Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
IRAQ and SYRIA
The U.S.-led coalition stepped up its air campaign against the Islamic State over the weekend. American forces have carried out six strikes in Syria since Friday and, along with partner nations, a further 34 strikes in Iraq. [Central Command: here and here]
Kurdish fighters continued to battle ISIS militants in Kobani yesterday, as the militants launched a new assault for control of the Syrian border town for the fourth straight day. [Al Jazeera] More than 800 people have been killed in Kobani over the last 40 days, over half of whom were ISIS fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh et al]
Iraqi Kurdish forces will not participate in ground fighting in Kobani, but will provide a “back-up support with artillery and other weapons,” a Kurdish spokesperson told Reuters.
Iraqi troops along with Shi’ite militias reclaimed control of the town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from the Islamic State on Saturday. [Reuters’ Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles] However, a suicide bomber killed at least 27 Shi’ite militiamen and wounded another 60 around the outskirts of Jurf al-Sakhar earlier today. [Reuters]
The Lebanese military engaged in a third day of fighting against militants linked to the Syrian civil war in the northern city of Tripoli yesterday, including suspected fighters from the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State. [Asharq Al-Awsat] The city is reported to have fallen silent today following battles overnight in areas surrounding the city. [Reuters]
The death of a U.S. military member in Iraq was reported by the Pentagon last Friday. The 19-year old Marine died in Baghdad in what was described as a noncombat incident. [Washington Post’s Miss Ryan]
The U.S. views moderate Syrian rebels as a key component of a political solution to end the country’s civil conflict, according to John Allen, the U.S. representative to the coalition against the Islamic State. [Reuters]
The threat posed by the Islamic State’s antiaircraft abilities may require Iraqi and coalition forces to reevaluate their strategy against the group, as such missiles are “game changers,” according to one senior U.S. official. [New York Times’ Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt]
On the Sunday shows, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers said that America’s allies were “shocked” by the “lack of a strategy” in Iraq and Syria. [CBS’ “Face the Nation”] Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein discussed the increased threat posed by lone wolf terrorism, suggesting that propaganda from groups like the Islamic State “is having some effect.” [CNN’s “State of the Union”] Similarly, House Homeland Security Committee chair Michael McCaul said on ABC’s “This Week” that the recent homegrown attacks in Canada and the U.S. indicate that ISIS is “winning” its online propaganda war.
Budget experts question whether sequestration will undermine the U.S. fight against the Islamic State, as has been argued by several Republican lawmakers. [The Hill’s Rebecca Shabad]
The Iraqi parliament has appointed ministers for interior and defense, following weeks of inaction, completing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government. [Al Monitor’s Nidal al-Laythi]
Senior Qatari officials strongly refuted claims that the country is supporting extremist groups, including the Islamic State, stating that the country has only provided assistance to moderate groups in coordination with the U.S. and allies. [BBC]
The “allure” of the Islamic State is impacting jihadist groups in Libya, with many adopting the black-clad aesthetic of the group, raising concerns that the terrorist organization is expanding into north Africa. [Financial Times’ Borzou Daragahi]
British ISIS fighters who wish to return home from the conflict in Iraq and Syria are being issued death threats by the organization’s leadership. [The Observer’s Mark Townsend]
ISIS hostages were tortured and starved by the group before their beheadings, according to former captives. [New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi] In his latest video message, British hostage John Cantlie says that ISIS prisoners who have attempted to escape have been punished with waterboarding. [BBC]
The U.S. and U.K. officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province yesterday, drawing to a close a decade-long conflict against the Taliban in the region, as the camps were handed over to the Afghan Army’s 215th Corps. [New York Times’ Azam Ahmed]
Four Afghan police officers were killed during attacks on several police checkpoints in the northeast of the country yesterday. Four civilians were killed in a separate bombing attack in the south. [AP]
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
Pro-Western parties look set to win Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, according to an early count. President Petro Poroshenko is due to hold talks on forming a coalition government later today. [BBC] Check out Kyiv Post for live updates on the election results.
Low voter turnout in some parts of the country’s east indicates the continuing difficulty the new government will face in administering the region, writes the Wall Street Journal’s James Marson.
The situation in Ukraine risks developing into a “protracted low-intensity conflict,” two senior UN officials told the Security Council last week. [UN News Centre]
A U.S. drone strike is thought to have struck al-Qaeda positions in central Yemen on Friday, killing three militants. [The Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio] A suicide bomber killed roughly 20 Shi’ite Houthi rebels in Yemen late yesterday, according to local sources. [Reuters]
An attack on a group of New York City police officers last week by an attacker with a hatchet has been labeled a “terrorist act” by police commissioner William Bratton. [USA Today’s Katherine Lackey]
Twelve Nobel Peace Prize laureates have urged the Obama administration to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture” by the U.S., including the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s interrogation methods post-9/11. [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]
Poland has appealed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights that it violated the rights of two suspected terrorists by transferring them to a CIA “blacksite” in northern Poland. [New York Times’ Rick Lyman]
The Army’s $5 billion intelligence program, DCGS-A, has failed to effectively integrate intelligence for soldiers on the ground, and has instead served as a source of profitable contracts for former Army employees at defense companies, according to an AP report.
U.S. Special Operations Command is developing an open-source data-mining software that will enable it to obtain information as close to real time as possible, thus meeting the needs of the special operations forces. [Defense News’ Paul McLeary]
Thirty Egyptian troops were killed during an assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai province on Friday, involving a car bomb and other explosives. Egypt declared a state of emergency after the attack and President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi stated that the assault was a “foreign-funded operation,” vowing a drastic response. [Washington Post’s Maggie Michael and Maamoun Youssef] The Defense Department expressed its support of Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts.
Britain will impose limitations on the activities of Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations and prevent activists moving to London, after a report from a senior diplomat heightened concerns over the organization’s links to jihadist groups in the Middle East. [The Telegraph’s Damien McElroy]
The gunman responsible for last week’s Ottawa shootings made a video demonstrating “ideological and political motives,” according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The video has not yet been released and is being analyzed by police. [National Post’s Stewart Bell] High-ranking Canadian security officials will testify today before a parliamentary committee about the extent of the terrorist threat in Canada following last week’s attacks. [Reuters]
Boko Haram kidnapped at least 30 children from a village in northeast Nigeria over the weekend, dampening hopes of the anticipated release of 219 schoolgirls currently held by the group. [CNN’s Aminu Abubakar] Human Rights Watch has released a report documenting the treatment of Boko Haram captives.
Violence broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the West Bank at the funeral of a teenage Palestinian boy on Sunday who was killed by Israeli forces. [AP] Israel has given approval for the construction of 1,000 new Jewish settlements in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. [Al Arabiya News and AFP]
The Libyan army has gained control of one of the most sizeable camps of Islamist forces in Benghazi, with the help of allies, according to military officials. [Reuters]
China will create a national counter-terrorism intelligence system following an upsurge in violence in the Xinjiang region. [Reuters]
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