Michael Obel reports: A Canadian sniper set what appears to be a record, picking off an ISIS fighter from some 2.2 miles away, and disrupting a potentially deadly operation by the terror group in Iraq.
Shooting experts say the fatal shot at a world-record distance of 11,316 feet underscores how stunningly sophisticated military snipers are becoming. The feat, pulled off by a special forces sniper from Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, smashed the previous distance record for successful sniper shots by some 3,280 feet, a record set by a British sniper.
“ … the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 metres [2.2 miles],” the Canadian military said in a statement.
While officials would not say where the shot took place, the statement noted the command “provides its expertise to Iraqi security force to detect, identify and defeat Daesh activities from well behind the Iraqi security force front line in Mosul.”
The new record was set using a McMillan TAC-50, a .50-caliber weapon and the largest shoulder-fired firearm in existence.
Ryan Cleckner, a former U.S. Army Ranger sniper who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and wrote the authoritative “Long Range Shooting Handbook,” called the feat an “incredible” accomplishment, one that owes as much if not more to the spotter’s expertise than the shooter’s skill.
“The spotter would have had to successfully calculate five factors: distance, wind, atmospheric conditions and the speed of the earth’s rotation at their latitude,” Cleckner told Fox News.
“Because wind speed and direction would vary over the two miles the bullet traveled, the true challenge here was being able to calculate the actual wind speed and direction all the way to the target.”
Atmospheric conditions also would have posed a huge challenge for the spotter.
“To get the atmospheric conditions just right, the spotter would have had to understand the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure of the air the round had to travel through. Read the rest of this entry »
CNN political commentator Errol Louis repeated a false story that has been proven to be a hoax on air Wednesday, alluding to an Iraqi mother who purportedly died because she was unable to enter the United States after President Trump’s travel ban was implemented.
Louis appeared on “CNN Newsroom” with host Carol Costello to discuss Trump’s executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days over terrorism concerns.
A man from Detroit, Mike Hager, had told a local news station on Tuesday that his mother died in Iraq because she was unable to return to the U.S. for medical treatment once Trump’s travel ban was put into force. However, the leader of a nearby mosque, Imam Husham Al-Hussainy, confirmed the next day that Hager had fabricated his story.
Appearing on “Special Report,” Krauthammer — along with Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist and Fox News’ Digital Editor Chris Stirewalt — took part in a panel discussion on Trump’s remarks to CIA officials and employees Saturday afternoon as one of his first stops as president following his inauguration Friday.
Hemingway asserted that Trump was successful in sending the message that he supports the “rank and file in the intelligence agencies.” Krauthammer expressed concern that Trump’s off-handed remark about keeping oil after the 2003 invasion were troubling because the president has enormous power to affect world events with just his words.
From Foreign Policy:
At one point, Trump regurgitated parts of his stump speech about how the United States “should have kept the oil” after invading Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he added. Aside from being physically impossible to sequester billions of barrels of underground oil, that would constitute a breach of international law. U.S. troops are currently embedded with forces of the country that Trump suggested again invading. Read the rest of this entry »
Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.
Reuters reports: Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
“This is a dark cloud over Iraq. But we will stay here in our land no matter what happens. God is with us.”
— Bishop Shemani, Christmas Eve sermon in Bartella.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to ISIS’ blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptized.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during ISIS’ time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years.
At Mar Shimoni, the congregation sang and prayed in Syriac, a language close to the one spoken by Jesus.
“It’s the church where I was baptized, where I was educated, where I was taught the faith,” said Bahnam Shamanny, the editor of Bartelli al-Syriann, a monthly local newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »
Mohamed Amin Ahmed, an activist living among the Somali-American population in Minneapolis, creates online cartoon videos for young Muslims to warn them of Islamic State recruitment. Photo: Sarah Stacke for The Wall Street Journal
But has policing really become so dangerous that we need to arm peace officers like an invading army? The answer is no. It’s never been safer to be a cop.
To start with, few police officers die in the line of duty. Since 1900, only 18,781 police officers have died from any work-related injury. That’s an average of 164 a year. In absolute terms, officer fatalities peaked in 1930 (during alcohol prohibition) at 297, spiking again in the 1970s before steadily declining since.
Iraq is searching for ‘highly dangerous’ radioactive material stolen last year, according to an environment ministry document and seven security, environmental and provincial officials who fear it could be used as a weapon if acquired by Islamic State.
The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing in November from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N, the document seen by Reuters showed and officials confirmed.
A spokesman for Iraq’s environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns.
“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear.”
— Official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter
Weatherford said in a statement that it was not responsible or liable for the theft. “We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored,” it said.
The material, which uses gamma rays to test flaws in materials used for oil and gas pipelines in a process called industrial gamma radiography, is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey, according to the document and officials.
An SGS official in Iraq declined to comment and referred Reuters to its Turkish headquarters, which did not respond to phone calls and emails.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reports but has seen no sign that Islamic State or other militant groups have acquired it.
A U.S. official said separately that Iraq had reported a missing specialized camera containing highly radioactive Iridium-192 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, in November.
“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The environment ministry document, dated Nov. 30 and addressed to the ministry’s Centre for Prevention of Radiation, describes “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot belonging to Weatherford in the Rafidhia area of Basra province”.
A senior environment ministry official based in Basra, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192 “capsules”, a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer.
The material is classed as a Category 2 radioactive source by the IAEA, meaning that if not managed properly it could cause permanent injury to a person in close proximity to it for minutes or hours, and could be fatal to someone exposed for a period of hours to days. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.
An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.
Benghazi questions yet unanswered ahead of Clinton testimony.
As the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was unfolding, a high-ranking Pentagon official urgently messaged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top deputies to offer military help, according to an email obtained by Judicial Watch.
The revelation appears to contradict testimony Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave lawmakers in 2013, when he said there was no time to get forces to the scene in Libya, where four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
“I just tried you on the phone but you were all in with S [apparent reference to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton],” reads the email, from Panetta’s chief of staff Jeremy Bash. “After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
” … we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
– Jeremy Bash, Pentagon chief of staff
The email was sent out at 7:19 p.m. ET on Sept. 11, 2012, in the early stages of the eight-hour siege that also claimed the lives of Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, private CIA contractors who raced to the aid of embattled State Department workers.
Although the email came after the first wave of the attack at the consulate, it occurred before a mortar strike on the CIA annex killed Woods and Doherty.
“This leaves no doubt military assets were offered and ready to go, and awaiting State Department signoff, which did not come,” Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog said in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »
ISIS using children human shields in Iraq and Syria as US and others increase airstrikes.
WASHINGTON — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is increasingly using human shields — particularly children — to prevent the U.S.-led coalition from carrying out airstrikes in key areas such as Ramadi, according to a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters at the White House.
“Fighters are even using children as escorts while maneuvering in the street in order to exploit U.S. rules of engagement, which are intended to avoid collateral damage.”
Despite that the U.S. is able to kill a mid-to-high level ISIS leader “every two days or so,” but the ISIS shield tactic complicates a U.S. military operation that the Pentagon likes to call “the most precise air campaign in the history of war.”
CBS News senior national security correspondent David Martin has reported that while there is no hard and fast rule governing permissible civilian casualties in U.S. airstrikes and each strike is evaluated individually, he is not aware of any case when a bombing was authorized with knowledge that more than five innocent people were present.
Bradford Richardson reports: The hacker collective Anonymous says the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is planning to launch attacks in the U.S., Paris, Indonesia, Italy and Lebanon on Sunday.
“All proof was submitted to official authorities all around the globe days ago. They have it and it is their responsibility to do something with it. But because they have not done anything with it yet and it’s almost the 22nd, we have matters into our own hands.”
OpParisIntel, the name of Anonymous’ mission against ISIS, released a statement Saturday saying it had uncovered information regarding new terror plots “on Paris and the world” scheduled for Nov. 22.
“The goal is to make sure the whole world, or at least the people going to these events, know that there have been threats and that there is possibility of an attack to happen.”
“All proof was submitted to official authorities all around the globe days ago,” the statement said, as first reported by the International Business Times. “They have it and it is their responsibility to do something with it. But because they have not done anything with it yet and it’s almost the 22nd, we have matters into our own hands.”
“We only take the responsibility of warning civilians (incase the authorities do not act well enough),” the statement added. Read the rest of this entry »
Aaron MacLean writes: Twice during his train wreck of a press conference this morning in Turkey, President Obama cited the prospect of American military casualties as a major part of his reason for not using U.S. ground troops against the Islamic State. Lecturing an openly skeptical press corps—and, by extension, critics he accused of “popping off” and trying to “sound tough” without actually proposing anything serious—he condescendingly pointed out that ground combat is a serious business. Troops “get killed, they get injured, they are away from their families.”
“From the very outset, Obama has been dishonest about his goals. The biggest take-away of his embarrassing assertion to ABC News just before the Paris attacks that the Islamic State had been contained was indicative of this, and went largely unnoticed by the press.”
As it happens, I talk to Marines I served with in Afghanistan all the time. I am sure there must be a few out there who don’t want to take time “away from their families” in order to annihilate the Islamic State, risking death to do so, but I haven’t heard from them.
Marines have a word for this kind of thing. They call it their “job.” (In fact, I know more than a few who have left the Corps because they concluded they weren’t going to deploy to fight while Obama was still in office.)
” He has a vision for the future, of a United States that is no longer the primary enforcer of world order, but a responsible partner among other nations combating a wide array of challenges, most critically climate change. He has accepted as a risk that the citizens of Paris, or of Washington, might be murdered in large numbers as he sees his strategy through.”
In the press conference, Obama also said his top military advisers oppose ground action against the Islamic State. This might even be true: Obama fires military commanders who are too hawkish for him. It stands to reason that he appoints those who are going to be sympathetic to his views—officers who in some cases then suppress intelligence showing that the fight against the terrorists is failing.
“But as the Islamic State continues to metastasize, and Americans begin to reject Obama’s rhetoric, the president will find himself in a political dilemma.”
Regardless, after a performance like today’s, who would tell the president that ground action is needed? The man clearly doesn’t want to hear it, just as he clearly doesn’t want to entertain the possibility that there might be a middle course between his own demonstrably ineffective word-salad of a strategy and a re-enactment of the counterinsurgency campaigns of the last decade.
“Even if Hillary tacks to the right on national security after her primary challenge is concluded, Obama’s fecklessness could empower Republicans in 2016, thus risking his entire legacy. That, for Obama, would be a disaster.”
TEHRAN — American flags and effigies of President Barack Obama were set ablaze on Wednesday as thousands gathered to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the Iranian capital’s U.S. Embassy.
New and large anti-U.S. propaganda posters — including one mocking the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima — were spotted in Tehran….
…Students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979 and took dozens of Americans hostage. The hostages were held for more than 400 days and the crisis prompted the U.S. to sever ties with Iran….(read more)
Iranians hold nationwide rallies, marking the 36th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran. In the capital Tehran, people are gathering outside the building of the former American Embassy to chant slogans against US policies. November fourth is known as Student Day in Iran. 36 years ago today, a group of university students stormed the embassy building. Documents retrieved from the embassy showed the building had turned into a center of spying aimed at overthrowing the establishment following the victory of the Islamic Revolution just months earlier.
What’s it like to be the son or daughter of a dictator? A monster on the Stalin level? What’s it like to bear a name synonymous with oppression, terror, and evil?
Jay Nordlinger set out to answer that question, and does so in this book. He surveys 20 dictators in all. They are the worst of the worst: Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and so on. The book is not about them, really, though of course they figure in it. It’s about their children.
Some of them are absolute loyalists. They admire, revere, or worship their father. Some of them actually succeed their father as dictator—as in North Korea, Syria, and Haiti. Some of them have doubts. A couple of them become full-blown dissenters, even defectors. A few of the daughters have the experience of having their husband killed by their father. Most of these children are rocked by war, prison, exile, or other upheaval.
Obviously, the children have things in common. But they are also individuals, making of life what they can. The main thing they have in common is this: They have been dealt a very, very unusual hand. Read the rest of this entry »
Lisa Borch watched videos showing the murder of British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning minutes before her mother was stabbed to death.
A Danish teenage girl has been sentenced to nine years in jail for murdering her mother in what appears to be an ISIS-inspired killing.
“This murder was cold blooded, ice cold and committed in a bestial manner.”
The Independent reports that just minutes before the fatal assault occurred in October of last year, 15-year-old Lisa Borch had spent hours watching ISIS videos of the decapitations of the two British hostages, David Haines and Alan Henning.
A Danish court heard that the teen planned to join ISIS in Syria with her Iraqi boyfriend, Bakhtiar Mohammed Abdulla, 29. His fingerprints were also found at the scene of the crime and he has been sentenced to 13 years.
Borch originally met Abdulla at a refugee center near her home, the Independent says.
WASHINGTON — Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon report:Russia is using an air corridor over Iraq and Iran to fly military equipment and personnel to a new air hub in Syria, openly defying American efforts to block the shipments and significantly increasing tensions with Washington.
“Since Maliki relinquished the premiership, power and authority in Iraq have become increasingly diffused with various players now exercising unilateral power over the use of force.”
American officials disclosed Sunday that at least seven giant Russian Condor transport planes had taken off from a base in southern Russia during the past week to ferry equipment to Syria, all passing through Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
“Neutrality is the best Washington can hope for in Baghdad. Iraq is not a dictatorial state like many of the U.S. allies in the Middle East. Iraq is still a fragile state whose leaders are exposed to politics.”
Their destination was an airfield south of Latakia, Syria, which could become the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades, American officials said.
“In the discourse of Iraqi politics, forcing Abadi to side with the U.S. against Assad is like realigning him with the Sunni axis against the Shia one.”
— Ramzy Mardini, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington
The Obama administration initially hoped it had hampered the Russian effort to move military equipment and personnel into Syria when Bulgaria, a NATO member, announced it would close its airspace to the flights. But Russia quickly began channeling its flights over Iraq and Iran, which Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said on Sunday would continue despite American objections.
“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue,” Mr. Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”
“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue. They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”
— Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister
Moscow’s military buildup in Syria, where the Kremlin has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-and-a-half-year civil war, adds a new friction point in its relations with the United States. The actions also lay bare another major policy challenge for the United States: how to encourage Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, who came to power with the blessing of the United States but is still trying to establish his authority, to block the Russian flights. Read the rest of this entry »
A motley crew of Texans, Iraq war veterans, evangelicals, and bored young men are battling to take down the caliphate.
Adam Rawnsley writes: When a U.S. citizen going by the name “Abu Abdullah al-Amriki” blew himself up in a suicide attack in Baiji, Iraq, this month, he was the most recent example of a troubling trend: the roughly 200 Americans who have traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
Not all of the foreigners have left for the region looking to fight for the Islamic State, however. Instead, growing numbers of Americans are heading there to fight against the extremists. The men — mostly military veterans, with a strangely disproportionate share of Texans — are linking up with Kurdish groups and Christian militias in the region to battle the Islamic State militants who currently control broad swaths of Iraq and Afghanistan. A new report by the investigative website Bellingcat, released Wednesday, takes the first systematic look at these “other foreign fighters.”
“I may not be enlisted anymore, but I’m still a warrior. I figured if I could walk away from here and kill as many of the bad guys as I could, that would be a good thing.”
— Patrick Maxwell, who traveled to Iraq to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga
The report finds that at least 108 Americans have made the journey to Iraq and Syria to take on the Islamic State, highlighting the global nature of the conflict and the relative ease of recruitment and travel to the battlefield. It’s a dangerous undertaking, and one American has already been killed in the fighting. Massachusetts resident Keith Broomfield, 36, died while fighting with a Kurdish militia in Syria earlier this year. Broomfield, who had no military experience, traveled to the war zone after a Christian religious awakening.
Nathan Patin, the author of the Bellingcat report, combed through social media posts and news accounts to compile the database. Although Patin was able to find information on the fighters using open sources, the report withholds the identities of those fighters who haven’t gone public in prior news accounts and does not include personally identifying information or information that could lead to their location on the battlefield, out of concern for their safety and that of their families.
The relative online openness of the Americans offers insights into their backgrounds and motivations for wanting to leave behind their daily lives in the United States and participate in wars far away that seemingly have little to do with them. Based on the biographical details offered, the Americans Patin found were all male, tended to be in their 20s and 30s, and stayed on the battlefield mostly between one and four months. Around two-thirds describe themselves as veterans, drawn primarily from the Army and Marine Corps. Texas, even accounting for its larger population, produced a disproportionate number of volunteers relative to any other identifiable home state. Read the rest of this entry »
‘A Good Day’s Work’: SAS sniper gunned down a knife-wielding Islamic State maniac just as he was trying to brutally behead a father and his young son.
Nick Gutteridge reports: The brave British marksman saved the terrified eight-year-old and his father after taking out the crazed jihadi with a head shot from 1,000 metres away.
The special forces crack shot then killed two other members of the hated terror group, who were also taking part in the sick planned execution.
“Through binoculars the soldiers could see that the crowd were terrified and many were in tears….They were both wearing blindfolds and looked terrified…A tall bearded man emerged and drew a long knife…He began addressing the crowd and slapping the father and his son around the head and kicking them on to the floor.”
ISIS militants had decreed that the little boy and his father must die after branding them “infidels” because they refused to denounce their faith.
They were just seconds from death when the hero sniper intervened to stop the barbaric killing in the Syrian desert. The pair were part of the minority Shia sect of Islam which ISIS considers to be heretical.
“Standing either side of the executioner were two other Isis fighters, both armed with AK47s…The ISIS thug who was about to decapitate the father was shot in the head and collapsed…Everyone just stared in confusion. The sniper then dispatched the two henchmen with single shots – three kills with three bullets…”
They were saved from a cruel and painful death at the hands of the fanatics after an Iraqi spy tipped off British special forces to the planned execution.
Special forces troops who arrived at the killing site, where ISIS was carrying out a series of rigged ‘trials’ of locals, discovered a gruesome scene with several headless bodies already lying bloodied on the desert floor.
The dramatic rescue operation took place last month near the Syrian border with Turkey, where an elite SAS unit had been conducting covert patrols.
Defence sources described how the SAS unit moved into a position just outside a village where ISIS members were holding the ‘trial’ in front of a crowd of locals who had been forced to attend at gunpoint.
The crack team considered calling in an air strike using a Reaper Drone, but the elite troops feared many of the innocent civilians who had been forced to watch the executions might also be killed.
Instead the SAS unit decided on a risky long-range kill using the team’s sniper.
The ISIS attack on Kobane began with militants detonating a car bomb, followed by an assault from dozens of fighters from a number of directions.
Islamic State fighters have attacked the Syrian city of Kobane, months after being driven out in a symbolic battle that made international headlines.
They detonated car bombs and launched an assault. Kurdish media say at least 50 civilians have been killed, including 20 in a nearby village.
ISIS has recently suffered a string of defeats to Kurdish forces.
But in another attack on Thursday, it seized parts of the key north-eastern city of Hassakeh.
The apparent two-pronged IS offensive came as Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) cut a major supply line for IS near Raqqa.
Raqqa is the de facto capital of the caliphate whose creation IS announced a year ago after it captured large swathes of northern and western Iraq.
Kobane still matters to ISIS. It was never important strategically, but this latest attack shows that its loss, after five months of heavy street-to-street fighting and coalition aerial bombardment, still hurts ISIS.
The injured have been brought to hospital in Kobane
As was the case last November when a huge vehicle bomb exploded at the same spot, questions are being asked if the attackers made it in from the Turkish side, and if so, why Turkey didn’t stop them.
Thursday’s assault is a reminder, too, that ISIS, despite recent losses in the area, is still very much active and capable of offensives. Overnight they also attacked Hassakeh to the east, a far bigger prize.
The IS calls them ‘Inghemasiyoun,’ Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat
BAGHDAD (AP) — Bearded and wearing bright blue bandanas, the Islamic State group’s “special forces” unit gathered around their commander just before they attacked the central Syrian town of al-Sukhna. “Victory or martyrdom,” they screamed, pledging their allegiance to God and vowing never to retreat.
“They tend to use their foreign fighters as suicide bombers. People go to the Islamic State looking to die, and the Islamic State is happy to help them.”
— Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who now directs special operations for The Soufan Group, a private geopolitical risk assessment company
The IS calls them “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat. They are credited with many of the group’s stunning battlefield successes — including the capture of al-Sukhna in May after the scene shown in an online video released by the group.
“They cause chaos and then their main ground offensive begins,” said Redur Khalil, spokesman of the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which have taken the lead in a string of military successes against the IS in Syria.
In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves,” are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)
“The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective.”
Though best known for its horrific brutalities — from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women — the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines.
Its tactics are often creative, whether it’s using a sandstorm as cover for an assault or a lone sniper tying himself to the top of a palm tree to pick off troops below. Its forces nimbly move between conventional and guerrilla warfare, using the latter to wear down their opponents before massed fighters backed by armored vehicles, Humvees and sometimes even artillery move to take over territory. The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective. Recently, they beefed up the front armor of the vehicles used in those attacks to prevent gunfire from killing the driver or detonating explosives prematurely.
“The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas.”
Those strategies are being carried over into new fronts, appearing in Egypt in last week’s dramatic attack by an IS-linked militant group against the military in the Sinai Peninsula.
Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London who embedded with Iraqi Kurdish fighters last fall, said IS local commanders are given leeway to operate as they see fit. They “have overall orders on strategy and are expected to come up with the most efficient ways of adapting it,” he said. The group “is very much success oriented, results oriented.” That’s a strong contrast to the rigid, inefficient and corrupt hierarchies of the Iraqi and Syrian militaries, where officers often fear taking any action without direct approval from higher up.
IS fighters are highly disciplined — swift execution is the punishment for deserting battle or falling asleep on guard duty, Iraqi officers said. The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas. Much of the heavy weapons it holds — including artillery and tanks — have hardly been used, apparently on reserve for a future battle. Read the rest of this entry »
Journalism from places like North Korea and Iran should be prefaced with a disclaimer: Big Brother Is Reading This, Too
Bret Stephens writes: The New York Timesrecently featured a photo and video essay by the celebrated photojournalist David Guttenfelder titled “Illuminating North Korea.” It’s a potent reminder that nothing is so blinding as the illusion of seeing.
I don’t mean to disparage Mr. Guttenfelder’s photographic skills or his sincerity. But what are we to make of a photo essay heavy on pictures of modern-looking factories and well-fed children being fussed over in a physical rehabilitation center? Or—from his Instagram account (“Everyday DPRK”)—of theme-park water slides, Christian church interiors, well-stocked clothing stores and rollerblading Pyongyang teens—all suggesting an ordinariness to North Korean life that, as we know from so many sources, is a travesty of the terrifying truth?
I’ve been thinking about Mr. Guttenfelder’s photos, and of the prominence the Times gave them, while considering the trade-offs between access and propaganda. In April 2003, Eason Jordan, then CNN’s news chief, wrote a revealing op-ed in the Times about his network’s coverage of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
“Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders,” Mr. Jordan wrote. “Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard—awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.”
It was an appalling confession of a massive journalistic whitewash, all for the sake of scoring prime time with tyrants. But sometimes it takes a great fool to reveal an important truth. In this case, the truth that much of what passes for news reporting from closed societies is, if not worthless, compromised to the point that it should be prefaced with an editorial disclaimer: Big Brother Is Reading This, Too. Read the rest of this entry »
Figuring out that you are pursuing a losing strategy is more difficult than outsiders might believe.
Peter D. Feaver writes: President Obama is under fire for explaining the lack of progress in the fight against the Islamic State on the fact that he does not “yet have a complete strategy.” This apparently candid concession echoes the one he made 10 months ago when he acknowledged that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to confront the Islamic State.
“The problem with the strategy is that it is not working, in the sense of advancing U.S. interests in the region and achieving the stated objectives.”
Critics are understandably lambasting the president for the apparent dilatoriness, and I have some sympathy for the critique. If you begin the clock with President Obama’s remarkable January 2014 dismissal of the Islamic State as a “jayvee threat” — something the White House still pretends the president did not say, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — and trace the president’s response to the growing Islamic State threat, the charge of delinquency is almost impossible to deny.
“In the absence of U.S. leadership, local partners did not step up quickly enough to stop the Islamic State when the threat could be easily contained. Now rolling back the group’s advances requires more punch than the locals can deliver without a substantial increase in American commitment.”
Yet, in this instance, I think the critics and the president are both wrong. The problem is not an absence of strategy, it is that the strategy that does exist is failing and the administration is not yet willing to admit that fact.
The strategy is pretty self-evident: U.S. forces are operating under stringent self-imposed limitations so as to incentivize local partners (the Iraqi government, Sunni tribes, and moderate rebels in Syria) to do more. The United States is prepared perhaps to do a bit more if local actors do a lot more, but if local actors do not step up, the United States is not prepared to do more. On the contrary, the United States is prepared to accept hitherto “unacceptable” setbacks — the fall of Mosul, the fall of Ramadi, the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, the regional expansion of Iranian-backed terrorist organizations and militias, and on and on — rather than intervene more decisively.
“This is a recognizable strategy. There is even a catchy name for it: leading from behind.”
The problem with the strategy is that it is not working, in the sense of advancing U.S. interests in the region and achieving the stated objectives (“destroy and degrade ISIL”). In the absence of U.S. leadership, local partners did not step up quickly enough to stop the Islamic State when the threat could be easily contained. Now rolling back the group’s advances requires more punch than the locals can deliver without a substantial increase in American commitment. Read the rest of this entry »
BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of bombings targeting public places and Iraqi security forces killed 20 people in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, officials said.
The deadliest attack took place on Tuesday night, when a car bomb went off near restaurants and shop in Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, killing 10 people, including three women. The bombing also wounded 24 people, police officials said.
Several shops and cars were burned in the attack and police sealed off the blast area.
Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol in Youssifiyah, just south of the Iraqi capital, killing three soldiers and one civilian. At least eight people were wounded in that attack, the officials said. Read the rest of this entry »
Born Mikhail Yuhanna in 1936, Aziz was the highest ranking Christian official under Saddam’s presidency and a member of the former ruling Baath Party‘s inner circle.
He was sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal in 2010 for his role in human-rights abuses committed under the former government, which was overthrown in 2003 when Iraq was invaded by a US-led alliance.
Iraq’s public face
Aziz surrendered to US forces shortly after the invasion and had been a prisoner since.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said Aziz was one of the most hated figures from the old regime and Iraqi TV stations had largely ignored his death.
“There will be no eulogies for him, no day of mourning for him. He was hated as a member of the former regime,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Hilsenrath and Janet Hook report: Defense Secretary Ash Carter held open the possibility of a strategy shift by the White House on Iraq, a few days after recent setbacks in Iraq and Syria revived sharp criticism of the Obama administration’s approach in combating extremist groups there.
Islamic State forces last week captured the key Iraqi city of Ramadi and also expanded their reach in Syria. Critics and even allies of the administration took to Sunday television talk shows to call for a strategy change by the administration to stem the advance of Islamic State forces.
“We have under-resourced the strategy. We need to provide more firepower support…ISIS is a threat not only to Iraq and Syria. It is a threat to us.”
House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) said on ABC’s “This Week” that the battle in Ramadi was among the many reasons why he doubted the Obama administration’s claim that U.S. efforts have succeeded in degrading the strength of ISIS.
“The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. They were not outnumbered. In fact they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site…We can give them training, we can give them equipment. We obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”
— Defense Secretary Ash Carter
“I don’t see evidence of that,” said Mr. Thornberry. “I see ISIS gaining territory in Iraq and Syria.” What is more, he said, “their ideology, their approach, their brand is growing faster than their territory.”
Islamic State now controls more than half of Syria after the extremist militia seized the historic city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
Russia is ready to supply weapons to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, as the country struggles to halt advances by Islamic State militants.
Speaking ahead of talks in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, Lavrov told reporters Moscow would make every effort to help the Baghdad government push back the militants.
Hundreds of artefacts from Palmyra have been taken to Damascus, Syrian authorities say
“The jihadists on Wednesday fully seized Palmyra, home to ancient ruins listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.”
Islamic State insurgents overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend in the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year, exposing the weakness of Iraq’s army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes. On Thursday the group seized full control of Palmyra in neighboring Syria.
Australia plans to strip citizenship from Australian-born children of immigrants who become Islamic State fighters in its crackdown on homegrown jihadis.
“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State rules around 95,000 square kilometres, or more than 50 per cent of Syria’s total geographic area.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sydney Radio 2GB on Thursday that his government wants to change the Citizenship Act to make fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq a reason for losing citizenship,.He says the government also wants to adopt the British legal model by revoking the citizenship of extremists who are Australian-born children of immigrants or an immigrant, forcing them to take up citizenship in the birth country of their parents, or parent.
Palmyra rose to prominence under the Romans but its rulers later created a rival empire of their own
Islamic State now controls more than half of Syria after the extremist militia seized the historic city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
The consulate and its intelligence operation nearby was keeping an eye on weapons transfers to anti-Assad forces in Syria, one of the proposed reasons why the US would have kept a consulate open in that city for so long.
Thanks to Judicial Watch obtaining new memos, Fox News is now reporting that the Obama administration knew that Benghazi was being used as a hub for the transfer of lethal weapons to Syria back in 2012. Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell suggested to Bret Baier that the CIA wasn’t doing the transferring, but was watching someone else do it.
…The date of the DIA conclusion (produced by a FOIA lawsuit from Judicial Watch) is remarkable for at least one reason. First, September 16 is an infamous date in the Benghazi timeline, as the date on which Susan Rice did a full Ginsburg to insist that the attack resulted from a spontaneous demonstration tied to an obscure YouTube video.
“The consulate and its intelligence operation nearby was keeping an eye on weapons transfers to anti-Assad forces in Syria, one of the proposed reasons why the US would have kept a consulate open in that city for so long.”
Even though the DIA directly contradicted those talking points supplied by the White House to Rice, they continued to insist on using them for another two weeks, including Hillary Clinton. During that period, the Obama administration kept saying that they had no indication that this was a terrorist plot, even though the president of Libya insisted that it was a planned attack on one of the same shows on which Rice appeared.
“Why keep up the pretense? Obama was in the middle of an election, and didn’t want to acknowledge that he’d been caught with his pants down.”
As Catherine Herridge and Martha McCallum point out, the memo tells a lot more of the story than we knew before. The consulate and its intelligence operation nearby was keeping an eye on weapons transfers to anti-Assad forces in Syria, one of the proposed reasons why the US would have kept a consulate open in that city for so long. Read the rest of this entry »
A senior Islamic State (IS) member has been killed and his wife captured in a raid in eastern Syria by US special forces. Abu Sayyaf, who helped direct oil, gas and financial operations for IS, as well as holding a military role, was killed when he engaged US forces, according to a Pentagon statement.
The operation in al-Amr was authorised by President Barack Obama and was carried out by forces based in Iraq.
The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan says Abu Sayyaf oversaw IS’s “illicit oil and gas operations” – a key source of the group’s funding.
For Bones Don’t Lie, Katy Meyers Emery writes: Beheading was a popular mode of execution throughout human history – it is dramatic, final and is often part of a public display of power by the victors over the soon to be deceased. Whenever I think about this type of execution, I think back to the famous paintings of Judith slaying Holofernes. When I was a high school student, I took a summer art course where we had to do a large oil painting as our final project. I did a version of Judith slaying Holofernes, complete with a triumphant female in purple robes holding a bloodied sword and a decapitated head.
“Decapitation comes from the Latin capitis- meaning head, and is the separation of the head from the body which results in death. Severing the head causes all other organs within the body to fail and deprives the brain of oxygen.”
Perhaps it isn’t surprising then that I’m a mortuary archaeologist… Moving on, decapitation and beheading actually have quite a long history, although it can be difficult to interpret this from the archaeological record. In addition to the execution style of head removal, we’ve seen certain cases where heads were removed after death as a form of ancestor veneration (see this article on Neolithic burials from the Near East and this one on gladiators), so the removal of the head cannot be assumed to mean something negative or violent- we need to look closely at the context and bioarchaeology.
The double burial of two adult males CCLXXX and CCLXXXI dating from AD 656 to 765 from Mount Gamble, Dublin both displaying evidence of decapitation with both skulls in situ (O’Donovan and Geber 2009, 73).
“Beheading in particular refers to an intentional decapitation, including murder or execution. These terms don’t refer to the method of decapitation, so it can be done with axe, sword, knife, wire, or guillotine. In beheadings, the act is carried out by a professional executioner known as a ‘headsman’.”
First, let’s quickly review some terms. Decapitation comes from the Latin capitis- meaning head, and is the separation of the head from the body which results in death. Severing the head causes all other organs within the body to fail and deprives the brain of oxygen. Beheading in particular refers to an intentional decapitation- including murder or execution. These terms don’t refer to the method of decapitation, so it can be done with axe, sword, knife, wire, or guillotine. In beheadings, the act is carried out by a professional executioner known as a ‘headsman’.
A new article by Carty (2015) examines osteological evidence for decapitation from different skeletal assemblages from the Irish medieval period (6th to 16th century). Text from this period argues that decapitation was used primarily in warfare and as a form of punishment. Read the rest of this entry »
The U.S. is surrendering control of verification to the United Nations, where our influence is weak
Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write: President Obama believes that the nuclear “framework” concluded Friday in Switzerland is a historic achievement. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, says he believes the same. Those two positions are incompatible.
“The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent.”
Mr. Zarif is also a loyal servant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,who believes that the West, in particular the U.S., and Iran are locked in a “collision of evil and evil ways on one side and the path of…religious obedience and devotion on the other,” as he said in July 2014.
“The inspections regime in Iran envisioned by the Obama administration will not even come close to the intrusiveness of the failed inspections in Iraq.”
The supreme leader says the Islamic Republic has a divine calling to lead Muslims away from the West and its cultural sedition. The Obama administration has never adequately explained why Mr. Zarif’s relentlessly ideological boss would sell out a three-decade effort to develop nuclear weapons.
“Worse, once sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian trade starts to flow again to European and Asian companies, the U.S. likely will be dealing with a U.N. even more politically divided, and more incapable of action, than in the days of Saddam and the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.”
The defensive and offensive strategies of the Islamic Republic, given the chronic weakness of its conventional military, ultimately make sense only if nuclear weapons are added to the mix. The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent. The history of this effort has involved North Korean levels of dishonesty, with clandestine plants, factories and procurement networks that successfully import highly sensitive nuclear equipment, even from the U.S.
A White House less desperate to make a deal would consider how easily nuclear agreements with bad actors are circumvented. Charles Duelfer has written a trenchant account in Politico of how Saddam Hussein tied the United Nations Security Council and its nuclear inspectors into knots in the 1990s, rendering them incapable of ascertaining the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »
ISIS has revived the barbaric practice. The time to stop both of them is now
Derby Murdock writes: From Easter services to cablecasts of Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller Killing Jesus, Christians are focused on the crucifixion of their Savior. American believers and non-believers consider this a historical event. But in the Middle East, crucifixion is a current affair.
“It has become a standard feature of fringe Islamist groups to revive these outdated practices in an effort to bring back what they believe is authentic.”
ISIS has resurrected crucifixion. In doing so, these Islamofascist scum have built a bridge to the fourth decade a.d. The only way to top this would be to feed Christians to lions this evening at Rome’s Colosseum.
“People are tired and they hate everything. If you don’t close your shop during prayer time you get lashes, if you smoke you get lashed, if you say one wrong thing you can be executed. It is like a waterfall of blood. There are more and more executions and now the children watch like they are used to it.”
— Resident of ISIS-controlled territory
By prying this ancient practice from the history books and returning it to modern
life, ISIS has reconfirmed its epic evil. Obama immediately needs to implement a coherent strategy to relegate ISIS itself to the history books.
Much of the news about latter-day crucifixions and other atrocities escapes the confines of ISIS-controlled territory thanks to a brave group called Raqaa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. Details are grim.
“People are encouraged to watch and expected to watch, and if you miss too many executions, you might get a knock on your door: a stern lecture from a fighter, perhaps a few days in prison, perhaps a few lashes. You never know.”
— Benjamin Hall, combat journalist who has reported from Iraq and Syria
These crucifixions began in March 2014, reports CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz. ISIS charged a shepherd with murder and theft. He was shot in the head, and his corpse was tied to a wooden cross in the main square in Raqaa, Syria, ISIS’s capital.
Last May, two more victims were crucified there and left to rot in the sun for three days. “This man fought Muslims and detonated an IED here,” read the placard around one victim’s neck.
ISIS crucified nine men last June, according to London’s Telegraph. Eight, from Deir Hafer, Syria, were killed and displayed in the village square for three days. A man from Al-Bab survived, despite being nailed to a cross for eight hours.
Last October, London’s Daily Mail reports, ISIS crucified a 17-year-old boy in Raqaa. His crimes? Selling his photos of ISIS military bases and “apostasy” — converting from Islam.
Seventeen men were killed in mid-January in what the International Business Times called a “crucifixion frenzy.” The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that one victim was executed for “taking a picture of an ISIS fighter and publishing it on Facebook.” Another was nabbed for smoking, charged with being an Assad-regime informant, and crucified. Fifteen others were denounced as rebels and mounted on crosses.
ISIS does not limit this carnage to adults. Citing a February report from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Reuters indicated that “Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive.”
In Raqaa, “executions are simply routine — a part of daily life,” writes my fearless friend Benjamin Hall, a combat journalist who has reported from Iraq and Syria, with ISIS’s black flag flapping menacingly mere yards away. Read the rest of this entry »