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 Pentagon and intelligence agencies are responding to the brutal Russian-led assault on rebels in Aleppo by “catfighting among themselves,” writes Nancy A Youssef for The Daily Beast. The Defense Department is reluctant to support the rebels because of their perceived affiliation with al Qaeda in Syria. The CIA, however, rejects that claim, arguing that the mounting Russian-led offensive is creating “marriages of battlefield necessity, not ideology.”
Three hospitals were hit during air strikes on the rebel-held side of Aleppo, Syria, within the space of three hours yesterday, according to Unicef. [New York Times’ Hwaida Saad and Rick Gladstone]
Further reports are emerging of human rights abuses by pro-Iraqi government forces fighting for Fallujah. The UN has said that a largely Shia militia called Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, has committed atrocities in two newly-liberated areas close to the city, Saqlawiyah and al-Karma. Anonymous sources have corroborated this, saying that residents of those towns have been heavily tortured by the group. [The Daily Beast’s Abdulla Hawez]
Up to 90,000 civilians remain inside the besieged Syrian city of Fallujah, a significant increase from the UN’s previous estimate of 50,000. The revised number is based on reports from those who have been able to escape. [Al Jazeera/Reuters]
Russia, Iran and Syria are due to discuss ways to “enhance their cooperation” in fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda during a meeting in Tehran today. [Reuters’ Christian Lowe]
Two car bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, have killed more than 22 people this morning. One targeted an army checkpoint, killing at least 15, and another blew up in a commercial street, killing seven, Iraqi police confirmed.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 7. Separately, partner forces conducted 15 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Japan says it spotted a Chinese navy vessel was seen off the coast of the Japan-controlled Senkaku islands, which are also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands. The ship did not violate Japan’s territorial waters, but Japan has criticized Beijing for escalating tensions in the region. [AP] Japanese officials summoned the Chinese ambassador in Tokyo soon after the warship was spotted. [New York Times’ Jonathan Soble]
The US should hold China accountable for the “unsafe intercept” of a US reconnaissance plane by one of its fighter jets this week, says the Wall Street Journal editorial board, calling the incident a “provocation” which “could easily trigger a larger military showdown.”
A man detained in France has told authorities that he belongs to a Germany-based Islamic State sleeper cell of between 10 and 20 people. Saleh A. walked into a police station in north Paris in February. He has told investigators that his cell was waiting instructions from a supposed head of foreign fighters for Islamic State, Abu Doujana Al Tunisi. [Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Bender and Matthew Dalton]
“The Ukrainian Security Service managed to prevent 15 terrorist attacks targeting the territory of France.” This was the claim of spokesperson Vasyl Hrytsak following the arrest of French citizen Grégoire Moutaux recently as he attempted to cross the border into Poland in a vehicle filled with explosives and weapons. While this sounds great, writes Anna Nemtsova, the news has been met with “deep skepticism” in Ukraine itself, where local journalists and observers say that the timing of the announcement is suspect, coming just as the UN accused Ukraine of secret prisons and torture. [The Daily Beast]
French security forces have staged nearly 30 terror-attack drills in various cities across France in the lead up Euro 2016, Europe’s biggest soccer tournament, which kicks off tomorrow. Paris police fear they lack the resources to cope, requesting that the government closes off large “fan zones” for some matches, which the government has so far refused to do. Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said that he “cannot guarantee that we will not have a confrontation with terrorists.” [New York Times’ Alissa J Rubin and Benoît Morenne]
The US-UK partnership is “critical to US national security and to the global order in which the United States and Europe are preeminent,” write US Senate Armed Services Committee members Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), making the case for Britain to vote to remain in Europe in the June 23 referendum. [Washington Post]
The Pentagon is restructuring the way it fights the Islamic State and other terrorist groups worldwide, increasing its reliance on the US Special Operations Command, defense officials said. The changes are intended to modernize the US fighting effort and to make better use of limited resources. They also recognize that the Islamic State’s networks are global and that the current structure of regional combatant commands is not suited to this. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]
Around 12 released Guantánamo Bay detainees have subsequently been implicated in attacks against US or allied forces in Afghanistan, the Obama administration believes. The attacks led to the deaths of approximately 6 US citizens, 5 military servicemembers and the 2008 death of a female aid worker, report The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman and Missy Ryan.
Two Palestinians opened fire on a café in Tel Aviv last night, killing four. The men ordered food before opening fire, according to witnesses. The attackers have been identified by Israeli security forces as cousins from the Palestinian town of Hebron in Israeli-occupied West Bank. Both were arrested. One of them was injured by police and is currently in hospital. [New York Times’ Isabel Kershner] A video published by The Intercept shows an onlooker to the arrests urging Israeli police to shoot the wounded attacker in the head, according to a translation, reports Robert MacKey. Following the attack, Israel has revoked most Palestinians’ special permits that allow them to visit Israel during the Muslim holy month. [AP]
The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution urging member states to investigate torture in secret CIA prisons in Europe, condemning the “apathy” shown so far and naming the UK, Lithuania, Poland, and Italy, as countries complicit in CIA operations. [The Intercept’s Alex Emmons]
Al-Shabaab militants attacked a base used by Ethiopian troops in Somalia this morning. The militant group claimed it killed 60 soldiers, ramming a car bomb into the entrance of the base before exchanging fire with the soldiers inside. AMISOM, which is supporting the Somali government as it tries to regain control of the country from al-Shabaab, said the soldiers fought back, killing 110 militants, the rest of whom are now on the run. [BBC] Somali officials have since confirmed that 30 Ethiopian troops were killed. [AP]
The USS Harry S. Truman made an “unplanned diversion” from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean last week, “intended to send a clear message to Russia” and to reassure NATO allies of the US’ commitment to maintaining the balance of naval power there. The 20-story-tall aircraft carrier is in the region launching airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. [Wall Street Journal’s Tamer el-Ghobashy]
Bangladesh says it has discovered who is behind a spate of killings by Islamists using knives and machetes – 39 in total since 2013. Although it has known that Islamists were responsible for some time, authorities say they have now identified that two groups are responsible, which carefully picked their targets in order to gain support from the public, and with the goal of converting Bangladesh’s culture into an Islamist one. They also believe they have identified the top leadership of the groups and are preparing to round them up. [New York Times’ Geeta Anand and Julfikar Ali Manik]
US officials see no evidence that Boko Haram has received support from the Islamic State, after the militant group claimed an attack in Niger last week in the name of Islamic State – West Africa Province, a title intended to imply that it is an arm of the Syria-based Islamic State. [Reuters]
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech to Congress yesterday “sent the strongest signal yet that a geopolitical partnership is afoot,” writes Tunku Varadarajan. [Wall Street Journal] Modi identified a “shared objective” in rebuilding a peaceful Afghanistan. Thirty-one years ago, then-Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi made another speech about Afghanistan in which he justified Soviet military presence there: the difference in these two references to Afghanistan “are a measure of just how much relations between the world’s largest democracies have changed in three decades,” point out Gardiner Harris and Coral Davenport in the New York Times.