According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a new offensive by the Islamic State has effectively cut the city of Deir Ezzor in two. The Islamic State has battled forces loyal to the Assad regime in and around Deir Ezzor since mid-2014. The jihadis’ latest assault has exacerbated the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the city.
During his last press briefing as Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter said that some of the Islamic State jihadists recently targeted in Libya were “external plotters, who were actively planning operations against our allies in Europe.”
The US bombed two Islamic State camps 28 miles southwest of Sirte, Libya last night. The camps were located in a remote desert location, but were part of the jihadists’ plan to mount a comeback in the more populated areas of Libya. The Islamic State lost control of Sirte late last year.
Mohammed Al Ansi was one of ten Guantanamo detainees transferred to Oman earlier this week. Ansi had been denied transfer as recently as March 2016. The US government found that he “participated in advanced combat training and may have met with al Qaeda external operations chief Khalid Shaykh Mohammed.” Ansi may have been “considered for participation in a suicide attack or deployment in the West” as part of the 9/11 hijackings.
Ayman al Zawahiri eulogizes two slain al Qaeda veterans in a newly released video. Zawahiri praises the pair for their contributions to jihad. The production is laced with criticisms of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State.
The State Department has designated Ibrahim al Banna as a terrorist. Al Banna has served as an al Qaeda official in Yemen since the 1990s. He originally joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and has been one of Ayman al Zawahiri’s loyalists for decades.
The Pentagon is still assessing the results of airstrikes on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 in northern Syria, but it is believed that 20 al Qaeda “militants” were killed in the bombings. The airstrikes are likely among the most significant carried out against al Qaeda in Syria since Sept. 2014. President Obama reportedly authorized a more robust air campaign against al Qaeda in Syria late last year, after the administration had previously defined down the threat.
The State Department announced today that Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza, has been added to the US government’s list of designated terrorists. Al Qaeda has released several messages from Hamza since Aug. 2015. He has threatened the West, said that all Muslims should support the jihad in Syria, and called for the Saudi government to be overthrown.