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Well, that didn't take long. Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaida's branch in Syria, has been fighting with ISIS for months, refusing to pledge allegiance to the self-declared Caliphate State. But now that the U.S. has targeted it in air strikes, resulting in the loss of its headquarters, a leader or two and some civilians, the gap between the two groups is quickly closing. Nusra spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri published a video statement threatening retaliation against the U.S. and any allies involved in the bombing.
So far, ISIS is not weakened by the strikes. It is fighting hard in Kobane against the Syrian Kurds, who are still trying to flee to Turkey. Turkey's President is now saying Turkey might provide military support to the U.S. led coalition, but it doesn't seem to mean boots on the ground fighting ISIS. [More...]
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a press conference today the Pentagon is spending $7 to $10 million a day in the fight against ISIS.
"We're generally spending roughly, since this effort started, $7 million to $10 million a day. That's being funded out of OCO, overseas contingency operations," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a Friday press conference. Commonly referred to as war funds, the money isn't subject to congressional budget caps.
He said the Pentagon will ask Congress for more funding.
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Yesterday, the U.S. added additional suspected terrorists and groups on its designated terror list. More than one are connected to kidnappings and beheadings.
Among the new names I recognize: Amru al-Absi
As of mid-July 2014, Amru al-Absi was selected as ISIL’s provincial leader for Homs, Syria, in the Aleppo region. As a principal leader of ISIL in Syria, he has been in charge of kidnappings.
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FBI director James Comey says the U.S. has identified the black clad executioner of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines. It is not releasing the information, hoping to capture or kill him. The FBI is still working identifying the two English speakers in the Flames of War video, believed to be American or Canadian.
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Update: Here's a You Tube video of civilians being pulled out of the rubble (you can't see faces.) Multiple reports on Twitter say ISIS was not around, the strikes hit a Jabhat al Nusra headquarters in Kafrdiyan, and a munitions factory near near Sarmada. There are also reports of dead JaN militants in Aleppo. The communications tower was hit so there aren't any tweets coming from official ISIS sources yet. ISIS has been anticipating the strikes in Raqqa for days and moving their heavy equipment elsewhere. A lot of fighters also went to fight the Kurds in Kobane. They aren't stupid, so I'm taking the news reports of massive ISIS casualties with more than a grain of salt. There are also reports and a photo of a plane being shot down, but it does not seem not to be a U.S. plane. No confirmation yet.
The U.S. and partners launched airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria tonight, where ISIS has its headquarters. The photo above is a shot from them. There are reports civilians were killed. Power just came back on after a 2 hour outage. [More...]
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ISIS has just declared the equivalent of World War III. The announcement comes in the form of a long-awaited statement by ISIS official spokesman Shaykh Abū Muhammad al-‘Adnānī ash-Shāmī.
Adnani calls on Muslims everywhere to attack Americans and Europeans wherever they find them. You can find the English version of the ten page statement here. But be forewarned, it's not a pleasant read. [More...]
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ISIS released 49 hostages Saturday. They are Turkish diplomatic officials, family members and three Iraqi workers who have been held since June when they were seized at the Turkish Embassy in Mosul.
Turkey says no ransom was paid and the rescue was not a military operation. It says it knew where the hostages were kept through electronic tracking and intelligence.
The Turkish General Counsel, one of the hostages, says they were almost killed by U.S. airstrikes, which killed two of their guards outside and wounded some inside. [More...]
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British reporter John Cantlie was first captured by extremists in Syria in July, 2012. Here he is in a new video, calmly sitting at a table dressed in the tell-tale orange detainee garb, telling the public this is the first of a series of programs from him. There's no man in black, no desert in the background. He says he will expose the truth. He begins by saying the U.K. and U.S.A. are the only countries that refuse to pay ransom demands. He also asks why, after two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government is so keen on getting into yet another unwinnable conflict, this time with the Islamic State.
He says, "I know what you're thinking" -- that he's being forced to do this video and there's a gun to his head. He says, it's true, he is a prisoner. But "seeing as I've been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic state, I've got nothing to lose. Maybe I will live and maybe I will die."
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President Obama addressed the military in Tampa today.
"I want to be clear. The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission," Obama said.
"We will train and equip our partners. We will advise them and we will assist them. We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight."
Also today, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi ruled out foreign ground troops in Iraq. [More...]
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At a congressional hearing today, General Martin Dempsey would not rule out sending ground troops to Iraq.
“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” he said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”
The plan so far, according to Dempsey and Secretary Hagel: [More...]
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If it’s not the Syrian opposition, trained and equipped by the United States, authorized by Congress and the president … then it’ll have to be U.S. troops,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told “Fox News Sunday.” “The president made a decision on that. We’re not going to do that.” The GOP-led House appears most ready to approve the plan.Do they read the news? Colonel Riad al-Asaad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, in interviews yesterday said the group will not join the U.S. in its fight against ISIS unless it receives assurance the U.S. will also take out Syrian President Assad. More here. [More...]
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The Associated Press today reports that ISIS is not a danger to America, but another Islamic extremist group, Khorasan (aka Khurasan), which is affiliated with al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Taliban, is working with Yemeni bomb-makers from AQAP to launch an attack inside the U.S.
At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.
But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.
There are so many Khorasan groups I'm not sure yet which branch this is. [More...]
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ISIS has been fairly quiet about its plans lately. Today, it released a new recruitment type video (non-violent). It's called "Squadrons of My State." You can view it here.
The chirons for the video use the phrases "Alive in Baghdad First" and "May Allah preserve them alive as knights in Baghdad First" while showing a blown upphoto of Baghdad and the old Sheraton Ishtar hotel. The hotel was the site of several bombings in 2004 and 2010. It was also a favorite of foreign journalists and businessman. [More...]
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ISIS, through Al Furqan Media, has released a video, Message to Allies of America, in which British hostage David Cawthorne Haines meets the same fate as James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
The same black-clad killer narrates. Instead of being addressed to President Obama, the video is addressed to British prime minister David Cameron. The location is a similar desert spot. The killer again has his gun holster on the left side and uses his left hand to hold the knife and put it to Haines' neck. It then shows Haines' head laying on his body. In the next frame, the killer is holding an orange clad British hostage named Alan Henning, who he says will be next.
He says the action is a result of Cameron's arming the Peshmerga. Later he mentions the recent U.S. bombing of the Haditha Dam, which the Defense Department announced on September 7.[More...]
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Update: Steven Sotloff's parents are also now saying they were threatened with prosecution if they tried to raise the ransom money. One crime they were told they could be charged with: Material support of terrorism. This is completely unacceptable. I think it's time to out the officials who made the threats. (How is it John Kerry didn't know about this? See his response below.
Yesterday on CNN, John Kerry refused to call the fight against ISIS a war:
“We're engaged in a counterterrorism operation of a significant order," said Kerry, speaking from Saudi Arabia. "I think 'war' is the wrong reference term with respect to that, but obviously it involves kinetic military action."
Today, White House Spokesman John Earnest pulled no such punches.
"In the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL."
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