Archive for the ‘ISIS’ Category

"Poor and hungry": Ex-ISIS recruits on what drove them to join – CBS News

AYN ISSA, Syria — Eighty-one men and boys — all accused of fighting for ISIS in Syria and now reformed after serving time in prison, according to America’s Syrian allies — have been reunited with their families.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his army of terrorists enforced a version of Islam unrecognizable to most Muslims, marked by vicious acts of violence.

CBS News

But Ezadeen Khalaf, a former shepherd, said he joined ISIS not because he wanted to kill in the name of his religion, but out of desperation.

“We were poor and hungry,” Khalaf said. “Either you join ISIS and earn a salary or you have nothing.”

He and most of the others have now signed up to fight against ISIS.

Thousands of other young Muslims joined ISIS for more complicated reasons. They came from Europe, rejecting the West and its values for extremism.

Some apparently were so alienated from their communities that they returned home to carry out terror attacks.

In a refugee camp in northern Syria, a group of Indonesian women told CBS News they were simply gullible, traveling 5,000 miles to the so-called Islamic State in 2015 because they believed ISIS propaganda.

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U.S.-backed fighters have surrounded the Syrian city of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital. Holly Williams reports from inside Syria, where …

“Best place in the world and the people in there very happy, no poor, no sad,” one of the women said of what drew her.

In reality, they said they were abused and their menfolk imprisoned by the extremists because they refused to fight. They ran away two weeks ago, and are too frightened of retribution from ISIS to show their faces

“Not just nave, we are stupid. We deceived very easily,” another said.

ISIS tried to ignite a war between Islam and the West, and to do so it preyed on anger, poverty and ignorance.

2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS – Charlotte Observer


Charlotte Observer
Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS
Charlotte Observer
A 29-year-old Waxhaw man is accused of lying to the FBI when he denied telling someone he planned to fly to Syria and help others travel there to support ISIS. Alexander Samuel Smith is charged with two counts of making a false statement to an agency
Charlotte area man accused of trying to fly ISIS supporter with airline buddy passWSOC Charlotte
NC man arrested on charges he lied to FBI about ISIS supportWNCN
NC Man Arrested For Lying To FBI About Ties To ISISWFMY News 2

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Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS – Charlotte Observer

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Iran: ISIS Leader ‘Baghdadi is Definitely Dead’ – Newsweek

An Iranian official said Thursday hecould confirm the death of the elusive leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but provided little details surrounding the claim.

Ali Shirazi, a representative of the foreign branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary GuardCorps, known as the Quds Force, said he was sure Baghdadi was dead, but declined to elaborate on how or when the elusive cleric had been killed. The claim comes weeks after Russia announced it believed it had killed Baghdadi during an airstrike last month atwhat it called a meeting of hundreds of ISIS militants and officials outside of the jihadists’ de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria. It’s uncertain whether Shirazi’s claim Thursday was related to Russia’s. Previous rumors of Baghdadi’s death have proven to be false or mistaken on numerous occasions.

Related: What happens without an ISIS leader? If Russia killed Baghdadi, Islamic State could collapse

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“Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” Shirazi told Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, which later retracted the quote, according to Reuters.

Islamic State militant group (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first and only known public appearance at the Grand al-Nuri mosque in the center of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, July 5, 2014. Iran, which has actively fought ISIS abroad for years, said it confirmed Baghdadi’s death, weeks after Russia said it likely killed the cleric in an airstrike in Syria’s Raqqa. Social Media/Reuters TV

Iran and Russia have partnered with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS in Syria and all three factions have made lightning advances nationwide against the jihadists. The U.S. is also heavily involved in the fight against ISIS and is sponsoring a majority-Kurd coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities known as the Syrian Democratic Forces as they surround and storm Raqqa city. The U.S. has increasingly targeted forces supportive of Assad and has attacked Iran-backed forces in Syria’s southeastern Badiya region at least three times. Despite the U.S.’s efforts to curb Iranian influence in the country, pro-government forces have secured large parts of the country’s border with Iraq, where Iran also plays a major role in battling ISIS.

In neighboring Iraq, Iranbacks majority-Shiite Muslim militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. After a major offensive by the Iraqi military, Kurdish militants, the Popular Mobilization Forces and a U.S.-led coalition, only remnants of the group remain in the country, mostly in Iraq’s second city of Mosul. Iraqi government forces reclaimed Thursday the historic Grand al-Nuri mosque where Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014 and local military officials forecasted the upcoming demise of the group in the near future.

“Their fictitious state has fallen,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool. spokesperson for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told state TV,according to Reuters.

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Iran: ISIS Leader ‘Baghdadi is Definitely Dead’ – Newsweek

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ISIS would own Baghdad without our help, Iran official says – CNN

The new US policy will ban all arrivals from Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days, if the new arrivals have no relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

“At the time when Iraq was being overrun by Daesh, by ISIS, did the United States make the slightest move in defense of it? Or was it the Iranian nation that rendered aid to the Iraqi nation and Iraq government?” Larijani told CNN in an exclusive interview.

“Had we not assisted them, Baghdad would have been occupied by ISIS. It is with the help of Iran that Daesh, ISIS, is on its last breath in Iraq (and Syria),” Larijani said.

Larijani said “numerous Iranians” live in the United States, and called on the American administration to provide proof that any of them has been involved in terrorism.

“I have spoken about this before, so many Iranians live in the United States, study in the United States, engage in business in the United States, which one of them have engaged in terrorism?” he asked.

The Parliamentary speaker argued the ban was unlikely to work, because terrorists “seldom to never” enter a country under their own names or nationalities.

“President Trump and American officials are aware of this. The terrorists must be defeated at the source. Where are their sources? Where are they? They are in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq,” he said.

Larijani questioned whether Saudi Arabia had the right to “dictate” conditions to another independent nation.

“Is it logical, is it mature for one country to dictate to another and say you must do as I say? Well you must cease relations, for example, with Iran?” he said. “I do not believe that … the Saudis carry this sort of weight to say these sort of things.”

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ISIS would own Baghdad without our help, Iran official says – CNN

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Pentagon plan to defeat ISIS looks very much like Obama’s approach – Washington Post

The Pentagon is putting the final touches on a promised new counter-Islamic State strategy for Syria and Iraq, and it looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued, according to senior defense officials.

The core of the strategy is to deny territory to the militants and ultimately defeat them, and to stay out of Syrias civil war pitting the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia against domestic opposition forces. The two fights in that country have come into increasingly close proximity in recent months, and there have been clashes.

Military officials from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on down have emphasized in recent days that they are not looking for a fight with the regime or the Iranians. That has put them at odds with White House officials who have expressed concern about Iranian expansion across a new battlefield in Syrias southern desert.

Critical of what they view as the Pentagons reluctance to prevent Iranian gains, these officials consider Irans increasing presence there a hindrance to the United States pursuit of the Islamic State, and an attempt by Tehran to consolidate postwar control. Rather than allowing the regime and Iranian militia forces to plant their flags in the desert, the U.S. military and its proxy forces, they say, should be planting their own.

[After Raqqa, the Syrian battlefield will only get more complicated]

The differing views have emerged in recent weeks as the military and the administration have contemplated the next steps in Syria, once the U.S.-led coalition completes its ongoing campaign to eject the Islamic State from Raqqa, its de facto Syrian capital.

Even as the Raqqa offensive has gotten underway, regime and Iranian militia forces, having quelled the rebel uprising in much of Syrias heavily populated western regions, have headed east across the desert with Russian air support. Their goals are the isolated, government-held city of Deir al-Zour, long surrounded by the Islamic State, and the town of Bukamal, along the Iraqi border.

The two are at opposite ends of Syrias southern Euphrates River Valley, an area the militants have long held. Much of their leadership has fled there from Raqqa, which lies farther north along the river.

Mattis agreed with a reporter Tuesday who asked if the coalition was trying to compartmentalize the valley, effectively leaving the regime and Iran in control of areas they are able to conquer from the militants, rather than trying to prevent government and militia advances.

Asked if he was worried about possible conflict with them as U.S. forces continue to pursue the Islamic State in the same area, Mattis said, Not if the Iranian militia doesnt attack us, no.

The key, he said during a trip to Europe this week, is more precise deconfliction among commanders of various forces on the ground, and between the United States and Russia. Although the Russians claimed to have shut down lines of communication to protest the U.S. downing of a Syrian aircraft that came too close to American operations near Raqqa earlier this month, several U.S. officials said those contacts have grown more robust and are operating effectively.

Its probably not going to look that neat, Mattis said of the lines being drawn. You know, itll be based on where does the river bend here and where is it which side of the river is a town on there. … So it may look a little more squiggly.

He added: But as long as its worked out by the commanders and enough people know about it in sufficient times, there are ways that are proven that we can do this.

In neighboring Iraq, coalition-supported Iraqi security forces are said to be close to victory in the long battle to retake the northwestern city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Once they do, defense officials said, at least some of them will move to the border area opposite Bukamal.

President Trump, who criticized former president Barack Obamas strategy to defeat the Islamic State as weak, promised a new plan within 30 days of his inauguration and then turned it over to the military. Under congressional budget guidelines this year, lawmakers must review and approve the policy before funding for several aspects of it is released.

Several defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the still-secret planning, said the strategy document is nearly ready to deliver to Capitol Hill. It is unclear whether Trump, or the Pentagon, will announce its outlines and goals.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trumps national security adviser, spoke bluntly Wednesday of the destructive nature of Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq. Iran is feeding this cycle of sectarian conflict to keep the Arab world perpetually weak, he said at a conference held by the Center for a New American Security. He described Tehran as a source of much of the suffering in Syria, and said that 80percent of the regimes effective fighters were Iranian proxies.

But McMaster stopped well short of calling for American action to deny territory to Iran or the Syrian regime. We could do a lot better to pull back the curtain on Iranian actions, such as the hollowing out of Iraqi institutions or its support for Syrian barrel bombs that have devastated civilian populations and infrastructure, he said.

We have to be very clear that the reason we are in Syria is to destroy the ISIS, McMaster said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. Outlining the administrations approach to Syria and Iraq, he said the key components were denying them a safe haven and support base, cutting off funding and discrediting the perverted ideology that they use to attract recruits to their cause.

The starkest statement of the militarys disinterest in confronting the regime and the Iranians came Friday, when Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, said that if Assad forces want to fight ISIS in Bukamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed.

We in the coalition are not in the land-grab business, Dillon said. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and theyre going to put forth a concerted effort and show they are doing just that in Bukamal or Deir al-Zour, or elsewhere, that means that we dont have to do that in those places.

Frederic C. Hof, a fellow at the Atlantic Council who was the Obama administrations special adviser for Syria, called Dillons words an invitation to Iran and its client regime … to take over whatever parts of eastern Syria they can grab.

The Trump administration correctly views Iranian domination of Syria … as contrary to American interests, Hof wrote in a report Monday. Yet the policy now advocated by the U.S. military, he wrote, will be good news indeed in Tehran and Damascus, to say nothing of Moscow.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, traveling with Defense Secretary Mattis, and Greg Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.

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Pentagon plan to defeat ISIS looks very much like Obama’s approach – Washington Post

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As Iraqi troops near, ISIS leaves death and destruction in Mosul – CNN

It’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), nearly every building is smashed to pieces and there is a constant thud of explosions. But all that fades into the background as the stench of death comes closer and closer.

“Look, there.” A guide from Iraq’s Counter Terror Force points to the body of an ISIS militant that lies where it fell.

The jihadi is blackened and bloated from days in the scorching sun. There are several more rotting corpses scattered in the rubble.

This is what is left of ISIS’s prize city in Iraq — festering dead, a few hundred yards of territory, and about 200 diehard militants awaiting a final standoff.

Senior Iraqi commanders took CNN inside the Old City in the calm before their final storm against ISIS.

ISIS blamed the United States for the mosque’s destruction. While Iraqi forces may soon condemn ISIS to territorial defeat, it will not be possible to wash the mosque of the stain ISIS put upon it when leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi used it as the location to declare the caliphate.

Thousands have been killed in the fight to expel ISIS from Iraq, but little has been done to resolve the sectarian divisions that propelled the group’s rapid rise to power.

As the battle to recapture Mosul nears its final days, this clash of ideology will be the lasting legacy of this war.

The resilience of the residents of Mosul who have been liberated from ISIS is clear.

Turn one corner away from the Old City, and normal life can be seen blooming between the pancaked buildings.

Men gather at outdoor cafes where waiters grill over open barbecues and the stench of death is mercifully replaced by the aroma of cooking. Families line the streets. Even in damaged buildings, people sip tea and chat.

War has reared its ugly head so often in Iraq’s recent history that the Muslawis, as the people of Mosul are known, have learned to adapt.

“I think it will be over for ISIS,” Major Salam Hussein of the CTS tells us. “But there has been terrorism of many kinds. We fought Al Qaeda before. We fought Zarqawi before. These guys are different.”

Dozens of displaced families arrive at checkpoints leading out of Mosul, but — today, at least — not one is allowed to cross. Fears remain that fighters may try to escape along with civilians.

“My daughter is sick. Please, I want to take her to hospital,” a man begs the officer in charge. The soldier offers the distressed father water and rations but waves him away.

More and more dare to edge closer to the soldiers, until one soldier fires warning shots into the air. The crowd moves back, briefly, then approaches again. And again, shots are fired by the soldiers.

The routine goes on and on and is sure to repeat itself in the coming days.

Even if liberation is coming, there is still danger for residents, especially in the area still held by ISIS.

Civilians are ISIS’ last line of defense — likely to be corralled into lines of human shields as militants retreat, fight and perhaps try to escape.

Iraqi forces may be planning the final assault, but peace is some distance away.

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As Iraqi troops near, ISIS leaves death and destruction in Mosul – CNN

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Self-determination for post-ISIS areas of Iraq and Syria – why not give it a try? – Fox News

The end game is near for ISIS and its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and President Assad of Syria continues to slaughter civilians. But what is the plan for ruling the areas they devastated? How about letting them have self-determination.

The existing nation states of Iraq and Syria have failed and fragmented. The people in the regions ISIS once controlled are highly skilled at insurgency, and harbor tremendous dislike of their respective central governments. It is unlikely they can be forcefully reintegrated into either country, and it would be unjust to make them do so.

Like much of the post-colonial world, the borders and states of Iraq and Syria were arbitrarily formed. This was done more for the convenience of the powers that previously controlled them, the British and French in this case, than for the good of the people who live there. There is no reason those current borders should remain if they are actually obstacles to peace and stability in the region.

The areas ISIS formerly controlled are populated mostly by Sunni who have been poorly treated by the governments of Iraq and Syria. This was one of the reasons for ISIS support from some in those regions. The central government of Iraq is dominated by the Shia majority which is closely aligned with Iran. There is no love lost between the two and for Baghdad to rule there now it would require an iron sandal on the necks of the populace. The same dynamic is in play with the Assad regime and its Sunni citizens.

So why do that? Lets stop trying to force groups that hate each other to coexist in states that have no legitimate rationale for their existing borders. ISIS effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria when it formed the Islamic State straddling it. We have an opportunity to take a fresh look at the entire region and come up with a better way for the people there to control their own destinies. Security Studies Group has just released a plan to do just this called Iraq and Syria after ISIS and Assad.

The Sunni regions are devastated by the horrors ISIS brought, and many of the tribal leaders who would normally run things there were slaughtered. An internationally sanctioned protectorate for those regions in Iraq and Syria would give them time to rebuild the civil society that was destroyed. The US could partner with the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide peacekeepers and some resources to rebuild. Then, after enough time has passed, the citizens of this region can vote on whether they want to rejoin Iraq and Syria or form their own state or states.

The Kurds present another reason why an eventual partition to allow self-determination in the region makes sense. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) runs a nation state in basically every way short of international recognition. They have scheduled a vote on independence from Iraq for September 25th. The United States must decide whether to support them, or turn our backs on the only real allies we have in the current mess. We should absolutely support them as they have supported us in the fight against ISIS.

The Assad regime must also be removed from power in Syria. Assads crimes are too many to count or tolerate and there can be no legitimate peace unless he goes. This will likely require a compromise where the Russians can effectively replace him to maintain their partnership and their warm water port in Tartus. All the same, the removal of Assad will be a powerful symbol of the international communitys refusal to accept nations that commit war crimes against their own people.

This is an audacious plan to let the people who live there remake the region, but can anyone say the current situation has been the slightest bit successful? If the United States says we want this and President Trump puts his deal-making skills to work, this path has a better chance to succeed than doubling down on failures of the past.

Jim Hanson is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.

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NC ISIS Supporter Plotted Mass Attack, Suspected of Killing Neighbor – CBN News

A North Carolina man who admitted to plotting to shoot hundreds of people on behalf of ISIS will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Justin Sullivan, 21, received the life sentence Tuesday in federal court. During his sentencing, Sullivan said he’s “not a bad person,” and “things just happened,” Fox 46 in Charlotte reported.

Sullivan pleaded guilty late last year to planning an attack on a concert or nightclub and record it to be shown on terrorist sites.

U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said Sullivan became radicalized in 2014 as a teenager after viewing terrorist beheadings and other online propaganda from the Islamic State group.

Court records show that he was an outspoken supporter of ISIS at home and destroyed his parents’ religious items.

Authorities say Sullivan confessed to interacting frequently online with a well-known ISIS recruiter in Syria, Junaid Hussain, who is now dead.

Rose said Sullivan agreed to record his proposed attack so it could be used as an online recruitment tool.

“They know this is a way to win the hearts and minds of American youth or those who may be disenfranchised in some way,” Rose told reporters after the sentencing hearing. “Certainly, the use of social media by foreign terrorist organizations, particularly ISIS, is one of the ways that they’re most effective.”

“Sullivan was actively planning the mass killing of innocent people with an attack designed to inflict maximum casualties and maximum pain in the name of ISIS, a sworn enemy of our nation,” Rose also said.

In addition, the U.S. attorney said Sullivan wanted “to create a new branch of the so-called Islamic State in the United States.”

The Department of Justice says the North Carolina man told an undercover agent that he wanted to commit “minor assassinations to get ready for the major attack.”

The DOJ believes Sullivan carried out at least one of the assassinations, according to Fox 46 Charlotte. He is accused of murdering his 74-year-old neighbor with a rifle from his father’s gun cabinet in December 2014, The Associated Press reports.

Court records show he took money from the neighbor to help finance his terror plot. Sullivan will be tried for murder and he could face the death penalty.

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Canadian sniper who set world record shooting ISIS fighter prevented oncoming attack, official says – Fox News

The Canadian sniper who set a world record by hitting an Islamic State fighter from 2.2 miles away prevented a potential ISIS attack with the gunshot, a Canadian Special Forces official said.

ISIS terrorists were preparing to attack an unsuspecting Iraqi military unit when the Canadian sniper shot the fighter which sent the rest of the terror group running for cover and prevented an oncoming attack, according toThe Canadian Press.

CANADIAN SNIPER SETS WORLD RECORD WITH 2.2-MILE PICKOFF OF ISIS FIGHTER

“This attack was massing unbeknownst to our partner forces, because it was happening very quickly in a very dynamic sort of environment,” Brigadier General Peter Dawe said. “And so our team was able to engage, and not only successfully that particular enemy fighter, but pre-empt a mass attack. So that’s a significant achievement.”

The sniper, from the countrys Joint Task Force 2, hit the ISIS terrorist at a world-record distance of 11,316 feet, beating out the previous record of 3,280 feet set by a British sniper.

Dawe wouldnt elaborate on the sniper shot, explaining that information going public could endanger the lives of Canadian soldiers in Iraq, according to the news outlet.

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"Poor and hungry": Ex-ISIS recruits on what drove them to join – CBS News

AYN ISSA, Syria — Eighty-one men and boys — all accused of fighting for ISIS in Syria and now reformed after serving time in prison, according to America’s Syrian allies — have been reunited with their families. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his army of terrorists enforced a version of Islam unrecognizable to most Muslims, marked by vicious acts of violence. CBS News But Ezadeen Khalaf, a former shepherd, said he joined ISIS not because he wanted to kill in the name of his religion, but out of desperation. “We were poor and hungry,” Khalaf said. “Either you join ISIS and earn a salary or you have nothing.” He and most of the others have now signed up to fight against ISIS. Thousands of other young Muslims joined ISIS for more complicated reasons. They came from Europe, rejecting the West and its values for extremism. Some apparently were so alienated from their communities that they returned home to carry out terror attacks. In a refugee camp in northern Syria, a group of Indonesian women told CBS News they were simply gullible, traveling 5,000 miles to the so-called Islamic State in 2015 because they believed ISIS propaganda. Play Video U.S.-backed fighters have surrounded the Syrian city of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital. Holly Williams reports from inside Syria, where … “Best place in the world and the people in there very happy, no poor, no sad,” one of the women said of what drew her. In reality, they said they were abused and their menfolk imprisoned by the extremists because they refused to fight. They ran away two weeks ago, and are too frightened of retribution from ISIS to show their faces “Not just nave, we are stupid. We deceived very easily,” another said. ISIS tried to ignite a war between Islam and the West, and to do so it preyed on anger, poverty and ignorance. 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS – Charlotte Observer

Charlotte Observer Waxhaw man accused of lying to FBI about plans to help ISIS Charlotte Observer A 29-year-old Waxhaw man is accused of lying to the FBI when he denied telling someone he planned to fly to Syria and help others travel there to support ISIS . Alexander Samuel Smith is charged with two counts of making a false statement to an agency … Charlotte area man accused of trying to fly ISIS supporter with airline buddy pass WSOC Charlotte NC man arrested on charges he lied to FBI about ISIS support WNCN NC Man Arrested For Lying To FBI About Ties To ISIS WFMY News 2 all 6 news articles »

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Iran: ISIS Leader ‘Baghdadi is Definitely Dead’ – Newsweek

An Iranian official said Thursday hecould confirm the death of the elusive leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but provided little details surrounding the claim. Ali Shirazi, a representative of the foreign branch of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary GuardCorps, known as the Quds Force, said he was sure Baghdadi was dead, but declined to elaborate on how or when the elusive cleric had been killed. The claim comes weeks after Russia announced it believed it had killed Baghdadi during an airstrike last month atwhat it called a meeting of hundreds of ISIS militants and officials outside of the jihadists’ de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria. It’s uncertain whether Shirazi’s claim Thursday was related to Russia’s. Previous rumors of Baghdadi’s death have proven to be false or mistaken on numerous occasions. Related: What happens without an ISIS leader? If Russia killed Baghdadi, Islamic State could collapse Daily Emails and Alerts- Get the best of Newsweek delivered to your inbox “Terrorist Baghdadi is definitely dead,” Shirazi told Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, which later retracted the quote, according to Reuters. Islamic State militant group (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes his first and only known public appearance at the Grand al-Nuri mosque in the center of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, July 5, 2014. Iran, which has actively fought ISIS abroad for years, said it confirmed Baghdadi’s death, weeks after Russia said it likely killed the cleric in an airstrike in Syria’s Raqqa. Social Media/Reuters TV Iran and Russia have partnered with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS in Syria and all three factions have made lightning advances nationwide against the jihadists. The U.S. is also heavily involved in the fight against ISIS and is sponsoring a majority-Kurd coalition of Arabs and ethnic minorities known as the Syrian Democratic Forces as they surround and storm Raqqa city. The U.S. has increasingly targeted forces supportive of Assad and has attacked Iran-backed forces in Syria’s southeastern Badiya region at least three times. Despite the U.S.’s efforts to curb Iranian influence in the country, pro-government forces have secured large parts of the country’s border with Iraq, where Iran also plays a major role in battling ISIS. In neighboring Iraq, Iranbacks majority-Shiite Muslim militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces. After a major offensive by the Iraqi military, Kurdish militants, the Popular Mobilization Forces and a U.S.-led coalition, only remnants of the group remain in the country, mostly in Iraq’s second city of Mosul. Iraqi government forces reclaimed Thursday the historic Grand al-Nuri mosque where Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014 and local military officials forecasted the upcoming demise of the group in the near future. “Their fictitious state has fallen,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool. spokesperson for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told state TV,according to Reuters.

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ISIS would own Baghdad without our help, Iran official says – CNN

The new US policy will ban all arrivals from Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days, if the new arrivals have no relationship with a person or entity in the United States. “At the time when Iraq was being overrun by Daesh, by ISIS, did the United States make the slightest move in defense of it? Or was it the Iranian nation that rendered aid to the Iraqi nation and Iraq government?” Larijani told CNN in an exclusive interview. “Had we not assisted them, Baghdad would have been occupied by ISIS. It is with the help of Iran that Daesh, ISIS, is on its last breath in Iraq (and Syria),” Larijani said. Larijani said “numerous Iranians” live in the United States, and called on the American administration to provide proof that any of them has been involved in terrorism. “I have spoken about this before, so many Iranians live in the United States, study in the United States, engage in business in the United States, which one of them have engaged in terrorism?” he asked. The Parliamentary speaker argued the ban was unlikely to work, because terrorists “seldom to never” enter a country under their own names or nationalities. “President Trump and American officials are aware of this. The terrorists must be defeated at the source. Where are their sources? Where are they? They are in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Iraq,” he said. Larijani questioned whether Saudi Arabia had the right to “dictate” conditions to another independent nation. “Is it logical, is it mature for one country to dictate to another and say you must do as I say? Well you must cease relations, for example, with Iran?” he said. “I do not believe that … the Saudis carry this sort of weight to say these sort of things.”

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Pentagon plan to defeat ISIS looks very much like Obama’s approach – Washington Post

The Pentagon is putting the final touches on a promised new counter-Islamic State strategy for Syria and Iraq, and it looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued, according to senior defense officials. The core of the strategy is to deny territory to the militants and ultimately defeat them, and to stay out of Syrias civil war pitting the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia against domestic opposition forces. The two fights in that country have come into increasingly close proximity in recent months, and there have been clashes. Military officials from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on down have emphasized in recent days that they are not looking for a fight with the regime or the Iranians. That has put them at odds with White House officials who have expressed concern about Iranian expansion across a new battlefield in Syrias southern desert. Critical of what they view as the Pentagons reluctance to prevent Iranian gains, these officials consider Irans increasing presence there a hindrance to the United States pursuit of the Islamic State, and an attempt by Tehran to consolidate postwar control. Rather than allowing the regime and Iranian militia forces to plant their flags in the desert, the U.S. military and its proxy forces, they say, should be planting their own. [After Raqqa, the Syrian battlefield will only get more complicated] The differing views have emerged in recent weeks as the military and the administration have contemplated the next steps in Syria, once the U.S.-led coalition completes its ongoing campaign to eject the Islamic State from Raqqa, its de facto Syrian capital. Even as the Raqqa offensive has gotten underway, regime and Iranian militia forces, having quelled the rebel uprising in much of Syrias heavily populated western regions, have headed east across the desert with Russian air support. Their goals are the isolated, government-held city of Deir al-Zour, long surrounded by the Islamic State, and the town of Bukamal, along the Iraqi border. The two are at opposite ends of Syrias southern Euphrates River Valley, an area the militants have long held. Much of their leadership has fled there from Raqqa, which lies farther north along the river. Mattis agreed with a reporter Tuesday who asked if the coalition was trying to compartmentalize the valley, effectively leaving the regime and Iran in control of areas they are able to conquer from the militants, rather than trying to prevent government and militia advances. Asked if he was worried about possible conflict with them as U.S. forces continue to pursue the Islamic State in the same area, Mattis said, Not if the Iranian militia doesnt attack us, no. The key, he said during a trip to Europe this week, is more precise deconfliction among commanders of various forces on the ground, and between the United States and Russia. Although the Russians claimed to have shut down lines of communication to protest the U.S. downing of a Syrian aircraft that came too close to American operations near Raqqa earlier this month, several U.S. officials said those contacts have grown more robust and are operating effectively. Its probably not going to look that neat, Mattis said of the lines being drawn. You know, itll be based on where does the river bend here and where is it which side of the river is a town on there. … So it may look a little more squiggly. He added: But as long as its worked out by the commanders and enough people know about it in sufficient times, there are ways that are proven that we can do this. In neighboring Iraq, coalition-supported Iraqi security forces are said to be close to victory in the long battle to retake the northwestern city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Once they do, defense officials said, at least some of them will move to the border area opposite Bukamal. President Trump, who criticized former president Barack Obamas strategy to defeat the Islamic State as weak, promised a new plan within 30 days of his inauguration and then turned it over to the military. Under congressional budget guidelines this year, lawmakers must review and approve the policy before funding for several aspects of it is released. Several defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the still-secret planning, said the strategy document is nearly ready to deliver to Capitol Hill. It is unclear whether Trump, or the Pentagon, will announce its outlines and goals. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trumps national security adviser, spoke bluntly Wednesday of the destructive nature of Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq. Iran is feeding this cycle of sectarian conflict to keep the Arab world perpetually weak, he said at a conference held by the Center for a New American Security. He described Tehran as a source of much of the suffering in Syria, and said that 80percent of the regimes effective fighters were Iranian proxies. But McMaster stopped well short of calling for American action to deny territory to Iran or the Syrian regime. We could do a lot better to pull back the curtain on Iranian actions, such as the hollowing out of Iraqi institutions or its support for Syrian barrel bombs that have devastated civilian populations and infrastructure, he said. We have to be very clear that the reason we are in Syria is to destroy the ISIS, McMaster said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. Outlining the administrations approach to Syria and Iraq, he said the key components were denying them a safe haven and support base, cutting off funding and discrediting the perverted ideology that they use to attract recruits to their cause. The starkest statement of the militarys disinterest in confronting the regime and the Iranians came Friday, when Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, said that if Assad forces want to fight ISIS in Bukamal and they have the capacity to do so, then that would be welcomed. We in the coalition are not in the land-grab business, Dillon said. We are in the killing-ISIS business. That is what we want to do, and if the Syrian regime wants to do that and theyre going to put forth a concerted effort and show they are doing just that in Bukamal or Deir al-Zour, or elsewhere, that means that we dont have to do that in those places. Frederic C. Hof, a fellow at the Atlantic Council who was the Obama administrations special adviser for Syria, called Dillons words an invitation to Iran and its client regime … to take over whatever parts of eastern Syria they can grab. The Trump administration correctly views Iranian domination of Syria … as contrary to American interests, Hof wrote in a report Monday. Yet the policy now advocated by the U.S. military, he wrote, will be good news indeed in Tehran and Damascus, to say nothing of Moscow. Thomas Gibbons-Neff, traveling with Defense Secretary Mattis, and Greg Jaffe in Washington contributed to this report.

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As Iraqi troops near, ISIS leaves death and destruction in Mosul – CNN

It’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius), nearly every building is smashed to pieces and there is a constant thud of explosions. But all that fades into the background as the stench of death comes closer and closer. “Look, there.” A guide from Iraq’s Counter Terror Force points to the body of an ISIS militant that lies where it fell. The jihadi is blackened and bloated from days in the scorching sun. There are several more rotting corpses scattered in the rubble. This is what is left of ISIS’s prize city in Iraq — festering dead, a few hundred yards of territory, and about 200 diehard militants awaiting a final standoff. Senior Iraqi commanders took CNN inside the Old City in the calm before their final storm against ISIS. ISIS blamed the United States for the mosque’s destruction. While Iraqi forces may soon condemn ISIS to territorial defeat, it will not be possible to wash the mosque of the stain ISIS put upon it when leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi used it as the location to declare the caliphate. Thousands have been killed in the fight to expel ISIS from Iraq, but little has been done to resolve the sectarian divisions that propelled the group’s rapid rise to power. As the battle to recapture Mosul nears its final days, this clash of ideology will be the lasting legacy of this war. The resilience of the residents of Mosul who have been liberated from ISIS is clear. Turn one corner away from the Old City, and normal life can be seen blooming between the pancaked buildings. Men gather at outdoor cafes where waiters grill over open barbecues and the stench of death is mercifully replaced by the aroma of cooking. Families line the streets. Even in damaged buildings, people sip tea and chat. War has reared its ugly head so often in Iraq’s recent history that the Muslawis, as the people of Mosul are known, have learned to adapt. “I think it will be over for ISIS,” Major Salam Hussein of the CTS tells us. “But there has been terrorism of many kinds. We fought Al Qaeda before. We fought Zarqawi before. These guys are different.” Dozens of displaced families arrive at checkpoints leading out of Mosul, but — today, at least — not one is allowed to cross. Fears remain that fighters may try to escape along with civilians. “My daughter is sick. Please, I want to take her to hospital,” a man begs the officer in charge. The soldier offers the distressed father water and rations but waves him away. More and more dare to edge closer to the soldiers, until one soldier fires warning shots into the air. The crowd moves back, briefly, then approaches again. And again, shots are fired by the soldiers. The routine goes on and on and is sure to repeat itself in the coming days. Even if liberation is coming, there is still danger for residents, especially in the area still held by ISIS. Civilians are ISIS’ last line of defense — likely to be corralled into lines of human shields as militants retreat, fight and perhaps try to escape. Iraqi forces may be planning the final assault, but peace is some distance away.

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Self-determination for post-ISIS areas of Iraq and Syria – why not give it a try? – Fox News

The end game is near for ISIS and its Caliphate in Iraq and Syria and President Assad of Syria continues to slaughter civilians. But what is the plan for ruling the areas they devastated? How about letting them have self-determination. The existing nation states of Iraq and Syria have failed and fragmented. The people in the regions ISIS once controlled are highly skilled at insurgency, and harbor tremendous dislike of their respective central governments. It is unlikely they can be forcefully reintegrated into either country, and it would be unjust to make them do so. Like much of the post-colonial world, the borders and states of Iraq and Syria were arbitrarily formed. This was done more for the convenience of the powers that previously controlled them, the British and French in this case, than for the good of the people who live there. There is no reason those current borders should remain if they are actually obstacles to peace and stability in the region. The areas ISIS formerly controlled are populated mostly by Sunni who have been poorly treated by the governments of Iraq and Syria. This was one of the reasons for ISIS support from some in those regions. The central government of Iraq is dominated by the Shia majority which is closely aligned with Iran. There is no love lost between the two and for Baghdad to rule there now it would require an iron sandal on the necks of the populace. The same dynamic is in play with the Assad regime and its Sunni citizens. So why do that? Lets stop trying to force groups that hate each other to coexist in states that have no legitimate rationale for their existing borders. ISIS effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria when it formed the Islamic State straddling it. We have an opportunity to take a fresh look at the entire region and come up with a better way for the people there to control their own destinies. Security Studies Group has just released a plan to do just this called Iraq and Syria after ISIS and Assad. The Sunni regions are devastated by the horrors ISIS brought, and many of the tribal leaders who would normally run things there were slaughtered. An internationally sanctioned protectorate for those regions in Iraq and Syria would give them time to rebuild the civil society that was destroyed. The US could partner with the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide peacekeepers and some resources to rebuild. Then, after enough time has passed, the citizens of this region can vote on whether they want to rejoin Iraq and Syria or form their own state or states. The Kurds present another reason why an eventual partition to allow self-determination in the region makes sense. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) runs a nation state in basically every way short of international recognition. They have scheduled a vote on independence from Iraq for September 25th. The United States must decide whether to support them, or turn our backs on the only real allies we have in the current mess. We should absolutely support them as they have supported us in the fight against ISIS. The Assad regime must also be removed from power in Syria. Assads crimes are too many to count or tolerate and there can be no legitimate peace unless he goes. This will likely require a compromise where the Russians can effectively replace him to maintain their partnership and their warm water port in Tartus. All the same, the removal of Assad will be a powerful symbol of the international communitys refusal to accept nations that commit war crimes against their own people. This is an audacious plan to let the people who live there remake the region, but can anyone say the current situation has been the slightest bit successful? If the United States says we want this and President Trump puts his deal-making skills to work, this path has a better chance to succeed than doubling down on failures of the past. Jim Hanson is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.

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NC ISIS Supporter Plotted Mass Attack, Suspected of Killing Neighbor – CBN News

A North Carolina man who admitted to plotting to shoot hundreds of people on behalf of ISIS will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Justin Sullivan, 21, received the life sentence Tuesday in federal court. During his sentencing, Sullivan said he’s “not a bad person,” and “things just happened,” Fox 46 in Charlotte reported. Sullivan pleaded guilty late last year to planning an attack on a concert or nightclub and record it to be shown on terrorist sites. U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said Sullivan became radicalized in 2014 as a teenager after viewing terrorist beheadings and other online propaganda from the Islamic State group. Court records show that he was an outspoken supporter of ISIS at home and destroyed his parents’ religious items. Authorities say Sullivan confessed to interacting frequently online with a well-known ISIS recruiter in Syria, Junaid Hussain, who is now dead. Rose said Sullivan agreed to record his proposed attack so it could be used as an online recruitment tool. “They know this is a way to win the hearts and minds of American youth or those who may be disenfranchised in some way,” Rose told reporters after the sentencing hearing. “Certainly, the use of social media by foreign terrorist organizations, particularly ISIS, is one of the ways that they’re most effective.” “Sullivan was actively planning the mass killing of innocent people with an attack designed to inflict maximum casualties and maximum pain in the name of ISIS, a sworn enemy of our nation,” Rose also said. In addition, the U.S. attorney said Sullivan wanted “to create a new branch of the so-called Islamic State in the United States.” The Department of Justice says the North Carolina man told an undercover agent that he wanted to commit “minor assassinations to get ready for the major attack.” The DOJ believes Sullivan carried out at least one of the assassinations, according to Fox 46 Charlotte. He is accused of murdering his 74-year-old neighbor with a rifle from his father’s gun cabinet in December 2014, The Associated Press reports. Court records show he took money from the neighbor to help finance his terror plot. Sullivan will be tried for murder and he could face the death penalty.

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Canadian sniper who set world record shooting ISIS fighter prevented oncoming attack, official says – Fox News

The Canadian sniper who set a world record by hitting an Islamic State fighter from 2.2 miles away prevented a potential ISIS attack with the gunshot, a Canadian Special Forces official said. ISIS terrorists were preparing to attack an unsuspecting Iraqi military unit when the Canadian sniper shot the fighter which sent the rest of the terror group running for cover and prevented an oncoming attack, according toThe Canadian Press. CANADIAN SNIPER SETS WORLD RECORD WITH 2.2-MILE PICKOFF OF ISIS FIGHTER “This attack was massing unbeknownst to our partner forces, because it was happening very quickly in a very dynamic sort of environment,” Brigadier General Peter Dawe said. “And so our team was able to engage, and not only successfully that particular enemy fighter, but pre-empt a mass attack. So that’s a significant achievement.” The sniper, from the countrys Joint Task Force 2, hit the ISIS terrorist at a world-record distance of 11,316 feet, beating out the previous record of 3,280 feet set by a British sniper. Dawe wouldnt elaborate on the sniper shot, explaining that information going public could endanger the lives of Canadian soldiers in Iraq, according to the news outlet.

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