August 19, 2014 9:54 PM
By Bill Roggio
More than 700 Taliban fighters are reported to have launched a major assault on Afghan government and security forces' positions in the province of Logar, which is just south of Kabul. From Reuters:
"There are some 700 of them and they are fighting Afghan forces for territorial control and they have also brought with them makeshift mobile (health) clinics," Niaz Mohammad Amiri, the provincial governor of Logar province, told Reuters by telephone.
The Taliban are clearly preparing to battle the Afghan military in the open after the US and NATO forces draw down to levels at which they cannot provide meaningful support. The Taliban have launched similar massed attacks in the provinces of Helmand, Nangarhar, and Ghor over the past several months. Coalition forces have done little to turn the tide in those engagements.
The Taliban are said to control Sangin district in Helmand months after launching their attack in mid-June. The Afghan military and government have been unable to dislodge the Taliban from Sangin, and are now conducting peace talks with the group.
The Taliban have remained in Logar despite US and Afghan military operations in the province during the surge. In 2010, a US military official told The Long War Journal that the Taliban in Logar were "decimated" after raids over a short period of time killed or captured the three successive military leaders of the group in the province.
Logar province is a known haven for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, including the Haqqani Network. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the district of Pul-e 'Alam; or one of Logar's five districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
Over the past several years, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network have taken control of areas in Logar and neighboring Wardak province, and have used these safe havens to launch attacks into Kabul.
August 17, 2014 12:37 AM
By Bill Roggio
US Central Command issued a press release on US airstrikes against the Islamic State in northern Mosul on Saturday; the full press release is below:
US military forces continued to attack ISIL [Islamic State] terrorists in Iraq Saturday (Iraq time), with a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft successfully conducting airstrikes near Irbil and the Mosul Dam.
The US airstrikes near the Mosul Dam on Saturday were likely offensive in nature, in support of the Kurdish Peshmerga attempting to retake the strategic dam. A senior Kurdish commander has said as much.
Islamic State fighters at the Mosul Dam are neither directly threatening US personnel in Irbil, nor are they impeding the humanitarian mission on Mount Sinjar.
If the US military is going on the offensive against the Islamic State in northern Iraq to support the Peshmerga retaking areas lost in early August, then the US government should say as much. President Obama has stated that the US would not reengage in Iraq except to protect US personnel and support relief operations on Mount Sinjar. If the mission has changed, the American public should be given an explanation as to why.
Updated Aug. 18
President Obama issued a War Powers Resolution Authorization letter to Congress yesterday, the full text is below. The administration claims that possible destruction of the dam could threaten US personnel in Baghdad. Keep in mind that the Islamic State controls several dams in Iraq and Syria, and has yet to destroy one, likely because it views the infrastructure as critical to running its state. However the Mosul Dam is in disrepair.
On August 14, 2014, I authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct targeted air strikes to support operations by Iraqi forces to recapture the Mosul Dam. These military operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to support the Iraqi forces in their efforts to retake and establish control of this critical infrastructure site, as part of their ongoing campaign against the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace. Pursuant to this authorization, on the evening of August 15, 2014, U.S. military forces commenced targeted airstrike operations in Iraq.
August 15, 2014 11:24 AM
By Bill Roggio
According to this report in Khaama Press, the Afghan government is openly negotiating a "peace deal" with the Taliban in Sangin, which was overrun by the jihadist group in June:
Negotiations between Taliban militants and Afghan officials continue in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan in a bid to end the violence which sparked over a month ago.
Three quick points:
1) The Afghan government and military are, to put it mildly, insane if they believe that the Taliban will abide by a peace agreement. History in both Afghanistan and Pakistan shows that the Taliban have used peace agreements to either regroup from losses or move on to their next conquest. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and other Taliban groups took control of much of northwestern Pakistan between 2004 to 2009 as the Pakistani military signed peace agreement after peace agreement. In Afghanistan, look no further than the futile "peace deal" in Musa Qala in Helmand that began in October 2006 to see how the Taliban used it to their advantage.
2) We are constantly hearing about how the Taliban are exhausted from fighting and want peace. (See here for reports of exhausted Taliban seeking peace, from 2013 [and another], 2012, 2011, 2010 [and another], and 2009; there are many more, this is but a sampling.) Yet the Taliban keep fighting. It is about time to retire this canard.
3) The Taliban's high command has repeatedly said it has no interest in a peaceful resolution to the war. It has consistently said it will not participate in a coalition government, and that only the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is an acceptable outcome.
August 14, 2014 8:55 PM
By Bill Roggio
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense today claimed it retook four cities between Baghdad and Samarra from the Islamic State during operations over the past week. From Al Shorfa:
Over the past two weeks, "the army managed to clear four new cities in Salahaddin province -- al-Dhuluiyah, al-Ishaqi, al-Mutassim and Balad -- and is now in full control of them", said army commander in Salahaddin Lt. Gen. Sabah al-Fatlawi.
There is one problem with this story: no one seems to have been aware that these four cities were under Islamic State or allied forces control. Dhuluiyah has been considered contested, while at times heavy fighting has been reported at Balad and Ishaqi. Islamic State fighters have been launching attacks along the road north of Baghdad in an effort to cut off supplies to Samarra. But none of these cities were considered to be under enemy control.
Either the Iraqi Ministry of Defense is attempting to take credit for gaining ground it never lost, in an effort to bolster its image; or the situation on the road from Baghdad to Samarra has been far worse than reported. Neither scenario is a good sign.
August 13, 2014 12:57 PM
By Oren Adaki
A new video released on Aug. 12 by the al-Malahim Media Foundation, the media wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), features the terrorist organization's chief ideologue and theologian, Ibrahim al Rubaish, commenting on a variety of current events. In the video, entitled "A Talk About the Events," Rubaish discusses recent mujahideen victories in Iraq, the prisoner swap in which the Afghan Taliban released American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, and the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Reminding viewers of the need to stay stay abreast of current events in the Muslim world, Rubaish prefaces his discussion by emphasizing that "the brotherhood among the believers is stronger than the ties of kinship." He explains that the Muslim nation is "as one house: its success and failure affects the entire family."
After that introduction, Rubaish then turns to recent developments in Iraq. He congratulates the mujahideen as well as the entire Muslim community "for the victories achieved by our brothers in Iraq," without explicitly mentioning the Islamic State by name. Rubaish notes that these military victories are a "grace from Allah" and stresses the importance of giving thanks for such blessings.
Rubaish shows a keen awareness of the fact that the dust has not yet settled on the Iraqi battlefields, however. He calls on all Muslims to pray to Allah "to make the victory completed" and to rid their community of those who wish to "turn our victory into defeat." He beseeches the Sunni mujahideen to stop all infighting and to battle for the implementation of Islamic law as a united front.
Wrapping up his analysis of Iraqi developments, Rubaish suggests that if the Sunnis of Yemen follow the lead of their coreligionists in Iraq and act as "one hand," they could recreate the victories of Iraq and repel the Houthi advance on Sana'a.
Rubaish's comments on Iraq are in line with his previous pronouncements on the subject, which appear to be equivocal by design. In a video released last month called "Responsibility of the Word," Rubaish and Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, another AQAP ideologue, condemned the vicious infighting between the Islamic State and its rivals in Syria without mentioning specific events or parties. Nevertheless, their messages were quickly trumpeted on Twitter at that time by rivals of the Islamic State in the al Nusrah Front while they were condemned by another AQAP ideologue supportive of the Islamic State.
Turning to the release of US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, Rubaish congratulates the Muslim community for the success of the deal which released five Taliban commanders. In his exaltation, Rubaish exclaims, "Who would have ever though that the American pride would break in front of the demands of the mujahideen!"
Rubaish next addresses the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, explaining that the Saudis hired Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al Sisi to tighten the siege on Gaza and close the border crossings during the Israeli operation. Rubaish continues with a long rant excoriating Muslim "traitors" who aid or facilitate Israeli operations against Hamas. At one point, he likens Israel to a chair held up by legs representing Arab traitors. "If the legs break," he says, "or one of them, the chair would fall, Allah permitting."
At the conclusion of his 11-minute video, Rubaish comments on the July 4 AQAP attack on the Wadia border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Yemen that spilled into the Saudi town of Sharurah. He notes that Saudi authorities did not negotiate at all for the soldiers kidnapped by AQAP during the attack who were subsequently killed. He accuses the Saudi Ministry of Interior of exploiting its soldiers to do its bidding and then deluding their families after their deaths by calling them "martyrs."
August 13, 2014 11:13 AM
By Oren Adaki
An improvised explosive device (IED) planted by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) detonated today in Yemen's southern Lahj province as experts were attempting to defuse it. Three Yemeni explosives experts and 10 civilians were reportedly killed by the blast.
A Yemeni security official told the Arabic media that the IED was brought to the authorities' attention by local residents, who reported its presence in the vicinity of Lahj province's central prison. A team of explosives experts rushed to the scene to defuse the bomb, but were not successful. The same official also said that a police commander from the nearby city of Tabin was among the casualties of the explosion.
An anonymous local official claimed that the IED was planted close to the residence of the governor, Ahmad al Majidi, in the city of Sabr in Lahj province. He noted that the explosion also lightly wounded a number of Yemeni soldiers and pedestrians.
Later in the day, a Twitter account affiliated with AQAP released a short report claiming credit for the explosion in Lahj. The report stated that the IED was intended to target members of the Yemeni Popular Committees in Sabr City in the Tabin area "in response to their crimes against the Muslims." The AQAP report noted that the IED's location was discovered and that it exploded before it could be defused. Although Arabic media reports claimed that 13 people had been killed by the explosion, AQAP said that eight individuals were killed - three explosive experts working to defuse the bomb along with a number of police officers and members of the Popular Committees. However, the AQAP report added that about 20 people were injured by the explosion, including Colonel Mohammad Fareed, the local police chief.
The AQAP report concluded with the following statement from a fighter acting as a spokesman for the group: "We strongly apologize for injures that occurred among some Muslims during the explosion, and we thank Allah that none of them were killed. On this occasion, I repeat what we have already mentioned many times via a number of our publications that we disseminated in Wilayat Lahj which is a warning to our Muslim people to distance themselves from the IEDs and not attempt to dismantle them or tamper with them."
Long an al Qaeda battleground, Lahj province is particularly important to the terrorist organization given its close proximity to the port of Aden. Al Qaeda has carried out a string of terrorist operations in the province, including a suicide attack in March targeting the military intelligence headquarters in Lahj.
Update: Since this report was posted, AQAP claimed responsibility for the IED explosion in Lahj. The report has been edited to reflect this development.
August 12, 2014 8:31 PM
By Bill Roggio
In a Defense Department press briefing yesterday, Lieutenant General Bill Mayville, the Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided an update on the US air operations to relieve ethnic minority Yazidis in the Sinjar area in northern Iraq, as well as airstrikes against Islamic State forces threatening the Yazidis and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Mayville was clear that US air operations so far have had minimal impact on the Islamic State's operations in northern Iraq. He gave a "ballpark figure" of the number of sorties a day as "between 50 and 60." Mayville is clear that he does not believe the US air campaign in its current form will have a strategic affect on the Islamic State's operations in northern Iraq, let alone elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, where the group has made significant gains over the past year.
The general notes that the Islamic State forces in areas where the US is operating have begun to change their tactics somewhat by dispersing their fighters and hiding among the local population. This has made US targeting of the group even more difficult, he notes.
"[O]ne of the things that we have seen with the ISIL forces is that where they have been in the open, they are now starting to dissipate and to hide amongst the people," he said.
Mayville also gives grudging praise of the Islamic State's tactical prowess, stating that the jihadist group's "ability to attack on multiple axes ... is not insignificant."
Two questions and answers are reproduced below. The entire briefing can be read here.
Q: (OFF-MIC) retreating (OFF-MIC) seeing signs of retreat or picking up chatter that they're panicking or wondering...
August 9, 2014 3:50 PM
By Bill Roggio
US Central Command (CENTCOM) released two videos of two of the three airstrikes by F/A-18 Hornets and drones (presumably Predators or Reapers) reported to have taken place yesterday in northern Iraq against the Islamic State. Yesterday, the US military said it struck a "mobile artillery piece," and "a stationary ISIL [Islamic State] convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position" all near Irbil , the capital of Kurdistan.
In the first video, above, the gun camera video shows what appears to be a towed artillery piece just before it is struck. The above video certainly isn't showing mortar positions or an Islamic State convoy. And it also isn't showing mobile artillery, also known as self-propelled artillery. Either Admiral Kirby, the Pentagon briefer, and CENTCOM misidentified the type of artillery being hit, or there was another strike that wasn't reported. The former is more likely.
The video below shows what appears to be strike strike on the "stationary" Islamic State convoy; two vehicles are parked on a road and about a dozen fighters appear to be standing off to the side.
Video of the strike on the mortar position was not provided by CENTCOM.
For more information on the US' renewed military involvement in Iraq, see Threat Matrix reports, Obama authorizes limited airstrikes to protect US personnel in Irbil and US begins airstrikes against Islamic State near Irbil.
August 8, 2014 9:54 AM
By Bill Roggio
The US military launched an airstrike against Islamic State forces near the Kurdish capital of Irbil. From Pentagon Press Secretary and Spokesman for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:
The Department of Defense stated in a press release that F/A-18s dropped two bombs on a "mobile artillery piece' near Irbil:
At about 6:45 a.m. EDT, two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Kirby said, adding that ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending the city, where U.S. personnel are located.
The US military moved quickly to strike the Islamic State after President Obama issued a statement last night authorizing airstrikes against Islamic State fighters threatening Irbil or US personnel anywhere in Iraq. The US military is also authorized to launch airstrikes to protect civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar. Obama said that US ground forces will not be deployed to Iraq.
Update: The US conducted two additional air strikes against an Islamic State convoy and mortar positions threatening Irbil. From the Department of Defense:
Shortly after 10 a.m. EDT, remotely piloted aircraft struck a terrorist mortar position, Kirby said in a statement. When ISIL fighters returned to the site moments later, he added, the terrorists were attacked again and were killed.
August 7, 2014 10:24 PM
By Bill Roggio
President Barack Obama has authorized the US military to launch limited airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State, under two conditions: to halt a potential Islamic State advance on Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan that hosts a US Consulate and military advisers; or in support of humanitarian operations to help Iraqis on Mount Sinjar. Obama was clear that the military could launch airstrikes only under those specific conditions, and that the US military would not act as an offensive air force for the Iraqi military or the Kurdish Peshmerga, nor would it send in ground troops to fight the Islamic State.
"Today I authorized two operations in Iraq: targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians trapped on a mountain without food, water, and facing almost certain death," Obama said, speaking this evening at the White House.
"To stop the advance on Irbil, I directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL [Islamic State] terrorist convoys should they move towards the city" and threaten US personnel there or "anywhere in Iraq." The Iraqi government has approved the US' potential use of force, he said.
Obama was clear that US ground troops will not engage in fighting against the Islamic State.
"I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq," Obama said. "I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home."
"American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq," he continued.
Obama said the US should respond "to help avert a massacre" when able to do so.
"Therefore I authorized targeted airstrikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege on Mount Sinjar," he said.
Obama's statement took place just hours after Kurdish officials claimed that the US had launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in northern Iraq. The US Department of Defense denied the rumors.
The Islamic State has made significant advances in northern Iraq during the past week. Over the weekend, the Islamic State seized the city of Sinjar, just west of Mosul, which sparked the exodus of the persecuted Yazidi minority. Tens of thousands of Iraqis fled to Mount Sinjar to escape the Islamic State's advance.
And within the past several days, the Islamic State took control of the Christian town of Qaraqosh, as well as Bartella and Karamlesh east of Mosul, putting Islamic State fighters just 20 miles west of Irbil. Also, the town of Tal Kayf, north of Mosul, fell under the terror group's control. The Mosul Dam is also said to be occupied by the Islamic State.
Until recently, each of these areas were under the protection of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish Defense Forces that stood up to Saddam Hussein with the help of the US Air Force for more than a decade before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. But the Peshmerga left most of the cities and towns without putting up a fight.
August 6, 2014 11:07 AM
By Bill Roggio
The US Treasury Department today added three "key terrorist financiers" to its list of Specially Global Terrorists; two of them support the Al Nusrah Front and the other is an Islamic State financier/facilitator. All three terrorists are linked to Kuwait.
The two Al Nusrah Front financiers/facilitators, Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi and Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Sahib al-'Ajmi, "are Kuwait-based," Treasury stated. The Islamic State financier/facilitator, 'Abd al-Rahman Khalaf 'Ubayd Juday' al-'Anizi, has been involved with al Qaeda since 2008, transfers funds from Kuwait to Syria, has helped move fighters from Kuwait to Afghanistan, and has worked with "Iran-based al Qaeda facilitators." [For more on al Qaeda's network in Iran, see LWJ reports, Treasury targets Iran's 'secret deal' with al Qaeda, Treasury: Iranian intelligence supporting al Qaeda, Report: Senior al Qaeda facilitator 'back on the street' in Iran, and Treasury Department identifies another Iran-based facilitator for al Qaeda.]
Treasury stated that "ANF [Al Nusrah Front] and ISIL [Islamic State] continue to receive donations from private citizens located predominantly in the Arabian Peninsula to fund their operations."
Additionally, Treasury took the unusual step of directly calling out the Kuwaiti government for failing to disrupt the jihadist support network.
"We and our international partners, including the Kuwaiti government, need to act more urgently and effectively to disrupt these terrorist financing efforts," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen is quoted as saying in the press release.
Details on the three financiers/facilitators from the Treasury press release:
Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi
August 4, 2014 2:23 PM
By Bill Roggio
The Islamic State continues to release photographs of the execution of Iraq soldiers and security personnel. Yesterday, the Islamic State's Anbar Division released seven photographs documenting the beheading of three Iraq soldiers. While the beheadings could not be confirmed, the photographs released by the Islamic State are similar to images of other executions that have been confirmed.
The executions of the three captured soldiers are said to have taken place in the Al Sejar area just northeast of Fallujah, the second-largest city in Anbar province. Fallujah has been under the control of the Islamic State since the beginning of this year.
The soldiers are shown lying face first on the ground with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Each is shown holding up some form of identification. The Islamic State refers to the soldiers as "Safavids," or Iranians, as these soldiers fight for the Shia-led Iraqi government.
A different Islamic State fighter beheads each soldier, using a machete or a Bowie knife. The head of one of the soldiers is placed on his own back.
Only one of the photographs is reproduced, below. The rest of the photographs are extremely graphic and disturbing, and can be viewed here.
August 3, 2014 12:34 AM
By Bill Roggio
According to the Afghanistan Times, a Taliban commander who was freed from prison three months ago was behind the execution of at least 14 civilians in the central province of Ghor:
At least 10 days after killing of 14 civilians by armed men in western Ghor province, the governor of Ghor said Saturday that the Taliban's commander who was released from a jail in Ghor by the meddling of some known figures including parliament members three months ago was involved in killing of civilians in this province.
It is unclear if Rahmatullah, the freed Taliban commander, was involved in the Taliban's takeover of Char Sada in July.
Rahmatullah is the latest Taliban commander to have been identified after returning to the fight. Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad, a veteran Taliban commander who served in the group prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, promptly returned to the fight in Badghis province after being released from prison last year.
The most prominent is Mullah Zakir, who was detained in 2001 and held at Guantanamo Bay, and then transferred to Afghan custody and promptly freed in 2007. Zakir quickly returned to the fight, and by 2009 was identified as the Afghan Taliban's "surge commander"; he was responsible for countering the US' surge of forces in the south starting in 2009. Zakir served as the Taliban's top military commander before stepping aside earlier this year. [See LWJ reports, The Taliban's surge commander was Gitmo detainee, and Former Gitmo detainee leads top Taliban council, and Head of Taliban's military commission resigns due to 'ill health' for more information on Zakir.]
Earlier this summer, the US released five dangerous Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay. The five commanders, who are closely tied to al Qaeda, are to remain in Qatar for the next year. The Taliban celebrated their release as a major victory. After they leave Qatar, there are no assurances these commanders won't return to the Taliban, just as other top leaders and commanders have done in the past. [See LWJ reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo, and Taliban says 'five senior leaders' have been 'liberated' from Guantanamo, for more information.]
August 1, 2014 10:44 AM
By Oren Adaki
The Saudi Interior Ministry confirmed reports yesterday that the Kingdom received eight Saudi individuals from Yemen wanted for their involvement in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This Yemeni deportation of Saudi AQAP fighters is the first handover of terrorists active in Yemen to Saudi Arabia since February, when Yemeni security officials announced that they had handed over 29 Saudi AQAP fighters to the Kingdom.
A spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, Mansour al Turki, announced the handover yesterday, saying, "As an extension of the security cooperation with the brothers in the Yemeni Republic, and within the framework of the joint security efforts carried out by the security apparatuses in the two brother countries, the security services in the Kingdom have received eight Saudi nationals wanted by the security services, including two who were previously arrested and released." He emphasized that the individuals in question could not be conclusively linked to the latest AQAP activity in southern Saudi Arabia.
Al Turki added that among the individuals handed over to Saudi Arabia is "a wife of a detainee of the Kingdom's security services who was lured by elements within the terrorist organization in Yemen to leave the Kingdom in an irregular manner, without the knowledge of her family or husband." Al Turki reportedly claimed that the woman in question turned herself in to the Yemeni security services after her family convinced her to return to Saudi Arabia.
July 29, 2014 4:52 PM
By Oren Adaki
Update: Since this report was posted, AQAP released a video of the attack on the military intelligence headquarters in Lahj. The report has been edited to reflect this development.
At dawn on March 18, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at the Yemeni military intelligence headquarters in Lahj province north of the port city of Aden. One soldier who was guarding the facility was killed. Five soldiers and eight civilians were reported wounded as a result of the attack, including two children.
Yemeni security sources said at the time that an al Qaeda suicide car bomb exploded at the gate of the military intelligence headquarters in Lahj province's Sabr district. The military facility is located about 15 kilometers north of Aden, the largest city in southern Yemen and a haven for al Qaeda militants.
The blast from the explosion was powerful enough to almost completely destroy the military intelligence headquarters. Those injured from the attack were rushed to Aden area hospitals in southern Yemen.
Although AQAP did not immediately take credit for the attack, officials and analysts pointed out that a suicide bombing targeting a major military intelligence facility was in line with al Qaeda's modus operanidi. The pictures released on Twitter clearly validate this assumption.
The video of the attack documents AQAP fighters on a nocturnal reconnaissance mission in advance of the attack and also contains footage of the suicide operation itself. Viewers can clearly see a white vehicle driving up to the military intelligence headquarters and parking directly in front of it. Moments later, the VBIED detonates, causing massive damage at the site.
The video is prefaced by a 45-second message from AQAP military commander and co-founder Qasim al Raymi, who accuses the Yemeni establishment of complicity in the US drone program in Yemen. Al Raymi claims that AQAP has a "long list" of Yemeni traitors to target, and declares, "They must pay the price!"
July 29, 2014 12:05 PM
By Oren Adaki
Over the weekend, fighters from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula staged a series of attacks throughout southern Yemen. The attacks, like previous operations carried out by AQAP, targeted military locations and personnel in the provinces of Baydha, Shabwa, and Abyan.
During the night between July 25 and 26, AQAP fighters attacked a security checkpoint at the northern entrance of the city of al Baydha in south central Yemen. A fierce battle ensued between Yemeni soldiers and AQAP fighters, resulting in the deaths of four soldiers and the wounding of two others. According to local military sources, the AQAP assailants set fire to a Yemeni military vehicle stationed at the checkpoint and then fled the scene. The Yemeni military immediately dispatched reinforcements to the area and began sweeping the mountainous region surrounding al Baydha.
On July 26, Yemeni security officials said that fighters suspected of being part of AQAP gunned down a military supply and logistics convoy in Shabwa province, killing a soldier named Mohammad Hamadi from Ta'iz and wounding another.
And on Sunday, July 27, AQAP attempted to carry out a coordinated attack with three car bombings in the town of Mahfad in Abyan province. Reports indicate that AQAP fighters planned to attack various military locations in the town, but two of the suicide bombers were unable to reach their targets and detonated prematurely. The third bomber detonated at the entrance to a military brigade base in the Hodhn area of Mahfad, located in the town center. A Yemeni journalist with contacts inside AQAP said the explosion took place inside the 39th brigade base. According to the journalist, AQAP announced that their fighters had taken complete control over a brigade during the operation in Mahfad. Two Yemeni soldiers were reported killed in the attack, along with 10 AQAP fighters.
Mahfad has long served as a stronghold for AQAP fighters, and they are thought to be still active in the area despite a US drone strike on an AQAP training camp in Mahfad in April and the ongoing Yemeni offensive to rout out AQAP from Yemen's southern provinces. AQAP had remained entrenched in the Al Mahfad area following several previous Yemeni military operations that attempted to dislodge the terror group.
July 26, 2014 4:16 PM
By Bill Roggio
The Islamic State's Aleppo Division released three photographs of "the graduation of a new batch of Mujahideen" from a training camp in the eastern Syrian province.
The photographs were released on July 24 on the Aleppo Division's Twitter feed. The exact location of the camp has not been disclosed. The photographs show scores of armed fighters sitting and standing in what appears to be a hangar.
Jihadist groups in both Iraq and Syria have promoted the existence of at least five training camps this year. The Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's branch in Syria and a rival of the Islamic State; Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters, or Muhajireen Army), a group of foreign fighters led by commanders from the Caucasus; an Uzbek jihadist group known as the Imam Bukhari Jamaat; and the Islamic State have all promoted propaganda that showcase their training facilities and graduates. [See LWJ report, Islamic State touts training camp in northern Iraq.]
Most recently, the Islamic State promoted images from its "camps" in Mosul, Iraq, which has been under the jihadist group's control since June 10. [See LWJ report, Islamic State touts training camp in northern Iraq.]
The Islamic State has been destroying mosques, tombs, churches, and other religious sites in Mosul since the beginning of July.
July 24, 2014 3:50 PM
By Oren Adaki
The Twitter eulogy, or honorific biography, gives the fighter's name as Mohammad Omar Hejeil al Si'ri, also known by his nom de guerre, "Shaddad al Sharouri." Al Si'ri, a father of two, was allegedly born in 1982 in Sharurah, a town in the southern Saudi province of Najran that straddles the border with Yemen. His biography claims that al Si'ri used to be employed in the security services at the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh and "then Allah blessed him and he was separated from work." Al Si'ri then spent a period of time traveling between different countries looking for work.
His biography continues with al Si'ri's detention, for reasons that are not mentioned, in a Saudi prison in Abha in 2008. As is commonly noted in the biographies of terrorists, during his time in prison al Si'ri reportedly "learned, benefited, and worked hard to memorize the Qur'an, and studied the Shar'iah sciences available to him." Additionally, the Twitter biography claims that al Si'ri was tortured while in prison but that it "only increased his steadfastness and determination to support the religion."
Only two weeks following al Si'ri's eventual release from prison in 2012, he traveled to Yemen to join AQAP. The biography speaks of al Si'ri's complete devotion to his religion and to jihad, explaining that he left Saudi Arabia for Yemen before "seeing his son Azzam reach nine years of age." In fact, the biography claims that al Si'ri had only seen his son once in his life.
AQAP's eulogy describes al Si'ri as "courageous, intrepid, generous, and noble" and notes that he would routinely make the other fighters happy by sharing jokes with them. Al Si'ri's biography ends with his death in battle, fighting to "rescue the Sunnis in Sa'adah, in the area of Kitaf."
Al Si'ri's biography underscores the Saudi connection with AQAP, as the group was formed in 2009 by way of a merger between the Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda. Al Si'ri is also not the only Saudi AQAP member who allegedly worked in the Saudi royal security services. Sa'id al Shihri, a former AQAP deputy killed in a US drone strike in late 2012 or early 2013, served for a time as a member of the Saudi Royal Guard Regiment entrusted with protecting then Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abdul 'Aziz.
July 23, 2014 4:51 PM
By Laura Grossman
Two explosions today rocked Nigeria's north central city of Kaduna, the state capital, killing at least 82 people.
The first blast was detonated by a suicide bomber targeting moderate Muslim cleric Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. The sheikh's convoy was leaving Kaduna's Murtala Muhammed square, where he had delivered prayers to thousands. According to reports, the sheikh was seated in an open-roofed vehicle as the bomber lunged at him and was stopped by the sheikh's private security. Describing the attack, the local police commissioner said the bomber "detonated the bomb along with the person that tried to block him." Bauchi was not hurt, but 32 others have been confirmed dead at the scene.
This was not the first time Sheikh Bauchi had been targeted. On the night of July 1, a minor explosion went off near his residence. Witnesses reportedly stated that the blast targeted his guards.
Earlier this month, the sheikh hosted Christian leaders to break the Ramadan fast with him as part of his efforts to support interfaith coexistence. Speaking at the event, Sheikh Bauchi called Boko Haram's activities "unislamic."
Not long after the first bombing today, a second explosion occurred, at Kaduna's Kawo market area, killing some 50 people.
The Kawo bombing targeted General Muhammadu Buhari, former military ruler of Nigeria in the early 1980s. In the attack, gunmen reportedly "rammed a vehicle into his convoy, firing shots at it." Buhari is also the main opposition party leader and was the primary contender against President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria's 2011 elections. With elections scheduled for 2015, there may have also been a political dimension to this attack as no one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, which appear to have been coordinated.
The incidents bear the signature of Boko Haram, however, and it is not the first time the group has targeted Muslim leaders in Nigeria. At the end of May, suspected Boko Haram fighters shot and killed the Emir of Gwoza while he was traveling in a convoy to a funeral. Two other emirs survived the ambush.
In January 2013, Emir Al Haji Ado Bayero of Kano, viewed as the second-most important Muslim leader in Nigeria behind the Sultan of Sokoto, was targeted in a Boko Haram assassination attempt. He was protected by his bodyguards and driver, who were killed, as gunmen surrounded his convoy.
July 22, 2014 9:31 AM
By The LWJ Editors
Today, The News, one of Pakistan's largest newspapers, published this report by Amir Mir on Sanafi al Nasr noting the death of six al Qaeda operatives. An excerpt of the article, titled "Six top al-Qaeda leaders droned in Waziristan," is below:
The al-Qaeda has confirmed that the recent US drone strikes had killed six of its leaders in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, which used to be administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadur -- once considered to be a "good Taliban" by the Pakistani establishment.
If that sounds familiar, it is because The Long War Journal first reported on Sanafi al Nasr's tweets about the six al Qaeda operatives on July 20.
Amir Mir has copied from The Long War Journal. For example, consider our description of Sanafi al Nasr: "As the leader of the Victory Committee, Nasr is responsible for developing and implementing al Qaeda's strategy and policies."
Now here is Mir's description [emphasis added]: "Nasr, a Saudi national whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, being the leader of the 'Victory Committee', is responsible for developing and implementing al-Qaeda's strategy and policies."
Our description of Nasr is not based on open sources, or on anything al Qaeda has reported. Nasr's responsibilities were described to us by US intelligence officials who track al Qaeda closely. In other words, there is no other place Mir could have gotten this information, let alone the exact wording we used, other than from The Long War Journal.
This isn't the first time we have detected Mir doing this. For instance, on April 25, 2013, Mir published a report at The News on Abdullah Adam, al Qaeda's intelligence chief, who was killed in a US drone strike. His report was printed one day after LWJ published an account that noted the reports of Adam's death and also provided a full background on the leader. Amir Mir merely rewrote large sections of LWJ's report and used it as his own, without citations.
And, on Jan. 4, 2013, after the US killed Mullah Nazir in a drone strike, Amir Mir also lifted large sections of LWJ reporting on Nazir and Pakistan's views of the "good Taliban" vs. the" bad Taliban." See this LWJ report from Jan. 3, 2013 to understand where Mir got his "inspiration."
We know for a fact that Mir reads LWJ. For instance, in this piece about the supposed split within the Pakistani Taliban that was published on Dec. 9, 2012, Mir cites and quotes LWJ four times. We encourage him to credit LWJ reporting in the future instead of using it as his own.
Dawn, which originally cited The News as the source of its article on the report of the six al Qaeda leaders who were killed, has now credited LWJ as the source of its report. You can read Dawn's article here.