Tuesday 11.13.18
  • Shortly after 4pm local time Friday, Australian police rushed to the scene of a car fire in Melbourne. The scene turned bloody as a knifeman killed one person, wounding two others, in a stabbing rampage. The Victoria Police quickly said the assault was “being treated as terror related.” As the “police officers got out of their vehicle,” according to the Victoria Police’s account, “they were confronted by a male who began a physical altercation with them.” The man tried to flee, but confronted the police with his blade after they gave chase. The assailant, a 31-year-old, was subsequently shot and killed.
  • Pakistan released two Taliban officials on Monday during U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s latest visit to the region, in what could be part of American efforts to revive peace talks with the insurgent group, which now controls nearly half of Afghanistan. Abdul Samad Sani, a U.S.-designated terrorist who served as the Afghan Central Bank governor during the militants’ rule in the late 1990s, and a lower-ranking commander named Salahuddin, were released Monday, according to two Taliban officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media. There was no immediate comment from the Pakistani government.
  • Last week, the Taliban launched an assault on the district of Jaghuri in the embattled eastern Afghan province of Ghazni. Reports in the Afghan press downplayed the severity of happenings in Jaghuri, which is considered to be the most secure rural district in all the country due to the demographics and geography. However, reporters from The New York Times who were on the scene saw something much different and far more terrifying than what was reported in the Afghan press: an Afghan Special Forces commando company that was sent to bolster defenses was routed, while security forces and government officials were attempting to flee the scene as Taliban forces advanced.
  • A bomb blast ripped through Kabul in an area where hundreds of Afghans had been protesting insecurity in the country. At least six are dead and 20 more wounded, Basir Mujahid, Kabul police spokesman told Stars and Stripes. The Islamic State’s regional affiliate, known as ISIS-Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the attack on social media. Video and photos posted by local media show several bodies strewn across the street in front of the Kabul mayor’s office.
  • The US Treasury expanded its attack on Hezbollah's financial network Tuesday, hitting key representatives of the Lebanese militant group in Iraq with sanctions. The Treasury blacklisted Shibl Muhsin 'Ubayd Al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad 'Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat under its Specially Designated Global Terrorists program, saying they moved money, acquired weapons and trained fighters in Iraq for the group. Among the four, Al-Zaydi was a key coordinator between Hezbollah, Iran's blacklisted Revolutionary Guards, and their supporters in Iraq, the Treasury said.
  • The U.S. military says American and Iraqi forces killed more than 50 Islamic State militants, including several commanders, in northern Iraq last month. U.S. Central Command said Sunday that an Oct. 30 operation in Salahuddin province killed five ISIS leaders and more than 30 other militants, and that an operation the following day in the Makhmour Mountains killed around 20 ISIS fighters. It says the leaders killed in the first raid were responsible for coordinating attacks across northern and western Iraq.
  • The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Sunday it had resumed a ground assault against Islamic State in its last foothold near the Iraqi border, following the suspension of the offensive last month after Turkish shelling of northern Syria. The Kurdish-led SDF said its operations in the Deir al-Zor area had restarted as the result of “intensive contacts between our forces’ leadership and the international coalition and active diplomatic efforts aimed at defusing the crisis on the (Turkish-Syrian) border.
  • Tensions have risen in northern Syria amid threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to intervene in areas east of the Euphrates River and Turkish artillery fire on Oct. 26 against Tell Abyad, Kobani and Zor Mughar. The Turkish attacks, which Ankara claims killed 16 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), came the day after Erdogan held a summit in Istanbul with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia. “We will eradicate the terror structure east of the Euphrates,” Erdogan asserted, referring to Syrian Kurdish groups that Turkey considers PKK affiliates. “We have completed our preparations and plans. Soon we will crush the terror outfit.
  • A Jordanian court on Tuesday sentenced 10 people to prison terms of between three years and life in connection with a deadly 2016 attack claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group. The shooting attack in Karak, site of one of the region's largest Crusader castles, killed seven policemen and two Jordanian civilians as well as a female Canadian tourist, and wounded 34 other people. The defendants were charged in state security court, a military tribunal, with "terrorist acts", illegal possession of arms and producing explosives.
  • Gaza militants fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel on Tuesday, killing a man in a strike on a residential building and vowing to further escalate their attacks if Israel keeps bombing the Palestinian territory. As fighting raged throughout the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Security Cabinet for six hours. The Cabinet ordered the military to “continue operations as needed.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh meanwhile signaled a readiness to halt the latest round of fighting, saying the Islamic militant group would stop its rocket fire if Israel halts its airstrikes.
  • At least three Malian civilians were killed and four foreigners working for a UN-contracted mine-clearing operation wounded in a suicide attack on Monday in the country's violence-hit north, the security ministry and other official sources said. The attack, claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda, took place in the city of Gao at around 2000 GMT, according to a ministry statement. "A loaded 4x4 vehicle exploded in the vicinity of a residential complex," the ministry said, adding that two others were wounded in the blast, which also damaged surrounding homes.
  • The threat of Islamic State is mounting again in the Philippines, with estimates there could be between 40 to 100 foreign fighters, and a growing momentum among local pro-Islamic State militant groups. In May last year, the Mindanao city of Marawi was overrun by Isis fighters and a caliphate declared. It took a bloody, five-month siege by the army, in which 1,200 lives were lost, for the government to regain control.

Wednesday 11.14.18 

  • The president of Afghanistan told a U.S. audience Monday that his country is not losing the war to the Taliban and is not at risk of collapse amid escalating attacks by the militant group and an expansion of the territory it controls. President Ashraf Ghani said his administration is intent on seeking a negotiated peace with the Taliban, which have shown no interest in direct talks with a government they see as illegitimate. "The Taliban are not in a winning position," Ghani said by video to an audience at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington as a suicide bombing in Kabul and a deadly militant assault on districts in eastern Afghanistan suggested government control was slipping further.
  • Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that hundreds of Iraqi Islamic State militants at Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria were trying to cross into Iraq. The militants have launched attacks in recent weeks against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border, prompting Iraqi militias that operate alongside the army to reinforce in the area. Abdul Mahdi said the militants were seeking to recapture territory they had once controlled on the Iraqi side, during Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate that extended from eastern Syria to northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017.
  • Turkish forces has killed 19 militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) during air strikes in northern Iraq, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday. The air strikes targeted several regions in northern Iraq, including the Qandil mountains, a PKK stronghold, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said on Twitter. Turkey regularly carries out air strikes against PKK targets in neighboring northern Iraq.
  • Hamas and other militant groups said Tuesday they had accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to end two days of intense fighting with Israel that had pushed the sworn enemies to the brink of a new war. The sudden announcement brought relief to a region that had been paralyzed by hundreds of Palestinian rocket attacks in southern Israel and scores of Israeli airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip. But it did not address the deeper issues that pushed Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers toward their latest violence and left doubts about international efforts to forge a broader truce agreement.
  • A Chechen activist on Tuesday accused Russia's FSB security service of blocking attempts to bring back widows and children of Russian Islamic State fighters from Syria and Iraq. Since last year, around 100 women and children -- mostly from Russia's majority-Muslim Caucasus -- have returned under a program championed by Chechnya's powerful leader Ramzan Kadyrov. But Kheda Saratova, a Chechen activist who is on Kadyrov's human rights council, said Russia's federal authorities were no longer willing to bring back the remaining women and children. "According to our organisation, there are over 2,000 of them left in Syria and Iraq," she told a news conference in Moscow.

Thursday 11.15.18

  • A Florida man has been arrested on suspicion of manufacturing an explosive chemical called the "Mother of Satan" powerful enough to blow up a neighborhood block, Volusia County Sheriff's Office and local reports said. Jared Coburn, 37, was arrested in Lake Helen, Florida, on Tuesday after police received a tip about explosive materials at his home. Police discovered jars of the highly explosive substance triacetone triperoxide, which is a white crystal powder called the "Mother of Satan" by terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
  • Fresh Taliban attacks have killed more than 40 government troops in Afghanistan’s western Farah province, which borders Iran. Officials said Thursday most of the casualties occurred in the embattled Bala Buluk district where insurgents staged a major offensive against a police base late at night. A top officer at the provincial police headquarters, Sayed Abdullah Andarabi, told VOA the ensuing clashes lasted several hours and he confirmed the killing of 32 security forces, including the district police chief. He added that nine police personnel were wounded while 12 others went missing after the attack.
  • Pakistan certainly needs to do more in its fight against terrorism and the Trump administration expects Islamabad to act against terror groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba in same way as it did against al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks, a top American official has said. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Alexander Sales said during a Congressional hearing that the US was "very concerned" over the support for terrorism in any region of the world. 
  • More than 28,000 Afghan police officers and soldiers have been killed since 2015, the Afghan president revealed this week, breaking with his government’s longstanding suppression of casualty totals. The admission from President Ashraf Ghani came during a particularly bad week for Afghanistan’s beleaguered government forces, with at least 242 security force members killed from Nov. 9 to 15, according to casualty reports compiled by The New York Times. In the Jaghori district of Ghazni Province, once regarded as the safest rural district in the country, an entire company of 50 elite commandos was wiped out, all but a handful killed or wounded.
  • Federal prosecutors say they've charged a 26-year-old German woman with membership in a terrorist organization on allegations she joined the extremist Islamic State. Prosecutors said Thursday that Derya O., whose full name wasn't given in line with privacy laws, is accused of joining the group in Syria in February 2014 and marrying a fighter there with whom she had had previous contact over the internet. They lived in Syria and Iraq off funds the husband received from ISIS, and had a child together.
  • The Trump administration hopes that the U.S.-backed fight against Islamic State in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months but American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group, a top U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement, said the United States believes the way forward in Syria includes defeating Islamic State, reinvigorating the political process and winding down the long-running civil war.
  • Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday the process of separating radical militants from moderate opposition groups in the demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region had not yet been successfully achieved. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the process, which was launched as part of a deal between Turkey and Russia in September, had not been successful despite efforts by Ankara.
  • A man wielding a knife entered an Israeli border police base in annexed east Jerusalem provoking a scuffle in which four officers were wounded, police said on Thursday. The assailant was seriously wounded as he was overpowered by officers during the rare attack inside a security force base late on Wednesday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. The attacker, who was not immediately identified, had scaled a fence around the base between the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabel Mukabar and the settler district of Armon Hanatziv before being spotted.
  • The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen has suspended an assault on a vital port city, as the kingdom comes under international pressure to undertake peace talks to end the bloody three-year war. The coalition forces, made up of Yemeni militias backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have shifted to a defensive posture to facilitate United Nations-led peace talks with Houthi rebels, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday. The battle for Hodeidah, under way since June, had subsided in recent days to give space for aid workers and wounded civilians to evacuate.
  • The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al Qaeda’s branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao on Monday. Late Monday evening, a suicide truck bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao. At least three people were killed and another 30 were wounded the attack. In JNIM’s statement, the jihadist conglomerate claimed it targeted a base of “Crusader invaders” from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. It also named the bomber as “Usama al Ansari,” a nom de guerre implying the bomber was a local member of the group.
  • An Islamist rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo received money from a financier linked to Islamic State, suggesting tentative ties between the Congo insurgents and other jihadists in Africa and beyond, a report said on Thursday. Islamist “financial facilitator” Waleed Ahmed Zein paid the Allied Democratic Forces at least once, said the report from New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Bridgeway Foundation that cited U.S. sources and an ADF defector.

Friday 11.16.18

  • Two Argentine citizens with suspected links to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia were arrested on Thursday ahead of the G20 summit due to take place in Buenos Aires at the end of the month, Argentina’s security ministry said in a statement. The two men, aged 23 and 25, were arrested in a residence in the capital. Police discovered a small arsenal that included a rifle, one shotgun and a number of pistols, among other weapons. Police said they discovered evidence of travel abroad “along with credentials in Arabic and an image of the Hezbollah flag.”
  • Cops across India’s Punjab state are on high alert after receiving inputs that Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists as well as Al-Qaeda commander Zakir Moosa, may be hiding here. Posters of Moosa, the Kashmir unit chief of Al-Qaeda, were put up in several places in the state on Friday after inputs that he and several JeM terrorists may have entered the state through Ferozepur. 
  • An important upcoming milestone for Afghanistan’s Western-backed democracy and a separate, crucial chance to settle the country’s 17-year war appear to be crashing into each other.  The country’s presidential election, planned for April 20, is already roiling the political atmosphere. As President Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term, and an array of potential rivals try to form winning coalitions, observers fear the race could divide the country along dangerous ethnic lines.  At the same time, momentum for talks with the Taliban is steadily building, with a special U.S. peace envoy pushing the process hard and insurgent leaders showing serious interest in negotiating for the first time. But they have insisted that they will not deal directly with the Ghani government, instead reportedly meeting U.S. officials in Qatar and then attending a recent pro-peace conference in Moscow.
  • Afghan authorities Thursday returned the body of a Pakistani policeman who disappeared in Islamabad about three weeks ago and was found dead in an Afghan border region, an unsolved killing that has worsened tensions between the uneasy neighbors. Pakistani authorities stopped short of blaming Afghanistan for orchestrating the abduction and slaying of senior police officer Tahir Dawar, who was based in Peshawar but had traveled to the Pakistani capital to visit his family. Authorities in Islamabad suspect that the Pakistani Taliban, which allegedly operates out of Afghan bases, was behind Dawar's kidnapping. But the militant group denied its involvement in a statement sent to reporters this week.
  • More than a year after Mosul was liberated from the grip of the Islamic State terror group, landmines and unexploded ordnance remain a threat to residents. Two weeks ago, a group of children playing on the site of the historic Great Mosque of al-Nuri in western Mosul found and inadvertently detonated an explosive device. One child was killed in the explosion and two others were injured. "When I heard that my son was injured, I was in shock," Omar Abdulqader told VOA. "I hurried to the hospital only to find out that my daughter, too, was injured in the explosion.
  • Syria’s state news agency and a war monitor say airstrikes on an area controlled by the Islamic State group have killed at least 18 people. SANA news agency says Thursday’s airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition on IS-held parts of the eastern province of Deir el-Zour killed 23 and wounded many others. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes killed 18, including 12 children and teenagers.
  • Eight United Nations peacekeepers and at least 12 Congolese soldiers were killed in a joint military operation against rebels in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is facing a deadly Ebola outbreak, the Security Council said Thursday. Ten peacekeepers were injured and one was missing after Wednesday’s operation that targeted Allied Democratic Forces rebels, said the United Nations spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric. The Security Council’s statement said seven of the peacekeepers who were killed were from Malawi and one was from Tanzania.