Tag Archives: Islamic State

Iraqi intelligence: ISIS’ second-in-command was killed in an airstrike

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Ayad al-Jumaili, believed to be a deputy of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an air strike on Friday, an Iraqi intelligence spokesman said on Saturday.

The U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition said it was unable at the moment to confirm the information that was reported earlier in the day by Iraqi state-run TV.

Continue reading Iraqi intelligence: ISIS’ second-in-command was killed in an airstrike

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‘Matter of time’ before IS leader Baghdadi killed: Tillerson

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Wednesday that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death is imminent, as US-backed forces close in on the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

“Nearly all of Abu Bakr Baghdadi’s deputies are now dead, including the mastermind behind the attacks in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere,” Tillerson told a coalition meeting in Washington.

“It is only a matter of time before Baghdadi himself meets this same fate,” he promised, as he opened discussions between the 69 members of the US-led military coalition and their Iraqi ally.

Continue reading ‘Matter of time’ before IS leader Baghdadi killed: Tillerson

Germany manhunt: ‘IS link’ to bomb suspect Al-Bakr – police

German police say a Syrian man arrested after a two-day manhunt probably had links to so-called Islamic State (IS).

Jaber al-Bakr, who arrived in Germany as a refugee, was detained in a flat in the eastern city of Leipzig early on Monday. He had been tied up there.

He had sought help from another Syrian, who alerted police after letting Mr al-Bakr sleep at his flat, reports say.

Continue reading Germany manhunt: ‘IS link’ to bomb suspect Al-Bakr – police

Video: Syrian rebel takes selfie with phone rigged to bomb

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3792075/Photo-bomb-Syrian-rebel-accidentally-blows-comrades-taking-selfie-phone-rigged-explosive.html

Footage appears to show members of the Free Syrian Army filming a propaganda video before one rebel accidentally triggers the blast

This is the horrific moment a Syrian rebel appears to blow himself and his comrades up by using a mobile phone rigged to a bomb to take a SELFIE .

Continue reading Video: Syrian rebel takes selfie with phone rigged to bomb

EXCLUSIVE: Belgian Intelligence Had Precise Warning That Airport Targeted for Bombing

Attack in subway likely also known in advance by Belgian and Western agencies; attack plan was formulated at de-facto ISIS capital of Raqqa, in Syria.

The Belgian security services, as well as other Western intelligence agencies, had advance and precise intelligence warnings regarding the terrorist attacks in Belgium on Tuesday, Haaretz has learned.
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The security services knew, with a high degree of certainty, that attacks were planned in the very near future for the airport and, apparently, for the subway as well.

Despite the advance warning, the intelligence and security preparedness in Brussels, where most of the European Union agencies are located, was limited in its scope and insufficient for the severity and immediacy of the alert.

As far as is known, the attacks were planned by the headquarters of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa, Syria, which it has pronounced as the capital of its Islamic caliphate.

The terror cell responsible for the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday was closely associated with the network behind the series of attacks in Paris last November. At this stage, it appears that both were part of the same terrorist infrastructure, connected at the top by the terrorist Salah Abdeslam, who was involved in both the preparation for the Paris attacks and its implementation.

Abdeslam escaped from Paris after the November attacks, hid out in Brussels and was arrested last week by the Belgian authorities.
Abdeslam’s arrest was apparently the trigger for Tuesday’s attacks, due to the concern in ISIS that he might give information about the planned attacks under interrogation, particularly in the light of reports that he was cooperating with his captors.

The testimony of the detained terrorist, alongside other intelligence information, part of which concerned ISIS operations in Syria, should have resulted in much more stringent security preparedness in crowded public places in Brussels, along with a heightened search for the cell.

As of now, the search is focused on the terrorist Najim Laachraoui, who created the explosive vests used by the bombers and escaped from the airport at the last moment.

There is concern, however, that other cells connected to ISIS in Western Europe will attempt to carry out additional attacks in the near future, either in Belgium or in other countries involved in the war against the terror organization in Syria and Iraq.

At least 31 people were killed and 260 wounded in the terrorist bombings at the Brussels airport and in the subway system on Tuesday. Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by ISIS.

Belgian authorities have named the two airport attackers as brothers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui. Laachraoui, who was photographed with the brothers at the airport and was observed fleeing the scene, is the subject of a massive manhunt.

Syrian smugglers shun weapons and turn to cigarettes for profits

They used to sneak in weapons and blackmarket oil. But now eastern Syria’s smugglers are seeking profit from a new illicit product: cigarettes.

It is forbidden under the austere religious law imposed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, but smoking is a habit many Syrians find hard to break. Despite its military might and its control of nearly a third of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, Isis faces an uphill battle tackling smoking in a region where roughly 40 per cent of the population is addicted.

“When you have as many worries as people living through war — and under Isis — of course we are just going to smoke even more than before,” says one smoker from Deir Ezzor. “Now, you’ll never see someone smoking in the street. You can be fined [$65] and beaten, imprisoned or even sent to the front lines as labour, like digging trenches.”

Yet cigarettes offer a rare business opportunity for those ready to take the risk — from desperate refugees trying to fund their escape from war-torn cities to large smuggling rings seeking higher returns.

In the northern town of Tabqa, Abu Ayman, who like all those interviewed did not want his real name published — uses his pickup truck to smuggle in cigarettes, stuffing packs into the seats, tyres and packages of food he pretends are his main product for trade.

“I can only bring in a small amount, but I can sell it for at least double the price that I bought them. It’s a reasonable profit,” he says.

Impoverished by Syria’s four-year civil war, cigarette smuggling offers a lifeline to some. Poor refugees fleeing northern Aleppo, heading to nearby Isis territory to escape ferocious daily government air strikes on their city, sometimes fund their journey with cigarettes. They sell the packs to traders once they arrive.

“The best way to do it is to hide the cigarettes with the women,” Mr Ayman says, because conservative Isis fighters may be reluctant to inspect them. “Just selling one pack will cover the cost of the trip — the demand among customers here is huge.”

Local brands of cigarettes that once sold for the equivalent of 50 cents a pack are now around $1.50 — a lot of money for Syrians, the majority of whom now live on less than $2 a day.

Even more difficult to buy is flavoured tobacco for the water pipes that are ubiquitous in the Middle East. Smokers complain they can usually only find one flavour on the market for about $20 a kilo, six times the usual price.

In Deir Ezzor, locals say the cigarette trade is run by big smugglers whose profitable oil and weapons trade was taken over by Isis.

“Now, they make most of their money from cigarettes. Many of these smugglers themselves pledged allegiance to Isis, perhaps to build some kind of relationship with them,” says a businessman from the eastern city of Mayadeen who called himself Kareem.

Some smugglers pay off Isis checkpoints, others are helped by co-operative smokers in the jihadi ranks in exchange for a steady supply of cigarettes. Isis sometimes asks people it knows are smokers to spy for their morality police, known as the Hisba.

For traders, getting caught is costly but not life-threatening. Whether or not they are beaten, their vehicles are seized and they are fined double the cost of their contraband.

“I tried to pay them in Syrian lira, but they would only accept dollars,” says one smuggler.

Omar, a big cigarette smuggler in Raqqa with an entire network of traders, was caught through an informant last month. He suspects Isis is more interested in raising cash than it is in stopping smugglers.

“They never beat me at all, they never tortured me. They just saw us as a profitable catch,” he says. “They didn’t even try to learn how we smuggled in the cigarettes or who the bigger traders were.”

In Raqqa, residents say Isis has put up billboards encouraging smokers to instead chew branches from the Arak tree, which Islamic tradition says were commonly chewed by the Prophet Mohammed.

Smokers seem unconvinced. Lighting incense to cover the smell of smoke, young men who once gathered in cafes now puff their cigarettes together at home.

“I wish I could quit,” says another smoker. “ But the cigarette is a loyal friend in a time of trouble.”

Russia: We warned the Yanks about Islamic State

A joke making the rounds among Russian officials and hacks who take a keen interest in what is going on in the Middle East these days goes something like this: How will the Yanks deal with the Islamic State group?

They will create “Islamic State 2”, a bigger and better armed group, and let it deal with the original Islamic State group. And what happens when “Islamic State 2” turns against them as it happened with the original Islamic State? They will create “Islamic State 3”, and so on.

But seriously, the rise and spread of the Islamic State group is no laughing matter. Now that the US and its allies have finally woken up to the dangers of the spread of the extremist group, the worry in Moscow is that the hotheads in the Pentagon and at Nato headquarters in Brussels will decide to start hitting Islamic State positions in Syria along with “other targets” there as well – for instance, Syrian army positions.

US President Barack Obama has already announced his plan to deal with the group, promising to lead a “broad coalition” that will “roll back this terrorist threat”. In Moscow, the fear is that the US will seize this opportunity to intervene in Syria.

The Libyan scenario

According to Valeriy Fenenko from the Moscow Centre for International Security, the US can actually use the presence of the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to implement the “Libyan scenario”.

“The Americans are bound to try to compensate for their failure last fall,” he says. “At first, it will be air strikes against terrorists and then, in parallel, it may amount to helping the moderate opposition. The US may start a creeping interference, like it happened in Bosnia,” he said.

In any event, Russian diplomatic efforts are in full swing. According to one Russian source, Moscow is trying to prevent possible air strikes in Syria by the US, UK and others, in the same way it did last year when the danger of air strikes was growing by the day.

“Our people in Arab and European capitals were desperately trying to find some sort of solution last year,” he said. “The threat of a regional war that could escalate into a world war was taken very seriously by the Kremlin. And this scenario is in the cards again.”

The feeling in Moscow is that the recent Nato summit in Newport, Wales, missed out on a great opportunity to involve Russia in finding a solution to the spread of the Islamic State group and other militant groups associated with it across Iraq and the Middle East generally. Not to mention, the very real threat of these violent men entering European countries, and even reaching the US.

“The Russians have been warning the Americans ever since the civil war broke out in Syria that it was very dangerous to arm the opposition there,” one former Russian general who was in charge of anti-terrorist operation told me. “There was no chance that the arms destined for the so-called moderate opposition would not end up with the likes of the Islamic State. Not to mention that lots of it was coming as well from ‘liberated’ Libya.”

The same bandits

What worries Russian officials is the stubborn refusal of the Obama administration to talk to President Bashar al-Assad’s government about a possible joint effort in defeating the Islamic State group in Syria.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said recently, it doesn’t make sense for the West to help the Iraqi government to fight the Islamic State group but deny cooperation to Assad who is fighting “the same bandits”.

Some Russian analysts are saying that the bigger problem of the current crisis is that the Islamic State group runs its recruitment campaigns not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well.

Different figures are cited over the number of Europeans who have joined the ranks of the group in the past several months, but if you consider that the number of fighters has risen – according to Russian estimates, from about 6,000 in June to over 30,000 at present – it can be assumed that we are talking about thousands of young Muslims travelling from Europe to fight in what they believe is a holy war.

The senseless war in Gaza has probably indirectly boosted the Islamic State group’s recruitment campaign, making it easier to claim that the West and Israel are hellbent on wiping out the Muslims in the Middle East. It remains unclear as to why Israel’s armed forces attacked Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and conducted blanket air strikes that were bound to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.

In the opinion of Russian experts, this looked more like a smokescreen for US failures in Iraq and Libya rather than an attempt to wipe out Hamas’ arsenal and top commanders. From a military point of view, Benjamin Netanyahu’s war achieved absolutely nothing, except perhaps giving Hamas a boost in popularity.

The danger for Russia from the Islamic State group is that some of its members come from Chechnya and Dagestan, the two Muslim republics in the south of Russia, and there is a risk that the group can find sympathisers and supporters there and even start to build a network across the Caucasus.

That is why Moscow is now calling on all parties to make a joint effort to destroy the Islamic State group before it becomes truly international.

However, as the president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Konstantin Sivkov points out, the military option is only part of the solution in tackling the Islamic State group.

He says that air strikes would not be enough and that it’s crucial to also fight its ideology and cut off its finances that are now flowing through perfectly legal banking channels.  The war against the Islamic State group is fraught with dangers. It might get out of control and drag the whole region into a much wider conflict.

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