Archive for the ‘ISIS’ Category

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

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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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Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms – New York Times


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Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms
New York Times
Moving north from the Jordanian border are Syrian rebels who have long fought the government but are now being trained to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by American, British and Norwegian forces. They have a garrison near the …
US-backed Syrian forces push into ISIS-held RaqqaNew York Post
Kurdish forces overrun more sites inside ISIS capital RaqqaAMN Al-Masdar News (registration)
Syrian Forces Backed by US Claim First Victory Inside ISIS Capital of RaqqaNewsweek
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Republican congressman praises ISIS attack in Iran, says US should consider supporting ISIS – ThinkProgress

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 14, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Holston

On Thursday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) praised the recent Islamic State attack in Tehran as a good thing and suggested that maybe the United States should work with the militant organization.

Rohrabachers entire line of reasoning for why the United States should work with a militant group accused of human rights violations and war crimes like ethnic cleansing is astonishing. Here it is verbatim:

Iran witnessed its first attack claimed by the Islamic State on Wednesday. Attackers stormed the parliament building in Tehran as well as the shrine of the countrys first Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, a notable symbol for the Iranian government. At least 17 people were killed in the twin attacks, and dozens were injured. The attack was a notable achievement for the Islamic State, which according to the Iranian government, has been trying to plan an attack in the country for some time.

There are multiple issues with Rohrabachers logic. The most obvious, of course, is that it is not in the interest of the United States to see the Islamic State expanding across the Middle East. The United States is actively involved in reigning back the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila announced that U.S. Special Operations Forces are working with the Philippine military in a battle against Islamic-State affiliated fighters on that front as well. Thus, the attack in Tehran this week the first time the Islamic State has successfully planned something in Irancan certainly not be a good thing.

Its not clear why Rohrabacher views the Iranian government and the Islamic State as one and the same, but its even more baffling that he thinks the recent attack was thanks to the Trump administration. The Trump administrations foreign policy has been completely incoherent, especially when it comes to the Middle East. But for the most part, Trump has been very vocal in his criticism of the Islamic State. If Rohrabacher has some intelligence that the administration is abetting the Islamic State, while the U.S. military is fighting it on multiple other fronts, he should probably share that intelligence immediately.

Experts at the House hearing where Rohrabacher made the comments immediately refuted his comments.

Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, said Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institutes Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Its never in our interest to support a terrorist group like the Islamic State. We should condemn the attacks in Tehran, as we would condemn any act of terrorism, even as we hold Iran accountable for its sponsorship of terrorism.

Rohrabacher wouldnt listen to the experts on the panel, however.

So thats like Joe Stalin was a horrible guy, we must never associate with horrible guys like that, even against Hitler, he said, talking over Levitt. And so maybe its a good idea to have radical Muslim terrorists fighting each other. Ill leave it at that.

Rohrabachers comments come a few days after a short White House statement that implied that Iran deserved the attack in Tehran. We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times, the statement read. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.

Its no surprise that Rohrabacher is so anti-Iran he is willing to praise the Islamic State for conducting an attack in the country. The congressman is a vocal supporter of regime change as well as a huge advocate of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a cult-like group known for human rights abuses which wants to overthrow the Iranian government and which was classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government until 2012.

Rohrabacher, who has been has been previously called Putins favorite congressman, has also brushed off human rights abuses by the Russian government, calling them baloney.

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Iraqi Girl Kidnapped by ISIS Happy to be ‘With Mum and Dad’ Again – Newsweek

A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more.

“The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday.

Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul.

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“She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.”

ISIShas kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis.

Iraqi Christina Ezzo Abada, a former hostage of Islamic State militants for three years, plays with her brother inside a cramped home at a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq June 10. Erik De Castro/Reuters

Christians who did not or could not escape in time were faced with an ultimatumpay a tax for protection, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Some, like Christina, were kidnapped.

Christian families who remained in Qaraqosh were forcibly displaced on Aug. 22, 2014. The militants took away Christina from the minibus which had driven them to the edge of ISISterritory, after threatening Aida, who desperately resisted.

The family’s efforts to track her though Arab friends were rewarded on Friday, when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy al-Tanak, a poor neighborhood of Mosul.

Eighth months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has fallen to Iraqi government forces except a pocket by the western bank of the Tigris river.

“We went to a dirty place in Hayy el-Tanak (..), we took the child,” said Christina’s blind father, Khader Touma, wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the family now complete with the return of his youngest daughter.

Her two sisters and two brothers had escaped to Kurdish territory before the arrival of the militants.

“I’m with mum and dad,” said Christina, playing with a plastic toy, in a mobile home for displaced people in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, east of Mosul.

The parents said they now hoped to emigrate, to put their ordeal behind them.

In the meantime, they face a long wait in the cramped cabin, because their home in Qaraqosh was almost completely destroyed in the fighting to dislodge the militants.

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Shockingly, Trump aligns the US with ISIS over terror attack in Iran – Salon

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

President Trump now has his own war. The two terror attacks in Iran that left 12 people dead are its opening shots.

ISIS took credit for the attacks, which served its goal of stokingsectarian war. Not coincidentally, the attacks also advanced Trumps goals of escalating U.S. hostility toward Iran.

Trump inherited wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and a cold peace with Iran based on the international agreement to limit Irans nuclear program. Trump is abiding by theagreementwhile searching for ways to turn the cold peace into a hot war. His method: commit the United States to take sides in the long-standing political struggle between theSunni and Shia traditions of Islam.

The Sunni cause is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, the regions richest nation, which just bought$110 billionworth of U.S. weaponsand relegates women to second-class citizenship. The Shiites are led by anti-American Iran, which has the regions largest population, 17 women in parliament,and a democratically elected moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.

Trumps visit to Saudi Arabia last month was not ajoke about aglowing orb.It was a war council, in which Trump allied the United States with the Sunnis and declared war on the Shiites. And what vital U.S. interest is served by taking sides in a religious civil war waged thousands of miles from American territory? The answer remains obscure and undiscussed in Washington.

In his May 22scripted remarks in Saudi Arabia, Trump cited terrorism: For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin from many leaders and nations in this very room.

But all of the terrorists who attacked in Manchester, Paris, New York and Washington wereSunni fundamentalists. None of them were connected with Iran. Irans attacks on Americans and Westerners occurred mostly in the 1980s and 90s. Since 2000, more than 95 percent of terrorist casualties worldwide have been inflicted by Saudi-influenced militants. Trumps policy is based on a false premise.

ISIS gets a pass

An ignorant and embattled commander-in-chief has aligned the United States with Saudis theocratic monarchy and its international brigade of Sunni foot soldiers, known as ISIS. The militants of ISIS are Wahhabists, devotees of a Saudi fundamentalist tradition, which abhors Shiism, democracy and womens rights as contrary to the wishes of Allah. ISIS loathes the heretics of Iran even more than it despises the infidels of the West.

As ISIS lost ground in Iraq and Syria earlier this year, it promised (via a video) to strike in Iran for the first time. Now ISIS has made good on its threats and the militants, whom Trump likes to describe as radical Islamic terrorists, get a pass from the White House.

After ISIS took credit for killing children at a pop music concert, Trump tweeted his rage. After ISIS attacked Iranian tourists and parliamentarians, Trump tweeted about his trip to Cincinnati. The White House later issued a statement that did notmention ISISor radical Islamic terrorism, but did say states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote, which is pretty much what Osama bin Laden said after the 9/11 attacks.

The president may be morally bankrupt, but his political message is consistent: dont criticize Saudi allies who are taking the fight to Iran, at least not by name.

War is spreading

Trumps escalation promises more war in a region already punished by armed conflict. Saudi Arabias bombing campaign against Irans allies in Yemen, waged with U.S.-supplied weapons, has created a humanitarian disaster. The same holds true for Bashar al-Assads cruel war on his own people and Saudi-funded ISIS rebels.

Oblivious to the regions complex realities, Trump fans the flames of war via Twitter.

Yesterday, Trumptook creditfor the decision of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations to sever diplomatic ties and air travel with Qatar, a tiny wealthy emirate of only200,000 people.Qatar is the only country in the Gulf that maintains relations with Iran. The goal is toforce Qatarto abandon Iran, the better to unify the Sunni countries for thecoming conflict.

About Qatars isolation, Trump declared grandly:

Not quite. Hours later, ISIS struck in Tehran.

Flashpoints to Watch

The Sunni-Shiite conflict is already spreading to flashpoints where the United States could be drawn into the religious civil war. Two stand out. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar:The largest U.S. military base in the region is now hosted by a sovereign government with whom the United States, following the Saudi lead, is now virtually at war. The State Department, under the hapless leadership of Rex Tillerson, appeared to besurprised by this development. The U.S. military says its flights in and out of the Combined Air Operations Command will be unaffected by the sense of crisis pervading the region. The reality is the United States feels the need to issue reassuring statements because the stability has given way to uncertainty under Trumps provocative policy. Was Trump unaware his actions would raise the threat level facing U.S. forces? Or did he intend to put U.S. forces on war footing? No one knows because we have little information about how Trump made his decision. Both possibilities are disturbing. El Tanf in Syria:This city, located on the Syrian-Iraq border,is home to an American base. On Tuesday, U.S. military reported that itattacked alliesof the Syrian regime, including Iranian militias, for the second time in three weeks after they ignored warnings to move away from the U.S. base. American commanders on the ground want to prevent the Iranian militias from using the road to El Tanf as a supply line from their Shiite allies in Iraq. That would strengthen their position as they press the fight on ISIS in northern Syria. In other words, the United States is now stepping up attacks on the front-line Iranian forces that are fighting ISIS. To wage war on Iran, Trumps actions relieve pressure on ISIS. This is new. Before Trump came to office, the U.S.-led coalition focused on ISIS (also known in the region as ISIL or Daesh) and did not initiate fighting with Iranian militias also fighting ISIS. That is now changing, thanks to the influence of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, both of whom are hawkish on Iran. Barbara Slavin, Middle East correspondent for Al-Monitor newspaper, stated what is obvious to the region.

Far from coincidence, the Tehran attacks were the result of the U.S.-Saudi understanding forged last month. While Congress bickers, Trump inflames a religious war and terrorism breaches another frontier.

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US forces helping end ISIS-linked siege that left 13 Philippine marines dead, 40 wounded – USA TODAY

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Thomas Maresca, Special for USA TODAY Published 7:09 a.m. ET June 10, 2017 | Updated 0 minutes ago

Video footage obtained exclusively by Associated Press offers a glimpse into the operations of Islamic militants in the Philippines. Officials say the video shows one of the world’s most-wanted militant leaders plotting an assault on Marawi. (June 6) AP

In this June 9, 2017, photo, soldiers ride a military vehicle on the outskirts of Marawi city, southern Philippines. The Philippine military says 13 marines have been killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to southern Marawi city.(Photo: Aaron Favila, AP)

SINGAPORE United States special forces have joined the Philippine army to help end a siege in Marawi by ISIS-linked militant groups, as a drawn-out battle for control of the southern Philippines city nears the end of a third week. Heavy casualties were sustained by Philippine forces on Friday as 13 Philippine marines were killed and 40 wounded in house-to-house combat during clearing operations, a Philippine military spokesman said. “At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) with ongoing operations in Marawi that help AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a statement. The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues, the statement said. The Maute group, also known as Islamic State Lanao, led the attack on Marawi which began on May 23 and has resulted in a death toll of 58 security forces, 20 civilians and around 138 militant fighters. ASG stands for the Abu Sayyaf Group, another militant group that has been involved in the Marawi fighting. A Philippine military spokesperson confirmed that U.S. special forces were assisting the Philippines, but said that they were not putting boots on the ground. “They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support,” said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera at a news conference in Marawi. Video footage from Philippine news channel ABS-CBN News showed a US PS Orion intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft flying over Marawi on Friday. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, on May 24, citing the rising threat of ISIS in the Philippines. We are in a state of emergency, Duterte said when declaring martial law. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere. Since taking office last year, Duterte had sought to limit military cooperation with the U.S., scaling back joint military exercises, and canceling plans for joint maritime patrols, while pushing for closer relations with China and Russia. More than 200,000 residents have been displaced from Marawi since the fighting began. The militants control an area of the city with about 2,000 hostages. Colonel Herrera told reporters that the militants were entrenched in a mosque and using hostages as human shields, making it harder for security forces to carry out attacks.

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Iranian Kurds Likely Responsible for ISIS Attacks in Tehran – The Atlantic

In the wake of two deadly terrorist attacks that targeted the Iranian Parliament and the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum in Tehran, security sources have pointed to Iranian Kurds affiliated with ISIS as the likely perpetrators. While Iranian authorities arrested 41 people in connection to the attacks on Friday, only one attacker, Serias Sadeghi, has been identified. Sadeghi is an Iranian Kurd from Paveh, a city in western Iran, and has been cited as a prominent recruiter for ISIS in Iranian Kurdistan.

Wednesdays attacks occurred simultaneously at around 10:30 a.m. during the middle of Ramadan, an annual, month-long observance among Muslims that commemorates the first revelation of the prophet Muhammad. It is not uncommon for ISIS to carry out attacks at this time, as militants seek the honor of obtaining martyrdom during the holy month of jihad. In the first attack, a team of four people carrying assault rifles and wearing suicide vests attempted to enter the administrative building of the Iranian Parliament. The attackers shot at some and kidnapped others, with one attacker running loose on the streets of Tehran. Eventually, one of the attackers detonated his vest, while the remaining three were killed in a shoot-out with police officers.

The second attack consisted of two people entering the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum, a tribute to the founder of the Islamic Republic that houses the remains of numerous political figures. In a nearly-identical scenario, one of the attackers, a female suicide bomber, blew up her vest, while the other was killed in a shoot-out. On Wednesday, The Guardians Simon Tisdall provided an analogy to explain the significance of the attack. For Iranians, he said, the attack on Khomeinis tomb is the equivalent of somebody trying to blow up the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In total, at least 12 people were killed and 46 wounded. In a video posted Thursday on Amaq News, the ISIS media channel, five men and their leader, who some believe to be Sadeghi, claimed responsibility for both attacks. The men can be heard speaking in Arabic and Kurdish, lending credence to the all-but-confirmed theory that Iranian Kurds were behind the incident. This is a message from the soldiers of Islamic State in Iran, soldiers of the first brigade of Islamic State in Iran which, God willing, wont be the last, the leader in the video says. This brigade will mark the start of jihad in Iran, and we call on our Muslim brothers to join us.

While the attacks represent ISISs first strike inside Iran, the nation has long been a suspected target of the Islamic State. In March, the group released a video saying they would conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before. The majority of Iranian citizens are Shiites, whom ISIS regards as apostates. ISIS, on the other hand, subscribes to a strict version of Sunni Islam that comprises a mere five percent of Irans population. The fact that Wednesdays attackers were most likely Sunni Iranian Kurds could signal the beginning of a larger insurgency within the nation. Indeed, that seems to be ISISs very goal. On Friday, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Arabic affairs analyst, told The New York Times that the border towns and villages and tribes along Irans east, west, and southern borders are poor and vulnerable to extremism, with young unemployed men particularly susceptible to recruitment.

Even with ISIS claiming responsibility for the attacks, Iranian officials have been quick to blame the incident on their international rivals: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. On Friday, Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the attacks would only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like the Saudis. While the White House said it was grieving and praying over the victims of the attacks, it scornfully noted that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote. In a Thursday tweet, Irans foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the statement repugnant, arguing that the terrorist incident was backed by U.S. clients. Iranian people reject such U.S. claims of friendship, he added.

This sentiment was shared by a number of Iranians during the nations prayers on Friday. The Times reports that Friday worshippers shouted Death to Saudi Arabia and Death the United States, Britain, and Israel. Meanwhile, a speaker proclaimed that America and Saudi Arabia could not get anything from their proxy wars, so they decided to bring the war here, inside Iran. But the problem at stake remains even bigger than this deep-seated international rivalry: In their video released Thursday, ISIS suggested that Saudi Arabia could be next.

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Young Iraqi girl whom ISIS abducted three years ago reunited with family – Fox News

An Iraqi Christian girl, who was kidnapped by ISIS in northern Iraq three years ago when she was just 3, has been reunited with her family.

Christina Abada was welcomed back by family and other well-wishers Friday after she was rescued and released by Iraqi Special Forces. She was only 3 when she was abducted as she and her family fled the city of Qaraqosh in 2014.

My family of nine has lived in a caravan for over two years, Yaz Khedher, Christinas brother, said in a statement provided to Fox News by theIraqi Christian Relief Council. With all that we have been through, we are overjoyed that our Christina has been returned to us safely. I thank all those who have prayed for her safe return.

Little Christina was returned to her family at a refugee camp near Erbil, where her parents have been living.

With the freedom of Christina, now 6 years old, we have renewed hope for a brighter future for all those who paid a heavy price for being Christian, Juliana Taimoorazy, ICRCs founder and president, said to Fox News. In every presentation, across the globe, I have spoken of baby Christina and the heartache her parents lived with since the time of her capture. [T]his is a happy day.

Others at the camp described the joyous family reunion.

It is a very happy moment; everybody is dancing and clapping and singing, one Christian woman at the camp toldWorld Watch Monitor. She looks OK, quite healthy. I believe she must have been in the house of a family who took good care of her.

According to sources on the ground in Mosul, the young girl lived in the Tanak neighborhood of the city for almost three years with a Muslim family that found her all alone in a mosque.

The woman added that Christina looked in shock by all the well-wishers surrounding her at the camp.

Everybody is asking questions and speaking to her, but she does not say anything back, really. She also seems to be overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people welcoming her, she said.

It was in August 2014 when Christina was abducted by ISIS fighters as they stormed the city of Mosul and Qaraqosh in the northern region of Iraq known at the Nineveh Plain.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians had already fled, but Christinas family had stayed behind because her father, Khader, is blind. Like many of the older and frailer people who stayed behind, they were hoping for mercy from the Islamic State.

During their invasion, ISIS militants rounded up the remaining Christians under the false pretense of medical checkups. Christinas mother, Ayda, said that several times during the lineup, fighters pointed at her, while Christina was in her lap.

The militants were then ordered to remove everyones valuables before they were forced into dingy, dirt-covered buses. As Ayda was entering the bus with her young daughter in tow, one of the jihadists snatched the young girl out of her mothers arms.

Then one of the Daesh [ISIS members] came and inspected the people on the bus, Ayda said to humanitarian organization Open Doors International inJuly 2015. He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away.

That was the last time that Christinas parents saw her until this Friday.

My biggest joy would be when my child Christine would return to us, she also told Open Doors at the time.

Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

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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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Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms – New York Times

New York Times Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms New York Times Moving north from the Jordanian border are Syrian rebels who have long fought the government but are now being trained to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by American, British and Norwegian forces. They have a garrison near the … US-backed Syrian forces push into ISIS -held Raqqa New York Post Kurdish forces overrun more sites inside ISIS capital Raqqa AMN Al-Masdar News (registration) Syrian Forces Backed by US Claim First Victory Inside ISIS Capital of Raqqa Newsweek ARA News  – Haaretz  – International Business Times all 166 news articles »

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Republican congressman praises ISIS attack in Iran, says US should consider supporting ISIS – ThinkProgress

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) participates in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 14, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Paul Holston On Thursday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) praised the recent Islamic State attack in Tehran as a good thing and suggested that maybe the United States should work with the militant organization. Rohrabachers entire line of reasoning for why the United States should work with a militant group accused of human rights violations and war crimes like ethnic cleansing is astonishing. Here it is verbatim: Iran witnessed its first attack claimed by the Islamic State on Wednesday. Attackers stormed the parliament building in Tehran as well as the shrine of the countrys first Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, a notable symbol for the Iranian government. At least 17 people were killed in the twin attacks, and dozens were injured. The attack was a notable achievement for the Islamic State, which according to the Iranian government, has been trying to plan an attack in the country for some time. There are multiple issues with Rohrabachers logic. The most obvious, of course, is that it is not in the interest of the United States to see the Islamic State expanding across the Middle East. The United States is actively involved in reigning back the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila announced that U.S. Special Operations Forces are working with the Philippine military in a battle against Islamic-State affiliated fighters on that front as well. Thus, the attack in Tehran this week the first time the Islamic State has successfully planned something in Irancan certainly not be a good thing. Its not clear why Rohrabacher views the Iranian government and the Islamic State as one and the same, but its even more baffling that he thinks the recent attack was thanks to the Trump administration. The Trump administrations foreign policy has been completely incoherent, especially when it comes to the Middle East. But for the most part, Trump has been very vocal in his criticism of the Islamic State. If Rohrabacher has some intelligence that the administration is abetting the Islamic State, while the U.S. military is fighting it on multiple other fronts, he should probably share that intelligence immediately. Experts at the House hearing where Rohrabacher made the comments immediately refuted his comments. Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State, said Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institutes Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Its never in our interest to support a terrorist group like the Islamic State. We should condemn the attacks in Tehran, as we would condemn any act of terrorism, even as we hold Iran accountable for its sponsorship of terrorism. Rohrabacher wouldnt listen to the experts on the panel, however. So thats like Joe Stalin was a horrible guy, we must never associate with horrible guys like that, even against Hitler, he said, talking over Levitt. And so maybe its a good idea to have radical Muslim terrorists fighting each other. Ill leave it at that. Rohrabachers comments come a few days after a short White House statement that implied that Iran deserved the attack in Tehran. We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times, the statement read. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote. Its no surprise that Rohrabacher is so anti-Iran he is willing to praise the Islamic State for conducting an attack in the country. The congressman is a vocal supporter of regime change as well as a huge advocate of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a cult-like group known for human rights abuses which wants to overthrow the Iranian government and which was classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government until 2012. Rohrabacher, who has been has been previously called Putins favorite congressman, has also brushed off human rights abuses by the Russian government, calling them baloney.

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Iraqi Girl Kidnapped by ISIS Happy to be ‘With Mum and Dad’ Again – Newsweek

A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more. “The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday. Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul. Subscribe to Newsweek from $1 per week “She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.” ISIShas kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis. Iraqi Christina Ezzo Abada, a former hostage of Islamic State militants for three years, plays with her brother inside a cramped home at a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq June 10. Erik De Castro/Reuters Christians who did not or could not escape in time were faced with an ultimatumpay a tax for protection, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Some, like Christina, were kidnapped. Christian families who remained in Qaraqosh were forcibly displaced on Aug. 22, 2014. The militants took away Christina from the minibus which had driven them to the edge of ISISterritory, after threatening Aida, who desperately resisted. The family’s efforts to track her though Arab friends were rewarded on Friday, when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy al-Tanak, a poor neighborhood of Mosul. Eighth months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has fallen to Iraqi government forces except a pocket by the western bank of the Tigris river. “We went to a dirty place in Hayy el-Tanak (..), we took the child,” said Christina’s blind father, Khader Touma, wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the family now complete with the return of his youngest daughter. Her two sisters and two brothers had escaped to Kurdish territory before the arrival of the militants. “I’m with mum and dad,” said Christina, playing with a plastic toy, in a mobile home for displaced people in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, east of Mosul. The parents said they now hoped to emigrate, to put their ordeal behind them. In the meantime, they face a long wait in the cramped cabin, because their home in Qaraqosh was almost completely destroyed in the fighting to dislodge the militants.

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Shockingly, Trump aligns the US with ISIS over terror attack in Iran – Salon

This article originally appeared on AlterNet. President Trump now has his own war. The two terror attacks in Iran that left 12 people dead are its opening shots. ISIS took credit for the attacks, which served its goal of stokingsectarian war. Not coincidentally, the attacks also advanced Trumps goals of escalating U.S. hostility toward Iran. Trump inherited wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and a cold peace with Iran based on the international agreement to limit Irans nuclear program. Trump is abiding by theagreementwhile searching for ways to turn the cold peace into a hot war. His method: commit the United States to take sides in the long-standing political struggle between theSunni and Shia traditions of Islam. The Sunni cause is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, the regions richest nation, which just bought$110 billionworth of U.S. weaponsand relegates women to second-class citizenship. The Shiites are led by anti-American Iran, which has the regions largest population, 17 women in parliament,and a democratically elected moderate president, Hassan Rouhani. Trumps visit to Saudi Arabia last month was not ajoke about aglowing orb.It was a war council, in which Trump allied the United States with the Sunnis and declared war on the Shiites. And what vital U.S. interest is served by taking sides in a religious civil war waged thousands of miles from American territory? The answer remains obscure and undiscussed in Washington. In his May 22scripted remarks in Saudi Arabia, Trump cited terrorism: For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin from many leaders and nations in this very room. But all of the terrorists who attacked in Manchester, Paris, New York and Washington wereSunni fundamentalists. None of them were connected with Iran. Irans attacks on Americans and Westerners occurred mostly in the 1980s and 90s. Since 2000, more than 95 percent of terrorist casualties worldwide have been inflicted by Saudi-influenced militants. Trumps policy is based on a false premise. ISIS gets a pass An ignorant and embattled commander-in-chief has aligned the United States with Saudis theocratic monarchy and its international brigade of Sunni foot soldiers, known as ISIS. The militants of ISIS are Wahhabists, devotees of a Saudi fundamentalist tradition, which abhors Shiism, democracy and womens rights as contrary to the wishes of Allah. ISIS loathes the heretics of Iran even more than it despises the infidels of the West. As ISIS lost ground in Iraq and Syria earlier this year, it promised (via a video) to strike in Iran for the first time. Now ISIS has made good on its threats and the militants, whom Trump likes to describe as radical Islamic terrorists, get a pass from the White House. After ISIS took credit for killing children at a pop music concert, Trump tweeted his rage. After ISIS attacked Iranian tourists and parliamentarians, Trump tweeted about his trip to Cincinnati. The White House later issued a statement that did notmention ISISor radical Islamic terrorism, but did say states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote, which is pretty much what Osama bin Laden said after the 9/11 attacks. The president may be morally bankrupt, but his political message is consistent: dont criticize Saudi allies who are taking the fight to Iran, at least not by name. War is spreading Trumps escalation promises more war in a region already punished by armed conflict. Saudi Arabias bombing campaign against Irans allies in Yemen, waged with U.S.-supplied weapons, has created a humanitarian disaster. The same holds true for Bashar al-Assads cruel war on his own people and Saudi-funded ISIS rebels. Oblivious to the regions complex realities, Trump fans the flames of war via Twitter. Yesterday, Trumptook creditfor the decision of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations to sever diplomatic ties and air travel with Qatar, a tiny wealthy emirate of only200,000 people.Qatar is the only country in the Gulf that maintains relations with Iran. The goal is toforce Qatarto abandon Iran, the better to unify the Sunni countries for thecoming conflict. About Qatars isolation, Trump declared grandly: Not quite. Hours later, ISIS struck in Tehran. Flashpoints to Watch The Sunni-Shiite conflict is already spreading to flashpoints where the United States could be drawn into the religious civil war. Two stand out. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar:The largest U.S. military base in the region is now hosted by a sovereign government with whom the United States, following the Saudi lead, is now virtually at war. The State Department, under the hapless leadership of Rex Tillerson, appeared to besurprised by this development. The U.S. military says its flights in and out of the Combined Air Operations Command will be unaffected by the sense of crisis pervading the region. The reality is the United States feels the need to issue reassuring statements because the stability has given way to uncertainty under Trumps provocative policy. Was Trump unaware his actions would raise the threat level facing U.S. forces? Or did he intend to put U.S. forces on war footing? No one knows because we have little information about how Trump made his decision. Both possibilities are disturbing. El Tanf in Syria:This city, located on the Syrian-Iraq border,is home to an American base. On Tuesday, U.S. military reported that itattacked alliesof the Syrian regime, including Iranian militias, for the second time in three weeks after they ignored warnings to move away from the U.S. base. American commanders on the ground want to prevent the Iranian militias from using the road to El Tanf as a supply line from their Shiite allies in Iraq. That would strengthen their position as they press the fight on ISIS in northern Syria. In other words, the United States is now stepping up attacks on the front-line Iranian forces that are fighting ISIS. To wage war on Iran, Trumps actions relieve pressure on ISIS. This is new. Before Trump came to office, the U.S.-led coalition focused on ISIS (also known in the region as ISIL or Daesh) and did not initiate fighting with Iranian militias also fighting ISIS. That is now changing, thanks to the influence of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis, both of whom are hawkish on Iran. Barbara Slavin, Middle East correspondent for Al-Monitor newspaper, stated what is obvious to the region. Far from coincidence, the Tehran attacks were the result of the U.S.-Saudi understanding forged last month. While Congress bickers, Trump inflames a religious war and terrorism breaches another frontier.

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US forces helping end ISIS-linked siege that left 13 Philippine marines dead, 40 wounded – USA TODAY

39 Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about United States special forces have joined the Philippine army to help end a siege in Marawi by ISIS-linked militant groups. Try Another Audio CAPTCHA Image CAPTCHA Help CancelSend A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. A link has been posted to your Facebook feed. Thomas Maresca, Special for USA TODAY Published 7:09 a.m. ET June 10, 2017 | Updated 0 minutes ago Video footage obtained exclusively by Associated Press offers a glimpse into the operations of Islamic militants in the Philippines. Officials say the video shows one of the world’s most-wanted militant leaders plotting an assault on Marawi. (June 6) AP In this June 9, 2017, photo, soldiers ride a military vehicle on the outskirts of Marawi city, southern Philippines. The Philippine military says 13 marines have been killed in fierce fighting with Muslim militants who have laid siege to southern Marawi city.(Photo: Aaron Favila, AP) SINGAPORE United States special forces have joined the Philippine army to help end a siege in Marawi by ISIS-linked militant groups, as a drawn-out battle for control of the southern Philippines city nears the end of a third week. Heavy casualties were sustained by Philippine forces on Friday as 13 Philippine marines were killed and 40 wounded in house-to-house combat during clearing operations, a Philippine military spokesman said. “At the request of the government of the Philippines, U.S. special operations forces are assisting the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) with ongoing operations in Marawi that help AFP commanders on the ground in their fight against Maute and ASG militants,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a statement. The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues, the statement said. The Maute group, also known as Islamic State Lanao, led the attack on Marawi which began on May 23 and has resulted in a death toll of 58 security forces, 20 civilians and around 138 militant fighters. ASG stands for the Abu Sayyaf Group, another militant group that has been involved in the Marawi fighting. A Philippine military spokesperson confirmed that U.S. special forces were assisting the Philippines, but said that they were not putting boots on the ground. “They are not fighting. They are just providing technical support,” said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera at a news conference in Marawi. Video footage from Philippine news channel ABS-CBN News showed a US PS Orion intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft flying over Marawi on Friday. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the island of Mindanao, where Marawi is located, on May 24, citing the rising threat of ISIS in the Philippines. We are in a state of emergency, Duterte said when declaring martial law. I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere. Since taking office last year, Duterte had sought to limit military cooperation with the U.S., scaling back joint military exercises, and canceling plans for joint maritime patrols, while pushing for closer relations with China and Russia. More than 200,000 residents have been displaced from Marawi since the fighting began. The militants control an area of the city with about 2,000 hostages. Colonel Herrera told reporters that the militants were entrenched in a mosque and using hostages as human shields, making it harder for security forces to carry out attacks. Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2sNYAME

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Iranian Kurds Likely Responsible for ISIS Attacks in Tehran – The Atlantic

In the wake of two deadly terrorist attacks that targeted the Iranian Parliament and the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum in Tehran, security sources have pointed to Iranian Kurds affiliated with ISIS as the likely perpetrators. While Iranian authorities arrested 41 people in connection to the attacks on Friday, only one attacker, Serias Sadeghi, has been identified. Sadeghi is an Iranian Kurd from Paveh, a city in western Iran, and has been cited as a prominent recruiter for ISIS in Iranian Kurdistan. Wednesdays attacks occurred simultaneously at around 10:30 a.m. during the middle of Ramadan, an annual, month-long observance among Muslims that commemorates the first revelation of the prophet Muhammad. It is not uncommon for ISIS to carry out attacks at this time, as militants seek the honor of obtaining martyrdom during the holy month of jihad. In the first attack, a team of four people carrying assault rifles and wearing suicide vests attempted to enter the administrative building of the Iranian Parliament. The attackers shot at some and kidnapped others, with one attacker running loose on the streets of Tehran. Eventually, one of the attackers detonated his vest, while the remaining three were killed in a shoot-out with police officers. The second attack consisted of two people entering the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum, a tribute to the founder of the Islamic Republic that houses the remains of numerous political figures. In a nearly-identical scenario, one of the attackers, a female suicide bomber, blew up her vest, while the other was killed in a shoot-out. On Wednesday, The Guardians Simon Tisdall provided an analogy to explain the significance of the attack. For Iranians, he said, the attack on Khomeinis tomb is the equivalent of somebody trying to blow up the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In total, at least 12 people were killed and 46 wounded. In a video posted Thursday on Amaq News, the ISIS media channel, five men and their leader, who some believe to be Sadeghi, claimed responsibility for both attacks. The men can be heard speaking in Arabic and Kurdish, lending credence to the all-but-confirmed theory that Iranian Kurds were behind the incident. This is a message from the soldiers of Islamic State in Iran, soldiers of the first brigade of Islamic State in Iran which, God willing, wont be the last, the leader in the video says. This brigade will mark the start of jihad in Iran, and we call on our Muslim brothers to join us. While the attacks represent ISISs first strike inside Iran, the nation has long been a suspected target of the Islamic State. In March, the group released a video saying they would conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before. The majority of Iranian citizens are Shiites, whom ISIS regards as apostates. ISIS, on the other hand, subscribes to a strict version of Sunni Islam that comprises a mere five percent of Irans population. The fact that Wednesdays attackers were most likely Sunni Iranian Kurds could signal the beginning of a larger insurgency within the nation. Indeed, that seems to be ISISs very goal. On Friday, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, an Arabic affairs analyst, told The New York Times that the border towns and villages and tribes along Irans east, west, and southern borders are poor and vulnerable to extremism, with young unemployed men particularly susceptible to recruitment. Even with ISIS claiming responsibility for the attacks, Iranian officials have been quick to blame the incident on their international rivals: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. On Friday, Irans supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the attacks would only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like the Saudis. While the White House said it was grieving and praying over the victims of the attacks, it scornfully noted that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote. In a Thursday tweet, Irans foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the statement repugnant, arguing that the terrorist incident was backed by U.S. clients. Iranian people reject such U.S. claims of friendship, he added. This sentiment was shared by a number of Iranians during the nations prayers on Friday. The Times reports that Friday worshippers shouted Death to Saudi Arabia and Death the United States, Britain, and Israel. Meanwhile, a speaker proclaimed that America and Saudi Arabia could not get anything from their proxy wars, so they decided to bring the war here, inside Iran. But the problem at stake remains even bigger than this deep-seated international rivalry: In their video released Thursday, ISIS suggested that Saudi Arabia could be next.

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Young Iraqi girl whom ISIS abducted three years ago reunited with family – Fox News

An Iraqi Christian girl, who was kidnapped by ISIS in northern Iraq three years ago when she was just 3, has been reunited with her family. Christina Abada was welcomed back by family and other well-wishers Friday after she was rescued and released by Iraqi Special Forces. She was only 3 when she was abducted as she and her family fled the city of Qaraqosh in 2014. My family of nine has lived in a caravan for over two years, Yaz Khedher, Christinas brother, said in a statement provided to Fox News by theIraqi Christian Relief Council. With all that we have been through, we are overjoyed that our Christina has been returned to us safely. I thank all those who have prayed for her safe return. Little Christina was returned to her family at a refugee camp near Erbil, where her parents have been living. With the freedom of Christina, now 6 years old, we have renewed hope for a brighter future for all those who paid a heavy price for being Christian, Juliana Taimoorazy, ICRCs founder and president, said to Fox News. In every presentation, across the globe, I have spoken of baby Christina and the heartache her parents lived with since the time of her capture. [T]his is a happy day. Others at the camp described the joyous family reunion. It is a very happy moment; everybody is dancing and clapping and singing, one Christian woman at the camp toldWorld Watch Monitor. She looks OK, quite healthy. I believe she must have been in the house of a family who took good care of her. According to sources on the ground in Mosul, the young girl lived in the Tanak neighborhood of the city for almost three years with a Muslim family that found her all alone in a mosque. The woman added that Christina looked in shock by all the well-wishers surrounding her at the camp. Everybody is asking questions and speaking to her, but she does not say anything back, really. She also seems to be overwhelmed by the huge crowd of people welcoming her, she said. It was in August 2014 when Christina was abducted by ISIS fighters as they stormed the city of Mosul and Qaraqosh in the northern region of Iraq known at the Nineveh Plain. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians had already fled, but Christinas family had stayed behind because her father, Khader, is blind. Like many of the older and frailer people who stayed behind, they were hoping for mercy from the Islamic State. During their invasion, ISIS militants rounded up the remaining Christians under the false pretense of medical checkups. Christinas mother, Ayda, said that several times during the lineup, fighters pointed at her, while Christina was in her lap. The militants were then ordered to remove everyones valuables before they were forced into dingy, dirt-covered buses. As Ayda was entering the bus with her young daughter in tow, one of the jihadists snatched the young girl out of her mothers arms. Then one of the Daesh [ISIS members] came and inspected the people on the bus, Ayda said to humanitarian organization Open Doors International inJuly 2015. He walked up to us. He took my little girl from my arms and just walked away. That was the last time that Christinas parents saw her until this Friday. My biggest joy would be when my child Christine would return to us, she also told Open Doors at the time. Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych

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