Monday 11.3.18
  • The Taliban confirmed that Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund (Manan), its shadow governor and military commander for Helmand, was killed in an airstrike in the southern province last night. Manan was responsible for Taliban successes in Helmand that has left every district to be controlled or contested by the group. “With great sadness, we received the news of the martyrdom of the governor of the Islamic Emirate of Helmand province and its military officer in brutal American bombing yesterday,” the Taliban said in an official statement released on its Arabic-language edition of Voice of Jihad.
  • The Iraqi authorities released a video on Friday with the confession of a recently captured Islamic State operative who was involved in a notorious incident in which captured Kurdish soldiers were put in cages and paraded around a northern Iraqi city by hooded Islamic State fighters. At the time, early 2015, the Islamic State was threatening to burn them to death much as they had done two months earlier to a Jordanian pilot who had been captured, caged and then set on fire in Syria. It is not clear how the Kurdish captives were killed. The captured operative, Jamal al-Mashadani, who was known by the nom de guerre Abu Hamza al-Kurdi, was an officer in President Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus before joining Al Qaeda in Iraq after Mr. Hussein’s fall. Mr. Mashadani later shifted his loyalty to the Islamic State.
  • The US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria said today that Abu al Umarayn, a senior Islamic State figure, has been killed in an airstrike. Umarayn and “several” other Islamic State leaders were killed in recent bombings, according to a statement issued by Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). Col. Ryan claimed that Umarayn “had given indications of posing an imminent threat to Coalition Forces,” though it isn’t clear what that means. Umarayn was also “involved in the killing of American Citizen and former US Army Ranger, Peter Kassig,” as well as “several other prisoners.”
  • A senior Islamic State leader has been captured during an underground tunnel raid in eastern Syria, reportedly surrounded by gold bullion, cash and 20 mobile phones. US-backed forces last month landed the prized scalp of Osama al-Awaid, also known as Abu Zeid, who is said to be a trusted advisor to elusive IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to a statement from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Awaid was caught in a special operation on November 22 in the eastern Syrian village of Al-Tana in Deir Al-Zour.
  • A senior Hezbollah source said on Monday neither the group nor Iranian positions in Syria had been struck last week during what Syrian state media had reported as an attack south of Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said Israel carried out a missile attack in the area last Thursday evening. Israel has not said whether it conducted the attack and Syrian state media did not identify who carried it out.
  • Al Qaeda’s media team continues to read the Western press. In recent weeks, the group has released two pieces focusing on the debate over America’s decades-long relationship with Saudi Arabia. Of course, al Qaeda has criticized the two nations’ friendly ties since the 1990s. But the new writings are intended to capitalize on recent controversies, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The first essay, titled “The Love Story Between Salman al Saud and the Pirate Trump,” was penned by a little-known al Qaeda figure known as Sheikh Awab Bin Hasan al Hasni. As Sahab, the main propaganda arm for al Qaeda’s senior leadership, disseminated the tract online in Arabic via Telegram and its new website.
  • Alex Younger, chief of the UK’s foreign spy agency MI6, will name Russia as a major proponent of state-sponsored cyber and terrorist attacks, according to an advance copy of a speech he plans to deliver on Monday. He will warn the Kremlin not to underestimate Britain’s "determination" and "capabilities", after Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to melt at least a layer of diplomatic frost at the Group of 20 meeting in Argentina by praising Britain as an "important partner".

Tuesday 12.4.18

  • A soldier based in Hawaii is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for trying to help the Islamic State group. Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang pleaded guilty in August to four counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. He said he provided classified military documents, a drone and other help. He agreed when Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson described other support he provided to undercover agents Kang believed were part of the Islamic State group. By at least early 2016, Kang became sympathetic to the group, Sorenson said. The FBI gathered information from sources he knew, worked with or lived with when it began an investigation in August 2016, Sorenson said.
  • Everyone, it seems, is pushing for peace in Afghanistan these days. President Donald Trump's special envoy is racing around the region, trying to drum up support for talks with the insurgent Taliban. The Russians, eager to get into the act, have hosted a conference on the issue. The Pakistanis, long accused of abetting the insurgents, insist they want to help end the war. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hopes to win reelection in April as the man who brought peace to his country after 17 years. The Taliban, however, seems to be in no hurry at all.
  • An Afghan official says the Taliban stormed a police checkpoint in the northern province of Sa-e Pol, killing a district police chief and another police officer. Zabi Amani, a spokesman for Sar-e Pol’s provincial governor, said the attack began late on December 3 in the Sayyad district -- setting off a gunbattle that lasted into the early morning hours of December 4. Amani said four police officers were wounded in the fighting.
  • Sgt. Jason M. McClary became the fourth soldier to die of wounds from a blast last week in central Afghanistan, raising the toll from the deadliest incident for U.S. troops in the country this year, the Pentagon said Monday. McClary, 24, of Export, Pa., died Sunday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from injuries he received in the Nov. 27 blast, which struck a convoy of U.S. and Afghan forces in Ghazni province’s Andar district en route to battle Taliban fighters.
  • Israel said on Tuesday it had launched an operation to “expose and thwart” cross-border attack tunnels from Lebanon dug by the Iran-backed Lebanese movement Hezbollah. The army said the operation was for now confined to Israel and did not extend into Lebanon, where the tunnels originated. The broader frontier appeared calm in the hours after the announcement, despite fear that it could lead to confrontation. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. A Lebanese army source said the situation was calm on its side of the border, as did U.N. peacekeepers operating there.
  • Over the past few days, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has continued its campaign against the Nigerian military in northeastern Nigeria with three major claims in as many days. Earlier today, ISWA claimed a major assault on the Nigerian military near the small village of Buni Gari in Yobe State. The jihadist group claimed it killed 17 soldiers in an attack on their barracks near the town. Nigerian media has confirmed the offensive took place, however, officials have downplayed the situation by reporting only two soldiers killed. Buni Gari was previously controlled by the group in 2014 when it was still under the unified leadership of Abubakar Shekau.

Friday 12.7.18

  • A Jordanian citizen who was living in Ohio has been convicted of attempting to join the Islamic State to fight against the Syrian leadership. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the U.S. Justice Department announced 28-year-old Laith Waleed Alebbini was convicted Thursday of attempting to and conspiring to join the terrorist group. Alebbini was arrested at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Kentucky in 2017.
  • The Taliban staged a coordinated attack overnight on two Afghan army outposts in western Herat province, killing 14 Afghan soldiers and taking 21 captive, a provincial official said Friday, the latest in a series of daily attacks by insurgents on the country’s beleaguered national security forces. Herat provincial council member Najibullah Mohebi said the assault began late on Thursday in Shindand district. Fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents — but not before they captured 21 troops.
  • Afghanistan became the world’s deadliest terrorism hot spot in 2017, due to the escalation of the war and fewer incidents elsewhere, a new report said. One in every four people who died from an act of terrorism last year lived in Afghanistan, according to Australia’s Institute for Economics and Peace think tank. Last year the country suffered more than 1,000 attacks, leaving 4,653 dead and 5,015 injured, the report released Wednesday said.
  • As Iraq marks the first anniversary of its victory over ISIS, many areas are still strewn with so many bombs that authorities do not expect to recover remains of the dead soon, if at all. ?But in places formerly controlled by ISIS, locals say they are more worried about their future than the past. Militants may have lost almost all of their territory, but attacks continue and residents fear the group will once again rekindle its campaign of all-out violence.
  • U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have broken into an eastern holdout of the Islamic State group on the Iraqi border, a commander and a monitor said Thursday, months into an anti-jihadist offensive. A Kurdish-led alliance, backed by airstrikes of the U.S.-led coalition, has been battling to oust ISIS from the pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor since September. But the Syrian Democratic Forces suffered a series of setbacks, including due to a vicious fightback by jihadis and bad weather that impeded visibility.
  • Israel's prime minister on Thursday asked the international community to impose additional sanctions on Hezbollah and condemn the Lebanese militant group in response to the discovery of tunnels stretching from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. Stepping up an international pressure campaign against Hezbollah, Israel also hosted the commander of a U.N. peacekeeping force, showing him one of the tunnels and urging the force to take action across the border.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday hailed majority backing in the UN General Assembly for condemning militant group Hamas even though a draft resolution failed to win enough votes to pass. The US draft won 87 votes in the General Assembly on Thursday compared to 58 against but fell short of a required two-thirds majority. Thirty-two countries abstained. "The draft condemnation of Hamas in the UN General Assembly received a sweeping majority by countries that stood against Hamas," Netanyahu said in an English-language statement.
  • The Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen has armed and financed local militias, including some with alleged links to Islamic extremists, that are now turning on one another in a competition for territory, wealth and control over the country's future. This internecine fight is aggravating a humanitarian crisis now considered the most dire in the world and clouding the prospects for peace in this crippled country. The violent saga unfolding here in Taiz, the country's third-largest city, reveals how the wartime decisions made by Saudi Arabia - and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - are threatening to fuel turmoil in Yemen for years if not decades to come.
  • A bloody rivalry has emerged between extremist groups in Somalia as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab hunts upstart fighters allied to the Islamic State group, who have begun demanding protection payments from major businesses, officials tell The Associated Press. The rivalry supports some observers’ suspicions that al-Shabab, now scrambling to defend its monopoly on the mafia-style extortion racket that funds its high-profile attacks, is drifting from its long-declared goal of establishing a strict Islamic state.