A day after Britain's military launched its first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the question is: Who will be next to join the U.S.-led coalition in its air campaign against the extremists who have seized a swath of Iraq and Syria?
BAGHDAD, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- At least 81 people were killed on Wednesday in air strikes and clashes between the Iraqi security forces and insurgent militants, including those with the Islamic State (IS) group, security sources said. In Salahudin province, north of Baghdad, Iraqi security forces....
The Foreign Minister addressing the UN Bahrain on way to build a better future NEW YORK, 1 days ago Bahrain will continue its march on the path of reform - to consolidate its achievements and build a better future. In this regard, the fourth parliamentary and municipal elections to be held in....
Turkish Kurd protesters run away from tear gas fired by riot police near a Turkish-Syrian border town. Reuters/Murad Sezer Kurds seize Iraq/Syria border post ARBIL, Iraq/MURSITPINAR, Turkey, 11 hours, 43 minutes ago Iraqi Kurdish troops drove Islamic State fighters from a strategic border crossing....
Dubai: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has told the BBC he “totally” opposes Arab nations joining air strikes against Daesh in his country. In an interview, he said Western air power had “filled many gaps” in Iraq’s fight against Daesh. Several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan,....
In the space of a short few months, the self-styled Islamic State (also known by the acronym ISIS) has claimed to have established a fundamentalist state and revived the Caliphate, while seemingly monopolizing the market on young foreign fighters from Europe and North America, while conducting a sophisticated social media and propaganda campaign.
In perhaps the first such instance in China, a city in the country’s restive Xinjiang region has banned beards and burqas or veils worn by Muslim women within days of a major terrorist attack and subsequent police action that killed nearly 100 people in the bordering Kashgar area.Authorities in Karamay banned “five groups of people” — those who wear burqa, head scarves, veils or hijab, any clothing bearing the cres
cent moon and star, as well as those with long beards, statecontrolled media reported on Wednesday . The ban disallows people in this group from using facilities like bus es and other means of public transport and has been effective since Monday. This is in view of a local sports competition on August 20, the newspaper said, and may be extended beyond that.Even more controversially, state leaders in Xinjiang are working on a proposal to amend existing rules on family planning. So far, Muslims are exempt from the country’s one-child policy, which has now been relaxed to allow up to two children.
Southern Xinjiang will “implement family planning
policy equally on all ethnic groups, to lower and stabilize an appropriate birth rate”, a Communist Party leader, Zhang Chunxian, wrote in the August edition of Qiushi, an official magazine of the Communist party. More than 45% of Xinjiang’s 22 million people are Uighur Muslims who speak Turkic language.Chinese authorities have earlier discouraged Muslim government employees from fasting during the holy month of Ramzan on the grounds that it can affect their health and performance.
Source – TOI – Chidanand.Rajghatta @timesgroup.com -
“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism.” This eloquent quote by former senior FBI special agent David Gomez speaks to what is now emerging as an “out of control” surveillance program initiated by the Obama administration in its overarching effort to monitor terrorist links.That the US is engaged in unprecedented snooping is known for some time now thanks to Edward Snowden.
But fresh disclosures from a new source, based on classified files leaked to the website Intercept, suggests that Washington may be running amok, putting under surveillance hundreds of thousands merely on suspicion.
The disclosures, which could cause fresh consternation in world capitals that have not signed on to the program, reveal that the CIA uses a previously unknown program, codenamed Hydra, to “secretly access databases maintained by foreign countries and extract data to add to the US watchlists”.
According to the disclosures, there are around 7,00,000 people caught up in
the US’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSD) — a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments. Of them, more than 40%(2,80,000) are described as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, dwarfing the number of people suspected of ties with al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.According to the documents, the Obama administration has also boosted the number of people on the nofly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000.
The government adds information to the database at a rate of 900 records each day.
The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” is in Dearborn, Michigan, a city that has the largest percentage of Muslims in the country.
Mail Today Bureau New Delhi, June 20, 2014 | UPDATED 10:18 IST
India was on Thursday grappling with the task of establishing contact with those responsible for the abduction of 40 Indian construction workers in the war- torn Iraqi city of Mosul, which has become the first foreign policy challenge of the new NDA government.
People from Iraqi Shiite Turkmen families who have fled the violence in Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
The Iraq government has traced the location of the kidnapped men, who mostly belong to Punjab and other parts of northern India, but there was little clarity on who was holding them. In an indirect expression of concern about the well- being of the men, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said there was ” no safety in captivity”. Crisis management group formed by the foreign ministry met twice on Thursday – with both meetings personally chaired by External Affairs MinisterSushma Swaraj – to take stock of the options and to assess the safety and security of all the Indians in Iraq.
As more details emerged from Iraq, it became apparent that the Indian workers, employed by the Baghdad- based Tariq Noor Al- Huda Construction Company, were abducted on Sunday. This was a full three days before the government confirmed the kidnappings.
Sources said the men were captured while they were apparently being moved out of the second largest city of Mosul, overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS) last week.
The families of several kidnapped men from Punjab, too, have said that their last contact with them was on Sunday. Though media reports claimed the abducted men were safe and would even be handed over to any representative of the Indian government, the foreign ministry said the Iraqi government had confirmed they were in custody.
The initial information, based on inputs from the Red Crescent, about the kidnappings had been ” reconfirmed by the Iraq government”, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. Asked if the Indians were safe, he said: ” There is no safety captivity. Safety is when people are places where they are welcome.” He added: ” We have been informed by Iraq’s foreign ministry that they have been able to determine the location where these abducted Indian nationals are being held captive with workers of a few other nationalities.” Though he did not give details, sources said the other detained persons included Turkish and Bangladeshi nationals.
He refused to provide details of the location where the Indians are being held ” or what the Iraqis have shared with us in terms of possibilities”. Suresh Reddy, India’s former envoy to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad on Thursday to reinforce efforts to secure the release of the kidnapped men and to facilitate the evacuation of Indian nationals.
Reddy, believed to have key contacts in the government and local tribal leaders, participated in several meetings during the day.
Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq, told Mail Today that there was little information about the Indians in Mosul.
He said the 46 nurses from Kerala stranded at a teaching hospital in Tikrit were ” fine”. The parties to the conflict included the ISIS, other armed groups and tribal leaders, he said.
There are an estimated 10,000 Indians living across Iraq, but the External Affairs Ministry says only a little over 100 are in areas affected by violence, including the 40 kidnapped men.
MEA APPOINTS SPECIAL TEAM
The crisis management group, formed by the External Affairs Ministry to oversee efforts to rescue the 40 Indians abducted in Iraq and to arrange the evacuation of other Indians, is headed by Secretary ( East) Anil Wadhwa.
It was formed on Tuesday after reports emerged that nearly 90 Indians were stranded in Iraq. On Thursday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj personally chaired two meetings of the group.
The other members of the crisis management group are Joint Secretary ( Gulf) Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary ( WANA) Sandeep Kumar and Joint Secretary ( Americas) Vikram Doraiswami.
India has confirmed that 40 of its citizens have been kidnapped in the violence-hit Iraqi city of Mosul.
The men were construction workers, a ministry of external affairs spokesman said. India had not received any ransom demand, he added.
A 24-hour helpline has been set up for the families and a special envoy is being sent to Baghdad.
On Tuesday, the government said it was in touch with 46 Indian nurses stranded in a hospital in Tikrit.
Tikrit and Mosul are under the control of the militant Sunni group ISIS. They are among a number of Iraqi towns and cities seized in the past week.
“Forty Indian workers of the Tariq Noor Al Huda company in Mosul have been kidnapped,” foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in Delhi.
“We have not received any calls of any nature asking for ransom… and it is not known where they are being held,” he added.
The workers are mostly from northern India.
Earlier on Wednesday, India had said it was unable to contact the men, leading to speculation that they had been abducted.
Meanwhile, the nurses stranded in Tikrit have told BBC Hindi that they are safe, but a new management which has now taken over the hospital has refused to pay their salary arrears that have been pending for two to four months.
The nurses said they were confined to a dormitory within the hospital and had had no work for the last few days because only the emergency department at the hospital was working.
While a group of 14 nurses want to return home, the others say they want to work in other safer parts of Iraq.
India says it is in contact with the Red Crescent and the United Nations, but it is safer for the nurses to stay put in the hospital since it is not safe to travel by road at the moment.
India has issued a travel advisory telling its citizens to not travel to Iraq, and those already there to leave.
BAGHDAD – As the Iraqi government bolstered Baghdad’s defenses Sunday, the Islamic militant group that captured two major cities last week posted graphic photos that appeared to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.
The pictures on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The final images show the bodies of the captives soaked in blood after being shot.
They’re not the only images showing how ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, punishes captured Iraqi soldiers. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports from Baghdad that a video appears to show Iraqi special forces soldiers being interrogated by Sunni militants.
The soldiers are denounced as unbelievers and shot one by one in the back of the head.
The grisly images could further sharpen sectarian tensions as hundreds of Shiites heed a call from their most revered spiritual leader to take up arms against the Sunni militants who have swept across the north. ISIS has vowed to take the battle to Baghdad and cities further south housing revered Shiite shrines.
The workers will be temporarily relocated to consulates in Basra and Erbil and to a support unit in Amman, Jordan, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The embassy will remain open, and additional U.S. security personnel will be added to the embassy’s staff, Psaki said.
While the city of seven million is not in any immediate danger of falling into the hands of the militants, Sunday’s bombings could raise tensions. Food prices in the city have risen, twofold in some cases, because of disruption to transport on the main road heading north from the capital.
The government bolstered defenses around Baghdad Sunday, a day after hundreds of Shiite men paraded through the streets with arms in response to a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to defend their country. ISIS has vowed to attack Baghdad but its advance to the south seems to have stalled in recent days. Thousands of Shiites have also volunteered to join the fight against ISIS, also in response to al-Sistani’s call.
Despite the added security, a string of explosions killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30 in the city, police and hospital officials said. One car bomb went off in the city center, killing 10 and wounding 21. After nightfall, another explosion hit the area, killing two and wounding five. The third went off near a falafel shop in the city’s sprawling Sadr City district, killing three and wounding seven.
Baghdad has seen an escalation in suicide and car bombings in recent months, mostly targeting Shiite neighborhoods or security forces.
Armed police, including SWAT teams, were seen over the weekend manning checkpoints in Baghdad, searching vehicles and checking drivers’ documents. Security was particularly tightened on the northern and western approaches of the city, the likely targets of any advance by ISIS fighters on the capital. The city looked gloomy on Sunday, with thin traffic and few shoppers in commercial areas.
At one popular park along the Tigris river, only a fraction of the thousands who usually head there were present on Sunday evening. In the commercial Karada district in central Baghdad, many of the sidewalk hawkers who sell anything from shoes to toys and clothes were absent.
The crisis in Iraq has prompted the United States to order an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf. It also laid out specific ways for Iraq to show it is forging the national unity necessary to gain assistance in its fight against ISIS and other militants.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday ordered the USS George H.W. Bush from the northern Arabian Sea as President Obama considered possible military options for Iraq. Hagel’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said the move will give Mr. Obama additional flexibility if military action were required to protect American citizens and interests in Iraq.
Accompanying the carrier will be the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun. The ships, which carry Tomahawk missiles that could reach Iraq, were expected to complete their move into the Persian Gulf by the end of the day. The Bush’s fighter jets also could easily reach Iraq.
In neighboring Iran, the acting commander of the Islamic Republic’s army ground forces, Gen. Kiomars Heidari, said Iran has increased its defenses along its western border with Iraq, though there was no immediate threat to the frontier.
In Baghdad, Iraqi government officials said ISIS fighters were trying to capture the city of Tal Afar in northern Iraq on Sunday and raining down rockets seized last week from military arms depots. The officials said the local garrison suffered heavy casualties and the town’s main hospital was unable to cope with the number of wounded, without providing exact numbers.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. Tal Afar is mainly inhabited by Turkmen, an ethnic minority.
Iraq’s top military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed that fighting was raging at Tal Afar, but indicated that the militants were suffering heavy casualties. On all fronts north of the capital, he said, a total of 297 militants have been killed in the past 24 hours.
There was no way to independently confirm his claims.
ISIS and allied Sunni militants captured a vast swath of northern Iraq last week, including second city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, as Iraqi troops, many of them armed and trained by the U.S., fled in disarray, surrendering vehicles, weapons and ammunition to the powerful extremist group, which also fights in Syria.
The captions of the photos say the killings were to avenge the killing of an ISIS commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy, whose death was reported by both the government and ISIS shortly before the al-Qaida splinter group’s lightning offensive, which has plunged Iraq into its bloodiest crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.
“This is the fate that awaits the Shiites sent by Nouri to fight the Sunnis,” one caption read, apparently referring to Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Moussawi, the military spokesman, confirmed the photos’ authenticity and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas held by ISIS.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay warned on Friday of “murder of all kinds” and other war crimes in Iraq, and said the number killed in recent days may run into the hundreds, while the wounded could approach 1,000.
Speaking in Geneva, she said her office has received reports that militants rounded up and killed Iraqi soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul.
Her office also heard of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings” after ISIS militants overran Iraqi cities and towns, the statement said.
Most of the soldiers who appear in the pictures are in civilian clothes. Some are shown wearing military uniforms underneath, indicating they may have hastily disguised themselves as civilians to try to escape.
Many soldiers and policemen left their uniforms and equipment behind as the militants swept into Mosul, Tikrit and surrounding areas.
The captions did not provide a date or location, but al-Moussawi said the killings took place in Salahuddin province, the capital of which is Tikrit.
Some of the pictures appeared to show some of the soldiers pleading for their lives, others seemed terrified.
All soldiers appeared in their early 20s, with some wearing the jerseys of such European soccer clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona. Some of the militants wore black baggy pants and shirts, many of them had sandals or flip flops.
Iraqi authorities appear to be trying to limit the dissemination of such images and other militant propaganda being shared through social media and to deny the militants their use for operational purposes.
Martin Frank, the CEO of IQ Networks, an Internet service provider in Iraq, told The Associated Press that authorities have ordered multiple social media sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to be blocked. On Sunday, they tightened the restrictions further by telling network operators to halt traffic for virtual private networks, which allow users to bypass Internet filters.
Internet traffic in several areas overrun by militants, including Mosul and Tikrit, was ordered to be cut off altogether, he said.
Armed group claims responsibility for kidnapping 276 girls in Nigeria and threatens to “sell them in the marketplace”.
Source – Al Jazeera
Last updated: 06 May 2014 00:24
The Nigerian armed group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the abduction of 276 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month, the AFP news agency reported, citing a video it had obtained.
“I abducted your girls,” the group’s leader Abubakar Shekau said on Monday in the 57-minute video obtained by the agency, referring to the hundreds of students kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14.
“By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace,” he said in the video that starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great”.
Boko Haram allegedly stormed the all-girl secondary school, then packed the teenagers, who had been taking exams, onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.
Boko Haram, now seen as the main security threat to Africa’s leading energy producer, is growing bolder and extending its reach.
The apparent lack of capability of the military to prevent the Chibok attack or rescue the abducted girls after three weeks has triggered anger and protests in the northeast and in the capital Abuja.
Carl Levan, assistant professor at the School of International Service at the American University
Protest leader arrested
In a separate development, a leader of a protest march in support of the schoolgirls has said that Nigeria’s First Lady ordered her and another protest leader to be arrested, expressing doubts that there had been any kidnapping and accused them of belonging to the group blamed for the abductions.
Saratu Angus Ndirpaya said state security service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station on Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital.
She said police immediately released her but that Nyadar remained in detention.
A national police spokesman referred a journalist to the spokeswoman for police in Abuja. Reached on the phone, the spokeswoman said she was driving and could not immediately respond, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Other reports said three women had been arrested on Sunday night.
Ndirpaya said First Lady Patience Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions.
“She [Jonathan] told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband’s rule,” she said in a telephone interview with AP.
Ndirpaya said other women at the meeting cheered and chanted “yes, yes,” when the First Lady accused them of belonging to Boko Haram.
“They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.”
She said Nyadar and herself do not have daughters among those abducted, but were supporting the mothers of the kidnapped daughters.
Fifty-three of the girls managed to escape from the fighters, who want to introduce Islamic law in the country, but 223 were still being held, state police said last Friday.
The mass abduction and failure to rescue the girls, now in a fourth week of captivity, is a source of deep embarrassment to the Nigerian government, which is accused of insensitivity to the girls’ plight and not doing enough to rescue them.
Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram – which has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and now abductions – is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.
Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.
This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.
Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.
Boko Haram has attacked many schools in northern Nigeria
The group launched its insurgency in 2009
It has targeted both civilians and the military
The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.
But residents in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the group had its headquarters, dubbed it Boko Haram.
Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, this means “Western education is forbidden”.
Boko originally meant fake but came to signify Western education, while haram means forbidden.
Since the Sokoto caliphate, which ruled parts of what is now northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon, fell under British control in 1903, there has been resistance among some of the area’s Muslims to Western education.
They still refuse to send their children to government-run “Western schools”, a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.
Against this background, the charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002. He set up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school.
Many poor Muslim families from across Nigeria, as well as neighbouring countries, enrolled their children at the school.
But Boko Haram was not only interested in education. Its political goal was to create an Islamic state, and the school became a recruiting ground for jihadis.
Boko Haram in 60 seconds
In 2009, Boko Haram carried out a spate of attacks on police stations and other government buildings in Maiduguri.
This led to shoot-outs on Maiduguri’s streets. Hundreds of Boko Haram supporters were killed and thousands of residents fled the city.
Nigeria’s security forces eventually seized the group’s headquarters, capturing its fighters and killing Mr Yusuf.
His body was shown on state television and the security forces declared Boko Haram finished.
A state of emergency is in force in three northern Nigerian states
But its fighters regrouped under a new leader, Abubakar Shekau, and have stepped up their insurgency.
In 2010, the US designated it a terrorist organisation, amid fears that it had developed links with other militant groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to wage a global jihad.
The deployment of troops has driven many of the militants out of Maiduguri, their main urban base”
Boko Haram’s trademark was originally the use of gunmen on motorbikes, killing police, politicians and anyone who criticises it, including clerics from other Muslim traditions and Christian preachers.
The group has also staged more audacious attacks in northern and central Nigeria, including bombing churches, bus ranks, bars, military barracks and even the police and UN headquarters in the capital, Abuja.
Amid growing concern about the escalating violence, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in the three northern states where Boko Haram is the strongest – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
The deployment of troops has driven many of the militants out of Maiduguri, their main urban base and they have now retreated to the vast Sambisa forest, along the border with Cameroon.
Thousands of reinforcements have been sent to Maiduguri but the attacks continue
From there, the group’s fighters have launched mass attacks on villages, looting, killing and burning properties in what appeared to be a warning to rural people not to collaborate with the security forces, as residents of Maiduguri had done.
Northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups”
Boko Haram has also stepped up its campaign against Western education, which it believes corrupts the moral values of Muslims, especially girls, by attacking two boarding schools – in Yobe in March and in Chibok in April.
It abducted more than 200 schoolgirls during the Chibok raid, saying it would treat them as slaves and marry them off – a reference to an ancient Islamic belief that women captured in conflict are part of the “war booty”.
It made a similar threat in May 2013, when it released a video, saying it had taken women and children – including teenage girls – hostage in response to the arrest of its members’ wives and children. There was later a prison swap, with both sides releasing the women and children.
The Chibok abductions caused outrage across Nigeria
At the same time, Boko Haram has continued with its urban bombing campaign, targeting the capital on 14 April, when at least 70 people were killed in an explosion near a car park and on 2 May when 19 people died.
This shows that not only does Boko Haram have a fighting force, but also cells that specialise in bombings.
Analysts say northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups, but Boko Haram has outlived them and has proved to be far more lethal, with a global jihadi agenda.
The threat will disappear only if Nigeria’s government manages to reduce the region’s chronic poverty and builds an education system which gains the support of local Muslims, the analysts say.
Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states. While in the oil-rich south-east, the residents of Delta and Akwa Ibom complain that all the wealth they generate flows up the pipeline to Abuja and Lagos.
Boko Haram at a glance
Founded in 2002
Official Arabic name, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”
Initially focused on opposing Western education
Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning, “Western education is forbidden”
Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf (above) killed in same year in police custody
Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau
Military claims to have killed Shekau have turned out to be untrue