Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister had called on the world to help his country remove the ISIL from Sunni-dominated Anbar, a province including the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi that borders Syria. Maliki, who leads a Shia-dominated government, gave warning of a long fight ahead as 86 people died in a series of attacks in Baghdad. Baquba and Mosul on the 15 Jan 14.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government said on the 21 Jan 14 it had decided in principle to create three new provinces from contested parts of the country in an apparent attempt to address Sunni grievances and counter the expansion of the Kurdish self-rule region. One of those provinces would be centred on Fallujah, a city overrun earlier this month by Al Qaeda and allied insurgents after more than a year of protests there and in other Sunni cities against what they consider treatment as second-class citizens. Separate province status was not a major Sunni demand, but it could allow the area to receive increased federal funding. The other two areas — Tuz Khormato and the Ninevah Plain — border Iraq’s northern Kurdish self-rule region. The former is a mixed city containing Arabs, Kurds, and ethnic Turkomen, while the latter has a large Christian population. A statement said the Cabinet had “agreed in principle to turn the areas of Tuz, Fallujah and the Ninevah Plain into provinces and the Cabinet will decide after the fulfilment of the necessary requirements.” It did not give a reason for the decision. Turkomen and Christians, many of whom fear absorption into the Kurdistan regional government, have been demanding separate province status for Tuz Khormato and Ninevah Plain for years. The Fallujah announcement, however, was unexpected.
Israel – Israeli authorities on the 21 Jan 14 announced the arrest of three global jihadists who were allegedly preparing to carry out terror attacks after being recruited by an al-Qaeda-linked operative in the Gaza Strip. The arrested Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem area were recruited online and planned to carry out kidnappings and bombings at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem as well as the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, among other targets. Israeli authorities kept their counterparts in the "US and elsewhere" updated on their investigation, Israeli security stated. According to the Shin Bet, the three had been recruited separately by a Gaza-based operative called Oreib al Sham. "Senior Shin Bet sources said they believed Al-Sham received his orders directly from the head of al-Qaeda's central structure, Ayman Al-Zawahri." The unconfirmed claim "is based on statements made by the suspects during questioning," One of those arrested, Abu Sara, admitted to planning a shooting attack on a bus travelling between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim. According to the Shin Bet, the plot would have seen terrorists fire at the wheels of a bus, causing it to overturn, and then opening fire on the passengers and emergency responders. Abu Sara also reportedly agreed to assist in a double suicide bombing operation against the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem. Using fake Russian passports and travelling under the guise of tourists, foreign jihadists were supposed to enter Israel, where they would have been assisted by Abu Sara in carrying out the bombings. According to the Shin Bet, Abu Sara had agreed to go to Syria for military training, but had not yet done so. He had already received files from Gaza detailing how to manufacture explosives. Rubin Abu Nagma another member of the cell had been planning to kidnap a soldier from a Jerusalem bus stop in addition to detonating explosives at a housing complex in the area of Abu Tor, the Shin Bet statement said. Ala Yasin Mohammed Anam purportedly sought to establish a Salafi jihadist terror cell in the West Bank. News of the recent arrests comes about two months after Israel security forces killed three Salafi jihadists near Hebron. The jihadists were "only a small part" of the Salafi jihadist structure in the West Bank, and "what was hidden was greater," the Gaza-based Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem said in a statement praising the three jihadists. A Shin Bet official said those recently arrested were not linked to those killed in November.
Israel/Syria – A large warehouses near the port city of Latakia, where the Assad regime stored advanced Russian missiles before shipping them to Hezbollah, were destroyed by aerial attack late on the 26 Jan 14. Israel has already launched six attacks in 2013 on Syrian arms shipments to Hezbollah -- on 30 January, 3 May, 5 May, 5 July, 18 October, and 30 October. The attack on 5 July was on storage facilities in the same Latakia area, where Syria kept a large quantity of advanced P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles, also called Yakhont missiles. Three weeks after the attack, U.S. sources said that the attack did not succeed in wiping out all of the missiles. “American officials said that further Israeli strikes are likely.”
Israel/Turkey – On the 29 Jan 13 it was reported that some of the al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria have set up bases in Turkey, where they can also easily access Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief has stated. Al-Qaeda fighters from around the world enter Syria weekly, but they “do not stay there,” Major-General Aviv Kochavi told a security conference, while presenting a map of the Middle East, which was marked with areas of al-Qaeda presence. The map showed three markings of al-Qaeda bases in Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly denied his country was providing shelter for backing groups linked to al-Qaeda in Syria. While the Israeli general did not give specific numbers, his spokesperson said the presented map showed the strength and the location of al-Qaeda bases, which appeared to be in the Turkish provinces of Karaman, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa. “Syria is projecting its conflict to the whole region. Those blotches [on the map] in Turkey are no mistake by the graphic artist and it is a short way from there into Europe,” Kochavi said. Throughout the Syrian conflict, Turkey provided a lifeline to areas held by the rebels, through allowing in humanitarian aid, helping refugees out of the country, and letting the rebel Free Syrian Army carry out organizational operations in Turkey. However the rise of al-Qaeda-linked rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has left Ankara open to accusations of supporting radical Islamists.
Syria – A suicide car bomber killed three people in a Hezbollah stronghold on Lebanon's northern border with Syria on the 16 Jan 14 the latest sign of the Syrian civil. The blast came as a court at The Hague began hearings on the 2005 killing of Lebanese statesman Rafik al-Hariri. The trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members, once billed as demonstrating a new start for Lebanon under the rule of law, has been overshadowed by violence spilling over from Syria. The car bomb went off near a local government building in the centre of Hermel, at the northern end of the Bekaa Valley, an area populated mainly by Shi'ite Muslims from whom Hezbollah draws its support. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but it fit a pattern of attacks by rival sectarian groups on each other's strongholds that has been amplified by Syria's civil war. Hezbollah, Lebanon's most powerful military and political movement has sent fighters and advisers to aid President Bashar al-Assad, a member of Syria's Alawite minority, in his battle with mainly Sunni rebels. Both Hezbollah and Assad are supported by the Shi'ite religious rulers of Iran.
Western intelligence agencies say that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in a complex double game, has provided funds to and cooperated with al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations in Syria even as these organizations fight the Syrian military. The regime has two goals in pursuing this policy. The first is to persuade the West that the uprising is inspired and led by Islamist militants, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, in order to weaken, and even stop, Western support for the rebels. The second is to allow the jihadists to gain the upper hand in the internal fighting among rebel groups. The regime believes that if the rebellion is seen to be led by Islamist fundamentalists rather than secular and moderate Syrians, more non-Alawite Syrians would side with the regime against the rebels, even if grudgingly.
Yemen – Al-Qaeda militants killed 10 Yemeni soldiers in three simultaneous attacks on the 16 Jan 14 on army positions in the central province of Bayda during the reporting period. “Al-Qaeda assailants carried out simultaneous attacks against three military positions in Rada” in Bayda, an extremist stronghold. Ten soldiers were killed and others wounded, while some of the attackers also died, including one wearing an explosive belt that was killed by soldiers. The attacks were followed by clashes between the army and the terrorists. al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been blamed for most of the increasingly common hit-and-run strikes targeting military personnel and officials.