Russia has announced that a helicopter carrying five people (2 officers and 3 crew members) was shot down in Aleppo today. It was returning from a "humanitarian" mission.
On August 1, the Russian military transport helicopter Mi-8 was downed by ground fire on the way to the #Hmeymim airbase after delivery of humanitarian aid to the Aleppo city in the #Idlib province. There were 3 crew members and 2 officers of the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria. The fate of the Russian servicemen is being found out.
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I immediately turned to the end to see if there was something written by hostage John Cantlie. There is not.
There are some new themes, such as the West is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. Even if the bombings stop, it says the best the West can hope for is a temporary truce.
See page 30: "Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You." Shorter version: Because you are non-believers. The invasions and bombings are secondary.
ISIS seems intent on baiting the West into an all out war. It doesn't yet seem to grasp that only foolish politicians like Donald Trump and Republicans will fall for that. [More...]
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For at least a week, there have been reports that the leader of Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, Abū Muhammad al-Jūlānī, (sometimes spelled al-Jolani and al-Joulani and al-Golani), is about to announce the group's split from al Qaida.
Yesterday, it happened. Announcements were made by both groups, emphasizing this is not an ideological split. The U.S says it's just a rebranding, PR move. Al Qaida and al Nusra say it's much more than that. [More...]
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ISIS news of note this week: Al-Hayat Media, ISIS' official media arm, has released a new "nasheed" video featuring child fighters. It's called "Sang Pour Sang" (Blood for Blood). The children sing in French, but there's an English and French option for viewing the words. The point of the video: to warn the U.S. and its allies that revenge for the airstrikes is coming.
Via Belgian researcher and analyst Pieter Van Ostaeyen, here are the words in English. He has also posted the video here. [Heads-up, there are graphic images of bombing victims but with one exception that I saw, no victims of ISIS killings. The exception is a very small still image of someone being beheaded in the frame accompanying the words "to slice necks". So if that will upset you, don't watch the video. I'm writing about the video because I think it's important to know what ISIS says it believes. In order to defeat your enemy, you first must understand it. ( The Art of War.)][More...]
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Despite the rabid hype by Republicans, we are not in danger of getting killed by terrorists.
Consider, for instance, that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – the equivalent of “a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day.”
Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has observed that “[e]ven in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never [comes] close to the number of traffic deaths.”
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