The Islamic State released an audio statement, and an accompanying transcript in English, by main spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-Adnani through social media platforms on the 26 Jan 15, entitled 'Die in Your Rage'. The message is one of defiance, claiming that the Islamic State and the khilafah (caliphate) remain strong and continue to expand to new areas despite the United States-led coalition efforts against the group in both Iraq and Syria. Adnani started by saying that the Islamic State remains "a thorn in your eyes, a choking pain in your throats, a spear in your chest, and a rage burning in your hearts… in spite of the ongoing crusade, the gathering of those near and far against the Islamic State, and the war waged against it by those near and distant".
ISIS appears to have beheaded one of its Japanese hostages and is demanding the release of a convicted terrorist in Jordan to spare the other. A video file posted online on the 24 Jan 15 by a known ISIS supporter shows an image of one hostage, Kenji Goto, holding a photo of what appears to be the corpse of his fellow captive, Haruna Yukawa. The voice of a person claiming to be Goto speaks over the image, saying in English that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to blame for Yukawa's death. "You were given a deadline," he says, referring to ISIS' earlier demand that Japan pay $200 million by the 23 Jan 15 to save the lives of the two hostages. The voice then announces a new ultimatum: the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman facing the death penalty in Jordan for her role in a series of bombings in 2005 that killed dozens of people at hotels (Amman) in the Arab kingdom. Al-Bayan Radio, an ISIS-affiliated online station, reported the extremist group's killing of Yukawa and the prisoner swap demand for Goto in its newscast on the 25 Jan 15. It didn't identify Goto by name. "I would be surprised if the Jordanian government or Japan really pushed forward and released this female suicide bomber as ISIS has requested," said CNN global affairs analyst David Rohde, referring to al-Rishawi, whose explosives failed to go off in the hotel attack in which she participated. After ISIS released the first video of the hostages on the 20 Jan 15 Japan set up a crisis centre in Jordan and said it was trying to communicate with the militant group through third parties, such as governments in the region and tribal leaders. Japanese officials declined to explicitly rule out paying a ransom but said they wouldn't yield to terrorism. They stressed that an aid package Abe had pledged to countries affected by ISIS, cited by the militant group as the reason for the huge ransom demand, was only for humanitarian purposes.
Radical Lebanese Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir may soon become an “emir” for the ISIS’s branch in Lebanon, local newspaper Al-Joumhouria reported on the 28 Jan 15, citing security sources. The newspaper said ISIS militants had begun planning not just for security, but also military operations in Lebanon, according to the unnamed sources. In order to achieve this expansion, ISIS has requested support from northern Syria, the sources also told the newspaper. In recent years, Assir’s strong statements against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, including Lebanon’s Shiite group Hezbollah, placed him in the spotlight. Last year, a Lebanese military judge sought the death penalty for Assir after he was charged with the murder and attempted murder of soldiers and civilians during the clashes in the Lebanese southern city of Sidoun Jul 13. Assir remains at large.
A chemical weapons expert with the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Iraq has been killed in a coalition airstrike, the US military has said on the 30 Jan 15. Abu Malik's training provided IS with "expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability", a statement said. He served as a chemical weapons engineer under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, before joining al-Qaeda in Iraq and then IS, the US said. Mr Malik was killed in a raid near Mosul on the 24 Jan 15, according to the US. His death is expected to "degrade and disrupt" IS and weaken their ability to produce and use chemical weapons, the US military said. There have been frequent reports of IS using chlorine gas, but no evidence the group has accumulated a significant chemical weapons cache. Last year, Iraqi police officers suffered from dizziness and vomiting after clashing with jihadist fighters north of Baghdad. It was thought chlorine gas may have been to blame. Chlorine gas is classified as a "choking agent", burning the lungs when inhaled in large quantities. But it is nowhere near as dangerous as nerve gases. Islamic State controls large areas of Syria, where the government has been destroying its chemical weapons, but not all the stockpiles have been accounted for.
Islamic State/Japan – Prime Minister Abe said Japan would work with the international community to bring those responsible for Mr Goto's apparent murder to justice it was reported on the 1 Feb 15. Japan has reacted with anger and defiance to a video appearing to show the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto by an Islamic State militant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan "would not give in to terrorism" and that he would expand his support to countries fighting IS. IS has cited Japanese aid as a reason for the hostage taking. The video comes less than a week after the apparent beheading of another Japanese man, Haruna Yukawa. Mr Goto, 47, a respected journalist known for his work covering the suffering of civilians in war zones, went to Syria in October, reportedly to try to secure Mr Yukawa's release. The video, which has all the hallmarks of previous IS propaganda videos, has not been authenticated, but Japanese officials believe it is genuine. In the video, Mr Goto is seen kneeling in an orange jumpsuit. A militant speaking with an English accent who is believed to have appeared in previous videos and is known as "Jihadi John", addresses Mr Abe, accusing him of a "reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war". Mr Abe called the killing a "heinous act", adding that Japan would work with the international community to bring those responsible for Mr Goto's apparent murder to justice.
361 COMMENT: The two Japanese that were murdered during the reporting period were never going to be released. The IS knew this when they made their demand of $200 million as it was an extortionate demand, but could show that they maybe in dire need of the funds. The expectation of a prisoner swap with the Jordanian pilot has come to a standstill. This maybe fore several reasons. One is that the pilot is in such a poor health state that the IS need him to recover prior to be shown on video for the proof of life that is required by the Jordanian authorities. A second point is, is that he may already be dead as the videos cannot state the day and time of the murder. The videos are just pushed out on a media outlet and it is taken that the time of showing was the death of the victim. Another point is there may well be negotiations occurring on the quiet and the authorities do not wish to have the spotlight upon them by conducting negotiations. This, however, is unlikely as the IS will revel in the propaganda that the prisoner swap will bring. Although Sajida al-Rishawi may have connections it is odd that they have asked for her in return for a highly prised prisoner when in the past they requested ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ Aafia Siddiqui who has far more use than a failed suicide bomber. During the reporting period no-one knows what has happened to Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Jordon has claimed that it will fast track and execute all IS members that it is currently holding if the pilot has been killed. This may have brought the negotiations to a halt and given IS time to reflect. But if he has been murdered the Islamic State will have a greater problem as the Jordanians will step up their operations against the group. COMMENT ENDS.
Iraq/Canada – Canadian Special Forces have clashed with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group by exchanging gunfire in Iraq during the reporting period in the first confirmed ground battle between western troops and ISIL, a senior officer has reported on the 20 Jan 15. The Canadians came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near the front lines and shot back in what Canadian special forces commander, Brigadier General Michael Rouleau, described as self-defence, killing the ISIL fighters. Rouleau said the melee had taken place in the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq, where the armed group has overrun large areas. "My troops had completed a planning session with senior Iraqi leaders several kilometres behind the front lines," Rouleau explained during a briefing on the conflict. "When they moved forward to confirm the planning at the front lines in order to visualise what they had discussed over a map, they came under immediate and effective mortar and machine gun fire." The general said the Canadians used sniper fire to "neutralise both threats" and there were no Canadian injuries.
Israel – Israeli police shot a Palestinian man from the West Bank who stabbed at least 11 people in an attack on a bus in central Tel Aviv it was reported on the 21 Jan 15. The incident occurred on Maariv Bridge where the suspect attacked people both on and outside the bus. Police say they are treating the incident as a terrorist attack. The terrorist attempted to flee following the attack, and was lightly injured after being shot in the leg. Police officials said that the suspect was an illegal worker from Tulkarem, a town in the occupied West Bank. The 23-year-old said he had carried out the attack in response to Israel's military operations in Gaza last year, and tensions over access to religious sites in the old city of Jerusalem, police added. Israeli police say there has been a pattern established in recent months where individual Palestinians, without sophisticated weapons, have attacked civilians at random.
On the 24 Jan 15 it was reported that Israeli helicopter on the 18 Jan 15 fired missiles at a 3-car convoy near the village of Mazrat al-Amal on the outskirts of Quneitra. The convoy was travelling inside Syria, two or three miles from the Israeli border, carrying Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of former Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by Israel in Feb 08. In all, twelve people, six Hezbollah members and six Iranian military commanders and soldiers, were killed in the attack, in addition to Mughnyyeh. They include two Hezbollah officers; field commander Mohammad Issa, who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Issa,” and Ismail al-Ashhab and Abu Ali al-Tabtabai, also known as “Abu Ali Reza,” the Iranian Commander in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Israel has received a message from the Lebanese group Hezbollah that it was backing away from further violence it was reported on the 29 Jan 15. Yaalon said that Israel received the message through the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), saying that Hezbollah was not interested in further escalation. The Israeli soldiers were killed when Hezbollah fired five missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles. The attack appeared to be in retaliation for a January 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members and an Iranian general. The peacekeeper in southern Lebanon was killed as Israel responded with air strikes and artillery fire. 361 COMMENT: Lebanon or in particular the area that Hezbollah controls in the south can ill-afford an altercation with Israel. It has numerous fighters in Syria fighting to keep the Assad regime in place; there is also the threat of the Islamic State crossing the border and fighting them as well. They have already have an emir in place when and should that happen. If Hezbollah fight Israel they will have basically two fronts to fight which they are ill equipped for. Therefore restraint with Israel is the only thing they can do otherwise their home country will be invaded. This would be an ideal opportunity for the Islamic State to expand. COMMENT ENDS
Gaza Strip – According to Israeli security forces, dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank have defected to the Islamic State in recent months it was reported on the 23 Jan 15. Their main goal, according to sources, is to topple the Palestinian Authority and launch terror attacks on Israel. The glorification of terrorists and jihadists by the Palestinian Authority, and the ongoing anti-Israel incitement by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, is driving many Palestinians into the open arms of the Islamic State. Hamas and other Palestinian groups are continuing to deny the obvious, namely that the Islamic State terror group has managed to set up bases of power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians do not feel comfortable talking about the fact that Islamic State is working hard to recruit Palestinians to its ranks. The presence of Islamic State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is an embarrassing development for both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. For Hamas, the fact that Islamic State has long been operating in the Gaza Strip is something that it does not want the world to know about. Hamas cannot afford a situation where another Islamist terror group poses a challenge to its exclusive control over the Gaza Strip. Since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has successfully suppressed the emergence of rival forces, first and foremost the secular Fatah faction headed by Mahmoud Abbas.
Iraq – All foreign airlines flying to Baghdad have cancelled flights landing at the city's international airport after a FlyDubai passenger jet was shot at while approaching the Iraq capital it was reported on the 27 Jan 15. An aviation official and a security official said that two passengers were lightly injured when three or four bullets hit the body of the plane on the evening of the 26 Jan but they were unable to specify the source of the gunfire. Flydubai, Emirates, Sharjah's Air Arabia and Abu Dhabi's Etihad were the first to suspend flights following the incident, in line with a directive from the United Arab Emirates' civil aviation authority. According to security and aviation sources a gunman who was beyond the wall of the airport (in an area that is allegedly controlled by Iraqi security forces) appears to have used a sniper rifle and fired three of four shot that actually hit the plane as it was coming in to land. A spokesperson of FlyDubai said the damage to the aircraft fuselage was consistent with small arms fire. 361 COMMENT: Any attack on Baghdad international airport represents a big shift in the fight against ISIL. For air carriers, who have already rerouted flights, it is a big concern. The shooting down of MH 17 proved how difficult it was to attempt to recover wreckage and put an accident inquiry together. If the aircraft was destroyed and landed in an area controlled by the Islamic State, this would be a complete game change for the Iraqi and coalition forces. In the past the Americans have stated that an attack on the airfield would be a ‘red line’ and they would stop flying into Iraq. The footprint for the airfield will be huge. With risk assessments being conducted from different types of weapons from different areas out from the airfield taking into account aircraft height and landing/takeoff footprint patterns. Any weapon brought into these areas and fired at any aircraft as it took off and landed would herald a new tactic from the IS and deny the use of the airport/airfield. This incident will have to be investigated and whatever the outcome different counter measures brought rapidly into place to keep the airport/airfield open and deny the ground to the terrorist. COMMENT ENDS
Jordan – An official at the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army said border guards on the 18 Jan 15 foiled an attempt to smuggle a large number of arms into the Kingdom on board a "GMC vehicle". Those on board the vehicle, coming from the Syrian territories, were illegally crossing the border at high speed, but border guards thwarted the attempt and secured the vehicle, the official said. Further information about the weapons and their quantity will be released later as soon as they are fully examined and inspected, the source added, but at the time of publishing no other information has been released.
Lebanon – A report in the British Daily Telegraph on the 19 Jan 15 have claimed that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Syria, are massed close to the Lebanese border, are threatening to launch attacks across it. The group has been training new recruits and defectors from smaller rebel factions in Qalamoun, a militarily strategically important province in the south-west of Syria that borders Lebanon. Several of those smaller rebel groupings, some aligned with the more moderate "Free Syrian Army", have capitulated to the jihadists in recent months with many of their fighters joining ISIL. The growth of the group in the area means Sunni ISIL fighters in Syria are now at the edge of the Lebanese heartland of its Shia enemy Hizbollah, whose men are fighting alongside the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The black flag bearing the ISIL logo was clearly visible fluttering only a few hundred yards from the lone Lebanese army checkpoint marking the border between Arsal and Syria. This was once the principal route for smuggling money and satellite phones to Syrian activists opposed to Bashar al-Assad and later to moderate rebel fighters. They bought weapons and refuelled their trucks with black-market oil sold by smugglers who have set up shop in this no-man's land, far from the reach of any country's laws. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security office, has estimated that as many as “700” fighters from less extreme groups have “pledged allegiance” to ISIL, swelling its ranks to over 1000 men. While Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIL’s leader is not yet interested in seeking to takeover Lebanon, a source close to the jihadist group said, the group is plotting to target a string of Lebanese towns and villages on the country’s border that form a base of support for Hezbollah. The jihadists are now the dominant force in the mountains that form a no-man’s land, just miles from these villages, where - sleeping in Bedouin tents - the group is training its new recruits. To reach these areas, ISIL would have to first attack Lebanese army posts on the border - including a series of watchtowers partly funded by the British Government that were built in an initiative to shelter Lebanon from the Syrian war. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria, whilst very active in the area, has not condoned targeting the Lebanese military, preferring to keep its fight with Hezbollah, a non-state actor, separate from the Lebanese state. The differences have opened a dispute between the two groups. “Now there are two plans for attacking Hezbollah,” the Nusra source in Arsal said, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk to the media. “The first plan is to launch a full scale attack in Qalamoun in Syria. The second plan is to attack Hezbollah in its stronghold in Hermel and Bekaa inside Lebanon. Our emir, Sheikh Abu Malik disagrees with the second option." A wholesale attack on the Lebanese villages and on Lebanese military checkpoints would upset a longstanding, informal non-aggression pact between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Lebanese military and officials in Arsal. Many fighters in the Nusra Front are originally from the Qalamoun region. When the region was attacked in a joint military offensive by Hezbollah and the Syrian military last year, thousands of family members of the Nusra fighters fled across the border to Arsal. Whilst checkpoints around the town have prevented the families from leaving the area and travelling deeper into Lebanon, Lebanese officials have, for the moment, tolerated their living as refugees in Arsal. "Abu Malik fears that if ISIL attacks Lebanese military posts, there will be retaliation against our families here in Arsal," said the Nusra fighter. A Lebanese military source confirmed the informal pact the source explained that, by the same token, the Lebanese army is not making incursions inside Arsal, for fear that arrests of Nusra members in the area would spark retaliatory attacks, as occurred last year. In Aug 14 when the Lebanese Army arrested Imad Ahmad Jomaa, an Islamist Syrian rebel commander, Nusra showed the limits of its patience. It joined ISIL in retaliatory attacks against the army. Temporarily seizing control of Arsal, the groups kidnapped dozens of soldiers, 27 of whom are still being held by the groups. After the attacks last year, through extensive negotiations, Nusra reinforced its informal ceasefire with the Lebanese military. It had, its fighters said, also succeeded in delaying Isil's attacks inside Lebanon. As ISIL grows in numbers, Nusra is, by contrast, being crippled by a lack of funds from its backers. 361 COMMENT: See the report on Israel and the recent altercation between Lebanon and Israel dated 29 Jan 15. COMMENT ENDS
Yemen – The US embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa has been closed to the public because of security concerns it was reported on the 26 Jan 15. The state department said the embassy would be shut until further notice "out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others". Last week the Western-backed president and PM resigned after Shia Houthi rebels tightened their grip on Sanaa. President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi said he could not continue after the Houthis failed to honour a peace deal. Correspondents say that in the aftermath of President Hadi's resignation there is a sense that Yemen is drifting through a dangerously uncertain political moment. Consular operations will resume as soon as "our analysis indicates we are able to do so safely", the state department said. It said US citizens in the country "remain vulnerable to kidnappings and terrorist attacks", especially when travelling to work. Houthi militiamen are now one of Yemen's most powerful factions, in charge of the capital and other parts of the country