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Dabiq 14, John Cantlie and Other ISIS News

The CBC has a new interview (you can read it without having to watch a video) with Belgian jihadist tracker Pieter Van Ostaeyen (who I've been reading and quoting for over a year a half.) From the new interview:

Few understand ISIS like Van Ostaeyen. And what he sees now is a mutation in the group, in the rhetoric and the recruiting. He points out that the language is less about Islamic fundamentalism and is increasingly focused on the notion of revenge.

"What they really want … is the clash of civilizations," he says. Revenge for what ISIS claims the West has done to Iraq and Syria. And the more ground ISIS loses there, the more the group lusts for bloodshed in Europe.

He says Western intelligence has failed for the simple reason they have no idea what they are looking for. What they should be looking for now: those with criminal backgrounds, not religious extremists. [More...]

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Air Strike Kills al Nusra Spokesman in Syria

Abu Firas al-Suri, a longtime al Qaida veteran who relocated from Yemen to Syria in 2012-2013, and became a spokesman for AQ's Syrian branch Jabhat al Nusra, has reportedly been killed in an airstrike in Idlib.

He was very outspoken in his opposition to both ISIS and the United States. It's not entirely clear whose strike killed him (U.S., Russia or Syria.)

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Pentagon Says We're Starting to Win in Mosul

A live press conference with Gen. Carter on Iraq and Syria with the Pentagon is taking place here. Carter says the tide is turning and we've blocked off the main routes between Northern Iraq and Syria. He says we targeted and killed top ISIS leaders.

American forces are there advising and supporting Iraqi. There will be increased support for Iraqis in Mosul. We will advise and enable.Carter and others will be asking Obama to increase the number of U.S. troops going to Iraq to "advise' the Iraqis.

Yet he denies it's a ground troops operation. Denies it's a fundamental shift. Reporters are skeptical and keep asking how this is different from a ground war. It's a pretty permanent position. The U.S. military is directly involved with the Iraqis. This is what we've been doing in the past months and what we'll be doing in the coming months. What started in Ramadi will continue to Mosul. This is our strategy.

He's arguing for an alternative prison to Gitmo saying it's not safe to release Gitmo

A reporter says there are 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Carter says 3,800. The difference is in the counting techniques. There's more than 3,800 he admits.

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ISIS Takes Credit for Belgium, Republicans Pander to Fear

Police are seeking the man above in connection with the Belgian attacks. They also are trying to catch Laachraoui Najim, aka Soufiane Kayal, a Belgian national, whom they suspect of involvement in the Paris Attacks. Najim was in Syria since 2013. He was the subject of an international arrest warrant since March 18, 2014. (Use google translate.)

ISIS-linked news A'maq News agency reported ISIS has taken credit for the attacks in Belgium. Then ISIS issued its own statement in several languages promising "dark days ahead" for those in countries that aid the Coalition. Here's the Official ISIS statement in French.

Why Belgium? The Guardian explains why Belgium is so vulnerable.

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ISIS Releases New John Cantlie Video

British ISIS hostage John Cantlie has re-appeared. ISIS released a new video of him criticizing the United States for bombing an ISIS media kiosk in Mosul. He said the U.S. put innocent lives at risk.

The video is short and has no ISIS violence. You can watch it here.

Cantlie was captured with James Foley and has appeared in many ISIS propaganda videos and Dabiq magazine articles, but none in the past year or so. I think his last video was in February, 2015. While there was an article in the November, 2015 issue of Dabiq purportedly authored by him, it isn't clear when it was written. I hope today's video means he is still alive.

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Syrian Rights Group Says Omar Shishani Not Killed in Strike

Two days ago, the U.S. said it targeted Georgian ISIS military leader Omar (Umar) al Shishani (originally from the Russian Caucasus) in an airstrike in al-Shadadi, Syria. The U.S. said he was believed to be dead. (Shishani, whose real name is Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili, been high on the U.S. designated terrorist list for a while. )

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (which is highly critical of ISIS) yesterday said Shishani was badly injured in the strike but was not killed. He's been transferred to a hospital in Raqqa, where he's being treated by a European jihadist doctor. [More...]

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Amr al Absi Reportedly Killed in Aleppo Air Strike

I'm surprised the U.S. media isn't all over the reports of Amr al Absi (aka Abu al-Athir,) being killed in an airstrike. He's not only a big deal in ISIS, he reportedly was involved in the imprisonment of kidnapped foreign journalists, including James Foley (whom ISIS likely inherited from the group who actually kidnapped them.

Experts say Absi orchestrated the defection of a large number of foreign fighters from the al-Qaeda-aligned Jahbat al-Nusra during Isil's rocky early months in 2013. One of those men was Mohamed Emwazi, the Briton who would go on to be Isil’s most notorious executioner.

...The jihadist is understood to have overseen the kidnapping or purchase of a number of journalists and aid workers, among them the American reporter James Foley and British taxi driver Alan Henning, whose videotaped murders Emwazi would later become famous as ‘Jihadi John’.

I've mentioned al Absi and his murdered brother Firas in several posts, see here and here. Here's one of the principal source articles I relied on. [More...]

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U.S. Says It Captures ISIS Operative

The U.S. says it has captured an ISIS operative. This would be the first since Umm Sayyaf.

Like Umm Sayyaf, the Pentagon plans to question the operative and then turn him over to the Iraqis or Kurds for prosecution. At least the White House has no plans to fly these operatives here for prosecution.

Defense Department officials said that the United States had no plans to hold the detainee or others indefinitely, and that they would be handed over to Iraqi or Kurdish authorities after they have been interviewed. The officials said they did not intend to establish a long-term American facility to hold Islamic State detainees, and Obama administration officials ruled out sending any to the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Of course, that could change should a Republican be in the White House next year.

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ISIS Trainees Run Through Fire

ISIS published video today of its training camp, Abu Hamza Al Muhajir, in Fallujah. In addition to running through fire, the recruits do somersaults while holding a large rifle, ending up in perfect position to fire. This is an Abu Wahib move. The child recruits trained in Raqqa also perform the somersault maneuver.

I don't link to ISIS videos, so please don't put links in comments. But I am curious as to news about Abu Wabib, I haven't seen any in a while.

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ISIS Threatens UK in New Video About Paris Attacks

ISIS media center al Hayat released a video today of the Paris attacks. It has some photos that were in the most recent issue of Dabiq magazine, shows the attackers making statements (not together), has a lot of gruesome beheadings, highlights its encryption of messages, and ends with a threat to Great Britain.

I don't publish links to ISIS videos, so don't put them in comments. But I also won't say as do some arrogant journalists, "I watched it so you don't have to." If you want to know what ISIS is saying through it's videos, spend some time googling al hayat and you'll find it. [More...]

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ISIS Eulogizes Jihadi John, Says Joined al-Nusra Before ISIS

The new issue of Dabiq Magazine (#13) released today contains tributes to several fallen ISIS members, including "Jihadi John." I'm not linking to Dabiq so here's a link to a news article about it. But I am interested in some details as to his background the eulogy clears up so I will quote it.

First, the article refers to him as "Abū Muhārib al-Muhājir" rather than Mohammed Emwazi. In the bio portion, it says his early life was spent in the "northeast of the Arabian Peninsula" but he moved to London with his family at a young age. His mother was originally from Yemen. [More....]

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ISIS vs. the Taliban

ISIS accuses the Taliban of heroin trafficking in Issue 15 of Dabiq Magazine, released today. The following quote is from an interview with Shaykh Hāfidh Sa’īd Khān (hafidhahullāh), ISIS' Wali (governor) of the Wilayat (Wilāyah) Khurāsān:

Dābiq: Does the nationalist Taliban movement continue to allow farmers to sell opium? How is the Wilāyah dealing with this serious phenomenon?

The Wālī: There’s no doubt that the nationalist Taliban movement has permitted farmers and merchants to grow and sell opium. Rather, the matter has reached the point that the movement itself harvests opium, and even worse than that is that the Taliban themselves transport opium and heroin in their personal vehicles, charging a fee to the sellers and the addicts! They also take a 10% cut as well as taxes from them. Akhtar Mansour himself is considered as being from the major dealers of these narcotics

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[More....]

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Unconfirmed: ISIS Member Publicly Executes His Mother

Multiple news sources are reporting that ISIS militant Ali Saqr al Qasem, on orders from ISIS, publicly shot and killed his mother outside the post office where she worked in Raqqa.

The reason: Al-Qasem had reported his mother for apostasy -- she had encouraged him to leave Raqqa with her. ISIS then ordered him to kill her.

True? I'm dubious, but I suppose it's possible. The source is the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

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Ramadi and the "Scars of War"

The New York Times has a thoroughly depressing article on what remains of Ramadi now that the Iraqi army has dislodged ISIS.

Few civilians remain from a population that once numbered around 400,000, and the city lacks electricity and running water, meaning that supplies must be trucked in...It remains deserted, except for a contingent of Iraqi troops who do not wander around much because Islamic State fighters still hit it with mortar rounds.

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al Baghdadi Releases New Audio Speech

Update: Thanks to Pieter Van Ostaeyen for publishing the English translation of ISIS leader al Baghdadi's speech.

ISIS leader al Baghdadi released a new audio speech today. I haven't seen a full English translation yet (a French one is available.)

In it, he threatens Israel:

"With the help of Allah, We are getting closer to you every day," al-Baghdadi told his Israeli listeners. "The Israelis will soon see us in Palestine. This is no longer a war of the crusaders against us. The entire world is fighting us right now."

The ISIS leader continued, "The Israelis thought that we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it. That is not the case. We have not forgotten Palestine for one moment."

This is the first public audio speech since May. I don't think he's been seen since mid-2014 when he announced the Caliphate. As to when this message was made, Haaretz says it was after the beginning of the Russian airstrikes.[More....]

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