Afghanistan/Taliban – Eleven members of an Afghan family were killed on the 19 May 17 when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb while they were travelling to an engagement ceremony in the country's volatile east. Five women, five children and a man in a vehicle were killed and one woman and two men were wounded in the blast in Logar province, just south of the capital of Kabul, said Mohammad Halim Fedayee, the provincial governor. No group has so far claimed responsibility but provincial authorities blamed the Taliban, who launched their annual "spring offensive" recently for the killings. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, another roadside bomb targeted a US militarily convoy in northern Parwan province on th 19 May 17 the international mission's media officer, Doug High, said. Also on the night of the 18 May 17 an Afghan policeman turned his rifle on his colleagues as they slept at an outpost in eastern Nangarhar province, killing five. After the shooting, the attacker, who was only identified by one name, Nasratullah, seized all the victims' firearms and fled the scene, the governor said. Neither the Taliban nor the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant the two armed groups who operate in the area - immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Nangarhar, a mountainous province that borders Pakistan.
Afghanistan/Taliban – At least 20 policemen were killed in Taliban ambushes in southern Afghanistan, officials said, as security forces sought to dislodge fighters in multiple districts. Fighting is ongoing in Zabul province, where the police were attacked in Shah Joi district, provincial governor Bismullah Afghanmal said on the 21 May 17. He said the Taliban had ambushed police in the areas of Chino and Ghulam Rabat. "The report we have right now indicates that 20 policemen are martyred and 10 others are wounded. The number may increase," Afghanmal said. Dozens of Taliban were also reported killed and wounded, Afghanmal said. Reinforcements sent to the area where the police had been ambushed were also attacked, said Gul Islam Seyal, a spokesman for the Zabul governor. Fighting was also ongoing at the time of reporting in Zabul's Dai Chopan district, but the extent of casualties were unknown, Afghanmal said. In neighbouring Ghazni province, Taliban fighters launched a three-pronged attack on parts of the provincial capital on the 19 May 17 driving a Humvee packed with explosives into the entrance of a district governor's compound during the assault. Separately on the 21 May 17 the Taliban claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the 20 May 17 on a bank in Paktia province, which left at least six people dead, including three attackers. Meanwhile, a German aid worker and an Afghan guard were killed and a Finnish woman kidnapped as armed men stormed an international guesthouse in central Kabul, officials said on the 21 May 17. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack late on the 20 May 17 on the guesthouse run by Swedish charity Operation Mercy. "A Finnish lady was kidnapped from police district (three) last night at 2330 hrs local. A German lady and an Afghan guard were killed," interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said on Twitter. Operation Mercy works with local Afghan communities in areas such as reducing infant mortality and women's empowerment. The kidnapping of foreigners has been on the rise, but the threat of abductions is even greater for Afghans. Kabul is plagued by criminal gangs who stage abductions for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy locals, and sometimes handing them over to armed groups.
Afghanistan/Taliban – A suicide car bomber has attacked Afghan police providing security to US forces in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 18 people, government officials said. The attack, responsibility for which has been claimed by the Taliban, took place around 0830 hrs local (0400 hrs GMT) on the 27 May 17 near a stadium and bus station in Khost City, Mubariz Zadran, a spokesman for the governor of Khost province said. "Eighteen people were killed and 10 people injured, including two children," Zadran said. "The target of the attack was Afghan police and US forces, but most of the victims were civilians." The 27 May 17 was a public holiday in Afghanistan as it marked the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In clear defiance to a call by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for a ceasefire during Ramadan, the Taliban announced on the 26 May 17 they would intensify their attacks during the month.
Afghanistan – At least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded on the 31 May 17 when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul's diplomatic quarter, shattering the morning rush hour and bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital. Bodies littered the scene and a towering plume of smoke rose from the area, which houses foreign embassies, after the blast blew out the windows in several missions and residences hundreds of metres away. It was not immediately clear what the target was. But the attack underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where a military beset by soaring casualties and desertions is struggling to beat back the insurgents. Over a third of the country is outside government control. "Unfortunately the toll has reached 80 martyred (killed) and over 300 wounded, including many women and children," said health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh, adding the figures would continue to climb as more bodies are pulled from the debris. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 0830 hrs local the ministry said in a statement. "More than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged." Authorities warned the toll could yet rise. "They are still bringing bodies and wounded people to hospitals," senior health ministry spokesman Ismael Kawoosi said. The interior ministry was calling on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in "dire need". There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack came as the resurgent Taliban step up their annual "spring offensive". Manpreet Vohra, India's envoy to Afghanistan, told the Times Now television channel the bomb went off around 100 metres from India's embassy, one of several in the area. The explosion also shattered windows at the Japanese embassy. "Two Japanese embassy staffers were mildly injured, suffering cuts," a foreign ministry official in Tokyo said. France also reported damage to its own embassy and the German one. There was no information on possible casualties. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of "another tough year" for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan. The blast was the latest in a long line of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the first three months of 2017 due to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.
Indonesia – Suspected suicide bombers killed three Indonesian police officers and wounded 10 people in twin blasts near a bus station in the eastern part of the capital. The explosions went off minutes apart on the night of the 24 May 17 at Jakarta's Kampung Melayu terminal, police said. "There were two blasts at around 2100 hrs local close to each other, there are three victims," Andry Wibowo, East Jakarta police chief, told TV station MetroTV. Indonesia has long been fighting armed groups but in recent years hundreds have flocked to fight for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. In 2016, a gun-and-suicide attack in Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead in the first assault claimed by ISIL, also known as ISIS, in Southeast Asia. Authorities in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation are increasingly worried about a surge in "radicalism", driven in part by a new generation of fighters inspired by ISIL. While most of the attacks have been poorly organised, authorities believe about 400 Indonesians have gone to join the group in Syria, and could pose a more lethal threat if they come home. Indonesia has suffered a series of attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks, but the emergence of ISIL has proved a potent new rallying cry for armed groups.
Kashmir/Hizbul Mujahideen – Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on the 27 May 17 killed a top rebel commander in a gun battle, sparking massive protests and clashes in the region. Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, head of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, was killed overnight by government troops in Tral area, some 40km south of Kashmir's capital, Srinagar, police said. Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest indigenous rebel group fighting against Indian-rule in the Himalayan territory since an armed rebellion broke-out in 1989. Bhat was the successor to Burwan Wani, whose death in Jul 16 sparked months of anti-India protests in which scores of people died. One of Bhat's fighters was also killed in the gun battle, which erupted late on the 26 May 17 after government forces cordoned off a village following an intelligence tip-off. As the violence raged, hundreds of angry residents chanting anti-India slogans marched in an attempt to help the trapped rebel escape. Clashes between rock-throwing protesters and government forces erupted in different places in the area, with police and paramilitary soldiers firing shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the protests. As the news of Bhat's killing spread in the region, thousands of people, including students, took to the streets shouting slogans such as "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom." Many civilians were reported wounded in the clashes. In a separate incident, the Indian army on the 27 May 17 said they had killed six fighters who had infiltrated across the border from Pakistan in the Himalayan region.
Philippines/Abu Sayyaf/Maute – A priest and several churchgoers were taken hostage by fighters in Marawi City, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, as thousands of residents fled ongoing unrest that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the southern region. As the violence continues, Duterte said on the 24 May 17 that he will consider expanding his martial law order throughout the country "in order to protect the people". The violence erupted on the 23 May 17 after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIL. Abu Sayyaf fighters called for reinforcements from an allied group, the Maute, and dozens of gunmen managed to enter Marawi, home to about 200,000 people. Clashes between security forces and about 100 fighters ensued, leaving at least three members of the security forces dead. The attackers reportedly burned a Catholic church, the city jail, and two schools, as well as occupied the main streets and two bridges leading to the city, located some 816km south of the capital, Manila. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said fighters had forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers. "They have threatened to kill the hostages if the government forces unleashed against them are not recalled," Villegas said in a statement. The emergency declaration of the military rule took immediate effect and will last for 60 days, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, who made the announcement on the 23 May 17 from Russia, where Duterte was on a scheduled four-day official visit. "This is possible on the grounds of the existence of rebellion," Abella said. After cutting his trip to Russia short, Duterte said he may also declare martial law elsewhere in the Philippines if attacks continue. He assured the public he will not allow abuses under military rule, even as he repeatedly said he will deal with "terrorism" harshly. "To those who have experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what president [Ferdinand] Marcos did," Duterte said. "I'll be harsh." "If it would take a year to do it, if it's over within a month, then I'd be happy," he added. Duterte had earlier hinted our declaring martial law in Mindanao on May 19, saying, "If I declare martial law in Mindanao, I will solve all that ails the island." Steven Rood, of the Asia Foundation, said that there are several restrictions under the country's current post-dictatorship constitution. "There is a time limit of 60 days, the courts continue to operate, the legislature is still there - so there has been an attempt to soften the effects of martial law," he said. "On the other hand, the persisting violence in Mindanao hasn't been soft, and so particularly strong-willed people such as the president often think of something forceful like martial law." Rood said, however, that martial law alone will not ease the situation. "Shooting to kill won’t be a solution; there needs to be a much broader attempt to address the issues that are being raised by average people in Mindanao that sometimes can feed this discontentment."
Follow-on Report: Foreign fighters were among local gunmen clashing with the Philippine army in Mindanao Island, authorities said on the 26 May 17 in a rare admission that outsiders were collaborating with domestic groups. Military officials said Malaysians and Indonesians were among six killed on the 25 May 17 in battles that have raged for four days in Marawi City. The Philippines has deployed attack helicopters and Special Forces to drive the gunmen out of the besieged southern city of 200,000 people, with at least 11 soldiers and 31 fighters killed. "Before it was just a local terrorist group. But now they have subscribed to the ideology of ISIS," Solicitor General Jose Calida told a news conference. "They want to make Mindanao part of the caliphate." A reporter said: "The Maute has specifically harassed and killed Christians in the area. Since last year, they have been raising ISIL's black flag in government facilities." She said reports that foreign fighters had joined the group had been circulating since 2012. "But for years, the Philippine military denied even the existence of Maute and its links with ISIL," the correspondent said. "Although there is very little evidence that Maute is indeed connected to ISIL, the presence of foreign fighters here is verified. They come here and engage in combat training." The Maute's rise is a source of concern for Mindanao native Duterte, who is familiar with Muslim separatist unrest but alarmed by the prospect of rebels helping ISIL to recruit and establish a presence in the volatile region. Hostilities erupted after security forces raided a Marawi apartment in a bid to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of Abu Sayyaf. The operation went wrong after allied Maute fighters called in reinforcements, and then went on a deadly rampage throughout the city. The government says Hapilon has been the point man for ISIL in the Philippines and has been collaborating with the Maute leaders. Calida, the solicitor general, said ISIL had declared that Hapilon was "their emir, or leader in the Philippines".
Follow-on Report (28 May 17): Fighters locked in street-to-street battles with security forces in a southern Philippine city on Mindanao island have killed 19 civilians, the military said on the 28 May 17 bringing the official death toll from nearly a week of fighting to nearly 100. The violence prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law on the 23 May 17 across the southern third of the Philippines to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat of "militants" linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. Authorities said the fighters had killed 19 civilians in Marawi, a mostly Muslim-populated city of 200,000 people. These included eight men believed to have been killed early on the morning of the 28 May 17 and then thrown into a ravine along a highway, just 200 metres away from a military checkpoint in the city, police said. The dead, most of them shot in the head and some with hands tied behind their backs, were labourers who were stopped by the fighters while trying to flee clashes. At least one body had cardboard on the chest with the word "monafiq", which means traitor. Troops also recovered the bodies of three women, four men and one child near a state university in Marawi on the 27 May 17 Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said. "These are civilians, women. These terrorists are anti-people. We found their bodies while conducting rescue operations," regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera said. The two other victims were employees of a state-run hospital seized by the fighters on the first day of the violence, police said. Thousands of the city's residents have fled because of the fighting, which has seen the military heavily bomb residential areas where the fighters were believed to be hiding. The military announced on the 27 May 17 the start of the holy month of Ramadan, that it would intensify the bombing campaign. More than 2,200 people are estimated to be trapped in the conflict zone in Marawi, fearing for their lives from threats of fighters and military air raids. Residents have been sending appeal for help via text messages, but rescue teams have not been able to penetrate the districts where they are located, said Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesman for the local province of Lanao Del Sur.
Follow-on Report (31 May 17): A week-long assault by Islamist rebels in a southern Philippine city is being fuelled with stolen weapons and ammunition and fighters broken out of jails, the military said on the 31 May 17 as troops battled militants resisting ground and air attacks. The pro-Islamic State Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes on what the military called known rebel targets, defying expectations of a swift end to their occupation. The military deployed for the first time SF-260 close air support planes to back attack helicopters and ground troops looking to box rebels into a downtown area. The army said the rebels hold about a tenth of the city. The hardline Maute had kept up the fight with rifles and ammunition stolen from a police station, a prison, and an armoured police vehicle, and were using them to hold off the troops, said military spokesman Restituto Padilla. The militants had freed jailed comrades to join the battle and opted to engage in urban warfare because the city had stocks of arms and ample supplies of food. "Yes indeed, there was planning involved," Padilla said. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is alarmed by the strength of the Maute and intelligence reports suggesting it has teamed up with other extremist groups and has recruited foreign fighters. He last week declared martial law on Mindanao island where Marawi is located, in a move to quell movements he said he had long warned would mushroom into what is now an Islamic State invasion. "I specifically warned everybody there is more dark cloud ahead of us. I was referring specifically to the contamination of ISIS slowly creeping towards our shores," Duterte told navy personnel in Davao City. "In Marawi now, I have to tell you we have suffered tremendous losses because we are the invading force and they have been waiting for a long time for the forces of the republic to come." Eighty-nine militants, 21 security forces and 19 civilians have so far been killed during clashes.
The slow pace of the military's efforts to retake Marawi - with air support and far superior firepower than the rebels - has prompted questions about its strategy. That has been compounded by social media images of smiling fighters with assault rifles posing on an armoured, U.S.-made police combat vehicle, dressed in black and wearing headbands typical of Islamic State. Another picture showed a bearded man at the wheel of a police van flying an Islamic State flag. The authenticity of the images has not been independently verified and the military has urged the public not to spread "propaganda". The military believe the Maute group staged the Marawi takeover to prove itself to Islamic State and try to win its endorsement as its affiliate in Southeast Asia. Duterte said he would not allow Islamic State to gain traction in the Philippines and inflict murder on the scale of Syria and Iraq. He changed his mind on last week's offer of dialogue with Maute and said he "will not talk to the terrorists". "They are trying to correct the way of living for everybody. They do it by killing people, invoking the name of God and that is a very terrible ideology," he said of Islamic State. "It does not know anything except to waste human lives." Security experts believe extremists in the southern Philippines have quietly become better organised and funded, pointing to the Maute's rapid rise from obscurity. The government on the 31 May 17 said another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had agreed to help get civilians, dead or alive, out of Marawi and had accepted Duterte's unconventional offer for communists, separatists and the military to unite against radical Islam. Congress held a special hearing on the 31 May 17 on martial law, which minority bloc lawmakers said was an overreaction by Duterte and a unilateral decision he made while overseas. But most legislators back the measure as being needed to meet the security threat. "We have a serious problem," said Congressman Harry Roque, who filed a resolution supporting martial law. "ISIS is not a small problem; it is a very big problem."
Russia/United States/Iran/Syria – The United States said on the 19 May 17 it believed forces in a convoy targeted by U.S. military aircraft in southern Syria on the 18 May 17 were Iranian-directed, in a possible sign of increased tension between Washington and Tehran in the Syrian war. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. strike was defensive in nature. It was condemned by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has the backing of Iran and Russia. A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces told Reuters on the 18 May 17 the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian-backed militias and was headed toward the garrison in Syria used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces around the town of At Tanf. The United States determined that the convoy posed a threat. "It was necessitated ... by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed - I don't know there were Iranians on the ground - but by Iranian-directed forces," Mattis said at a news conference. Rebel sources have warned of advances by Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia in the region near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, which was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons. Mattis said he believed the Iranian-directed forces moved into the zone against the advice of Russia but that he was unable to confirm that with certainty. "But it looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them," Mattis said. A Western intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said the strike sent a strong message to Iranian-backed militias that they would not be allowed to reach the Iraq border from Syria. Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said on Friday he had raised the incident with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva. "We discussed the massacre that the U.S. aggressor committed yesterday in our country. This subject was widely discussed," Ja'afari told reporters. The air strike on the 18 May 17 did not on its own suggest a shift in the U.S. military's focus in Syria, which has been on battling Islamic State militants. But the latest move showed that the area around the Tanf garrison in southern Syria could be under pressure. U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had been working on ways to manage Syria's messy battlefield with Russia. There is no interaction between the U.S. and Syrian militaries. "We had a proposal that we're working on with the Russians right now. I won't share the details," Dunford said. "But my sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to deconflict operations and ensure that we can continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. 361 COMMENT: There is an interesting comment within this report that is worth taking note. That is the strong message that the Americans were sending regarding the Iranian-backed militias and the Syrian/Iraq border. 361 and others have made comment in the past about a “corridor” between Tehran and Damascus through Iraq to send ‘logistics and financing’ to Assad where it can be distributed to the Palestinians and Hezbollah and put Israeli security under threat. By sending out this message to the Iranians the Americans have now stated that they are aware of the threat and are doing something about it. This will put pressure on Iranian/American relations. The Iranians are currently having a country-wide election, but once the dust dies down over that then there will be more rhetoric from the new Iranian administration regarding this ‘message’. COMMENT ENDS
Thailand – A bomb at a hospital in the Thai capital wounded 24 people on the 22 May 17 the third anniversary of a 2014 military coup, the government said, with the army chief blaming groups opposed to the junta. There was no claim of responsibility for the blast at the Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok, which is popular with soldiers and their families and retired military officers. "We found the pieces that were used to make the bomb," Kamthorn Aucharoen, commander of the police's explosive ordnance team said, adding it was not clear who was responsible. "Right now, authorities are checking out closed circuit cameras." Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said 24 people were wounded. Most were hit by flying glass, the military's national security unit said. Suspicion is likely to focus either on political dissidents opposed to military rule or Muslim separatists based in the south of the predominately Buddhist country. Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart blamed groups opposed to the junta. "It doesn't have to be the junta anniversary. People who don't like the junta, given the chance, will do this," Chalermchai said in a televised interview, adding that troops in uniform and plainclothes security officers would be deployed to increase security. Deputy national police chief General Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul said the bomb had been hidden in a container near the entrance of a pharmacy. The May 22, 2014, military coup toppled a democratically elected government and ended months of unrest, including sometimes deadly street demonstrations. The junta said it needed to take power to restore order and usher in political reforms. Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ejected in the 2014 coup, called for a swift return to democracy in a Facebook post on the 22 May 17 adding that the economy had been hit hard. Thailand's export-dependent economy is showing signs of recovery following a shaky three years that saw weak consumer spending and a slump in trade. Since the coup, the junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has clamped down on dissent and ramped up prosecutions under sedition and royal defamation laws. The military has always played a prominent role in Thai life but since the coup it has become embedded in society. The military government has acknowledged it wants to weaken political parties and maintain permanent influence over elected governments, partly through a new constitution approved by the king last month. An election is due by the end of next year. The blast comes weeks after a car bomb at a shopping centre in the province of Pattani, near Thailand's border with Malaysia, which wounded 61 people and which authorities blamed on the Muslim insurgents.
Turkey/Da’esh – Turkish police killed two suspected Islamic State militants in a clash during a raid on an apartment in the capital Ankara overnight, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on the 21 May 17. It said the two men killed were believed to be planning an attack and police seized guns and grenades in the apartment in an operation launched after a tip-off from a suspect detained in Istanbul. The raid occurred ahead of the ruling AK Party's congress in the city on the 21 May 17 when it was expected to elect President Tayyip Erdogan as leader after constitutional reforms approved last month in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers. Ankara's Governor Ercan Topaca told Anadolu at the scene of the raid that the detained suspect, an Azeri citizen, was still being questioned in Istanbul and was believed to have brought the two men to Ankara by car, Anadolu said. Islamic State militants have been blamed for bomb and gun attacks in Turkey in the past, including an attack on Istanbul's main airport which killed more than 40 people last June and a New Year's Day shooting in an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39.