Monday 11.26.18

  • A U.S. Army Ranger assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday. Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, was mortally wounded during a firefight with al-Qaeda forces in Nimruz province, according to a Defense Department statement released early Sunday. He was medically evacuated from the combat zone and later died of his injuries at a medical facility in Helmand province.
  • A Taliban ambush of a police convoy in western Afghanistan killed 20 policemen while 10 troops died in an insurgent attack on an army checkpoint in the north, Afghan officials said Monday as minority Shiites took to the streets in Kabul for the second day to protest the arrest of local militia commander. During the demonstrations in the Afghan capital, the protesters opened fire at the police, wounding four policemen. Deputy interior minister Gen. Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi said 44 policemen were also injured when protesters hurled stones and other hard objects at them.
  • The US military has grossly underestimated the size and scope of the Taliban, despite battling the group head-on for the last 17 years. In its latest quarterly report, US Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) approximated the Taliban’s strength as between 28,000 and 40,000 fighters. That number should be doubled, at the minimum, because the USFOR-A estimate is wildly unrealistic given the level and intensity of fighting in Afghanistan, as well as the number of Taliban casualties claimed by Afghan security forces.
  • Hundreds of ethnic Hazaras rallied in protest here Sunday over the arrest of a rogue anti-Taliban militia commander, resulting in violence that left at least 30 civilians and security forces wounded, police said. While the Western-backed government of Afghanistan has battled Taliban insurgents for years with mixed success, the actions of local anti-Taliban commanders, operating outside central government control, have led to periodic clashes between formal and informal allies. 
  • The head of a powerful Iraqi militia wants a formal role for Shi’ite paramilitaries in securing the border with Syria, a move that could deepen U.S. worries about Iran’s growing sway over a strategic corridor of territory from Tehran to Beirut. Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, many of which are supported by Iran and oppose the presence of U.S. troops in the region, have sent reinforcements to the frontier after fighting flared between U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants on the Syrian side. Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, urged the government to provide a more formal, long-term border protection role for the militias.
  • A major attack by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria has killed 92 US-backed forces in three days while 51 civilians also died in the fighting, a war monitor said on Monday. It was the highest death toll the jihadist group has inflicted on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a single offensive, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "It's the largest number of SDF fighters killed (by ISIS) in a single battle since it was founded" in 2015, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
  • US-backed fighters in eastern Syria launched a counterattack against the Islamic State yesterday. The operation came in response to a coordinated assault by the jihadists near Deir Ezzor on Nov. 23. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said in an announcement that coalition forces are “employing combined fires, including indirect fire and close air support” for their “Syrian Democratic Force partners, in order to contain ISIS in the last remaining territory they currently hold.” In addition, Iraqi Security Forces are working to prevent the jihadists from fleeing across the border.
  • One of the most famous activists in Syria was assassinated by gunmen, according to associates, underscoring the mortal threats facing a dwindling pool of dissidents who still openly oppose government and extremist forces there.  Raed Fares, 46, was the founder of Radio Fresh, a channel broadcasting news across Syria’s once sprawling opposition-held areas to warn of incoming airstrikes and counter the messages of militants who had come to dominate areas that fell from government control after a 2011 uprising. For this, he had become a hunted man. 
  • The Israeli military says a Palestinian assailant rammed his car into a group of soldiers in the West Bank and was then shot and killed. The military says the attacker injured three of the soldiers on Monday before he was shot dead by another soldier at the scene. The troops were performing engineering work on a route in the southern West Bank. Since 2015, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks and Israeli forces have killed over 260 Palestinians in that same period. Israel has described most of the Palestinians killed as attackers, but occasional clashes have also turned deadly. 
  • Yemeni tribal leaders say a suspected U.S. drone strike killed six alleged al-Qaeda militants in the country’s southwest. The tribal leaders say an unmanned aircraft targeted an al-Qaeda hideout in al-Qrishia district in Bayda province on Sunday, killing two commanders and four other militants. The tribal leaders spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their own safety. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni group is known, has long been considered the network’s most dangerous branch and has attempted to carry out attacks on the U.S. mainland.
  • Following a series of assaults on Nigerian military positions in northeastern Nigeria over the past few weeks, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) claimed its forces took over a small village near Lake Chad yesterday. A video from the militants was also released by the Islamic State’s Amaq News to offer visual evidence of the claim. Yesterday, Amaq News released a statement in which it said ISWA forces captured the village of Kangarwa in Nigeria’s Borno state close to Lake Chad. The aforementioned video was then released shortly thereafter, showing several militants walking and parading through the village. A Nigerian military tank is also shown to have been captured by the jihadists in or near the town.
  • The US Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital said Saturday it has received "credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat" against US facilities in Kinshasa. "US citizens in Kinshasa and throughout the DRC are strongly encouraged to maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness," said the embassy. "Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety." The embassy will be closed to the public Monday because of the threat.

Tuesday 11.27.18

  • Three U.S. service members were killed and three more were wounded by an improvised explosive device Tuesday in Afghanistan, according to officials with the NATO mission to the country. One American contractor was also wounded when the IED detonated, officials said in a press release. The attack took place near Ghazni city, in the eastern Afghan province of the same name. The wounded service members and contractor were evacuated and are receiving medical care.
  • A young New York woman pleaded guilty Monday to supporting the Islamic terror group ISIS with a scam involving bank fraud, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and money laundering authorities said. Zoobia Shahnaz, a 27-year-old resident of Brentwood, Long Island, admitted to wiring more than $150,000 to individuals and shell entities that were fronts for ISIS in Pakistan, China and Turkey in 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
  • A Indian soldier was killed and two terrorists were shot dead in a fierce encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Kulgam this morning. The gunfight broke out after the terrorists fired at a team of the Army, state police and CRPF that was conducting a cordon and search operation in the south Kashmir district 70 km from Srinagar. After a five-hour encounter, two terrorists hiding in a house were shot dead. Another terrorist was shot dead during an encounter at Tral in Pulwama district. The police said the terrorist was found hiding at house in a village in the district. Weapons have been recovered from the encounter site, the police said, adding a case has been filed.
  • US-backed fighters in Syria suffered record fatalities in an assault by the Islamic State terror group, a war monitor said Monday, as holdout jihadists kept up a fierce defense of their last Syrian redoubt. It said a total of more than 200 people have been killed since around 500 ISIS fighters burst out of the fog shrouding the area in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq to launch their deadly assault on Friday.
  • Somalia was hit by two violent attacks Monday, one killing an Islamic cleric and 17 of his followers for playing music and a second killing at least six people in a car bomb blast in the capital, Mogadishu, police said. The car bomb was detonated Monday at a busy junction in Mogadishu's Wadajir district, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein. He said 15 people were injured and the blast appears to have been aimed at soldiers who were gathered at the junction. In the northern city of Galkayo, a prominent Islamic leader and at least 17 of his followers were killed by extremists for having music in their religious ceremonies, say police.

Wednesday 11.28.18

  • An Afghan official says that at least 30 civilians have been killed, along with 16 Taliban fighters, as government forces battled the insurgents in Helmand province overnight. Attahullah Afghan, who heads the provincial council, says most of the casualties — including men, women and children — incurred in an airstrike that hit a house on Tuesday night during military operations there. A statement from governor's office in Helmand confirmed that 16 Taliban insurgents were killed and said an investigation was underway to determine civilian casualties.
  • A car bomb exploded near to a security contractors' compound in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, sending a thick plume of smoke into the night sky and officials reported gunfire in the wake of the blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and no word on casualties. A senior security official said the blast happened close to a compound of British security contractor group G4S, near an industrial park on the main road leading out of Kabul towards eastern Afghanistan.
  • The Islamic State group has fiercely defended its last holdout in eastern Syria against a more than two-month military offensive by a Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by a US-led coalition. After the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance successfully expelled the jihadists from other parts of war-torn Syria, why is this latest battle in the far east taking so long? Who is inside the holdout? Hundreds of fighters are believed to be inside the pocket, which lies in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border. The US-led coalition has estimated some 2,000 fighters to be present in the holdout, which includes the towns of Hajin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa.
  • At least 29 people were wounded Wednesday when a women bomber blew herself up in a border town in Cameroon's Far North, a region frequently hit by Boko Haram jihadists, security sources said. But a second bomber was shot dead by troops deployed in the town before she could detonate her explosives, the source said. "A suicide bomber blew herself up this morning in Amchide" on the Nigerian border, a regional security source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and giving a toll of 29 wounded. The attack occurred on market day when the town was filling up with early-morning shoppers, a local civil defense group official said.

Thursday 11.29.18

  • Italian anti-terrorism police arrested a Lebanese man yesterday suspected of planning a poison attack in the name of the Islamic State. The suspect, who has Palestinian roots, was apprehended for having links to international terrorism and is accused of "having joined the terrorist, Islamic pseudo-state, IS," anti-mafia and terrorism chief Federico Cafiero de Raho told reporters. Officials arrested the 28-year-old in Macomer on the island of Sardinia following a tip-off. "He was planning an attack with ricin and anthrax," Cafiero De Raho told reporters, naming the man as Alhaj Ahmad Amin.
  • A brazen Taliban attack that targeted the Kabul offices of a British security company killed five of its staffers, including a British national, the company said Thursday. Afghan authorities said a sixth person was also killed in the assault. Charlie Burbridge, the managing director of G4S Risk Management Group, said 32 employees of the company were also wounded in the attack, five of them seriously.
  • The United States on Thursday displayed pieces of what it said were Iranian weapons deployed to militants in Yemen and Afghanistan, a tactic by President Donald Trump’s administration to pressure Tehran to curb its regional activities. The second presentation of Iranian weapons by the Pentagon, many of which were handed over by Saudi Arabia, coincides with growing concern in Congress over U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war, which has led to a deep humanitarian crisis.
  • The United States on Wednesday indicted two Iranians for launching a major cyber-attack using ransomware known as “SamSam” and sanctioned two others for helping exchange the ransom payments from Bitcoin digital currency into rials. The 34-month long hacking scheme wreaked havoc on hospitals, schools, companies and government agencies, including the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, and Newark, New Jersey, causing over $30 million in losses to victims and allowing the alleged hackers to collect over $6 million in ransom payments.
  • Yemeni forces in the Hadhramaut governorate launched on Wednesday an operation to seek out Al Qaeda pockets in the Yabuth district, west of Al Mukala city, Captain Hisham Al Jaberi of the Second Military Zone told The National. The operation, dubbed Iron Fist and led by pro-government forces backed by the UAE, aims to secure the isolated mountainous areas of Yabuth, where members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are thought to be hiding.
  • The US military once again targeted Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, in an airstrike in the central Somali province of Mudug on Nov. 27. The US has now launched six strikes in Mudug since Nov. 19, killing at least 55 Shabaab fighters. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) assessed that three Shabaab fighters were killed in this latest strike “in the vicinity of Quy Cad [Qeycad] near Debatscile.” No civilians were reportedly killed or wounded. The airstrikes are designed to “foil terrorist plans, kill al-Shabaab terrorists and reduce the enemy’s freedom of maneuver,” AFRICOM said in its press release. 

Friday 11.30.18

  • A North Carolina man among the first Americans arrested in an FBI effort to find those eager to join militant fighters in Syria was sentenced Thursday to another two years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle sentenced Basit Sheikh to the maximum term under a guilty plea agreement he struck with prosecutors in August, news outlets reported. Sheikh has spent five years in federal custody since his November 2013 arrest at Raleigh's airport on his way to the Middle East. Sheikh's guilty plea also could cause the Pakistan native with permanent, legal U.S. residency to eventually be kicked out of the country.
  • The United States dropped more bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan during the first ten months of 2018 than in any other full year since documentation began, new Air Force data shows. Between the start of the year and the end of October, U.S. forces released 5,982 munitions in Afghanistan, said the latest monthly report by U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Coalition aircraft flew nearly 6,600 sorties, about 12 percent of which carried out strikes during that period.
  • An Iranian cargo plane allegedly transporting advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group was spotted flying directly from Tehran to Beirut on Thursday morning, hours before Israel allegedly conducted airstrikes on pro-Iranian targets in Syria. Israeli and American security officials have long claimed that Iran has been supplying Lebanon’s Hezbollah with advanced munitions by shipping them through ostensibly civilian airlines, including the one that flew into Lebanon on Thursday: Fars Air Qeshm.
  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a barrage of missiles into Saudi Arabia, the armed group said, strikes that could threaten to derail the U.S.-backed peace efforts that have raised fresh hopes to end a catastrophic, nearly four-year war. The war pits the Iran-backed Houthis against a Saudi-led coalition mainly comprising Sunni-majority Arab countries. The protracted conflict has pushed millions to the brink of famine and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
  • U.S. forces carried out an airstrike against al-Qaeda militants in Libya, Africa Command said on Friday, November 30. “In coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), U.S. Africa Command conducted a precision airstrike near Al Uwaynat, Libya, November 29, 2018, killing eleven (11) al-Qa’ ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terrorists and destroying three (3) vehicles,” Africom said in a press release. It is the third airstrike against al-Qaeda in Libya and the first since June. The June 13 strike killed a suspected militant approximately 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Bani Walid. The first strike, on March March 24, resulted in the death of Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking AQIM official, according to Africom.