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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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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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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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.
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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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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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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 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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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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The recent battles in Tikrit in Iraq have received a lot of press this week. In an interview yesterday, U.S. General Martin Dempsey said the reasons the Iraqi forces and Shiite militias have been doing so well is because the militias are armed and trained by Iran, which is also providing the militias with intelligence. He said Tikrit will eventually be recaptured because ISIS is so outnumbered in Tikrit. There are hundreds of ISIS fighters and an estimated 23,000 Iraqi and militia fighters.
Dempsey said the U.S. airstrikes around the Baji oil refinery over the past several months "paved the way" for the Iraqi forces and Shiite militias to advance to Tikrit, but the U.S. has had no involvement with the militias or the recent fights in Tikrit. [More...]
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Every day there are more and more irrelevant minor details published about Mohammed Emwazi, aka Jihadi John and unconfirmed reports about his so-called early terror connections. What I haven't seen is anything explaining why he would want to go live in Kuwait, when he wasn't a Kuwaiti citizen and could not become one, due to his Bidoon heritage, and given that the Bidoons are treated like an underclass in Kuwait.
I'd also like to know when his father moved from Iraq to Kuwait, and why. Did he want to take advantage of the increased business opportunities there in the 80's, or was he fleeing Saddam? Where in Iraq was he from? I've seen tweets Emwazi was a member of the Zuhairi tribe from Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, but no confirmation by a reliable source. If he was from that tribe, would he more likely be a Shi'a than a Sunni? If he was Shi'a, he must have renounced his faith and heritage in order to join ISIS, since ISIS doesn't view Shi'a as Muslims but apostates. [More...]
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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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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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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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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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