When 19-year-old Dilar and her girlfriends learned last spring that a woman who taught at a local school had died fighting Islamic State, they made a pact: They would join an all-female Syrian Kurdish brigade named in the teacher’s honor.
“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me. My bravery shames them.”
Her unit, the Martyr Warsin Brigade, saw action this summer in a tough battle against the extremist fighters for Ras al-Ayn, a town along the Turkish border. Dilar came away without injury and returned home to a hero’s welcome.
[Also see The Mystery of Ceylan Ozalp]
Now, during her downtime, she and her female comrades stride with a swagger through their villages east of the embattled city of Kobani.
“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me,” said Dilar, who didn’t want to give her family name. “My bravery shames them.”
“Really we have no differences. We do what the men do.”
As debate flares in Washington and other capitals about whether the battle against Islamic State can succeed without more boots—even U.S. ones—on the ground, Kurdish women have stepped up to defend their lands in Syria and Iraq. An estimated one-third of the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani are women, fighters and residents say, a figure that mirrors their role in other significant battles across Kurdish territories this year.
The monthlong battle over the city on the Turkish border is straining Islamic State, Kurdish politicians and U.S. officials say, and hampering its overall expansion strategy.
The overriding motivation that Kurds give for fighting the insurgents is to save their ancestral homeland from destruction. Yet many women combatants also cite a more personal crusade. Across the territory in Syria and Iraq that it now controls, Islamic State has reinstituted slavery, prohibited women from working and threatened to kill those Muslims, including Kurds, who don’t adhere to their ideology.
“Sometimes we are so close to them without knowing it, because they hide in empty buildings.”
“Islamic State are terrorists, inhuman,” said a 28-year-old female commander of both men and women in Kobani who uses the nom-de-guerre Afsin Kobane.
Ms. Kobane was a kindergarten teacher when she decided last year to join the female unit of the Syrian Kurdish resistance force, known as YPJ. Speaking by telephone from her post in the besieged city on the Turkish border, she said her mixed-gender unit had been fighting for more than a month and was holding a position only a half-mile from Islamic State fighters. Read the rest of this entry »
The three men are members of an infamous motorbike gang, No Surrender, the biggest biker club in the Netherlands
Anna Holligan, BBC News, The Hague: Three members of a Dutch motorcycle club with military backgrounds have gone to Iraq to help fight Islamic State (IS), a fellow biker says.
“They wanted to do something when they saw the pictures of the beheadings.”
The three left for northern Iraq to help Kurds there after being horrified by news of IS atrocities, Klaas Otto told Dutch media.
All are trained soldiers who have served abroad in the past, he said.
“They are trained guys with lots of experience – with foreign missions, too. They are extremely disciplined. They don’t drink any alcohol, not even on club evenings.”
Dutch prosecutors told BBC News that they were not necessarily breaking the law by fighting on the Kurdish side.
Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor’s office, said that signing up with organisations like IS or the Kurdish militant group PKK was banned but joining a foreign armed force was no longer forbidden.
But if there was proof that they were committing murders or rapes then “of course, it would be a different story”, he said.
The Netherlands’ defence ministry said it could not be held responsible for choices made by ex-servicemen.
The story emerged after photos began circulating on social media. One shows a man dressed in green military fatigues, clutching a Kalashnikov, sitting alongside a Kurdish fighter.
The Netherlands has a considerable Kurdish community. Read the rest of this entry »
Ahmed Abu Khatallah to face 17 new charges over alleged involvement on September 2012 attacks on US diplomatic compound in Benghazi that saw four US citizens killed
A US federal grand jury issued a new indictment on Tuesday that includes a possible death penalty against Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a Libyan militant accused of involvement in the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
“Obama administration officials, including Susan Rice, currently White House National Security Adviser, stoked political controversy by initially saying the attack was a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video.”
The indictment supersedes earlier accusations brought against Khatallah in July, and adds 17 new charges, including allegations he led an extremist militia group and conspired with others to attack the facilities and kill U.S. citizens.
Khatallah was captured in Libya in June by a US military and FBI team and transported to the United States aboard a U.S. Navy ship to face charges in Washington federal court.
A lawyer for Khatallah did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Four Americans were killed in the attack, including the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The attack ignited a political firestorm in Washington that could still resonate if Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State at the time of the attack, runs for president as expected in 2016.
Russian hackers use ‘zero-day’ in cyber-spy campaign
For The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports: A Russian hacking group probably working for the government has been exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system to spy on NATO, the Ukrainian government, a U.S. university researcher and other national security targets, according to a new report.
“This is consistent with espionage activity. All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
– iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward
The group has been active since at least 2009, according to research by iSight Partners, a cybersecurity firm.
Its targets in the recent campaign also included a Polish energy firm, a Western European government agency and a French telecommunications firm.
“This is consistent with espionage activity,” said iSight Senior Director Stephen Ward. “All indicators from a targeting and lures perspective would indicate espionage with Russian national interests.”
“The firm began monitoring the hackers’ activity in late 2013 and discovered the vulnerability in August…The flaw is present in every Windows operating system from Vista to 8.1, he said, except Windows XP.”
There is no indication that the group was behind a recent spate of intrusions into U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Ward said.
“ISight dubbed the recently detected hacking group SandWorm because of references embedded in its code to the science-fiction novel ‘Dune.’ There were various mentions in Russian to the fictional desert planet of Arrakis, for instance.”
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say the capabilities of Russian hackers are on par with those of the United States and Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
“We all need to recognize that those who say that what is happening in Israel is like apartheid South Africa are minimizing the suffering that black South Africans endured. They are taking the sting out of the pain that we suffered in South Africa. If South African apartheid was what people are seeing in Israel, there would never have been any need for an armed struggle. There would never have been any need for a Nelson Mandela to go to prison because he would have all the rights Arabs in Israel have.”
Who better to answer that charge than a Black South African who lived through apartheid? Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African parliament, fits that bill. He examines the evidence against Israel and draws a compelling conclusion.
There is widespread allegation — really a slander — that Israel is an apartheid state.
That notion is simply wrong.
It is inaccurate and it is malicious.
And it will not help to promote peace and harmony in the Middle East. Its only purpose is to demonize Israel, and to isolate her in an attempt to de-legitimize Israel’s existence.
And because it is so inaccurate, it betrays the memory of those who suffered through a real apartheid.
As a black South African, who was born under apartheid, in the administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria, I know what apartheid is. I’ve experienced it. My parents experienced it.
But having been to Israel on a number of occasions, I know that nothing is happening in that country — that I have either seen or read — that can be compared to apartheid in South Africa.
Let’s remember the major reason Nelson Mandela went to prison — why he was involved with the armed struggle. He was fighting for the right to vote, for the right to choose the leaders who one believes in, for the right to move and travel freely, to live wherever one wants, to be educated, and to be admitted to the hospital or medical facility of your choice. Read the rest of this entry »
Islamic State Militants Advance Despite Airstrikes: ‘Most of the eastern and southern parts of the city have fallen under the ISIS control…the situation is getting worse’Posted: October 13, 2014
ISIS Gains Territory Despite Weeks of Bombing by U.S., Allies, Raising Questions About Strategy
“The strategy’s biggest weakness in Iraq, officials there say, is the glacial pace of cobbling together an Iraqi political alliance between Sunnis willing to join with the Shiite-controlled central government to rebuild a national military force to fight Islamic State more effectively.”
In Syria, fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, have taken large sections of the city of Kobani in recent days, said Ismet Sheikh Hasan, the defense minister of the city’s Kurdish administration. “Most of the eastern and southern parts of the city have fallen under the ISIS control,” he said. “The situation is getting worse.”
This comes despite a week of heavy airstrikes around the city to help local Syrian Kurdish fighters keep Islamic State forces from the city center.
“The call for American ground troops, however unlikely to be met, caused fresh rifts in Anbar which threatened to weaken the already shaky coalition of government forces working with tribal fighters to fend off the Islamic State assault.”
In Iraq, militant forces operating in a swath of territory the size of California have extended their control of the roads and commercial routes in strategically vital Anbar Province, which connects the capital Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.
Anbar, which has critical infrastructure and whose eastern edge lies only about 25 miles from Baghdad’s center, is also in danger of falling wholly under Islamic State control despite weeks of U.S. strikes aimed at weakening the group, local officials say.
“While the militant group is yet to take the provincial capital of Ramadi, officials in Anbar warn that they are losing their grip on the city to a highly organized and disciplined insurgency that has surrounded military bases and put a choke hold on trade from Jordan, effectively controlling movements of goods and people in the region.”
The province’s chief of police was killed in a bombing Sunday, officials said, heightening unease over the government’s ability to fend off Islamic State forces. Read the rest of this entry »
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) October 10, 2014
President Obama laid out “a mighty ambitious goal” when he said he would destroy the Islamic State, and thus far his strategy has been ineffective, says the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward on Fox News Sunday.
“This is a mess. Obama’s clearly gone through a wake-up call — he’s got to come up with something to do here.”
Military might alone won’t defeat Islamic State and its ilk. The U.S. needs to promote economic empowerment
For WSJ, Hernando De Soto writes: As the U.S. moves into a new theater of the war on terror, it will miss its best chance to beat back Islamic State and other radical groups in the Middle East if it doesn’t deploy a crucial but little-used weapon: an aggressive agenda for economic empowerment. Right now, all we hear about are airstrikes and military maneuvers—which is to be expected when facing down thugs bent on mayhem and destruction.
Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics. The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong, however.
But if the goal is not only to degrade what President Barack Obama rightly calls Islamic State’s “network of death” but to make it impossible for radical leaders to recruit terrorists in the first place, the West must learn a simple lesson: Economic hope is the only way to win the battle for the constituencies on which terrorist groups feed.
Today we hear the same economic and cultural pessimism about the Arab world that we did about Peru in the 1980s. But we know better. Just as Shining Path was beaten in Peru, so can terrorists be defeated by reforms that create an unstoppable constituency for rising living standards in the Middle East and North Africa.
I know something about this. A generation ago, much of Latin America was in turmoil. By 1990, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization called Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, had seized control of most of my home country, Peru, where I served as the president’s principal adviser. Fashionable opinion held that the people rebelling were the impoverished or underemployed wage slaves of Latin America, that capitalism couldn’t work outside the West and that Latin cultures didn’t really understand market economics. Read the rest of this entry »
Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education, and Indian children’s rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Yousafzai, 17, is the youngest winner of the award. She was honored for “her heroic struggle” and becoming “a leading spokesperson for girls’ right to education,” said Thorbjørn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “Despite her youth, Malala … has shown by example that children and young people can contribute to improving their own situation.”
Satyarthi, 60, has been a lifelong campaigner against the exploitation of children for financial gain. “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” Jagland added. “It has been calculated that there are 168 million child laborers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labor.” Yousafazi, who received a standing ovation when she made a powerful address to the United Nations on her 16th birthday, is still receiving treatment in Britain for her injuries. Read the rest of this entry »
“We waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria…”
“I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president.”
“But Jimmy…wait…please…I know…I…it’s…but…”
Both Countries Urge the Other to Halt ISIS Advance on Kobani
Turkey and the U.S. warned that a major Syrian border city was in imminent danger of falling to Islamic State, with the two countries putting the onus on the other to halt the extremist group’s advance.
“You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes. If you don’t support them on the ground by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it.”
– Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pressed the U.S.-led coalition on Tuesday to move ahead with plans to arm and train Syrian and Iraqi ground forces to battle Islamic State, saying airstrikes alone weren’t enough.
An American military official said the U.S. believes the situation in the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani is increasingly dire, and that the city is likely to fall shortly if Turkey doesn’t intervene.
The complications for Turkey stemming from the advance on Kobani were mounting rapidly. Beyond U.S. pressure to step in, protests by the country’s restive Kurds were spreading quickly. At least a dozen people were killed in clashes with security forces in several Kurdish-majority cities, local media reported. The demonstrations reached Istanbul.
Airstrikes Tuesday by the coalition fighting Islamic State hit positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. But Kurdish officials and Syrian opposition members said the militants were still advancing against Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Mr. Erdogan declared Kobani was “about to fall” while he was visiting a refugee camp in the border province of Gaziantep.
“You can’t end this terrorism just by airstrikes,” he said. “If you don’t support them on the ground by cooperating with those who take up a ground operation, the airstrikes won’t do it.”
The U.S. and its partners have conducted hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State in recent weeks. But they have so far ruled out the deployment of their own ground forces, opting instead to train and support local forces.
U.S. defense officials reiterated Tuesday that they are not going to directly coordinate operations with any force on the ground in Syria until at least some of the vetted moderate rebels have been through upcoming military training and are ready to enter the fight. Read the rest of this entry »
“I didn’t have any specific information, but the fact was: when you bring grenade launchers to a demonstration, theres something else going on. And I just, from the very beginning, sensed that this was an attack — this was a terrorist attack on our compound.”
With Kurdish fighters under increasing pressure from the ISIS militants seeking to seize Kobane, this is the first time a suicide bomber has been used by Kurdish forces in the conflict. Her name in Kurdish was Dilar Gencxemis but she went under the nom-de-guerre of Arin Mirkan
SURUC, Turkey — Kurdish fighters battling ISIS militants for the Syrian town of Kobane employed a new tactic when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in an attack claimed to have killed dozens of militants. The young woman, a full-time fighter with the Syria-based Kurdish rebel group the People’s Protection Units (YPG), killed herself in the attack on Sunday, Kurdish sources said.
Her act struck a chord with Kurds and others supporting the opposition to ISIS in Kobane, with #ArinMirkan becoming a popular hashtag on Twitter.
Her name in Kurdish was Dilar Gencxemis but she went under the nom-de-guerre of Arin Mirkan, the YPG said in a statement. She was from the Syrian town of Afrin in the Aleppo province of northern Syria, just south of the Turkish border.
“I don’t know her exact age but she was above 20. She was a fighter from the YPG. “She threw many grenades at ISIS insurgents. After that, she blew herself up.”
With Kurdish fighters under increasing pressure from the ISIS militants seeking to seize Kobane, this is the first time a suicide bomber has been used by Kurdish forces in the conflict. “I don’t know her exact age but she was above 20. She was a fighter from the YPG,” said Mustafa Bali, a Kurdish official in Kobane told in the Turkish border town of Suruc.
“The woman blew herself up for me, for the Kurds and for Kobane.”
– Mustafa, one of the estimated 186,000 people from the Kobane region who fled the fighting into neighbouring Turkey
“She threw many grenades at ISIS insurgents. After that, she blew herself up,” he said, adding that dozens of ISIS fighters were killed in her assault.
“She killed dozens of gang members and demonstrated the YPG fighters’ determined resistance. If necessary, all YPG fighters will follow her example, and the gangs will not be allowed to achieve their aim of taking Kobane.”
– From a statement issued by the YPG, carried by the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency
The Britain-based Britain-based group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria, also confirmed the attack by the female suicide bomber. Read the rest of this entry »
The suspect, who appeared in court today, planned to slip through the porous Turkish border to Syria or on to Iraq
An Illinois teenager was arrested Saturday at a major airport as authorities say he was attempting to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
UPDATE: From CNN: The search at Khan’s Bolingbrook, Illinois, home, where he lives with his parents, turned up documents allegedly written by Khan that stated his intentions.
“We are all witness that the Western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this.”
– Khan in the letter, according to the complaint.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen from Bolingbrook, appeared in court today to face charges for allegedly attempting to provide material support for a terrorist organization. If convicted, Khan could face up to 15 years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »