Islamic State suicide bombers attack Baghdad during Ramadan

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 30, 2017:

Shortly after midnight, a car bomb was detonated near a popular ice cream shop in the Karrada district of Baghdad. Not long after, closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the explosion was widely shared online. The video, which was recorded by a security camera, shows a bustling intersection hours after the sun set during the holy month of Ramadan, and then a massive explosion. (A screen shot can be seen above.)

Hours later, a second bomb rocked the Shawaka area of Baghdad. According to Associated Press, early casualty reports say that more than 30 people were killed and dozens more injured in the two blasts.

Both attacks were quickly claimed by the Islamic State, which identified the supposed “martyrs” as native Iraqis. The first bomber was known as Iyad al-Iraqi and the second as Abu Hussain al-Iraqi. Their vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) targeted “Rafidi mushrikin,” meaning Shiite polytheists, according to the so-called caliphate.

The Islamic State and its predecessors in Iraq have long fetishized the killing of Shiite civilians. Karrada, a predominately Shiite neighborhood, has been targeted on multiple occasions in the past.

On July 3, 2016, for instance, another suicide bomber drove his VBIED into a crowded shopping area in Karrada. That bombing, one of the most devastating in Iraq’s post-2003 history, also came during the month of Ramadan. Approximately 292 civilians were killed and hundreds more wounded, according to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016. Other accounts indicate that the death toll was even higher.

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization has been losing ground in both Iraq and Syria. However, US officials have warned that group is hardly down for the count.

Earlier this month, the new Director of National Intelligence, Daniel R. Coats, presented the US Intelligence Community’s (IC) written “Worldwide Threat Assessment” to the Senate. The IC warned that Baghdadi’s men “will likely have enough resources and fighters to sustain insurgency operations and plan terrorists [sic] attacks in the region and internationally” going forward. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, The US Intelligence Community’s newest assessment of the jihadist threat.]

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a similar warning in January, saying that the Islamic State has continued “to conduct asymmetric terrorist attacks against government facilities and
security forces positions” in Iraq.

And while high-profile bombings such as those in Karrada and Shawaka understandably garner the most attention, the Iraqi capital is attacked often. The jihadists have “increasingly targeted civilians, especially in Baghdad, where by the end of the year attacks had become an almost daily occurrence,” UNAMI reported.

Most of the jihadists’ operations in Baghdad are smaller in scale, using improvised explosive devices or other tactics. But the Islamic State regularly deploys its suicide bombers as well.

Amaq News Agency, one of the group’s chief propaganda outlets, has claimed that 69 “martyrdom operations” were carried out in Baghdad during 2016. The figure cannot be independently confirmed, and most of the 1,112 claimed “martyrs” were dispatched elsewhere in Iraq and Syria throughout the year. Baghdadi’s terrorists also use children in such attacks, meaning they aren’t truly “martyrs.”

Still, there is little doubt that the Islamic State maintains a bench of suicide bombers who will continue to cause great damage in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Also see:

The Manchester Bomber: Martyr or Murderer?

AP

Crisis Magazine, by William Kirkpatrick, May 24 2017:

The most radical part of President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia was not the moment when he referred to “Islamic extremism” and “Islamic terror,” but the next moment when he said, “Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear… If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED” (caps in original text).

That’s a fairly confrontational thing to say when you’re speaking to a crowd of people who believe that your soul will be honored if you commit jihad for the sake of Allah. Martyrs are the most honored people in the Islamic world. For instance, in the West Bank, streets, squares, parks, and schools are named in honor of “martyrs” who, by non-Muslim reckoning, are simply terrorists.

The day after Trump’s speech, a Muslim in Manchester, England provided a test case for the new initiative the president is urging on Muslim leaders. He blew himself up outside a concert arena and, at last report, killed 22 people and injured 59 in the process. Trump said “Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear … if you choose the path of terror … YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.” The question is, what do Muslim religious leaders think about the Manchester murderer—or is he the Manchester martyr?

Has he gone straight to paradise, or has he ended up in the other place? It’s not an academic question. The lives of countless potential victims of jihad terror depends on the answer.

Islamic leaders in the West have ways of fudging the answer in cases like this. Typically, they say that “Islam condemns all terror” or “Islam condemns the taking of all innocent life.” But this is pure evasiveness because, from an Islamic perspective, jihad is not an act of criminal terror, but of justified retribution; moreover, non-Muslims are, by definition, not innocent; and, finally, Muslims are not required to explain any of this because they are allowed to practice taqiyya (deception) in order to defend Islam.

In addition, Muslim leaders can count on Western reporters not to press the issue. A reporter might logically ask “Is this particular individual now in paradise?” But he most probably won’t because paradise is not something that secular reporters are comfortable talking about. For them, it’s alien territory.

But that’s really the central question, isn’t it? If a pious Muslim kills non-believers for the sake of Allah, isn’t he entitled to his reward? And won’t Allah reward him? If that’s not the case, then shouldn’t Muslim religious leaders clearly say so? If Allah condemns suicide bombers to hell, the least that the mullahs and imams can do is to inform impressionable young Muslims of the truth and save them from an eternity in hell. Of course, they would also be doing a great favor to potential future victims of jihadists.

After the Manchester attack, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to “defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence.” We’ve been hearing the mantra about “ideological war” for some time now, but it wasn’t until President Trump’s speech that a world leader actually pinpointed the central front in the ideological war. Young men join the jihad for a variety of reasons, but we know from letters, diaries, and interviews that virgins in paradise is a primary motive. Take away the eternal reward and you take away one of the major incentives to commit terror.

The Koran contains many detailed accounts of the tortures of hell. In fact, these accounts appear on almost every page. The young men who believe in the virgins also believe in hell. And many—especially if they have been indulging in Western-style vices—are fearful they might end up there. Luckily for them, Islam provides a get-out-of-hell-free card called martyrdom. All your sins, whatever they are, can be wiped away by a single act of jihad for the sake of Allah. Many people think that the sinful lifestyle of some jihadists is proof that they are not pious Muslims, but it may simply prove that they trust that Allah, all-Merciful, will forgive the sins of those who sacrifice all for his name.

In line with Trump’s advice and in the wake of the latest atrocity in Manchester, now would be a good time for all the imams and mullahs of the world to set the issue straight and to inform their communities that the reward for killing innocents in concert arenas or any other place is everlasting hellfire.

Will they do so? Probably not without a great deal of pressure. And even then, we can expect lots of fudging, prevarication, and, from some quarters, outright praise for the martyrs. But it’s worth making the effort because, apart from massive worldwide military and police operations, there is no other way of breaking the cycle of jihad violence. The best way to break the back of jihad is to forcefully nudge Muslim leaders to cast doubts in the minds of potential jihadists about their prospects for paradise.

With that in mind, the major world media outlets ought to dispatch reporters to interview prominent imams worldwide and ask them what they think of the Manchester massacre and, specifically, whether the perpetrator is now in paradise or in hell. If the news teams can’t get their act together before the Manchester story has cycled out of memory, they can ask the same question after the next terrorist attack—because there will be more. Many more.

Meanwhile, world leaders can stop talking about defeating “the ideology that often fuels this violence,” and actually do something about it. They could, for example, put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop providing cash incentives to jihadists. In the Palestinian version of Islam, jihad is rewarded not only in heaven but also on earth. If you die while committing jihad, your family will be well provided for. If you live and end up in an Israeli jail, the Palestinian Authority will put aside a pension fund in your name. The Palestinian practice of jackpot jihadism is a fairly blatant incentive to murder. Can Muslim nations be persuaded to condemn the practice? Can Western nations do the same? It would be an important sign that they are really serious about fighting radical ideology.

How about Saudi Arabia? As far as we know, the Saudis don’t offer cash rewards for suicide bombers. On the other hand, they are the world’s largest funder of radical Islamic ideology. Saudi money pays for countless TV stations, madrassas, radical textbooks, mosques, and the extremist imams who commonly staff the mosques. The U.S. just offered the Saudis a massive military aid package as an incentive for fighting ISIS and Iranian terror. We ought at the same time to be threatening massive dis-incentives should the Saudis continue on their path of financing ideological indoctrination.

Even if attempts to pressure Muslim leaders to condemn jihad martyrdom should fail, these efforts would at least have the salutary effect of clarifying things for non-Muslims. It would serve to show naïve Westerners that violence does indeed have something to do with Islam, and that jihad martyrdom is not an aberration of the faith, but a central feature of it.

It will be interesting to see how Catholic and Anglican leaders respond to the Manchester attack. They can play an important role in informing the uninformed about what is really happening and what is really at stake. But so far they haven’t done that. Instead, after every jihad attack, prominent clergy talk in terms of “tragedy” and “blind violence,” as though there were no rhyme or reason to the terror. Unfortunately, that narrative shows no sign of changing. A statement just issued by the Vatican says:

His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.

Which is pretty much what the pope says after every terrorist attack. The trouble is, these attacks are not “senseless acts of violence.” They make a lot of sense to those steeped in Islamic ideology. How so? Well, you get to punish those who have offended Allah (mere unbelief is considered an affront to Allah’s majesty). You get remission of all past sins (no need to worry about hell). And you get a ticket to paradise.

Of course, jihad martyrdom doesn’t make sense from a Christian point of view, and maybe it’s time for the pope and other Christian leaders to advance that viewpoint more forcefully and unapologetically. That might involve saying that the idea of Heaven as a brothel is offensive to God and demeaning to women. It would certainly involve saying that those who kill innocents are risking their immortal souls. For the benefit of young Muslims, the pope might even explain the Catholic belief in purgatory—that merciful place which offers the opportunity for sinners to eventually get to heaven without having to resort to the murder of young girls.

According to reports, Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, was “chanting Islamic prayers loudly in the street” in the weeks before the massacre. Undoubtedly, some Muslim leaders, especially in England, will be willing to strongly condemn his actions and—predictably—to leave it at that. They are confident that they can leave it at that because they know full well that the British press will be quite content to leave it at that, and not raise the troubling question of the fate of Mr. Abedi’s soul. It seems well past time, however, to press for an answer to the troubling questions. If Islam really is a force for peace, then Muslim leaders could prove it by uniting to warn potential jihadists that God is not pleased with the murder of innocents, and that Mr. Abedi is now residing in hell.

If they will not say it, then the pope and other Christian leaders must say it. It should not be left to Donald Trump to be the only one talking about the possibility of spiritual damnation. The objection to be expected here, of course, is that it is not the business of the pope or the president to talk about Muslim beliefs. But when Muslim beliefs result in the mass slaughter of school-aged children in England, it’s not simply a matter for Muslims to sort out among themselves.

William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

Also see:

Analysis: Islamic State claims historically high number of suicide attacks in 2016

17-01-01-is-claims-107-martyrdom-operations-in-iraq-and-syria-in-dec-2016-768x545Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 3, 2017:

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claims that the so-called caliphate carried out at least 1,141 “martyrdom operations” (suicide attacks) in Iraq, Syria and Libya in 2016. The overwhelming majority of these, 1,112 in all, were launched in Iraq and Syria.

On Jan. 1, Amaq posted an infographic (seen on the right) summarizing 107 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria for the month of Dec. 2016. As The Long War Journal repeatedly documented last year, Amaq produces a similar image each month. The total for all twelve months of 2016 is 1,141 suicide bombings, including 29 in Libya.

If Amaq’s figures are accurate, then the Islamic State set a new record high for suicide attacks in 2016. Indeed, the scale of such operations is incredible, even by the standards of modern jihadist organizations. For example, the Taliban claims that its members were responsible for just 32 “martyrdom” attacks during the same time frame.

17-01-03-1112-martyrdom-operations-carried-out-by-fighters-of-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-syria-in-2016-768x432Earlier today, Amaq also published an infographic (seen on the right) summarizing the group’s 1,112 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria. The majority of these, 761 (or 68 percent), were aimed at Iraqi government forces or Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. The infographics do not separately list those bombings that targeted Iranian-backed Shiite militias that fight alongside the Iraqi government.

Kurdish fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were the second most frequent target of the Islamic State’s “martyrs.” According to Amaq, 135 such operations targeted the PKK/YPG. Most of these took place in northern Syria, where the two sides have been engaged in heavy fighting. The PKK is a US-designated terrorist organization. The YPG has helped deliver some of the Islamic State’s biggest losses since 2014, including in Kobane.

Another 133 suicide bombers struck fighters loyal to Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria. The two sides frequently clash in the Homs and Deir Ezzor provinces. The Islamic State also carried out high-profile “martyrdom” operations against the Syrian regime elsewhere in 2016 as well.

The remaining 83 “martyrs” were deployed against Turkey’s armed forces and allied rebel organizations in northern Syria. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August and quickly claimed territory from the so-called caliphate along the border. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists have been trying to stymie the Turkish-led offensive on Al Bab, a town in the northern part of Syria’s Aleppo province, and some of the bombings took place in the neighboring villages.

The Islamic State has become particularly adept at using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). According to Amaq, 797 of the 1,112 suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria in 2016 relied on VBIEDs. Another 18 were dual operations involving vehicles. Therefore, fully 73 percent of the bombings used VBIEDs. The remaining suicide operations used explosive belts (214), bomb vests (82), or a motor bike (1).

The Long War Journal has noticed a small discrepancy in Amaq’s reporting. The Islamic State’s propaganda arm listed suicide attacks in Libya on several of its monthly infographics in 2016, but stopped doing so in the latter third of the year. For instance, Amaq separately reported that tanks and various other vehicles belonging to General Khalifa Haftar’s men were destroyed in “a martyrdom operation in the customs zone west of Benghazi” on Dec. 18. However, this bombing is not listed on Amaq’s infographic for December (seen above). This means that some suicide attacks reported by Amaq in Libya, as well as elsewhere, are not included in the organization’s tallies. The infographic tallying 1,112 suicide attacks in 2016 excludes Libya entirely.

The battle for Mosul

In October, the US military, Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, Iranian-backed militias and others began an offensive to retake Mosul, which is located in Nineveh province. Mosul is one of the Islamic State’s two de facto capitals, so it is unsurprising that the group has dispatched an incredible number of suicide bombers in its defense of the city.

In fact, according to Amaq, 220 “martyrdom operations” were carried out during the first ten weeks of the battle for Mosul. The bombings during this ten week period, which began in mid-October and ended on Dec. 26, account for nearly 20 percent of the claimed suicide attacks in 2016 across Iraq and Syria combined.

The figure for the battle of Mosul is based on separate infographics produced by Amaq specifically for the fight in and around the city. The infographics for the first seven weeks of the battle for Mosul were previously reproduced by FDD’s Long War Journal. [See: “Islamic State defends Mosul with dozens of suicide bombers” and “Islamic State has claimed more than 1,000 suicide attacks thus far in 2016.”] The infographics for weeks eight through ten of the battle can be seen below.

Claiming suicide bombings at a historically high rate

As The Long War Journal has previously reported, the Islamic State claims to have carried out suicide bombings at a historically high rate in 2016.

Amaq’s infographics indicate that the group launched an average of 93 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria per month throughout the year. This figure does not include the suicide bombings in Libya and elsewhere, which would only make the average even higher.

According to open source data compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), all terrorist organizations around the globe carried out 906 (76 per month) suicide attacks in 2015 and 739 (62 per month) in 2014. The year 2015 was the previous high water mark for suicide bombings. Many of those attacks in 2014 and 2015 were orchestrated by the Islamic State, but other organizations’ “martyrs” are included in the totals as well.

Therefore, the Islamic State’s figures suggest that the organization set a new record for suicide bombings in 2016 all by itself.

However, there are important caveats to keep in mind when assessing Amaq’s claims.

First, it is not possible to validate the total figures provided by Amaq. The Islamic State propaganda arm does post individual claims for many of the “martyrdom operations” tallied on its infographics. These statements indicate a location and target for each “martyr,” but this is not independent verification as it comes from the same source (Amaq). Furthermore, while open source reporting corroborates many such operations, it is unlikely that all of the suicide attacks are tracked in publicly-available sources. The fog of war often makes it difficult to document the precise details of bombings in chaotic war zones.

The identities of many of these attackers are not known. The Islamic State has used children or adolescents in at least some of its “martyrdom operations.” Such young people cannot be truly considered willing “martyrs.”

Some suicide bombers fail to reach their intended targets, but are probably included in Amaq’s totals anyway. Press reports have detailed how many Islamic State operatives fail to hit their mark prior to blowing themselves up. The US and its allies often destroy VBIEDs before they can do any damage.

It is also possible that Amaq exaggerates the efficacy of the group’s “martyrdom operations” by overstating the casualties caused and the total number of targets destroyed (including enemy vehicles) in the resulting explosions.

Most of the Islamic State’s suicide bombings are now defensive in nature, meaning that a large number of “martyrs” are being deployed as the caliphate’s grip on territory loosens. This can be seen in and around Mosul, north of Raqqa, Syria as well as in Sirte, Libya. All three cities are considered key to the Islamic State’s caliphate claim. As the group’s hold on Sirte began to slip during the summer of 2016, for example, the jihadists used a number of suicide bombers to slow their enemies’ approach. Eventually, Sirte fell to local Libyan forces backed by the US and its Western allies anyway. The same methods are being employed around Mosul and north of Raqqa.

It is also important to remember that suicide attacks are just one of the many tactics employed by the Islamic State.

Still, there is no question that Baghdadi’s men are relying on suicide bombers at a remarkable pace.

If Amaq’s data are accurate, the two months that witnessed the most suicide bombings by Baghdadi’s operation were October (120) and November (132). September saw the fewest suicide attacks with 53, according to Amaq.

Amaq News Agency’s infographics for weeks eight through ten of the battle for Mosul:

16-12-13-8b-eigth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-arabic-1-1024x576

16-12-21-9b-ninth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-1024x576

16-12-28-10b-the-tenth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-arabic-1024x576

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

ISIS Video Features Children Who Aspire To Martyrdom, Says They Are Being Prepared To Conquer Rome, Spain (WARNING: GRAPHIC)

29973MEMRI, Sept. 5, 2016:

An Islamic State (ISIS) video released online on September 6, 2016 showcased a shari’a school that it operates in its Al-Khayr Province, featuring its young pupils – “the cubs of the Caliphate” – discussing their aspirations of martyrdom, instructing citizens on approved clothing and grooming, and fighting on the front lines. The video states that these children will “become the vanguard of the army of the Caliphate, Allah willing, and… the generation that will conquer Damascus, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca, Al-Madina, Dabiq, Rome, and Andalusia.”

To view this video, click here.

The following is the transcript of the video:

Narrator: “The Caliphate’s Generation

“In the lands of the tyrants, the children are asked, from a very early age: ‘What would you like to be when you grow up?’ If a child says that he wants to be a mujahid, or a student of religion, or an imam, or to work in the field of da’wa, his words are frowned upon and he is held in disdain. But if a child says that he wants to be a minister or an MP, a judge, a pilot, a soldier, or a policeman, they rejoice, laugh, and praise him. This way, the secular education system instills these aspirations in the souls of Muslim children from a very early age, so that they are raised on heresy and on fighting Islam and the Muslims, and they view things in a distorted way, using misnomers. The child who wanted to become a fighter pilot realizes his dream, thanks to the secular education he received in the education systems of the tyrants. He sees nothing wrong with receiving orders from the American Crusaders, or with honoring them with a military salute. He is not ashamed to fly over Muslim cities, and to rain rockets and bombs down upon them, killing vulnerable women and children.

“On our tour of a shari’a institution, run by the Islamic State in the Al-Khayr Province, we asked the cubs of the Caliphate about their dreams and aspirations.”

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Child 1: “I want to be a martyrdom-seeker for the sake of Allah, thus heeding the words of the Prophet Muhammad: ‘The martyrs that Allah loves most are the ones who fight in the front lines, and do not turn their backs until they are killed.'”

Child 2: “I want to be a martyrdom-seeking religious scholar, like my brother was.”

Narrator: “Parents undoubtedly play a role in their children’s deviation from the right path. You see some of them hastening to enroll their children in Western schools, artistic groups and clubs, and singing competitions. They do not care about the harm these cause to the faith of their children. You see them elated with happiness if their sons win a song or dance competition.

“On the other hand, in the Islamic State, parents take their children to shari’a institutions. They urge their children to study the Quran and religion. You see them happy if their children learn part of the Quran or a religious text by heart. How great is the difference between those raised on monotheism and the Quran and those raised on listening to songs and music.”

Child 3: “My brother, Allah bless you, you are not allowed to swim in these clothes, because your private parts can be seen. If a woman passes you by, would you like her to see you this way? Put your shirt on.”

Child 4: “Assalaam alaykum.”

Man: “Assalaam alaykum.”

Child 4: “How are you?”

Man: “Fine, Allah be praised.”

Child 4: “Uncle, you need to grow your beard, in order to comply with the words of the Prophet Muhammad: ‘Trim your mustaches and grow your beards.'”

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Narrator: “The cubs do not engage only in activities in the field of shari’a. They join their brothers fighting on the front lines. Just as they are humble towards Muslims, they are harsh towards the infidels. From a very young age, they are raised on harshness, hatred, and animosity toward the infidels.

“The tyrants strive to make the sons of Muslims deviate from their religion, to open the gates of apostasy for them, to obstruct the fountains of goodness and promote Satan’s merchandise, so that these children will become soldiers of the Crusaders, and will fight Islam and the Muslims, or so that they will become humiliated and subjugated, steeped in secularism and its values, like respect for the infidel ‘other,’ and rejecting the ‘violence’ that Allah called ‘Jihad.’ It reached the point that when the tyrants closed in on them, killed thousands of them and raped their women, all they did was say: ‘Our peaceful [protests] are stronger than bullets!’

“At the same time, the Caliphate is teaching its cubs about their religion, so that they become the vanguard of the army of the Caliphate, Allah willing, and so that they will become the generation that will conquer Damascus, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Mecca, Al-Madina, Dabiq, Rome, and Andalusia, Allah willing.29977

“The Islamic State is proud to have planted true Islam within these cubs, who will be in the midst of the battles in a few years, Allah willing. Even if we are all eradicated and no one survives, these cubs will carry the banner of jihad and will complete the journey. By Allah, with these young men, we will make the infidels forget the whispers of Satan.”

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Also see:

ISIS Awakens the Ghosts of Hitlerjugend. The John Batchelor Show audio of interview with Dr. Sebastia Gorka and Katharine Gorka:

child-soldiers

“…ISIS’s Use of Children: By the Numbers

Children are being recruited or abducted by the Islamic State at alarming rates.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS targeted schools and mosques to recruit 400 children in 2015 alone.14 In addition to those recruited, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq estimated in June 2015 that ISIS had abducted between 800 and 900 children between nine and fifteen years old.15 Of grave concern are the estimated 700,000 refugee children out of school at the end of September 2015 as a result of the Syrian Civil War. That is a large and vulnerable population that the Islamic State is likely tapping into, providing services and education that the children otherwise would not receive and in turn recruiting countless more Lion Cubs. One expert estimated thatthe Caliphate has at least 1,500 children in its ranks….”

http://threatknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/TKG-Report_ISIS-Children.pdf

Turkey vows to cleanse Islamic State from its border after wedding attack kills 54

AFP, Getty Images

AFP, Getty Images

Reuters, by Orhan Coskun and Daren ButlerAug. 22, 2016:

Turkey vowed on Monday to “completely cleanse” Islamic State militants from its border region, after a suspected suicide bomber with links to the group killed 54 people, including 22 children, at a Kurdish wedding.

Saturday’s attack in the southeastern city of Gaziantep is the deadliest in Turkey this year. It was carried out by a suicide bomber aged between 12 and 14, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, adding that initial evidence pointed to Islamic State.

A senior security official told Reuters the device used was the same type as those employed in the July 2015 suicide attack in the border town of Suruc and the October 2015 suicide bombing of a rally of pro-Kurdish activists in Ankara.

Both of those attacks were blamed on Islamic State. The group has targeted Kurdish gatherings in an apparent effort to further inflame ethnic tensions strained by a long Kurdish insurgency. The Ankara bombing was the deadliest of its kind in Turkey, killing more than 100 people.

“Daesh should be completely cleansed from our borders and we are ready to do what it takes for that,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, using an Arabic name for the group.

A senior rebel official said Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were preparing to launch an attack to seize the Syrian town of Jarablus from Islamic State on the border with Turkey, a move that would deny control to advancing Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkish authorities have said a destroyed suicide vest was found at the scene of the bombing.

A second security official told Reuters that they were investigating the possibility militants could have placed the explosives on the child without his or her knowledge and detonated them remotely, or that a mentally disabled child was duped into carrying the device, a tactic seen elsewhere in the region.

“It could be that someone was loaded with explosives without even being aware of it and it may have been detonated remotely,” the official said, adding a search was underway for suspected militants who may have played a reconnaissance role.

In the latest southeast violence, two Turkish security force members and five PKK militants were killed in clashes and attacks in three areas of eastern Turkey over the last 24 hours, officials said.

Some in Turkey, particularly in the Kurdish southeast, feel the government has not done enough to protect its citizens from Islamic State.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the wedding party was for one of its members. The groom was among those injured, but the bride was not hurt.

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Jeanine Pirro interviews Brooke Goldstein on the inhumanity of using child suicide bombers:

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Also see:

The Orlando Shooter’s Desire for ‘Martyrdom’

omarWeekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, June 13, 2016:

After each jihadist attack in the West, our society rehearses the same ritualistic debate over what the terrorists’ motivations really are. It is true that “radicalization,” as it is often described, is a complex process. The men who become terrorists may have psychological or other issues that compel them to act.

But ideas matter. And the early reporting on Omar Mateen’s life shows that one idea in particular wormed its way into his brain: the supposed glory of jihadist “martyrdom.”

Earlier today, FBI director James Comey discussed his bureau’s investigation into Mateen, the terrorist who killed and wounded dozens at an Orlando nightclub. The FBI first looked into Mateen in 2013, closed its investigation in early 2014, but opened another just a few months later. During the first investigation, Comey said, the FBI found Mateen’s comments to be contradictory.

“First, he claimed family connections to Al-Qaeda. He also said that he was a member of Hezbollah, which is a Shiite terrorist organization that is a bitter enemy of the so-called Islamic state, ISIL,” Comey explained. “He said he hoped that law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could martyr himself.”

Let those words sink in: Mateen wanted to “martyr” himself.

It is true that Hezbollah is now pitted against both the Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL) and al Qaeda. But it was Hezbollah, backed by the Iran and the Assad family’s regime in Syria, that first introduced the U.S. to suicide attacks in the early 1980s. (Hezbollah even later helped al Qaeda emulate these attacks in the 1990s.)

The FBI’s second investigation into Mateen focused on his potential ties to Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, who was also from Florida. Abu Salha blew himself up in a “martyrdom operation” on behalf of Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria) in May 2014. The “investigation turned up no ties of any consequence between” Abu Salha and Mateen, Comey claims.

But one of the FBI’s witnesses mentioned Mateen’s name when asked if he or she knew of anyone “who might be radicalizing,” according to the Associated Press’s summary of Comey’s remarks. The AP continues: “The witness said he worried about Mateen because he mentioned videos of Anwar al-Alwaki, an al-Qaida leader killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike.”

Many of Awlaki’s lectures focused on why young Muslims should desire “martyrdom.”

One of Awlaki’s most infamous students is Army major Nidal Malik Hasan, who emailed Awlaki to ask about the permissibility of a Muslim soldier turning on his fellow Americans. Hasan wanted to know if Awlaki would consider such Muslim soldiers to be martyrs if they died in the act of killing their uniformed comrades. It does not appear that Awlaki personally and directly blessed Hasan’s attack, but he did publicly advocate such slayings. Incredibly, the FBI concluded Hasan’s emails to Awlaki were “consistent with research being conducted by Major Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center.” The emails weren’t consistent with Hasan’s research; they were consistent with his desire to launch a shooting spree at Fort Hood in November 2009.

Then there are Mateen’s 911 phone calls the night of the massacre in Orlando. Mateen expressed his brotherhood with the Tsarnaev brothers, one whom died in a shootout with police after bombing the Boston Marathon in 2013.

During at least one of the calls, Mateen also told an operator that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

This is exactly what Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate tells people to do before they die as a “martyr” or otherwise.

The Islamic State regularly warns believers that they shouldn’t die in a state of disobedience. They can avoid the fires of hell by pledging bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to Baghdadi’s enterprise, the group’s propagandists frequently claim. For instance, the 12th issue of the Islamic State’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, includes this passage attributed to the Prophet Mohammed: “Whoever withdraws his hand from obedience will meet Allah on Resurrection Day without having any excuse. And whoever dies without having a bay’ah binding him, dies a death of jahiliyyah [state of ignorance].”

The couple who opened fire on a holiday party in San Bernardino last year did the same thing. They, too, pledged allegiance to Baghdadi’s “caliphate” before meeting their fate.

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the martyrdom cult has only grown. Al Qaeda and then the Islamic State have popularized the idea to such an extent that there were more suicide attacks in 2015 (726) than in any previous year. During the first five months of 2016, the Islamic State launched more “martyrdom operations” per month than all terrorist organizations combined last year. That is, 2016 is on pace to surpass 2015.

Not all jihadists achieve “martyrdom” by blowing themselves up. At least one convinced himself that killing a bunch of people at a gay nightclub would earn him this status.

The jihadists’ belief in “martyrdom,” as twisted as it is, has only become more prevalent during the past decade and a half. Perhaps the U.S government should be seeking ways to discredit this idea, instead of pretending it is not what motivates men to commit heinous acts.

The Islamic State’s prolific ‘martyrdom’ machine

isis suicide attacksLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY | June 8, 2016:

The Islamic State claims to have executed 489 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq, Syria and Libya during the first five months of 2016. The figure comes from monthly data published by Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the so-called caliphate that releases infographics summarizing the group’s suicide attacks.

Amaq’s most recent infographic (seen on the right) indicates that the jihadists executed 119 “martyrdom operations” in the month of May alone. If Amaq’s figures are accurate, then the Islamic State is launching suicide attacks at a historically high rate.

Earlier this month, for example, the State Department reported that there were 726 “suicide attacks” executed by all perpetrators around the globe in 2015. Therefore, all terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, carried out an average of 61 suicide bombings per month in 2015. The Islamic State nearly doubled that rate in May and has exceeded it by more than 20 attacks each month this year, according to Amaq’s infographics.

The data referenced by Foggy Bottom is compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which maintains an “unclassified event database compiled from information in open-source reports of terrorist attacks.”

According to START’s data, 2015 witnessed a record number of suicide bombings. But 2016 is currently on pace to eclipse that high-water mark.

While Amaq’s claims are difficult to independently verify, the statistics are reasonable given the scale of the Islamic State’s fighting. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men routinely claim credit for simultaneous suicide bombings. The organization is taking on multiple adversaries in every country where it operates, making the use of suicide bombings (one of the jihadists’ most effective tactics) an especially important tool. For instance, the State Department noted that “[o]n average, suicide attacks in 2015 were 4.6 times as lethal as non-suicide attacks.”

A recent video from Al Hayat, another one of the Islamic State’s mouthpieces, trumpeted this “caliphate vs. the world” mentality. In “The Religion of Kufr Is One,” Al Hayat made it clear that Baghdadi’s enterprise is at war with virtually everyone else. The subtitle of the video, “The Islamic State and its methodology dealing with all apostate parties and nations of disbelief,” underscored the degree to which this is the group’s deliberate strategy.

The Islamic State’s prolific use of “martyrs” probably highlights both its strength and weakness. On the one hand, there are likely more people, predominately young men, willing to die for the jihadists’ cause today than ever. (It should also be noted that adolescents and even children have been used in suicide attacks.) On the other hand, most of the organization’s suicide attackers are being dispatched in areas where the “caliphate” is being challenged, including locations that were once under its control.

The Long War Journal assesses that Islamic State is being forced to deploy many of its “martyrs” because its territorial claims are being rolled back in Iraq, Syria and even Libya.

The Long War Journal has tallied the figures provided on Amaq’s infographics from January through May of 2016. The English-language versions of these infographics can be seen below.

The following observations have been culled from Amaq’s statistics.

Most of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” 303 of the 489 claimed (62 percent), have been carried out inside Iraq. Approximately half of these (152 of 303) have been launched in Anbar province, where the jihadists are engaged in fierce battles with Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias for months. Salahuddin (52 suicide attacks), Nineveh (40), Baghdad (32), and Kirkuk (17) are the next most frequently targeted areas.

The Islamic State launched 175 suicide attacks in Syria (36 percent of the total) during the first five months of the year. Aleppo province (59) was hit most frequently, followed by Hasakah (33), Deir Ezzor (25), Homs (20) and Raqqa (14) provinces. Raqqa is, of course, the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Amaq’s data indicate that 12 of the 14 suicide attacks there this year were carried out in February.

The remaining 11 “martyrdom operations” took place in Libya. Interestingly, Amaq claimed only one suicide attack in Libya from January through April. But the infographic for May shows 10 such bombings. Nine of the 10 have been executed in and around Sirte, the group’s central base of operations in Libya. The Islamic State’s presence in Sirte has been under assault from multiple directions for weeks, with the jihadists losing their grip on some of the neighboring towns and key facilities. Thus, the group is likely attempting to stymie its rivals’ advances with the deployment of its suicide bombers.

Iraqi forces are the most frequent target of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” as they were hit 279 times from January through May. Bashar al Assad’s regime is the second most frequent target, with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers striking the Syrian government’s forces on 89 occasions. The remaining bombings struck “Kurdish units” (54), the “Syrian opposition” (31 times), the Peshmerga (25), Fajr Libya (10) and General Khalifa Haftar’s fighters in Libya (1).

Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) are used more often than individual bombers strapped with explosives, according to Amaq. The infographics count 301 VBIEDs used in suicide attacks (62 percent of the total) as compared to 184 bombings using explosive belts, jackets and vests. The remaining four are listed as “dual operations.”

Assuming Amaq’s data are accurate, then the Islamic State’s “martyrdom” machine is setting a record pace for suicide operations.

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Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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