Monday (2-27-17)

  • Iraqi forces seized a damaged Mosul bridge on Monday which could link up their units on either side of the Tigris river, as thousands of civilians fled the fighting for ISIS’ remaining stronghold in the west of the city. U.S.-backed army and police units advanced through populated western districts, fighting tough street battles, and announced they had captured Mosul's southernmost bridge. Once repaired, the bridge could help bring reinforcements and supplies from the eastern side, piling pressure on the militants dug in the western side among 750,000 civilians.
  • The Philippines on Monday condemned the "barbaric beheading" of a German captive by ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who posted a video of the killing after a deadline for a $600,000 ransom passed. The video showed a machete-wielding militant behead the elderly German hostage, Jurgen Kantner, who had appealed for help twice in short video messages, saying he would be killed if ransom was not paid.
  • A car bomb went off in the Somali capital on Monday, wounding three people. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the explosion. In the past, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab has taken responsibility for blasts and gun attacks in the capital. Al Shabaab has been able to carry out increasingly deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government.
  • Israeli aircraft carried out a series of strikes in Gaza on Monday, wounding at least four people, witnesses said, after a rocket fired from the Palestinian territory hit an empty area in southern Israel. The Israeli military said its planes attacked five positions belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, in response to the rocket strike. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attack. Israel said that it holds Hamas accountable for what happens in the territory.
  • After having been declared dead several times in the past, a senior Taliban commander has been killed in an air strike in northern Afghanistan, officials of the terrorist group confirmed on Monday. Mullah Abdul Salam Akhund, who commanded Taliban forces in Kunduz, was one of three fighters killed in a weekend strike by an unmanned aircraft, according to a senior Taliban official in the province. The Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed Akhund's death in a statement, while a U.S. military spokesman said an American warplane had conducted a strike in Kunduz on Sunday, but the command did "not have confirmation of the results."
  • Indonesian police killed a terrorist on Monday after he detonated a small bomb in the city of Bandung and authorities said they were investigating whether he had links to a radical network sympathetic to ISIS.
  • ISIS claimed responsibility on Monday for a foiled bomb attack on an Algerian police station one day earlier, the group's AMAQ news agency reported. "An operation of martyrdom using an explosive in a bag by an Islamic State fighter yesterday targeted an Algerian police station in the Constantine city center," AMAQ said. The terrorist was shot before he could enter the station, state news reported.
  • Turkey-backed Syrian rebel groups clashed with government forces near a city in northern Syria that the rebels recently captured from ISIS, sources on both sides said, the second such confrontation in the region this month. The fighting late on Sunday took place in an area where the sides are waging separate campaigns against ISIS. The latest incident occurred near the city of al-Bab, which Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels captured last week from ISIS. Syrian government forces on Sunday announced the capture of the town of Tadef, 2.5 miles to the south.
  • Italy has expelled two Tunisians, one of whom may have had contact with a man who killed 12 people in Berlin when he plowed a truck through a busy Christmas market, the Italian interior ministry said on Sunday. It said the name of the 44-year-old Tunisian, who was expelled on Saturday, was registered for a phone number which was found among the contacts of Berlin attacker Anis Amri.
  • A senior military intelligence official who was reportedly close to Syrian president Bashar al Assad was killed during a complex suicide assault in the city of Homs early Saturday. The official, General Hassan Daabul, died after a suicide bomber penetrated security and made his way into Daabul’s office. Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a newly formed group that includes al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, quickly claimed responsibility for the operation. HTS reported on its Telegram channel that “five inghimasi fighters” were responsible for the raid.
  • A United Nations peace envoy said a terrorist attack in Syria on Saturday was a deliberate attempt to wreck peace talks in Geneva, while the warring sides traded blame and appeared no closer to actual negotiations. Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including the head of military security, prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city.
  • Iraqi warplanes have struck ISIS targets inside Syria in retaliation for recent bomb attacks in Baghdad by the group, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Friday. It appeared to be the first time Iraqi jets have conducted such raids across the border. A Syrian source said the strikes had been coordinated with Damascus.
  • Christian families and students fled Egypt's North Sinai province in droves on Friday after ISIS killed the seventh member of their community in just three weeks. Church officials said 100 families, out of around 160 in North Sinai, were fleeing. More than 200 students studying in Arish, the province's capital, have also left. Seven Christians have been killed in Arish between Jan. 30 and last Thursday. ISIS, which is waging an insurgency there, claimed responsibility for the killings, five of which were shootings. One man was beheaded and another set on fire.
  • The US Treasury Department and the United Nations have designated two senior jihadists in Syria as terrorists. Both of them were leaders in Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official arm in Syria. In July 2016, Al Nusrah was rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Then, in Jan. 2017, JFS and several other groups merged to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), or the “Assembly for the Liberation of Syria.” Treasury’s announcement refers to both of the newly designated terrorists as leaders in Al Nusrah and does not mention HTS. It is possible that one of them is still a significant figure in HTS, while the other has actually separated and may have joined a different al Qaeda arm in Syria.

Tuesday (2-28-17)

  • Taliban fighters in the southern Afghan province of Helmand attacked a checkpoint with silenced weapons and hand grenades early on Tuesday killing 12 policemen and stealing weapons and ammunition, officials said. However, a provincial official said that it could be an insider attack as one of the guards was still missing. The attack, in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, underlined the threat facing Afghan security forces in the opium-producing province, where they struggle to match well-equipped Taliban fighters who now control several districts.
  • U.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Tuesday battled their way to within firing range of Mosul's main government buildings, a major target in the offensive to dislodge ISIS fighters from their remaining stronghold in the western side of the city. Terrified civilians were fleeing the fighting, some toward government lines, often under terrorist fire. Others were forced to head deeper into ISIS-held parts of the city, straining scarce food and water supplies there.
  • Two women - an Indonesian and a Vietnamese - will be charged with murder over the killing in Malaysia of the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, Malaysia's attorney general said. Police have said the women smeared VX nerve agent, a chemical on a U.N. list of weapons of mass destruction, on Kim Jong Nam's face in an assault recorded on security cameras in the Malaysian capital's airport on February 13. U.S. and South Korean officials believe Kim was the victim of an assassination orchestrated by North Korea. He had been living in exile, under Beijing's protection, in the Chinese territory of Macau, and had criticized the regime of his family and his half-brother Kim Jong Un.
  • A pact to combat terrorism will be the centerpiece of up to 10 agreements that will be signed when Saudi Arabia's king this week visits Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, the kingdom's envoy to Indonesia said on Tuesday.
  • Australian counterterrorism police arrested an unidentified man after a raid on a countryside property on Tuesday and accused him of seeking to help ISIS by developing missile technology, the first arrest of its kind in Australia. Dozens of police, including a dog squad and some officers with metal detectors, raided a property in Young, about 170 miles southwest of Sydney. Ian McCartney, Assistant Commissioner of counter-terrorism for the Australian Federal Police, said police will allege the 42-year-old man had been advising the radical Islamist group on how to develop the technical capability to detect guided missiles and to build their own missiles.
  • Clashes between gunmen in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon intensified on Tuesday, with a severely wounded child the latest casualty in several days of violence, witnesses and security sources said. Islamist militants and gunmen from the Palestinian Fatah party have engaged in intermittent clashes since last week, trading machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, and wounding several people. Gunmen from Fatah, the party of West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, have regularly clashed with Islamist terrorists in the camp, including supporters of ISIS and al Qaeda.
  • The military chief of the jihadist alliance known as Tahrir al Sham said on Monday the group staged the multiple suicide attacks on two security headquarters in the city of Homs on Saturday that killed dozens and wounded scores. Abu Mohammad al Golani said in a video message that the attack by five suicide bombers of the alliance, whose main group is Fateh al Sham, the former Syrian al Qaeda offshoot, was just the start of many attacks deploying various tactics, including suicide bombings.
  • A Pentagon-led preliminary plan to defeat ISIS was delivered to the White House on Monday and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was expected to brief senior administration officials, a Defense Department spokesman told reporters. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that it was the framework for a broader plan and looked at ISIS around the world, not just Iraq and Syria. Davis said the plan would define what defeating ISIS meant and was one that would "rapidly" defeat the terrorist group.

Wednesday (3-1-17)

  • U.S.-backed Iraqi army units on Wednesday took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in ISIS’ hands, trapping the terrorists in a shrinking area within the city, a general and residents said. The army's 9th Armored Division was within a kilometer of Mosul's Syria Gate, the city's northwestern entrance. Mosul residents said they had not been able to travel on the highway that starts at the Syria Gate since Tuesday. The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another ISIS stronghold 40 miles to the west, and then to Syria.
  • The Afghan Taliban said they attacked police, military and intelligence targets in Kabul on Wednesday and security officials confirmed attacks in at least two areas of the city that killed at least three people and wounded dozens. A resounding explosion was heard across the city as a car bomb was detonated near a police headquarters in the west of the city, the interior ministry said. The blast was followed immediately by gunfire between security forces and an unknown number of attackers. Fighting at the police headquarters, not far from a military training school, lasted for several hours with gunmen barricaded inside the building. A separate attack appeared to have targeted an office of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. However a senior army official said that attack was quickly suppressed.
  • Russian-backed Syrian government forces will enter the ISIS-held city of Palmyra "very soon", a Syrian military source said on Wednesday, as government forces seek to win back the city from the group for the second time in a year. The army said on Wednesday it had captured an area known as the "Palmyra triangle" a few miles west of the city.
  • A Tunisian investigative judge has charged six security guards with failing to help tourists under attack during a 2015 massacre at a beach resort claimed by ISIS, a counter-terrorism official said on Tuesday. The details were revealed after a British inquiry on Tuesday found Tunisian security forces had let down the victims of the 2015 beach hotel shooting, making "deliberate and unjustifiable" delays in their journey to the scene.
  • German police on Tuesday raided more than 20 sites in Berlin with links to a mosque visited by a Tunisian asylum seeker who killed 12 people in an attack on a Christmas market in December. In the raids some 450 officers searched apartments, two companies' premises and six prison cells connected to an organisation called "Fussilet 33 e.V.", which ran the mosque, the police said in a statement.
  • At least one man was killed on Tuesday in clashes between Islamist militants and the Palestinian Fatah faction at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon where a power struggle has fueled days of violence. The Ain el-Hilweh camp, on the outskirts of the southern coastal city of Sidon, has often seen factional disputes spiral into violence. Medical sources said the man killed was a civilian.

Thursday (3-2-17)

  • ISIS fighters launched a counter-attack against advancing U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight storm, as the battle for control of the militants' last major urban stronghold in Iraq intensified. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city's southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning and senior Iraqi officer said ISIS staged its attack on units from the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) when the storm hampered air surveillance and on-the-ground visibility.
  • The United States has carried out air strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), two U.S. officials said on Thursday, in what could one of the first operations since a January raid by U.S. commandos against the group. However, the officials did not immediately provide further information.
  • A suspected U.S. drone strike killed two men on Thursday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, a local government official and a village elder said. U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan have become rare over the past few years and the latest strike, if confirmed, would be the first such attack inside the nuclear-armed nation since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January.
  • A U.S.-allied militia in northern Syria said on Thursday it would hand over villages on a front line where it has been fighting Turkish-backed rebels to Syrian government control, under an agreement with Russia. The villages will be surrendered to the Syrian government in the coming days according to an official in the Manbij Military Council. An earlier statement by the council said the villages would be handed to Syrian border guards. Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara the report was false, but added there was an agreement with Russia that Syrian government and opposition forces should not fight each other in that area. It was not clear who was being targeted.
  • Another Afghan district has slipped from the government’s control and fallen to the Taliban. Today, the Taliban overran Tala Wa Barfak district in the northern province of Baghlan after besieging it for months. In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the group said that its fighters “managed to take complete control of Tala wa Barfak district center, police HQ and all security check posts after attacks that began [in the] early morning hours today.” The Taliban also said it was “engaged in heavy clashes with enemy forces in Kanda Sang area of Doshi district.”
  • German police have arrested two Syrian men, one of whom is suspected of being involved in the murder of 36 Syrian government employees in Syria in March 2013 and committing war crimes, prosecutors said on Thursday. Abdalfatah H. A., 35, is suspected of being a member of the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra in Arabic) and of carrying out a death sentence under Sharia law and of killing, with other members of his unit, 36 employees of the Syrian government.
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the Syrian army and its allies pushed into the historic city of Palmyra on Wednesday, driving back ISIS insurgents. The government forces entered a neighborhood in the west of the city.J
  • A number of civilians and ISIS members were killed in an attack that hit a mosque run by the terrorists and damaged neighboring houses in the west of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday. Neighboring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, witnesses said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the terrorists.
  • Russian and Syrian aircraft bombed positions held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition near the Syrian town of al Bab, inflicting casualties, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said on Wednesday, but Moscow denied that had happened. "Yesterday, we had some Russian aircraft and (Syrian) regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS, yet they were actually - on the ground - were some of our Syrian Arab coalition forces," Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing.
  • A Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone killed al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri late on Sunday while he was riding in a car near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, a U.S. intelligence official said on Wednesday. The 59-year-old al-Masri, whose real name was Abdullah Muhammed Rajab Abdulrahman, was second-in-command to the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a member of its shura council. He also was married to one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters.

Friday (3-3-17)

  • Five children and two women are receiving treatment for exposure to chemical agents near the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS is fighting off an offensive by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday. The ICRC "condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons during fighting around the Iraqi city of Mosul", it said in a statement.
  • Rival Kurdish groups clashed in Iraq's northwestern Sinjar region on Friday, two Kurdish security sources said. The deadly fighting erupted when Peshmerga Rojava forces moved towards the border with Syria, encroaching on territory controlled by a local affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The unrest highlights the risk of conflict and turf war between the multiple forces arrayed against ISIS, many of which lean on regional patrons for political support and arms.
  • The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that Russian military advisers had planned and overseen the Syrian army's recapture of the city of Palmyra and that Russian warplanes and special forces had played a decisive role. The Syrian army said on Thursday it had retaken the ancient city from ISIS for the second time in a year, with help from allied forces.
  • Bangladeshi police have arrested the head of an Islamist terrorist group accused of inspiring followers to kill foreigners, the chief of the counter-terrorism unit said on Friday. Shaikh Mohammad Abul Kashem, who founded an offshoot of the larger Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group, was picked up on Thursday night in the Senpara Parbata area of the capital, Dhaka. Kashem worked alongside Canadian citizen Tamim Chowdhury and Nurul Islam Marjan, two men police accused of masterminding an attack on an upscale Dhaka cafe in July in which 22 people were killed, most of them foreigners.
  • Residents in Yemen said U.S. soldiers fought two separate gun battles with al Qaeda overnight on Friday, supported by heavy aerial bombardment. If confirmed, it would be the first time Washington has deployed ground troops in the country since a Navy Seal was killed in a similar operation on January 29. Just a day earlier, the United States said it carried out more than 20 precision strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Thursday, in the first major operations against the group since a January raid by U.S. commandos. The Pentagon said the strikes targeted al Qaeda fighters, heavy weapons systems, equipment, infrastructure and the group's fighting positions. They were carried out in the Yemeni governorates of Abyan, Al Bayda and Shabwah.
  • Mali's main jihadist groups said on Thursday they will merge under Islamist leader Iyad Ag-Ghali whose fighters have claimed multiple attacks on Malian, French and U.N. peacekeeping forces, Mauritania's Nouakchott News Agency (ANI) reported. ANI said Ag-Ghali's Ansar Dine would join with al-Mourabitoun, led by Algerian jihadist and smuggler Mokhtar Belmokhtar, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a military camp in northern Mali that killed up to 60 people and wounded more than 100 in January.
  • Brussels police detained a man with suspected terrorist links who was found to be carrying two gas cylinders in his car after he was pulled over on Thursday for running a red light, officials said. After checks were conducted on the vehicle, prosecutors said that one of the cylinders was empty, and no explosive or mechanism of detonation was found in the car.
  • Kenya said its forces had killed 57 Islamist al Shabaab terrorists in a battle in southern Somalia on Wednesday, but the group denied any of its fighters had died in the clash. Kenyan troops under the African Union command used artillery and helicopter gunships against the Islamists in Afmadow, a town about 60 miles inland from the port of Kismayu, Kenyan military spokesman Col. Joseph Owuoth said in a statement.
  • On Wednesday the Taliban rejected US General John Nicholson’s call for reconciliation after a press release announcing the death of Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s shadow emir for Kunduz province. US, European, and Afghan officials had been urging the Taliban to reconcile for well over a decade. But the Taliban had proven unwilling to negotiate a peace deal and join the government, even after suffering setbacks. In his response the Taliban spokesman, Zabihulllah Mujahid, said that the Taliban would fight until NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan and “accept the lawful demands of the valiant Afghan,” which means the return of a Taliban government.