News Roundup and Notes: November 13, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

US forces carried out an airstrike targeting Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” last night close to Raqqa, Syria. [DoD News]  British and American military worked “hand in glove” to launch the strike against the notorious British militant, the UK has confirmed, and there is a “high degree of certainty” that he was killed in the attack, report Claire Phipps et al. [The Guardian]  US intelligence services will be monitoring Islamic State chatter on the dark web to confirm whether he was killed. [BBC]

British Prime Minister David Cameron described the airstrike as an “act of self-defense,” expressing thanks to the US in a statement published today. [Politics Home]

“Jihadi John” rose to notoriety last year through his participation in beheading videos, showing the murder of US and UK hostages. [Reuters]

The Guardian has live updates as the story develops.

A suicide bomb in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad has killed at least 18 people today. The attack targeted the funeral of a pro-government Shi’ite Muslim fighter. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. [Reuters]

Kurdish Peshmerga forces have entered the ISIS-controlled town of Sinjar, and have raised their flag over key buildings. The major attack was backed by US-led airstrikes. [Washington Post’s Loveday Morris]  The Kurdistan regional security council said in a tweet: “ISIL defeated and on the run,” following the offensive. [ReutersBuzzfeed’s Mike Giglio is live tweeting from the Sinjar area.

Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that Syrian opposition groups should have a say in the future of the country, ahead of peace talks in Vienna this weekend, adding that the negotiations are “not about imposing anything on anyone,” reports Nahal Toosi. [Politico]  Tempering expectations for the potential outcome, Kerry said that he could not say “that we are on the threshold of a comprehensive agreement,” during an appearance at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

The opinion in the region is “sharply divided” over the Syria talks; Russell Goldman surveys the regional media response. [New York Times]

The G20 summit will be “preoccupied by Syria, regional instability and the resulting flight of refugees,” reports Carol E. Lee, though there are low expectations for what the world leaders can hope to achieve. [Wall Street Journal]

The US has increased its airstrikes targeting ISIS-controlled oil fields in the east of Syria, an effort to disrupt one of the group’s core sources of revenue, US officials said this week. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt]

“Inside Iran’s secret war on Syria,” from Adam Rawnsley at The Daily Beast.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Unfettered eavesdropping on accused terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay’s Camp 7 is provided by a secret Defense Department program, recently disclosed war court documents reveal. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

If Republican lawmakers opposed to closing the detention facility refuse to make any concessions, “they better prepare themselves for the largest assertion of presidential power of the Obama tenure,” writes Daniel R. DePetris. [Quartz]

YEMEN

“Proper investigations” must take place in Yemen to ensure that Saudi Arabia has not acted in breach of international humanitarian law through its airstrikes there, according to Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond. His comments come amid mounting pressure for the UK to halt its supply of arms to the Kingdom. [The Guardian’s Ben Quinn and David Smith]

The Saudi-led coalition appears “increasingly hobbled by divisions and unable to find a face-saving way to end the costly conflict,” observes Hugh Naylor. [Washington Post]

Abdul Karim al-Eryani, a Yemeni politician who assisted in brokering the country’s Arab Spring peace deal has died. Eryani was “considered a father figure and a voice of reason in Yemen.” [New York Times’ Eva Sohlman]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A double-suicide bomb attack in a predominantly Shi’ite suburb of Beirut has killed at least 43 people and wounded scores, officials say. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack which took place yesterday evening. If confirmed, it would be the first such attack in Lebanon, reports Sam Dagher. [Wall Street Journal]  The country’s prime minister held an emergency meeting with ministers and military officials today in the aftermath of the attack. [Reuters]

A Kurdish-Sunni terrorist group has been disrupted by European law-enforcement agencies, arresting 13 people across Italy, the UK and Norway. The group is suspected of planning to kidnap Norwegian diplomats and its members were willing to become suicide bombers, reports Stephanie Kirchgaessner. [The Guardian]

Two US B-52 bombers were flown near Chinese-built artificial islands in contested waters of the South China Sea this weekend, a US official said, a flight described as being part of a “freedom of navigation” operation. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

The Pentagon’s senior military assistant, Lieutenant General Ron Lewis has been removed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter following allegations of misconduct, the specifics of which were not provided. [Reuters’ Yeganeh Torbati]

Information contained in leaked Emirati correspondence is threatening to undermine the Libya peace process; the UAE was supplying weapons to one side of the Libyan conflict in violation of an international arms embargo while at the same time offering a job to the UN mediator to the negotiations. [New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick]

The EU wants US firms to report requests from American intelligence services for the data of European online users as part of a new trans-Atlantic data-transfer agreement currently under negotiation, according to the EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova. The new agreement comes in the wake of last month’s “Safe Harbor” decision by the European Court of Justice. [Wall Street Journal’s Natalia Drozdiak and Stephen Fidler]

The Kenyan military has been profiting from smuggling alongside Islamist militants in Somalia, according to a new report from watchdog group Journalists for Justice. [New York Times’ Josh Kron]

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution yesterday calling for an increased international presence in Burundi, expressing concern over the threat of mass atrocities. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

South Korea is open to talks with Kim Jong Un if the North increases efforts towards abandoning its nuclear weapon program, the South’s president said. [AP]

“Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy,” with Micah Lee at The Intercept. 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security