Tuesday (5.23.17)

  • US special operations forces raided an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) compound in Marib province in central Yemen early Tuesday and killed seven operatives. The operation took place just days after the US Treasury Department listed two tribal leaders from Marib as global terrorists for supporting al Qaeda. US Central Command (CENTCOM) said seven AQAP members were killed “through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes.” No senior al Qaeda leaders or operatives were reportedly killed.
  • A suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert Monday night. ISIS issued a statement claiming responsibility for the bombing; however the message didn’t provide any details about the bomber. The statement didn’t indicate that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and implies that multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used. Initial reports indicate that the bomb may have been packed with shrapnel, such as nails, nuts or bolts. Early Tuesday morning police announced that a 23-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the attack. Yesterday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London's transport system in 2005.
  • Five Philippine soldiers were wounded on Tuesday in a clash when they raided an apartment where ISIS-linked militants were hiding in a city on the southern island of Mindanao, the army said. The focus of the raid was about 15 terrorists belonging to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera, an army spokesman, said the military was acting on information that Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group, was among the fighters hiding in the apartment in Marawi City.
  • Terrorists attacked an Afghan government army base in the southern province of Kandahar, killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding nine. The attack began just before midnight on Monday, the Afghan defense ministry said in a statement.Government forces at Camp Achakzai in Shawali Kot district battled for several hours, killing at least 12 attackers, but the militants have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks. The United States is considering whether to send 3,000 to 5,000 more military advisers to help train and assist Afghan security forces battling a 16-year-long insurgency led by the Taliban.
  • On Monday ISIS three of its own jihadists by firing squad in northeastern Syria for escaping the battle field in Raqqa province. The three fighters were captured after evacuating their post without permission in the northern suburb of Raqqa–where heavy fighting is ongoing between ISIS and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
  • The media arm for al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has released a video of a graduation ceremony for foreign fighters who attended a training camp. Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage, a spokesman and senior figure in Shabaab, delivers a speech during the ceremony. He focuses mainly on Kenya, claiming that Christians oppress Muslims in that country and throughout East Africa. Rage calls on the graduates to form an "army that will conquer Kenya so that we may return to our families and relatives in a state of honor and glory."

Wednesday (5.24.17)

  • Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children had recently returned from Libya, a British minister said on Wednesday, and her French counterpart said he had links with ISIS and had probably visited Syria too. Interior minister Amber Rudd said Salman Abedi had likely not acted alone, and troops were being deployed to key sites across Britain to help prevent further attacks after the official threat level was raised to "critical." Police made three new arrests in South Manchester on Wednesday in connection with the concert bombing, but they provided no details on the individuals held. Rudd said up to 3,800 soldiers could be deployed on Britain's streets, taking on guard duties at places like Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to free up police to focus on patrols and investigation. An initial deployment of 984 had been ordered, initially in London, then elsewhere.
  • The Syrian army said on Wednesday it had killed ISIS’ military commander in Syria, Abu Musab al-Masri, during operations in the north of the country, where the Russian-backed government forces are seizing more territory back from the jihadist group. If confirmed, this would represent a major blow against ISIS ahead of an attack which the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters - are expected to launch against the jihadists in their stronghold of Raqqa city. Al-Masri was named among 13 senior ISIS figures killed in Syrian army operations east of Aleppo, including men identified as Saudi and Iraqi nationals, according to the military source cited by state media.
  • Three police officers were killed in eastern Kenya on Wednesday when their vehicle hit a landmine, a senior official said, in an attack claimed by Somali terrorist group al Shabaab. The officers were part of a three-vehicle early morning patrol in the Somali border region when their truck hit the improvised explosive device (IED).
  • Pakistan has arrested a Taliban militant leader authorities describe as the "mastermind" behind three major attacks in Baluchistan, a spokesman for the government of the restive southwestern province said on Wednesday. Militant and separatist violence has long riven Baluchistan, which has rich reserves of natural gas, copper and gold, and is at the heart of a $57-billion Chinese-funded "Belt and Road" trade and development initiative. The arrested man, Saeed Ahmed Badani, was among the planners of three attacks in 2016 that killed more than 180 people. 
  • Fighters loyal to ISIS infiltrated Marawi city, the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur in southern Philippines, to battle with Filipino troops inside the city. Local media reports indicated several jihadists moved into the city early Tuesday and began to take over buildings and vehicles, including City Hall, a medical center and the city jail. The Filipino Air Force reportedly “dropped several bombs” in the afternoon in select Marawi neighborhoods to try and wrestle back control of the city. President Rodrigo Duterte cut short a visit to Russia and imposed martial law on the island of Mindanao on Tuesday after this fighting erupted during a raid by security forces at a hideout of ISIS-linked militants. Two soldiers and a policeman were killed and 12 wounded amid the chaos.
  • A suicide bomber killed five people, including a policeman, and injured 12 others on Tuesday at a police checkpoint in Somalia's northern Puntland region, a local governor said, the first such attack in three years. Although suicide bombings are common in the capital of Mogadishu, they are relatively rare in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, where the security forces are relatively regularly paid and receive substantial U.S. assistance. The al Qaeda branch in Somalia, al Shabaab, which claims responsibility for most attacks, said they were not behind the bombing.
  • Multiple U.S. troops were injured in a Tuesday raid against a compound associated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen in which at least seven terrorists were killed. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters the injuries were not serious enough to require medical evacuation and he declined to say specifically how many troops were injured. Davis added that this was the first time the U.S. had carried out a ground raid in the Marib governorate and the deepest the U.S. had gone into Yemen to target AQAP.

Thursday (5.25.17)

  • Three soldiers were killed in a bombing of an armored vehicle by Islamist terrorists in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, security and medical sources said on Thursday. The soldiers were conducting a patrol in the North Sinai town of Rafah which borders the Gaza Strip. In a separate attack, a policeman was killed by gunmen while he was shopping in Arish, the capital of North Sinai province. The gunmen were able to flee and the body was taken to a military hospital. The attacks are the latest in an area where security forces have been battling ISIS, which authorities say has killed hundreds of members of the security forces.
  • Indonesia's anti-terrorism unit raided the home of a suspected suicide bomber on Thursday as authorities linked attacks that killed three police officers at a Jakarta bus station a day earlier to ISIS. Six police officers and six civilians were also wounded in the twin blasts set off five minutes apart by two attackers in the Kampung Melayu area of the Indonesian capital late on Wednesday, police said. The attack was the deadliest in Indonesia since January 2016, when eight people were killed, four of them attackers, after suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the capital.
  • A roadside bomb killed two Kenyan police near the Somali border on Thursday, police said, making it 11 Kenyan security officials that have been killed by roadside bombs over the past two days. The string of bombings, most of which were claimed by al Shabaab, underscores the difficulty facing Kenya's government as it tries to secure the country ahead of national elections scheduled for August 8th.
  • The Syrian army said it had retaken a swathe of territory from ISIS in southern Syria on Thursday in a rapid advance near areas held by U.S.-backed Syrian rebels at the border with Jordan and Iraq. The Syrian government said earlier in May that it was a priority to recapture the sparsely populated region known as the Badia where U.S.-backed Syrian rebels seized a vast expanse of territory from Islamic State in March. Tensions flared in the southern region last week when the U.S.-led coalition mounted an air strike against pro-government forces that U.S. officials said posed a threat to U.S. and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in the area. Washington described the forces as Iranian-directed. The Syrian army on Thursday declared the capture of areas to the south of Palmyra and to the east of Qaryatayn in southeastern Homs province.
  • France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against Islamist terrorists at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said. The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against ISIS follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda. All 28 NATO ambassadors agreed in Brussels on Wednesday on NATO joining the coalition, paving the way for leaders to endorse the decision on Thursday, a second diplomat said.
  • ISIS has claimed a suicide bombing on a security checkpoint in the Somalian city of Bosaso, which is located in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The attack marks one of, if not the first time ISIS has claimed a suicide attack in Somalia. According to local media, the bomber was stopped at a military checkpoint near the Juba hotel in the city. The attacker detonated his explosives as security personnel approached him. It is likely that the intended target was the hotel itself. At least five people were killed and 12 others were wounded in the explosion.
  • Police scrambled to close down a network around the Manchester suicide bomber with arrests in Britain and Tripoli on Wednesday. British-born Salman Abedi, 22, who was known to security services, killed 22 people at a concert venue packed with children on Monday. Authorities believe he had help in building the bomb, which were sophisticated and powerful, and that his accomplices could be ready to strike again. Manchester police arrested five men and one woman on Wednesday, bringing the total held for questioning to seven, and searched multiple addresses in northern and central England.
  • A bombing claimed by Islamist fighters killed five civilians and injured six more in the Somali capital on Wednesday, a spokesman for the city's mayor said, underscoring the terrorists’ ability to carry out attacks despite territorial losses. Bombings are a near-daily occurrence in Mogadishu. Most are claimed by al Qaeda’s branch, al Shabaab, which is fighting to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed government and drive out the African Union peacekeeping force that supports it.
  • Since January, at least 101 attacks throughout West Africa have been attributed to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s main faction in West Africa, Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), was formed earlier this year and is comprised of several Malian-based jihadist groups that were already within al Qaeda’s network. This includes al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara branch, Ansar Dine, Al Murabitoon and Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front). JNIM is led by veteran Tuareg jihadist, Iyad Ag Ghaly, and is openly loyal to Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of AQIM, and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Friday (5.26.17)

  • Gunmen attacked buses and a truck taking a group of Coptic Christians to a monastery in southern Egypt on Friday, killing 26 people and wounding 25 others, witnesses and the Health Ministry said. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the unidentified gunmen had arrived in three four-wheel-drive vehicles. Eyewitnesses said masked men stopped the two buses and a truck and opened fire on a road leading to the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, which is home to a sizeable Christian minority. Security forces launched a hunt for the attackers, setting up dozens of checkpoints and patrols on the desert road. The grand imam of al-Azhar, Egypt's 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning, said the attack was intended to destabilize the country.
  • Three senior Islamic State military leaders and planners were killed in coalition attacks in Iraq and Syria over the past two months, the coalition fighting the militants said in a statement released by the Pentagon on Friday. Mustafa Gunes, an Islamic State operative from Turkey, was killed in an air strike in Mayadin, Syria, on April 27, the statement said. Abu Asim al-Jazeri, an Islamic State planner from Algeria, was killed in Mayadin on May 11, it said. Abu Khattab al-Rawi, an Islamic State military leader, was killed in al Qaim, Iraq, on May 18, the statement said. It said all three were foreign fighters but did not identify al-Rawi's home country.
  • A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian militias promised on Thursday that no harm would come to Islamic State fighters in Raqqa who turned themselves in by the end of the month, calling on them to lay down their arms ahead of an expected assault on the city. The Syrian Democratic Forces, which groups Kurdish and Arab fighters, has advanced to within a few kilometers (miles) of Raqqa city at the nearest point, in an offensive that got underway in November to encircle and capture the city. The SDF, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, said earlier this month it expects to launch the final assault on Raqqa in early summer. YPG and SDF officials had previously given April start dates for the assault, but these slipped.
  • A US-led coalition air strike on the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen early Friday killed at least 80 relatives of Islamic State group fighters, a monitoring group told AFP. "The toll includes 33 children. They were families seeking refuge in the town's municipal building," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "This is the highest toll for relatives of IS members in Syria," Abdel Rahman told AFP. The latest strike came as the United Nations urged all nations bombing jihadist targets in Syria to better distinguish between civilian and military targets.
  • Gaza's ruling Hamas movement executed three Palestinians on Thursday convicted of killing a commander in the Islamist group's armed wing while acting on Israel's orders. Hamas' military prosecutor said the three men admitted to receiving orders from Israeli intelligence officers to track and kill Mazen Fuqaha on March 24 in Gaza City. A military court convicted one of carrying out the shooting and the two others of providing Israel with information about Fuqaha's whereabouts. Two of the men, aged 44 and 38, were hanged while the third, 38, a former security officer, was shot by firing squad, the Hamas-run interior ministry said. The executions took place in an open yard of Gaza's main police headquarters, witnessed by leaders from Hamas and other Palestinian factions, as well as heads of Gaza clans.
  • The suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Manchester passed through Istanbul on his way to Europe but there were no records of him entering Syria during his travels, two Turkish security officials said on Thursday. The officials told Reuters that Turkey received no prior warning from European countries about the bomber, Salman Abedi, so he was allowed to travel on to Europe. Abedi blew himself up at a packed hall in Manchester on Monday evening killing 22 people, including young children, who were leaving a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande. Born in Manchester to Libyan parents, Abedi had recently returned from Libya, according to Britain's interior minister, Amber Rudd. Describing Abedi's movements before the attack, one of the Turkish officials said: "There is flight traffic before his arrival to Europe. He travels first to Europe, then to a third country and then to Istanbul and back to Europe." He said the "third country" was not Syria.
  • Four Turkish soldiers and a village guard were killed in two separate clashes with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in eastern Turkey, the Turkish military said on Thursday. Three Turkish soldiers and a village guard were killed in a clash that broke out between PKK militants and security forces in the Caldiran district of Van province, the army statement said. It said four soldiers were also wounded in the clashes. Nine PKK militants were killed in a subsequent firefight in the area, the army said. Security sources earlier said these clashes had occurred in the Dogubayazit district of neighboring Agri province. Another Turkish soldier was killed in clashes with PKK militants near a military outpost in the Semdinli district of the Hakkari province bordering Iraq, the military said. It said one PKK militant had been killed in a subsequent operation in the region, and two had been "neutralized".
  • Yemen's rebels have claimed that they had inflicted heavy casualties on a Sudanese force fighting on Saudi Arabia's behalf in northern Yemen. Sudan has been a member of the Saudi-led coalition since the beginning of its military intervention in Yemen in March 2015. While Sudanese troops have been seen operating alongside soldiers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in southern Yemen, Sudan was not known to be contributing to Saudi Arabia's ground operation in northern Yemen until recently. Yemen's pro-rebel SABA news agency reported on 23 May that 83 Sudanese 'mercenaries' - including four senior officers - were killed during fighting near Midi, a coastal town close to the Saudi border. The Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the rebels did not immediately comment on the claim.
  • Saraya al Salam (Peace Brigades), an Iraqi Shia militia led by powerful cleric Muqtada al Sadr, recently paraded its forces near the city of Samarra in Iraq’s Salahadin province. The parade was meant to showcase the militia’s “Rapid Intervention Brigade” and its preparedness to be deployed in the region. The parade featured several tanks, rockets, mortars and a significant amount of ground troops. The RIB was estimated to have around 1,000 troops in its formation last year. Saraya al Salam is the current incarnation of the Mahdi Army, Sadr’s militia that fought US forces in pitched battles in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq between 2004 and 2008. Sadr purportedly disbanded the Mahdi Army in the spring of 2008 after US forces battled the group in Baghdad’s sprawling neighborhood of Sadr City, and created the Promised Day Brigade. Saraya al Salam was formed in 2014 to combat the Islamic State as Iraqi forces in northern, central, and western Iraq disintegrated in its wake. Last year, Sadr said that US troops in Iraq are a target for his militia.
  • Fierce clashes erupted on Friday between rival armed groups in the Libyan capital Tripoli, seat of the country's UN-backed unity government. Tripoli has been gripped by a power struggle between dozens of militias since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. AFP journalists heard explosions and artillery fire as fighting broke out in the Abu Slim, Al-Hadhba and Salaheddin districts in the south of the city. Witnesses said tanks had been deployed. British ambassador Peter Millett tweeted that he could hear explosions and artillery in south Tripoli. He condemned "action by these militias who threaten security" in the run-up to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Saturday in Libya. Groups hostile to the Government of National Accord said they attacked loyalist forces.
  • A Tunisian court held its first public hearing on Friday in the trial of 33 people in connection with a 2015 jihadist beach massacre that killed dozens of foreign tourists. A student armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenades went on a rampage in the Port el-Kantaoui resort near Sousse killing 38 holidaymakers, 30 of them Britons, before being shot dead by police. It was the second of two deadly attacks on foreigners claimed by the Islamic State group that year which devastated Tunisia's once-lucrative tourism sector. 
  • At least 15 Afghan soldiers have been killed in an attack by the Taliban on a military base in Kandahar province. Five others were injured in the assault on the facility in Shah Wali Kot district, defence ministry spokesman Dawlat Wazir told the BBC. It comes four days after 10 Afghan soldiers were killed when Taliban militants stormed another base in the same area. The Taliban said it had carried out the attack, AFP news agency reports.
  • Foreign fighters are among Islamist militants killed in a southern Philippine city in recent days, officials say. Six jihadists, including Indonesian and Malaysian citizens, were killed as the army continued its operation to drive the rebels out of the city of Marawi. Attack helicopters and special forces have been deployed in the offensive. It is a rare admission by the authorities that local jihadists are working with international groups. Marawi is a mainly Muslim city in Lanao del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao. The province is a stronghold for the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State (IS).