Monday 9.17.18
  • Taliban attacks across two western Afghan provinces have left at least 12 Afghan police officers dead, officials say. In the province of Farah, provincial council member Khair Mohammad Noorzai said at least seven Afghan police officers were killed after militants attacked a check post early on September 17.
  • ISIS is making a comeback in Iraq and so far the government has failed to stop it. In October 2017, Iraqi forces captured the town of Hawija from the Islamic State, taking back one of the militant group’s last remaining strongholds. But now, ISIS has regrouped in the area and continues to terrorize residents. 
  • A UN official warned this week that an all-out military assault on Idlib, which has nearly 3 million residents, risked the potential for the worst humanitarian conflict “in the 21st century.” Idlib also presents a terrorist threat comparable to Raqqa or Mosul, the previous strongholds of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham controls 60% of Idlib province and has as many as 10,000 fighters; there also are other jihadi groups and armed gangs there. 
  • A Palestinian fatally stabbed an American-born Jewish settler in the occupied West Bank on Sunday then was himself shot and seized by armed civilians who gave chase. The victim, Ari Fuld, 45, was well-known amongst settlers as a pro-Israel advocate. According to his Twitter account, he had planned a lecture tour in the United States in November.
  • Houthi forces fighting a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen fired a missile over the border targeting the Jizan Industrial City in southern Saudi Arabia on Saturday, but Saudi air defense forces said they had intercepted and destroyed the projectile. “The rocket force fired a Badr ballistic missile at the Industrial City of Jizan,” the Houthis’ al-Masirah TV said.
  • A 23-year-old Adelaide woman has been found guilty of being a member of Islamic State in South Australia's Supreme Court. Zainab Abdirahman-Khalif was detained at Adelaide Airport in July 2016 trying to board a plane to Turkey with just hand luggage and $170, but released without charge. In May last year, she was again arrested and charged by Australian Federal Police with knowingly being a member of a terrorist organisation.

Tuesday 9.18.18

  • On Sept. 11, al Qaeda released a two-page eulogy for Jalaluddin Haqqani, a legendary jihadist who was one of Osama bin Laden’s first and most important allies in South Asia. The Taliban announced the elderly Haqqani’s death one week earlier on Sept. 4.* Both al Qaeda and the Taliban emphasize Haqqani’s loyalty to the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which ruled over the country prior to the US-led invasion in late 2001 and the jihadists are currently fighting to resurrect. Despite being allied with the US and Pakistan during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s, Haqqani and his men became staunch foes of America – a fact celebrated by both the Taliban and al Qaeda.
  • Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency says its officers have arrested at least 26 suspected members of the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS), accusing them of plotting attacks on members of the Shi'ite minority. The militants, including an alleged ISIS leader, were detained in separate operations in Kabul, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on September 18.
  • The Taliban claimed it shot down an Afghan military helicopter in the western province of Farah yesterday. Afghan officials denied the helicopter was shot – and instead claimed it crashed due to a mechanical failure. Regardless, the Afghan military was unable to secure the crash site and recover the five soldiers on-board for at least 10 hours after the helicopter went down. Afghan officials confirmed that the helicopter crashed at about 9 p.m. local time on Sept. 14 in the district of Khaki Safid in Farah, according to TOLONews. A spokesman for the governor of Farah province said that the helicopter “crashed due to a technical issue, not due to Taliban fire,” Reuters reported.
  • Shi’ite militia leader Hadi al-Amiri, one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, withdrew his candidacy for prime minister on Tuesday, putting the country one step closer to forming a government after months of political stagnation. Amiri heads the Fatih Alliance, an electoral bloc which came in second in May’s inconclusive national election. His coalition has been vying to build the largest bloc which would form the government, with him as prime minister.
  • Two people were found dead near the site of an Israeli missile strike at the coastal strip’s border with Israel, Gaza medics said on Tuesday. The Israeli military said it had attacked a group suspected of tampering with the border fence. There was no immediate word on the identities of those killed east of Qarara village, in the south of the Gaza Strip.
  • The Saudi-led coalition said pro-government forces in Yemen launched a new offensive on Monday night against the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, after an 11-week pause during UN efforts to hold peace talks. "A military operation to liberate Hodeida and its port has begun on multiple fronts," a senior coalition official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Pro-government forces launched air raids against rebel positions in and around the city of 600,000. Residents told AFP they had heard explosions. The coalition accuses the Tehran-aligned Huthi rebels of smuggling arms from Iran through Hodeida and has imposed a partial blockade on the port, which the rebels seized in 2014.
  • Diplomats, spies and hostage negotiators gather nightly on the moonlit terraces of colonial-era hotels in this remote desert capital to trade intelligence on security threats. Foreign bases and vast new embassy complexes are rising along sand-caked streets. In the shadows, smugglers move migrants, guns and drugs across lawless territory. Niger, a poverty-stricken nation perched on the southern belt of the Sahara, is rapidly being transformed into one of the world’s most strategic security hubs. Its capital has become ground zero for a multibillion-dollar Western project to halt the migrant trail from West Africa toward the Mediterranean and combat the expansion of jihadist activity across the Sahel, the semiarid region south of the Sahara.
  • Power has gone off in western and southern Libya including the capital Tripoli after renewed fighting between rival groups knocked out most power stations, the state electricity firm said. New fighting between armed groups erupted on Monday, ending a shaky truce brokered by the United Nations two weeks ago after more than 60 people had been killed in clashes since the end of August.

Wednesday 9.19.18

  • Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday the Taliban was prepared to attend multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, RIA news agency reported. Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister is expected to visit Moscow on Thursday to discuss the dates of the talks, the Afghan embassy was cited as saying earlier.
  • An Iraqi court on Wednesday sentenced a prominent jihadist described as a deputy of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to death on terrorism charges. "The Karkh criminal court in Baghdad sentenced to death by hanging one of the most prominent leaders of ISIS, who served as a deputy of Baghdadi," judicial spokesman Abdel Sattar Bayraqdar said. Ismail Alwan Salman al-Ithawi was extradited from Turkey earlier this year having fled Syria as the group's self-proclaimed "caliphate" crumbled.
  • The Russian-Turkish agreement to avert a Syrian government offensive against Idlib hinges on the response of jihadist fighters in the region and could unravel quickly if Moscow and Ankara cannot jointly impose their plan on the Islamist groups. Ankara has for months called for a targeted campaign against the jihadists who control parts of Idlib, instead of a broad offensive against a region which is also home to 3 million civilians and tens of thousands of Turkey-backed rebels.
  • A Palestinian man was shot on Tuesday by Israeli police who said he tried to stab a Jewish worshiper near Damascus Gate outside the walled Old City on Yom Kippur, the holiest fast day in the Jewish calendar. A police spokesman said the attacker had been “neutralized.” Witnesses said police sealed off a street in which a body lay on the ground covered with a sheet.
  • Islamic State is staging a resurgence in chaotic Libya, claiming more than a dozen attacks in the North African country this year and threatening to disrupt the flow of oil from one of the world’s most significant suppliers. The group’s re-emergence comes two years after Libyan forces backed by U.S. air power dislodged the extremist group from its stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, and it erodes one of the signature victories in the years long U.S.-led military campaign against the militants.

Thursday 9.20.18

  • Pakistan continues to allow the Taliban, including the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, to operate on its soil, despite pressure from the US government. That is one of the conclusions drawn in the State Department’s newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. “The Pakistani government pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and HQN [Haqqani Network] from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan,” the report reads.
  • The State Department warned on Wednesday that Islamic State, al Qaeda and its affiliates have adapted by dispersing and becoming less vulnerable to military action after the United States and its partners made “major strides” against the armed Islamist groups last year. In an annual report on the U.S. anti-terrorism fight worldwide, the State Department said militant attacks decreased globally in 2017 by 23 percent from 2016, with a 27 percent reduction in fatalities. The drops were due mostly to “dramatically” reduced extremist attacks in Iraq, said Nathan Sales, the U.S. counter-terrorism coordinator, whose office produced the congressionally mandated report. Islamic State, al Qaeda and their affiliates, however, “have proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere,” the report said.
  • Yet again, the Taliban has promoted another propaganda video flaunting its fighters occupying a military base and several security outposts in broad daylight without fear of retribution or targeting by Afghan and Coalition air or ground power. The latest Taliban video came from the district of Chimtal in Balkh province in northern Afghanistan and appears to have been shot last week. Taliban fighters were shown milling around the bases without fear of reprisal. Some were communicating on their radios. The Taliban flag flew high over the bases.
  • The State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism today. The report covers events during the previous calendar year. As in past assessments, State says that Iran “has allowed” al Qaeda to operate its key facilitation network on Iranian soil. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaeda (AQ) members residing in Iran and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 reads.*
  • The United States is seeking to negotiate a treaty with Iran to include Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional behavior, the U.S. special envoy for Iran said on Wednesday ahead of U.N. meetings in New York next week. Iran has rejected U.S. attempts to hold high-level talks since President Donald Trump tore up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers earlier this year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed a dozen demands in May that he said could make up a new agreement, although Hook’s reference to a treaty, which would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate, appears to be a new focus.
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday. An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
  • Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are intervening in the violence-plagued southern province of Basra, where demonstrators have been staging mass protests over a lack of public services, the poor economy and alleged corruption among public officials. Protesters on Sept. 7 stormed the PMU office in Basra and set fire to many government buildings, including the Iranian Consulate. The next day, the PMU leadership issued a statement that read, “The deteriorating security situation in Basra calls for the need to protect its people, and the PMU will deal with [the saboteurs] just like it dealt with Islamic State [ISIS] militants during [previous] battles.” It added, “Ending the security unrest and protecting the lives of citizens is a national and legitimate duty.”
  • The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, a key Damascus ally, said on Wednesday that his group will keep its military presence in Syria until further notice, commending the Idlib Russian-Turkish agreement as a step toward reaching a political solution in the country. “We will stay there (in Syria) even after the settlement in Idlib. Our presence there is linked to the need and the consent of the Syrian leadership” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the powerful Shiite group leader, said in a televised address.
  • The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Thursday that his group had obtained precision rockets despite Israeli strikes in recent years aimed at cutting the supply route through Syria. “No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, addressing Israel in a broadcast speech. “If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, Israel will face a fate and a reality it has never expected on any day,” he added.

Friday 9.21.18

  • US-backed forces have launched an offensive on the Islamic State group's last stronghold in eastern Syria, but the man dubbed the world's "most wanted"-- ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -- could yet again slip through the net, experts warn. There have been recurring reports of Baghdadi being killed or injured, but the elusive leader, whose only known public appearance dates to July 2014 when he proclaimed a cross-border caliphate from the pulpit of a mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul, is believed to be still alive.
  • Kurdish-led authorities controlling northeastern Syria will not be able to hold foreign Islamic State fighters indefinitely, and their home countries should take them back, a senior official there said on Thursday. Abdulkarim Omar, joint head of foreign relations in the Kurdish-led area, told journalists its administration was holding around 500 foreign fighters and 500 family members from around 40 countries, following last year’s defeat of Islamic State in nearly all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.
  • A deal to create a demilitarized zone in Syria’s last opposition stronghold and forestall a regime offensive faces an immediate challenge from terrorist groups there who have signaled their reluctance to abide by the agreement. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, one of the most powerful armed groups in Syria’s Idlib Province, criticized the accord made this week between Russia and Turkey to avert a government offensive. The deal for a demilitarized zone would remove heavy weapons and expel officially designated terrorist groups from a 10-to-12 mile corridor along the front lines by mid-October.
  • Jihadists from the UK are still fighting in Idlib – some of the last British extremists in Syria – and some are allied to the al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, once know as the Nusra front. It’s accused of torture and random killings, is a terrorist group in the eyes of most governments, and it has Idlib in its grip. Two British extremists who have lived and fought in Syria for years say they won’t lay down their weapons for anyone. 
  • Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), an Uzbek jihadist group also known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, released photos earlier today of spoils taken from overrunning Afghan military posts in northern Afghanistan. The group claims the operation was part of the Taliban’s larger offensive taking place throughout Afghanistan. The jihadist group did not specify where the operations took place, however, KIB is known to operate in Faryab and Jowzjan, where ethnic Uzbeks constitute a large portion of the population. The photos show two KIB militants posing with captured small arms, including Kalashknov variants, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and PK machine guns. The photo series is the second this month to show captured weapons after overrunning Afghan positions.
  • Taking a page from Vietnam War propaganda, the American military in Afghanistan has been widely publicizing body counts of Taliban and Islamic State fighters killed in battle. Officials described the practice, which began in January, as part of an apparent strategy to rally White House support for remaining in the conflict. In roughly three dozen statements, the military announced the deaths or wounding of more than 2,500 enemy fighters. The media releases were posted online, where they could have been seen by at least hundreds of thousands of internet followers, including on Facebook and Twitter. On Thursday morning, in response to questions from The New York Times, the practice abruptly stopped.