Iraq – Islamic State militants shot down an Iraqi military helicopter, officials stated on the 13 Dec 14 killing the two pilots onboard and raising fresh concerns about the extremists' ability to attack aircraft amid ongoing US-led coalition air strikes. The attack happened late on the 12 Dec 14 in the Shiite holy city of Samarra, about 95 kilometres north of Baghdad. A senior defence ministry official said that militants used a shoulder-fired rocket launcher to shoot down the EC635 helicopter on the outskirts of the city. The militants shot down at least two other Iraqi military helicopters near the city of Beiji in Oct 14. Some fear the militants may have captured ground-to-air missiles capable of shooting down airplanes when they overran Iraqi and Syrian army bases this summer. 361 COMMENT: Concerns regarding the downing of coalition aircraft have been expressed before in previous 361 Comment’s on the 31 Jul 14 regarding the capture of coalition airmen/women and on the 15 Sep 14 T & S Report when explaining about captured US weapons by the IS and anti-aircraft man pads. COMMENT ENDS
Israel/Egypt – Egypt said it had thwarted an attempt by Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated Egyptian terrorists on the 12 Nov 14 to attack Israeli energy platforms in the Mediterranean Sea. The terrorists, members of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terror group which operates in the Sinai Peninsula, commandeered an Egyptian navy missile boat for the planned attack. Other Egyptian navy vessels gave chase and stopped the commandeered missile boat, killing eight aboard in a heavy exchange of fire. In addition to attacking Israeli gas platform, the terrorists planned to attack Israeli ships.
Lebanon – A Sunni militant commander in Syria who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group has threatened to "retaliate" against Lebanese Shiites and families of Lebanese soldiers over the arrest of his wife and two children in Lebanon, according to a new militant posting. The video statement by the Sunni militant, Abu Ali al-Shishani — whose real name is Anas Sharkas, according to Lebanese authorities — also said that mediation efforts for the release of more than 20 Lebanese soldiers held captive since Aug 14 by IS and al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria have stopped, until his family is freed. It was unclear from the statement, released late on the 4 Dec 14 what role al-Shishani has played so far in the mediation efforts, which are led by Qatar, a traditional Mideast mediator. The arrest of al-Shishani's family members was announced by authorities in Beirut early in the reporting period shortly after they announced they are holding a wife and child of the Islamic State group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iraqi officials have disputed that announcement, saying neither of al-Baghdadi's two wives has been detained. In his threat, al-Shishani says Shiite women and children, along with families of Lebanese soldiers will be "legitimate targets" for his militants. Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group has sent fighters to back President Bashar Assad's forces. In the video, al-Shishani, who is shown seated in front of a black flag of the Islamic State group, flanked by two masked gunmen, says one of his detained children is four and the other is still a baby. The authenticity of al-Shishani's video posting could not be independently verified but it appeared on websites commonly used by militants.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) – A woman suspected of stabbing an American teacher to death in an upscale Abu Dhabi mall had been arrested reports stated on the 4 Dec 14. The woman was wearing a burka when she allegedly stabbed 47-year-old mother-of-two Ibolya Ryan, who once lived in Colorado, in a mall restroom on Reem Island on the 1 Dec 14. An hour after the stabbing, the suspect then planted a home-made bomb outside the house of a Muslim Egyptian-American doctor, Sheikh Saif said. But the device, which was made of small gas cylinders, a lighter, glue and nails, was successfully dismantled after one of the man's sons found it. The woman targeted her victims based solely on their nationality and did not know either of them. It was thought that the arrested female said she 'aimed to create chaos, shake the security in the country and terrorize people in the UAE' - although investigations were still continuing into her exact motive.
Advice from the US embassy in Abu Dhabi is as follows:
- Avoid large crowds or gatherings of unknown origin or circumstances when travelling in public;
- Know where you are going and have a plan of what to do in the event you encounter demonstrations or violence;
- Identify safe areas (for example police stations, hospitals) in your area and how to get to them quickly;
- Tell co-workers or neighbours where you're going and when you intend to return; Minimize your profile while in public;
- Always carry a cell phone and make sure you have emergency numbers pre-programmed into your phone such as the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and U.S. Consulate General in Dubai;
- Be prepared to postpone or cancel activities for personal safety concerns.
361 COMMENT: Although we may never know the reasons for the attack on the American female and the Egyptian Doctor, there does appear to be an element of lone-wolf terrorism to her acts and goals. Who, what and why will remain a mystery as well as the fact that the acts were carried out in the UAE. The UAE government may well attempt to play down the attack stating the female was disturbed but to wait an hour and half to kill an American and to research and build an explosive device are clear indications of possible radicalisation for a specific reason. COMMENT ENDS
In later reports by Arabian open source material there were claims that the female was acting as a lone wolf but had no connection or affiliate to any terrorist group more the ideology. The suspect had been visiting some terrorist electronic websites, which are widespread on the Internet and which had enabled the detainee to acquire the terrorist ideology and to study bomb making. A spate of attacks on Westerners in neighbouring Saudi Arabia has raised concern there that the assaults may represent the start of a "lone wolf" campaign by jihadi militants. Unfortunately not a lot is known regarding these attacks. Supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have urged Muslims to attack Western expatriates in retaliation for air strike.
Yemen – On the 4 Dec 14 in open source material U.S. officials confirmed that an American journalist was being held hostage by Al Qaeda and that they tried and failed to rescue him just eight days ago in a daring raid on a cave complex in Yemen. Al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate released a video Thursday, threatening to kill photographer Luke Somers in three days unless the U.S. government gives into a range of demands. Mr. Somers, who was born in Britain but now holds American citizenship, was captured last year in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a.
'The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of hostages, including U.S. citizen Luke Somers, held in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,' Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said. 'Some hostages were rescued, but others - including Somers - were not present at the targeted location,' Kirby said in a statement.
White House spokesman Bernadette Meehan said the mission was coordinated with the Yemeni government and carried out by a group including both American special operations forces and Yemeni military. 'The overriding concern for Mr. Somers' safety and the safety of the U.S. forces who undertake these missions made it imperative that we do not disclose information related to Mr. Somers' captivity and the attempted rescue,' Meehan said, adding that the White House's 'thoughts remain with the Somers family. Meehan said the mission was being disclosed now because of the video released on the 4 Dec 14. The video was released this morning by the Al Malahem Media Center, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's propaganda arm, and discovered by the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors terrorist activity online. The broadcast features Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, who is a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Ansi warns President Obama that unless he accepts the terror group's demands, 'the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate'.
During the video, Ansi does not cover his face and is seen reading from a script in Arabic which accuses America of committing crimes against Muslims. Ansi remains vague about what specific demands need to be met by the U.S. government to ensure Somers' release, but says the Americans are 'aware' of the list. Unlike previous videos produced by ISIS and the Al Hayat Media Center, Mr Somers is not wearing an orange jump suit or is threatened with any form of weapon on screen. During the video, Mr Somers addresses the camera, saying: 'My name is Luke Somers. I'm 33 years old. I was born in England, but I carry American citizenship and have lived in America for most of my life. 'It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sana'a. Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger. 'So as I sit here now, I ask if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much.' The video was released eight days after American commandos carried out a raid on an AQAP camp, in an attempt to rescue Mr Somers. The raid took place on a cave complex in the remote Hadhramaut province where locals give terrorist cells safe haven. But by the time members of SEAL Team Six raided the AQAP camp on the 26 Nov 14 he had already been moved. However, the Special Forces recovered a group of eight hostages including six Yemenis, a Saudi Arabian and an Ethiopian. The three-minute video also featured Ansi speaking about American activity in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq as well as recent air strikes in Syria. It follows similar videos by ISIS, which has already killed two British hostages and three American hostages in videos released on social media.
Several suspected al-Qaeda militants, disguised as fully veiled women, have reportedly been shot dead by Yemeni security forces near the Saudi border on the 13 Dec 14. The militants were killed after one of them opened fire on a soldier who was checking their vehicle. The vehicle carrying the militants was stopped at a border crossing in the Hawdh area of northern Yemen, according to Yemeni security officials. The driver of the vehicle, who was also injured, is said to have confessed that he and his passengers were al-Qaeda members on a mission to attack Saudi border guards. However, other sources claim that the vehicle had been carrying five al-Qaeda suspects, all of whom were wearing the niqab, a veil used by Yemeni women to cover their faces.