Minimizing Risk of Collateral Damage
"Our objective is always to minimize the risk of collateral damage and any potential harm to non-combatants," Martin said from his headquarters in Baghdad. Isler led a team well-versed in weapons, engineering, explosives and law. The team visited the site of the incident in Jadidah and spoke with Iraqi civilians, news agencies and non-governmental agencies to gain information on the incident. On March 17, Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces were engaging ISIS in the Jadidah district of West Mosul. The Iraqi forces were close enough to have the structure under visual surveillance, Isler said. The structure was a well-built house used by a local leader. Neighbours used the building to shelter from the fighting as it had 30-inch thick concrete walls. "CTS visual observers had been in direct visual observation of the area for over two days, and had not observed civilians enter or use the structure," Isler said. "Neither coalition nor CTS forces knew that civilians were sheltered within the structure." But ISIS knew, as they had a fighting position built into the house and two snipers were engaging CTS forces from the house. CTS commanders asked for a strike on the structure and went through the rigorous checklist to launch a strike, Isler said. Officials authorized a GBU-38 joint direct attack munition with a delayed fuse. "At [0824 hrs] on 17 Ma 17, in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict, a coalition U.S. aircraft delivered a single GBU-38 precision-guided munition against two ISIS snipers engaging the Iraqi CTS," Isler said. "Neither coalition nor CTS forces knew civilians were sheltered in the bottom floors of the structure."
Terrorists Purposely Brought Explosives Into the Building
The bomb went where it was supposed to and detonated on the second floor of the structure. "The detonation ignited a large amount of explosive material which ISIS fighters had previously placed in the rear of the house," Isler said. "This secondary explosion triggered a rapid failure of the structure which killed the two ISIS snipers, 101 civilians sheltered in the bottom floors of the structure and four civilians in the neighbouring structure to the west," the general said. The bottom line from Isler's investigation is that ISIS knew there were civilians sheltering in the structure. The terrorists purposely brought explosives into the building and placed them in areas that would ensure a catastrophic collapse if the structure was bombed. Then the terrorists set up a fighting position that would draw an airstrike.
Iran/United States – Iran criticised new US sanctions on its missile programme on the 18 May 17 saying they would undermine a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. "Iran condemns the US administration's ill will in its effort to reduce the positive results of the country's implementation of JCPOA (nuclear deal) commitments by adding individuals to the list of unilateral and illegal extraterritorial sanctions," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on his Telegram channel. The administration of US President Donald Trump chose to stick by the nuclear deal with Iran on the 17 May 17 renewing a waiver of nuclear-related sanctions despite his past criticism of the agreement. But it imposed new measures to punish Iranian defence officials and a Chinese business tied to Tehran's ballistic missile programme, which it says is in breach of international law because they could carry nuclear warheads in the future. The decision came just before a 19 May 17 presidential election in Iran, in which moderate President Hassan Rouhani is fighting for a second term against hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has called for a much tougher stance against the West. Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and Ghasemi said its missile programme is part of its "absolute and legal right to build up the country's defensive capabilities". "The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue its missile programme with power and authority based on its plans," he said. Ghasemi said Iran would retaliate by adding nine US individuals and companies to its own sanctions list, accusing them of "clear violations of human rights" in relation to their support for Israel or "terrorist groups" in the Middle East.
Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal during his campaign and has launched a review of its terms, but until then he is required to decide on renewing sanctions relief at regular intervals. His first deadline fell this week, related to sanctions on oil purchases through the Iranian central bank, part of a 2012 law called the National Defence Authorisation Act, that must be waived every 120 days. The Trump administration will have to waive more sanctions next month if it wants to stick by the nuclear deal. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Apr 17 that Iran was complying with its side of the bargain, but has described the country as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Washington has maintained a raft of other sanctions related to human rights and the missile programme that continue to stifle Iran's efforts to rebuild its foreign trade. This has been a major issue in the Iranian election, with hardliner Raisi accusing Rouhani of making too many concessions without gaining any economic benefits. Although oil sales have rebounded since the deal came into effect in Jan 16, Iran's continued exclusion from the international banking system has prevented it from signing much needed trade and investment deals with Europe and Asia. Rouhani, who is still seen as the frontrunner in unofficial polls, has vowed to work towards the removal of remaining sanctions and called for more time to allow the benefits of the deal to reach ordinary Iranians.
Iraq/Da’esh – More than 50 people have been killed in a string of suicide car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, and the southern province of Basra, police have said. At least 33 people were killed on the 19 May 17 in two separate blasts at checkpoints on a highway near oilfields in Basra, according to police. The first explosion took place at the Rumeila checkpoint, and the second around one kilometre away at another checkpoint called al-Sadra. Iraq's South Oil Company said there was no disruption to operations but oil police were put on maximum alert in response to the attack, officials said. Separately, two more attacks late on the 19 May 17 killed at least 19 people, including security forces, and wounded 25 others in southern Baghdad. Police sources said a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of a checkpoint, just as another attacker blew himself up near a police station located about 100 metres away. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant armed group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks.
Iraq/Da’esh – A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a popular Baghdad ice cream shop early on the 30 May 17 killing at least 15 people. The attack in Karrada district in central Baghdad also wounded at least 30 people, officials said. The attack struck just days into the holy month of Ramadan. The officials say the bombing in central Baghdad involved explosives in a parked car that a bomber detonated. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's Amaq website said the suicide bomber targeted a "gathering of Shia”. The suicide bomber detonated himself just after midnight. It was a hot day and he targeted a popular ice cream parlour in Baghdad." Michael Pregent, former US army officer and Iraqi government adviser with the Hudson Institute think tank said: "[Tuesday's attack is] meant to stoke a sectarian flame to get some sort of response from Shia militias from the government. It's also meant to discredit the Baghdad government."That's something that Shia militias, recently criticised by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, can also use to criticise the current government ahead of the 2018 elections." Ramadan is often marked by an uptick in violence in Iraq.
Iraq/Da’esh – A second deadly explosion has struck Baghdad, killing at least seven people and wounding 30, according to security sources and witnesses. The blast at Al-Shahada Bridge came hours after a suicide car bomber in the Karrada district killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens who were gathered at an ice cream shop. The second blast on the 30 May 17 was also a car bomb attack, security officials said.
Iraq/Da’esh – An attack by a suicide bomber has killed and wounded civilians and military men on the 30 May 17 in an Iraqi city, Al Arabiya News Channel reported. There is no reported exact figure of the casualties in the city of Hit, located on the Euphrates River, in the western province of Anbar. The local Al-Sumaria News said a suicide bomber with an explosive belt has detonated himself near Al-Shayma school in Hit. The incident took place after two car bombs killed at least 20 people in Baghdad and wounded about 80 others early on the 30 May 17 one targeting the late-night crowds typical of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan who shop and eat ahead of the next day’s fast. Da’esh claimed both attacks in statements on its Amaq news agency.
Qatar/al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood/United States – The US administration has decided to speak out about Qatar’s relations with terrorism in the Middle East as the White House’s new administration tries to calm the situation and control the growing terrorism on the international level. During his visit to the Middle East, US Defence Secretary James Mattis, warned Qatari officials about their country’s continued support to the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic movements that are linked to extremist organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. Qatar has been accused, more than once, of financing terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to the Qatari financiers such as Salim Hassan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari, who works at the Qatari Interior Ministry. He is accused of “transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda through a terrorist network”. Kuwari was part of the US list of persons who are accused of officially financing terrorism in 2011. In Oct 14, the official documents of the US Treasury stated that the 37-year-old Kuwari was involved in “the financial and logistical support of al-Qaeda, with the help of another Qatari man named Abdullah Ghanem al-Khawar (33 years old). The latter has facilitated the movement of terrorist members and contributed to the release of al-Qaeda members in Iran. Abdul Rahman bin Omair al-Nuaimi, was also blacklisted by the US and the UN, was accused of transferring 1.25 million GBP per month to al-Qaeda militants in Iraq, and 375,000 GBP to al-Qaeda in Syria. Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad documents that were seized by US forces during the attack on his residence in Pakistan, revealed Qatar’s relations with al-Qaeda. Between these documents, there was a long letter Osama bin Laden sent to, Khayria Saber, his younger wife before his death where he asked her if she was willing to travel to Qatar. In addition to funding terrorist groups, Qatar has been accused by the international community of hosting a number of al-Qaeda militants, Arab Afghan and Taliban fighters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned to blow up 11 US aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. Mohammed is the nephew of Ramzi Yousef who had planned to attack the World Trade Center in 1993. He was transferred to Qatar upon the advice of the Minister of Labour; he worked there as an engineer at the Ministry of Electricity and Water and travelled repeatedly at the Ministry’s expense. Although he was working in a government institution, Qatar claimed, according to US intelligence, that it could not find him, and later on, it secretly planned his escape from the country. In the same context, Moroccan Fatiha al-Majati, wife of Abdel-Karim al-Majati, who is the most dangerous wanted man in Morocco for his role in establishing terrorist cells and recruiting suicide bombers in Morocco, said that she moved from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia with her husband, using Qatari passports. Moreover, Moroccan Younis al-Hayari, the leader of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, who was killed in a security operation in the neighbourhood of Rawda in 2005, managed to enter Saudi Arabia with a Bosnian passport through Qatar. There is a Qatari satellite channel that has been the main window for extremist organizations, al-Qaeda leaders, al-Nusra Front and other extremist radical movements and organizations. It broadcast all of al-Qaeda’s interviews and messages, including those of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and others. Dennis Ross had warned about the role of this channel in serving as a platform for broadcasting extremist stances. The channel has recently hosted in a special interview, Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the religious judge of al-Nusra. Osama bin Laden had praised the relations with this Qatari channel and called upon preserving good ties with it. He said that all the channels were working against them, except this one due to common interests. He added that this channel is an important media platform for them in the region.
Saudi Arabia/Hezbollah – Saudi Arabia on the 19 May 17 designated Hashem Safieddine, the head of Hezbollah's executive council, as a "terrorist", accusing him of advising the armed group to carry out "terrorist operations" and of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Safieddine, a Lebanese citizen in his 50s, runs the group's political affairs and social and economic programmes in Lebanon's Shia community. He is a cousin of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general, and is spoken of as a potential candidate to succeed him and take charge of the movement. "The Saudi government will continue to combat Hezbollah's terrorist activities with all available legal tools," the official Saudi news agency said, quoting a royal decree statement. "[It] will continue to work with partners around the world to make it clear that Hezbollah's militant and extremist activities should not be tolerated by any nation." In March 2016, GCC member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, known as the GCC, classified Hezbollah as a "terrorist" organisation, citing "hostile actions" by the armed group. "As long as Hezbollah spreads instability, conducts terrorist attacks and engages in criminal and illicit activities around the world, we will continue to designate Hezbollah's operatives, leaders and businesses, impose sanctions as a result of designation, and disrupt its radical activities," the statement by Saudi's government said.
Saudi Arabia – Two policemen were wounded when a bomb exploded in Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia, where many of the country's Shi'ite Muslim minority live, state news agency SPA reported on the 30 May 17. The attack on the 29 May 17 was the second in two weeks targeting security forces deployed to guard workers busy raising the old part of the town, known as al-Musawara, which authorities say has been used by armed fugitives to escape arrest. SPA quoted an interior ministry spokesman as saying that an improvised explosive device went off on the morning of the 29 May 17 outside the old quarter of Awamiya, wounding two police officers. They were both taken to a hospital and authorities had begun an investigation, the agency said. The ministry said on the 16 May 17 a soldier was killed and five others were wounded when armed men fired a rocket-propelled grenade at their patrol in Awamiya after authorities began raising the old town. It happened days after a local child and a Pakistani worker were killed. Authorities say a modern district comprising shopping centres, office buildings and green spaces will be built in place of the dilapidated town, which dates back more than 200 years. Awamiya has been a focal point of protests by the Shi'ite minority against what they say is discrimination by the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Saudi Arabia denies discrimination against Shi'ites and accuses Iran of fomenting unrest, a charge Tehran denies. Tensions have increased since Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shi'ite cleric convicted of inciting violence, was executed a year ago.
Syria/United States/Iran/Russia – The United States said on the 19 May 17 it believed forces in a convoy targeted by U.S. military aircraft in southern Syria on the 18 May 17 were Iranian-directed, in a possible sign of increased tension between Washington and Tehran in the Syrian war. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. strike was defensive in nature. It was condemned by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has the backing of Iran and Russia. A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces told Reuters on the 18 May 17 the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian-backed militias and was headed toward the garrison in Syria used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces around the town of At Tanf. The United States determined that the convoy posed a threat. "It was necessitated ... by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed - I don't know there were Iranians on the ground - but by Iranian-directed forces," Mattis said at a news conference. Rebel sources have warned of advances by Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia in the region near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, which was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons. Mattis said he believed the Iranian-directed forces moved into the zone against the advice of Russia but that he was unable to confirm that with certainty. "But it looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them," Mattis said. A Western intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has said the strike sent a strong message to Iranian-backed militias that they would not be allowed to reach the Iraq border from Syria. Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said on Friday he had raised the incident with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva. "We discussed the massacre that the U.S. aggressor committed yesterday in our country. This subject was widely discussed," Ja'afari told reporters. The air strike on the 18 May 17 did not on its own suggest a shift in the U.S. military's focus in Syria, which has been on battling Islamic State militants. But the latest move showed that the area around the Tanf garrison in southern Syria could be under pressure. U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had been working on ways to manage Syria's messy battlefield with Russia. There is no interaction between the U.S. and Syrian militaries. "We had a proposal that we're working on with the Russians right now. I won't share the details," Dunford said. "But my sense is that the Russians are as enthusiastic as we are to deconflict operations and ensure that we can continue to take the campaign to ISIS and ensure the safety of our personnel," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. 361 COMMENT: There is an interesting comment within this report that is worth taking note. That is the strong message that the Americans were sending regarding the Iranian-backed militias and the Syrian/Iraq border. 361 and others have made comment in the past about a “corridor” between Tehran and Damascus through Iraq to send ‘logistics and financing’ to Assad where it can be distributed to the Palestinians and Hezbollah and put Israeli security under threat. By sending out this message to the Iranians the Americans have now stated that they are aware of the threat and are doing something about it. This will put pressure on Iranian/American relations. The Iranians are currently having a country-wide election, but once the dust dies down over that then there will be more rhetoric from the new Iranian administration regarding this ‘message’. COMMENT ENDS
Syria/Da’esh – Five people were killed on the 23 May 17 when two explosives-packed vehicles blew up near minority neighbourhoods in Syria, in incidents claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. Citing a security source, IS's propaganda agency Amaq said IS fighters were responsible for the blasts near the capital Damascus and in third city Homs. Syria's state news agency SANA said the explosions in both areas were caused by security forces firing on the cars as they approached checkpoints. The first explosion killed four people and wounded 30 near the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood of Homs city, SANA said. Most residents of Al-Zahraa belong to the same Alawite sect as President Bashar al-Assad, and the district has been repeatedly targeted by IS. The second blast claimed by IS took place on the road south from the capital to Syria's holiest Shiite Muslim shrine, the Sayyida Zeinab mausoleum. Police opened fire on a vehicle near a checkpoint which turned out to be carrying explosives and blew up, killing one civilian and wounding another, SANA said.