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When ISIS Ran City Hall

The New York Times has conducted an intensive investigation of files ISIS left behind in Iraq. What did it find? Among other things, that ISIS was self-financed, and its biggest income producer was not oil and gas, but tax revenue.

How did a group whose spectacles of violence galvanized the world against it hold onto so much land for so long? Part of the answer can be found in more than 15,000 pages of internal Islamic State documents I recovered during five trips to Iraq over more than a year. [More...]

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Turkey Arrests 4 Suspected ISIS Members in U.S. Embassy Plot

This weekend, the U.S. embassy in Turkey was closed due to unspecified threats.

Yesterday, Turkey arrested four suspected ISIS members who were plotting an attack on the embassy. The four are Iraqi.

Turkey says it got the information from U.S sources.

“Upon intelligence coming to our units from U.S. sources that terrorist actions could be undertaken targeting the U.S. Embassy and where U.S. citizens are staying, security measures have been reviewed and extra measures have been taken,” the Governor’s Office said.

Elswhere in Turkey, another 12 foreign suspected ISIeS members have been arrested, and Turkish police are searching for another 8.

Those who have been detained are being "accused of trying to recruit members for ISIL and were 'in contact with people in conflict zones.' ”

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ISIS Urges Increased Lone Foreign Attacks

As Donald Trump golfs in Florida, claiming credit for defeating ISIS, ISIS is gaining ground in Afghanistan and increasing media communications to its supporters urging them to make lone attacks in their home countries.

Their English spelling skills aren't as good as those who created older posters, but they get the point across.

A few other messages posted today by ISIS' official news agency Nashir News (hat tip to ISIS researcher Pieter in Belgium):

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Will Agreement for Raqqa Evacuation Include ISIS?

Update 11 pm MT: Answer: Yes, foreign ISIS fighters are part of the agreement and will be able to leave Raqqa. Again, as stated below, the U.S. opposed this, preferring the foreign fighters be held accountable for their crimes.
Syrian and foreign ISIL fighters have agreed to leave their one-time bastion Raqqa under an agreement brokered by tribal leaders to prevent more civilian deaths in the city. Omar Alloush, an official of the Raqqa Civil Council, said a deal had been reached to allow fighters out of the city, which is on the verge of being captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after months of heavy fighting.

"Foreign fighters are included in the deal," he said.

Alloush says the remaining ISIS fighters are holding 400 hundred civilian hostages at the National Hospital in Raqqa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the last Syrian ISIS fighters left by bus today, and more buses are arriving tongight which are expected to take the foreign fighters and the families from Raqqa, most likely to Deir Ezzor [More...]

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ISIS Calls on Females To Launch Attacks

As ISIS continues its struggle to maintain its relevance in the virtual world as it loses more and more territory and any semblence of being a "state" in the physical world, it has added a new feature: A call to women to participate in launching attacks.

In a new edition of its Arabic language newspaper, the terrorist group told female supporters it was an “obligation” for them to wage physical jihad.

“Today, in the context of the war against the Islamic State, it has become necessary for female Muslims to fulfil their duties on all fronts in supporting the mujahedeen in this battle,” the article said, adding that women should “prepare themselves to defend their religion by sacrificing themselves by Allah”.

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Graves of Slaughtered Coptic Christians Found, ISIS Participants Disclosed

The 2015 ISIS video showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Sirte, Libya was one of its most brutal. It featured an English-speaking spokesman who sounded American. One of the big mysteries was his identity -- and which beach the killings occurred on.

Libya police have now identified him as Abu Amer al-Jazrawi. He is deceased. (Once again, the U.S. got it wrong, as I suggested here).

The "full details" of the slaughter seem to mostly have been supplied by detainees under interrogation. One says he was located behind the camera as it was being filmed. The story is available on the group's Facebook page, in Arabic. The translation on FB is terrible. The beach is the one behind the Mahari hotel in Sirte (the same one where 50 plus Gaddafi followers were killed in 2011.)

Yesterday, prosecutor's office in Libya announced that detained ISIS members disclosed the location of the graves and details of the massacre. They were arrested the last week. Authorities went to the site and uncovered the bodies.[More...]

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Mosul Liberated, ISIS Continues to Fight

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in Mosul today to declare liberation of the city.

But the end of the Islamic State’s hold on Mosul does not mean peace is at hand. Other cities and towns in Iraq remain under the militants’ control, and Iraqis expect an increase in terrorist attacks in urban centers, especially in the capital, Baghdad, as the group reverts to its insurgent roots.

There are still ISIS pockets fighting. That didn't stop the Prime Minister who tweeted out victory this morning. [More...]

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ISIS' Ban on Fighters Using Social Media

Last month, ISIS banned its fighters from using social media. It had done so before, but not so forcefully. Now it threatens those who disobey with punishment. Here's a good article, THE ISLAMIC STATE’S INTERNAL RIFTS AND SOCIAL MEDIA BAN, on why ISIS is going this route, from the Combatting Terrorism Centre at West Point.

ISIS has been gone from Twitter for ages. (Al Qaida-affiliated groups are still around, as are the Syrian "rebel" groups and the Taliban.) Telegram channels for ISIS official news (Nashir/Nasher) seems to change every few hours.

ISIS will be defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria for now, but it's not going anywhere except underground. It will return when it's ready. It's already spreading in countries in Africa and Asia. [More...]

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US Shift to "Annihilation" Tactics on ISIS

James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, said today on CBS' Face the Nation that the U.S. is shifting to "annihilation tactics" on ISIS.

“We have already shifted from attrition tactics, where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them. Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We’re not going to allow them to do so. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

He also said civilian deaths are to be expected.

“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation....“We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can.”

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US Drops YUUGE Bomb on ISIS in Afghanistan

First Syria. Now Trump's military bombs Afghanistan with the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The purpose: Taking out a tunnel system created by ISIS's Wilayat Khorasan. (Note: ISIS in the Khorasan is not the same as al Qaeda's group of fighters from the Khorasan region.)

ISIS's Khorasan Wilayat is primarily in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. ISIS announced its formation in 2015.

We bring the mujahideen the good news of the Islamic State’s expansion to Khorasan (a region encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other nearby lands). Therefore, we call upon all the mujahideen in Khorasan to join the caravan of the Khilafah [caliphate] and abandon disunity and factionalism.

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Hillary Says Strike Syria, Trump Does It

Hillary Clinton said on Thursday, speaking at a Women's conference:

Mrs. Clinton grew particularly forceful in condemning Syria’s recent chemical attack and called for a strong military response to confront President Bashar al-Assad and “take out his airfields.”

Hours later, Trump announced airstrikes on Syria.

They are both wrong in my view. We should not be attacking Syria. At the very least, he should have sought congressional approval.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to make any major decisions about the country, we are not living on a reality TV show. He doesn't know what he's doing. Donald Trump provokes that feeling you get riding backwards down an up escalator.

ISIS is undoubtedly cheering Trump's play right into their hands. I can't watch, this won't end well for us.

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Iraq Suspends Mosul Advance Due to High Civilian Deaths

Iraq has suspended its advance on ISIS in Mosul due to the vast increase in civilian deaths from coalition bombings.

Iraqi military leaders have halted their push to recapture west Mosul from Islamic State as international outrage grew over the civilian toll from airstrikes that killed at least 150 people in a single district of the city.

The attack on the Mosul Jadida neighbourhood is thought to have been one of the deadliest bombing raids for civilians since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Saturday, more than a week after the bombs landed, when the US-led coalition confirmed that its aircraft had targeted Isis fighters in the area.

The U.S. has launched an official investigation.

Donald Trump previously called for a review of Obama's rules ensuring civilian deaths would be minimized. There's concern he's already lowered the threshold. [More...]

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As Mosul Burns

As the Iraqis take back Mosul, a diminished but not extinct ISIS continues to operate on other fronts. Today it released Rumiyah 7, the seventh issue of its English magazine. Some takeaways:

No two Muslims would disagree that preparing for jihad for the cause of Allah is an obligation. Allah urged people to this duty in His book when He said, “Prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged” (Al-Anfal 60). So there is no doubt that preparation is a factor that contributes to victory and success against the enemy.

By Allah’s grace, the soldiers of the Khilafah have complied with this divine command. They prepared as much as Allah has made possible for them, a good amount of which the enemy has seen, and what is coming is more severe and bitter, by Allah’s permission.

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Where Will ISIS Fighters Go If the Caliphate Fails?

The decline of ISIS seems to be hastening, according to analysts, who say it's only a matter of time before ISIS is defeated, either militarily or though a negotiated settlement.

Where will their potentially thousands of fighters, referred to as transnational terrorists, who avoid capture and death, go next? Amarnath Amarasingam and Colin P. Clark take a stab a the question in the Atlantic, and say the fighters have a few options. Here are their conclusions:

ISIS fighters are unquestionably capable: Dug in to their positions, they have skillfully used tunnels and subterranean networks to move men and materials, and have perfected the production and deployment of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices to keep their adversaries at bay.

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U.S. Increases Award for Information on ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi

The United States announced today it was increasing the reward for information on the whereabouts of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi to $25 million from $10 million. The same amount is being offered for al Qaida leader al-Zawahiri.

The reward is part of the Rewards for Justice Program, administered by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

ISIS has had a surge this week by retaking Palmyra and a Syrian army base near Mosul (Tiyas or T4). Today ISIS claims it has surrounded the largest military base east of Homs, called The Altifor Airbase, from the north, east and south. It released a statement saying it used an ATGM to hit a 57mm cannon north of #Tiyas/#T4. It is also attacking near Deir Ezzor. The US conducted 10 airstrikes in Palmyra yesterday.

Is a former Army brat now an American leader of the Islamic State? See this article in the Atlantic.

In Aleppo, the Iranian Shia militias blocked the evacuation today. In Idlib the past few days, the crowds have been cheering ISIS and protesting the rebels.

Excepting Aleppo, which is a human tragedy of epic proportion, worst of all, in a month, Donald Trump will be commander in chief.

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