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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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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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Iraqi Forces Move in On ISIS in Ramadi

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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McCain and Graham Call for 10k U.S. Troops in Raqqa

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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President Obama Speaks to Nation on ISIS

Update: Best line of Obama's speech: "Freedom is More Powerful Than Fear."

Shorter version: No boots on the ground (with a moving definition of what constitutes boots -- boots now seems limited to hand to hand combat, not troops on ground.) "What we should not do" is allow ourselves to "be drawn into long and costly ground war in Syria and Iraq."

We can expect more kill missions (whatever happened to the capture part? It seems gone.) Asks Congress to pass authorization for use of force against ISIS. Just a few references to assault rifles. Asks Congress to pass a bill preventing those on the no-fly list from buying them. We can't stop every mass killer but we can make it harder for them to kill.

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Over-Reacting to ISIS Threat

From Foreign Policy Magazine: Ten truths about terrorism:

  • No. 1: We can’t keep the bad guys out.
  • No. 2: The threat is already inside.
  • No. 3: More surveillance won’t get rid of terrorism.
  • No. 4: Defeating the Islamic State won’t make terrorism go away.
  • No. 5: Terrorism still remains a relatively minor threat, statistically speaking.

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San Bernadino: Supporters vs. Soldiers

President Obama said today the San Bernadino shooters were not affiliated with a specific terrorist group or part of a bigger cell.

The President's team also affirmed that they had as of yet uncovered no indication the killers were part of an organized group or formed part of a broader terrorist cell.

Obama will address the nation on the shooting and our response to terror threats tomorrow night.

Yesterday, an unofficial ISIS news account praised the couple as supporters. Today, ISIS official radio station, al Bayan, referred to them as supporters in Arabic. The English audio version refers to them as "soldiers of the Khalifah" (available here at 3'20" in.) The French version says sympathizers. If supporters rather than soldiers is correct, which most analysts on Twitter seem to think is the case, the attacks may have been inspired by ISIS but not directed by ISIS (or al Qaida.)

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NY Times Runs Gun Control Editorial on Front Page

For the first time since the 1920's, the New York Times is featuring an editorial on the front page of the paper. It calls for gun control.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

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Lebanon and al Nusra Prisoner Swap Underway

Update: The soldiers were released and put in Red Cross vans. Also released as expected: Saja al Dulaimi, ex-wife of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi, She says she divorced him six years ago and intends to go to Turkey.

Lebanon and al Nusra have finally agreed on the terms of a prisoner exchange for the 16 Lebanese military members held hostage by the al-Qaida linked group since August, 2014. Nusra delivered the soldiers to the release point last night.

The actual release won't occur until the 15 or so Islamist prisoners who had been held at Lebanon's Roumieh Prison, arrive at the site. [More...]

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Shami Witness Update: India Wants to Add More Charges

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, aka @Shami Witness, has been in custody since December 13, 2014. He was not charged until June, 2015. He has still not been tried.

What's the holdup? Indian authorities are waiting on Google to respond to a subpoena. They believe Google's response will identify more accounts Biswas used to tweet out his ISIS news updates and opinions. They intend to file a second charge sheet against him with more charges.

The police suspect Biswas ran multiple e-mail accounts which they could not access. “We are yet to get a response from Google. The access and information provided will help to file an additional charge sheet,” said M. Chandrashekhar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime).

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Foreign Fighters and ISIS: What the West Should be Doing

Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee held a conference at which several experts spoke about ISIS and foreign fighters. I found this media recap of the presentation of Scott Atran from the Centre for Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University very interesting. (He is highly credentialed, and his research in the field includes interviews with captured ISIS fighters and still fighting al Nusra fighters.)

He debunks several of the memes currently making the rounds as to ISIS' intentions and strategy, and the reasons young Western recruits find ISIS so attractive. He also explains why the U.S. counter-messaging campaign has been such a failure.[More...]

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