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The Syrian pilot captured by militants after their helicopter crash-landed in Idlib today has been turned over to Jabhat al Nusra, the Syrian arm of al Qaida. In a rant on video, preacher and Nusra ally Sheikh Abdullah al-Mhaisni stands over the pilot with a gun. [More...]
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General David Petraeus was back in Iraq last week at a conference. He said:
In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.
Petraeus also talked about Syria: [More...]
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At least 137 people died in suicide bombing attacks at Houthi mosques in Sanaa, Yemen today. ISIS has released an official statement through its Wilayat Sanaa claiming credit.
Yemen is torn by a power struggle between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the north and Hadi, who has set up a rival power base in the south backed by Sunni-led Gulf Arab states.
The mosques in Sanaa are known to be used mainly by supporters of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group, which controls most of northern Yemen, including Sanaa.
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There was an attack today on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia. At least 11 people were killed, mostly foreign tourists. Other sources say the numbers are higher: (15 tourists, 1 Tunisian citizen, 1 museum employee, 2 policemen and two militant attackers.)
A few days ago, messages to Tunisia began appearing on ISIS Twitter accounts. Example: "Urgent. The Land of the Caliphate will soon sent you a message which will please you, God willing."
McClatchy says 7,000 Tunisian ISIS fighters have joined ISIS.
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Yesterday, released ISIS hostage Javier Espinosa, a journalist with El Mundo, provided his first account of his kidnapping and detention by ISIS, including his description of "Jihadi John", believed to be Mohammed Emwazi. It was in the Sunday Times (UK) which is subscription only, and only descriptions by other media outlets were available.
Fortunately, El Mundo, has published it for free in two installments. Each one is about 4,000 words. It is riveting to say the least. Espinosa was held with James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Alan Henning, Peter Kassig and the other Western journalists and hostages, and he discusses all of them.
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Yesterday, ISIS supporters on Twitter were all excited waiting for a new speech by chief spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. It was released mid-afternoon, but without English translation. Titled "So They Kill and Are Killed" Adnani accepted the "bayah" of Boko Haram in Nigeria, to become part of the Califphate, and urged supporters to go to Africa and fight with them.
There were news reports that in his speech, he threatened to blow up the Eiffel Tower, the White House, and Big Ben. An English translation has now been released. You can read it here or here. He doesn't call upon supporters to attack these places, he just says these attacks will happen before they conquer Rome. (Rome is usually a reference to the apocalypse and the Byzantine Roman Empire which was based in Constantinople, not Rome, Italy, and could be generations from now. More here.) [More...]
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Pro-ISIS Tweeter and news disseminator Mehdi Masroor Biswas, aka @Shami Witness, arrested in India in December, 2014, is still in custody in India. No charges have been filed. He hasn't had a bail hearing yet. The latest 90 day extension of time to file a charge sheet expires this week.
On March 9, Bangladore police requested an additional six months to file a charge sheet.
A hearing on the request and Shami's petition for bail may be set for next week. How can India hold someone for 120 days without a bail hearing? [More...]
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Simon Cottee in the Atlantic interviews top U.S. counterterrorism officials about the daunting challenge the U.S. faces in trying to combat ISIS propaganda war and what it will take to defeat it.
The U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was created in 2010 to counter jihadist online media. It's motto, which appears on every powerpoint presentation, is “Media is more than half the battle" and “The war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalm, and knives.” (The latter is a quote by a dead militant.)[More...]
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Sky News has a new interview with an Isis defector who says in very broken English he worked as a translator for ISIS, attended the killing of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, and then ran away to Turkey. He is referred to as Saleh, which is not his real name. More details are here.
Salah describes Emwazi, whom he calls John, as "the boss" of the foreign hostage killers. He says John is with ISIS' media arm. He says anyone is allowed to kill a Syrian, but only John executes foreigners. [More...]
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ISIS has been promoting a new video by al Furqan Media all morning about the execution of a captured Mossad agent. An interview with the agent, Muhammad Sa’īd Ismā’īl Musallam, was featured in the latest issue of Dabiq magazine (Issue #7, described here). He said he was the only Arab in his unit, the others were Jewish.
Clearly designed to shock, in the now released video, which I won't link to, a child soldier kills the orange clad prisoner while standing right in front of him. He stares coldly at him and shoots him in the forehead. Then he fires more bullets into him and shouts "Allahu Akbar" as he raises his arm in triumph. [More....]
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The Islamic State released a new recruitment video today with deaf fighters using sign language asking other deaf followers to join them. It's filmed in Mosul. While one message is that being being deaf is not an excuse not to come and fight, I think there's a more subtle and deeper one. I am not going to link to it because I don't want to help ISIS spread its message, but I will discuss it and show a few screen shots.
The video has English subtitles. The fighters identify themselves as being "deaf mutes." By day, they work as ISIS "traffic police" in Mosul. It shows them very competently guiding traffic.[More...]
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Salem al-Hashash, the Kuwaiti lawyer for Jassem Emwazi, who is the father of Mohammed Emwazi, aka "Jihadi John" held a short press conference today announcing he is withdrawing from Emwazi's case "for personal reasons." He also said he filed several slander lawsuits today. He also said:
Jassem Emwazi is a "British national who has no relation with Kuwait" except that he visits the Gulf state to see his mother.
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The recent battles in Tikrit in Iraq have received a lot of press this week. In an interview yesterday, U.S. General Martin Dempsey said the reasons the Iraqi forces and Shiite militias have been doing so well is because the militias are armed and trained by Iran, which is also providing the militias with intelligence. He said Tikrit will eventually be recaptured because ISIS is so outnumbered in Tikrit. There are hundreds of ISIS fighters and an estimated 23,000 Iraqi and militia fighters.
Dempsey said the U.S. airstrikes around the Baji oil refinery over the past several months "paved the way" for the Iraqi forces and Shiite militias to advance to Tikrit, but the U.S. has had no involvement with the militias or the recent fights in Tikrit. [More...]
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The more I look at photos of Mohammed Emwazi from his childhood and in Kuwait, the less he seems to resemble the black clad executioner in the beheading videos. Doesn't anyone have a photo of Emwazi before Syria that shows his very sloped shoulders? Aside from one eyelid being larger than the other, his shoulders are his most prominent feature. His stance is also somewhat unique, (He seems bow-legged in some videos.)
There are a lot of ISIS fighters who look like him when masked. Some fighter photos the media identifies as being Emwazi/Jihadi John are not him. There's this photo which is not Jihadi John, but a Dutch fighter named Soufiane Zerguit, who went by the name A Fighting Journalist (@fightingjmedia, account now closed.). It seems he posted the selfie as a joke, pretending to be Jihadi John, and the media fell for it. Soufiane was reported killed in Kobane in January. (Dutch prosecutors say they have no proof of his death and refuse to dismiss a terror case against him, wanting to prosecute him in absentia.) [More...]
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The British media and the U.S. media have something in common: When a spontaneous event occurs and they get caught flat-footed, in a race to compete with other news organizations, they throw traditional vetting rules out the window and report whatever they are told, reliable or not. They rummage through every type of record, not only of the individual, but their families and associates, every scrap of online information, seek out people who have had not contact with the named individual for 10 or more years and report their information as fact, ignoring even the most basic inconsistencies. In essence, they decide the person is a monster, and then report anything, true or not, that points in that direction. [More...]
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