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Jihadi John's Travel to Syria

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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"Jihadi John" Identified

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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Twitter vs. ISIS

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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ISIS: Pass the Shock, Hold the Awe and Ground Troops

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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Libya's Mystery Beach and the 21st Victim

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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What Causes Extremism?

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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ISIS Gets Close to Al Asad Airbase and U.S. Marines

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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Obama Submits Draft of AUMF Against ISIS

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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R.I.P. Hostage Kayla Mueller

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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New John Cantlie Video: Inside Halab

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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ISIS and Knife Size

A lot has been written about beheadings, and how it it must hurt the victim more and take a lot longer with a small knife like the one Jihadi John uses.

ISIS released some new beheading videos today (of soldiers and "magicians".) Check out the size of this sword. As bulky as the guy is who's wielding it, it looks almost as heavy as he is.

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UK Sentences Returning Jihadist to 12 Years

Imran Khawaja was a key member of Rayat al–Tawheed (RaT), a group of British recruits who went to fight the Assad regime in Syria. Known as Abu Daigham al Baritani or Abu Daigham al-Britani, he faked his own death and tried to sneak back into the UK, but was caught.

Today he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 5 years of supervision. (He will have to serve about 8 years.) [More...]

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Obama Warns of "Overreach" in Middle East

President Obama released a 29 page security plan to Congress today and said we must be careful not to overreach in the Middle East.

The United States cannot try to "dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world" as it does not have infinite resources nor influence to tackle complex problems that cannot be fixed only with its military might, he said.

"We must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear," Obama said.

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ISIS Claims American Hostage Killed by Jordan in Airstrikes

ISIS released a statement today claiming American hostage Kayla Mueller was killed in a Jordanian bomb strike in Raqqa.

It provided photos of a bombed building, but none of Mueller. Mueller is the last known American hostage to be held by ISIS.

Long War Journal finds the claim "convenient".

While it is certainly possible Mueller has been killed, the Islamic State's description of how she was allegedly killed could very well be a crude attempt at propaganda.

ISIS also says the bombing of the building lasted an hour but no ISIS members were killed. It claims Ms. Mueller was killed by fire from the bombing.

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Jordan Frees Al Qaida Spiritual Advisor

When we last left off with Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (spiritual mentor to Al Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, bio here), he had just been jailed in Jordan for communicating with terrorists while working with U.S. lawyer Stanley Cohen to negotiate with Maqdisi's enemy ISIS to free Peter Kassig. The F.B.I. was aware of the effort, and paid for Cohen and his translator's travel. (Cohen began serving his own federal prison sentence on tax charges this month.)

Today Jordan confirmed it released Maqdisi two days ago. [More...]

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