Da’esh – ISIS are 'beginning to crack' under the weight of western airstrikes in Syria and Iraq - but could hit back with renewed Paris-style attacks in Europe, a top coalition spokesman has warned on the 22 Feb 16. The terror group are being 'squeezed' in their so-called caliphate due to counter-terror measures, which has seen them, lose around 40 per cent of their territory. They are also losing the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria as would-be jihadis realise 'this caliphate isn't all unicorns and rainbows'. The group is even plumbing new depths of depravity by recruiting child soldiers and hiding bombs in copies of the Koran in a desperate bid to keep hold of its territory. But Steve Warren, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition, warned that the increasingly desperate picture of the terror group means jihadists are more likely to carry out atrocities in Western Europe. Speaking on a trip to Britain, Colonel Warren, who is based in Baghdad, said: 'We believe that Da’esh is now beginning to lose. We see them in a defensive crouch. 'We are beginning to see the fraying around the edges of this outfit as they begin to crack underneath this pressure.' But he added: 'As we squeeze them and we begin to see them get chipped away at inside Iraq and Syria, we are going to see them look for other avenues. 'We have seen this in Libya, we have seen it in parts of North Africa and Afghanistan and we have seen this through high visibility terror attacks in places like Paris, possibly San Bernardino, Ankara, other places. 'One of the ways they can do that is through a high visibility attack outside of their so-called caliphate borders.' He said an attack like the one in Paris, when 130 people were killed in co-ordinated strikes across the city, is not a sign of strength, but 'exactly the opposite.' 'We view it as a sign that because of the pressure that has been placed on them, because they are beginning to stumble a little bit, they are trying to either distract or prove that they are not finished yet,' he said. ISIS have suffered a series of setbacks in recent months and has lost territory to Iraqi security forces. Colonel Warren said the failure was 'first and foremost' due to the 'presence of devastating Coalition air power' but was also due to losing territory to Iraqi security forces and the 'increasing cohesion' of the 65-nation coalition that has come together to defeat ISIS. He said that, as ISIS have started to lose their grip, the extremists have resorted to horrific and desperate measures to cling on to power, including booby trapping areas they have been forced out of. He said: 'These guys are disgusting, they have left bombs in refrigerators, they have put bombs in toilets, they have put bombs inside the holy Koran - we found that on several occasions in Ramadi.' As the tide of foreign fighters streaming into the country has stemmed, ISIS has also resorted to forcing children to take up arms, he warned. 'We have seen an increase in enforced conscription. We have seen an increase in the number of child soldiers, which is particularly concerning,' he added. Colonel Warren warned that any British jihadis thinking about travelling to Iraq or Syria will probably be killed - either by airstrikes or by ISIS itself. He claimed that message is beginning to get out, with a reduction of foreign fighters pouring into the region. He said: 'I would like to attribute that to success - success of our efforts to show that the caliphate is not all the unicorns and rainbows that Da’esh wants people to think it is. 'That word is starting to get out a little bit. If you move to the caliphate you are probably going to get killed by somebody.' But he warned the coalition is 'not going to kill our way out' of the crisis, and peace will only be achieved through diplomacy.
Da’esh/Libya – ISIS fighters have decapitated 12 members of staff in a Libyan city used as a hub by migrants heading for Europe. Extremists took over a security headquarters in the western city of Sabratha and killed the security officers before they were driven out of the area on the 24 Feb 16. Officials say the gunmen 'exploited a security vacuum' by deploying in the city centre as the military was occupied conducting raids elsewhere. One security official said that the militants used the headless bodies of the officers they killed to block the roads leading to the security headquarters - which they occupied for about three hours. The official said the total number of officers killed in the occupation and ensuing clashes reached 19. The incident highlighted the enduring presence and unpredictable striking power of the local ISIS militants in the strategic city which serves as a hub for migrants heading to Europe. Sabratha has become the latest Libyan power centre for the local ISIS affiliate. The extremist group has previously taken over the city of Darna, before being driven out, and still controls the central city of Sirte, Gadhafi's home town.
Da’esh – A group of intelligence experts have said it is 'only a matter of time' before terrorists launch 'drone attacks' on major sporting events in Europe and the US it was announced on the 24 Feb 16. Analysts at the Open Briefing think tank believe terrorists could use a swarm of drones, which are cheap and accessible, to attack crowds of people at an event like the Superbowl. They believe such an attack could be launched by sleeper cells or lone wolves who have been brainwashed by ISIS or Al Qaeda terrorists. 'ISIS is already using drones in Iraq and Syria for intelligence gathering, quite successfully for battlefield awareness,' the group's chief executive Chris Abbott said. 'They are in direct competition now with al Qaeda and are desperate to launch a mass casualty attack on Western targets.' He added that given ISIS's 'sophisticated' use of propaganda, the drones could even be fitted with cameras to film the attacks taking place. Abbott's team looked at the large number of small 'off the shelf' drones on the market and analysed their potential threat. He said there was no single counter measure that could prevent such attacks, and the defence starts with regulating who can own a drone. He added: 'Unfortunately if you have to resort to shooting them out of the sky in an urban environment or at a packed stadium the risk of collateral damage is very high.' Abbott said even a small drone, capable of carrying up to 10kg of explosives or a suicide vest, could be lethal if directed at a high profile target such as a politician. In 2013, a drone operated by the German Pirate Party landed near German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she addressed a supporters' rally in Dresden. And last April, a drone carrying radioactive sand from the Fukishima nuclear plant landed on top of the Japanese prime minister's offices in Tokyo. Last April a small drone carrying a sample of radioactive sand from the Fukishima nuclear plant landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister's offices in Tokyo. Abbott said the best chance of stopping an attack would be for intelligence agencies to pick up the movement of suspicious individuals as they bought the drones.
Da’esh/Syria – ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdad has reportedly appointed a female Saudi fighter to head up a new battalion in north-eastern Syria, according to an activist and reported on the 29 Feb 16. Nada al-Qahtani, who joined the group in 2013, used to lead the Khansa battalion in the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa, located in Syria. She will now lead a new branch of the all-female fighting unit in Hasakeh, the activist told an Arabic. Baghdadi – who has not been seen in public or photographed since 2014 – met with Qahtani twice in a meeting with other ISIS leaders. She is seen as having a strong character, the activist said. The female fighter “is now present in Hasakah… and she plays a prominent role on the level of communicating with foreign fighters,” he also said. Qahtani left to Syria in Dec. 2013 and pledged the oath of allegiance to Baghdadi. In one of her tweets, she revealed her intentions to become a suicide bomber, and called on women to encourage their husbands and sons to join ISIS. 361 COMMENT: It is possible that with all the casualties and desertions within the ranks of Da’esh that this is a solution to its dwindling forces. It is known that the organisation employs children so it’s feasible that the group will organise females into fighting units. COMMENT ENDS
Da’esh/Kurdistan – The Islamic State (IS) group has launched a chemical warfare in Iraq, targeting the Kurds in the north of the country it was reported on the 28 Feb 16. Several rockets believed to contain choking agent chlorine were fired at the Kurdish targets. It further said that Kurdish authorities are probing the suspected chemical attack by ISIS against fighters in north-western Iraq during the reporting period. Dozens of Kurdish fighters and civilians were treated for nausea and vomiting after homemade rockets were fired at them in the Sinjar, it said. The US-led coalition is helping with the investigation, the report quoted the Kurdistan Region Security Council as saying. Chlorine, a choking agent, was first used as a chemical weapon during the First World War. It was banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. The Kurds had earlier claimed that they have evidence that ISIS has used chlorine against them on a number of occasions. 361 COMMENT: Although there have been reports in the past from numerous open sources regarding Da’esh acquiring and having chemical weapons, this is the first time that a report has mentioned a delivery method. Unfortunately if they have managed to find a method of delivery that works you have to believe that they will be working on other methods of delivery for a chemical agent. COMMENT ENDS
Iran/Israel/Europe/United States – Israel's defence minister is accusing Iran of building an international terror network that includes "sleeper cells" that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives to be ready to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S. Moshe Yaalon says Iran aims to destabilize the Middle East and other parts of the world and is training, funding and arming "emissaries" to spread a revolution. He says Tehran is the anchor of a "dangerous axis" that includes Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sanaa and other cities in the region. Israel considers Iran the biggest threat to the region, citing its support for anti-Israel militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Yaalon said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart on the 24 Feb 16 that the war in Syria has resulted in "widespread infiltration by murderous, merciless terror organizations." 361 COMMENT: Israel coming out with a statement like this is difficult to judge. It is annoyed at other countries for not supporting Israel against Iran during talks regarding Iran’s nuclear ability. It also has a beef regarding the lifting of sanctions against Iran. On the other hand governments and security from the west and other nations know how as part of the deal in regards to the nuclear ability there was no mention of Iran stopping its support against state sponsored terrorism. In the above statement it is possible that Iran is still continuing its support of terrorist groups in various parts of the globe with Europe and the US as part of that strategy. Iran plays a fine line in this case as if any problems reoccur then Europe and the US would reintroduce sanctions against the Iranian regime. Israel may be reiterating the Iranian problem in a hope of gaining more support against Iran and its counter parts in Lebanon and the Palestinians. COMMENT ENDS
Iran – Iran briefly exceeded a limit set by a deal with major powers under which sanctions against it were lifted, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on the 26 Feb 16 but Tehran then came back within the permitted bounds. Under its July deal with the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, Iran is allowed to have 130 tons of heavy water, a moderator in reactors like the one it has disabled at Arak and a chemical it produces itself. “On 17 February, the agency verified that Iran’s stock of heavy water had reached 130.9 metric tons,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which polices the deal, said in a regular report on Iran's nuclear program sent to its member states. By Wednesday, however, 20 tons of heavy water had been shipped out of the country, bringing the stock back under the threshold of 130 tons, apparently in keeping with a soft limit under the terms of the July 14 deal, which is formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “All excess heavy water which is beyond Iran’s needs will be made available for export to the international market,” one of the annexes in the deal stipulates, adding: “Iran’s needs are estimated to be 130 metric tons.” In Washington, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity played down the incident. “Iran briefly exceeded its 130 metric ton heavy water stockpile limit under the JCPOA by less than one ton. The IAEA has now verified that Iran has shipped out 20 metric tons and is back well under this limit,” said the U.S. official. “Iran made no effort to hide anything it was doing from the IAEA. Because of the enhanced monitoring and verification provisions in the JCPOA, the IAEA immediately became aware of this issue and raised it with Iran, and Iran fixed it,” he said. “It is not surprising that there are challenges for Iran in ensuring it is meeting all of the many nuclear commitments in the early stages of implementation of the JCPOA, but again, this issue has been resolved,” the U.S. official added.
Iraq – Sunni Arab tribesmen battled militants of the ISIS group in their Fallujah stronghold for a second day (20 Feb 16) in a major blow to the jihadists in Iraq, officials said. Fallujah is one of two Iraqi cities still controlled by ISIS, but residents (said to number in the tens of thousands) vastly outnumber the estimated 300 to 400 jihadists inside it. ISIS has had plenty of time to assert its control over the civilian population and has carried out large numbers of arrests and public executions in the city. "Armed confrontations between the sons of the Fallujah tribes and the Da’esh organization are continuing," an army brigadier general said.
The clashes are taking place in Al-Jolan in northwest Fallujah and Nazal in the centre, the officer said, adding that the army was shelling ISIS positions on the outskirts. Tribal leader Sheikh Majeed al-Juraisi said that fighting was continuing in both the centre and north of Fallujah.In 2014 and 2015, ISIS executed dozens of members of the Albu Nimr tribe, which opposed the jihadists' seizure of most of Anbar province, including Fallujah. Officials said the clashes began on on the 19 Feb 16 as a fight between tribesmen and Al-Hisba, ISIS members charged with enforcing religious strictures in the city. Members of the Al-Juraisat, Al-Mahamda and Al-Halabsa tribes joined the fighting as it escalated.
Iraq/Da’esh – Iraqi security agencies are searching for “highly dangerous” radioactive material stolen last year it was reported on the 18 Feb 16. Experts are worried that the material could fall into the hands of ISIS. The Telegraph reports that the material disappeared from a U.S.-owned storage facility in Basra last Nov 15. An unnamed senior security official said: “We are afraid the radioactive element will fall into the hands of Da’esh (ISIS). “They could simply attach it to explosives to make a dirty bomb.” The paper cites a leaked document dated 30 Nov 15 — a letter addressed to the ministry’s Center for Prevention of Radiation, which describes “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity from a depot…in the Rafidhia area of Basra province.” An anonymous senior environment ministry official said the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192 “capsules,” a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer. The material is designated a Category 2 radioactive by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meaning it can be fatal to anyone in close proximity to it in a matter of days or even hours. ISIS has demonstrated its willingness to use nonconventional weapons. Last August, the jihadist group attacked Kurdish forces with mustard gas during a battle near Erbil, the capital of the Kurds’ autonomous region in Iraq, with thirty-five Kurdish soldiers taken ill. The material which disappeared from storage could be used to build a “dirty bomb,” which combines nuclear material with conventional explosives to contaminate an area with radiation. Iraqi security officials said that preliminary investigation indicated those who stole the material had knowledge how to find it and how to handle it. There were “no broken locks, no smashed doors and no evidence of forced entry,” he said. Two Basra provincial government officials said that on 25 November they were told to work with local hospitals to identify radiation victims. One said: “We instructed hospitals in Basra to be alert to any burn cases caused by radioactivity and inform security forces immediately.”
Iraqi authorities on the 21 Feb 16 recovered radioactive material that had gone missing in the country's south more than three months earlier, the environment ministry's spokesman said.
"We found the radioactive material that was lost by a Turkish... company," Amir Ali Hassoun reported. The material "still had the same properties and did not lead to the injury of anyone", Hassoun said. He said the environment ministry will keep the material — Iridium-192 — until it can be returned to its owner, which another official earlier said was Turkish firm SGS. The material was found near a wall at a petrol station in Zubair, a town near the southern port city of Basra, Hassoun said. Mahdi Raykan, the head of the Zubair security committee, confirmed that the material was found in the town, and said it was recovered following a tip that a strange item was at the site. Khajak Ferweer, the head of the Basra environment commission’s radiation department, said the material belonged to SGS which had a contract with US oil and gas services company Weatherford. It was Weatherford that reported it missing on the 15 Nov 15. Ferweer said that exposure to the missing material, which he said amounted to at most several grams of Iridium-192, can lead to burns in the short term and cancer over a longer period, but that it cannot be used to manufacture a weapon. A security official said the material was part of a device used to test welded portions of pipes for leaks or other weaknesses.
Iraq/Baghdad/Da’esh – The Iraqi capital was under partial emergency lockdown on the night of the 28 Feb 16 after Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants killed at least 36 people during a series of co-ordinated car bombs and gun attacks. Terrorist attacks hit eastern, western and southern districts of Baghdad, in one of the deadliest days that it has seen in months. In the western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a group of ISIL militants launched an all-out assault, driving three suicide bombers into a barracks and then spraying security forces with gunfire as they tried to respond. The militants, who holed themselves up in a grain silo and a cemetery, killed at least 17 people. While the terrorists were eventually repelled, at least 12 members of government and paramilitary security forces were killed and 35 injured, local police said. The commander of military operations in western Baghdad, Major General Saad Harbiya, later said that the situation was "under control" and a local curfew had been imposed. Hours after the Abu Ghraib attack, an open-air market in the Shia slum neighbourhood of Sadr was hit by a suicide bomber on a motorbike, whose accomplice then mounted a follow-up attack as a crowd gathered at the aftermath of the first blast. The bombs killed around 33 people and injured another 79. In a statement circulated online, ISIL said the attack had killed "hundreds of polytheist rejectionists", the name that ISIL's Sunni extremists use for Shia Muslims. Meanwhile, in the Sunni town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, three shoppers were killed and 10 injured in a bomb explosion. The violence will raise fears that ISIL is about to intensify its terror campaign in Baghdad as its forces begin to be squeezed militarily in the group's stronghold in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units, a coalition of mainly Iranian-backed Shia militias, were sent to Abu Ghraib to reinforce regular government forces in the area, said Jawad al-Tulaibawi, a local commander. Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia cleric who led part of the insurgency against the US occupation, also called on fighters loyal to him to be on alert to protect Baghdad.
Da’esh – ISIS has executed eight Dutch members of its group, whom it accused of trying to desert, activists said on the 29 Feb 16. “Daesh (ISIS) executed eight Dutch fighters on 26 Feb 16 in Maadan, Raqa province, after accusing them of attempting desertion and mutiny,” Abu Mohammad, a member of the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), said via Twitter. RBSS has been documenting since April 2014 ISIS’ abuses in Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northern Syria. Tension has boiled in Raqqa over the past month between 75 Dutch militants - among them fighters of Moroccan origin - and ISIS intelligence operatives from Iraq, RBSS said. Three other Dutch extremists were arrested by Iraqi ISIS members who accused them of wanting to flee and one of the detainees was beaten to death during the interrogation, according to RBSS. ISIS leaders in Raqqa sent a delegate to solve the dispute with the Dutch cell’s enraged members, but they murdered the intermediary in vengeance, the citizen journalist group added. The ISIS leadership in Iraq then ordered the arrest of all the members of the Dutch group, and imprisoned them in Tabaqa and Maadan in Syria. Eight have since been executed, RBSS said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, could not confirm the report.
However it said three European jihadists of North African origin were executed in what ISIS calls the Wilayet al-Furat - an area stretching across the Syrian-Iraqi frontier. According to the Dutch secret services, 200 people from the Netherlands including 50 women have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Kuwait/Qatar/Saudi Arabia – Kuwait and Qatar have become the latest Arab Gulf countries - following Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain - to call their citizens to leave Lebanon or avoid travelling there it was reported on the 24 Feb 16. The moves by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states came days after Riyadh halted $4bn in aid to Lebanese security forces in response to "hostile" positions linked to Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah. Doha's foreign ministry, in a statement on the 24 Feb 16 on the official Qatar News Agency, called on citizens in Lebanon to "leave for their own safety" and said no Qatari nationals should travel there. Earlier on the 24 Feb, the Kuwaiti embassy in Lebanon’s capital Beirut also said all Kuwaitis should leave "except in extreme circumstances", and advised those who stay to exercise caution and avoid unspecified places which are not safe. The statement, cited by the official KUNA news agency, gave no reason for the move. On the 23 Feb 16 the Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement calling on "all citizens not to travel to Lebanon, for their safety, and asking citizens residing in Lebanon or visiting not to stay unless extremely necessary". The statement, run by the official SPA news agency, urged citizens to contact the Saudi Embassy in Beirut. Announcing the aid halt on the 18 Feb 16 an official said the kingdom had noticed "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hezbollah on the state". The UAE on the 23 Feb 16 also banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon and reduced its diplomatic presence in Beirut. Bahrain also urged citizens against travelling to Lebanon, and called on Bahrainis there already to leave quickly, according to a statement posted to state news. On the 18 Feb 16, the United Arab Emirates announced "full support" of Saudi's review of its relations with Lebanon, blaming the country's "failure to condemn Iran's aggression" after Saudi Arabia's embassy was attacked in Tehran in Jan16. The embassy attack followed the execution of a renowned Shia leader in Saudi Arabia over "terrorism" charges. Lebanon's main political divide pits a Sunni-led coalition against another led by the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement. The political process in Lebanon, a country with deep sectarian divisions that has gone without a president for two years, is heavily influenced by Iran and Saudi Arabia. [Out of] the two main power players here - the two main government blocs - one of them is Sunni-dominated [and the other one] is dominated by Hezbollah, which of course is supported by Iran." "Lebanon is really at the forefront of the proxy war that's been going on for quite some time between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance." On the 24 Feb 16 Yemen's government accused Hezbollah of training Houthi forces, fighting alongside them and planning attacks in Saudi Arabia. Yemen's government and its Gulf partners have long accused Hezbollah's ally Iran of backing the Houthis and seeking to transform the group into a replica of the Lebanese militia to use as a proxy against its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Its latest assertion, in a statement carried by official media, is based on "many documents and physical evidence", found in military positions abandoned by the Houthis, which it said Hezbollah would not be able to deny. Both Iran and Hezbollah reject accusations they have provided military aid to the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia – Saudi forces participating in any US-led ground operation in Syria would focus on fighting the Da’esh terror group not the Damascus regime, the kingdom's foreign minister said on the 19 Feb 16. In an interview in Riyadh, Adel Al Jubeir also said separate Saudi-led military operations in Yemen would carry on until the country's government is fully restored to power and that the kingdom would not cut oil production despite falling prices.
Armed forces from 20 countries have begun manoeuvres in north-eastern Saudi Arabia that the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has described as one of the world's biggest military exercises. Troops from Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan are among those participating in the "Thunder of the North" exercise, which began on the 25 Feb 16 and involves ground, air and naval forces, SPA reported. Forces from the other five Gulf Arab states are also taking part in "one of the world's most important military exercises based on the number of forces participating and the area of territory used," the news agency added. It said a major goal of the exercise was to improve training in responding to the threat posed by "terrorist groups". Saudi Arabia has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria as part of a US-led coalition fighting the group. Last December, it also formed a new 35-member alliance to fight "terrorism" in Islamic countries. Since March last year, it has been leading a military campaign against Iran-backed rebels in its southern neighbour Yemen.
Syria – At least 46 people were killed in twin car bomb blasts that hit the Syrian city of Homs on the 21 Feb 16, a monitoring group reported with state media confirming the deadly attacks. At least 100 others were injured by the explosions in the city center’s Zahra. A bomb attack claimed by ISIS last month in Homs in the west of the country killed at least 24 people, the city’s governor said at the time, as government forces took back some ISIS-held villages in Aleppo province in the north. Sunday’s attacks also came a day after government advances against ISIS. There was no immediate claim from the group, however.
Yemen/Houthi Militias – A top military Yemeni official on the 29 Feb 16 said the Iran-backed Houthi militias and their ally’s forces have started recruiting “mercenaries,” coming mostly from African countries. Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Nasir al-Tahiri said the move by the Houthis and forces allied to the toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh was to buttress their weakening fronts at the capital Sanaa and the north-western governorate of Saada. Meanwhile, military sources said Saleh has ordered Republican Guards forces to withdraw from central al-Baydha, southwestern Ibb and Dhammar (west of al-Baydaha) to be consolidated in Sanaa as battles heat up. It is not the first time that an abroad force is helping with the militias in Yemen. Last week, the internationally recognized Yemeni government said it has evidence that the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah is backing the Houthi militia group. President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government has declared Aden the country’s provisional capital after the Houthis and their allies drove it out of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen since September 2014. The rebels controlled Aden for months before government loyalists pushed them out in July. Because of the unrest gripping Aden, Hadi himself and many senior officials in his government spend most of their time in Riyadh, which has led an anti-rebel coalition since March 26 last year.