ISIL paid Paris attacker’s family $5,000, flock of sheep

Ammar Ramadan Mansour Mohamad al-Sabaawi used fake Syrian passport to enter Europe, like reported by politico.eu

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French authorities had confirmed the identity of one of the men who targeted the Stade de France in Paris in a terror attack in November 2015, according to a declassified intelligence report seen by Le Parisien.

According to the report, from early 2016, intelligence services believe the man was Ammar Ramadan Mansour Mohamad al-Sabaawi, an Iraqi national from Mosul.

Authorities believe Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack, paid al-Sabaawi’s family the equivalent of $5,000 (about €4,670) in Iraqi dinar and a flock sheep after his death.

Investigators could not confirm al-Sabaawi’s age, but believe he was in his twenties. He had used a fake Syrian passport, which was found near the French stadium in the aftermath of the attacks, to enter Europe among refugees via the Greek island of Lesbos in October 2015.

Authorities said al-Sabaawi had attempted to get into the stadium during a football match between Germany and France, but was denied entry, subsequently detonating a bomb near the entrance and killing himself and another person.

Pentagon readies for Trump aggressive combat proposals against Islamic State

The Defense Department is prepared to provide the new administration with military options to accelerate the war against ISIS in Syria that could send additional US troops into direct combat, CNN has learned

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These options would inherently increase the risk for US troops compared to what President Barack Obama was willing to accept.
The options will be ready for President-elect Donald Trump to consider as soon as he takes office and would be presented by James Mattis as the new defense secretary and Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They would have the final say on any details being briefed to the new president for his approval.
Options to deal with other hotspots, including Iran, are also being prepared, according to the defense official.
The options had already been worked up by the military during the Obama administration, but the authorities to carry them out were never approved by President Barack Obama.
New authorizations by Trump, needed to act on any of the proposals, would mean the US is expanding both its military strategy on fighting ISIS and signal the Trump White House is willing to take on increased military risk. None of the options being discussed contradict positions taken by Mattis publicly at this point.
Discussing ISIS on the campaign trail, Trump pledged to “bomb the s–t out of them.” And in September, he said, “I am also going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction: They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for defeating ISIS.”
US military planners and intelligence officials have now mapped virtually every airstrip and location in Syria that might have to be used by US troops, according to the official directly familiar with the details.
One option would put hundreds, if not thousands, of additional US troops into a combat role as part of the fight to take Raqqa.
Depending on progress in arming and training the full Syrian Democratic Forces — a local fighting force — in the coming months, the Pentagon could put several US brigade-sized combat teams on the ground, each team perhaps as many as 4,000 troops.
There is no consensus on the size of any US deployment being proposed, because a final decision on how many to send would depend on what is done with issues like arming the Kurds, who are also US partners in the fight.
The US troops would not enter Raqqa but would focus on territory outside the city, calling in airstrikes and controlling roads and towns around Raqqa.
In addition, heavily armed US Special Operations Forces could be put in a direct combat role for the first time, beyond their current mission to advise and assist local forces.
Another key option is for Trump to authorize the Pentagon for the first time to arm Kurdish fighters, who would be used to control villages and roads around Raqqa.
The move would be highly controversial because it would surely anger Turkey — a NATO ally — which does not want to see Kurdish elements gain further military strength, the official said.
But the Pentagon believes that the Kurds and Arabs who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces are the only local fighters able to take the ground around Raqqa, ISIS’s self-declared capital and its most important stronghold in the country. Arab elements of the SDF are the ones who would eventually enter Raqqa, a predominantly Arab town. Currently, the SDF has about 50,000 fighters. The Kurdish YPG portion of the SDF is about 27,000, though it includes some Arabs. The Syrian Arab Coalition portion of the SDV has 23,000 forces, with some Kurds in the mix.
Trump will be briefed on efforts to capture or kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. There have been multiple intelligence tips in recent weeks about Baghdadi’s whereabouts, the official said. But none of them have been “real-time” sightings, only tips on where he had recently been seen.
Military and intelligence officials are now working through that data to narrow down a possible location. A recent mission by the US Expeditionary Targeting Force outside Deir Ezzor was specifically aimed at capturing an ISIS operative who was believed to have intelligence on Baghdadi, but the person opened fire on the American troops, who then killed him.
Another set of options aims to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region, something Mattis has already indicated is one of his top priorities. US military commanders would like more authority to stop Iranian weapons shipments into Yemen through the Bab al-Mandab waterway between Yemen and the Horn of Africa, the official said.
This authority could extend to trying to stop the buildup of shore installations along the Yemen coast using Iranian-supplied weapons to attack shipping and US military vessels transiting through the area.
In October, the US conducted missile strikes against coastal installations being run by Iranian-supported fighters to attack US Navy ships. Additional options are being updated to ensure the Strait of Hormuz cannot be shut down by Iran.
One area of increased US military activity in the coming days that Trump has not yet had a role in is Afghanistan. Within days, Afghan forces — with support from US air and ground units — will launch a series of operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan against the Taliban.
These are likely to be the first intensified military operations of the Trump administration but have been long planned by the Pentagon, the official said.

#DaeshRuin, Sawab Centre launches a new social media campaign

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The Sawab Centre, a joint UAE-US initiative to combat Daesh’s online propaganda and promote positive alternatives to extremism, announced the launch of a social media campaign to highlight Daesh’s myriad atrocities and crimes against humanity.

The campaign will also focus on the Global Coalition Against Daesh’s significant progress in eroding the terrorist group’s military and economic capabilities, stabilising liberated areas, and reversing the legacy of Daesh’s destructive actions and ideology.

The three-day campaign will be conducted in Arabic and English on Sawab’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube platforms and will employ the hashtag “#DaeshRuin.”

Daesh preys on vulnerable youth around the world to isolate them from their families and recruit them into its depraved enterprise. In areas under its control, the terrorist group routinely kidnaps, enslaves, and trafficks women and young girls and brainwashes young boys into becoming cannon fodder and suicide bombers. In the wake of Daesh violence and devastation, thousands of families have been torn apart and displaced in camps and even across national borders.

As part of its misguided assault on civilisation, Daesh has defaced or substantially destroyed several important cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq, including Palmyra and Nimrud. Daesh also loots these same sites and illicitly trade in historical antiquities, including priceless works dating back to centuries, to fund its nefarious activities.

Daesh persecutes all those who do not conform to its world view, and has destroyed scores of mosques, churches, and other places of worship, even striking at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during Eid Al Fitr prayers.

The Global Coalition is successfully driving Daesh militants from the group’s former strongholds and crippling their capacity to wage terror and sow destruction. Daesh has lost 61 per cent of the populated territory it once held in Iraq and 28 per cent of what it once held in Syria. Global efforts are also succeeding in significantly limiting Daesh’s recruitment of new terrorist fighters, weakening its economic infrastructure including its generation of oil revenue, and countering its propaganda and corrupt ideology.

Other Sawab campaigns have focused on the terrorist group’s enslavement of women and children, the importance of diversity to a well-functioning society, and the positive impact that youth can have on their communities.

Since its launch in July 2015, the Sawab Centre has encouraged governments, communities, and individual voices to engage proactively to counteract online extremism. Over this time, the centre has given voice to the millions of people around the world who oppose Daesh and support the centre’s efforts to expose the terrorist group’s brutality and criminal nature.

What Islamic State will do in 2017

In retreat across Syria and Iraq, will the newer terror group emulate the strategy honed by al-Qaeda?

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Any predictions of Islamic State’s demise are premature. During the surge towards Mosul at the end of last year, commentators repeatedly suggested this marked the beginning of the end for the extremist group. Yet, it still has the ability to launch attacks against its enemies both within Iraq and Syria, but also further afield. These trends are likely to continue, although security forces are increasingly learning how to mitigate the threat the group poses. The risk, however, is that the threat will continue to mutate.

The prospect of IS finding a way to regroup on the ground in Syria and Iraq can’t be ruled out. While Iraqi forces are pursuing a systematic approach to retaking Mosul, it is possible the group will melt into the countryside and wait for attention to shift before surging back. How the Iraqi forces take back the city and whether they provide those in Sunni areas with reassurance over their political future will determine whether IS is able to find a supportive base from which it can rebuild. In Syria, while confusion continues to reign, it will continue to find a way to embed somewhere.

But there is no doubt that the group has lost some of its lustre and power. While there are still some individuals choosing to go and fight alongside the group, the numbers have fallen dramatically. A report in September last year from US intelligence indicated that from a peak of 2,000 a month, only about 50 individuals were assessed as crossing the border each month to go and fight alongside a range of groups including IS in Syria and Iraq.

In fact, the biggest concern is the flow of people back. Foreign fighters disenfranchised by losses on the ground or tired after years of conflict are heading home. Some are no doubt eager to seek a conflict-free life, but others are being sent back to build networks or launch attacks. German authorities believe they disrupted at least two such cells in June and September of last year, linking them to the Paris bombers and unclear whether they were sent back to launch attacks or prepare ground for others. Similarly, Italian intelligence has raised concerns about the return of Balkan jihadists as a threat to Europe, pointing to the believed return to the region of Kosovan IS leader Lavdrim Muhaxheri with somewhere between 300-400 ISIS fighters. They have already been linked to one specific plot against a football game, and suspected of potentially again laying ground for others.

These individuals will join the continuing ranks of “lone wolf” or “failed traveller” attackers that we have seen in Europe and around the world in the past year. In Anis Amri’s attack in Berlin, or the murder of the priest in Rouen, we see individuals who apparently aspired to travel to Syria, failed to do so, and instead perpetrated attacks in Europe. We also see individuals latching on to the group’s violent ideology to launch attacks. This includes Omar Mateen, who butchered 50 in a shooting at an Orlando nightclub which he claimed to be doing on behalf of the group – although no clear link was uncovered. Given the basic methods used and the broad range of targets, it is highly likely that more of these loners (either instigated or self-starting) will emerge to wreak havoc in the coming year.

Finally, it is important to not forget IS affiliates around the world like Boko Haram in Nigeria, IS in Khorasan (Afghanistan), Sinai, Libya, or Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. There has always been some element of scepticism around the legitimacy of the links these groups have to the core operation, with speculation that some of their pledges of allegiance are more an expression of anger at al Qaeda or some other local group. Yet there is usually some evidence to support the association – most prominently with IS core in the Levant acknowledging them in their material. As we see the group’s core shrink in strength, these regional affiliates could rise up to take greater prominence or to take on a greater leadership mantle.

It is also possible that the core group in Syria/Iraq will use these affiliates to launch attacks or re-establish themselves. We have already seen how individuals linked to the Paris attacks were reportedly killed in Libya, and there is growing evidence that IS in Khorasan, the Afghan affiliate, has seen some back and forth of fighters. In future, it is possible that we may see these groups rise up in a more pronounced way. More acute problems might start to emerge from Libya, Afghanistan and Sinai where substantial affiliates appear to operate, or Nigeria, Pakistan or Southeast Asia where there is a more confusing aspect to the ISIS affiliates. There, the degree of strong connection with the core organisation is unclear, with it sometimes seeming that the adoption of the IS banner is rather an expression of local divisions between militant groups. If the pressure on the group in the Levant intensifies over the next year, these groups might look like tempting ways of distracting western security agencies through attacks that cause governments to re-allocate resources away from the Levant and thereby take some pressure off the group’s leadership in Syria and Iraq.

This would emulate al-Qaeda’s strategy. There have been moments historically when the core organisation pushed its affiliates to launch attacks to try to take pressure off the core group. This happened between al-Qaeda core in Pakistan and its Yemeni affiliate between 2003-2009. Similarly, al-Qaeda has realised that sometimes not declaring loud Caliphates and committing public atrocities such as televised beheadings, but instead committing targeted acts of terror and endearing itself to local populations to build support from the ground up, is a more productive way forwards.

How the outside world will react is a further unknown element. Donald Trump has stated he will eliminate the group, but he has not outlined a strategy for how he will achieve this. There is little evidence that the US could do much more than deploy greater force on the ground (whose ultimate goal and success would be unclear). The announced Saudi alliance to counter the group has not so far done a huge amount, and European powers remain secondary players. It is unclear that any country is preparing a Russian-style push with the potential human and political risks attached, meaning we are unlikely to see a dramatic change.

For IS, the conflict they are fighting is a millennial one for God’s greater glory and temporal timelines like our calendar are largely irrelevant. Dramatic events like the loss of cities or leadership figures may change its dynamic, and in some cases significantly degrade its capacity, but are unlikely to eradicate the group. Rather, it will continue to evolve and grow regionally primarily, but also internationally, with attacks against western targets a continuing interest.

Once the war in Syria settles down, and Iraq becomes unified, discussions may be possible about how to eradicate the group, but this is unlikely to take place in the next 12 months given the continuing fighting on the ground in the face of a ceasefire which in any case includes neither IS or al-Qaeda affiliates, meaning another year of the world remaining in state of high alert is likely. Were peace to break out, IS would find itself in a complicated situation, but this would require a very substantial change of situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq. That, unfortunately, looks some way off.

 

 

 

 

 

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Afghanistan: 31 Haqqani network terrorists arrest in Khost province

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At least 31 terrorists belonging to the notorious Haqqani terrorist network have been arrested in Southeastern Khost province, like reported by khaama.com .

The Afghan Intelligence, National Directorate of Security (NDS), said the militants apprehended by the intelligence operatives, were operating in two different groups led by the terrorist network.

NDS further added that the militants were arrested during the two separate military operations.

According to NDS, the militants were involved in various terrorist activities in Khost province.

The National Directorate of Security also added that the intelligence operatives confiscated 2 motorcycles, 50 magnetic bombs, 6 hand grenades, 18 RPG rockets, 36 boxes of heavy machine gun, 5 boxes of AK-47 rifle ammunition, 80 AK-47 rifle magazines, and 3 vehicles used by the militants without having registration plate numbers.

Haqqani network was formed in the late 1970s by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The group is allied with al-Qaida and the Afghan Taliban and cooperates with other terrorist organizations in the region.

The network is accused of staging numerous cross-border attacks from their base in North Waziristan, including the 19-hour siege at the US Embassy in Kabul in September 2011.

It is considered the most lethal insurgent group targeting the NATO-led coalition security forces and Afghan personnel in Afghanistan.

The US Department of State designated the HQN as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on September 7, 2012.

Eastern Mosul officially recaptured from Islamic State

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Iraqi government forces achieved the most remarkable victory over Islamic State in the country, declaring the recapture of the eastern section of the city of Mosul, like reported by iraqinews.com.

A statement by the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Forces, which spearheaded the battles against the extremist group in Mosul since October, said the eastern side of Mosul was officially liberated, adding that 3300 militants were killed since the launch of operations.

The development represents a major impetus for the forces which hope to move onwards to the west, where Islamic State militants still dominate. The recapture of Mosul would represent the strongest blow to IS influence in the region.

Shortly before the announcement, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, who leads the Joint Operations Command battles in Nineveh, said in a statement the forces recaptured the Athariya (archaeological) zone, Tel Nerkal and al-Qadiya in the northeast.

Also in the northeast, Anadolu Agency, quoting a senior commander in the counter-terrorism troops, Fallah al-Abbassi, said 10 civilians were killed, including women and children, and 13 others were wounded when IS militants shelled districts recently recaptured by security forces.

Conflict in Mosul forced at least 178.000 people to flee to refugee camps, and the United Nations had voiced fears that battles could force at least one million out of homes.

ISIS documents show militants disqualified over harassment, mental deficiencies

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Documents seized by security forces from former Islamic State facilities in Mosul have shown that several militants nominated for joining the extremist group’s police service were disqualified for several reasons that ranged from sexual harassment history to mental deficiencies.

The documents, which were circulated by social networks users, and the authenticity of which could not be verified, carry disqualified members photos, group’s main logo and the so-called “Islamic Police”’s seal.

The reasons for the disqualification of the members, which are shown in a handwriting, ranged from frequenting brothels, drinking alcoholics, having a sexual harassment history and exhibiting signs of mental normality.

The Islamic State emerged in Iraq and Syria in 2014, conquering several cities in both countries and proclaiming the establishment of a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate”. Since then, the group reportedly imposed extreme religious rules on citizens subject to its rules, deployed vigilantes to ensure the rules were abided by and carried out executions and harsh punishments against violators.

Islamic State has reportedly been crumbling over the past few weeks as Iraqi security forces advanced closer towards the liberation of Mosul, the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq. Reports have been rampant about divisions and an atmosphere of mistrust among members.

Turkey official says border wall with Syria near completion

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A senior Turkish official says two-thirds of a border wall to prevent infiltration from Syria has been completed, and that authorities had prevented a few attempts to dig tunnels underneath the wall, according to ap.org.

Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said Wednesday the entire project would be finished in the next few months.

Turkey has come under criticism in the past for not doing more to control its 900-km (560-mile) borders with Syria after conflict erupted there in 2011.

Formal and informal crossings were used by foreign fighters, including by al-Qaida and Islamic State group operatives, Syrian rebels, refugees and an array of aid workers.

Turkey started erecting a wall in 2014. In August, it launched a military operation to clear IS militants from a strategic border patch.

Twenty-five dead in car bomb attack on Mali military camp

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Twenty-five people were killed and others were injured when a vehicle packed with explosives detonated at a military camp in Mali’s northern city of Gao, according to a provisional death toll announced by the army and reported by reuters.com.

The camp was housing government soldiers as well as members of various rival armed groups, who together conduct mixed patrols in line with a U.N.-brokered peace accord aimed at quelling violence in Mali’s restive desert north.

Israel: Police officer killed in Bedouin village attack

epa02505114 Israeli riot police accompany a bulldozer as it demolishes a bedouin living structure in the site of Al Akrib in the Negev Desert, near Beersheba, Israel on 23 December 2010. Israeli authorities have razed this 'unrecognized village,' which includes a cemetery, eight times as they try to get the Bedouins to move to the nearby Bedouin city of Rahat, something the Bedouins refuse to do, citing family deeds to this piece of land that pre-dates the establishment of the State of Israel.  EPA/JIM HOLLANDER

An Israeli police officer was killed in an attack on the Bedouin village of Um el-Hiran in the Negev desert after being hit by a car driven by a Bedouin of the village whom police said was “a terrorist affiliated with the Islamic movement”, a police spokesman said.

The attack took place after police arrived in the village to protect the demolition of 14 houses built illegally.

The vehicle’s driver was shot and killed by police on the scene.

Various others were wounded in the clash, including Ayman Oudeh, leader of the United Arab List, the third-largest party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The tension stems from the decision by Israeli authorities to tear down the village of Um el-Hiran, defined as illegal, in order to build a Jewish village on the same land.

Interior Security Minister Ghilad Erdan said broad development plans were provided for the Bedouins in other areas of the Negev.

The demolition of the first homes in Um el-Hiran was sanctioned by various court orders.

On Tuesday night Israeli police took up positions in the village in order to protect the bulldozers.

Oudeh accused police of having acted with “unjustified brutality” in their response to the attack.

Last week the Arab community in Israel held a national protest strike following the demolition of 11 illegal buildings in Kalanswa, northeast of Tel Aviv.