Taliban/Da’esh – The Taliban has declared war on the Islamic State as the net closes in on the terror group it was disclosed on the 20 Dec 15. The terrorist organisation waged war on the savage jihadis by announcing that it has dismissed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's claims to be "caliph” - claiming he is not the leader of all Muslims. By officially denouncing al-Baghdadi, the Pakistan branch of the Taliban has launched war against the values of the terror cult ISIS. The Pakistan Taliban said in a statement: "Baghdadi is not Khalifa (caliph) because in Islam, Khalifa means that he has command over all the Muslim world, while Baghdadi has no such command. He has command over a specific people and territory. "Baghdadi is not an Islamic Khalifa because his selection is not according to Islamic rules." The group also claimed ISIS has little control in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The statement comes after a similar rejection by the Afghan Taliban as it has been battling ISIS on its own turf as the group has been trying to establish itself in Afghanistan. ISIS’ infiltration of Afghanistan came just months after British troops were pulled out of the area and the Taliban have been locked in a violent battle to keep their territory. Despite both branches of Taliban denouncing ISIS, the Pakistani Taliban operates separately from the Afghan insurgents of the same name. Late last year, a few breakaway factions of the Pakistani Taliban declared allegiance to Islamic State and ordered militants across the region to join its campaign to set up a global Islamic caliphate. Pakistani authorities say ISIS has no financial ties with any Pakistani group. The Taliban statement continued: "Baghdadi's caliphate is not Islamic because in a real caliphate you provide real justice while Baghdadi's men kill many innocent mujahideen (fighters) of other groups."
Afghanistan/Taliban – (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/analysis-taliban-resurgence-afghanistan-isil-151227065817409.html) The Taliban in Afghanistan have expanded their presence and acquired more reach in the country than at any point since the toppling of their regime as a result of the United States-led intervention in 2001. The resurgence of the Taliban fighters poses a critical challenge for the Afghan government and the remaining US and NATO forces. There is a multi-pronged strategy behind the Taliban’s recent violent campaign and territorial gains. Their objective is to establish "permanent" sanctuaries and strongholds to form functional administrative systems. They also want to capture big chunks of the country to get the upper hand in the stalled peace process, which is likely to start in 2016.
The Afghan security situation has deteriorated significantly since the launch of the Taliban’s 2015 spring offensive. Afghanistan has never been as insecure in the last 14 years as it is now . More Afghans have been killed in 2015 than any year since 2001. The Taliban planned their resurgence in 2014 and aimed to expand their territorial control in order to change the momentum in their favour . They reportedly moved a big number of their fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan. In addition, three other major factors contributed to their recent resurgence in Afghanistan.
1. The end of the US and NATO combat mission in Afghanistan, which was completed at the end of 2014, and the withdrawal of most foreign forces from the country emboldened the Taliban. The threat for the Taliban to be bombed or raided reduced significantly following the reduction in the number of the foreign forces and the change of US-NATO mission. The new NATO-led Resolute Support international coalition, which consists of around 12,500 foreign soldiers (mostly Americans), began on January 1, 2015 and mainly involves training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions.
2. Several thousand mainly Uzbek, Arab and Pakistani fighters based in the North Waziristan Tribal Agency crossed into Afghanistan after the Pakistan military launched its Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014. The contribution of these foreign fighters further intensified the fight against the Afghan government.
3. Since taking full responsibility for security from the US-led international forces, the Afghan security forces have shown resilience and courage, but they are under strain. They are under-resourced and under-equipped. The Afghan military also lack certain capabilities, especially air power and reconnaissance. Meanwhile, the Taliban have tried to open multiple fronts to divert the attention of Afghan forces. By increasing the number of attacks throughout the country, the fighters have overwhelmed and overstretched the Afghan forces.
The Taliban are the main and dominant group in Afghanistan fighting the Afghan government and its foreign allies. They reportedly have tens of thousands of fighters and have a presence in most of the country's 34 provinces. But a substantial number of foreign fighters, mostly from the Middle East, Central Asian countries and Pakistan, are also engaged in fighting in Afghanistan. According to Afghan officials, the number of foreign fighters in the country exceeds 7,000. More than 10 local and regional/international armed groups are involved in the conflict in Afghanistan, including the main Afghan Taliban faction, the Taliban splinter group, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ( ISIL) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which joined ISIL in August 2015. Although these foreign fighters are using the Afghan soil, they have their own regional and international agendas too.
The Taliban have been fighting the newly emerged ISIL group since January 2015, when it established its province of Khorasan - an old name for Afghanistan and the neighbouring parts of Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia. This means that the Taliban are not only confronting the Afghan government and its foreign backers, they are also fighting on two other fronts against ISIL and the Taliban splinter group. The Taliban splinter group also says it is against ISIL. Most foreign fighters, including those linked with al-Qaeda and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) - a splinter faction of the IMU - are supporting the Taliban. Although ISIL and the Taliban splinter group have challenged the supremacy of the Taliban, they are not in a position to pose an existential threat to the group in the near future. But ISIL and infighting has diverted their attention in some parts of the country.
Taliban expands fight
The Taliban have increased their activities throughout the country. By carrying out attacks in different parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban want to give the impression that their fight is not limited to certain parts of the country. The temporary seizure in September of the northern city of Kunduz , one of Afghanistan's most strategic and richest cities, and the capturing of several districts in other northern provinces, including Takhar and Badakhshan, confirmed this impression.
With the announcement of the death of their revered founding leader, Mullah Omar, in July 2015, the Taliban entered uncharted territory and faced the biggest challenge since the launch of the group in 1994. The Taliban’s new leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, found it difficult to keep the group united. The Taliban’s recent gains are also linked to their new leader’s efforts to establish his authority and increase his prestige as someone who can deliver impressive victories on the battlefield. The territorial expansion also reasserts the Taliban’s control amid competition from the ISIL group, which challenged their supremacy in some provinces, especially Nangarhar, Kunar, Zabul, Helmand and Farah.
In recent weeks, the Taliban have intensified their campaign to capture southern Helmand province which has been a major theatre of war for more than a decade. The province has a symbolic and strategic significance for the Taliban. By capturing Helmand, the Taliban want to further their gains in neighbouring provinces in the south of the country. As most of Afghanistan's opium is produced in Helmand, the intensity of war in the province has a financial aspect too. The drug trade has been one of the main sources of income for the Taliban, who reportedly secure tens of millions of dollars annually through an elaborate system of taxing different stages of drug production, including poppy cultivation as well as opium processing and trafficking. In addition, drug networks, local warlords and corrupt elements inside and outside the government contribute to the deterioration of the security situation in the country.
An 'imposed war'
Afghan government officials frequently refer to the regional and international dynamics of the ongoing conflict by calling it an "imposed war". The violence in the country has increased at a time when the Afghan government, backed by the US, wants to restart the peace process and reach a political settlement with the Taliban. The past 15 years has shown that the war in Afghanistan is multi-dimensional, involving several actors at local, regional and international levels. Only a coordinated and multi-national approach can resolve one of the world’s most protracted conflicts in the world.
Philippines – A military spokeswoman on the 26 Dec 15 said Christmas attacks by rebels against communities in the country’s volatile south have left at least 14 people dead. Regional military spokeswoman Capt. Joan Petinglay said the dead included nine Christian villagers gunned down by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter insurgents and at least five rebels killed by government forces in clashes in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and North Cotabato. Petinglay said around 200 rebels took part in the attacks. She said the military learned about the impending attacks and secured towns and villages and warned villagers not to venture out, preventing a larger number of casualties. The rebels broke off from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when the latter entered into peace talks with the government.
Turkey/Da’esh/United States – Turkey on the 18 Dec 15 detained 11 more suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on suspicion of planning an attack on the US consulate in Istanbul. Those arrested are all Syrians with fake passports and include a man described as the ringleader and named as 18-year-old Abdulaziz Amin Mojbil, the agency said. The arrests took place in early morning raids in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district. Turkey earlier this week already arrested an alleged ISIS member suspected of planning a suicide attack on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul. Intelligence about the planned attack prompted the partial closure of the consulate on the 9 Dec 15 when it offered only limited services with a scaled-down staffing. Istanbul is on high alert for attacks following three deadly bombings blamed on the ISIS militant group in Ankara and the southeast of the country this year. 361 COMMENT: Yet again another case of fake Syrian passports being used by potential Da’esh terrorists. Although not much is known regarding the suspects it would be interesting how they obtained the fake passports and if and where they crossed the border. COMMENT ENDS
Turkey – An explosion on the tarmac at Sabiha Gokcen airport in the Turkish city of Istanbul has killed a female cleaner it was reported on the 23 Dec 15. The woman who died was working on a Pegasus airlines plane overnight when the blast took place. A colleague who was with her was injured. No passengers were on the plane or nearby at the time, Pegasus said in a statement. The explosion happened at 0205 hrs (0005 hrs GMT) on the 23 Dec 15. Located on the Asian facing side of Istanbul, Sabiha Gokcen is the city's second-largest airport after Ataturk airport on the European side of the city. 361 COMMENT: If the cleaner died whilst carrying on a bomb to a passenger aircraft this will have sever repercussions for the airline industry. Along with the Air France diversion and landing in Mombasa with a fake explosive device the possibility of a terrorist group targeting airlines is somewhat concerning. It would show that terrorists have a way of infiltrating airlines and able to place explosive devices on board using trusted workers and companies. The security of airports will come under scrutiny and may result in the cancelation of flights to numerous locations and have a huge impact on various countries economies. The possibility is that a family could be held to ransom whilst a device is planted on an aircraft or a sympathiser places a device on an aircraft must be looked into. COMMENT ENDS
Armed police sealed off part of one of Turkey's main airports on the 23 Dec 15 after an explosion killed one person and damaged planes standing hundreds of yards away. While the cause of the blast is not yet known, it comes amid a wave of ISIS-sponsored terror attacks in Turkey and could raise concerns that the group has been able to breach airport security. The blast took place around 0200 hrs (midnight GMT) at Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul's second airport, and killed a cleaner on board a plane belonging to Pegasus airlines, Turkey's main budget carrier.
Another cleaner was wounded, officials said. Police have so far declined to comment on the incident, but some witness reported hearing up to three separate explosions. The incident was also remarked upon by Richard Moore, Britain's ambassador to Turkey, who expressed his condolences to the family of the cleaner killed in the blast. She was named by Turkish media as Zehra Yamac, 30. A photo on the website of Turkey's Dogan news agency showed a hole in one plane window. Police armed with rifles and protective vests imposed tight security at entrances to the airport, searching vehicles while a police helicopter circled overhead. It was unclear whether the blast actually took place inside the plane or at a location next to it. No passengers were in the area at the time of the airport blast, which the Dogan news agency caused damage to at least three planes as far as 300 metres (330 yards) from each other.
According to its website, Sabiha Gokcen served around 26 million passengers in the first 11 months of the year, less than half the number at the main Ataturk airport on the European side of the city. The airport said investigations into the cause of the blast were ongoing, and that air traffic was operating normally. Bomb attacks by Kurdish, leftist and Islamist militants are common in Turkey. A three-decades-old conflict between the state and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has flared up in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast since the collapse of a ceasefire in July. Turkey is on alert after 103 people were killed on the 10 Oct 15 when two suicide bombers ripped through a crowd of peace activists in the capital Ankara, the worst attack in modern Turkey's history. That attack was blamed on Islamic State (IS) jihadists, like two other deadly strikes in the country's Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the summer.
Turkish authorities have in recent weeks detained several suspected IS members with officials saying they were planning attacks in Istanbul. But Turkey is also waging an all-out assault on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has staged dozens of deadly attacks against members of the security forces in the southeast of the country. Meanwhile the banned ultra-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) has also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the last months. Sabiha Gokcen airport, which is named after Turkey's first female fighter pilot, is now owned by Malaysian Airports Holding. "We are working very closely with the Turkish government and our counterparts to facilitate the investigation, and we await their official report on it," Dato' Azmi Murad, the executive director of Sabiha Gokcen said in a statement. "The Turkish government has heightened security within the vicinity of the airport, which includes helicopter surveillance," he added.
Follow On Report – An armed Kurdish group on the 26 Dec 15 claimed an explosion near a plane at Istanbul’s second international airport which killed a female cleaner and injured another. “We ... claim the attack carried by mortar bombs at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport,” on Wednesday, the Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) said on its website. Turkish officials say TAK is a front for PKK attacks on civilian targets and the PKK claims TAK is a splinter group over which it has no control. On its website, TAK lashed out at what it described as a “war coalition” between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamic State group against the Kurds. It also said the airport attack was a response to the “fascist attacks that turn Kurdish cities into ruins.” The armed group, which had been silent for some time, claimed the attack had inflicted “serious damage” to the airport and that five planes were “heavily” damaged.
Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK)
Ideology: Kurdish Nationalism, Separatism
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Kurdish: Teyrênbazê Azadiya Kurdistan, TAK), also known as the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, is a militant group that has committed attacks throughout Turkey, operating in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq with a goal of securing Kurdish secession from Turkey. It is unclear whether or not TAK is connected to any other Kurdish nationalist organizations, though it is believed they split off from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) when they became dissatisfied with the group's tactics. Some Turkish security analysts have alleged that Bahoz Erdal may be the leader of the TAK. The group goes by other names including, but not limited to Kurdish Vengeance Brigade, Kurdistan Freedom Falcons Organization, Kurdistan Liberation Hawks. Most TAK attacks are directed against tourist areas in Istanbul, Ankara, and southern coastal resort areas. In the first three months of 2006, they claimed responsibility for eight bombings that killed two and injured 47 civilians.
The TAK are seeking an independent Kurdish state that includes some of south-eastern Turkey. The group has been violently opposed to the Turkish government’s policies towards its Kurdish minority. TAK first appeared in 2004. There is substantial debate on the origin, composition, and affiliations of the group. Some analysts believe that the group is either a small splinter of or an alias for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the most active Kurdish militant group. Others, however, suggest that the group may be totally independent of the PKK, or only loosely connected to it. PKK leaders deny having any control over the TAK. There are some indications that the TAK was founded by disgruntled or former members of the PKK. Though the TAK has not articulated a specific platform beyond enmity with the Turkish regime, it is likely the group at least supports the PKK’s goal of an independent Kurdistan. The U.S. government designated TAK a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" organization on January 10, 2008.
TAK also appears as one of the 48 groups and entities to which European Union's Common Position 2001/931/CFSP on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism applies and 45 international terrorist organizations in the list of proscribed terrorist groups of the UK Home Office. However the organization is not listed among the 12 active terrorist organization in Turkey according to Counter-Terrorism and Operations Department of Directorate General for Security (Turkish police), because Turkey views the group as part of the PKK. This is despite the fact that TAK openly criticizes and strongly disagrees publically with their increasingly restrained tactics. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Freedom_Falcons)
Afghanistan/Da’esh – ISIS is transmitting hours of extremist propaganda into homes deep in one of Afghanistan's biggest cities for the first time, according to officials and local residents it was reported on the 19 Dec 15. The so-called "Voice of the Caliphate" has been carrying "lots of revolutionary propaganda and fatwas" calling for followers to kill anyone who stands in the way of ISIS since earlier this week, Achin district Governor Haji Ghalib said. "If something is not done, it will have very serious consequences," he added. Most Afghans do not have televisions and radio is the country's most powerful form of mass media. The Taliban, which has its own communications unit and often makes important announcement or threatens its rivals over the airwaves, has not yet managed to penetrate the country's urban centres. News of the emerging radio station follows a Pentagon warning that the ISIS offshoot in Afghanistan has moved beyond the "initial exploratory phase ... and are becoming more operationally active." On the 18 Dec 15, Defence Secretary Ash Carter warned of the threat ISIS posed in Afghanistan. "We are seeing little nests of [ISIS] spring up around the world, including here in Afghanistan ... but I will say that that is a threat that we track very closely," he said. ISIS recently stepped up attacks on Afghan security forces in Nangarhar province, which is where Jalalabad is located.
ISIS-linked fighters have also lured members of the Taliban unhappy with the Afghan group's leadership, and the groups have clashed. That ISIS radio was being transmitted into Jalalabad terrified some who have fled fighting between the rival militant groups. "We heard about [ISIS] radio a few days ago and for the past two nights I have been listening to it," Azizullah, who has been forced from his village and now lives in a camp for displaced people in Jalalabad. "It has become the talk of the camp. People are afraid, we have seen their brutality and know very well how serious this is." "If the government does not stop this it will have a very bad effect on people's minds — there are a lot of youngsters who will be attracted to them," added Azizullah, who like many in Afghanistan goes by one name. Afghan officials said the transmissions were coming from the Pakistani side of the border, a claim officials there rejected. A senior commander for the Taliban, which has been battling the government in Kabul since it was toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001, confirmed that his fighters had also heard their rival's broadcasts. The commander also complained the Taliban did not have the money to compete with ISIS. "We don't have enough resources as compared to our enemies, but even then we are successful in our job and people listen to us," said the commander.
"We have installed transmitters in different places but we used to change the location of the transmitters and radio stations from time to time for security reasons." This latest sign that ISIS was gaining ground in the region comes almost a year after the group's media arm declared that Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan were one region called the province of Khorasan — a name given to a historic region that covers part of modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and India. While widely believed to count with relatively few followers, ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been moving into Taliban strongholds and clashing with its fighters in parts of the country, particularly in Nangarhar. On the 7 Dec 15 the group took aim at the Taliban with a video saying the Afghan group's leadership had deviated from the righteous Muslim path. The highly produced piece distributed by ISIS' official Telegram channel came five days after news emerged that the Taliban's recently installed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had been badly wounded in a shootout with other militants. While the Taliban later issued an audio statement it claimed came from Mansour himself, rumours persist that he was killed and the movement's leadership is hiding his death.
Afghanistan – The Pentagon confirms that six U.S. service members were killed by a suicide bomber on the 21 Dec 15 on an attack on a NATO patrol near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The Taliban is claiming responsibly for the attack, saying a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 19 soldiers. But the Taliban is notorious for exaggerating casualty numbers. NATO says it will investigate the attack. U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter calls the bombing a 'painful reminder' of the dangers U.S. troops face in Afghanistan every day. 'As I saw firsthand during my visit to Afghanistan last Friday, our troops are working diligently alongside our Afghan partners to build a brighter future for the Afghan people,' he said. 'Their dedicated efforts will continue despite this tragic event.' Carter also said the bombing injured two other U.S. service members and a contractor.
Afghanistan – At least one Afghan civilian was killed and thirteen wounded, after a suicide car bomb exploded close to an entrance to Kabul's airport, Afghan officials have said on the 28 Dec 15. The attack happened early on Monday morning near the airport's military entrance, which is used by NATO and coalition forces, the Afghan interior ministry said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Reports from Kabul say that there have been an increase in Taliban attacks this year, although it's winter and normally Taliban attacks decrease during the winter. But there have been a number of attacks by the Taliban, in the south of the country and north of the country, even in Kabul. The attack comes a day after Pakistan's army chief, General Raheel Sharif, visited Kabul to discuss peace talks with the Taliban. Both sides agreed that the first round of dialogue between Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China will be held in Jan 16 to lay out a comprehensive roadmap for peace, the Afghan presidential palace said in a statement.
China – China's rubber-stamp national legislature on the 27 Dec 15 approved the country's first anti-terrorism law, amid concerns that its requirements that tech companies share information with the government could hurt business interests and further infringe upon human rights. The National People's Congress said its standing committee adopted the law with a unanimous vote. The law goes into effect on the 01 Jan 16. Rights advocates and foreign governments, including Washington, have expressed concerns about the law's likely impact on tech businesses and freedom of speech.
They say it is troublesome that telecommunications companies and Internet service providers are required to share encryption keys and back-door access with the police and state security agents seeking to prevent terrorist activities or investigating terror acts. Chinese officials said Sunday that the requirements for the tech firms are necessary because terrorists are increasingly turning to cyberspace. They said lawmakers balanced the needs to fight terrorism and to protect business interests and public rights. "Relevant regulations in the anti-terrorism law will not affect the normal business operation of companies, and we do not use the law to set up 'back doors' to violate the intellectual property rights of companies," said Li Shouwei of the National People's Congress Standing Committee's legislative affairs commission.
"The law will not damage people's freedom of speech or religion," Li said. Beijing has asserted that China is a victim of global terrorism following violent ethnic clashes involving members of the Muslim minority Uighur community in the far northwest region of Xinjiang. Foreign experts, however, have argued that there is no proof of foreign ties and that the violence in Xinjiang might be home-grown. China has criticized the West for adopting double standards. Beijing recently refused to renew the press credentials of a French journalist, effectively expelling her, for questioning Beijing's equating of ethnic conflicts with global terrorism. Li said at a news conference that China's anti-terrorism law targets no specific region, ethnicity or religion.
Iran – The United States is preparing a new round of economic sanctions against Iran after Iran had violated agreements related to its ballistic missile program by testing, on 10 October, an advanced version of one of its missiles. The ballistic missile agreement is unrelated to the nuclear agreement the P5+1 power’s signed with Iran last summer. The nuclear program-related sanctions would begin to be lifted in 2016 if Iran fully complies with the requirements of the nuclear deal. The Wall Street Journal reports that the targets of the new measures are firms and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
The U.S. Treasury Department is now preparing sanctions on two Iran-linked networks which have been helping the country develop ballistic missiles in violation of agreements which Iran had signed. The sanctions would bar U.S. and foreign nationals from doing business with the firms and people in the networks. The U.S.-held assets of individuals and companies in the two networks will be frozen. A senior U.S. official told the Guardian: “As we’ve said, we’ve been looking for some time at options for additional actions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program based on our continued concerns about its activities, including the October 10th launch. “We are considering various aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work that is consistent with our national security interests. As always, we keep Congress informed about issues related to Iran sanctions, and will continue to do so as we work through remaining issues.”
The United States maintains it has the right to impose sanctions on Iranian entities involved in missile development, rights abuses, or international terrorism. The administration has argued all along the nuclear deal applies only to Iran’s nuclear program, and whatever economic relief Iran would be entitled to as a result of the agreement would be the result of its conduct on the nuclear front. Other aspects of Iran’s policies, foreign or domestic, are treated separately from its conduct on nuclear issues. The Treasury Department is set to impose sanctions against UAE-based Mabrooka Trading and its founder, Hossein Pournaghshband, for helping procure carbon fibre for the missile program. The Journal notes that Pournaghshband also used a Hong Kong subsidiary for the procurement of heat-resistant material and financing. The Treasury is also preparing sanctions against five Iranian officials who worked on the missile program. (Source: http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20151231-u-s-to-impose-new-sanctions-on-iran-over-ballistic-missile-program)
Pakistan – 29 Dec 15: At least 22 people were killed and dozen others injured in a suicide attack outside a government office in Pakistan, police said. The attack happened on Tuesday at an office of the National Database and Registration Authority in the town of Mardan, in the country's northwest. "A suicide bomber riding an explosives-laden motorcycle hit the Nadra office in Mardan where a large number of people were standing in queues," police officer Naeem Khan said. Jamat Ul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility, saying the office was a legitimate target as it was a part of the "heathen Pakistan state". "God willing, we will target all Pakistani organisations that are either directly or indirectly a part of this war," Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the group, said in a statement.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was a militant Islamist group that split away from the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in August 2014. Although some media outlets reported that the group had pledged allegiance to ISIL, it had merely voiced support for the group. In March 2015, the group's spokesman announced that it was rejoining the Pakistani Taliban.
Ideology: Deobandi Fundamentalism.
Deobandi (Pashto and Persian: دیو بندی, Urdu: دیو بندی, Bengali: দেওবন্দ, Hindi: देवबन्दी) is a revivalist movement within Sunni (primarily Hanafi) Islam. It is centred in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, has recently spread to the United Kingdom, and has a presence in South Africa. The name derives from Deoband, India, where the school Darul Uloom Deoband is situated. The movement was inspired by the spirit of scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703–1762), and was founded in 1867 in the wake of a failed revolt against British rule a decade earlier.
Philippines/Da’esh – The Philippines has become the latest ISIS target for expansion after the jihadi group released its first propaganda video of a terror training camp in the Filipino jungle in a report on the 21 Dec 15. Several jihadi commanders are shown urging Filipinos to travel to Syria to join ISIS before revealing the group have already started their own terror camp in the Philippines. The footage shows the 'soldiers of the Caliphate in the Philippines' working on their fitness and agility by completing a series of assault course drills. A small group of recruits, each wearing similar black clothing and masks, are shown climbing up rope ladders, crawling under barbed wire and practicing with weapons.
The Filipino government has long said that support for ISIS in the Philippines was limited to local bandits claiming allegiance to the group. However, the latest propaganda video suggests that the jihadi group has earmarked the Philippines as a potential site for establishing further new bases. The new video comes after eight members of a criminal gang that pledged allegiance to ISIS were killed in a fire-fight with the military in the southern Philippines last month. The hour-long battle took place in Palimbang, a remote town in the south - home to the predominantly Catholic nation's Muslim minority and the scene of decades of conflict. The bandits were from Ansar al-Khalifa, a small group that declared its support for ISIS in a video circulated on the Internet last year, regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said. The larger Abu Sayyaf group has also pledged its allegiance to ISIS and is holding at least four foreign nationals hostages.
The group is demanding millions of dollars in ransom for their safe release and have released several videos threatening them with execution. Tan said that five black flags similar to those used by Islamic State fighters were recovered from the bandits after the clash. Criminal gangs operate kidnap for ransom and extortion activities alongside Muslim and communist separatist campaigns in the restive south. While the relatively new Ansar al-Khalifa had extorted from businessmen and stolen cattle from farmers, it had no proven links with Islamic State national military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said. 'This group is trying to ride on the popularity of the ISIS, but they're not really ISIS,' he said. 'We view them as mere criminal gangs.' Tan said the military was verifying intelligence reports that one of the eight killed was an Indonesian national.
Russia – A local mosque imam was detained in Belgorod, a south-western Russian city, on the 12 Dec 15 local law enforcing institutions source said, state news agency TASS reported on the 15 Dec 15. The imam was detained by Federal Security Service officers at his apartment, where multiple weapons and explosives had been discovered, sources said. Officials from regional FSB and police officers declined to comment on the detention, TASS said. In October, FSB reported that intelligence agents had detained at least 20 members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization banned in Russia as a “terrorist” group organization, in the Moscow region. Earlier in October, 10 people from Central Asia were arrested in Moscow and the surrounding region, on suspicion of involvement with the Islamic State terror organization, media reported.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic: Party of Liberation) is an international pan-Islamic political organisation. They are commonly associated with the goal of all Muslim countries unifying as an Islamic state or caliphate ruled by Islamic law (sharia) and with a caliph head of state elected by Muslims. The organization was founded in 1953 as a Sunni Muslim organization in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar and appeals court judge (Qadi) from the Palestinian village of Ijzim. Since then Hizb ut-Tahrir has spread to more than 50 countries and by one estimate has about one million members. Hizb ut-Tahrir is very active in the West, particularly in the United Kingdom, and is also active in several Arab and Central Asian countries, despite being banned by some governments. The group also has a growing presence in North America, known as Hizb ut-tahrir America, or HTA.
Hizb ut-Tahrir believes the re-establishment of caliphate would provide stability and security to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the predominantly Muslim regions of the world. The party promotes a detailed program for institution of a caliphate that would establish Shariah and carry "the Da'wah of Islam" to the world. Hizb ut-Tahrir is also strongly anti-Zionist and calls for the State of Israel, which it calls an "illegal entity", to be dismantled. Hizb ut-Tahrir has been described as "controversial". Some observers believe it is a victim of unjust and untrue allegations of connections to terrorism, as the organization has never been "overtly involved" in terrorism or even any "violent actions". Others argue its stated opposition to violence is tactical and temporary, and that the politically charged atmosphere it works to create is conducive to terrorism, by preaching hatred and by actions such as calling suicide bombers "martyrs" and calling for Muslims to "destroy the new crusaders"
Russia/Dagestan – Gunmen shot and killed one person and injured 11 others at the Derbent citadel in Dagestan, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the North Caucasus it was reported on the 30 Dec 15. The tourists were attacked on the night of the 29 Dec 15 outside the fortress in Derbent, one of Russia's most ancient towns. Five of the injured were in a serious condition in hospital. Dagestan has been battling Islamist militants for years - partly a result of separatism in neighbouring Chechnya. It is not yet clear who opened fire on the tourists in Derbent, as the gunmen fled the scene.
Turkey/Da’esh – Turkish authorities detained two suspected Islamic State militants (IS) at Istanbul's main international airport carrying at least 150 original European passports, an official said on the 17 Dec 15. Counter-terror police detained the suspects, a Syrian and a Turk, at Ataturk Airport after they flew in from a European country, finding they had stuffed the passports into pizza ovens. "Airport police... found at least 150 fake passports among their personal belongings," a Turkish government official said. The private Dogan news agency said the police seized a total of 148 European passports hidden inside "five mini-pizza ovens". The suspects have been taken to the anti-terror headquarters of Istanbul police for questioning. Two hidden cameras, scores of memory cards and SIM cards were also seized, it added. Dogan had said that the passports were all original. Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that Turkey has imposed entry bans on 33,746 terror suspects from 123 countries since the Syria conflict began. In addition, 2,783 jihadist suspects from 89 countries have been detained in Turkey and deported.
Turkey/PKK – The number of Kurdish rebels killed during a huge Turkish military offensive in the country’s restive southeast has jumped to 102, a security source said on the 20 Dec 15 as the operation entered its fifth day. At least two soldiers and five civilians have also been killed in the clashes, the source said. An earlier toll released on the 19 Dec 15 put the figure at 70 dead, with the army saying all of them were suspected members of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Some 10,000 troops backed by armoured vehicles have been deployed in the southeast to try to rout young PKK supporters from urban areas, according to local media. The operation, which has targeted the towns of Cizre and Silopi in Sirnak province as well as a neighbourhood in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the region, began on the 16 Dec 15 according to the army. On the 18 Dec 15 the military also carried out air strikes on PKK “hideouts” and “weapons sites” across the border in northern Iraq, where the outlawed group has its rear bases.
Turkey/Da’esh – Turkish police have detained two suspected Islamic State militants who were believed to be planning suicide attacks during New Year celebrations in central Ankara, officials said on the 30 Dec 15. The two men were detained following a raid in a low-income neighbourhood of Ankara, where police also seized suicide vests armed with bombs that were fortified with ball bearings and metal sticks, the state-run Anadolu Agency said, quoting unidentified officials from the Ankara chief prosecutor's office. A senior government official confirmed the report without providing further details. The two Turkish nationals, identified by their initials M.C. and A.Y., were being questioned by anti-terrorism police, according to the officials from the prosecutor's office. The agency said the attackers were planning to detonate the suicide vests at two locations near bars and a shopping mall during the celebrations. In October, two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests during a peace rally in Ankara, killing more than 100 people. The prosecutor's office said those attacks were carried out by a local cell of the Islamic State group.