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FBI Authorized Negotiations With ISIS in Bid to Free Peter Kassig

In what may be one of the most fascinating articles I've read this year, the Guardian (writers Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman and Mustafa Khalili )reports play by play details of an attempt by the FBI, working with prominent activist New York lawyer Stanley Cohen, to free Peter Kassig. The FBI authorized and paid for Cohen and a translator to travel to Kuwait and Jordan to negotiate with ISIS for Kassig's release. There would be no ransom or prisoner release, but Cohen had come up with other terms ISIS might approve of.

At the time of the rescue effort, Cohen was awaiting sentencing on criminal tax charges, having plead guilty in April, 2014 to two indictments, one in the Northern District of NY and one in the Southern District. The Southern District case was transferred to the Northern District for sentencing. His plea agreement called for an agreed upon sentence of 18 months. A few weeks after his return from the rescue effort, he was sentenced to 18 months as agreed, and is scheduled to report to prison on January 6. A few days ago, his request for a delay was denied. [More...]

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Shami Witness' Detention Extended for 15 Days

Police in India have obtained a 15 day extension of time to hold Shami Witness (Mehdi Masroor Biswas) as they continue their investigation of him and his Twitter account. They had asked for an additional 25 days. Shami has been allowed to meet with his parents.

Biswas was arrested under Sec 125 of IPC (waging war against the Government of any Asiatic power in alliance or at peace with the Government of India or attempts to wage such war or abetting waging of such war), Sec 18 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Sec 66 of the Information Technology Act.

India has now moved to have ISIS added to its list of designated terror organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. However, the list already included any organizations that were designated terror organizations by the U.N. and ISIS has been designated by the U.N.

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Official ISIS Statement Explaining Sharia Punishments

ISIS released an official statement explaining Sharia law punishments (also known as Hudud) today. It says it is wants people to be forewarned. It also says it will not be lenient on violators, and has even imposed the punishments, including death, on its own members.

There are 11 punishments. Thanks to Arabic and Islamic affairs expert Pieter van Ostaeyen for publishing the English translation, which was done by Abu Musab. [More...]

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India May Be Softening Stance on Shami Witness

India Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement to Parliament about the arrest of Shami Witness yesterday.

"The interrogation of Mehdi Biswas has indicated that his activities were limited to posting and reposting of pro-ISIS (as the IS was previously known) material on his Twitter account and social media sites," the minister said.

...He used to visit prominent IS-related sites, mostly those in the Arabic language, and then used Web-based tools to translate the contents into English and repost the material on his Twitter account, Rajnath told Parliament.

He didn't call Shami a terrorist or jihadist, instead describing him as someone who "interacted with people on social networking sites 'on matters related to jihad'." He portrayed him as more "swagger than substance."

Other senior Indian officials told the Telegraph police would not have arrested Shami but for the media pressure. [More...]

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New Report on ISIS: Focus on the Governance, Not Just the Violence

The CTC (Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point) has a new 105 page report on the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL, now known as IS.) The report is called "The Group That Calls Itself a State: Understanding the Evolution and Challenges of the Islamic State" and the full report is available here.

The report examines ISIS' rise, activities, and weaknesses. Shorter version: To defeat ISIS, it's important to look past the brutality and examine its governance record, and highlight the shortcomings in it. There will be no defeat and surrender. The best we can hope for is that after a generation or two, they will become irrelevant.

In case you don't have time to read 105 pages, I'll summarize the report and highlight the parts I found most significant below. [More...]

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Indian Police Reactivate Shami Witness' Twitter Account

Indian police have put Shami Witness' Twitter Account back online so they can investigate his tweets and all the people who followed him. All of his tweets are here. (You can read them without following him.)

You can also read what his supporters are saying about his arrest at the hashtag #FreeShamiWitness. [More...]

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"Shami Witness" Arrested in India

"Shami Witness", the prolific tweeter about ISIS who was outed Friday by a British news channel, has been arrested in India. He's being investigated for a violation of the Information Technology Act.

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the person behind Twitter handle "@shamiwitness", is a 24-year-old engineer who worked for a multinational in Bengaluru, police said. He moved to the city in 2011 and stays in Bengaluru's upscale southeast suburb. Police said he is an alumnus of West Bengal Institute of Technology.

Sources say Mehdi did not have any direct link with Al Qaida or Islamic State group and nothing as yet suggests he was in direct touch with any jihadi element....So far, no anti-India activity or tweets posted by Mehdi have been found. Nothing has been found to infer Mehdi suggested any attacks in India, say sources.

[More...]

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Senate Committee Approves Draft of Authorization for Use of Force Against ISIS

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved Sen. Melendez' draft of an Authorization for the Use of Force against ISIS. It has a three year sunset provision, unless reauthorized. It also provides that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Force will sunset 3 years after this one takes effect.

The authorization excludes the use of ground forces with exceptions (see below.) The White House has said so long as 5 conditions were met, it would support the authorization. (See below for the State Department's reaction to the committee's approval.)

The full text of the bill is here. [More....]

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ISIS Asking $1 Million for James Foley's Remains

Via Newsweek and several other media sites: ISIS is offering to return the body of James Foley for $1 million. The family has not confirmed the report.

Also today, a news station disclosed the identity of Shami Witness, one of ISIS most ardent supporters on Twitter. He was followed by 17,000 people (including 2/3 of foreign fighters) with 2 million views of his tweets each month. The station did not disclose his full name, but they said he goes by the name Mehdi and "he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate." Here's an article on him. I've used this article he wrote a few times in my posts on ISIS.

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Iraq: Woman Detained in Lebanon is Not Al Baghdadi's Wife

Yesterday I expressed my doubts about the Lebanese Army's claim to have captured "a wife" of ISIS leader al Baghdadi.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry now says the detained woman, who it confirms is Saja Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, is not and has never been a wife of al Baghdadi.

“The one detained by Lebanese authorities was Saja Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi, sister of Omar Abdul Hamid al-Dulaimi who is detained by authorities and sentenced to death for his participation in ... explosions,” ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan told Reuters.

“The wives of the terrorist al-Baghdadi are Asmaa Fawzi Mohammed al-Dulaimi and Esraa Rajab Mahel al-Qaisi, and there is no wife in the name of Saja al-Dulaimi,” he said.

Some stories, especially those with wildly conflicting details, even among respected mainstream media organizations, just reek of propaganda. Shorter version: Nothing to see here.

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Lebanon's Claimed Detention of al Baghdadi's Wife and Child

This is a news video from Lebanon( with English subtitles) on the detention of Saja al-Dulami, who may or may not be an ex-wife of ISIS leader al Baghdadi. There is still a lot of conflicting information as to whether she was ever married to al Baghdadi, and whether she was with her son or her daughter. Al-Dulami's family has ties to both ISIS and al Nusrah.

ISIS supporters on Twitter deny she is al Baghdadi's wife, and say that the Lebanese army knows this but released the information as part of a propaganda campaign. [More...]

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New Chart of ISIS Leaders

Charles Lester of Brookings has a new paper on the Islamic State (ISIS) and a "Who's Who" chart of its leadership.

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ISIS Kills 16 Iraqi Border Guards in Anbar Province

ISIS struck the al Waleed border crossing near Rutbah in the Anbar province of Iraq early today, killing 16 Iraqi border guards and capturing 4. They also seized weapons -- and the border trucks, which they drove into Syria. [More...]

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The Next Generation of Mujahideen

ISIS has released a lot of videos the past few days. In one, Race Towards Good (link removed),ISIS takes us inside a training camp for Kazakh children. They are purposely indoctrinated from a young age (There's even a toddler holding a toy gun.) It shows a class teaching very young males how to write Arabic and the kids receiving receiving fighter training. There's also an adult class on how to be a sniper.

It's fascinating to watch, but horrifying that they would encourage young kids to kill those who do not share their religion. [Update: Photos removed at the request of the Government of Kazakhstan]

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Former U.S. Ranger Claims al-Zarqawi Beaten to Death

In 2006, the U.S. proudly announced that al Qaida leader al Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq.

Now there are claims he was murdered after surviving the airstrike. A former U.S. Army Ranger who writes using the name Utlendr at a well-known website written by veterans of the Special Forces called Special Operations Forces Situation Report (Sofrep), wrote an article Friday, How Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Really Met His Fate. The author, who uses the name Utlendr, according to The Australian, was part of the team that worked with Delta Forces to locate al Zarqawi's safe house in order to bomb it. The U.S. gave two official statements in 2006 on al Zarqawi's death. In the first, it said he was killed in the bombing. In the second, it said he was critically injured in the bombing and died an hour later.

Utlendr now writes that al Zarqawi was indeed badly injured in the bombing. But, he says, Iraqi forces had loaded him into an ambulance to take him to the hospital. The Delta Forces ambushed the ambulance.

Here's where it gets interesting. [More...]

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