Time Magazine reports on the slow but steady increase of U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Apparently, it's in preparation for the upcoming battle to retake Mosul from ISIS.
Unless you have a loved one in the U.S. military, you probably haven’t been aware of the slow-but-steady increase in American troops on the ground inside Iraq.... On Monday, Pentagon officials said the total U.S. troop presence in Iraq would grow by more than 200 troops—to a deployed force of 4,087—as Baghdad and Washington prepare to take Mosul back from ISIS.
Troops on temporary assignment in Iraq, those guarding diplomatic outposts—or those rotating in to replace troops who haven’t left yet—aren’t included under that 4,087 ceiling. When they are, Pentagon officials say, the total U.S. troops presence in Iraq is creeping toward 5,000.
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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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At least 13 police raids took place in Brussels today. 9 were arrested, 5 have already been released.
I've seen four official ISIS videos (I'm not linking to them) of the Belgian attacks released in the last two days. One common theme is there is more to come.
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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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Iraqi forces have been moving in on ISIS in Ramadi for 2 weeks. Only 6,00 to 1,000 ISIS fighters remained at the start of the new offensive. Yesterday Iraqi Forces reportedly moved into the town center. The U.S. says there are now only 250 - 350 ISIS fighters remaining. What about civilians?
Iraqi airplanes dropped leaflets on Sunday urging residents of Ramadi to evacuate within 72 hours, warning of an impending operation and suggesting two evacuation routes. Colonel Warren estimated that thousands or even tens of thousands of civilians were still in the city; hundreds of thousands have fled.
The U.S. says Ramadi will be cleared of ISIS in 2 to 3 days. Then what? [More...}
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John McCain and Lindsay Graham have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the U.S. to put 10,000 ground troops in Raqqa, Syria, to defeat ISIS. And then they want more troops in Iraq, Libya, and anywhere else ISIS is gaining a foothold in the region.
Shorter version: The world is our colony, let's start acting like it.
Missing from their op-ed: Not a single mention of al Qaida or al Nusra in Syria or elsewhere. What are they, chopped liver? Or are al Qaida and al Nusra now okay in their book because on occasion they side with the (non-existent) Syrian rebels we're training and equipping? [More...]
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