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 conducted up to 30 air strikes on Saturday in and around Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [AP] The Guardian’s Mark Townsend documents the plight of civilians in Raqqa, which has been the target of both Syrian regime and coalition airstrikes.
The Islamic State reportedly launched a suicide attack on Kobani from Turkish territory for the first time, although Ankara denied that the vehicle had crossed over from Turkey. [Washington Post’s Dasha Afanasieva and Alexander Dziadosz] Islamic State fighters carried out a total of five suicide attacks in the Syrian border town on Saturday. [The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer] Meanwhile, around 50 ISIS militants were killed amid fierce clashes with Kurdish fighters over the weekend. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]
Syrian rebels partaking in a new U.S. military training program will undergo psychological evaluations, biometrics checks, and stress tests, a screening program far more rigorous than that normally used to vet foreign soldiers. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]
The U.S. and Turkey are close to reaching a deal on a joint military mission in Syria that will give the U.S. and its partner nations permission to use Turkish military bases to launch attacks into northern Syria. [Wall Street Journal’s Adam Entous]
Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Turkey to discuss the crisis in Iraq and Syria among other subjects, despite the two countries’ opposing positions on the situation. [AP]
Iraq’s sectarian divisions are likely to delay the counter-offensive against the Islamic State, reports Dominic Evans. [Reuters]
The Iraqi army had 50,000 false names on its payroll, an investigation into corruption in the military has revealed. [BBC]
Two British jihadists that were handed to the Islamic State by Turkey, as part of a mass hostage swap, are reportedly set to join the frontline in the coming weeks. [The Times’ John Simpson]
Thousands of German citizens have travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State; Der Spiegel explores the “extremist scene” in Germany in order to understand what drives people to join the group.
A Canadian-Israeli citizen has reportedly been kidnapped by ISIS in Syria; both governments are seeking to verify the reports. [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]
Tens of thousands of Iraqi applicants eligible for the expedited refugee program to the U.S., on account of their service to American troops, have been left in limbo, reports Miriam Jordan. [Wall Street Journal]
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fired his cabinet after failing to form a new government. The power-sharing agreement between Ghani and his election rival, and now chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, has been cited as the underlying problem. [New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein] Ghani also reportedly intends to fire senior provincial civilian and military leaders to “reinvigorate the battle against militants” in the country’s most “volatile” regions. [AP]
Suicide attacks in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province have killed at least nine people, including two police officers, and wounded another 20 today. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. [Al Jazeera]
Kabul’s police chief has resigned following a spate of attacks in the capital. On Sunday, a deadly Taliban attack struck a foreign guest house, killing three aid workers. The past 10 days have borne witness to a host of attacks on diplomatic and international targets in Kabul. [Reuters’ Jessica Donati and Kay Johnson]
A former Army lieutenant who was convicted last year of murdering two Afghans in the conflict zone is seeking clemency from Brig. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, with supporters claiming Clint Lorance was wrongly prosecuted. [The Fayetteville Observer’s Paul Woolverton]
Afghan security forces are ill equipped to combat the Taliban without NATO’s assistance, according to a district police chief responsible in Helmand province, an area swarming with insurgents. [Reuters’ Kay Johnson and Mirwais Harooni] A Taliban attack on a Helmand province army outpost killed over a dozen Afghan servicemen on Saturday, while the attack on national forces now in control of Camp Bastion entered a third day. [The Hill’s Martin Matishak]
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
Ukraine accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine under the pretense of humanitarian aid, as a column of 106 white trucks crossed the border from Russia yesterday. [New York Times’ Andrew E. Kramer] This morning, the Ukrainian military accused “Russian special forces” of taking part in attacks on the Donetsk airport. [Reuters]
Russian companies are hiring Washington lobbyists in an effort to prevent expanded sanctions against Russia, according to disclosure records. [Wall Street Journal’s Philip Shishkin]
Vladimir Putin “has the whole region cornered,” not just Ukraine, warns Jeffrey Gedmin. [Politico Magazine]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted at the possibility of new elections, amid a political crisis over a contentious nationality bill and “growing acrimony” among the “fractious partners” in the governing coalition. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner] An opinion poll released on Sunday indicates that support for Netanyahu has dropped to 38%. [Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick]
An Israeli citizen was stabbed and lightly injured in the West Bank by a Palestinian woman, who was shot by Israeli security forces following the incident. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen and Chaim Levinson]
An Arabic-Hebrew school in West Jerusalem was torched by arsonists suspected of being Jewish extremists. [Washington Post’s William Booth]
An Egyptian court dropped charges against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Saturday. Mubarak was standing trial relating to the killing of hundreds of protesters during Egypt’s 2011 revolution. A senior judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mubarak will likely be released soon.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said that he accepts the decision to end legal action against Mubarak, stating that the country must “look to the future” and “cannot ever go back.” [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick]
Protests erupted across Egyptian universities yesterday in response to the decision. Two protestors were killed and nine wounded by security forces in Tahir Square, “the symbolic heart of the revolt that ousted Mubarak.” [Reuters’ Amr Dalsh]
An Egyptian court has banned the Islamic State in the country, designating it as a “terrorist organization” along with a number of affiliated groups. [Al Jazeera]
An American oil worker has been killed by an Egyptian militant group allied with the Islamic State; Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the death of the man but did not specify when they killed him. [AP]
The UN Committee against Torture released its report on U.S. compliance with the Convention Against Torture on Friday. [AP’s John Heilprin] Just Security’s Ryan Goodman and Eric Messenger offer an overview of the Committee’s concluding observations.
Britain’s GCHQ targeted Ireland’s underwater telecommunications cables, as part of its mass surveillance programs, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden. [Irish Times’ Gavin Sheridan et al]
The death toll from an attack on a Nigerian mosque on Friday has risen to over 100. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, though officials say it bears the hallmarks of Boko Haram. [BBC] Suspected Islamist extremists have carried out an attack today in the northeast Nigerian town of Damaturu, with explosions and gunfire erupting before dawn. [AP]
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