
Joroushi said in a later statement that between “40 to 50 militants” were killed in Monday’s air strikes.
 
In recent years, Egypt has been grappling with the Sinai Province, a group operating from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Sinai Province has claimed a host of deadly attacks on security forces since the ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last year. Also, ISIS’ Libyan affiliate has reportedly recently made contact with Sinai Province.
 
"ISIS wanted to call Sisi’s bluff and show that Sisi would not attack Islamist fighters on behalf of Egyptian Copts and avenge the killings of Christians," Dr. Ashraf Ramelah, the president of the Voice of the Copts organization, told Al Arabiya News.
 
Dragging Cairo into Libya’s maelstrom
 
The large elephant in the room continues to be Libya’s internal political chaos with two rival governments operating their own armed forces under separate parliaments.
 
“ISIS wants to drag Cairo into the Libyan maelstrom while attacking from the Sinai,” British security analyst Richard Galustian, who has spent recent years in Libya, told Al Arabiya News on Monday. “So expect more ISIS violence in Egypt.”
 
Galustian deduces that Egypt is now coordinating with the air force led by General Khalifa al-Haftar, a renegade army commander fighting a loose alliance of Islamist militias named Libya Dawn.
 
Kayla Branson, a London-based North Africa analyst at global consultancy Risk Advisory Group told Al Arabiya News that extremist groups in Libya such as Ansar al-Sharia, have previously accused Egypt of intervening militarily against them in support of General Haftar since the spring and summer of 2014.
 
“They have also threatened retaliation in response to this alleged military support,” Branson added.
 
According to Galustian, the Egyptian strikes have “further revealed the nature of the Libya Dawn coalition.” Following the strikes, Libya Dawn’s Tripoli-based parliament “strongly condemned” the Egyptian airstrike in Libya as an “assault on sovereignty.”
 
ISIS’ next move?
 
But with Egypt’s retaliation, will ISIS continue to target Egyptian nationals or plan attacks inside the country?
 
“[According to] current indications, the struggle of ISIS Libya appears very locally focused on the conflict inside Libya against the interim House of Representative government and affiliated militias, rather than seeking to mount attacks inside Egypt,” Branson said.
 
“It is not even clear if they even have the capabilities to do so at this time,” she noted, adding that Sinai Province currently “poses the more serious threat of terrorism inside Egypt.”
 
On Monday morning, Egyptian state television broadcasted footage of fighter jets it said were taking off to conduct the strikes, coupled with a proud military statement.
 
“Your armed forces on Monday carried out focused air strikes in Libya against Daesh camps, places of gathering and training, and weapons depots,” the statement said, using the Arabic-language acronym for ISIS.
 
The strikes targeted “places of gathering and training and weapons depots,” according to the statement, with preliminary reports indicating that the strikes had hit the city of Derna, in eastern Libya, a hub of extremist militancy with its own separate ISIS “province.”
 
Also, unconfirmed early reports on social media suggested the home of Bashar al-Drissi, an alleged ISIS leader in Derna, was targeted.
 
Ultimately, Egypt’s military action seeks to re-assure those with a stake in the country, Dr. Max Reibman, a Dubai-based business intelligence associate analyst , also at Risk Advisory Group, told Al Arabiya News.
 
“The Sisi government will go far enough to re-assure the Egyptian public and foreign investors that it has a handle on the situation in Libya.
 
“Perhaps more importantly, from the economic standpoint, the government in Cairo needs to show that it will not tolerate violence on its borders or instability spilling over into Egypt’s western desert region, where foreign energy companies have a significant presence,” Reibman added.
 
Following the strikes, Egypt on Monday also indicated it would diplomatically ramp up pressure on ISIS; issuing a joint statement with France and calling for an urgent U.N. Security Council meeting on Libya.
 
It also requested that the anti-ISIS coalition intervene in Libya, potentially taking the U.S.-led fight beyond war-ravaged Iraq and Syria.

Egypt urges U.N. mandate for Libya coalition

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 16:03
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence -AFPEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution allowing for an international military intervention in troubled Libya, Agence France Presse reported.
 
“There is no other choice. Taking into account that the Libyan people must agree that we act to restore security and stability,” Sisi said in an interview with French radio Europe 1.
 
Sisi has repeatedly called for some kind of global intervention in Libya, which has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow of Dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.
 
The European Union said Monday it saw no role for the bloc in any military intervention, but would discuss joint action with Washington and Egypt.
 
“What we are seeing today in Libya is a double threat: it is a threat of a country that is breaking apart and of a country where Daesh is taking power and infiltrating,” said EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
 
The African Union maintains the only solution for Libya is a political deal.
 
On Monday, Sisi launched air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Libyan city of Derna hours after the extremist group released a gruesome video showing masked militants beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.
 
Talking about the airstrikes, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that it was Egypt's right to self-defense.
 
“Following the video that was released yesterday, a striking and accurate reaction was needed,” Shoukry told Al Arabiya News Channel.
 
“They [the airstrikes] are part of Egypt's right to self-defense in order protect our children,” he said, “this is a matter that needs to be understood,” he said.
 
During the interview, Shoukry said Egypt always had “an important role in fighting [ISIS]” given its regional positioning, its military capabilities as well as its religious institutions.
 
Egypt is not officially a member of the U.S.-led coalition charged with combatting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but it has called on the alliance to broaden the scope of their operations to include Libya.
 
Shoukry also said that the presence of terror groups such as ISIS in the region is preventing stability in the area.
 
The latest killings in Libya highlight the growing presence of the extremist group in North Africa.

IISIS Burns 45 Iraqis Alive in Latest Horrific Execution

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 13:56
jordan pilotIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists apparently started a sickening new fad by burning a captured Jordanian pilot, a trend that was ramped up this week in al-Baghdadi in western Iraq where ISIS terrorists burned 45 people to death according to the local police chief.
 
Col. Qasim al-Obeidi said the victims' identities are not yet known definitively, but they are thought to include security force members, reports BBC.
 
He added that a compound housing the families of security personnel as well as local officials is now under ISIS siege.
 
The town of Al-Baghdadi had been besieged by the ruthless Muslim terrorist group for months before falling last Thursday, and was one of the last towns in Anbar province still in government hands after ISIS began its offensive in the region last January.
 
Al-Baghdadi is located a mere five miles (eight kilometers) from Ain al-Asad airbase, where 320 US Marines are training the Iraqi army's 7th Division.
 
The base was attacked by ISIS last Friday, in an assault that included suicide bombing attacks. Eventually the Iraqi soldiers were able to fight off the terrorists with US-led coalition jets providing air support.
 
Last Friday when the assault took place, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby tried to play down the damage, saying the capture of al-Baghdadi is the first time ISIS took over new territory in the last few months.
 
The burning of 45 people comes after ISIS released a gruesome video earlier in February of the burning of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who had been captured while flying a mission over Syria last December.
 
After the brutal murder, Islamist terrorists from Boko Haram in Nigeria burned at least 91 civilians to death in Cameroon, establishing the ISIS method as a sick new weapon of terror for Islamist groups.

A Run Down of ISIS's Hit List

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 09:24
isis-egyption-fishermanAFP has rounded up the hit list of known killings by terrorists or movements linked to the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS) group, which announced Sunday it had beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.
 
ISIS, accused of crimes against humanity by the United Nations, has stepped up atrocities, including beheadings, abductions and crucifixions, in the regions of Iraq and Syria it controls. Even so, a UN report last September revealed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for more atrocities than ISIS.
 
The list starts last August 19, when ISIS posted a video of the decapitation of US freelance photojournalist James Foley, 40, who was seized in northern Syria in November 2012. It threatened to execute a second US journalist, Steven Sotloff, 31, in response to US strikes on jihadist positions in Iraq, which began in August.
 
On September 2, ISIS said in another propaganda video that it had beheaded Sotloff, a freelance reporter kidnapped on August 4, 2013, in Aleppo.
 
Then on September 13, the group claimed to have beheaded British aid worker David Haines, 44, who was seized in March 2013 while working for a Paris-based non-governmental organization.
 
But it wasn't only ISIS doing the beheading - on September 24, the affiliated group Jund al-Khilifa, or "Soldiers of the Caliphate," said in a video it had decapitated French tourist Herve Gourdel, 55, who was abducted in Algeria.
 
Then on October 3 ISIS released a video saying it beheaded British aid volunteer Alan Henning, 47, in Syria, in revenge for British strikes on jihadist positions in Iraq.
 
ISIS then claimed to have killed Peter Kassig, 26, an American aid worker kidnapped in Syria, on November 16 as a warning to Washington. The same video showed the gruesome simultaneous beheadings of around 15 men described as Syrian military personnel.
 
Moving up into 2015, the Libyan branch of ISIS said on January 8 it had killed Tunisian journalists Sofiene Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari, missing in eastern Libya since September.
 
On January 24 and 31, two ISIS videos claimed the beheading of Japan's Haruna Yukawa, 42, and his friend and fellow captive, journalist Kenji Goto, 47.
 
Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, 26, on February 3 was shown in an ISIS video being burned alive in a cage after being captured in December when his F-16 crashed in Syria during a mission with the US-led coalition. His brutal murder apparently occurred well before the film was released.
 
An ISIS video on Sunday showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, saying they had been killed for their faith.
 
In addition to the murders committed by ISIS, the group on February 6 announced the death of American aid worker Kayla Mueller, 26, saying she had been killed in a coalition air strike in northern Syria. On February 10 her death was confirmed by her family and the White House, which denied that she was killed in a raid.
 
How do the ISIS atrocities break down state by state?
 
In Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that from June to November, 2014, ISIS killed nearly 1,500 people, mostly civilians.
 
In Lebanon, the army has fought jihadists from neighboring Syria in the east. Twenty-five soldiers and police were abducted in August 2014 by ISIS and Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda. Four have been murdered.
 
An in Iraq, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in January denounced the "monstrous" contempt for human life there of ISIS, which has killed dozens of civilians this year.

Hamas and Fatah Sliding Towards Open War in Gaza

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 08:50
Azzam al-Ahmed  Ismail HaniyehDespite having formed a unity agreement last April torpedoing peace talks, Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction seem to be slowly sliding into open warfare in Gaza, as an attempted assassination on a Fatah official on Monday caps off incessant back and forth car bombings.
 
Mamoon Sweidan, the Fatah official who serves in the Gaza office on foreign relations, told the Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency that on Monday two masked gunmen in a Subaru conducted a drive-by shooting, targeting him as he was getting into his car outside the al-Saadi building in Gaza City where he lives.
 
The official said two of his guards exchanged fire with the would-be assassins, and that both guards were wounded.
 
The assassination attempt is just the latest in a recent string of attacks that risk pushing Hamas and Fatah back into outright warfare; the two have been enemies since Hamas ousted Fatah by force in 2005, seizing control of Gaza, and the lukewarm unity deal has done little of substance to lessen that enmity.
 
On Sunday unidentified attackers set the car of Fatah official Abed al-Munim Ramadan Tahrawi on fire in the Nuseirat "refugee camp" before fleeing the scene.
 
That arson came just hours after the car of a senior Hamas official in the interior ministry of the terrorist organization's government was likewise set on fire in Jabaliyah in northern Gaza earlier on Sunday.
 
Just over a week ago, the car of Hamas official Sheikh Sami Hams was bombed in Nuseirat.
 
The spate of back and forth car bombings was in full swing in January as well, with the car of Fatah official Adil Udeid set on fire in front of his Gaza home, and Fatah leader Ahmad Alwan's car blown up in Gaza City.
 
Just prior to that the car of Administrative and Financial Manager of the Hamas-run military police, Helmi Khalaf, was blown up in Gaza City.
 
ISIS wild card
 
While the likelihood is that Hamas and Fatah are slowly returning to all-out war, there is a chance that Islamic State (ISIS) is behind some of the attacks, possibly fanning the flames between the two so as to advance its own position in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.
 
In the bombing of Sheikh Sami Hams's car over a week ago, it was reported that he had recently delivered a critical sermon against ISIS, feasibly raising their ire and sparking the attack.
 
ISIS hinted in a publication distributed in Gaza, Judea and Samaria last month that it intends to depose Hamas and the PA. 
 
The publication emphasizes that there's an obligation for jihad holy war in fighting the police and army of "the rule of tyranny and heresy," giving a not-so-subtle call for ISIS followers to attack Hamas and the PA, and further framing such a coup as a religious command.
 
Israeli security sources estimate hundreds of Hamas terrorists have been steadily switching over to ISIS, viewing Hamas as "too moderate" in comparison. 
 
An ISIS terror cell was recently busted in Hevron, showing its presence in an area controlled by the PA, and last October ISIS showed its power in Gaza by claiming a bombing attack on the local French Cultural Center.

ISIS 'Morality Police' Rules with Iron Fist

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 17:52
ISIS flagIslamic State (ISIS)'s "morality police" is enforcing modest dress through a reign of terror, human rights organizations claim Monday.
 
The Al-Merced NGO reports that the city Albuhamal in the Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria, the modesty squad attacked a woman because her eyes were too exposed to their liking. Two young men who tried to protect the woman were arrested as well.
 
In Mosul, a center for ISIS in Iraq, the city's morality police regularly beat women with iron rods who are not dressed modestly according to a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. 
 
Recently, the group published a guide for Muslim women.
 
Among other things, it was explained in that girls as young as 9 years old can marry, and that the role of women is to stay home unless there is a real need to exit the house. Women are also permitted to be taken captives as prisoners of war, as are children.
 
ISIS has already explained that Islam calls for non-Muslim women to be forced into sexual slavery, and likewise recently stoned a woman accused of adultery.
 
Young women have been targeted over and over again by the terror group, which recruits women to support its male terrorists and serve as wives, baby-sitters, and mothers to future jihadists.  
 
Despite the lack of equal rights for women within ISIS, scores of women from Syria and Iraq as well as from the West have volunteered to join the modesty squad - and appear to live relatively normal lives.

Americans Believe ISIS 'Greatest Threat' to US

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 11:50
Islamic State Threatens AmericansAmericans believe the Islamic State group poses the most serious threat to the United States in the next decade, according to a poll released Friday.
 
Eighty-four percent of those quizzed by Gallup said ISIS jihadists, who have grabbed large areas of Iraq and Syria in a brutal onslaught, and terrorism in general presented a "critical threat," according to AFP. 
 
Respondents put the possible development of nuclear weapons by Iran - which says its nuclear aims are peaceful - as the next most serious danger, followed by the "military power of North Korea."
 
Despite its alleged backing of rebels in the conflict in Ukraine, only 49 percent of those polled said the military power of Russia was the gravest threat to the US, and 44 percent were worried about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
 
"In a winter that has seen acts of unspeakable terrorism, with Obama seeking authorization for military action against the Islamic State, Americans are clearly concerned about Islamic militants and terrorists," Gallup said.
 
"The conflict in Ukraine may not worry Americans as much because they see it as more of a threat to Europe than to the US."
 
The results were based on telephone interviews conducted from Sunday to Wednesday, with a random sample of 837 adults, across the United States.

Egyptian Jets Strike Libya after ISIS Beheads Christians

Category: News
Created on Monday, 16 February 2015 09:30
Egypt strikes Libya jihadistsIt was the first time Egypt has publicly acknowledged taking military action in neighboring Libya, where extreme Islamist groups have been ascendant since the ouster and elimination of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
 
On Sunday night, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt reserves the right to retaliate against the killing of 21 Egyptian Copts by ISIS in Libya at the suitable time and place.
 
Earlier on Sunday, Islamic State had published a graphic video showing the beheading of Coptic Christians it said it had kidnapped recently, and vowing to fight what it described as "crusaders."
 
The Egyptian statement said the airstrikes were successful in reaching their targets and that the fighter jets returned safely to their home bases.
 
Egyptian state television aired footage of jets taking off from bases in Egypt.
 
Between 40 and 50 ISIS men were killed in the joint attacks by the Egyptian and Libyan militaries, according to Saker al-Jarushi, a commander in Libya's air force quoted by Reuters. He added that weapons and communications centers were also hit.
 
ISIS footage of the murder of the Copts that was released online shows handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by their black-suited captors on a seashore in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
 
In the latest issue of the ISIS online propaganda magazine Dabiq, the group said 21 Egyptian hostages were being held. The video, titled "A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross", has a scrolling caption in the first few seconds saying it is directed at "People of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church".
 
Sunday's video comes just days after ISIS released a video showing the gruesome burning alive of a Jordanian pilot it captured after his F-16 fell in Syria in December.

Sisi Vows to Respond to Beheadings of 21 Christians

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 15 February 2015 21:27
Sisi Vows to Respond to BeheadingsEgyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned on Sunday night that his country would respond to the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya by the Islamic State (ISIS).
 
Earlier, ISIS released a video purportedly showing the beheading of the Coptic Christians it had captured in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
 
The footage released online shows handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by their black-suited captors.
 
Speaking on national television hours after the release of the video, Sisi said Cairo would choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings", Reuters reported.
 
Sisi, who met with the country's top military commanders to discuss the killings, called for a seven-day mourning period.
 
Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted the spokesman for the Coptic Church as confirming that the 21 Egyptian Christians believed to be held by ISIS were dead.
 
The Coptic Church also said it was confident the government would seek justice, according to Reuters.Copts killed in libya
 
Libya is home to a large community of both Muslim and Coptic Egyptians, with most working in the construction sector.
 
The country has been plagued by instability and infighting since the toppling of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and independent militias still control large part of Libya and regularly fight each other. Terrorist groups have taken advantage of the situation and are training fighters on Libyan soil.
 
Egypt evacuated its embassy in Tripoli and consulate in Benghazi last year after kidnappers seized Egypt’s cultural attaché and three other embassy diplomats.
 
Egypt has been fighting ISIS terrorism on its own soil, as the ISIS-affiliated Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis has been carrying out scores of terrorist attacks in the restive Sinai Peninsula.
 
Among the attacks claimed by the group since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
Most recently, the group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks that killed more than 30 members of the security forces in late January.

Iraqi Terrorists Destroy Synagogue, Take Over Ezra's Tomb

Category: Islam
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 17:06
Wall fresco from ancient -Dura Europos- synagogue in Syria - ReutersTerrorists in Iraq have seized a major synagogue and holy site in Amara, the Elder of Ziyon blog reported Wednesday - and have already destroyed much of it. 
 
According to the Iraqi media site quoted by the blog, the synagogue will become the new southern headquarters of the terrorists, whose name and affiliation are unspecified. All roads to the synagogue have been blocked and journalists have been banned from reporting on the takeover. 
 
The media site also added that Ezra's tomb in the Amara area has also been stripped of its Jewish identity, and may possibly have been destroyed. 
 
The move is yet another blow to Iraq's Jewish community, which the blog notes is down to a mere ten Jews - despite 2,500 years of Jewish life which began with the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. 
 
While both reports decline to specify the name of the terror group, news of the demolition follows multiple reports that Islamic State (ISIS) has systemically destroyed multiple Jewish holy sites in Iraq. 
 
Last July, ISIS destroyed the tombs of both the prophet Daniel and Jonah in Mosul, claiming that the graves represent "idolatry." 
 
In addition, the Iraqi government itself has de-Judaized several sites throughout Iraq, including Ezekiel's Tomb and the tomb of Joshua the High Priest near Baghdad. 

Iran Revolutionary Guards Chief Says ISIS 'Nearing its End'

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:23
Maj Gen Qassem SuleimaniAn influential Iranian general who has reportedly been near the front line against the Islamic State (ISIS) group was quoted Thursday saying the Sunni jihadists are "nearing the end of their lives".
 
General Qassem Suleimani, the once rarely seen commander of the powerful Qods Force, has become the public face of Iran's support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against Sunni rebellions in their countries.
 
He has frequently been pictured on social media in Iraq with pro-government forces, including Kurdish fighters and Shia Islamist militia units in battle areas.  
 
"Considering the heavy defeats suffered by Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, we are certain these groups are nearing the end of their lives," Suleimani was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.  
 
His extremely rare published remarks came in a speech made Wednesday in his home province Kerman to mark the 36th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.  
 
Suleimani also said Tehran's regional influence was growing.
 
"Today we see signs of the Islamic revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa," he said.
 
"The arrogants and Zionists have admitted, more than before, to their own weakness and to the Islamic republic's power, following their successive defeats," he said.
 
Iranian officials often use the term "arrogants" to refer to the United States and other Western powers, while "Zionists" is used in Tehran to refer to Israel without acknowledging its existence as a state.
 
Suleimani reportedly landed in Baghdad hours after ISIS overran Mosul in June and led a counter-attack at the head of Iran's deep military involvement in Iraq.
 
The Qods Force - the foreign wing of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards - conducts sensitive security functions abroad, including intelligence, special operations and political action deemed necessary to "protect the Islamic republic", which often takes the form of terrorist attacks and sabotage.
 
It's primary aim is to "export the revolution" of radical Shia Islam in Iran.
 
It has provided key support to pro-regime forces in Syria, including training, advice and in active combat.

New Al Qaeda Video Shows Steady Advance along Israeli Border

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 12 February 2015 13:54
Israeli BorderThe Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, has released a new propaganda video documenting its steady gains in southern Syria, along the border with Israel.
 
The 48-minute video is a clear attempt to reassert the Al Qaeda franchise in the jihadi propaganda sphere, where it has been eclipsed by the slick productions of rival jihadi outfit ISIS.
 
It comes as Al Nusra is experiencing a resurgence on the ground in Syria as well, where until a few months ago it appeared to be losing its momentum, in stark contrast to ISIS's lightening offensives in Iraq and Syria. Recently, Al Nusra has made significant gains against both regime and rival rebel forces, including the capture of large swathes of territory in the Syrian Golan Heights, which borders Israel.
 
Unlike many previous Nusra Front productions, production-wise this one is on-par with those made by Islamic State/ISIS.
 
There are, however, several key distinctions. Most notably, while it does showcase sometimes graphic raw footage from battle scenes, the video contains none of the kind of ultra-violent and gory sequences usually included in ISIS's videos, such as beheadings and other executions. This is in-line with statements made by Al Qaeda leaders in opposition to the gratuitous nature of ISIS's violent actions, which it sees as counterproductive in the arena of public support.
 
It also lacks some of the more melodramatic flourishes and special effects often used by ISIS.
 
Additionally, the video is entirely in Arabic without any subtitles - unlike ISIS productions, which usually include subtitles in one or several foreign languages. That difference is an indication of how Nusra's support base and pool of potential recruits differs to those of ISIS.
 
While the Al Qaeda rebel faction does also include many foreign fighters among its ranks, the proportion of foreign fighters to native Syrians are lower than in ISIS. Those foreign recruits it has received come primarily from the Arab world, where major jihadi Muslim scholars have by and large supported Al Qaeda over ISIS. In contrast, ISIS's effective use of social media has given it a clear edge in western countries and other regions outside the Arabic-speaking world less influenced by or exposed to such Arab scholars.
 
And while the video does contain a clear message to western leaders, the group is clearly attempting to brand itself within the context of the Syrian rebellion against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as opposed to ISIS's open, ostentatious declarations of its intent to achieve world domination.
 
Interspersed among the various scenes are graphic illustrations of the Nusra Front's steady gains along the border with Israel, as it cooperates with other rebel groups to steady oust forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. It charts how Nusra has been pushing northwards and capturing key strategic positions - a development Israeli intelligence services will be keeping a close eye on.
 
But the battle along Israel's border - which has on occasion spilled over into Israeli territory - is far from over.
 
Having being ejected from the majority of their positions by the border, regime forces have reportedly turned to Hezbollah for help - with some reports claiming the Iranian proxy group is even leading regime operations against the rebels there.

UAE Back on the Attack Against ISIS

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 20:47
Mariam Al-MansoThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) resumed air strikes on Tuesday against the Islamic State (ISIS) group which it had suspended after the jihadists captured a Jordanian pilot in December and burned him alive, the military said.
 
"Aircraft of the F-16 squadron based in Jordan launched raids this morning against positions of the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist organization, hitting their targets and returning safely to base," the UAE armed forces command said, reports AFP.
 
Jordan and the UAE are part of the US-led coalition that has been carrying out air strikes against ISIS since last year.
 
Monday's statement did not say how many aircraft from the UAE squadron were in action, or where or what their targets were.
 
The squadron deployed to Jordan on Sunday to boost the kingdom's fight against ISIS after the jihadists brutally murdered the captured pilot.
 
C-17 transporters and refuelling planes were also sent on the orders of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan as a show of solidarity.
 
"The initiative...reaffirms the UAE's unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan and its leading role and immense sacrifices for the security and stability of the region as embodied by martyr and hero Maaz al-Kassasbeh," the UAE state news agency WAM said on Sunday.
 
Kassasbeh is the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS when his plane crashed over northern Syria in December. The jihadists later burned him alive and publicized the video of his hideous murder.
 
Following Kassasbeh's murder, the UAE withdrew from the coalition's strike missions over fears for the safety of its pilots.
 
The New York Times reported that the UAE wanted more to be done in terms of search and rescue of downed pilots in the conflict zones.
 
On Thursday, the US military said it had deployed aircraft and troops to northern Iraq to boost its ability to rescue downed coalition pilots.
 
A US official said on Friday, after US Secretary of State John Kerry met Gulf ministers in Munich, that UAE flights were likely to resume "in a couple of days."

After Kobane, Kurds Set Sights on Taking Back Tal Abyad

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 20:35
New border targeted by Syria KurdsAfter taking Kobane, Syrian Kurdish forces are moving forward and have set their sights on taking back Tal Abyad from jihadists, AFP reported on Monday, citing a local monitor.
 
Tal Abyad, located about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Kobane, is an Arab and Kurd town in the Syrian province of Raqa used by jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) group to cross into Turkey.
 
The Sunni extremist ISIS seized Tal Abyad from Kurdish and rebel combatants who have been fighting to oust the regime of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad since 2011.
 
After four months of fierce fighting, the Kurds and rebels recaptured Kobane in January, and they have since also reclaimed a third of the villages in the area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"The next battle after Kobane is Tal Abyad," Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based monitoring group, said on Monday, according to AFP.
 
"The Kurds and a Raqa revolutionary brigade arrived on Monday at the edge of Raqa province," he added.
 
An activist in Raqa said the battle for villages around Tal Abyad had already begun, forcing people to flee across the border into Turkey.
 
"Tal Abyad is so important to ISIS that it has dug tunnels in the area and built fortifications on the town's outskirts," said the activist who identified himself as Nael Mustafa.
 
"The battle will take a long time, but it's a start."
 
On another front, further west in the province of Aleppo, "ISIS sent reinforcements to protect its strongholds of Minbej and Jarabulus which could also be a target for the Kurdish fighters," said Abdel Rahman.
 
ISIS has taken advantage of the Syrian civil war and instability in Iraq to seize chunks of territory in the two countries, where it has committed atrocities that the UN has denounced as crimes against humanity.
 
A U.S.-led coalition which includes Arab and other Western countries, has targeted its positions with air strikes since September.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry  said on Sunday that the assault against ISIS was beginning to win back territory and deprive the jihadists of key funds.
 
There have been 2,000 air strikes on ISIS since the coalition's formation in August, Kerry told the Munich Security Conference.
 
The air war had helped to retake some 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of territory, or "one-fifth of the area they had in their control", he said.
 
Kerry added the coalition had "deprived the militants of the use of 200 oil and gas facilities... disrupted their command structure... squeezed its finance and dispersed its personnel."
 
Later on Sunday, Top U.S. envoy John Allen said that Iraqi forces will begin a ground offensive "in the weeks ahead" to take back swathes of the country seized by ISIS.
 
"There will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq," he said in an interview with Jordan's official Petra news agency.
 
"In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," he added, stressing that the Iraqis would lead the offensive.

More Israeli Aid Set to Reach Christian, Yazidi Refugees of ISIS

Category: From the Net
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 21:21
Israeli Aid Set to Christian Yazidi Refugees of ISISAn Israeli aid agency is set to up its deliveries of emergency supplies to Yazidi and Christian refugees of ISIS's deadly military campaign in Iraq, as more evidence of the jihadist group's atrocities begins to emerge.
 
More than 18,000 Yazidi and Christian refugees now live in makeshift camps in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, which is home to a total of around one million internally and externally displaced people. They are among more than 2.1 million people driven from their homes by ISIS since January 2014, bringing the total of people in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict to 5.2 million.
 
Residents of the camps, often made up of no more than tents, have faced extremely harsh conditions over this year's freezing winter, and IsraAID has already provided 3,000 winter items to families in need - from blankets to baby milk.
 
But the aid agency says it is preparing to up its contributions due to the growing numbers of refugees enduring subzero temperatures, including infants and the elderly.
 
37-year-old Shehab and his family fled the Sinjar region after it was besieged by the jihadists, and managed to narrowly escape ISIS's campaign of mass-killings and systematic rape. 
 
Recent advances made by Kurdish forces against ISIS in the past few weeks have revealed shocking evidence of what the UN has branded an "attempt at genocide" by the so-called "Islamic State," unearthing numerous mass graves containing the remains of men, women and children - likely Yazidis - murdered at the hands of the Islamist group.
 
"When Daesh (ISIS) entered Sinjar we fled to mountains for seven days and took refuge in a Yazidi temple," Shehab recalled. "We then found our way to this camp. We have been here for seven months. I am here with my wife and our two children – a boy 1.5 years old and a 4 month year old baby girl who was born in the camp. 
 
"The life here is very hard; our children are traumatized by what they saw and experienced after Daesh attacked our home."
 
Naviah, another refugee from Sinjar, tells of the difficult conditions she and others face since arriving at the camp. 
 
"Inside the camp it’s very cold and we really need warm blankets," she said. 
 
"Kerosene heaters were distributed [but] many tents caught fire and people died as a result. We use one bathroom between eight families - there are too many people and not enough room or facilities for everyone."
 
"There is no school for the younger children." Shehab laments. "Our main problem is carrying the water back to our tent – there is only one place in the camp to get water and it [is] very far. We also need health training and facilities for our families. Many people have diseases and there is no medicine or doctors".
 
But IsraAID is working to improve that situation. Mid-October saw the Israeli group's first aid delivery, and since then it has reached some 1,000 displaced families - an effort Naviah says is greatly appreciated, "especially [the] distribution of warm blankets for the winter."
 
In the coming months, IsraAID looks to scale up its operation in Iraqi Kurdistan, handing out more winter aid packages and, for the first time, funding education programs for the camps' child residents.
 
While grateful for the support, Shehab longs to return and hopes that one day things will return to how they once were.
 
"Before ISIS attacked our home we were living safely and completely free to go about our lives. My hope for the future is to return to my home and to live freely without fear.
 
"I hope for my children to be able to sleep without fear."

Jordan Says ISIS is '20% Defeated'

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 19:54
ISIS is 20 DefeatedJordan announced it has carried out dozens of air strikes on the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, as a top US envoy said Iraqi troops would begin a major ground offensive against the jihadists in the weeks ahead.
 
Jordanian air force chief Major General Mansour al-Jobour said Sunday the kingdom had launched 56 air raids since Thursday as part of an international assault against ISIS that Washington says is beginning to bite, reports AFP.
 
Jordan has vowed an "earth-shattering" response after the Sunni extremists captured one of its air force pilots, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, burned him alive and released a gruesome video of the execution.
 
"On the first day of the campaign to avenge our airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, 19 targets were destroyed, including training camps and equipment," Jobour told reporters.
 
John Allen, the US coordinator for the anti-ISIS coalition of Western and Arab countries, said Sunday that Iraqi troops would begin a major ground offensive against the jihadists "in the weeks ahead."
 
"When the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," he told Jordan's official Petra news agency, stressing that the Iraqis would lead the offensive.
 
ISIS have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, brutally ruling the territory by Sharia Islamic law.
 
20% defeated
 
Jordan has vowed to crush the group after they released a highly choreographed video showing the murder of its pilot, who was captured in December when his F-16 warplane went down in Syria.
 
The air force chief said air strikes since last Thursday had destroyed dozens of targets, including barracks, training camps, ammunition and fuel depots, and residential centers.
 
"So far, the campaign has destroyed 20% of the fighting capabilities of Daesh," Jobour said, using another name for ISIS.
 
Jobour said more than 7,000 ISIS terrorists had been killed since Jordan began participating in coalition air strikes.
 
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the aerial campaign, launched in September, was beginning to win back territory and deprive the jihadists of key funds.
 
There have been 2,000 air strikes on ISIS since the coalition's formation in August, Kerry told a security conference in the German city of Munich.
 
The air war has helped to retake some 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of territory, or "one-fifth of the area they had in their control", he said.
 
The top US diplomat did not specify whether the regained territory was in Iraq or Syria.
 
But he added the coalition had "deprived the militants of the use of 200 oil and gas facilities...disrupted their command structure...squeezed its finance and dispersed its personnel."
 
State media reported that a squadron of United Arab Emirates F-16 fighter jets arrived in Jordan on Sunday, escorted by pilots and technicians.
 
The UAE had withdrawn from the coalition's strike missions after the Jordanian pilot's capture over fears for the safety of its own airmen. But the US had said on Friday that UAE flights were likely to resume "in a couple of days."
 
C-17 transporters and refuelling planes were part of the UAE squadron sent on the orders of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the Petra news agency said.
 
Turning point for Jordan
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said Sunday that Kurdish forces had retaken from ISIS more than a third of the villages around Kobane, a strategic town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
The Kurds recaptured Kobane on January 26 after four months of fierce fighting backed by Syrian rebels and coalition air strikes.
 
But Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told ABC television that while the bombing campaign had "degraded" ISIS capability, the group was still in control of "vast territory."
 
Interior Minister Hussein Majali said in remarks published on Saturday that Kassasbeh's gruesome murder by ISIS was a "turning point" in the kingdom's fight against extremism.
 
As Jordan escalated its assault, ISIS claimed on Friday that an American aid worker it had taken hostage - 26-year-old Kayla Jean Mueller - had been buried alive under rubble by a coalition strike on its self-proclaimed capital of Raqa in Syria.
 
Mueller's parents said they were hopeful their daughter was still alive and appealed to ISIS to contact them in order to ensure her safe return.
 
On Sunday, US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Washington was seeking clarification on Mueller's fate.
 
"We're learning as much as we can as quickly as we can about Ms. Mueller's situation," he told CNN. "Our thoughts, our prayers are with her family right now."

Did ISIS Blow Up a Hamas Official's Car in Gaza?

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 10:14
carbombIslamic State (ISIS) has steadily been gaining hold in Gaza since taking part in last summer's terror war on Israel, but an attack Friday indicates the terror group may have turned its sights on Hamas to vie for leadership of the coastal enclave.
 
The car of a Hamas official was detonated on Friday night, according to Al-Akhbar and other Arabic reports.
 
"Police have opened an investigation after a makeshift bomb blew up the car of Sheikh Sami Hams in Nuseirat refugee camp," south of Gaza City, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 
While some reports indicate the bombing is part of an internal feud, other local reports significantly reveal that Hams recently delivered a sermon criticizing ISIS, possibly running him afoul of the brutal group.
 
The official of the Hamas terror organization was not in the vehicle when it detonated and only the car was apparently damaged. Pictures of the mangled wreckage were posted to Twitter.
 
If the bombing was indeed the handiwork of ISIS, it comes after the group hinted in a publication distributed in Gaza, Judea and Samaria last month that it intends to depose Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
 
The publication emphasizes that there's an obligation for jihad holy war in fighting the police and army of "the rule of tyranny and heresy," giving a not-so-subtle call for ISIS followers to attack Hamas and the PA, and further framing such a coup as a religious command.
 
Israeli security sources estimate hundreds of Hamas terrorists have been steadily switching over to ISIS, viewing Hamas as "too moderate" in comparison. 
 
An ISIS terror cell was recently busted in Hevron, showing its presence in an area controlled by the PA, and last October ISIS showed its power in Gaza by claiming a bombing attack on the local French Cultural Center.
 
The car bombing last Friday is in fact the latest in a series of similar blasts, after late last month a Fatah leader's car was similarly targeted, just two days after the car of the Administrative and Financial Manager of the Hamas-run military police, Helmi Khalaf, was blown up.
 
It remains unclear who perpetrated the various attacks, as no credit has yet been claimed.

New ISIS Trend: Yazidi Mass Graves

Category: News
Created on Monday, 09 February 2015 09:59
Yazidi Mass GravesIslamic State (ISIS) terrorists have subjected Yazidi religious minorities in Iraq to mass rape and torture aside from killing hundreds of them at a time; the jihadist group's newest trend against the group appears to be mass graves after executing groups of Yazidis.
 
After a similar find last Monday, the remains of 23 men from Iraq's Yazidi minority were found when a mass grave was excavated in northern Iraq, an official said on Saturday.
 
It is the latest evidence of atrocities committed in areas held by the ISIS to emerge since Kurdish forces pushed the jihadists back, reports AFP.
 
A team acting on a tip-off from a resident opened the grave near the village of Bardiyan on Friday, said Fuad Othman, a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government.
 
Othman said those killed had been shot, and some had their hands bound.
 
A ditch where some 25 people were murdered was found farther south in Nineveh province on February 1, and Othman said dozens more bodies were believed to be in an another grave in the Hardan area.
 
ISIS spearheaded a offensive that began in northern Iraq last June and overran large parts of the country, before again turning its attention to the north in August, driving Kurdish forces back and seizing more territory in Nineveh.
 
The jihadists carried out a campaign of killings, kidnappings, enslavement and rape against Yazidis living in the area that the UN termed an "attempt to commit genocide."
 
Backed by US-led air strikes, Iraqi Kurdish forces have made significant gains in the region, driving ISIS back and retaking areas where the grave sites have been discovered.

UAE Rejoins Coalition, Deploys Fighter Jets to Jordan

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 18:47
axnsi1The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday ordered a squadron of F-16 warplanes to be stationed in Jordan to support it in strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, apparently taking back its decision last Wednesday to withdraw from the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
 
The federation's official WAM news agency said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, deputy head of the UAE armed forces, had ordered the move, reports AFP.
 
"The initiative...reaffirms the UAE's unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan and its leading role and immense sacrifices for the security and stability of the region as embodied by martyr and hero Maaz al-Kassasbeh," the Jordanian pilot burned alive by ISIS, the agency reported.
 
WAM said the deployment was aimed at supporting Jordan's military in the fight against "the brutal terrorist organisation" ISIS, without specifying the number of aircraft involved or their role.
 
It said the jihadist organization "showed all the world its ugliness and violation of all religious and human values through abominable crimes" that caused "outrage and disgust" among Arab peoples.
 
After Kassasbeh's warplane crashed in Syria in December and following his capture by ISIS, the UAE withdrew from the US-led coalition's strike missions over fears for the safety of its pilots.
 
However, a US official said on Friday, after US Secretary of State John Kerry met Gulf ministers in Munich, that UAE flights were likely to resume "in a couple of days."
 
Abu Dhabi had also "reaffirmed its commitment to the coalition" brought together by the United States to try to defeat the terrorists who have taken over a swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria.
 
Another US official said that among all the Gulf countries the pilot's brutal immolation by ISIS "has been a unifying event doubling their resolve to take the fight to Daesh," using an Arabic acronym for the terror group.

ISIS Claims American Hostage Killed in Coalition Airstrike

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:58
American Hostage KilledThe Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed on Friday that a female American hostage had been killed in an air strike in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition, AFP reported.
 
In a statement on jihadist websites, ISIS said the woman, whom it named as Kayla Jean Mueller, was buried under rubble after a raid by a Jordanian warplane in Raqa.
 
"The plane from the crusader coalition bombed a position outside the city of Raqa after Friday prayers," it said.
 
"No fighter was wounded but we can confirm that an American hostage was killed in the strikes."
 
The statement did not show any pictures of a body and there was no independent confirmation of the claim. American officials declined to comment.
 
"I cannot confirm those reports in any way. I'm not going into specifics of Americans held overseas," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, according to AFP.
 
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan later said the United States has not yet seen any proof to confirm the claim.
 
"We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports. We have not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates ISIL's claim," she said.
 
The Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 30 ISIS jihadists were killed in coalition raids Friday on the Raqa area.
 
It said they died in raids on "positions and depots sheltering military vehicles and tanks, east and west of the city of Raqa".
 
IS has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, ruling with a brutal version of Islamic law.
 
It has murdered both locals and foreigners, including two American journalists, an American aid worker, two British aid workers, two Japanese hostages and a Jordanian fighter pilot.
 
Jordan, one of several Arab countries in the U.S.-led coalition, vowed a harsh response after ISIS released a video this week showing the burning alive of the pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
Kassasbeh was captured in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria while on a mission against the Sunni extremists.

Syria: Kurdish Fighters Seize Dozens of Villages from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 13:13
Kurdish YPG fighters on the frontline against ISIS in Ras al-Ain northern Syira - ReutersSyrian Kurdish fighters have seized dozens of villages from Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists around the town of Kobane on the Turkish border, expanding their control in the area, a monitor said Friday.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had captured 101 villages around Kobane since seizing it from ISIS on January 26 after four months of fighting, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  
 
"They now control territory ranging from 15 to 25 kilometres (nine to 16 miles) from Kobane to the east, west and south," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
 
The small town became a key battleground, with ISIS poised at one point to overrun it and cement its grip on a large stretch of territory along the border.  
 
Since January 26, YPG forces have advanced steadily in the surrounding countryside, recapturing dozens of villages, some no larger than a few dozen homes.
 
In some villages, they have met little resistance, with ISIS fighters withdrawing as they advance.  
 
But in other places there have been clashes, with the Observatory saying at least 13 ISIS fighters were killed in a YPG ambush Friday.

Jordanian Queen Joins Anti-ISIS March for Murdered Pilot

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 12:52
Jordans Queen Rania pays condolence visit to Maaz al-Kassasbehs family - ReutersQueen Rania joined thousands of people who turned out after midday prayers in Jordan's capital Friday to express their solidarity with the pilot murdered by the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
Wearing a black suit and a red-and-white checked keffiyeh over her shoulders, she mixed with the crowd as it marched from the central Al-Husseini mosque to Palm Park, about one kilometers (half a mile) away.
 
The queen, wife of King Abdullah II, did not address the rally, where marchers chanted "We are all Maaz," a reference to pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, and "We are all Jordan."  
 
Placards were also held aloft that read: "Yes to punishment. Yes to the eradication of terrorism."
 
On Thursday, the royal couple visited Kassasbeh's family - which has urged the government to "destroy" the jihadists - to pay their condolences.  
 
Kassasbeh was captured by ISIS in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria while on a mission for the US-led coalition against the Sunni extremist group.  
 
His death has sparked grief and deep anger in Jordan.
 
In November, Palestinian-born Queen Rania urged support for US-led air strikes against ISIS, saying the future of the Middle East and Islam were at stake.  
 
"Our silence is the greatest gift" for ISIS, which has seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria, she told a media summit in Abu Dhabi. "We are complicit in their success."  
 
She said the fight went beyond the battleground and was between moderates and extremists worldwide.
 
"Winning also depends on our ability to conquer the philosophical battleground as well. Because at the heart of this assault is an ideology," she said.

ISIS Fires Cleric for Opposing Burning Alive of Jordanian Pilot

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 12:44
jordan pilotA Saudi cleric with the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) jihadist group has been removed from his post after objecting to the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot, a monitoring group said Friday.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the cleric, known by the nom-de-guerre Abu Musab al-Jazrawi, raised objections during a Thursday meeting to the way pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh was killed.
 
"He raised objections during the weekly meeting that takes place between clerics and IS leaders in the Aleppo area," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
"He said the way Kassasbeh had been killed violated religious traditions."
 
Kassasbeh was captured by IS in December after his plane went down over Syria as he participated in the US-led coalition fighting the jihadist group.
 
A video purporting to show him being burned alive inside a cage emerged on Tuesday, though Jordanian state television said the execution was carried out weeks earlier.
 
Abdel Rahman said Jazrawi was removed from his post after the criticism, and could also face a religious tribunal and possible punishment.
 
ISIS and its supporters have sought to produce religious justifications for the horrific method by which they killed Kassasbeh, drawing on themes within Islamic texts that resonate with many; but some ordinary Muslims and Islamic scholars have fiercely criticized the execution.
 
The group emerged in Syria in 2013, and rules a self-proclaimed Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.
 
It has become infamous for its brutal executions, including by beheading and stoning, as well as its mass-slaughter of religious and ethnic groups which refuse to convert to its brand of Islam.

Jordan Vows to 'Eradicate' ISIS After Pilot's Murder

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 08 February 2015 10:41
Jordan Vows to Eradicate ISISJordan said air strikes against the Islamic State group are only the start of its retaliation for the burning alive of one of its pilots, vowing to "eradicate" the jihadists, according to AFP. 
 
Jordan's military said "dozens of jet fighters" struck ISIS targets on Thursday, hitting terrorist training camps as well as weapons and ammunition depots.
 
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told CNN the operation was "the beginning of our retaliation over this horrific and brutal murder of our brave young pilot. "But it's not the beginning of our fight against terrorism and extremism."
 
The gruesome murder of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, captured by ISIS in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria, has sparked grief and deep anger in Jordan.
 
Judeh declined to reveal Jordan's military plans but said it would hit the terrorists with all its might.
 
"We're upping the ante. We're going after them wherever they are, with everything that we have. But it's not the beginning, and it's certainly not the end," he said. "We're going to go after them and we will eradicate them... We are at the forefront. This is our fight."
 
Jordan has conducted regular air raids against ISIS across the border in Syria as part of a US-led campaign against the Sunni extremist group.

Jordan Strikes Dozens of ISIS Targets in Continued Revenge

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 February 2015 22:25
mideast-crisis-jordanJordan said its warplanes launched dozens of new strikes Thursday against the Islamic State group, after vowing a harsh response to the burning alive of a pilot captured in Syria.
 
The news came as scores of people were killed when rebels unleashed rocket fire on Damascus and President Bashar al-Assad's forces retaliated.
 
Jordan's military said "dozens of jet fighters" struck ISIS targets on Thursday morning, "hitting training camps of the terrorist groups as well as weapons and ammunition warehouses".
 
It did not say where the targets were located - ISIS holds swathes of Syria and Iraq - but said they were destroyed and the aircraft returned home safely.
 
American F-16 and F-22 jets provided security to the Jordanian fighter planes, with additional support from refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft, US officials said.
 
Washington has also deployed aircraft and troops to northern Iraq to boost capabilities to rescue downed pilots fighting with the international coalition that is battling ISIS, a US defense official told AFP.
 
ISIS has released a highly choreographed video of the horrifying murder of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, whose death has sparked grief and deep anger in Jordan.
 
Jordan's military has pledged to "destroy this terrorist group and kill the evil in its own place", saying it would punish ISIS for the "heinous act" of burning him alive.
 
King Abdullah II visited the airman's family, who have urged the government to "destroy" the jihadists, to pay his condolences.
 
Jordan has conducted regular raids against ISIS across the border in Syria as part of a US-led campaign against the Sunni extremist group.
 

More than 200,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted in Syria in early 2011, escalating into a multi-sided civil war that brought jihadists streaming into the country.
 
At least 66 people, including 12 children, were killed by regime air strikes and shelling on rebel areas around Damascus Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The assault on the Eastern Ghouta region came after rebels fired more than 100 rockets at the city, killing 10 people including a child, the
Britain-based group said.

Netanyahu Calls Jordan's Abdullah After Ambassador Returned

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 February 2015 22:12
Jordanian King Abdullah II Binyamin NetanyahuPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Thursday by telephone with Jordanian King Abdullah II, the premier's office said, apparently their first contact since Jordan announced its ambassador was returning to Tel Aviv, reports AFP.
 
"Prime Minister Netanyahu extended his condolences to the King and to the Jordanian people" over the murder of a Jordanian air force pilot who was burned to death by Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, a statement said.
 
Netanyahu "noted the importance of the Jordanian ambassador's return to Israel and of the joint commitment to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites" in Jerusalem, it added.
 
On Monday, Amman announced that its envoy would return to his post in Tel Aviv three months after being recalled over "violations" at the Temple Mount - namely growing talk of allowing equal Jewish prayer rights at the holiest site in Judaism.
 
Jordan recalled Walid Obdeidat on November 5 after Arab rioters attacked police with rocks and other projectiles at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount, and police responded by locking them in the mosque. At the time Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh described Israel's enforcement of law and order on the site as "violations" and "way beyond the limits."
 
Jordan said the decision to return Obeidat to Israel comes after the government "felt that the situation (at Al-Aqsa) is in the right direction."
 
After Arab nations pressured Israel, Netanyahu declared his desire to preserve the discriminatory "status quo" of no Jewish prayer at the site, which is under the de facto rule of the Jordanian Waqf (Islamic trust).
 
Obeidat's recall had put enormous pressure on already frosty ties between Israel and the only Arab country apart from Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state - a treaty Jordan recently threatened to revoke, even as it has been leading the Palestinian Authority's (PA) "diplomatic war" against Israel at the UN.
 
Around half of Jordan's population of seven million defines itself as "Palestinian," with many urging that a "Palestine" be established there, particularly given that the state was created by fiat by the British after World War II.

A Look Inside the Mind of ISIS Terrorists

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 February 2015 21:50
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has learned from the mistakes of past jihadist movements and established a near-impregnable base of support within Iraq and Syria, with spectacular appeal to many of the world's Sunni Muslims, a new book has warned.
 
The authors of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," published this month in the US, spoke to dozens of fighters and members of the group to understand its allure and how it justifies its brutal tactics.
 
In a telephone interview with AFP, one of the authors, Syrian-born journalist Hassan Hassan, said it was vital to understand that some of the group's core religious beliefs were widely shared.
 
"It presents itself as an apocalyptic movement, talking about the end of days, the return of the caliphate and its eventual domination of the world," said Hassan, who lives in Abu Dhabi where he works as a researcher for a think tank.
 
He noted these beliefs of Islamic global domination "are not on the margins - they are absolutely mainstream. They are preached by mosques across the world, particularly in the Middle East."
 
"ISIS takes these existing beliefs and makes them more appealing by offering a project that is happening right now," he remarked.
 
Hassan's research along with co-author Michael Weiss - a US-based journalist - gave them a rare insight into ISIS training camps for new recruits, which vary in length from two weeks to one year.
 
"Recruits receive military, political and religious training. They are also trained in counter-intelligence to avoid being infiltrated," said Hassan. "After they graduate, recruits remain under scrutiny and can be expelled or punished if they show reservations, or sent back to the camps to 'strengthen their faith.'"
 
ISIS uses certain texts and in-house clerics to provide religious justification for their violence, particularly a book called "The Management of Savagery," which argues that brutality is a useful tool for goading the West into an over-reaction.
 
Six categories
 
The authors outline six categories of ISIS recruit.
 
Only two are rooted in religion: the ultra-radicals who dominate the group's upper echelons, and recent converts to its extremist ideology.
 
Others are merely opportunists seeking money or power; pragmatists who want stability and see ISIS as the only game in town; and foreign fighters whose motives vary widely but "are almost always fed by serious misapprehensions of what is taking place in Iraq and Syria."
 
The final and most important category of recruit is often under-appreciated by the West - those drawn by the group's political ideology.
 
Many Sunni Muslims in the region feel threatened by Shi'ites led by a resurgent Iran.
 
"Across the region, Shias are confident, bold and on the rise, while Sunnis feel insecure and persecuted," said Hassan. "Many disagree with ISIS on ethical grounds but they see them as the only group capable of protecting them."
 
The authors also emphasize that ISIS is not new, but rather emerged from the ashes of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), one of the most brutal foes of the Americans following their 2003 war.
 
AQI was largely defeated after the US convinced local tribes to rise up against them - a strategy known as "The Awakening", which has deeply
influenced ISIS strategy.
 
"From the beginning, they've been obsessed with the Awakening," said Hassan. "They've done everything to prevent it happening again: built sleeper cells, bought loyalty, divided communities."
 
"They've succeeded in making internal resistance practically impossible. No tribe will fight them, because they will find themselves fighting their own brothers and cousins," he added.
 
Revenge of Saddam
 
The authors also depict ISIS as the revenge of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime more than a decade after he was thrown out of power.
 
Most of the top ISIS decision-makers served either in Saddam's military or security services, the book says.
 
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersAlthough the Baathists were originally a secular movement, Saddam introduced a "Faith campaign" in the 1990s that sought to Islamize society.
 
"Very few people have focused on the impact of that campaign," said Hassan. "It radicalized many Baathists and they combined the violence of the regime with that of jihadism, making them even worse than Al-Qaeda."
 
Indeed, Osama Bin-Laden famously fell out with AQI leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi over his horrific brutality and sectarian attacks on Shia Muslims.
 
Zarqawi, who was killed by a US missile strike in 2006, was said to be so fanatical that he made Bin-Laden look like a moderate, and it is his mantle that has been picked up by ISIS.
 
Hassan remains pessimistic about Western counter-insurgency efforts.
 
"I keep hearing this argument that you can fight ISIS with propaganda, that this is an information war," he said. "But they have combined religion, geopolitics, economics and much more in their ideology. It's not a fragile ideology - it has mass appeal."

Amnesty International Condemns Jordan for Executing Terrorists

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 February 2015 20:08
Amnesty InternationalAmnesty International has condemned Jordan for executing Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists in "revenge" for the group burning Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh alive on camera
 
“The Jordanian authorities are rightly horrified by this utterly reprehensible killing but the response should never be to resort to the death penalty, which itself is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," Philip Luther, director of AI's Middle East and North Africa Program, stated Wednesday. 
 
"The death penalty should also not be used as a tool for revenge. The ISIS’s gruesome tactics must not be allowed to fuel a bloody cycle of reprisal executions.”
 
Would-be Iraqi female suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and Iraqi Al-Qaeda member Ziad al-Karboli were executed at 4:00 a.m. local time, government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani told AFP earlier Wednesday.
 
Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her participation in triple hotel bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people; she was closely linked to ISIS's predecessor organization in Iraq and seen as an important symbol for the jihadists.  
 
ISIS had offered to spare Kassasbeh's life and free Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in exchange for Rishawi's release; Goto was later beheaded before any such transaction was negotiated.
 
Karboli was sentenced to death in 2007 on terrorism charges, including the killing of a Jordanian in Iraq.

ISIS Defeats in North Iraq Reveal Evidence of Atrocities

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 07 February 2015 19:46
ISIS -Evidence of Atrocities(AFP) Dirt-covered skulls and bones scattered among ragged clothing in a ditch in north Iraq are all that remain of some two dozen people believed to have been murdered by the Islamic State terrorist group.  
 
The blood still staining one side of the ditch and the bullet casings scattered on the ground paint a grim picture of how they died.
 
The recently discovered site is not unique, and more evidence of ISIS atrocities will likely emerge as areas retaken from the jihadists by Kurdish forces are searched, a task made more difficult by explosives they left behind.
 
"Three mass graves have been confirmed - two in the Hardan area and the other in Sinuni," said Myaser Haji Saleh, the local official responsible for the Sinjar district in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, where the sites are located.
 
"But we believe that the biggest graves are in the center of the Sinjar district and areas that are now under (ISIS) control," Saleh said.  
 
The two graves in Hardan have yet to be excavated, but Saleh said the site near Sinuni contained the remains of about 25 members of the Yazidi religious minority.
 
ISIS spearheaded a Sunni offensive that began in northern Iraq last June and overran large parts of the country, before again turning its attention to the north in August, seizing areas including Sinjar.
 
The jihadists carried out a campaign of killings, kidnappings, enslavement and rape against Yazidis living in the area that the UN termed an "attempt to commit genocide."
 
Backed by US-led air strikes and assisted by international trainers and advisers, Iraqi Kurdish forces have made significant gains in the north, driving ISIS back and retaking areas including Sinuni.
 
At first glance, the massacre site appears to be a place where old clothes and other rubbish has been dumped, but a closer inspection reveals bones also lying in the ditch.
 
Missing relatives
 
Skulls, some broken and others still intact, vertebrae, ribs and other bones are mixed among the clothes, shoes and sandals the victims wore when they were murdered.
 
Kidnappings carried out by ISIS have left devastated relatives unsure whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
 
Ali Bazo, who was a resident of the nearby Khana Sur housing complex but now lives in a camp for displaced people, came to the massacre site to search for signs of his father, who was seized by ISIS when it overran the area last August.
 
"We learned of the discovery of this mass grave and came and found the keys to our house," he said, but he still does not know which bones belonged to his father.
 
Bazo said wants experts to examine the remains to identify his father, so he can be given a proper burial.
 
The first step toward identifying the victims was taken on Wednesday, when the remains were brought to a morgue in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan for DNA testing, said Fuad Othman, a spokesman for the region's martyrs ministry.
 
Bizar Hasso also came to search for her missing husband.
 
When ISIS advanced toward Khana Sur, she fled to Mount Sinjar, a 60-kilometre (40-mile) ridge near the Syrian border that the jihadists have twice besieged, but two of her sons and her husband were out guarding wells.
 
One of her sons later told her that IS killed his brother and detained his father.
 
"We have been looking for him for more than five months," said Hasso, who is also now living in a camp for displaced Iraqis.
 
Wearing a surgical mask and rubber gloves, Hasso stood among the bones and clothes in the ditch, searching for some sign of her husband.  
 
But she found nothing, and like many other Iraqis, continues to suffer the pain of not knowing his fate.

Muslim Scholars Call to 'Kill and Crucify' ISIS Terrorists

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 February 2015 07:10
Ahmed al-Tayeb is the Imam of al-Azhar and president of al-Azhar UniversityAl-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious center of learning, has called for the killing and crucifixion of terrorists from the Islamic State group (ISIS), expressing outrage over their murder of a Jordanian pilot.
 
In a statement after the burning alive of Maaz al-Kassasbeh, the Cairo-based authority called for the "killing, crucifixion and chopping of the limbs of Islamic State terrorists".
 
The use of crucifixion is recorded in Islamic scriptures, and has been employed by ISIS themselves to display the bodies of people executed for a variety of crimes in areas under its control.
 
The statement comes a month after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivered a highly unusual and surprising speech to Islamic clerics at Al-Azhar University last week, in which he called on Muslim leaders to reform Islam to rid the Muslim world of terrorism.
 
"It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (multinational community of Muslim believers) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world," Sisi said.
 
"That thinking – I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’ – that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!
 
"Is it possible that 1.6 billion [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!"
 
Other Muslim countries have also responded to the pilot's murder with condemnation.
 
Saudi Arabia, the spiritual home of Islam and another member of the US-led coalition against ISIS, condemned the "misguided ideology" behind Kassasbeh's killing and accused groups like ISIS of seeking "to distort the values of Islam". Despite it's clear stance against ISIS, however, Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its ties to other jihadi groups in Syria and elsewhere.
 
Iran also condemned the "inhuman and un-Islamic act" - a rather ironic statement considering that Tehran is a key supporter of the Assad regime, which rights groups say is in fact responsible for more atrocities than ISIS. Iran also finances and trains a range of Shai Islamist militias, who have been accused of brutally expelling Sunni Muslims from areas captured from ISIS control.
 
The UAE - which a report Wednesday claimed had fearfully withdrawn from the coalition shortly after al-Kassasbeh's capture - said the actions of IS "represent epidemics that must be eradicated by civilized societies without delay".

ISIS 'Held Public Screenings' of Pilot Being Burned to Death

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 05 February 2015 06:50
jordan pilotThe Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) reportedly broadcast footage of its fighters burning alive a Jordanian pilot in public areas throughout its de-facto capitol of Raqqa in northern Syria.
 
"Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" - a group made up of anonymous activists who risk their lives to expose ISIS atrocities in areas under its control - first reported news of the gruesome spectacle, which played out throughout the city following the release of the video Tuesday. 
 
"Using large viewing screens and Movie projectors across the City of al Raqqa, #ISIS Played the Burning of the #JordanianPilot... Mouaz Al Kasasbeh for the public to watch over and over again..." the group said in a series of Twitter posts.
 
ISIS regularly publicizes its executions and other forms of brutal punishments as a way of instilling fear in local populations and discourage them against rebelling despite their desperate conditions. In Raqqa - once a hub of relative modernity in Syria - residents say they have suffered greatly since ISIS took over and implemented its authoritarian Islamic law, with food shortages and regular power outages compounding their misery.
 
The video is possibly the most gruesome yet by ISIS, which has tended to behead previous hostages.
 
In the slick, high-quality production, al-Kassasbeh is first seen sitting behind a desk addressing the camera and condemning coalition strikes against ISIS. After that, he is shown walking past rows of masked terrorists into a metal cage, while doused in petrol; once inside, one of the terrorists lights a fuse leading into the cage, and he is engulfed in flames. A tractor is then used to bury his charred body in rubble.
 
In revenge for the killing, Jordan announced it would be executing a number of ISIS-linked terrorists held in its prisons - a threat it carried out swiftly early Wednesday morning.
 
Despite only releasing the video yesterday, it soon emerged that ISIS had in all likelihood killed al-Kassasbeh a month ago, with Jordanian state TV reporting his execution took place on January 3rd.
 
And a tweet on January 8 by the head of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, who writes under the pseudonym "Abu-Ibraham al-Raqqawi", had detailed a conversation between ISIS fighters in which they gloated of having burned the Jordanian airman to death.
 
Meanwhile, the fate of al-Kassasbeh appears to have had an effect on at least one member of the international coalition against ISIS, as reports surfaced that the United Arab Emirates pulled out of the air campaign against the so-called Islamic State after the pilot's capture in late December.
 
The UAE suspended air strikes after the capture due to fears over the safety of its own pilots, according to the New York Times. 
 
The United Arab Emirates want the US to improve its search-and-rescue efforts, including the use of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, in northern Iraq, closer to the battleground.
 
As it stands, the US-led mission is based in Kuwait, administration officials said, according to the Times.  
 
It said UAE pilots will not rejoin the fight until the Ospreys - which take off and land like helicopters but fly like planes - are deployed in northern Iraq.
 
Al-Kassassbeh was captured by ISIS terrorists within minutes of his plane crashing in December near Raqqa, Syria, but UAE officials questioned if American military rescue teams would have been able to reach the pilot even if there had been more time for a rescue effort, administration officials said.  
 
UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan asked Barbara Leaf, the new US ambassador, why the United States had not put proper resources in northern Iraq for rescuing downed pilots, a senior administration official said, according to the Times.
 
Several rescue efforts do indeed appear to have been made to save the Jordanian pilot, including one on January 1st - just days before he was likely executed.
 
But that operation failed after special forces were forced to withdraw under heavy fire.

Jordan's King Slams 'Cowardly' ISIS After Pilot Executed

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 09:19
Jordans King Abdullah IIJordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday described the Islamic State (ISIS) as a “cowardly” organization, and added that its killing of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh will only strengthen Jordanians.
 
“We have received with all sorrow, grief and anger, the news of the martyrdom of the brave pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, may Allah bless his soul, at the hand of the terrorist and cowardly Daesh organization, this criminal, stray gang that has nothing to do with our true religion,” the King said in a statement quoted by the Jordan Times and in which he used an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
“At this difficult time, it is the duty of all citizens to unify their ranks and show the true character of the Jordanian people when they face hardships and plights, which will only strengthen us and reinforce our unity,” added King Abdullah, who is currently on a visit to the United States which he said he would cut short.
 
Earlier Tuesday, ISIS released a video purportedly showing the burning alive of al-Kassasbeh.jordan pilot
 
Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission over northern Syria as part of the US-led coalition campaign against the jihadists.
 
The highly produced, 22-minute video shows footage of Kassasbeh sitting at a table discussing coalition operations against ISIS, with flags from the various Western and Arab countries in the alliance projected in the background.
 
In response to the brutal killing, Jordan said it would execute five terrorist prisoners in revenge.
 
Sajida al-Rishawi - ReutersSpeaking to Sky News Arabic under condition of anonymity, a Jordanian security official claimed Sajida al-Rishawi - a failed female suicide-bomber whose release ISIS had demanded in a previous video in exchange for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto - would have her execution sentence expedited along with four other Islamist terrorists, in response to the horrific execution of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
The five convicted terrorists would be executed "within hours" the source claimed.

ISIS Reportedly Holds Nazi-esque Mass Book Burning

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 08:51
Book BurningThe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Tuesday voiced concern over reports of mass book-burning in Iraq, saying it would be one of the most "devastating" such actions in history if confirmed.
 
Referring to reports that thousands of books on philosophy, law, science and poetry have been torched in recent weeks, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said it was part of a campaign of "cultural cleansing," reports AFP.
 
"If confirmed, this would be one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history," UNESCO said.
 
"Such destruction is a cruel reminder that the nations of the world must remain united to combat such fanaticism today," Bokova added.
 
In terms of historical precedent, during the Holocaust the genocidal Nazi regime infamously held regular burnings of books that were deemed "subversive" to its murderous and racist ideology.
 
Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists currently hold the city of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, where the book burning may have occurred.
 
US air strikes against the group have aimed to put pressure on the jihadists. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched successful offensives against ISIS-held roads near Mosul.
 
UNESCO said the "armed extremists in Iraq" were targeting "cultural heritage, cultural and religious minorities, and the documents and written evidence of one of the oldest civilizations in human history."
 
Last December UNESCO held a special session to discuss ISIS's rampant destruction of Jewish historical sites in the regions of Iraq and Syria under its control.
 
Among the damaged Jewish sites are the shrines of the prophets Daniel and Jonah, the Eliyahu Hanavi (prophet Elijah) shrine and synagogue in Damascus, the tomb of Yehezkel (Ezekiel) the prophet, and the Dura Europos synagogue, one of the oldest known synagogues.

Jordan to Execute Jailed Terrorists after Pilot Burned Alive

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 18:46
Sajida al-Rishawi - ReutersJust hours after a video surfaced showing the ISIS terrorist group executing a captive Jordanian pilot by burning him alive, Jordan is preparing to execute five terrorist prisoners in revenge, according to a report.
 
Speaking to Sky News Arabic under condition of anonymity, a Jordanian security official claimed Sajida al-Rishawi - a failed female suicide-bomber whose release ISIS had demanded in a previous video in exchange for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto - would have her execution sentence expedited along with four other Islamist terrorists, in response to the horrific execution of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
 
The five convicted terrorists would be executed "within hours" the source claimed.
 
Shortly after, another official told the AFP news agency that al-Rishawi would be "executed at dawn," but did not mention any other executions.
 
"The sentence of death pending on... Iraqi Sajida al-Rishawi will be carried out at dawn," the security official said on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
 
In an official statement to Jordanian state TV, a Jordanian army spokesman confirmed al-Kassasbeh's death and vowed "revenge", without elaborating further.
 
"The military forces announce that the hero pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, has fallen as a martyr, and ask God to accept him with the martyrs," Mamdouh al-Ameri said in a statement, translated by the Associated Press.
 
"While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasize his blood will not be shed in vain. Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians," he added.
 
US President Barack Obama also issued a response to the gruesome execution video Tuesday, saying that if it was authenticated it just shows the organization's "barbarity", and would strengthen the resolve of the international coalition mobilized against it.
 
"Should in fact this video be authentic, it's just one more indication of the viciousness (and) barbarity of this organization," Obama said, adding it would "redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of the global coalition to make sure" ISIS is "ultimately defeated."
 
And the general leading the US-led war against ISIS also denounced the "savage" execution of al-Kassasbeh.
 
"US Central Command strongly condemns ISIL's savage murder" of Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh and "will fight this barbaric enemy until it is defeated," General Lloyd Austin, head of the US Central Command, said in a statement.
 
Meanwhile, Jordanian state TV reported that al-Kassasbeh was in fact executed as early as January 3rd. Jordan Pilot
 
And analysts, including Middle East expert Aymenn Tamimi, also pointed to a posts on Twitter a month ago by anti-ISIS activists, claiming already then that Kassasbeh had been "burned to death."
 
Tamimi told Arutz Sheva it was likely the Islamic State group only released the video now because "Jordan called IS' bluff by demanding proof the pilot was alive."
 
ISIS had previously offered to free Japanese hostage Kenji Goto in return for Sajida al-Rishawi, but the deal stalled after the jihadists inexplicably balked at Jordan's demand for proof that al-Kassasbeh was alive.
 
If reports he was in fact executed as far back as a month ago are true, it would mean he was already dead when the offer of a prisoner swap was made.

ISIS Burns Captive Jordanian Pilot Alive

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 18:40
jordanian-pilotThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the burning alive of a Jordanian pilot it had captured in December.
 
The video released online showed images of a man purported to be Maaz al-Kassasbeh engulfed in flames inside a metal cage.  
 
Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission over northern Syria as part of the US-led coalition campaign against the jihadists.
 
The highly produced, 22-minute video shows footage of Kassasbeh sitting at a table discussing coalition operations against ISIS, with flags from the various Western and Arab countries in the alliance projected in the background.
 
It then shows Kassasbeh dressed in an orange jumpsuit and surrounded by armed and masked ISIS fighters in camouflage. It cuts to him standing inside the cage and apparently doused in petrol before he is burned alive in a gruesome ritual, as one terrorist ignites a stream of flammable liquid which leads into his cage.jordanian pilot burnedalive
 
The Sunni Muslim terrorist group had threatened to kill Kassasbeh unless Jordan handed over a jailed Iraqi female suicide bomber.
 
The release of the video of the pilot's murder came days after ISIS beheaded a second Japanese hostage within a week.
 
ISIS had vowed to kill the second Japanese man, Kenji Goto, and Kassasbeh by sunset on January 29 unless Amman handed over Iraqi jihadist and would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, who is on death row in Jordan.
 
Jordan demanded proof that Kassasbeh was still alive before releasing the terrorist. In the end it never got word back before the deadline, and on Saturday ISIS released a video showing Goto being beheaded.
 
There have already been suggestions that Kassasbeh may have been killed weeks before this latest video was released, as suspicions were already high over whether he was in fact alive due to ISIS's refusal to hand over a simple proof of life.
 
According to Jordanian state TV, the 26-year-old pilot was actually killed exactly a month ago, on January 3.
 
Just a week before that another Japanese captive, Haruna Yukawa, was likewise beheaded by ISIS. Goto had entered Syria as part of a humanitarian effort to document the situation of residents, and also to try and locate the captive Yukawa and free him.
 
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain are taking part in the coalition air strikes in Syria. Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are participating in Iraq.

Mass Grave of Yazidi ISIS Victims Discovered in Iraq

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 08:27
Mass Grave of YazidiKurdish forces have found the remains of about 25 members of the Yazidi minority killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group in a mass grave in northwest Iraq, officials said Monday.
 
"Peshmerga forces discovered a mass grave yesterday (Sunday) containing the remains of about 25 people - men, children and women - from the Yazidi (sect) who were killed by" ISIS jihadists, local official Myaser Haji Saleh told AFP.
 
A peshmerga lieutenant colonel said the grave was found near Sinuni during a search for explosives that ISIS often leaves behind, posing a threat to security forces and civilians even after they withdraw.
 
"Our forces were searching for explosives and mines planted by (ISIS) in the area and found the grave during the search," the officer said.
 
Some of the victims had been shot dead and others "slaughtered" using knives, he said.
 
ISIS spearheaded a June offensive that began in the northern province of Nineveh, where the mass grave was discovered, and overran large areas north and west of the Iraqi capital.
 
After sweeping south towards Baghdad, the militants again turned their attention to the north in August, driving Kurdish forces back toward their regional capital and seizing areas including Sinuni.
 
ISIS carried out a campaign of killings, kidnappings and enslavement against Yazidi Kurds living in the area that the UN termed an "attempt to commit genocide."
 
Backed by US-led air strikes and assisted by international trainers and advisers, Kurdish forces have made significant gains in the north.
 
Federal troops, Shiite militiamen and Sunni tribesmen have also pushed ISIS back farther south, but significant territory, including three major Iraqi cities - among them the country's second largest, Mosul - remains in the hands of the jihadists.

ISIS Executes Remaining Japanese Hostage

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 31 January 2015 17:26
Japanese hostagesThe Islamic State (ISIS) terror group released a video Saturday purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.
 
In it, Goto is seen kneeling, dressed in an orange outfit, as a masked man standing beside him with a knife blames the Japanese government for his "slaughter."
 
As in most previous ISIS execution videos, it ends with a still photo of the body with the head resting on its back.
 
The executioner appears to be the man known as Jihadi John, speaking with a southern English accent and addressing the Japanese government.  
 
"You, like your foolish allies in the Satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we, by Allah's grace, are an Islamic Caliphate with authority and power, an entire army thirsty for your blood," he said.
 
He then speaks directly to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
 
"Because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin."
 
The video made no mention of a Jordanian pilot also held hostage and threatened with execution.

Defeating 'Ugly' ISIS With Shoes

Category: News
Created on Friday, 30 January 2015 22:08
SavagesThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist glares at Baghdad residents with bulging eyes and bared teeth, but neither kidnapping nor death are imminent, because this jihadist is made from a shoe.
 
A black, treaded sole with the toe broken off serves as his face and nose, while old shoelaces evoke both black headscarf and long hair.
 
For teeth, zippers dangle into a mouth formed by the space between the heel and toe, and round metal pieces stand in for bulging eyes.
 
The jihadist is the creation of Iraqi artist Akeel Khreef, who takes worn-out shoes and transforms them into faces representing the "ugliness" of ISIS, which has committed a slew of atrocities in his country, reports AFP.
 
"I wanted to portray the extent of the criminality and ugliness and ugly acts of the organization's members," says Khreef, a 35-year-old architectural engineering professor who is working on a mural of two dozen shoe faces.
 
ISIS has done much to provoke the anger of Iraqis, leading a June offensive that swept down from the city of Mosul and overran large parts of the country's Sunni Arab heartland, sowing fear and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
 
It has killed thousands of people in areas it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria, targeted religious and ethnic minorities, sold women and children as sex slaves and destroyed historical sites.
 
With the faces, Khreef says he wants to portray "the ugly condition" that has prevailed in Iraq since June, and fashioning them from old shoes does so with a calculated insult of an especially Iraqi persuasion.
 
In Iraq it is considered extremely rude to call someone "waja al-kundara" - literally "face of the shoe." "This is what I want to say," Khreef explains.
 
In Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, it is deemed offensive to even have the bottom of one's shoes facing another person.
 
Iraq also has a history of protest by footwear, with a journalist famously hurling his shoes at then US President George W. Bush during a press conference in 2008.
 
When "you look at the works, you see they are made from remains of waste and worn-out shoes, but they appear sick in their mentalities, and bloodthirsty," Khreef says.
 
Embarrassing the terrorists
 
"I will not get them out of my country with this work, but...I am certain they would be embarrassed by it," he says.
 
American officials frequently refer to breaking the "image" or "myth" of ISIS invincibility, but this can come to pass through art and humor in addition to military force.
 
To obtain supplies for this and other projects, Khreef collects bits and pieces from trash cans and buys old shoes from small shops.
 
"The most important person in my life is the cobbler - he provides me the remains of the worn-out shoes," he says.
 
Khreef is sometimes mocked for searching through trash, but wants to convey the idea that "rubbish is not harmful, and can be used for useful things."
 
"I work in the street," he says. "I want the people to know this art."
 
Khreef says the project is especially for people displaced by ISIS. "I am trying to show (ISIS) in the ugliest form to comfort the people who
left their homes and to tell them: 'It is not just the soldier who is with you.'"
 
The mural Khreef is making is inspired by the organization ISIS - which he refers to as "Daesh," an Arabic acronym the group rejects - but he wants it to reflect other meanings as well.
 
"The mural represents the Dawaesh (ISIS members) who live among us, and not just the terrorists," he says.
 
For Khreef, a "Daeshi" is "every man who does not love his country and does not love goodness, and believes in death, and rejects the other, and is ready to kill you when you disagree with him."
 
ISIS has a history of greeting even symbolic opposition with kidnapping or brutal violence, and has executed hundreds of people who opposed it in Iraq and Syria.
 
Artists have fled areas under ISIS control or have been lying low. Khreef says he is nonetheless determined to go forward with his project.
 
"Death is everywhere, and I am not more important than someone who defends his country and carries a weapon and goes to confront the enemy face to face," he says.
 
And if the worst happens, "at least I would die believing in a true cause."

Why Does ISIS Want a Failed Female Suicide Bomber Released?

Category: News
Created on Friday, 30 January 2015 21:10
Sajida al-RishawiFailed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, thrust into the spotlight by the demand by Islamic State (ISIS) that she be released in a prisoner exchange, is an important symbol for the jihadists, experts told AFP.
 
Closely linked to ISIS's predecessor organization in Iraq, Rishawi is on death row in Jordan for her role in 2005 suicide bombings in Amman that killed 60 and shocked Jordan.
 
ISIS has said it would trade Rishawi for Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, most recently threatening to kill captured Jordanian F-16 pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh if the exchange does not go through.
 
Rishawi, now 44, was arrested four days after the November 9, 2005 attacks in which her husband Ali Hussein al-Shammari and two other Iraqis blew themselves up in Amman.
 
The heaviest casualties came when Shammari detonated his explosives belt at the Radisson SAS hotel as a wedding was in full swing. Two other hotels were hit in the coordinated attacks and most of the dead were Jordanians.
 
"Rishawi is important for her link to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and one of the most significant operations outside Iraq in its history - the Amman bombings," Aymenn al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, said in reference to the group that preceded ISIS.
 
The sudden focus on Rishawi is mainly down to the fact that ISIS has the Jordanian pilot, presenting an opportunity for a prisoner exchange, he said.
 
ISIS "wants to be seen as a state by other actors and this proposed mutual prisoner swap with an enemy nation - as opposed to a mere release for ransom that is common among armed groups - is one way to realize that goal," Tamimi said.
 
Televised confession of a failed bombing
 
"She was with Zarqawi in the basic group that founded the original ISIS," Hassan Abu Hanieh, an expert on Islamist groups, said in reference to Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian.
 
Explaining her value he elaborated "she is very important because she is Iraqi, she is Sunni and from Anbar. She is the sister of a former emir (leader) and her brothers are martyrs."
 
Oraib Rentawi, the director of the Amman-based Al-Quds Center for Political Studies, agreed, saying: "IS(IS) wants Rishawi and no one else for the moral and symbolic importance she has. Her name was linked to Zarqawi and to the bombings (in) Amman."
 
Zarqawi, who was killed in a US air raid in Iraq in June 2006, claimed the triple bombings in Amman. Rishawi's brother, Samir Atruss al-Rishawi, was a Zarqawi lieutenant who was also killed in Iraq.
 
After her arrest, Jordanian authorities paraded Rishawi on state television for her to confess that she had accompanied her husband to Jordan to carry out the attacks.
 
During her televised confession, Rishawi displayed an explosives belt strapped across her long black robe and spoke calmly about how the operation was to have been carried out.
 
Rishawi, who appeared with a white head scarf, said that at the last minute she had not managed to activate her belt to blow herself up.
 
She said her husband was one of the bombers, that they had traveled from Iraq using fake passports and he had shown her how to activate the explosives.
 
Her trial opened in April 2006, with Zarqawi also on the charge sheet, and she was later sentenced to death. A security source said she now spends most of her time in a women's prison reading the Koran and watching Islamic TV channels.

Only Israel, Not Europe, Can Stand Up to Islam

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Thursday, 29 January 2015 22:14
europe kick-out expulse islam-muslims-musulmans-coranFrance's puerile educational response - and for that matter, Europe's general response - to the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket massacres, is worse than useless.
 
That the French ruling class had understood little or nothing of the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and at the kosher supermarket in Paris could have already been easily guessed. 
The confirmation comes from the extensive program announced by the Minister of Education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a French-Moroccan woman who was seen as the symbol of French integration.
 
"How could have we let our students become murderers?", asked the daily Le Monde borrowing the cry of four teachers of Aubervilliers, the Parisian suburb where the brothers Kouachi grew up.
 
But instead of promoting a Western "jihad" based on identity, France will respond to Islamic fundamentalism with an unprecedented, banal and secular offensive. A "Day of Secularism" will be celebrated every 9th of December, something akin to worshiping the Deity of Reason promoted by Robespierre. The Cardinal of Paris, Vingt-Trois, has rightly condemned the decision to celebrate the Day of Laïcité, because "secularism is not a religion that must organize religious holidays." 
Belkacem, renamed "Ministre du Décervelage" - Minister of Brainwashing - by conservative associations and the press, also announced that "the paper of secularism" will be signed in schools at the beginning of each year. "Secularism must prevail everywhere," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The socialist government will also unleash "a thousand ambassadors of secularism" in the schools, dealing specifically with students "that show a worrying behavior in front of the symbols of French sovereignty." 
 
An attempt to eliminate any claim of identity. 
 
Because, as posited by one of the assistants of Mrs. Belkacem, the sociologist Christian Maurel, education means "getting out of any cultural affiliation". The sociologist Jean-Pierre Le Goff argues that Belkacem is part of "a school of thought that does not want to change society through violence and coercion, but through school and law."
 
But the conservative weekly Valeurs Actuelles comments on the Hollande-Belkacem project that now "secularism becomes a new religion. "
 
Teachers now will be judged not just on their knowledge and their teaching ability, but also "on their ability to share the values of the Republic." The plan also intends to strengthen Sartre's old "culture of commitment." 
A French teacher, Isabelle Rey, just wrote that "many of our students do not share our dismay at the events. We can pretend the consensus, but it is an objective fact that a significant portion of our population believes that the journalists deserved their fate or that the brothers Kouachi died as heroes". 
 
And when dealing with them, with the "lions of Islam", you cannot fight with this puerile kind of laicité. 
 
You cannot convince the monsters who slaughtered Jewish children in Toulouse, who executed Western journalists in Paris, who raped Yazidi girls, who crucified Christians and threw gays from buildings.
Islam's black banner crying "No God but Allah" is marching heavily over Europe's secular ruins.
 
The Jewish Israel is different, and despite the leftist, gender neutral and secularized agenda of the Israeli élite, the Jewish people is above that and is winning. Only the strong State of Israel, in its whole and undivided land, with its healthy people and its shining Torah, can win over this monstrous ideology.
Only the God of Israel can resist and grow in the face of Islam's historic challenge to humanity. 
 
Giulio MeottiGiulio Meotti
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary. He has just prblished a book about the Vatican and Israel titled "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.

Women Joining ISIS 'Cheerleaders, Not Victims'

Category: Islam
Created on Thursday, 29 January 2015 08:03
the two Italian womenWestern women who join Islamic State terrorists are driven by the same ideological passion as many male recruits and should be seen as potentially dangerous cheerleaders, not victims, experts told AFP. 
 
A new study out on Wednesday said the estimated 550 women who have travelled to Iraq and Syria are expected to marry, keep house and bear children.
 
Despite being banned from fighting, the study found they were active propagandists for the cause.
 
"The violent language and dedication to the cause is as strong as we find in some of the men," said extremism expert Ross Frenett of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, who co-authored the new report.
 
"The worry is that as ISIS loses ground, as everyone hopes it does, that more and more of these women will transfer from the domestic
world they're in now to a more violent one," he told AFP.
 
Much has been written about young women going to become "jihadist brides," but the prevailing narrative of wide-eyed recruits drawn by a sense of excitement belies the importance of their own faith and passions.
 
Frenett and his fellow researchers have been monitoring hundreds of women on social media, but focused for the study on 12 women from Austria, Britain, Canada, France and the Netherlands who are living with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
 
Some of the women endorsed the bloody beheadings carried out by the terrorists - "I wish I did" it, one said after US journalist Steven Sotloff was killed - as well as railing against Western governments and the suffering of Muslims.
 
"My best friend is my grenade... It's an American one too. May Allah allow me to kill their Kanzeer [pig] soldiers with their own weapons," one said.
 
Crucially, the women also provide advice and encouragement to other women thinking of joining.
 
"They're actively recruiting women and providing them with assistance advice and referrals to go to ISIS-held territory," said Frenett. "And they are acting as cheerleaders for terrorist attacks back home."
 
Driven by adventure, alienation
 
The report echoes work conducted by other researchers about the dangers of radicalised women, a threat given a face during the attacks on Paris earlier this month.
 
Hayat Boumeddiene, the 26-year-old companion of one of the gunmen, fled to Turkey before the attacks and is now in Syria.
 
Afterwards, an old picture emerged of her wearing the full black Islamic robe and headgear, and aiming a crossbow at the camera.
 
Melanie Smith, of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London, maintains a database of about 70 female ISIS members.
 
She said British women are inciting attacks by suggesting to people who could not travel to Iraq and Syria, "Why not carry out something at home?"
 
"You can see women online being frustrated about the fact they can't fight and they suggest to each other that they could do something else," she told The Observer newspaper.
 
Jayne Huckerby, associate professor at Duke University School of Law, said in a commentary for The New York Times that women are being driven by the same factors that push men into the arms of the ISIS group.
 
"Despite stereotypes about their domesticity and passivity -- the idea that they must always be under men's influence or tricked into joining -- women are drawn to groups like the Islamic State by many of the same forces as men: adventure, inequality, alienation and the pull of the cause," she said.
 
Despite their passion, many of the women in Frenett's research found it difficult to leave their families behind, and he said this could be key to keeping them at home.
 
"The biggest barrier to them leaving, both emotional and practical, isn't the state -- it's their own families," he said, stressing authorities should better support relatives.
 
He said it was also important to give women who make it to Iraq and Syria a way out if they become disillusioned, which most often happens when their husbands are killed fighting.
 
"There needs to be a path available to them when they come home," he said.

Jordan Agrees to Prisoner Swap with ISIS

Category: Reports
Created on Thursday, 29 January 2015 07:39
Swaping prisonerJordan is willing to free an Iraqi female jihadist from prison in exchange for a Jordanian pilot held hostage by the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS), state television said Wednesday.  
 
"Jordan is ready to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed," it quoted a government spokesman as saying.  
 
ISIS, in a video released on Tuesday, threatened to kill airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto unless Amman releases al-Rishawi within 24 hours.
 
The demand to release al-Rishawi - while dropping demands for a $200 million ransom - raised eyebrows, and sent analysts scrambling to discover who she was to be of such importance to ISIS.
 
According to one report al-Rishawi, who is currently appealing a 2006 death sentence handed to her by a Jordanian court, is the sister of a top deputy of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Scores of Foreign Fighters Among ISIS Dead in Kobane Defeat

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:22
Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant -ReutersLarge numbers of foreign fighters are among the ISIS jihadists killed in the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane, a senior US official said Tuesday, saying the concerted campaign was halting the Islamists' march.
 
The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) announced the "liberation" of Kobane on Monday, depriving the Islamic State group of a strategic prize to add to its territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
The United States says Kurdish fighters are now in control of about 90 percent of the town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
"ISIL is now, whether on order or whether they are breaking ranks, is beginning to withdraw from the town," a senior State Department official told reporters, using another term for ISIS.  
 
But he warned that the terrorists were "adaptive and resilient" and no-one was declaring "mission accomplished" yet.
 
The US and some 60 coalition partners is engaged in the "first phase of a multi-year campaign," he stressed.
 
But a victory in Kobane was an important milestone in trying to change "the narrative" of the jihadists who have attracted thousands of foreign fighters to their ranks, mostly disaffected youth drawn by the promise of adventure.
 
ISIS had poured some of its best foreign fighters into Kobane, the State Department official said, but in the last six weeks the losses had begun to cause splits in the ranks.
 
The group has even executed foreign fighters for refusing orders to deploy to the town.
 
Observers say ISIS lost nearly 1,200 fighters in the battle, out of a total of 1,800 killed in total, despite outgunning YPG forces with sophisticated weaponry captured from Iraqi and Syrian military bases.
 
"We don't get into body counts, but it's in the four figures in terms of the overall number of ISIL fighters that have been killed," the State Department official confirmed.
 
Many foreign fighters - many of them Australians, Belgians, Canadians and Chechens - were among them, he said, refusing to give exact figures other than to say "it was hugely, hugely significant."  
 
"The entire notion of this organization which is on the march, inevitable expansion, (its) overall momentum has been halted at Kobane," he added.
 
The US began airstrikes on ISIS to stop its march on Kobane in September and in October airdropped in critical supplies to the anti-ISIS fighters.  
 
Washington also worked with Turkey to open a land corridor to allow Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to help defend the beleaguered town.
 
With the eyes of the international media watching the jihadists "wanted to raise the largest flag they ever made over Kobane," the US official said.
 
"Kobane shows that you're not going to be part of something great... so the whole narrative that ISIL is trying to put out, Kobane really puts a dent in it."

ISIS Gives 24 Hours to Save Japanese, Jordanian Hostage

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 10:55
Kenji Goto and Haruna YukawaThe Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group threatened Tuesday to kill a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian pilot within 24 hours if Amman refuses to free a jailed female jihadist.
 
The video released on jihadist websites shows a picture of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto holding a photograph of captured Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh with a voiceover purportedly by Goto relaying the threat.
 
Japan on Wednesday responded to the video, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying "the government in this extremely difficult situation has been asking for assistance from the Jordanian government towards securing Goto's early release," reports AFP.
 
Japan and Jordan are working together to try and secure the release of the two captives, after ISIS apparently beheaded Japanese contractor Haruna Yukawa last week after a 72-hour deadline for a $200 million ransom passed without payment.
 
It had also threatened to behead Goto at the same deadline, but in a video released Saturday, the group said its demand had now changed and it wanted failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi released from death row in Jordan in exchange for Goto.
 
Rishawi is a would-be Iraqi female suicide bomber who is on death row in connection with triple hotel bomb attacks in Amman that killed 60 people on November 9, 2005.
 
The Amman bombings were claimed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed in a US air raid there in June 2006.
 
His group was a precursor of the ISIS group, and Rishawi's brother, Samir Atruss al-Rishawi, who was also killed in Iraq, was one of Zarqawi's lieutenants.
 
Goto recorded a video of himself before he entered Syria late last October to report on the situation and locate Yukawa. In it, he identified himself and said "no matter what happens I will not bear a grudge against the Syrian people. No matter what happens, the responsibility is mine."
 
"Please, everyone in Japan, do not place any responsibility on the Syrian people," he said in the video message. Smiling, he added "I'll definitely come back alive though."

Kurds 'Expel ISIS' from Strategic Kobane

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 19:04
Kurds fighterKurdish fighters have expelled Islamic State group terrorists from inside the Syrian border town of Kobane, a monitor said Monday, dealing a key symbolic blow to the jihadists' ambitions.  
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had finally pushed ISIS terrorists out of the town after four months of fighting.
 
In Iraq meanwhile, a senior army officer announced that Iraqi forces had also "liberated" Diyala province from ISIS.
 
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that YPG forces had "expelled all Islamic State fighters from Kobane and have full control of the town."
 
"The Kurds are pursuing some jihadists on the eastern outskirts of Kobane, but there is no more fighting inside now."
 
The monitor said Kurdish forces were carrying out "mopping-up operations" against remaining ISIS forces in the Maqtala district, on the eastern outskirts of the town.
 
There was no immediate official announcement from the YPG, but Mustafa Ebdi, an activist from the town, told AFP that "fighting has stopped" in Kobane.  
 
YPG forces were "advancing carefully in Maqtala because of the threat of mines and car bombs," he added.
 
The advance by Kurdish fighters came after 24 hours of heavy bombing by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
 
In a statement, the Pentagon said the coalition had carried out 17 air strikes against ISIS positions in Kobane in the 24 hours from January 25 alone.
 
The targets included "tactical units" and "fighting positions" as well as an ISIS vehicle and staging areas, the statement said.
 
The loss of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, would be a key symbolic blow against ISIS, which has lost more than 1,000 fighters since it began its advance on the town on September 16.  
 
'A huge symbol'
 
At one time ISIS looked set to overrun Kobane, which lies on the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
The group vastly outgunned the YPG thanks to weapons captured from military bases in Syria and Iraq, and sent hundreds of fighters to the battle.
 
But Kurdish forces gradually pushed back the jihadists with the help of extensive air raids by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS as well as fighters from Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces.
 
Kurdish forces have recently been solidifying their control over the city located near the border with Turkey in a serious setback for ISIS, which has captured wide swathes in Iraq and Syria.
 
Just last Monday the YPG seized the highly strategic Mishtenur hilltop, reportedly killing 11 ISIS fighters and capturing large amounts of weaponry and ammunition.
 
Rahman said at the time that the advance was a key strategic victory for the YPG, putting ISIS resupply lines to Aleppo in the west and Raqqa in the east within their line of fire.
 
Analysts say the loss of Kobane is both a symbolic and strategic blow for ISIS, which set its sights on the small town in a bid to cement its control over a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border.
 
Since the group emerged in its current form in 2013, it has captured large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq.
 
It has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory under its control, and gained a reputation for brutality, including executions and torture.  
 
But its apparent failure in Kobane could put the brakes on its plans for expansion in Syria.
 
"Kobane has become a huge symbol. Everyone knows Kobane, it's where the Kurds stopped IS," Kurdish affairs analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said earlier in January.
 
"They (IS) lost hundreds of fighters, millions of dollars of weapons, and the image that wherever IS goes no one can stop them," he told AFP.
 
"Instead of being a great prize for them, it's turned around on them like a boomerang."
 
The fighting in Kobane has killed at least 1,600 people, according to the Observatory.  
 
Civilians though were largely spared because the town's residents evacuated en masse, mostly across the border into Turkey, in the early stages of the fighting.
 
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria's complex, multi-front war, which began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but spiralled into a bloody conflict.
 
Over the border in Iraq, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi announced they had "liberated" Diyala province from ISIS jihadis.
 
"We announce the liberation of Diyala from the (ISIS) organisation," he said.
 
"Iraqi forces are in complete control of all the cities and districts and subdistricts of Diyala province."

Iraqi Forces 'Liberate' Diyala Province from ISIS

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 13:33
Shia militiamen battling ISIS in Iraq file - ReutersIraqi forces have "liberated" Diyala province from the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, retaking all populated areas of the eastern region, a top army officer said on Monday.
 
The symbolic victory for Baghdad, which has at times struggled to push ISIS back, could clear the way for further advances against the jihadists.
 
"We announce the liberation of Diyala from the (ISIS) organisation," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.  
 
Iraqi forces have regained "complete control of all the cities and districts and subdistricts of Diyala province," he said.  
 
Diyala has seen months of fighting, especially in the Jalawla and Saadiyah areas in the province's north, which were held by IS, and areas near the town of Muqdadiyah, which the Sunni Islamists repeatedly attacked but never took.  
 
The last battle for a populated part of the province began last Friday in an area of villages near Muqdadiyah, northeast of Diyala capital Baquba.
 
Zaidi and district council chief Adnan al-Tamimi both said that Iraqi forces are now in control of the entire area.
 
Zaidi said that 58 members of pro-government forces were killed and 248 were wounded in the fighting, while "more than 50" ISIS fighters died.
 
He added that there are thousands of bombs left behind by ISIS in villages north of Muqdadiyah, which will be a major challenge to clear.
 
The general said that there will still be further fighting against ISIS in the rural Hamreen mountains, which stretch across multiple provinces, including Diyala.  
 
The victory could see more forces brought to neighboring Salaheddin province, potentially including jihadi-held Tikrit.
 
ISIS spearheaded a Sunni offensive that began in the northern city of Mosul in June and swept down to overrun much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland.  
 
Iraqi federal forces, Kurdish troops, Shia Islamist militiamen and Sunni tribesmen are all fighting against the jihadists in various parts of the country.
 
A US-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against ISIS in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, and also advising and training Iraqi forces.  
 
The advances for anti-ISIS forces in Iraq come on the same day as Kurdish forces in Syria claim to have totally liberated the embattled border town of Kobane from ISIS.
 
Monday's announcement does not mean the problem of violence in Diyala - which suffered from frequent attacks even before the ISIS drive - is over.  
 
Much will depend on how well Iraqi forces are able to hold retaken territory and efforts to reconstruct areas damaged by the fighting.

Is the Middle East on the Verge of Exploding?

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 12:44
Middle East on the Verge of ExplodingFive separate sets of potential fireworks have been igniting simultaneously in the Middle East for the last few weeks, each of them adding fuel to the fires caused by the others. If and when these developments reach the kindling point, the entire region may go up in uncontrollable flames.
 
These are the sources of the fires:
 
a. the rivalry between Al Qaeda and ISIS
 
b. the intensifying struggle between the Sunni Jabhat al Nusra and the Shiite Hezbollah.
 
c. the successes of the Houthis in Yemen
 
d. Islamic fury at what is happening in Egypt
 
e. the struggle between Islamic extremists and European regimes
 
Here are the details::
 
a. In the militant Sunni arena there is a fierce struggle going on between organizations that identify with Al Qaeda's ideology, headed by Jabhat al Nusra - and ISIS, which is in control over large swathes of Syria and Iraq and has established the most stringent form of Sharia law in those areas. The rivalry has caused Al Qaeda to increase its attacks on the Yemeni government, abort an American attempt to rescue two hostages from Yemen last December, accept responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and announce that the brothers who perpetrate the murders received their training in an Al Qaeda camp in Yemen. 
 
b. The war between the Shiite Assad regime and Hezbollah on the one hand and Sunni Jabhat al Nusra on the other is getting more fierce. Jabhat al Nusra managed to cause Hezbollah painful losses  recently, near the Hermon Mountain range and in a daring infiltration into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, by way of the city of Arsal. Hezbollah is feeling pressured, leading the Iranian revolutionary guards to send some top officers to help the organization plan its next operation and improve its results.
 
c. In Yemen, the Shiite Houthi militias have succeeded in taking over the capital city of Sana'a and appear as the winning side in the long, drawn out war the Houthis have been waging against that nation. Iran is backing the Houthis, the US is helping the regime, both against al Qaeda and the Houthis. Without doubt, Yemen is a battlefield where Iran is forcing its enemies to follow its agenda, including nearby Saudi Arabia, which sees the Houthis as a direct threat to its security. Several years ago, the Saudis built a separation fence all along their border with Yemen, in an attempt to keep out Al Qaeda and Houthi militants.
 
d. There is a fierce struggle in Egypt between the Muslim Brotherhood - the mother of all Sunni Jihad organizations - and the regime of Al Sisi. As far as this struggle goes, Sisi is reinstating the government of Gamal abdel Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, all of whom waged relentless and bloody war against the "Brothers".  As of now, Sisi has succeeded in pushing the "Brothers" from positions of rule into jail cells and from the streets to the cemetery. His successes are infuriating his detractors.    The fight is to the finish, and it is also being waged in the Sinai Desert between the government and the militias of Anṣār Bayt al-Maqdis, who recently switched its loyalties from al Qaeda to ISIS.
 
Europe is a relatively new battleground, but the last few weeks showed mounting escalation, both in jihadist activities against governments (see France) and in governmental activity against jihad cells (Belgium, Germany). Jihad activities in Europe are encouraged by ISIS as well as Al Qaeda, both sides of the rivalry mentioned above. People who return from Jihad in Syria, Iraq and Libya - but not just they - are participating in the heated struggle for Europe's image. 
 
These struggles are synergetic, they influence one another because an Islamic militant sees what is happening in one area and decides to take revenge for Allah in another. This sinking into chaos can lead to large number of large scale conflicts, with many more participants and deaths, especially if these organizations succeed in drawing Israel and the US into the fray. We have already heard of ground troups from the West fighting ISIS.
 
Israel must understand the dangers now permeating the atmosphere of the MIddle East with oil vapors that any spark can set on fire and that no one will be able to put out before the entire region is ablaze. The potential for destruction posed by all these disputes is enormous, and the explosion may shake Europe and even cross the Atlantic when Islamic extremists blow their minds at the deep crisis affecting the entire Middle East.
 
The massive Islamic immigration to Europe turned that continent into a branch of the Middle East's disputes, so that Europe will not be immune to the many deep seated and broad Middle Eastern problems. And America is on the same planet, so that the Middle East disasters will find their way to its shores as well.
 
 
Dr. Mordechai KedarDr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.

Assad Threatens to Fight America's Anti-ISIS Rebels

Category: News
Created on Monday, 26 January 2015 08:55
Bashar Al-AssadSyrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been conducting a nearly four-year bloody crackdown on his own people, said US plans to train vetted rebels to fight Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists were "illusory" as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday.
 
The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground, reports AFP.
 
Washington has backed the Syrian opposition since early in the uprising and has unveiled plans to train more than 5,000 vetted rebels in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to fight ISIS.
 
Assad said the planned US-trained force would be "illegal" and would be treated like any other rebel group. "They are going to be fought like any other illegal militia fighting against the Syrian army," he said.
 
"Bringing 5,000 (fighters) from the outside will make most of them defect and join ISIS and other groups. The idea itself... is illusory," he said.
 
The Pentagon has itself acknowledged that identifying and vetting potential rebel recruits for training is a difficult task that cannot be accomplished quickly without significant risks.
 
Assad questioned the seriousness of the US-led campaign against the jihadists, claiming "what we've seen so far is just, let's say, window-dressing, nothing real. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of Al-Qaeda? They didn't."
 
He was referring to his government's longstanding accusations that Ankara has backed rebel groups including ISIS's jihadist rivals in the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
 
Meanwhile Assad's troops have been responsible for more atrocities than ISIS during the conflict that has already claimed over 200,000 lives according to a UN report last September, despite the media preoccupation with ISIS in recent months.
 
Political solution from Russia?
 
Assad said the nearly four-year-old conflict could only be ended with a political solution, but cast doubt on the value of talks being organized this week by his key ally Russia.
 
The dialogue, which was due to open later on Monday and run through Thursday, was intended to bring together government and opposition representatives, but the main exiled opposition bloc, the National Coalition, is boycotting.
 
"Any talks should be held in a neutral country and overseen by the United Nations," a source in the coalition said, referring to Russia's status as a key Assad ally. Five members of the National Coalition will attend in a personal capacity along with members of opposition groups tolerated by the Damascus authorities.
 
Assad said his government would attend, but asked: "Who do you negotiate with? We have institutions, we have an army and we have influence."
 
"The people we are going to negotiate with, who do they represent?" he said, dismissing the strong opposition movement that has been rebelling to his autocratic rule for many years.
 
His government has long argued that the exiled opposition does not represent people inside Syria, accusing it of being "puppets" of its main foreign backers, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States.

More Australian Women Join ISIS

Category: Islam
Created on Sunday, 25 January 2015 08:57
Muslim womanIncreasing numbers of young women are altering the profile of Australians joining the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, Attorney-General George Brandis said Saturday, enticed by the "false glamor" of the organization.
 
"At an earlier time, perhaps even six months ago, we were concerned almost entirely about young men," Brandis said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
 
"But a more recent estimate by the national security agencies suggests that a growing number of young women are traveling to participate in that fighting as well."
 
Brandis said about 90 Australians were now believed to be caught up in the conflict, compared to 70 last year, the ABC reported.
 
Ever more young people were being "enticed and ensnared here in Australia with the false glamour of participating in the civil war on behalf of ISIL, or Daesh," he added, using alternative acronyms for the group.
 
"The Australian people should be aware that this is a real and growing problem."
 
Canberra has passed a law criminalizing travel to terror hotspots without good reason, fearful that nationals will pose a risk when they return radicalized. Under new laws, anyone who heads to nominated areas will face up to 10 years in jail.
 
In December, Senator Brandis accused Islamic terrorists of using foreign fighters as "cannon fodder" and "propaganda tools" as he revealed 20 Australian nationals had been killed in Syria and Iraq, where ISIS controls huge swathes of territory.
 
Young women have been targeted over and over again by the terror group, which recruits women to support its male terrorists and serve as wives, baby-sitters, and mothers to future jihadists.  Two weeks ago, an ISIS cell recruiting women in Morocco on the internet was busted by local police. 

ISIS Hints it Wants to Depose Hamas and PA

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 25 January 2015 08:17
ISIS Islamists in Iraq fileThe Islamic State (ISIS) branch in "Bayt al-Maqdis," an Arabization of the Hebrew Holy Temple and a term for Jerusalem, has started distributing publications explaining ISIS's platform, in a campaign to expand its influence in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.
 
On the opening page of the publication by ISIS in "Palestine" is written "this is our position, this is our worldview, these are our founding principles. ...The liar will not be left with an excuse, and the supporters will not be left with doubt."
 
A large ISIS symbol is drawn on the center of the page, including the oath of allegiance to Islam that reads "there is no God but Allah." Along with it appears a ring of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, with three words on it: Allah, Prophet, Mohammed.
 
Jihad holy war in the path of Allah is a commandment for all to "liberate the Muslim lands," states the publication, emphasizing that there's an obligation to fight the police and army of "the rule of tyranny and heresy."
 
From the statement, it can be inferred that ISIS is calling for its followers to attack the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and Hamas in Gaza, framing such a coup as a religious command.
 
The publication stresses that Jews and Christians will no longer enjoy "defense" among the Muslims as it claims was practiced in the past, calling for the non-Muslims to reach a new agreement with the Islamic State that aims for global domination.
 
Addressing the PA, the local ISIS branch added that any agreement reached with the "occupier" does not obligate Muslims, and is completely worthless.
 
The threats on the PA and Hamas come as Israeli security sources estimate hundreds of Hamas terrorists have been steadily switching over to ISIS, viewing Hamas as "too moderate" in comparison.
 
An ISIS terror cell was recently busted in Hevron too, in an area controlled by the PA.
 
ISIS already reportedly has a foothold in Gaza where it took an active part in last summer's terror war against Israel, and where it claimed a bombing attack on the French Cultural Center last October.

Pentagon Estimates 6,000 Jihadists Have Been Killed

Category: News
Created on Saturday, 24 January 2015 12:14
PentagonThe United States believes it has killed about 6,000 jihadists in its air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, defense officials said Thursday, according to AFP.
 
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, however, warned against resorting to "body counts" to measure progress in the war.
 
The estimate of how many ISIS fighters had been taken out by air raids was first cited by Washington's ambassador to Iraq, Stuart Jones, in an interview aired Thursday by Al-Arabiya television.
 
Defense officials in the United States reluctantly confirmed the figure but insisted the military was not placing a priority on the measurement, which carried uncomfortable echoes from the Vietnam conflict -- when American commanders cited daily "body counts" to convey progress in the war.
 
There was no independent confirmation of the casualty estimate and it remains unclear how many civilians might have been inadvertently killed in the strikes.
 
But if accurate, it would suggest the coalition has inflicted astounding damage on ISIS since the air strikes began in Iraq on August 8 and in Syria on September 23.
 
The casualty toll would mean bombing raids wiped out roughly 20-30 percent of the IS group's fighting force, which is estimated at between 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's estimates released last year.
 
Hagel told a news conference he could not confirm the 6,000 death toll but said "thousands" of ISIS fighters had been killed in U.S.-led bombing raids.
 
"We do know that thousands of [ISIS] fighters have been killed, and we do know that some of [ISIS's] leadership have been killed," he said, according to AFP.
 
However, Hagel said the number of ISIS militants killed was not a useful gauge for assessing the effect of the air campaign.
 
"I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day. And we lost that war," he said.
 
Other indicators showed that ISIS was on the defensive and under pressure, Hagel said, including signs the jihadists were having trouble recruiting, keeping supply routes open and maintaining communications on the battlefield.
 
"These are the metrics you look at as to how much progress you're making in a war," he added.
 
Hagel’s comments came hours after Secretary of State John Kerry said that six months of airstrikes led by his country had stopped the advance of ISIS.
 
The airstrikes “have definitively put Da’esh on the defensive,” Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamist movement.
 
“In recent months we have seen, definitively, Daesh’s momentum was halted in Iraq and in some cases reversed. Ground forces supported by nearly 2,000 air strikes now, have reclaimed more than 700 square kilometers.”
 
He was speaking following a meeting in London that brought together senior ministers from 21 of the countries involved in the coalition formed last year to fight Islamic State.
 
Kerry said that thousands of Islamic State fighters had been killed, including 50% of the ISIS command structure, and that “more than a thousand” ISIS positions had been hit, including military bases, checkpoints and oil refineries.

Paris Attacks Challenge 'Lone Wolf' Terrorist Theory

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 22 January 2015 11:44
Amedy CoulibalyThe attacks in Paris and the radical Islamist cell dismantled in Brussels have challenged the idea of the "lone wolf" terrorist who works alone, without the help of a jihadist organisation, analysts say.
 
Every terrorist that has attempted or carried out attacks in the West in recent years - down to the Kouachi brothers who struck the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris this month - has had some level of ties to extremist groups engaged in global jihad, according to experts.
 
For Jean-Pierre Filiu, of Sciences Po university in Paris, the events in France and Belgium had shown "once again" that the idea of radicals acting in isolation was "an inane myth".  
 
"This largely fantastical figure is an intellectual creation that appeared in the United States as part of the Bush administration's 'global war on terror' in 2001", he argued.
 
Although they may have acted without direct instructions from above, the Kouachi brothers had training from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), its Yemen branch, and struck a top target on Al Qaeda's "most-wanted" list.
 
The concept of "lone wolves" emerged at a time when Western observers were still struggling to understand the apparently diffuse threat from global jihadists - that operated with less clear-cut structures than the major terrorist organisations of the 20th century.
 
The idea was also politically useful for governments trying to sell tougher security measures to the public, said Filiu.
 
"Constructing the idea of an internal enemy, who is elusive and everywhere, justified draconian policies like the Patriot Act in the United States."
 
The Patriot Act, passed in the aftermath of 9/11, gave the US government wide-ranging powers to snoop on its own citizens, but Filiu said its effectiveness has been "questionable at best".  
 
"Playing up the specter of a 'lone wolf' only serves to sow confusion and undermine attempts to pinpoint those who are really responsible for terrorism - the people giving the orders in the Middle East."
 
His claims echo those made by a leading British counter-extremism campaigner in a recent interview with Arutz Sheva.
 
Inspiration from abroad
 
 The confusion comes from the fact that many jihadists in the West have only very loose bonds to known jihadist groups.
 
Amedy Coulibaly - the third gunman in Paris who murdered a policewoman and attacked a Jewish supermarket, killing four - claimed he was working on behalf of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) group in Syria and Iraq, though he never traveled there.
 
But some experts argue it is nonetheless wrong to label them lone wolves. Even if they act alone, or as part of small local cells, they are following a clear blueprint set out by groups with global name recognition.
 
"Even if Coulibaly does not appear to have had direct contact with IS, he was inspired by their threats against France," said Louis Caprioli, former counter-terrorism head at French intelligence agency DST.
 
"That is the power of the jihadist discourse: they push people into suicide missions they would not have even contemplated two months earlier."  
 
That sets jihadists apart from individuals, who develop their own ideology and choose their own methods and targets.  
 
Apparent lone radicals have often turned out to have had direct contact with the leadership of a terrorist group.
 
Nidal Malik Hassan, the US army psychologist who killed 13 soldiers in the Fort Hood military base in Texas in September 2009, was found to be in contact with AQAP leader Anwar Al-Awlaki.
 
"Behind Islamist attacks, there is always someone giving the orders," said Filiu.
 
Still, those orders may not be very precise and the limited costs involved in mounting attacks mean there is no apparent direct financing.  
 
Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported that Coulibaly bought the weapons for all three Paris gunmen - including assault rifles and a rocket launcher - in Belgium for less than 5,000 euros ($7,000). The rocket launcher was never even used.
 
The Soufan Group, a New York think tank, said a better term for "lone wolves" would be "known wolves", given how many are already known to Western intelligence agencies before they strike.  
 
"These individuals, acting alone or in small groups ... have been on the radar of various agencies and organisations, highlighting the difficulty of effectively monitoring and managing people at the nexus of criminality and terrorism," it said in a report this week.  
 
For the Soufan Group, the most serious threat came from people with known associations with radicals and a string of past offences.
 
"It is counter-productive to speak of France's five million Muslims as a sign of a potentially enormous target pool, when it's likely only several dozen people ... should be the highest priority target set".

Kurdish Forces Launch Push Against ISIS in North Iraq

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 22 January 2015 08:18
Kurdish Peshmerga fighter displays clothing taken from slain ISIS fighter - ReutersKurdish security forces launched an offensive on the Islamic State (ISIS) group in northern Iraq Wednesday, backed by US-led air strikes, and retook villages the jihadists used to launch attacks, officials said.
 
The Kurdish Regional Security Council said peshmerga forces, who began a "large-scale offensive" around 7:00 am (0400 GMT), retook four areas and were working to clear more.
 
The US-led coalition against ISIS said it carried out six air strikes in northern Iraq from Tuesday to Wednesday -- three near the town of Tal Afar and three near the city of Mosul. It did not specify the exact locations targeted, according to AFP. 
 
ISIS spearheaded a sweeping offensive that has overrun much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland since June, presenting both an opportunity for territorial expansion and a threat to the country's three-province autonomous Kurdish region.
 
Several Iraqi divisions collapsed in the early days of the offensive, clearing the way for the Kurds to take control of a swathe of disputed northern territory that they have long wanted to incorporate into their region over Baghdad's objections.
 
But after driving south towards Baghdad, ISIS then turned its attention to the Kurds, pushing them back toward their regional capital Arbil in a move that helped spark US strikes against the jihadists.
 
Backed by the strikes as well as international advisors and trainers, Kurdish forces have clawed back significant ground from ISIS.
 
The conflict seems set to redraw the internal boundaries of Iraq in favor of broader Kurdish control in the north.

ISIS is 'Particularly Targeting Educated Women' for Execution

Category: Women rights
Created on Wednesday, 21 January 2015 10:42
shootingThe UN on Tuesday decried numerous executions of civilians in Iraq by the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, warning that educated women appeared to be especially at risk.
 
The jihadist group is showing a "monstrous disregard for human life" in the areas it controls in Iraq, the UN human rights office said.
 
The group, which controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and in neighboring war-ravaged Syria, last week published pictures of the "crucifixions" of two men accused of being bandits, and of a woman being stoned to death, allegedly for adultery.
 
Numerous other women have also reportedly been executed recently in ISIS-controlled areas, including Mosul, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.
 
She said "educated, professional women, particularly women who have run as candidates in elections for public office, seem to be particularly at risk."
 
"In just the first two weeks of this year, reports indicate that three female lawyers were executed," Shamdasani added. Last September the group also murdered female doctors who refused to treat their terrorists, along with a female candidate for the US-backed Iraqi government.
 
A number of other groups are also targeted by the jihadists, Shamdasani said, pointing to "the ruthless murder of two men, who were thrown off the top of a building after having been accused of homosexual acts by a so-called court in Mosul."
 
Minorities are not the only ones suffering, with ISIS meting out "cruel and inhuman punishments" including mutilation to anyone accused of violating its "extremist interpretations of Islamic Sharia law, or for suspected disloyalty," she said.
 
Four doctors were recently killed in central Mosul, allegedly after refusing to treat ISIS fighters.
 
The group also reportedly executed 15 civilians in front of a large crowd in Fallujah on January 1, on suspicion they had cooperated with Iraqi security forces, and 14 more in a public square in Dour, north of Tikrit, for refusing to pledge allegiance to ISIS, Shamdasani said.

Canadian Forces Clash with ISIS in Iraq

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 21 January 2015 08:09
Canadian Forces Clash with ISISCanadian special forces exchanged gunfire with Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Iraq in recent days, in the first confirmed ground battle between Western troops and ISIS, a senior officer was quoted by AFP as having said Monday.
 
The Canadians came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near front lines and shot back in what Canadian special forces commander Brigadier General Michael Rouleau described as self-defense, killing the ISIS fighters.
 
Rouleau said the melee had taken place in the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq, where the extremists have overrun large areas.
 
"My troops had completed a planning session with senior Iraqi leaders several kilometers behind the front lines," Rouleau told a regular media briefing on the conflict, according to AFP.
 
"When they moved forward to confirm the planning at the front lines in order to visualize what they had discussed over a map, they came under immediate and effective mortar and machine gun fire," he added.
 
The general said the Canadians used sniper fire to "neutralize both threats" and there were no Canadian injuries.
 
The United States has previously reported having launched an unsuccessful hostage-rescue operation against the ISIS group in neighboring Syria, but Western forces have not officially engaged in ground combat.
 
An international coalition, led by the United States, has been carrying out air raids on IS extremists in Iraq and Syria since last year. Canada is only involved in Iraq operations.
 
Canada sent some 600 air crew and other military personnel -- as well as six fighter jets and other military aircraft -- to the region in November to participate in the air strikes against the Islamic State.
 
The Canadian deployment is due to end in April, unless parliament votes to extend the mission.

Kerry and Hammond to Hold Meeting on ISIS

Category: News
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 12:30
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will host a meeting in London on Thursday of members of the coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, officials said Saturday, according to AFP.
 
The one-day talks will involve foreign ministers from about 20 countries, including Arab states, to discuss progress so far on tackling the group which occupies swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
 
Kerry Hold Meeting on ISISA British official confirmed the meeting will take place at Lancaster House in central London, a fortnight after deadly attacks in Paris by three gunmen claiming to act on behalf of Al-Qaeda and the ISIS group.
 
"This will be an important opportunity to take stock and assess the progress made so far in our joint efforts to tackle [ISIS’s] poisonous ideology," Hammond told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
 
"The key active partners in the coalition, including our Arab partners, will gather in London to decide what more we need to do to degrade and defeat [ISIS],” he added.
 
"It's vital that we consider what more we can all do to tackle the issue of foreign fighters, to clamp down on [ISIS's] financing, to step up humanitarian assistance and continue our co-ordinated military campaign."
 
Discussions at Thursday’s meeting will focus on five areas -- foreign fighters, the military campaign against ISIS targets, its sources of finances, strategic communications and humanitarian assistance, the official said, according to AFP.
 
The Middle East has been galvanized since last June when Islamic State fighters, already in control of much of Syria, swept through northern Iraq, seizing cities, slaughtering prisoners, and proclaiming a "caliphate" that would rule over all Muslims.
 
The United States-led military aerial campaign against the group’s targets began in late September, though some evidence showed that it has not been effective.

3,000 in Turkey Linked to ISIS

Category: Reports
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 11:42
Jihadis from ISIS in Mosul Iraq fileAround 3,000 people in Turkey are believed to be linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group, a Turkish intelligence report said on Saturday, warning of possible attacks by extremists.  
 
The report called for enhanced surveillance of the 3,000 people, including identifying their rank within the extremist group or whether they were active within it, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.
 
A "red alert" had also been sent to security units warning of possible attacks on the embassies of Western countries by ISIS terrorists following last week's deadly Islamist attacks in France, the report said.
 
Security at the diplomatic missions had been increased to the maximum level, the report said, adding that NATO facilities and Western nationals were also potential targets.
 
And it warned of possible bomb attacks "anywhere and anytime" in Turkey by "sleeper cells."
 
Most vehicles stolen in Turkey ended up in the hands of ISIS jihadists, it said, warning that they could be used in car bomb attacks in the country.  
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said up to 700 Turkish nationals had joined ISIS.
 
He added that Turkey had barred entry to around 7,250 people from abroad who were planning to join ISIS and said 1,160 would-be jihadists were also deported.  
 
Turkey has long been accused of not doing enough to stem the flow of jihadists seeking to join ISIS, which has captured large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. It has also been accused of actively aiding Al Qaeda's Nusra Front.
 
The Turkish government said on Monday that Hayat Boumeddiene, the wanted partner of one of the  gunmen involved in last week's Paris attacks, crossed into Syria via Turkey days before the assaults, amid reports that she may have joined ISIS.
 
A female suicide bomber killed herself and a policeman last week in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district, home to the city's greatest concentration of historical monuments.
 
Turkish authorities have so far refrained from naming the suicide bomber but reports in Turkey and Russia on Friday identified her as Diana Ramazanova, 18, from the northern Caucasus region of Dagestan.
 
She was said to have been the widow of a Norwegian jihadist who died fighting for IS in Syria.

Egypt’s Al-Azhar Institute: The key to ending terror or the reason for it?

Category: Op-Eds
Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 09:59
al-azharJust one month before the Paris massacre of Charlie Hebdo and his staff, the prestigious Sunni Muslim Al-Azhar Institute organized and held a conference at its headquarters in Cairo to address worldwide terrorism. It was entitled, "Al-Azhar in the face of extremism and terrorism." After two full days of discourse focused on the ISIS (Islamic State Iraq Syria) terror group, Al-Azhar concluded with a statement aligned with an earlier one made  by President Obama. ISIS is not Islamic. The President saw fit to omit this opinion from his subsequent speech at the UN, but Al-Ahzar is sticking to it.  
 
Al-Azhar religious scholars (an autonomous body separate from the state but financed by taxpayers) form the center for Koranic interpretation and spiritual guidance to the largest Muslim sect in the world, the Sunnis, estimated at one billion believers -- eighty percent of the worldwide Muslim community. If the religion of Islam were governed by a hierarchy of leadership, Al-Azhar would surely be its head.  
 
Renowned for its doctrinal instruction to imams and its slightest pronouncement (fatwa) obeyed by Muslim followers, Al-Azhar wields a subtle but powerful authority over Muslim believers. Its influence over the West’s perception of Islam is as great. In this capacity, Al-Ahzar has the power to significantly contribute to the eradication of Muslim violence around the world. But instead, what has its impact been as spiritual head with a state role? 
 
Unlike the American president, Al-Azhar would not condemn ISIS when put to the test. Surely, if Al-Ahzar posited that ISIS terror is Islamic then a denunciation of ISIS’ actions would be a condemnation of its own doctrine. But, if ISIS terror is not Islam as Al-Ahzar proclaims what is the harm done with condemning it? This contradiction alone clues us in on a leadership that is allowing if not fostering crimes against humanity.   
This ambiguity coming from the reverential summit of Islamic scholarship transmits confusion and inauthenticity to the West which seeks to find a benign Islam to tolerate. Al-Ahzar’s unwillingness to clarify Islam in relation to current realities and the relative terms sought to define them  – Islam, Islamist, Islamic terror, terror, Islamic extremism, extremism, etc. – is suspicious at best. Anselm Choudary, an outlier, does a better job at being concise and consistent on the Hannity show.    
 
No matter how many millions march for “freedom and tolerance” in Paris and the anti-terror cause in the days following the Hebdo attacks little will change without  Al-Azhar Institute -- the preeminent Islamic authority -- making clear, concise statements to properly identify and condemn violence by Muslims. It could begin by reversing a silence dating back to its 880 AD origins regarding Muslim attacks on the Coptic Christians. This Cairo institute has never condemned the violence or the propaganda of Muslims against Christians within its own state. Tragically, this lack of responsibility has advanced jihad throughout the state and the world.  
 
Al-Ahar excluded Jews from this worldwide summit on terrorism. Its failure to invite synagogues and Jewish leaders was not disguised by its otherwise inclusiveness. Joining the Egyptian Mufti, Dr. Shawki Allam, Al-Azhar University chairman and deputy, and six hundred Muslim scholars (including those of minor sects) from 120 countries were heads of the Eastern Orthodox churches, including Egyptian Copts, and Vatican representatives. Protestant denominations from the West were present, and speakers from communities persecuted by terror groups (Pakistan, Syria, and others) attended.   
 
Did this important conference at the heart of Sunni-Muslim religious learning hold the least promise for genuine examination of worldwide terror? Not really. We’ve seen Al-Ahzar fail to denounce Muslim Brotherhood members as terrorists when the pro-democracy presidency of Al Sisi banned the organization from Egypt last year. Also, the Grand Mufti of Al-Ahzar, who is required by law to confirm or deny death sentences issued by the Egyptian courts, reversed the death penalty of Badeh and others -- all convicted murderers from the Muslim Brotherhood. So far, the Sunni authority of Al-Ahzar has placed itself at odds with Muslims in the Egyptian streets and the rest of the modern world presumably in order to remain true to Islamic doctrine.   
 
At the conference, a Mufti from Nigeria gave a speech in which he recognized ISIS as a terror organization. Generally, any recognition or instruction stated by a Muslim cleric anywhere is considered a fatwa duly acknowledged and followed by all Muslims around the world. In a panic, Al-Ahzar countered the Mufti by issuing a statement negating the Mufti’s point -- overriding it and declaring that ISIS is not a terror organization. The Al-Ahzar statement went on to say that members of ISIS are not Muslim and their actions are not that of Muslims. Then, for good measure, Al-Ahzar emphasized another Koranic verse in order to warn the Nigerian Mufti that it is not his place to condemn ISIS. In short, the reminder stated that any action taken by one Muslim (ISIS members) cannot be judged by another Muslim (Nigerian Mufti). It didn’t matter that Al-Ahzar just declared ISIS a non-Muslim group.    
 
In reaction to Al-Azhar statement, the Egyptian media, attempting to protect the image of Islam, demanded that Al-Azhar label, identify and condemn ISIS as explicitly “Kafir” (non-Muslim) in order to further the deception that terror groups in operation could readily be regarded as being from non-Muslim sources. In response, Dr. Abbas Shoman of Al-Ahzar claimed that the institute had never condemned any believer by disavowing his Muslim identity (assigning him “Kafir”) – a flat out lie. The well-known Egyptian, Farag Fuda, a secular Muslim scholar and human rights advocate critical of Islam and Al-Ahzar, was accused of blasphemy by Al-Ahzar clerics and condemned. The “fatwa” dutifully led to Fuda’s murder, the intended consequence.  
Traced to lies and murder, Al-Ahzar Institute is solely responsible in its actions and teachings for setting the common ethical underpinning of Islamic society. The world would be mistaken to rely upon the leadership of this esteemed Islamic institution for a solution to the world’s crisis.      

ISIS Shows its Most Popular Execution Style is Crucifixion

Category: Islam
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 21:17
crucified1The brutal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization that has conquered large swathes of Iraq and Syria continues to impose Islamic Sharia law sprinkled with generous helping of executions - one of its favorite methods, crucifixion, was put on display this week in rare form.
 
In the last two days, ISIS terrorists crucified 15 Syrian civilians in several villages of the Deir ez-Zur region in the country's east, over accusations of "opposing" the Islamic State.
 
Two of the murdered were from the Shitat tribe, which has come in for mass executions by ISIS recently for daring to question the administrative authority the organization has claimed for itself in eastern Syria.
 
ISIS has perfected its brutal execution techniques, first shooting its victims and then crucifying their bodies and leaving them in the town square for three days as a message of deterrence to the rest of the residents to fear their iron rule.
 
The Syrian human rights group "Al-Musad" reported that in the northern city of Kara, ISIS also executed a man who was accused of photographing ISIS bases and one of their terrorists, and putting the pictures on Facebook.
 
In that case as well, the murdered man's body was crucified and left in the city square.

Paris Attacks Underline Need for Global Response to ISIS: US

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 18 January 2015 07:08
Global ResponseDeadly attacks by terrorists in Paris and other Western cities underline the need for a "global response" to the Islamic State jihadist group, US envoy John Allen said on Wednesday.
 
"As we saw so tragically in Paris last week, Iraq is on the front lines of a global conflict," Allen said at a news conference in Baghdad, referring to attacks by gunmen on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket that killed a total of 17 people.
 
The Islamic State (ISIS) group's "dark, violent ideology has a long reach," also inspiring militants to carry out attacks in Sydney, Ottawa and Brussels, said Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against the jihadists.
 
"None of us can afford to say that degrading and defeating Daesh is solely an Iraqi responsibility. Daesh is a global threat. It demands a global response," he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
 
The jihadist group spearheaded a lightning offensive in June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad.
 
It then turned its attention to forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, driving them towards their capital and helping trigger a US-led air war against ISIS.
 
Allen said that eight countries were now carrying out strikes against ISIS in Iraq, while 12 have pledged to train the country's security forces.
 
The US and allied countries aim to eventually train 5,000 federal and Kurdish forces every six to eight weeks at five training sites in various parts of Iraq. But it remains to be seen whether the relatively brief program will be enough, and if the security forces continue training to maintain newly acquired skills.
 
Iraqi federal forces, Kurdish troops, Shiite militiamen and Sunni tribesmen are all fighting against IS in Iraq, and have regained some ground from the jihadists.
 
But three major cities and swathes of other territory remain outside government control.

'Russian Spies' Executed by Child Soldier in Shocking ISIS Video

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 19:31
ISIS child executioner - ScreenshotA shocking video posted online Tuesday appears to show ISIS using a young child soldier to execute two alleged Russian spies in Syria.
 
The slickly-produced video - which bears all the hallmarks of previous ISIS propaganda productions - shows two men being interrogated in Russian about their alleged attempt to infiltrate the jihadi group on behalf of Russia's FSB spy agency.
 
In the forced confession one of the men, a Kazakh national, says he was ordered to gather intelligence on a particular ISIS leader and use a flash drive to steal sensitive information to pass on to the FSB. The other alleged spy confesses to having been sent to assassinate a senior ISIS commander.
 
Although it is unclear whether their confessions were genuine or not (the confessions were clearly made under duress), the video itself does appear to be authentic - as does its grisly end.
 
After extracting the confessions a burly ISIS fighter previously hidden off-screen appears in the video's final "scene", standing in a field behind the two kneeling suspects and delivering a speech against "disbelievers," a Kalashnikov assault rifle slung across his shoulder. Standing next to him is a young boy with shoulder-length hair, apparently from the Caucuses. The boy, who is no more than nine or ten years old, casually brandishes a pistol.
 
After quoting from the Koran, the adult terrorist adds in Russian: "Allah has gifted the Islamic State's security agency with the apprehension of these two spies... By Allah's grace, they are now in the custody of the lion cubs of the Caliphate."
 
At that point the young boy is gently nudged forward, pistol in hand, and calmly shoots the two men repeatedly inThe young child calmly holds a pistol in his hand the head.
 
The "lion cubs of the Caliphate" is a name given by ISIS to it's child soldiers, which the Islamist terror group regularly shows off in a bid to encourage Muslim parents to indoctrinate their children to become "mujahideen", or "holy warriors".
 
Indeed, the video ends with a scene from a previous ISIS propaganda video released in November, showcasing a training camp for "the next generation" of jihadis. The same young boy features prominently in that video, telling the camera of his ambitions to grow up to "kill infidels" and identifying himself as "Abdullah" from Kazakhstan.
 
A recent study by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) revealed the growing use of children by ISIS both in its propaganda and in military roles, but this is the first such graphic use of a young child in a public execution.

ISIS Cell Recruiting Women Online Busted in Morocco

Category: News
Created on Friday, 16 January 2015 18:03
Recruiting Women OnlineMoroccan police have detained three suspected supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group near the autonomous Spanish enclave of Ceuta, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
 
The arrests were made in the border town of Fnideq where two men were held last month on suspicion of running a cell recruiting young women via the Internet to join ISIS, the ministry said.
 
It did not say when the new suspects were detained.
 
A brother of one of the men was killed while fighting for the terrorist organization in Syria late last year, the ministry said.
 
Between 1,500 and 2,000 Moroccans have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIS or other jihadist groups, according to government estimates.
 
In September, new counter-terrorism legislation was introduced to try to stem the flow of volunteers which has resulted in around 30 convictions.
 
Last month's arrests in Fnideq were made in conjunction with raids by Spanish police that netted another five suspects.
 
Authorities said that those detained were suspected of having recruited at least 12 women to travel to Iraq or Syria, most of them from the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
 
Most women recruits to the organization reportedly end up serving as terrorists' wives, housemaids or babysitters, while some join in the actual fighting.

ISIS Communications Claim Paris Attacks 'Just the Beginning'

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 11 January 2015 19:53
parisEU and US security ministers met at France's interior ministry on Sunday to work out a joint response to the threat of jihadist attacks following days of carnage in Paris by three terrorists claiming to act on behalf of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
 
The gathering was being held just hours ahead of a massive public rally in Paris against terrorism that was to be attended by dozens of world leaders.
 
US Attorney General Eric Holder was the first to arrive at the interior ministry. The interior ministers and senior officials from many European countries, including Israel, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and Canada were to attend.
 
A US Justice Department official said ahead of the meeting that it "will include discussions on addressing terrorist threats, foreign fighters and countering violent extremism."  
 
The ministerial-level meeting was convened by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who was at the forefront of this week's response to a series of attacks and hostage-takings by the three French Islamist gunmen.
 
On Wednesday, two of the gunmen, brothers of Algerian descent, Cherif and Said Kouachi, massacred much of the staff of the Paris satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
 
As a massive manhunt was under way for them, the next day another gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who was connected to the other two, killed a policewoman in a southern suburb of Paris.
 
Events came to a head on Friday when the brothers were trapped in a printing firm near Paris, and Coulibaly stormed a Jewish supermarket in the capital, killing four inside.
 
Twin assaults by French commandos resulted in the deaths of the three gunmen.
 
Before their deaths, Cherif Kouachi and Coulibaly spoke to a French television channel, BFMTV. Kouachi said he was part of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and had traveled to Yemen in 2011 for training, while Coulibaly claimed he belonged to a rival jihadist outfit, the Islamic State group, but had coordinated his attacks with those of the brothers.
 
The French government has admitted to shortcomings in its surveillance of the gunmen, who had criminal records and were known Muslim radicals.  
 
Sunday's meeting was expected to address ways in which Western countries can head off future such jihadist violence on their soil.
 
The German newspaper Bild said Sunday that US intelligence had intercepted communications in which Islamic State leaders said the Paris attacks were just the prelude for a wave of Islamist violence in Europe.  
 
It also reported that the Kouachi brothers had contacts in The Netherlands.
 
Paris was placed on its highest level of alert for terror attacks after Wednesday's Charlie Hebdo massacre, and authorities are maintaining that for the time being.
 
French President Francois Hollande warned on Friday, in a speech after the three gunmen were killed, that his country "has not finished with the threats" from jihadists.
 
He called for the public to remain vigilant in the face of the threat, and for a broad mobilization to counter it, and telling French Jewish leaders his government was prepared to protect Jewish schools and synagogues with soldiers if necessary.

Denmark Vows to Stay 'On Frontline' against ISIS Jihadists

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 11 January 2015 17:58
Frontline against ISIS JihadistsDenmark's commitment to fighting Islamic State jihadists will not be swayed by attacks like the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the country's defence minister said Saturday at a rally to commemorate the Paris victims.
 
"Denmark's hands are not shaking because some terrorists are trying to scare us," Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen told local news agency Ritzau in Copenhagen.
 
"We are attacking ISIL in Iraq and that continues completely unchanged," he said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
 
One of the three Paris attackers - Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages in a Jewish supermarket on Friday - told French TV that he belonged to ISIS.
 
His presumed accomplice Cherif Kouachi - one of two gunmen suspected of killing 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday -  claimed to be part of the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda.  
 
NATO-member Denmark is part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group and has carried out air strikes against ISIS in Iraq since August.  
 
It is also home to the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the first to controversially publish caricatures of the founder of Islam Mohammed a decade ago, later republished by Charlie Hebdo. Both publications received threats from extremists as a result.
 
The Danish minister refused to comment on the groups potentially behind the Paris attacks but he vowed that "terrorists will never determine Denmark's efforts abroad".
 
"We have a clenched fist when it comes to ISIL in Iraq. We are on the frontline, and we will remain so going forward," he told Ritzau.
 
Denmark has not raised its terrorist threat level since the attacks in Paris, which claimed 17 lives over a three-day period.  
 
But security was raised at media outlets and the country's Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen promised extra resources to the national security and intelligence agency.
 
Meanwhile, intelligence services in neighboring Norway told TV2 News that they were investigating a terrorist threat to Norway and Denmark posted on a French-based Arabic website.

Erekat: There's No Difference Between Israel and ISIS

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 08 January 2015 07:58
Saeb ErekatThe Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, on Wednesday compared Israel’s construction of homes in Judea and Samaria to the actions of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
 
"There is no difference between the terrorism practiced by the group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Israel's terrorism," Erekat said, according to the Ma’an news agency, referencing the leader of ISIS.
 
He added that "ending settlement activities is a prerequisite for eliminating terrorism."
 
Erekat also slammed Israel's decision to withhold the PA’s tax revenues over its applying to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying that Israeli threats would not deter the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people from holding firm to their inalienable rights, including the establishment of an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem.
 
Erekat’s remarks follow a threat he made earlier this week in an interview on Army Radio, when he threatened that the PA will dismantle itself and “hand the keys” back to Israel.
 
“Next week or next month,” he threatened, “there will not be a Palestinian Authority. Israel will find itself responsible from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean, and you will find our kids running after your kids in refugee camps, as you did in 1992. That’s what it means.”
 
The comparison to ISIS is certainly not the first time that Israel has been compared to the murderous terrorist group. In October, the speaker of the Jordanian Parliament made a similar comparison between Israel’s construction in Jerusalem and the terrorist attacks of the Islamic State.
 
The speaker, Atef Tarawneh, said that Israel's “aggression” against the Palestinians is "no less than ISIS actions."

Pentagon: Training of Syrian Rebels Could Begin in Spring

Category: News
Created on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 06:42
PentagonThe United States military has made progress in its effort to identify moderate Syrian rebels to train for the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists and a U.S. training mission could begin this spring, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
 
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, welcomed statements from Ankara indicating Turkey and the United States plan to conclude a deal this month on training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, part of the campaign to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.
 
Kirby said Major General Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, was in the process of talking with Syrian opposition groups in an effort to identify individual recruits to train and equip.
 
"I think if we continue to make the progress that we're making now, that we believe that we could start conducting some training of moderate opposition by early spring," Kirby told a news conference, according to Reuters.
 
The United States began conducting air strikes against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria last year after the group overran part of northwestern Iraq and Baghdad asked for Washington's assistance.
 
President Barack Obama has authorized more than 3,000 U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi forces and to train 12 brigades of Iraqi troops, including three from the Kurdish peshmerga forces.
 
He also approved a mission for the American military to train and equip a moderate force of Syrian rebels to counter Islamic State terrorists active in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents.
 
The Pentagon hopes to be able to train about 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels a year for three years. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to host training sites for the rebels, but Kirby did not specify where the training might start.
 
Even before ISIS gained power in Syria and Iraq, there have been calls on the West to arm the rebels in order to help them fight Assad’s forces. Small-scale weapons aid and some military training has already been supplied to select rebel groups, along with "non-lethal" aid such as medical supplies and other equipment.
 
More extensive assistance has been ruled out, due to fear that jihadist rebel groups, such as ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, might get their hands on these weapons.
 
House Republicans recently started working on legislation that would keep the Obama administration on a short leash when it comes to arming and training Syrian rebels.
 
The legislation would require the Obama administration to send a progress report to Congress every 90 days if the arming and training is approved.

ISIS Continues to Lose Ground against Kurds in Kobane

Category: News
Created on Sunday, 28 December 2014 06:42
Kurds fighterIsis has lost more ground to Kurdish fighters in the embattled city of Kobane in northern Syria, according to local reports.
 
"Kurdish f orces now control more than 60 percent of the city," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
"ISIS has even left areas that the Kurds did not enter for fear of mines," he added.
 
Kobane, which lies on the border with Turkey, has been the center of a bloody and symbolic struggle between ISIS, or Islamic State, and the city's Kurdish defenders. 
 
In September it appeared as if the jihadis would seize the town, having largely overpowered the more lightly-armed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and captured the majority of Kobane. But after weeks of dogged fighting, and backed by US air strikes and reinforcements from Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and a small number of Arab Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, the Kurds have gained the upper hand and have been gradually pushing ISIS out.
 
A Kurdish activist from Kobane, Mustefa Ebdi, told AFP that the YPG had advanced eastwards during the past week. The advance has forced ISIS to withdraw from the Kurdish militia's headquarters it previously seized in northern Kobane, after it was already pushed out of the city's central and southern districts.
 
Ebdi claimed US-led airstrikes had been the decisive factor in defeating ISIS in Kobane, and said the Islamist terror group was now resorting to insurgency tactics after being routed in direct battle, which had included the use of dozens of suicide bombers.
 
"The jihadists are now using tunnels after failing in their tactics of car bombs and explosive belts," he said.
 
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Syria government forces killed at least 40 people in barrel-bomb attacks on ISIS-held areas.
 
Most of those killed in the raids, which took place in al-Bab and Qabaseen near Aleppo, are believed to be civilians.

Egypt's ISIS Affiliate Executes Two 'Informants'

Category: News
Created on Thursday, 25 December 2014 12:01
Egypts ISIS Affiliate Executes Two Informants -Illustrate-An Egyptian jihadist group released video footage on Tuesday that it said showed the execution of two army informants in the insurgent flashpoint of the Sinai Peninsula, AFP reports.
 
Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, the country's deadliest terrorist group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS), has previously released videos of beheadings.
 
The new video posted on YouTube shows the "confessions" of four men who admitted to being informants.
 
It then shows a man shooting two handcuffed men, one of whom is also blindfolded, in the head. However, it is not clear if the two men killed were among those had confessed.
 
Jihadists are also shown manning checkpoints and searching for soldiers and policemen, and the footage features a militant vowing to launch more attacks on Egyptian security forces.
 
Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (lit. Partisans of Jerusalem) says it has killed at least 12 people since August last year, often by beheading, for allegedly working for Israel's Mossad spy agency.
 
Security in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel has worsened since the army ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July last year.
 
Terrorists have killed scores of security personnel, saying the attacks are in retaliation for a brutal government campaign against Morsi's supporters.
 
Among the attacks claimed by the group since the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi was the assassination of a top Egyptian police general, who was gunned down as he left his home in a west Cairo neighborhood, and a bus bombing on a tour bus filled with South Korean tourists in the Sinai. 
 
The group has also claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks that targete