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Russia Warns US Against Attacking Syrian Army as Allies Beat ISIS at Border – Newsweek

Russia has demanded that the U.S. stop attacking forces supportive of the Syrian government as they overtake positions held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) on the country’s border with Iraq.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly made the comments Saturday ona phone call with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, responding to three U.S. airstrikes in the past few weeks against forces battling ISIS and other insurgent groups on behalf of Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon has argued that the pro-Syrian government coalition, which it describes as Iran-backed militias, has breached a “deconflictionzone” declaredby the U.S.-led international coalition in southern Syria, but not recognized by Moscow or Damascus. Lavrov criticized the U.S.’s moves and the pair reportedly agreed to cooperate more closely in the future.

Related:Syrian Forces Threaten to Fight Back After U.S. Military Strikes Multiple Times

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“Lavrov expressed his categorical disagreement with the U.S. strikes on pro-government forces and called on him to take concrete measures to prevent similar incidents in future,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

While the Syrian army and its allies, which include Russia, Iran and various pro-government militias, advance toward the besieged eastern city of Deir Al-Zour, held by ISIS since 2014, the U.S. has deployed Special Forces to train anti-Assad rebels near the southern region of al-Tanf. Both factions are involved in the battle against ISIS, but differ on Syria’s political future, with the former insisting that Assad remains in power and the latter mostly advocating for his removal.

President Donald Trump had initially toned down the anti-Assad rhetoric of his predecessor, butchanged course in April after accusing the Syrian leader of launching an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held governorate of Idlib. The Russian and Syrian government vehemently denied responsibility for the incident, butTrump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response, the first intentional U.S. strike against the Syrian military. The strike led to a major policy rift between Washington and Russia on Syria and the U.S. has since stepped up its military presence in the country to fight ISIS and curbIranian influence in the region.

A copy of leaflets, with English-language translation, that were dropped by the U.S. military in southern Syria in late May to advise Iran and Syria-backed forces to depart an area near a garrison used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces as tensions mount are shown in this handout provided June 1, 2017. The so-called “deconfliction zone” indicated in the leaflet was not included in a deal reached last month by Russia, Iran and Turkey and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said such a unilaterally-established zone would not be recognized. Department of Defense/Reuters

The U.S.-led coalition has also established a “deconfliction zone” near al-Tanf, a Syrian town located near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. The zone was announced, however, outside of a framework agreed upon last month by Russia, Iran and Turkey that created four “de-escalation zones” in other parts of the country, all aimed to protect civilians fleeing more than six consecutive years of war in Syria. Last month’s “de-escalation zone” deal established areas where no foreign military was permitted to operate, while the U.S.’s “deconflictionzone” is restricted solely for use by the U.S.-led coalition and its rebel allies.

As the Syrian army and their allies move further east, the U.S. has accused them of threatening Special Forces by approaching the self-proclaimed deconfliction zone and clashing with armed opposition groups. The U.S. responded on at least three occasions with airstrikes on the pro-Assad coalition, which the U.S. also accused Thursday of deploying an armed drone that it later shot down.

The friction between the Syrian and U.S.-led efforts to eradicate ISIS had ledRussian ground forcesColonel General Sergey Surovikin to criticize Washington Friday for violating Syria’s sovereignty and call the U.S.’s demand thatpro-Syrian government fighters not advance further “absolutely groundless,” RTreported. Despite this spat, however, Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said Friday that Russia had been “very helpful” in diffusing regional tensions between competing forces, according to The Hill. A map showing areas of control in Syria as of June 1, 2017. The Syrian army and its allies have launched a major offensive to dislodge the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) from eastern Syria, but the campaign has been complicated by the presence of U.S. Special Forces and the anti-government insurgents they back in the country’s south, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. Institute for the Study of War/Reuters The threat of U.S. intervention also did not prevent the Syrian army and its allies from reportedly reaching the Iraqi border in a major advance against ISIS Saturday. Reports from both pro-government and pro-opposition sources said that the pro-Assad coalition had arrived north of al-Tanf after defeating the last remaining ISIS troops on the Syrian-Iraqi border, according to Al Jazeera.

The accomplishment has the potential to open up a new corridor of anti-ISIS support stretching from Syria through Iraq, where anti-ISIS forces including Iran-backed, majority-Shiite Muslim militias have also made significant gains, and, finally, to Iran. Such a development, however, would likely raise concerns in Washington, already wary of Tehran’s role in the Middle East.

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Russia Warns US Against Attacking Syrian Army as Allies Beat ISIS at Border – Newsweek

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Duterte, Focused on Drug Users in Philippines, Ignored Rise of ISIS – New York Times


New York Times
Duterte, Focused on Drug Users in Philippines, Ignored Rise of ISIS
New York Times
The government has largely been in denial about the growth of ISIS and affiliated groups, said Zachary M. Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington who specializes in Southeast Asian security issues. Duterte has been preoccupied
ISIS expands foothold in Southeast Asia with Philippine siegeUSA TODAY
US Special Forces Helping Philippines Military Pound ISISThe Daily Caller
US Joins Battle Against ISIS-Linked Militants in PhilippinesTIME
CNN –Task & Purpose –Slate Magazine (blog) –UPI.com
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‘Grave concern’ over Chinese teachers reportedly killed by ISIS in Pakistan – CIproud.com

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(CNN) – China has expressed “grave concern” over reports that ISIS has killed two Chinese teachers kidnapped in Pakistan.

The man and woman, said by Chinese media to be a couple, were kidnapped by armed men on May 24 from the city of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, on May 24 on their way to teach a Chinese language class, a senior security officer told CNN last month.

Amaq, a news agency affiliated with ISIS, said Thursday that Islamic State fighters had killed two Chinese teachers who were being held in the Mastung, Balochistan. The group also released a video, which showed two bodies shot and bleeding on some grassy ground.

“China resolutely opposes all forms of kidnapping of civilians and opposes all forms of terrorism and extreme acts of violence,” said Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Friday.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “working to confirm authenticity of the reports of killing of two Chinese nationals, kidnapped in Quetta.”

The deaths underscore the risks of China’s growing international reach and influence. The Global Times, a state-run tabloid, said that guarding Chinese nationals overseas had become a new and serious challenge for national security.

“As China’s international influence is growing, terrorist organizations target Chinese for ransom or just to create a sensation. Cases of Chinese being kidnapped have increased,” the paper said in an editorial.

Chinese nationals have settled in Pakistan in greater numbers since the announcement of a $46 billion investment plan known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2015 — part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

“Given Pakistan’s complex security situation, both sides need to study and formulate a more comprehensive security plan to fully cover Chinese in Pakistan,” the Global Times added.

Hua said authorities had been trying to rescue the hostages.

Pakistan’s military said Thursday that its security forces conducted an operation from June 1 to 3 in Mastung, where it said it killed 12 terrorists with links to ISIS that had been hiding in caves but didn’t mention the abducted Chinese teachers.

Balochistan is home to the Gwador Port Complex, a flagship project of the economic corridor, but has been plagued by violence by different militant groups including the Pakistani Taliban and a separatist movement.

Pakistan views CPEC, a combination of infrastructure projects ranging from road networks, a fiber optic cable project, railway lines, a deep-sea port, coal mines and solar farms, as a huge opportunity to develop its economy.

Pakistan is home to roughly 20,000 Chinese, according to Mustafa Hyder, chief executive of the Pakistan-China Institute.

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Syrian media claims ISIS leader dead… again – The Jerusalem Post


The Jerusalem Post
Syrian media claims ISIS leader dead… again
The Jerusalem Post
Syria's state television channel announced Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an artillery strike on the group's headquarters in Syria. According to the report, the word's most wanted terrorist was killed on Saturday
US-backed Syrian fighters seize parts of ISIS 'capital' RaqqaMilitary Times
ISIS retakes Division 17 Army Base in surprise counter-offensive north of RaqqaAMN Al-Masdar News (registration)
US-backed forces take more of ISIS stronghold in Syria after two days of fightingMirror.co.uk
ARA News –The Sun –UPI.com
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Syrian media claims ISIS leader dead… again – The Jerusalem Post

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All 6 US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2017 Were in Fight Against ISIS – New York Times


Newsweek
All 6 US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2017 Were in Fight Against ISIS
New York Times
United States soldiers fighting the Islamic State in Khot District of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, in April. Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency. KABUL, Afghanistan All six of the American soldiers who have died in combat in …
2 US Soldiers Killed Battling ISIS, Taliban in AfghanistanNewsweek

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All 6 US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2017 Were in Fight Against ISIS – New York Times

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Pentagon Ramps Up HELLFIREs to Attack ISIS as US Helicopters Join Fight – Scout

HELLFIRE missiles are regularly used in drone attacks against ISIS armored vehicles, buildings, bunkers, troop locations and equipment.

US Apache helicopter attacks against ISIS are further leading the Pentagon to rev up HELLFIRE Missile deliveries and production plans in order to keep pace with the prospect of continued attacks and better anticipate combat needs for the future.

“U.S. Apache helicopters conducted the first strike against a Da’esh target in Iraq in support of Iraqi Security Forces in the Tigris River Valley June 12. (2016) The Government of Iraq approved the use of Apaches in support of ISF operations. The strike was vetted and approved through the same process the Coalition uses for all strikes. The Apache strike destroyed a Da’esh vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) near Qayyarah, Iraq,”ChristopherSherwood, a Department of Defense spokesman, told Scout Warrior last year.

Concurrently, ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment.

The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior.

Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15, Dan OBoyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement last year.

As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS.

While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS.

As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles.

“The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior.

While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing.

In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.

In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.

HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms

These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Armys Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Armys AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.

The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance referred to as fire and forget or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or painted by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.

There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses whats called a tandem warhead with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.

The Blast-Frag warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.

The Metal Augmented Charge warhead improves upon the Blast-Frag weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The Metal Augmented Charge is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.

The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to lock-on to a target before or after launch.

The AGM-114R warhead is described as a Multi-Purpose explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.

The AGM-114R or Romeo variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.

The Multi-Purpose warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse blast-effects with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.

The “Romeo” variant is an example ofhow these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future, OBoyle said.

Additional HELLFIRE Uses

Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior. Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.

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Iraqi Army storms last ISIS hideouts in Mosul city – AMN Al-Masdar News (registration)

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:00 P.M.) After scoring huge gains in Mosul yesterday, Iraqi forces proceeded to storm the northern sector of the largely ISIS-held Old City, known as the Bab Sinjar area, where deadly close-quarter combat is taking place as we speak.

With the battle for Mosul slowly nearing its end, the Rapid Response Division, Counter Terrorism Units, 9th Division and Iraqi Federal Police have been tasked with liberating the entire Old City neighborhood and southern part of the Al-Shafaa neighborhood, the last two residential areas in Iraqs second largest city that remain under Islamic State control.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi troops stationed in the newly liberated Al-Zanjili neighborhood uncovered a large ISIS rocket factory which had served to produce shells, munitions and homemade anti-tank missiles from rearguard jihadist-held positions for many months:

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Given the current rate of advance, the Iraqi Armed Forces are expected to completely liberate Mosul city within a fortnight.

Once this military campaign is concluded, tens of thousands of government soldiers will be freed up for offensives elsewhere in the country, ultimately looking to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq once and for all.

Apart from Mosul, ISIS militants are still holding out in the Hawija pocket, Tal Afar pocket, western Anbar and western Nineveh along the border with Syria.

ALSO READ In pictures: ISIS faces off with Hezbollah, Syrian Army on Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway

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Long Before It Lost Turf, ISIS Was Already Targeting Britain – New York Times


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Long Before It Lost Turf, ISIS Was Already Targeting Britain
New York Times
The aftermath of the attack at the Westminster Bridge in March. Credit Toby Melville/Reuters. LONDON In the weeks after Islamic State operatives struck Paris in November 2015, the group released a prerecorded video of the killers. They stared into

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ISIS expands foothold in Southeast Asia with Philippine siege – USA TODAY

Thomas Maresca, Special for USA TODAY Published 1:44 p.m. ET June 10, 2017 | Updated 17 hours ago

Soldiers in vehicles maneuver through a street in Marawi, in the southern island of Mindanao on June 10, 2017.(Photo: Noel Celis, AFP/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE As the siege of Marawi by ISIS-linked Philippine militants drags on, fears mount overthe global terrorist group gaining a Southeast Asian stronghold.

The Philippines has become the epicenter of ISIS expansion into Southeast Asia, a region where over 60 groups have pledged allegiance to the extremist group, according to the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

While ISIS has lost ground in Syria and Iraq, the group has been clear about its intentions to turn to Southeast Asia as one of their major sites for operations, drawing recruits from the Philippines and the Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Historically, Al Qaeda has had links to extremist groups in Southeast Asia, but ISIS has been connected to a number of more recent attacks, such as a suicide bombing that killed three police offers at a bus station in Jakarta in May and a bombing in the Philippine city of Davao in September last year that killed 14.

For some analysts, the drawn-out siege in Marawi is exposing the vulnerability of the Philippine military to answer the threat, which couldundermine the regional security balance.

I think Marawi is showing the absolute limits of what the armed forces of the Philippines is capable of, said Zachary Abusa, professor of national security strategy and a Southeast Asia expert at National War College in Washington, D.C. After years and years of U.S. counter-terrorism assistance, I think we should be very concerned.

The United States began the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), to assist Philippines counter-terrorism efforts in 2002 but ended the operation in 2015.

On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila acknowledged that U.S. special forces areassisting the Philippine militaryin the ongoing fight to retake Marawi. A Philippine military spokesman said the help was limited to surveillance and technical support.

The Philippines has become a destination for militants from around the region, analysts say, especially after a video released by ISIS in June 2016 advised potential recruits to head for Mindanao the southern Philippine island where Marawi is located if they couldnt make it to Syria or Iraq.

The Philippine groups actually control territory, said Abusa. There’s just been this slow and steady trickle of foreigners into Mindanao the past few years.

Dozens of foreigners have been fighting alongside the Filipino militants in Marawi, with several Malaysians and Indonesians as well as a Chechen, Yemeni and Saudi among those reported killed.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum held in Singapore last weekend, defense ministers from around Southeast Asia expressed alarm about the rise of terrorism in the region and pledged closer cooperation, especially in conducting coordinated sea patrols in the Sulu Sea between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Singapores defense minister Ng Eng Hen called terrorism the regions biggest security concern.

He told a roundtable discussion that the Philippines is becoming a magnet for extremists: “All of us recognize that if not addressed adequately, it can prove a pulling ground for would-be (extremists)who can launch attacks from there.

At the same conference, Indonesian minister of defense General Ryamizard Ryacudu said there were around 1,200 ISIS operatives in the Philippines, including 40 from Indonesia.

The terrorism threat in this region has evolved into an unprecedented immediate level of emergency, he told the conference. The death groups area of operation has gone global.

In 2016, ISIS officially recognized Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of a faction of the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) militant group, as leader of its Southeast Asia regional operations, and has vowed to create a wilayat, or Islamic State province, in Mindanao.

Hapilon was the target of the botched military raid that triggered a siege by Abu Sayyaf militants and the Maute group, which has also pledged allegiance to ISIS, in Marawion May 23. Hapilon is on the FBIs Most Wanted Terrorists list, with a $5 million reward for his capture.

In an attack, some 500 militants seized large parts of the city while burning buildings, cutting power and communications lines and taking hostages. The fighting has so far left 58 security forces, 20 civilians and around 138 militant fighters dead. The ISIS-linked militants still control parts of the central city and have as many as 2,000 hostages, according to the Philippine military.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 24, citing the rising threat of ISIS.

We are in a state of emergency, Duterte said. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”

Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said that the Philippines has long underestimated the threat that ISIS posed.

They didn’t understand what (ISIS) wants. (ISIS) is not an operation-based group (ISIS) is a state-building group. (ISIS) wants to capture and control territory and govern territory.

Marawi has finally placed ISIS on center stage in both the Philippines and the rest of the region, Gunaratna said.

You can say Marawi is a game changer in the fight against terrorism in this region, he said. Because it demonstrated to all the countries in the region what (ISIS) can do. They thought this business of running cities is something in the Middle East they never thought it could happen in Asia.

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U.S. forces help quell ISIS-linked siege that left 13 Philippine marines dead

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Russia Warns US Against Attacking Syrian Army as Allies Beat ISIS at Border – Newsweek

Russia has demanded that the U.S. stop attacking forces supportive of the Syrian government as they overtake positions held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) on the country’s border with Iraq. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly made the comments Saturday ona phone call with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, responding to three U.S. airstrikes in the past few weeks against forces battling ISIS and other insurgent groups on behalf of Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Pentagon has argued that the pro-Syrian government coalition, which it describes as Iran-backed militias, has breached a “deconflictionzone” declaredby the U.S.-led international coalition in southern Syria, but not recognized by Moscow or Damascus. Lavrov criticized the U.S.’s moves and the pair reportedly agreed to cooperate more closely in the future. Related:Syrian Forces Threaten to Fight Back After U.S. Military Strikes Multiple Times Subscribe to Newsweek from $1 per week “Lavrov expressed his categorical disagreement with the U.S. strikes on pro-government forces and called on him to take concrete measures to prevent similar incidents in future,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. While the Syrian army and its allies, which include Russia, Iran and various pro-government militias, advance toward the besieged eastern city of Deir Al-Zour, held by ISIS since 2014, the U.S. has deployed Special Forces to train anti-Assad rebels near the southern region of al-Tanf. Both factions are involved in the battle against ISIS, but differ on Syria’s political future, with the former insisting that Assad remains in power and the latter mostly advocating for his removal. President Donald Trump had initially toned down the anti-Assad rhetoric of his predecessor, butchanged course in April after accusing the Syrian leader of launching an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in the rebel-held governorate of Idlib. The Russian and Syrian government vehemently denied responsibility for the incident, butTrump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in response, the first intentional U.S. strike against the Syrian military. The strike led to a major policy rift between Washington and Russia on Syria and the U.S. has since stepped up its military presence in the country to fight ISIS and curbIranian influence in the region. A copy of leaflets, with English-language translation, that were dropped by the U.S. military in southern Syria in late May to advise Iran and Syria-backed forces to depart an area near a garrison used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces as tensions mount are shown in this handout provided June 1, 2017. The so-called “deconfliction zone” indicated in the leaflet was not included in a deal reached last month by Russia, Iran and Turkey and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said such a unilaterally-established zone would not be recognized. Department of Defense/Reuters The U.S.-led coalition has also established a “deconfliction zone” near al-Tanf, a Syrian town located near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. The zone was announced, however, outside of a framework agreed upon last month by Russia, Iran and Turkey that created four “de-escalation zones” in other parts of the country, all aimed to protect civilians fleeing more than six consecutive years of war in Syria. Last month’s “de-escalation zone” deal established areas where no foreign military was permitted to operate, while the U.S.’s “deconflictionzone” is restricted solely for use by the U.S.-led coalition and its rebel allies. As the Syrian army and their allies move further east, the U.S. has accused them of threatening Special Forces by approaching the self-proclaimed deconfliction zone and clashing with armed opposition groups. The U.S. responded on at least three occasions with airstrikes on the pro-Assad coalition, which the U.S. also accused Thursday of deploying an armed drone that it later shot down. The friction between the Syrian and U.S.-led efforts to eradicate ISIS had ledRussian ground forcesColonel General Sergey Surovikin to criticize Washington Friday for violating Syria’s sovereignty and call the U.S.’s demand thatpro-Syrian government fighters not advance further “absolutely groundless,” RTreported. Despite this spat, however, Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said Friday that Russia had been “very helpful” in diffusing regional tensions between competing forces, according to The Hill. A map showing areas of control in Syria as of June 1, 2017. The Syrian army and its allies have launched a major offensive to dislodge the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) from eastern Syria, but the campaign has been complicated by the presence of U.S. Special Forces and the anti-government insurgents they back in the country’s south, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. Institute for the Study of War/Reuters The threat of U.S. intervention also did not prevent the Syrian army and its allies from reportedly reaching the Iraqi border in a major advance against ISIS Saturday. Reports from both pro-government and pro-opposition sources said that the pro-Assad coalition had arrived north of al-Tanf after defeating the last remaining ISIS troops on the Syrian-Iraqi border, according to Al Jazeera. The accomplishment has the potential to open up a new corridor of anti-ISIS support stretching from Syria through Iraq, where anti-ISIS forces including Iran-backed, majority-Shiite Muslim militias have also made significant gains, and, finally, to Iran. Such a development, however, would likely raise concerns in Washington, already wary of Tehran’s role in the Middle East.

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Duterte, Focused on Drug Users in Philippines, Ignored Rise of ISIS – New York Times

New York Times Duterte, Focused on Drug Users in Philippines, Ignored Rise of ISIS New York Times The government has largely been in denial about the growth of ISIS and affiliated groups, said Zachary M. Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington who specializes in Southeast Asian security issues. Duterte has been preoccupied … ISIS expands foothold in Southeast Asia with Philippine siege USA TODAY US Special Forces Helping Philippines Military Pound ISIS The Daily Caller US Joins Battle Against ISIS -Linked Militants in Philippines TIME CNN  – Task & Purpose  – Slate Magazine (blog)  – UPI.com all 331 news articles »

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‘Grave concern’ over Chinese teachers reportedly killed by ISIS in Pakistan – CIproud.com

Related Content (CNN) – China has expressed “grave concern” over reports that ISIS has killed two Chinese teachers kidnapped in Pakistan. The man and woman, said by Chinese media to be a couple, were kidnapped by armed men on May 24 from the city of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, on May 24 on their way to teach a Chinese language class, a senior security officer told CNN last month. Amaq, a news agency affiliated with ISIS, said Thursday that Islamic State fighters had killed two Chinese teachers who were being held in the Mastung, Balochistan. The group also released a video, which showed two bodies shot and bleeding on some grassy ground. “China resolutely opposes all forms of kidnapping of civilians and opposes all forms of terrorism and extreme acts of violence,” said Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Friday. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “working to confirm authenticity of the reports of killing of two Chinese nationals, kidnapped in Quetta.” The deaths underscore the risks of China’s growing international reach and influence. The Global Times, a state-run tabloid, said that guarding Chinese nationals overseas had become a new and serious challenge for national security. “As China’s international influence is growing, terrorist organizations target Chinese for ransom or just to create a sensation. Cases of Chinese being kidnapped have increased,” the paper said in an editorial. Chinese nationals have settled in Pakistan in greater numbers since the announcement of a $46 billion investment plan known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2015 — part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. “Given Pakistan’s complex security situation, both sides need to study and formulate a more comprehensive security plan to fully cover Chinese in Pakistan,” the Global Times added. Hua said authorities had been trying to rescue the hostages. Pakistan’s military said Thursday that its security forces conducted an operation from June 1 to 3 in Mastung, where it said it killed 12 terrorists with links to ISIS that had been hiding in caves but didn’t mention the abducted Chinese teachers. Balochistan is home to the Gwador Port Complex, a flagship project of the economic corridor, but has been plagued by violence by different militant groups including the Pakistani Taliban and a separatist movement. Pakistan views CPEC, a combination of infrastructure projects ranging from road networks, a fiber optic cable project, railway lines, a deep-sea port, coal mines and solar farms, as a huge opportunity to develop its economy. Pakistan is home to roughly 20,000 Chinese, according to Mustafa Hyder, chief executive of the Pakistan-China Institute.

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Syrian media claims ISIS leader dead… again – The Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post Syrian media claims ISIS leader dead… again The Jerusalem Post Syria's state television channel announced Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an artillery strike on the group's headquarters in Syria. According to the report, the word's most wanted terrorist was killed on Saturday … US-backed Syrian fighters seize parts of ISIS 'capital' Raqqa Military Times ISIS retakes Division 17 Army Base in surprise counter-offensive north of Raqqa AMN Al-Masdar News (registration) US-backed forces take more of ISIS stronghold in Syria after two days of fighting Mirror.co.uk ARA News  – The Sun  – UPI.com all 97 news articles »

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All 6 US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2017 Were in Fight Against ISIS – New York Times

Newsweek All 6 US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2017 Were in Fight Against ISIS New York Times United States soldiers fighting the Islamic State in Khot District of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, in April. Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency. KABUL, Afghanistan All six of the American soldiers who have died in combat in … 2 US Soldiers Killed Battling ISIS , Taliban in Afghanistan Newsweek all 217 news articles »

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Pentagon Ramps Up HELLFIREs to Attack ISIS as US Helicopters Join Fight – Scout

HELLFIRE missiles are regularly used in drone attacks against ISIS armored vehicles, buildings, bunkers, troop locations and equipment. US Apache helicopter attacks against ISIS are further leading the Pentagon to rev up HELLFIRE Missile deliveries and production plans in order to keep pace with the prospect of continued attacks and better anticipate combat needs for the future. “U.S. Apache helicopters conducted the first strike against a Da’esh target in Iraq in support of Iraqi Security Forces in the Tigris River Valley June 12. (2016) The Government of Iraq approved the use of Apaches in support of ISF operations. The strike was vetted and approved through the same process the Coalition uses for all strikes. The Apache strike destroyed a Da’esh vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) near Qayyarah, Iraq,”ChristopherSherwood, a Department of Defense spokesman, told Scout Warrior last year. Concurrently, ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment. The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior. Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15, Dan OBoyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement last year. As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS. While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS. As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles. “The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior. While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing. In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications. In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets. HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Armys Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Armys AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe. The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance referred to as fire and forget or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or painted by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy. There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses whats called a tandem warhead with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target. The Blast-Frag warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain. The Metal Augmented Charge warhead improves upon the Blast-Frag weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The Metal Augmented Charge is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets. The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to lock-on to a target before or after launch. The AGM-114R warhead is described as a Multi-Purpose explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area. The AGM-114R or Romeo variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile. The Multi-Purpose warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse blast-effects with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters. The “Romeo” variant is an example ofhow these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future, OBoyle said. Additional HELLFIRE Uses Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior. Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.

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Iraqi Army storms last ISIS hideouts in Mosul city – AMN Al-Masdar News (registration)

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (7:00 P.M.) After scoring huge gains in Mosul yesterday, Iraqi forces proceeded to storm the northern sector of the largely ISIS-held Old City, known as the Bab Sinjar area, where deadly close-quarter combat is taking place as we speak. With the battle for Mosul slowly nearing its end, the Rapid Response Division, Counter Terrorism Units, 9th Division and Iraqi Federal Police have been tasked with liberating the entire Old City neighborhood and southern part of the Al-Shafaa neighborhood, the last two residential areas in Iraqs second largest city that remain under Islamic State control. Meanwhile, the Iraqi troops stationed in the newly liberated Al-Zanjili neighborhood uncovered a large ISIS rocket factory which had served to produce shells, munitions and homemade anti-tank missiles from rearguard jihadist-held positions for many months: Advertisement Given the current rate of advance, the Iraqi Armed Forces are expected to completely liberate Mosul city within a fortnight. Once this military campaign is concluded, tens of thousands of government soldiers will be freed up for offensives elsewhere in the country, ultimately looking to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq once and for all. Apart from Mosul, ISIS militants are still holding out in the Hawija pocket, Tal Afar pocket, western Anbar and western Nineveh along the border with Syria. ALSO READ In pictures: ISIS faces off with Hezbollah, Syrian Army on Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway

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Long Before It Lost Turf, ISIS Was Already Targeting Britain – New York Times

New York Times Long Before It Lost Turf, ISIS Was Already Targeting Britain New York Times The aftermath of the attack at the Westminster Bridge in March. Credit Toby Melville/Reuters. LONDON In the weeks after Islamic State operatives struck Paris in November 2015, the group released a prerecorded video of the killers. They stared into … and more »

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ISIS expands foothold in Southeast Asia with Philippine siege – USA TODAY

Thomas Maresca, Special for USA TODAY Published 1:44 p.m. ET June 10, 2017 | Updated 17 hours ago Soldiers in vehicles maneuver through a street in Marawi, in the southern island of Mindanao on June 10, 2017.(Photo: Noel Celis, AFP/Getty Images) SINGAPORE As the siege of Marawi by ISIS-linked Philippine militants drags on, fears mount overthe global terrorist group gaining a Southeast Asian stronghold. The Philippines has become the epicenter of ISIS expansion into Southeast Asia, a region where over 60 groups have pledged allegiance to the extremist group, according to the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. While ISIS has lost ground in Syria and Iraq, the group has been clear about its intentions to turn to Southeast Asia as one of their major sites for operations, drawing recruits from the Philippines and the Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. Historically, Al Qaeda has had links to extremist groups in Southeast Asia, but ISIS has been connected to a number of more recent attacks, such as a suicide bombing that killed three police offers at a bus station in Jakarta in May and a bombing in the Philippine city of Davao in September last year that killed 14. For some analysts, the drawn-out siege in Marawi is exposing the vulnerability of the Philippine military to answer the threat, which couldundermine the regional security balance. I think Marawi is showing the absolute limits of what the armed forces of the Philippines is capable of, said Zachary Abusa, professor of national security strategy and a Southeast Asia expert at National War College in Washington, D.C. After years and years of U.S. counter-terrorism assistance, I think we should be very concerned. The United States began the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), to assist Philippines counter-terrorism efforts in 2002 but ended the operation in 2015. On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila acknowledged that U.S. special forces areassisting the Philippine militaryin the ongoing fight to retake Marawi. A Philippine military spokesman said the help was limited to surveillance and technical support. The Philippines has become a destination for militants from around the region, analysts say, especially after a video released by ISIS in June 2016 advised potential recruits to head for Mindanao the southern Philippine island where Marawi is located if they couldnt make it to Syria or Iraq. The Philippine groups actually control territory, said Abusa. There’s just been this slow and steady trickle of foreigners into Mindanao the past few years. Dozens of foreigners have been fighting alongside the Filipino militants in Marawi, with several Malaysians and Indonesians as well as a Chechen, Yemeni and Saudi among those reported killed. At the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum held in Singapore last weekend, defense ministers from around Southeast Asia expressed alarm about the rise of terrorism in the region and pledged closer cooperation, especially in conducting coordinated sea patrols in the Sulu Sea between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Singapores defense minister Ng Eng Hen called terrorism the regions biggest security concern. He told a roundtable discussion that the Philippines is becoming a magnet for extremists: “All of us recognize that if not addressed adequately, it can prove a pulling ground for would-be (extremists)who can launch attacks from there. At the same conference, Indonesian minister of defense General Ryamizard Ryacudu said there were around 1,200 ISIS operatives in the Philippines, including 40 from Indonesia. The terrorism threat in this region has evolved into an unprecedented immediate level of emergency, he told the conference. The death groups area of operation has gone global. In 2016, ISIS officially recognized Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of a faction of the Abu Sayyaf (ASG) militant group, as leader of its Southeast Asia regional operations, and has vowed to create a wilayat, or Islamic State province, in Mindanao. Hapilon was the target of the botched military raid that triggered a siege by Abu Sayyaf militants and the Maute group, which has also pledged allegiance to ISIS, in Marawion May 23. Hapilon is on the FBIs Most Wanted Terrorists list, with a $5 million reward for his capture. In an attack, some 500 militants seized large parts of the city while burning buildings, cutting power and communications lines and taking hostages. The fighting has so far left 58 security forces, 20 civilians and around 138 militant fighters dead. The ISIS-linked militants still control parts of the central city and have as many as 2,000 hostages, according to the Philippine military. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 24, citing the rising threat of ISIS. We are in a state of emergency, Duterte said. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.” Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said that the Philippines has long underestimated the threat that ISIS posed. They didn’t understand what (ISIS) wants. (ISIS) is not an operation-based group (ISIS) is a state-building group. (ISIS) wants to capture and control territory and govern territory. Marawi has finally placed ISIS on center stage in both the Philippines and the rest of the region, Gunaratna said. You can say Marawi is a game changer in the fight against terrorism in this region, he said. Because it demonstrated to all the countries in the region what (ISIS) can do. They thought this business of running cities is something in the Middle East they never thought it could happen in Asia. Read more: U.S. forces help quell ISIS-linked siege that left 13 Philippine marines dead Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2s91LR5

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