ANKARA, August 12 -- The Turkish state can’t tolerate the gains by people of North and East Syria, or the democratic system they built, so they aim to invade the area under the guise of a “safe zone”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu continued to issue threats of invasion against North and East Syria. Cavuşoğlu said: “What we say about the east of the Euphrates is this: We will either clear the area together, or Turkey will enter and clear away the terrorists. Like they were cleared from Afrin, like ISIS was cleared from Jarablus, we will clear the east of the Euphrates from YPG and PKK. Whatever the price may be. There is no change in our resolve here. We won’t let the US delay things like Manbij. We say this clearly, and we told them the same.” The Turkish state can’t tolerate the gains by people of North and East Syria, or the democratic system they built, so they aim to invade the area under the guise of a “safe zone”. North and East Syrian officials see Turkey’s insistence on a 32 km deep safe zone as an attempt to massacre the peoples of the region and to invade the area as a whole, and counter-propose patrols along the border under supervision by the international coalition, outside residential areas. North and East Syrian officials warn that a possible Turkish state attack will make the control of thousands of ISIS members in prisons difficult and risk subjecting the region and the world to terrorist attacks. They also say they will resist to the end.
NEW YORK, August 8 -- Islamic State is reinvesting in its ability to carry out sophisticated operations from Europe to South Asia by the end of 2019, a United Nations report has found.
“The ISIS covert network in the Syrian Arab Republic is spreading, and cells are being established at the provincial level, mirroring that which has been happening since 2017 in Iraq,” the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said. In the near term, the Islamic State will rely on locally-planned attacks in “unexpected locations,” similar to the Easter bombings carried out in Sri Lanka, they assessed. But the report, presented to the Security Council in July, warns that externally-planned attacks in high profile locations could ramp up as early as four months from now. “ISIS will reinvest in the capacity to direct and facilitate complex international attacks when it has the secure space and time to do so. The current abatement of such attacks, therefore, may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019,” it said. Tens of thousands of Islamic State loyalists and their children are now corralled in desert camps in northeastern Syria, where they were detained by US-backed Kurdish forces following the surrender of the last pocket of the caliphate in March. Neighboring Turkey has now threatened to seize the area from the Kurds – raising the possibility that some of Islamic State’s most hardcore members could escape.
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The UN report estimates that up to 30,000 foreign nationals who traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the caliphate are still alive, whether at large in the region, detained or relocated to Europe. These caliphate veterans now pose a radicalization threat, whether in prison or out. “The radicalization of criminals within the prison system remains a critical concern in Europe, where prisons provide a venue for inmates afflicted by poverty, marginalization, frustration, low self-esteem and violence to be influenced by radical ideologies,” it said. “In addition, some of the first wave of returnees from the ‘caliphate’ to be imprisoned are expected to be released in the coming year.” The monitoring team which carried out the report emphasized that data on the exact number of repatriations of foreign fighters to Europe and other regions remains sketchy. Approximately 2,000 nationals from the former Soviet states are now detained in northeastern Syria. Central Asian nations including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan cite their own citizens returning from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq are currently their primary terrorist threat. Central Asian migrant laborer communities in Russia and Turkey are also seen as particularly vulnerable to recruitment. The report also flags South and Southeast Asia as prime targets for Islamic State returnees, as evidenced by both successful and thwarted attacks. “Two troubling trends observed are the targeting of places of worship and the continued prominence of women in operational activities,” it said. Both returnees and attempted jihadists have been linked to attacks in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Islamic State has been resourceful in financing its activities post-caliphate, the report found, using small and medium-sized business to generate revenue, offering “seed money” to new affiliates and stashing valuable antiquities for a rainy day. “One Member State described ISIS affiliates being treated in a manner similar to start-up businesses, receiving ‘seed money’ and advice from head office,” it said. The group is estimated to have anywhere from US$50-300 million at its disposal to carry out its activities. However, “the group is adapting to its insurgency role with far fewer demands on its financial holdings.” The UN investigators learned that monetary transfers persist, with family members of active militants using personal or small business bank accounts in countries neighboring a given conflict zone – the cash then passed on by courier. Mobile payment applications and crypto currencies are cited as ripe for exploitation. A special ISIS unit – the ministry of “natural resources” – is believed to be responsible for the sale of antiquities which the group had excavated in Iraq and Syria. “Details of traded antiquities, as well as the current location of any stored antiquities, are assessed to be known only by ISIS leaders.” Preserving that leadership, at the top of which is self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains the primary concern of the group.
BAGHDAD, July 12 -- Four Islamic State (IS) militants and two paramilitary Hashd Shaabi members were killed Friday in an operation to hunt down the extremist militants in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a statement and a provincial official said.
Early in the morning, the Iraqi army, interior ministry's provincial intelligence and Hashd Shaabi units carried out an operation to hunt down IS militants in the rugged area in the northeastern part of the province after being tipped off by intelligence report, the Hashd Shaabi said in a statement. Sadiq al-Husseini, head of the security committee in Diyala provincial council, told Xinhua that the troops, so far, killed four IS militants, including a local leader, and destroyed three of their hideouts. Also during the operation, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of a joint police, intelligence and Hashd Shaabi force in al-Hafayer area at the edges of al-Sa'diyah town, some 125 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, al-Husseini said.
Brigadier General Ali al-Sudani, head of Diyala's intelligence, escaped the attack with wounds, but a Hashd Shaabi member was immediately killed and another died later in the hospital, while three other Hashd Shaabi members were wounded by the blast, al-Husseini added. Despite repeated military operations in Diyala, some IS militants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in the northern part of the province. The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.
Author: Lora Smith
MOSCOW, July 9 -- The Moscow District Military Court has sentenced three members of the Islamic State (terrorist group, outlawed in Russia) to between 10 and 15 years in jail over plotting terrorist attacks in Moscow.
"The court has found the defendants guilty and sentenced Anzor Tlupov, Bakhtovar Tuychiyev and Manuchekhr Tuychiyev to 13, 15 and 10 years, respectively," the judge said, noting that the three men would be serving their sentences in a maximum security colony. The defendants were charged with illegal production of explosives, setting up a terrorist group, engagement in the group's activities, plotting a terrorist attack and contributing to terrorism. The court found that three IS group’s members had been plotting a series of terrorist attacks in Moscow and the Moscow Region. At the moment of detention in summer 2018, they were trying to destroy explosive substances.
Author: Lora Smith
DAMASCUS, July 7 -- Tens of families returned to check their homes in the town of Al Qusayr in central Syria on Sunday, the first batch of civilians back to the town since it was liberated from the rebels in 2013.
Holding posters of President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian flags, the civilians entered the town in the countryside of Homs province in central Syria and surrounding villages to check on their homes. Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs, who was receiving the people in the town, told reporters that after the surrounding areas of the town were liberated from the Islamic State (IS) militants and like-minded groups, the government started clearing off the roads and restoring the infrastructure. About 70 percent of the infrastructure was fixed as other parts of the town are severely damaged, he said. Some logistic preparations have also been made to secure the town, he said, noting that it is an important economic area in the Homs province. The governor said there is a plan to restore three schools in three months by the start of the next education year. The Al Qusayr area is considered of strategic importance because it lies between the capital Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, and is close to the Lebanese border.
On April 4, 2013, the Syrian army launched an offensive against al-Qusayr, with the aim of capturing all villages around the rebel-held town and eventually the town itself. On June 5, 2013, the Syrian army finally regained control of al-Qusayr. Barazi, the governor, said there will be more people returning to the town, adding that more than 130 families have so far returned to the city of Palmyra in the countryside of Homs so far. He said that people are returning to their homes even from neighboring Lebanon, adding that 17 batches of the Syrian refugees have returned home in Homs from Lebanon.
Author: Lora Smith
DEN HAAG, June 11 -- Two Dutch-Belgian orphans of Islamic State fighters were amongst a group of fourteen others to have been flown into Europe from Syria on Monday, according to reports.
A French military airplane carrying two Dutch-Belgian children and twelve French orphans landed in a Paris airport on Monday. The orphans lived in the Ain Issa refugee camp in Syria, close to the country’s Turkish border, and were said to be in a “particularly vulnerable” situation. The two orphans are thought to be the children of a late Antillean-Dutch woman and a now-deceased Belgian Islamic State (IS) fighter. Dutch authorities were present when the airplane landed in Paris, and will reportedly entrust both children to a Dutch guardian. The French orphans will be handed over to social security services in the country. Around 250 children are thought to be still living in refugee camps and other locations across Syria, according to Reuters. In May, a group of academics signed an open letter calling for Belgium to honour a 2017 commitment to repatriate the orphans of all jihadist fighters. That year, a court ruling had obliged Belgium to repatriate all orphans under the age of ten. With the recent repatriations, France has now brought back 17 IS orphans from Syria.
DAMASCUS, June 10 -- Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined Islamic State.
France and the Netherlands have taken custody of 14 French and Dutch orphans of Islamic State (IS) fighters in northeast Syria, an official in the Kurdish-led administration there said on Monday. Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined IS and their relatives after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the group's last enclave earlier this year. Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the foreign relations committee of the administration that runs the northeastern quarter of Syria held by the SDF, said it had handed over the children to foreign ministry delegations from France and the Netherlands. France took back 12 orphaned French children from IS families and the Netherlands took back two Dutch orphans, he said in Tweets. Last week, the Kurdish-led authorities said they had repatriated two US women along with six children. Few countries have yet seemed willing to take back their citizens, who may be hard to prosecute. The Kurdish-led administration and the SDF have said they cannot indefinitely hold thousands of foreigners, but no clear international policy has emerged over how to handle the issue. Many of the relatives of captured IS fighters are located in al-Hol, a camp for displaced people where aid agencies have warned of dire humanitarian conditions.
Under British and international law, it is illegal to make an individual stateless. Britain, however, can make its citizens stateless if they have dual nationality. Critics of the move claim that Javid made the decision to revoke Begum's citizenship because she would be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship because of her parents' heritage. The Bangladesh government has rejected the UK claim that she is a Bangladesh citizen.
On Sunday, one of Britain's most senior judges questioned Javid's decision to revoke Begum of her British citizenship. Jonathan Sumption, who retired as a justice of the Supreme Court in December, indicated that the Home Secretary may have broken international law with his actions. Speaking on the BBC's Reith Lecture, Lord Sumption said: "I am frankly surprised at the suggestion that she can be regarded as the citizen of a country with which she has never had anything to do [with], but that is the government's position and I have no doubt it will be tested in the courts in due course." Asked if the removal of citizenship also meant a person lost their standing under human rights, Lord Sumption said: "What they lose is their citizenship. That doesn't necessarily deprive them of their standing when it comes to human rights. "I have no problem with the notion of depriving people of their citizenship who have gone abroad to fight in foreign wars save this. "It's an established principle of international law that you cannot deprive somebody of his or her citizenship if the result would be to render them stateless. "And whatever they may have done in Syria or anywhere else, that rule has always been applied and will no doubt be applied in this case." Two independent legal challenges have been launched in response to Javid's decision to revoke Begum of her citizenship.
ADEN, Yemen, May 18 -- Yemen's security forces managed to capture one of the most prominent al-Qaida leaders during an anti-terrorism operation launched on Saturday in the country's southwestern province of Taiz.
"An elite anti-terrorism security operation managed to capture one of the most dangerous al-Qaida leaders named Bilal Ali Wafi who is wanted as a global terrorist," officer Abdul-Basit Baher said. He added that the anti-terrorism security troops raided an old house in the western countryside of Taiz province and succeeded in capturing Wafi who refused to surrender himself and attempted to use children and women as human shields. A security member was injured during the shooting that erupted while attempting to capture Wafi in his hometown village, he added. Yemeni security authorities previously accused Wafi of masterminding a series of attacks and assassinations against the country's security and government officials. Wafi was operating as a prominent member of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and participated in a terrorist attack in 2012 against a military parade in capital Sanaa, killing more than 100 soldiers and injuring nearly 300 others, Yemeni authorities said.
In October 2017, the United States and other Gulf countries designated 11 Yemenis including Wafi as terrorists who were wanted by security authorities. The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch AQAP, which mostly operates in eastern and southern provinces, has been responsible for many attacks against security forces in the country. The provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have also been the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between the United Arab Emirates-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time. The AQAP, seen by the U.S. as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflicts between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in the southern and southeastern provinces. Enditem
WASHINGTON, May 8 -- U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Monday that the deployment of U.S. military assets was to counter a "credible threat" from Iran.
The deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region of responsibility represented "a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces," Shanahan tweeted Monday. "We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation," the acting Pentagon chief noted, adding "we will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on U.S. forces or our interests."
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said late Sunday that his country is deploying a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, aiming "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force." The New York Times on Monday cited senior U.S. officials that new threats by Iran against U.S. troops in Iraq were behind the sudden deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Persian Gulf. Following the exit from the Iran nuclear deal in May last year, the U.S. government has kept piling up pressure on Iran through a series of sanctions.
On April 22, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the 180-day U.S. waivers for major importers of Iran's oil formally expired on May 2, which aggravates the impacts of tough pressures on Iran. Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday that Tehran would soon announce a set of retaliatory measures in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington has flared up in recent months, following U.S. decisions to designate Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a "foreign terrorist organization" and to reimpose sanctions on Iran. In response to the U.S. moves, the Iranian parliament also passed a bill blacklisting the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces in West Asia as a "terrorist group," pledging to fight back any provocation by Washington.
COLOMBO, May 7 -- Every suspect connected to the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday suicide bombings has either been arrested or killed, authorities said.
"All those terrorists directly involved in the bombings are either dead or under arrest," Sri Lanka's acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickramaratne said in a statement late Monday. The announcement comes two weeks after coordinated bomb attacks ripped through three hotels and three churches throughout the country, killing 257 people and injuring many. The National Thowheeth Jama'ath terrorist organization has been blamed for the attacks and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Wickramaratne said among the dead were two bomb experts linked to the attacks and police also uncovered explosives stashed to be used in future attacks. He also said life will slowly return to normal, adding that security measures were being beefed up at schools, the Sunday Times reported. "This is not because there is a direct threat on schools," he said. "But everyone must understand the manner in which security measures must be undertaken."
He also urged the public to disregard what they read on social media and rely directly on the security forces for information. Wickramaratne was appointed acting inspector general last week by President Maithripala Sirisena, who had demanded the resignation of Pujith Jayasundara, the former inspector general, for failing to uphold his duties by not thwarting the Easter Sunday bombings. Wickramaratne's Monday announcement follows the government having declared a state of emergency April 22 that allowed police and military forces to detain and question potential suspects without a court order. Meanwhile, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake said the military has also increased national security measures under the emergency declaration while urging the public to return to their regular, daily activities.