Afghanistan/Da’esh – So-called Islamic State has said it was behind an attack on a protest march in the Afghan capital, Kabul that killed 80 people and injured 230 it was reported on the 23 Jul 16. The IS-linked Amaq news agency said two fighters "detonated explosive belts at a gathering of Shia" in Kabul. The attack in Deh Mazang square targeted thousands from the Shia Hazara minority who were protesting over a new power line, saying its route bypasses provinces where many of them live. The Taliban have condemned the attack. Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujaheed sent an e-mail to the media saying they were not behind it. Self-styled IS has a presence in eastern Afghanistan but has not previously admitted carrying out assaults in the capital. An Afghan intelligence source said that an IS commander named Abo Ali had sent three jihadists from the Achen district of Nangarhar province to carry out the Kabul attack. The interior ministry said only one attacker had successfully detonated an explosives belt. The belt of the second failed to explode and the third attacker was killed by security forces. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation on TV, declaring the 24 Jul 16 a day of national mourning. "I promise you I will take revenge against the culprits," he said. He had earlier issued a statement saying: "Peaceful protest is the right of every citizen, but opportunist terrorists infiltrated the crowds and carried out the attack." A large part of Kabul's city centre had been sealed off for the protest march. The demonstrators had waved banners and chanted "death to discrimination", angry that the 500kV power transmission line from Turkmenistan to Kabul would not pass through Bamyan and Wardak provinces, which have large Hazara populations. The Hazaras - mostly Shia Muslims - live mainly in the centre of the country. They complain of persistent discrimination, especially during Taliban rule in the late 1990s, when many of them fled to Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan.
Afghanistan/Pakistan/al-Qaeda – Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has appeared in an audio interview calling on fighters to take Western hostages and exchange them for jailed extremists, the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group said on the 24 Jul 16. In recording posted online, al-Zawahiri called on the global militant network to kidnap Westerners “until they liberate the last Muslim male prisoner and last Muslim female prisoner in the prisons of the Crusaders, apostates, and enemies of Islam,” according to SITE. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the recording. Zawahiri is believed to be seeking refuge in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that is the Taliban’s base.
Afghanistan/Da’esh/Iraq/Syria – The Da’esh terror group presence in Afghanistan is directly linked to the parent organisation in Iraq and Syria, the US Army general in charge of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan said on the 27 Jul 16. Gen. John Nicholson, speaking to The Associated Press in an interview, said Da’esh loyalists in Afghanistan have financial, communications and strategic connections with the main Da’esh leadership based in a self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. "This franchise of Da’esh is connected to the parent organisation," he said, using a common alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. "They have applied for membership, they have been accepted, they had to meet certain tests, they have been publicized in Dabiq," the Da’esh magazine, he said. Da’esh bases in the eastern province of Nagharhar, which borders Pakistan, are currently being targeted by an Afghan military offensive, backed by US troops. The offensive, part of the Afghan army's Operation Shafaq, began on Saturday, hours after the Da’esh group claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in the capital Kabul that killed around 80 people. The attack targeted ethnic Hazaras, who are also Shiite Muslims who were demonstrating to demand that a regional electrical project to be rerouted through their province of Bamiyan to boost economic growth in the impoverished central highlands. More than 200 people were injured in the worst attack in Kabul since the Taliban's insurgency began in 2001. It was also the first major attack in the city claimed by Da’esh, raising concerns about their strength and capabilities in Afghanistan. Until recently, Afghan and US officials have insisted that Da’esh loyalists were disaffected Taliban weary that their own fight had failed to make headway, after 15 years, in its goal of overthrowing the Kabul government. This week, the spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, said that Da’esh operatives in Afghanistan numbered between 1,000 and 3,000 loyalists — though probably closer to 1,500. Afghan security forces, backed by US air strikes, have been targeting Da’esh in their Nangarhar holdouts for several months. Afghan government reports on the efficacy of operations in recent months have claimed high numbers of militants killed and injured, and put those figures in the hundreds since the 24 Jul 16. The numbers cannot be independently verified. Nicholson said that the nine or ten districts where Da’esh had a significant presence had been reduced to three ahead of the current offensive. Now, he said, they were retreating out of the Kot valley towards the south. Once the region was cleared, he said, civilian forces such as the Afghan Local Police would move in to make sure there was no return. The Afghanistan branch of Da’esh often is referred to as Islamic State-Khorasan Province, a reference to a historic region that included parts of what are now Afghanistan. Nicholson said a "significant proportion, a majority of fighters" with Da’esh in Afghanistan come from Pakistan's Orokzai agency, over the border from Nangarhar, and are former members of the Tehrik-i-Taleban Pakistan, or TTP, also known as the Pakistani Talban. "We see them frankly as almost interchangeable at this point," Nicholson said, noting that US counter-terrorism forces last month killed a senior TTP leader, Khalifa Umar Mansoor, who allegedly masterminded a 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar in which some 150 people, mostly children, were killed. That strike came after a US drone strike in May killed the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, also in Pakistan. "This is a demonstration of our commitment against these terrorists no matter where they commit their atrocities on either side of the border," Nicholson said. Addressing concerns that the Pakistan authorities were giving sanctuary to Da’esh operatives — as they are widely accused by Afghanistan of giving Taliban leaders, though the accusation is denied — Nicholson said that he had raised the issue of the group's cross-border presence with Pakistan's chief of army staff Gen. Raheel Sharif. Sharif had committed to join the United States and Afghanistan to defeat the Da’esh group, Nicholson said. "There is an ongoing operation on the Pakistan side of the border to move in to the valleys opposite the enclave that they have there. This is something the Pakistanis have committed to, to continue these operations," Nicholson said.
Afghanistan/Taliban – The Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of this year, according to a report by the US government's top watchdog on Afghanistan. Published on the 29 Jul 16 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the report says the area under Afghan government "control or influence" decreased to 65.6 percent by the end of May 16 from 70.5 percent last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan. That accounts to a loss of 19 of the country's approximately 400 governing districts. The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, said most of the areas the Taliban control were rural. "They believed they were going to be able to seize and hold terrain, and they failed to do so," Nicholson told a Pentagon briefing. Afghan officials, however, say the exact figure cannot be measured as the fight against the Taliban and other armed groups is still ongoing. "It's not just the Taliban but many other insurgent groups in Afghanistan battling to gain territory, and we are fighting to push them back, so we cannot really measure how many areas are in control of the Taliban or other insurgent groups," General Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson for the Afghan defence ministry said on the 29 Jul 16 from Kabul. "However, we can confirm that the Taliban seems to be present mostly in rural districts and not in strategic cities of the country." The US has been training and equipping Afghan security forces in order to withdraw American troops from the country, but the Afghans remain short of personnel and hardware. The report cited US forces in Afghanistan as saying the loss of control was because Afghan forces were redeployed from lower-priority areas to "conduct offensive operations, gain and maintain the initiative, exploit opportunities, and consolidate tactical gains". Acknowledging that security in Afghanistan remained precarious and Taliban forces had gained ground in some places, US President Barack Obama plans to leave 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term - an increase from his previous plan, reflecting the difficulty of drawing down the US presence in the country. Obama also approved US forces new authorities that enable them to accompany Afghan forces, while allowing greater use of US air power. Previously, Nicholson, who commands both the NATO-led Resolute Support mission and a separate US counterterrorism mission, was permitted to take action against the Taliban only if "they pose an immediate threat to US or coalition forces, or if the Afghan forces face a catastrophic failure". The restrictions have not been lifted by the new authority.
Afghanistan/Taliban – Three Taliban attackers and one policeman are dead after an attack on Kabul's Northgate Hotel, just days after the deadliest attack in Kabul for 15 years it was reported on the 16 Jul 16. Three policemen were injured during a battle with insurgents as they tried to enter the hotel through a gap made when they detonated a truck filled with explosives, General Abdul Rahman Rahimi, head of Kabul police, said. "Two of our police patrols got to the scene immediately after the initial blast," General Rahimi said. The Taliban failed to enter Northgate, a facility providing life-support services to foreign military personnel in the Afghan capital. TOLO News, Afghanistan's first 24-hour broadcaster, said all staff and guests at the hotel were accounted for and unharmed. It said the attack and ensuing operation was over and that three Taliban fighters were killed. One died in the explosion and two others were shot dead. Regular and special police units started clearing operations at dawn and killed both the remaining attackers. A statement from the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said had caused "dozens of casualties", and added its fighters had entered the compound. Northgate, close to the US-run Bagram air base north of Kabul, is a heavily guarded compound with blast walls and watchtowers.
Armenia – Armed men have seized a police station in Armenia's capital Yerevan and taken an unknown number of hostages on the 17 Jul 16 the country's security service said. Deputy police chief Artur Vanoyan was killed and three officers were injured during the armed takeover of the station, first deputy of Armenia’s national police force Hunan Poghosyan said outside the police station. As of Sunday afternoon, armoured police vehicles had surrounded the station in preparation for a potential raid. Poghosyan said the police and security forces would "undertake necessary means” to bring an end to the hostage situation if the armed men refuse to surrender. “Because there is no other way to deal with murderers," Poghosyan said. But as long as there is still hope to end the situation through negotiations, we will continue to negotiate.” Negotiations were under way to resolve the situation peacefully, the National Security Service said, accusing the hostage takers' supporters of spreading false rumours on the internet that an armed uprising against the government was under way. "A group of armed men entered the premises of a police regiment in Yerevan and is holding hostages under the threat of violence," the security service said. Armenian news agencies reported that the armed men are demanding the release of Jirair Sefilian, an opposition leader and former military commander, who was arrested in Jun 16. Sefilian has strongly criticised Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan and is unhappy about the way the government has been handling a long-running conflict between pro-Armenian separatists and the breakaway Azeri region of Nagorno-Karabakh. "Supporters of Jirair Sefilian have always said it would launch an armed uprising to get rid of the current authorities. His organisation maintains that this is an illegitimate government that came to power through flawed elections and is holding on to power against the will of the people," she added. "Among their demands is the resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan and the release of all political prisoners in Armenia. They do not have wide support in the country." The security service said law enforcement agencies were working as normal to uphold public safety. TV images of the scene showed a heavy police presence with armoured vehicles blocking off the road to the police station. The hostage takers' supporters were spreading what it called "disinformation" about the seizure of other buildings as part of a coup, according to the security service. "The National Security Service officially announces that such information is absolutely untrue," it said.
Armenia – At least 50 people, including 25 police officers, were injured in Armenia after a night of clashes between police and protesters over a four-day hostage standoff, the country's health ministry said on the 21 Jul 16. Violence in the capital on the 20 Jul 16, Yerevan, also saw the arrest of dozens of protesters. Demonstrators throwing stones reportedly attacked police deployed outside a station where gunmen have been holding four officer’s hostage since the morning of the 17 Jul 16. The hostages include Armenia's deputy police chief General Major Vardan Egiazaryan and Yerevan deputy police chief Colonel Valeri Osipyan. Demonstrations continued into the early hours of the 21 Jul 16 as some 2,000 protesters built barricades in front of the cordons of riot police, who responded with beatings and arresting scores of demonstrators. Gunmen seized a police regiment building in Yerevan's Erebuni district on the 17 Jul 16, killing one officer and taking several captive. Armenian news agencies reported that the armed men were demanding the release of Jirair Sefilian, an opposition leader and former military commander, who was arrested in Jun 16. The gunmen have demanded the resignation of President Serzh Sarkisian and the release of Sefilian, according to news sources. They freed four hostages on 17/18 Jul 16 but were still holding four others as of the night of the 20 Jul 16. Sefilian, the leader of small opposition group named the New Armenia Public Salvation Front, and six of his supporters were arrested in Jun 16 after authorities said they were preparing to seize government buildings and telecoms facilities. An ethnic-Armenian, he was born in Lebanon where he fought in the civil war in the 1980s, defending Beirut's Armenian Quarters. He then moved to Armenia to take part in the 1990s war with neighbouring Azerbaijan for control of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is an area in Azerbaijan but holds an ethnic Armenian majority.
Armenia – All armed hostage-takers have surrendered after two weeks of standoff in Armenia's capital Yerevan as they barricaded themselves inside a police compound it was reported on the 01 Aug 16. One more gunman was injured by security forces on the 31 Jul 16 who had given the attackers until 1700 hrs local time on the 30 Jul 16 to surrender. "The security forces' anti-terrorist operation has ended and led to the members of the armed group laying down their weapons and surrendering to the authorities," the national security services said in a statement. "Twenty terrorists were arrested." The gunmen had held four police officers hostage for a week before releasing them unharmed. They later seized four members of an ambulance crew, but the last two were allowed to leave on the 30 Jul 16. The gunmen killed one officer and injured several others in their initial attack. Police accused the opposition gunmen of killing a second officer on the 30 Jul 16 as he sat in a vehicle away from the compound, but this was denied on the 31 Jul 16 by a leading member of the armed group inside. The standoff started on the 17 Jul 16 when 31 gunmen seized the police compound.
Bangladesh – Bangladesh's elite security force said on the 31 Jul 16 it had arrested a top regional head of the home-grown extremist group blamed for an attack on a Dhaka cafe in which 20 hostages were murdered. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers stormed a flat in an apartment building in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka, and arrested four members of the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). "Among them was Mahmudul Hasan, the southern regional head of the JMB. He is a top militant trainer," RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters. Police recovered hand-made bombs and bomb-making materials from the house, indicating the militants "were planning to carry out an act of sabotage," he said. Bangladesh's government has blamed JMB for the 1 Jul 16 attack on an upscale cafe in Dhaka's Gulshan neighbourhood in which 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, were shot and slaughtered. ISIS claimed responsibility for the Gulshan attack, releasing photos of the carnage and of the five men who carried out the deadly assault. Bangladeshi authorities rejected the claim, saying international jihadist networks have no presence in the world's third largest Muslim majority nation. But national police chief Shahidul Hoque said recently that authorities were investigating whether the Gulshan attackers had any international connections. RAB spokesman Khan said officers were probing whether Hasan and the three other detained JMB operatives, including a medical student, had played a role in the Gulshan attack. "They will be questioned," he said. Hasan-trained militants were responsible for the murder of a police constable and deadly bomb attack at the nation's most respected Shiite shrine in Dhaka late last year, he added. Bangladesh has been reeling from a deadly wave of attacks in the last three years. The government and police say home-grown extremists are responsible for the deaths of some 80 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities since 2013. Both ISIS and a branch of al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks. Critics say Hasina's administration is in denial about the nature of the threat posed by Islamist extremists and accuse her of trying to exploit the attacks to demonize her domestic political opponents.
India/China – The mountainous region of Ladakh, in northern India, lies in a tense location between disputed Kashmir and Tibet. In an effort to boost its military presence in the area, the Indian military has sent Russian-made T-72 tanks to Ladakh's Chinese border it was reported on the 21 Jul 16. "The vast flat valleys along the mountain ranges allow for armoured movement; besides, there has been an increase in the force levels across the border," an unnamed military official told NDTV. The tanks have undergone significant upgrades to be better outfitted for the region's climate. "We have procured special additives and lubricants for high-altitude terrain such as winter-grade diesel and additives for the lubrication system, which prevents it from freezing in the tank," Colonel Vijay Dalal told The Hindu. This marks the third regiment placed in Ladakh by India since 2014. Tensions between the neighbours have been building recently. Earlier in Jul 16 the Indian Navy deployed three ships to the South China Sea. "The visiting ships are also likely to conduct exercises with the Royal Malaysian Navy aimed at enhancing interoperability in communication as well as Search and Rescue procedures," said a statement issued by India's Defense Ministry. Malaysia is currently at odds with China over territorial claims in the waterway. Beijing and New Delhi are also competing over Nepal. While Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli has expressed an interest in working more closely with the Chinese government, India is unlikely to surrender its own influence over Kathmandu.
Russia/Da’esh – ISIS called on its group members to carry out jihad in Russia in a nine-minute YouTube video on the 31 Jul 16. “Listen Putin, we will come to Russia and will kill you at your homes ... Oh Brothers, carry out jihad and kill and fight them,” a voice said over footage of men training in the desert. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the video but the link to the footage was published on a Telegram messaging account used by the militant group. It is not the first time ISIS called for jihad against Russia. In late 2015, ISIS called on Muslims to launch a “holy war” against Russians and Americans over what it called their “crusaders’ war” in the Middle East, an audio message distributed by supporters of the ultra-hardline group said on the 26 Jul 16.
Turkey/Coup – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the country will be placed under a "state of emergency" for three months, in response to the failed coup. In a televised address on the 20 Jul16, Erdogan said the decision was made following a meeting with members of the national Security Council. The state of emergency was needed "in order to remove swiftly all the elements of the terrorist organisation involved in the coup attempt," he said at the presidential palace in Ankara. "I would like to underline that the declaration of the state of emergency has the sole purpose of taking the necessary measures, in the face of the terrorist threat that our country is facing," he said, vowing that the "virus in the military will be cleansed". In an interview with Al Jazeera earlier on the 20 Jul 16, Erdogan has expressed doubts the coup attempt was entirely over. "I don't think we have come to the end of it," he said. Turkey has accused the group of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind the coup. Gulen has strongly denied links to the coup. According to the Turkish constitution, a state of emergency is allowed up to six months. Article 120 of the constitution allows a state of emergency to be imposed "at a time of serious deterioration of public order because of acts of violence". Turkey had in 2002 lifted its last state of emergency, which had been imposed in provinces in the southeast for the fight against Kurdish armed groups in 1987. Under a state of emergency in Turkey, the president can largely rule by decree. Curfews could be enforced, and gatherings and protests could be banned without official consent, under the declaration. Media could also be restricted, while security personnel could conduct searches of persons, vehicles or properties and confiscate potential evidence. But the interior ministry said that the order "will not affect civilians". In his televised address, Erdogan also tried to reassure the public that military powers will not be expanded, adding that Turkey would emerge as a "stronger nation" following the coup attempt.
Turkey – Turkish authorities issued warrants for the detention of 42 journalists on the 25 Jul 16 a private broadcaster NTV reported. Well known commentator and former parliamentarian Nazli Ilicak was among those for whom a warrant was issued, NTV said. Turkish authorities have suspended, detained or placed under investigation more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, teachers, civil servants and others in the week since a failed coup attempt. Of the 13,000 people detained in the purge of people the government says were involved in the attempt, about 6,000 have been arrested, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late on the 23 Jul 16. Some 37,500 civil servants and police officers have so far been suspended, including many from the education ministry. On the 23 Jul 16 Erdogan issued a decree to close 2,341 institutions - including schools, charities, unions and medical centres. The decree, which local media noted as being the first taken under the powers of a recently-declared state of emergency, also extended the legal time a person can be detained to 30 days. The rapid pace of arrests has drawn criticism from many of Turkey's Western allies, who say they see the country going down an increasingly authoritarian road.