Iraq/Moqtada al-Sadr – Powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr instructed his followers on the 17 Jul 16 to target US troops deploying to Iraq as part of the military campaign against ISIS. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on the 18 Jul 16 the Pentagon would dispatch 560 additional troops to help Iraqi forces retake the northern city of Mosul in an offensive planned for later this year. Sadr, who rose to prominence when his Mahdi Army battled US troops after the 2003 invasion, posted the comments on his official website after a follower asked for his response to the announcement. "They are a target for us," Sadr said, without offering details. The Mahdi Army was disbanded in 2008, replaced by the Peace Brigades, which helped push back Islamic State from near Baghdad in 2014 under a government-run umbrella, and maintains a presence in the capital and several other cities. Sadr, who commands the loyalty of tens of thousands of supporters, is also leading a protest movement that saw demonstrators storm Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone government district twice this year, hampering parliament for weeks. The new troop deployment, which is expected to happen within weeks, would raise the number of US forces in Iraq to around 4,650, far below the peak of about 170,000 reached during the nearly nine-year occupation. Other Shiite militias, particularly those backed by Iran, have made similar pledges to attack US soldiers in the past year, but the only casualties since American forces returned to Iraq to battle ISIS two years ago have come at the hands of the Sunni militant group.
Iraq – A suicide car bomb killed at least 21 people and wounded more than 32 at the entrance to a town northeast of Baghdad on the morning of the 25 Jul 16 security sources said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast outside Khalis, about 80 km from the capital, but the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) regularly attacks security forces and civilian areas. A police officer at the scene said that most of the victims died inside their vehicles while waiting to enter the town. "We still have charred bodies inside many vehicles including a minibus packed with women and children," the police captain said. The blast came a day after a suicide bombing claimed by ISIL killed at least 15 people in Baghdad's Kadhimiyah neighbourhood. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has come under pressure to improve security since a suicide attack claimed by ISIL earlier this month killed 292 people in central Baghdad, one of the largest attacks of its kind since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Iraq/Da’esh – The explosion in Baghdad's Karrada neighbourhood on the 3 Jul 16 appears to have been no ordinary explosive device it was reported on the 28 Jul 16. From its design to its destination, this attack underlines that IS has found a new way to inflict harm and cause terror. "Da’esh used, for the first time, a new tactic which helped it to move undetected through checkpoints," a Western security source in Baghdad tells said. "We've never seen it before, and it's very worrying." Precise details of the attack, which is under Iraqi investigation, are still being pieced together. The tactic known as a VBIED - vehicle-borne improvised explosive device - is now widely used in suicide bombings. But this one is said to differ in the way the explosives were placed in the van, and how the chemicals were put together. "It's really difficult to make," an explosives expert who has knowledge of the investigation explained, saying the device may have been developed in the Iraqi city of Falluja when it was under IS control. "Da’esh has given a lot of thought to how to move through checkpoints." The bomb-makers are believed to have taken a formula "available on the internet", and then adjusted the quantities to reduce its risk of detection, and increase its impact. Several Iraqi experts also described the mix of chemicals as "unique". "We are used to big fires but the chemicals in this bomb were used for the first time in Iraq," says Brigadier General Kadhim Bashir Saleh of the Civil Defence Force. "It was unique, strange, and terrible." Another Iraqi security expert, Hisham al-Hashimi, said he believes a similar mix of explosives may have been used, only once, in an attack by al-Qaeda in 2004. But he describes this new tactic deployed by IS as "very serious and dangerous". The van exploded on the narrow street just after midnight shortly before Eid Festival when shops were packed with families, football fans were glued to big screens, and the billiard hall was doing brisk business. Several say the heat created by the first blast was "as hot as the surface of the sun". The explosion left no gaping crater, and its impact did not wreck the nearest buildings. But it set off secondary fires which turned out to be the most deadly of all. Their devastating impact was then multiplied by a series of safety failures. "There were no fire escapes," laments Sadiq Maroof, a shopkeeper who was one of a small number of people who escaped alive. Several experts estimated the initial bomb would have killed 20-30 people. The ensuing inferno then trapped many inside. "The absence of fire escapes and safety regulations caused the highest number of casualties," says retired Brigadier General Khalaf Abdul Karim who was at the scene that night. 361 COMMENT: If Da’esh has found a new way of exploiting vehicle searches when going through a checkpoint then it has dire consequences for elsewhere. The ingredients can be found in normal shops and with the assistance from the internet and in Dabiq," the Da’esh magazine then lone wolfs supporting Da’esh and other terrorist may use them in the future. Of the 2004 al-Qaeda attack there were three significant attacks that year.
- The 2004 Irbil bombings was a double suicide attack on the offices of Kurdish political parties in Irbil, Iraq, north of Baghdad on February 2, 2004. The attackers detonated explosives strapped to their bodies as hundreds gathered to celebrate Eid Al-Adha in Irbil.
- The 2 March 2004 Iraq Ashura bombings in Iraq was a series of planned terrorist explosions that killed at least 178 and injured at least 500 Iraqi Shi'a Muslims commemorating the Day of Ashura. The bombings brought one of the deadliest days in the Iraq occupation after the Iraq War to topple Saddam Hussein.
- 21 April 2004 Basra bombings were a series of large car bomb explosions which ripped through Basra, Iraq.
Kurds/Turkey/Da’esh – Two explosions have struck a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens it was reported on the 27 Jul 16. Syrian state TV said a truck loaded with explosions blew up on the western edge of the town of Qamishli, near the Turkish border. Minutes later, a motorcycle packed with explosions blew up in the same area. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the attack. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion targeted a centre of the local Kurdish police and a nearby government building. ISIL has carried out several bombings in Kurdish areas in Syria in the past. The predominantly Kurdish US-backed Syria Democratic Forces have been the main force fighting ISIL in northern Syria and have captured wide areas from the hard-line fighters. This was a large attack, which is close to the Syrian border. The death toll could significantly rise throughout the day.
Lebanon/Hezbollah/Israel – Hezbollah has embedded its rocket arsenal in villages across Lebanon, ensuring that any Israeli strike on the Iran-backed terrorist group’s military assets will lead to mass civilian casualties, a former Treasury official said on the 25 Jul 16. Hezbollah has “turned the Shiite villages … into essentially missile silos,” Jonathan Schanzer, now the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD), said while speaking on a panel hosted by FDD on the possibility of a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. “This is going to be a huge problem for the Israelis. We have heard it from Israeli leadership. What they said is that all of Lebanon is now south Lebanon,” he added. South Lebanon has traditionally been a stronghold for Hezbollah, where much of the fighting between the terrorist group and Israel took place in previous conflicts. “What you have is rockets placed under homes, schools, apartment buildings, etc., so when the Israelis need to try to strike these weapons before they’re launched, it will potentially lead to mass casualties,” Schanzer continued. This is when international pressure on Israel to mitigate its military actions generally intensifies, he observed. “Essentially Hezbollah has put Israel in a no-win situation. If they want to win this war, if they want to try to knock out these weapons, it will inevitably bring that backlash.” Former IDF general Yakov Shaharabani, Schanzer’s co-panellist and a senior advisor at FDD, added that “there are more than 200 Shiite villages that Hezbollah is rooted [in] all over Lebanon.” If Israel seeks to defeat rather than deter Hezbollah in a future war—a likely possibility, according to Shaharabani—then the result “might be very destructive,” he observed.
Saudi Arabia/Yemen – Five Saudi border guards were killed on the 25 Jul 16 in clashes with armed groups seeking to enter from Yemen citing the Saudi interior ministry. A ministry statement added the border guards detected attempts by “hostile” armed groups to cross the border on several fronts in the southern region of Najran on the morning of the 25 Jul 16. Eight hours of clashes ensued. The statement did not identify the armed groups, but Saudi forces and fighters from Yemen’s Houthi movement have traded fire across the border frequently during Yemen’s more than 15-month-old war. Peace talks in Kuwait between Yemen’s government and the Houthis to end the conflict have dragged on for more two months with few concrete results. A truce that began on the 10 Apr 16 has dampened fighting, but skirmishes continue almost daily. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies intervened in Yemen’s war in Mar 15 on behalf of the internationally backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The conflict has killed at least 6,400 people and caused a humanitarian crisis.
Syria/Al-Nusra Front/al-Qaeda/ Jabhat Fath al Sham – An exclusive video has been obtained by a news source claiming the former leader of al-Nusra Front confirming the Syria-based armed group's split from al-Qaeda it was reported on the 29 Jul 16. Abu Mohammed al-Jolani appeared in camera for the first time to announce his group's name has also changed to Jabhat Fath al Sham, or The Front for liberation of al Sham. "We declare the complete cancellation of all operations under the name of Jabhat al-Nusra, and the formation of a new group operating under the name 'Jabhat Fath al-Sham', noting that this new organisation has no affiliation to any external entity," Jolani said. The release of the video on the 28 Jul 16 followed earlier reports that the leader of al-Qaeda had approved the split, so the Nusra forces could concentrate on their fight against the Syrian government and other rebel groups. Al-Nusra first surfaced on the internet in early 2012 to claim responsibility for suicide bombings in Aleppo and Damascus. The well-armed group, with highly trained fighters, has since staged numerous attacks on security forces - as well as on other armed groups in the country. It is sanctioned by the UN Security Council and listed as a "terrorist" group by the US and Russia. In Feb 16 the US and Russia excluded the group, as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from a cessation of hostilities deal aimed at ending the fighting in Syria. Reacting to Jolani's declaration, Farah al-Atassi, a spokeswoman for the High Negotiations Committee, the Syrian opposition's main negotiating bloc, said it was still "very premature" to predict the full consequences of the split from al-Qaeda. Atassi added, however, that she was hopeful that the move would rid powers such as Russia of their reasoning for bombing Syria. "We look at it with relief," she told reporters from Washington DC, minutes after Jolani's announcement. "This will reflect somehow positively on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who has been fighting ISIL and al-Nusra for the past six months, because Russia is bombing and hitting FSA positions and civilian neighbourhoods with the excuse that they are hitting al-Nusra." It is thought that sources inside Syria that they believed that by al-Nusra separating itself formally from al-Qaeda and changing its name, as well as by speaking about unifying in the fight in Syria, that that meant that the US and others would no longer consider al-Nusra to be a terrorist organisation; that more international backers would be behind rebel groups." However, most of the activists in Aleppo did not "really believe what Jolani is saying; they don't trust the motivations." "Some of them wondered whether this was some kind of publicity stunt to get more support from the international community, with many wondering whether this was going to have any practical impact." Later on the 28 Jul 16 the White House said its assessment of al-Nusra had not changed, despite the announcement that that the group was cutting its ties with al-Qaeda. "There continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front's growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both the United States and Europe," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing. "We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different," US State Department spokesman John Kirby said. "They are still considered a foreign terrorist organisation," Kirby said. "We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call themselves.
Syria – Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said on the 29 Jul 16 he was not optimistic about the future of Syria. “I don’t know whether or not Syria can be put back together again,” Brennan told the annual Aspen Security Forum. His comments were a rare public acknowledgement by a top US official that Syria may not survive a five-year civil war in its current state.
Yemen – UN-sponsored Yemen peace talks resumed on the 16 Jul 16 in Kuwait where a joint meeting was attended by delegations of the warring sides. The second round of talks - chaired by the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, were opened with a statement highlighting the responsibility of all parties involved to take decisive action for peace. The UN envoy warned the delegations that this round of talks is the last chance to make peace in accordance with the international terms of reference agreed upon. Ahmed pointed out that decisions will be based mainly on the Security Council Resolution 2216 which requires the rebels and their allies to withdraw from areas they have occupied since 2014, including the capital Sanaa, and hand over heavy weapons. The talks were scheduled to resume after a 15-day suspension that coincided with the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of Ramadan. Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi said the government had obtained a “written response to our demands sufficient for the political leadership to decide (on) sending the delegation back to Kuwait”. “The deal stipulates that the Kuwait talks will not exceed two weeks, during which there will be a strict commitment to references,” he wrote on Twitter. A well-defined timetable has been agreed that is limited to “withdrawal, handover of arms, return of state institutions, release of prisoners and lifting siege on cities” by the Iran-backed Houthi militias and their allies, Mikhlafi said. The deal was struck after two days of talks with UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Riyadh, he said. It was also agreed that the two-week duration will not be extended and no other issues will be debated, he added. The rebel delegation of Houthis and representatives of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress party arrived in Kuwait on the 15 Jul 16. More than two months of negotiations between President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-backed government and the militants have failed to make any headway. Hadi on the 17 Jul 16 warned that his government would boycott the talks if the UN envoy insisted on a roadmap stipulating a unity government that included the insurgents. His government wants to re-establish its authority across the entire country, much of which is rebel-controlled, and to restart a political transition interrupted when the Houthis seized Sanaa.
Yemen – Two car bombs went off near army checkpoints in Yemen's south-eastern city of Mukalla, killing several security personnel and injuring many more, sources have said. The explosions on the 18 Jul 16 morning targeted checkpoints in the east and west of the port city, a former stronghold of the local al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP]. General Faraj Salemine confirmed the attacks saying "terrorists" had killed at least five soldiers. Other reports said that at least nine had been killed. The capital of Hadramaout province, Mukalla had been under the control of AQAP for one year until pro-government troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition recaptured it in Apr 16. Yemen has been gripped by a devastating conflict that escalated in Mar 15 when the coalition began air strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels after northern and central parts of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, were seized. The fighting has caused a security vacuum that has allowed groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIL) to extend their influence and attack security forces. Last month, ISIL claimed a wave of suicide bombings aimed at Yemeni troops in Mukalla that killed at least 38 people. The Pentagon said in May 16 that a "very small number" of US military personnel had been deployed around Mukalla to support pro-government forces.
Yemen – The Yemeni government says it is pulling out of UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait after four months of negotiations it was reported on the 30 Jul 16. The withdrawal comes after the Houthi fighters and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh said they would form a coalition administration. The Houthis' Revolutionary Committee and Saleh's GPC party have formed a 10-member Supreme Council, which is being seen as an attempt to legitimise Houthi rule. The group is supposed to manage all political, military, economic and administrative affairs. This would mean an end to UN-brokered talks in Kuwait which have been under way since Apr 16. Since talks began, the UN and President Hadi have been pushing the Houthis to withdraw from cities they hold. Farhan Haq, spokesperson of UN chief Ban Ki-moon, said: "The unilateral decision was not in line with the peace process and endangered the substantial progress made during the Kuwait talks." Hakim Almasmari, the Sanaa-based editor of Yemen Post said that members of both sides of the conflict said they would not attend, while others said the talks - which begin in two days - would go ahead. "I think that's part of a game to put pressure on either side," Almasmari said. The rival sides in Yemen do not agree that the talks have made progress. The Hadi government had demanded that Houthi fighters withdraw from areas they have taken and hand back control. More than 6,000 people have been killed and more than 2.2 million displaced since the conflict escalated in Mar 15, when an Arab coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia intervened to take on Houthi fighters. The Houthis, a Shia group, had called for an end to the military campaign against them. That demand, along with calls for an amnesty and prisoner releases, blocked the way forward. For his part, Hadi said: "We have been in Kuwait for more than three months hoping that the sectarian militias would listen to the voice of reason, giving precedence to the national interest. However, we were only met with procrastination and manoeuvres." Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Yemen is worsening, with the economy weakening further and governance, whether areas are in Houthi or Hadi control, crippled. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned that the country's healthcare system is failing. Even in areas where there is no fighting, people are dying due to a lack of adequate medical care.
Yemen – Salafists in Yemen have blown up a 16th century mosque housing the shrine of a revered Sufi scholar in the city of Taiz, a local official said on the 31 Jul 16. Gunmen led by a Salafist local chief known as Abu al-Abbas blew up the mosque of Sheikh Abdulhadi al-Sudi on the night of the 29 Jul 16 the official said confirming media reports of the attack. Yemen’s commission for antiquities and museums condemned the destruction of the site that is considered the most famous in Taiz. It said the mosque’s white dome was “one of the biggest domes in Yemen and one of the most beautiful religious sites in old Taiz.” Images of the site before destruction showed a white square-shaped, single-storey structure topped by a large central dome circled by smaller ones.
Yemen/United Nations – Yemen's exiled government says it has accepted a peace deal proposed by the UN that calls on Houthi rebels - who control large swaths of the country - to concede power after more than 14 months of war. The announcement came on the 31 Jul 16 after a high-level meeting in Riyadh chaired by Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said. The meeting approved a draft agreement by the United Nations that called on the Houthis to withdraw from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, as well as the cities of Taiz and Hodeida, which would pave the way for a comprehensive political dialogue to start 45 days after the signing of the agreement. The deal would abolish a supreme political council set up by the Houthis and Saleh's General People's Congress to run the country, Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi, Yemen's foreign minister, said. According to the draft agreement, prisoners of war would be freed, as specified by the UN Security Council Resolution 2216, and a political dialogue between various Yemeni factions would start 45 days after the rebels withdraw and hand over heavy weapons to a military committee to be formed by President Hadi. The government, however, forced through a pre-condition that the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh sign the deal by August 7, Mikhlafi said on Twitter. There has been no official reaction from the Houthis, who have previously refused to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which stipulates the withdrawal of armed groups from all cities. The Houthis insist they are fighting to defend themselves against government aggression and marginalisation. Previous peace talks have failed to bridge the gap between the warring parties, while a ceasefire that went into effect in April has been marred by multiple breaches from both sides. Yemen has been torn apart by conflict since 2014, when Houthi rebels, allied with troops loyal to Saleh, stormed the capital, Sanaa, and later forced the government into exile. A coalition comprising many Arab countries launched an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Since then, more than 9,000 people have been killed and 2.8 million driven from their homes.
Saudi Arabia/Yemen – Four people were killed and three wounded in Saudi Arabia when a shell fired from inside Yemen exploded in a town close to the border, Saudi civil defence said on the 01 Aug 16. The shell hit Samtah, in the south-western Saudi border region of Jazan, a tweet by the Saudi civil defence said. Seven Saudi soldiers and dozens of Houthi militias were killed in heavy fighting on the border with Yemen on the 31 Jul 16. The cross-border incident comes after Saudi military spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri warned Iran-backed Houthis militias that the kingdom’s borders are a “red line” after the latter attempted to infiltrate Saudi territories