United States/Da’esh – US President Barack Obama has touted gains in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but cautioned that the group, also known as ISIS, can still direct and inspire damaging attacks. Speaking after meeting with top aides at the Pentagon, Obama said on the 4 Aug 16 that ISIL will continue to be a threat, highlighting the group's ability to motivate so-called "lone wolf" supporters to launch small-scale attacks that are harder to detect and prevent. "What ISIL has figured out is that if they can convince a handful of people, or even one person, to carry out an attack on a subway, or at a parade or some other public venue, and kill scores of people as opposed to thousands of people, it still creates the kinds of fear and concern that elevates their profile," Obama said. ISIL has claimed responsibility for a number of recent mass killings, including a lorry attack in the French city of Nice last month that left 84 dead, and the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49. While they may not have been directed by the group, the attackers were reportedly inspired by ISIL. Obama said the US must do a better job disrupting ISIL networks and intercepting the internet messages that can get to individuals and inspire them to act. "Those networks are more active in Europe than they are here, but we don't know what we don't know, and so it's conceivable that there are some networks here that could be activated," he said. Obama cautioned against overreacting to such attacks and rejected efforts to demonise Muslims as a way to make the US safer, in a criticism of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country. "If we start making bad decisions, indiscriminately killing civilians for example in some of those areas, instituting offensive religious tests on who can enter the country, those kinds of strategies can end up backfiring," Obama said. The US is leading a military coalition conducting air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, where the group seized broad swathes of territory in 2014. Since then, the coalition has conducted daily plane and drone strikes - more than 14,000 so far - and worked with local forces on the ground to gradually reclaim the seized territory. Yet, despite the massive effort, ISIL still holds Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and the Syrian city of Raqqa. "I am pleased with the progress that we've made on the ground in Iraq and Syria," Obama said, but added: "We're far from freeing Mosul and Raqqa." He also criticised Russia for failing "to take the necessary steps" to try to reduce violence in Syria, saying it was time for Russia "to show that it is serious" about bringing peace. Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, offering international cover, military aid and carrying out air strikes in opposition-held areas. Obama said the US remains prepared to work with Russia, adding, however, that he was not confident Russia or Putin could be trusted. "The depravity of the Syrian regime has rightly earned the condemnation of the world," Obama said. "Russia's direct involvement in these actions over the last several weeks raises very serious questions about their commitment to pulling the situation back from the brink." Earlier this week, Obama also announced a new front in the war, ordering air strikes against ISIL fighters' positions in the Libyan city of Sirte.
United States/Da’esh – President Barack Obama said on the 4 Aug 16 that ISIS appears to be shifting its tactics to “high profile” attacks on tourists in cities around the world as it loses ground in its homeland of Iraq and Syria. “None of ISIS’s leaders are safe,” Obama said, adding: “We're going to keep going after them.” On Libya he said the strikes had been requested by the Government of National Accord, which is attempting to expel ISIS and consolidate control of the war-torn country. ISIS militants are under assault in Sirte, their seafront stronghold. Earlier this week, US military aircraft destroyed tanks, military vehicles and earth-moving equipment he said. And he said ISIS had ‘not had a successful operation in Iraq or Syria in a year’, Obama said.
United States – A Muslim imam of a mosque in New York City and his associate have been shot dead while walking along together following afternoon prayers, authorities say on the 14 Aug 16. The men were approached by a man from behind and shot both in the head on the 13 Aug 16 in the Ozone Park neighbourhood of Queens, a police spokesperson said. Police said no arrests had been made. The victims, identified as Imam Maulana Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were both wearing religious garb at the time of shooting, police said. Police had initially identified Uddin as Tharam. The men were transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Centre where they died, the hospital said. The suspect was seen by witnesses fleeing the scene with a gun in his hand, police said. He said video surveillance showed the victims were approached from behind by a man in a dark polo shirt and shorts who shot them and then fled with the gun still in his hand. Members of the Bangladeshi Muslim community served by the mosque said they want the shootings to be treated as a hate crime. More than 100 people attended a rally on the night of the 13 Aug 16 and chanted "We want justice!" The motive for the shooting was not immediately known and no evidence has been uncovered that the two men were targeted because of their faith, said Tiffany Phillips, a spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department. Kobir Chowdhury, a leader at another local mosque, said: "Read my lips: This is a hate crime" directed at Islam. "We are peace-loving." A man who called himself an "Islamic soldier" killed 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub on June 12. Last year, three American students were shot to death at a residential complex of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over what police had said was motivated by a long-running dispute over parking spaces. However, the victims' families believe they were targeted because they were Muslims and have pushed for hate-crime charges.