Monday 11.5.18
  • A former student at The University of Alabama accused of providing support to terrorist organization al-Qaeda was indicted by a federal grand jury in Birmingham. The woman, Alaa Mohd Abusaad, 22, was arrested last week in Ohio. Her LinkedIn profile said she studied geology/earth science at the University and was president of the Muslim Student Association. Chris Bryant, assistant director for the office of media relations, said in an email that the individual is a former student who has not been enrolled since the last academic year.
  • The Taliban and the Pakistani military are both mourning the loss of Maulana Sami ul-Haq, an extremist cleric who was murdered in a knife attack yesterday. The 80-year-old Haq was widely known as the “father of the Taliban,” an honorary title he earned by running a seminary that indoctrinated many of the group’s leaders and bolstered their ranks with fighters. Haq’s extremist views were never hidden. He once compared Taliban founder Mullah Omar to an “angel” and described Osama bin Laden as a “hero.” In its eulogy, the Taliban says it is “with great sadness” that it learned the “renowned Islamic scholar of Pakistan and chancellor of Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania,” Maulana Haq, “was martyred by unknown assailants.”
  • A community in Utah is in mourning after its mayor, Brent Taylor, was killed in Afghanistan while he was deployed with the National Guard. His body is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. Monday night. With two months left in his year-long tour, the 39-year-old died Saturday after one of his Afghan trainees shot him in an insider attack. Afghan forces reportedly killed the attacker.
  • The Taliban launched an attack early Monday on a newly established joint Afghan army and police checkpoint in eastern Ghazni province, killing at least 13 soldiers and policemen, according to a provincial official. Afghan reinforcements were subsequently dispatched to the site of the attack in Khogyani district but were repeatedly ambushed along the way. And late on Sunday night, a Taliban attack in southern Kandahar province killed at least four policemen.
  • Infighting between factions killed 40 Taliban fighters in October in the western province of Herat and is part of the reason a militant group is seeking peace talks, government officials said Friday. Over the last three years, armed clashes between rival Taliban groups in the region have left hundreds dead, said Jailani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor. The faction pursuing peace talks is led by Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, who split from the main insurgent command with about 1,000 fighters in 2015. The split occurred after the revelation that senior Taliban commanders had covered up the death of the group’s leader, Mullah Omar, for almost two years.
  • The U.S. Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General is warning in a new report that conditions could be ripe for the Islamic State to resurge in Iraq and Syria, even as new violence erupts between the Turkish and U.S.-backed forces fighting the militants in the region. The Islamic State has lost all but a fraction of the territory it controlled after it swept Iraq and Syria in 2014. But without improvements to security, stability, and governance in the two countries, the group could soon rise again, the inspector general warned in a report released on Nov. 5.
  • Baghdad police say four people have been killed in four bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital, including two inside commuter minivans. The blasts occurred after Sunday’s evening rush hour and appeared to target Shiite districts around Baghdad, including Sadr City and Kadhimiya. Police officials say the individual blasts were relatively small. They say about 20 people were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with police regulations.
  • A car bomb exploded near a military position in Syria's Raqqa on Sunday, local authorities and a war monitor said, and Islamic State group said it was behind the blast.  The blast came a day after the assassination of a local council leader in the city, the former Syrian capital of the militant group's self-declared caliphate, which was seized a year ago by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters. Raqqa security forces said a civilian had been killed and several people, including civilians and fighters injured. The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the blast caused "a large number" of casualties. 
  • Military officials are expressing alarm that a shrinking U.S. military presence in the Middle East has undermined their ability to respond to Iranian threats just as the Trump administration’s imposition of oil sanctions increases the potential for confrontation. Concern about the Pentagon’s decision to move ships, combat aircraft and missile defense systems out of the region has intensified in the run-up to Monday’s deadline for reimposing energy sanctions on Iran, the White House’s latest move to pressure Iran and curtail its support for armed proxy groups.
  • Fighting has escalated around Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida, with more than 150 combatants killed over the weekend from both the rebel and government-backed sides, officials said Sunday. Airstrikes and naval artillery pounded rebel positions around the Red Sea coastal city, where government backed-troops are launching a major ground assault to try to wrest it from dug-in rebels. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
  • An Arab terrorist attempted to stab IDF soldiers in a failed stabbing attack outside of the Israeli town of Kiryat Arba in Judea, south of Jerusalem, Monday afternoon. The incident occurred near the Elias Junction outside of Kiryat Arba, when a terrorist approached several Israeli civilians and an IDF officer while carrying a knife. According to initial reports, a soldier spotted the terrorist and opened fire before he was able to reach his intended target. The terrorist was shot and wounded, and is said to be in light condition.
  • Egypt said on Sunday that security forces have killed 19 militants in a shootout, including the gunmen suspected of killing seven Christians in an attack on pilgrims traveling to a remote desert monastery. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said the militants were tracked to a hideout in the desert west of the central province of Minya, the site of Friday's attack, which also left 19 people wounded.

Tuesday 11.6.18

  • The Taliban stormed yet another Afghan military base overnight, this time in the western province of Farah near the border with Iran. All but three of the border policemen manning the outpost were either killed or captured, according to reports. Farah is the fourth military base to fall to the Taliban in just the first six days of November. The base, manned by an estimated 50 Afghan border policemen, “was the most equipped border post in the province and was responsible for securing the highway and border areas,” according to ATN News.
  • Islamic State left more than 200 mass graves in Iraq, the United Nations said Tuesday, the aftermath of the extremist group’s three-year occupation of the north of the country that could provide some of the first evidence of war crimes committed during their rule. The Iraqi government has tried and executed dozens of Islamic State militants since the group retreated, but none for war crimes. “The mass gravesites documented in our report are a testament to harrowing human loss, profound suffering and shocking cruelty,” said the U.N.’s representative in Iraq, Jan Kubis.
  • An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State’s last vestige in eastern Syria — in part because of the enemy that the allied fighting force had expected, and other threats that it very much had not. Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm after the campaign began in September have knocked the coalition back on its heels. And last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that is fighting the Islamic State with American help, suspended operations after Kurdish positions farther north were shelled by Turkey — not far from United States advisers.

Wedneday 11.7.18

  • A jury has found Akayed Ullah guilty of last year's attack in an underground walkway of the New York subway system, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday. Footage from the tunnel showed Ullah detonate a bomb on his person during morning rush hour December 11, 2017. The tunnel connects two subway lines beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. "Ullah's sinister purpose was to harm and terrorize as many innocent people in his path as possible, by using deadly violence to make a political statement," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said.
  • An Afghan official says the Taliban killed eight policemen and wounded three in an attack on two checkpoints in western Farah province. A member of the provincial council, Dadullah Qani, says the attack on Tuesday night took place on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Farah, and triggered an hours-long battle in which the Taliban were beaten back. The Taliban didn't immediately comment the attack.
  • At least 45 Islamic State group fighters have been killed around their last enclave in Syria despite a pause in a two-month Kurdish-led assault, a monitor said on Wednesday. A Kurdish-led alliance backed by Washington announced the pause in its offensive in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor last week in protest at Turkish shelling of Kurdish areas along the northern border. But waves of US-led air strikes since Monday have killed 28 jihadists, including during an abortive ISIS assault on Tuesday on an oilfield north of the enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
  • The United States said on Wednesday it hoped Russia would continue to allow Israel to strike Iranian targets in Syria, despite Moscow’s supply of the S-300 air defense system to the Syrian government. “Russia has been permissive, in consultation with the Israelis, about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria. We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue,” Ambassador James Jeffrey, Washington’s Syria envoy, said in a conference call with reporters.
  • The U.S. on Tuesday offered rewards for information on three high-ranking members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a move that could help Washington repair ties with Ankara. The U.S. will pay up to $5 million for information "leading to the identification or location" of Murat Karayilan, up to $4 million for Cemil Bayik and up to $3 million for Duran Kalkan. All three are among Turkey's "most wanted terrorists," Reuters reported. The PKK has been fighting an armed insurgency against the Turkish government for decades.
  • Turkey will not ease its stance against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia to meet U.S. expectations, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday, after Washington offered rewards for information about senior Kurdish militants. Speaking at a news conference after a cabinet meeting, Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey viewed Washington’s move as positive but belated.
  • Turkish forces killed a Kurdish YPG militant who fired into Turkey from Syria, a Turkish security source said on Wednesday, the most recent cross-border clash between Turkey and Kurdish militants east of the Euphrates River. The militant had fired from Syria’s Ras al-Ayn region into Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, the source said. Turkey considers the YPG militia a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.
  • A Turkish court sentenced a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish opposition party to 2-1/2 years in jail on terrorism charges, a party official said on Tuesday. Mahmut Togrul, a member the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)representing the southeastern province of Gaziantep, was found guilty of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at two separate speeches in 2016. His lawyers have said that Togrul’s remarks did not include any criminal elements and were within the framework of freedom of expression, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
  • Yemeni pro-government forces said Wednesday they had advanced closer to the rebel-held port city of Hodeida after fierce battles that have killed nearly 200 fighters in the past week. The clashes come as the United Nations pushes to restart negotiations between the warring parties, after planned talks in Geneva collapsed in September before they even began. In the past 24 hours, 27 Iran-backed Houthi rebels and 12 pro-government fighters have been killed on the outskirts of Hodeida city, a medical source told AFP on Wednesday.
  • The United Nations and Western powers have given up hope that Libya will hold elections in the immediate future, focusing on reconciliation first among rival factions locked in a cycle of conflict, diplomats and other sources said. In May, France had persuaded major players in the North African country to verbally agree to elections on Dec. 10 as a way of ending repeated rounds of bloodshed between competing factions that emerged after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. But weeks of fighting between rival militias in the capital Tripoli and deadlock between rump parliaments in Tripoli and the east has made that goal unrealistic, Western officials argue.