The U.S. And Their ‘Alliance’ (Except For The Kurd’s) Need To Leave Syria Right Now!

 

Any time that a person or more so a military, are in or flying above another Nation without the permission of that Nations government then you are an illegal intruder and you have declared war on that Nation. Syria’s President Assad has made it very clear that he considers the U.S. and their Alliance partners to be in his Country illegally and that he does not want them there. Even though I am an American citizen I cannot condone our actions in this Syrian Civil War nor with Syria’s inner-border conflict with the terrorist group called ISIS. We were never invited to step into this conflict within Syria’s borders and we should never have gone into that country, we have no right to be there. I will try to keep this article as short as I can yet I will do my best to explain my thoughts/beliefs as to why I believe as I do, for your consideration.

 

As I have written a few times before on this site that history shows within the Islamic world that it appears that about the only way to not have total chaos is if a rather brutal dictator rules their country. I personally do not like anything to do with brutality or with dictators, I am merely expressing an observation. I know that Syria’s President Assad is both of these elements yet I believe that the people of Syria as a whole were far better off six years ago than they are today. In Islamic countries there has been a civil war raging for about 1,400 years now between their two main sects and this hatred of each other still shows no sign of ending, ever.

 

Just like in Afghanistan the U.S. is in an Islamic country with our military and we have no exit strategy, as is the case in Syria. In Afghanistan the American tax payers have spent well over a trillion dollars to help bring peace to this tribal war-torn land and we have spilled the blood of many of our soldiers, and for what? In the long game our government has been trying to get the Taliban and to sit down with the very weak Government in Kabul to form a ‘sharing’ government, so why are we there? Unless a person is totally ignorant of reality they must know that once there is a ‘sharing’ government and the U.S. pulls out of the country that the Taliban will simply murder the civilian government people and everything will go back to the Taliban like it was 15 years ago. So, all of that gold and all of that blood spilled, for what? With all of this money the American government has spent in this country it is estimated that 90% of the civilians there only have one set of clothing, our occupation time there could have been spent in more productive ways.

 

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, all far away countries that in the long run where our blood and gold have really accomplished very little to nothing. There is always one ‘positive’ to these military campaigns and that is the jobs provided by the ‘war-machine’ industry and of course the billions of dollars that go to the corporations leaders and to the people who are able to afford stock in these companies. To many government leaders in to many different countries seem to believe that their infrastructure must have a very strong weapons export economic base. People in these ‘second and third’ world nations (economically) need safe housing, schools, clothing and food. They need an infrastructure, roads, bridges, hospitals and jobs. I am sure that you noticed that these items I mentioned are the same exact things that the people of the economic powers also want and need, in most respects all people need and wish for the same things. The ‘Western Powers’ have a long history of setting up ‘war lords’ to rule small countries, then sell them a lot of weapons whom they use against their own citizens and then we wonder why their people hate us so much.

 

Now, back to the main line of thought, the situation in Syria. The Syrian President Mr. Assad has many economic and security issues within his borders and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this Civil War that has been raging for the past six years. Back in the first term of U.S. President Obama when he had Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State the so-called Arab Spring started. Mrs. Clinton pushed Mr. Obama into trying to ‘help’ fire up the civil war in Libya to over through their dictator, look at the total mess that Libya still is. Egypt came next where we helped to over through their dictator then we got the Muslim Brotherhood who had to be over thrown by the Egyptian Army before Egypt became another Libya. Then Hillary set her eyes on removing President Assad from power in Syria, now look at what a disaster Syria has become.

 

The U.S. encouraged the Syrian citizens to revolt against President Assad and we have spent several billion dollars on training and supplying weapons to ‘moderate Islamist’ whom Assad calls terrorist, if the situation were reversed would we not call them terrorist? As we all know when we decided to pull out of neighboring Iraq we opened up a vacuum along their western border which made a very weak Iraqi government even weaker. We should have stayed longer just doing border control help while the government soldiers and police tried to keep the peace in the cities and the country’s interior. Our governments failures helped open up the eastern part of Syria and the western part of Iraq (both Shiite Islamic nations) for a new Sunni military army to step in and form their own government in these two countries. ISIS is a result of our governments ignorance of reality in this part of the world. We say we are in Syria to fight against this group of mass murderers and that we are not at war with Syria itself but that is an obvious lie. If we are training and supplying groups like the ‘Free Syrian Army’ who are fighting to bring Assad’s government down then we are in an ‘undeclared’ war with the Syrian government.

 

The Syrian government has many allies to help them fight the different intruders trying to over through them. Russia of course is their most powerful ally but they do have several more including other Shiite countries like Iraq, Iran and basically Lebanon through their proxy Hezbollah. The ethnic people know as Kurd’s are also fighting against ISIS but their case is a bit different because several hundred thousand Kurdish people have lived within these borders for thousands of years so in a sense they are fighting against ISIS and to a degree against the Syrian government in an attempt to keep and to achieve their own Nation. The recent episodes where we have shot down a Syrian jet fighter and a couple of Iranian drones has brought the U.S. closer to direct war with Syria, Russia and Iran. These events would not be a reality if we simply weren’t there. Some will say that we have to be there to fight ISIS but this is not true. The American people have spent our own money and blood in a Nation who has not attacked us or declared war on us and whom does not want us there. If the U.S. and our ‘Alliance’ partners were not there then Syria’s allies would have and could have taken our place with their bombers and their soldiers. But the real question is why are we doing what we are doing there? My question is, is it because of the trillions of dollars in war materials our economy produces and of course the jobs this creates for our economy? Could the reason partly be because of the friends our politicians have on the Boards of these companies, or is it because of the stocks that our Senators, Congressmen and women and also this President own in these companies?

 

 

 

 

‘I can’t go out’: Texting for help from Islamist-occupied Philippines city

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

‘I can’t go out’: Texting for help from Islamist-occupied Philippines city

By Simon Lewis and Manuel Mogato | MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES

Trapped in a war zone, Carmalia Baunto’s husband, Nixon, had been trying for weeks to stay alive as Islamist guerrillas and Philippine government forces battled for control of Marawi City.

With the fighting raging around him, Nixon texted and called throughout, until just over a week ago when the messages stopped abruptly, leaving his wife praying that it was just his cellphone battery that had died.

“I’m OK, but I can’t go out. The house is safe,” the 41-year-old hardware store owner had told his wife in a message from their home inside the southern Philippines city.

He heard gunbattles in the street, he wrote, and hid from black-clad fighters who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State and have occupied the city’s commercial district for a month.

On June 14, at 9:59 a.m., Nixon texted to ask Carmalia to buy him more credit for his phone, which she did.

Then the messages stopped, and his phone stopped ringing.

“I’ve had sleepless nights since then,” Carmalia, 42, told Reuters at Marawi’s government compound, where she has been sleeping in a mosque while awaiting word of her husband.

The couple and their children were out of town when fighting erupted in Marawi on May 23, but Nixon went in the next day to check on their home and got trapped. Like most of the city’s residents, the family is Muslim.

Officials estimate 300 to 500 people are still trapped inside Marawi, fearful of militants accused of using civilians as human shields as much as of government airstrikes and starvation.

Some families have sent messages saying they have resorted to eating blankets or cardboard dipped in water to keep hunger at bay.

The Philippine military has said it is in the final stages of its operation to oust the insurgents, whose ranks contain local militants and foreign, battle-hardened fighters from Islamic State’s campaigns in Syria and Iraq.

The fighters have put up tough resistance, exploiting the city’s narrow streets, thick concrete walls and basements, and harassing troops with sniper fire and Molotov cocktails.

Philippines military aircraft – with technical assistance from U.S. special forces – have pummeled the city with 500-pound bombs, raising fears about the safety of civilians unable to get out.

In the early stages of the conflict, many people were texting and calling in their whereabouts.

Their best hope of getting out lies with a “peace corridor” initiative of President Rodrigo Duterte.

It comprises Philippine army officers and their former adversaries, fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014.

The team says it has helped to evacuate 270 people since it was set up on June 4. It has also delivered supplies to those who remain behind.

Others have escaped by making their own way across the city, dodging sniper fire, to cross the Banggolo bridge over the Agus river and reach the government-controlled area.

BATTERIES RUN DOWN

But there is no power and water in the city. Phone batteries have now largely run down and the team has no way to contact most of those inside, including Nixon Baunto. He had used two phones, his wife said, and the power must have run out in both.

Families visiting the evacuation team’s office on Wednesday provided 15 new names of loved ones they say are trapped in the city, according to Wendell Orbeso, a director at the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Later, the team received a text saying 10 or more people were hiding out in a grocery store.

“We don’t exactly know how many people are still there,” Orbeso told Reuters at the office in a government building now mostly used to house evacuees.

The locations of the beleaguered civilians are passed to military commanders in the hope that soldiers can rescue them.

After flushing militants from the city’s neighborhoods, troops have moved house-to-house, watching out for booby traps that include cooking gas cylinders rigged to explode, Gen. Ramiro Manuel Rey told reporters in Marawi on Wednesday.

Carmalia has been told the army is close to clearing the militants from the area around her home, she said.

Nixon was too scared to leave the house, she said. He believed he would likely be captured by the militants or mistaken for a fighter and shot by the military, he told her.

He had survived by collecting and drinking rainwater.

Earlier in the siege, Nixon ventured out to a mosque, where he reported seeing more than 100 civilians sheltering, including women and children nursing gunshot wounds, he told his wife.

“He could not take the shooting, the bombing and the fear of stray bullets,” she said, so he returned home, further from the epicenter of the battle.

“I pray to Allah every day, every night, every hour for this war to end so my family can be reunited,” Carmalia said, wiping tears from her eyes.

She was desperate to have her husband back for the Eid al-Fitr festival this weekend, she said. “If he’s not back, I have no interest in celebrating.”

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Jihadists cried out “God is great” every time they shot a follower of Jesus Christ

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/112411/590-415/coptic-christians.jpg
(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany) Hanaa Youssef and Mina Habib, the widow and son of a man who was killed in a militant attack against Coptic Christians last month, hold the victim”s portrait in Minya, Egypt June 8, 2017. Picture taken June 8, 2017.

A 10-year-old Egyptian schoolboy who witnessed the brutal murder of his father by Islamic State militants in Minya, where 29 Christians were slaughtered in May, says the jihadists cried out “God is great” every time they shot a follower of Jesus Christ.

Mina Habib told Reuters in a piece published Tuesday that his father, one of the 29 believers massacred on May 26 when IS stopped three vehicles on their way to a monastery, was killed specifically for his Christian faith.

“We saw dead people, just dumped on the ground,” the boy, who is now receiving therapy at a local church, said of the attack.

“They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car,” he said of his father, Adel.

Mina said the 15 gunmen shot Christian children dead, but he and his older brother, Marco, were spared.

image: http://d.christianpost.com/full/110308/590-436/egypt.jpg
(Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany) Mourners react at the Sacred Family Church for the funeral of Coptic Christians who were killed on Friday in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017.

Three vehicles were attacked that day, with a bus and car transporting children and families being the fist targets.

The extremists reportedly shot out the windows, took the women’s jewelry, and asked victims whether they were Christians before killing them.

“They saw us in the back of the truck. They made us get down and a man wearing camouflage like the army pointed his gun at us, but another one in all black told him to let us go. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great,” the 10-year-old added.

He said the radicals had Egyptian accents, and most of them were wearing masks.

The killing of the 29 Christians was only the latest attack on Egypt’s minority Coptic community, which has been terrorized by Islamic radicals for years, with the attacks increasing with IS’ rise in the region.

The Copts have said that they “take pride” in dying for their faith, in defiance against IS.

“We take pride to die while holding on to our faith,” Bishop Makarios, the top Coptic Orthodox cleric in Minya, said in May.

Thousands of Copts mourned the victims of the bus shooting, and expressed their grief and rage at the funerals.

“With blood and soul, we will defend you, oh cross!” Copts yelled at the Church of the Sacred Family in the village of Dayr Jarnous.

“We will avenge them or die like them,” they said. “There is no god but God and the Messiah is God!”

At the same time, however, they have pleaded with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to keep his promise to protect them, and to increase support for the families of victims.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/10-year-old-survivor-isis-massacre-every-time-they-shot-christian-they-yelled-god-is-great-188734/#gc4xoVK8ROgQaeYD.99

A 17-Year-Old Muslim Girl Was Murdered While Walking Home From Her Mosque in Virginia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE WASHINGTON POST)

A 17-Year-Old Muslim Girl Was Murdered While Walking Home From Her Mosque in Virginia

Updated: 9:16 AM ET | Originally published: 6:05 AM ET

A 17-year-old Muslim girl was assaulted and killed as she made her way home after prayers at a Virginia Mosque.

The Washington Post reports that the body of Nabra Hassanen was identified by relatives after being discovered in pond in Sterling, northern Virginia. Fairfax county police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres with her murder. The Post reports that authorities are not investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

A police statement cited by the Guardian said an investigation concluded that Hassanen “was walking outside [the mosque] with a group of friends when they got into a dispute with a man in a car.” The man then “got out of his car and assaulted the victim.” Her friends, unable to find her after the incident, called the police.

An officer had “seen a car driving suspiciously in the area,” and the driver, Martinez Torres, was taken into custody as a suspect, according to the police statement.

“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,”Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer who attended the same Sunday evening service as Hassanen, told the Post.

[Washington Post]

Indiana Muslims Appalled By Accurate List of Muhammad’s Deeds

 

US

Indiana Muslims Appalled By Accurate List of Muhammad’s Deeds

GRACE CARR
06/07/2017
A billboard on the east side of Indianapolis is catching the attention of many drivers and angering lots of Muslims.

“The Perfect Man” poster references the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam and was put up by Truthophobes — a website dedicated to “exposing the truth about Islam.”

The billboard lists six boxes below things the prophet did or beliefs he espoused during his lifetime, according to Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

The billboard’s facts check out except for its first box stating Muhammad married a 6-year-old. In fact, his wife was 6-years-old when she became engaged to the prophet Muhammad and 9-years-old when they were married. The billboard signs off with “Educate Truthophobes.”

“I was a little disappointed when I saw that … We do support free speech, but we do realize this is also rooted in bigotry,” said Farial Khatri of the Islamic Society of North America, according to Fox59. “We’ve seen them in New York and several others cities on billboards as well as other transit ads,” he added.

Some groups spoke out against the display as disparaging to Muslims while other groups want to do more. The Muslim Alliance of Indiana plans to raise money to put up its own billboard nearby to spread a message of peace and kindness.

Rima Shahid, executive director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, said she was “heartsick” when she saw a photo of the billboard, especially since it appeared at the start of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. She strongly condemned the billboard for spreading lies and misinformation about Islam and its prophet. “These are completely false statements,” Shahid said, according to NBC news.

“It perpetuates hate. It perpetuates misconceptions about Islam, and it makes our neighbors think we believe things that just aren’t true … they’ve been misinformed,” she said. “This billboard is garbage,” Shahid added.

Shortly after the giant board went up, the Muslim Alliance of Indiana reached out to Mayor Joe Hogsett and Congressman Andre Carson about ways to challenge the billboard. It is important to note that the board was put up shortly after three separate terrorist attacks executed by Muslim extremists – Westminster Bridge, Manchester, and Borough – rocked the the UK.

FOX59 emailed “Truthophobes” to ask if the site’s operators are responsible for the billboard but they received no response.

Follow Grace on Twitter.

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The Songhai Islamic Empire Of Sunni Ali

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM GOOGLE PLUS, IT IS AN EXCELLENT HISTORY LESSON ON ISLAMIC KINGDOMS)

Songhai Empire
Jenne mosque

The Songhai Empire was the largest empire in the history of western Sudan. It grew from the small state of Gao, which was founded between 500 and 700 a.d. However the empire did not become a major force in the history of empire building and territorial expansion until 1464 when Sunni Ali, also known as Ali Beer, became the king.

In 1469 and 1470, his military campaigns led to the incorporation of Timbuktu and Azawad, located northward and northeast, respectively. In 1473, he attacked Jenne, a great Islamic center located southward, and in 1483, he was able to drive the Mossi out of Walata-Baghana.

Within 28 years of his ascendancy, Sunni Ali had converted the little state of Gao into a magnificent empire stretching from the Niger in the east to Jenne in the west, and from the Timbuktu in the north to Hombori in the south. He was said to be a ruthless ruler who maltreated all those who opposed his administration and did all that was possible to keep vassal states under firm administrative control by appointing governors who administered his orders.

Payment of tributes, which were in form of goods and contribution of workforce for further territorial expansion, placed the empire on a powerful economic and political footing.

The death of Sunni Ali in 1492 was followed by a 40-month reign by his son Sunni Baru, who was deposed in 1493 by Askia Muhammad Touré. Askia Muhammad Touré, popularly known in history as Muhammad the Great, completed the process of nation building and conquest initiated by Sunni Ali by extending territories of Songhai Empire to Baghana and Taghaza, a significant caravan route and salt producing area.

While Sunni Ali’s reign was characterized by ruthlessness and dislocation of commerce, that of Askia Muhammad the Great was known for the pacification of the subjugated people and the promotion of commerce, Islamic scholarship, and general tranquility.

Songhai people

His 1496 pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca had far-reaching consequences for the promotion of Islam as it attracted Muslim clerics and commerce to the empire. Islamic religion flourished in the great Islamic centers such as Timbuktu and Sankore. The University of Sankore produced the likes of Mahmoud Kati and Abdulrahman As Sadi, whose books are valued sources for the reconstruction of the history of Songhai and western Sudan in general.

Askia Muhammad the Great relied on the advice of Muslim clerics in governing the empire and made Islamic law the instrument of political and administrative machinery in western parts. In the eastern territories of Gao and Kikiya he allowed traditional religion to exist by granting non-Muslims of the region the freedom they needed to practice their religion.

As had his predecessor, Askia Muhammad divided the entire kingdom into provinces administered by governors, or kio. The central administration consisted of a council of ministers predominantly from his immediate and extended families. While Jenne controlled internal commerce, Gao and Timbuktu served as link to other economic centers in the east and northeast and west and northwest, respectively.

Songhai map

Short-lived Prosperity

The prosperity of the empire was however short-lived. Starting in the middle of the 16th century, internal problems hindered the government and provided an enabling condition for its invasion and destruction by the Moroccans in 1651. At the top of the list of the internal factors that led to the fall of Songhai Empire was the succession dispute among the sons of Askia Muhammad the Great.

Aside from allowing hitherto subjugated states to assert their independence, this development inhibited economic prosperity and further territorial expansion. The Civil War of 1588 had its origin in poor internal control exemplified in the succession dispute between Ishaq and Sadiq, two sons of Askia Daud, and the crises between the western parts, which was under strong Islamic influence, and the east, under the firm control of the non-Muslims.

The last straw was the Moroccan invasion of 1591. The defeat by the Moroccans can only be appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that the empire on the eve of the invasion was in the throes of an internal convulsion. Al-Mansur, the sultan of Morocco, who had failed in two early expeditions, wasted no time to invade the empire during its most turbulent period.

View of Timbuktu
View of Timbuktu

In 1591, he attacked Songhai with 4,000 professional soldiers and another 2,000 armed with arquebus, a gun with three legs. Askia Ishaq II raised an army of 18,000 cavalry and 9,700 infantry to resist the invasion of the Moroccan army.

The overwhelming numbers of the Songhai army could not defeat their Moroccan counterparts in the battle, known to history as the Battle of Tondibi; the Moroccan army was more professional, disciplined, and equipped with sophisticated weaponry.

The Moroccan invasion led to the demise of the Songhai, the largest empire to have emerged in western Sudan. The guerrilla warfare initiated after 1591 was not formidable enough for the reassertion of political freedom.

The invasion led to loss of lives and property and the extension of Moroccan political hegemony over Songhai. Islamic scholars and clerics fled to other parts of the western Sudan and the great Islamic centers of Timbuktu and Sankore lost their hitherto prime position.

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him ‘to justice’.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 22:05 IST

Islamic State
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul.(Reuters File)

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is on the brink of losing the two main centres of his ‘caliphate’ but even though he is on the run, it may take years to capture or kill him, officials and experts said.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group’s territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and officials say Baghdadi is steering clear of both, hiding in thousands of square miles of desert between the two.

“In the end, he will either be killed or captured, he will not be able to remain underground forever,” said Lahur Talabany, the head of counter-terrorism at the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. “But this is a few years away still,” he told Reuters.

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him “to justice”, said Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Middle East governments on Islamic State affairs.

“With no land to rule openly, he can no longer claim the title caliph,” Hashimi said. “He is a man on the run and the number of his supporters is shrinking as they lose territory.”

Iraqi forces have retaken much of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city the hardline group seized in June 2014 and from which Baghdadi declared himself “caliph” or leader of all Muslims shortly afterwards. Raqqa, his capital in Syria, is nearly surrounded by a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab groups.

Damaged cars are seen stacked in the middle of a road in western Mosul’s Zanjili neighbourhood on June 9, 2017, during ongoing battles to try to take the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. (AFP Photo)

The last public video footage of him shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from al-Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

He grew up in a religious family, studied Islamic Theology in Baghdad and joined the Salaafi jihadist insurgency in 2003, the year of the US-led invasion of Iraq. He was caught by the Americans who released him about a year later as they considered him then as a civilian rather than a military target.

Read more

Bounty

He is shy and reserved, Hashimi said, and has recently stuck to the sparsely populated Iraq-Syria border where drones and strangers are easy to spot.

The US Department of State’s Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program had put the same $25 million bounty on Bin Laden and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein and the reward is still available for Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Neither Saddam nor Bin Laden were voluntarily betrayed, but the bounties complicated their movements and communications.

“The reward creates worry and tension, it restricts his movements and limit the number of his guards,” said Fadhel Abu Ragheef, a Baghdad-based expert on extremist groups. “He doesn’t stay more than 72 hours in any one place.”

Baghdadi “has become nervous and very careful in his movements”, said Talabany, whose services are directly involved in countering Islamic State plots. “His circle of trust has become even smaller.”

His last recorded speech was issued in early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he urged his followers to fight the “unbelievers” and “make their blood flow as rivers”.

US and Iraqi officials believe he has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battles of Mosul and Raqqa, to focus on his own survival.

It is not possible to confirm his whereabouts.

Baghdadi does not use phones and has a handful number of approved couriers to communicate with his two main aides, Iyad al-Obaidi, his defence minister, and Ayad al-Jumaili, in charge of security. There was no confirmation of an April 1 Iraqi state TV report that Jumaili had been killed.

Baghdadi moves in ordinary cars, or the kind of pick-up trucks used by farmers, between hideouts on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, with just a driver and two bodyguards, said Hashimi.

The region is well known to his men as the hotbed of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces that invaded Iraq and later the Shia-led governments that took over the country.

Read more

At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It persecuted non-Sunnis and even Sunnis who did not agree with its extreme version of Islamic law, with public executions and whippings for violating strict controls on appearance, behaviour and movement.

But the group has been retreating since in the face of a multitude of local, regional and international forces, driven into action by the scores of deadly attacks around the world that it has claimed or inspired.

A few hundred thousand people now live in the areas under the group’s control, in and around Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, in Syria’s east, and in a few pockets south and west of Mosul. Hashimi said Islamic State was moving some fighters out of Raqqa before it was encircled to regroup in Deir al-Zor.

Displaced Iraqi children gather behind a fence at the Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced people on June 10, 2017. (AFP Photo)

Mosul, with pre-war population of 2 million, was at least four times the size of any other the group has held. Up to 200,000 people are still trapped in the Old City, Islamic State’s besieged enclave in Mosul, lacking supplies and being used as human shields to obstruct the progress of Iraqi forces by a US-led international coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, made of Kurdish and Arab groups supported by the US-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa last week, after a months-long campaign to cut it off.

The militants are also fighting Russian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.

The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on Feb. 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, it said.

Overall, Islamic State has 8,000 fighters left, of which 2,000 are foreigners from other Arab states, Europe, Russia and central Asia, said Abu Ragheef.

“A small number compared to the tens of thousands arrayed against them in both countries, but a force to be reckoned with, made up of die-hards with nothing to lose, hiding in the middle of civilians and making extensive use of booby traps, mines and explosives,” he said.

The US government has a joint task force to track down Baghdadi which includes special operations forces, the CIA and other US intelligence agencies as well as spy satellites of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

It will take more than that to erase his influence, Talabany said. “He is still considered the leader of ISIL and many continue to fight for him; that hasn’t changed drastically,” he said, using one of Islamic State’s acronyms.

Even if killed or captured, he added, “his legacy and that of ISIL will endure unless radical extremism is tackled.”

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ACT for America Stages Marches Against ‘Sharia Law’ Nationwide, Arrests Made

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

ACT for America Stages Marches Against ‘Sharia Law’ Nationwide, Arrests Made

Demonstrations against Islamic law led to arrests, tense confrontations and physical fights in some U.S. cities Saturday amid several rallies sponsored by ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as an anti-Muslim hate group.

The “March Against Sharia” was scheduled to take place in more than 20 cities, including New York, Dallas and Atlanta, and was projected to be ACT for America’s largest protest against Islam.

Cathy Camper
Cathy Camper, of Tacoma, Wash., wears a stars-and-stripes cowboy hat as she protests against Islamic law at a rally on June 10, 2017, in Seattle, as counter-protesters demonstrate across the street. Ted S. Warren / AP

In some cities, the rallies were met by counter-demonstrators. Seven people were arrested during demonstrations at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, but no injuries were reported, state police said.

In Seattle, police said officers deployed pepper spray to “break up a large fight” and arrested three near Occidental Park following the protests downtown.

At the end of the rally, a group returned to the park where the melee erupted, according to a police statement. Officers used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and arrested one woman and two men for obstruction, it added.

NBC affiliate KING 5 reported that hundreds of demonstrators had marched in downtown to support Muslims and confront a few dozen people who took part in the ACT for America demonstration at City Hall.

“We are not anti-Muslim. We are anti-radical Islam,” said a March Against Sharia speaker outside City Hall, according to the station.

The other group, Seattle Stands with our Muslim Neighbors, began their demonstration in Occidental Square before making their way to City Hall.

“Muslims are welcomed here,” some chanted.

In New York City, about 100 protesters and more than 200 counter-protesters traded words in downtown Manhattan as police officers stood between the groups. While they were speaking, counter-protesters were trying to drown them out using bullhorns and noise makers.

 

The organization said this week it was canceling an event in Arkansas “when we became aware that the organizer is associated with white supremacist groups.”

“This is against all of our values,” ACT for America said in a statement Thursday. It said the Arkansas event may go forward anyway, but should not be considered sanctioned by the group.

The nationwide “March Against Sharia” first gained widespread attention when Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, Oregon, moved to stop the local chapter from rallying. Wheeler’s decision came after two men were fatally stabbed as they tried to protect two women — one of whom was wearing a headscarf — from an anti-Muslim tirade.

Image: Counter-protesters hold signs and shout slogans during an anti-Sharia rally in Seattle
Counter-protesters hold signs and shout slogans during an anti-Sharia rally in Seattle, Washington, on June 10, 2017. David Ryder / Reuters

The organizers of Portland parade eventually changed the venue to Seattle, citing “safety concerns” in Oregon’s largest city.

In front of the Trump building in downtown Chicago, about 30 protesters and President Donald Trump supporters shouted slogans and held signs reading “Ban Sharia” and “Sharia abuses women,” according to the Associated Press. About twice as many counter-protesters marshaled across the street.

At a rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, the atmosphere was tense, according to Reuters.

Barricades and a heavy police presence, including officers mounted on horses, separated about 60 anti-Sharia demonstrators from an equal number of counter-protesters, most of them in black masks and hoods, Reuters reported. Nearly a dozen men carrying sidearms belonging to the anti-government Oath Keepers were on hand, invited by ACT to provide security.

ACT for America, which has over 525,000 members and has boasted of its close ties to President Donald Trump, is organizing the marches. It has been considered a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center for several years.

Counter demonstrators yell towards a nearby rally protesting Islamic law Saturday, June 10, 2017, in New York. Craig Ruttle / AP

“ACT demonizes all Muslims as terrorists who want to subvert the political system in this country,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. They disseminate lies and fallacies about Muslims to spread fear about the religion, she added.

The Islamaphobic organization has gained significant momentum since its founding in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese immigrant who has openly called Islam inconsistent with U.S law.

“A practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Quran to be the word of Allah … who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” said Gabriel during a course at the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College in 2007.

ACT for America did not return requests for comment from NBC News.

“These marches are concerning because of what they will mean to the Muslim community,” Beirich said. “When an organization propagandizes an entire community, it tends to embolden some people to commit hate crimes.”

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FROM MAY 29: Portland Mayor Asks Alt-Right Group to Cancel Rallies 5:20

But ACT, which brands itself as “the NRA of national security,” protecting “America from terrorism,” said in a statement that the upcoming march is about “human rights” and protecting women and children from Sharia — or the religious principals forming part of the Islamic tradition — which they say is quietly taking a hold of U.S law.

ACT initiated the “Stop Shariah Now” campaign in 2008. The SPLC said the group’s website described its mission “to inform and educate the public about what Shariah is, how it is creeping into American society and compromising our constitutional freedom of speech, press, religion and equality what we can do to stop it.”

More than 13 states have introduced bills banning Sharia law as a result of the campaign, Beirich said.

“It is absolutely impossible for any religious law to take over U.S. law,” Beirich said. “The Constitution stops it, there is a separation of church and state,” she said.

Image: Brigitte Gabriel speaking for ACT for America.
Brigitte Gabriel, head of the organization, speaking for ACT for America. ACT for America via Facebook

Another staple of the group is the Thin Blue Line Project, which is a “Radicalization Map Locator” that lists the addresses of almost every Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the country, as well as a number of mosques and Islamic institutions. The project, accessible only to pre-registered law enforcement, describes itself as a “one-stop internet resource for information concerning the perceived threat of Muslim infiltration and terrorism in the country,” according to the SPLC.

The organization also forbids any interfaith dialogue with Muslims based on their suspicion that all members of the faith are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, an established international political Islamist group founded in 1928.

“If you or someone you know is aware of a church or synagogue involved in or considering interfaith outreach, please warn them about organizations and individuals connected to the Muslim Brotherhood,” the organization said in a 2012 statement.

The group campaigned hard for Donald Trump, and after he won the election, they boasted of having a “direct line” to the president.

Gabriel even visited the White House and tweeted she was going there for a meeting.

In D.C, preparing for my meeting at the White House. What topics would you like me to address?

 

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and current Trump adviser Walid Phares are ACT board advisers, according to the organization. And CIA director Mike Pompeo is “steadfast ally,” said Gabriel in a letter to her base.

The nationwide march is one of the largest coordinated efforts by the ACT, despite a small expected turnout based on the event’s Facebook page.

As of Friday afternoon, only 50 individuals said they are going in Atlanta, 64 in Indianapolis, and 68 in Chicago, on the event’s social media page.

The largest number of people interested are in San Bernardino, with 231 slated to join.

“The protest being planned … by a designated hate group are only designed to fan the flames of hatred and promote xenophobia incidents like what happened in Portland across this country. This is not a rally FOR anything; it’s a rally AGAINST Muslims and American values,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

“We know that the views expressed by these hate groups do not reflect the vast majority of Americans,” she added, “and we know that groups like this are only blinded by their extreme hate and ignorance.”

U.S. seen trying to calm waters between Qatar and Saudi Arabia  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. seen trying to calm waters between Qatar and Saudi Arabia

By Arshad Mohammed and Steve Holland | WASHINGTON

The United States will quietly try to calm the waters between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, current and former U.S. officials said on Monday, arguing that the small Gulf state was too important to U.S. military and diplomatic interests to be isolated.

U.S. officials were blindsided by Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar in a coordinated move with Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the current and former officials said.

In announcing the decision to cut ties, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of providing support to Shi’ite Iran, which is in a tussle for regional supremacy with Riyadh, and to Islamist militants. [nL8N1J252R]

Washington has many reasons to want to promote comity within the region. Qatar is host to the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East at Al Udeid, a staging ground for U.S.-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group that has seized parts of Syria and Iraq. U.S. Donald Trump has made defeating Islamic State a priority of his presidency.

Further, Qatar’s willingness to welcome organizations such as Hamas, which Washington brands a terrorist group, and the Taliban, which has fought U.S. forces in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, allows contacts with such groups when needed.

“There is a certain utility,” one U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. “There’s got to be a place for us to meet the Taliban. The Hamas (folks) have to have a place to go where they can be simultaneously isolated and talked to.”

The current and former U.S. officials said they were unable to identify precisely what may have triggered the four countries’ coordinated decision to cut ties, which was later followed by Yemen, Libya’s eastern-based government and the Maldives.

They said the Saudis may have felt empowered by the warm embrace that Trump gave them when he visited Riyadh in May and adopted a harsh anti-Iran stance.

“My suspicion is (they felt) emboldened by what Trump said on his visit and … that they feel they have got some kind of backing,” said a former U.S. official. “I don’t know that they needed any more of a green light than they got in public.”

A senior administration official told Reuters the United States got no indication from the Saudis or Emiratis in Riyadh that the action was about to happen. The White House said on Monday it was committed to working to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf.

In Riyadh, Trump made an impassioned appeal to Arab and Islamic leaders to “drive out” terrorists, while singling out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups.

SEEKING RECONCILIATION

U.S. officials in multiple agencies stressed their desire to promote a reconciliation between the Saudi-led group and Qatar, a state of 2.5 million people with vast natural gas reserves.

“We don’t want to see some kind of permanent rift and I suspect we won’t,” said the senior Trump administration official on condition of anonymity, adding the United States would send a representative if the Gulf Cooperation Council nations met to discuss the rift with Qatar. [nL1N1J21IX]

The GCC includes six wealthy Arab nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“There’s an acknowledgement that a lot of Qatari behavior is quite worrisome not just to our Gulf neighbors but to the U.S.,” said the senior administration official. “We want to bring them in the right direction.”

Marcelle Wahba, a former U.S. ambassador to the UAE and the president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington think tank, said the United States had leverage but would use it discreetly.

“The U.S. will step up to the plate. How we will do it? I think it will be very quiet and very much in the background,” she said. “I doubt very much we will sit on the sidelines and let this crisis get more serious.”

Qatar’s backing of Islamists dates to a decision by the current ruling emir’s father to end a tradition of automatic deference to Saudi Arabia, the dominant Gulf Arab power, and forge the widest possible array of allies.

Qatar has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes. But Egypt and the Gulf Arab states resent Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, which they see as a political enemy.

“We are engaging with all of our partners … to find a way to reassemble some GCC unity to support regional security,” said another U.S. official, saying it was critical to “maintain the fight against terrorism and extremist ideology.”

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy, Mark Hosenball, Phil Stewart and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)

London Attack Suspect Known as Abs Appeared in Film About Extremists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Khuram Shazad Butt, also known as “Abs.” The Metropolitan Police in London have identified him as one of the three men who carried out the deadly attack at London Bridge and Borough Market.CreditMetropolitan Police

LONDON — Everyone called him “Abs.” He gave out Halloween candy to children and taught them how to play Ping-Pong. He invited his neighbors to barbecue.

But Khurum Shazad Butt was not the typical resident of the East London neighborhood of Barking. He dressed in the religious gown of a conservative Muslim — with a tracksuit and sneakers underneath. He turned up in a Channel 4 documentary, “The Jihadis Next Door.” And now London’s Metropolitan Police have identified him as one of the three men who carried out the deadly terror attack on Saturday at London Bridge and Borough Market.

Mr. Butt and his accomplices drove a van onto the sidewalk of London Bridge, running over pedestrians, before jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing patrons at the bars and restaurants of Borough Market. They killed seven people and injured dozens before they were shot and killed by police less than 10 minutes after the rampage began.

It was the van that struck a chord with Ken Chigbo, one of Mr. Butt’s neighbors in Barking.

“He approached me about a week ago, making conversation, and found out I’m moving home,” Mr. Chigbo recalled in a phone interview on Sunday, before the police had officially identified Mr. Butts as one of the attackers. “He was just being polite. Then he said, ‘Look, Ken, where did you get your van from? How much did you pay? Do they do it in automatic?’ ”

Another neighbor said Mr. Butt lived with his wife and young children, including a newborn, in the Elizabeth Fry Apartments on Kings Road in Barking.

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“His wife just gave birth, the baby was two weeks old,” said Nasser Ali, who lives in the building facing Mr. Butt’s apartment.

Residents of the Elizabeth Fry Apartments said they would see Mr. Butt coming and going from the apartment complex. “I just saw him going in and out,” said another neighbor, Shehzad Khurram. “I saw him walking his kids.”

On Monday evening, the police identified Mr. Butt, 27, and another man, Rachid Redouane, 30, as two of the three people who carried out the attack. Mr. Butt was a British citizen who was born in Pakistan. Mr. Redouane had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan, the police said, and also sometimes used a pseudonym, Rachid Elkhdar. The authorities are still trying to confirm the identity of the third attacker.

With questions mounting about whether authorities had let the killers slip through their fingers, the police confirmed that Mr. Butt “was known” to them and to MI5, the British intelligence service. “However, there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned and the investigation had been prioritized accordingly,” the police said in a statement. “The other named man, Rachid Redouane, was not known.”

Mr. Butt appeared briefly in a Channel 4 television documentary last year about extremists living in Britain. The film, which is also available on Netflix, featured a number of British Muslim men openly expressing their support for violence. In one scene, Mr. Butt stands in line with five other men in Regent’s Park in London as another man kneels in front of them unfurling an Islamic State flag.

In Barking, residents described a man more likely to share candy with the neighborhood children than spread violent jihad. Sarah Sekyejwe, who lives with her husband and children in the newly built row of houses next to the Elizabeth Fry Apartments, said Mr. Butt had moved to the street in 2014 and befriended the local children.

“My daughter says he’s the one who on Halloween would open the door and give them lots of sweets,” Ms. Sekyejwe recalled. “He was friendly to the kids. He would buy them ice cream when the ice cream van came. And in the summer he put out a table-tennis table and taught the kids how to play.”

Mr. Chigbo knew Mr. Butt only as Abs, the nickname everyone seemed to call him. He had recalled how “he would always be in a religious gown to his shins, with tracksuit bottoms and trainers underneath.” But on Monday Mr. Chigbo identified Mr. Butt in a photograph released by police as the same man.

The two men met barely a week after Mr. Chigbo moved into the complex three years ago. “He invited me and everyone to a barbecue in the block’s shared garden green area a week ago,” Mr. Chigbo recalled. “He’s a neighbor. I trusted him, we got on.”

Everyone is just, “shocked and upset,” he added.

Mr. Chigbo said small groups of three or four “Muslim guys” used to regularly visit Mr. Butt’s apartment. “I found them quite intimidating, actually,” he said. “They were always in religious robes and wearing red and white checkered scarves wrapped around their heads.”

Police have raided several locations in Barking in the past two days, including the Elizabeth Fry Apartments. Some of the sites raided on Monday were located near the Jabir bin Zayd Islamic Centre, a small facility that occupied several floors of a small office building. Mr. Butt reportedly attended the mosque.

On Monday, a sign outside the main prayer room used four pictographs to remind worshipers to wear long enough shirts so that their lower backs were not exposed during prostration.

Leaders of the mosque declined to comment and directed questions to their legal counsel. But they did issue a statement saying they “are deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack and “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families at this time of great heartbreak.”

“As a community, we denounce this abhorrent criminal act, for which there can never be any justification,” the statement said.

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