Da’esh/Mosul – Islamic State (IS) group has been hiding weapons and money in churches, mosques and schools of Iraq's northern city of Mosul to keep them safe from coalition airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish officials said on the 3 Jul 16. The group has used some of these public facilities as their bomb sweatshops banning locals from entering them, those officials said. Since the beginning of this year, IS's territory in Iraq and Syria has been shrinking. At the same time, heavy coalition airstrikes have destroyed millions of U.S. dollars in cash and ammunition depriving the terror group of adequate means it needed to support its fighters.
"To save their money and their weaponry, IS fighters have closed several mosques and schools of Mosul to the public since last month," Ismat Rajab, who heads the Kurdistan Democratic Party's headquarters in Mosul, told VOA. "IS fighters use churches, mosques and schools as shelters or hideouts." Bashar Kiki, the head of Nineveh's provincial council, said those places are usually located in populated neighbourhoods of the city, which makes them unlikely targets for coalition warplanes.
Denies progress is hindered
The U.S.-led international coalition Joint Task Force against IS confirmed the news to VOA but denied the claims that this tactic has hindered their progress against the terror group. "ISIL has continually stored weapons and money in populated areas. It has also been well documented [that] ISIL uses human shields, highlighting their true nature and disregard for human life," Joint Task Force's press desk told VOA, using an acronym for the militant group. "But these strategies used by ISIL have not hindered our progress." But Kiki said by using places of worship and schools, the terror group wants to play to coalition's sensibilities. "Coalition cannot bomb these places," Kiki told VOA. "IS understands coalition's sensitivity about this." He said IS would welcome airstrikes on those places because it would give the group a chance to tell people that the coalition is targeting civilians and their places of worship. "If coalition attacks these places, IS would use it as a tool to take advantage of people's grievance for more recruitment," Kiki said. After the Orlando shooting incident, Rajab said U.S. planes recently bombed a school building in Mosul, causing tens of casualties.
Airstrike on school
"After the recent shooting incident in America, coalition warplanes for the first time hit a school in Mosul, which was used by IS fighters as a shelter," Rajab told VOA. "Many IS fighters were killed but, luckily, no civilians were hurt because schools in Mosul are closed for summer break," he said. However, the U.S.-led coalition has denied targeting schools and places of worship. "Coalition forces work very hard to be precise in our airstrikes and the safety of non-combatants on the battlefield is of the utmost concern to us," Joint Task Force's press desk told VOA. Stephen Mansfield, an American analyst of culture and religion, said IS wants to make a statement about their own strengths and coalition sensibilities about sacred places and the value of children. "They are showing [to] the world that they control these facilities that are important to their enemies," Mansfield told VOA. "These are sensibilities they do not share and, in fact, see as weakness."
Da’esh – Omar al-Shishani, a top commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been killed in Iraq, a website affiliated with the armed group said. Citing a "military source", ISIL's website on the 13 Jul 16 said that Shishani was killed "in the town of Sharqat as he took part in repelling the military campaign on the city of Mosul". Amaq, the ISIL-linked website, did not specify when Shishani was killed, but the loss of the commander is a significant blow to the group, which has suffered a string of setbacks in Iraq this year. Mosul is the last ISIL-held city in Iraq. The Pentagon announced in Mar 16 that US forces had killed Shishani, saying his death would probably hamper ISIL's operations in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. But US officials - who had previously, prematurely announced Shishani's "likely" death from an air strike - did not specify how or where he was killed. Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said Shishani made a name for himself during the capture of Menagh Airbase from Syrian government forces in 2013. US-backed rebels teamed up with Shishani’s militia, which was mostly foreign fighters, and used suicide bombers to finally capture the airbase after a two-year-long siege in northern Syria. “He then joined ISIS and rose to the top. He was a big personality. Troops liked him,” Landis said. “It’s been reported a number of times that he’s been killed, most recently in March. The United Stated claimed that it had killed him in a bombing raid. Then they denied it. Some people said that he was brain dead in a hospital. So we don’t know yet. There is a lot of fog around this - whether this is related to the bombing in March or this is something new,” he said. Shishani, whose real name was Tarkhan Batirashvili, was a fierce, battle-hardened fighter with roots in Georgia. Shishani, whose nom de guerre means "Omar the Chechen", was one of the ISIL leaders most wanted by Washington, which had put a multi-million-dollar bounty on his head. His exact rank was unclear, but US officials had branded him as "equivalent of the secretary of defence" for ISIL/ISIS. Shishani came from the former Soviet state of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge region, which is populated mainly by ethnic Chechens. He fought as a Chechen rebel against Russian forces before joining the Georgian military in 2006, and battled Russians again in Georgia in 2008. He later resurfaced in northern Syria as the commander of a group of foreign fighters, and became a senior leader within ISIL.
Da’esh – In the face of an ever-more-effective campaign by the U.S.-led coalition — a campaign which has substantially reduced the size of the ISIS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria; decimated ISIS’s oil-production and distribution infrastructure; killed many senior commanders and operatives; and, with the help of Turkey, choked off the flow of foreign fighters to replenish the organization’s dwindling ranks – ISIS leaders have begun to prepare followers of the Islamist organization for the fall of the ISIS-established caliphate it was reported on the 13 Jul 16. Fox News reports that ISIS has increased its terror attacks in other countries, but that in Syria and Iraq its position is rapidly deteriorating. Security experts note that the latest spate of terrorist attacks shows that even if ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria, the organization will still remain dangerous abroad. “Where Al Qaeda was hierarchical and somewhat controlled, these guys are not. They have all the energy and unpredictability of a populist movement,” Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.) told the Washington Post. ISIS officials have not minced words in describing the dire situation the organization faces in Iraq and Syria, grimly informing ISIS fighters that all could be lost soon. The Post reports notes that an editorial in ISIS’s weekly Arabic newsletter acknowledged that the territory it has controlled for two years could be lost. ISIS officials insist that, in the long run, the organization’s vision of a, Islamic caliphate across the Middle East is still viable, even if, in the short run, the caliphate experiment may fail. The organization’s leaders also note that faced with the prospect of losing their territorial base in the Middle East, the group had “shifted some of our command, media and wealth structure to different countries.” “They don’t want to lose territory,” Cole Bunzel, a doctoral candidate at Princeton University’s Near Eastern studies department who translated ISIS’s editorial on the future of the caliphate, told the Post. “But they’re trying to remind people that the group has a long history and they’re going to persist, just as they did in earlier times.” Will McCants, a Brookings Institution researcher who also detailed the history of ISIS in a 2015 book (The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State), says that ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani has acknowledged that the group had made errors in its losses. According to the Post, an ISIS operative told a Western journalist that some of the Islamist militants had become disillusioned because of commanders’ mistakes. However, he added that once Raqqa falls, it would be avenged. “There is a message to all members of the coalition against us: We will not forget, and we will come into your countries and hit you,” he said, “one way or the other.” ISIS leaders have not yet offered specifics about the organization’s post-caliphate strategy, but European officials say that this strategy is already being implemented. “They are … challenged as we adapt our strategy to their initial one, in order to start ‘de-sanctuarizing’ them,” a French security official told the Post. “But they will now expand to other tactics and start executing much more insidious and covert ops, in big cities. The next step, has begun.”
Iran/United States – Iran will never coordinate with the United States in Syria and other regional conflicts, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks published on his website on the 3 Jul 16 after US-backed forces struggled to advance in ISIS stronghold of Manbij in Syria. “We don’t want such coordination as their main objective is to stop Iran’s presence in the region,” Khamenei said in a transcript from a speech to university students.
Tehran rejects any coordination with the US-led coalition that is also bombing the jihadists in Syria and Iraq. Khamenei repeated demands for the US to stop interfering in the region and said Washington was still acting aggressively despite last year’s nuclear accord with world powers to end Iran's isolation. “Americans are still engaged in hostility against the nation of Iran, be it the Congress or the US administration,” he said. Iran complains it has not benefited from the nuclear deal since it came into force in Jan 16 with international banks still fearful of doing business with Tehran due to remaining US sanctions. “Those who believe in looking to the West for the progress of the country have lost their minds because wisdom tells us to learn from experience,” Khamenei said.
Iraq/Da’esh – A refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up in Baghdad’s central district of Karrada, killing 250 people and injuring many more late on the 2 Jul 16. In a second attack, a roadside device exploded around midnight in a market in al-Shaab, a Shiite district, killing at least two people, police and medical sources said. The bombings demonstrated the extremists’ ability to mount significant attacks despite major battlefield losses, including the city of Fallujah, which was declared “fully liberated” from ISIS just over a week ago. In the deadliest attack, a car bomb hit Karada, a busy shopping district in the centre of Baghdad, killing 86 people and wounding 170, according to police and hospital officials. It struck as families and young people were out on the streets after breaking their daylight fast for the holy month of Ramadan. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted online, saying they had deliberately targeted Shiite Muslims. The statement could not be independently verified. At dawn on the 3 Jul 16 fire fighters were still working to extinguish the blazes and bodies were still being recovered from charred buildings. Many of the dead were children according to reports. In the second attack, an improvised explosive device went off in eastern Baghdad, killing 5 people and injuring 16. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iraq/Da’esh – At least 30 people have been killed in an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) suicide bomb, gun and mortar attack on a Shia shrine north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, officials said on the 8 Jul 16. The incident comes just days after the worst bombing in the country since the US-led invasion of 2003, which was also claimed by ISIL. The overnight assault on the Sayyid Mohammed shrine in Balad also wounded 50 people, the army's Joint Operations Command spokesman said in a statement. The shrine was first targeted with mortar rounds before suicide bombers arrived and opened fire. Two of the bombers blew themselves up in a market next to the shrine, while a third was killed and his explosives belt defused, the statement said, giving no further details on how he was killed. Iraq had been on high alert after the 3 Jul 16 devastating attack in Baghdad ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Health Minister Adila Hamoud said late on the 7 Jul 16 that the bodies of 115 people killed in the bombing had now been handed over to families, while the identities of 177 others had yet to be determined. Da’esh claimed a triple suicide attack on the evening of the 7 Jul 16 near a Shiite mausoleum north of Baghdad, which killed at least 35 people and wounded 60 others, according to Iraqi security sources. The attack on the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi reignited fears of an escalation of the sectarian strife between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis. Sadr's militia is also deployed in Samarra, a nearby city that houses the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi, the father of Sayid Mohammed whose mausoleum was attacked.
Iraq/Da’esh/Mosul – Iraqi forces have captured a key air base from the Da’esh terror that can serve as a launch pad for retaking the extremist-held city of Mosul, Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said on the 9 Jul 16. The Qayyarah air base in the Tigris Valley, 60 kilometres south of Mosul, would be "an important base for the liberation of Mosul”, Abadi said in a statement. He called for the people of Iraq's north-western Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, to "prepare for the liberation of their cities". Iraq's Joint Operations Command said two army divisions and members of the country's counterterrorism forces took the base with air support from a US-led international coalition. Security sources said extremists had fled towards Mosul after the base was taken. An officer taking part in the operation said bomb disposal teams were removing booby traps and mines left behind by Da’esh militants. No further details were immediately available on the scale of fighting for the base.
Iraq/United States/Da’esh/Mosul – Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter said on the 11 Jul 16 that Washington will deploy 560 additional troops to aid Iraq's fight to retake Mosul from extremists, deepening US military involvement in the country. The announcement, which will bring the total authorised number of American military personnel in Iraq to more than 4,600, came two days after Baghdad said it had recaptured a base south of Mosul that is seen as an important step towards the eventual battle for the city. Iraq's second city Mosul has been under the Da’esh terror group control since Jun 14. "I am pleased to report today that... we agreed for the United States to bolster Iraqi efforts to isolate and pressure Mosul by deploying 560 additional troops," Carter said at the Baghdad airport following meetings with the Iraqi premier and defence minister. "With these additional US forces we are describing today, we will bring unique capabilities to the campaign... at a key moment," Carter said. While most of the US forces in Iraq are in non-combat roles, others have directly battled Da’esh, and three American military personnel have been killed by the extremists. "The additional troops will provide a range of support for Iraqi security forces, including infrastructure and logistical capabilities at the airfield near Qayyarah," the Pentagon said in a statement. Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi announced on the 9 Jul 16 that Iraqi forces had recaptured the Qayyarah air base, some 60 kilometres south of Mosul, which Da’esh seized in Jun 14. Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the US-led operations against Da’esh, said that the "preponderance" of the 560 additional troops will be based at Qayyarah, and would start being deployed “relatively soon”. Earlier in the day, Carter held meetings with Abadi as well as Defence Minister Khalid Al Obeidi, offering his condolences for recent Da’esh attacks and congratulations on Iraqi advances. Ahead of his meetings, Carter told journalists flying with him to Iraq that he would discuss the next moves in the war against the extremists. The ultimate goal was “the recapture of all of Iraqi territory by the Iraqi security forces, but of course Mosul is the biggest part of that”, Carter said. US defence officials say the campaign’s first “10 plays” have been successfully completed in the US-led counter-Da’esh campaign in Iraq and Syria. These steps include the recapture of several important areas across the two countries, including Ramadi in Iraq and Al Shadadi, a town in north-eastern Syria previously considered a strategic Da’esh stronghold.
Iraq – At least nine people were killed and dozens injured in a car bombing at an outdoor market in a district just north of Iraq's capital, Baghdad, according to police sources on the 12 Jul 16. Police said a parked car packed with explosives detonated on the 12 Jul at a vegetable and fruit market in Rashidiyah town. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Baghdad is on high alert for attacks after a blast in the central Karada district on the 3 Jul 16. The bombing in Rashidiyah came as the Iraqi parliament was due on the 12 Jul to discuss security measures in the capital in the wake of the attack in Karada.
Israel/Gaza Strip – Israeli air strikes hit four sites in the Gaza Strip on the 2 Jul 16 causing damage but no injuries, officials said, after Palestinian fighters fired a rocket that struck a building in southern Israel. The four sites included a workshop, two locations for Hamas’s armed wing and a military training site for Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, the security official said. Two of the sites were in Gaza City while the other two were in Beit Lahia, in the north of the enclave, run by Islamist movement Hamas. All of the sites have been previously targeted by Israel, the official said. Israel’s military said in a statement it had “targeted four locations that were components of Hamas’s operational infrastructure in the northern and central Gaza Strip” in response to the rocket. A rocket launched from the strip hit a building in the southern Israeli city of Sderot late on the 1 Jul 16 damaging it but causing no injuries, the military said. Israeli media said the rocket had hit a kindergarten, but the military had not provided further details. Medics said they treated two people for shock. No group in Gaza claimed responsibility for firing the rocket, which came hours after Israel announced a lockdown on the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank and cuts in monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority in response to attacks. In one of several attacks in recent days, a 19-year-old Palestinian fatally stabbed a 13-year-old US-Israeli national in her home at the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron. Friday’s (1 Jul 16) rocket is the 13th projectile fired from the Gaza Strip to have hit Israel since the start of 2016. Smaller, more radical Islamist groups have often been blamed, with Hamas forces either unwilling or unable to prevent the rocket fire. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rocket attacks from Gaza. On the 1 Jul 16 the Middle East diplomatic quartet said that the “lack of control of Gaza by the Palestinian Authority, and the dire humanitarian situation” were feeding “instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution.” “Preventing the use of territory for attacks against Israel is a key commitment that is essential to long-term peace and security,” said the group, which includes the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The report also said Israeli settlement building and confiscation of land in the West Bank were among factors “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.”
Kurds/United States – The Pentagon on the 12 Jul 16 signed a memo with the Peshmerga ministry to give the Kurdish forces of the autonomous northern region of Kurdistan in Iraq financial and military backing, the local Al-Sumaria News reported. The Peshmerga, the military force of Kurdistan, is controlled separately by Kurdistan’s two main Kurdish political parties -- the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. American and Kurdish officials, including Kurdistan’s President Masoud Al-Barazani, attended the signing. The independent Iraqi Al-Sumaria News reported that the memo also includes paying the salaries for the Peshmerga. Kurds in Iraq and Syria have gained a reputation as formidable soldiers, and especially their women fighters in their battle against ISIS. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya News Channel reported on the 12 Jul 16 that the Peshmerga’s role in the upcoming battle to recapture Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, is to storm the city from the northern and eastern axis, while Iraqi forces enter from the south. Professor George Joffe, a Middle East expert from Cambridge University, dubbed the peshmerga forces participating in the upcoming Mosul battle as “essential.” Joffe said “what the Kurds are saying is if you do not pay our costs, we cannot provide you with the forces” on the backdrop of low oil prices, a key natural resource Kurdistan depends on to make its profits. Asked if the signing of the memo would anger the central government in Baghdad, he said “it is an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty, but it [Baghdad] cannot argue against because Americans are paying the bills.” While Baghdad might not be happy about such memos, the government of Prime Minister Haider Abadi still needs the Kurds to recapture Mosul. “They absolutely do [need the Kurds],” the professor said. “The problem for the Iraqis is that if they are not using the Kurds, they will be using the Hashed, but they do not want to do that because that will alienate all the Sunnis,” he added, using the Arabic word ‘Hashed’ for the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), volunteer forces made mainly of Shiites. Like the Kurds, the PMU has gained a reputation for its hard-hitting and “willing to die” fighters, who emerged after Iraq’s army abandoned the country’s second largest city of Mosul in June 2014. Their power intensified after the Iraqi army then lost Anbar’s Ramadi in May the same year. However, Sunnis fear the PMU over alleged reports of retaliatory acts following liberation of Sunni areas. To further back Iraq’s quest in defeating ISIS, Defence Secretary Ash Carter in an unannounced visit to the country on the 18 Jul 16 said that the United States will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help strengthen a newly retaken air base as a staging hub for the long-awaited battle to recapture Mosul. Carter’s day-long visit to Iraq comes on the heels of the two-day NATO summit in Warsaw where allies agreed to expand their military support for the war. 361 COMMENT: Are we about to see the resurrected country of Kurdistan? COMMENT ENDS
Kurds/United States – (Further to the Kurds/US report on the 12 Jul 16) The US has signed a deal with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq to provide the Kurds with further military and financial support in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. A senior Pentagon official signed an agreement with Kurdish officials on the 12 Jul 16 to give vetted members of the Peshmerga units, Iraq's Kurdish military forces, some $415m for ammunition, food, pay, medical equipment, among other things. US officials have not confirmed suggestions by some Kurdish officials that the money can be used to buy heavy military equipment. They have insisted, however, that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi supports the US' efforts to boost the Peshmerga. "We're working hard to support those efforts; we're doing that though through the command and control of the Iraqi government," Mark Toner, the US State Department deputy spokesperson, told reporters. While the Peshmerga are on the frontlines in the fight against ISIL/ ISIS they say they have been at war without the right weapons and regular pay checks. "I have a lot of friends who still have not paid their rent for the last three months of last year. They owe so much money to the grocery shop and the bazaar," said Delawer Haider Hosheet, a Peshmerga sergeant. The accord comes amid preparations to retake the Iraqi northern city of Mosul from ISIL, the armed group's last major hub in the country.
Kuwait – Kuwaiti police have arrested several suspects belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group believed to be planning attacks across the country, the interior ministry has said on the 4 Jul 16. "Kuwait security agencies have carried out three pre-emptive operations in Kuwait and abroad that led to derailing a number of Islamic State plots targeting Kuwait and arresting several IS members," an interior ministry statement said. Those arrested included 18-year-old Kuwaiti Talal Raja, who was allegedly planning to bomb a Shia mosque and an interior ministry building during Eid holidays, said the ministry statement carried by state news agency KUNA. The man allegedly confessed to plotting the attack, and had planned to deploy a suicide vest. In the second operation, at least three people, including a 52-year-old mother and her son, were detained in Syria and brought back to Kuwait, the ministry said, adding that they admitted to providing logistical support to "several terrorist operations". Three more people, including a Kuwaiti policeman, were arrested in the third raid. Kalashnikov rifles, ammunitions and the black ISIL flag were all recovered from their possession. The interior ministry statement, published overnight on the 4 Jul 16 did not say when the arrests took place. All seven suspects confessed to being members of ISIL which last year carried out a deadly attack at a Shia mosque in the oil-rich Gulf state - home to several US military bases. That attack left at least 27 people dead. Kuwait launched a security crackdown in the wake of last year's attack, which had been carried out by a Saudi suicide bomber. The government said the bombing, Kuwait's worst ever such attack, was aimed at stoking sectarian strife in the majority Sunni state, where Shia Muslims comprise between 15 to 30 percent of the population. In Nov 15 Kuwaiti security authorities busted an international cell that was sending air defence systems and funds to ISIL.
Saudi Arabia/United States Consulate – A suspected suicide bomber has died after blowing himself up near the US consulate in Saudi Arabia's city of Jeddah, the interior ministry has said. Security officers early on the 4 Jul 16 became suspicious of a man near the parking lot of Dr Suleiman Faqeeh Hospital, which is directly across from the US diplomatic mission. When they moved in to investigate, "he blew himself up with a suicide belt inside the hospital parking", the ministry said, adding that two security officers were slightly injured. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. An investigation was ongoing, and some people were being questioned for their suspected links to the attack, security sources said. In a statement, the US consulate said there were no casualties or injuries among its staff, adding that it and the US embassy were in contact with Saudi authorities investigating the incident. The US State Department also said it was aware of the explosion in Jeddah and it was working with Saudi authorities to collect more information. In 2004, five people stormed the US consulate in Jeddah with bombs and guns, killing four Saudi security personnel outside and five local staff within. Three of the attackers were killed in the assault and two were captured.
Saudi Arabia/Da’esh – Four security officers have been killed and five others injured in a suicide attack outside one of Islam's holiest sites, Saudi Arabia's interior ministry said on the 5 Jul 16. The bombing at the Prophet's Mosque in the city of Medina was the third attack to hit the kingdom on 4 Jul 16 following blasts in the cities of Jeddah and Qatif. Photos of Medina posted on social media showed smoke billowing from a fire outside the mosque where Prophet Muhammad is buried. "Four security guards were martyred and five others injured as a result of their opposition to the suicide attacker who detonated explosives near them as he was on his way to the mosque," the ministry said on Twitter. The blast struck moments before sunset prayers when people were breaking their fast inside the mosque. The mosque, which is also known as Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, is visited by pilgrims from around the world during the final days of the fasting month of Ramadan. Saudi Arabia's state-run news channel, Al-Ekhbariya, aired live video of thousands of worshippers praying inside the mosque hours after the explosion.The mosque is considered to be Islam's second holiest site after the Sacred Mosque, or Masjid-al-Haram, which surrounds the Kaaba in the city of Mecca. Around the same time as the Medina blast, two other explosions struck near a mosque in the eastern city of Qatif on the Gulf coast. Witnesses said a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Shia mosque without causing any other injuries. There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks.
Follow on Report: Spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry said late on the 7 Jul 16 that a similar explosive material was used in the recent three attacks in the Kingdom’s Madinah, Jeddah and Qatif cities. In an interview with al-Hadath, the sister channel of Al Arabiya News, Major General Mansour Al-Turki said Nitroglycerin, which is a heavy, colourless, oily, explosive liquid was used in the attacks. “The three crimes committed in Madinah, Jeddah, Qatif, Nitroglycerin was used. Also, we see a connection between Madinah and Qatif in terms of the timing [of the attacks]. It was during [breaking fast] iftar,” he said. He added: “All this could be of an important indication to us at this stage of our investigation.” Turki also said all the identified suspects had connection to the “radical organization” ISIS. Investigation was still undergoing, he added, expecting more information to be released in the upcoming days.
Syria/Russia/Da’esh – Two Russian pilots have been killed in Syria after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) shot down their helicopter near Palmyra, Russia's defence ministry has said according to local media. The two men had been attacking a group of ISIL fighters in the Homs region on the 8 Jul 16 when the military chopper they were in ran out of ammunition, the Interfax news agency said, quoting the defence ministry. "The turning helicopter was hit by militants' gunfire from the ground and crashed in the area controlled by the Syrian government army. The crew died," Interfax said. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE monitoring group. Footage published on the 9 Jul 16 by ISIL's affiliated news agency Amaq showed a helicopter being shot and crashing to the ground.
Yemen – At least six Yemeni soldiers have been killed and dozens injured in a double car bomb attack at a military base in the southern city of Aden. The attackers detonated a car bomb near the entrance of the army base in the Khormaksar district adjoining Aden international airport, military sources said on the 6 Jul 16. The first explosion allowed the second vehicle to drive inside where it also blew up. The explosions were followed by gun battles between troops and about two dozen attackers, witnesses said. The base was sealed off by government forces sent as reinforcements. The Houthis controlled Aden, the main city in southern Yemen, for months before government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition pushed them back in July. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited the chaos to expand areas under its control and recruit more followers. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also launched several mass-casualty attacks on security forces. Late Jun 16 fighters pledging allegiance to ISIL claimed responsibility for a wave of suicide bomb attacks that killed 38 government troops in the southern port city of Mukalla.
Yemen/AQAP – Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released a video showing the Hamza al Zinjibari training camp for its “special forces.” The video was produced by both AQAP’s Al Malahem Media, as well as Ansar al Sharia’s Morasil (Correspondent). Ansar al Sharia is another front for AQAP in Yemen. (LWJ 14 Jul 16). The camp, which is named after the former military leader of AQAP, appears to be within a large compound in an area controlled by the jihadist group, likely in southern Yemen, where it is the strongest. The US killed Zinjibari, who is also known as Jalal Bala’idi, in a drone strike in Feb 16. Zinjibari was a prominent field commander in the provinces of Abyan, Bayda, Hadramout, Lahj, and Shabwa. He led AQAP’s takeover of the town of Jaar in Dec 15. In the AQAP video, fighters and recruits are shown undergoing weapons and physical training, live fire exercises, as well as training in martial arts. The fighters are also trained to conduct assaults and kidnappings using vehicles. The bulk of the training may be held indoors to avoid detection from US drones. Senior AQAP leaders, including Khalid Batarfi and Ibrahim al Qosi, give speeches in the video. Qosi, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee explains that “among the important goals of al Qaeda training camps is training any Muslim who wants to be trained in weaponry and skills of war. So thousands of Mujahideen have benefited from these camps and had a clear impact in different jihadi fronts.” In Yemen, he continues, training camps have “produced thousands from different tribes and areas, Muhajireen [emigrants, or foreign fighters] and Ansar [local fighters].” Even though they are trained in al Qaeda’s camps, the organization does not “impose upon the trainee to work in our organization or to be bound by us,” Qosi states. In doing so, he says the goal of al Qaeda is to “advance the standards of the Ummah [worldwide Islamic community].” Qosi has become a prominent fixture in AQAP’s propaganda since last December, when he first revealed that he is a senior leader in the group. Since then, he has been featured in several videos of the group and likely serves in a larger capacity in al Qaeda’s global hierarchy. [See LWJ report, Ex-Guantanamo detainee prominently featured in al Qaeda propaganda.] Members of the “special forces battalion” also spoke directly to the United States. “We have indeed prepared for you that which will inflict you pain,” a special forces member states. “As for your killing of Hamza [al Zinjibari], you have indeed given life to an Ummah that is risen and awaken by the blood of the martyrs. O America, if you are truly men then descend upon the battle and the field of men.” Another fighter exclaims that they will “make you [America] taste much greater from what you tasted in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.” Khalid Batarfi, who has risen in AQAP’s command structure and who has been targeted by US drones in the past, states that “this camp is an extension of the training camps of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan since the 1980s.” “It is an extension of the Sad’a, Furqan, Sadiq, Khalden, and Jihad Wal camps,” he notes, naming prominent camps in Afghanistan. Batarfi continues by saying that these camps have produced not hundreds, but “thousands of commanders in Jihad.” Before the video ends, Qosi notes that while the US succeeded in killing Zinjibari, “you are far away from reaching your goals.” He goes on to explain that the organization has grown militarily since the death of Zinjibari and that America should go “die in your rage.” Qosi echoes sentiments of the Afghan Taliban in the wake of Mullah Mansour’s death in a US drone strike in Pakistan two months ago, as well as comments made by Hamza bin Laden. After the US killed Mansour, Taliban said that it is able to thrive despite the loss of senior leaders. Hamza, in a recently released video, noted that al Qaeda has expanded its operations despite the loss of key leaders.