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Americans In ISIS: Some 300 Tried To Join, 12 Have Returned …

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud is shown in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom in 2015. He was arrested after traveling to Syria, then returning to Ohio, where he planned to carry out an attack. According to a new report, he’s one of 12 Americans who went to join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq, and then returned back to the U.S. Mohamud was sentenced last month to 22 years in prison. Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP hide caption

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud is shown in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom in 2015. He was arrested after traveling to Syria, then returning to Ohio, where he planned to carry out an attack. According to a new report, he’s one of 12 Americans who went to join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq, and then returned back to the U.S. Mohamud was sentenced last month to 22 years in prison.

An estimated 300 Americans attempted to join the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, including a small number who rose to senior positions, according to the most detailed report to date on this issue.

So far, 12 of those Americans have returned home, yet none has carried out an attack on U.S. soil, according the report released Monday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

“I think what we were struck with was the few numbers of returnees that we saw,” said Seamus Hughes, one of the report’s authors. “There was always concern that this wave of what the FBI would call ‘the terrorist diaspora’ would come back. In many ways it’s just a trickle right now.”

The exact number of Americans who ran off to join the Islamic State and their fates has always been fuzzy. The FBI has occasionally offered general numbers, but provided few details.

The report covers the period since 2011, when the Syria war erupted. The Islamic State peaked, in terms of power and territory, in the summer of 2014, when it held large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. then began working with local partners to battle ISIS. The extremist group has now lost virtually all territory it once held, though it is still capable of carrying out deadly attacks in those countries, and has established footholds in several other states.

One percent of foreign fighters

The 300 or so Americans account for about 1 percent of the estimated 30,000 foreign fighters who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The majority came from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

The George Washington University team scoured online material, reviewed court records, spoke with government officials and interviewed some of those who returned to the U.S. after joining ISIS.

Still, the report could account for just over a third of those who tried or succeeded in joining radical Islamist groups.

“I know the numbers in the intelligence community are much better than mine, as one would expect,” said Hughes. “But we tried to do our best to have the largest public accounting of the phenomenon.”

Around 50 Americans were arrested as they tried to leave the country, and never made it out of the U.S. The report was able to document 64 individuals who did reach Syria or Iraq.

They include Zulfi Hoxha, a New Jersey resident of Albanian descent.

“He was a bit of loner. High school friends describe him as kind of a geek,” Hughes said.

He traveled to Syria in 2015, and U.S. authorities have described as a “senior ISIS commander.” He appears in two ISIS propaganda videos, including one where he beheads a prisoner, according to Hughes.

A dozen return to the U.S.

Of the 12 Americans who returned, nine were arrested and remain in custody, the report said. Two others are known to law enforcement, but have not been detained, it added. The 12th man went back to Syria a second time and carried out a suicide bombing, the report said.

While no American has returned and carried out an attack, one man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud of Ohio, planned to do so.

He was among a small number of Americans to join al-Nusra in Syria, an extremist group linked to al-Qaida. One of his commanders sent him back to Ohio with orders to attack a U.S. military facility.

Mohamud returned to Ohio in 2014, and was arrested the following year. He pleaded guilty to plotting the attacks and last month was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The report did not deal with those who may have been inspired by ISIS and acted inside the U.S. For example, authorities say Sayfullo Saipov, the man charged with ramming a truck into pedestrians, killing eight in New York City last October, was inspired by ISIS. But his case is not included in the report.

It’s still not clear what’s happened to thousands of other ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria as the group lost its self-declared caliphate.

Hard-core fighters are expected to remain and keep fighting. Others may be slipping across the border into Turkey. And some have been detained, though the U.S. has given no indication it is holding ISIS fighters.

In Iraq, the government is putting ISIS members on trial.

In Syria, where the war grinds on, it’s more complicated. The Syrian Democratic Forces, militia fighters aligned with the U.S., are holding hundreds of ISIS fighters, according to U.S. military officials.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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Americans In ISIS: Some 300 Tried To Join, 12 Have Returned …

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HOME – Isis Music Hall

Kitchen 743 offers up a creative fare of bites, sharing plates, and entrees. Perfect choices for a light patio bite or dinner and a show.

Set in the heart of West Asheville, Isis Theater was built in 1937 as a single screen movie theater and screened its last film in 1957. We as a family revamped the theater to what is now Kitchen 743 @ Isis Music Hall. A place to catch an intimate dinner and a show, or a rock show with 450 other people!

Isis is a concert venue with an accompanying bar and restaurant. Many of the artists and performers we feature are recognized national or regional acts.

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February 2, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: ISIS  Comments Closed

Raqqa, ISIS Capital, Is Captured, U.S.-Backed Forces Say …

Whether final or not, the seemingly inevitable defeat in Raqqa of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, carries heavy symbolic weight. At its height in 2014, the group controlled Iraqs second-largest city, Mosul, as well as Raqqa and large stretches of land on both sides of the border. And it had grand aspirations to increase its territory and cement its rule.

The Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who once spent time in a prison run by occupying American troops in Iraq, claimed to be the successor to the caliphs, the Islamic emperors who shaped the region in past centuries. He persuaded tens of thousands of Muslims from around the world, some new to the faith or poorly versed in it, to travel to the region to fight. The group seized the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria and those of Hatra in Iraq, destroying important historical monuments in the name of its interpretation of Islam.

With the fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State has lost the two most important cities of its self-declared caliphate in three months. It was pushed out of Mosul in July, and now holds only a fraction of the territory it once controlled.

Analysts say the group is already preparing for a new phase, morphing back into the kind of underground insurgency it started as, when it took root among disaffected Sunni populations that were willing to tolerate, if not wholeheartedly embrace, its ultraconservative brand of Islam. And while many Arabs quickly soured on the group because of its brutal crackdowns and unfulfilled promises, their underlying political disaffection has not been addressed.

Another major concern, now that Islamic State-held territory is reduced, is how countries in Europe, in the Middle East and around the world will handle the foreigners who joined the group in places like Syria and might return home and plan attacks there.

A victory in Raqqa has come at a heavy cost. Much of the city has been devastated by American-led airstrikes that killed more than 1,000 civilians, according to tallies by local activists and international monitors. In earlier years, many were killed by Russian and Syrian government strikes. About 270,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting, and thousands of homes have been destroyed.

A bustling city has been transformed under the groups brutal rule.

Hassan Mohammad Ali, a member of a civilian council backed by the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces that is supposed to be responsible for rebuilding the city, said last week that reconstruction would be a challenge.

The city is in ruins; it needs time, he said. And it needs prospects that are beyond ours, our energy. Just providing bread to areas retaken from the Islamic State was stretching the councils capacity, he said.

Dr. Mohammad Ahmed Saleh, a resident of the city who now works in a hospital in Tal al-Abyad, said he was eager to return home but was bracing for the worst.

Im expecting to see a new Hiroshima, he said by telephone, taking a break from treating a newly arrived contingent of 19 wounded people from Raqqa, a mix of civilians and fighters for the Islamic State. Im trying to be mentally prepared when I go. Ill be lucky if I see one of my houses walls still standing.

Many former residents said they had no plans to go back.

Today, I decided to start a new life, said Wadha Huwaidi, who fled Raqqa a few months ago. Im sad, of course, but I had nothing left there. My house was destroyed, my children, my husband all collapsed. Theres nothing left that makes me feel I want to go back.

For months, Islamic State commanders and fighters have been withdrawing from Raqqa and moving southeast into the neighboring province of Deir al-Zour. They have clustered in neighborhoods in the provincial capital, which is also called Deir al-Zour, as well as in the town of Mayadeen and in a town on the border with Iraq called al-Bukamal. Hundreds of Islamic State fighters had decamped from Raqqa to Mayadeen in recent months, taking heavy equipment with them.

The number of civilians killed in American-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria spiked this year.

But over the weekend, Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian and Iranian allies, took Mayadeen and continued their advance into the provincial capital, leaving the Islamic State with the border town as the only urban area entirely under its control in Syria. Beyond that, Islamic State fighters are scattered in a large area of the Syrian desert, outside population centers.

It is unclear what happened to the last several hundred Islamic State fighters holed up in Raqqa. There were conflicting reports about whether foreign fighters among them would be allowed to evacuate on buses in a surrender deal.

Last week, the United States-led coalition said there would be no negotiated withdrawal of Islamic State fighters, just the evacuation of civilians, if necessary, to keep them out of the crossfire. But in previous battles, in Hawija and Tal Afar, surrendering fighters were allowed to board buses to Islamic State-held territory. Witnesses in Raqqa said that several busloads of Islamic State fighters, both Syrians and foreigners, had been allowed to board buses to Deir al-Zour.

The fall of Raqqa threatens to inflame relations between Kurds and Arabs, who have been fighting the Islamic State in an uneasy alliance with the United States-led coalition but against an enemy that is rapidly melting away. Most immediately, they may be at odds over the future governing of Raqqa.

Similar tensions were on display in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Monday after Iraqi government forces drove out Kurdish forces to the cheers of Turkmens and Arabs in the ethnically mixed city.

The battle against the Islamic State has also led to touchy de facto partnerships internationally, with the United States, Russia and Iran all fighting the group in sometimes competing efforts, vying for influence.

Deir al-Zour, home to most of Syrias modest oil reserves, continues to be a flash point for possible tensions between the two rival coalitions fighting the Islamic State: Russia, Iran and the Syrian government on one side, and the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces on the other.

Both sides want to increase their influence over the region as their proxies race one another to take Islamic State areas straddling Syria and Iraq. The Syrian government and its allies, Iran and Russia, are steadily driving the Islamic State from Deir al-Zour, and a crucial question is whether the government will ultimately seek to retake full control of Raqqa as well.

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ISIS Terror: Latest News Stories, Photos & Videos on the ISIS …

Inside the Secret Rescue of Yazidi Sex Slaves From ISIS Captors

‘This kind of operation cant be done during daytime. We are basically going in there to kidnap them back from ISIS,’ mission leader Khaleel Al-Dhaki told NBC News. ‘Saving a soul is the best thing a man can do,’ said Al-Dhaki ‘You get more motivated when you watch them meeting their families. I cant describe the moment of the reunion. We devote our whole lives to rescuing these women.’ Al-Dhaki estimates ISIS has kidnapped around 7,000 Yazidis and that roughly 3,000 of them managed to escape on their own or were ransomed out of bondage. The fate of 1,000 Yazidi men remains unknown.

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ISIS gunned down pregnant women, babies, former Navy SEAL …

Iraqi forces, supported from the air by the U.S.-led coalition, on Monday closed in on the last part of Mosul still under ISIS control. Despite an imminent military victory by Iraqi forces, scores of civilians were slaughtered in a final stand by the terrorist group. Some made it more than three years through the brutal occupation of the nations second-largest city only to die in its final days; others, including small children, have known nothing but the reign of savagery in the span of short lives.

ISIS was just gunning down civilians in the middle of the night as they ran women and children. We were trying to treat as many people as we could, Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL, recalled to Fox News of the deadliest day in the Battle for Mosul, which started at the beginning of June. But bodies were all over the streets. An entire family lay dead right there an old man, young parents and their baby between them.

Only the newborn didnt die from the same gunshot wounds that had befallen the child’s parents, its little head had been cracked open in the fall of that fatal flee for safety. For Mattos, such a sight was only the start of what he was to witness in the coming hours.

A LOOK AT KEY MOMENTS ON THE ROAD TO MOSUL

Ephraim Mattos waiting for a ride to the front lines with a few Iraqi soldiers. (May 2017) (Photo by The Fireside Journal)

The United Nations confirmed that hundreds of residents have been shot and killed by ISIS this month alone, with the most calamitous day being on that June 1 and June 2 as more than 160 were massacred while running from their West Mosul homes.

We saw two young girls, about 11 or 12, lying down. One had been shot dead in the back, the other in the head her face was totally gone, Mattos said. Where her face used to be, was just a big black hole.

Just a few days after officially retiring from the military in early April, Mattos, 25, boarded an Iraq-bound flight as a medic and aid volunteer with global humanitarian groupFree Burma Rangers(FBR). The group aims to bring life-saving relief to innocent civilians caught up in violent conflicts around the world. On May 4, he was with Iraqs 9th Armored Division when it was ordered to assault Mosul and, in his words, the insane bloodshed began.

In the ensuing weeks, Mattos treated the injured, delivered aid to the needy and documented human rights abuses with other volunteers including David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces fighter and founder of FBR, Sky Barkley, a former U.S. Marine turned full-time missionary, Mahmoud Darweesh, an FBR interpreter and Syrian refugee wanting to immigrate to the U.S., and the FBR cameraman known by his nickname Monkey.

Civilians breaking free from ISIS as Iraqi forces invade Mosul. (May 4, 2017) (Photo by The Fireside Journal)

But what specifically happened on that date was like nothing the experienced combat veteran had ever been exposed to in his seven years as a SEAL. As Mattos and his team surged through another sea of up to 70 bodies in the early hours of Sunday, signs of life emerged.

We started to see children alive, buried underneath the dead. They were in shock. These little kids would get up and poke the bodies of their parents confused, trying to wake them up from their sleep, Mattos remembered. One little boy, no older than 6 or 7, laid down next to what appeared to be his sister. He covered her in a scarf to shield her from the hot sun. It was absolutely heart-breaking. We all knew then, we had to do something to get those kids out.

GRIEVING IRAQIS CALL ON US TO INVESTIGATE MASSACRE OF 1,600 MILITARY CADETS

That something was a quick call from Iraqi Army associates to a U.S. aircraft to drop something of a smoke screen to provide cover, as they were less than 200 yards from an ISIS hospital being used by the jihadists as a headquarters. Sniper rounds bounced off the tank operated by Iraqi soldiers while Mattos and his U.S. counterparts ran behind the tank. He said they knew then there was no way they were getting out without a scratch.

I was terrified. I had to will myself to go forward, he admitted. But I had decided that I was prepared to die to get that little girl out of there What ISIS was doing was just unreal. How do you shoot a little girl in the back of the head?

As the fighters and volunteers maneuvered to avoid hitting the dead, they were faced with corpses of pregnant women slaughtered by ISIS, an old man with his brain hanging from his skull, a little girl miraculously alive hiding beneath her mothers blood-soaked hijab, not even blinking at the ferocious sound of a canon being fired.

While under fire, Monkey, Mahmoud Darweesh, David Eubank, Sky Barkley, and Ephraim Mattos follow a single Iraqi tank toward ISIS lines to rescue stranded civilians. (June 2, 2017) (Photo by Bernard Genier)

Bullets sprayed over Mattos head from all directions, with an estimated 100 fighters believed to be in that vicinity at the time and at least a dozen snipers, obscure on rooftops and from the dark hollow rooms of mortar-gashed houses. As he ran back to his position behind the vehicle, one of those bullets struck his right calf entering one side and exiting the other.

As a SEAL, we are taught that our job is to take care of ourselves until the battle is over, Mattos said.

Sometime later, the former sailor made it to a nearby mosque being used by Iraqi forces as a makeshift clinic. A few minutes after he arrived, that little girl the one who cloaked herself in her dead mothers hijab was brought in and placed two beds over, deeply traumatized but alive.For more than a week after that, the bodies of the murdered lay decomposing, their dignity stripped, in the blistering summer streets as authorities were not able to immediately clear the ISIS-riddled zone.

Mattos was subsequently taken to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for medical care and spent another two weeks in the hospital. Last week, he arrived home to Wisconsin to heal. The gunshot wound, he notes, is no big deal. Mattos, along with his brother Zebulun, a devoted humanitarian, recently launched their own media groupThe Fireside Journal(TFJ) as a hub to share content about various lessons learned in life, the beauty of creation and to inspire others by example.

The man that the team was able to save. (June 2, 2017) (Photo by Bernard Genier)

But for now, his mind remains more than 6,000 miles away.

Although Iraqi forces have only a small part of Mosul to liberate, the so-called Old City, what is left are burned-out homes and a booby-trapped wasteland. Who will live long enough to return to ever see the city they once called home free from the black flag, remains a waiting game.

Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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From ISIS Battlefield to Rodeo Camp: One US Family’s Journey – NBCNews.com

Dave Eubank, his wife, Karen, and their children Sahel, Suuzanne and Peter, in front of their armored ambulance in western Mosul, Iraq in June 2017. Courtesy of Free Burma Rangers

But the father of three was not alone. His wife Karen and their three children, Sahale, Suuzane and Peter, were always about half a mile behind him handing out food and humanitarian aid when they werent being home-schooled.

It was not a casual war zone drop-in for the family. Theyve spent years doing aid work in dangerous places together.

They have been in every battlefield that Ive been in, Eubank told NBC News during a recent phone interview from Thailand, a day after the family left Iraq on their way to the U.S. for the summer. They have been all around Mosul every part of it. And into Syria, Burma and Sudan.

For the Eubanks, having their children with them is non-negotiable. They believe that if other families are forced to live in war-torn places like Mosul, then why shouldnt they be there to help? They argue that its no more dangerous for them than it is for locals.

They open doors and help us relate in ways we could not alone, said Eubank, 56. They expand the ability of our work. And my wife and I both believe, this is the best life we can give them.

Eubank added: We dont want them to die. We take every precaution we can, but its pretty much the same ones the locals are taking. We dont live any different than them.

Still, Mosul is a particularly dangerous place. ISIS militants captured the city in 2014, declared a so-called Islamic caliphate, and

Since October, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops have been engaged in fierce fighting to retake the city, Iraqs second largest. Many civilians have been trapped by the intense

The fighting has intensified in recent weeks as ISIS

So how did the family of five Americans end up there of all places?

Eubank, a devout Christian, attributes it to God.

For the last 20 years, he and his wife have lived in the jungles of Myanmar and run the

Eubank and his team of Free Burma Rangers, which includes medics from Myanmar, first went to Iraq three years ago and began working with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their battle against ISIS. They joined the Iraqi Army last November for the Mosul campaign. He and his family flew into Irbil, purchased some trucks and drove to Mosul unescorted because he said the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces knew them well from other missions and let them pass through the area safely.

In Mosul, Eubank and his team would go on assaults with the Iraqi Army and coordinate medical relief for fleeing civilians. Dramatic footage captured in early June showed Eubank rescuing a young girl in the midst of an ISIS assault while U.S. and Iraqi forces provided cover.

Lt. Col. Saad Al-Abadi, press officer for the Iraqi Armys 9th Armored Division, said Eubank and his team accompanied the Iraqi forces as they tried to liberate eastern Mosul. He said Eubank was a big help to Iraqi forces.

No word can describe a person who puts himself and his family in a situation of facing death every day, Al-Abadi told NBC News. They came here expressing how they care for human beings. They took care of civilians, as well as soldiers. They are professional and real humans.

While Eubank was on the frontline in Mosul, his wife Karen and their children worked for the Free Burma Rangers Good Life Club, which focuses on the physical and spiritual needs of children in conflict zones. The Eubank kids distributed donated goods food, water, clothes to families fleeing the ISIS controlled parts of Mosul. They would also lead the local children in activities like singing, putting on skits and playing games often with the din of mortars and gunfire in the background.

Karen, 48, holds a teaching degree and home schools their children which she admitted can be challenging in a place like Mosul.

We take our books and computers everywhere and given three to six hours we’ll make use of whatever space is available to accomplish lessons, Karen told NBC News via an email.

Asked about how she copes with the danger of raising her children in a place like Mosul, Karen said the invaluable lessons her children learned from the experience far outweighed the danger.

I realized there were four main things my kids were learning on a much deeper level than I knew: generosity, hospitality, living simply, and compassion, she said. If I could bring my kids to grow up in this spiritually rich environment, then they would gain more than I could give them on my own. This was a greater gain than the risk of the war surrounding us in our work.

She added that while the intensity of the war zone in Iraq is definitely different from what they experienced in Myanmar, they pray about the dangers, use good common sense and listen to the advice from locals on what they should and should not do.

For the Eubank kids, their unconventional life is an adventure.

Its really fun, sometimes. And it gets really scary, sometimes when ISIS are throwing mortars and stuff, 11-year-old Peter told NBC News over the phone. He said that in Mosul he enjoyed playing with the other kids especially games like soccer which require few words since he can’t speak Arabic.

Dave Eubank carries a young girl to safety in Mosul, Iraq in June 2017. Courtesy of Free Burma Rangers

For 16-year-old Sahale, Mosul became an unlikely place to sharpen her driving skills.

I was driving ambulances around because we didnt have many people around who could drive stick, said Sahale. So I would drive from the front line back to the CCP, or casualty collection point. It was really different for me because I just got my permit What a place to drive!

The family left Mosul after eight months in mid-June and are now back in the U.S. They have a jam-packed

Asked if she has a culture shock when she goes back to the states, Sahale said “not really” because she and her sister, Suuzane, 14, have figured out ways to relate to other kids. But, she said the father of a friend once said the teenage sisters sense of humor is a tad different and is almost exactly the same as an ex-Marine.

She said she would love to go to college in a few years to study music, dance and English. And then Sahale shot off a list of schools shed like to attend across the Pacific Northwest.

After the summer, the family may head to Syria. Karen doesnt have any hesitation about going to the country thats been plagued by violence for over six years, because theyve already been twice before. The last time, they were about 30 miles east of Aleppo, which government forces recently recaptured from rebels after a lengthy and brutal siege.

Asked what the best and worst thing is about raising their kids in this unconventional way, Karen replied that the best thing was giving them a global sense of family, compassion (laying down your life for others), understanding God and self better. She said that the worst thing is that by not doing the ‘normal thing’ I second guess myself often, fighting fear.

For Eubank, Syria is no different from the other places theyve worked.

The world is a dangerous place. And war zones are dangerous. But as you know, not every single inch is dangerous. And there are people there, too.

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How ISIS Survives the Fall of Mosul – The Atlantic

Eight and a half months into the coalition-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraqs second city looks like it is finally on the brink of freedom. After launching the last phase of the battle in mid-June, the Iraqi security forces slowly but surely penetrated the Old City, one of the final ISIS redoubts in Mosul. And, on Thursday, just after recapturing the Nuri Mosqueat which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted his role as caliph in June 2014, and which ISIS demolished one week agothe Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of the Daesh [ISIS] state of falsehood.

While this is indisputably good news, we must rein in our optimism. The truth is, ISIS has been planning for defeat in Mosul for months, if not years. Losing the city has long been part of its global plan. And even though the loss of its self-declared Iraqi capital will be a genuine blow to the groups territorial pretensions, ISIS is not going to evaporate just because it has fallen.

Since October 2016, when the campaign to retake Mosul was first launched, ISIS has been putting up an immensely stiff resistance: thousands of its fighters have been killed by coalition forces, and hundreds more blown up in suicide operations. But no matter how fiercely it fought, the group was never realistically going to repel the onslaught. The few thousand fighters that ISIS had holed up in the city faced about ten times as many members of a reconstituted and determined Iraqi security forces that was backed by U.S. air power.

What, then, were the strategic objectives of ISISs doomed resistance these last few months? While its leaders persistently proclaimed that victory was just around the corner, and while the rank-and-file were probably fighting under the pretense that they might actually win, something more abstract seems to have been driving the battle. At its heart has been a compulsive obsession, not so much with defense as with narrativethe caliphate has been doing all it can to make sure it could be seen to be putting up a fight. In that sense, much of what has happened since late 2016 can be seen as an exercise in propagandaexpensive, wasteful propaganda, but propaganda all the same.

ISIS has almost certainly been planning for this moment since 2014. By seizing as much territory as it did back then, its leaders were violating one of the key principles of non-state on state irregular warfare: Act scarce, and never present an obvious target. Given their proven insurgent pedigree, they will almost certainly have been aware of this. Nevertheless, by taking over Mosula city of some 2 million peoplethey laid the foundations for the apparent catastrophe that their organization now faces.

But what if this catastrophe is what ISIS wants? The group has been counter-intuitive in the past, so why not now?

If statehood was indeed the Islamic States aim, it has resoundingly failed. However, if it really hoped to establish a lasting, viable administration, it would not have raped, murdered, and terrorized its way across the Middle East and North Africa in the way it did, let alone systematically provoked the international community into forming a coalition to destroy it.

What if, more than anything else including territory, the group just wants permanence, to be the ideological hegemon of global jihadism? In this pursuit, the realization of ideological aspirations is far more important than the permanent administration of any piece of land, even if it comes at great material cost.

Viewed through this lens, ISISs most counter-intuitive acts become intuitive, if not ingenious, parts of a narrative-led strategy, one that prioritizes conceptual longevity over anything else.

For example, while the beheadings and war crimes that provoked the international intervention in Iraq and Syria may have materially hurt it, they also allowed it to wrest control of the global jihadist mantle, and claim to be singlehandedly taking the fight to the Crusader enemy. So too did its capture of Mosul and caliphate declaration in June 2014, even though neither made insurgent sense.

The fact is that, although ISISs audacious ultraviolence ultimately set the scene for its material undoing, it also meant that it could work towards creating the world it wanted to inhabita polarized, turbulent place that accommodated the jihadist ideology uncannily well.

For ISIS, this is what success looks like and, as short-lived as it was, the group has already gotten a good deal of what it wanted from the Mosul experiment. Seizing and administering the city for over a thousand days was more than enough for the group to make its mark as caliphate, and will be sufficient for it to boast in years to come of the jihadist utopia that once was. It alone will be enough to keep the true believers in its ranks in tow, even once it has lost everything else.

Long after the city has fallen back into the hands of the Iraqi government, it will continue to be a prop for ISIS, although an altogether different one. No longer will it be a paragon of jihadist governance. Instead, it will be a prototype for insurgency. ISIS will continue to propagandize through Mosul and, provided it can use it as a baton of instability with which to hit the Iraqi government (and the rest of the world too), the self-proclaimed caliphate is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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What’s next for US-trained Syrian rebels cut off from fighting ISIS? – The Jerusalem Post

Al-Tanf in Syria is a lonely desert outpost. Before the Syrian civil war broke out, it was the site of a small military base and al-Waleed border crossing. A road through the crossing and the vast deserts around Iraqs Anbar province linked Baghdad and Damascus.

Today it is the site of a not-so-secretive US-led coalition training program for Syrian rebel groups that are supposed to be fighting Islamic State. Theres one problem: since mid-June, they have been cut off from ISIS by the Syrian regime and its allies, leaving their future role uncertain.

In an interview with Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Dillon detailed the challenges the coalition and its allies face in Tanf.

We have been operating from al-Tanf garrison since the beginning of this year and [for] well over a year working with our partner forces indigenous to that area, he said.

According to Dillon, the US works with two groups, Maghawir al-Thawra, or MAT, and Shohada al-Quartayn.

MAT, which is known in English as the Revolutionary Commando Army, is the larger of the two groups. According to some reports, units of these fighters were once part of the New Syrian Army, a rebel group that launched a failed offensive in June 2016 to try to liberate Al-Bukamal, a city on the Syrian-Iraq border, from ISIS. Had it been successful, the rebel group would have gained strategic control of the Euphrates River Valley.

[We are] training them [MAT and Shohada al-Quartayn] on things like establishing checkpoints, patrols, ambush, medical training, some of these types of things, said Dillon. There have been skirmishes in that area and some battles with ISIS that have been down in that area.

While the first priority is to train these groups, purpose number two is that these forces are from these areas. ISIS exists in the middle Euphrates River Valley [and these trained forces] would be intended to be partner forces if and when we take on ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley, he explained.

The US has had other training programs in Jordan aimed at supporting rebel groups from Syria. According to some reports, most of these have not been very successful, but since 2015, the Pentagons anti-ISIS work in eastern Syria with the Kurds has seen progress.

The training at Tanf was intended to build on that, and as recently as this spring, it seemed to be working, with the rebels expanding their area of operations over a huge swath of desert the size of Lebanon. It even seemed they might reach the Euphrates River Valley, 150 km. to the east. But in May, the Syrian army rushed around them, reaching the Iraqi border on June 10, and turning the US anti-ISIS forces into a pocket surrounded by the Syrian regime and its allies.

Since mid-May, the regime moved into the area, so that ability to continue to patrol as far out as we had in the past, that is somewhat restricted, said Dillon.

The US launched several air strikes on the regimes forces as they approached Tanf, warning them off. Our force is not there to fight the regime, so things have de-escalated quite a bit since the last incursion with the regime in the beginning of June, going back to why we are there [to fight ISIS]. The partner forces are doing patrols in that area and the regime has restricted [their] ability to patrol as far as we wanted to, Dillon said.

According to Dillon, the coalition has established a 55 km. de-confliction radius around Tanf that the regime and its allies are not supposed to enter. We are being good on our commitment to try to de-escalate things; we are not patrolling as we were in the past.

This has led pro-Assad media to mock the US operation, and analysts to question whether the US is engaged in mission creep or simply lacks a goal in Tanf.

The US isnt expanding the operation there, said Dillon. I dont expect growth to be the case. This has been a temporary garrison to train from, especially since we saw the lack of presence of ISIS in the area since we began patrolling a year ago. If anything, it will be in the opposite direction. We considered it temporary how temporary is to be determined.

Even the 55-km. radius isnt a permanent de-confliction, its to demarcate areas so that regime elements and US partners dont run into each other in a congested space. They wont challenge the Syrian regime, but they will defend against it.

The coalition is reticent about further plans for operational security. With hundreds of coalition personnel on the ground, including special forces, reports of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and trainers, and hundreds of rebels who have been trained, the mission needs a goal.

Rumors have circulated that the units could be airlifted over the regime forces and ISIS to a frontline near al-Shaddadi, which is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Al-Gad, a Jordanian newspaper, claimed this could happen soon, placing these units 100 km. from Deir Ez-Zor and the Euphrates valley. Then the rebel commandos could gain experience fighting ISIS alongside seasoned units of the SDF, joining a force of 55,000, including 7,500 Arab fighters, many of whom the US has helped train and arm.

The initial success and uncertainty at Tanf today revolves around a US policy that does not want open conflict with the regime but knows that there is a race to fill the vacuum of a declining ISIS. Whoever gets to the Euphrates first, will control a strategic corridor be it the rebels, the Kurds or the regime.

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What’s next for US-trained Syrian rebels cut off from fighting ISIS? – The Jerusalem Post

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ISIS Hits Iran – Foreign Affairs

After three years of trying to strike Iran, the Islamic State (ISIS) finally succeeded in June. The group attacked two highly symbolic and secure targets near Tehran: the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. With this attack, ISIS ticks off its list another important target.

In the summer of 2014, Iranians were panicking as ISIS gained ground in Iraq and its leader declared a caliphate. Iran has grappled with terrorism since the 1940s, but ISIS was a new breed. It controlled swaths of territory not far from Irans porous border with Iraq, had vast resources at its disposal, and deployed a large number of operatives, including foreign fighters. Making matters worse, the group was vehemently anti-Shia and exhibited barbarism rarely seen in modern times.

At first, Tehran played down the concerns: The Iraqi security forces were pushing back ISIS, Iranian state media asserted. But soon, it became clear that ISIS was becoming a bigger threat by the day and that Iran needed to tackle the issue rather than brush it under the rug. To that end, it deployed a counterterrorism force honed by years of experience. And with the country increasing its defense budget to allocate further resources to counterterrorism, this apparatus is likely to become even more robust.

THE ADVENT OF TERRORISM IN IRAN

Modern Irans experience with terrorist groups began in the 1940s, when for a few months during the transition of power between Reza Shah and his son and successor, Mohammad Reza Shah, the state was in turmoil. In the decades that followed, until his regime collapsed in 1979, the Shah was mostly concerned with Islamist, Marxist-Leninist, and Marxist-Maoist groups. Irans military, along with its first intelligence agency, known as the SAVAK, were in charge. With law enforcement agencies, the military and SAVAK conducted surveillance, identified terrorist networks, arrested their members, and collected intelligence to prevent, neutralize, and deter attacks. By the early 1970s, the SAVAK and law

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ISIS Hits Iran – Foreign Affairs

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Americans In ISIS: Some 300 Tried To Join, 12 Have Returned …

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud is shown in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom in 2015. He was arrested after traveling to Syria, then returning to Ohio, where he planned to carry out an attack. According to a new report, he’s one of 12 Americans who went to join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq, and then returned back to the U.S. Mohamud was sentenced last month to 22 years in prison. Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP hide caption Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud is shown in a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom in 2015. He was arrested after traveling to Syria, then returning to Ohio, where he planned to carry out an attack. According to a new report, he’s one of 12 Americans who went to join extremist groups in Syria or Iraq, and then returned back to the U.S. Mohamud was sentenced last month to 22 years in prison. An estimated 300 Americans attempted to join the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, including a small number who rose to senior positions, according to the most detailed report to date on this issue. So far, 12 of those Americans have returned home, yet none has carried out an attack on U.S. soil, according the report released Monday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “I think what we were struck with was the few numbers of returnees that we saw,” said Seamus Hughes, one of the report’s authors. “There was always concern that this wave of what the FBI would call ‘the terrorist diaspora’ would come back. In many ways it’s just a trickle right now.” The exact number of Americans who ran off to join the Islamic State and their fates has always been fuzzy. The FBI has occasionally offered general numbers, but provided few details. The report covers the period since 2011, when the Syria war erupted. The Islamic State peaked, in terms of power and territory, in the summer of 2014, when it held large parts of Syria and Iraq. The U.S. then began working with local partners to battle ISIS. The extremist group has now lost virtually all territory it once held, though it is still capable of carrying out deadly attacks in those countries, and has established footholds in several other states. One percent of foreign fighters The 300 or so Americans account for about 1 percent of the estimated 30,000 foreign fighters who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The majority came from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The George Washington University team scoured online material, reviewed court records, spoke with government officials and interviewed some of those who returned to the U.S. after joining ISIS. Still, the report could account for just over a third of those who tried or succeeded in joining radical Islamist groups. “I know the numbers in the intelligence community are much better than mine, as one would expect,” said Hughes. “But we tried to do our best to have the largest public accounting of the phenomenon.” Around 50 Americans were arrested as they tried to leave the country, and never made it out of the U.S. The report was able to document 64 individuals who did reach Syria or Iraq. They include Zulfi Hoxha, a New Jersey resident of Albanian descent. “He was a bit of loner. High school friends describe him as kind of a geek,” Hughes said. He traveled to Syria in 2015, and U.S. authorities have described as a “senior ISIS commander.” He appears in two ISIS propaganda videos, including one where he beheads a prisoner, according to Hughes. A dozen return to the U.S. Of the 12 Americans who returned, nine were arrested and remain in custody, the report said. Two others are known to law enforcement, but have not been detained, it added. The 12th man went back to Syria a second time and carried out a suicide bombing, the report said. While no American has returned and carried out an attack, one man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud of Ohio, planned to do so. He was among a small number of Americans to join al-Nusra in Syria, an extremist group linked to al-Qaida. One of his commanders sent him back to Ohio with orders to attack a U.S. military facility. Mohamud returned to Ohio in 2014, and was arrested the following year. He pleaded guilty to plotting the attacks and last month was sentenced to 22 years in prison. The report did not deal with those who may have been inspired by ISIS and acted inside the U.S. For example, authorities say Sayfullo Saipov, the man charged with ramming a truck into pedestrians, killing eight in New York City last October, was inspired by ISIS. But his case is not included in the report. It’s still not clear what’s happened to thousands of other ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria as the group lost its self-declared caliphate. Hard-core fighters are expected to remain and keep fighting. Others may be slipping across the border into Turkey. And some have been detained, though the U.S. has given no indication it is holding ISIS fighters. In Iraq, the government is putting ISIS members on trial. In Syria, where the war grinds on, it’s more complicated. The Syrian Democratic Forces, militia fighters aligned with the U.S., are holding hundreds of ISIS fighters, according to U.S. military officials. Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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February 11, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: ISIS  Comments Closed

HOME – Isis Music Hall

Kitchen 743 offers up a creative fare of bites, sharing plates, and entrees. Perfect choices for a light patio bite or dinner and a show. Set in the heart of West Asheville, Isis Theater was built in 1937 as a single screen movie theater and screened its last film in 1957. We as a family revamped the theater to what is now Kitchen 743 @ Isis Music Hall. A place to catch an intimate dinner and a show, or a rock show with 450 other people! Isis is a concert venue with an accompanying bar and restaurant. Many of the artists and performers we feature are recognized national or regional acts.

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February 2, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: ISIS  Comments Closed

Raqqa, ISIS Capital, Is Captured, U.S.-Backed Forces Say …

Whether final or not, the seemingly inevitable defeat in Raqqa of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, carries heavy symbolic weight. At its height in 2014, the group controlled Iraqs second-largest city, Mosul, as well as Raqqa and large stretches of land on both sides of the border. And it had grand aspirations to increase its territory and cement its rule. The Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who once spent time in a prison run by occupying American troops in Iraq, claimed to be the successor to the caliphs, the Islamic emperors who shaped the region in past centuries. He persuaded tens of thousands of Muslims from around the world, some new to the faith or poorly versed in it, to travel to the region to fight. The group seized the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria and those of Hatra in Iraq, destroying important historical monuments in the name of its interpretation of Islam. With the fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State has lost the two most important cities of its self-declared caliphate in three months. It was pushed out of Mosul in July, and now holds only a fraction of the territory it once controlled. Analysts say the group is already preparing for a new phase, morphing back into the kind of underground insurgency it started as, when it took root among disaffected Sunni populations that were willing to tolerate, if not wholeheartedly embrace, its ultraconservative brand of Islam. And while many Arabs quickly soured on the group because of its brutal crackdowns and unfulfilled promises, their underlying political disaffection has not been addressed. Another major concern, now that Islamic State-held territory is reduced, is how countries in Europe, in the Middle East and around the world will handle the foreigners who joined the group in places like Syria and might return home and plan attacks there. A victory in Raqqa has come at a heavy cost. Much of the city has been devastated by American-led airstrikes that killed more than 1,000 civilians, according to tallies by local activists and international monitors. In earlier years, many were killed by Russian and Syrian government strikes. About 270,000 residents have been displaced by the fighting, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. A bustling city has been transformed under the groups brutal rule. Hassan Mohammad Ali, a member of a civilian council backed by the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces that is supposed to be responsible for rebuilding the city, said last week that reconstruction would be a challenge. The city is in ruins; it needs time, he said. And it needs prospects that are beyond ours, our energy. Just providing bread to areas retaken from the Islamic State was stretching the councils capacity, he said. Dr. Mohammad Ahmed Saleh, a resident of the city who now works in a hospital in Tal al-Abyad, said he was eager to return home but was bracing for the worst. Im expecting to see a new Hiroshima, he said by telephone, taking a break from treating a newly arrived contingent of 19 wounded people from Raqqa, a mix of civilians and fighters for the Islamic State. Im trying to be mentally prepared when I go. Ill be lucky if I see one of my houses walls still standing. Many former residents said they had no plans to go back. Today, I decided to start a new life, said Wadha Huwaidi, who fled Raqqa a few months ago. Im sad, of course, but I had nothing left there. My house was destroyed, my children, my husband all collapsed. Theres nothing left that makes me feel I want to go back. For months, Islamic State commanders and fighters have been withdrawing from Raqqa and moving southeast into the neighboring province of Deir al-Zour. They have clustered in neighborhoods in the provincial capital, which is also called Deir al-Zour, as well as in the town of Mayadeen and in a town on the border with Iraq called al-Bukamal. Hundreds of Islamic State fighters had decamped from Raqqa to Mayadeen in recent months, taking heavy equipment with them. The number of civilians killed in American-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria spiked this year. But over the weekend, Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian and Iranian allies, took Mayadeen and continued their advance into the provincial capital, leaving the Islamic State with the border town as the only urban area entirely under its control in Syria. Beyond that, Islamic State fighters are scattered in a large area of the Syrian desert, outside population centers. It is unclear what happened to the last several hundred Islamic State fighters holed up in Raqqa. There were conflicting reports about whether foreign fighters among them would be allowed to evacuate on buses in a surrender deal. Last week, the United States-led coalition said there would be no negotiated withdrawal of Islamic State fighters, just the evacuation of civilians, if necessary, to keep them out of the crossfire. But in previous battles, in Hawija and Tal Afar, surrendering fighters were allowed to board buses to Islamic State-held territory. Witnesses in Raqqa said that several busloads of Islamic State fighters, both Syrians and foreigners, had been allowed to board buses to Deir al-Zour. The fall of Raqqa threatens to inflame relations between Kurds and Arabs, who have been fighting the Islamic State in an uneasy alliance with the United States-led coalition but against an enemy that is rapidly melting away. Most immediately, they may be at odds over the future governing of Raqqa. Similar tensions were on display in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Monday after Iraqi government forces drove out Kurdish forces to the cheers of Turkmens and Arabs in the ethnically mixed city. The battle against the Islamic State has also led to touchy de facto partnerships internationally, with the United States, Russia and Iran all fighting the group in sometimes competing efforts, vying for influence. Deir al-Zour, home to most of Syrias modest oil reserves, continues to be a flash point for possible tensions between the two rival coalitions fighting the Islamic State: Russia, Iran and the Syrian government on one side, and the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces on the other. Both sides want to increase their influence over the region as their proxies race one another to take Islamic State areas straddling Syria and Iraq. The Syrian government and its allies, Iran and Russia, are steadily driving the Islamic State from Deir al-Zour, and a crucial question is whether the government will ultimately seek to retake full control of Raqqa as well.

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ISIS Terror: Latest News Stories, Photos & Videos on the ISIS …

Inside the Secret Rescue of Yazidi Sex Slaves From ISIS Captors ‘This kind of operation cant be done during daytime. We are basically going in there to kidnap them back from ISIS,’ mission leader Khaleel Al-Dhaki told NBC News. ‘Saving a soul is the best thing a man can do,’ said Al-Dhaki ‘You get more motivated when you watch them meeting their families. I cant describe the moment of the reunion. We devote our whole lives to rescuing these women.’ Al-Dhaki estimates ISIS has kidnapped around 7,000 Yazidis and that roughly 3,000 of them managed to escape on their own or were ransomed out of bondage. The fate of 1,000 Yazidi men remains unknown.

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ISIS gunned down pregnant women, babies, former Navy SEAL …

Iraqi forces, supported from the air by the U.S.-led coalition, on Monday closed in on the last part of Mosul still under ISIS control. Despite an imminent military victory by Iraqi forces, scores of civilians were slaughtered in a final stand by the terrorist group. Some made it more than three years through the brutal occupation of the nations second-largest city only to die in its final days; others, including small children, have known nothing but the reign of savagery in the span of short lives. ISIS was just gunning down civilians in the middle of the night as they ran women and children. We were trying to treat as many people as we could, Ephraim Mattos, a former Navy SEAL, recalled to Fox News of the deadliest day in the Battle for Mosul, which started at the beginning of June. But bodies were all over the streets. An entire family lay dead right there an old man, young parents and their baby between them. Only the newborn didnt die from the same gunshot wounds that had befallen the child’s parents, its little head had been cracked open in the fall of that fatal flee for safety. For Mattos, such a sight was only the start of what he was to witness in the coming hours. A LOOK AT KEY MOMENTS ON THE ROAD TO MOSUL Ephraim Mattos waiting for a ride to the front lines with a few Iraqi soldiers. (May 2017) (Photo by The Fireside Journal) The United Nations confirmed that hundreds of residents have been shot and killed by ISIS this month alone, with the most calamitous day being on that June 1 and June 2 as more than 160 were massacred while running from their West Mosul homes. We saw two young girls, about 11 or 12, lying down. One had been shot dead in the back, the other in the head her face was totally gone, Mattos said. Where her face used to be, was just a big black hole. Just a few days after officially retiring from the military in early April, Mattos, 25, boarded an Iraq-bound flight as a medic and aid volunteer with global humanitarian groupFree Burma Rangers(FBR). The group aims to bring life-saving relief to innocent civilians caught up in violent conflicts around the world. On May 4, he was with Iraqs 9th Armored Division when it was ordered to assault Mosul and, in his words, the insane bloodshed began. In the ensuing weeks, Mattos treated the injured, delivered aid to the needy and documented human rights abuses with other volunteers including David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces fighter and founder of FBR, Sky Barkley, a former U.S. Marine turned full-time missionary, Mahmoud Darweesh, an FBR interpreter and Syrian refugee wanting to immigrate to the U.S., and the FBR cameraman known by his nickname Monkey. Civilians breaking free from ISIS as Iraqi forces invade Mosul. (May 4, 2017) (Photo by The Fireside Journal) But what specifically happened on that date was like nothing the experienced combat veteran had ever been exposed to in his seven years as a SEAL. As Mattos and his team surged through another sea of up to 70 bodies in the early hours of Sunday, signs of life emerged. We started to see children alive, buried underneath the dead. They were in shock. These little kids would get up and poke the bodies of their parents confused, trying to wake them up from their sleep, Mattos remembered. One little boy, no older than 6 or 7, laid down next to what appeared to be his sister. He covered her in a scarf to shield her from the hot sun. It was absolutely heart-breaking. We all knew then, we had to do something to get those kids out. GRIEVING IRAQIS CALL ON US TO INVESTIGATE MASSACRE OF 1,600 MILITARY CADETS That something was a quick call from Iraqi Army associates to a U.S. aircraft to drop something of a smoke screen to provide cover, as they were less than 200 yards from an ISIS hospital being used by the jihadists as a headquarters. Sniper rounds bounced off the tank operated by Iraqi soldiers while Mattos and his U.S. counterparts ran behind the tank. He said they knew then there was no way they were getting out without a scratch. I was terrified. I had to will myself to go forward, he admitted. But I had decided that I was prepared to die to get that little girl out of there What ISIS was doing was just unreal. How do you shoot a little girl in the back of the head? As the fighters and volunteers maneuvered to avoid hitting the dead, they were faced with corpses of pregnant women slaughtered by ISIS, an old man with his brain hanging from his skull, a little girl miraculously alive hiding beneath her mothers blood-soaked hijab, not even blinking at the ferocious sound of a canon being fired. While under fire, Monkey, Mahmoud Darweesh, David Eubank, Sky Barkley, and Ephraim Mattos follow a single Iraqi tank toward ISIS lines to rescue stranded civilians. (June 2, 2017) (Photo by Bernard Genier) Bullets sprayed over Mattos head from all directions, with an estimated 100 fighters believed to be in that vicinity at the time and at least a dozen snipers, obscure on rooftops and from the dark hollow rooms of mortar-gashed houses. As he ran back to his position behind the vehicle, one of those bullets struck his right calf entering one side and exiting the other. As a SEAL, we are taught that our job is to take care of ourselves until the battle is over, Mattos said. Sometime later, the former sailor made it to a nearby mosque being used by Iraqi forces as a makeshift clinic. A few minutes after he arrived, that little girl the one who cloaked herself in her dead mothers hijab was brought in and placed two beds over, deeply traumatized but alive.For more than a week after that, the bodies of the murdered lay decomposing, their dignity stripped, in the blistering summer streets as authorities were not able to immediately clear the ISIS-riddled zone. Mattos was subsequently taken to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for medical care and spent another two weeks in the hospital. Last week, he arrived home to Wisconsin to heal. The gunshot wound, he notes, is no big deal. Mattos, along with his brother Zebulun, a devoted humanitarian, recently launched their own media groupThe Fireside Journal(TFJ) as a hub to share content about various lessons learned in life, the beauty of creation and to inspire others by example. The man that the team was able to save. (June 2, 2017) (Photo by Bernard Genier) But for now, his mind remains more than 6,000 miles away. Although Iraqi forces have only a small part of Mosul to liberate, the so-called Old City, what is left are burned-out homes and a booby-trapped wasteland. Who will live long enough to return to ever see the city they once called home free from the black flag, remains a waiting game. Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay

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July 4, 2017   Posted in: ISIS  Comments Closed

From ISIS Battlefield to Rodeo Camp: One US Family’s Journey – NBCNews.com

Dave Eubank, his wife, Karen, and their children Sahel, Suuzanne and Peter, in front of their armored ambulance in western Mosul, Iraq in June 2017. Courtesy of Free Burma Rangers But the father of three was not alone. His wife Karen and their three children, Sahale, Suuzane and Peter, were always about half a mile behind him handing out food and humanitarian aid when they werent being home-schooled. It was not a casual war zone drop-in for the family. Theyve spent years doing aid work in dangerous places together. They have been in every battlefield that Ive been in, Eubank told NBC News during a recent phone interview from Thailand, a day after the family left Iraq on their way to the U.S. for the summer. They have been all around Mosul every part of it. And into Syria, Burma and Sudan. For the Eubanks, having their children with them is non-negotiable. They believe that if other families are forced to live in war-torn places like Mosul, then why shouldnt they be there to help? They argue that its no more dangerous for them than it is for locals. They open doors and help us relate in ways we could not alone, said Eubank, 56. They expand the ability of our work. And my wife and I both believe, this is the best life we can give them. Eubank added: We dont want them to die. We take every precaution we can, but its pretty much the same ones the locals are taking. We dont live any different than them. Still, Mosul is a particularly dangerous place. ISIS militants captured the city in 2014, declared a so-called Islamic caliphate, and Since October, U.S.-backed Iraqi troops have been engaged in fierce fighting to retake the city, Iraqs second largest. Many civilians have been trapped by the intense The fighting has intensified in recent weeks as ISIS So how did the family of five Americans end up there of all places? Eubank, a devout Christian, attributes it to God. For the last 20 years, he and his wife have lived in the jungles of Myanmar and run the Eubank and his team of Free Burma Rangers, which includes medics from Myanmar, first went to Iraq three years ago and began working with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their battle against ISIS. They joined the Iraqi Army last November for the Mosul campaign. He and his family flew into Irbil, purchased some trucks and drove to Mosul unescorted because he said the Iraqi Army and Kurdish forces knew them well from other missions and let them pass through the area safely. In Mosul, Eubank and his team would go on assaults with the Iraqi Army and coordinate medical relief for fleeing civilians. Dramatic footage captured in early June showed Eubank rescuing a young girl in the midst of an ISIS assault while U.S. and Iraqi forces provided cover. Lt. Col. Saad Al-Abadi, press officer for the Iraqi Armys 9th Armored Division, said Eubank and his team accompanied the Iraqi forces as they tried to liberate eastern Mosul. He said Eubank was a big help to Iraqi forces. No word can describe a person who puts himself and his family in a situation of facing death every day, Al-Abadi told NBC News. They came here expressing how they care for human beings. They took care of civilians, as well as soldiers. They are professional and real humans. While Eubank was on the frontline in Mosul, his wife Karen and their children worked for the Free Burma Rangers Good Life Club, which focuses on the physical and spiritual needs of children in conflict zones. The Eubank kids distributed donated goods food, water, clothes to families fleeing the ISIS controlled parts of Mosul. They would also lead the local children in activities like singing, putting on skits and playing games often with the din of mortars and gunfire in the background. Karen, 48, holds a teaching degree and home schools their children which she admitted can be challenging in a place like Mosul. We take our books and computers everywhere and given three to six hours we’ll make use of whatever space is available to accomplish lessons, Karen told NBC News via an email. Asked about how she copes with the danger of raising her children in a place like Mosul, Karen said the invaluable lessons her children learned from the experience far outweighed the danger. I realized there were four main things my kids were learning on a much deeper level than I knew: generosity, hospitality, living simply, and compassion, she said. If I could bring my kids to grow up in this spiritually rich environment, then they would gain more than I could give them on my own. This was a greater gain than the risk of the war surrounding us in our work. She added that while the intensity of the war zone in Iraq is definitely different from what they experienced in Myanmar, they pray about the dangers, use good common sense and listen to the advice from locals on what they should and should not do. For the Eubank kids, their unconventional life is an adventure. Its really fun, sometimes. And it gets really scary, sometimes when ISIS are throwing mortars and stuff, 11-year-old Peter told NBC News over the phone. He said that in Mosul he enjoyed playing with the other kids especially games like soccer which require few words since he can’t speak Arabic. Dave Eubank carries a young girl to safety in Mosul, Iraq in June 2017. Courtesy of Free Burma Rangers For 16-year-old Sahale, Mosul became an unlikely place to sharpen her driving skills. I was driving ambulances around because we didnt have many people around who could drive stick, said Sahale. So I would drive from the front line back to the CCP, or casualty collection point. It was really different for me because I just got my permit What a place to drive! The family left Mosul after eight months in mid-June and are now back in the U.S. They have a jam-packed Asked if she has a culture shock when she goes back to the states, Sahale said “not really” because she and her sister, Suuzane, 14, have figured out ways to relate to other kids. But, she said the father of a friend once said the teenage sisters sense of humor is a tad different and is almost exactly the same as an ex-Marine. She said she would love to go to college in a few years to study music, dance and English. And then Sahale shot off a list of schools shed like to attend across the Pacific Northwest. After the summer, the family may head to Syria. Karen doesnt have any hesitation about going to the country thats been plagued by violence for over six years, because theyve already been twice before. The last time, they were about 30 miles east of Aleppo, which government forces recently recaptured from rebels after a lengthy and brutal siege. Asked what the best and worst thing is about raising their kids in this unconventional way, Karen replied that the best thing was giving them a global sense of family, compassion (laying down your life for others), understanding God and self better. She said that the worst thing is that by not doing the ‘normal thing’ I second guess myself often, fighting fear. For Eubank, Syria is no different from the other places theyve worked. The world is a dangerous place. And war zones are dangerous. But as you know, not every single inch is dangerous. And there are people there, too.

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July 4, 2017   Posted in: ISIS  Comments Closed

How ISIS Survives the Fall of Mosul – The Atlantic

Eight and a half months into the coalition-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraqs second city looks like it is finally on the brink of freedom. After launching the last phase of the battle in mid-June, the Iraqi security forces slowly but surely penetrated the Old City, one of the final ISIS redoubts in Mosul. And, on Thursday, just after recapturing the Nuri Mosqueat which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted his role as caliph in June 2014, and which ISIS demolished one week agothe Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the end of the Daesh [ISIS] state of falsehood. While this is indisputably good news, we must rein in our optimism. The truth is, ISIS has been planning for defeat in Mosul for months, if not years. Losing the city has long been part of its global plan. And even though the loss of its self-declared Iraqi capital will be a genuine blow to the groups territorial pretensions, ISIS is not going to evaporate just because it has fallen. Since October 2016, when the campaign to retake Mosul was first launched, ISIS has been putting up an immensely stiff resistance: thousands of its fighters have been killed by coalition forces, and hundreds more blown up in suicide operations. But no matter how fiercely it fought, the group was never realistically going to repel the onslaught. The few thousand fighters that ISIS had holed up in the city faced about ten times as many members of a reconstituted and determined Iraqi security forces that was backed by U.S. air power. What, then, were the strategic objectives of ISISs doomed resistance these last few months? While its leaders persistently proclaimed that victory was just around the corner, and while the rank-and-file were probably fighting under the pretense that they might actually win, something more abstract seems to have been driving the battle. At its heart has been a compulsive obsession, not so much with defense as with narrativethe caliphate has been doing all it can to make sure it could be seen to be putting up a fight. In that sense, much of what has happened since late 2016 can be seen as an exercise in propagandaexpensive, wasteful propaganda, but propaganda all the same. ISIS has almost certainly been planning for this moment since 2014. By seizing as much territory as it did back then, its leaders were violating one of the key principles of non-state on state irregular warfare: Act scarce, and never present an obvious target. Given their proven insurgent pedigree, they will almost certainly have been aware of this. Nevertheless, by taking over Mosula city of some 2 million peoplethey laid the foundations for the apparent catastrophe that their organization now faces. But what if this catastrophe is what ISIS wants? The group has been counter-intuitive in the past, so why not now? If statehood was indeed the Islamic States aim, it has resoundingly failed. However, if it really hoped to establish a lasting, viable administration, it would not have raped, murdered, and terrorized its way across the Middle East and North Africa in the way it did, let alone systematically provoked the international community into forming a coalition to destroy it. What if, more than anything else including territory, the group just wants permanence, to be the ideological hegemon of global jihadism? In this pursuit, the realization of ideological aspirations is far more important than the permanent administration of any piece of land, even if it comes at great material cost. Viewed through this lens, ISISs most counter-intuitive acts become intuitive, if not ingenious, parts of a narrative-led strategy, one that prioritizes conceptual longevity over anything else. For example, while the beheadings and war crimes that provoked the international intervention in Iraq and Syria may have materially hurt it, they also allowed it to wrest control of the global jihadist mantle, and claim to be singlehandedly taking the fight to the Crusader enemy. So too did its capture of Mosul and caliphate declaration in June 2014, even though neither made insurgent sense. The fact is that, although ISISs audacious ultraviolence ultimately set the scene for its material undoing, it also meant that it could work towards creating the world it wanted to inhabita polarized, turbulent place that accommodated the jihadist ideology uncannily well. For ISIS, this is what success looks like and, as short-lived as it was, the group has already gotten a good deal of what it wanted from the Mosul experiment. Seizing and administering the city for over a thousand days was more than enough for the group to make its mark as caliphate, and will be sufficient for it to boast in years to come of the jihadist utopia that once was. It alone will be enough to keep the true believers in its ranks in tow, even once it has lost everything else. Long after the city has fallen back into the hands of the Iraqi government, it will continue to be a prop for ISIS, although an altogether different one. No longer will it be a paragon of jihadist governance. Instead, it will be a prototype for insurgency. ISIS will continue to propagandize through Mosul and, provided it can use it as a baton of instability with which to hit the Iraqi government (and the rest of the world too), the self-proclaimed caliphate is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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What’s next for US-trained Syrian rebels cut off from fighting ISIS? – The Jerusalem Post

Al-Tanf in Syria is a lonely desert outpost. Before the Syrian civil war broke out, it was the site of a small military base and al-Waleed border crossing. A road through the crossing and the vast deserts around Iraqs Anbar province linked Baghdad and Damascus. Today it is the site of a not-so-secretive US-led coalition training program for Syrian rebel groups that are supposed to be fighting Islamic State. Theres one problem: since mid-June, they have been cut off from ISIS by the Syrian regime and its allies, leaving their future role uncertain. In an interview with Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Dillon detailed the challenges the coalition and its allies face in Tanf. We have been operating from al-Tanf garrison since the beginning of this year and [for] well over a year working with our partner forces indigenous to that area, he said. According to Dillon, the US works with two groups, Maghawir al-Thawra, or MAT, and Shohada al-Quartayn. MAT, which is known in English as the Revolutionary Commando Army, is the larger of the two groups. According to some reports, units of these fighters were once part of the New Syrian Army, a rebel group that launched a failed offensive in June 2016 to try to liberate Al-Bukamal, a city on the Syrian-Iraq border, from ISIS. Had it been successful, the rebel group would have gained strategic control of the Euphrates River Valley. [We are] training them [MAT and Shohada al-Quartayn] on things like establishing checkpoints, patrols, ambush, medical training, some of these types of things, said Dillon. There have been skirmishes in that area and some battles with ISIS that have been down in that area. While the first priority is to train these groups, purpose number two is that these forces are from these areas. ISIS exists in the middle Euphrates River Valley [and these trained forces] would be intended to be partner forces if and when we take on ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley, he explained. The US has had other training programs in Jordan aimed at supporting rebel groups from Syria. According to some reports, most of these have not been very successful, but since 2015, the Pentagons anti-ISIS work in eastern Syria with the Kurds has seen progress. The training at Tanf was intended to build on that, and as recently as this spring, it seemed to be working, with the rebels expanding their area of operations over a huge swath of desert the size of Lebanon. It even seemed they might reach the Euphrates River Valley, 150 km. to the east. But in May, the Syrian army rushed around them, reaching the Iraqi border on June 10, and turning the US anti-ISIS forces into a pocket surrounded by the Syrian regime and its allies. Since mid-May, the regime moved into the area, so that ability to continue to patrol as far out as we had in the past, that is somewhat restricted, said Dillon. The US launched several air strikes on the regimes forces as they approached Tanf, warning them off. Our force is not there to fight the regime, so things have de-escalated quite a bit since the last incursion with the regime in the beginning of June, going back to why we are there [to fight ISIS]. The partner forces are doing patrols in that area and the regime has restricted [their] ability to patrol as far as we wanted to, Dillon said. According to Dillon, the coalition has established a 55 km. de-confliction radius around Tanf that the regime and its allies are not supposed to enter. We are being good on our commitment to try to de-escalate things; we are not patrolling as we were in the past. This has led pro-Assad media to mock the US operation, and analysts to question whether the US is engaged in mission creep or simply lacks a goal in Tanf. The US isnt expanding the operation there, said Dillon. I dont expect growth to be the case. This has been a temporary garrison to train from, especially since we saw the lack of presence of ISIS in the area since we began patrolling a year ago. If anything, it will be in the opposite direction. We considered it temporary how temporary is to be determined. Even the 55-km. radius isnt a permanent de-confliction, its to demarcate areas so that regime elements and US partners dont run into each other in a congested space. They wont challenge the Syrian regime, but they will defend against it. The coalition is reticent about further plans for operational security. With hundreds of coalition personnel on the ground, including special forces, reports of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System and trainers, and hundreds of rebels who have been trained, the mission needs a goal. Rumors have circulated that the units could be airlifted over the regime forces and ISIS to a frontline near al-Shaddadi, which is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Al-Gad, a Jordanian newspaper, claimed this could happen soon, placing these units 100 km. from Deir Ez-Zor and the Euphrates valley. Then the rebel commandos could gain experience fighting ISIS alongside seasoned units of the SDF, joining a force of 55,000, including 7,500 Arab fighters, many of whom the US has helped train and arm. The initial success and uncertainty at Tanf today revolves around a US policy that does not want open conflict with the regime but knows that there is a race to fill the vacuum of a declining ISIS. Whoever gets to the Euphrates first, will control a strategic corridor be it the rebels, the Kurds or the regime. Share on facebook

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ISIS Hits Iran – Foreign Affairs

After three years of trying to strike Iran, the Islamic State (ISIS) finally succeeded in June. The group attacked two highly symbolic and secure targets near Tehran: the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. With this attack, ISIS ticks off its list another important target. In the summer of 2014, Iranians were panicking as ISIS gained ground in Iraq and its leader declared a caliphate. Iran has grappled with terrorism since the 1940s, but ISIS was a new breed. It controlled swaths of territory not far from Irans porous border with Iraq, had vast resources at its disposal, and deployed a large number of operatives, including foreign fighters. Making matters worse, the group was vehemently anti-Shia and exhibited barbarism rarely seen in modern times. At first, Tehran played down the concerns: The Iraqi security forces were pushing back ISIS, Iranian state media asserted. But soon, it became clear that ISIS was becoming a bigger threat by the day and that Iran needed to tackle the issue rather than brush it under the rug. To that end, it deployed a counterterrorism force honed by years of experience. And with the country increasing its defense budget to allocate further resources to counterterrorism, this apparatus is likely to become even more robust. THE ADVENT OF TERRORISM IN IRAN Modern Irans experience with terrorist groups began in the 1940s, when for a few months during the transition of power between Reza Shah and his son and successor, Mohammad Reza Shah, the state was in turmoil. In the decades that followed, until his regime collapsed in 1979, the Shah was mostly concerned with Islamist, Marxist-Leninist, and Marxist-Maoist groups. Irans military, along with its first intelligence agency, known as the SAVAK, were in charge. With law enforcement agencies, the military and SAVAK conducted surveillance, identified terrorist networks, arrested their members, and collected intelligence to prevent, neutralize, and deter attacks. By the early 1970s, the SAVAK and law

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