Archive for category Islamic state

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.
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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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What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

By Graeme Wood
MARCH 2015
The Atlantic

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside the Islamic State ‘capital’: no end in sight to its grim rule

Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi
Observer
21 February 2015

US air strikes have damaged morale in Raqqa, Syria, but a local anti-Isis activist says no one is expecting the group to be driven out

When Isis took over Raqqa, a wave of black swept over the city. The group’s dark flags were raised where its members lived or worked, women were required to shroud themselves in black, and black paint was daubed on buildings and in public spaces.

When US air strikes started, though, activists warned families not to dry dark clothes outside or on their roofs, in case they were mistaken for Isis flags. Perhaps Isis was worried, too, as it has started repainting everything. One central square, where crucifixion and other gruesome punishments are carried out in public, has been decked out in candy colours – pink, green and white. Another is golden.

Apparently, the pressures of publicity and the mundane and expensive business of ruling a city have pushed even Isis to make some compromises.

Last summer, crimes like smoking or failing to shutter a shop during prayer time would have earned transgressors several dozen lashes, but some religious police have started to accept fines in place of punishment from those who can afford it. There are even reports that they have been forcing traders to stay open through prayers, so that they can collect more money from them – around 1,500 Syrian pounds (around £5) each time.

It is not just money that they are short of. They lack blood for fighters injured in air strikes or on the frontline. People don’t want to donate, so they compel them. Anyone with business at the Islamic court is told first to go to a certain hospital, donate a pint of blood, then return with the receipt. Only then will the case be processed.

You can’t pay your way out of that donation, even if you do have money, which not everyone does. They have shut down many companies, including legal firms, for instance. Isis doesn’t believe in the old legal system, claiming that it tries to replace Allah’s law with the law of men. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Islamic State is expanding its empire of terror

Emma Graham-Harrison
Observer
21 February 2015

Unlike the slow and careful rise of al-Qaida, Isis is extending its global reach far and fast – sometimes to groups with very different beliefs

Marched on to a Libyan beach in now gruesomely familiar orange jumpsuits, the last moments of 21 Coptic Christians carried the vicious jolt of previous Isis snuff videos, but with an added charge of fear.

The setting, in Libya, suggested that the group was spreading further and faster than even their dramatic early advances seem possible, and it came after vows of allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by militants from Afghanistan to Yemen.

“With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint,” Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, warned the US House of Representatives this month.

The beheading of a tourist in Algeria, a meticulously videoed attack on an Egyptian army base, including the casual murder of surviving soldiers, a suicide bombing in Tripoli’s smartest hotel – all were recently masterminded by militants publicly loyal to a group whose name once defined its geography: “Islamic state in Iraq and Syria”.

Affiliates are adopting their slick media production along with bloody tactics, amplifying the influence of the violence. The murder of the Egyptian Christians has already drawn bombing raids on Libya by Egyptian jets, which may suit some Isis commanders keen to draw enemies into an expensive and draining war.

There are echoes of al-Qaida’s global expansion, even as its leader shrank into hiding, through loyal but virtually autonomous units in Yemen, north and east Africa, and other areas. But al-Qaida expanded slowly and carefully, vetting would-be allies that wanted to use its terrifying brand in their own battles.

Isis by contrast has already welcomed several would-be supporters under what seems to be a looser umbrella, among them Afghan fighters whom analysts say have significant theological differences with the group. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jordan Executes Prisoners After ISIS Video of Pilot’s Death

By ROD NORDLAND and RANYA KADRI
New York Times
Feb. 3, 2015

AMMAN, Jordan — When relatives learned Tuesday night that the Islamic State had released a video showing the death of a Jordanian fighter pilot, First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, they tried to keep it from his mother, Issaf, and his wife, Anwar. They switched off the television and tried to wrest a smartphone out of his wife’s hand, but she had already seen a mobile news bulletin.

Anwar ran crying into the street, calling her husband’s name and saying, “Please, God, let it not be true.” Issaf fell to the floor screaming, pulled her head scarf off and started tearing at her hair.

That was even before they knew how he had been killed. No one dared let them know right away that Lieutenant Kasasbeh’s tormentors had apparently burned him alive inside a cage, a killing that was soon described as the most brutal in the group’s bloody history.

Jordan responded rapidly, executing Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted after attempting a suicide bombing, and Ziad al-Karbouli, a top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, before dawn on Wednesday, according to the official news agency Petra. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four views on Islam and the state

Can Islam support a secular, democratic government?
Christian Science Monitor
August 30, 2007

I need a secular state

By Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im

ALTANTA – To be a Muslim by conviction and free choice – which is the only way one can be a Muslim – I need to live in a secular state. By a secular state, I mean one that is neutral regarding religious doctrine to facilitate genuine piety. The state should not enforce sharia (the religious law of Islam) because compliance should never be coerced by fear or faked to appease state officials. When observed voluntarily, sharia-based values can help shape laws and public policy through the democratic process. But if sharia principles are enacted as state law, the outcome will simply be the political will of the state.
Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Many Muslims equate secularism with antireligious attitudes. Yet I believe that a secular state can promote genuine religious experience among believers and affirm the role of Islam in public life.

The so-called Islamic state is conceptually incoherent and historically unprecedented. There simply is no scriptural basis for an “Islamic state” to enforce sharia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State shows burning of hostage, Jordan vows ‘earth-shaking’ response

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Reuters
Feb 3, 2015

AMMAN (Reuters) – Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, and Jordan vowed to avenge his death with an “earth-shaking” response.

A Jordanian official said the authorities would execute several militants jailed in Jordan in response, including a Iraqi woman who Amman had sought to swap for the pilot taken captive after his plane crashed in Syria in December.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the content of the video, which showed a man resembling airman Mouath al-Kasaesbeh standing in a black cage before being set ablaze. But the reaction of the Jordanian authorities made clear they treated it as genuine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not

Akbar Ganji
Dissident Iranian journalist; Intl. Press Association World Press Freedom Hero
World Post
01/27/2015

Introduction

Extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front in Syria, have transformed the holy Quran into a manifesto for war, terrorism and bloodshed. These groups use the most modern weaponry and technology, and their crimes have created worldwide concerns. Their goal is to return the Islamic world to the medieval age.

At the same time, the corrupt dictatorial Arab regimes in the Middle East, particularly the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, have transformed the democratic Arab Spring into a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis, in order to prevent democracy from taking roots in their own nations.

Simultaneous with such developments, a Western-made “industry” called Islamophobia not only presents the Holy Quran as the manifesto of fundamentalist warmongers (that claim to represent Islam) and their rigid interpretation of its teachings, it also reduces Islam to its skewed “interpretations.” This reductionist approach has been popular among the Orientalists. The approach also claims that formation of an Islamic government is a necessary condition for a society to be Islamic.

As I will argue in this essay, these claims are false.

Islam and secularism are completely compatible. What I call “secular Islam” is thus the best antidote for Islamic terrorism. “Secular Islam” means that the collection of beliefs, moral values and teachings which comprise Islam do not confer on Muslims a mission to form a government or state. The idea of establishing an Islamic state based on the Quran and the Sunnah is incorrect, as neither presents a model for such a state. Read the rest of this entry »

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