Monday (3-6-17)

  • Suspected U.S. drones fired missiles at al Qaeda targets in two separate attacks in Yemen on Monday, residents said, extending several days of U.S. strikes against the terrorists. Residents said an air strike hit the home of an al Qaeda suspect in the village of Noufan in central al-Bayda province, and another struck a mountainous area believed to house a training camp in al-Saeed in southern Shabwa province. There were no immediate reports on casualties in the raids, which took place in areas controlled by al Qaeda fighters.
  • U.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Monday captured Mosul's al-Hurriya bridge, which leads to the Islamic State-held old city center from the south. The al-Hurriya bridge is the second to be secured by the Iraqi forces in the city, after securing one located further south, in the offensive that started on the western part of Mosul on February 19th.
  • U.S.-backed Syrian militias cut the last main road out of ISIS-held Raqqa on Monday, severing the highway between the group's de facto capital and its stronghold of Deir al-Zor province, a militia spokesman said. The development, confirmed by a British-based organization that monitors Syria's war, marks a major blow against the Islamic State group that is under intense military pressure in both Syria and Iraq. It is losing ground to three separate campaigns in northern Syria by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militias, the Russian-backed Syrian army, and Turkey and allied Syrian rebels.
  • An accused al Qaeda operative charged with engaging in attacks on U.S. forces that killed at least two American servicemen in Afghanistan is set to face trial on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known by the nom de guerre Spin Ghul, or White Rose in the Pashto language, is accused of conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to a terrorist group, among other charges. An anonymous jury will hear the case, which is not uncommon in national security trials. Harun, 47, is not expected to be in court. Since his extradition from Italy in October 2012, the Saudi-born defendant has insisted he is a "warrior" who should face a military tribunal rather than criminal proceedings and has registered his dissent through increasingly aggressive courtroom behavior.
  • Five Pakistani soldiers were killed in attacks on northwestern border checkpoints launched by dozens of terrorists based in Afghanistan, Pakistan's military said on Monday, as officials demanded that the neighboring country rein in such violence. Relations between the two countries are tense, and each routinely accuses the other of doing too little to prevent Taliban fighters and other terrorists from operating in its territory. "Dozens" of militants from across the border stormed security posts ‎in Pakistan's Mohmand Agency on Sunday night, said senior security officials based in the region. Pakistan's military said 10 terrorists were killed in the ensuing exchange of fire and asked Afghan authorities to strengthen surveillance in border areas.
  • Suspected al Qaeda fighters opened fired on a Yemeni military checkpoint in the southern province of Abyan on Sunday, a security official and residents said, killing six troops and a civilian.
  • Bahrain's top government advisory body passed a constitutional amendment allowing suspected terrorists to be tried in military courts on Sunday, state news agency BNA reported, in a move criticized by activists. Bahrain's Shura Council approved the amendment on the grounds that it would protect the Gulf island kingdom from militant attacks, and the justice minister said that those perpetrating attacks had forfeited access to civilian courts.
  • Malaysia has arrested six foreigners and one Malaysian for suspected links to terrorist groups including ISIS, the police chief said on Sunday. The Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since suicide bombers and gunmen linked to ISIS launched multiple attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.
  • Jordan executed 15 people on Saturday, including 10 convicted on terrorism charges ranging from an attack a decade ago on Western tourists to the slaying of a writer in the largest mass execution in the country's recent history. Government spokesman Mohammad al Momani told state media those executed included one man who was convicted of an attack last year on an intelligence compound near a Palestinian camp that killed five security personnel. Another five were involved in an assault by security forces on a terrorist hideout by suspected ISIS fighters in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer. The rest related to separate incidents that go back as far as 2003.
  • ISIS has severely damaged a major Roman monument in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, an antiquities official said after visiting the site on Saturday. Under heavy Russian air cover, the Syrian army and allied militias drove the jihadist group out of the UNESCO world heritage site on Thursday, two months after it had seized it in a surprise advance. It was the second time the city had been recaptured from the militants in the course of Syria's six-year war.
  • The US military has launched more than 30 airstrikes against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen in three separate provinces last week. Such a large number of strikes is unprecedented in Yemen and indicates a changing US approach to attacking al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, possibly acting on new intelligence gained from a controversial raid by US special operations forces in late January. It is unknown how many AQAP fighters were killed during the operation. AQAP has not announced the death of any senior leaders.

Tuesday (3-7-17)

  • Iraqi government forces fighting to drive ISIS from western Mosul on Tuesday recaptured the main government building, the central bank branch and the museum where three years ago the terrorists had smashed statues and artifacts. The government buildings had been destroyed and were not used by ISIS, but their capture still represented a symbolic victory in the battle over the militants' last major stronghold in Iraq. An elite Rapid Response team stormed the Nineveh governorate building and government complex in an overnight raid, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi said. They also seized a building that housed Islamic State's main court of justice, known for its harsh sentences, including stonings, throwing people off building roofs and chopping off hands, reflecting ISIS’ extreme ideology.
  • U.S.-backed Syrian militias will tighten the chokehold on ISIS’ base in Raqqa, after cutting the last main road out of the city, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) severed the highway between Raqqa and the jihadists' stronghold of Deir al-Zor province on Monday, dealing a major blow to ISIS which is under intense military pressure in both Syria and Iraq. ISIS is losing ground to three separate campaigns in northern Syria - by the SDF militias, by the Russian-backed Syrian army, and by Turkey and allied Syrian rebels. The SDF advance means all main roads out of Raqqa are now cut. The U.S.-backed militias now plan to capture surrounding rural areas and advance towards the city to isolate it completely.
  • The U.S. military has deployed a small number of forces in and around the Syrian city of Manbij as part of a new role to ensure that the different parties in the area do not attack each other, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday. Captain Jeff Davis said the forces were stationed inside and to the west of Manbij starting last week to be a "visible sign of deterrence and reassurance." While U.S forces have carried out training and advising missions in Manbij, this is the first time they have been deployed to make sure that Turkey- and U.S.-backed forces do not attack each other and focus on fighting ISIS.
  • Suspected U.S. drones killed two suspected al Qaeda terrorists in a missile strike in southern Yemen, tribal sources and residents said on Monday, keeping up pressure on the Islamist group after a push that began last week. U.S. officials in Washington said the United States carried out at least one new air strike on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) overnight on Monday and has waged several strikes since Saturday, but gave no further details. Residents and tribal sources said a drone had fired a missile at a car traveling in Wadi Yashbum on Monday afternoon, destroying it completely. They said the bodies of two local men believed to be members of al Qaeda were found charred beyond recognition.
  • Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that a former Guantanamo detainee known as Yasir al Silmi was killed in an airstrike in Yemen on March 2. Al Silmi is identified as Muhammad Yasir Ahmed Taher in declassified and leaked files prepared by Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). The Obama administration transferred Taher to Yemen in December 2009.

Wednesday (3-8-17)

  • Gunmen dressed as medics stormed a hospital in the Afghan capital on Wednesday and battled security forces for hours, killing more than 30 people and wounding dozens in an attack claimed by ISIS. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the rear of the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital, across the road from the heavily fortified U.S. embassy, and three attackers with automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the complex, security officials said. Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the attack was suppressed by mid-afternoon, with all three gunmen killed.

  • Iraqi forces saw off an overnight ISIS counter-attack near Mosul's main government building hours after they recaptured it, a military official said on Wednesday, and troops sought to push the terrorists further back. According Major General Ali Kadhem al-Lami of the Federal Police's Fifth Division, ISIS fighters used car bombs in the today they are working on clearing the area which was liberated.
  • Saudi security forces killed a suspected ISIS fighter when he pulled a gun on a patrol in the capital Riyadh, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday. The patrol was trying to check a complaint on Tuesday evening that a resident of a flat in the capital's al-Rayyan district had joined the terror organization.
  • Iraq will continue to hit ISIS targets in Syria, as well as in neighboring countries if they give their approval, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday. "I respect the sovereignty of states, and I have secured the approval of Syria to strike positions (on its territory)," he told a conference in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.
  • U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival. It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the "caliph", who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul's Great Mosque in 2014 , but U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group's leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city. Baghdadi has proved to be an elusive target, rarely using communication that can be monitored, and moving constantly, often multiple times in one 24-hour cycle, the sources say. From their efforts to track him, they believe he hides mostly among sympathetic civilians in familiar desert villages, rather than with fighters in their barracks in urban areas where combat has been under way.
  • The Syrian army and its allies have captured the main water pumping station that supplies Aleppo in a sweeping advance against ISIS that has brought them to the bank of the Euphrates, a group that monitors the conflict said on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army and allied forces made rapid gains east of Aleppo city, as Syrian and Russian planes pounded the rural areas. They recaptured the al-Khafsa area on the western bank of the Euphrates River, where the water treatment and pumping plants are located, after the jihadist group withdrew.

Thursday (3.9.17)

  • Air strikes pounded a town in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor on Thursday, killing seven civilians and injuring more than 70 others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based war monitoring group said two warplanes, believed to be Russian, dropped nearly two dozen bombs on al-Mayadin in ISIS stronghold of Deir al-Zor.
  • A U.S. Marines artillery unit has deployed to Syria in recent days to help local forces speed up efforts to defeat ISIS in Raqqa and the campaign to isolate the city is going "very, very well", the U.S.-led coalition said on Thursday. Coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional U.S. forces would be working with local partners in Syria - the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition - and would not have a front line role. The additional deployment comprises a total of 400 U.S. forces - both Marines and Army Rangers. It adds to around 500 U.S. military personnel already in Syria, Dorrian said.
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday pleaded for help from mayors in Muslim parts of the south to deal with Islamist terrorists, and threatened to impose martial law there if the problem is not tackled. The largely Roman Catholic Philippines has been struggling to thwart two small but violent ISIS-linked groups behind kidnappings, piracy, bombings and the recent beheading of a German captive.
  • Pakistan has indefinitely closed two border crossings with Afghanistan after opening them for two days to let through Afghans with visas, officials said on Thursday. The official border crossings were abruptly ordered closed last month after a series of attacks Pakistan blames on terrorists sheltered in Afghanistan, heightening tension between the neighbors.
  • A twin suicide bombing struck a village wedding north of Baghdad as the wedding party gathered in the evening hours, killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens, a government spokesman said Thursday. The attack, which took place late Wednesday, began when one suicide bomber wearing an explosives-laden belt walked into the wedding party assembled in an open area in Hajaj, near the city of Tikrit, about 80 miles from Baghdad. The bomber detonated his explosives, only to be followed by the second attacker who blew himself up when people had gathered to help the victims of the first explosion. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but suspicion is likely to fall on ISIS, which has staged similar attacks in the past.
  • The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, on Thursday confirmed that the leader of the terrorist group al-Shabaab has surrendered to government forces in Baidoa town in southern Somalia. The AU mission confirmed that Hussein Mukhtar surrendered to the Somali National Army (SNA) on Tuesday following a government amnesty offer for terrorists to surrender.
  • The death toll from an ISIS attack on a military hospital in Kabul by gunmen dressed as medics has risen to 49 with dozens wounded, a senior health official said on Thursday. Salim Rassouli, director of Kabul hospitals, said 49 people had been killed in the attack on the Sardar Mohammad Khan military hospital on Wednesday, with at least 63 wounded.
  • The United States is considering deploying up to 1,000 soldiers to Kuwait as a reserve force in the fight against ISIS in the region. Those in favor of the move said having the reserve force located in Kuwait would provide the U.S. a greater capacity to respond to battlefield challenges. Officials reportedly said the decision will be part of the U.S.’s strategy review to defeat the terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The report said that there are about 6,000 troops serving mainly as advisers in the area.

Friday (3-10-17)

  • Al Shabaab said its fighters have assaulted an airport in the southern town of Bardere, located in Gedo region on Thursday morning, killing a number of African Union Mission in Somalia soldiers. The Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group has announced on its affiliated online media outlets that it killed several soldiers from Ethiopian forces stationed at the city's airport. Local residents said there has been a heavy exchange of gunfire between the attackers and Ethiopian troops serving under AMISOM. AMISOM, however did not comment on the airport, which is housing hundreds of Ethiopian troops.
  • The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Thursday the arrest of a suspected Palestinian Hezbollah operative who was allegedly instructed to carry out terror attacks against Israelis as well as kidnap Israeli civilians. The suspect, Yusef Yasser Suylam, a 23-year-old based in the Palestinian West Bank town of Qalqiliya, was recently arrested in a joint Shin Bet, Israel Police and IDF operation. Following his arrest, the Shin Bet interrogated Suylam and discovered that Hezbollah had recruited him through social media, luring the young man to join their ranks through a Facebook profile the Shi'ite terror organization regularly uses to track potential recruits.
  • A new U.S. strategy to break a stalemate in Afghanistan will require additional American troops, the head of the U.S. Central Command said on Thursday." I do believe it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the advise and assist mission more effective," Army General Joseph Votel said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Vogel also said as many as 12 civilians died in a raid against al Qaeda in Yemen in late January, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command said on Thursday.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host a 68-nation meeting in Washington this month to discuss the next moves by a coalition fighting ISIS, the State Department said on Thursday. The March 22-23 meeting of coalition foreign ministers aimed "to accelerate international efforts to defeat ISIS in the remaining areas it holds in Iraq and Syria and maximize pressure on its branches, affiliates, and networks," the State Department said in a statement.
  • Iraqi forces aim to dislodge ISIS fighters from west Mosul within a month, despite grueling urban combat in densely populated terrain, the head of the elite Counter Terrorism Service said on Thursday. As Iraqi forces advance deeper into west Mosul, they are facing increasingly stiff resistance from ISIS using suicide car bombs and snipers to defend their last major stronghold in Iraq.
  • Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney urged Iraq and the world’s nations on Thursday not to let ISIS “get away with genocide.” Clooney, who represents victims of ISIS rapes and kidnappings, told a U.N. meeting that what’s “shocking” is not just the group’s brutality but the “passive” response by the world’s nations to the campaign to investigate its crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. She urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a letter to the U.N. Security Council so it can vote to set up an investigation into crimes by the group in Iraq where ISIS once controlled about 40 percent of the country’s territory.
  • Yemen's local al Qaeda wing appealed for help on Thursday to fend off an offensive by the armed Houthi movement in central Yemen, and accused the United States of coordinating attacks with the Iran-aligned group, according to an online statement. Residents say tribesmen in Ansar al-Sharia, the local wing of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and other Islamists known as salafists are the main force holding back the Houthis in Qifa in al-Bayda province, where President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally-recognized government has little control. Ansar al-Sharia referred in the statement on its Telegram channel to repeated air strikes by the United States in recent days. Washington has acknowledged it has stepped up operations against militants in Yemen in the past couple of weeks.