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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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I see many news reports saying Mohammed Emwazi, aka "Jihadi John" went to Syria in 2012. CAGE says it was 2013.
In early 2013, Mohammed's father suggested that he should think about changing his name by deed poll, so that perhaps the name that he had been known under thus far, might not cause him further problems as he sought to travel. He complied with his father's suggestion, and before long officially became known as Mohammed al-Ayan.
With one final roll of the dice, Mohammed bought a ticket for Kuwait, and attempted to travel there. Once again, he was frustrated as he was barred from travel, and once again questioned by the security agencies.
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The black-clad executioner in ISIS beheading videos has been identified by the media as Mohammed Emwazi. He grew up in London, graduated college, and according to CAGE, which corresponded with him, was harassed by British intelligence and prevented from leaving several times. He is originally from Kuwait. The BBC has more. [More...]
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I really wish Twitter would stop deleting ISIS accounts. In the last three hours, 20 accounts I've been following are gone. This has been going on for weeks. I don't like one-sided news. ISIS accounts are a source of information. Following them and reporting about what they write or depict is not support. When I do write about something violent that I've read or watched, I don't provide the link or reproduce the content and insist commenters not post them in comments.
The pro-Kurdish accounts with equally violent graphics (and name-calling) aren't being deleted. There are also a lot of Jabhat al-Nusra twitter accounts being given free reign. Twitter should at least be consistent. If one side gets to stay, they all should. [More...]
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The photo above is from ISIS' latest atrocity video depicting Peshmerga soldiers captured in Kirkuk. They are put in individual cages, driven in a caravan through the streets of Kirkuk which are filled with excited onlookers, and then lined up for execution. The video doesn't actually show their final fate, leaving it to the viewer's imagination. While there is a flash image inserted of the burning Jordanian pilot and another of the beheaded Coptic Christians, all of the ISIS figures appear to be have guns drawn, not knives.
This post is not about them, or the video, but why we shouldn't let our reactions to these propaganda videos -- usally a mix of shock, disgust and fear --lead us into war. [More....]
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Isn't it a little strange that with so much international press coverage of the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, no one has identified the beach in the video?
Everyone reports the Christians were kidnapped in Sirte. But when it comes to the beach, no one names it. It's mostly described as "a Libyan beach." Some think the beach is in western Libya near Tripoli. Others think it is in Sirte. (The video says Wilayat (province) of Tarabulus, which means Tripoli, but a province could encompass other towns in the region, including Sirte. Still, Sirte is 460 km from Tripoli, almost a 6 hour drive according to google maps.
One person tweeted it is 7 km west of Sirte, based on the lone palm tree in the background here: [More...]
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I heard part of President Obama's speech on ISIS and extremism while driving today. The part I heard had to do with the causes of extremism. He said poverty, lack of options, and perceptions of mistreatment by those in power are big factors. He was careful to say not all poor youth become extremists, any more than all poor youth become criminals.
I think he was saying that being poor and not seeing any way out, along with feeling mistreated by those in power, makes one vulnerable to extremist ideology. I'd agree with that. [More...]
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Today ISIS took the town of al Baghdadi in Anbar today, which is just a few miles from the Al Asad air base where more than 300 marines and Danish military are staying as part of a six week training course for the Iraqi forces.
There are media reports ISIS is attacking al Asad Air base. Is the air base in danger? First, the base is very large -- it is the size of Boulder, Colorado. It's hard to see how the marines would be "trapped" as some reports claim. Second, the base has been reporting ISIS has been striking it for weeks, but the U.S. says their attacks are too limited and haphazard to cause any real damage.
ISIS is definitely close to the base as the military today said it bombed an ISIS mortar position "near the Al Asad air base." [More...]
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Here is Obama's draft of the Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS. Here is the statement he released about it.
It does not authorize combat troops on the ground on an "enduring" basis:
[c] LIMITATIONS.— The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.
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Kayla Mueller's parents and the White House have confirmed that the ISIS hostage and aid worker is dead. ISIS claimed a few days ago she died in a Jordanian air strike.
ISIS privately sent the confirmation to her parents, but the details have not been disclosed as yet.
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John Cantlie is back with a new video, which he says is "the last of this series." You can watch it here. I don't think it means he will be killed, just that future videos will be different. ISIS would be silly to kill him, he's the best public relations spokesman they have. Then again, ISIS likes to do things for shock value, and it would indeed be a shock to learn this personable Brit was killed, despite all he has done promoting the Islamic State. [More...]
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