Posts Tagged ‘Al-Qaeda’

Pakistan election rally suicide bomb toll climbs to 20

July 11, 2018

The death toll in a suicide bombing at an election rally in northwestern Pakistan rose to 20 Wednesday as Taliban militants claimed responsibility, officials said, in the first major attack ahead of July 25 polls.

A local leader of the Awami National Party (ANP), Haroon Bilour, was among those killed in the attack in the city of Peshawar late Tuesday, officials have confirmed.

The party has been targeted by Islamist militants in the past over its vocal opposition to extremist groups like the Taliban.

Pakistani security officials and volunteers search the site after a suicide bombing at an election rally in Peshawar on July 10, 2018.(AFP)

The bombing came hours after the Pakistan military spokesman said there were security threats ahead of national elections.

“The death toll has risen to 20 and 63 others were wounded, out of whom 35 are still admitted in two Peshawar hospitals,” Peshawar police chief Qazi Jameel told AFP.

Peshawar hospital official Zulfiqar Babakhel confirmed the updated death toll.

Bomb disposal chief Shafqat Malik told AFP that the suicide bomber — who he said was around 16 years old — had eight kilogrammes of explosives and three kilogrammes of pellets, ball bearings and other shrapnel on his body.

Peshawar lawyers went on strike on Wednesday to protest and mourn the death of Haroon, who was also a barrister. Local traders also announced a strike and mourners thronged to Bilour’s residence to offer condolences.

Bilour was one of the ANP’s election candidates and belonged to an influential political family in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital.

His father Bashir Bilour, one of the ANP’s top leaders, was also killed by a suicide bomber in 2012.

Police said the bomber struck when Bilour was about to address some 200 supporters.

Mohammad Khorasani, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s mujahid (holy fighter) Abdul Karim last night carried out a suicide attack on important ANP leader Haroon Bilour in which he has been killed,” Khorasani said in a statement.

He said the militants “have already declared a war” on the ANP and called on the public to keep away from them, “or you will be responsible for your own loss.”

Peshawar city is considered a gateway to Pakistan’s troubled semi-autonomous tribal regions, where many militant groups — including Al-Qaeda — operated until the government launched operations to oust them.

Militants have targeted politicians, religious gatherings, security forces and even schools in Peshawar.

But security across Pakistan, including in Peshawar, has dramatically improved since government and military operations in recent years.

Analysts warn however that Pakistan has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism.


Threat ‘acute’ as jihadist attacks double in 2017: Europol

June 20, 2018

Jihadist attacks on European targets more than doubled last year, Europe’s police agency said Wednesday, warning the risk of more unsophisticated attacks by the so-called Islamic State group “remains acute.”

Last year, a total 33 terror attacks were reported on the continent and Britain — 10 of which were successful, killing 62 people, while the rest were foiled or failed, Europol said in a annual report issued in The Hague.

That figure compared with 13 reported attacks in 2016, of which 10 were successful leading to 135 deaths.

© AFP | Tributes to French policeman Arnaud Beltrame, who was killed in a jihadist attack on a supermarket in March 2018

However, the “increase in the number of jihadist terrorist attacks in 2017 ran parallel to a decrease in sophistication in their preparation and execution,” Europol’s 2018 Terrorism Situation and Trend report said.

This included the attack on London’s Westminster Bridge on March 22 last year and a similar attack on London Bridge two months later when attackers simply drove vehicles into pedestrians and stabbed bystanders with knives, killing 13 people in total and wounding some 98 others.

Islamic jihadists who carried out such attacks in the EU in 2017 were mainly home-grown, “meaning that they were radicalised in their country of residence without having travelled to join a terrorist group abroad.”

In many cases “it becomes a form of personal retaliation against the country that they failed to integrate with,” Europol’s counter-terrorism chief Manuel Navarette told journalists ahead of the report’s launch.

However, the May 22 2017 attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in which 22 people were killed, and an August van attack on tourists at Barcelona’s La Rambla promenade in Spain in which 15 died, were linked to organised terror cells.

The IS group in all these cases claimed responsibility for the attacks.

IS fighters swept across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” in areas they controlled.

But the jihadists have since lost much of that territory to various offensives — in Syria to Russia-backed regime forces and to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

“As IS gets weaker, it has been urging its followers to carry out lone actor type attacks in their home countries, rather than guiding them to travel to the so-called caliphate,” Europol said.

But it warned: “The threat of jihadist attacks in the EU remains acute, as demonstrated by the attacks which took place in 2017.”

“It should be underlined that IS, Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups continue to pose a major threat. They have the ongoing intent and capability to conduct terrorist attacks in the West,” Europol said.

“It therefore goes without saying that supporting member states to combat terrorism will remain a top priority,” Europol’s new director Catherine De Bolle told journalists.

“To fight terrorism, it is essential to have optimal information exchange and data,” she added.

Europol’s report comes as German police Wednesday announced the arrest of a Tunisian man caught in possession of deadly ricin poison and bomb-making material to be used in a suspected terror attack.


Al-Qaeda chief calls for jihad on eve of US embassy move to Jerusalem

May 14, 2018

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, on Sunday said America’s decision to shift its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem was evidence that negotiations and “appeasement” have failed Palestinians as he urged Muslims carry out jihad against the United States.

In a five-minute video entitled “Tel Aviv is Also a Land of Muslims”, the Egyptian doctor who took charge of the global terror group after its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 referred to the Palestinian Authority as the “sellers of Palestine” while urging followers to take up arms.

US President Donald Trump “was clear and explicit, and he revealed the true face of the modern Crusade, where standing down and appeasement does not work with them, but only resistance through the call and jihad,” Zawahiri said, according to a transcript provided by the SITE monitoring agency.

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Ayman al-Zawahiri (seen in a previous propaganda video) said the US embassy move was a sign that Palestinian leadership had failed CREDIT: INTELCENTER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

He added that Bin Laden had declared the US “the first enemy of the Muslims, and swore that it will not dream of security until it is lived in reality in Palestine, and until all the armies of disbelief leave the land of Muhammad.”

He argued that Islamic countries had failed to act in Muslims’ interests by entering into the United Nations, which recognizes Israel, and submitting to Security Council and General Assembly resolutions instead of sharia (Islamic law).

Rita Katz


1) New message from titled: “ is Also a Land of Muslims” argued that Muslims can’t expect Islamic countries to act in their interests, esp reg Palestine, as they are part of the , which recognizes Israel, & submit to Security Council instead of Shariah 

Israelis were basking in national pride and pro-American fervour on Sunday as tens of thousands marched in Jerusalem, a day ahead of the controversial US embassy move from Tel Aviv to the disputed city.

Palestinians readied for their own protests on Monday over the embassy’s inauguration, including another mass demonstration in the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel.

The embassy move will take place on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, while the following day Palestinians will mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

Thousands of Israelis marched to the Western Wall to mark "Jerusalem Day"
Thousands of Israelis marched to the Western Wall to mark “Jerusalem Day” CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Senior American officials have meanwhile insisted they could still push forward the troubled peace process despite outrage across the Arab world.

Asked in an interview with Fox News Sunday about whether there was any life left in the peace process, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded by saying “the peace process is most decidedly not dead.”

“We’re hard at work on it. We hope we can achieve a successful outcome there as well,” said Mr Pompeo whose first two weeks in office have been largely consumed with arranging a summit between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.


Syria Showdown Could Spark Israeli-Iranian and U.S.-Russian Clashes

April 11, 2018

Trump’s flippant threat to attack with ‘nice’ missiles highlights risk of war by miscalculation

American troops look toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Manbij in northern Syria on February 7, 2018.
American troops look toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Manbij in northern Syria on February 7, 2018.Susannah George/AP

This is not a drill, as Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear to his cabinet colleagues on Wednesday. The situation in Israel’s north is tense and explosive. After seven years of horrid civil war, Syria is turning into a confrontation zone between Israel and Iran, on the regional level, and Russia and the West, on the global level. The expected American retaliation for the chemical weapon attack carried out last weekend at Douma can start a chain reaction that could lead to escalation, if not conflagration.

Russia’s tone has changed. Moscow has uncharacteristically and harshly chastised Israel for its bombing of the suspected Iranian installation in Syria’s T-4 air base near Palmyra. The Kremlin has unusually and pointedly warned the United States not to carry out a punitive raid against its client Syria, explicitly threatening to intercept U.S. missiles.

Such challenges, even if only meant as bluster, can easily turn into self-fulfilling ultimatums that obligate Vladimir Putin to act.

>> Israel readies for possible Iranian retaliation after strike on Syrian base ■ Target identified Revolutionary Guards air force compound under exclusive Iranian control 

Iran hopes to capitalize on the newfound Russian bellicosity. Just as a diplomatic deal between Washington and Moscow on Syria’s future would necessarily include severe limitations on the Iranian presence in Syria, tensions if not open hostility between the two powers could provide a cover for Iran to accelerate its efforts to entrench its forces and militias wherever possible. Putin’s natural inclination to rein in Iranian activities in Syria could be offset by his wish to poke Washington in the eye in response to a possible U.S. strike on Syria. And Tehran, one assumes, would be delighted to provoke an Israeli-Russian confrontation.

Israel, for its part, has stated and restated that Iranian expansion into Syria is a red line that should not be crossed. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel would act against Iranian infringements, as it reportedly has in the bombing of T-4, “no matter what the price.” Netanyahu is certainly wary of exacerbating tensions with Moscow but is unlikely to back away from his defense minister’s threats. And in a faceoff between Putin and Donald Trump, Netanyahu will no doubt side with the latter and thus potentially infuriate the former. Future Israeli incursions into Syria could very well meet a far more dangerous Russian response.

>> Syria Live Updates: Trump Threatens Moscow as Israel Stares Down Iran

Syrian President Assad should be the last person interested in turning Syria into a battleground for outside powers. He is about to emerge victorious from a deadly 7-year challenge that was supposed to finish him off, and to start rebuilding his country and reconsolidating his grip on power. Then again, Assad may no longer be the restrained and calculating leader he was thought to be before he managed to turn the tables on his formidable adversaries. His alleged decision to launch a major chemical attack, which he must have known would lead to international outrage – in a region that was about to fall to his forces anyway – may indicate that Assad’s triumph has gone to his head.

Turkey is its own basket case. Ankara detests Assad and is also opposed to Iranian expansion, but its overriding interest is to contain and control rebellious Kurds in northern Syria and western Iraq. To this end, Turkish leader Tayip Erdogan has cultivated ties to Putin, despite their apparently conflicting objectives and interests in Syria. If hostilities break out, Turkey could find itself caught in the crossfire, even if it is simply trying to sit on the fence while whacking the Kurds when no one is looking.

>>Israel on high alert, prepares for possible Iranian retaliation after strike on Syrian base ■ Revealed: The Iranian compound targeted by the ‘Israeli strike’ in Syria

Which brings us to the known unknown, Donald Trump, the joker in the pack. His statements and tweets leave no doubt that the U.S. intends to strike Syria very soon, with or without allies. Trump and his advisers certainly view the nerve gas attack at Douma as a direct challenge and provocation to the United States that mandates a forceful response. Suspicious minds in Washington are also concerned, however, that Trump might use the cover of tensions with Syria, Iran and Russia to carry out his long sought goal of dismissing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a wish made doubly fervent by the recent FBI raid on the offices of his lawyer and confidant, Michael Miller. Trump’s flippant and arrogant Wednesday morning challenge to Moscow – “Get ready Russia, because [the missiles] will be coming, nice and new and “smart!””| – does not inspire confidence in the ability of the leader of the Western world to navigate the treacherous minefield awaiting him with discretion and cool-headedness.

The brink is just around the corner, as British Prime Minister Theresa May well knows. She has reportedly demanded positive proof that it was Assad’s forces that carried out the chemical attack; if the report is true, it means that Western intelligence agencies do not possess that kind of certainty yet. May’s hesitation may reflect her reluctance to get involved in a Middle East melee while still dealing with the aftermath of the alleged nerve gas attack carried out by Russia against former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, but her demand for unequivocal proof is well warranted. Everyone remembers the last time America went to war in the Middle East on the basis of a false premise.

The myriad forces and actors, which include groups such as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS and even Hamas, are gearing up for action. Tensions are rising, and the brink is clearly just ahead. With so many conflicting and converging interests coming into play at the same time, it’s not clear that that the main players can still step back, on the assumption that they even want to. Iran, Syria and their terrorist clients certainly need to be taught a lesson and held at bay, but future historians might still portray the events of recent days as a march of folly, the inexorable deterioration of a tense situation into a war that all its participants will come to regret.

US military says senior Al-Qaeda leader Musa Abu Dawud killed in Libya raid

March 28, 2018

One of the militants killed in a US air strike in Libya over the weekend was a high ranking Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) official. (REUTERS)
WASHINGTON: One of the militants killed in a US air strike in Libya over the weekend was a high ranking Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) official, the US said on Wednesday.
The strike on Saturday, the first against Al-Qaeda militants in Libya, killed “two terrorists” as part of efforts to deny militants a safe haven in the country’s vast desert.
The military had not said who the target of the strike was until now.
The US designated Abu Dawud as a terrorist two years ago.
He began engaging in terrorist activity as early as 1992. He was a senior member of the Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), now known as AQIM, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and participated in multiple terrorist attacks in that capacity, according to the US.
As a senior leader for AQIM, Dawud is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks, including the Feb. 4-5, 2013 attack on the military barracks in Khenchela, Algeria, that injured multiple soldiers and a July 2013 attack on a Tunisian military patrol in the Mount Chaambi area that killed nine soldiers.

Turkey-Allied Jihadists Slaughtering Christians, Yazidis in Syria’s Besieged Afrin

March 22, 2018


Turkey-linked jihadists from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda are taking advantage of the Ankara offensive in the besieged Afrin region in northwestern Syria to slaughter Christians and Yazidis, caution several activists.

The warnings come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced over the weekend that his allied forces conquered the center of the Kurdish-held city of Afrin.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

U.S. President Donald Trump’s State Department has expressed “a serious and growing concern” over the situation in the Syrian city, but maintains, “We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns.”

Khalid Haider, a U.S.-based Yazidi (or Yezidi) activist with ground sources in Syria, told Breitbart News the Turkish military is working alongside ISIS in Afrin, noting:

Time and time again the indigenous people of Syria are suffering, but this time is at the hands of members of the Turkish military who have been incubating ISIS terrorists. ISIS militants and their leaders are embedded with the Turkish military, and they are annihilating religious minorities. The world needs to wake up and stop this from happening.

Haider went on to say that Turkey-linked ISIS jihadists are killing Christians and Yazidis for not knowing how to behave like proper Muslims, telling Breitbart News:

Please be advised that any Christian or Yazidi who is captured by those ISIS militants is asked how many times do Muslims bow during prayers and how many times do Muslims pray. And if the Christians and Yazidis don’t have the correct answer, they are killed.

Haider’s comments echo activists who recently told the Catholic News Service (CNS) that Turkey-affiliated members of al-Qaeda and ISIS are targeting Christians and Yazidis.

Citing the activists, CNS notes, “Turkey is using hardline jihadist proxies, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, to eliminate the presence of Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities along its border.”

Al-Qaeda maintains what experts have described as the terrorist group’s strongest branch in Syria.

“The situation is dire. They feel desperate. They are crying out to God every hour,” Charmaine Hedding, the head of the Christian aid organization known as the Shai Fund, told the Catholic News Service (CNS), referring to religious minorities.

“The jihadist militants consider Yezidis ‘infidels,’ while there have been announcements made that if you kill Christians, you will go straight to paradise,” added Hedding, noting that she maintains contact with members of the religious groups via satellite phone.

Lauren Homer, a U.S.-based international human rights lawyer familiar with the situation in Afrin, told CNS that Turkey is engaging in ethnic cleansing and other war crimes in the region.

She said:

Farming villages and small towns have already been ‘cleansed’ of their inhabitants. Yezidi villages and Christian churches stand empty. Ancient landmarks, homes, and farmland lie in ruins due to Turkish bombs. Many war crimes have occurred. They’re documented by both residents and by gloating Turkish fighters.

Homer’s comments coincide with what United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights advocate who survived the ISIS genocide in the Middle East, noted in a statement last week, in which she said, “This horror is reminiscent of the initial actions of ISIS in Iraq. Medical and healthcare services are urgently needed, This situation foreshadows ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide.”

On January 20, Turkey launched an operation to seize Afrin from the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) defending it, which Ankara claims to be an extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

Although the Trump administration continues to praise the YPG’s contribution to the ongoing fight against ISIS, it has apparently abandoned the Kurds in northern Syria.

“The United States does not operate in the area of northwest Syria, where Afrin is located,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, declared on Monday, echoing the American military.

“Observers said so far; the United States military seems to be doing little to protect its Kurdish and Christian allies in northwestern Syria, who are largely credited with eradicating Islamic State from the area as part of the U.S.-led military coalition,” notes CNS.

Haider and other activists have urged the Trump administration to take action to stop the slaughter of religious minorities at the hands of Turkey-allied jihadists.

Citing the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to keep tabs on the conflict, the Associated Press (AP) reports that “nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby.”

AP learned from a Kurdish official that “more than 800 YPG fighters have been killed in the 58 days of fighting, and estimated that 500 civilians were killed.”

“The Observatory puts the number of casualties at over 280 civilians, adding that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters have been killed since Jan.20,” adds AP.

UN Required to Step in to End US, Israel Escalation against Syria

February 21, 2018

Fars News (Iran)

UN Required to Step in to End US, Israel Escalation against Syria

TEHRAN (FNA)- Various terrorist groups, including ISIL, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, continue to find themselves on America’s and Israel’s good sides and it’s official.

Israel’s mounting interest in the US-led war on Syria, and in particular in picking fights with the Syrian government, Iran, and Hezbollah – after the defeat of ISIL by these allied forces – have included reports by analysts of a growing amount of Israeli arms and ammunition flowing across the border for Qaeda-allied terrorist groups on the Golan frontier.

To be clear, similar reports and evidence have put the United States on the side of all these terror proxy groups, like Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which have been active in the area for some time. After all, American officials, the Pentagon regime, and the CIA continue to be very public saying they prefer ISIL over the elected government in Syria.

No wonder the regime changers are pushing the UN Security Council members for the Syrian government and its allies to halt their ongoing offensive in the Idlib province. Their desperate attempts to stop the successful offensive are designed primarily to save the Nusra Front and other terror proxies. This way they can claim they need to stay in the country, support the so-called “moderates”, and prolong their illegal occupation and war on the pretext of fighting terror.

The US has done the same to save the ISIL forces. In early February this year, US forces intensified their heliborne operations to evacuate ISIL commanders trapped in Hasaka province. Local sources in Hasaka confirmed that the US helicopters conducted heliborne operations in the village of Tuwaimin, 50km Northeast of al-Shadadi, in Southern Hasaka. The sources said militants, including an ISIL security commander, were evacuated from the region. The area where the operation took place is still occupied by the terrorist group.

If still in doubt, consider this: US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has just proposed legislation that would prohibit US assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit US military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s Stop Arming Terrorists Act’ challenges for the first time in Congress a US policy toward the conflict in the Syrian war that should have set off alarm bells long ago:

In 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA claimed to be “relatively moderate” groups. According to a declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, that policy which began in September 2011 helped build up Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise Nusra Front as well as ISIL into the dominant threat to Syria, Iraq, the region, and the rest of humanity.

The closest Washington came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when Vice President Joe Biden criticized their role in October 2014. In remarks at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Biden complained that “our biggest problem is our allies.” In his words, “The forces they had supplied with arms were Nusra and Al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

The significance of all this is clear: In blatant violation of International Law and the UN Charter, which bars UN member states from supporting military action to overthrow other members’ governments, the US and its allies have been largely responsible for having extended the power of ISIL and Al-Qaeda across a significant part of Syrian territory.

The CIA, the Mossad and the Pentagon regime are still doing anything they can to regime change post-ISIL Syria. Unless the United Nations and the international civil society confront the warmongers explicitly, they will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by Al-Qaeda in Syria, even if ISIL has been defeated there.

Here is the conclusion: Much of the carnage that has ravaged Syria during the past seven years is due to the criminal actions and the calamitous policies of the United States and its allies in the Middle East, mainly Israel and Saudi Arabia. Their failed regime-change war is at risk of a new round of escalation. Now, faced with an alarming risk of a renewed escalation, it’s time for the United Nations to step in to end the US and Israeli threats and aggressions against Syrian sovereignty. It’s not clear why the UN has never condemned Israel’s continued attacks on Syria and the United States’ unauthorized deployment in the country both in support of the terrorists in open alliance with Al-Qaeda.

Malaysia arrests Filipinos seeking to set up extremist cell

February 21, 2018


© AFP/File | Philippine soldiers prepare for an operation against the Abu Sayyaf in 2016: the group is now suspected of trying to set up a Malaysian cell

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Ten suspected Islamic militants who were trying to establish a Malaysian cell of a Philippine kidnap-for-ransom group have been arrested in Borneo island, police said Wednesday.

Image result for Borneo island, map

The alleged extremists, mostly Filipinos, are also accused of trying to help fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) group travel to the Philippines to join up with militants there, they said.

The southern Philippines has long been a pocket of Islamic militancy in the largely Catholic country. A long siege in Marawi, the country’s main Muslim centre, sparked fears IS was seeking to establish a foothold in the region.

Malaysian police made the arrests in January and early February in Sabah state on the Malaysian part of Borneo, not far from the southern Philippines. Borneo is a vast island shared between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Seven of those detained were Filipinos, including several senior members of Philippine extremist group Abu Sayyaf which has been behind the kidnappings of numerous foreigners, Malaysian national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

“Early information obtained from the 10 suspects caught in Sabah revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group to set up a cell in Sabah,” he said.

One of those arrested was a 39-year-old believed to have received orders from a senior militant leader in the southern Philippines to bring IS members from the city of Sandakan in Sabah to join militant groups.

Another suspect was a 27-year-old identified as a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf leadership based in the Philippines.

The other three detained were Malaysians, police said. Officials did not disclose the suspects’ identities.

Malaysia has rounded up numerous suspected militants in recent times as fears grow that the influence of the IS group could encourage extremists to launch attacks in the Muslim-majority country.

Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings.

One faction pledged allegiance to IS and joined militants in the siege of Marawi, which claimed more than 1,100 lives.

Clashes leave 27 dead as Yemen troops target Al-Qaeda

February 18, 2018


© AFP/File | A Yemeni fighter loyal to the Saudi-backed Yemeni president stands next to an army Toyota pickup truck in 2017

ADEN (AFP) – Eight soldiers and 19 suspected members of Al-Qaeda were killed in Yemen on Sunday, as the army launched an offensive against key outposts of the extremists, a military official said.General Faraj al-Bahsani, governor of Hadramawt province, told AFP the army had taken control of the Mesini Valley west of Mukalla, a central site for Al-Qaeda in southeast of the country.

Mukalla was the most populated Yemeni city under direct Al-Qaeda control from 2015 to 2016, when the army and its regional military allies seized control of the port city.

Special forces trained by the United Arab Emirates — a key member of a Saudi-led alliance fighting alongside Yemen’s government forces — over the weekend launched the offensive, codenamed “Al-Faisal”, against Al-Qaeda cells in oil-rich Hadramawt province.

Two soldiers were killed on Saturday in the offensive, which targets the Mesini and Amed Valleys — both in the vast province of Hadramawt and home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The two valleys are critical to control over Yemen’s southeastern coastline.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition joined the government’s fight against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Radical groups, including AQAP and the Islamic State group, have flourished in the chaos of the war, regularly launching attacks on government and military targets.

The United States, the only force known to operate armed drones over Yemen, has ramped up a long-running campaign against AQAP since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

Hezbollah is destabilizing Lebanon, region: Tillerson — “Threaten Lebanon’s stability, independence and sovereignty.”

February 16, 2018

Arab News

Saad Hariri said that he assured Tillerson of ‘Lebanon’s right to explore, invest and develop our natural resources in our territorial waters.’ (AP)
BEIRUT: American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday that the US regarded Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and “we do not differentiate between its military and political arms, and it is unacceptable for militias like Hezbollah to act outside the rule of law.”
Tillerson added in a press conference with the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut that “the Lebanese army is the only defender of the Lebanese State.”
“The people of Lebanon should also be concerned about how Hezbollah’s actions and its growing arsenal bring unwanted and unhelpful scrutiny on Lebanon,” Tillerson said. “Hezbollah’s presence in Syria has only perpetuated the bloodshed, increased the displacement of innocent people and propped up the barbaric Assad regime.”
“The Lebanese government must distance itself from external conflicts and Hezbollah must stop its activities abroad,” he said.
Tillerson held talks with Lebanese President Michel Aoun. The presidential palace press office said that Aoun asked that the US “work on preventing Israel from continuing its assaults on Lebanese sovereignty” by land and sea and to abide by the implementation of Resolution 1701 (guaranteeing Lebanon’s territorial sovereignty) to preserve the stability that South Lebanon has enjoyed since 2006.”
Lebanon “can no longer bear the repercussions of Syrian refugees on its security, stability and economy, especially as international aid is insufficient,” the statement said.
It called for “a secure and gradual return of the Syrians to their country and a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis,” noting that “the decision of the United States to reduce its contribution to the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) will add to the burden placed on Lebanon in caring for these refugees.”
Aoun said: “Lebanon is fully committed to the self-distancing policy, but is not responsible for what happens because of the interventions from abroad due to its inability to influence that.”
Tillerson also held talks with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. A statement later said that Berri talked about “the daily Israeli violations, the construction of the concrete wall at points inside Lebanese territory, and Israel’s claims to the special economic zone (of Lebanon).”
Tillerson and the delegation then held talks with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. During a joint press conference Hariri stressed Lebanon’s “commitment to the self-distancing policy” and Lebanon’s interest in “maintaining the best relations with Arab countries and the international community.”
Hariri said that he “assured secretary Tillerson of Lebanon’s right to explore, invest and develop our natural resources in our territorial waters. We also agreed that the Lebanese banking sector is the cornerstone of our economy, and I reiterated that this sector is solid and sound … and in full compliance with international laws and regulations.”
Hariri noted that “Lebanon is committed to Resolutions 1701 and 2373 (renewing the mandate of the UN interim force in Lebanon) and we want to move to a permanent cease-fire with Israel, but the Israeli violations of our sovereignty are hampering this process, let alone the Israeli rhetoric.”
Secretary Tillerson said that the US stands by the Lebanese people and its legitimate institutions against regional challenges and threats. He also praised the American partnership with the Lebanese military and the internal security forces in the fight against Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
On Syrian refugees, Tillerson said that “the United States has provided $1.6 billion to help with refugee affairs and host Lebanese communities. The United States stands side by side with the Lebanese people in confronting these challenges that threaten Lebanon’s stability, independence and sovereignty.”
On the Iranian nuclear agreement, Tillerson said that President Trump had indicated that he wanted the flaws in this agreement to be addressed. “We are working with the other signatories to this agreement and with European partners to move forward to deal with the imbalances in the agreement.”
On the recent escalation between Israel on one side and Iran and Syria on the other, Hariri said: “We are with all its types of pacification because the region is not lacking additional tensions and wars.”
Asked about the situation between Turkey and the US over Syria, Tillerson said: “Turkey is an important ally to us in the battle against Daesh and has always been supportive of all efforts. The relationship is very positive and we intend to build on the important aspects that we share. There may be tactical differences about achieving the goals, but the main goal is to eliminate incitement, terrorism, reduce violence, protect the innocent and reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Syria.”
On Turkey’s demand that the US take back heavy weapons from the Kurdish YPG, Tillerson said: “We have never given heavy arms to the YPG so there is none to take back.”