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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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Chaos in Tikrit: Militias and Iraqi Forces Loot and Behead Captives

Tikrit is in shambles following it's "liberation" from ISIS. The U.S. and Iraq are now investigating incidents of rampant looting, burning of Sunni homes and businesses, summary executions and and beheadings of Sunni and ISIS captives by the self-proclaimed victors, the Iran-backed Shi'ite militias and the Iraqi military.

American and Iraqi officials called for investigations on Friday into reports that Iraqi security forces were summarily executing captives and looting property in Tikrit, and warned that such abuses could undermine the international effort to defeat the Sunni extremists of Islamic State.

[More...]

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ISIS Releases Dabiq Issue #8

Issue #8 of the Islamic State's English magazine, Dabiq, has been released. The cover title says "Shari'ah Alone Will Rule Africa." You can download it here.

As with prior issues, the last article is one by British hostage John Cantlie. It's called "The Paradigm Shift" and in it he asserts that the only viable course for the west is a truce with ISIS. [More...]

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The So-Called "ISIS Hacking Division"

Many media outlets, including the New York Times reported Saturday that ISIS has released the names and addresses of 100 service members on a website and urged followers to find and kill them. It's far from certain this release has any official connection to ISIS. Instead of "ISIS Urges Sympathizers to Kill U.S. Service Members It Identifies on Website", the headline should be "Group Supporting ISIS Urges Killing of U.S. Service Members Named in Internet Posting."

The release was announced Friday night on Twitter and uploaded to PasteBin, the site used by many groups to post messages. [More...]

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Gen. Petraeus' Views of ISIS, Iraq and Syria

General David Petraeus was back in Iraq last week at a conference. He said:

In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.

Petraeus also talked about Syria: [More...]

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ISIS Claims Credit for Yemen Bomb Blasts at Shi'ite Mosques

At least 137 people died in suicide bombing attacks at Houthi mosques in Sanaa, Yemen today. ISIS has released an official statement through its Wilayat Sanaa claiming credit.

Yemen is torn by a power struggle between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the north and Hadi, who has set up a rival power base in the south backed by Sunni-led Gulf Arab states.

The mosques in Sanaa are known to be used mainly by supporters of the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group, which controls most of northern Yemen, including Sanaa.

According to Reuters, the ISIS statement (available here in Arabic, but loosely translatable with Bing or Google translator) said: [More...]

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Javier Espinosa: ISIS Hostage #43

Yesterday, released ISIS hostage Javier Espinosa, a journalist with El Mundo, provided his first account of his kidnapping and detention by ISIS, including his description of "Jihadi John", believed to be Mohammed Emwazi. It was in the Sunday Times (UK) which is subscription only, and only descriptions by other media outlets were available.

Fortunately, El Mundo, has published it for free in two installments. Each one is about 4,000 words. It is riveting to say the least. Espinosa was held with James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Alan Henning, Peter Kassig and the other Western journalists and hostages, and he discusses all of them.

Google Translate actually does a pretty good job with it. You can read the full first installment here and the second installment here. [More...]

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English Translation of al Adnani's Latest Message

Yesterday, ISIS supporters on Twitter were all excited waiting for a new speech by chief spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. It was released mid-afternoon, but without English translation. Titled "So They Kill and Are Killed" Adnani accepted the "bayah" of Boko Haram in Nigeria, to become part of the Califphate, and urged supporters to go to Africa and fight with them.

There were news reports that in his speech, he threatened to blow up the Eiffel Tower, the White House, and Big Ben. An English translation has now been released. You can read it here or here. He doesn't call upon supporters to attack these places, he just says these attacks will happen before they conquer Rome. (Rome is usually a reference to the apocalypse and the Byzantine Roman Empire which was based in Constantinople, not Rome, Italy, and could be generations from now. More here.) [More...]

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Shami Witness: Police Seek Another 6 Months to File Charges

Pro-ISIS Tweeter and news disseminator Mehdi Masroor Biswas, aka @Shami Witness, arrested in India in December, 2014, is still in custody in India. No charges have been filed. He hasn't had a bail hearing yet. The latest 90 day extension of time to file a charge sheet expires this week.

On March 9, Bangladore police requested an additional six months to file a charge sheet.

A hearing on the request and Shami's petition for bail may be set for next week. How can India hold someone for 120 days without a bail hearing? [More...]

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The Fight Against ISIS' "Shock and Gore" Media Campaign

Simon Cottee in the Atlantic interviews top U.S. counterterrorism officials about the daunting challenge the U.S. faces in trying to combat ISIS propaganda war and what it will take to defeat it.

The U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was created in 2010 to counter jihadist online media. It's motto, which appears on every powerpoint presentation, is “Media is more than half the battle" and “The war of narratives has become even more important than the war of navies, napalm, and knives.” (The latter is a quote by a dead militant.)[More...]

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Latest ISIS Defector Discussing Mohammed Emwazi

Sky News has a new interview with an Isis defector who says in very broken English he worked as a translator for ISIS, attended the killing of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, and then ran away to Turkey. He is referred to as Saleh, which is not his real name. More details are here.

Salah describes Emwazi, whom he calls John, as "the boss" of the foreign hostage killers. He says John is with ISIS' media arm. He says anyone is allowed to kill a Syrian, but only John executes foreigners. [More...]

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ISIS Uses Child Soldier to Kill Mossad Agent

ISIS has been promoting a new video by al Furqan Media all morning about the execution of a captured Mossad agent. An interview with the agent, Muhammad Sa’īd Ismā’īl Musallam, was featured in the latest issue of Dabiq magazine (Issue #7, described here). He said he was the only Arab in his unit, the others were Jewish.

Clearly designed to shock, in the now released video, which I won't link to, a child soldier kills the orange clad prisoner while standing right in front of him. He stares coldly at him and shoots him in the forehead. Then he fires more bullets into him and shouts "Allahu Akbar" as he raises his arm in triumph. [More....]

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ISIS Recruits Deaf in New Video

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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