Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
ISIS/ISIL/DAESH 2016 – 2017
Terrorism 2016 – 17
CTV Montreal: ISIS – will the threat grow?
Kyle Matthews of the Montreal Institue for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
weighs in on the ISIS threat in a chat with Paul Karwatsky.
Al Jazeera: The Caliph
Middle East Eye
ISIS’s Signature Explosive in Europe
By NEIL COLLIER, MARGARET CHEATHAM WILLIAMS and TAIGE JENSEN (video)
Triacetone triperoxide, which was used in the Paris attacks in November, has become ISIS’s explosive of choice in Europe. Specialists in bomb detection explain why. (20 March 2016)
Its dreams of a caliphate are gone. Now Isis has a deadly new strategy
Territorial losses in Syria and Iraq mean Islamic State militants are igniting bloody sectarian insurgencies elsewhere
By Hassan Hassan
(The Guardian) Its much-vaunted caliphate has gone, crushed by the might of Russian, Syrian and US warplanes, Iran-backed militias, Kurdish forces and armies launched by Damascus and Baghdad. But while 2017 might have seen the end of Islamic State’s dream of ruling over its twisted vision of an ideal society, the year ended with an ominous sign that its deadly international campaign against the many people and faiths it sees as spiritual foes has gathered new energy.
Isis has sought to tout itself as the defender of Sunnis across the region and the choice of words in its statement is designed to drive that message. The sectarian theme is likely to be the group’s main focus in the coming years, as it retreats from a caliphate to an insurgency. The sectarian narrative helps the group present a “contiguous ideology” from Afghanistan to Syria, in place of the caliphate it seems to have lost; its message to its followers is that the victims of its attack were potential soldiers in the army that Iran is forming everywhere.
Presenting itself as the last line of defence against Iran will ensure that its localised operations have a general regional theme, even as it has lost the global caliphate. This has been a recurrent theme since its rise in 2014, but the group has increasingly focused on sectarianism, not just against the Shia but also against Christians and other religious minorities.
ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse
(NYT) For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday, according to Kurdish intelligence officials.
Many of the fighters claimed to have been just cooks or clerks. So many said they had been members of the Islamic State for only a month or two that interrogators suspected they had been coached to say that. …
[The interrogator, Lt. Pisthiwan Salahi] “They’re just planning to go underground and make sleeper cells.”
‘Game Over.’ Iraqi Forces See Beginning of the End for ISIS
The jubilant outpouring that erupted in the heart of Hawija on Friday, the day after Iraqi forces claimed victory there, celebrated more than the fact that the Islamic State militants had finally been routed from the city, their last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
For many of the Shiite Muslim militiamen, who sped through the streets in pickups, flying militia colors and blaring religious music on loudspeakers, and the federal paramilitary police, who feasted on mutton and rice, their swift two-week victory represented the beginning of the end for militants who just three years ago ruled a third of Iraq.
ISIS Is on Its Heels, but Fighting to the Death
The militants have lost a long list of cities and towns in Iraq — Baquba, Abu Ghraib, Falluja, Ramadi, Tikrit, Mosul and, now, Tal Afar, which the Iraqi prime minister declared liberated on Thursday — and are under attack from all sides in a desperate fight over Raqqa, their self-proclaimed capital in Syria. But one would never know it from the way the extremists have continued to fight, American soldiers and airmen say.
Why I know that ISIS is a problem of MY religion: Leading activist SARA KHAN on why it is the job of fellow Muslims to defeat terror
By Sara Khan Director Of Counter-extremism Organisation Inspire
(Daily Mail) It is clear to me that we must also look at the wider context of why so many young people are seduced by extreme Salafi-Jihadism. Only by knowing the nature of the beast can we know how to combat it.
To do that, we must recognise that despite the oft-repeated claims that there is a clash between Islam and the West, the real battle is within Islam.
Islam has more than a billion followers, but large swathes of today’s Muslims hold competing and often conflicting claims of what values and principles the faith stands for.
The result is that contemporary Islam is suffering a colossal crisis of identity which has created a vacuum. Islamist extremism and the terror it incubates has helped fill the vacuum.
Millions of Muslims across the world subscribe to interpretations of Islam that endorse co-existence, humanity, tolerance and compassion.
They genuinely believe Islam is a religion of peace. It’s why for centuries Christians, Muslims and other minorities lived together peacefully in many Middle Eastern countries before the ascent of ISIS.
… a growing number of Muslims here and abroad have a different understanding.
Their beliefs are based on a politicised, puritanical ideology which is anti-Western, advocates religious supremacy, intolerance, the requirement to live in a caliphate, and an opposition to democracy and fundamental human rights. They look to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who once claimed: ‘Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting.’ This was once a minority interpretation.
But over the past 40 years, aggressive Saudi proselytising of Wahhabism, the tyranny of authoritarian leaders in Muslim countries, and the propaganda opportunity provided by Western intervention in Muslim countries, has seen an exponential worldwide growth. … rather than being an authentic representation of Islam, the fundamentalist ideology of Salafi-Islamism is actually a far-Right interpretation of it.
The ideology of the Salafists has won over an increasing number of young Muslims who misguidedly believe that Salafi-Islamism represents ‘normative Islam’.
Iraqi Prime Minister Arrives in Mosul to Declare Victory Over ISIS
(NYT) Dressed in a military uniform, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived here in Mosul on Sunday to congratulate Iraq’s armed forces for wresting the city from the Islamic State. The victory marked the formal end of a bloody campaign that lasted nearly nine months, left much of Iraq’s second-largest city in ruins, killed thousands of people and displaced nearly a million more.
Hanging over the declaration of victory is the reality of the hard road ahead. The security forces in Mosul still face dangers, including ISIS sleeper cells and suicide bombers. And they must clear houses rigged with explosive booby traps so civilians can return and services can be restored. Nor is the broader fight over: Other cities and towns in Iraq remain under the militants’ control. (Arab News) 266 days after launching offensive, Iraq declares liberation of Mosul
Isis surrenders Iraqi hideout of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Fall of key town Baaj to Shia forces leaves pocket of west Mosul and Bukamal as only urban centres in Iraq with big Isis presence
Defense secretary Mattis says US policy against Isis is now ‘annihilation’
Retired general indicates aggressive turn in Iraq and Syria, saying ‘intention is that foreign fighters do not survive’ and ‘civilian casualties are a fact of life’
(The Guardian) The retired Marine Corps general also said “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation”, adding: “We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can.”
His remarks came a day after he cited the suicide bombing in Manchester, which has been claimed by Isis, in a speech to graduating cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“Manchester’s tragic loss underscores the purpose of your years of study and training at this elite school,” Mattis said on Saturday. “We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of normal. This is not normal.”
Trump Gives Generals More Freedom on ISIS Fight
Pentagon brass take lead on decisions that were made by White House under Obama; ‘I authorize my military,’ Trump says
(WSJ) As the White House works on a broad strategy, America’s top military commanders are implementing the vision articulated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Decimate Islamic State’s Middle East strongholds and ensure that the militants don’t establish new beachheads in places such as Afghanistan.
The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored. Removing the carrot from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, some State Department officials warn, could hamper the pursuit of long-term strategies needed to prevent volatile conflicts from reigniting once the shooting stops.
The new approach was on display this week in Afghanistan, where Gen. John Nicholson, head of the U.S.-led coalition there, decided to use one of the military’s biggest nonnuclear bombs—a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB—to hit a remote Islamic State underground network of tunnels and caves.
Egypt: Isis claims responsibility for Coptic church bombings
Palm Sunday attacks on Christian churches in Tanta and Alexandria kill at least 36 people and injure more than 100
A bomb exploded in a Coptic church north of Cairo, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 50 others, while a suicide bomber killed at least six people and injured 66 in front of a church in Alexandria.
“A group that belongs to Islamic State carried out the two attacks on the churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria,” said Amaq, the group’s news agency.
The head of the Coptic church had earlier celebrated Palm Sunday at the church in Alexandria.
Islamic State makes its last dam stand
If the Tabqa Dam is breached, Raqqa would be submerged within minutes and flooding would continue downstream all the way to Iraq
(Middle East Eye) It could be a quick victory with Islamic State (IS) forces yet again being forced to retreat. Or it could unleash a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, with a wall of water more than 50 metres high killing thousands of people.
Over recent days, fighting between IS and forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a Kurdish/Arab alliance backed up by the US military – has been intense around Tabqa, site of Syria’s largest dam and one of the country’s most important air bases.
Fight for Mosul: IS forces families into booby-trapped buildings, say officials
Iraqi forces rein in air strikes amid fears for trapped residents after hundreds killed
(Middle East Eye) Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul are moving residents into booby-trapped buildings and drawing air strikes with sniper fire to maximise civilian casualties, Iraqi military commanders and local officials have told Middle East Eye.
Officials also said that Iraqi forces had been ordered not to call in air support unless they found themselves in a critical situation after scores of people were reported to have been killed in a single air strike in the New Mosul neighbourhood on 17 March.
Mosul residents were told not to flee before airstrikes that killed civilians
Pentagon opens investigation into reports that more than 150 civilians died in US-led bombings to retake Iraqi city from Isis
(The Guardian) Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population and the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery. Faced with their toughest fight yet against Isis, Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to airstrikes and artillery to clear and hold territory in Mosul’s west.
In previous battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population as Iraqi forces battled Isis. In Mosul, the Iraqi government said it had asked civilians to remain in their homes to prevent large-scale displacement.
When the operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city was launched, more than a million people were estimated to still be living in Mosul. Today, the United Nations estimates about 400,000 remain trapped in what is now the last major Iraq stronghold for Isis.
Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity
Move comes as international outrage grows over airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in Mosul Jadida neighbourhood
Iraqi military leaders have halted their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage grew over the civilian toll from airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in a single district of the city.
The attack on the Mosul Jadida neighbourhood is thought to have been one of the deadliest bombing raids for civilians since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Saturday, more than a week after the bombs landed, when the US-led coalition confirmed that its aircraft had targeted Isis fighters in the area.
They carried out the attack on 17 March “at the request of the Iraqi security forces”, and have now launched a formal investigation into reports of civilian casualties, the coalition said. Local people at the site told the Observer that the enormous damage inflicted on the homes and much of the surrounding area had been caused by airstrikes, which battered the neighbourhood in the middle of a pitched battle with Isis members, who were under attack from Iraqi forces.
Where Do ISIS Fighters Go When the Caliphate Falls?
(The Atlantic) The Islamic State is reeling. With its finances cut in half over the past six months, its media and information operations in tatters, and the offensive in western Mosul eating through its territory, the end of its so-called caliphate across the Middle East seems near. While a clear-cut victory is far from inevitable, at the current rate, it is conceivable that U.S. forces and their allies will defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria by killing and capturing its fighters, driving the group from key cities and villages in what formerly constituted its vaunted caliphate, and ultimately taking Raqqa, its stronghold.
The focus, then, will shift to what ISIS’s foreign fighters—who at their peak numbered tens of thousands from dozens of countries—will do next. There are several possibilities.
The “hardcore fighters,” especially the foreign ones within the inner circle of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his top commanders, will likely remain in Iraq and Syria, and look to join the underground resistance of an “ISIS, 2.0.” In all likelihood, these guerrilla insurgent shards of ISIS will congeal into a clandestine terrorist organization. Besides conducting sporadic raids, ambushes, and, perhaps, spectacular attacks using suicide tactics, these ISIS fighters will rest, rearm, and recuperate.
During this time, the militants may switch their allegiances between a smattering of groups on the ground, including ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and Ahrar al-Sham (already a loose coalition of Islamist and Salafist units), and will actively seek out ungoverned areas still beyond the writ of either Syrian or Iraqi government forces and their allies. As the terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman has suggested, if the fortunes of ISIS continue to decline, there may be a group of jihadists that see rapprochement with al-Qaeda as the only option to continue their struggle. Interviews with some Western ISIS fighters suggest that the ideological differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS are too significant to be bridged quickly, but this may change over time.
Army claims gains in fight for western Mosul
Government troops advance on Al Maamun neighbourhood, a day after deadly ISIL rocket strikes on soldiers near airport.
Syrian Army inches closer to Palmyra as ISIS struggles to hold ground
With reinforcements arriving to the western Palmyra countryside, the Syrian Arab Army is expected to launch another major assault in this region in the coming weeks, as they look to liberate the remaining gas fields under the Islamic State’s control.
Will latest Iraqi offensive mean end of ISIL in Mosul? (video)
(Al Jazeera) Iraqi forces and their allies have been fighting for months to push ISIL out of Mosul.
Baghdad car bomb kills dozens in deadliest attack of 2017
Islamic State claims it carried out blast in south of city, the third to hit capital in three days
Islamic State, which is on the defensive after losing control of eastern Mosul to a US-backed Iraqi military offensive, claimed responsibility for the bombing in an online statement. It was the third such attack to hit the Iraqi capital in three days.
As it cedes territory captured in a 2014 offensive across northern and western Iraq, Isis has stepped up strikes on government areas, particularly in Baghdad.
Isis destroys tetrapylon monument in Palmyra
Syrian antiquities chief says militants have demolished structure and part of Roman theatre after seizing city for second time
“This is a scandal. Palmyra is occupied and there is no outrage from the international community. We are trying to protect a civilisation. It’s beyond political considerations. There needs to be international solidarity.”
Syrian and Russian forces reclaimed the city from Isis in March, only to lose it to a counter-offensive in December.
Isis first captured Palmyra, once a Silk Road oasis that boasted some of the best-preserved ruins of antiquity, in May 2015.
Turkey says Istanbul club shooting suspect confesses, attacked for ISIS
A gunman suspected of killing 39 people during a New Year’s attack on an Istanbul nightclub was caught in a police operation, authorities said early Tuesday.
The suspect was captured in a special operations police raid on a house in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district, private NTV television reported. The broadcaster said he had been staying in the house belonging to a friend from Kyrgyzstan.
Istanbul’s governor says that suspect, an Uzbekistan national who trained in Afghanistan, confessed to carrying out the attack.
Source: Michael Izady at http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/maps.shtml
ISIS: A catastrophe for Sunnis
Many have suffered under the Islamic State, but the misery inflicted on Sunnis will resonate for generations
By Liz Sly, WaPost’s Beirut bureau chief
(WaPost) The Islamic State is being crushed, its fighters are in retreat and the caliphate it sought to build in the image of a bygone glory is crumbling.
The biggest losers, however, are not the militants, who will fulfill their dreams of death or slink into the desert to regroup, but the millions of ordinary Sunnis whose lives have been ravaged by their murderous rampage.
No religious or ethnic group was left unscathed by the Islamic State’s sweep through Iraq and Syria. Shiites, Kurds, Christians and the tiny Yazidi minority have all been victims of a campaign of atrocities, and they now are fighting and dying in the battles to defeat the militants.
But the vast majority of the territory overrun by the Islamic State was historically populated by Sunni Arabs, adherents of the branch of Islam that the group claims to champion and whose interests the militants profess to represent. The vast majority of the 4.2 million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes by the Islamic State’s war are Sunnis. And as the offensives get underway to capture Mosul, Iraq’s biggest Sunni city, and Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, more Sunni towns and villages are being demolished, and more Sunni livelihoods are being destroyed.
Across the border in Syria, where the war against the Islamic State is entangled with the complicated conflict between rebels and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, … Sunni towns and neighborhoods are being leveled by Syrian and Russian airstrikes. The effort to crush the mostly Sunni rebellion relies heavily on Shiite fighters from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq. Sunnis comprise the vast majority of the 5 million refugees scattered around the region and in Europe, according to the United Nations and the governments of the countries that are hosting them.
The dangers are clear, analysts and Iraqis say. Sunnis are at risk of becoming a dispossessed and resentful underclass in lands they once ruled, creating fertile conditions for a repeat of the cycle of marginalization and radicalization that gave rise to the Islamic State in the first place.
ISIL suicide bombers launch wave of attacks in Iraq
Suicide attacks kill at least 14 south and west of Baghdad, as Iraqi forces’ push to retake Mosul makes slow progress.
(Al Jazeera) The attacks came as Iraqi forces and their allies continue fighting ISIL in the northern city of Mosul, the armed group’s last major population centre in the country.
The offensive on Mosul entered its fifth week on Monday, with Iraqi government forces still trying to consolidate gains made in the eastern edge of the city that they breached end of October.
They are yet to cross into the northern and southern limits of Mosul, where more than a million people are thought to be still living.
Separately, a mixed Kurdish and Yazidi armed force known as the Sinjar Resistance Unit said on Monday it had dislodged ISIL fighters from five Yazidi villages west of Mosul in an advance that began on Saturday.
Islamic State leader says ‘no retreat’ from Mosul assault
(Reuters) Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told his followers on Thursday there could be no retreat in a “total war” against the forces arrayed against them, as advancing soldiers battled into their northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul. Expressing confidence that his Islamic State fighters would prevail against Shi’ite Muslims, Western “crusaders” and Sunni “apostate” countries Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Baghdadi called on the jihadists fighting in Mosul to “wreak havoc”.
The real faces of ISIS (video)
(Maclean’s) Sally Armstrong talks to several ISIS militants about why they joined one of the world’s most feared terror groups.
Iraqi army aims to reach site of Islamic State executions south of Mosul
(Reuters) The Iraqi army was trying on Thursday to reach a town south of Mosul where Islamic State has reportedly executed dozens to deter the population against any attempt to support the U.S.-led offensive on the jihadists’ last major city stronghold in Iraq. The executions were meant “to terrorize the others, those who are in Mosul in particular”, and also to get rid of the prisoners, said Abdul Rahman al-Waggaa, a member of the Nineveh provincial council. Some of the families of those executed are also held in Hammam al-Alil, he said.
Eleven days into what is expected to be the biggest ground offensive in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, army and federal police units were fighting off sniper fire and suicide car bombs south of Hammam al-Alil, the site of the reported executions, an Iraqi military spokesman said.
Mosul Fight Unleashes New Horrors on Civilians
As security forces bear down on Mosul, the Islamic State has moved hundreds of civilians from villages around the city to use as human shields, and the United Nations said the militants may have executed nearly 200 people. To the east, near the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk, Sunni Arabs who fled there to escape violence are being forcibly displaced as local officials worry about terrorist sleeper cells.
The toll of an intensifying war does not end there: A sulfur plant set on fire by the Islamic State has sent dozens of people seeking treatment for respiratory problems, and several journalists have been wounded, and two killed, covering the fighting. And a wayward attack — either an artillery shell or an airstrike —– hit a Shiite mosque in northern Iraq, killing more than a dozen women and children.
“ISIS has lost hundreds of its members from airstrikes when they withdraw, so now they are forcibly displacing the residents of villages they are leaving and using them as human shields,” said Abdul Satar, a military expert and former Iraqi Army general.
Just 10 days into the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, the campaign has unleashed a fresh set of horrors across a wide stretch of the country. Although the government’s military operation itself is largely meeting its goals in progressing toward the city, the turmoil surrounding it is a sign of just how difficult it would be to secure a lasting peace across Iraq’s many divisions even after a victory.
Mosul battle: Islamic State group’s leaders fleeing city, US says
(BBC) The whereabouts of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are unknown. Some reports say he is in Mosul; others say he has fled the northern Iraqi city
If ISIS Loses Mosul, What Then?
(The Atlantic) Militants were largely driven from the city during the Iraq War, but they came back. Here’s why this time is different.
From its peak in 2014, ISIS has today lost by one estimate roughly half of the territory it controlled in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria. But the campaign to take back Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city and the group’s last major Iraqi stronghold, is destined to be particularly complex. An Iraqi Kurdish general has estimated it could take two months, and the coalition faces numerous potential dangers from, among other things, ethnic and sectarian tensions within their own ranks; improvised explosive devices, booby traps, and possibly chemical weapons; an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 ISIS fighters in the city and possible sleeper cells hiding among the civilian population; and, as the battle accelerates, a surge of up to 1.3 million refugees out of the city.
… This operation seems to have taken into account the last experience of losing Mosul. The security planners have recognized that the Iraqi security forces will be greeted as liberators in Mosul for the first time ever if we play our cards right. The introduction of Kurdish Peshmerga to Mosul is one of the factors that kickstarted the Sunni insurgency in 2004, and the introduction of Shia militias would have a similar effect now. So the Iraqi government and the coalition planners have worked very hard to keep both the Kurdish peshmerga and the Shia militias out of the Mosul urban battle.
Tallha Abdulrazaq: Mosul will fall again, but at great cost
The battle for Mosul will be long and the city’s remaining 1.5 million civilians will bear the brunt.
(Al Jazeera) The Battle for Mosul (as it will undoubtedly be known once historians write their books) finally began in earnest in the early hours of October 17 after months of shaping operations around the capital of Nineveh Governorate.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is bent on prising Mosul from ISIL’s grip before the end of the year, perhaps to secure his office against resurgent rivals such as his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, who is widely considered to be a virulently sectarian politician.
Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, and ISIL has been in control of it for more than two years. It has therefore had more than ample time to prepare defences, and has done this while staying relatively unmolested.
A few weeks ago, reports indicated that ISIL had dug a moat around Mosul and pumped oil into it, ready to create a “river of fire“. Live footage from today shows enormous walls of black smoke completely covering Mosul’s frontage in most areas, creating a smokescreen of gigantic proportions.
This stratagem is a larger-scale version of what ISIL did in Qayyarah and Tikrit, where it set oil wells on fire in order to obscure the battlefield and prevent close air support in order to force the ISF to engage it on the ground where it is strongest. Aside from burning vast amounts of oil, ISIL has also sabotaged airfield runways, blockaded roads and undoubtedly littered Mosul with mines and IEDs.
With Iraq’s previous battlefield record in mind, as well as the length of time ISIL has had to harden their defences and dig in, we can expect Mosul to be exhaustingly long, bloody and with tragic humanitarian consequences for the 1.5 million civilians still in the city.
Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces converge in decisive battle against Isis
British, US and French special forces and paratroopers support push by peshmerga from east and Iraqi army from south
(The Guardian) Addressing his troops at Khazer, east of Mosul, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, said: “This is the first time the peshmerga and Iraqi forces have worked together against Daesh [Isis] … we hope this will become a concrete foundation for our future relations with Baghdad.
“The liberation of Mosul is not an end to terror and terrorism but this was a good lesson so in the future we will resolve our differences through understanding and working together. We reassure the people of Mosul that both the peshmerga and the Iraqi army will do everything not to cause any loss to the people and no revenge killing will take place.”
Mosul is more than a potentially climactic military battle
(CTV) More is riding on the battle for Mosul than the recapture of the Islamic State group’s main stronghold in northern Iraq. Also on the line is the Obama administration’s theory that the extremists can be defeated in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere without American ground troops doing the fighting.
For more than two years, the administration has stuck to its argument that the only path to a sustained victory over the Islamic State group is for locals, not Americans or other outsiders, to bear the main responsibility for the fighting and for governing after the extremists are removed.
To drive ISIS from Mosul, a complicated coalition joins forces
(PBS Newshour) Two years ago, Islamic State troops stormed Mosul, Iraq. Today the city is the militant group’s last remaining urban base in the country, but Iraqi forces, backed by the U.S. and others, are preparing to drive them out. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports from Qayarah, Iraq, in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Two years ago, … the Iraqi army collapsed and ran away.
It was a humiliating shock for the country’s security forces. ISIS declared their conquest a new caliphate, or Muslim empire, with the capital based in Raqqa, Syria, only 140 miles from the border. It was from Mosul that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first appeared in public, preaching in the city’s Grand Mosque, demanding obedience from Muslims around the world.
For the past year, Iraq’s military has been fighting back, retaking former ISIS strongholds of Fallujah and Ramadi. Now the Iraqi military is planning a showdown with ISIS in Mosul, a battle they hope will push the group out of the country.
Across Iraq, the U.S. leads a coalition of 19 countries fighting ISIS, but the push to retake Mosul will be an Iraqi military effort, with U.S. military support.
Iran-backed fighters allied with U.S.-backed forces reflect the reality of Iraq today. There are many players who have found a common goal in defeating ISIS, but it’s often the only thing uniting them.
In Northern Iraq, Peshmerga forces from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region near Mosul will also play a role in the fight for the city. They have been at odds with the Baghdad government for decades, seeking independence and a country of their own. They also see parts of Mosul as rightly theirs.
The Secret History of ISIS (video)
The Passionate Eye investigates the failure of the U.S. to stop the rise of the brutal jihadist group, despite many warning signs, and the inside story of the petty criminal who was left alone to become the terrorist mastermind behind it
Frontline explores ‘The Secret History of ISIS’ in new documentary (May 2016)
(CNN) … the PBS program has been especially good at providing much-needed perspective about the threat, which can be lost in the aftermath of some fresh outrage. In this case, that includes meticulously documenting failures across the last two administrations that allowed ISIS to develop and grow, missing key opportunities to decapitate the organization early on.
Proceeding almost chronologically, the documentary details the transformation of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from thug into jihadi leader, determined to erect an Islamic caliphate.
The Downfall of ISIS
Why Foreign Fighters Have Become a Liability
(Foreign Affairs) It should have been obvious from the start that local and foreign fighters would have different goals. ISIS’ official position has been that all fighters are equal, but tensions among groups did not go unnoticed. Still, the group’s internal dynamics remained relatively stable because it was successful on the battlefield and in oil production. But now that the ISIS is not as rich and powerful as it once was, it can no longer afford to buy everyone’s loyalty. Already, a major internal split is hurting the group’s combat performance. In Iraq alone, since last month, ISIS lost all three battles it fought along with control of two towns and more than 30 villages.
According to local ISIS fighters, foreign fighters are more trouble than they’re in fact worth. Foreign fighters’ inability or unwillingness to cooperate with local fighters has culminated in deadly races for money and power. …
Most likely, foreign fighters will continue to lose power and, as they go down fighting, will take the Islamic State with them.
Amal Clooney Is Bringing a Case Against ISIS
She hopes one woman’s story will help bring justice for genocide victims.
(Vanity Fair) Amal Clooney is taking ISIS to court. The barrister is representing her client, Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and ISIS survivor. This morning, Cynthia McFadden reported on the Today Show that Clooney is taking 23-year-old Murad’s case on behalf of thousands of victims of genocide from ISIS. On Friday, Clooney and Murad spoke to U.N. representatives in New York City about the gravity of this case. That same day, Nadia was named a Goodwill Ambassador by the U.N. Amal Clooney Fights ISIS: 8 Things To Know About George Clooney’s Human Rights Lawyer Wife
Iraq gears up for late-year push to retake Mosul from Islamic State
(Reuters) The U.S.-led war on Islamic State has depleted the group’s funds, leadership and foreign fighters, but the biggest battle yet is expected later this year in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his “caliphate” two years ago.
The jihadist insurgents have lost more than half the territory they seized in Iraq and nearly as much in neighboring Syria, but still manage to control their twin capitals of Mosul and Raqqa, symbols of the state they sought to build at the heart of the Middle East.
Military and humanitarian preparations are now in full swing to retake Mosul, the largest city under the ultra-hardline group’s control. American troops are establishing a logistics hub to the south, while the United Nations warns of the world’s most complex humanitarian operation this year.
Iraq’s recapture over the summer of Qayyara airbase and surrounding areas along the Tigris river 60 km (nearly 40 miles) south of Mosul have set the stage for a big push on the city, which commanders say could start by late October.
Whether Islamic State makes a final stand in Mosul or slips away to fight another day remains in question, but Baghdad expects a fierce battle and the international coalition backing it is preparing for one.
Islamic State’s ‘Jizya tax’ for Christians is pure propaganda
(The Spectator) Christians continue to be slaughtered in the Middle East. But as reports of genocidal atrocities mount up, our governments have found a new reason to sit on their hands. Christians, the theory goes, don’t have it as bad as the Yazidis. As ‘people of the book’, Christians enjoy privileged status. Rather than suffering the full extent of Islamic State’s depravities, they can pay a tax (Jizya) in return for protection. It sounds credible and contains just enough theology to bamboozle the secular population of the international community. Here’s the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights:
‘While Christian communities still living in Daesh controlled territories live difficult and often precarious existences…their right to exist as Christians within any Islamic State existing at any point in time, is recognised as long as they pay the Jizya tax.
Rather than the established Jizya practice – hardly praiseworthy in itself – what Isis has been doing is brutally extorting money from the few remaining Christians on pain of death. They call it a Jizya, but … The defining characteristics are missing. There is no Christian worship in return. There is no protection. There are no priests, and Churches in the region have all been either destroyed or ‘repurposed’. Even if this were not the case, Christian worship would not be permitted, as recent years of unrestrained brutality have shown.
Senior ISIL leader Adnani ‘killed in Syria’s Aleppo’
(Al Jazeera) ISIL-linked website says Adnani, the group’s main spokesman, was killed while monitoring operations in Aleppo province.
The main spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, has been killed in the Syrian province of Aleppo, according to an ISIL-linked website.
Adnani, described as ISIL’s second most senior leader, has been one of the group’s longest-serving figures.
Adnani has been the voice of ISIL, also known as ISIS, over the past few years, and has released numerous, lengthy audio files online in which he urged followers to carry out attacks.
Earlier this year, he called for massive attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He has also called for attacks in Western countries.
Saad Jawad, a Middle East analyst and professor of political science, told Al Jazeera that if Adnani’s death was confirmed, it would be a “very significant” development.
“Although he was declared as the spokesman of ISIL, in reality he was the real ruler of the ISIL parts in Syria. He’s a Syrian. He was born in Idlib,” Jawad said.
Adnani was responsible for many of ISIL’s “very aggressive operations”, he said.
The real faces of ISIS: Sally Armstrong reports from Iraq
In a prison in northern Iraq, captured ISIS soldiers discuss their crimes and what drove them to their murderous ideology
(Maclean’s) It’s easy to presume they are at least psychopaths—chopping off heads, raping little girls, throwing people accused of homosexuality off the roofs of five-storey buildings, burning people alive in cages—but Payam Akhavan, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague and currently a professor at McGill University’s law school in Montreal, feels that’s too easy a description. “They are ordinary people who are furiously angry and brainwashed. If there is to be coexistence in this region there needs to be an apology and contrition. Justice is about transforming the rules of power and legitimacy, it’s not just about the law. These people need to be inoculated against the disease of terrorism.”
The worst ISIS attack in days is the one the world probably cares least about
(WaPost) First, they came for Istanbul. On Tuesday night, three suspected Islamic State militants launched a brazen assault on Turkey’s main airport, exploding their suicide vests after gunning down numerous passengers and airport staff. At least 45 people were killed. The world panicked; Istanbul Ataturk Airport is one of the busiest hubs in Europe and the Middle East, and it is among the most fortified.
Next, they came for Dhaka. Gunmen whom many have linked to the Islamic State raided a popular cafe in an upscale neighborhood in Bangladesh’s teeming capital. After a 10-hour standoff, authorities stormed the establishment; at least 20 hostages, mostly Italian and Japanese nationals, died at the militants’ hands. U.S. college students also were among the dead. The Islamic State’s reach is growing far from the Middle East, security experts fretted. Foreigners are at risk all over the Muslim world.
Then, they attacked Baghdad. In the early hours of Sunday morning, as hundreds of Iraqis gathered during the holy month of Ramadan, a car bomb exploded in the crowded Karrada shopping district. The blast killed a staggering number of people — the latest death toll is at least 187 — including many children. The area is predominantly Shiite, making it a choice target for the Sunni extremist group.
It’s unlikely that this attack, just the latest in an unending stream of tragedy to envelop the Iraqi capital, will generate the same panic in the West as the earlier two incidents. For years now, we have become almost numb to the violence in Baghdad: Deadly car bombings there conjure up no hashtags, no Facebook profile pictures with the Iraqi flag, and no Western newspaper front pages of the victims’ names and life stories, and they attract only muted global sympathy.
Cracks show inside Islamic State’s shrinking caliphate
(Reuters) For a time, the militants claimed one victory after another, thanks as much to the weakness and division of the forces arrayed against them as their own strength. They funded themselves through sales of oil from fields they overran, and plundered weapons and ammunition from those they vanquished.
But two years since the declaration of the caliphate, the tide has begun to turn in favor of its many enemies: Iraqi and Syrian government troops, Kurdish forces in both countries, rival Syrian Sunni rebels, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, and a U.S.-led coalition which has bombed the militants while conducting special operations to take out their commanders.
Of the 43 founders of Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, 39 have been killed, said Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based expert who advises the Iraqi government.
ISIS Targets Egypt
(Foreign Affairs) ISIS’ new focus on Sinai might also be a part of a broader reorientation to North Africa. In January, the group released a video campaign (albeit one that was smaller than the Sinai series) that railed against the “Westernized” leaders of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. According to U.S. officials, the group’s presence in Libya is “metastasizing,” and poses the greatest threat to regional security of any of its branches. Officials have even suggested that as the U.S.-led coalition makes gains against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the organization may turn to Libya as a fallback base. Tunisia, meanwhile, is the leading source of ISIS foreign fighters, and has itself been the site of devastating attacks by the group.
Islamic State releases children’s mobile app ‘to teach Arabic’
The app called Huroof – meaning alphabet or letters in Arabic – has ‘tank’, ‘gun’ and ‘rocket’ among the vocabulary taught
(The Guardian) The Islamic State has reportedly released an app to teach children the Arabic alphabet with the aid of guns, tanks and cannons.
The mobile application, Huroof – which means alphabet or letters in Arabic – gives a step-by-step walkthrough of the Arabic alphabet, and offers games and a nasheed (an a cappella Islamic song) to help users memorise the alphabet.
Caleb Weiss, reporting on the app in the Long War Journal, said the lyrics of the nasheed were “littered with jihadist terminology”.
The app is clearly marketed to children, with the branding of stars, balloons and flowers masking military themes, and “tank”, “gun”, “cannon”, “bullet” and “rocket” among the vocabulary taught.
ISIS’ Next Target
Terrorism After Brussels
(Foreign Affairs) Belgium is absolutely central to ISIS’ aims to carry out attacks in Europe in the hope of inspiring new recruits to their cause. After all, it was Brussels that first suffered casualties from the foreign fighters returning from Syria: Mehdi Nemmouche, who fought for ISIS in Syria, shot and killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014.
Belgium was also the site of the first attack in Europe directed by ISIS, as opposed to just being inspired by the group. It was in Verviers, eastern Belgium, last January that ISIS first displayed its talent for getting trained fighters back into Europe from Syria, loading them up with weapons and bombs, and directing them to attempt a major attack.
A Belgian federal prosecutor commented that the cell was plotting “imminent terrorist attacks on a grand scale.” Fortunately, those plans were thwarted. The Belgians had been tracking the cell for weeks and after a dramatic shootout, killed two terrorists and captured another. … Molenbeek … has been a constant feature in terrorism investigations. This district—an impoverished area rife with unemployment and heavily populated by immigrants—has come up time and again in ISIS-linked terror activities. … the problems in Molenbeek go way beyond those posed by ISIS and speak to a broader European problem of multiculturalism and effectively integrating newcomers. At a time when Europe is taking in more than a million refugees and economic migrants a year, solving the problem cannot be treated urgently enough. It is a problem that may take generations to resolve.
In the short-term, then, the priority is to get a fix on the size of ISIS’ European network. The group has been allowed to lay down roots in multiple cities. ISIS, or groups and individuals inspired by it, has now struck in France on multiple occasions, and in Belgium and Denmark. Plots have been thwarted in Austria, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Intelligence agencies have had many successes after 9/11, but the number of attacks getting through is quickly increasing; another successful ISIS attack is almost inevitable. Yet all that European leaders can offer so far are regurgitations of the need for greater EU intelligence sharing.
ISIS has made a bet that Europe’s problems—concerns over the integration of Muslim populations throughout the continent, a lack of clear national identity, open borders, and an overwhelmed security apparatus—run very, very deep. It is wagering that the situation there will become so desperate that it can wage a war for the souls of European Muslims, presenting them with a binary choice of apostasy or support for their Caliphate. It is a bet they will surely lose. Yet the bloodshed that will take place on the way should make us fear what lies ahead for Europe in the years to come.
Kyle Matthews: Our mission against ISIL has one major flaw — it ignores the Internet
(National Post) After Tuesday’s carnage in Brussels, the world’s attention has once again returned to the urgent need to combat terrorism. The attacks on the city’s airport and transit system came mere days after Salah Abdeslam, a suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist wanted for his role in November’s devastating attack on Paris, was arrested in Brussels. Europe, once again, is on high alert.
It’s an issue receiving attention here in North America, too. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced several changes to Canada’s strategy to fight ISIL. The revised mission places greater emphasis on training and increased humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East. In mid-February the Canadian government pulled all its CF-18 Hornets from the region.
Despite some of the laudable elements of the new strategy, the revised mission has a big deficiency: it has no digital component. While ISIL controls territory in parts of Iraq and Syria, it is a transnational terrorist group that does not respect national borders and has brutally carried its operations into the digital universe, thereby developing the ability to communicate and interface directly with Canadians.
The U.S. government, in contrast, recognizes that a cyberstrategy is needed to neutralize and eventually defeat the group. As acknowledged by U.S. Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, the U.S. is using cyber-attacks to complement airstrikes, training and operations, with the objective of impeding ISIL’s ability “to communicate and exploit the Internet for nefarious purposes and to dominate territory and people in Iraq and Syria and ultimately globally.”
Terrorist Bombings Strike Brussels: What We Know
(NPR) More than 30 people are dead and more than 200 wounded, after explosions struck Brussels during the Tuesday morning rush hour, Belgian officials say. Two blasts hit the international airport; another struck a metro station. Belgium has issued a Level 4 alert, denoting “serious and imminent attack.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, in a statement released via the Amaq News Agency, a group that’s been linked to the militant extremists. The statement blames Belgium for participating in the fight against ISIS and says that “several” fighters detonated explosive belts at the airport and train station.
French President Francois Hollande says, “terrorists struck Brussels, but it was Europe that was targeted — and all the world that is concerned.”
Turkish Interior Minister Says Istanbul Suicide Bomber Was ISIS Member
(NPR) A deadly explosion in central Istanbul on Saturday was the work of a Turkish-born member of ISIS, Turkey’s interior minister announced Sunday.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that Turkish authorities have identified the attacker as Mehmet Ozturk, a 24-year-old man who was a member of the Islamic State.
The blast killed four victims — three Israelis and an Iranian — in addition to the attacker. (20 March)
A View of ISIS’s Evolution in New Details of Paris Attacks
The attackers, sent by the Islamic State’s external operations wing, were well versed in a range of terrorism tactics — including making suicide vests and staging coordinated bombings while others led shooting sprees — to hamper the police response, the report shows. They exploited weaknesses in Europe’s border controls to slip in and out undetected, and worked with a high-quality forger in Belgium to acquire false documents.
(NYT) In the immediate aftermath of the Paris terror attacks on Nov. 13, French investigators came face to face with the reality that they had missed earlier signs that the Islamic State was building the machinery to mount sustained terrorist strikes in Europe.
Now, the arrest in Belgium on Friday of Salah Abdeslam, who officials say was the logistics chief for the Paris attacks, offers a crucial opportunity to address the many unanswered questions surrounding how they were planned. Mr. Abdeslam, who was transferred to the penitentiary complex in Bruges on Saturday, is believed to be the only direct participant in the attacks who is still alive.
Much of what the authorities already know is in a 55-page report compiled in the weeks after the attack by the French antiterrorism police, presented privately to France’s Interior Ministry; a copy was recently obtained by The New York Times. While much about the Paris attacks has been learned from witnesses and others, the report has offered new perspectives about the plot that had not yet been publicized.
Isis atrocities against religious minorities are genocide, says US House
Obama administration has hesitated to declare mass killings genocide because 1948 UN convention obliges states to punish perpetrators in such cases
The US House of Representatives has voted to call atrocities committed by the Islamic State against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East “genocide”, a move that could pressure the Obama administration to ramp up action in the fight against Isis.
Top Islamic State commander dead a week after US-led airstrike in Syria
Omar al-Shishani, one of the Isis leaders most wanted by Washington with a $5m bounty on his head, had been declared ‘clinically dead’ for several days prior
A top Islamic State group commander known as Omar the Chechen has died after being injured in a US-led coalition strike in north-eastern Syria, the Pentagon confirmed on Monday.
The announcement would appear to clear up the fate of the notorious Omar al-Shishani a week after a US official said the most-wanted militant had been targeted in a 4 March attack on the jihadist’s convoy.
Leaked Isis papers may contain old information but it is valuable
British, US and German intelligence agencies are looking for potential leads in thousands of documents purporting to list Islamic State volunteers
Documents purporting to be administrative records of foreign fighters who entered Syria to join Islamic State emerged on Wednesday, providing personal details of militants from all over the world who arrived to join the jihadi army. Some apparent inconsistencies, however, led some observers to question the veracity of the documents. Islamic State document leak could offer up vignettes but not key secrets ; ISIS paperwork reveals names of 6 Canadians — Identity, whereabouts of Hussain Baroot not yet clear
Fake allegiance? ISIS and Boko Haram may not be that close
Many analysts have long viewed the announced tie-up as propaganda for both sides. Boko Haram was at the time struggling against regional forces and ISIS suffering setbacks to its territorial ambitions.
“Nothing has changed in the Boko Haram camp since Shekau’s declaration,” Nigerian security analyst Abdullahi Bawa Wase told AFP.
“It has failed to bring in ISIS fighters. It has not attracted ISIS weapons and cash, which many feared would happen.
“On the contrary, Boko Haram is weaker than it was before the declaration, which is evident from the drastic drop in deadly attacks. Even the rate of suicide bombings has slowed.”
A Nigerian security source said ISIS was “only a marketing label which Boko Haram wants to use to deceptively project itself as a formidable terrorist group”
How Islamic State is training child killers in doctrine of hate
At least 50 UK youngsters are growing up in the Isis ‘caliphate’, where education means watching videos of murders
A new generation of Isis recruits is being developed in the Islamic State’s “caliphate”, indoctrinated with religious concepts from birth, and viewed by its fighters as better and purer than themselves, according to the first study of the exploitation and abuse of children as a means of securing the group’s future.
Researchers for Quilliam, a London counter-extremism thinktank, have investigated the way Isis recruits children and indoctrinates and trains them for jihad. As many as 50 children from the UK are growing up in Islamic State-controlled territory, with an estimated 30,000 foreign recruits, including more than 800 Britons, believed to have gone to Syria to fight.
The report, Children of Islamic State, has been endorsed by the UN and will be published on Wednesday in parliament. It was compiled through a study of propaganda released by Isis featuring children and liaising with trusted sources within the caliphate. The portrait painted is of a terrorist group eager to enlist children to help safeguard its future. Many are being trained as spies, preachers, soldiers, “executioners” and suicide bombers.
Dallaire: How Canada can defuse ISIL’s child soldiers
(Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative) Over the past year, my organization, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, has begun critical conversations with the Canadian Forces to begin the process of introducing new doctrine and training to address the threat of child soldiers. This unique approach to the security dimension of preventing child soldiers could put Canada ahead of the Brits, the French, even the Americans. It is an approach that is vital to support the troops in the Syria/Iraq conflict.
Earlier this month, my organization partnered with Wounded Warriors Canada, launching a new program that will leverage the skills and experience of Canadian veterans to enhance training. The Dallaire Initiative’s Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program will equip a substantial cadre of Canadian veterans to become trainers on our unique approach and enable new approaches to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers.
US airstrikes target Islamic State militants in Libya
Military has not yet determined if target, an Isis leader linked to last year’s Sousse attack, has been killed
Isis sending children to die at unprecedented rate, report warns
Analysis of 89 deaths of minors finds 39% drove vehicles laden with explosives, while a third died as foot soldiers
Five years after Gaddafi, Libya torn by civil war and battles with Isis
Fifth anniversary of revolution sees militias and government forces locked in battle as Islamic State expands into the chaos
Civil war between a militia coalition, Libya Dawn, which holds Tripoli, and the elected parliament in Tobruk has raged since the summer of 2014. It is a war that has left 5,000 dead, the economy in ruins, half a million homeless and the dreams of 2011 shattered.
“Everybody was optimistic back then,” said Guma El-Gamaty, who was the rebel government’s London envoy during the revolution. “We are now suffering the legacy of Gaddafi, the lack of institutions, no democracy, the lack of knowing how to come together.”
With Isis now attacking the country’s oil ports, talk is of western military intervention, with the UK Foreign Office confirming this month that RAF jets are in the skies over Libya.
ISIS Owns Headlines, but Nigeria’s Boko Haram Kills More Than Ever
Nigeria’s militant group — which has pledged allegiance to ISIS — has been tied to nearly 11,000 killings in 2015 as of mid-December, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
More than half of the deaths — around 6,500 — have been the direct result of Boko Haram’s suicide bombings and armed raids. The rest died as a result of fighting between the militants and Nigerian troops, according to CFR’s data.