U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has arrived in Moscow following the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting.
That meeting included Middle East nations that have opposed the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which has received renewed international criticism after recent chemical attacks allegedly conducted by his regime. Russia, for its part, has also come under fire for its open support of Assad’s regime.
Tillerson is to meet Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a bid to pressure Moscow on its involvement with Syria. However, his chances of doing so are “zero to nada,” according to Marc Ginsberg, who formerly served as White House deputy senior advisor for Middle East policy.
Ayman al-Zawahiri says his armed group will “raise the flag of jihad” across parts of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced the formation of an Indian branch of his global armed group that he said would spread Islamic rule and “raise the flag of jihad” across the subcontinent.
In a video spotted in online “jihadist” forums on Wednesday by the SITE terrorism monitoring group, Zawahiri said the new force would “crush the artificial borders” dividing Muslim populations in the region.
Al-Qaeda is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where its surviving leadership are thought to be hiding out, but Zawahiri said the group would take the fight to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“This entity was not established today but is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian sub-continent into a single entity,” he said.
Founded by Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan by US commandos in May 2011, al-Qaeda has long claimed leadership of the self-declared jihadists fighting to restore a single caliphate in Muslim lands.
But since the death of its figurehead, it has been somewhat eclipsed, first by its own offshoots in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and now by the so-called “Islamic State” fighting in Iraq and Syria.
While still regarded as a threat to the West, the group has never managed carry out another attack on the scale of the September 11, 2001 attacks by hijacked airliners on New York and Washington.
But, in launching “Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian sub-continent,” Zawahiri may be attempting to recapture some of the limelight for his group and to exploit existing unrest in Kashmir and Myanmar.
“It is an entity that was formed to promulgate the call of the reviving imam, Sheikh Osama bin Laden, may Allah have mercy upon him,” Zawahiri said.
Zawahiri called on the “umma,” or Muslim nation, to unite around “tawhid,” or monotheism, “to wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty and to revive its caliphate.”
He said the group would recognise the overarching leadership of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and be led day-to-day by senior Pakistani fighter Asim Umar.
The 55-minute video begins with stock footage of the late bin Laden giving a sermon, before cutting to a satellite map of southwest Asia, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and the Horn of Africa.
Then it cuts to a white-bearded Zawahiri, in a white turban and glasses, against the backdrop of a brown floral curtain and desk with hardback books and a tin holding ballpoint pens and prayer beads.
Umar also speaks in the video – using the Urdu language of Pakistan rather than the Egyptian doctor Zawahiri’s native Arabic – along with a new group spokesman identified as Usama Mahmoud.
The video is produced by Al-Qaeda’s usual media arm, the As-Sahab Media Foundation – “The Cloud” – and SITE reported that it had been widely distributed on jihadist online forums.
Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, Suleiman, has not been arrested for killing Hassan al-Sheikh on Thursday after the colonel ‘overtook him at a crossroads’ in Latakia
A cousin of Syria’s president has shot dead a senior air force officer in a road rage incident in the Latakia coastal heartland of their minority Alawite community, according to a monitoring group.
Suleiman al-Assad, a first cousin once removed of Bashar al-Assad, killed Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh “because he overtook him at a crossroads” Thursday evening, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Assad “followed him, swerved the car around, got out and shot him dead”, said Abdel Rahman, whose group has contacts across war-torn Syria.
He said tensions were running high among Alawites in Latakia, with some calling for Suleiman al-Assad, who has not been arrested, to be punished.
The killer’s father, Hilal al-Assad, a first cousin of the president, headed the defence forces in the Mediterranean city before his death in clashes with rebels in nearby Kasab in March 2014.
Thursday’s incident took place as rebel groups allied with al-Qaeda fight to advance on a key military headquarters in a region only 18 miles to the east of Latakia.
It described Fadhli as the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives, known as the “Khorasan Group“, who were allegedly plotting external attacks against the US and its allies.
The Kuwaiti was also reported to have been killed in a US strike last year.
Fadhli was a confidant of Osama Bin Laden and one of the few al-Qaeda members to receive advanced warning of the 11 September 2001 attacks, according to the US.
Shortly before the US began air strikes on Islamic State (IS) across Syria in September, cruise missiles struck two areas near the northern city of Aleppo. The targets were not IS positions, but buildings allegedly used by the Khorasan Group.
US officials said the shadowy organisation was made up of about 50 veteran militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which jihadists refer to as Khorasan, as well as North Africa and Chechnya.
They had been sent to Syria by al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, not to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad but to “develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations”, the officials claimed.
Fadhli, their alleged leader, was believed to have arrived in Syria in 2013 but kept a low profile.
In 2005, the US treasury department said Fadhli was based in the Gulf and had been providing support to al-Qaeda militants fighting US-led forces in Iraq under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Seven years later, the state department offered a $7m (£4.5m; €6.4m) reward for information that led to the capture or killing of Fadhli, saying he had become the leader of al-Qaeda’s network in Iran and was responsible for the movement of money and fighters for its operations in the region.
Reports on social media following September’s missile strikes said Fadhli was among the dozens of militants who were killed, but they were not confirmed by US intelligence agencies.
On Tuesday night, Pentagon spokesman Capt Jeff Davis announced that they were now confident that the 34 year old had been killed “in a kinetic strike” on 8 July near Sarmada, only 7km (4 miles) from Syria’s border with Turkey.
“His death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operations of al-Qaeda against the United States and its allies and partners,” he added.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who is now at the Brookings Institution, meanwhile told the AFP news agency that Fadhli’s death was a “serious but not fatal” blow to the jihadist network.
Before September’s missile strikes, US intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan Group was “in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks”.
Classified US assessments said it was collaborating with bomb makers from the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to test ways to get explosives past airport security.
However, some opponents of the Syrian government expressed doubts about whether the Khorasan Group actually existed, saying the US created it to justify attacks on al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, al-Nusra Front.
In May, al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani said in a TV interview that he had been ordered by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri not to use Syria to launch attacks on the West.
“There is nothing called Khorasan Group. The Americans came up with it to deceive the public,” he insisted.
The enemy of your enemy is your… frenemy; and so it is across the Middle East as the WSJ notes the spread of The Islamic State has united many parties once at odds with each other to become ‘strange bedfellows’.
Strange Bedfellows – Parties that display friction or outright aggression toward one another are finding themselves aligned in a desire to counter Islamic State.
U.S. and Iran
The U.S. and Iran share an interest in fostering an Iraqi government strong enough to fend off Islamic State.
U.S. and Syria
The U.S. and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad share an interest in quashing Islamic State in Syria, even if the regime appears to put a higher priority on fighting other rebel groups.
Israel and Egypt
Israel and Egypt have come together to oppose Hamas, and they now have a similar long-term interest to do the same in confronting Islamic State.
Syria, Kurds, Turkey and Iraq
Turkey and Syria, long fearful of building up the region’s Kurds, have a shared interest in building up the Kurdish Peshmerga to combat a more immediate threat, Islamic State. Iraq has acquiesced.
Turkey and Qatar
Turkey and Qatar suddenly have a shared interest in keeping the Islamist movement they separately helped foster in check before Islamic State absorbs and consolidates it.
Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq
Saudi Arabia supported Sunnis in Iraq while Iran supported Shiites. They now have an interest in aiding the Shiite-led Iraq government to counter a common threat.
U.S., China and Russia
Russia and China have plenty of disputes with the U.S., but they agree that, as big powers, they are threatened in similar fashion by the expansionist Islamic extremism of Islamic State.
U.S., Egypt, Qatar and Turkey
Egypt’s military ruler sees Qatar, Turkey and the U.S. as hostile to his suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. They all now fear Islamic State will consolidate the Islamic threat.
U.S. and al Qaeda
The greatest odd bedfellow of all: Islamic State threatens al Qaeda as well as the West, meaning that, in fact, al Qaeda and the U.S. now have a shared enemy.
(Bloomberg) — Forces loyal to Shiite rebels advanced deeper into southern Yemen, battling fighters supporting the president a day after Saudi Arabia warned it may act to restore stability in its neighbor.
Six Houthi rebels and two fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi were killed Tuesday in Ad-Dali’ province, about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Aden, the Yemeni leader’s stronghold, al-Masdar news website reported.
In Taiz, another southern city seized by the Houthis at the weekend, six people were killed and dozens wounded as security forces fired on a crowd of thousands protesting the rebel advance, according to Ahmed al-Wafi, a local activist.
The violence in Yemen is threatening to escalate into civil war, increasing the risk that Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, will be drawn in. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Monday that Gulf countries will take “necessary measures to protect the region” from the Houthis.
The erosion of government authority has already allowed al-Qaeda to take root in Yemen and use it as a base for attacks.
“It is not at all clear that the Houthis have the capacity to control the whole of Yemen, even if Hadi is expelled from Aden,” said John Jenkins, executive director of the Middle East office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former U.K. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. “That is likely to lead to prolonged civil conflict.”
Hadi has asked the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, to impose a no-fly zone and send troops to stop the Houthi advance, Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. The Yemeni leader fled to Aden last month after weeks of house arrest by the Houthis.
Prince Saud said that Saudi Arabia is ready to host talks among Yemen’s factions, while United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar, who brokered earlier rounds of negotiations, said they may resume in Qatar.
The Houthis are opposed to both options, spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Facebook on Tuesday. He accused both countries of supporting and funding al-Qaeda and inciting sectarian conflict in Yemen.
The UN Security Council on Sunday urged the Houthis to lay down their arms and return to talks. Hadi wrote to the council on Tuesday urging it to go further and adopt a binding resolution authorizing “all willing countries” to take any necessary measures, including military intervention, to stop the Houthis’ aggression, according to a copy of the letter.
The Saudis and their allies among the Sunni Muslim monarchies of the Persian Gulf support Hadi and say Iran is behind the rise of the Houthis, who advanced from their base in north Yemen to capture the capital, Sana’a, last year. The Houthis, who have been targeted by al-Qaeda attacks, accuse Hadi and his Gulf supporters of encouraging the jihadists.
“Finding a resolution to the violence, political uncertainty and ascendancy of the Houthis in Yemen may very well be at the top of Saudi Arabia’s priorities,” said Fahad Nazer, a political analyst at JTG Inc. in Virginia. “Unrest in Yemen has always adversely affected Saudi Arabia.”
Rare images of al-Qaeda leader in Tora Bora during the 1996 visit of a journalist are revealed during US terror trial
Rare photographs of Osama bin Laden’s life in Afghanistan have emerged during a terrorism trial in Manhattan.
They show the spartan life of al-Qaeda’s leader in the years before terrorists flew airliners into the World Trade Centre in New York and offer a glimpse into the warren of tunnels and fortifications he was building in the remote, mountainous area of Afghanistan known as Tora Bora.
They were taken by Abdel Barri Atwan, a Palestinian journalist who was invited to the hideout in 1996, as part of Bin Laden’s propaganda campaign to spread his message of hate around the world.
“I was told that Osama bin Laden was fond of my writing, he liked my style, and he wanted to meet me personally,” he was quoted as saying in Mr Bergen’s 2006 book, The Osama bin Laden I Know. “I was hesitant, because it was very dangerous.”
The photographs show the al-Qaeda leader in a string of poses, looking healthy and relaxed. He cracks a smile in some.
He arrived in the Afghan city of Jalabad after being asked to leave Sudan in 1996, and promptly set about building a fortified lair in the mountains close to the border with Pakistan, ready for a last stand.
Mr Atwan met bin Laden in a small, book-lined cave. It was location used to film his pronouncements.
“He wanted media exposure,” Mr Atwan said. “He wants to say, ‘Now I am an international figure; I’m not just a Saudi. I am aggrieved at Americans who are occupying Saudi Arabia who are desecrating the Holy Land.’ “
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