Posts Tagged ‘militants’

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.

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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.

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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)

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

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“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.

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Peshawar hospital official Zulfiqar Babakhel confirmed the updated death toll.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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

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

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

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1336936/world

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Several dead as India intensifies campaign against militants in Kashmir

April 2, 2018

Twenty people have been killed in Indian Kashmir during clashes between police and suspected militants, as well as during protests. Many civilians support a rebel campaign for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Houses on fire during gun batte in Indian Kashmir (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Khan)

Deadly protests against Indian rule erupted in several parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Sunday following the killings of several suspected militants during gun battles with government forces, officials said.

A total of three Indian soldiers and 13 rebels died in the worst day of violence so far this year as clashes erupted in several locations south of Srinagar, the main city of the region.

Much of the violence took place around the village of Dragad, where seven of the alleged militants were killed, along with two soldiers.

Read more: What is Pakistan’s militancy issue all about?

Civilians killed

Four civilians were also killed and dozens injured when police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who poured onto the streets of Kachdoora village in Shopian district, throwing stones and chanting slogans against Indian claim on the region.

Many protesters tried to march to the gun battle sites to help the trapped militants escape, and were confronted with tear gas and gunfire from Indian troops.

The new round of anti-India protests and clashes began as Indian troops launched counterinsurgency operations targeting mainly the southern parts of the disputed Himalayan region, where rebels have revived their violent challenge to New Delhi’s rule.

Read more: Hindu extremists challenge Kashmir’s ‘special status’

Protests against Indian rule in Kashmir (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Khan)Thousands of people poured onto the streets in Indian-ruled Kashmir as gunbattles between Indian troops and rebels worsened

Protests also broke out in Srinagar, where all schools were ordered shut on Monday. Train services to south Kashmir were suspended as a precautionary measure.

Communications cuts

Authorities cut mobile data services in the most restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of Kashmir to disrupt the communications of protest organizers.

Kashmir has been divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim it in full.

Manufacturing consent in Indian-administered Kashmir

Many civilians in Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — support rebels who have been fighting for decades for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died.

Read more: Indian police kill Pakistan-based militant Noor Mohammad Tantray in Kashmir

Last year was the deadliest of this decade in the region, with more than 200 alleged militants killed. That upsurge in violence has escalated in 2018, with 51 alleged militants already killed this year.

mm/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/several-dead-as-india-intensifies-campaign-against-militants-in-kashmir/a-43223529

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Jihadists See a Funding Boon in Bitcoin

February 20, 2018

Cryptocurrencies come under increased U.S. scrutiny as militants seek anonymous donations

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When a group that says it provides financial assistance “relating to the jihad” sought to improve conditions for fighters in a squalid, sandbag-fortified trench in Syria late last year, it turned to a new funding conduit: bitcoin.

“There is currently no shelter to protect the food and ammunition from the rain,” the group, called al Sadaqah (“charity” in Arabic), lamented in a post on the messaging app Telegram. The group’s Twitter feed contains a video showing a dirt floor strewn with blankets, bags of pita bread and hand grenades along with a message—“Donate anonymously with Cryptocurrency”—followed by a bitcoin address. So far, according to an online ledger, the group has received about $1,000.

The soliciting of digital currency by jihadist groups like al Sadaqah has only recently come under scrutiny from U.S. officials. In January, Rep. Ted Budd (R., N.C.) introduced a bill to establish a financial-technology task force to combat terrorists’ use of cryptocurrency. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee that the agency is also planning to investigate.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency has become an increasingly discussed topic among jihadist groups in the Middle East. Earlier this month, an issue of al-Haqiqa, a pro-al Qaida ezine, included a “Tech Talk” section that outlines bitcoin basics.

Al Sadaqah has realized what other violent groups have found: Raising funds in cryptocurrencies can evade the rules the global banking system has put in place to block terror financing and money laundering.

“It is fast, efficient, and does not pass through the same interest-loaded and traceable routes that any usual payment methods would go through,” Hassan Abdo, an al Sadaqah spokesman, wrote to The Wall Street Journal in a text message. “This way we and our donors can keep our full anonymity.”

Image result for Al Sadaqah, photos

Yaya Fanusie, an ex-CIA analyst who is the director of the Washington-based counterterrorism think-tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been tracking al Sadaqah’s bitcoin accounts for months. He said it is difficult to confirm the identities of such groups online because they hide behind fake personas and use technology to protect their identities.

“What they’re more than likely attempting to do isn’t just to pick up a few peanuts in donations here,” said Michael Smith, a fellow at the New America think-tank who studies terrorists’ use of technology. “It’s to build a network of sympathizers.”

Messrs. Fanusie and Smith said al Sadaqah and its solicitation of cryptocurrency appear to be genuine. The group’s spokesman says its members are located in northern Syria, and its website includes a “disclaimer” that the group doesn’t support Islamic State or its affiliates.

There have been cases in the past of cryptocurrency links to funding Islamic State. In 2015, a Virginia teen, Ali Shukri Amin, was charged with conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization for explaining on Twitter how to send bitcoin to the group. A federal judge sentenced Mr. Amin to 11 years in prison.

The U.S. government alleges that Zoobia Shahnaz, a lab technician in New York, defrauded financial institutions last year of more than $85,000, which she converted into cryptocurrencies and transferred to Islamic State-linked individuals and shell companies in China, Pakistan and Turkey. Ms. Shahnaz, 27 years old, faces fraud and terrorism-related conspiracy and money-laundering charges.

‘I would call it a money-laundering revolution.’

—New York defense lawyer Arkady Bukh

Mr. Abdo said his group has yet to encounter supporters in Syria who deal in cryptocurrency. “But we’ve received donations from the different corners of the world,” he wrote.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin use a digital ledger called a blockchain that is maintained by a broad network of computers. They can be traded without relying on banks and exchanges that are required by law to make sure they aren’t working with criminals. “I would call it a money-laundering revolution,” said Arkady Bukh, a defense lawyer in New York who has represented hackers and terrorism suspects.

While bitcoin’s blockchain is visible, the ownership of the currency is often unclear. Other, more innovative cryptocurrencies can avoid tracking altogether. Governments are behind the curve when it comes to regulating digital currencies, Mr. Fanusie said.

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Marwan Khayat of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington group that tracks jihadists’ online activity, discovered the fundraising efforts of al Sadaqah in November. The group solicited bitcoin for improvements including new toilets to “prevent brothers from having to leave the guard point and travel into the bushes to relieve themselves, which can be very difficult sometimes.”

Through a cryptocurrency exchange, users can convert digital currency to conventional currency transmitted to a linked debit card, credit card, or bank account, available for cash withdrawal at an ATM.

In December, al Sadaqah posted a video on Telegram showing a new roof and shorn-up walls and ramparts. “The place where the brothers eat and sleep is in much better condition than before,” a balaclava-clad man says on a video tour of the facility.

Al Sadaqah has since broadened its appeal, publishing a message that included a link to a map of bitcoin ATMs, and soliciting funds through additional cryptocurrencies that offer more privacy than Bitcoin.

“We hope that this is only the beginning,” Mr. Abdo wrote.

Write to Brett Forrest at brett.forrest@wsj.com and Justin Scheck at justin.scheck@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/jihadists-see-a-funding-boon-in-bitcoin-1519131601
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ISIS, OTHER JIHADISTS INCREASE BITCOIN USE AFTER FALL OF CALIPHATE

Terrorists involved in attacks across the globe have used Bitcoin to fund their attacks.

BY YONAH JEREMY BOB
 JANUARY 28, 2018 23:58

 

A MEMBER of ISIS waves the group’s flag in Raqqa recently

A MEMBER of ISIS waves the group’s flag in Raqqa. (photo credit: REUTERS)

This is the conclusion of a report obtained exclusively by The Jerusalem Post. The report was issued by the IDC Herzliya International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) cyber desk, with input from ICT deputy director Dr. Eitan Azani and cyber-desk coordinator Nadine Liv.

Some of the ongoing ISIS and jihadist use of Bitcoin discussed in the report include fund-raising websites’ efforts to stay afloat after the fall of Raqqa in October 2017; terrorist fund-raising in Gaza; a recently busted money-laundering operation in the US; and examples where Bitcoin was used to fund infamous terrorist attacks.

The report starts by recounting that in the summer of 2014, an important article titled “Bitcoin wa Sadaqat al-Jihad” was published in an online blog. The article set forth the various strategic reasons for jihadists to use Bitcoin.

The article “promotes the use of Bitcoin virtual currency as a means of limiting economic support for infidels and circumventing the Western banking system, which limits donations for jihad through restrictions on the financial system.”

It recommends using Bitcoin, “for ideological-religious reasons as well as for its technological characteristics, and insists on the advantages of the system that enables the issuing of this currency.”

It further says the cryptocurrency’s advantages include: “prevention of counterfeiting; it is anonymous and untraceable; it is not subject to legislation; and it has global distribution.”

Jihadists like Bitcoin because through its use they can avoid paying taxes to Western and other non-jihadist governments and avoid legal exposure.

The ICT report notes that Bitcoin is transferred from one user to another “without systemic intercession, such as eBay or PayPal, while relying on a decentralized system; it does not have security weaknesses and cannot be hacked.”

Jumping forward, the report discusses the Akhbar al-Muslimin website, which publishes news from Islamic State. Analysts were asking if ISIS would survive the October 2017 fall of Raqqa; by November 2017, the ISIS propaganda site had launched an online fund-raising campaign.

The site’s operators “attached a link to each published news report encouraging donations using Bitcoin virtual currency for the purpose of operating the site.”

In December, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center found that clicking on the link led to a dedicated donations page on a Bitcoin trading site called CoinGate. When ICT independently examined the issue on January 16, it found that the link no longer directs to CoinGate, showing how quickly ISIS’s online arms adapt to avoid being tracked.

ISIS-affiliated groups in Gaza have also increased their online Bitcoin fund-raising efforts, led by the Ibn Taymiyya Media Center which serves as the media wing of the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem.

In mid-January 2018, a new Bitcoin address was identified in a Telegram instant-messaging group affiliated with the ISIS-Gaza group.

The report said that an examination of the address on Blockchain, a digital ledger in which Bitcoin transactions are recorded publicly, revealed a series of 15 transactions from July 1, 2016, to January 12, 2018.

The average Bitcoin transfer through this platform is estimated to be about $16,700, but some account totals reached close to $300,000 in transfers.

One ISIS agent, Zoobia Shahnaz of Long Island, New York, used Bitcoin in 2017 to defraud several financial entities and to launder money for ISIS, the report noted.

In mid-December, Shahnaz was indicted in the Federal District Court of Central Islip, New York, for stealing and laundering more than $85,000 of illegal returns using Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

THE report said the funds were transferred out of the US to shell corporations in Pakistan, China and Turkey on their way to the coffers of ISIS.

Shahnaz was arrested at JFK Airport in New York as he tried to flee the US for Syria.

Work has begun in the US on legislation to grant more resources to Department of Homeland Security to follow terrorist uses of Bitcoin.

The report said that terrorists involved in attacks across the globe, from France to Indonesia, have used Bitcoin to fund their attacks in ways that are harder for law enforcement to track than other forms of funding.

 http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/ISIS-Threat/ISIS-other-jihadists-increase-Bitcoin-use-after-fall-of-Caliphate-540079

Gunbattles, airstrikes in Sinai as Egyptian forces hit militants

February 12, 2018

Egyptian army helicopters during a major assault against Islamist militants. Airstrikes had hit at least 60 militant targets in the Sinai peninsula. (Ministry of Defense via Reuters)
CAIRO: Egyptian security forces killed 12 Islamist militants in gunbattles and arrested 92 suspects, while airstrikes destroyed dozens of militant targets in Sinai, the army said in a statement carried on state television on Monday.
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Based on army statements, around 28 militants have been killed since Friday in the latest offensive to crush insurgents blamed for a string of attacks. The latest statement said airstrikes had hit at least 60 militant targets.
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President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is seeking re-election in March, ordered the armed forces in November to defeat militants within three months after an attack on a mosque killed more than 300 people, the deadliest such incident in the Arab world’s most populous country.
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The insurgency poses the greatest challenge to the government in a country that is both the most populous in the Arab World and a main regional ally of the United States.
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Sisi was elected for his first term in 2014 after the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

Philippines: 6 soldiers injured in encounter with terrorist Maute group in Lanao del Sur

January 21, 2018
The military said six soldiers were slightly injured from the shrapnel during the firefight. AP/Bullit Marquez, File
ZAMBOANGA CITY — Government troops encountered remnants of ISIS-inspired Maute members that left six soldiers injured Saturday in a village of Masiu town, Lanao del Sur, according to the military.
The troops from Joint Task Force Ranao encountered 10 Maute members at early Saturday morning at Barangay Kalilangan, said Maj. Ronald Suscano, officer-in-charge of the Public Affairs Office of the Army 1st Division, based in Pulacan, Labanga town Zamboanga del Sur.
Suscano said the group which the soldiers encountered were Maute remnants and bombers.
He said the firefight erupted for 35 minutes that prompted the terrorists to withdraw.
Suscano reported that while the terrorists attempted to escape via the lake, the troops were able to sink off two motorboats carrying 10 militants.
The military said six soldiers were slightly injured from the shrapnel during the firefight.
The soldiers also recovered several high-powered weapons including one M203 launcher; two RPGs; three rounds of 60mm RPG; an anti-tank RPG ammunition; three 40mm ammunition; a hand grenade; two RPG fuses; a binocular; an ISIS flag; and several drug paraphernalia.
Suscano said the encounter was the first since the liberation of Marawi City from the Maute group last October 2017.
Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, 1st Army Division chief, directed the troops to continue the relentless hunt against the terrorists to prevent them from gaining strength.
“We shall continue to totally eliminate the remaining Daesh-inspired group in Lanao provinces and to sustain our efforts to prevent them establishing ‘Wilayat’ and Daesh ideology in our joint area of operation,” Murillo said in a statement.
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Israeli Army Confirms Gaza Attack Destroyed Hamas Cross-border Tunnel

January 14, 2018

Army says the tunnel, which passed under Kerem Shalom border crossing and extended into Egyptian territory, was designed to smuggle weapons and militants for attacks

By Yaniv Kubovich Jan 14, 2018 7:53 AM
Haaretz

An image of the tunnel released by the Israeli army on January 14, 2018.

An image of the tunnel released by the Israeli army on January 14, 2018. IDF Spokesperson’s Unit
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The planes that hit targets along Israel’s border with Gaza late Saturday night destroyed an attack tunnel, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

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According to the Israeli army, the tunnel passed under the Kerem Shalom border crossing, near the Egyptian border. The IDF said it also extended into Egyptian territory. “We have not encountered a tunnel like that before,” IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said.

– – A video released by the IDF on Twitter showing the location of the attack tunnel.

– – A video from the IDF Twitter account

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.834738

In contrast to Hamas’ claims that the tunnel was used for smuggling goods, the IDF unequivocally stated that it was an attack tunnel used to smuggle in weapons, terrorists and other operatives into Israel in order to carry out terror attacks.

The Kerem Shalom crossing is the main entryway of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

 

The army said that it views Hamas as responsible for what happens in Gaza. “We have no intention of escalating the situation, but we are prepared for every scenario,” it said.

The military said in a statement that the tunnel extended from the Palestinian town of Rafah, staring about 900 meters west of the Israeli border, and was dug below the border crossing and under pipelines used to transport natural gas and fuel. It reached 180 meters into Israeli territory.

On Saturday evening the army informed the Palestinians that it would temporarily close the Kerem Shalom crossing for all traffic starting Sunday morning. The army said the decision, which is unusual, was reached “in accordance with current assessments.”

“This is a blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following the strike. “The destruction of the network of attack tunnels is an essential part of our policy of systematically harming Hamas’ strategic capabilities.”

This is the fourth tunnel Israel destroyed by Israel in recent months. After Saturday’s tunnel strike, the military said it can confidently state that Israel holds “the most advanced capability in the world to locate underground tunnels.” It said that it intends to destroy all of the tunnels extending from the Gaza Strip into Israel by 2018.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke early on Sunday before departing for his trip to India. “There are people who say that the IDF attacks sand dunes – this isn’t true. We have responded to attacks against the State of Israel, which we’ve done with a highly systematic attack on infrastructure aimed against us. Hamas needs to understand that we will not allow these offensives, and that we will respond with even greater might.”

Since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, more than 40 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, only half of which landed in Israeli territory. No Israelis were hurt by rocket fire. Israel attributes the rocket fire to Salafist groups in Gaza, and in one case has attributed fire to Islamic Jihad.

Yaniv Kubovich
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.834738

A damaged mosque minaret is seen as Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a protest. (Reuters FILE photo)

Bangladesh activist arrested on ‘anti-Islam’ charges

December 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Rights groups have accused the Bangladesh government of targeting atheist bloggers who have used social media to criticise religion

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh police arrested a 25-year-old social media activist as he tried to leave the country on charges that he defamed Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, authorities said Tuesday.Immigration police detained Asaduzzaman Noor, known as Asad Noor on his Youtube channel, at Dhaka airport on Monday evening, inspector Mohammad Shahidullah told AFP.

“The charge against him is that he hurt religious feeling by mocking Prophet Mohammed and made bad comments against Islam, the prophet and the Koran on Facebook and Youtube,” he said.

Shahidullah said hundreds of Muslims staged demonstrations against Noor this year in the southern coastal town of Amtali after the head of an Islamic seminary filed a case against him.

Noor was charged under Bangladesh’s strict internet laws and could face up to 14 years in jail if found guilty.

Rights groups have accused the Bangladesh government of muzzling dissent and targeting atheist bloggers who have used social media to criticise religion.

In 2013, four Bangladeshi bloggers were arrested after nationwide protests in which Islamic groups demanded the execution of atheist commentators. They were later freed.

In recent years, atheist and secular voices have been targeted by Islamist extremist groups, who have hacked to death a dozen bloggers, publishers and activists, and forced others to flee overseas.

Following the attacks, the government launched a crackdown on extremist groups.

In July last year however militants stormed a Dhaka cafe and massacred 22 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group. Security forces have since killed more than 70 alleged militants.

Pakistani army: Militants attack patrol, killing 2 soldiers

December 12, 2017

Pakistan troops on patrol in Waziristan. (AFP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army says militants opened fire on an army vehicle on patrol in the country’s mountainous northwestern region near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers.

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Tuesday’s statement says the military vehicle came under attack in the North Waziristan tribal region. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamic militants have long been operating in the area.
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The military has carried out massive operation against them but militants are able to cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border and shelter on the other side. They have also been able to carry out cross-border attacks.
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The Pakistani army has been constructing a series of fences along the border, which zigzags across a remote and difficult mountain terrain, to check the movement of militants.
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Afghanistan objects to the construction of the fences.

Six Russian long-range bombers strike Islamic State targets in Syria

November 17, 2017

Reuters

Image result for TU-22M3 bombers, photos

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Six Russian long-range bombers struck Islamic State targets near the town of Albu Kamal in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province on Friday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian news agencies .

The TU-22M3 bombers took off from bases in Russia and overflew Iran and Iraq before launching the strike, they said.

TASS cited the ministry as saying the planes had bombed Islamic State fortified positions, militants, and armored vehicles and that satellite and drone surveillance had confirmed that all of the designated targets had been destroyed.

Reporting by Christian Lowe; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Russia hopes Turkey can stabilize situation in Syria’s Idlib

October 30, 2017

Reuters

Image result for Idlib, Syria, map

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia hopes that Turkey can stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib Province where Moscow believes there is a high threat of attacks by militants, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday, the RIA news agency reported.

“There is a pretty high level of tension there and there is still a threat of offensives by radical groups deployed there,” the agency cited Alexander Lavrentyev, the head of the Russian delegation at the Astana talks on the Syria crisis, as saying.

“But we hope that our Turkish partners will in the end fulfill their part of the obligations concerning the Idlib de-escalation zone and will stabilize the situation there.”

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Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn