Displaying items by tag: isis

ISIS claims coordinated attacks in Iranian capital, at least 5 dead

  • Published in World

(5th UPDATE) ISIS claims the attacks in a report from its Amaq propaganda agency which said: 'Fighters from the Islamic State attacked the Khomeini mausoleum and the parliament building in Tehran'

By Agence France-Presse

HUB OF POWER. This file photo taken on March 01, 2016 shows Iranian MPs attending a parliament session in Tehran on March 1, 2016. Atta Kenare/AFP

 

 

TEHRAN, Iran (5th UPDATE) – The Islamic State group (ISIS) claimed its first attacks in Iran on Wednesday, June 7, as gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least 5 people in twin assaults on parliament and the tomb of the country's revolutionary founder in Tehran.

Dozens of people were also wounded in the attacks, with continuing gunfire several hours after they began.

A security guard and one other person were killed when 4 gunmen burst into Tehran's parliament complex with rifles and a pistol, according to the ISNA news agency.

One of the attackers blew himself up on the fourth floor of the parliament office building as a standoff with police continued for several hours.

In the coordinated mid-morning attack, a gardener was reported dead and several more injured when armed assailants entered the grounds of Ruhollah Khomeini mausoleum in the south of the city.

Two attackers – at least one female – blew themselves up outside the shrine, according to local media.

Iran's emergency services said they were dealing with 33 injured from the attacks and that two people had died from their injuries in hospital.

ISIS claimed the attacks in a report from its Amaq propaganda agency which said: "Fighters from the Islamic State attacked the Khomeini mausoleum and the parliament building in Tehran."

It also claimed two suicide bombers had blown themselves up at the shrine.

Parliament was in session as the attacks unfolded, with live footage showing members continuing with routine business even as gun battles were reported in surrounding office buildings and snipers took position on nearby rooftops.

Speaker Ali Larijani dismissed the attacks, saying they were a "trivial matter" and that security forces were dealing with them.

Intensified gunfire was heard from the neighbouring offices as Fars news agency reported police had launched an assault. A picture on social media showed police helping staff escape through windows.

Shrine attack

An official at Khomeini's mausoleum in south Tehran said "3 or 4" people had entered via the western entrance and opened fire, killing the gardener and wounding several people, according to Fars.

The news agency published photos showing the suicide bomber blowing herself up outside.

The shrine lies around 20 kilometres away (12 miles) from parliament and houses the body of Khomeini, who led the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The ILNA news agency said security forces were dismantling a bomb inside the shrine and that firing was still going on around the site.

The intelligence ministry claimed there was a third "terrorist" team that had been neutralised before the attacks started.

The city was on lockdown, with streets blocked and parts of the metro closed. Journalists were kept away from the shrine by police.

Interior Minister Abdolrahman Fazli told ISNA he had convened a special meeting of the country's security council.

Targeted by ISIS

Terrorist groups have clashed frequently with security forces along Iran's borders with Iraq and Afghanistan, but the country has largely escaped attacks within its urban centres.

Iran, the predominant Shiite power, has been helping both Iraq and President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria to battle ISIS.

The jihadist group is under increasing pressure in both countries, having lost significant territory in the face of offensives now targeting its last two major urban bastions, Raqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

ISIS published a rare video in Persian in March, warning that it "will conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni Muslim nation as it was before."

ISIS and other extremists consider Shiites to be apostates, and the video accuses Iranians of persecuting Sunnis over the centuries and into modern times.

Militant groups are also known to operate in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, which borders Pakistan and has a large Sunni community.

Jaish-ul Adl (Army of Justice), which Tehran accuses of links with Al-Qaeda, has carried out several armed attacks inside Iranian territory in recent years.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that attacks by IS in Europe and elsewhere showed that Western policies in the Middle East have backfired.

"This is a fire that (Western powers) themselves ignited and now has backfired on them," he told a gathering of senior officials in Tehran. – Rappler.com

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The Big Showdown Over ISIS's Capital Probably Won't Be The Final Battle

  • Published in World

Capturing the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS's self-declared capital, has been the US military's goal for years. But as the battle begins, the strategic importance of the city may not be what it once was.

Nancy A. Youssef

 

As the US military announced the start of the campaign to capture ISIS’s self-declared capital on Tuesday, it downplayed what the fall of the once key city would mean for the goal of destroying the militant group.

The US military can no longer say if the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS’s stronghold since 2013, is the hub for ISIS planning attacks on the West. Top ISIS leaders have already moved outside of the city, including members of the administration and media team, Pentagon officials have said. It could not even say if Raqqa is still the de facto ISIS capital. And they warned that even if the Syrian city fell out of ISIS control, ISIS still controls several other cities, some of which are also home to planning operations against the West.

And even if ISIS loses all of its territory, its ideology will live on and could be spread virtually, US military officials concede.

The reasons the US military once said the battle for Raqqa would be the key battle against the terror group may also no longer apply. Rather than being the site of a game-changing battle against ISIS, the city now is part of a long list of battles against the terror group, which has expanded its key elements to several cities, the US military said.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday, called the Raqqa operation part of its “sequencing.”

He added: “There is a method to our madness.”

Officials note that Raqqa was where ISIS planned attacks on Paris and Berlin and that there are potentially thousands of ISIS fighters still there make it a real threat. (The State Department made a similar point on Tuesday, when spokesperson Heather Nauert called the city “Ground Zero for ISIS.")

But in announcing the start of the offensive, led by Kurdish and US-trained Arab forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, the top US general in charge of the push said the fall of Raqqa would lead to a “decisive blow” against the physical caliphate, suggesting the effect would be as much psychological as tactical.

“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, commanding general of the war in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement.

In recent months, the terror group has moved key operations along the Euphrates River Valley to Syrian cities like Mayadin and Deir Ezzour, both largely under ISIS control. Moreover, ISIS controls much of the territory along the Iraqi border and the Iraqi city of al Qaim, the first city on the other side of the northern part of the border. US military officials have hinted that al Qaim could be the next city they aim to wrest out of ISIS’s hands.

 
Delil Souleiman / AFP / Getty Images

“ISIS has routinely demonstrated the foresight and discipline to relocate high value individuals such as leaders as well as advanced bomb makers and chemical weapons experts before anti-ISIS forces can close in,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst for the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War explained.

The US has hyped the attack on Raqqa for months, and often called the fall of the city urgent in the defeat of ISIS. In July 2016, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, then commander of the war against ISIS, said the fall of “support nodes” like Raqqa would mean they “lose a base of operations. They lose finances. They lose the ability to plan, to create the fake documentation that they need to get around the world. And they lose financial resources.”

In October, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the battle for Raqqa would begin “within weeks.” In December, Townsend told reporters that ISIS was plotting external operations from Raqqa “they still have the ability to motivate, self-radicalize followers, and they still have the ability to plot and cast into motion attacks on the West.”

But by May, US intelligence said that ISIS had moved its chemical weapons experts into a cell stationed in Mayadin. Last month, the US military purportedly killed the founder of ISIS media propaganda wing in Deir Ezzour. During that same period, the US military has confirmed it killed a top ISIS external operations planner, a recruiter and a senior ISIS official. While successes in the overall fight, the latter two examples highlight the somewhat reduced importance of Raqqa,

“The coalition will not defeat the ISIS external operations cell through a linear approach to retaking terrain, especially with a Kurdish-dominated force that cannot project power much further than the outskirts of Raqqa,” Caferella said.

The US estimates there are still as many as 4,000 ISIS fighters in Raqqa, which fell under ISIS control in 2013 and has served as its de facto capital. While the US military has officially refused to give a time estimate for the battle for the city, privately officials believe it could last between two and three months. Even if top leaders are no longer in city, the US military believes the city is lined with explosives, car bombs, house bombs and other traps.

Hundreds of US troops are supporting the battle, Davis said. US Marine M777 Howitzer cannons and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters also are providing firepower.

The US dependency on Kurdish forces to take Raqqa risks alienating the Sunni-dominated city and fracturing already frayed relations with Turkey, which vehemently opposes a US decision to arm the Kurds for Raqqa. Turkey considers the Kurdish elements of the SDF terrorists. Despite that, a week ago, the US said it provided weapons to Raqqa ahead of the battle.

Earlier this week, the US notified Turkey that the start of the battle for Raqqa was imminent, according to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. The US also said that its weapons would not be used against Turkish forces or citizens, according to the prime minister. On Tuesday, Yildirim said his country would respond if the battle for Raqqa posed a threat to his country.

Turkey is not a part of the ground operation in Raqqa, defense officials said.

Once liberated, “the SDF have stated it will be turned over to a representative body of local civilians who will provide security and governance,” the coalition said in a statement announcing the start of the operation.

US and Iraqi forces are in the final weeks of the battle for ISIS’s Iraqi capital, the city of Mosul, which is about four times larger than Raqqa. That battle began in October.

The battle for Raqqa began overnight as local fighters retook 10 square kilometers outside the eastern portion of the city, according to the Pentagon.

But critics argue that, ultimately, the US military is fighting the last war, not the next one.

“ISIS is working to make its global operations are less dependent on command and control from inside Iraq and Syria while the coalition fixates on tactical objectives in northern Syria,” Caferella said.

Nancy Youssef is a national security correspondent with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

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Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat than Isis, John McCain says

  • Published in U.S.

 The Guardian.

Video link: 170529McCain_desk.mp4

 

Russia's leader Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat to the United States than islamist terrorism, US senator John McCain says.

Speaking to the ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night, Mr McCain - who is in Canberra for security talks - said Mr Putin is "the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS".

"I think ISIS can do terrible things, and I worry a lot about what is happening with the Muslim faith," Mr McCain said.

"But it's the Russians who tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy, and that is to change the outcome of an American election. I have seen no evidence they succeeded but they tried and they are still trying.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began examining possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, before FBI head James Comey was fired by President Donald Trump.

Mr Putin has denied Russia attempted to meddle in the election.

Despite this, Mr McCain said there should be further sanctions on "the Russians" as they are "the far greatest challenge that we have".

"We need to have increased sanctions and hopefully when we come back from our recess the Senate will move forward with sanctions on Russia, and enact other penalties for Russian behaviour," Mr McCain said.

The 80-year-old, who is the chair of the senate armed services committee, also addressed mounting tensions with North Korea, saying the world could face another Cuban Missile Crisis if tensions are not diffused.

​"The key to it is China. China can restrain North Korean behaviour," Mr McCain said. "This could be a very serious crisis, along the lines of the Cuban missile crisis, unless we do everything we can to restrain North Korean behaviour."

He said the impending crisis requires all countries to work together to ensure North Korea is never in a position where they can threaten the US, America, Australia or any allies with a nuclear weapon.

During Mr McCain's visit, Australia announced an additional 30 troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

Asked why security in the middle east seemed to get worse, not better, after US intervention, Mr McCain was scathing of former president Barack Obama's approach.

"We have not pursued a strategy for victory. The Obama administration's strategy was' don't lose'," Mr McCain said.

Meanwhile, he believes President Donald Trump's advisors have the capacity to achieve victory.

"I believe that this national security team that is around the President now, General McMaster and General Kelly and General Mattis, I think they are developing a strategy and that strategy means victory," he said.

Mr McCain said Mr Trump accepted the advice of his team "most of the time".

"Can I tell you that he does all the time? No," Mr McCain said. "Can I tell you that it bothers me? Yes, it bothers me."

 
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