Afghanistan/Taliban – With Taliban suffering heavy casualties on the battlefield against the Afghan forces, experts say that the militant group has changed its war tactics it was reported on the 16 Jun 16. The officials even pointed out that at the beginning of their fighting season this summer, the Taliban launched widespread attacks in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Faryab and number of other province, but following the death of their former leader Mullah Mansoor, they now conduct smaller, focused attacks against security checkpoints. The experts believe the Taliban, with this new tactic, suffer fewer casualties but the casualties are higher among the government forces and the group is now conducting “guerrilla” attacks – which also include mass kidnappings on highways. “Because the Taliban is being defeated, they turn to guerrilla attacks. Afghan forces must stand seriously against the armed oppositions and terrorists and fight them,” Khaama Press quoted MP Syed Hussain Sharifi Balkhabi as saying. However, the Parliament members believe that ignoring the Taliban’s new tactics will increase casualties among the security force members and also civilians and said the group will also use civilians as human shields. Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said the Afghan forces will respond to any terrorist activities. “We are trying to respond to any terrorist activities. Our forces have a strong morale and people are with us,” Waziri said. “Even if Taliban change their war tactics we are after them and no matter where, if they create problems for our people, will we respond to them with force,” said Interior Ministry’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. The security institutions said that in addition to providing security for the country’s highways and that of passengers, the security forces are currently conducting 22 pre-planned military operations in 17 provinces across the country.
Afghanistan – More than 20 people were killed in separate bomb attacks in Afghanistan on the 20 Jun 16 including at least 14 when a suicide bomber struck a minibus carrying Nepalese security contractors in the Afghan capital, officials said. In Kabul, a Reuters witness saw several apparently dead victims and at least two injured being carried out of the twisted remains of a yellow bus after the suicide bomber struck the vehicle during the morning rush hour in the capital. Hours later, a bomb planted in a motorbike killed at least eight civilians and injured another 18 in a crowded market in the northern province of Badakhshan, said provincial government spokesman Naveed Frotan. The casualty count could rise, he said. The attacks are the latest in a recent surge of violence that highlights the challenges faced by the Afghan government in Kabul and its Western backers as Washington slowly draws down its remaining troops despite a persistent insurgency. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter that 14 people had been killed and eight injured in the attack in Kabul. Police were working to identify the victims, he said. The casualties appeared to include Afghan civilians and Nepalese security contractors, Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said after police and emergency vehicles surrounded the scene in the Banae district in the east of the city. He said the suicide bomber had waited near a compound housing the security contractors and struck as the vehicle moved through early morning traffic. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack in a statement from the Islamist group’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, on Twitter. There was no immediate indication of who carried out the attack in Badakshan.
Afghanistan/United States/Taliban – The US military is reported to have launched its first air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan since President Barack Obama's decision earlier this month to expand his country's involvement against the fighters. US officials said on the 24 Jun 16 that the strikes began in the last week and were against Taliban targets in the southern part of the country. Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to provide any details, citing "operational security". One senior US official said there have been "a couple" of air strikes, but the US does not want to provide more information because there may be more strikes in that area, including missions with Afghan forces who could be accompanied by US advisers. The official was not authorised to discuss the operations publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity. Brigadier-General Charles Cleveland, US military spokesman in Kabul, said US forces "have conducted a limited number of strikes under these new authorities" but it is "too early to quantify the effects achieved". The strikes "are only being used where they may help the Afghans achieve a strategic effect", Cleveland said. US officials made it clear when they announced the new authority to hit Taliban targets once again that they would only be used in selective operations that were deemed to have a strategic and important effect on the fight. Cook said the strikes "hit their intended targets." He said the strikes were "part of an ongoing operation that, again, the goal of which would be a strategic effect on behalf of the Afghan forces that we are enabling, and that's exactly what they were intended to be used for." Pressed for more details, Cook refused, saying "these are ongoing operations" and he does not want to be "telegraphing what's to come to the enemy." The war in Afghanistan began in 2001, and the US has been conducting a broad range of operations there ever since. Obama decided in early Jun 16 to expand US involvement with more air strikes against fighters, giving the Pentagon wider latitude to support Afghan forces, both in the air and on the ground.
Afghanistan – Taliban bombers have attacked an Afghan police convoy outside the capital Kabul, killing at least 30 people and wounding 50 others, officials said on the 30 Jun 16. Two bombs hit a convoy of buses carrying graduates from a ceremony on the city's western outskirts. Paghman District Governor Musa Khan said that all but two of the dead were police cadets. The bombing was claimed by the Taliban and follows an attack on a bus just over a week ago that killed 14 people. A Taliban spokesman said that on the 30 Jun’s attack, the first bomber attacked one bus and when rescuers began to arrive the second drove an explosives-laden car into their vehicles. The cadets were returning to Kabul from a training centre in Wardak province and were about to go on leave. The Taliban's main targets are the Afghan government, international organisations and foreign military, but in particular the Afghan army and police force. There have been numerous attacks on the Afghan police, even when the officers are unarmed. They are perhaps a softer target than the army, using un-armoured vehicles and lighter weapons. The Taliban have tried to increase their attacks recently, especially after the appointment of their new leader. Big attacks make headlines, but there have been many foiled attacks that are not widely publicised. Taliban violence normally increases at this time of year, but this year there is an unusual upsurge in several provinces. On top of that, the authorities have also for the first time engaged in several stand-offs with the Islamic State group in the east, which has forced hundreds of families to flee their homes.
Recent Taliban attacks
19 June: At least 14 Nepali security guards killed in suicide attack on minibus in Kabul
5 June: Afghan lawmaker and at least three other people killed by a bomb in Kabul.
25 May: 25 people killed in Kabul, including employees in judiciary
19 April: At least 64 people killed in explosion in Kabul
11 April: At least 12 police recruits killed on bus near Jalalabad
27 Feb: Suicide bomber kills 15 people near the Afghan defence ministry in Kabul
28 Jan: Afghan police officer drugs and kills 10 colleagues
China – A group of knife-wielding men attacked a train station in south-western China on the 18 Jun 16 killing at least 29 people and injuring more than 130 others in what Chinese officials called a terrorist strike, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Four of the attackers were also shot dead and only one was captured alive after the mayhem, which broke out about 2100 hrs local at the Kunming Railway Station in the capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province. The Kunming government said the "serious violent terrorist attack was planned and organized by Xinjiang separatist forces," Xinhua reported. Ethnic Turkish Uighur separatists have been sporadically fighting for an independent state in Xinjiang, in north-western China, home to about 10 million Uighur, who are predominantly Muslim. More than 100 people have been killed in protests in Xinjiang in the past year. Yang Haifei, a resident of Yunnan, told Xinhua that he was attacked and sustained injuries on his chest and back. Yang said he was buying a ticket when he saw a group rush into the station, most of them dressed in black, and started stabbing people. "I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife, and I ran away with everyone," he said, adding that people who were slower were severely injured. Yunnan province Vice Gov. Gao Feng held an emergency meeting at No. 1 People's Hospital, where the injured are being rushed, and said hospitals have received 162 people. State-run Yunnan News said that the men were wearing uniforms when they stormed the railway station and that gunshots were heard after police arrived. Police investigate after a group of armed men attacked people at Kunming railway station in China's Yunnan province on Saturday.
Moldavia – Moldovan intelligence officials say they have seized an 'imposing quantity' of radioactive uranium from a criminal group and detained several people it was reported on the 25 Jun 16. The Moldovan Intelligence and Security Service said the uranium was due to be sold for £154,000 but did not say how big the haul was. In a statement, it said 'a criminal group specializing in smuggling radioactive substances was uncovered', adding that 'members of the group were found to be Moldovan citizens'. It said there was an ongoing investigation into where the uranium came from and how the detained people got involved. Officials released a video of the raid which shows one person being tackled to the ground by Special Forces who then use a device to register the radioactivity of a package in the back seat. In Feb 15, an attempt to sell highly radioactive caesium to Islamist terrorists, including ISIS, was thwarted by the FBI and Moldovan security personnel. The seller had asked for enough of the substance to contaminate several city streets with a dirty bomb. An investigation revealed in 2015 that there have been at least four attempts in the past five years in which criminal networks with suspected Russian ties sought to sell radioactive material to extremists through Moldova. Five people were detained in Jun 11 in Chisinau suspected of smuggling radioactive substances as they were attempting to sell a kilogram of uranium for 32 million Euros. The buyers were believed to be in North Africa. The suspects were convicted and handed prison sentences of three to five years. Uranium-238 can be enriched into the fissile material of nuclear warheads or converted into plutonium, also used to arm nuclear missiles.
Russia/NATO – Russia must boost its combat readiness at a time when NATO is expanding and moving its infrastructure towards Russia’s borders, President Vladimir Putin said on the 22 Jun 16. “NATO is strengthening its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions near our borders,” Putin said in a speech in the lower house of parliament. “In these conditions, we are duty-bound to pay special attention to solving the task of strengthening the combat readiness of our country.”
Russia/Nicaragua – Russia has agreed a deal to build an electronic intelligence-gathering base in Nicaragua, which will no doubt renew fears of a new Cold War it was reported on the 23 Jun 16. The deal between Moscow and Managua, which will also involve the sale of 50 Russian T-72 tanks, comes as President Putin's regime ramps up the pressure on NATO in eastern Europe. Russia said it would be deploying nuclear-capable missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave, close to the Polish border, by 2019 and may even site them in newly annexed Crimea. Putin has refused to back down after economic sanctions were imposed on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and has ramped up its military facilities around the world. Nicaragua's leftist President Daniel Ortega was once the bete noire of the White House. His Sandinista regime were targeted for a decade in the 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and Ortega has remained friendly with Moscow since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Last week three Americans, working for the US Department of Homeland Security, were expelled from Nicaragua without explanation. Washington complained about the expulsion which they said was 'unwarranted and inconsistent with the positive and constructive agenda that we seek with the government of Nicaragua'. After more than a decade out of power Ortega was re-elected in 2006 and has tried to reintroduce socialist policies. He has also announced plans for a huge canal, to rival the Panama Canal, which would be funded by a Chinese consortium. Russia and Nicaragua signed a deal last year to build a GPS base near Laguna de Najapa, on the outskirts of the capital Managua, and the Washington Free Beacon said that may be the same site they would use for the spy base. Other reports said the base would be located on the Caribbean coast. A US State Department official said: 'While any nation has the right to choose its international partners, we have been clear that now is not the time for business as usual with Russia.' Costa Rica's Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez has criticized the tank sale, telling the La Prensa newspaper: 'It is a matter of concern not because of a threat to Costa Rica…but because one country in the Central American region starts an arms race.' Russia is likely to deploy advanced nuclear-capable missiles in the Kaliningrad by 2019, casting the move as a reply to a US-backed missile shield, and may one day put them in Crimea too, sources close to its military predict. That would fuel what is already the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the Cold War and put a swathe of territory in NATO members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the cross-hairs. Russia would probably have deployed the missile - called the Iskander, the Persian name for Alexander the Great - in Kaliningrad regardless, and the targets it will cover can be struck by longer-range Russian missiles anyway. But Russian and Western experts say the US-backed shield, which Moscow says is aimed at blunting its own nuclear capabilities, gives the Kremlin the political cover it needs to justify something it was planning all along. Steven Pifer, former US ambassador to Ukraine, said: 'The Russians plan to do a lot of things they have had in train for some time.' Mr Pifer, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said: 'There's a long history in Moscow of saying what they're doing is in response to what you guys did, even though they planned it in advance.' NATO is holding a summit in Warsaw next month to decide how best to deter Russia after Moscow's lightning annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in 2014. The United States, Britain and Germany have said they will command new battalions in Poland and the Baltics to send Moscow a message. The summit may prompt Russia to announce counter-measures, but sources close to the Russian military believe Moscow will wait until a planned Polish missile defense site opens in late 2018 to unveil a more serious response. The Kremlin has often threatened to put nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles in Kaliningrad, a slice of Russia wedged between Poland and Lithuania, as a riposte to the shield, part of which went online in Romania last month. Mikhail Barabanov, a senior research fellow at the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, which advises the Russian Defence Ministry, said it now looked like the Kremlin would deploy them there permanently by 2019. 'By all accounts, the deployment of the Iskanders in Kaliningrad Region is now inevitable,' Barabanov said. The Iskander, a mobile ballistic missile system codenamed SS-26 Stone by NATO, replaced the Soviet Scud missile. Its two guided missiles have a range of up to 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) and can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
Russia – The amendments that the Duma voted on the 24 Jun 16 include introducing prison sentences for failure to report a grave crime and doubling the number of crimes that Russians as young as 14 years old can be prosecuted. Another forces telecommunications companies to store logs and data for months, a measure which threatens to eat almost all of the companies' profits. A brainchild of the hawkish pro-Kremlin lawmaker Irina Yarovaya, the bill was rammed through the parliament by the ruling United Russia party and voted on in the Duma's final session before the summer recess and the September election. Widespread rigging at the December 2011 vote which elected the current Duma led to large-scale opposition protests. In a throwback to the Soviet time, the amendments introduced prison sentences for failing to report a crime. "How successful we are in fighting terrorism depends not only on authorities and how law enforcement works but also on the public," the bill's co-author Ernest Valeyev said in defence of the amendment. "That's why we think this amendment will encourage the public to counter terrorism." The bill which rattled Russian business most will make it obligatory for telecommunications companies to store call logs for 12 months and call and message data for six months. Businesses have said this is 100,000 times as much data and they store already and will take more than $33 billion in investment to organize and run, eating up all of their profits. The original bill, however, would have the companies store data for several years. Communist deputy Yuri Sinelshchikov was among the bill's critics, worrying that storing data and call logs would open the door to official abuse. He said law enforcement can petition the court and then phone companies to trace calls if they need to investigate the crime, and giving them six months to do so is too much. Opposition lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov said the amendment will be a heavy burden for the businesses. "Instead of competing and entering new markets and improve connection quality, our telecommunications companies will have to deal with this stupidity," he said. The most draconian amendments, including the right to strip Russians of their citizenship, were hastily taken out of the bill before the debate. Some lawmakers complained that they never got the final draft before the vote. Human Rights Watch said in an opinion piece published on the 23 Jun 16 that even without the most alarming amendments, the bill is cause for concern. "It is hard to avoid the impression that the alleged removal of the bill's most scandalous provisions may have been specially designed to have the public breathe a sigh of relief and skim over the fact that even with some improvements the Yarovaya Law will still severely curb people's right to exercise free expression and other fundamental freedoms in Russia," HRW's Tanya Lokshina said.
Turkey – Three suspected suicide bombers have been arrested in Turkey after police foiled an ISIS plot to attack a trans pride event it was reported on the 21 Jun 16. It is alleged the men, two of whom are said to be from Dagestan, were planning to attack Istanbul's Trans Pride march, which was held on the 19 Jun 16 despite being banned by the government. Police discovered suicide vests, camouflage outfits and knives at the suspects' addresses in Istanbul. According to Harberler.com, the city's anti-terror branch directorate arrested the men on the 19 Jun just hours before the march was due to take place. It is alleged the men - who have been detained - were in contact with ISIS in Raqqa, the terror group's stronghold. The authorities had tried to ban the event and others like it, because it falls during the holy month of Ramadan. They cited concern for participants after threats to attack participants from the far right. UItra-nationalists had warned that so called 'degenerates' they would be targeted if a 'Trans Pride' rally went ahead.
Turkey/Israel – Turkey is close to reaching a deal with Israel to normalize diplomatic ties, a senior Turkish official said on the 22 Jun 16. Israel and Turkey were traditionally close allies, but ties broke down in 2010 over Israeli commandos’ deadly storming of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship. Relations declined further over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s often fiery rhetoric against Israel. Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish president’s spokesman, said the two countries are “reaching the end of a lengthy process.” “I believe the Palestinian people will find the agreement satisfactory since we’re making progress to address the energy shortage and water crisis in Gaza,” he added in a televised interview with HaberTurk TV. He dismissed reports circulating in Israeli media that the Islamic militant group Hamas maintains a military office in Istanbul. But Turkey will continue to speak with Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kalin added. Earlier on the 22 Jun 16 Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was up to Israel to meet Ankara’s “quite simple” conditions. One of Turkey’s key demands is the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. “These conditions should be met by Israel,” said Cavusoglu. “When these conditions are met, we can normalize our relationship. We can send our ambassadors back.” Israel’s Haaretz daily reported on the 21 Jun 16 that Turkish and Israeli negotiating teams may conclude the reconciliation agreement on June 26.
Turkey – A car bomb exploded near a gendarmerie station in south-eastern Turkish province of Mardin on the 23 Jun 16 security sources said, killing one truck driver and injuring two officers. The explosion took place outside the gendarmerie outpost near the Omerli district of Mardin province and was carried out by Kurdish militant group PKK, sources said.
Turkey – On the 29 Jun 16 a gun and bomb attack on Istanbul's Ataturk international airport killed 36 (The number may rise as further reports come in, 30 Jun it was reported that 41 had died) people and injured more than 140 others, officials said. Three attackers began shooting outside and inside the terminal late on the 28 Jun 16 and blew themselves up after police fired at them, officials said. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said early signs suggested the so-called Islamic State was behind the attack. Recent bombings have been linked to either IS or Kurdish separatists. Tuesday's attack looked like a major co-ordinated assault. Ataturk airport has long been seen as a vulnerable target. There are X-ray scanners at the entrance to the terminal but security checks for cars are limited. Pictures from the airport terminal showed bodies covered in sheets, with glass and abandoned luggage littering the building. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against militant groups. Footage on social media shows one of the attackers running in the departure hall as people around him flee. He is shot by police and remains on the ground for about 20 seconds before blowing himself up. All three attackers were killed. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag put the number of injured at 147. A US state department travel warning for Turkey, originally published in March and updated on Monday, urges US citizens to "exercise heightened vigilance and caution when visiting public access areas, especially those heavily frequented by tourists."
Major recent attacks 2016
7 June, Istanbul: Car bomb kills seven police officers and four civilians. Claimed by Kurdish militant group TAK
19 March, Istanbul: Suicide bomb kills four people in shopping street. IS blamed.
13 March, Ankara: Car bomb kills 34. Claimed by TAK.
17 February, Ankara: 29 killed in attack on military buses. Claimed by TAK
12 January, Istanbul: 11 Germans killed by Syrian bomber in tourist area
23 December, Istanbul: Bomb kills cleaner at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport. Claimed by TAK
10 October, Ankara: More than 100 killed at peace rally outside railway station. Blamed on IS
20 July, Suruc, near Syrian border: 34 people killed in bombing in Kurdish town. IS blamed
Follow-on Report 30 Jun 16 – The suicide assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport bears the “hallmark” of an ISIS attack, CIA Director John Brennan said on the 29 Jun 16. “The despicable attacks in Istanbul International Airport on the 28/29 Jun 16 that killed dozens and injured many more certainly bears the hallmark of ISIL’s depravity,” Brennan said. Turkish security officials have said that the three terrorists who attacked the Istanbul airport were foreign nationals – a Russian, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz it was reported on the 30 Jun 16. The officials, who spoke with Western news agencies, said that investigators faced difficulties identifying the bombers from their limited remains, but a pro-government Turkish newspaper had said the Russian bomber was from Dagestan, a restless province which borders Chechnya. DW reports that more details have emerged about the attack. Three people with guns and suicide vests targeted the arrivals and departures areas, where they fired on travellers and then detonated their explosives in a rampage that lasted just a few minutes. Police sources said the attackers had rented a flat in the Aksaray area of Istanbul, from which they took a taxi at 8.45 p.m. local time to Atatürk airport. The driver described the attackers as calm. Turkish officials said that the attackers were initially unable to enter the terminal building. “When the terrorists couldn’t pass the regular security system, when they couldn’t pass the scanners, police and security controls, they returned and took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check,” said prime minister Binali Yildirim. Two Turkish officials said that one of the three attackers entered the lower-level arrivals hall, opened fire, and then detonated his explosive vest. In the chaos which followed, the second assailant went up to the departure hall where he blew himself up. The third man waited outside, near the parking lot, and detonated his explosives as passengers ran out of the airport terminal, the officials said.