(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
KABUL, Afghanistan—A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a meeting of Afghanistan’s top clerics and religious scholars in the capital on Monday, killing 14 people shortly after the large gathering declared such suicide attacks a sin and the country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law.
The Afghan branch of Islamic State said through its Amaq news agency that it carried out the attack, which occurred as the meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council was adjourning and attendees were departing the assembly grounds. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency, denied any involvement in the bombing.
Islamic State’s affiliate here, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Kabul in recent months, is under intense military pressure from U.S. Special Forces and from stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province, its Afghan stronghold.
A senior Afghan security official said 17 people were also injured in the bombing at one of the exits from the meeting grounds, near Kabul Polytechnic University in western Kabul.
Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for the government’s High Peace Council, said the meeting was attended by some 3,000 religious figures from across the Central Asian nation. He said he escaped the blast by a matter of seconds. “God has given me another life,” he said.
Shortly before the attack, the convocation had issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden.
“Suicide attacks, explosions for killing people, division, insurgency, different types of corruption, robbery, kidnapping and any type of violence are counted as big sins in Islam and are against the order of the Almighty Allah,” they said.
Suicide bombings are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, having been rejected as a form of combat during the uprising against the occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s and the takeover by Taliban forces in the mid-1990s.
Rather, they became a feature of the Afghan war in the mid-2000s, as the tactics used by Islamist militants against U.S. forces in Iraq rebounded here.
The clerical gathering also denounced the 17-year war in Afghanistan as illegal under Islamic law, calling it nothing but “shedding the blood of Muslims,” and urged the Taliban to take up the Kabul government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.
In perhaps the most public peace overture since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in late February offered political recognition to the Taliban in exchange for a stop to the fighting.
The Taliban hasn’t replied formally to the bid. It has said it will only negotiate with the U.S. since, it says, America is the main engine of the war and the Kabul government is illegitimate.
Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]
Appeared in the June 5, 2018, print edition as ‘Afghan Clerics Targeted in Deadly Bombing.’
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
BAGHDAD, Iraq — An Iranian-backed militia in Iraq threatened on Thursday to attack US forces in the country in retaliation for US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“The decision by Trump on Al-Quds (Jerusalem) makes it legitimate to strike the American forces in Iraq,” Al-Nojaba militia chief Akram al-Kaabi said in a statement.
The group, established in 2013 and supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, numbers around 1,500 fighters and is part of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) auxiliary force that has fought alongside the army against the Islamic State terror group.
Trump’s move to end decades of US policy has sparked a storm of condemnation around the globe, both from Washington’s traditional allies and its international foes.
Trump said the move was long overdue, and was simply acknowledging the reality that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government.
Tehran has slammed the decision as “provocative and unwise” and warned that it will rile Muslims and stir a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
The US has thousands of troops stationed in Iraq to help in the fight against IS.
Officially, the Pentagon says it has 5,262 personnel in Iraq, but other figures released by the US military have put the number at almost 9,000.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seems to have broken his 11-month silence with a long audio message in which he mocks the United States, calls on jihadis to rally against the Syrian regime and insists that ISIS ‘remains’ despite its rapid loss of territory.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EGYPT INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER OF CAIRO)
Egypt has topped a list of Middle East (ME) countries that are safe for tourism and vacations, according to the US government. Other ME countries deemed safe include Jordan, Oman, UAE and Qatar.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
MOSCOW — In a propaganda video released last year, an Islamic State militant wearing a black bandanna and cradling a sniper rifle made the usual grim threats against the United States. Now, there may be a new twist to his warnings.
The militant, Gulmurod Khalimov, a former police commander from Tajikistan, boasted of his extensive American military training — truthfully, it turns out. But some news accounts say he was subsequently promoted to military commander of the Islamic State.
“I was in America three times,” Mr. Khalimov said in the video, which appeared online last year. “God willing, I will come with this weapon to your cities, to your homes, and we will kill you.”
That prospect remains highly unlikely. But there is no doubt that as he rose in the ranks of a special police force in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, Mr. Khalimov received extensive taxpayer-funded military training from the United States to help counter drug-running and extremism along the border with Afghanistan.
Now, Mr. Khalimov appears to have become the second senior commander of the Islamic State, the terrorist group he defected to last year, to have benefited from American military training provided to former Soviet states.
Mr. Khalimov’s precise rank is unclear; he could be the group’s so-called minister of war, or military commander-in-chief. In any case, the State Department, which oversaw his training, thinks he is important enough that on Aug. 30, it offered a $3 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The Islamic State’s previous military commander was killed in an airstrike earlier this year.
The State Department has been publicizing the reward in Tajikistan, where relatives or acquaintances might have salient information.
Kurt R. Rice, the department’s acting assistant director for threat investigations, told Tajik journalists in September that Mr. Khalimov’s American training made him a particular danger, but he did not elaborate on Mr. Khalimov’s role in the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“He can use this knowledge to create difficulties for our countries,” Mr. Rice said. “He’s a person who can create difficulties.” Mr. Rice’s office declined a request to interview him about Mr. Khalimov’s training, citing his travel schedule.
After the State Department announced the reward, an Iraqi news agency, Alsumaria, reported that Mr. Khalimov had been promoted to military commander for the Islamic State, replacing Omar al-Shishani, an ethnic Chechen from Georgia who was killed in the airstrike. Russian news outlets have also said Mr. Khalimov was promoted, but neither those accounts nor the Iraqi report could be independently verified.
“The U.S. putting a bounty on his head is significant,” Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, in London, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s not possible to know if he’s the strategist of military operations.”
Further muddying the picture, the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist propaganda, has found no formal Islamic State announcement of Mr. Khalimov’s position, according to Adam Raisman, an analyst who studies the group’s postings.
If Mr. Khalimov was, in fact, promoted, he would be the second Islamic State commander-in-chief to have been trained in American military aid programs in the former Soviet Union. Mr. Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, had served in the Georgian Army, which is equipped and funded by the United States as a bulwark against Russian expansion.
American military aid to Tajikistan is more narrowly focused on fighting terrorism and narcotics, because the country is a close ally of Russia. The aid has flowed even though Tajikistan is ruled by an eccentric and authoritarian president, Emomali Rakhmonov, whose police forces are often accused of abuses.
Along with jailing dissidents and using excessive force — in one case, killing 20 civilians in a paramilitary action — Mr. Rakhmonov’s police forces have been accused of more unusual human rights abuses. A provincial governor recently said that he had forcibly shaved the beards of 13,000 men suspected of sympathizing with fundamentalist Islamists.
Muhiddin Kabiri, the exiled leader of Tajikistan’s main opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Khalimov “was always against the moderate opposition” and that his police unit was known for abuses, but that the United States had turned a blind eye.
The State Department provided five training courses for Mr. Khalimov, three of them in the United States, including at least one run by the company once known as Blackwater in Baton Rouge, La. A spokesman has said the department vetted Mr. Khalimov and did not violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits the government from providing military training to foreign military units that violate human rights.
With American training programs on his résumé, Mr. Khalimov became commander of a paramilitary police force in 2013, raising alarm among human rights groups about the training even before he defected to the Islamic State.
“The U.S. military has been providing a lot of expertise and training to abusive and repressive governments in Central Asia,” Steve Swerdlow, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview.
“Military cooperation has to be contingent on human rights,” Mr. Swerdlow said. “Tajikistan got a free pass despite the atrocious situation with human rights.”
American military training programs are generally carried out by the Defense Department but overseen by the State Department, an arrangement that broke down in Tajikistan, according to a 2015 report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General that looked into the American response to the Tajik police operation that killed 20 civilians in 2012.
Mr. Khalimov, then a deputy commander of the special police unit, took part in that operation but still continued his American military training until 2013.
The report found that the Office of Military Cooperation, the Pentagon group that arranged training for the suspect police units, had also conducted the investigation into the killings — effectively determining that Mr. Khalimov’s training was legal — rather than the political section of the United States Embassy in Tajikistan, which should have overseen the military education programs.
The report concluded that the lack of oversight undermined “confidence that the embassy provides a full and reliable picture of local developments.”
While it is unclear exactly what training Mr. Khalimov received, a 2008 diplomatic cable from the embassy released by WikiLeaks explained what the paramilitary police and other units requested.
The groups wanted training in “mission analysis and the military decision-making process, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, direct action, raids and ambushes, special reconnaissance, close quarters combat and battle, sniper and observe operations, military operations in urban terrain.”
(This article is courtesy of the BBC News Group)
The US-led coalition has admitted its planes carried out an attack in eastern Syria that the Russian army says killed at least 62 Syrian troops fighting IS.
The US said its planes halted the attack in Deir al-Zour when informed of the Syrian presence and would not knowingly strike them.
The strikes allowed IS jihadists to advance, the Russians said.
Russia earlier said the current ceasefire in Syria was in danger of collapse and the US would be to blame.
The cessation of hostilities does not include attacks by the US on IS or other jihadist groups.
The US Central Command statement said the coalition believed it was attacking positions of so-called Islamic State and the raids were “halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military”.
It said the “Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike”.
It added: “Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit. The coalition will review this strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned.”
Russia’s defence ministry earlier said that if the US air strikes did turn out to be an error, it would be because of Washington’s stubborn refusal to co-ordinate military action with Moscow.
Only if the current ceasefire – which began on Monday – holds for seven days, will the US and Russia begin co-ordinated action against the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, which was previously known as the al-Nusra Front, and IS.
Russia’s defence ministry quoted a statement by Syrian army general command as saying that the four coalition air strikes on Syrian troops had allowed IS to advance.
The Syrian statement said the air strikes were “conclusive evidence” that the US and its allies supported the jihadist group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll at least 80.
There have been no confirmed cases of US air strikes targeting Syrian troops. Last December, Syria accused the coalition of attacking a government army camp in Deir al-Zour but the US denied it.
Earlier, Russia’s military expressed fears for the ceasefire. It said rebel groups had increased attacks and it urged the US to act or be responsible for the collapse of the truce. Media caption Syrian family living in cemetery in Eastern Aleppo.
Russian General Vladimir Savchenko said “the situation in Syria is worsening”, with 55 rebel attacks over the past 24 hours, leading to the deaths of 12 civilians.
Gen Viktor Poznikhir said Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, was doing all it could to rein in Syrian troops.
“If the American side does not take the necessary measures to carry out its obligations… a breakdown of the ceasefire will be on the United States,” he said.
“The United States and the so-called moderate groups they control have not met a single obligation they assumed in the framework of the Geneva agreement.”
The terms require moderate rebel groups to separate themselves from jihadists.Media captionFootage appears to show Free Syrian Army rebels chasing US special forces out of the northern Syrian town of Al-Rai
Gen Poznikhir said: “Our repeated messages to the American side are left without a response. There is doubt that the US is able to influence the moderate opposition they control.”
A US National Security Council spokesman later said: “While there have been challenges on both sides, violence is considerably lower and the cessation is broadly holding.
“What we’re not seeing is humanitarian aid getting through and it will be hard to build confidence on the ground until that occurs.”
Some 20 trucks have been waiting since Monday for safe passage from Turkey into Syria and on to rebel-held east Aleppo.
This was meant to be a trust-building exercise, but nearly a week after the truce began, the blame game has begun.
There was deep scepticism from the rebels about details in the plan which called for their separation from extremist groups. That is why they never formally accepted the deal.
It was always a major sticking point. Were US backed groups supposed to surrender territory to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham? Or were they required to fight them? It was never clear. Either way, the stipulation would leave them far weaker on the battlefield. But refusing and standing in the way of much-needed humanitarian aid would not have been popular.
Now this weekend, the main rebel groups are due to meet to discuss their position. Their mistrust of the government and its Russian allies runs deep. They see the obstruction of aid deliveries on the border as a stalling tactic, and one which they have seen before.
If aid doesn’t reach besieged areas soon, the ceasefire’s days are numbered. And coordinated strikes against IS won’t happen.
ATTACKERS rammed a car through the gates of Belgium’s national crime laboratory yesterday in Brussels and then started a fire in what officials said may have been an attempt to destroy evidence.
Five people were arrested nearby but later released, while prosecutors said there was no confirmed link to terrorism so far. No one was injured in the fire or by a large explosion which shook houses nearby.
The incident comes as Belgium remains on high alert following suicide attacks on the capital’s airport and metro system in March which were claimed by the Islamic State group.
“This location was not chosen randomly,” said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, adding that the institute deals with “sensitive information in connection with several ongoing cases.”
Prosecutors had opened an investigation into “deliberate arson of a building and damage by explosion,” while bomb disposal experts attended the scene. “The possibility of a terrorist act is not confirmed. It goes without saying that several individuals may have wanted to destroy evidence related to their legal cases,” Van Wymersch added.
She said that “several attackers forced their way into the institute using their car and were able to attack the building” and had apparently deliberately targeted the wing where the laboratories are located.
The incident happened in the early hours yesterday at the national criminology institute in Neder-Over-Hembeek, a northern suburb of Brussels, and near the famed Atomium tourist attraction.
Part of the building was scorched and burned out, while a burned out car was lifted from the scene by a crane. The institute is part of Belgium’s federal justice system. Among its tasks is carrying out forensic analysis for criminal cases. Belgium has been on high alert after suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the EU headquarters on March 22, killing 32 people.
THIS IS A COPY PASTE FROM THE “CREEPING SHARIA” BLOG SITE: My very limited computer skills do limit my abilities to do some things with computers. These days here in America it seems that even all first graders know more than I do about computers.
Islam does not mean peace. It means SUBMISSION! via The Citadel considers first-ever uniform exception: allowing a Muslim hijab
If the request for the traditional Muslim hair covering is granted, it apparently would be the first exception made to the Citadel’s uniform, which all cadets at the storied public military college in South Carolina are required to wear at nearly all times. (At beaches, for example, college rules stipulate that, “Cadets will change into appropriate swimwear upon arrival and change back into uniform when departing.”) A spokeswoman said that to her knowledge, in its nearly 175-year history, the school has never granted a religious, or other, accommodation that resulted in a change to the uniform.
The college, founded in 1842, has won praise for its academics as well as the leadership skills taught to its 2,300 or so undergraduates, about 170 of whom are women (the school began admitting women in 1996). The college has several Muslim students enrolled now, a spokeswoman said.
She said that to her knowledge, the admitted student had not asked for other accommodations.
The 175-year-old military college in South Carolina has NEVER made an exception to their uniform policy – for religious reasons or otherwise. Now, one student has recently requested that she be allowed to wear the hijab, as required by her Muslim faith, and the Citadel is considering the request.
The word is spreading on social media, and fellow students, alumni and others have had plenty to say. The fact that the very first exception to the uniform rules might be allowed for a Muslim student stings for many.
One cadet, Nick Pinelli, who will graduate in May, wrote his objections on facebook:
It’s no secret that you can’t wear what you want when you’re at the Citadel. You’re punished even for wearing what you want when you’re not on campus. But, those who come here are signing up for that, no matter how much they hate it (we do). So it’s not unfair to those people who want to join an organization with the intentions of excluding themselves from the regulations, it’s unfair to those who practice within the realms of those regulations. It’s unfair to the school having to change rules and adjust to the individual, when the individual could’ve gone to USC without incident. Your expression of self shouldn’t place a burden of cost on others. It’s not equality to let one of those groups follow a different set of rules.
Another cadet responded:
It is a blatant disrespect to what a military school stands for. We come here and willingly give up our individuality and become a part of a group that upholds the time-honored traditions of this school. So for anyone to come, not even walk through our hallowed gates, and force the school to go to extreme lengths both financially and resource fully, to accommodate one person, isn’t right. I can’t wear a shirt around campus that says “I love Jesujahs”. Why? It’s not because of religious intolerance, it’s because it does not meet uniform requirements that all 2400 of us are held to. Am I offended that I can’t wear a religious shirt? Nope. Why? Because I accepted the system that I have become a part of, and I’m willing to let it change me and join a long line of men and women who I will be honored to call my brothers and sisters.
In Germany, the consequences of allowing Muslims into the military are becoming deadly obvious: 29 German soldiers have joined ISIS, army may contain dozens of jihadist sympathizers – report
German counter-intelligence believes that at least 29 former soldiers from the country have left to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. An internal report also revealed that 65 active soldiers are being investigated for alleged jihadist sympathies.
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