Monday 9.24.18

  • Pakistan’s military says security forces have raided militant hideouts setting off a shootout that left seven soldiers and nine militants dead. In a statement Saturday, the military said the operation was carried out in the Gharlamai and Spera Kunar Algad areas of North Waziristan near the border with Afghanistan. The military said an army captain was among those killed. The military provided no details about the militants killed.
  • A team of gunmen assaulted a military parade in Ahvaz, a city in southwestern Iran, earlier today. Initial reports by Iranian state media indicate that two dozen people, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and civilians, were killed. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shootings via its Amaq News Agency. Amaq initially stated that a team of inghimasis, or well-trained guerrilla fighters who immerse themselves in battle, struck the parade while Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was in attendance. Amaq quickly issued a correction, saying that Rouhani was not in fact in attendance.
  • Iranian media have confirmed the deaths of two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members in recent weeks. The circumstances of their deaths thus far remain unknown. On September 19, Tasnim News eulogized 24-year old Ali Asqar Elyasi, “a commando of the 10th Seyyed Al Shuhada Division [Alborz Province],” who was killed “in south Aleppo” on September 12. The news agency posted a video that it says was taken several days prior to the individual’s death.
  • Activists say powerful Iranian-backed militias that control Iraq's oil capital of Basra have waged a campaign of intimidation and arbitrary arrests to silence protests aimed at poor government services and Tehran's outsized influence in the region. Some protesters say they have been beaten or threatened. One militia leader denies orders for a clampdown were given, but another says the groups seek revenge for protesters' attacks on militia headquarters and the local Iranian consulate.
  • The main jihadist group in northwest Syria will announce its position on a Turkish-Russian deal over Idlib in the next few days, it said on Monday, with its acceptance or rejection vital to the success of efforts to contain the war. Tahrir al-Sham’s stance will be critical to last week’s deal which has, for now, averted a full-scale Syrian government offensive in Idlib, which along with adjacent areas of the northwest is the rebels’ last major foothold.
  • A U.S. military airstrike has killed 18 al-Shabab extremists after U.S. and local forces on the ground came under attack in southern Somalia, the U.S. Africa Command said Saturday. No U.S. or Somali forces were killed or injured in the attack, an AFRICOM spokesman, Nate Herring, told The Associated Press. The airstrike was carried out Friday in self-defense after extremists were “observed maneuvering on a combined patrol,” while the U.S. also responded with “indirect fire,” the spokesman said.
  • Kenyan soldiers killed 10 fighters from the Somalian militant group al Shabaab in a clash on Monday in eastern Kenya, the military said. Three soldiers were wounded in the morning attack launched by the army in coastal Lamu county, a Kenya Defence Forces statement said. “Following the incident, 10 al Shabaab fighters were killed. The soldiers are in pursuit of other militants who fled with injuries,” the statement said.
  • One person died and another was injured in two car bombs that exploded in the heart of the Somali capital on Saturday and the Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks. The bombs detonated in two different cars near a main road in the center of the city. Al Shabaab frequently carries out bombings in Mogadishu and other parts of the Horn of Africa country.

Tuesday 9.25.18

  • Congress is once again trying to reduce Iran's influence in Iraq in a way that could jeopardize the country's efforts to form a new government following May legislative elections. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on bipartisan legislation that would block the assets of Iranians found to pose a threat of violence in Iraq. Meanwhile Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., has introduced a bill to sanction two Iran-backed Shiite militias in the upper chamber.
  • Bahrain's attorney general charged nearly 170 people on Tuesday with forming a Shiite "terrorist organization" named for Lebanon's famed militant group Hezbollah. The small but strategic Gulf Arab kingdom has been dogged by persistent low-level violence since 2011 when its Sunni minority rulers bloodily suppressed Shiite-led protests for a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.
  • American forces will remain in Syria even after the last remnants of the Islamic State militant group are eradicated, signaling a shift in U.S. policy that further complicates the political climate in Syria amid its seven-year civil war Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that U.S. forces will stay in Syria to provide training to local forces in an effort to ensure stability within the region, a decision that seems to run counter to past statements from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to withdraw American forces from the region.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday Israel would continue its military operations in Syria, after Russia announced it would supply an advanced anti-aircraft system to its Syrian ally. “We will continue to act to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria and we will continue the military coordination between the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) and the Russian army,” Netanyahu told reporters before boarding a flight to New York, where he will address the U.N. General Assembly.
  • Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Yemen's Huthi rebels of hostage-taking, torture and other serious abuses against people in their custody. The New York-based watchdog said it had documented 16 cases of illegal imprisonment by the Iran-backed Shiite insurgents, "in large part to extort money from relatives or to exchange them for people held by opposing forces". "Huthi officials have treated detainees brutally, often amounting to torture," HRW said, adding that former detainees described being beaten with iron rods, wooden sticks and assault rifles.
  • Officials in Afghanistan confirmed Monday a Taliban prisoner has killed at least eight policemen, including three senior officers, after covertly seizing an assault rifle from a guard at the detention facility in southern Zabul province. The incident happened while security guards were offering evening prayers late Sunday at the Shar-e-Safa district jail, a police officer told VOA. Ghulam Jilani said the assailant sprayed the unarmed group of personnel with bullets. The officer promised to provide more details later in the day.
  • The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned two Trinidadian Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) financiers. The Treasury Department said on Sept. 19 that Emraan Ali and Eddie Aleong have been sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

Wednesday 9.26.18

  • Two people were arrested in Copenhagen on Wednesday and charged with attempting to supply Islamic State with drones, which the organization has used to carry out attacks, police said. The two were arrested after police and Danish security and intelligence services carried out raids in Copenhagen, the police said in a statement. The two persons are suspected of being members of a broader network that ships drones and other supplies to Islamic State from Denmark for use in combat, the police said. The police did not release their names or any details about them.
  • A would-be jihadist has given evidence for the prosecution against his brother and cousin, who along with another man are accused of planning a Christmas terror attack in central Melbourne. Ibrahim Abbas appeared before the Victorian Supreme Court trial yesterday of his cousin Abdullah Chaa­rani, 27, his brother Hamza Abbas, 23, and a friend, Ahmed Mohamed, 25, who are standing trial over an alleged conspiracy to prepare for a terror ­attack in Melbourne’s CBD during the 2016 Christmas period. Mr Abbas said he had discussed his extremist views with the men.
  • Masked gunmen shot dead a human rights activist and mother of four outside a supermarket in Basra on Tuesday, a brazen afternoon assassination that threatens to worsen tensions in the southern city wracked by violent protests. A police official said Soad al-Ali, who has been involved in organizing protests demanding better services in the city, was killed instantly by the gunmen who fled the scene after shooting at her and her husband as they were getting in their car. Al-Ali, 46, was killed on the spot while her husband was wounded and was being treated in a hospital.
  • Shiite militias in Basra, Iraq arrested dozens of civil rights activists for participating in demonstrations and accused the U.S. Consulate of instigating the demonstrations.  Dozens of activists were arrested, according to Ali al-Bayati, spokesman for the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights in Baghdad. “The number of protesters detained in Basra against the backdrop of protests reached 141 people, some of whom have been released,” he told Al-Monitor. "The commission seeks to communicate with the rest [of those arrested] and with the official authorities to determine their fate.”
  • The most recent name to surface as a likely candidate for Iraq's premiership is Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former head of the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Finance and a one-time vice president of the country. Following negotiations said to have involved Hezbollah, Mahdi now appears to have the support of two on-again, off-again rival parliamentary coalitions: the Sairoon Alliance of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fatah Alliance of Hadi al-Amiri. Amiri leads Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units, which has Iran's support. The United States favors current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hasn't fared well in his bid for a second term.

Thursday 9.27.18

  • U.S. threats to cut aid to Pakistan for its support of the Taliban have not led to any significant changes in Islamabad’s relations with insurgents who seek to overthrow the American-backed Afghan government, the State Department said in a report. The Pakistani government in the past year has not restricted the Taliban or its offshoot group, the Haqqani network, from operating within its territory, despite vows to support peace talks between the Afghan government and insurgents, said the annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which was released Sept. 19.
  • Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir, the spokesman of the Islamic State, has released a short message touting his organization’s responsibility for the Sept. 22 attack in Ahvaz, Iran. Gunmen disguised as Iranian personnel struck a military parade, killing and wounding dozens of people, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). And the Islamic State’s chief spokesman emphasizes that the so-called caliphate’s jihadists were responsible.
  • The Trump administration may decrease U.S. military support or other assistance to Iraq if its new government puts Iranian-aligned politicians in any “significant positions of responsibility,” a senior administration official told reporters late last week. The comment comes as Baghdad pols jockey to form a new government following May’s parliamentary elections. American efforts to shape coalition negotiations have made little progress and the current U.S.-backed backed prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, appears almost certain to lose his job as constitutional deadlines loom.
  • Syrian rebels said on Thursday they have growing confidence that their jihadist rivals will comply with a requirement to leave a demilitarized buffer zone set up by Turkey and Russia to avert a Russian-backed Syrian army offensive. Last week Turkey and Russia agreed to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Idlib province from which “radical” rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month. The position of the biggest jihadist group, Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by al Qaeda’s former Syrian offshoot, will be crucial to the deal’s success, but it has so far said nothing.
  • President Tayyip Erdogan urged Germany in a newspaper article on the eve of his state visit there to designate the Fethullah Gulen movement, which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup, as a terrorist organization. Writing on the website of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Turkish president also said the two allies should prevent the “irresponsible policies” of the United States from setting off a “reckless trade war”.
  • Lebanon's security forces said Thursday they had detained a Palestinian refugee allegedly linked to the Islamic State group over two poisoning plots, one of Lebanese army water and another of food in a foreign country. The refugee, born in 1991, admitted to links with an ISIS member in Syria "who tasked him with making explosives and concocting poison", the General Security force said in a statement. He prepared to "concoct a quantity of deadly poison along with someone living in a foreign country" for two planned poisonings.
  • After years of struggle against an affiliate of Islamic State, Egypt has begun to arm local Sinai tribes in order to gain a tactical advantage over the group. In a switch from the past, the military has begun arming Bedouin tribesmen and having them patrol in operations against the ISIS militants deep in the peninsula's interior, where their local knowledge gives them an advantage, Abu-Sefira and other Bedouin say.

Friday 9.28.18

  • Dutch police say they have foiled a major terrorist attack by arresting seven men allegedly plotting to target a large event with guns and explosives. The seven men planned "an attack on a large event in the Netherlands" with the intention of creating a "large number of victims," police said Thursday. After a months-long investigation, authorities arrested the suspects, aged 21 to 34 years old, on Thursday, saying they were in the advanced stages of planning the attack.
  • Afghanistan’s chief executive said he’s seen no change in Pakistan’s policies toward the Taliban since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power last month, though he emphasized the two countries are working together and he hopes to see a shift. “Real change has not taken place as far as their policies towards the Taliban,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Wednesday, adding that Pakistan continues to have “significant” influence over the Taliban.
  • Representatives from the Taliban met an Afghan government delegation in Saudi Arabia this week to discuss security ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections and a limited prisoner release, three Taliban officials said. The meeting comes less than a month before voters are due to go to the polls on Oct. 20 to elect a new Afghan parliament, a process which has been hampered by fears of attacks on polling stations and campaign rallies.
  • A US intelligence assessment conducted in recent days has concluded that Iranian-backed militias and proxy forces could be planning a strike against US military forces or interests in the Middle East, according to three defense officials. Officials emphasize their concern centers around the threat from those militias located in Syria and several other locations in the Middle East. They all describe the potential threat as ongoing and worrisome. However, they would not describe the specific intelligence that continues to be gathered.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Friday it had killed four militants at the Saravan border crossing with Pakistan in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. Sunni militant groups in southeastern Iran have long carried out periodic attacks on military and civilian targets, aiming to highlight what they say is discrimination against Sunni Muslim ethnic groups in mainly Shi’ite Iran.
  • The Israeli military on Thursday released a video clip and photos of what it said were Hezbollah Shi’ite militia rocket building sites in Lebanon. The images were distributed minutes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly that Israel had evidence that Iran was helping Hezbollah give its missiles precision-guided accuracy. “In Lebanon, Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles, missiles that can target deep inside Israel within an accuracy of 10 meters (yards),” he said.
  • The Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad says it has named a new leader. The group said Friday at a news conference in Gaza that 65-year-old Ziad al-Nakhalah will head the group’s secretly elected politburo, replacing longtime leader Ramadan Shalah. Al-Nakhala was a founding member of the group that emerged in the 1980s. A Gaza native, he has been based in Syria and Lebanon since Israel deported him in 1988.
  • Mali's defense minister says seven soldiers and a driver were killed after two military vehicles hit explosive devices. The minister said in a statement Thursday that the vehicles hit the explosives on Wednesday between Bambaramaoude and Douentza. Also Thursday, the minister of security and civilian protection reported that the death toll from attacks on a nomadic community that began Tuesday night had risen from 12 to 27.