Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry detains members of a group linked to the Islamic State

June 24, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Intelligence Ministry is saying that its forces have detained members of a group linked to the Islamic State group it says intended to carry out terrorist acts in holy cities across the country.

The ministry says its forces confiscated three Kalashnikov rifles, night vision goggles, three suicide belts, three phones for remote detonation, a large amount of bullets and other technical tools for making bombs, in a statement issued Saturday.

The report did not elaborate on the number of people detained, or where the arrests took place.

Five attackers linked to IS stormed Iran’s parliament and a shrine to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini this month, killing at least 17 people and wounding more than 50.

UAE: Arab States Don’t Seek ‘Regime Change’ in Qatar

June 24, 2017

Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai that his country and its allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, do not want “regime change” in Qatar, but a “behavioral change.”

The four countries presented a 13-point list of demands to Qatar through mediator Kuwait on Thursday and gave it 10 days to comply. Qatar says it is reviewing the ultimatum, which includes demands to shut Al-Jazeera, cut ties with Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, and curb relations with Iran.

Qatar’s neighbors insisted the list of demands was their bottom line, not a starting point for negotiations. The Arab countries signaled that if Qatar refuses to comply by the deadline, they will continue to restrict its access to land, sea and air routes indefinitely amid mounting economic pressure on the Persian Gulf nation.

The demands from Qatar’s neighbors amount to a call for a sweeping overhaul of Qatar’s foreign policy and natural gas-funded influence peddling in the region. Complying would force Qatar to bring its policies in line with the regional vision of Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy and gatekeeper of Qatar’s only land border.

The four Arab states cut ties with Qatar over allegations that it funds terrorism — an accusation Doha rejects but that President Donald Trump has echoed. The move has left Qatar under a de facto blockade by its neighbors.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has tried to mediate and earlier this week called on the Arab nations to limit themselves to “reasonable and actionable” demands on Qatar. That call appeared to have been roundly ignored, and it was the Kuwaitis, who also offered to mediate, who delivered the list to Qatar on Thursday.

Related:

 (Includes links to earlier Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

Suicide Bomber Blows Himself Up as Saudis Foil Mecca Plot

June 24, 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — A suicide bomber blew himself up near the Grand Mosque in Mecca as police disrupted a plot to target the holiest site in Islam just as the fasting month of Ramadan ends, Saudi security forces said Saturday.

The Interior Ministry said it launched a raid around Jiddah, as well as two areas in Mecca itself, including the Ajyad Al-Masafi neighborhood, located near the Grand Mosque.

There, police said they engaged in a shootout at a three-story house with a suicide bomber, who blew himself up and caused the building to collapse. He was killed, while the blast wounded six foreigners and five members of security forces, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement. Five others were arrested, including a woman, it said.

Saudi state television aired footage after the raid Friday near the Grand Mosque, showing police and rescue personnel running through the neighborhood’s narrow streets. The blast demolished the building, its walls crushing a parked car. Nearby structures appeared to be peppered with shrapnel and bullet holes.

The Interior Ministry said the thwarted “terrorist plan” would have violated “all sanctities by targeting the security of the Grand Mosque, the holiest place on Earth.”

“They obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilize the security and stability of this blessed country,” it said.

The ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaida insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group. Neither group immediately claimed involvement, though IS sympathizers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a U.S.-led coalition.

The disrupted attack comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia. King Salman earlier this week short-circuited the kingdom’s succession by making his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to the throne.

The newly appointed 31-year-old crown prince is the architect of Saudi Arabia’s stalemated war in Yemen against Shiite rebels. He has also offered aggressive comments about the kingdom confronting Shiite power Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned the Mecca plot and said it remains willing to work with other countries in confronting terrorism.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have cut diplomatic ties to neighboring Qatar and are trying to isolate the energy-rich country over its alleged support of militants and ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied those allegations.

As the Interior Ministry announced the raid, over 1 million Muslim faithful prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina to mark the end of Ramadan. In July 2016, a suicide bombing there killed four members of Saudi Arabia’s security forces.

Millions of Muslims from around the world visit the mosque, the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad, every year as part of their pilgrimage. The same day in July, separate suicide bomb attacks targeted a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia and near the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah.

The Grand Mosque has been the target of militants before, in part because it represents a symbol of the ruling Al Saud family’s clout in the Islamic world. The Saudi monarch bears the title of “custodian of the two holy mosques.”

In 1979, some 250 militants seized the mosque and held it for two weeks as they demanded the royal family abdicate the throne. When Saudi troops stormed the mosque, the official death toll was 229, including extremists and soldiers.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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Suicide bomber blows himself up near Mecca’s Grand Mosque as terrorist attack thwarted

Staff writers, APNews Corp Australia Network

A SUICIDE bomber blew himself up near the Grand Mosque at Mecca as police disrupted a plot to target the holiest site in Islam just as the fasting month of Ramadan ends, Saudi security forces said.

The Interior Ministry said it launched a raid in Jiddah province, as well as two areas in Mecca itself, including the Ajyad Al-Masafi neighbourhood, located near the Grand Mosque.

There, police said they engaged in a shootout at a three-storey house a suicide bomber, who blew himself up and led to the building’s collapse on Saturday.

REVEALED: Bali bombing ‘mastermind’ charged

According to police the bomber shot at them and blew himself up during the confrontation. Picture: AP

According to police the bomber shot at them and blew himself up during the confrontation. Picture: APSource:AP

The scene of the suicide bombing after a police raid in Mecca. Picture: AP

The scene of the suicide bombing after a police raid in Mecca. Picture: APSource:AP

He was killed while the blast wounded six foreigners and five members of security forces, according to the Interior Ministry’s statement.

Five others were arrested, including a woman, it said.

Saudi state television aired footage after the raid near the Grand Mosque, showing police and rescue personnel running through the neighbourhood’s narrow streets.

The blast demolished the building, its walls crushing a parked car as what appeared to be shrapnel and bullet holes peppered nearby structures.

The Interior Ministry “confirms that this terrorist network, whose terrorist plan was thwarted, violated, in what they would have perpetrated, all sanctities by targeting the security of the Grand Mosque, the holiest place on Earth.”

“They obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilise the security and stability of this blessed country,” the statement said.

The ministry did not name the group involved in the attack.

The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaeda insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group.

Neither group immediately claimed those arrested, though Islamic State sympathisers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a U.S.-led coalition.

Muslim worshippers pray at the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. Picture: AFP

Muslim worshippers pray at the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

NEW CROWN PRINCE

The disrupted attack comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia as King Salman earlier this week short-circuited the kingdom’s succession by making his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to the throne.

The newly appointed crown prince, 31 years old, is the architect of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen against Shiite rebels, now stalemated.

He has also offered aggressive comments about the kingdom confronting Shiite power Iran.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have cut diplomatic ties to neighbouring Qatar and are trying to isolate the energy-rich tiny country over its alleged support of militants and ties to Iran. Qatar long has denied those allegations.

As the Interior Ministry announced the raid, over one million Muslim faithful prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina to mark the end of Ramadan.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: AFP

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

In July 2016, a suicide bombing there killed four members of Saudi Arabia’s security forces. Millions of Muslims from around the world visit the mosque, the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad, every year as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Grand Mosque has been the target of militants before, in part as it represents a symbol of the ruling Al Saud family’s clout in the Islamic world.

King Salman is known as the “custodian of the two holy mosques,” a title used by the monarchs before him as well.

In 1979, some 250 militants seized the mosque and held it for two weeks as they demanded the royal family abdicate the throne.

When Saudi troops stormed the mosque, the official death toll was 229, including extremists and soldiers.

http://www.news.com.au/world/middle-east/suicide-bomber-blows-himself-up-near-meccas-grand-mosque-as-terrorist-attack-thwarted/news-story/ead53cb1d0c6c2c2ad1f885959351ec3

UAE Says Will Not Back Down in Dispute if Qatar Declines to Cooperate

June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates, one of four Arab countries embroiled in a political dispute with Qatar, said on Friday it would not back down if Doha does not engage with demands that include requiring it to curb ties with Iran.

The countries’ ultimatum to Doha includes closing Al Jazeera television, curbing ties with Iran, shutting a Turkish base and paying reparations, demands so far-reaching it would appear to be hard for Doha to comply.

“This is our list of demands from Qatar. They’re (demands) are all important. This is a consistent pattern of behavior that affects all of us,” the UAE ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, told Reuters. “We would hope that Qatar reacts by engaging and not by leaking documents and trying to have this litigated in public.”

If Qatar does not engage, “things will stay at the status quo, things will stay as they are,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE have cut economic, diplomatic and travel ties with Qatar, which they accuse of funding terrorism, fomenting regional unrest and drawing too close to their enemy, Iran.

Qatar rejects those accusations and says it is being punished for straying from its neighbors’ backing for authoritarian hereditary and military rulers.

Otaiba also accused Qatar of leaking the 13-point list of demands, an accusation made by UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash earlier on Friday.

Image result for UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, photos

UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs AnwarGargash

Asked to respond to accusations by UAE officials that Qatar had leaked the document, the Qatar embassy in Washington did not comment.

The UAE has said sanctions could last for years. Qatar, the world’s richest country per capita, says the sanctions amount to a “blockade,” but it has ample reserves to weather the storm.

Washington, which is a close military ally of countries on both sides of the dispute, had called for a resolution. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Qatar’s neighbors should make their demands “reasonable and actionable”.

The dispute is a test for the United States, which has a large base in Qatar that is home to the headquarters of its Middle East air power and 11,000 troops.

(Reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)

Related:

 (Includes links to earlier Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

UAE warns Qatar over neighbours’ demands

June 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A general view of the road near the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia which has cut ties with Doha along with its allies

ABU DHABI (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates on Friday warned of “divorce” with Qatar unless it takes seriously a list of demands including the closure of Al-Jazeera television, as a diplomatic crisis drags on.Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s state minister for foreign affairs, issued the warning more than two weeks into the oil-rich region’s worst crisis in years.

The affair has also drawn in the United States, whose Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for Gulf unity.

Qatar is the world’s leading LNG exporter and hosts the biggest American airbase in the Middle East.

Gargash accused Qatar of leaking a document containing the demands by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which have cut diplomatic ties and accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism.

Qatar strongly denies such charges.

The demands have not been officially unveiled but Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel said overnight Thursday they were handed to Qatar by Kuwait, which is mediating the dispute.

According to the document posted on social media, the four countries demand that Qatar closes Al-Jazeera, downgrades diplomatic ties with Iran and shuts a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The list of demands has not been officially confirmed.

“The leak (of the demands by Qatar) is an attempt to abort the mediation in a childish act that we have grown accustomed to from our brother,” Gargash wrote on Twitter.?

“It would be wiser that (Qatar) deal seriously with the demands and concerns of the neighbours or a divorce will take place,” he said.

The demands confirm that “the crisis is profound,” Gargash added.

Qatar faces a choice of either stability and prosperity, or isolation, he said.

“Perhaps the solution is in parting ways.”

Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

— US ‘mystified’ —

On June 5, Saudi Arabia and the UAE led a severing of all links with Qatar for allegedly supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, “that aim to destabilise the region”.

Other allies, including Egypt and Bahrain, followed.

Saudi Arabia regularly accuses Iran, its regional rival, of interference throughout the Middle East.

As well as cutting diplomatic ties, Qatar’s neighbours closed their air space to Qatari carriers and blocked the emirates’ only land border, vital for its food imports.

The list of 13 demands circulating on social media also says Qatar must cut ties to extremists including the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Qatar is also required to hand over opposition figures wanted by its three neighbours and Egypt.

In addition to Al-Jazeera, it must shut online information sites that it supports, according to the reported demands.

“The brother (Qatar) must realise that the solution for its crisis lies not in Tehran or Beirut or Ankara or Western capitals or in media outlets, but in regaining the trust of its neighbours,” Gargash said.

“It is not possible to accept that the brother continues as the Trojan horse” in the Gulf or as a funder and “platform for an extremist agenda”, he added.

Earlier this week, a foreign diplomat told AFP the crisis had reached a “stalemate” and “won’t end soon”.

Tillerson said on Wednesday that Washington had been pushing for a clear list of grievances that are “reasonable and actionable”.

“Our role has been to encourage the parties to get their issues on the table, clearly articulated, so that those issues can be addressed and some resolution process can get underway to bring this to a conclusion,” he said.

His spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday the United States was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies had failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.

US President Donald Trump, however, has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia in the crisis.

Related:

 (Includes links to earlier Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

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Gulf states issue demands to end Qatar boycott — Compensation — 13-point list — 10 Days to comply

June 23, 2017

AFP

Bandar al-Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP | Saudi King Salman (L) with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha on December 6, 2016.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-06-23

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that have cut ties to Qatar issued a steep list of demands Thursday to end the crisis.

They insist that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.

Qatari officials in Doha did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. But the list included conditions that the gas-rich nation had already insisted would never be met, including shutting down Al-Jazeera. Qatar’s government has said it won’t negotiate until Arab nations lift their blockade. The demands were also likely to elicit Qatari objections that its neighbors are trying to dictate its sovereign affairs by imposing such far-reaching requirements.

Only a day earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned the demands must be “reasonable and actionable.” The U.S. issued that litmus test amid frustration at how long it was taking Saudi Arabia and others to formalize a list of demands, complicating U.S. efforts to bring about a resolution to the worst Gulf diplomatic crisis in years.

Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the Mideast & is the staging ground for US missions against .http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/05/middleeast/qatar-us-largest-base-in-mideast/index.html 

Photo published for Qatar hosts largest US military base in Mideast

Qatar hosts largest US military base in Mideast

As Saudi Arabia, along with a growing list of other countries, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday, it called on its allies to cease all travel and transport with its neighbor.

cnn.com

According to the list, Qatar must refuse to naturalize citizens from the four countries and expel those currently in Qatar, in what the countries describe as an effort to keep Qatar from meddling in their internal affairs.

They are also demanding that Qatar hand over all individuals who are wanted by those four countries for terrorism; stop funding any extremist entities that are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S.; and provide detailed information about opposition figures that Qatar has funded, ostensibly in Saudi Arabia and the other nations.

Qatar vehemently denies funding or supporting extremism. But the country acknowledges that it allows members of some extremist groups such as Hamas to reside in Qatar, arguing that fostering dialogue with those groups is key to resolving global conflicts.

Qatar’s neighbors have also accused it of backing al-Qaida and the Islamic State group’s ideology throughout the Middle East. Those umbrella groups also appear on the list of entities whose ties with Qatar must be extinguished, along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the al-Qaida branch in Syria, once known as the Nusra Front.

More broadly, the list demands that Qatar align itself politically, economically and otherwise with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional club that has focused on countering the influence of Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-led nations have accused Qatar of inappropriately close ties to Iran, a Shiite-led country and Saudi Arabia’s regional foe.

QATAR’S ISOLATION IS A REGIONAL POWER PLAY

The Iran provisions in the document say Qatar must shut down diplomatic posts in Iran, kick out from Qatar any members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and only conduct trade and commerce with Iran that complies with U.S. sanctions. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were eased but other sanctions remain in place.

Cutting ties to Iran would prove incredibly difficult. Qatar shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran which supplies the small nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup its wealth.

Image result for al jazeera, building, qatar, photos

Not only must Qatar shut down the Doha-based satellite broadcaster, the list says, but also all of its affiliates. That presumably would mean Qatar would have to close down Al-Jazeera’s English-language sister network.

Supported by Qatar’s government, Al-Jazeera is one of the most widely watched Arabic channels, but it has long drawn the ire of Mideast governments for airing alternative viewpoints. The network’s critics say it advances Qatar’s goals by promoting Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood that pose a populist threat to rulers in other Arab countries.

The list also demands that Qatar stop funding a host of other news outlets including Arabi21 and Middle East Eye.

If Qatar agrees to comply, the list asserts that it will be audited once a month for the first year, and then once per quarter in the second year after it takes effect. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.

Related:

 (Includes links to Saudi, Qatar dispute articles)

Philippines: Strong indications terrorist Omar Maute dead – military

June 23, 2017

By , , @inquirerdotnet

/ 04:37 PM June 23, 2017
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Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup

Abdullah (left) and Omarkhayam Maute. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

MARAWI CITY – The military on Friday said it got strong indications that Omarkhayyam Maute has been killed in one of the clashes here between soldiers and Maute gunmen.

“Our report is that he was killed in one of the four conflict areas that we have been talking about (Barangays Lilod, Raya Madaya, Marinaut and Bangolo),” Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, the spokesperson of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, told reporters.

Herrera said they still could not categorically say if Omarkhayyam was indeed killed “because we do not have the body.”

He also said they could not provide the specific detail on Omarkhayyam’s reported death as of yet, pending validation of information that they got.

“We can’t say what day he was killed, what caliber (of firearms) had killed him or where was his cadaver buried. But we have been reporting as early as two weeks ago that he was fatality [hit.] There’s a strong indication and we continue to make validations,” Herrera said.

He said another report that the military has started validating was the one pertaining to the death of a Jemaah Islamiya member by the name of Bun Mahmoud, allegedly a Malaysian physician.

Reports about Mahmoud’s death was shared to the Inquirer by intelligence sources.

“We really could not confirm anything unless we see the body but we also got a similar report,” Herrera added.

As this developed, Herrera said the military will continue to seize more areas from the extremists, who are now numbering between 90 and 100 fighters.

“We have killed a large number of them so their size had shrunk,” he said.

But Herrera maintained the military could not issue any definitive timetable as to when the fighting would be over.

“We did not establish or say anything on deadlines. Our goal is to continue our combat clearing operations. Our battle field is very fluid and dynamic. Every day, the location of the enemy changes,” he said.

On Friday, the military continued to conduct air strikes.

Diminishing Maute area

Herrera said soldiers were also continuing their push into the enemy location inside the city and that the gunmen were now “desperate because their area continues to diminish.”

“They continue to use the hostages as human shields and they maximized their use of explosives to slow us down,” he added.

Herrera said another thing that slowed down the advancing troops was the presence of trapped civilians.

But he said the enemy resistance continues to weaken by the day and this indicated that “they were running out of ammunition already.”

“Our troops continue to push forward and finish the job. Our area is becoming bigger and we can see that their now in their last stand,” he added.

Herrera said at this stage, the military can already say that it succeeded in foiling Maute’s plan to seize the city and establish the country’s first Islamic caliphate here.

“We have cleared 92 barangays so far and there’s now a semblance of governance in these areas,” he said.

“We were able to contain the situation and no spill over (to other areas) happened,” he added.

Seized shabu

Also on Friday, government security forces recovered about two kilograms of shabu from the house of a former mayor who was also tagged as a supporter of Maute gunmen responsible for the attacks in this city.

Chief Inspector William Santos, Philippine Drug Enforcement Group for Mindanao, told reporters that the shabu, with street value of about P10 million, was recovered around 10 a.m. from the house of former Marawi Mayor Omar Solitaio Ali.

Santos said Ali was suspected to be a financier of Maute.

Ali’s brother, Fahad Salic, also a former mayor of Marawi, was arrested in Misamis Oriental on June 7./ac

Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City

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Philippines: Australia offers to send aircraft to help hunt and destroy Islamic State inspired terrorists

June 23, 2017
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Two AP-3C Orion aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force will provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its operation against ISIS-inspired groups. BY/Jason Baker

MANILA, Philippines — The Australian government has offered to send two surveillance aircraft to assist the Philippines in its fight against ISIS-inspired militants in Marawi City.

Two AP-3C Orion aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force will provide surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the government gladly welcomes any form of foreign assistance to help suppress the rebellion in Marawi.

“Our Defense officials are in close coordination with their Australian counterparts in the latter’s offer of providing surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Abella said in a televised press briefing.

Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne earlier said that the regional threat of terrorism, particularly from ISIS, is a direct threat to Australia and their interests.

“Australia will continue to work with our partners in Southeast Asia to counter it,” Payne said.

The United States had also offered its help in the government forces’ operations against local terror groups in the region.

The military earlier confirmed the presence of American troops in Marawi but clarified their participation was limited to intelligence sharing.

On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao following a clash between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi.

Almost the entire population of Marawi of about 246,000 have been displaced since the seizure of the city by fighters allied to ISIS.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/06/23/1712907/australia-sends-spy-planes-marawi

Qatar Airways seeks 10% stake in American Airlines

June 22, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Qatar Airways has notified American Airlines it wants to buy about a 10 percent stake in the US carrier, which confirmed the move in a securities filing

NEW YORK (AFP) – Qatar Airways has notified American Airlines it wants to buy about a 10 percent stake in the US carrier, which confirmed the move Thursday in a securities filing.Qatar Airways disclosed that it planned to buy at least $808 million in shares, and Qatar Airways’ chief executive told his counterpart at American that the carrier sought a stake of about 10 percent, American Airlines said.

“The proposed investment by Qatar Airways was not solicited by American Airlines and would in no way change the Company’s Board composition, governance, management or strategic direction,” American said in the filing.

The move comes as Qatar faces conflict with neighboring countries after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed ties over Doha’s alleged support for extremist groups and Iran. The countries have suspended all flights to and from Qatar.

Qatar’s government denies all the allegations.

American, for its part, also has had its differences with Qatar Airways, among other Middle Eastern carriers, over state subsidies the US air travel industry believes violate trade agreements.

The Qatar stake in American “does not alter American Airlines’ conviction on the need to enforce the Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and the nation of Qatar and ensure fair competition with Gulf carriers, including Qatar Airways,” American said in the filing.

“American Airlines continues to believe that the President and his administration will stand up to foreign governments to end massive carrier subsidies that threaten the US aviation industry and that threaten American jobs.”

Shares of American shot up 5.2 percent in pre-market trading to $50.90.

SE Asian nations commit to cohesive approach to terrorism, militants

June 22, 2017

Reuters

By Neil Jerome Morales and Manuel Mogato | MANILA/MARAWI CITY, PHILIPPINES

The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed on Thursday to pool intelligence and tackle militant financing as fears grow that protracted fighting in a southern Philippine town could be the prelude to an Islamic State infiltration of the region.

Foreign ministers and defense officials of the three neighboring countries agreed to work together to share information, track communications and crack down on the flow of arms, fighters and money, amid what experts says is the biggest security threat facing Southeast Asia in decades.

Despite signs that the rebels battling government forces in Marawi City were on the back foot, authorities are worried that the fighting – now in its fifth week – might be the beginning of a wave of violence as the ultra-radical Islamic State group tries to establish a foothold.

Militants holed up in Marawi were cornered and their firepower was flagging, the military said on Thursday, estimating the number of remaining fighters at just over 100, and all within a 1 square kilometer area.

Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told the meeting the that extremism needed an immediate response, and constant engagement between the three countries that must be a “cohesive unit”.

“This is an urgent task that we need to undertake as clearly evidenced through the current situation in Marawi,” he said.

“This means our enforcement agencies must constantly engage with one another, not only in intelligence sharing but new active and innovative measures.”

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have launched joint patrols to control militant movements across their archipelagic region.

Smoke billows are seen as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group, who have taken over parts of Marawi city, Philippines June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
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But experts point to how they have previously failed to work together to prevent festering militancy and banditry from worsening, plagued as they are by mistrust, dormant territorial disputes and limited capabilities.

The Philippines in particular is widely seen as the weaker link.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday’s meeting aimed to revisit existing security programs between the three and draw up a plan to strengthen and implement them.

‘LOOKING FOR BASES’

His country was now a clear target for extremists, he said, and the region only needed to look at how quickly Islamic State, or ISIS, managed to recruit fighters and carve out strongholds in Iraq and Syria

“These jihadists will be looking for land bases or areas outside Iraq and Syria,” Cayetano told reporters.

“Everyone has their vulnerability, no one is perfect.

“If other countries have nationals in Marawi and Mindanao and are extremists, they are as much a threat to their home country as here.”

A Philippine officer, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Tampus, said troops were blocking escape routes out of Marawi and rebels were hemmed-in and using civilians dressed in black as human shields.

“Our forces are coming from the east and the north and we are blocking the three bridges,” he said.

Tampus said the militant snipers were firing from “strategic nests” in schools and mosques, and their bombs were hampering his troops’ operations.

Malaysia is worried that militants could flee to its eastern state of Sabah.

Malaysia has a wanted list that includes two militants who spearheaded the attempt to capture Marawi.

They are a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, Isnilon Hapilon, who was proclaimed by Islamic State last year as its “emir” of Southeast Asia, and Abdullah Maute, whose followers accounted for a large number of the estimated 400-500 fighters who overran parts of Marawi, killing Christians and taking dozens of civilians hostage.

According to official estimates, 369 people have been killed, three-quarters of them militants. The number of security forces and civilians killed stood at 67 and 26, respectively.

(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis in MARAWI, Karen Lema in MANILA, Rozanna Latiff in KUALA LUMPUR; Writing by John Chalmers and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)