Today In

Yemen

An Iranian diplomat who has been held hostage since July 2013 has been freed and has returned to Iran. Iranian officials claimed he was freed in a military operation, but Yemeni officials claimed he was released as part of a prisoner swap. Houthis seized control of the National Dialogue headquarters in Sana’a and demanded former president Hadi leave the country.

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King Salman awarded Indian cleric Zakir Naik, who runs “Peace TV,” with the King Faisal International Prize and gave him $200,000. Naik has called 9/11 an “inside job” and called the US the “biggest terrorist.”

Libya

Islamic State fighters reportedly took over two radio stations in Sirte; the group has also published photos of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians kidnapped in December and January in Sirte. The UN restarted negotiations between the country’s warring parties.

Tunisia

The army shelled terrorist “hideouts” in mounts Salloum and Samama in Kasserine. A Libyan National Army spokesman identified a Tunisian as the leader of Islamic State militants in Tripoli; Tunisia is one of the largest sources of jihadist fighters.

Nigeria

A female suicide bomber blew herself up in a market in Biu in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least seven people. Political violence has killed 58 people in the run-up to Nigeria’s elections. A poll by Transparency International ranked the country’s political leadership as the world’s most corrupt.

Chad

Boko Haram conducted its first attack on Chadian territory, killing one soldier and wounding four others before being driven back from the village of Ngouboua. The jihadist group has pushed into Chad, Niger and Cameroon recently in its bid to expand its “caliphate.”

Syria

The Islamic State claims in a propaganda magazine that the widow of the gunman who attacked a Paris supermarket is now in Syria with the group. The US struggles with an “intelligence gap” while trying to track Western foreign fighters; it is believed “more than 20,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 countries have gone to Syria.” Regime forces and Hezbollah launched a major offensive in Southern Syria.

Somalia

At least 10 members of Shabaab were killed and scores more injured in a clash with AMISOM forces in Barawe town. The US will be providing 20 MRAPs to African Union peacekeepers in Somalia. A military court executed Ahmed Ismail Ali, “a senior Al Shabaab leader in Gedo region.” The Somali National Army claims to have “taken new areas” from Shabaab in the in Bakol region.

Libya

Libya reopened the Hariga oil port after the end of a strike by security forces. Libyan Special Forces recaptured a key military base in Benghazi from Islamist militias. Islamic State-allied jihadists staged a parade in Noufliya, which is “some 60km from the eastern oil port of Sidra.” Libya is on track to exhaust its wheat reserves in two to three months.

Tunisia

Tunisia arrested 32 Islamists for “planning terror attacks against buildings belonging to the country’s Ministry of Interior, security posts and civilian targets.” A general strike was declared at the country’s two main border crossings with Libya in protest of excessive force by police.

Algeria

Algeria announced the founding of a “national monitoring board” to combat religious extremism. Algeria reportedly declined to join the US-led coalition against the Islamic State after requests from the US and France.

Nigeria

The Nigerian National Security Adviser promises that there will not be another election postponement due to security issues. A report states that Boko Haram has gathered fighters to attack again Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Syria

The US-led coalition conducted three airstrikes near near Kobani, Deir al-Zor and Raqqa in the past day. Kurdish forces have recaptured more than a third of villages (“128 of some 350″) surrounding Kobane. Jordan has launched 56 airstrikes in retaliation for the death of Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh, the pilot murdered by the Islamic State. The Syrian foreign minister said the Assad regime does not need Jordan’s help to fight the jihadist group. “At least 15 people were killed and dozens wounded” in a regime airstrikes near Damascus. The Islamic State has withdrawn some of its men and material from Aleppo. A humanitarian organization estimates that about 210,000 people have been killed since the start of the Syrian Civil War.

Somalia

Members of Shabaab shot and killed a member of Somalia’s Federal Parliament in Mogadishu. Jihadists attacked a police station in Bossaso in Puntland; at least two of the attackers were killed and three others captured. A land mine targeting Turkish workers in Mogadishu killed one person.

Libya

Pro-government forces launched a new offensive to take Benghazi from Islamist militias; more than 40 people have been killed and dozens injured. The country’s warring parties will resume UN-sponsored peace talks on Feb. 10. A strike by security personnel has closed Libya’s last onshore oil export terminal.

Tunisia

The Interior Ministry announced that it arrested 32 extremists who were plotting spectacular attacks on “civilian and military sites around the country.” Operations to apprehend more suspects remain ongoing in Kasserine, near the Algerian border.

Nigeria

Nigeria is postponing upcoming elections for six weeks to focus on an offensive against Boko Haram. Nigeria, along with Benin, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad have jointly pledged to deploy an additional 8,700 troops in the fight against the jihadist group.

Niger

Nigerien forces repelled attacks by Boko Haram on the border towns of Bosso and Diffa; 109 jihadists and four soldiers were killed, and 17 soldiers were wounded. Shortly afterward, a young boy blew himself up in Diffa’s market, killing five.

Syria

At least eight people were wounded and possibly five killed after the Islam Army, a Syrian rebel group, attacked Damascus with a barrage of rockets and mortar rounds. At least 54 rebels may have been killed after regime troops attacked their positions in the Damascus suburb of Douma, according to Xinhua via Syrian National TV. It’s been reported that the UAE stopped flying missions over Syria as part of the US-led coalition after Jordan’s pilot was captured late last year; Pentagon releases seem to contradict this report. According to SOHR, the Islamic State has executed 50 people “it accused of insulting God, spying or being enemy fighters” this year. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons condemned the previous use of chemical weapons in Syria and said that those responsible should be held accountable.

Somalia

The Somalian government announced that a US drone strike killed Shabaab’s external operations chief last weekend. Suspected jihadists attacked a police station in Bosaso, injuring one and destroying a vehicle. Airstrikes in the Lower Jubba region killed 27 Shabaab fighters, according to local government authorities.

Egypt

An Egyptian court sentenced 230 people, including a prominent activist, to life in prison after their conviction for “rioting, inciting violence and attacking security forces.” One person was killed when unknown assailants firebombed a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Cairo.

Libya

Gunmen stormed the al-Mabrook oilfield south of Sirte, killing 12 people, including at least three foreigners; jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State are suspected. The UAE sent a second plane load of supplies to aid civilians in Libya. The Libyan Army lost 11 soldiers killed and 25 wounded battling Islamist forces near derma; the jihadists are said to have suffered “heavy losses.” Libya Dawn attacked pro-government forces near the oil port of Sidra, killing five soldiers and wounding 13.

Algeria

The presidents of Algeria and Benin announced that they would ramp up cooperation in counterterrorism operations. Despite political tensions, the Moroccan and Algerian intelligence services are also reported to have remained cooperative.

Mali

French forces killed about a dozen jihadists “in the region of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains” in northern Mali. The UN’s peacekeeping mission is struggling with persistent insecurity and tensions with the civilian populace.

Nigeria

Chadian troops crossed the border into Nigeria and ejected Boko Haram from the town of Gamboru, which the group has held for several months. The Nigerian military claimed the country’s sovereignty remains intact. Nigerian and Chadian warplanes have bombed the jihadist group “out of a slew of northeastern Nigerian towns.” Boko Haram’s pressure on Maiduguri has “put a stranglehold on one of Nigeria’s key cities.” The UN condemned the jihadist group’s recent attacks.

Syria

The Al Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for bombing a bus of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims visiting a Syrian shrine in Damascus on Feb. 1, killing six people. The Western-backed rebel Hazzm movement has reportedly joined the Levantine Front, a coalition of other Syrian rebel groups, in a bid to strengthen itself against Al Nusrah. The Islamic State announced the beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto on Feb. 1.

Somalia

Several people were killed in an airstrike targeting Shabaab militants in Dinsoor; the attack is believed to have been a US drone strike and “a top leader” of the jihadist organization is reported to have been killed. “At least three missile strikes from unmanned aircraft” struck a Shabaab training facility in Toratorow village, killing “dozens,” according to the government. The drones also hit fighters patrolling the Dugule neighborhood in Toratorow, killing another 45, according to the government spokesman. A Somalia National Army commander announced the capture of an unnamed senior Shabaab official in the Gedo region.

Egypt

President al-Sisi has asked France for modern military equipment. Recent jihadist attacks on the Sinai, including a complex suicide and indirect fire attack that killed 32 security personnel on Jan. 29, have stoked nationalist sentiment in Egypt. A court has banned Hamas’ armed wing, labeling it a terrorist organization. An Egyptian policeman was arrested after he shot and killed an injured Islamist who had been detained by police and put in a Cairo hospital. Two women were killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit their house after being launched at military checkpoint in the Sinai, while a third woman was killed in crossfire between militants and security forces in a separate incident.

Libya

The Libyan representative to OPEC was released after his kidnapping on Jan. 15 in Tripoli. The internationally recognized prime minister visited the battleground of Benghazi to show support for pro-government troops fighting there. The UN has still not found an appropriate site for planned peace talks within Libya.

Tunisia

The Interior Ministry announced that security forces broke up a terrorist plot to “attack vital sites in the southern and eastern parts of Tunisia;” 15 people were arrested. The new government will be announced on Feb. 2.

Algeria

An Algerian court has issued a letter of request for Moroccan judicial authorities to provide the identity of an Algerian arrested as a suspect in the jihadist murder of French hiker HervĂ© Gourdel. People’s National Army forces arrested three smugglers in the areas of Bordj Badji Mokhtar and In Guezam. The Algerian parliament passed a bill aimed at stopping terrorist financing.

Nigeria

Chadian forces crossed into Nigerian territory and took the town of Malam Fatori in Borno state from Boko Haram; the Nigerian air force also conducted airstrikes on the town. An mob angry about the rise of Boko Haram stoned the convoy of President Goodluck Jonathan in Jalingo; a recent poll indicates that the upcoming presidential election is too close to call.

Syria

A UN official said the organization’s aid effort is having trouble delivering supplies to 40% of the population in need. Talks between various opposition factions and the regime began in Moscow on Jan. 25. The US State Department denied assertions it has abandoned moderate rebels. Journalists entering Kobane have said the city is “a mass of rubble and gutted buildings” after the more than four months-long battle. King’s College in London estimates that over 20,000 foreigners, “including about 4,000 from Western Europe and about 3,000 from former Soviet Union countries,” are fighting in Syria. The US-led coalition conducted 13 airstrikes in Syria in the last 24 hours, all of them targeting Islamic State positions around Kobane.

Somalia

Victims of Shabaab’s sharia courts are petitioning the government for support. The jihadist group’s former intelligence chief, Zakariya Ismail Hersi, said he has quit the group and renounced violence; Hersi surrendered to Somali forces in December. Somalia’s president renewed an amnesty offer for Shabaab members who leave the group.

Egypt

Egypt withdrew from an international meeting on Libya, protesting the inclusion of Qatar and Turkey, “countries outside the African Union.” A grenade attack targeting a bus injured three in Port Said.

Libya

At least 10 people, including a former US Marine, were killed when gunmen went on a shooting rampage in the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli on Jan. 27. The Libyan Buraq Airlines has suspended all flights for two days after one of its air crews was killed in the attack. Libya’s Health Minister said medical supplies are running out in eastern Libya. The UN is planning to hold future peace talks within Libya, after agreement “in principle” from the warring parties.

Algeria

The People’s National Army arrested a terrorist and captured “a quantity of munitions and a pump-action shotgun” in the commune of Lakhdari 122 km east of Algiers.The Minister of Justice said that “Algeria … must fill counterterrorism loopholes contained in its Legislation.” Algeria and Nigeria jointly called for a political solution to the conflict in Libya.

Mali

UN forces reportedly killed three protestors and injured others in Gao after using gunfire to disperse a protest over a plan to disarm a pro-government militia; some reports described the protest as a siege. Suicide bombers and gunmen killed about a dozen people during an assault on Tuareg rebel positions near Tabankort town; the attackers are suspected to be members of pro-government militia. A senior Malian army officer survived an assassination attempt in Bamako on Jan. 26. Burkina Faso is deploying “an 850-strong Burkinabe battalion, called ‘Badeyan 3′” to assist in peacekeeping efforts in Mali.

Nigeria

Boko Haram released photos of a training camp for children. Residents of Adamawa state say that jihadists are “rampaging through villages … burning and looting.” Upcoming elections are deemed “too close to call.” Sharia police arrested 12 men for planning to wed; gay marriages and relationships were banned by the government in January 2014. The former Minister of Petroleum Resources dubbed Nigeria a “failed state.”

Syria

A report in a Kuwaiti newspaper alleges that despite claims by an Israeli security source to the contrary, Israel was aware of the presence of an Iranian general in a convoy targeted in southern Syria on Jan. 18. UN aid shipments to Syria have provided food to about 600,000 people since July. The US provided $6 million to fund the interim opposition government. The US has ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone In northern Syria, contrary to Turkish preferences. The US-led coalition conducted 10 airstrikes in Syria since Jan. 21; nine strikes were conducted near Kobane and one near the Islamic State capital of Raqqa. Regime helicopters dropping barrel bombs killed at least 13 in Homs on Jan. 22.

Somalia

A car bomb targeting a Turkish government convoy killed five policeman and one bystander in Mogadishu just prior to a planned visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Erdogan postponed his Jan. 23 arrival to attend the funeral of Saudi King Abdullah. The UN, IGAD, AMISOM and the UK issued a joint statement voicing “concern over delays in the resolution of Somalia’s long-standing political crisis.”

Libya

The rival Islamist parliament based in Tripoli has suspended participation in UN peace talks, claiming new offensives by forces aligned with the internationally recognized government. Both sides claimed that the other initiated hostilities near the key oil port of Es Sider. The US State Department warned “U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately.”

Algeria

Algeria has strengthened border security in anticipation of the anniversary of the Tiguentourine gas plant siege, and last week announced the disruption of a terrorist cel that had plans to attack oil and gas facilities. The army also arrested “twelve smugglers of different nationalities,” seizing “vehicles, trucks and foodstuffs” on Jan. 19 and 20 in the south of the country. The government has introduced a bill intended to disrupt financing of terrorist groups. The Foreign Ministry urged warring Yemeni parties to reach accord in that conflict.

Mali

Tuareg separatists protesting UN airstrikes claimed to have driven UN forces from an airfield in Kidal in northern Mali. A dutch helicopter fired on a car near the town of Gao, killing four rebels. UN forces repelled rebels who attacked them with a heavy machine gun near Tabankort.

Nigeria

In a new video release, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for a recent massacre in Baga that killed hundreds of people, saying God “commanded” the group to do it. A Guardian analysis stated that “Army corruption, troop mutinies, alienated citizens and a lack of political will” are reasons Nigeria’s strategy against the terrorist group are unlikely to succeed.

Syria

Airstrikes reported to have been conducted by the Syrian regime killed at least 39 people in the village of Khansaa, and the town of Saraqeb and the village of Sheikh Mustafa in Idlib province; some reports speculated that the strike in Khansaa might have been executed by the US-led coalition. An Israeli airstrike on Jan. 18 killed an Iranian brigadier general along with a Hezbollah leader and 10 others; an Israeli security source said planners had been unaware of the general’s presence in the convoy. The Iraqi prime minister claimed that Islamic State Emir Abu Bakr Baghdadi was wounded in an airstrike in the Iraqi town of al-Qa’im, and now spends most of his time in Syria. The Russian moderator of upcoming talks between the Assad regime and some rebel groups has modest goals for the initial negotiations. Despite the regime beginning destruction of chemical weapons sites, opposition forces claim that some weapons are being held in hidden underground caches. The US-led coalition conducted 38 airstrikes in Syria since Jan. 16; 31 near Kobane, 4 near Hasakah, one near Aleppo, one near Dawr az Zawr and one near Abu Kamal. All targeted the Islamic State.

Somalia

The US is sending 20 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles to African Union forces combatting terrorism in Somalia. Turkish special forces arrived in Mogadishu prior to a visit by President Raccip Tayyip Erdogan.

Egypt

Jihadists claimed to have bombed a pipeline in North Sinai that carries oil into Jordan; the claim is unverified. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said that 208 people who had “taken up arms” against security forces were killed in 2014, and almost 1,000 were arrested. Sisi also argued that freedom of expression and protest rights were secondary to the country’s basic stability. Egypt closed its embassy in Sanaa, Yemen due to security concerns.

Libya

The internationally-recognized government reaffirmed its support of former Khaddafi General Khalifa Haftar, who was officially reinstated to the army recently. Libya’s representative to OPEC has gone missing in Tripoli as of Jan. 15. Over 7000 stranded Pakistanis were airlifted home from Libya and 51 Egyptian fishermen arrived in Rashid Port on Jan. 19 after fleeing Libyan violence. France condemned the attack on the Algerian embassy in Tripoli.