There is an increasing risk of Libya becoming a haven for combatants from ISIS, even as western nations target the extremist militant group in Iraq and Syria, the French defense minister warned in comments published earlier in the week.
“We see foreign jihadists arriving in the region of Syrte (northern Libya) who, if our operations in Syria and Iraq succeed in reducing the territorial reach of Daesh (ISIS) could tomorrow be more numerous,” defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Jeune Afrique weekly.
Analysts believe Libya would present a less hospitable environment for ISIS than Syria and Iraq. According to the Guardian, there are indications that attention in the Middle East is already turning to Libya, where Isis is rapidly consolidating its power base.
Speculation about coalition airstrikes in the troubled country intensified throughout last week after reports that France – one of the UK’s principal coalition partners targeting Syria – flew its first reconnaissance missions over the town of Sirte, joining the drones of the US, another key partner.
Sirte — located along Libya’s Mediterranean coast — has become an actively managed colony of the central Islamic State. It is crowded with foreign fighters from around the region, especially from its caliphate in the former Syria and Iraq, as NATO increases its military and economic pressure there. The new location enables it to generate oil revenue and plan terror attacks only 400 miles southeast of Sicily.
The current chaos in Libya with groups of competing militias since the overthrow and death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 has allowed ISIS to build influence, notably in Qaddafi’s coastal home town of Sirte, east of Tripoli.
And there are widespread fears the group could exploit tribal conflicts further into Africa.
To the west of Libya, Tunisia, shocked by the killing last month of 12 presidential guards by a Libyan-trained bomber, has shut its border with Libya and on Friday banned Libyan planes from the capital, fearing suicide attacks.
- RAF completes second wave of bombing raids on Isis targets in Syria: Guardian.co.uk
Britain has completed its second wave of bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Syria against a backdrop of mounting concern that coalition military forces may also become drawn into airstrikes against the jihadis’ expanding enclave in Libya.
Four British warplanes – two Tornados and, for the first time, two Typhoons – struck wellheads in the vast Isis-controlled Omar oilfield on Friday night using Paveway IV guided bombs as part of the coalition’s strategy of impairing the terrorist group’s funding streams, the Ministry of Defence said.
It described the operation as part of “daily missions”, suggesting more strikes were planned for Saturday night. Michael Fallon, defence secretary, repeated warnings that the UK would be engaged in action against Syrian targets for the long term. Speaking during a trip to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, where the aircraft striking Isis targets are stationed, he refused to offer a campaign timetable, stating that it was “not going to be short or simple”.
- Assad says British bombing in Syria will fail, ridicules PM Cameron
British air strikes on Islamic State will fail to defeat the militant group, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper, mocking Prime Minister David Cameron’s strategy in the region.
“They are going to fail again,” he said. “You cannot cut out part of the cancer. You have to extract it. This kind of operation is like cutting out part of the cancer. That will make it spread in the body faster.”
- U.S. coalition raids kill 32 ISIS fighters in Syria
The U.S.-led coalition has been carrying out strikes against IS in Syria since last September, expanding a campaign that began with raids in neighbouring Iraq.
At least 32 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group fighters were killed on Sunday in apparent U.S.-led coalition air strikes on the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqa province, a monitor said.
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that more than 40 ISIS jihadists were also wounded “in a series of around 15 strikes on ISIS bases by planes believed to be from the U.S.-led coalition”.
He said the wave of raids hit ISIS bases to the north, east and southeast of Raqa city, which is the group’s de facto Syrian headquarters.
ISIS controls large stretches of territory in the two countries, which it describes as an Islamic “caliphate”.
The U.S.-led coalition has expanded its operations in recent days, partly in response to the deadly attacks in Paris claimed by ISIS.
Britain voted on Wednesday to join the coalition’s strikes in Syria, after a heated debate in the country’s parliament and with the staunch backing of Prime Minister David Cameron.
And German lawmakers on Friday approved plans to join the military action against the group in Syria.
Raqa is frequently the target of air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, as well as the Syrian air force and Russian warplanes that began an air campaign in Syria in late September.
- The call for a new international consensus on Syria, involving the temporary transfer of legal control to the UN, is made in the Independent
On Sunday by Gilbert Greenall, a former international relief adviser with decades of experience in Africa and the Middle East.
He warns that Syria’s situation is “simply unsustainable” and that “a return to a UN mandate territory”, similar to the League of Nations structure that governed the country from 1923 to 1945, should be considered urgently.
A man wielding a machete attacked several people at Leytonstone tube station, east London. He reportedly shouted, “This is for Syria” after he launched the attack, which police are treating as a terrorist incident. One man suffered serious knife wounds, which were non-life-threatening, while two other people sustained minor injuries. Police arrived within minutes of the attack beginning and the man was Tasered and arrested.
- Iraq summons Turkish ambassador to demand withdrawal of troops
Iraq’s foreign ministry has summoned the Turkish ambassador to demand that Turkey immediately withdraw hundreds of troops deployed to northern Iraq, near the Islamic State controlled city of Mosul.
The ministry said on Saturday that the Turkish forces had entered Iraqi territory without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad, and that Iraq considered such presence “a hostile act”.
The Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, said the troop rotation was routine and that Turkish forces had set up a camp near Mosul almost a year ago in coordination with Iraqi authorities.
“This camp was established as a training camp for a force of local volunteers fighting terrorism,” he said in a speech to a labour union that was broadcast live by NTV news channel.
Isis militants overran Mosul in June 2014. A much anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces has been repeatedly postponed because they are tied down in fighting elsewhere. Iraq has urged the international community to provide more weapons and training in its battle against Isis, but rejects most forms of direct intervention, mistrusting the intentions of foreign powers.
Davutoğlu said the camp, located about 19 miles (30km) northeast of Mosul, was set up at the Mosul governor’s request and in coordination with the Iraqi defence ministry. “It has trained more than 2,000 of our Mosul brothers, contributing to the freeing of Mosul from the Islamic State terrorist organisation,” he said.
- Turkey, Iran in war of words over Syria
Senior Turkish and Iranian officials have engaged in a war of words over Syria, with each accusing each other of lending support to terrorist organizations in a row that parallels Ankara’s ongoing tension with Moscow.
The quarrel began after Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari released a statement on Dec. 4 accusing Turkey of indirectly supporting terrorists in Iraq and Syria while responding to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments on the Iranian leadership’s Syrian policies.
According to the English version of the official IRNA news agency, Ansari said “pursuing policies and stances that will result in a boost to terrorists in Iraq and Syria and will only escalate tension in the region” and that the “continuation of such policies will only complicate problems for those countries that take such stances deliberately or unconsciously.” Ansari also said Erdoğan’s suggestion that it was first Iran that had accused Turkey of buying oil from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and that the Turkish leader had urged Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to stop such coverage in the Iranian press distorted the truth.
- Russia accuses Erdogan of profiting from oil trade with Isis
FT: Moscow’s anger at Turkey for shooting down one of its fighter jets reached a new pitch beginning of December when Russia’s defence ministry accused Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of enriching themselves through the illegal oil trade with Isis.
“According to the data we have received, the highest political leadership of the country is involved in this criminal business — president Erdogan and his family,” Anatoly Antonov, deputy defence minister, told reporters at a press briefing. Mr Antonov went on to denounce the Turkish president as a liar, a thief and an autocrat — and even insinuated that Mr Erdogan’s power might be at risk.
- Russian Media Identifies ISIS Killer As Siberian ‘Jihadi Tolik’
Russian media has identified the victim and killer in a video released by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), purportedly depicting the beheading of a Russian spy. The killer—a white, bearded man who did not wear a mask in the video and spoke Russian—has quickly been branded “Jihadi Tolik.”
In the video released this week, the victim identifies himself as Magomed Hasiev shortly before his death, but Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet confirmed the identity of either man. On Friday Russian media announced that it had determined the identity of man now being likened to the British militant known as “Jihadi John”, and also filled in more details about the victim.
Russian national daily Izvestia cites locals from Russia’s Siberian Yamalo-Nenets region who claim to have “easily recognized” the face of the killer as that of 28-year-old Anatoly Zemlyanka. He is a native of Noyabrsk and is wanted by Russia’s federal investigators. He is suspected of joining ISIS in 2013 and his parents and brother still live in Noyabrsk.
Thai police have received a warning from Russia’s state security agency that 10 Syrians who may be linked to the Islamic State group could stage attacks in Thailand on targets associated with Russia and others opposed to the militants, officials said Friday.
There have been few signs of IS activity in Thailand, though the group actively recruits volunteers from its Southeast Asian neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia — which are predominantly Muslim — to fight in Syria and Iraq.
- San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik grew hardline in Saudi Arabia, family says
A change came over Tashfeen Malik two or three years ago. She started dressing more conservatively, wearing a scarf that covered nearly her entire face, and became more devout in her Muslim faith, according to some who knew her in Pakistan.
But her path from there to the bloody events of this past week — when she and her husband slaughtered 14 people in a commando-style shooting rampage at a holiday luncheon — remains a mystery, with FBI officials, family lawyers and others saying they knew little about the 29-year-old Malik before the explosion of violence.
The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, said in an online radio broadcast Saturday that two of its followers carried out Wednesday’s attack in Southern California that killed 14 people and injured at least 20 others, Reuters reported.
“Two followers of Islamic State attacked several days ago a centre in San Bernadino in California,” the group’s daily broadcast al-Bayan said. The news comes after reports surfaced that one of the attackers, Tashfeen Malik, pledged allegiance with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook. However, the FBI, which is investigating the shooting carried out by Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, said that there was no evidence the attack was carried out by the Sunni-militant group that also claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
- France strikes ISIS in Syria from newly-deployed carrier
French airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group were launched from the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier on Monday, according to the French military. Two air force Mirage 2000s were engaged in the mission according to the French defense ministry said and the carrier battle group formed around the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, led his first missions over areas controlled by [ISIS] in Iraq.
The strikes targeted IS positions in the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Mosul, followed by air raids in the Syrian city of Raqqa.Meanwhile, France detains two trying to join IS in Libya:
French Muslim has ‘no regrets’ about declaring ‘spiritual jihad’ on Isis after Paris attacks despite death threats
The Paris attacks, which killed 130 people in multiple attacks across the capital on 13 November, were later claimed by Isis. A number of the suspected assailants are either Belgian or French citizens.
A French Muslim who declared “spiritual jihad” against Isis after the Paris attacks has said he has not been deterred by the death threats he has received from the extremist group.
Mohammed Chirani, a specialist in religious de-radicalisation who works in some of Pairs’s most deprived arrondissements, went on national French television following the attacks that killed 130 people to tell Isis militants their God would not protect them.
Brandishing a Quran and his French passport, Mr Chirani told the terrorists “our dead, the innocent French citizens, are in paradise”.
- Paris attacker visited London: report – Belgium seeks 2 new ‘dangerous’ attack suspects
One of the perpetrators of the deadly Paris attacks visited London and Birmingham earlier this year to meet people suspected of plotting terror activity in Britain, The Guardian reported Saturday. The newspaper, citing counter-terrorism officials, said the unnamed attacker had managed to enter Britain and travel to the nation’s two biggest cities, before heading back to continental Europe undetected despite heightened security.
Belgium on Friday said it was searching for two new “armed and dangerous” men who used false ID papers to help wanted Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam travel to Hungary in September. The fake identity card of one of the suspects was also used to wire money from Brussels to Paris and the cousin of attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud four days after the massacre in the French capital, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said. Both men are unidentified but carried the identities of Belgian nationals Soufiane Kayal and Samir Bouzid. “The Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the investigating judge wish to appeal to the public again to look out for two new suspects the investigators are actively searching for,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
- Yemen: Governor, 6 bodyguards killed; ISIS claims responsibility
Sanaa, Yemen (CNN)The governor of the major Yemeni city of Aden and six bodyguards were killed in a car bombing Sunday — an attack ISIS said it committed.Gov. Jaafar Saad was at the branch of the Ministry of Telecommunication in the southern city of Aden when the blast occurred, local officials said.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement attributed to the group circulated on social media.It’s the latest bout of chaos in a country grappling not only with ISIS but also al Qaeda, Houthi rebels and a president’s ouster.
The Lebanese government on Tuesday released the former wife of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as part of a prisoner swap with an al Qaeda affiliate, a Lebanese security official said.
The woman, Saja al-Dulaimi, was among a group of Islamists that the Lebanese government exchanged for Lebanese soldiers held captive by al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front, the security official said on condition of anonymity. The prisoner swap, following lengthy negotiations, happened Tuesday in the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the Syrian border, Lebanon's official National News Agency said.
Al Nusra Front released 16 Lebanese soldiers who were kidnapped from Arsal in August 2014, the news agency reported. Lebanon also is receiving the body of slain soldier Mohammed Hamieh, who was among those kidnapped, the agency reported.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s National News Agency said warplanes were bombing ISIS targets in Wadi Mira, Martbaya and Zamarani, in the northern Qalamoun region along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The targeted areas, located on the far eastern outskirts of Lebanon’s northeastern town of Arsal, were sites of major battles between militants and a Hezbollah-Syrian army force earlier this year.
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- The difference between Isis and Saudi Arabia
- German Parliament Votes to Send Military Assistance to Fight ISIS