Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 09:45
AAAWSAT AR Website
Cairo – Waleed Abdurrahman
Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, an Egyptian body which works to keep contemporary Muslims in touch with religious principles, said that 10 religious edicts released by the terror group ISIS are highly controversial.

For the time during Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan, the terror group outlawed keeping special calendars, allowing women outside homes during the day, decorating homes, and lighting incense.

“Hardliners and radical groups are the furthest away from the guidance and teachings of the prophet (pbuh) and his family. Prohet Mohammad, the messenger of Allah, taught values of compassion. He did not come to order us to kill or slaughter, nor to corrupt the earth,” a Dar al-Ifta source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Egyptian scholastic body is used as a global reference for Muslims looking for clarity on the “the right way,” the removal of doubts concerning religious and worldly life, and religious law for the new issues of contemporary life.

More so, the terror group has exempted fighters engaged in duty from fasting, releasing an edict which justified the exception by saying that fasting exhausts and strains combatants during battle.

Another fatwa prevented women from going out during daytime in Ramadan, so that their departure does not lead to sedition. Female Muslims, only when guided by a guardian, are allowed outside the confines of their houses after the intermittent fasting period is up.

Saying it aims to bolster devotion ahead of Eid El-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam’s lunar month of fasting, ISIS released another fatwa ordering the closure of all commercial shops 10 days ahead of the holiday. Its justification was that the closure of shops will help Muslims observe religious affairs more intently.

One of the more extreme ISIS fatwas was one which disclaimed the fasting of non-ISIS Muslims. This outrageously means that Muslim congregations living in ISIS-run neighborhoods could be subjected to punishment if found fasting during Ramadan.

8 LNA Soldiers Killed In Attack In Southern Libya

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

8 LNA Fighters Killed in Attack in Southern Libya

Saturday, 4 May, 2019 – 10:30
Fighters from the Libyan National Army attend their graduation ceremony at a military academy in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on April 18, 2019. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Eight fighters from Libyan National Army (LNA) were killed Saturday in an attack on their training camp in the southern city of Sebha, announced head of the local municipality Hamed al-Khaiyali.

A source from the LNA accused the ISIS terrorist group and Chadian opposition fighters of being behind the attack.

The LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, had launched last month an operation against Tripoli to liberate it from terrorist gangs and militias loyal to the Government of National Accord.

Haftar’s forces have been marching steadily on the capital, with the LNA bringing in reinforcements in recent days.

Iraq: Large-Scale Operation Against ISIS Remnants In Kirkuk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Large-Scale Operation against ISIS Remnants in Iraq’s Kirkuk

Thursday, 2 May, 2019 – 10:00
A military vehicle of the Iraqi security forces is pictured near the University of Anbar, in Anbar province July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Baghdad – Fadhel al-Nashmi
A commander in Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has confirmed that Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition warplanes have launched a military operation against ISIS remnants in Kirkuk province.

The commander, who refused to be identified, spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat a day after the US Central Command announced that two US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.

He said that Wadi Ashai has a rugged terrain that ISIS militants can turn into hideouts.

The US Central Command said on Tuesday that the April 30 strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces, said the statement.

“The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the US Central Command area of operations on April 15,” it added.

A member of Kirkuk’s council told Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation against ISIS remnants is considered the largest since Iraq announced the organization’s defeat late 2017.

“At least 35 terrorists have been killed and more than 8 ISIS hideouts have been destroyed,” the source said.

“The operation was launched after Iraqi authorities received information that extremists have infiltrated into uninhabited areas in Hamrin Mountains and Wadi Ashai after escaping the battles in Syria,” the source added.

Libyans Link ISIS Leader’s Surprise Appearance To Tripoli Battle

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Exclusive – Libyans Link ISIS Leader’s Surprise Appearance to Tripoli Battle

Wednesday, 1 May, 2019 – 09:00
Libyans debate whether Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s video appearance was linked to the battle for Tripoli. (AFP)
Cairo – Khaled Mahmoud
The surprise appearance of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video recording earlier this week has raised questions in Libya that it may be linked to the ongoing battle for Tripoli.

Baghdadi made his first purported appearance in five years in a propaganda video released Monday, acknowledging ISIS’s defeat in the Syrian town of Baghouz while threatening “revenge” attacks.

He also acknowledged that ISIS supporters had attacked the al-Fuqaha town in southern Libya in October. The attack left civilians and Libyan National Army (LNA) members dead.

Libyan MP Ibrahim Abu Bakr told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ISIS leader’s appearance is “damning” evidence that the LNA operation against Tripoli was primarily a battle on terrorism.

The LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, had launched its operation to liberate the capital of terrorist and criminal gangs on April 4. It has pitted his forces against militias loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA).

“Baghdadi’s remarks proved that terrorist groups are the main enemy of the LNA,” continued the MP.

A political official disagreed and said that the Tripoli operation was not linked to Baghdadi.

“The security agencies in Tripoli have been countering ISIS militants for years in both Sirte and the capital,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.

He also noted that just this week an ISIS member was arrested in Tripoli.

Tripoli has been targeted by ISIS in the past, said the official who is close to the Tripoli-based Presidential Council. He referred to the bombing of the foreign minister and higher elections commission headquarters last year that were claimed by ISIS.

MP Saeed Amghib, however, remarked that ISIS has been in control of Tripoli under the guise of various militias.

“The group has taken advantage of the poor conditions there,” he added.

Moreover, he noted that Baghdadi’s appearance at this time reveals that the militias were nearing their demise, saying that he sought to offer them moral support by emerging in his video.

He called on the residents of Tripoli to rally around the LNA to help it quickly capture the capital and counter the terrorist threat.

Sri Lanka Attacks: Relatives Of Key Suspect Zahran Hashim Killed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Sri Lanka attacks: Relatives of key suspect Zahran Hashim killed

Sri Lankan army personnel stand guard at a checkpoint as they search people and their bags at a check point in Kattankudy near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, 28 AprilImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Searches have been carried out in Kattankudy

The father and two brothers of the alleged organiser of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, Zahran Hashim, were killed in a security forces operation on Friday, police say.

Hashim, who blew himself up at a hotel in Colombo, founded an Islamist group, the NTJ, which has now been banned.

Police have raided the group’s HQ in the eastern town of Kattankudy.

The Sri Lankan president has announced a ban on face coverings, aimed at Muslim women following the attacks.

The attacks targeted churches and hotels, killing at least 250 people.

Sunday church services were cancelled across the country as a precaution but worshippers in the capital gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s, which was badly damaged in the attacks.

How did Hashim’s relatives die?

Security forces raided a house in Sainthamaruthu, near Hashim’s hometown Kattankudy, on Friday.

Gunmen opened fire as troops moved in, police say, and three men set off explosives, killing themselves, six children and three women. Three other people died in gunfire.

The headquarters of the NTJ under police guardImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPolice sealed off the NTJ’s headquarters on Sunday

A close family relative confirmed for BBC News that Hashim’s father and two brothers died in the raid.

Police sources who spoke to Reuters news agency named the three men as Mohamed Hashim, and his sons Zainee Hashim and Rilwan Hashim.

All three had been seen in a video circulating on social media calling for all-out war against all non-believers, Reuters adds.

In Kattankudy itself, police searched the headquarters of the NTJ (National Thawheed Jamath), which Zahran Hashim had led.

Presentational grey line

‘Safe house’ discovered by chance

By Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, Sainthamaruthu

GV of house that was raided
Image caption The safe house was discovered after local people alerted police

When I entered the house where the Islamists and their families were killed on Friday evening, the smell of death was unbearable.

A police officer at the site also said Zahran Hashim’s mother was also believed to be among the victims.

Security forces have been conducting raids across the country but this safe house was discovered by chance, when the suspicious house owner and local people alerted the police.

Every day, police are making arrests, seizing weapons, explosives and jihadist material suggesting the radicalisation process, however small it may be, has been happening over a period of time. If the security agencies had missed this, then it is a colossal failure.

The ongoing raids and discovery of weapons and material are gradually building up tensions among the communities. A hotel owner said she was worried because she was a Catholic. Muslims say they are nervous to visit Sinhala-majority areas. Some foreign governments have warned that there is a possibility of further attacks and if those happen, fragile ethnic relations could be further strained.

Presentational grey line

Announcing the ban on face coverings, which will begin on Monday, President Maithripala Sirisena said he was taking the emergency measure on national security grounds.

The announcement made no specific mention of the niqab and burka – worn by Muslim women – but instead said people’s faces should be fully visible so they could be identified.

What happened on Easter Sunday?

Sri Lanka has been on high alert since a co-ordinated wave of bombings last Sunday, which also wounded more than 500 people.

The bombings targeted churches that were packed full for the Easter holiday, as well as hotels popular with tourists.

As well as St Anthony’s Shrine, bombers struck churches in Negombo and the eastern city of Batticaloa, and hotels in the capital, Colombo.

Most of those killed were Sri Lankan, but dozens of foreign citizens were also among the dead.

Media caption‘This is Sri Lanka’: Fighting back with peace

While the authorities have blamed the NTJ for the attacks, they say they must have had help from a larger network.

The Islamic State group, which carried out mass attacks on civilians in Paris and other locations in recent years, has said it was involved, but has not given details.

How are the victims being remembered?

Christians in Sri Lanka prayed at home while the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, held a televised Mass, attended by the president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He called the attacks an “insult to humanity” in the service, broadcast from a chapel in his residence.

Media caption Sri Lankans pray and light candles, one week after a string of bombings by Islamist militants

“Today during this Mass we are paying attention to last Sunday’s tragedy and we try to understand it,” he said.

“We pray that in this country there will be peace and co-existence and understanding each other without division.”

Scores of people gathered for the public service outside St Anthony’s, where Buddhist monks joined Catholic priests in a show of solidarity with the Christian community.

Crowds of people watched the heavily-guarded church from behind a barricade, with some singing hymns and passing rosary beads through their hands.

Many lit candles and placed them in a makeshift memorial for the victims.

The church’s bells tolled at 08:45 (03:15 GMT) – the exact moment a bomber detonated his device one week ago.

The hands of its damaged clock tower are still stuck at that time.

At Least 15 Dead In A Police Raid In Sri Lanka

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

At least 15 people are dead and two or more suspected terrorists on the run after a shootout between police and alleged militants in eastern Sri Lanka late Friday.

There were three explosions during the shootout with suspects at a house in the town of Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai, local police said. Authorities said they seized a large cache of explosives, 100,000 ball bearings and ISIS uniforms and flags from the house, which appeared to be a bomb making factory or storage facility.
The raids came after the coordinated attacks on Easter Sunday, which killed 253 people, including many worshipers attending Easter Mass services.
National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), a local extremist group, has been blamed for the bombings, but has not claimed the attacks. ISIS claimed responsibility, but a link between the attackers and the terror group has not been proven.
Of the 15 people found dead in the house following the raid, six are suspected terrorists and nine are civilians, including six children, Maj. Gen. Aruna Jayasekera said.
Police are investigating the possible relationship of the civilians to the suspected terrorists.
One wounded suspect fled on a motorbike, and another suspected terrorist could be on the run as well, Jayasekera said.
One of the six suspected terrorists found dead has been identified as Mohamed Niyas, known to the authorities as a prominent member of the NTJ. Earlier in a statement from the army, Niyas was identified as the brother-in-law of the alleged ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks, Zahran Hashim.
The eastern cities of Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai remain under extended curfew until further notice, according to police. The curfew on these cities was imposed after the shootout.
CNN goes inside St. Anthony's Church after terror attack

Play Video

CNN goes inside St. Anthony’s Church after terror attack 02:13
Sri Lankan authorities have been attempting to root out “sleeper” cells that could initiate another round of attacks, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told CNN on Thursday.
On Friday, Sri Lanka’s President announced a “major search operation” in the nation.
“Every household in the country will be checked,” President Maithripala Sirisena told a news conference, according to a statement. “The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere.”
The heightened tensions have put Sri Lankans on edge.
Catholic Sunday masses have been suspended “until further notice” in Sri Lanka, the Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith announced Friday. He said the move will ensure the safety of the worshipers, and the church “will try to introduce some services” once better security was in place.
The government urged Muslims to stay at home for Friday prayers, and many mosques were closed. However, some mosques defied the call, opening for the midday prayers.
Both Christianity and Islam are minority religions in Sri Lanka, each accounting for under 10% of the total population. The vast majority of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist.

Citing ‘high, concrete’ terror threat, Israel tells citizens to leave Sri Lanka

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Citing ‘high, concrete’ terror threat, Israel tells citizens to leave Sri Lanka

Four days after Easter suicide bombings killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, Counter-Terrorism Bureau tells Israelis to come home, cancel planned trips

Security personnel stand guard in front of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 23, 2019, two days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

Security personnel stand guard in front of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 23, 2019, two days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

The Israel National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Thursday issued a warning for travel to Sri Lanka, saying there was a “high and concrete” chance of a terror attack, four days after the Easter Sunday suicide bombing attacks that killed more than 350 people in and around the capital of Colombo.

The agency said Israeli travelers should leave the island as soon as possible, and those planning to visit were advised to cancel their trips.

The announcement means the country now bears the security agency’s second-highest warning. The decision to issue the warning was made after consultations with security officials and the Foreign Ministry.

On Thursday, Sri Lankan authorities banned drones and unmanned aircraft and continued to set off controlled detonations of suspicious items. Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said that it was taking the aircraft measure “in view of the existing security situation in the country.”

A priest conducts a mass burial for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Hobby drones have been used by attackers in the past to carry explosives. Iraqi forces found them difficult to shoot down while driving out the Islamic State group, whose members loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target government forces. And Yemen’s Houthi rebels has used drones, most recently to target a military parade in January, killing troops.

Sri Lankan police continued their search for explosives, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Colombo.

The attacks Easter Sunday mainly at churches and hotels killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, the government said Wednesday. Most were Sri Lankan but the Foreign Ministry has confirmed 36 foreigners died. The remains of 13 have been repatriated. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for, and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals.

Sri Lankan security personnel walk next to dead bodies on the floor amid blast debris at St. Anthony’s Shrine following an explosion in the church in Colombo on April 21, 2019. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

A top Sri Lankan official has said that many of the suicide bombers were highly educated and came from well-off families.

Junior defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene said at least one had a law degree and others may have studied in the UK and Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the bombers had been in the country on a student visa with a spouse and child before leaving in 2013.

A British security official also confirmed one bomber is believed to have studied in the UK between 2006 and 2007. The security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, said British intelligence had not been watching Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed during his stay in the country. His name was first reported by Sky News.

A photo published on the Islamic State terror groups propaganda outlet, the Amaq agency, on April 23, 2019, showing what the group says is eight bombers who carried out the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka. (Amaq)

Sri Lankan government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible terror attacks against churches or other targets weeks before the bombings. The president asked for the resignations of the defense secretary and national police chief without saying who would replace them.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaat, whose leader, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary online speeches. On Wednesday, junior defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attackers had broken away from National Towheed Jamaat and another group, which he identified only as “JMI.”

Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it explodes when police tried to defuse a bomb near St. Anthony’s Shrine as priests look on in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Authorities remain unsure of the group’s involvement, though authorities are investigating whether foreign militants advised, funded or guided the local bombers.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara has said 58 suspects have been detained since the bombings.

READ MORE:

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

LISTEN·5:30QUEUE

Women carry children near the al-Hol camp in Syria’s Kurdish-majority region of Rojava. The camp is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last ISIS-held territory.

Jane Arraf/NPR

The women huddle for shelter from the rain under a corrugated iron roof, their long black cloaks dragging in the mud as they wait in line for food and pray for the return of the ISIS caliphate.

The squalid al-Hol camp, in the Kurdish-majority region of Syria known as Rojava, is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last piece of ISIS-held territory in Baghouz.

They include thousands of Iraqis and Syrians who believe they will usher in a new caliphate. And they pose a risk to the Iraqi government, seeking to repatriate the Iraqis, and to Syrian Kurdish authorities, having nowhere to send the Syrians.

“This is injustice — we pray for the caliphate to return,” says one of the women, who says this is the third day they have been turned away from promised cartons of food. Everything is in short supply here.

“If it weren’t for the airstrikes on our tents and camps killing our children,” she says, “we would not have left the caliphate.” All refuse to give their names.

All of the women are completely covered in long black cloaks, with only a slit for their eyes. A few have covered even their eyes.

“Convert, convert!” a group of women and girls shout at me, urging me to recite the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

“If you became Muslim and cover like us and became a member of our religion, you would not be killed” in the ISIS caliphate, one woman tells me.

To the world, to the governments it threatened and the hundreds of thousands it killed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS was one of the most brutal organizations known.

To its followers — who number in the tens of thousands and escaped the fall of the last ISIS territory in Syria with their beliefs intact — ISIS could do no wrong.

In their caliphate, they say there was justice. There was no bribery or corruption or wasta — the influence-peddling at the heart of most countries in the region.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and any shepherd were on the same level,” says an Iraqi boy, referring to the ISIS leader now believed to be in hiding.

They say when there was food in the caliphate, it was distributed. Here at the camp, they say they come every day to be humiliated and told there’s nothing for them.

Malnourished infants have died due to lack of shelter and medical care in the camp in this breakaway region of Syria, according to the World Health Organization and other aid groups. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the Rojava region now faces an uncertain future.

The women in the camp believe its harsh conditions are deliberate — part of what they believe to be a continuing war against Muslims around the world.

They say everything under ISIS was what God wanted.

“Of course there were beheadings — why should I lie?” says a Syrian woman. “It’s based on the Quran and the rules of God.”

Asked about the Yazidi minority, which ISIS targeted with a campaign of genocide, the women shout: “Devil worshippers!”

Misconceptions about the ancient Yazidi religion have led to dozens of massacres over the centuries. When ISIS took over a third of Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed or captured as sex slaves.

Women and children wait for distribution of food at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Most are family members of ISIS fighters, viewed by the region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership as a potential danger. Iraq says it wants to bring back 30,000 of its citizens to place in Iraqi camps, but few are willing to return.

Jane Arraf/NPR

“If they don’t convert to Islam and they don’t become Muslim like us and worship God, then they deserve it,” an Iraqi woman says.

This camp, they complain, is full of infidels. There is music. Male and female guards wear tight clothing and smoke cigarettes. They say the men harass women.

They insist that everything was better in what they call al-dawla — the state.

“There, a woman would walk with her head held high and a man would lower his eyes,” a Syrian woman says. “Here, it’s the opposite.”

The region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership views the large numbers of radicalized women and children as a continued danger.

“The women and children who have been raised on the mentality of ISIS and terrorism need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities,” says Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign relations official in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria. “Otherwise, they will be the foundations of future terrorism.”

But there is little money or political will for reintegrating ISIS families in either Iraq or Syria.

At a smaller camp run by the Kurdish Syrian forces, ISIS wives from Western countries are exposed to lectures about how ISIS is not Islam and what ISIS did to Yazidis and other women.

But there are no similar programs at al-Hol camp for Syrian and Iraqi ISIS families — and there are very few in Iraq.

“Any official who goes for an hour and speaks to them can’t change anything — are you a prophet that they would believe in you?” says Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi counterterrorism expert in Baghdad.

“We have proposed [deradicalization] programs in the past, but no one has implemented them,” says Ali Abbas Jahaker, a deputy director at Iraq’s Ministry of Migration. Jahaker says the Iraqi government plans to repatriate 30,000 Iraqi women and children over three months but will not force the families to return against their will.

In Syria, camp officials say so far, fewer than 1,000 Iraqis have indicated they want to go home.

The women at al-Hol say they are there because ISIS leader Baghdadi told them to escape to save their children.

“This is the next generation of the caliphate,” one of the women says. “If you talk to them, they have the true creed implanted in their minds. The true creed will remain.”

And in fact, it’s a girl from the Iraqi city of Tikrit who is among the most fervent in the group. She appears to be 11 or 12.

On judgment day, the girl tells us, God will pour molten metal in the ears of those who listen to music.

“The ones who are not covered, now I ask God in the next life to light the fires of hell with their hair!” she declares.

She says she went to school under ISIS — what she calls a proper school, with boys and girls segregated — and vows she won’t go to school again until the caliphate returns.

They all believe it’s just a matter of time.

Awadh al-Taee contributed reporting from Baghdad.

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FACTCHECK.ORG’)

 

Pompeo Wrong on Assad Control in Syria


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrongly stated that Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria.” Middle East experts tell us that Assad controls a majority of Syria’s land and population.

Pompeo made his remarks during an April 8 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. Pompeo urged the Cuban government to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — telling Baier that Maduro’s “days are numbered” — when in an aside the secretary also remarked about Assad’s power in Syria.

Pompeo, April 8: I might add, Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today. The work that the Trump administration has done to deny Assad the capacity to rebuild his nation — this is the guy who believes he won, but the truth is the Middle East is in a much more stable, much better place today than it was when President Obama was running the joint in Syria.

“Pompeo’s comment is false,” Steven Heydemann, director of Middle East Studies at Smith College, told us in an email. “The Assad regime controls about 60% of Syrian territory, including the entire western ‘spine’ of the country that includes all its major cities and a large majority of its population.”

The civil war in Syria started in March 2011, and, at its weakest point in 2015, Assad’s government held less than a fifth of Syria. “However, the Asad government — backed by Russia and Iran — has reasserted control over much of western Syria since 2015, and appears poised to claim victory in the conflict,” according to a recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

CRS, March 25: The collapse of IS [Islamic State] and opposition territorial control in most of Syria since 2015 has been matched by significant military and territorial gains by the Syrian government. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment stated in February 2018 that, “The conflict has decisively shifted in the Syrian regime’s favor, enabling Russia and Iran to further entrench themselves inside the country.”

Jan. 14 Bloomberg News article on the various forces still fighting in Syria includes a map that shows the Assad regime controls about two-thirds of Syria — nearly all of the land southwest of the Euphrates River, which serves as a natural barrier between the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Russia-backed Syrian military.

“The Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, comprising about a quarter of the country, are the largest remaining areas outside of Syrian government control,” the CRS report said. “Asad has stated that his government intends to recover these areas, whether by negotiations or military force.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Pompeo’s statement was “not correct.” In an email, he told us that “in terms of population, Assad controls a substantially higher percentage of the densely populated regions of the country.”

“The main cities under government control are: Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia, Tartus, Palmyra, Albu Kamal,” according to a March 13 Al-Jazeera article headlined “Syria’s War: Who Control What?” Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, followed by Damascus and Homs, according to the World Atlas.

“The regime is not in control of two important areas: parts of northwest Syria from north of Homs up to the border with Turkey. This area includes the city and province of Idlib and areas under Turkish control,” Heydemann said. “In addition, the regime is not in control of a large part of Syria’s northeast, which is dominated by Kurdish forces that are supported by the U.S.”

Idlib province has been under rebel control since 2015. It is the “the most significant zone remaining outside of government control in western Syria” — “the final opposition stronghold,” according to CRS. Idlib is strategically important to the Assad regime because it allows direct transit from government-control areas in the south to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, according to CRS.

The area in the northeast that is under control of Kurdish forces is strategically important because that’s where “most of Syria’s major oil production facilities” are located, Heydemann said. “However,” he added, “the PYD – the most powerful Kurdish political party in the northeast – has entered into agreements to provide the Assad regime with oil from the areas it controls.”

The Wall Street Journal, in a Feb. 8 article, said the decision by the Kurdish forces to sell oil to the Assad regime “represent[s] a new challenge to U.S. efforts to starve the Syrian government of oil.”

Clearly, Assad doesn’t have full control of Syria as he did before the civil war. But he controls more than “a small fraction” of it, contrary to what Pompeo said.

We asked the State Department to clarify Pompeo’s remarks, but did not receive a response. We will update this article if we do.

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Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
Syrian President “Bashar al-Assad controls a small fraction of Syria today.”

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

Friday, 5 April, 2019 – 10:45
(Image from Arabic Website/ no caption)
Cairo – Waleed Abdurahman
Ailed by losing its final Syria stronghold, in the eastern town of Baghouz, ISIS is pinning high hopes on its outlandish and radical edicts, or fatwas, to prop up its comeback. A recently published Global Fatwa Index (GFI) document, prepared by Egypt’s Dar El-Ifta (an educational institute and a center for Islamic legal research), broke down the transformation ISIS literature and religious fatwas have undergone over the last few years.

Early fatwas issued by the group were violent in calling for “garnering support” enough to materialize a so-called Islamic caliphate. During its prime on the Syria-Iraq theater, ISIS guidance worked to uphold the status quo by encouraging members to plunder and violate international conventions on human rights.

With the caliphate going into decline, the group’s edicts started to tilt towards desperation, at times taking stock in labeling “patience” as virtuous and defeat as a “test of will.” It also focused on promising a martyr’s heaven to its scattered and discombobulated fighters.

The GFI report reaffirmed that the fatwas suggest the group’s ‘clinical death,’ especially that they are almost entirely focused on combating despair that is dousing its supporter base. ISIS has gone from missionizing and authorizing its recruits to plunder and enforce their radical ideology to asking them to donate and give up their lives in exchange for the caliphate’s rebirth.

At least 30% of recent edicts called for overthrowing Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, under whose leadership ISIS had fallen flat on its face. Another 25% urged for donations and 20% ordered persistence among “believers.”

But these are hardly as shocking as the 15% of total decrees recently issued and that absolve ISIS supporters from the responsibility to defend their comrades, especially those who are pursued by security agencies abroad.

ISIS expansionist and pro-jihad edicts represented a shy 5% of total laws dished out by the group’s leaders.

Among the key factors that led to lethally slashing ISIS influence and consequently defeating the group, according to the GFI, is the killing of 30% of its fighters in battle and the fierce anti-terror crackdown it faces worldwide.

International security services taking down 25% of ISIS’ social media accounts coupled with adherents losing faith in the group’s leaders, has also left ISIS in the face of a double whammy. The group’s rift with other terror groups and dried funding has also steered ISIS into a tight corner, making it easier to defeat.