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Obama and the 450 Military Trainers for Iraqi Forces

President Obama has ordered 450 military trainers to deploy to Iraq to train Iraqi forces in the Anbar region. The new training facility would be at Taqaddum, which is near Ramadi in the eastern part of the province.

Obama decided on the new troop deployment in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the White House said. The two leaders met on the margins of the G7 summit in Germany earlier this week.

The White House press release is here. [More...]

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USAF Finds ISIS Headquarters Via Social Media and Bombs It

Just another reason not to restrict ISIS accounts on Twitter - a careless ISIS member posted a picture of himself standing outside an IS headquarters on an open forum. The U.S. was able to identify it and bombed it.

Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, described Monday how airmen at Hurlburt Field, Florida, with the 361st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, recognized a comment on social media and turned that into an airstrike that resulted in three Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) missiles destroying am Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) headquarters building. “It was a post on social media to bombs on target in less than 24 hours,” Carlisle said. #8220; Incredible work when you think about.”

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India Prepares 28k Chargesheet Against Shami Witness

The Bangladore Police say they will file charges against Mehdi Masroor Biswas, aka @Shami Witness, next week.

We have finally received the MHA’s approval. Now, we will file the chargesheet against him next week. We have built a solid case. We had to prove how he conspired and helped the IS. Consequently, the chargesheet is one of the longest in recent times,” a source in the Bengaluru Police said. The chargesheet is supposed to be in excess of 28,000 pages.

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U.S. Blames Ramadi on Iraqi Forces

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the Iraqi Forces are to blame for ISIS' recent takeover of Ramadi. He says they lack the will the fight.

They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site,” he said. “That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”

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Obama Interview on ISIS, Iraq and Syria

The Atlantic has a new interview with President Obama on ISIS, Iraq and Syria. He doesn't think "we're losing." He calls Ramadi a "tactical setback."

ISIS continues its attacks today. It is also taking credit for a suicide bomb attack at a Shi'a mosque in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday it released Dabiq Issue 9. (John Cantlie provides the last article, the first sign in a while he's still alive.) You can read it here.

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Another Name Floated for Abu Sayyaf

CNN quotes an anonymous U.S. official who tells them the real name of Abu Sayyaf is Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi. Every media outlet seems to be running with the story.

ABC News has been reporting for a while that U.S. officials believe Abu Sayyaf and his wife have information on deceased hostage Kayla Mueller. (I already wrote about all this here.) A congressman today confirmed this is being investigated.

CBS says the raid was months in the planning.

I'm not buying this new identity. It's another name that has not appeared anywhere as far as I can tell.[More...]

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Loss of Ramadi

The New York Times, among many others, say the loss of Ramadi is ISIS' biggest victory of the year. Once again, the Iraqi army fled.

The fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State, despite intensified American airstrikes in recent weeks in a bid to save the city, represented the biggest victory so far this year for the extremist group, which has declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the vast areas of Syria and Iraq that it controls. The fall of Ramadi also laid bare the failed strategy of the Iraqi government, which had announced last month a new offensive to retake Anbar Province, a vast desert region in the west of which Ramadi is the capital.

“The city has fallen,” said Muhannad Haimour, the spokesman for Anbar’s governor. Iraq's response today is to vote to send in the Iranian backed Shi'a militia.

ISIS also gained a huge cache of weapons the fleeing Army left behind, that had been sent by the U.S. and Russia to Baghdad. [More...]

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Doubt Cast On Role of Killed ISIS Money Man

Update: Door Number Three: Abu Sayyaf, aka Mohammed Shalabi, is said to be a Jordanian Salafist leader . More here.

Update: The Syrians say it launched a raid at the same place -- the al Omar oil fields in Deir Ezzor -- and killed ISIS' oil minister. The Syrians say he is a Saudi (not Tunisian as the U.S. claims) named Abu al-Taym al-Saudi,.

So both the Syrians and the U.S. launched independent raids at the same time and place and both killed an IS financial leader? This is not making sense.

The U.S. says it didn't coordinate with Syria. And no one has heard of "Abu Sayyaf", the name the U.S. originally provided.

The name Abu Sayyaf has rarely been mentioned in Western reports about the extremist group and he is not known to be among terrorists for whom the U.S. has offered a bounty. The name was not known to counterterrorism officials who study IS and does not appear in reports compiled by think tanks and others examining the group's hierarchy.

Now there are reports he is also known as "Abu Muhammad al Iraqi" and "Abd al Ghani."[More...]

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ISIS Takes Control of Ramadi

ISIS launched an attack today on Ramadi in the Anbar province, and seized control of the city, including the police headquarters and army compound. Why Ramadi is important:

Ramadi controls the only significant routes to Baghdad from Syria and Jordan, a vital means of resupply for ISIS. Ramadi sits on the Euphrates River; the dam in Ramadi and the reservoir south of the city regulate usage of the river’s water for a significant portion of southern Iraq. Ramadi is the biggest population center in the Sunni heartland and is the seat of the powerful Dulaymi tribe, a major part of the Iraqi Sunni population ISIS needs support from if it wants to be a nation-state.... Ramadi is important because it means including the Sunnis in the governance of Iraq

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ISIS Leader Al Baghdadi's New Message

ISIS released a new audio message by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi today. You can read the English version here (MS Word Document) or here. It's called "March Forth Whether Light or Heavy."

It strikes me as a pep talk and foreign recruitment effort. There's remarkably little about the West. It's mostly a shout-out to fighters in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Khorasan, Indonesia, the Caucasus and Africa and a call for them to join the war. [More...]

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Radio Iran Claims Al Baghdadi Dead

ISIS denies the claim by Radio Iran that al Baghdadi is dead, as a result of injuries he sustained in a U.S. airstrike last November.

Another network played a video of the convoy being hit, claiming Baghdadi is in the video, but others say the man in the video is Seyfullakh Shishani, and the video was in February, 2014.

The media has been wrong multiple times about ISIS leaders getting killed, from Omar Shishani to Abu Wahib. How many times did Ilyas Kashmiri die? At least 4, if I recall. He was becoming like that Saturday night skit,"Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."

In any event, I don't think his passing would make any difference to ISIS. They plan for things like this.

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ISIS Kills More Coptic Christians in Libya

In a fairly confusing 29 minute video (I'm not providing the link), ISIS militants in Libya executed several Ethiopian Coptic Christians. Here's Reuter's article on the killings.

Why is it confusing? There appear to be two sets of killings, one at a beach and one in an un-scenic field. The beach killings are similar to those a few months ago of Egyptian Coptic Christians. At first I thought it was a flashback, but the killers are wearing different clothes, and the victims are different. There's no indication of when the men in the field or the second beach group were killed.

The White House has issued this statement.

The leader in this video is the same American sounding English speaker in the Egyptian Coptic video. [More...]

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ISIS Claims Credit for Attack at U.S. Consulate in Erbil

On Twitter, ISIS is claiming credit for the car bomb attack today outside the U.S. embassy in Erbil. They say it was done by fighters in their Kirkuk division.

According to McClatchy:

A Kurdish security official told McClatchy that three attackers approached a checkpoint near the consulate in an SUV apparently with the intention of attacking it on foot to make room for a suicide bomber, who was either on foot or in the car. They were spotted by peshmerga security forces stationed outside the consulate, who opened fire. The security official said the three attackers were killed, though whether they were killed by gunshots or detonated explosives was unclear.

More photos here. [More...]

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ISIS Attacks Baiji Oil Refinery, Anbar and Hasaka

As the U.S. continues its air strikes, ISIS attacked the the Baiji oil refinery last night. It is Iraq's largest refinery. Control has gone back and forth between ISIS and the Iraqi forces several times over the past 9 months.

Iraq said today ISIS attacked the refinery on three sides but only reached the perimeter and launched a suicide attack. The ISIS photos and videos show they made it further. But more interesting, is this photo of an ISIS "command center" used during the attacks, where the action is displayed on multiple computer screens as the commanders sitting at them instruct the fighters by what looks like radio phones: [More...]

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Indian Court Denies Bail for Shami Witness

#Shami Witness, aka Mehdi Masroor Biswas, was denied bail today by a Special Terrorism Court in Bangladore. The court also granted police another 6 months to file charges. The request was made a month ago.

Shami Witness, the prolific tweeter and disseminator of ISIS news, with 17,000 followers on Twitter, was arrested in December. Four months later, formal charges have yet to be filed and the court just got around to hearing his application for bail. [More...]

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