Who is Mullah Akhtar Mansoor?
Mullah Mansoor was born in around 1965 in a small village called Kariz in the Maiwand district of Kandahar. He belongs to Afghanistan's Ishaqzai tribe. He fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan for a brief period and was a member of Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami, a former paramilitary group formed by Maulana Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi to fight them. One of his first jobs for the group was overseeing the security of Kandahar airport. In 1996-2001, when the Taliban was in power, he oversaw ministry of civil aviation. He rose to the upper echelons after Mullah Akhtar Osmani, a senior Taliban military leader and a close associate of Mullah Omar, was killed by US-led coalition forces in 2006 and Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the group's top military commander, was killed in 2007 by British Special Forces. Between 2007 and 2010 he was able to stake a claim for higher office when Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Omar, and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the Taliban government defence minister, were captured by the Pakistan Intelligence agency ISI. In July 2015, Afghan intelligence said that Mullah Omar had been dead for two years. Within hours of that announcement, the Taliban reportedly held a meeting and elected Mullah Mansoor as leader. But his appointment appeared to expose fissures in the group. A few months after his appointment, Taliban fighters seized the capital of Kunduz province after launching a daring raid from multiple directions. The attack was the biggest blow to President Ashraf Ghani since he took office a year before. In December 2015, Afghan officials said Mansoor had died after a gunfight. The Taliban later released an audio message from him in which he denied he had been killed. Mansoor refused to join any of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) meetings, made up of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States and aimed at reviving a peace process. After his persistent refusal to join talks, Afghan officials said that action against the Taliban would be on the agenda for the fifth round of peace talks in early May. US officials briefed the media on the 21 May 16 that a drone attack authorised by President Barack Obama had "likely killed" him and another Taliban member.
Afghanistan – An Afghan Taliban spokesman has confirmed the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the armed group's leader, in a US drone strike and announced the appointment of Haibatullah Akhunzada as his successor. Agencies on the 25 May 16 quoted the Taliban spokesman as saying that Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Yaqoob have been appointed as new deputy leaders. The announcement followed confirmation on the 23 May 16 by President Barack Obama that Mansoor was killed in a US strike in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's chief executive, said on Twitter on the 22 May 16 that Mansoor was dead. Afghanistan's spy agency also said he had been killed. Mansoor was chosen to head the Afghan Taliban last summer after it was announced that the group's long-time leader Mullah Omar had died two years earlier. Akhunzada is a well-known figure in the group. He is not a new man in Taliban leadership; he was the second deputy of Mullah Mansoor. He is very respected. He's an old man, definitely older than Mullah Omar, who referred to him [Akhunzada] as his teacher. Akhunzada is from Kandahar, from the Noorzai tribe. It's a strong tribe among the Taliban leadership. All these things are signals that he might be able to unite the Taliban. That looks like one of the reasons they didn't choose [Sirajuddin] Haqqani as the leader. Akhunzada has held the role of chief justice within the Taliban previously. He was very active and a senior member of the Quetta Shura. The Taliban has repeatedly refused to take part in peace talks sponsored by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which comprises representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US. The group also shows no signs of easing its ongoing spring offensive against the Afghan government. The new Taliban leader is known to be "a stone age mullah" who strongly believes in the Taliban, Sami Yousafzai, an Afghan expert who has met both the late Mansoor and Akhunzada several times said. "The appointment of Akhunzada could affect the peace process. He was very close to Mullah Omar and is known as a hard-line mujahid [fighter] who will bring the Taliban together and will make sure the group gets stronger." A Taliban source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Taliban under Akhunzada has pledged to take revenge against foreign forces and the Afghan government for Mansoor's killing. "They [the foreign forces and Afghan government] should now fasten their seat belts as the attacks will continue and will be stronger than before," he said. "We will be taking our revenge and will also make sure we come out stronger than before." The warning coincided with the an attack that claimed the lives of at least 10 people on the 25 May 16. A suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives, striking a vehicle carrying court employees near the capital Kabul, according to the interior ministry. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Afghan security forces and government employees are frequently targeted by Taliban fighters.
Afghanistan – More than 50 Afghan police officers have been killed over the past two days in heavy fighting around the capital of the southern province of Helmand, officials said on the 31 May 16. Helmand, with its strategic location, has been the scene of major attacks by the Taliban over the past year. As many as 24 officers were killed on the 30 May 16 and another 33 on the 29 May 16 regional police commander Esmatullah Dawlatzai said in a press conference. Nearly 40 others were injured, he added. Taliban fighters have managed to enter the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, and residents could hear the sound of heavy gunfire and artillery throughout the night. "The situation is not good, we can hear the sound of guns just outside the city, and Taliban now operate within two kilometres of the city," Mohammed Kareem Atal, Helmand member of parliament said. He said four government posts have fallen to the Taliban, as the fighters are trying to cut off the main road to the capital Kabul and the neighbouring province of Kandahar. "The army is using helicopter gunships to support the ground forces. They have so far managed to retake one fallen post, and we are waiting for reinforcement to arrive from Kabul,” Kareem Atal added. The areas hit by the latest fighting are Greshk, Nad Ali, and Nahr-e Saraj, which neighbour the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah to the north and west. Afghan officials have taken steps to recapture the lost areas, said Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The fighting in Helmand is the first major offensive by the Taliban since their new leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada assumed the leadership of the group after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone attack inside Pakistan on May 23.
Pakistan – The United States has listed two Pakistani Jihadist groups as global terror organisations. Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran, which operates in Pakistan and Afghanistan, "has long-standing ties" with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the State Department. The Tariq Gidar Group, which is "linked" to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has been behind some of the deadliest attacks inside Pakistan.
(This is a long article, to read more follow the link: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/05/us-lists-2-pakistani-jihadist-groups-as-global-terror-organizations.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29)
Philippines/Da’esh – Over the past two months, both the Islamic State and several groups in the Philippines loyal to the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for multiple attacks on Filipino troops it was reported on the 28 May 16. In the past two days, social media accounts belonging to Islamic State groups in the Philippines have claimed three attacks, but gave no dates for the purported violence. On the 26 May 16, the accounts said that there was a “clash between the soldiers of Dawlah Islamiya (party of Allah) and Soldiers of government (party of shaytan)” and that a tank was captured in Butig. Additionally, the accounts claimed that fighters from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, engaged with soldiers in Maguindanao. CNN Philippines reported that the town of Datu Salibo in Maguindanao sees almost daily skirmishes between Filipino troops and BIFF and that Butig suffers the same reality with jihadists. In another claim, jihadists reportedly ambushed a Filipino military truck in Lanao Del Sur. The last reported ambush of its kind happened back in February when an army convoy travelling between Marawi and Cotabato was ambushed, which left one soldier dead. However, suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) fighters ambushed a military truck in Sulu, wounding seven Filipino rangers on the 26 May 16. ASG is also suspected to be behind the killing of a soldier in Sulu, also on the 26 May 16. On the 20 May 16, the Islamic State released an official claim of attack on Filipino troops, saying its forces wounded a group of soldiers in Basilan. The Islamic State also claimed an attack on a Filipino army position in Maluso, Basilan, on the 9 May 16. According to the statement, fighters loyal to the Islamic State killed one and injured another. The jihadist group also claimed capturing weapons during the raid. In late Apr 16, the Islamic State in Lanao released photos showing the beheadings of two purported spies of the Philippines. The Islamic State did not give a location, but last month the jihadist organization claimed that its fighters in the Philippines have killed more than 100 Filipino soldiers in recent clashes. The Filipino government vehemently denied the obviously high number saying that only 18 of its soldiers have been killed in the southern Philippines area of Basilan. The Philippines also reported that 28 militants from ASG, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, were killed in the clashes. Other groups allied with the Islamic State in the Philippines have not yet released media showing clashes with the Filipino government. ASG is the largest group to pledge to the Islamic State, as well as the most experienced and capable in confronting the Filipino security forces. However, the Philippines claimed it killed two members of Ansar Khilafah, another group that has sworn its loyalty to the Islamic State, recently in the southern Sarangani province. In response, Ansar Khilafah claimed an IED attack in General Santos City, which caused minimal damage. It also released photos of the two fighters killed a few days later. In Maguindanao, the Filipino government blames most IED’s on BIFF. In Mar 16, it said over 20 IED attacks were the responsibility of the group. One of those IED blasts killed five civilians, including a young child.
Philippines – Intense fighting between Philippine troops and a little-known group apparently inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has killed 54 fighters in the country's south, officials said. Regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said on the 30 May 16 that the operations against the Maute rebel group began on the 26 May 16 in southern Lanao del Sur province's Butig town and were still continuing. He said two soldiers were killed and nine others injured in the clashes. The military fired artillery and launched air strikes "to get the criminals" behind the beheading last month of two sawmill workers, Tan said. He said the workers were forced to wear orange robes while being beheaded, like victims of ISIL. Four other sawmill workers were freed after their employers negotiated with the captors. Troops have not retrieved the fighters' bodies, but based the count on intelligence reports and on sightings of bodies being carried away by other rebels, Tan added. In Feb 16 the group attacked an army outpost in Butig, sparking days of battles that killed 24 fighters and six soldiers, one of whom was beheaded. Authorities said the group has used black clothing with the symbol of the ISIL group in Syria and Iraq. Several small factions in the southern Philippines, the home of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic country, have expressed support for ISIL in online videos, but the military says there is no evidence of any direct, active collaboration.
Maute Rebel Group – 2016 Butig clash was an armed conflict that began on 20 Feb 16 between the Philippine Army and a group of Moro insurgent sympathizers of ISIS and Jemaah Islamiyah led by the Maute group in Butig, Lanao del Sur, Philippines. Three Philippine Army soldiers were killed in action, 11 injured and 20 terrorists killed in the early phase of battle. 335 families fled to Marawi City and 657 families took refuge in Masiu.
The Butig clashes began when a supposed "foreign and local terrorist organization" (FLTO), led by the Maute brothers, harassed the 51st Infantry Battalion, which had been manning a patrol base in Barangay Bayabao on the 20 Feb 16. Armoured personnel carriers and troops were sent to Butig, while the military used two 520MG Defender helicopters to track down the armed men and conducted air strikes against them. A lull in the fighting occurred that evening, but resumed at dawn the next. According to Armed Forces of the Philippines sources, the skirmishes between Army forces and the Maute group turned into a full blown military offensive with troops using artillery, gunships, and armoured personnel carriers against the terrorists. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Office of Civil Defence stated that approximately 2000 individuals evacuated their homes to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. According to Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, three soldiers were killed and six others were injured in the sporadic fire-fights.
Russia/Iran – Russia will deliver several divisions of its S-300 air defence missile system to Iran by the end of this year, Interfax news agency quoted Russian presidential aide Vladimir Kozhin as saying on the 19 May 16. Kozhin also said that so far this year Russia had delivered to Iran "around" one division. 361 COMMENT: During the Cold War with East against West the previous USSR had a number of countries surrounding it and was known as the Eastern Bloc. The USSR worked on the theory that if it was attacked the attacking forces would have to fight its way though these satellite countries before making it to the Motherland. After the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR was dissolved the satellite countries won their autonomy. The appearance of a new Cold War starting has been denied by the current Russian President but when you look at the dispute with the Ukraine, and the way that Russia supports Assad in Syria and now supporting Iran it makes you think that these countries are the new satellites as both countries dislike the West. So is Putin courting these countries to assist in the new Cold War threat? Or is it that he is just after more trade with them? Or is it both? COMMENT ENDS
Turkey/PKK – Six soldiers were killed and two others injured when a bomb hit a military convoy in southeast Turkey, the army said on the 24 May 16 blaming Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants for the attack. The armoured vehicle carrying the soldiers "was hit by a roadside bomb that was hidden" at the edge of a road in Van province in the Kurdish-majority southeast, the army said in a statement. The explosives were planted on the highway between Van's Jaldıran and Agrı's Dogubeyazıt districts, according to Daily Sabah website. The injured soldiers were immediately transferred to hospitals, it added. Turkey's southeast has been the scene of significant military operations since Dec 15, as the police and army seek to clear the PKK organization from urban areas.
Turkey/United States – Turkey on the 27 May 16 accused the United States of hypocrisy after US commandos in Syria were pictured supporting a major ground offensive led by a Kurdish militia branded a terror group by Ankara. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “unacceptable” that US troops had been seen in images taken by an AFP photographer wearing insignia of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara regards the YPG as a terror group, accusing it of carrying out attacks inside Turkey and being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than three decades. However, Washington sees the YPG as one of the most effective fighting forces against the militant Islamic State (IS) group inside Syria. The issue has caused tensions between the two NATO allies for months. “We advise them (US troops) to wear badges of Da’esh (IS) or (Al Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra when they go to other parts of Syria and badges of Boko Haram when they go to Africa,” Cavusoglu said with angry sarcasm. “If they don’t see these (groups) as the same as the YPG, then this is double standards, hypocrisy,” he said at a news conference at a meeting on Least Developed Countries in the southern resort of Antalya. The AFP photographer saw US forces on the ground in northern Syria helping the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a major offensive against IS in its stronghold of Raqa province. Several US commandos were also photographed wearing the military insignia of the YPG, which make up the bulk of the SDF. “It is unacceptable for the soldiers of the United States — our ally which is very assertive in the fight against terror — to use or wear the badges of a terror organisation,” Cavusoglu said. The minister decried what he said was the approach of “a terrorist organisation I can use and a terrorist organisation I cannot.” “You wear the insignia of a terrorist organisation on your shoulder, put up its flag in your capital. Of course we will not succeed in the fight against terrorism through this understanding as it is today,” he said. The United States, like the European Union, classifies the PKK as a terror group. But it had so far resisted intensive lobbying from Turkey to also outlaw the YPG and stop working with the group in Syria. Cavusoglu insisted that in private talks with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry the United States had said the YPG “are not reliable” and vowed Washington would “stand by Turkey in the fight against terrorism.” “And then they wear the badges of the terrorist organisation responsible for the last two attacks in Ankara,” he complained. Turkey blamed the YPG for attacks in the capital this year that killed dozens, even though they were claimed by a PKK splinter group the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK). Ankara has repeatedly said it makes no distinction between “terror “organisations, be it IS, the PKK or the YPG. “It is unacceptable to make distinctions between terrorist organisations. We are against all terrorist organisations,” he said. 361 COMMENT: Turkey wants it both ways. Whilst it claims to support the war on terror, which it is doing, it is also fighting its own domestic terrorist organisations of which one is the PKK. The second point is by this report it is basically saying all Kurds are terrorists. Turkey will have a bigger problem when the war against IS is finished and the Kurds amalgamate the area in Syria and the autonomous zone in Iraq. There will probably be a new Kurdistan evolving and with that some very effective and seasoned fighters and commanders. Syria whatever the outcome and Turkey will have an axe to grind then. But will the United States support the new country especially after the Kurds fight against Da’esh? COMMENT ENDS
Turkey/PKK – Roadside bombs killed at least six people in two separate attacks on security forces in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast on the 30 May 16 security sources said, adding to the violence that has flared across the region in the last 24 hours. One bomb hit a passing police vehicle in the town of Silopi in Sirnak province near the border with Iraq, the sources said, hours after Turkish warplanes struck camps belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Four civilians were killed and 19 other people were injured, including five security force members, in that attack, the sources said. Turkey's Dogan News Agency said the bomb had been placed inside a manhole and was detonated as a police vehicle passed. Earlier, near the eastern city of Van, PKK fighters detonated a roadside bomb by remote control targeting a passing armoured vehicle. Two police officers were killed and a third was wounded, the sources said. Clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK have reached their most intense in two decades since the breakdown of a two-year ceasefire last Jul 15. Late on the 29 May 16 PKK snipers attacked a Turkish base located inside Iraq, killing a lieutenant, the sources said. In the past Turkey has garrisoned a battalion in Iraq's Kani Masi region to prevent PKK fighters from crossing into Turkey. A man suspected of smuggling goods across the border between Iraq and Turkey was killed and five others injured, when unidentified forces opened fire on smugglers across the border in the Uludere district, they said. Uludere was the site of an airstrike in December 2011 that killed 34 young men and boys after the military mistook them for PKK militants. Smuggling of cigarettes, fuel and household items is widespread in the poverty-stricken border region. The PKK also attacked a base in the Turkish town of Siirt, killing one soldier, the military General Staff said. A police officer was also killed in Sirnak province, under a round-the-clock curfew since the 14 Mar 16 security sources said. In the village of Kulp in Diyarbakir province, a civilian and five members of the village guard, a state-backed militia that fights the PKK, were injured in a car-bomb attack, they also said. The General Staff said on its website it had destroyed PKK shelters and weapon stores in the Metina area of northern Iraq on the 29 May 16 during the air strikes. It gave no casualty count.
Turkey/Kurds/United States/Da’esh – Turkey is offering to "join forces" with Washington for a special operation inside Syria on condition it doesn't include a Syrian Kurdish militia blacklisted by Ankara but seen as an ally by the US, the foreign minister said on the 31 May 16. Washington's support of Kurdish fighters in Syria in the fight against the Da’esh terror group’s militants has angered Ankara, especially after AFP pictures last week revealed US commandos sporting patches of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) detested by Turkey. "If we join forces, they [the US] have their own Special Forces and we have our Special Forces," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a small group of journalists in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya. Such a coalition could "easily" head to Da’esh de facto capital in Raqqa to the south in a second front, he said. There was no immediate reaction to the proposal from the United States, whose strategy for fighting extremists inside Syria is pinned on its alliance with the battle-hardened Syrian Kurds. The US is supporting an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as the most effective fighting force on the ground against Da’esh. But the SDF is still dominated by the YPG, which Turkey sees as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Cavusoglu said Syrian Arab opposition forces opposing the regime of President Bashar Al Assad could be backed up with Special Forces from Turkey, the United States as well as from France, Britain and Germany. "The subject we are discussing with the Americans is the closure of the Manbij pocket as soon as possible and the opening of a second front," Cavusoglu said, referring to a backdoor border route favoured by Da’esh for smuggling jihadists into and out of Syria. "We say okay, a second front should be opened but not with the PYD," he said, referring to the Democratic Union Party, the YPG's political wing. "Unfortunately, both Russia and the United States see a terrorist organisation as a partner and support it." In Ankara, government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus declined to comment on details of any operation but said Turkey placed top priority on protecting a line stretching between Syria's flashpoint towns of Marea and Jarablus. "Turkey is determined whatever is needed to protect the line from terrorist groups," he said on the 30 May 16 after a Cabinet meeting. The dispute over the role of the YPG has proved a major bone of contention in relations between the two NATO allies. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the weekend accused the US of dishonesty.Cavusoglu lamented the delay in the delivery of American light multiple rocket launchers to be deployed along its border with Syria to combat Da’esh. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) was to have been deployed along the Turkish border by the end of May, but Cavusoglu said it would now only happen in August. “The United States is unfortunately not keeping its promise,” he charged. “We are completely ready. Not us, but the US is responsible for the delay.” The system would allow Turkey to hit Da’esh positions within a 90-kilometre range, while Turkish artillery has a more limited range of 40 kilometres. Yet Turkish cooperation is critical for the US-led fight against Da’esh, with coalition war planes using the southern Turkish base of Incirlik as a hub for attacks on the group. Cavusoglu said US support for YPG was “very dangerous” for the future of Syria. Asked if could have implications for the US use of Incirlik, he replied: “The United States is our NATO ally, model partner. To be honest, we don’t want the business to reach that stage.”