Bahrain – A woman has been killed and three children injured when a roadside bomb exploded south of Bahrain's capital, Manama, the interior ministry said in what it called a "terrorist" attack. The woman was reportedly driving on the opposite side of the highway near al-Eker village on the night of the 30 Jun 16 when the bomb detonated, causing shrapnel to hit her car. It was not immediately clear who the bomb targeted, and no one claimed responsibility for the attack. The police vowed that the "hands of justice would reach those responsible". Sporadic violence and bomb attacks largely aimed at Bahraini security forces have become the norm since mass, Shia-led pro-democracy protests were put down by the government in 2011. In Jul 15 two policemen in the Shia village of Sitra were killed in a blast that authorities said involved the use of explosives smuggled from Iran. Tehran denies interference in Bahrain but openly supports opposition groups seeking greater rights for the Shia majority. Tensions have increased in the Gulf island country in recent weeks after the closure of the main opposition party, Al-Wefaq, the detention of a leading rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, and the revoking of citizenship of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the country's top Shia religious figure.
Da’esh – As the Da’esh terror group sees city after city slip from its grasp, analysts warn of retaliatory terror attacks in the West and a potential boost for extremist rival Al Qaeda it was reported on the 25 Jun 16. Iraq forces have already set their sights on Mosul, Da’esh’s de facto capital in Iraq, even as they hunt down holdout extremists in Fallujah, which was declared liberated recently. The loss of Fallujah — two years after a military juggernaut that saw Da’esh sweep up territory and proclaim a “caliphate” — comes after months of defeats in Iraq and Syria. "If they lose their territory they will be weakened but they will be far from finished," said Matthew Henman, the head of IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. He said Da’esh was already engaged in damage control among supporters and preparing them for further defeats. "There has been a fairly noticeable shift in propaganda in the last four to six weeks in terms of preparing its supporters for a loss of territory," Henman said. He said Da’esh was hammering home the message that even if all their strongholds were lost "this doesn't mean we are going away and the caliphate has been defeated”. Henman said Da’esh was likely to send its foreign fighters back to their home countries in Europe and elsewhere "before the net closes... so that as territory falls retaliatory operations can be launched”. He added: "What that does is not only distract from the loss of territory in Iraq and Syria but highlights the group's ongoing ability to project its power despite that loss of territory." Recent attacks in Orlando and Paris by “lone wolf” Da’esh militants showed the group can keep its global reach alive with little effort, and was likely to step up calls for such attacks as it loses strength, he said. Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism expert with the US-based RAND think tank, said that if losses continue and Da’esh grows increasingly desperate to change the battlefield dynamic, it may launch a “dramatic all-out terrorist offensive [in the hope that] it will draw in a foreign military intervention”.
Going back underground?
The Pentagon said last month (May 16) — before the fall of Fallujah — that Da’esh has lost about 45 per cent of its territory in Iraq, and 16 to 20 per cent of land it seized in Syria. “It’s not just that they have lost territory, they have clearly lost people through casualties and desertions [and] they have had their finances squeezed,” Jenkins said. He said one of the group’s eventual options would be to return to its roots as an underground operation. Henman recalled that Da’esh predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq was “pretty militarily powerful” in the early 2010s even before it had any territory, carrying out several major bombings. “As and when territory is recaptured the group will recede into the background and it will wait,” he said. “Because unless the Iraqi government fundamentally changes its approach to the relationship it has with its Sunni population there is going to be lingering discontent and animosity that it can exploit,” he said. Iraq is plagued by a deep schism between its Sunni and Shiite populations — a 14th-century religious divide underlying conflict across the Middle East. The Shiite-dominated government that has ruled Iraq since replacing Saddam Hussein’s Sunni regime in 2003 faces an uphill battle mending ties with Sunnis sympathetic to extremist groups. Paris-based Middle East expert Jean-Pierre Filiu warned that in the absence of a viable political alternative for Sunni populations on the ground in both Syria and Iraq, “IS [Da’esh] will maintain its positions and could even win back some lost ground”.
Al Qaeda eyes own emirate
Once natural allies, Al Qaeda and Da’esh split in 2014 over strategic differences and have since become bloody rivals in the battle for global militant supremacy. And while Da’esh ponders its next steps, Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate Al Nusra Front could look to benefit from its losses and possible defections. “We have seen that among the rank-and-file fighters, loyalties have been fairly fluid, and there isn’t this huge ideological difference between the Islamic State [Da’esh] and Al Nusra,” said Jenkins. Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine last month that Al Qaeda, harbouring its own dreams of an “emirate”, was poised to act on its ambitions. He said top Al Qaeda leaders had been transferred into Syria to bolster Al Nusra’s leadership in recent years to lay the groundwork. “Internally, the Al Qaeda affiliate remains split on how fast to establish the emirate. In the end developments on the battlefield may play a role in determining the outcome of these debates,” Lister wrote. He warned that only “by empowering local groups opposed to [Al Qaeda’s] transnational jihadi agenda can we avoid gifting north-western Syria to Al Qaeda on a silver platter”.
Iran – Iran thwarted a number of bombing plots in the capital Tehran and other cities, the Intelligence Ministry said on the 20 Jun 16 in what it called a major plot by militants against the Islamic Republic. “In a criminal plot of the anti-Islamic terrorist takfiri groups, a series of bombings had been planned in several places of the country for the coming days ... the terrorists were arrested and some bombs and a huge amount of explosives were seized,” the ministry said in a statement on state news agency IRNA. Takfiri is a term for a hard-line Sunni who sees other Muslims as infidels, often as a justification for fighting them.
Iran/Bahrain – The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has issued a warning to Bahrain suggesting there could be armed resistance across the country after Manama stripped the kingdom's top Shia cleric of his citizenship it was reported on the 21 Jun 16. The Bahrain News Agency quoted the interior ministry on the 20 Jun 16 as saying that Sheikh Isa Qassim had played a key role in creating an "extremist" sectarian atmosphere and working to divide Bahraini society. The move against Qassim comes less than a week after a court suspended the activities of the country's leading Shia opposition group, Al-Wefaq, on charges of "terrorism, extremism and violence" in the kingdom, and having ties to a foreign power - pointing a finger at Iran, a vocal critic of the Sunni-led monarchy. General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Revoutionary Guard's elite Quds Force, warned Bahrain on the 20 Jun 16 its move against Qassim could "set the region on fire". "Al-Khalifa [the rulers of Bahrain] will definitely pay the price for that and their bloodthirsty regime will be toppled," Suleimani said in a statement published by Iran's state-run Fars news agency. After the decision was announced, several hundred Qassim supporters gathered outside his home in the mostly Shia village of Diraz west of the capital, carrying posters and chanting religious slogans. Bahraini media reported last week that authorities had been investigating a bank account in Qassim's name with nearly $10m to determine where the funds were coming from and how they were being spent. The exiled opposition group the Bahrian Institute for Rights and Democracy released a statement warning the state's move against Qassim would escalate domestic tensions and could lead to violence. "We are deeply concerned that these actions will escalate tensions on the streets and may even lead to violence, as targeting the country’s leading Shia cleric is considered ... a red line for many Bahrainis," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the group's director of advocacy. The US State Department said it was "alarmed" by the move, and that it was "unaware of any credible evidence" to support the removal of the spiritual leader's citizenship. Qassim, who had served as a member of parliament in the 1970s, could face deportation, though dozens of other Bahrainis stripped of their nationality have remained in the country without the benefits of citizenship, such as access to free health care and pensions. Their passports are revoked and they are considered stateless. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, says at least 250 people have been stripped of their Bahraini citizenship in recent years due to alleged disloyalty. Rights groups say at least five were deported in recent months after having their citizenship stripped. Bahrain has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising backed by majority Shia Muslims and others demanding reforms and a greater rights from the Sunni-controlled kingdom. The government crushed the protests with the help of its Sunni Arab Gulf allies suspicious of Iran and opposed to a growing Shia influence across the region.
Iraq/Da’esh/Fallujah – The Iraqi army has raised its flag over Fallujah’s government headquarters after making massive gains in the city, amid reports ISIL fighters have begun abandoning their posts en masse it was reported on the 17 Jun 16. "The liberation of the government compound, which is the main landmark in the city, symbolises the restoration of the state's authority", said Raed Shaker Jawdat, Iraq's federal police chief. The compound also houses the city’s police headquarters, the mayor’s office and courthouses. While Fallujah is far from being fully recaptured, Friday’s (17 Jun 16) advance mark a significant step in the nearly four-week-old offensive to retake the city. It is the closest the army, backed by elite counterterrorism forces, has got to the centre having skirted around the outskirts for weeks as it fended off suicide attacks and mines laid by the militants. After the recent push, the army is now estimated to be in control of 50 per cent of the city, mostly southern and eastern districts. "This operation was done with little resistance from Daesh," Gen Lt Abdulwahab Saadi said. "There is a mass flight of Da’esh to the west that explains this lack of resistance. There are only pockets of them left and we are hunting them down," he said, adding that most of ISIL’s top leaders had already left. One resident, a 69-year-old man from the city’s central al-Joulan district, said he managed to flee to safety after Da’esh appeared to abandon their stations on the 16 Jun 16. “In the early morning we noticed the sudden disappearance of Da’esh fighters from the streets. Neighbours saw them evacuate the checkpoints, driving their vehicles loaded with food and fuel,” he told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) without giving his name. “The news started spreading quickly and we prepared to leave from as early as 5am.” It comes after reports that as many as 500 jihadists had defected and had tried to flee the city posing as civilians by shaving off their beards. With only 1,200-odd ISIL fighters estimated at the start of the offensive, there are thought to be only a few hundred holed up and still fighting. The NRC, which runs camps for the displaced a few miles outside Fallujah, said they had seen a dramatic surge in the numbers of people managing to escape in the past few days. With some 30,000 seeking refugee already, their camp in Amariyat Al Fallujah has been overwhelmed and many have been forced to sleep in the open air. Footage emerged on Friday of hundreds of civilians swimming across the Euphrates river to escape. Residents have been suffering increasingly dire conditions, used as human shields by the remaining Da’esh fighters and deprived of food and clean water for months. Men of military age who manage to flee the Sunni-majority city are screened and questioned for links to Da’esh. Many have spoken of cases of torture and killing at the hands of Shia militia groups. Fallujah - the first city to fall to Islamic State in early 2014 - had long been a bastion of Sunni extremism and became one of the group’s most emblematic strongholds.
Iraq/Da’esh/Mosul – Iraqi forces opened a second front on the 18 Jun 16 in preparation for an assault on the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, a day after government troops declared victory over the militants in Fallujah. Elite counter-terrorism forces and two army divisions, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, advanced from a northern refinery town towards an airfield seen as key for a move to retake Mosul, security officials said. Mosul is Iraq’s largest northern city and ISIS’ de facto capital in the country. Government troops cleared two villages and pressed around 20 kilometers (12 miles) along a desert route west of Baiji, the first advance past the town since its recapture in October, the security officials said. Defence Minister Khaled al-Obaidi said the assault marked the launch of operations to push ISIS out of Qayara, about 115 km (70 miles) north of Baiji, where an airfield could serve as the staging ground for a future offensive on Mosul, a further 60 km north. Army troops on a separate front pushing west from Makhmour for the past three months have made only halting progress on the opposite side of the Tigris river. “The launch of operations to liberate Qayara will not give the terrorists a chance to catch their breath,” Obaidi said on Twitter alongside a picture of Humvee military trucks snaking down a desert road. Iraqi forces entered the centre of Fallujah, an hour’s drive west of Baghdad, on the morning of the 17 Jun 16 after a four-week operation that sent its tens of thousands of residents fleeing to overwhelmed displacement camps nearby. Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi had declared victory over the militants by evening, but police sources said on the 18 Jun 16 that government troops had not yet entered seven northern districts held by ISIS and were still clearing southern areas. Iraqi troops engaged the insurgents on Baghdad Street, the main east-west route through Fallujah, firing rockets at their positions and taking sniper fire and mortar rounds. Counter-terrorism forces took control of Fallujah hospital, a nest for the militants who set fire to large parts of it before fleeing, and were clearing the eastern al-Dhubat neighbourhood, a military statement said. Live footage broadcast on state television from outside the hospital showed smoke rising from the hospital and elite commandos celebrating with an Iraqi flag. Fallujah, an historic bastion of the Sunni insurgency against US forces that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in 2003, and the Shi'ite-led governments that followed, was seen as a launch pad for recent ISIS bombings in Baghdad. Militants tried to slow the troops’ advance north of Baiji with mortar attacks that killed two policemen and wounded three soldiers, said army Col. Mohammed Abdulla from Salahuddin operations command. Two suicide car bombs were taken out by air strikes before reaching their targets, though dusty weather was making it difficult to target militants and slowing the advance, military sources said. A spokesman for the US-led coalition said Apache attack helicopters had conducted operations in support of Iraqi forces in the Tigris river valley, where the advance is situated. The government forces were advancing along a desert path west of the main highway linking Baghdad to Mosul which is lined with mines and runs through villages that have a heavy ISIS presence, said Col. Mohammed al-Assadi, an Iraqi army spokesman. Senior officers in the counter-terrorism service have said the forces would not enter ISIS strongholds in the area, such as Shirqat and Hawija, to avoid getting tied down in secondary battles. The desert route also leads the troops further away from the Makhoul Mountains east of Baiji, from which ISIS has been launching mortars in and around the town for months. Prime Minister Abadi has said Iraqi forces will retake Mosul this year but, in private, many question whether the army, which partially collapsed when ISIS overran a third of the country in June 2014, will be ready in time. Retaking Qayara and a nearby refinery with a production capacity of 16,000 barrels per day could also pinch ISIS' finances.
Iraq/Fallujah/Da’esh – The Iraqi army says it has seized the last strongholds of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in the city of Fallujah on the 26 Jun 16. The head of the counterterrorism forces in the operation, Lt Gen Abdul-Wahad al-Saadi, said his troops had entered the north-western Golan neighbourhood, the last area still under IS control. The city was "fully liberated", he said. IS seized control of the city in Jan 14. Earlier in Jun 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the "liberation" of the city after troops raised the Iraqi flag over the city council building. At least 1,800 militants were killed in the operation to retake Falluja, Lt Gen al-Saadi said. Tens of thousands of people fled the fighting and some - including elderly people, women and children - remain camped out in the open in the summer heat, the Norwegian Refugee Council said. Mr Abadi launched the military operation to retake the city in May 16. Fallujah, a major city in the western Anbar Province, was the first Iraqi city to fall to IS. In recent weeks, the militants have lost control over several territories in both countries. Mr al-Abadi has said the city of Mosul is the next battle for Iraqi forces.
Iraq – At least 12 people were killed and 32 wounded when a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives attacked a mosque west of the capital Baghdad, officials have said on the 28 Jun 16. The blast struck a Sunni mosque in Abu Ghraib, roughly halfway between Baghdad and the city of Fallujah, as worshipers gathered after midnight to pray, police and medics said. No group had yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The attack was the first in or around Baghdad since the Iraqi government declared victory on the 26 Jun 16 over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the city of Fallujah, further west.
Iraq/United States/Mosul – The Pentagon on the 27 Jun 16 welcomed the recapture of the Iraqi city of Fallujah from ISIS, but warned of widespread booby traps and pockets of remaining extremist resistance. Iraqi forces seized ISIS’s last positions in Fallujah on the 26 Jun 16 establishing full control over one of the extremists’ most emblematic bastions after a month-long operation. Iraqi forces will likely continue to meet pockets of resistance and have much dangerous work ahead as they clear homemade bombs from the city, officials cautioned. “Not just vehicle-borne IEDs but these house-borne IEDs which are particularly nasty to try to clear,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis. Carter added it was important the Iraqi government investigates alleged human rights abuses carried out by security forces against some civilians as they tried to flee the city. The US-led anti-ISIS coalition’s focus now shifts north, where the ultimate goal is to recapture Mosul, the extremists’ main Iraq stronghold. The coalition is helping Iraqi troops move north from Baiji towards the town of Qayyarah, which lies around 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Mosul on the banks of the Tigris river. Abadi had already declared victory in Fallujah on the 17 Jun 16, 17 after ISIS defences collapsed, with Iraqi forces facing only limited resistance in subsequent clearing operations. The fighting to get into Fallujah was initially fierce, particularly on the southern side, and Iraqi forces were supported by more than 100 US-led coalition air strikes. “To some extent once (Iraqi troops) got through the hard candy shell and into the chewy centre, things went much more quickly,” Davis said. “It was really a heavy fight along the frontline but once they penetrated in it seemed to go very quickly.” Davis said the recapture of Fallujah would “significantly” help the security situation in Baghdad, where ISIS fighters thought to have come from Fallujah have carried out a string of bomb attacks in recent weeks. “The loss of Fallujah will further deny ISIS access to a province that is critically important to its overall goals,” he said.
Jordon – At least six Jordanian soldiers were killed after a car bomb exploded near the country's border with Syria, Jordanian officials said. The attack early on the 21 Jun 16 in the al-Rukban district opposite a Syrian refugee camp, which houses about 70,000 people, was part of a coordinated attack involving multiple vehicles. Officials said that bombs exploded in the buffer zone between the Jordanian border and the camp, in the desolate desert area. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. "Six soldiers have been martyred and 14 others were injured in the terrorist attack," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that it was a "preliminary toll". Jordan's state TV described the incident as a "cowardly terrorist attack". The army said in a brief statement that "several of the attacking vehicles were destroyed". The attack came two weeks after five Jordanian intelligence agents were killed when a gunman stormed the General Intelligence Directorate office in Ain el-Basha near Palestinian refugee camp of al Baqa'a. No information on the motives or affiliation of the attacker has been released by the Jordanian authorities. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant controls large areas in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, and Jordan has fortified border defences to prevent attacks and infiltration attempts. Jordan has also widened a crackdown on ISIL sympathisers at home, jailing hundreds in the past two years for promoting the group's ideas on social media. The kingdom is a member of the US-led international military coalition against ISIL.
Follow-On Report – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group has claimed responsibility for a car bomb suicide attack on the 21 Jun 16 on the Jordanian border with Syria it was reported on the 27 Jun 16. ISIL's news agency released a statement on the 27 Jun 16 claiming to have carried out what it described as a suicide attack targeting the "American Jordanian al-Rukban military base". The group also posted a video showing a car speeding through flat desert towards an army post, followed by an explosion near the site. Jordanian officials said that the attack involved multiple vehicles.
Jordon – A Jordanian court on the 26 Jun 16 charged 21 people with carrying out "terrorist acts" after their arrest in an operation against jihadists in the country's north in Mar 16, a prosecutor said. The State Security Court accused them of committing "terrorist acts that led to deaths", making explosives and possessing weapons, the official Petra news agency quoted the court's chief prosecutor as saying. The agency did not say when their trial would begin. In Mar 16 Jordan announced it had foiled a plot by the ISIS militant group to carry out attacks in the kingdom in an operation in the city of Irbid. ISIS had being planning to target "civilian and military sites", the authorities said, adding seven militants were killed and around 20 arrested in the operation.
Kurds/Iran – Kurdish rebels on the 17 Jun 16 clashed with Iran's Revolutionary Guards for a second consecutive day in a border area between Iraq and Iran, Kurdish officials and Iranian state media said. The fighting took place in a number of Kurdish-dominated towns, leaving at least six Iranian soldiers dead. The number of causalities on the Kurdish side has not been confirmed yet. One of the dead among Iranian forces was Samad Boostani, a deputy commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in the city of Shno, a Kurdish official told VOA. Kurds in Iran have long desired more autonomy from Tehran's firm grip, and they have found assistance in the Kurdish forces in Iraq. Deadly confrontations between the two sides have been rare. But earlier this year, Kurdish rebels announced a military campaign against Iranian forces. Kurdish fighters, affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), say their goal from this campaign is to force Iran to make political concessions. "We are not proponents of military option, but the Iranian regime is forcing us to go in that way," Rostam Jahangiri, the military head of KDPI, told VOA from his base in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The majority of Iranian Kurdish fighters have been stationed in northern Iraq for years, but recently some of them have managed to cross the border into Iran. Ethnic Kurds make up roughly 9 percent of Iran's total population, living primarily in the western and north-western provinces of the country. Iranian officials say that they're fighting "terrorists" who intend to destabilize the country. The Iranian army "let them infiltrate a mile into Iranian territories to trap them and then killed scores of them," said a journalist of Sepah News, a state-run Iranian news agency. He spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity. The reporter said that seven Iranian soldiers were killed in the clashes and 11 Kurdish rebels were reported dead. Kurdish officials have not confirmed their causalities. Emboldened by Kurdish advances in Syria and Iraq, Iranian Kurdish groups say it is time for them to push Tehran to acknowledge their ethnic rights. "Our goal is start to a popular movement that is a combination of political activism and military campaign," said Jahangiri of the KDPI.
Kurds/Iran – Iranian security forces have clashed with Kurdish separatists who infiltrated a north-western village, killing five of them, according to the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard on the 25 Jun 16. The Guard’s website said five “terrorists,” including two “leaders,” were killed in the fighting in the West Azerbaijan province, near the Iraqi border, and that a “chase operation to destroy other terrorists is underway.” It said no Iranian forces were injured in the clashes, and that they confiscated large amounts of weapons and ammunition. The Kurdish group could not immediately be reached for comment. The Guard clashed with Kurdish insurgents in West Azerbaijan earlier this month. The Guard said it killed 12 insurgents while three of its members died. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan said the Kurds killed over a dozen Guard members, including a colonel. Iran faces threats from several militant groups, ranging from Sunni Arabs in its southern, oil-rich region, Kurds in its northwest and Baluch separatists on its eastern border with Pakistan. Attacks are rarely publicized in Iran, but last week authorities announced that they had broken up one of the “biggest terrorist plots” ever on Iranian soil by Sunni extremists planning bombings in Tehran and elsewhere. Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi was later quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency as saying that 10 suspects had been arrested in connection to the plot, which was to involve 50 bombings in the capital. A Sunni Arab group claimed an attack on an oil pipeline in southern Iran last week, while Iranian forces battled the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl in the southeast, according to Stratfor, a private intelligence firm based in Austin, Texas.
Kurds/Syria – A car bomb killed at least 10 people on the 29 Jun 16 in a Syrian town near the Turkish border held by US-backed Kurdish-led forces, a monitoring group said. Another nine people were injured in the attack in Tal Abyad, which was captured from the ISIS by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allied Arab groups in Jun 15 the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The alliance was formalised in Oct 15 into the Syrian Democratic Forces, which then seized swathes of northern and north-eastern Syria from ISIS with US support. An SDF official said the car bomb was detonated outside offices of the Kurdish autonomous administration on the town’s main street. He said nine people were killed. The Kurds and their allies have now captured most of the Turkish border areas that had been under ISIS control, depriving the militants of access routes for foreign fighters and funds. The SDF is currently fighting the jihadists in the town of Manbij, across the Euphrates River to the west, threatening what was a key staging post on one of their few remaining entry routes.
Lebanon – At least five people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in suicide bombing attacks in north-eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, officials and a witness have said on the 27 Jun 16. Four suicide bombers blew themselves up early on the 27 Jun 16 in the village of Qaa in Bekaa valley, the state-run Lebanese News Agency reported. A villager said that a local became suspicious of the group of men passing through Qaa after confronting them near his house. "There was a fight and one of the men detonated a bomb." "There was a series of explosions afterwards." Qaa is a predominantly Christian village, located just a few kilometres off a border checkpoint. The Lebanese Red Cross confirmed the death toll, adding that around 15 people were injured, four of them in serious condition. Earlier on the 27 Jun Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV had said six people were killed in the attack and 19 people injured. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but Al-Manar blamed it on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "ISIL has been positioned in the mountains above Qaa for the last several years and the Lebanese army as well as Hezbollah have been fighting ISIL [in Syria]," a source said. She added that if ISIL's involvement was confirmed, it would mark the first time the armed group would have targeted a Christian village in Lebanon. "Previously ISIL has focused on Hezbollah targets and the Lebanese military, so the big question to be asked right now - if ISIL is involved - is whether this marks a new approach; will ISIL be targeting more than just Hezbollah and the Lebanese military inside Lebanon? "Either way, it is sure that it will raise security concerns here in the country." 361 COMMENT: The chances are this was Da’esh. As their so called Caliphate is reduced in size they will want to seek out soft targets to attack. This part of Lebanon had no dealings against Da’esh at all but because they are Christian and soft they were vulnerable to an attack. Da’esh on the other hand can serve propaganda stating that it had attacked the Lebanese in their home country in an attempt to stop the flow of deserters and in the hope that more recruits will join the ranks of what will be the defeated. COMMENT ENDS
Lebanon/Da’esh – Lebanon’s army said on the 30 Jun 16 it had foiled planned terrorist attacks by ISIS on a tourist site and a crowded area, days after suicide bombers killed five people in a Christian village. Five people involved in the two thwarted attacks, including the mastermind, were arrested on the 30 Jun 16 an army statement quoted by the National News Agency said. “Those arrested confessed to having carried out terrorist acts against the army previously. Investigations are continuing,” the army said. It gave no further details. Lebanese security services have been on heightened alert for in recent weeks. ISIS had urged its followers to launch attacks on “non-believers” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began in early June. Prime Minister Tammam Salam said he feared “a new wave of terrorist operations”.
Syria/Russia – Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to discuss "military cooperation" in Syria's conflict, a bone of contention between Moscow and Washington it was reported on the 19 Jun 16. Shoigu was sent by President Vladimir Putin for the unannounced meeting with Moscow's long-time ally Assad on the 18 Jun 16 the Syrian state news agency SANA said. "The talks focused on military cooperation between the two countries and joint action to fight against terrorist organisations on Syrian soil," it said. In Moscow, the defence ministry said in a statement that the discussions centred on "current questions of military and technical cooperation... as well as certain aspects of the cooperation in the fight against terrorist groups operating in Syria". The visit came as a US defence department spokesman said Pentagon officials in a video conference with Russian counterparts had voiced "strong concerns" over Moscow's alleged bombing of US-backed forces in southern Syria. US military officials "expressed strong concerns about the attack on the coalition-supported counter-ISIL forces at the al-Tanaf garrison, which included forces that are participants in the cessation of hostilities in Syria", Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. The Pentagon "emphasised that those concerns would be addressed through ongoing diplomatic discussions on the cessation of hostilities", he said. US defence officials have said Russian warplanes carried out raids in al-Tanaf targeting a meeting of combatants supported by the US-led coalition that was held to coordinate the fight against ISIL fighters in Syria and Iraq. The Syrians belonged to the New Syrian Army, trained by the British and the Americans in a coalition camp in Jordan, while the Iraqis were tribal fighters, officials said. Russia, however, said it had not carried out any strikes targeting opposition forces included in a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow that excludes ISIL, without mentioning al-Tanaf. Earlier this month, Shoigu also visited Iran's capital Tehran to take part in talks with his Syrian and Iranian counterparts. Before the meeting, which took place on Iran's initiative, the Russian defence ministry said the officials would be discussing "reinforcing cooperation in the fight with ISIL and al-Nusra terrorist groups". The Syrian conflict has drawn in world powers, with the US, along with regional powers, largely backing the moderate rebels while Russia began a military offensive in support of the Assad government in Sep 15. A Moscow and Washington-backed ceasefire has been in place since February 27, but a fresh bout of fighting broke out in April that stalled the UN peace talks in Geneva.
Syria/Hezbollah – The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement has said he will send more fighters to Syria's Aleppo area, a battleground where it has suffered heavy losses fighting alongside Syrian government forces against rebel groups. Hassan Nasrallah said on the 24 Jun 16 that thousands of Hezbollah's Sunni foes had recently entered Syria via the Turkish border with the aim of taking over Aleppo and its surrounding countryside. "We are facing a new wave...of projects of war against Syria which are being waged in northern Syria, particularly in the Aleppo region," Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast live on the group's Al Manar TV. "The defence of Aleppo is the defence of the rest of Syria, it is the defence of Damascus, it is also the defence of Lebanon, and of Iraq," he said. "We will increase our presence in Aleppo," he said. "Retreat is not permissible." Nasrallah also denied Hezbollah was in imminent fiscal trouble as a result of a US law banning banks worldwide from dealing with the group. Last month, Lebanon's central bank instructed the country's banks and financial institutions to comply with the new measure. But Nasrallah said on the 24 Jun 16 that Hezbollah would not be affected because it receives its money directly from Iran, not via Lebanese banks. "We do not have any business projects or investments via banks," Nasrallah said, insisting the group "will not be affected". "We are open about the fact that Hezbollah's budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added. Iran was instrumental in Hezbollah's inception three decades ago and has provided financial and military support to the group. Aleppo has been a focus of intensified fighting in the months since peace talks in Geneva broke down and a ceasefire deal brokered by Washington and Moscow unravelled.
Yemen/Da’esh – An ISIS affiliate carried out a series of attacks in Yemen’s southern port city of Mukalla on the 27 Jun 16 killing at least 43 people and injuring several others, officials said. The attacks came as the government and Houthi militias planned to suspend talks on ending Yemen’s larger conflict after failing to reach a breakthrough in two months of negotiations held in Kuwait. The officials said two suicide bombers and other militants carried out at least seven simultaneous attacks in Mukalla targeting intelligence offices, army barracks and checkpoints. In one of the attacks, a bomb was concealed in a box of food brought to soldiers at a checkpoint to break their dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast. In another, a group of militants stormed a police station, officials said. Witnesses said gunfire echoed across the city, followed by ambulance sirens. The ISIS affiliate said in an online statement that it launched four suicide bombings against counterterrorism forces. Officials said another 10 people were injured in the attacks. An al-Qaeda affiliate seized Mukalla and held it for a year before being driven out in Apr 16 by a Saudi-led military coalition. Both al-Qaida and its rival, the ISIS group, have exploited the chaos of Yemen’s war to seize territory and carry out attacks. In Kuwait, meanwhile, two negotiators representing the Houthi militia and their allies, and one from the internationally-recognized government, said that the two sides were drafting a joint statement to announce that they will suspend talks until mid-July, following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Iftar. One of the negotiators, a minister in President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, said “the return to the talks is meant to save face after reaching a deadlock.” The announcement came a day after UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Kuwait, where the two sides have been meeting since Apr 16, to encourage them to reach a peace deal. He also called for the release of prisoners, including journalists and other political detainees, as a goodwill gesture ahead of the holiday. The government has demanded the implementation of a UN Security Council resolution calling on the rebels to withdraw from all cities, including the capital, Sanaa, and hand over their heavy weapons. The Houthi militias want to form a unity government prior to any changes on the ground, according to the negotiators.