UK Parliament terror tied to Antwerp attack

DEBKAfile, March 23, 2017:

The Westminster attacker, 52-year old British-born Khalid Masoud, was claimed as “a soldier of the Islamic State” Thursday, March 23, after he murdered three people and injured more than forty. Some are still in critical condition. The London Metropolitan Police do not now believe he was acting alone. In pursuit of accomplices, anti-terror police made eight arrests at six addresses in East London and Birmingham on suspicion of “preparation of terror attacks.” More arrests are expected.

In Antwerp, Belgium, 24 hours later, a man wearing military-style uniform, was arrested trying to drive at high speed into a crowd before anyone was hurt. He was identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, a French national of North African origin living in France. Bomb disposal experts found knives, a shotgun and a gas can in his car.

French and Belgian police say the London and Antwerp terror attacks were linked. The second attack was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the same time as the assault at the British parliament, a twin event to “celebrate”the first anniversary of the Islamic State’s suicide bombing on the Brussels airport and subway which murdered 32 people.

Khalid Masoud began his rampage of terror Wednesday by plowing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then crashing his car into the railings of Parliament Yard and ending with a stabbing attack on policemen guarding the entrance to the House.

He had been known to the police and intelligence services, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed to a shocked House Thursday. She told the MPs he had been investigated some years ago, but was not part of the current intelligence picture, which means he was not under the radar at present.

Police said he had a string of convictions for various criminal offensives unrelated to terrorism.
Masoud, who was shot dead by police officers barring his attempt to storm the British parliament, was a married father of three and a former English teacher. Born in Kent outside London, he is believed to have been living in Birmingham.

Read earlier DEBKAfile reports on the incident.

Also see:

 

London terrorist a ‘soldier’ of the Islamic State, group claims

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | March 23, 2017

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency has issued a statement claiming that the terrorist responsible for yesterday’s attack in London was a “soldier” of the so-called caliphate.

Citing a security “source,” Amaq states: “The attacker yesterday in front of the British parliament in London was a soldier of the Islamic State, executing the operation in response to calls to target citizens of coalition nations.”

Amaq’s claim is similar to a series of statements that were issued after past operations across Europe and the US.

Thus far, Amaq hasn’t provided any specific details about the man responsible for killing at least three people, including an American citizen and a British policeman, and wounding dozens of others. The terrorist drove his vehicle into a crowd, then jumped out and used a blade to assault other people.

The UK Metropolitan Police has identified the terrorist as Khalid Masood, a 52 year-old man who was born in Kent and is believed to have been “most recently living in the West Midlands.” Masood was “known by a number of aliases,” but “was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack.

However, the Metropolitan Police says Masood “was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults” and other crimes. His criminal record reportedly extends all the way back to Nov. 1983 and “his last conviction was in Dec. 2003 for possession of a knife.”

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s propagandists have repeatedly encouraged followers to ram their vehicles into Western citizens. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also promoted the idea.

Last year, jihadists used trucks during attacks in Nice on Bastille Day and at a Christmas market in Berlin. In both cases, Amaq described the attackers as a “soldier” of the caliphate.

Another similar assault was carried out at Ohio State University in November, when a Somali refugee, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, drove his car into a crowd of people before exiting the vehicle and then using a knife to assault his victims. Artan was quickly shot dead by a campus police officer. Once again, Amaq described him as the Islamic State’s “soldier.”

Amaq has repeatedly described terrorists as “soldiers” of the Islamic State

In addition to the instances mentioned above, Amaq and other Islamic State propaganda outlets frequently describe the terrorists who carry out such deeds as “soldiers” of the caliphate.

An Islamic State claim of responsibility doesn’t prove that the group had direct ties to the attacker. However, authorities have found that terrorists had digital ties, or were at least inspired by the Islamic State, in a number of cases. Islamic State operatives have also orchestrated a series of plots in the West.

For example, the Islamic State described the May 2015 shooters in Garland, Tex. and the couple who assaulted a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif. as the group’s “soldiers.” The San Bernardino terrorists were also labeled “supporters.”

The shooters in Garland, Tex. reportedly communicated with Junaid Hussain, a key Islamic State operative who was killed in an American airstrike last year. And the husband and wife jihadists responsible for the massacre in San Bernardino pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on Facebook prior to their demise.

The team of jihadists that carried out the Nov. 2015 assault in Paris was hailed as “a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate.” In that case, the jihadists were directly dispatched by the Islamic State’s mother organization in Syria. The Paris attacks were different from the other, small-scale attacks claimed by the Islamic State and carried out by individuals in Europe.

Omar Mateen, who repeatedly pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi the night of his shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in June, was described as a “fighter” for the organization.

Amaq said Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, was “a soldier of the Islamic State.” The same wording was also used to label a young slasher in Würzburg, Germany.

After the Nice, Würzburg, Ansbach (Germany) and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray (Normandy, France) attacks, Amaq also emphasized that the men responsible had acted “in response to calls to target countries belonging to the crusader coalition.”

And after the operations in Würzburg, Ansbach, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and Balashikha (Russia), Amaq disseminated videos of the terrorists swearing allegiance to Baghdadi. The videos were recorded beforehand, demonstrating that the jihadists had at least some digital ties to the Islamic State’s operations.

Indeed, European officials discovered that a series of plots have been “remote-controlled” by the Islamic State’s digital operatives. American authorities have also found that the so-called caliphate’s men had virtual connections to a number of recruits who were intercepted before they could carry out their murderous acts.

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

What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, detonated a laptop bomb on this Daallo Airlines aircraft in February 2016.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 23, 2017:

More than 15 years after the September 11 hijackings, the U.S. government has issued yet another warning about airline security. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new restrictions on electronics brought on board certain U.S.-bound flights. Passengers on planes leaving from 10 airports throughout the Middle East and North Africa will no longer be able to carry laptops or similar electronics with them into the cabin of the plane. Cell phones and smaller electronics are unaffected by the new measures, but computers will have to be checked in luggage.

The move instantly generated controversy and questions. Namely, why now? Some dismissed the DHS announcement as a protectionist move aimed at boosting the futures of U.S. carriers, who have complained of unfair competition from Gulf airlines for years. Twitter wags called it a “Muslim laptop ban,” whose secret aim was to discourage travel from the Arab world. But by now it should be clear that the new restrictions are deadly serious, even if there are legitimate questions about how it is being implemented.

Initial press reports, including by the New York Times, cited anonymous officials as saying that the restrictions were not a response to new intelligence. But the DHS announcement implies otherwise. One question on the DHS web site reads, “Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?” The answer: “Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision.” The British government’s quick decision to follow suit also suggests that something new is afoot here.

Subsequent reports from CNN and The Daily Beast indicate that intelligence collected during a U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen in January led to the restrictions. That is possible. The raid was highly controversial, but the Trump administration argues the costs were worth it because the U.S. learned key details about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) plotting. A Navy SEAL perished during the operation, as did a number of women and children. Within hours, jihadists began circulating a photo of an adorable little girl who died in the crossfire. The girl was the daughter of Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemeni-American al Qaeda ideologue killed in a September 2011 drone strike. Al Qaeda immediately called for revenge in her name.

Whether new intelligence led to the decision or not, we already know for certain that al Qaeda has continued to think up ways to terrorize the skies. For years, Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have been experimenting with sophisticated explosives that can be smuggled onto planes.

DHS points to the “attempted airliner downing in Somalia” in February 2016 as one reason for ongoing concerns. That bombing was carried out by al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia. Al Shabaab attempted to justify the failed attack by claiming “Western intelligence officials” were on board the flight, but that excuse may be a cover for something more sinister.

Some U.S. officials suspect that al Qaeda’s elite bomb makers wanted to test one of their newest inventions, a lightweight explosive disguised as a laptop that is difficult to detect with normal security procedures. At the very least, Shabaab’s attack demonstrated that al Qaeda has gotten closer to deploying a laptop-sized explosive that can blow a hole in jetliners. While no one other than the terrorist who detonated the bomb was killed, the plane was left with a gaping hole in its side.

Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have tested their contraptions before. In December 1994, a bomb was detonated on board a Philippine Airlines flight, killing one of the passengers and severely damaging the plane. The device was implanted by Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Yousef planned to blow up several airliners at once as part of “Project Bojinka” and he wanted to try out his invention beforehand. Authorities ultimately scuttled his plot, but al Qaeda didn’t forget Yousef’s idea. Instead, the terrorist organization returned to it again in 2006, when a similar plan targeting jets leaving London’s Heathrow Airport was foiled.

Al Qaeda’s failure in 2006 didn’t dissuade the group from pressing forward with a version of Yousef’s original concept, either.

In September 2014, the U.S. began launching airstrikes against an al Qaeda cadre in Syria described by the Obama administration as the “Khorasan Group.” There was some initial confusion over what the Khorasan Group really is, with some opining that it was simply invented by American officials to justify bombings, or a separate terror entity altogether. In reality, it was simply a collection of al Qaeda veterans and specialists who were ordered by the group’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, to begin laying the groundwork in Syria for operations against the West.

As far as we know, the Khorasan Group never did attempt to strike the U.S. or Europe. Perhaps this is because a number of its leaders and members were killed in the drone campaign. But there is an additional wrinkle in the story: Zawahiri didn’t give his men the final green light for an operation. Instead, Zawahiri wanted the Khorasan cohort to be ready when called upon. In the meantime, al Qaeda didn’t want an attack inside the West to jeopardize its primary goal in Syria, which is toppling Bashar al Assad’s regime.

The Islamic State gets all the headlines, but Al Qaeda has quietly built its largest guerrilla army ever in Syria, with upwards of 10,000 or more men under its direct command. The group formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra merged with four other organizations to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria”) in January. Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee months earlier, in June 2016, that Nusra was already al Qaeda’s “largest formal affiliate in history” with “direct ties” to Zawahiri. The merger gives al Qaeda control over an even larger force.

Al Qaeda could easily repurpose some of these jihadists for an assault in Europe, or possibly the U.S., but has chosen not to thus far. That is telling. Zawahiri and his lieutenants calculated that if Syria was turned into a launching pad for anti-Western terrorism, then their efforts would draw even more scrutiny. At a time when the U.S. and its allies were mainly focused on ISIS, al Qaeda’s potent rival, Zawahiri determined the West could wait.

But Zawahiri’s calculation with respect to Syria could change at any time. And the organization maintains cadres elsewhere that are still plotting against the U.S. and its interests.

The Khorasan Group included jihadists from around the globe, including men trained by AQAP’s most senior bomb maker, a Saudi known as Ibrahim al Asiri. U.S. officials have fingered al Asiri as the chief designer of especially devious explosive devices. Al Asiri has survived multiple attempts to kill him. But even if the U.S. did catch up with al Asiri tomorrow, his expertise would live on. Some of his deputies have trained still others in Syria.

Al Qaeda now has units deployed in several countries that are involved in anti-Western plotting. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.”

The Pentagon regularly announces airstrikes targeting al Qaeda operatives, some of whom, identified as “external” plotters, have an eye on the West. Incredibly, more than a decade and a half after the 9/11 hijackings, al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are still involved in efforts to hit the U.S. In October 2016, for instance, the U.S. struck down Farouq al Qahtani in eastern Afghanistan. The Defense Department explained that Qahtani was “one of the terrorist group’s senior plotters of attacks against the United States.”

Meanwhile, ISIS has also proven it is capable of downing an airliner. Thus far, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men have used low-tech means. In October 2015, the so-called caliphate’s Sinai province claimed the bombing of a Russian airliner. If the group’s propaganda is accurate, then a Schweppes Gold soft drink can filled with explosives and equipped with a detonator led to the deaths of all 224 people on board. This beverage bomb was a far cry from the sleek explosives al Qaeda’s bomb makers have been experimenting with, but it was effective nonetheless. All it required was proper placement next to a fuel line or some other sensitive point in the airliner’s infrastructure. ISIS could have more sophisticated bomb designs in the pipeline as well.

The truth is that the threat to airliners isn’t going away any time soon. However, this doesn’t mean that every counterterrorism measure intended to protect passengers is the right one. Some quickly questioned the Trump administration’s policy. Why does it impact only flight carriers in some countries? Were security measures found to be lax in some airports, but not others? Why is the threat of a laptop bomb mitigated if it is in checked luggage, as opposed to on board the plane? And what about the possibility of al Qaeda or ISIS slipping a bomb onto connecting flights, before the planes head for the U.S. homeland?

These are all good questions that should be asked. And the Trump administration should answer them.

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:

Report: Intel for Carry-on Electronics Ban Came from Yemen Raid

UTT Throwback Thursday: Britsh Leaders’ Inability to Speak Truth About Islam

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, March  23, 2017:

See UTT’s new video entitled “British Appeasement to Islam” HERE.

Where is Winston Churchill when you need him?

Since 9/11/01, Britain’s leaders have been unable to see the reality of the Islamic threat which is overwhelming them, and, in the face of their own destruction, have been incapable of letting the light of truth in to see the problem they face lies with Islam and it’s destructive and barbaric sharia.

In October 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a press conference where he stated:  “This is not a war with Islam. It angers me as it angers the vast majority of Muslims to hear bin Laden and his associates described as Islamic terrorists. They are terrorists pure and simple. Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion, and the acts of these people are wholly contrary to the teachings of the Koran.”

After British Army soldier Lee Rigby was run over and beheaded on the streets of Woolwich, England in May 2013 by two Muslims, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated:  “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and on the Muslim communities who give so much to our country.  There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”

After British aid worker David Haines was beheaded by Muslims in ISIS on video in September 2014, British Prime Minister David Cameron stated:  “They claim to do this in the name of Islam.  That is nonsense.  Islam is a religion of peace.  They are not Muslims.  They are monsters.”

What will Prime Minister Theresa May say about Islam after the jihadi attack in Westminster?

Is she aware “Fight and slay the unbeliever wherever you find them” (Koran 9:5) is a permanent command from Allah for Muslims until the world is under sharia (Islamic Law)?  Is she aware this is taught in Islamic schools all over Britain?

What will London’s jihadi mayor say?

Here is what Sir Winston Churchill said:

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men…Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.  No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.  Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”
[Winston Churchill, The River War (Volume II, 1st edition), pages 248-250]

Islamic State Expands Into North Africa

A Malian police officer stands guard after a deadly terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali in November 2015 / Getty Images

Attacks by new terror group threaten Western interests in region

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz March 15, 2017:

A new Islamic State affiliate is gaining strength in sub-Saharan Africa as part of efforts by the Syrian-based Islamist terror group to take over large parts of the continent.

A relatively new group known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has stepped up terrorist attacks in the swath of north Africa known as the Sahel. The Sahel is a semi-arid region that stretches from the western states of Mali and Nigeria, through Niger, Chad, and Sudan and into part of Ethiopia.

ISIS-GS, as the group is identified in U.S. intelligence reports, was formed in 2015 from al Murabitun, an Islamist terror group once linked to al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Militants from Murabitun and a second AQIM splinter group called al Mulathamun Battalion founded ISIS-GS.

According to a State Department security report, al Murabitun was “one of the more active militant groups in the Sahel” and carried out the November 2015 attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali that killed 20 people.

The March 8 report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a State Department-private sector group, said the new ISIS-GS had been relatively quiet for about a year before reemerging with three significant terror attacks in late 2016.

The Islamic State officially recognized ISIS-GS in October in what security analysts regard as an indication the broader terror movement is stepping up operations in northern Africa.

“Since the Islamic State proclaimed its so-called caliphate in June 2014, it has expanded in both symbolic and real terms in North and West Africa,” said a report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

The OSAC report said the official ISIS recognition of the new group likely reflects “the group’s desire to strengthen its African presence after setbacks in Libya, creating a possibility that this new group could receive increased material support from ISIS in the future.”

The Islamic State suffered setbacks in Libya, where it had controlled key parts of the largely ungoverned state. ISIS in Libya had imposed its ultra-violent version of Sharia law, with sex slaves and beheadings, in the city of Sirte. It was driven out of the port city in December by Libyan government forces.

Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of Africa Command, told a Senate hearing last week that ISIS is regrouping after its expulsion from Sirte and that many of its militants were moving to southern Libya.

In prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Waldhauser said countering the ISIS threat in both the Sahel and Libya is among one of five “lines of effort” for his command.

“The instability in Libya and North Africa may be the most significant, near-term threat to U.S. and allies’ interests on the continent,” he said.

“The multiple militias and fractured relationship between factions in east and west Libya exacerbate the security situation, spilling into Tunisia and Egypt and the broader Maghreb, allowing the movement of foreign fighters, enabling the flow of migrants out of Libya to Europe and elsewhere.”

The terrorist groups are working to incorporate large areas of Africa under Islamist ideology and are networking and targeting young people for recruitment, he said.

Waldhauser also stated that Africa Command “must be ready to conduct military operations to protect U.S. interests, counter violent extremist organizations, and enable our partners’ efforts to provide security.”

Jason Warner, an assistant professor at the Combating Terrorism Center, stated in January that ISIS headquarters delayed recognizing the Sahel affiliate until after the attacks in late 2016. The attacks “signaled to the Islamic State that ISIS-GS was more than just a nominal fighting force,” he said.

Warner said ISIS-GS appears better organized than two other new ISIS affiliates in Africa: the Islamic State in Somalia, in northern Somalia, and the southern Islamic State of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“While recent news on the Islamic State centers on the siege of Mosul in Iraq, the group’s ideological hold in sub-Saharan Africa has been quietly growing, and not simply in relation to its well-known merger with Boko Haram,” Warner wrote in the West Point journal CTC Sentinel. “Indeed, over the past year-plus, three new Islamic State affiliates have gained prominence in sub-Saharan Africa.”

ISIS-GS “is the only one of these groups to have carried out multiple attacks,” Warner said.

The Sahel affiliate of ISIS is led by al Murabitun commander Adnan al Sahrawi, who pledged his group’s loyalty to ISIS in May 2015.

ISIS-GS conducted its first attack in Burkina Faso in September on a border post. That was followed by attacks in October in Burkina Faso and an assault on a prison in Niger in an apparent bid to free jihadists that could bolster its forces.

The Islamic State conducted similar prison attacks in Iraq prior to taking over large portions of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

ISIS-GS is also suspected of carrying out the December 2016 attack on a military convoy in Burkina Faso that killed 12 soldiers.

“The emergence of an ISIS affiliate in the Sahel will likely increase the security threat to the private sector, as western interests are routinely targeted by militant groups in the Sahel,” the report said.

The Islamic terror group Boko Haram, active in Nigeria, aligned with ISIS in March 2015, another sign of the terror group’s growing influence on the continent.

Also see:

Terror ‘Defector’ Stories Hyped by Media Collapse Underneath the ‘Deradicalization’ Narrative

PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, MARCH 16, 2017:

The “deradicalization” narrative — and a whole industry of academics pursuing large cash grants from governments looking to set up such programs — are built upon the premise that the right set of information and conditions can not only turn terrorists away from violence, but even into respectable and productive citizens.

More often than not, it seems, reality demonstrates the premise’s naivety.

In my previous article, I looked at the current case of Brooklyn native Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya, a former ISIS fighter who defected from the group and is now being enlisted by the Justice Department to help “deradicalize” other terror recruits. Having already plead guilty to his crimes, he is looking for reduced sentencing in exchange for his assistance.

I noted that many “deradicalization” programs established by Western governments have been fraught with repeated and embarrassing failures. But these programs have failed in the Muslim world, too — including in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country, and Saudi Arabia, which arguably has the most global influence. If Muslim countries can’t figure out how to craft effective Islamic “deradicalization” programs, what hope do Western countries have?

Two recent high-profile cases of former terrorists turned defectors touted by the international media represented the promise of “deradicalization” programs, but delivered the predictable failure that seems the dominant pattern with such efforts.

THE METEORIC RISE AND FALL OF AL-QAEDA RECRUITER TURNED DERADICALIZER JESSE MORTON

Last August, national and international media organizations were abuzz with the news that a former Al-Qaeda recruiter, Jesse Morton aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was given early release from his 12-year federal prison sentence so that he could take up an academic research position at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Now Morton was not your average material support for terrorism jihadist wannabe. Not only was he in direct communications with senior Al-Qaeda leaders over seas, but as one of the leaders of the New York-based Revolution Muslim network, he was responsible for recruiting an eye-popping number of now-convicted domestic terror supporters.

As the FBI press release published at the time of his conviction on terror charges states, he openly supported the 9/11 attacks and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, as well as directed his supporters to commit violence against Jewish organizations and the creators of the “South Park” Comedy Central Network TV program.

Amidst a PR effort by the GWU Program on Extremism, the media adored Jesse Morton’s story of radicalization and redemption:

Morton was sought after for interviews by media organizations all over the world…

[…]

It was no surprise when, exactly five months after Morton’s hiring was announced by GWU, news broke that he had been arrested again, this time for vice:

In their rush to garner media, did the GWU Program on Extremism push Morton out into the public eye far too soon? How much confidence did they have in his “conversion” story? Was the narrative that “deradicalization” was possible in such a high-profile case too tempting for the media to apply basic journalistic scrutiny?

The answer to the first two questions may never be known. But the media’s haste to push the “deradicalization” narrative again exposed their ideological bias when all the evidence urged caution.

[…]

Chasing the “Deradicalization” Unicorn

There are endless calls for governments to increase funding for “deradicalization” programs, and there are many NGOs, researchers, and academics seeking those funds. Yet as I noted in Part 1, these government-sponsored “deradicalization” programs are failing everywhere. Worse, there are not many ways to objectively measure success when something doesn’t happen.

In the recent cases of Jesse Morton and Harry Sarfo, the media failed in their basic journalistic responsibilities — in both instances they advanced the “deradicalization” narrative that fell apart in the matter of months.

Needless to say, the follow-up reporting that undercuts the initial stories did not get anywhere near the hype or attention of the original sensational stories.

It should also be noted that in virtually all of these cases of “reformed” or “deradicalized” terror recruits and operatives lies the threat of criminal prosecution. The suspects themselves have a real-world incentive beyond media recognition to spin personal stories of redemption: avoiding prison time.

Which brings us back to the case of Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

The Justice Department enlisted this former ISIS fighter as part of a “deradicalization” program. However, even in his initial communication with the FBI when he sought to return from Syria, he made clear that his intention was to eliminate any legal consequences for having joined the most lethal terrorist organization in the world.

He faces sentencing in federal court later this year.

An examination of these “deradicalization” programs in the U.S., other Western countries, and even in the Muslim world shows that the Justice Department’s chances of success are risky at best. Yet now we have the media, yet again, pushing a sensational story of a “reformed” former terrorist operative.

Why are they so insistent on not learning any lessons?

While the Justice Department and the media chase the mythical “deradicalization” unicorn, Americans face greater risk because of their pursuit.

Read  more

GOP to Introduce War Authorization Legislation to Fight ISIS

Newsmax, by Brian Freeman, March 15, 2017:

Republicans in both the House and Senate plan to introduce a new war authorization on Wednesday that could put the fight against the Islamic State on more solid legal ground, the Washington Examiner reports.

The Obama administration argued that its confrontation against ISIS was covered by two previous war authorizations from the beginning of this century that specified the war on terrorism and fighting in Iraq.

Legal scholars, however, have challenged this, because the Islamic State did not exist when Congress passed the two previous war authorizations, and only about a fourth of current congressmen were even serving and voted on them, according to the Examiner.

Although most on Capitol Hill agree that a new war authorization is an important statement of national support for the battles being waged, disagreements among Republicans and Democrats have prevented the measure from being passed for two years.

When former President Barack Obama sent his request to Congress in February 2015, the GOP said it did not give the commander in chief wide enough powers to properly conduct the war, while Democrats said they were concerned the authorization was too broad and could become a blank check.

Since then no proposal on the issue has received a vote on the floor.

The new war authorization being introduced by Republicans on Wednesday specifies those that can be targeted by American forces as al-Qaida, the Taliban and the Islamic State, as well as successor or associated groups, the Examiner reported.

In addition, it would allow the U.S. to detain members of those terrorist groups, repeal the authorizations from 2001 and 2002, and require the president to give Congress a plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days of the authorization passing.

Freshman Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.,  a former Marine intelligence officer who is on the Foreign Relations Committee and is spearheading the legislation in the Senate, told Stars and Stripes: “We have a moral obligation to weigh in from time to time about issues pertaining to military force and when we send out young men and women into battle.

 “To the extent we delegate that authority to the commander in chief, we act in a less than ethical and a less than constitutional fashion,” he added.

Interview with Angelo M. Codevilla on ‘Romancing the Sunni: A US Policy Tragedy’

Published on Jan 1, 2016 by Asia Times

Angelo M. Codevilla, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, and a member of the Hoover Institution’s working group on military history, answers Asia Times questions on how the US government’s foreign policy mess has created a monster like the ISIS. Today, the Daesh/ISIS — a sub-sect of Sunni Islam — murders and encourages murdering Americans.

READ THE THREE-PART SERIES HERE:

PART 1: http://atimes.com/2015/12/romancing-t…

PART 2: http://atimes.com/2015/12/romancing-t…

PART 3: http://atimes.com/2015/12/romancing-t…

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, and a member of the Hoover Institution’s working group on military history. He is the author of fourteen books, including  Informing Statecraft, War, ends And Means, The Character of Nations, Advice to War Presidents, and To Make and Keep Peace.  He served on President Ronald Reagan’s transition teams for the Department of State and the Intelligence agencies. He was a US naval officer and a US foreign service officer. As a staff member of the US Senate Intelligence committee, he supervised the intelligence agencies’ budgets with emphasis on collection systems and counterintelligence. He was instrumental in developing technologies for modern anti-missile defense. Codevilla has taught ancient and modern political thought and international affairs at major universities.

The ISIS Endgame

A convoy of U.S. armored vehicles near the northern Syrian city of Manbij / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Matthew Continetti, March 10, 2017:

The Islamic Caliphate announced in 2014 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, is approaching the end of its short and terrible life. Iraqi forces, supported by Americans, have reclaimed the eastern half of Mosul and are retaking the western one. Kurdish militias in Syria, also backed by the United States, are homing in on the ISIS capital of Raqqa. Word came this week that a contingent of Marines has been deployed in Syria to position heavy artillery for the fight ahead. “We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city,” a militia spokesman tells Reuters.

ISIS doesn’t have a chance. American air and ground forces, working with local proxies, are about to terminate its existence as a state. “Crushed,” to paraphrase President Trump. A just—and popular—cause.

But that won’t be the end. Recent events suggest that the military defeat of ISIS is just the beginning of a renewed American involvement in Iraq and Syria. And whether the American public and president are prepared for or willing to accept the probable costs of such involvement is unknown. That is reason for concern.

To glimpse the future, look at the city of Manbij in northeast Syria. Humvees and Strykers flying the American flag have appeared there in recent days. The mission? Not to defeat ISIS. Our proxies kicked them out last year. What we are doing in Manbij is something altogether different from a military assault: a “deterrence and reassurance” operation meant to dissuade rival factions from massacring one another. If you can’t remember when President Obama or President Trump called for such an operation, that’s because they never did.

And there’s a twist. One of the factions we are trying to intimidate is none other than the army of Turkey, a NATO member and purported ally. Turkey moved in on Manbij not because of ISIS but because of the Kurds. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish autocrat, opposes one of our Kurdish proxies. He says the YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which has conducted an insurgency against his government for decades. Yet the YPG is also the most effective indigenous anti-ISIS force on the ground. We need it to take Raqqa.

Things get even more complicated. Also in Manbij are the Russians, who are helping units of the Syrian army police a group of villages. The Kurds invited them, too, presumably as a separate hedge against Turkey. To keep score: The Americans, the Russians, the Turks, the Kurds, and the Syrians are all converging on an impoverished city in the middle of nowhere that has no strategic importance to the United States.

One needn’t have read The Guns of August to fret about the risks of miscalculation and misinterpretation. Which is why, on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, met with his Russian and Turkish counterparts. “One American official described the situation around Manbij as a potential tinderbox,” reports the New York Times. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

U.S. intervention in Syria is following a pattern that has ended in regret. Having entered the conflict to pursue the narrow aim of destroying ISIS, we are likely to assume much more abstract and open-ended responsibilities once our immediate goal has been achieved. Similar vague and unspecific policies led to Americans being killed in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia a decade later. Where peacekeeping has been successful, as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mission was clear from the beginning, authorized by all parties by treaty, and adequately resourced—tens of thousands of troops, most of them American. None of these conditions apply today.

It is one thing to maintain a presence in Iraq, a country whose fate seems to be entangled with our own. It is another to expand our involvement in Syria with little public rationale or debate. At the very least Congress deserves an opportunity to take up the issue. But don’t get your hopes up. The GOP Congress resisted taking ownership of the war in Syria when the president was a Democrat. There is little reason to think it will do so now when the president is a Republican.

What happens the day after Raqqa falls? Should American troops remain in Syria once ISIS has been defeated, and if so for what purpose? Will there be clear lines of authority between CENTCOM and SOCOM? Just what is America’s position on the Kurds—are we for an independent Kurdistan, and if so are we prepared to resist Turkish and Iraqi attempts to quash it? Who is making key military and diplomatic decisions: the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or the combatant commanders?

The president is charged with answering such questions. And he must be ready to defend his answers. To do otherwise risks complacency and drift. This is an unstable and murky situation. And it could end, as so often happens, in lost lives, reduced credibility, and an even wider conflict.

A contributor to The Weekly Standard likes to tell the following story: Covering the Lebanese civil war in 1983, he visited an outpost of U.S. Marines. They came under sniper fire from one militia. Then another militia started shooting. Then the Syrians joined in. At which point a lance corporal turned to him and said, “Sir, never get involved in a five-sided argument.”

Islamic State Leader Baghdadi ‘Flees Mosul’ as Iraqi Forces Advance

AP Photo/Militant video, File

Breitbart Jerusalem, March 9, 2017:

(AFP) — Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reported to have abandoned Mosul, leaving local commanders behind to lead the battle against Iraqi forces advancing in the city.

With Iraqi troops making steady progress in their assault to retake Mosul from the jihadists, a US defence official said Baghdadi had fled to avoid being trapped inside.

It was the latest sign that IS is feeling the pressure from twin US-backed offensives that have seen it lose much of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, the defence official said Baghdadi had left Mosul before Iraqi forces seized control of a key road at the beginning of this month, isolating the jihadists in the city.

“He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive…. He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar,” a town to the west, the official said.

“He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders.”

Baghdadi, who declared IS’s cross-border “caliphate” at a Mosul mosque in 2014, in an audio message in November urged supporters to make a stand in the city rather than “retreating in shame”.

Iraq launched the offensive to retake Mosul — which involves tens of thousands of soldiers, police and allied militia fighters — in October.

After recapturing its eastern side, the forces set their sights on the city’s smaller but more densely populated west.

– ‘Ran away like chickens’ –

In recent days Iraqi forces have retaken a series of neighbourhoods in west Mosul as well as the provincial government headquarters and a museum where IS militants filmed themselves destroying priceless artefacts.

The military said Wednesday they had also taken the infamous Badush prison northwest of Mosul where IS reportedly executed hundreds of people and held captured Yazidi women.

On Thursday Iraqi forces were “combing the city centre area to defuse (bombs in) homes and shops and buildings,” Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division told AFP.

Forces were also “searching for snipers in the city centre,” Mohammedawi said.

The area is located on the edge of Mosul’s Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely spaced houses that could see some of the toughest fighting of the battle.

“Currently there is no order from the operations command to advance toward the Old City. We will advance when this order is issued,” Mohammedawi said.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to still be trapped under IS rule in Mosul.

Those who did manage to escape the city said the jihadists were growing increasingly desperate.

Abdulrazzaq Ahmed, a 25-year-old civil servant, was seized by jihadist fighters as they retreated from the neighbourhood of Al-Mansur.

“We were used as human shields” said Ahmed, who managed to escape along with hundreds of other civilians to Iraqi police waiting outside the city.

Rayan Mohammed, a frail 18-year-old who was once given 60 lashes for missing prayers, said the jihadists were scrambling in the face of the Iraqi offensive.

“They ran away like chickens,” he said.

– Marines deployed to Syria –

West Mosul is the most heavily populated area under IS control and along with Raqa in Syria the last major urban centres it holds.

In Syria, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been advancing on Raqa. Earlier this week its forces reached the Euphrates River, cutting the main road to the partly IS-held city of Deir Ezzor downstream.

A US official said Wednesday that a Marine Corps artillery battery had been sent into Syria to support the battle for Raqa — joining some 500 American special operations fighters who have been training and assisting the SDF.

The United States has been leading a coalition since mid-2014 carrying out air strikes against the jihadists in both Syria and Iraq.

Elsewhere in Syria, Turkish troops and their rebel allies have pushed south from the Turkish border and driven IS out of the northern town of Al-Bab.

Russian-backed government troops have meanwhile swept eastwards from Syria’s second city Aleppo and seized a swathe of countryside from the jihadists.

The US defence official said IS was now looking beyond the seemingly inevitable losses of Mosul and Raqa.

“I don’t think they have given up on their vision of their caliphate yet,” the official said.

“They… are still making plans to continue to function as a pseudo-state centred in the Euphrates River valley.”

About 15,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, including some 2,500 in Mosul and Tal Afar and as many as 4,000 still in Raqa, the official said.

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Exclusive video: Iraqi forces near Mosul mosque where IS group leader declared ‘caliphate’

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Trump’s Plan For ISIS Poised To Put Marines 20 Miles From ISIS Capital

Daily Caller, by Saajar Enjetti, March 8, 2017:

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.

The Marines will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the WaPo notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

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Finnish ISIS Convert Takes Aim at ‘Foolish’ Muslims Who Have Adapted to West

A mosque in Roihuvuori, Helsinki, seen on May 15, 2015. (The Visual Explorer/Shutterstock.com)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, MARCH 7, 2017:

The new issue of ISIS’ Rumiyah magazine concentrates once again on Finnish recruits as a convert to Islam directs Muslims to fight against Muslims in their community who embrace democracy, run for public office or fight in the military.

A woman writing under the name Umm Khalid al-Finlandiyyah said in an issue of ISIS’ Dabiq magazine last year that she was drawn to Islam by living in “a ‘Christian’ nation where people do not strongly adhere to their corrupted religion.”

The Rumiyah issue, released today in English and several other languages, features another writer purportedly from Finland going by the name Umm Musa al-Finlandiyyah. “Umm” means “mother of,” indicating the writer is female.

She said that after converting in her home country she was aghast at “the lack of religious adherence by so-called ‘Muslims’ – those whom I had thought to be Muslims – who didn’t pray, possibly fasted during Ramadan, and whose extent of following the Shari’ah was restricted to the avoidance of eating pork.”

She added that “what is most dangerous” in Finland’s Muslim community “is that most of them don’t even know that there are actions that take people out of Islam, so many people think they are still Muslims, while in reality they have fallen into kufr [disbelief] and riddah [apostasy].”

“Many people think Islam is like a citizenship – once you get it, it remains with you until the end of your life. But Islam doesn’t work with the same principle. It has conditions by which one enters it and nullifiers by which can leave it – even without knowing it.”

The writer said “participating in government elections and voting in them, as well as military service, working as a lawyer, and criticizing the Shari’ah of Allah, are only a few of the many things which can nullify one’s Islam, and all of them are easy to perpetrate” living in non-Muslim countries.

The convert accused other Muslims of being “foolish” by criticizing ISIS when media began “spreading the news about the mass executions conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham.”

“The ignorant ‘Muslims’ are blaming the Islamic State for spreading fitnah [unrest] and ‘spoiling the jihad,’ though the only true jihad for Allah’s cause is what the Islamic State is actually conducting – for all of its enemies do nothing to support the establishment of Allah’s rule on earth,” she wrote.

She vowed that ISIS’ “fight against kufr and its supporters will continue on the true frontline,” without explicitly mentioning the terror group’s increasing loss of territory in Iraq and Syria.

“Anyone who denies that a so-called ‘Muslim’ Member of Parliament is a murtadd [apostate] kafir – as he has committed shirk with Allah in legislation – is himself a murtadd. And anyone who denies that a so-called ‘Muslim’ in the military service of the kuffar is a murtadd kafir – as he has supported the cause of taghut – is himself a murtadd,” she wrote. “And anyone who refuses to make takfir [excommunication] of those who consider the Shari’ah of Allah to be unsuitable for this era, or refuses to make takfir of those who are fighting to establish democracy, is himself a murtadd.”

In its 2015 year-end report, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service said “at least 70 adults and dozens of children” had traveled to the Islamic State. “This jihadist travel concerns even a much larger group of people in Finland, if the sphere of influence of those having remained in the conflict zone for a long time is taken into account,” the report added.

“The conflict will continue to affect Finland’s security for a long time. A new generation of Jihadists, among them also Finnish nationals, is growing up on the areas controlled by terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq. Due to terrorist fighters originating from Finland, also foreign radical Islamists know Finland better than before.”

A November study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that “Finland has the largest number of ISIS foreign fighters relative to the size of its Muslim population, followed by Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, and Austria,” and “inequality and poverty are unlikely to be root causes of recruits joining ISIS” as Finland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

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Jihadology: Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Rome Magazine #7

New ISIS Command to EAT Infidels Has Islamic Roots

PJ MEDIA, BY RAYMOND IBRAHIM, MARCH 6, 2017:

In light of recent revelations that the Islamic State is teaching its followers to eatnon-Muslims, surely we can now all agree that — at least with this — ISIS is truly not Islamic?

Alas, no.

The eating of “infidels” has precedents throughout Islamic history, especially as a terror tactic. And the first example concerns the jihadi par excellence, Khalid bin al-Walid (d.642), who was dubbed the “Sword of Allah” — by Muhammad himself. Al-Walid holds a revered position among jihadi groups: the ISIS black flag with white Arabic text is a facsimile of the banner Khalid carried in battle.

During the Ridda, or “apostasy wars” against several Arab tribes that sought to break away from Islam following Muhammad’s death, Khalid falsely accused Malik bin Nuwayra, a well-liked Arab chieftain, of apostasy. After slaughtering him, Khalid raped — though Muslim sources call it “married” — Malik’s wife.

Yet Khalid was still not content:

He [Khalid] ordered his [Malik’s] head and he combined it with two stones and cooked a pot over them. And Khalid ate from it that nightto terrify the apostate Arab tribes and others. And it was said that Malik’s hair created such a blaze that the meat was so thoroughly cooked.

(From Muslim historian al-Tabari’s multi-volume chronicle “al-bidaya w’al nihaya”, The Beginning and the End.” Arabic excerpt here.)

Another anecdote concerns the Islamic conquest of Spain. According to Muslim chronicler Ibn Abdul Hakam, after capturing a group of Christian winemakers, the Islamic invaders:

… made them prisoners. After that they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him in pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of his companions looked on. They had also boiled meat in other cauldrons. When the meat was cooked, they threw away the flesh of that man which they had boiled; no one knowing that it was thrown away: and they ate the meat which they had boiled, while the rest of the vinedressers were spectators.

These did not doubt but that the Moslems ate the flesh of their companion; the rest being afterwards sent away informed the people of Andalus [Christian Spain] that the Moslems feed on human flesh, acquainting them with what had been done to the vinedresser.

Tarek ibn Ziyad was another jihadi extraordinaire, revered for burning his boats on reaching Spain’s shores as proof of his commitment that only conquest (jihad) or death (“martyrdom”) was acceptable. He also had Christian captives slaughtered, cooked up, and apparently eaten in front of their fellow hostages. Then, according to Muslim historian Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Maqqari:

“[Ziyad] allowed some of the captives to escape, that they might report to their countrymen what they had seen. And thus the stratagem produced the desired effect, since the report of the fugitives contributed in no small degree to increase the panic of the infidels” ( The History of the Mohammedan Dynasty, p. 276).

Note that, according to the above-cited Muslim chroniclers, the jihadis engaged in these cannibalistic practices to terrorize and create panic among infidels and apostates, that is, as a form of psychological warfare.[1] This is further pronounced when, as they often do, the chroniclers quote or paraphrase Koran verses that call for “striking terror” into the hearts of nonbelievers (e.g., 3:151, 8:12, 8:60) in juxtaposition to the savage accounts they relay.

There are more related anecdotes. During the earliest Muslim invasions of Christian Syria, one of Muhammad’s companions, ‘Ubadah bin al-Samat, told a Christian commander:

We have tasted blood and find none sweeter than the blood of Romans.

He was referring to Byzantines and/or Christians. Whether literal or figurative, clearly such bloodthirsty references inspire the Islamic State’s worldview, as evidenced by the latter’s assertion:

American blood is best, and we will taste it soon.

Incidentally, veneration and/or emulation of early jihadi barbarity is not limited to “radical” or extreme outfits that, so we are always told, “have nothing to do with Islam.” None other than Al Azhar University in Cairo — the Muslim world’s most prestigious university, where Obama gave his 2009 “New Beginning” speechteaches these accounts of Muslims eating infidels.

The reason is simple: cannibalism as terror doesn’t belong to ISIS any more than it does to Al Azhar. It belongs to Islam.

A final note: one school of thought maintains that in the aforementioned historical anecdotes, Muslims did not just pretend to devour their victims; they really did. However, later Muslim chroniclers, embarrassed by the bestial savagery of their coreligionists, portrayed the cannibalism as only pretend. If true, this further validates why ISIS isn’t merely teaching Muslims to pretend to devour their infidel victims, but to eat them in reality — as when one jihadi cut out and dug his teeth into the heart of a fallen Syrian soldier, after saying

I swear to Allah, soldiers of Bashar, you dogs — we will eat your heart and livers! Allahu Akbar!

Yes, video is here.

This may also shed light on the unsatisfactory explanation given by the Daily Mail on why ISIS is promoting cannibalism. According to Haras Rafiq, the Daily’s authority whom it describes as a “practicing Muslim,” ISIS is only promoting cannibalism “if there are no food supplies available during what they describe as a time of jihad.” Under such circumstances, “terrorists were encouraged to kill non-Muslims or Muslims who do not share their version of Islam for food.”

To be sure, eating humans in times of extreme duress and starvation — or “non-halal” food — is not particularly shocking and has been committed many times, past and present, by peoples of all races and religions. One is therefore left to wonder if Rafiq is one in a long line of embarrassed Muslim authorities trying to rationalize away their coreligionists’ depraved practices in the name of Islam.

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[1] I watched and linked to a video some years back of a modern day Egyptian cleric who also made it clear that Khalid’s actions were calculated to terrify the apostates. Although YouTube has, as usual, taken it down by now, here’s my original translation of what he said:

People wonder how our lord Khalid could have eaten from such meat? Oh yes — he ate from it! Our lord Khalid had a very strong character, a great appetite, and everything! All to terrorize the desert Arabs [apostates]. The matter requires determination; these matters require strength — terrorism.

Trump’s Plan To Eradicate ISIS Caught Between Warring Allies

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS90VM

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTS90VM

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjetti, March 1, 2017:

Turkey, U.S. ally and member of NATO, is likely to launch an all-out assault on the main anti-Islamic State U.S. proxy force, the Institute for the Study of War warns in a new assessment.

Current U.S. strategy against ISIS relies on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Syrian rebel group largely composed of Kurdish militias. The problem is, Turkey regards these groups as existential threats to its existence, and believes they are deeply tied to the PKK. The U.S. has special operators embedded within the SDF’s ranks, and believes it is the only group capable of retaking the ISIS-held capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Turkey attacked SDF-controlled villages Wednesday, according to SDF spokesmen. Turkey’s operations appear geared towards taking the SDF controlled city of Manbij, which is right along its border. “The fight for Manbij will derail the U.S.-backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria,” ISW’s assessment declares.

The SDF is likely to play a key role in President Donald Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS. The Pentagon delivered several options to Trump earlier this week, all of which will likely bolster U.S. support to ground forces capable of taking on ISIS.

Trump and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis have already quietly escalated the U.S. ground war against ISIS, which includes additional assistance to the SDF. “There are signs of full support from the new American leadership — more than before — for our forces,” an SDF spokesman told Reuters Feb. 1.  Trump also indicated in July he was a “big fan” of the Kurdish forces, and wanted to balance his strategy with Turkey. “It would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together,” he told The New York Times.

“Further escalation between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds would severely jeopardize – and likely halt indefinitely – the campaign against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City,” ISW declares.
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Iraqi army controls main roads out of Mosul, trapping Islamic State

An Iraqi special forces soldier fires a rifle as other soldiers runs across a street during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 1, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

An Iraqi special forces soldier fires a rifle as other soldiers runs across a street during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 1, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Reuters, by Stephen Kalin, March 1, 2017:

U.S.-backed Iraqi army units on Wednesday took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in Islamic State’s hands, trapping the militants in a shrinking area within the city, a general and residents said.

The army’s 9th Armored Division was within a kilometer of Mosul’s Syria Gate, the city’s northwestern entrance, a general from the unit told Reuters by telephone.

“We effectively control the road, it is in our sight,” he said.

Mosul residents said they had not been able to travel on the highway that starts at the Syria Gate since Tuesday. The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Islamic State stronghold 60 km (40 miles) to the west, and then to Syria.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.

If they defeat Islamic State in Mosul, that would crush the Iraq wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 from the city’s grand old Nuri Mosque.

The U.S.-led coalition effort against Islamic State is killing the group’s fighters more quickly than it can replace them, British Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force said.

With more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year, “their destruction just becomes really a matter of time,” he said on Tuesday in London.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes U.S.-backed forces will recapture both Mosul and Raqqa, Islamic State’s Syria stronghold in neighboring Syria, within six months.

The closing of the westward highway meant that Islamic State are besieged in the city center, said Lt General Abdul Wahab al-Saidi, the deputy commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), deployed in the southwestern side.

Units from the elite U.S.-trained division battled incoming sniper and anti-tank fire as they moved eastwards, through Wadi al-Hajar district, and northward, through al-Mansour and al-Shuhada districts where gunfire and explosions could be heard.

These moves would allow the CTS to link up with Rapid Response and Federal Police units deployed by the riverside, and to link up with the 9th Armored Division coming from the west, tightening the noose around the militants.

“Many of them were killed, and for those who are still positioned in the residential neighborhoods, they either pull back or get killed are our forces move forward,” Saidi said.

Two militants lay dead near the field command of the CTS, in the al-Mamoun district which looked like a ghost town. A few hundred meters away, a car bomb was hit by an air strike.

STRAFING FROM ABOVE

The few families who remained in al-Mamoun said they were too scared to leave as the militants had booby-trapped cars.

Women cooked bread over outdoor ovens while men gathered on street corners as helicopters flew overhead strafing suspected militant positions further north

One of two buses parked nearby had its roof shorn off. Residents buried a 60-year-old woman who was killed on Tuesday when she stepped on an explosive device while trying to flee.

Several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be in Mosul among a remaining civilian population estimated at the start of the offensive at 750,000.

They are using mortars, sniper fire, booby traps and suicide car bombs to fight the offensive carried out by a 100,000-strong force made up of Iraqi armed forces, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups.

About 26,000 have been displaced from western Mosul, often under militant fire, according to government figures. The United Nations puts at more than 176,000 the total number of people displaced from Mosul since the offensive started in October.

Thousands more streamed out, walking through the desert toward government lines during the day, crossing over a deep trench which appears to have served as an Islamic State defense, some waving white flags.

Among them a boy shot in the leg was limping alongside a cart carrying an older woman, while another was pushed in a wheelchair. Old people asked why there was no cars or buses to pick them up and take them to the displaced people centers.

A man said he spent 11 days hiding in his house with no food, no water and no idea of what was happening outside.

“The archangel of death would have come for us if we stayed any longer,” he said.

Aid agencies put the number of killed and wounded at several thousands, both military and civilians.

Army, police, CTS and Rapid Response units forces attacking Islamic State in western Mosul are backed by air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition, including artillery. U.S. personnel are operating close to the frontlines to direct air strikes.

Federal police and Rapid Response units are several hundred meters only from the city’s’ government buildings.

Taking those buildings would be of symbolic significance in terms of restoring state authority over the city and help Iraqi forces attack militants in the nearby old city center where the al-Nuri Mosque is located.

Military engineers started preparing a pontoon that they plan to put in place by the side of the city’s southernmost bridge, captured on Monday. Air strikes have damaged all of its five bridges.

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