U.S. Begins Airstrikes Against Islamic State Militants in Iraqi City of Tikrit

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Americans say move reflects failure of Iranian-backed forces to retake area from insurgents

Julian E. Barnes in Washington, Raja Abdulrahim in Samarra, Iraq, and Matt Bradley in Erbil, Iraq, report: U.S. warplanes began airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit in what American officials said was a sign of the failure of Iranian-backed forces to retake the city.

The offensive to retake the city has been stalled for more than a week and American officials on Wednesday said they began the strikes after the Iraqi government formally requested help. The U.S. in recent days began providing video feeds and other intelligence to Iraqi forces, drawing the Americans into closer coordination with Iranian-allied Shiite militias spearheading the campaign.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ.com]

The U.S. intervention is a blow to Iran, which has played a major role in commanding the Shiite militias and has also supplied weapons. Those militias account for about 20,000 of the 30,000-strong force involved in the operation.

U.S. officials said the difficulty in Tikrit exposed the weakness of Iranian support for Iraq’s government, adding that they hope to use those difficulties to drive a wedge between Iraq and Iran.

“Tikrit shows the complete failure by Iran to produce results on the ground,” said a senior U.S. official.

An Iraqi Shiite militiaman with the so-called Imam Ali Brigades in Tikrit on Wednesday, as the U.S. said it had begun airstrikes against Islamic State militants there because of the failure of Iran-backed Shiite fighters to retake the city. Photo: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

An Iraqi Shiite militiaman with the so-called Imam Ali Brigades in Tikrit on Wednesday, as the U.S. said it had begun airstrikes against Islamic State militants there because of the failure of Iran-backed Shiite fighters to retake the city. Photo: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been assisting the Iraqi force, including planning help, artillery fire and other combat support. But Pentagon officials said the IRGC effort has produced little in the way of results for Iraqi forces.

The U.S. and allied warplanes struck between six and 10 targets in Tikrit, according to Pentagon officials, including the palace that Islamic State militants have been using as their headquarters. The buildings struck were all preselected targets that U.S. surveillance planes have been tracking for several days, officials said.

American officials held open the option that moving targets could be targeted in future strikes. Defense officials said they were working only with the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces, not Shiite militias or Iranian forces. Read the rest of this entry »


Grand Jury Indicts Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh: Air Force Vet Charged in Plot to Aid Islamic State Group

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NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors say a U.S. Air Force veteran has been arrested on terrorism charges in a plot to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

A grand jury indicted Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey, on charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstruction of justice.

He will appear Wednesday in federal court in New York City and is now in custody….(read more)

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For NBC News, Michael Kosnar and Daniel Arkin report: A former U.S. Air Force mechanic has been charged with attempting to go to Syria to join ISIS, authorities said Tuesday. Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was indicted Monday by a grand jury in Brooklyn on two charges, including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization.

The indictment said that Pugh was fired from a job in Kuwait as an airplane mechanic in December 2014. It said that he flew from Egypt to Turkey on January 10, in an effort to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS and wage violent jihad.

Turkish authorities denied him entry into the country, however, and sent him on a return flight to Egypt. He was deported from Egypt to the U.S. in January 15, after he was found carrying suspicious items, including a photograph of a machine gun.

Pugh was arrested Jan. 16, but the case has been sealed since that date.

Searches of his laptop revealed online queries about borders and crossing points controlled by the Islamic State, and videos showing ISIS executions. Posting on social media show Pugh repeatedly professed a desire never to return to the U.S., even though he has family — including children — in the country….(read more)

This is a breaking news story. Please refresh for updates.

— Michael Kosnar and Daniel Arkin

Air Force Times – NBC News


Representing the 1%: Michelle Obama Celebrates Iranian Holiday at White House

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John Nolte writes: Why did God invent New Media? Because when the First Lady of the United States appeases a lunatic Islamic regime like Iran, the mainstream media is going to cover that fact up. The fact here is that Wednesday at the White House the First Lady celebrated Nowruz, which White House Dossier describes as the “Iranian festival of spring that marks the beginning of the Persian new year.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with honoring the many events celebrated within this magnificent e pluribus unum melting pot of ours. The problem is that this is not about honoring a group of people who make up less than 1% of our population. When the Obama White House celebrates the Amish holiday of “Old Christmas” be sure to fire me up a flare.

That spectacle wasn’t about anything other than kissing up to the women-oppressing, homosexual-murdering Islamic theocrats in Iran who have only three goals: 1) Get a nuclear weapon. 2) Use that weapon to wipe out Israel. 3) Jump into a pile of 72 virgins. Read the rest of this entry »


Satellite Photos Show that 83% of Syria’s Lights Are Out Since the Start of the War

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The White House Portrait of a Crumbling Terror Group is Contradicted by Documents Seized in the Bin Laden Raid

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How America Was Misled on al Qaeda’s Demise

Stephen Hayes and Tomas Joscelyn write: In the early-morning hours of May 2, 2011, a small team of American military and intelligence professionals landed inside the high white walls of a mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The team’s mission, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, had two primary objectives: capture or kill Osama bin Laden and gather as much intelligence as possible about the al Qaeda leader and his network. A bullet to bin Laden’s head accomplished the first; the quick work of the Sensitive Site Exploitation team accomplished the second.

“The leadership down at Central Command wanted to know what were we learning from these documents. We were still facing a growing al Qaeda threat. And it was not just Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq. But we saw it growing in Yemen. We clearly saw it growing still in East Africa…The threat wasn’t going away, and we wanted to know: What can we learn from these documents?”

– Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency

It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

[Also see – Stephen F. Hayes: Why Haven’t We Seen the Documents Retrieved in the Bin Laden Raid?]

The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.

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But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.

[More – NYT: Despite our assurances, it turns out Benghazi was an al-Qaeda-linked attack – hotair.com]

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending.

“At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: ‘By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.’”

In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

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The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

“This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.”

It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Three Men Arrested After Allegedly Attempting to Join ISIS from U.S.

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NEW YORK — The FBI has arrested three men who allegedly attempted to fly from New York to Turkey in hopes of eventually joining ISIS in Syria, according to a complaint unsealed in Brooklyn federal court Wednesday.

The suspects — identified as Abdurasul Jaraboev, 24; Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19; and Abror Habibov, 30 — face charges that include providing material support for terrorists, authorities said.

The men allegedly discussed staging attacks in the United States, according to court papers. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: ISIS Kidnap at Least 90 People from Christian Villages in Syria

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Sources say at least 90 have been abducted – mainly women and children. Up to 3,000 people are said to have been ‘displaced’ as a result of the raid

Julian Robinson reporting for MailOnline: Islamic State militants have kidnapped at least 90 people from Christian villages in Syria, it has been revealed.

The abductions are said to have taken place after ISIS seized two Assyrian villages from Kurdish forces in the northeast province of Hassakeh.

ISIS parades 'Kurdish Peshmerga' fighters in cages before mob

ISIS parades ‘Kurdish Peshmerga’ fighters in cages before mob

Dawn raids are reported to have happened on Monday in villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority near the town of Tel Hmar, a mainly Assyrian town, in the western countryside of the city.

The kidnappings were revealed by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The latest offensive coincides with a push by Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border since Sunday that had compounded losses for the militant group in Syria.

Brutal: The raid comes Isis murdered 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya

Brutal: The raid comes Isis murdered 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya

Sources are reported to have told the human rights watchdog that jihadists swooped to abduct dozens of civilians from the village of Tal Shamiram.

Initial reports put the figure at 56 – but others said the number was much higher.

The International Business Times quoted Nuri Kino, founder of A Demand for Action (ADFA), as saying the Syrian villages had been attacked at 5am with 3,000 people ‘displaced’. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. to Give Syria Rebels Pickup Trucks Equipped with Machine Guns, Radios to Call For Airstrikes

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After training, moderate rebels to get pickups with gear to call for American B-1B bombers

Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous report: The U.S. has decided to provide pickup trucks equipped with machine guns and radios for calling in U.S. airstrikes to some moderate Syrian rebels, defense officials said. But the scope of any bombing hasn’t been worked out—a reflection of the complexities of the battlefield in Syria.

Military officials point to U.S. airstrikes, called in by Kurdish fighters, that helped drive Islamic State fighters from the city of Kobani as the model for the new campaign.

“We were getting information from the Kurds from our command and control element. We were getting information quickly enough for the purposes of what we were trying to achieve: target ISIL fighters and their positions.”

– Lt. Col. Sumangil

Still, there are significant differences with what the U.S.-trained rebels will face. In Kobani, a larger and more-cohesive Kurdish force was fighting from a fixed position against a single enemy—Islamic State—without having to worry about the Syrian regime or other rebel groups.

U.S. officials also are confronted with the fragile nature of the international coalition assembled to fight Islamic State, the uneasy peace with Iran inside of Iraq, and questions about whether U.S. warplanes can or should target the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The plan comes as the U.S. prepares to start training moderate rebels, who are waging a two-front fight against the extremists and the Syrian regime. Defense officials said the training will begin in mid-to-late March in Jordan, with a second site due to open soon after in Turkey.

At the same time, the threat is spreading. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi called on Tuesday for the United Nations to endorse an international military campaign against Islamic State in Libya, a day after he ordered cross-border airstrikes in retaliation for the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians by the extremist group. The U.N. Security Council was to meet in emergency session on Wednesday, but the U.S. and several other council members called in advance for a political solution.

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The Obama administration has been facing growing pressure to step up support for the moderate Syrian rebels from Republican hawks in Congress and from some allies, as well as conservative critics.

The first training sessions are to last between six and eight weeks. The training will focus on helping the rebel forces hold territory and counter Islamic State fighters—not to take on the Syrian army.

After that the U.S. will consider introducing what it is calling “the new Syrian force” onto the battlefield, officials said.

A team of four to six rebels will each be given a Toyota Hi-Lux pickup, outfitted with a machine gun, communications gear and Global Positioning System trackers enabling them to call in airstrikes. Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt Strikes Islamic State Targets in Libya

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Airstrikes follow release of video purportedly showing the beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians

Matt Bradley and Tamer El-Ghobashy report: Egypt’s air force struck multiple Islamic State targets near the eastern coastal city of Derna in Libya on Monday morning following the release of a video that purportedly showed the decapitation of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians—a development that threatens to push Libya’s worsening internal conflict beyond the country’s borders.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said Egyptian aircraft had targeted Islamic State training camps and weapons and ammunitions stores in a bombing raid around dawn. The planes returned to their bases in Egypt safely, the spokesman said in a post on his Facebook page.

“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty.”

The announcement was accompanied by video footage that the spokesman said showed Egyptian fighter jets taking off at night in preparation for airstrikes on “ISIS in Libya,” according to text accompanying the video.

“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty,” an announcer said in an official Egyptian military video posted on the same Facebook page.

“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side.”

Omar al Sinki, the minister of the interior in Libya’s Tobruk-based government, said Egypt’s air force had struck 7 targets in Derna early Monday. He added that the strikes had been coordinated with the anti-Islamist forces based in eastern Libya and that General Khalifa Haftar, the nominal leader of those forces, was in Cairo on Monday “coordinating” with Egypt’s armed forces and that the campaign would be sustained.

“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side,” he said

A spokesman for Egypt’s defense ministry declined to comment on Monday beyond what the military posted on Facebook, although a news conference was planned for later Monday.

Saqer al Joroushi, the commander of Libya’s air force, was quoted by Egyptian state media saying “at least 50” militants had been killed in the airstrikes, in addition to several being arrested. He said Egypt had conducted the strikes “with full respect to the sovereignty of Libya.” He also said Libya wouldn’t allow any ground operations by the Egyptian armed forces.

He separately told the Saudi Arabia-owned Al Arabiya television station that Libya’s own air forces had launched attacks on Islamic State targets in the coastal city of Sirte, a stronghold of those loyal to ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and nearby towns. However, a resident of Sirte said he had seen no evidence of an aerial attack on the city.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist group that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli, “deplored the violation of sovereignty” and said children had been killed in bombing of Derna. Read the rest of this entry »


Mark Steyn: The Glamor of Evil

Originally posted on The Counter Jihad Report:

1157by Mark Steyn  •  Feb 5, 2015

On Tuesday the Islamic State released a 22-minute video showing Flight Lieutenant Muath al-Kasasbeh of the Royal Jordanian Air Force being doused in petrol and burned to death. It is an horrific way to die, and Flt Lt al-Kasasbeh showed uncommon bravery, standing stiff and dignified as the flames consumed him. And then he toppled, and the ISIS cameras rolled on, until what was left was charred and shapeless and unrecognizable as human.

King Abdullah’s response to this barbaric act was to execute two ISIS prisoners the following morning, including the evil woman who was part of the cell that blew up the lobby of my favorite hotel in Amman, the Grand Hyatt.

President Obama’s response was to go to the National Prayer Breakfast and condescendingly advise us – as if it’s some dazzlingly original observation rather than the lamest faculty-lounge relativist bromide…

View original 280 more words


President Obama ‘Deploying All Rhetorical Assets’ To Rescue U.S. Woman Held By ISIS

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“Make no mistake. Anything that we could appear to be doing, we are appearing to be doing.”

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is “doing anything we verbally and symbolically can” to rescue an American woman being held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group.

“I know folks want me to get angry. But it’s just not the best interests of this administration to mount a meaningful offense against ISIS. We reserve our real anger for Israel, England, and other U.S. allies.”

Speaking with NBC’s “Today Show” this week, Obama said the U.S. is deploying all rhetorical efforts in order to appear to be interested in rescuing the woman held in captivity. In a series of prepared statements, Obama vowed to continue evading the subject of Islamic extremism, avoiding criticism, and improvising credible excuses for the U.S. military’s half-hearted, ineffective strikes. Instead, the administrations efforts are invested in creating an appearance of aiding Kurdish forces, while risking as little political capital as possible.

“Our moral outrage and sincere hatred must be aimed at serving a higher purpose, our crusade against Republican leadership, and members of the average American taxpaying public…that’s where America’s future is decided.”

“We’re deploying all imaginary assets that we can, placating all the coalition allies with empty gestures so that we can to return to our priority message about important domestic issues,” Obama said. “We’re in very close contact with her family, trying to maintain an image of compassion and sincerity. Obviously, this is something that is heartbreaking for families, so it’s important that we appear to be working hard on their behalf. Our obligation is to make sure that we maintain an outward appearance that we are engaged, and decisive, so that if things go well, I can take credit. And if things don’t go well, I vow to do everything in my power to lay the blame elsewhere.”

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (L) at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

“Our obligation is to make sure that we maintain an outward appearance that we are engaged, and decisive, so that if things go well, I can take credit. And if things don’t go well, I vow to do everything in my power to lay the blame elsewhere.”

“Make no mistake. Anything that we could appear to be doing, we are appearing to be doing,” Obama said of the fighting in Syria and Afghanistan. “Folks are frustrated, often times because they want action, courage, integrity, accountability, and leadership to resolve these issues. And as most Americans know, that’s just something I’m not prepared to do.”

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ISIS also released video Tuesday purportedly showing Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive. The murder followed a botched prisoner exchange with ISIS for a failed female suicide bomber being held on death row in Jordan. She has since been executed in response to al-Kaseasbeh’s death. Read the rest of this entry »


Sick Freaks: Captured Jordanian Pilot Burned Alive in a Cage by Islamic State Fighters

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Releases Video Depicts Captured Jordanian Pilot Burned Alive

Asa Fitch, Suha Ma’ayeh and Maria Abi-Habib report:

Islamic State jihadists released a video on Tuesday purporting to show captured Jordanian air force pilot First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh burned alive, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

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If the video is authentic, the killing would mark the first time Islamic State has used burning to execute a high-profile prisoner. 

The 22-minute video, which SITE said was distributed via Twitter , begins with footage of Jordanian involvement in a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State’s spread, before showing a man with a black eye who appears to be Lt. Kasasbeh describing Jordan’s military operations.

The video ends with the apparent execution of the man. He is shown being burned alive inside a cage by Islamic State fighters.

Lt. Mu'ath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State group's fighters after they shot down a warplane from the U.S.-led coalition near Raqqa city, Syria PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Lt. Mu’ath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State group’s fighters after they shot down a warplane from the U.S.-led coalition near Raqqa city, Syria PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SITE, an organization that tracks extremist activities, has verified numerous Islamic State videos in the past that later proved to be authentic, but government authorities have yet to declare the latest video is genuine.

If the video is authentic, the killing would mark the first time Islamic State has used burning to execute a high-profile prisoner. The group has beheaded numerous high-profile hostages in the past, including two Japanese men in the past two weeks. Read the rest of this entry »


Cartoon of the Day

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After Liberation Of Kobane, Kurdish Battle With ISIS Is Not Over

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 reports: Kurdish forces in Kobani reportedly chased the Islamic State group militants from the Syrian city on Monday. This is an immediate win for the Kurds, both strategically and symbolically, but it doesn’t signal a complete ISIS defeat, nor does it signal the end of the Kurdish battle against militants — in Kobani and elsewhere.

The Islamic State militants “are still in the Kobani area, just outside of the city,” said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum.  “So the fight is hardly over if the YPG [the Kurdish People’s Protection Units] wants to regain the autonomous canton [province] it once had. The YPG is the immediate winner but things still look very bleak for Kobani. The town is destroyed.”

“What we are going to see in Kobani is Islamic State being forced back, and then a withdraw to consolidate. This is a natural phenomenon of war — you lose some and you win some and the same applies to the IS.”

– Jasmine Opperman, a South Africa-based analyst at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium

Nearly four months long, the battle for Kobani (sometimes spelled Kobane) has been a huge focal point in the anti-ISIS campaign. Around 80 percent of the U.S-led coalition airstrikes since September have been in or around Kobani. Iraqi Kurdish forces and some Free Syrian Army brigades banded together to help Syrian Kurds push back militants. While this now appears to have been a successful campaign, ISIS is still present in Kurdish territory and isn’t likely to halt its efforts to consolidate territory in northern Syria.

YPG Commander and official Spokesman Polat Can announces the liberation of Kobane via Twitter

YPG Commander and official Spokesman Polat Can announces the liberation of Kobane via Twitter

“What we are going to see in Kobani is Islamic State being forced back, and then a withdraw to consolidate,” Jasmine Opperman, a South Africa-based analyst at the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, recently told International Business Times.  “This is a natural phenomenon of war — you lose some and you win some and the same applies to the IS.”

ISIS fighters still control 350 towns and villages surrounding the city, where they can retreat and regroup.

“Soon the YPG will start clearing the villages,” said Kurdish analyst Mutlu Civiroglu. “They are technically under ISIS control but not really.”

“Kurds think that regime is trying to break out a civil war between Kurds and Arabs. Some Arabs are with Kurds … some Arabs are with the regime. The regime is trying to appeal to people’s nationalistic feelings to rebel against the Kurds.”

However, Kurds are facing another threat just miles away in Hasakah, the last city in the Kurdish area of northern Syria with a significant regime presence, and a major energy and agricultural hub. In the last month, the YPG have had to battle the Syrian regime’s National Defense Forces, made up of local Arab tribesmen and Iranian reinforcements.

“Kurds think that regime is trying to break out a civil war between Kurds and Arabs,” Civiroglu said. “Some Arabs are with Kurds … some Arabs are with the regime. The regime is trying to appeal to people’s nationalistic feelings to rebel against the Kurds.”

This month, ISIS has been quietly redeploying fighters to Hasakah, according to the Institute for the Study of War. Hasakah is just hours away from Iraq’s Ninawa province, making it a strategic launching point to attack Sinjar, where ISIS killed thousands of Yazidis this summer, and engage the already thinly stretched Iraqi peshmerga (Kurdish) forces in another battle. Read the rest of this entry »


Did Japan Botch ISIS Hostage Deal?

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The country’s ISIS hostage crisis is a tragedy—one that its government helped to create. Is the Abe administration more concerned with saving face than saving lives?

TOKYO — Jake Adelstein writes: ISIS says it will kill two Japanese hostages if the Japanese government fails to pay a $200 million ransom  by 12:50 a.m. ET Friday. But The Daily Beast has learned that the current crisis might have been averted last year if the Japanese government had not interfered in negotiations to save the first hostage captured by the terrorist group. Indeed, even now Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration seems more interested in saving face than saving lives.ISIS, which has already executed thousands of Iraqis and Syrians, as well as international aid workers and reporters, captured Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company, in northern Syria in August 2014. The next month, the group asked Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka to mediate the trial it was planning to stage against Yukawa, 42, whom it suspected of being a spy.japanese-hostages

Tsuneoka, who was held hostage in 2010 in Afghanistan and is one of the few Japanese journalists with a pipeline to ISIS, told The Daily Beast last year that the group invited him and Japanese Muslim scholar Hassan Ko Nakata to follow the trial as an Arabic translator.

“There has been some speculation in Japan that the government’s inaction leading up to the release of the hostage video was an attempt to deepen the country’s involvement in the fight against ISIS and justify its remilitarization. Since last year, Abe and his Cabinet have been pushing for a reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution under the guise of ‘collective self-defense’ that would allow Japan to go to war with its allies…”

But Tsuneoka said he and Nakata were not allowed to travel to Syria to try to negotiate Yukawa’s release after the police raided their homes on October 6, a day before their planned departure, and seized their passports. Tsuneoka was detained for questioning for 24 hours but was not arrested.

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“…They also have announced intentions to abolish Article 9, the Japanese constitutional clause that forsakes warfare. These moves have met with widespread opposition among the Japanese but have been downplayed in Japan’s increasingly compliant media.”

Police sources said the raid stemmed from an ongoing police investigation into Tsuneoka’s involvement with a student who may have been attempting to join ISIS. Tsuneoka and the student are under suspicion of violating the rarely enforced Article 93 of Japan’s criminal code, which prohibits “preparing or plotting to wage war privately upon a foreign state”; if arrested, tried, and convicted, the two could face up to five years in prison. Tsuneoka has denied the allegations, though he acknowledges buying an airplane ticket for the student, who had no credit card.

“Now a backlash against the government’s handling of the crisis is growing, with thousands of people tweeting, with some sarcasm, that the prime minister should give himself up to ISIS in exchange for Goto.”

The day after the raid, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Japan would take measures to “curb extremists.” Japanese nationals would be barred from traveling to Syria, Iraq, or other countries in pursuit of terrorist acts and from offering financial resources to terrorists and extremist groups, in line with domestic law. Read the rest of this entry »


Islamic State: Dare to Play an Un-Islamic Electronic Keyboard? 90 Lashes For You!

The men were apparently caught playing electronic keyboards, and what appears to be a lute, instruments that were deemed to be 'un-Islamic' by ISIS's fanatical religious police

ISIS police sentence musicians to 90 lashes because they were playing an ‘un-Islamic’ electronic keyboard

Chris Pleasance for Mail OnlineIslamic State religious police have been filmed beating musicians and destroying their instruments as punishment after they were discovered playing an ‘un-Islamic’ keyboard.

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The men were apparently caught playing electronic keyboards, and what appears to be a lute, instruments that were deemed to be ‘un-Islamic’ by ISIS’s fanatical religious police

“The men were pictured being hit across the back and legs with a wooden stick in a public square after ISIS’s fanatical Islamic enforcers ruled their electric keyboard was ‘offensive to Muslims’.”

Another picture shows two keyboards and what appears to be a lute smashed to pieces after raids thought to have taken place in Bujaq, a few miles to the east of Aleppo in Syria.

According to text posted along with the images on a file sharing website, the musicians were punished with 90 lashes alongside a man caught impersonating a ‘hisbah’.

“Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.”

The Arabic term generally refers to the obligation on Muslim leaders to uphold the law, but in this context likely refers to a local official or tribal elder.

Musicians in Syria were given 90 lashes each after they were caught by the Islamic State's religious police playing an electric keyboard, which they deemed 'offensive to Muslims', according to pictures posted online

Musicians in Syria were given 90 lashes each after they were caught by the Islamic State’s religious police playing an electric keyboard, which they deemed ‘offensive to Muslims’, according to pictures posted online

According to the online post, which claims to have come from ISIS’s information office in Aleppo, a man caught smuggling cigarettes was also punished with 50 lashes.

Since taking control of large parts of Syria and Iraq last year ISIS claims to have formed a Caliphate in the Middle East, and has taken to enforcing strict Sharia law within its borders.

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Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.

After the men had been beaten the instruments were destroyed. ISIS has been enforcing a terrifying vision of Sharia law across its so-called Caliphate, including executing people for breeding pigeons.

Read the rest of this entry »


Israeli Intelligence Arrests Local Islamic State Cell: ‘Just Before Executing an Attack, Practicing on Animals How to Behead People’

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JERUSALEM –  Israel’s Shin Bet security service says it arrested the first known Islamic State cell operating inside the country.

The intelligence agency said Sunday that the seven cell members belong to the country’s Arab minority.

It said they were caught just before executing an attack and were practicing on animals how to behead people. Read the rest of this entry »


Russia Says Mohammed Cartoon Publication Illegal: ‘One Cannot Laugh at the Feelings of the Faithful’

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Russia is an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian country, but is also home to a sizeable Muslim minority

Russia’s media watchdog on Friday warned publications that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was against the country’s law and ethical norms following the Charlie Hebdo attack in France.

“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries.”

“The publication in Russian media of such caricatures go against ethical and moral norms worked out over centuries,” said the media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor.

Roskomnadzor

“Disseminating caricatures on religious themes in the media can be considered insulting or humiliating to the representatives of religious confessions and groups, and qualified as inciting ethnic and religious hatred.”

– Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media and communications watchdog

The publication would also violate the Russian media and anti-extremism laws, the watchdog said, adding that it was asking Russian media to “refrain from publishing caricatures that can be seen as a violation”.

The watchdog published the statement as a response to the ongoing debate on the “legality of publishing caricatures depicting religious objects of worship which affect feelings of religious people.”censorship2

“It further said Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the front page was an ‘unacceptable response’ to the shooting, because one ‘cannot laugh at the feelings of the faithful’.”

Many newspapers and magazines around the world reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris office was attacked by Islamist gunmen on January 7, leading to the deaths of 12 people.

Although Russia’s leadership extended its condolences to France, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the unity march staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin commentators and Muslims accused the cartoonists of provoking the attack. Read the rest of this entry »


Airstrikes Fail to Slow Islamic State in Syria

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Militant Group Has Gained Territory, Raising Concerns of the Obama Administration’s Mideast Strategy

WASHINGTON— Dion Nissenbaum writes: More than three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria have failed to prevent Islamic State militants from expanding their control in that country, according to U.S. and independent assessments, raising new concerns about President Barack Obama ’s military strategy in the Middle East.

“While U.S. bombing runs and missile strikes have put Islamic State forces on the defensive in Iraq, they haven’t had the same kind of impact in Syria.”

While U.S. bombing runs and missile strikes have put Islamic State forces on the defensive in Iraq, they haven’t had the same kind of impact in Syria. Instead, jihadist fighters have enlarged their hold in Syria since the U.S. started hitting the group’s strongholds there in September, according to the new estimates.

OH-Well

Islamic State’s progress in Syria is partly the result of the U.S. decision to focus its military efforts on Iraq, where the militant group has seized major parts of the country and declared them part of a new Islamic caliphate. The U.S.-led military effort has pushed the forces out of some key battlegrounds in Iraq.

“Certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective. I wouldn’t call Syria a safe haven for ISIL, but it is a place where it’s easier for them to organize, plan and seek shelter than it is in Iraq.”

– Senior Defense Official

But Syria still serves as a haven for Islamic State fighters, also known in the West by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

The assessments come as the Obama administration is considering whether the U.S. should embrace more aggressive ideas for containing Islamic State forces in Syria. Some administration officials have been pushing the U.S. to once again rethink its “Iraq-first” strategy and focus more attention on Syria, including training thousands of Syrian fighters to take on the feared group. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Hammer: Paris Attack May Be Start of ‘Third Stage of Jihadist War’ on West

“What is so important about this is the origin of the four killers, the brothers and the couple. They were born in France. I think we’re now in sort of the third stage of the jihadist war against us.”

He laid out the sequence: “The first [stage], of course, is 9/11 — all of the attackers were from the middle east. And then, for the last year or two, we have seen the ‘lone wolf’ attacks — usually homegrown, but fairly unstable and one-on-one, and it looks as if fairly disorganized or acting out of inspiration, but not on instruction or with training. Read the rest of this entry »


Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Jihadist Snuff Video Production Crew Claims Another Violent Murder: Islamic State Group Beheads U.S. Aid Worker Peter Kassig

Islamic State Kassig

BEIRUT (AP) — An Islamic State group video released Sunday purports to show extremists beheading a dozen Syrian soldiers and ends with a militant claiming to have killed U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, the latest slaughter proudly broadcast by the group on the Internet.

“The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos.”

The video ends with the militant standing over a severed head he says belongs to Kassig. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video’s authenticity. Kassig’s family said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

“The group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control, which it governs according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law.”

“We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause,” the family said in a statement.

Kassig-AP

The Associated Press could not independently verify the footage, though it appeared on websites used in the past by the Islamic State group, which now controls a third of Syria and Iraq.

The video identifies the militants’ location as Dabiq, a town in northern Syria that the militant group uses as the title of its English-language propaganda magazine and where they believe an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and their enemies will occur. Read the rest of this entry »


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