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Jihadi John's Travel to Syria

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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"Jihadi John" Identified

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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Twitter vs. ISIS

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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ISIS: Pass the Shock, Hold the Awe and Ground Troops

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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Libya's Mystery Beach and the 21st Victim

Isn't it a little strange that with so much international press coverage of the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, no one has identified the beach in the video?

Everyone reports the Christians were kidnapped in Sirte. But when it comes to the beach, no one names it. It's mostly described as "a Libyan beach." Some think the beach is in western Libya near Tripoli. Others think it is in Sirte. (The video says Wilayat (province) of Tarabulus, which means Tripoli, but a province could encompass other towns in the region, including Sirte. Still, Sirte is 460 km from Tripoli, almost a 6 hour drive according to google maps.

One person tweeted it is 7 km west of Sirte, based on the lone palm tree in the background here: [More...]

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What Causes Extremism?

I heard part of President Obama's speech on ISIS and extremism while driving today. The part I heard had to do with the causes of extremism. He said poverty, lack of options, and perceptions of mistreatment by those in power are big factors. He was careful to say not all poor youth become extremists, any more than all poor youth become criminals.

I think he was saying that being poor and not seeing any way out, along with feeling mistreated by those in power, makes one vulnerable to extremist ideology. I'd agree with that. [More...]

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"What ISIS Really Wants" : A Compelling Read

Graeme Wood has a very long but compelling article in The Atlantic What ISIS Really Wants. It is about ISIS' ideology and methodology. It's too long to hit all the key points, so I will just mention a few.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal. [More....]

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Obama Submits Draft of AUMF Against ISIS

Here is Obama's draft of the Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS. Here is the statement he released about it.

It does not authorize combat troops on the ground on an "enduring" basis:

[c] LIMITATIONS.— The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.

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R.I.P. Hostage Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller's parents and the White House have confirmed that the ISIS hostage and aid worker is dead. ISIS claimed a few days ago she died in a Jordanian air strike.

ISIS privately sent the confirmation to her parents, but the details have not been disclosed as yet.

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New John Cantlie Video: Inside Halab

John Cantlie is back with a new video, which he says is "the last of this series." You can watch it here. I don't think it means he will be killed, just that future videos will be different. ISIS would be silly to kill him, he's the best public relations spokesman they have. Then again, ISIS likes to do things for shock value, and it would indeed be a shock to learn this personable Brit was killed, despite all he has done promoting the Islamic State. [More...]

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ISIS and Knife Size

A lot has been written about beheadings, and how it it must hurt the victim more and take a lot longer with a small knife like the one Jihadi John uses.

ISIS released some new beheading videos today (of soldiers and "magicians".) Check out the size of this sword. As bulky as the guy is who's wielding it, it looks almost as heavy as he is.

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ISIS Claims American Hostage Killed by Jordan in Airstrikes

ISIS released a statement today claiming American hostage Kayla Mueller was killed in a Jordanian bomb strike in Raqqa.

It provided photos of a bombed building, but none of Mueller. Mueller is the last known American hostage to be held by ISIS.

Long War Journal finds the claim "convenient".

While it is certainly possible Mueller has been killed, the Islamic State's description of how she was allegedly killed could very well be a crude attempt at propaganda.

ISIS also says the bombing of the building lasted an hour but no ISIS members were killed. It claims Ms. Mueller was killed by fire from the bombing.

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Violence, Vengence and Retribution Serve No One

ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot alive, claiming its actions are justified by the pilot having flown missions for Jordan in which Syrian civilians, including children, were killed. It views the brutal murder as justified, under the Islamic equivalent of "an eye for an eye."

IS believes in a principle known as "qisas" which, in its broadest terms, is the law of equal retaliation. Put another way, it is the Islamic equivalent of "lex talionis", or the doctrine of an eye for an eye. Within Islamic law qisas typically relates to cases of murder, manslaughter, or acts involving physical mutilation (such as the loss of limbs) and creates a framework for victims (or their families) to seek retributive justice.

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Belgian Arms Dealer Admits Selling Weapons Used in Paris Attacks

A Belgian arms dealer and "known underworld figure" turned himself into authorities today. He admitted supplying several weapons to Amedi Coulibaly which were used in the Paris attacks.

Federal police, who searched the suspect’s apartment, found papers linking him to a transaction with Amedy Coulibaly, the jihadist who murdered four Jewish men and held others hostage at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in east Paris on Friday.

According to the local press, the man sold Coulibaly the Skorpion submachine guns he used in the attack, as well as the rocket propelled grenade launcher and the Kalashnikov automatic assault rifles that Said and Cherif Kouachi used to perpetrate the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The weapons were purchased near the Midi railway station in downtown Brussels for less than 5,000 euros, according to the reports.

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New ISIS Video With John Cantlie in Mosul, Iraq

Just before New Years, I wondered what happened to John Cantlie.

We have the answer. He's still alive. Here is his latest video giving a tour of Mosul, Iraq, which he says is the "absolute heartland" of the Caliphate and home to 2 million people." He says he sees millions of people going about their daily business after years of oppression.

Towards the end, he is driving an ISIS police motorcycle through the streets of Mosul, with a big grin and an ISIS member sitting behind him: [More...]

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