Lebanon – The head of al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, has warned that the "real battle" in neighbouring Lebanon has yet to begin, indicating that more of the violence gripping Syria will spill across the border. In the audio message distributed online on the 4 Nov 14 Abu Mohamed al-Jolani warned that Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement would regret its intervention in the Syrian conflict in support of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The threat came a day after Hassan Nasrallah, head of Shia Hezbollah, declared "victory" for his movement against self-declared jihadists in Syria, as tens of thousands of Shia Muslims gathered in Beirut to commemorate Ashoura. Referring to a mountainous region that runs along the Syria-Lebanon border, Jolani said: "Our brothers in Qalamun are hiding plenty of surprises. "The real battle in Lebanon has yet to begin," he added, saying Nasrallah would "regret what he has done to Sunnis in Syria." Hezbollah's decision to send fighters to bolster Assad's regime has drawn the ire of moderate and radical groups in Syria alike. Al-Nusra and other extreme groups have actively targeted the group's strongholds in Lebanon in a series of bomb attacks that have killed dozens. In addition to the bomb attacks, armed groups like the Sunni Al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant have battled Lebanese troops and Hezbollah forces along the border. 361 COMMENT: There are many areas in which IS could spring up once they have been defeated in Iraq. Lebanon is one such location. However there would be the need for a strong relationship between the IS and AQ and the constant infighting that has occurred in the past. Although there has been a recent agreement between the two groups that was reported on the 13 Nov 14 between IS and al-Nusrah to stop infighting and reunite and carryout the fight against the Assad regime. There was no such talk of fighting Lebanon or Hezbollah in Lebanon. It cannot be discounted because Hezbollah has sided with the Syrian regime. It depends on how strong Lebanon is and its ability to stand together that will count against the amalgamated group. COMMENT ENDS.
Iraq – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for two bombings on Shiite pilgrims that left 23 people dead in Baghdad on the 2 Nov 14 as violence continued on the 3 Nov 14. In a statement posted online late on the 2 Nov 14 the group said the car bomb attacks happened despite the tight security measures amid the Shiites' “biggest infidel event.” The two attacks on the 2 Nov targeted Shiite pilgrims and the roadside tents serving them on their way to the holy city of Karbala to mark the Ashoura religious holiday. Ashoura commemorates the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and an iconic martyr among Shiite Muslims. 361 COMMENT: These terrorist acts are clearly conducted to show that the Iraqi security measures taken to safeguard the Islamic pilgrims are inadequate. By also attacking the Shia pilgrims they are also hoping to gain support and popularity amongst the Sunnis. By attacking them in Shiite areas they will also be making a statement that they can act anywhere they want to. COMMENT ENDS
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was “critically wounded” early on the 8 Nov 14 when a U.S. air strike hit two ISIS targets in the town of al-Qaim in western Iraq it was reported in numerous open source sites. The attacks early on the 8 Nov morning included an air attack on a 10-car convoy on the outskirts of the border town of al-Qaim, and a combined air attack and ground assault on a house in al-Qaim where ISIS leaders were meeting at the time. Three senior ISIS figures were confirmed killed: Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Sajar, a senior aide to ISIS leader who was particularly close to al-Baghdadi; Adnan Latif al-Suweidi, the overall leader of Anbar province; and Bashar al-Muhandi, ISIS’s leader in the Euphrates valley. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was “critically wounded” early Saturday when a U.S. air strike hit two ISIS targets in the town of al-Qaim in western Iraq. The attacks early Saturday morning consisted of an air attack on a 10-car convoy on the outskirts of the border town of al-Qaim, and a combined air attack and ground assault on a house in al-Qaim where ISIS leaders were meeting at the time. Iraqi officials said their forces participated in the ground assault on the house. Al Arabiya reports that usually reliable local tribal sources confirmed the news to the news channel’s reporter, after the AFP news agency broke the story. A senior Iraqi official confirmed to the Guardian that a senior aide to ISIS leader, Abdur Rahman al-Athaee, also known as Abu Sajar, was killed in the attack on the convoy. Athaee was known to have been in almost constant contact with Baghdadi, and officials and analysts deduced that his presence in the convoy likely meant that Baghdadi was with him. Iraqi sources say that the attack on the house killed two other ISIS senior figures — the overall leader of Anbar province, Adnan Latif al-Suweidi, and ISIS’s leader in the Euphrates valley, Bashar al-Muhandi. Monitoring of the group’s communications in the aftermath of the attack has offered no evidence, however, that suggest that Baghdadi was killed. U.S. Central Command confirmed in a statement that U.S.-led air strikes targeted ISIS leaders near their northern Iraqi hub of Mosul late on the 7 Nov 14. Central Command refused to confirm whether Baghdadi was killed in the attack. “This strike demonstrates the pressure we continue to place on the ISIL [ISIS] terrorist network and the group’s increasingly limited freedom to manoeuvre, communicate and command,” U.S. Central Command said. Mohammad al-Karbuli, an Iraqi MP who represents parts of Anbar province in the Iraq parliament, told Al Arabiya News Channel that coalition aircraft had targeted a gathering of ISIS leaders in al-Qaim. The coordinated attack led to the killing of dozens of people and wounded scores more. Karbuli added that ISIS members could be observed frantically scrambling to transport their wounded to al-Qaim hospital, which was soon overwhelmed with the number of wounded rushed there. Reuters quoted two witnesses who said an air strike targeted a house where senior ISIS officers were meeting, near al-Qaim. The witnesses told the news agency that ISIS fighters had ordered a hospital in town cleared so the organization’s wounded could be admitted and treated. ISIS fighters riding pick-up trucks used loudspeakers to call on residents to donate blood, the witnesses added. (http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20141110-isis-chief-albaghdadi-either-critically-wounded-or-killed-in-saturday-air-strike-iraqi-sources)
361 COMMENT: If Baghdadi has been injured and some of his top aides have been killed there will likely be sever repercussions from this incident; possibly in the United States or with hostages being held by the IS. Sadly news outlets reported on the 15 Nov 14 that the American aid worker and hostage Peter Kassigus (Abdul-Rahman Kassig) had been brutally murdered. It is unclear whether his death was anything to do with the airstrike but the timing would suggest so. Ironic thoughts on the decapitation of the group’s leader and the survival of the group cannot be assessed at the present. However, analysts from various locations believe that the group had put in place close associates, so should any of them be killed by the Americans there would be others to take their place. Baghdadi’s death will not be the end of the group, they maybe a little sluggish in recovering whilst the new leader gets everything in order but the unfortunate thing is that it would be ‘business as usual’. COMMENT ENDS
News releases on the 13 Nov 14 reported an audiotape from the IS leader after his supposed death. Speculation had occurred regarding his location and state of health after an airstrike. The message will prove to those who believed he was dead that he is still firmly in control of his caliphate. This will also be a strong message to his followers and be good for morale especially after the strike and rumours of his death. His message also called for Muslims throughout the world to rise and fight, he said, “erupt volcanoes of jihad” and claimed, “Jews, crusaders, apostates….(and) devils are terrified, weak and powerless.” 361 COMMENT: Rather than accuse the American and coalition forces that they are frightened the truth is that it is the other way round. Whilst the IS had the capability of attacking Iraq and gaining a great deal of territory their main fear must have been that the Americans would again become part of a battle group to attack them. They know that they cannot beat the coalition and so send out threats that they must realise they cannot keep. Veiled threats have not worked in the past nor are they likely to in the future. The Islamic State will be taken seriously but only because to not do so will cause unnecessary deaths. However, any hostages that they hold are likely to be murdered in the same brutal fashion. COMMENT ENDS
Iran/Syria – Iran is working to unite Shiite foreign militias fighting in Syria under one organization that could serve as a “parallel army” to that of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, pro-opposition news website Siraj Press reported on the 5 Nov 14. The new organization, described as similar to the highly organized and well-armed Lebanese Hezbollah group, would bring together Afghan and Iraqi mercenaries under one military command. “This army would resemble Hezbollah in Lebanon… and will gradually work on recruiting Syrians,” Siraj Press quoted a source as saying. The organization would then be well-armed and trained to be an independent force for long-term presence in Syria, even if the regime of President Assad collapses. The Iranian move coincided with Damascus’ decision to recruit thousands of Syrian youth to join military service. Jordanian Maj. Gen Fayez al-Doueiri suggested that Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Qods Force, was behind the new Iranian project. “The decision maker in Syria is General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds force,” Gen. al-Doueiri said during an interview on Al Arabiya’s sister channel Al Hadath. Gen. Doueiri noted that it was Suleimani’s idea to send Iran’s Basij brigades to Syria in the early months of the Syrian civil war. He explained how Suleimani reportedly used Iraq as a training ground for foreign Shiite militias who desired to join the Syrian civil war. Tehran, the long-time supporter of the Assad’s regime, could be re-adjusting its strategy in Syria following the rise of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and the ongoing U.S.-led military campaign, according to Gen. Doueiri. He suggested that Tehran no longer sees Assad’s tattered army as reliable to safeguard its interests in the country; so it needs a “parallel army” for long-term service. The new army would provide field support for the Assad’s army, which has reportedly lost more than 200,000 fighters since the civil war began in 2011. Iran considers the war in Syria as critical for its geo-political influence in the region and a crucial battleground in its conflict against the U.S. and Western powers. Syria provides a strategic bridge between Iran and Hezbollah, its proxy militia in Lebanon. The fall of Syria to the liberal, pro-West opposition means that Hezbollah could be isolated and Iran’s strategic reach could be diminished. (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/11/06/Report-Iran-building-new-Hezbollah-in-Syria.html)
Israel – Ten people were injured when a car deliberately rammed pedestrians in Jerusalem, before the driver was shot dead by police it was reported on the 4 Nov 14. The incident was described as a "hit and run terror attack" and was believed to have taken place in the same area as a similar attack two weeks ago, in which a Palestinian rammed a car into a crowd killing a woman and a baby. After the car came to a halt, the driver, who was injured, "got out of the vehicle and started to hit people with an iron bar". He was shot dead. 361 COMMENT: This type of attack using a vehicle as a weapon is slowly becoming a terrorist tactic. Not excluding the attacks in Israel the attack on the late British soldier Lee Rigby was also initiated using a vehicle. In his case the attackers used knives, in the Jerusalem attack an iron bar was used. Attacks of this nature could become the normal especially if the terrorist attempts to hide their intention, VBIED’s have certain characteristics that can be seen to identify them; this type of attack has none. COMMENT ENDS
Israel/Palestine – A militant from Palestinian Islamist group Hamas slammed a minivan into a crowd waiting for a train the 5 Nov 14 in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring 13. Just hours later, the Israeli military said a Palestinian motorist drove into a group of soldiers in the West Bank, injuring three. The incidents, combined with a similar attack recently have raised concerns that Israel could be facing a new type of threat. Police said they would put concrete barricades in front of train stations as a first step. (See 361 Comment above regarding Israel 4 Nov 14)
Israel/West Bank – Israeli settlers started a blaze in a mosque near the West Bank town of Ramallah on the overnight of 11/12 Nov 14 setting the first floor on fire. The settlers set fire to the whole of the first floor of the mosque in the village of Al-Mughayir, near the Shilo Jewish settlement. Hard-line Jewish settlers frequently accompany their revenge attacks with graffiti bearing the legend “price tag” but that was not the case in the latest arson attack. In a separate incident, unknown assailants threw a petrol bomb overnight at an ancient synagogue in Shfaram, a predominantly Muslim and Christian Arab town in northern Israel. 361 COMMENT: During the reporting period there have been a number of incidents between Palestinians and Israelis. The setting ablaze of a religious building will not help to calm fears of another spate of war against the two sides. Indeed if the two continue to clash then another Intifada is likely to occur. The Palestinians can hardly afford another bout of fighting especially as they lost so much in the last altercation. The Palestinians are hell bent on provoking the Israelis especially after the knifing of Israeli security staff and at least two occasions where Palestinians used a vehicle to cause deaths and injuries during the latest reporting period. COMMENT ENDS
Saudi Arabia – Saudi authorities arrested six people on the 4 Nov 14 in connection with a shooting in the east of the kingdom the previous night (3 Nov 14) that left five people dead and was apparently aimed at the country's Shiite minority. The attack happened late Monday evening in the village of al-Dalwah, which is located in the country's eastern al-Ahsa region, a major oil-producing area that is also one of the main centres of the minority Shiite community. The attackers shot the victims with pistols and machine guns, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The agency provided no further details on the identities of the attackers or the victims, and said an investigation is underway. Witnesses said the attack happened inside a Shiite mosque as worshippers were marking Ashoura, which commemorates the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad who is revered by Shiites. Several days after the incident Saudi authorities blamed elements of al-Qaeda for the attack and said that they were attempting to incite ill feeling within the country between the two Islamic groups.
Saudi Arabia – On the 14 Nov 14 the BBC reported that in a 17-minute audio message ISIL's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced its intention to attack Saudi Arabia. The speaker did not refer to Saudi Arabia, as such, because that name is derived from the ruling tribe, the al-Saud, whose authority ISIL does not accept. Instead he calls it "the land of Haramayn", the land of the two holy places, meaning Mecca and Medina. In the audio message, ISIL presented a target list that includes attacks on the Shiites in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The authenticity of the tape has not been established, but ISIL previously has issued statements that it intends to overthrow all the Arab monarchs and monarchies because the Quran only recognizes the rule of Allah. ISIL has no capability to use conventional force against the monarchies. Instead it will rely on sympathizers and terrorist tactics. The danger is that the audio message is the signal to ISIL supporters to commence a terrorist campaign in Eastern Province, if not the rest of Saudi Arabia.
Syria – Syrian activists said on the 9 Nov 14 that unidentified assailants killed five nuclear engineers on the 9 Nov while they were on a bus just north of Damascus, near the research centre where they worked. “Unidentified attacker’s murdered five nuclear energy engineers who worked in the scientific research Centre near the neighbourhood of Barzeh, northern Damascus," Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Observatory said. The monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground for its reports, was unable however to say how they were killed or supply their nationalities. It was not immediately clear whether the bus that they were travelling on was hit by a bomb, or by gunfire. In July last year, six people who worked at the same centre were killed in a mortar attack carried out by rebels seeking President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster. Another military research centre, also near Damascus, was also hit by a deadly Israeli raid in May 13.
Yemen – Unidentified militants on the 5 Nov 14 attacked Sanaa International Airport and an adjacent Yemeni Air Force base. Local media reported that at least four militants on motorbikes were involved in the attack. They fired a Light Anti-Armour Weapon (LAW) rocket at the airport exit gate. Then, they targeted the air traffic control tower with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and hit the airport runway (shared by the civil airport and the military base) with mortar fire. An exchange of gunfire between the militants and the Houthi-dominated Popular Committees' militia responsible for guarding the airport external perimeter was also reported. The latter, eventually managed to repel the attack.