Iraqi Christians Facing Extinction After 1,400 Years Forgive ISIS of Genocide ‘In the Name of Christ’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Iraqi Christians Facing Extinction After 1,400 Years Forgive ISIS of Genocide ‘In the Name of Christ’

‘There Is No Future for Christians in the Middle East If Islam Doesn’t Change’
(PHOTO: REUTERS/SUHAIB SALEM)Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017.

Iraqi Christians are reaching out with forgiveness to the Islamic radicals who have murdered, tortured, and raped their communities, even as they face an existential struggle for survival.

Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been outspoken about the plight of Christians in his country, said believers “have endured persecution in patience and faith for 1,400 years,” but now face an “existential struggle” that could possibly be their last in Iraq.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. last week at an event hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the bishop noted that the Islamic State terror group displaced more than 125,000 Christians in the Nineveh region.

Warda said the attacks left Christians “without shelter, without refuge, without work, without properties, without monasteries, without the ability to participate in any of the things that give our lives dignity,” as reported by Catholic News Agency.

“So few of us are left, some estimate 200,000 Christians or less,” he said of the total number of Christians in the country, down from 1.5 million in 2003.

“While it is true that our numbers are small, the Apostles were much smaller.”

Still, the church leader said that Christians are open to forgiveness despite the horrors of the genocide they have suffered.

“We forgive those who murdered us, who tortured us, who raped us, who sought to destroy everything about us. We forgive them in the name of Christ,” Warda declared.

He added that Muslim leaders need to do more than simply clarify that IS does not represent their faith, but praised some nations, such as the United Arab Emirates, for offering genuine support to the victims of violence.

“Since the ISIS attack, they’ve been with us helping all — Catholics, Yazidis, Muslims,” the bishop explained.

“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for Christians in the Middle East,” he added.

“We’ve been hearing some courageous voices from Islamic leaders concerning the need of change and the need to address this issue openly. It should be encouraged.”

The decimated communities have seen hope in the opening of the new Catholic University of Erbil, which welcomes both Christian and Muslim students, offering degrees in economics, international law, English literature, and accounting, among others.

Nineveh Plains Christians were also able to celebrate the reconsecration of the first church since IS’ invasion in December, with the reopening of St. George’s Church in Telleskuf.

Others, such as Ashur Sargon Eskrya, president of the Assyrian Aid Society branch in Iraq, have said that despite the victories against IS and the liberation of Iraqi territories, Christians are facing their “biggest and greatest challenge” in returning to their homelands.

“Iraqi Christians (Assyrian,Chaldean) are indigenous peoples of the country, according to historical sources, and their future in Iraq depends of on international support and protection. Without protections, they will not be able to live in Iraq anymore,” Eskrya said in August 2017.

“It is critical time for the Christians of Iraq — ‘to be or not to be.’ The Christians of Iraq are facing their biggest and greatest challenge” in post-IS Iraq, he added.

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Iraqi Christians in Mosul Celebrate Christmas For First Time in 3 Years

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Iraqi Christians in Mosul Celebrate Christmas For First Time in 3 Years

(PHOTO: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)Ameen Mukdad, a violinist from Mosul who lived under ISIS’s rule for two and a half years where they destroyed his musical instruments, performs at Nabi Yunus shrine in eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 19, 2017.

Christians in Iraq attended a Christmas service in Mosul for the first time since Islamic State militants took over the city in 2014, hoping they will soon be able to return to their homes.

Armoured vehicles guarded Saint Paul’s, the only functioning church in Mosul. Its bombed-out window frames were covered with white sheets during the Christmas service, the BBC reports.

The patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako, urged the worshipers to pray for “peace and stability in Mosul, Iraq and the world.”

Islamic state, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, was driven out of Mosul in July, but Christians are yet to rebuild their lives and their homes. Less than a dozen Christian families have been able to return to the city thus far.

“The situation made us so sad,” Voice of America quoted Fadi, a worshiper, as saying. “This is our city, our grandparents’ city. We lived here, we grew up here. We built our schools, universities, churches families and friends here.”

In the Nineveh Plains, which was also liberated from IS a few months ago, Christians earlier this month celebrated the reconsecration of the first church, St. George’s, to be reopened there since IS was driven out of the region.

“ISIS wanted to eliminate the Christian presence here — but ISIS is gone and the Christians of Telleskuf are back,” Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, said at the ceremony in Telleskuf.

“I am moved by the fact that the church of St. George has not only been reopened, but that it has become more beautiful and glorious than before. That is the way God’s Providence work,” the archbishop declared.

About 80,000 Christians have yet to return home and remain displaced inside of the country as winter has arrived, Juliana Taimoorazy, an Assyrian Christian who founded the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and serves as a senior fellow at the Philos Project, told The Christian Post last week.

She said as many as 50,000 Christians have returned to their homes. Between 150,000 and 180,000 Iraqi Christians were displaced when IS took over in 2014.

“There are many who left Iraq. They went to Turkey. They went to Lebanon. They went to Jordan. The number of Iraqi Christians that are in Turkey is about 45,000. In Jordan, it is about 20,000. In Northern Iraq, we probably would want to say that there are at least 80,000 to 100,000 are displaced in the Northern Part of Iraq.”

Taimoorazy added: “While those aren’t official numbers, as there isn’t a way of counting these people with no census system in place, these numbers are provided to Iraqi Christian Relief Council by various aid organizations and officials from Iraq.”

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.

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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.

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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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Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

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

Middle East

Sadr Delegation Holds Talks with Kurdistan Leadership

Sadr

Headed by Ahmed al-Sadr, son of the movement’s leader Moqtada, the delegation was welcomed in Irbil by President Masoud al-Barzani.

The president’s media officer Kifah Mahmoud told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two sides discussed the political situation in Iraq and the ongoing war against ISIS in the city of Mosul.

They also tackled the post-ISIS phase, especially in Iraq, he revealed.

The Sadr delegation said that they are making preparations for the upcoming elections, he said.

Meanwhile, Kirkuk governor Najm Eddine Karim announced that Baghdad is not offering any aid to the city.

He told reporters during a celebration in honor of Kurdish journalism: “There are over half a million refugees in Kirkuk, including 30,000 families that have fled al-Huweija district.”

“This is posing a major burden on the city and the residents are sharing medicine, water, electricity and other services with these refugees. Their patience will not last long,” he warned.

He therefore demanded that Baghdad work on allowing the displaced to return to the liberated areas “as soon as possible.”

“The delay in liberating al-Huweija does not serve Kirkuk or Iraq,” Karim said.

He said that Baghdad’s aid to refugees in Kirkuk is so slim that it is bordering on nonexistent, urging the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to seriously address Kirkuk’s demands.

“Everyone in Baghdad and anywhere else should know that the residents of Kirkuk will not accept this attitude,” he warned.

Iraqi Forces Kill Baghdadi’s Top Aide

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

Middle East

Iraqi Forces Kill Baghdadi’s Aide

Mosul – Iraqi security forces killed a number of ISIS’ top commanders including Abu Baker al-Baghdadi’s aide, whereas six citizens were injured during an ISIS attack on the Algerian neighborhood, in east Mosul’s center.

Chief of the Iraqi Federal Police Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said that the troops bombed several ISIS sites in west Mosul killing Abu Abdul Rahman, Baghdadi’s first aide.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the troops bombed ISIS site in al-Zanjili neighborhood. Whereas in the Old City, near al-Awsad Mosque, they killed ISIS’ commander Abul Walid al-Tunisi and four of his bodyguards, while another commander, Russian Abo Maria, was killed during the attack on Ras al-Jadah.

Civilians continue to escape areas of heavy clashes towards the demarcation with security forces while carrying white flags. Despite the constant attempts, security forces are not able to establish safe corridors for the civilians especially in the Old City, given that ISIS snipers are preventing the civilians from reaching safety. The snipers even bomb the citizens with mortars killing and injuring dozens of them.

Civilians’ presence in areas under ISIS control, especially the Old City, hinders the progress of the Iraqi troops given that these areas are highly populated. In addition, Iraqi troops are unable to use warplanes or heavy armors against militants who take advantage of the narrow alleyways where armored vehicles and tanks can’t enter.

In west Mosul, the infrastructure of the city has been destroyed because of the war which is much worse than in the east of the city. ISIS militants tend to bomb areas they are escaping leaving behind their belongings and dead bodies which begin to stench especially now that the temperatures are rising.

As the Iraqi troops headed towards liberating the remaining of the neighborhoods in the west of the city, ISIS bombed the liberated east side.

Media officer of the Mosul branch of Kurdish Democratic Party Saeed Mamuzini told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that two citizens were killed and four others injured on Wednesday during the mortar shelling on the Algerian neighborhood.

He added that the terrorist organization launched the attack from neighborhoods under his control in the west side.

Iraqi Christians Return To Ransacked Town With Fear And Hope

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica SEARCH
By Ulf Laessing | QARAQOSH, IRAQ

With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions.

The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community.

In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control – only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul.

But nearby a shopkeeper is doing a brisk trade selling Dutch beer, Greek ouzo and several whisky brands to Christians, Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds alike, with this kind of commerce perhaps offering a glimpse of how Iraq’s fractured communities could again live together peacefully.

Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014.

Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division.

“Oh Hussein” is daubed in red on the wall of a church torched earlier by Islamic State, praising the hero of Shi’ite Muslims who was martyred 1,300 years ago.

“We are afraid of this, of tensions,” said Girgis Youssif, a church worker. “We want to live in peace and demand security,” said Youssif, who returned after fleeing to Erbil, about 60 km away in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, have scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too.

Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors.

Two Shi’ite flags also fly over Qaraqosh.

Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain.

“Of course we are afraid of such signs,” said Matti Yashou Hatti, a photographer who still lives in Erbil with his family. “We need international protection.”

Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh – once home to 50,000 people – are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes.

“We want to come back but there is no water and power,” said Mazam Nesin, a Christian who works for a volunteer force based in Qaraqosh but has left his family behind in Erbil.

By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris river which is the militants’ last stronghold.

ALCOHOL SHOP

Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion.

But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies.

Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors.

One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town center; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. “Business has been good so far. Everybody comes here to stock up,” said Ibrahim, who has just reopened the store with his father.

They lost everything when Islamic State, known by its enemies as Daesh, wrecked their business. Now they have invested about $400 to refurbish the shop – new tiles shine on the walls – and customers are coming from beyond the town and from across the communities.

“I sell drinks to Christians and Muslims alike,” he said. “Many people come from Mosul or other towns.”

Many of Ibrahim’s customers ignore Islam’s forbidding of alcohol consumption. While he was talking, a Sunni Muslim from eastern Mosul drove up to buy a bottle of whisky and four cans of beer, packed in a black plastic bag to hide his purchase from the eyes of more religiously observant Muslims.

“You couldn’t drink during Daesh. I am glad this shop is open again,” said the man who gave his name only as Mohammed, shaking hands with Christians enjoying an afternoon beer. “I still only drink at home.”

Later a Shi’ite from a village south of Mosul arrived to pick up drinks. “I come here twice a week. It’s the only shop in the area,” he said, asking not to be named, before driving off.

Even Ibrahim comes every day from Erbil, bringing by car supplies and fuel for the generator to power the fridges filled with cold beer. Then he drives back at night.

Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust.

Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance.

On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass.

Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid.

“The security measures are not sufficient,” said Hatti, the photographer. “We want security to surround the town.”

(Click here, reut.rs/2ordbfj for a Photo essay on this story)

(Editing by David Stamp)

ISIS Demons Threatens Attacks Within India And On The Taj Mahal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS AGENCY)

Pro-Islamic State group warns of attack on Taj Mahal

INDIA Updated: Mar 16, 2017 22:17 IST

Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Islamic State

Security agencies say about 75 Indians have joined the IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.(Site Intelligence Group)

A pro-Islamic State media group has warned of attacks in India and published a graphic depicting the Taj Mahal as a possible target.The graphic by the Ahwaal Ummat Media Center was posted on a channel of Telegram, the encrypted communication app, on March 14, according to Site Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi activity on the web.

The graphic features a fighter in combat fatigues and black headgear armed with an assault rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade standing near the 17th century monument to love in Agra.

An inset in the graphic features another image of the Taj Mahal within crosshairs with the words “New target” below it. There is also an image of a van with the Arabic text “Agra istishhadi” (Agra martyrdom-seeker) written in English, implying the threat of a suicide attack.

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This is not the first time a pro-IS group has threatened attacks in India. After terror suspect Saifullah was killed by police in Lucknow on March 8, another pro-IS channel on Telegram had incited attacks in India.

That channel had also posted a photo of Saifullah and described him as a “soldier of the Khilafah from India”.

Indian security officials have said they are yet to procure proof that Saifullah was directly linked to the IS. They noted the photo of Saifullah posted on the Telegram channel was one released by Uttar Pradesh Police and not an image procured by the group before his death. They also said Saifullah was “self-radicalised”.

According to security agencies, some 75 Indians have so far joined IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka, while the remainder were Indians living abroad. About 37 more were apprehended while they were making their way from India to territories controlled by IS.

Security agencies have stepped up efforts to prevent the radicalisation and recruitment of youngsters via the internet and communication apps, which are extensively used by the IS.

The US state department too has noted the threat to India from IS.

US Embassy New Delhi warns of an increased threat to places in India frequented by Westerners, such as religious sites, markets..

An advisory for American citizens issued last November said: “Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India.” The advisory warned Americans of “an increased threat in places in India frequented by Westerners”.

Ancient Palace Revealed Under Destroyed Mosul Shrine

(I FOUND THIS ARTICLE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (AP) THAT I THOUGHT SOME OF YOU WHO LIKE HISTORY  MIGHT LIKE)

Associated Press

Ancient palace revealed under destroyed Mosul shrine

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi archaeologists think that tunnels dug by Islamic State militants under a destroyed shrine in Mosul have revealed the palace of an ancient Assyrian king who ruled some 2,700 years ago.

IS fighters blew up the shrine of the biblical Jonah’s tomb in 2014 after taking control of the city. They started digging tunnels into the side of the hill under the shrine, leading to the discovery.

Ancient inscriptions and winged bulls and lions were found deep in the tunnels, thought to be part of the palace of King Esarhaddon, who ruled the Neo-Assyrian empire in the 7th century B.C.

The militants may have been looking for artifacts to loot. IS was pushed out of eastern Mosul by Iraqi forces in January. The battle continues for western Mosul.

Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraqi security forces guard the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Ancient artifacts are seen inside a tunnel, under the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, March 11, 2017. Iraqi archeologists think that tunnels dug under a destroyed shrine in Mosul by Islamic State militants have revealed the palace of the ancient Assyrian king of Esarhaddon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

ISIS Cowards Hiding Behind Women And Children ‘Human Shields’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) ISIS has “executed” 232 people near the Iraqi city of Mosul and taken tens of thousands of people to use as human shields against advancing Iraqi forces, the United Nations says.

The terror group carried out the mass killings Wednesday, punishing people who had defied its orders, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights arm told CNN.
“ISIS executed 42 civilians in Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul. Also on Wednesday ISIS executed 190 former Iraqi security forces for refusing to join them, in the Al Ghazlani base near Mosul,” said Ravina Shamdasani of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Iraqi forces gather this week in the al Shura area, south of Mosul.

Another 24 former Iraqi security forces officers were reportedly killed Tuesday, the office said.
Since October 17, ISIS has taken tens of thousands of men, women and children from the outskirts of Mosul into the city. Shamdasani said the United Nations feared the group intended “to use them as human shields against the Iraqi forces advance on Mosul.”
There have been other reported civilian deaths over the past week as ISIS tries to herd people into its last major stronghold in Iraq and the nation’s second city against the Iraqi-led operation.
Iraqi forces have now launched an operation to cut ISIS supply lines west of Mosul, according to a statement released Saturday by Hashd al Shabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).
The PMUs are fighting alongside the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga as they attempt to re-take Mosul from ISIS.

Iraqi forces advance from south

Reports of the latest ISIS atrocities came as Iraqi security forces reported further progress Friday in their advance from the south of Mosul.

An Iraqi family is south of Mosul after fleeing the Hammam al-Alil area.

Abdulrahman al Wagga, a member of the Nineveh provincial council, told CNN the security forces had taken the town of al Shura, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Mosul, and had evacuated 5,000 to 6,000 civilians.
The area is being cleared of homemade bombs and booby traps, he said.
Iraqi security forces and federal police have also now “90% surrounded Hammam al-Alil,” the largest town south of Mosul, Wagga said.

ISIS has used human shields before

Wagga said the Iraqi forces might storm Hammam al-Alil soon but it would depend on the situation on the ground since civilians were still present.
Reports indicate that ISIS has abducted at least 5,370 families from around al Shura and 150 more from around Hammam al-Alil, Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
Another 160 families have reportedly been seized from around Qayyara, she said, and 2,210 families from the Nimrud area of Hamdaniya district.
“Forced out by gunpoint, or killed if they resist, these people are reportedly being moved to strategic locations where ISIL fighters are located,” Shamdasani said, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
Information received by the United Nations suggests some 60,000 people are currently living in Hammam al-Alil, an ISIS stronghold with a previous population of 23,000, she said.
The use of human shields is banned under international humanitarian law, and constitutes a violation of the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life, the UN refugee agency said.
ISIS has used the same tactic in previous battles in Iraq, notably in Falluja in June.

‘Depraved, cowardly’ strategy

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said the terror group’s “depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilians to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields.”
He also warned last week that ISIS fighters appeared to be using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields.

An Iraqi man waves a white flag as his family flees the fighting Thursday.

The commissioner urged those fighting ISIS not to carry out revenge attacks and called on the Iraqi government to ensure respect for the rule of law.
As the fighting around Mosul intensifies, growing numbers of civilians have sought to flee despite the risks involved.
The International Organization for Migration reported the Mosul operation had displaced 16,566 people as of Friday. Camps have been set up to accommodate an expected flood of desperate families.

ISIS ‘killed brother for spying’

Civilians continued Friday to stream out of villages to the east of Mosul that ISIS had held until recent days.

Inside the tunnels of ISIS

Inside the tunnels of ISIS02:19
Several people gave insight into life under ISIS rule, telling the Kurdish network Rudaw that militants had fired at them as they left a settlement near Darwish to the northeast of Mosul.
One woman said her brother had been killed after being accused of spying for the Peshmerga, or Kurdish fighters. She said women had been forced to wear gloves and be completely covered.
A young man told the network his brother had been killed because he had a cell phone and was allegedly a spy.
Iraqi forces are holding positions about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the eastern side of Mosul.
Gen. Aly Al Saady told the al Iraqiya network his force would wait for troops on other fronts to close in on Mosul before launching an attack on the city. He said they had prepared safe corridors for civilians to get out of Mosul before starting the operation.

Battle For Mosul Iraq Continues, Hundreds Of ISIS Fighters Killed: Say U.S. Generals

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BBC NEWS AND REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Mosul battle: IS ‘loses hundreds of fighters’ – US generals

Media caption Orla Guerin goes inside an IS tunnel network outside Mosul

Hundreds of Islamic State militants are thought to have been killed since Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul last week, the US military says.

Two generals said the jihadist group had suffered the losses as troops and allied fighters, backed by US-led air strikes, advanced on several axes.

Up to 5,000 IS fighters were believed to be in Mosul ahead of the assault.

Despite the territorial gains, commanders have warned that securing Mosul could take weeks, if not months.

About 50,000 Iraqi security forces personnel, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen are involved in the operation.

Map showing territory held by Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and IS around Mosul

More than 100 US military personnel are embedded with them, advising commanders and helping direct coalition air strikes. Other US troops are providing fire support from nearby bases.

Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces in Iraq, said on Wednesday that the coalition forces had delivered more than 2,100 aerial bombs, artillery and mortar shells, rockets and missiles since 17 October.

“This relentless campaign of strikes has removed hundreds of fighters, weapons, and key leaders from the battlefield in front of the Iraqi advance,” he added.

Iraqi federal police forces take part in an operation against Islamic State militants in south of Mosul (26 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Iraqi security forces advancing towards Mosul from the south have faced fierce resistance

On Thursday, the head of the US military’s Central Command, Gen Joseph Votel, told the AFP news agency: “Just in the operations over the last week and a half associated with Mosul, we estimate they’ve probably killed about 800-900 Islamic State fighters.”

The Iraqi government informed US commanders on Wednesday that 57 Iraqi soldiers had been killed and about 250 wounded. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are thought to have suffered about 20 to 30 fatalities.

Despite the removal of hundreds militants from the battlefield, Gen Townsend warned that IS defenses were likely to grow stronger the closer they got to Mosul.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters outside Fadiliya village, north of Mosul (27 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have seized a string of villages to the north and east

The group had “used an extraordinary amount of indirect fire – mortars, artillery and rockets – and an exceptional number of VBIEDs (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices),” he told reporters during a visit to the Qayyarah airbase.

Fierce resistance by jihadists has held up soldiers in the Shura area, 40-km (25 miles) south of Mosul, prompting elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces to pause their advance near the village of Bazwaya, only 6 km east of the city.

CTS commander Brig Gen Haider Fadhil told the Associated Press his forces would wait for other units to reach Mosul’s outskirts before entering the city.

Media caption Oil fires started by IS outside Mosul turn sheep black

But he stressed: “The operation has not been stopped and is proceeding as planned.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had trained 90 Iraqi medics in “mass casualty management” as part of its preparations for the Mosul operation, with a special focus on responding to chemical attacks, AP reported.

IS has previously used chemical weapons in attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, and there are fears that it might do so again inside Mosul, where more than a million civilians live.

A displaced man carries his nephew as he stands beside tents upon his arrival at al-Khazar camp, east of Mosul, (26 October 2016)Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Some 11,700 civilians have fled the Mosul area since the offensive began

Some 11,700 residents have fled since the offensive began and, according to the UN’s worst-case scenario, as many as 700,000 others could follow suit.

“There’s been quite a dramatic upturn in the last few days,” said Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who warned that there were currently only spaces in camps for 60,000 people.

The WHO is working on the assumption that 200,000 of them will require emergency health services, including more than 90,000 children needing vaccinations and 8,000 pregnant women.