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Situation in Syria / ISIS


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#1001 amor de cosmos

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 10:21 AM

In response to the US-led coalition’s policy in Syria and its support for Syrian Kurdish forces, the Turkish state media has exposed US military positions in Syria.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency has published an article highlighting 10 American military locations in northern Syria.

The maps, published by Anadolu on Monday, include specific locations of eight military posts and two air bases near the Turkish border as well as troop counts for both US and French forces.

The article lists three points in Hasakeh, two points in Manbij, and three spots north of Raqqa.

The United States first established air bases in Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria in October 2015.

In March and April 2016, the US added supplemental sites in the region.

The Anadolu article suggested this was a retaliatory action by Turkey for weapons ending up in the hands of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which is assisting the US-led coalition in the fight against ISIS.

“By exposing these secret US military positions, Turkey is clearly providing information to ISIS terrorists to attack the American troops in Rojava-Northern Syria,” a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG forces told ARA News on Wednesday. “We won’t allow Turkey and its terrorist allies to approach these areas.”

http://aranews.net/2...ositions-syria/

President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.

https://www.washingt...38cc_story.html

MOSUL (Reuters) - Islamic State militants began reinventing themselves months before U.S.-backed Iraqi forces ended their three-year reign of terror in Mosul, putting aside the dream of a modern-day caliphate and preparing the ground for a different fight.

Intelligence and local officials said that, a few months ago, they noticed a growing stream of commanders and fighters flowing out of the city to the Hamrin mountains in northeast Iraq which offer hideouts and access to four Iraqi provinces.

Some were intercepted but many evaded security forces and began setting up bases for their new operations.

What comes next may be a more complex and daunting challenge for Iraqi security forces once they finish celebrating a hard-won victory in Mosul, the militants' biggest stronghold.

Intelligence and security officials are bracing for the kind of devastating insurgency al Qaeda waged following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, pushing Iraq into a sectarian civil war which peaked in 2006-2007.

"They are digging in. They have easy access to the capital," Lahur Talabany, a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official, told Reuters. As part of the U.S.-led coalition, he is at the forefront of efforts to eliminate Islamic State.

"I believe we have tougher days coming.”

http://www.reuters.c...y-idUSKBN1A50ML

Canadian special forces are now directly overseeing what is being called an urgent purchase of weapons and other lethal aid for Kurdish forces, but the military admits it still has no idea when the gear might be delivered.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in February 2016 that Canada would provide such equipment to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq. Because of the urgency of the purchase, the acquisition is being handled by Canadian special forces who are directing the Canadian Commercial Corporation to the specific firms they are to buy the equipment from.

“There is no standard, pre-determined process or timeline for an equipment acquisition of this complexity,” the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation, said in a statement. “Given the ongoing situation on the ground, the requirements are urgent and operational. For this reason, contracts have been awarded on a sole-source basis.”

DND said that the total cost of the equipment being purchased is $9.5 million.

That includes .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60mm mortars and Carl Gustav anti-tank systems, as well as grenade launchers, pistols, carbines, thermal binoculars, cameras, scopes and medical supplies.

The equipment is being supplied by Canadian firms, according to DND and the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

http://nationalpost....ff-0d6fad615d7f

#1002 amor de cosmos

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Posted 21 July 2017 - 09:09 AM

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Thursday continued their operations against ISIS headquarters in the city of Raqqa, in northeastern Syria.

At least 23 ISIS militants were killed by SDF fire, including a jihadist leader.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces hit ISIS strongholds in the northwestern part of Raqqa city. The heavy artillery bombardment caused massive destruction to an ISIS security centre in the area,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News.

“At least 23 terrorists were killed in the shelling, among them was the head of ISIS security in the area,” the Kurdish officer said.

In the meantime, clashes broke out in the al-Kournish district south of the city after SDF fighters infiltrated into a major ISIS camp.

“The clashes are still ongoing in al-Kournish, particularly in the Shehada square,” Osman reported.

SDF sources reported the death of two of their fighters and the injury of four others in Thursday’s clashes.

http://aranews.net/2...s-of-militants/

An international rights monitor has reported the discovery of an execution site in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and given warning of a resurgence of violence if no one is held to account over the murder and torture of Iraqis in the battle against ISIS.

Human Rights Watch’s report, published on Wednesday, adds to growing accounts of extrajudicial killings, torture and unlawful detention by Iraqi forces in the final phase of the battle to retake west Mosul from ISIS.

It details the discovery of the corpses of 17 men, executed in an empty building in west Mosul, on July 17.

Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, urged Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, to investigate and punish those responsible, warning that his victory over ISIS, would be short-lived if abuses go unpunished.

Abadi formally declared victory over ISIS in Mosul on July 10.

“As Prime Minister Abadi enjoys victory in Mosul, he is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers’ committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate,” Whitson said. “Abadi’s victory will collapse unless he takes concrete steps to end the grotesque abuses by his own security forces.”

http://aranews.net/2...icial-killings/

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As ISIS’ so-called caliphate is defeated, intelligence officers and local officials warn the group will turn to guerrilla tactics.

A few months ago, intelligence officers and local officials started noticing an increasing stream of ISIS commanders and fighters leaving Mosul and heading into the Hamrin Mountains, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The Hamrin Mountains run from the border with Iran, along the southern edge of Kirkuk province, and northwest to the Tigris River. They offer militants hard to locate hideouts as well as easy access to four of Iraq’s provinces.

Lahur Talabany, director of Kurdistan’s counter-terror body, told Reuters in February that he had no doubts Mosul would be retaken, but cautioned against what will be next.

“Mosul will get taken. I think it is the asymmetric warfare that we need to be worried about,” he said.

Talabany said there are signs that ISIS fighters are sheltering in the Hamrin Mountains between Tikrit and Hawija.

"It is a very tough terrain. It is very difficult for the Iraqi military to control," he said. "It’s a good hideout place and a place they could have access from province to province without getting detected."

Although some of the fleeing militants were intercepted and caught, several managed to evade Iraqi security forces and began setting up bases to begin their new operations.

"Our jobs will become much more difficult. The army will take a rest a little, but it will be the job of security forces that will become more difficult," Talabany had warned.

Security and intelligence officials are already bracing for a new kind of destructive insurgency, such as the one al Qaeda waged in 2003 following the US-led invasion. Many ISIS fighters and leaders have roots in al Qaeda.

"They are digging in. They have easy access to the capital," Talabany told Reuters. “I believe we have tougher days coming.”

*snip*

Iraqi and Kurdish security officials believe that after the fall of the caliphate, ISIS will put their focus on far less predictable guerrilla warfare.

"We know some of these guys escaped. They are trying to send people out for the next phase, post-Mosul, to go into hiding and sleeper cells," said Talabany.

The main concern of intelligence is if the Iraqi army will be more comfortable with conventional warfare or if they have the capability to take on an insurgency of sleeper cells.

http://www.rudaw.net...istan/200720171

#1003 amor de cosmos

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 08:32 AM

At least Sixteen jihadist women, including a 16-year-old German girl who ran away from home, have been arrested in Mosul as Iraqi forces re-captured the northern city from the Islamic State (ISIS).

Three Iraqi intelligence officials told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday that the women were among 26 foreigners taken into custody in Mosul. Two were men and eight were children.

According to officials, some of those arrested were from Chechnya, and the women were from Russia, Iran, Syria, France, Belgium and Germany.

http://aranews.net/2...detained-mosul/

On the day the Islamic State overran the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, it laid claim to one of the greatest weapons bonanzas ever to fall to a terrorist group: a large metropolis dotted with military bases and garrisons stocked with guns, bombs, rockets and even battle tanks.

But the most fearsome weapon in Mosul on that day was never used by the terrorists. Only now is it becoming clear what happened to it.

Locked away in a storage room on a Mosul college campus were two caches of cobalt-60, a metallic substance with lethally high levels of radiation. When contained within the heavy shielding of a radiotherapy machine, cobalt-60 is used to kill cancer cells. In terrorists’ hands, it is the core ingredient of a “dirty bomb,” a weapon that could be used to spread radiation and panic.

Western intelligence agencies were aware of the cobalt and watched anxiously for three years for signs that the militants might try to use it. Those concerns intensified in late 2014 when Islamic State officials boasted of obtaining radioactive material, and again early last year when the terrorists took over laboratories at the same Mosul college campus with the apparent aim of building new kinds of weapons.

In Washington, independent nuclear experts drafted papers and ran calculations about the potency of the cobalt and the extent of the damage it could do. The details were kept under wraps on the chance that Mosul’s occupiers might not be fully aware of what they had.

Iraqi military commanders were apprised of the potential threat as they battled Islamic State fighters block by block through the sprawling complex where the cobalt was last seen. Finally, earlier this year, government officials entered the bullet-pocked campus building and peered into the storage room where the cobalt machines were kept.

They were still there, exactly as they were when the Islamic State seized the campus in 2014. The cobalt apparently had never been touched.

“They are not that smart,” a relieved health ministry official said of the city’s former occupiers.

https://www.washingt...a7e5_story.html

#1004 amor de cosmos

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 08:33 AM

One of the most important challenges facing the Iraqi forces is the loss of a large number of troops in the battles in Mosul. According to the US Department of Defense, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) suffered 40% battle losses in Mosul. The CTS has played the most important role in the liberation of Mosul, and prior to that in many areas in Anbar and Salahuddin provinces; it enjoys a good reputation among Iraqis, due to its performance, professionalism and abstention from any sectarian conduct.

There are indications that the federal police losses were bigger than those of the CTS. “When we compare the losses of the federal police with those of the CTS and the Iraqi army, we find that the federal police sacrifices were great,” Hakim Zamili, chairman of the Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee, said in a July 11 TV interview.

Townsend said the Iraqi forces need a period of rest before proceeding with the liberation of the remaining IS-occupied territories.

These losses underscore the importance of supporting the international coalition against IS. The coalition countries, especially the United States, provide hundreds of millions of dollars in support for the buildup and sustainability of Iraqi forces and offer support in many other fields.

CTS head Talib Shaghati said in a TV interview July 14, “All the coalition countries played a prominent role, especially our close American friends, who had a clear role in providing support in the fields of intelligence, information and air reconnaissance, and also in training intelligence personnel to collect and extract the obtained information and make conclusions from it.”

Townsend said the Iraqi government asked US troops to stay in Iraq until after the liberation of the country from IS. In addition, the United States plans to build new military installations in Iraq; however, these plans face fierce objections from Shiite factions, presaging a complicated security situation in the next stage.

*snip*

But the main challenge facing Iraqi security forces appears to be political differences and the struggle for power and influence. In 2016, clashes broke out between forces from the Popular Mobilization Units and the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Tuz Khormato, south of the city of Kirkuk. Also, clashes between the Ninevah Guards, a Sunni force, and the Shiite faction of Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada took place in Mosul on July 20. There are fears that these clashes might expand into open warfare amid deep differences over the disputed areas extending from Jalula near the Iranian border, through Kirkuk province and into Yazidi areas near the Syrian border. Terrorist groups have been able to exploit differences over these areas for years to operate more freely. These very differences were behind the postponement of the liberation of Hawija in western Kirkuk province and Tal Afar in western Ninevah province.

Despite the remarkable progress made in the performance of the Iraqi forces, which led to the liberation of most of the IS-occupied areas, great challenges will seemingly complicate the security situation in the coming stages.

http://www.al-monito...a-tal-afar.html

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday made new gains in the battle for Raqqa city after heavy clashes with Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants.

The US-backed forces seized more ground in Raqqa city after hitting ISIS’s defences.

“Today the SDF made progress in the neighbourhoods of al-Muazzafin, al-Hamra and Nazlat Shehada in the city of Raqqa, where clashes are still ongoing,” a spokesman for the SDF told ARA News.

“We hit the enemy’s defences in these key neighbourhoods,” the official said.

At least 14 ISIS militants were killed and three others were taken into captivity by the Syrian Democratic Forces on Sunday.

“The SDF also seized weapons and ammunition from ISIS terrorists during the clashes,” the official told ARA News.

http://aranews.net/2...-isis-defences/
 

The US-led coalition launched several airstrikes targeting ISIS’s hideouts in the district of Tel Afar in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province, officials said on Sunday.

More than 20 militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) were reportedly killed and dozens more were wounded in the American strikes in Tel Afar.

“The US-led coalition has bombed a key ISIS base in the Hasan Kawe area south of Tel Afar,” Iraqi Army General Ihab Mustafa said in a statement.

“The targeted facility included a training camp and a security office where terrorist leaders used to hold their meetings,” he said.

According to Iraqi officials, the coalition’s airstrikes have intensified in Tel Afar as the local government forces prepare to storm ISIS strongholds there and liberate the district.

http://aranews.net/2...iraqs-tel-afar/ 

A Yazidi girl has spoken of the horrors she suffered at the hands of Isis after being held captive as a sex slave.

Ekhlas was just 14 when extremist fighters targeted her community in northern Iraq.

She was kidnapped along with thousands of other Yazidi women and children when Isis swept across Iraq in a brutal campaign in August 2014.

Around 50,000 members of the long-persecuted religious and ethnic group were trapped when Isis besieged Mount Sinjar.

Ekhlas tried to escape but was captured and held as a sex slave by the group. Now she has spoken about the horrors of her ordeal that left her so hopeless she tried to kill herself in captivity.

"Everyday for six months he raped me. I tried to kill myself," she told the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show.

"He picked me out of 150 girls by drawing lots. He was so ugly, like a beast, with his long hair. He smelt so bad, I was so frightened I couldn’t look at him."

Ekhlas managed to escape one day while her captor was out fighting and was taken to a refugee camp.

"How am I telling you this without crying? I tell you I ran out of tears," she said.

She now lives in Germany where she is receiving therapy and education in a psychiatric hospital and has ambitions to become a lawyer in the future.

http://www.independe...s-a7857246.html
 

Raqqa has been under total SDF siege for around a month, which has caused an extreme shortage in foodstuffs and medicines, but what has worsened the humanitarian situation is the cutoff of drinkable water. This led civilians to dig wells in search of water to cover their everyday needs. However, it has been noticed recently that civilians are vulnerable to cholera and hepatitis for using that water for it is mixed with wastewater.

While civilians are facing such diseases, Daesh affiliates are using private wells.

After speaking with some doctors who are still inside the besieged city, they confirmed to us that is possible that we would witness a cholera outbreak, precisely because of the absence of cleanliness since wastes are being thrown and burnt on the streets. They added that there are dozens of besieged civilians who are vulnerable to epidemic diseases, mainly after the closing of most pharmacies, lack of medicines and the monopolization of the available drugs and hospitals by the organization of Daesh who are using them for the treatment of their wounded fighters. They also transported all medical equipment to their run field hospitals. In addition, most medical staff have left the city and the few remaining ones cannot handle all patient cases.

http://en.deirezzor2...demic-diseases/
 

When he lies down at night, his back aches from carrying 35-pound barrels of vegetables. Once he falls asleep, nightmares of the Syrian war play in his head. He wishes he could get psychological help to stop the dreams — or even just go to school or play outside like other kids his age.

That’s not likely, for a simple but profoundly depressing reason: Al Allah and about 280,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon have been forced into child labor, according to UNICEF. Many of these kids lost their loved ones and homes in their country’s brutal civil war. They fled to Lebanon for safety — only to find it comes at a very high price.

Syrian refugees as young as 5 years old are working long hours, often in hazardous conditions — using dangerous machinery in factories, being abused by employers, and working under the hot sun in agricultural fields. They're missing out on the chance for an education, and the grueling nature of the work leaves them little time to process, or heal from, the emotional and psychological wounds they’ve suffered.

“They are not living their childhoods as they should because for them, life is now just about getting money and putting bread on the table,” says Ahmed Bayram, a spokesperson for Save the Children, an international aid group working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “So in the long term, we worry that we’re losing a whole generation of minds and talents.”

And with more Syrians pouring into Lebanon as the civil war grinds on, more children are expected to join this lost generation, adding a grim new dimension to one of the world’s most horrific humanitarian catastrophes.

https://www.vox.com/...d-labor-lebanon

Edited by amor de cosmos, 24 July 2017 - 08:34 AM.


#1005 amor de cosmos

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Posted Yesterday, 08:24 AM

SHIRQAT, Iraq — A village retaken by the Islamic State (IS) in the southern part of Mosul’s Ninevah province in early July has been clawed back after weeks of fighting and a SWAT team being called in from another province.

The village of Imam Gharbi was cleared after "at least 10" coalition airstrikes, officers involved in the battle told Al-Monitor.

On a July 15 visit to the nearby front line, several officers told Al-Monitor that their requests for airstrikes had to travel a circuitous route: first to the regional operations command and then Baghdad, and then on to the coalition forces at the nearby Qayyarah air base.

Lt. Col. Kareem Aboud Alaw, the commander of the Salah Ad-Din SWAT team called in to assist in the operations, noted that IS had exploited a "gap" in security near the river and had managed to take back an area measuring about "3 kilometers by one and a half."

He said that all of the security forces on the ground — namely the 50th Brigade in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), backed by the 9th Armored Division of the Iraqi army — were new. "They had only been there a few days" and didn’t know the terrain well, he said, adding that the Iraqi army and local tribal fighters had previously been responsible for the area.

Imam Gharbi and a few buildings of a nearby village in the southern Ninevah province were taken "during the night of July 3-4," Alaw told Al-Monitor. "We were called in to help two days later."

After about two weeks back under IS control, the village was retaken late on July 20 by a combination of emergency forces from the Ninevah and Salah Ad-Din regional operations commands, the SWAT team and local tribal fighters, the SWAT team's First Lt. Qusay told Al-Monitor.

He said that "40 to 50 IS fighters were involved in the battle" and that "28 to 30" had been killed. The rest had returned to the part of Shirqat still under IS control on the other side of the river, where the city of Hawija is located.

http://www.al-monito...rah-shirqa.html

“I’m a citizen of Syria, just like anyone else.”

That’s what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s teenage son Hafez al-Assad told Brazilian news outlet O Globo on July 17, while he was in Brazil for International Math Olympiad, a prestigious international competition.

Hafez participated as a member of the Syrian national team, which placed 56th overall, far behind South Korea, China, the United States, and others.

President al-Assad succeeded his own father, and according to O Globo, pro-regime commentators hailed Hafez’s membership on the Syrian team as a sign that he, too, was superb leadership material.

What actually happened, however, is that the younger Assad performed abysmally, ranking 528 out of 615 total participants.

He also came in dead last on the Syrian national team.

Participation in math olympiad — even mediocre participation — is a resume crown jewel that can earn admission to prestigious universities around the world. For that reason, International Math Olympiad is almost as famous as the actual Olympics in some countries, at least among the educated classes.

http://foreignpolicy...ivil-war-hafez/

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Syrian rebels and activists are warning that an al-Qaida-linked jihadi group is on the verge of snuffing out what remains of the country's uprising in northwestern Syria, after the extremists seized control of the opposition-held regional capital, Idlib, last weekend.

With the jihadis cementing their authority over the city and its province, also called Idlib, Syrian President Bashar Assad has been supplied with a useful pretext for a long-expected assault against the rebellious province: that the uprising against him is largely driven by Islamists and terrorists.

"There is the real possibility that because of the Nusra Front's domination, the regime will enter the area with international approval," said Lt. Col. Fares Bayoush, a longtime opponent of Assad, who has been leading a rebel faction in north Syria.

The Nusra Front is one of the many names for the al-Qaida-affiliate that now heads the mighty Hay'at Tahrir al Sham militant group - Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee - that seized the city of Idlib, as well as two border crossings with Turkey to feed its coffers. It is also known as HTS.

In July last year, the Nusra Front changed its name to Fatah al-Sham Front and said it was cutting all its links with al-Qaida, a move seen by many as an attempt to improve its image and market itself as a faction defending the Syrian people.

http://www.rudaw.net.../syria/25072017

 



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