News Roundup and Notes: January 15, 2015

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.

PARIS ATTACKS

AQAP’s role in Charlie Hebdo attack. An Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula source told The Intercept that Anwar al Awlaki—the U.S.-born cleric killed in a drone strike in 2011—played the role of a “coordinator between [the AQAP] leadership and the Kouachi brothers,” reports Jeremy Scahill.

The younger of the Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack is now believed to have used his brother’s passport to travel to Yemen in 2011, where he is suspected to have received the finance and training to carry out an attack in France. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt et al]

Yemen’s “turbulent history” has enabled AQAP to flourish; Alan Yuhas takes a look at the contributing factors. [The Guardian]

IRAQ and SYRIA

The Islamic State is gaining ground in Syria despite American-led airstrikes, with at least a third of the country’s territory now under the group’s influence. [The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak and Nancy A. Youssef]  Dion Nissenbaum similarly reports on the failure of airstrikes to slow ISIS’s progress in Syria, which is raising concerns about the administration’s “Iraq-first” strategy. [Wall Street Journal]

U.S. defense leaders met with moderate Syrian opposition and civil society members in Turkey earlier this week, part of the American effort to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. [Central Command; The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The administration is hoping that Russian-led peace talks on Syria “could be helpful,” Secretary of State John Kerry told UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura yesterday. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Anne Barnard]

U.S. and Coalition military forces continue to target the Islamic State, with six airstrikes in Syria and a separate 12 airstrikes in Iraq on Jan. 13. [Central Command]

The hack of the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts has been tied to a former British resident, believed to be the leader of the “CyberCaliphate,” according to government sources and security experts. [Reuters’ Mark Hosenball]

Iraq is facing serious logistical and political challenges in rebuilding its collapsed security forces. Loveday Morris reports on the problems at the Nineveh Liberation Camp in northern Iraq. [Washington Post]

Sixteen corpses were discovered in northern Iraq in an area formerly controlled by the Islamic State, a local official said yesterday. [Reuters]

A Syrian has been beheaded by the Islamic State; the militiaman was accused by the group of belonging to a militant cell which attacked its fighters and vehicles close to the Iraqi border. [Reuters’ Suleiman al-Khalidi]

A number of Malaysian Muslims have traveled to Syria to join militant groups such as the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, reports Poh Si Teng. [New York Times]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The State Department has designated ‘Abdullah al-Ashqar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Al-Ashqar is a Palestinian national reported to be a leader of the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Evirons of Jerusalem (MSC), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.

A Palestinian was fatally wounded by an Israeli soldier yesterday during a confrontation over an attempted car theft in the West Bank. [Reuters]

Rival checkpoints maintained by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are a “potent symbol of the schism” between the two groups, and over the last week have illustrated “the unraveling of the reconciliation agreement reached last year,” write Majd al Waheidi and Jodi Rudoren. [New York Times]

“Will joining the International Criminal Court further Palestine’s cause?” The Economist notes that both sides “seem to invest the ICC with powers that it has never hitherto shown itself to have.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Five Yemeni detainees have been released from Guantanamo Bay; four were transferred to Oman while a fifth man has been sent to Estonia. The release comes a day after leading Republicans sought further restrictions on the release of detainees. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg; DoD News]

An Ohio man has been arrested and charged in connection to a terror plot on the U.S. Capitol; the man, who claims sympathy with the Islamic State, had researched the construction of pipe bombs, purchased a semi-automatic rifle and ammunition, and made plans to travel to DC. [Justice Department; Reuters’ Julia Edwards]

David Cameron and Barack Obama have together vowed to defeat the “distorted ideology” of terrorism, ahead of two-days of talks in Washington. [BBC]  The British prime minister will urge Obama to increase pressure on internet firms, including Twitter and Facebook, to further their cooperation with UK intelligence agencies in tracking Islamist extremists. [The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour]

CIA officers responsible for searching the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computer network have been cleared and found to have acted in good faith by the accountability board, overturning the conclusions of the CIA inspector general. [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo]

Four senior Secret Service officials are being forced out while two others are retiring, the “biggest management shake-up” since the resignation of the agency’s director last October following a series of security lapses. [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]

U.S. lawmakers will push ahead on further Iran sanctions, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker, despite warnings from the White House that the move will likely have an adverse impact on nuclear negotiations. [Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle]

The U.S. and its allies need to combat “a global movement of radical Islamists who sincerely want to destroy Western civilization,” writes Newt Gingrich, outlining the topics Congress should address. [Wall Street Journal]

A slight increase in suicides among active-duty military personnel was reported in 2014, though the suicide rate among Army soldiers and Marines saw a decrease, according to new Defense Department figures. [AP]

Ukraine has stepped up its mobilization of troops, following reports from a top security official that Russian forces backing separatist militants had intensified military activity in the east of the country. [Reuters]

Five Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militants have been arrested inside Afghanistan on suspicion of their involvement in last month’s massacre of over 130 schoolchildren in Pakistan. [Dawn]

UN-sponsored peace talks between rival Libyan factions hope to work toward the creation of a unity government, said the UN envoy for Libya yesterday. However, talks got off to a “faltering” start with only one side formally endorsing the negotiations. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

Two U.S. military bases have heightened security this week, in one instance following the sighting of suspicious vehicles along the perimeter. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Satellite images of Nigerian towns attacked by Boko Haram show widespread destruction and indicate a high death toll, according to Amnesty International. [BBC]

A Kenyan soldier and five militants were killed during a gunbattle in the county of Lamu between Kenyan security forces and al-Shabaab militants. [AP]

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu drew comparisons between the Israeli prime minister and the Islamists responsible for the Paris attacks, stating that both had committed crimes against humanity and “adding to a war of words” between the former allies, reports Reuters’ Ayla Jean Yackley.

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security