Archive for category Islamic state

ISIS-affiliated militants launch wave of assaults in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

By Erin Cunningham and Loveday Morris
Washington Post
July 1

CAIRO — Militants linked with the Islamic State unleashed a wave of coordinated attacks on security checkpoints in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, the latest strike in a global surge in violence by the group’s sympathizers and one that threatened to push Egypt into a wider conflict with the jihadists.

As many as 70 soldiers and civilians may have been killed in the fighting, officials and local media said. But the Egyptian army said late Wednesday that 17 soldiers and 100 militants died in the clashes. The differing death tolls could not be immediately reconciled.

Wednesday’s attacks came two days after Egypt’s top prosecutor was assassinated in a bombing in the capital, Cairo. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi on Tuesday vowed revenge for his murder, pledging to swiftly implement death sentences against militants and bring down the “heavy hand of the state” on anyone who threatens the country’s stability. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salafism – Politics and the puritanical

Economist
Jun 27th 2015 | ALEXANDRIA AND AMMAN

Islam’s most conservative adherents are finding that politics is hard. But it beats the alternative

WERE it not for his bushy beard and trim moustache, Nader Bakkar could be mistaken for one of Egypt’s secular liberal politicians. The young spokesman for the Nour party is tolerant, reasonable and smart—he is about to begin a fellowship at Harvard. “We are reformers, not revolutionaries,” Mr Bakkar (pictured left) says of his party. “Compromise is not a bad word.” But his facial hair conveys a different message. Mr Bakkar and his party adhere to the ultra-conservative brand of Sunni Islam known as Salafism.

In the West that brand is most associated with extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), whose members are sometimes called Salafist-jihadists; or the intolerance of Saudi Arabia, where adherents are called Wahhabis. The Saudis have used their oil wealth to spread the influence of Salafism across the Muslim world, funding Wahhabi-inspired mosques and madrassas—and, at times, extremist groups. As a result, some think Salafism is the fastest-growing Islamic movement.

It is also growing more diverse. All Salafists take a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulating the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers—al-salaf al-salih, the “pious forefathers”—right down to their facial hair. They reject religious innovation, or bida, and support the implementation of sharia (Islamic law). Salafist scholars, though, are far from homogeneous, expressing different views on everything from apostasy to activism. Most notably, many Salafists now engage in politics despite a tradition of quiescence. But with little to show for their efforts, they must decide whether to push on, withdraw or pursue politics by other means, such as war or terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

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In recurring religious conflicts, Muslim MPs ask where Malaysia is headed

by Joseph Sipalan
Malay Mail Online
June 27, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 ― Muslim lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have raised concerns over the seeming trend of Muslims imposing their beliefs on others, questioning if this is reflective of a wider agenda that is backed by Putrajaya to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.

The federal lawmakers noted that the federal government appeared either unable to stop or even condoning of incidents in which Islamic sensibilities are imposed on the larger society by religious authorities and individuals.

“This issue bothers me because as our forefathers taught us, religion should be about faith and (is) personal,” Umno’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Malay Mail Online via text message.

“I suspect the longer-term objective of these groups is to usurp power through religious means and therefore avoid being legitimately elected.

“While I respect their motives and intentions, the elected government of the day must control the actions of these groups and act in the interest of all the citizens of the country,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Jihadist Trap of Here and Now

By Scott Stewart
Security Weekly
Stratfor Global Intelligence

JUNE 25, 2015

In recent weeks, I have found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the jihadist strategy of al Qaeda and how it compares to that of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I wrote about the possibility that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could outlast that of the Islamic State. Last week, I wrote about how ideologies are harder to kill than individuals, focusing on the effect that the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi will have on the group and the wider global jihadist movement.

But beyond the impact of leaders like al-Wahayshi, there are other facets of strategy that will influence the war for the soul of jihadism. Specifically, I am talking about time and place. Both al Qaeda and the Islamic State seek to establish a global caliphate, but both differ quite starkly in how to accomplish this task and how soon it can be achieved. Read the rest of this entry »

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Erdogan succumbs to the fog of politics

David Gardner
Financial Times
June 17, 2015

A striking collapse of judgement in a leader who once mesmerized his electorate

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant this week suffered another defeat at the hands of Syrian Kurdish fighters who captured Tel Abyad, a town that Isis had held since last summer, when it declared its cross-border caliphate and convulsed the heart of the Middle East.

The striking victory by the Syrian Kurdish militia, affiliated with the Democratic Union party (PYD), brings with it two momentous changes. The Syrian Kurds can now link up territory they hold from the border of the self-ruling Kurdistan Regional Government(KRG)in northern Iraq, through Tel Abyad, on the Turkish-Syrian border, and on westwards to Kobani, recaptured from the jihadis this year after a long emblematic siege that cemented the collaboration between PYD forces on the ground and the US-led coalition against Isis.

But second, the capture of Tel Abyad severs the Isis supply line from the Turkish border to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the caliphate it calls Islamic State. This is — for now — a body blow to the jihadis, and a real advance for the coalition after the recent Isis capture of Palmyra in central Syria and Ramadi in western Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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