Archive for category Islamic state

Islamist fighters drawn from half the world’s countries, says UN

Jason Burke
Guardian
26 May 2015

Report says there are more than 25,000 ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ from 100 countries in jihadi conflicts, who pose an ‘immediate and long-term threat’

More than half the countries in the world are currently generating Islamist extremist fighters for groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, the UN has said.

A report by the UN security council says there are more than 25,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” currently involved in jihadi conflicts and they are “travelling from more than 100 member states”.

The number of fighters may have increased by more than 70% worldwide in the past nine months or so, the report says, adding that they “pose an “immediate and long-term [terrorist] threat”.

The sudden rise, though possibly explained by better data, will raise concern about the apparently growing appeal of extremism. The geographic spread of states touched by the phenomenon has expanded, too. Read the rest of this entry »

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Isis bombs and al-Qaeda papers make bin Laden seem soft touch

Geoff Dyer in Washington
Financial Times
May 22, 2015

A spate of massive car bombs in an Iraqi city and a slew of new al-Qaeda documents have pulled off the improbable feat of making Osama bin Laden seem like a soft touch.

Just as Islamist militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were taking control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi this week, the US government released part of a treasure trove of material recovered from the former al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Pakistan.

The two events have cast a light on the fierce competition between the jihadi groups and help explain why Isis has been so much more effective than al-Qaeda at exploiting instability in the Middle East since the so-called Arab Spring.

While bin Laden wanted to play a long game and constantly fretted about alienating fellow Muslims, Isis has been happy to pursue its goals through indiscriminate violence against anyone—including setting off 10 huge bombs in Ramadi on Sunday before its forces made their final push to take the Iraqi city. Read the rest of this entry »

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First Ramadi, then Palmyra: Isis shows it can storm bastions of Syria and Iraq

Martin Chulov
Guardian
22 May 2015

Terror group faced little resistance from local forces, prompting re-evaluations across a region that had sensed it might be in retreat

Islamic State fighters are celebrating their second major conquest in a week in Syria and Iraq as they pick through the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra.

The sudden advance of the militants into the UN heritage site in central Syria resulted in the rout of a national army, the exodus of refugees and a fresh pulse of regional alarm at the resilience of the self-styled caliphate force.

The UN said one-third of Palmyra’s 200,000-strong population had fled. And Isis militants used social media to show themselves posing amid ancient columns in Palmyra on Thursday. Other images displayed a more familiar theme: the summary slaughter of local men whose blood drenched the road.

Isis’s latest advance has prompted a re-evaluation across the region, which had earlier sensed it might be in retreat. From Beirut to Baghdad and as far away as Riyadh, regional actors are coming to terms with an organisation that can win most of its battles and successfully storm Syria and Iraq’s best-defended bastions.

The seizure of Palmyra followed the equally startling conquest of Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar province last weekend. Both operations, around 600 miles apart, have become emblematic of a terror group that can have its way across two crumbling countries despite embattled state forces being propped up by global powers. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the face of Islamic State successes, al-Qaida adapts, grows stronger

BY LEE KEATH AND MAGGIE MICHAEL
Associated Press
May 4, 2015

CAIRO — When al-Qaida overran the Yemeni port city of Mukalla last month, the group’s commanders immediately struck a deal to share power with the area’s tribesmen. No jihadi banners were raised. Al-Qaida even issued a statement denying rumors that it had banned music at parties or men wearing shorts.

A local tribal council now administers the city.

The approach was a stark contrast to al-Qaida’s rival, the Islamic State group, notorious for its savagery. And that was precisely the point.

In a competition with the Islamic State group for recruits and prestige across the Middle East, al-Qaida has sought to distinguish itself from its rival’s bloodthirstiness, taking an approach that in jihadi circles would be considered pragmatic. It is building alliances with local players, even old enemies, to seize new territory. Its leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, has told his followers to avoid IS-style brutalities against civilians in order to build support among local populations.

The strategy has paid off, winning new gains for al-Qaida. In Yemen, it even stands to emerge as the real winner as Saudi Arabia leads an Arab air campaign targeting the terror network’s rival, the Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis who have taken over much of the country. Read the rest of this entry »

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What ‘Draw Muhammad’ shootings say about Islamic State reach

By Patrik Jonsson
Christian Science Monitor
MAY 5, 2015

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the foiled terrorist attack at a Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas Sunday. But that doesn’t mean the group had much to do with the attack.

The attempted terror attack by two Muslim-Americans in Garland, Texas, Sunday so far appears to confirm what terrorism experts have been saying for months: The Islamic State has no ability to carry out attacks in the United States.

But the incident shows that the Islamic State’s ability to inspire and, to a limited degree, direct “lone wolf” jihadis remains a challenge with no simple answers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baghdadi may be gone, but his empire will live on

By David Blair
Chief Foreign Correspondent
Telegraph
02 May 2015

The Isil leader may have been wounded in an air strike, but the terrorist movement no longer depends on him

After leading a desert blitzkrieg across Syria and Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood before thousands of followers and proclaimed himself “Caliph” of a new “Islamic State”.

Yet the bloodsoaked reign of a terrorist who achieved global prominence by conquering swathes of the Middle East now appears to have been cut short by one American air strike.

Iraq’s government and other sources are convinced that far from leading his men in battle, Baghdadi now lies critically wounded and receiving constant care. A US air raid near the town of Al-Baaj, 90 miles west of the Iraqi city of Mosul, appears to have injured Baghdadi and killed three of his companions on March 18.

The self-styled “Caliph” is understood have suffered spinal damage for which he requires continuous treatment. As a result, Baghdadi is thought to be incapacitated and no longer in command of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

Instead, de facto leadership of the movement has passed to a council of senior commanders, including Baghdadi’s supposed deputy, Abu Alaa al-Afri. Read the rest of this entry »

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How The Islamic State’s Slick Recruiting Campaign Threatens To Radicalize Americans

USA Today | By Kevin Johnson
04/27/2015

WASHINGTON — The arrests of six Minnesota men accused earlier this month of attempting to join the Islamic State group, highlights an unprecedented marketing effort being waged by the militant group in Iraq and Syria, U.S. law enforcement officials and terror analysts said.
It’s a campaign that is finding resonance from urban metros to the American heartland.

“This is not so much a recruitment effort as it is a global marketing campaign, beyond anything that al-Qaida has ever done,” said a senior law enforcement official.

The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the Islamic State’s slick multimedia productions, its use of social media and personal “peer-to-peer” communication are proving to be effective parts of a sophisticated program aimed at the West.

“I don’t think there has been one case in which we haven’t found some connection to the videos or other media the group has produced,” the official said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State takes military barracks, dam in Iraq’s Anbar: sources

Reuters
Sat Apr 25, 2015

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Islamic State militants in Iraq took partial control of a water dam and military barracks guarding it in the western Anbar province after fierce fighting through the night that continued on Saturday, security sources and witnesses said.

The Iraqi government announced a new offensive this month to recapture parts of Anbar, Iraq’s Sunni Muslim heartland, from Islamic State, in an attempt to build on an earlier victory against the group in the central city of Tikrit.

But the hardline Sunni militants struck back by attacking Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, prompting thousands of families to flee. They also hit Baiji, Iraq’s largest refinery last week.

Late on Friday, the insurgents attacked the security perimeter at al-Thirthar dam with explosive-laden vehicles and then battled army forces in clashes that continued on Saturday, police and army sources told Reuters. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s had some military success, but the Islamic State is no existential threat

By Rosa Brooks
Opinions
Washington Post
April 16 2015

ISIS -The State of Terror

By Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger

It is dangerous to underestimate your enemies — or overestimate them. The United States has an uncanny knack for doing both, often at the same time.

Take the self-proclaimed Islamic State. On the one hand, President Obama tells us that the group, also known by the acronym ISIS,“has no vision other than . . . slaughter” and “can never possibly win [anyone] over by its ideas or its ideology — because it offers nothing.” There is no need to send U.S. ground troops into combat against the militants: “It’s not necessary to defeat [them].”

On the other hand, former defense secretary Chuck Hagel insists that the Islamic State is an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) says the group is “a clear and present danger,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urges the president to deploy U.S. ground troops to fight the extremists in Iraq and Syria “before we all get killed here at home.”

Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger’s new book, “ISIS,” should be required reading for every politician and policymaker. Though it bears some of the inevitable scars characteristic of books written in a great hurry — it is uneven and a bit rough around the edges — their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations. Read the rest of this entry »

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U.S. Says Ramadi at Risk of Falling to Islamic State

By Julian E. Barnes
Wall Street Journal
April 16, 2015


Anbar residents flee provincial capital as Islamist forces advance

WASHINGTON—U.S. defense officials said a provincial capital in Iraq could soon fall to Islamic State, while America’s top military officer sought to minimize the strategic importance of the city.

At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that maintaining control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, isn’t central to the U.S. and Iraqi aims of defeating Islamic State forces.

“The city itself is not symbolic in any way,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand, or central to the future of Iraq.”

Earlier this week, Pentagon officials minimized the possibility that Ramadi was going to fall. But U.S. officials have monitored large numbers of civilians fleeing from the city, a sign that residents fear an imminent takeover.

Islamic State fighters have taken over a number of villages surrounding Ramadi, destroyed bridges and other infrastructure and reversed recent gains by Iraqi Security forces, defense officials said Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Want to stop people from joining groups like the Islamic State? Try tackling core problems first.

By Stephan Bauman
Washington Post
April 14, 2015

Why would teenagers from Denver or schoolgirls from London skip class to join the Islamic State? Because they want to “belong to something special…,” said John Horgan who studies the psychology of terrorism at the University of Massachusetts. “They want to find something meaningful for their life.” Such crises of identity coupled with an appeal to religious loyalty entice even the most unlikely of candidates. We shake our heads in astonishment.

But there is more to the story. Read the rest of this entry »

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What does the Garissa attack mean for the fight against ISIS?

J.M. Berger
Brookings
April 3, 2015

The horrifying and lethal Al-Shabab attack on Garissa University this week and its Mogadishu hotel siege last week highlight one of the fundamental difficulties that arise when jihadi movements metastasize from terrorism to insurgency and devolve back again.

Purely terrorist groups, such al-Qaeda before 9/11, are typically small. Insurgencies generally require much more manpower. Taking and holding a given town or a province takes hundreds or thousands of fighters. When a terrorist group adopts an insurgent approach with any degree of success, its ranks typically swell. If the insurgency fails but is not definitively crushed, it can free up potentially thousands of experienced fighters for terrorist activities.

And as Garissa shows, killing civilians requires far fewer people than taking and governing territory. It only takes a handful of fighters to create a tragedy of massive proportions. Even a small insurgency, transformed, makes for a huge terrorist capability. Read the rest of this entry »

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Somali Militants Kill 147 at Kenyan University

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, ISMA’IL KUSHKUSH and RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
New York Times
APRIL 2, 2015

NAIROBI, Kenya — Somali militants burst into a university in eastern Kenya on Thursday and killed nearly 150 students in the worst terrorist attack since the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy here, laying bare the nation’s continuing vulnerability after years of battling Islamist extremism.

A small group of militants, most likely between four and 10, roved from dorm to dorm, separating Christian from Muslim students and killing the Christians, the authorities said. Students described being awakened before dawn by the sound of gunfire and fleeing for their lives as masked attackers closed in.

Officials said that by the time Kenyan commandos cornered and killed the attackers on an upper floor, 147 people lay dead.

Despite new security laws, significant Western help and a heightened state of vigilance that has already put police officers on almost every major street corner in the capital, Nairobi, Kenya remains squarely in the cross hairs of the Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zahid should not assume that although Pakatan Rakyat is opposed to IS and Islamic extremism, he has a blank cheque to enact anti-terrorism laws without proper consultation with the Opposition and the civil society

Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi is mistaken if he thinks that although Pakatan Rakyat is opposed to Islamic State and Islamic extremism, he has a blank cheque to enact a spate of anti-terrorism laws without proper consultation with the Opposition and the civil society.

I am quite disturbed by Zahid’s complacency and cavalier attitude as reflected by his statement after the presentation of the spate of anti-terrorism bills like the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 (POTA) that he is confident the opposition will back POTA and that rejection would most likely come from activists and human rights’ lawyers.

Up to now, in finalizing the spate of anti-terrorism bills, Zahid has never bothered to consult with Pakatan Rakyat MPs and the civil society or seek their views on adequate safeguards against abuses of far-reaching powers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Teach the virtue of radical moderation

– Jakarta Globe
31 March 2015

The latest survey of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace should come as a dire warning: The poll of nearly 700 students from 76 high schools in Jakarta and 38 high schools in Bandung shows that 7% of respondents agreed with the Islamic State movement’s aim of establishing a global Islamic State – meaning one in every 14 students agrees with the militants’ aims.

Those surveyed who agreed with Isis’s mission said they did so because they believe the IS has established an Islamic caliphate.

More worrisome, the students said they agreed that Indonesia’s five founding principles, Pancasila – which enshrine the right to religious freedom and tolerance of others’ beliefs – should be replaced with a universal Islamic ideology.

The ability to accept others’ beliefs as equally valid to one’s own is perhaps the highest virtue – and one we must teach in schools. Read the rest of this entry »

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The caliphate cracks

Economist
Mar 21st 2015

The war against Islamic State

Though Islamic State is still spreading terror, its weaknesses are becoming apparent

WHEN the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) seized Mosul and the Iraqi army fled last June, they became the world’s most dangerous terrorist organisation. Sweeping out of Syria and north-western Iraq, they stormed southward, and came close to taking Baghdad. They murdered male prisoners in gory videos and enslaved female ones. Groups from Nigeria to Libya and Afghanistan pledged allegiance to them. Devotees attacked innocent civilians in Western cities; this week at least 19 people were killed in an assault on tourists in Tunisia (though the culprits are unknown). The IS threat has pushed together unlikely allies: in Iraq America provides the air power while Iran musters the ground forces.

As our briefing explains (see article), IS differs from jihadist groups that have gone before, including its parent, al-Qaeda. It is uniquely brutal in its treatment of foes and uniquely competent as a propagandist. But what most sets it apart is its claim to have restored the Islamic caliphate. The revival of a single state to rule over all Muslims, dating to Islam’s earliest days and abolished in 1924 by modern Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman empire, was meant to eradicate decades of supposed humiliation by outsiders and Arab rulers who presided over the decline of flourishing Arab societies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s IS problem

Malaysia’s focus on stopping would-be fighters masks growing domestic support for Islamic extremists

By Bridget Welsh and Zachary Abuza
The Edge Review | 6 March 2015

When local papers reported last month that a 14-year old Malaysian girl had been stopped from heading to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State (IS) movement, the headlines quickly faded into the background.

Her thwarted departure was marked as another “success”, but there was little discussion of the factors shaping the IS movement within Malaysia. Are there domestic factors that contribute? Let’s take stock of what we know so far.

While Malaysia – in common with other Southeast Asian countries – does not rank among the top 20 countries involved in the fighting, its presence is large enough not to be dismissed.

So far 71 people have been detained in Malaysia for their alleged participation in IS, with 59 recorded as fighting. Six Malaysians have died, including its first suicide bomber. There have been enough volunteers from Malaysia and Indonesia that a Malay-speaking unit was formed. Two Malaysians were also identified in a grisly beheading video.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Why is the Police fighting a losing war with Islamic State – has IS developed a local leadership structure in Malaysia with dedicated recruiters scouting for new recruits for the terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq?

Yesterday, the Police announced that “A civil servant said to be one of the most senior Islamic State (IS) members in Malaysia and a 29-year-old housewife who recruited a 14-year-old girl into the militant movement are among three people detained by Bukit Aman”.

The 39-year-old civil servant was arrested by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division in Kuala Lumpur on Monday while the housewife was picked up in Muar on Saturday.

The third suspect – a 22-year-old trader – was also arrested in Perak on Monday.

The civil servant, described by the police as “a senior IS member with direct links to Malaysians in Syria”, is believed to have used his position to recruit members to ensure the local militant network ran smoothly.

This is most shocking news. How “senior” is the civil servant who was arrested, and who are the more “senior” IS leaders in Malaysia?

Malaysia are entitled to ask: Why is the Police fighting a losing war with Islamic State – has IS developed a local leadership structure in Malaysia with dedicated recruiters scouting for new recruits for the terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq? Read the rest of this entry »

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The IGP should be non-partisan professional top policeman to uphold law without fear or favour and not to act like the Security Chief of Prime Minister to harass and persecute dissent

I commend the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar for his composure and being unfazed by a video of three men threatening to blow up his car with him inside it, which is expected of all holders of public office and trust when confronted with extremist threats to cow them from carrying out their public duties.

Khalid sets a good example in declaring that he is not intimidated by the death threat against him, his denunciation of the group known as “Anak Malaysia Anti Demokrasi” as irresponsible for not respecting parliamentary democracy and not knowing the real meaning of democracy.

All Malaysians will support the firmest actions taken by the authorities to punish severely those involved in IS-type videos to threaten violent acts, including murder the current IGP, as Malaysians must not allow such deplorable culture to take root in the country.

On Feb. 15, a video was uploaded under a You Tube account named ISIS Malaysia 69 which featured four masked men threatening to light up fireworks in courts across the country, which was followed by another one, featuring a group of three individuals that called themselves Anak Muda Anti-Democracy (AMAD) on Tuesday which threatened to kill Khalid, by blowing up his car with him inside it.

The last thing Malaysia needs is the introduction of IS-type of barbarities and atrocities on our shores.

A day before the IS-type video death threat to Khalid, I had issued a statement criticizing the IGP for a wrong sense of priorities, setting up the world’s first police special unit on sedition for him to twitter instructions to harass Pakatan Rakyat leaders and NGO activists while overlooking the bigger national threat of Islamic State extending its tentacles to vulnerable young Malaysians including 14-year-old boys and girls. Read the rest of this entry »

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The cracks in Islamic State’s business plan are starting to show

By Ora Szekely
Reuters
February 20, 2015

Over the last year, Islamic State has presented the rest of the world with a steady stream of atrocities: An attempted genocide against the Yazidi people in Iraq, massacres and bombings of Shi’ite civilians in Syria, and gruesome executions of journalists and aid workers. Last week the militant group murdered — via mass beheading – 21 Coptic Christian Egyptians in Libya. But despite the bravado of Islamic State’s public statements, the Islamist militant group increasingly appears to have painted itself into a strategic corner.

Islamic State’s expansion so far has been based heavily on extortion and theft. Using revenue from the oil wells it captured in eastern Syria in June 2014, along with money raised by looting in Mosul, supplemented by funding from ransoms paid by governments for its hostages, Islamic State was able to hire lots of fighters very quickly by paying top salaries. But revenues from the oil wells have dropped (due both to U.S. bombing and falling global oil prices), and with the tragic death of American aid worker Kayla Mueller earlier this month, Islamic State has executed what is likely its last foreign hostage, potentially eliminating a key source of its funding.

The result may be that Islamic State has reached an important crossroads. The strategy that it has relied on so far to fuel its expansion is becoming increasingly untenable. If Islamic State is going to hold on to its recent gains, it has some policy changes to make. Read the rest of this entry »

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