Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • ISISTurkey, U.S. to create “ISIS-free zone” along Syria-Turkey border

    In what should be regarded as a significant victory for Turkey’s approach to the conflict in Syria, Turkey and the United States have agreed on a plan create an “ISIS free” strip inside Syria along the Turkey-Syria border. The deal will see Turkey drawn more deeply into Syria’s civil war and increase the intensity of the U.S. air strikes against ISIS. American officials told the New York Times that the United States would work with Turkey and Syrian rebel fighters to clear a 25-mile-deep strip of land near the border, which would constitute an ISIS-free zone and a safe haven for Syrian refugees.

  • ISISMore evidence emerges of ISIS’s use of chemical weapons

    A joint investigation by two independent organizations has found that ISIS has begun to use weapons filled with chemicals against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS is notorious for its skill in creating and adapting weapons and experts are concerned with the group’s access to chemical agents and its experiments with and the use of these agents as weapons.

  • ISISGame changer: Turkey allows U.S. to use of Incirlik air base for attacks on ISIS

    In a dramatic policy change, Turkey has agreed to allow the U.S. military to launch strikes against the Islamic State from the Incirlik air base near the Syrian border. The move — one senior U.S. official described it as a “game changer” — will make coalition airstrikes more effective because jets would reach their targets in Syria more quickly upon receiving actionable intelligence. The move will also draw Turkey deeper into the war in Syria. Turkey appears to have abandoned its studied ambivalence toward IS. Until this week, Turkey prioritized the removal of Bashar al-Assad and its own volatile relations with the Kurds, rather than join in the effort to defeat ISIS, but the Incirlik agreement indicates a significant change in Turkish priorities.

  • Domestic terrorismMohammad Abdulazeez exhibited characteristics found in other lone-wolf terrorists: Psychologist

    A researcher of radicalization says that from what has been written about Mohammad Abdulazeez, who shot and killed four Marines and a Navy sailor at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he appears to have exhibited the common characteristics of mass killers and lone wolf terrorists. Bryn Mawr Psychology Professor Clark McCauley said one of the common characteristics of lone wolf killers that he has studied is that many have weapons experience and are socially disconnected and stressed with a psychological disorder, what he terms a “disconnected/disordered profile.”

  • TerrorismLeader of Khorasan Group in Syria killed in U.S. airstrike

    The leader of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group in Syria, was killed on 8 July in a U.S. airstrike in Syria, the Pentagon said. Kuwait-born Muhsin al-Fadhli, who had a $7 million bounty on his head from the U.S. government, was killed when a vehicle in which he was traveling near the Syrian town of Sarmada was hit by a missile. Islamic State has captured the headlines, but security experts say that Khorasan may pose a more immediate danger to the United States and Western European countries.

  • African securityCentral African Republic on verge of becoming a failed state

    The Central African Republic (CAR), one of the poorest countries in the world, suffers not only from mass atrocities and misrule, but also a dangerous dependence on aid, said the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in a report released the other day. Since early 2013 over half of CAR’s population has been the victim of sectarian violence which has cost over 6,000 deaths, leaving 2.7 million people in need of emergency assistance. Harvests have decreased by 58 percent and 1.52 million people are food insecure.

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  • African securityInitiative launched to expose those who fund, profit from wars in Africa

    Oscar-winner actor George Clooney, in an effort to tackle corruption in war zones, on Monday launched an initiative to identify and help bring to justice individuals funding and profiting from Africa’s deadliest conflicts. Clooney and U.S. human rights activist John Prendergast launched the project, called The Sentry, which will investigate money flowing in and out of conflict zones, and pass on the information to policymakers to take action.

  • TerrorismU.S. thwarted “over 60” ISIS-linked plots, but missed Chattanooga attack: McCaul

    Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the United States was successful in thwarting “over 60” would-be terrorist attacks by “ISIS followers” in the last year. Referring to the attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, McCaul said: “What keeps us up at night are really the ones that we don’t know about and I’m afraid that this case really falls into that category.” He added: “If it can happen in Chattanooga, it can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace and that’s our biggest fear.” McCaul also advocated “taking the war” to what he called “cyber commanders” of terrorist groups overseas. “We need to hit these guys, these cyber commanders who are sending these Internet directives out to attack, attack, attack in the United States. We need to identify them and take them out.”

  • ISISSyrian Kurdish militia says ISIS used poison gas in attacks on militia fighters

    A Syrian-Kurdish militia and a group monitoring the Syrian war have said Islamic State used poison gas in attacks against Kurdish-controlled areas of north-east Syria in late June. The Kurdish YPG militia said ISIS had fired “makeshift chemical projectiles” on 28 June at a YPG-controlled area of the city of Hasakah, and at YPG positions south of the town of Tel Brak to the north-east of Hasakah. In January, Kurdish sources in Iraq said that ISIS used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against Kurdish peshmerga fighters on 23 January. In the previous Islamist insurgency in Iraq – in Anbar province, in 2006-2007 – there was evidence of chemical use by the insurgents. The insurgents in 2006-2007 were members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later transformed itself into ISIS.

  • ExtremismExtremist groups use social media to lure recruits, find support

    In the past, extremist groups have used tools and forums which were available: Rallies, pamphleteering, and marching in parades were the primary means used for recruitment and spreading their message. Now, as is the case with many other individuals and groups, these efforts have adapted to more contemporary media to target college and university campuses, to gain new members or, at least, sympathy to their cause. They now use the Internet to conduct forums and publish newsletters, a method that exposes potentially millions to their message.

  • African securityLibyan factions, outside powers use southwest Libya tribes in proxy war

    Since September last year, a bloody war has been raging between the Tuareg and Tebu, two indigenous tribes in the remote Saharan oasis town of Ubari, in Libya’s rich southern oil fields near Libya’s border with Algeria, Niger, and Chad. Each side is supported by different Libyan factions and outside forces, all vying for control of the mineral-rich and politically volatile area. As the United States and Europe grow more concerned about the growing presence of ISIS in Libya, they have begun to pay more attention to the war between the Tuareg and Tebu and the potential it offers for ISIS for more mischief.

  • African securityBuhari replaces Nigeria’s top military leaders as fight against Boko Haram intensifies

    Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, made defeating the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents his top priority, and earlier this week he took the first decisive step toward achieving this goal: He sacked the defense minister; the commanders of the army, navy, and air force; the head of the defense intelligence service, and the national security adviser. The Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, has killed as many as 15,000 and displaced 1.5 million people.

  • TerrorismMass. man arrested for planning ISIS-inspired attack on a college campus

    Alexander Ciccolo, 23, who is also known as Ali Al Amriki, was arrested by the FBI for planning to carry out an Islamic State-inspired attack on one or two Boston college campuses, using guns and improvised explosives, including a pressure-cooker bomb like the ones used in the Boston Marathon bombing. Ciccolo was arrested after he took a delivery of four guns on 4 July. He was under surveillance by law enforcement since September, when his father, a Boston police captain, alerted federal authorities about his son’s growing infatuation with Islam and the Islamic State. Ciccolo told a cooperating witness that his attack would be concentrated on dormitories and a cafeteria, according to court documents, “and would include executions of students broadcast live via the Internet.”

  • SyriaAssad is still using chemical weapons. What will it take to stop him?

    By Christopher Jenkins

    While the Syrian conflict has been perpetually overshadowed in the headlines by recent events such as the possibility of a Grexit and the Chinese stock market crash, two recent developments regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons have nearly managed to refocus international attention on Syria. First, on June 17th the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a hearing on the Assad regime’s use of chlorine barrel bombs. Second, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly reported this week that they expect another attack by the regime using chemical weapons beyond chlorine bombs. In particular, the Syrian government is suspected of maintaining stocks of sarin and VX gas.

  • BioterrorismKosovo’s capital cuts water supplies for fear of ISIS plot to poison reservoir

    Kosovo security and health authorities have cut off water supplies to tens of thousands of residents in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, following a suspicion that ISIS followers had poisoned the city’s water supplies. The city’s water board said supply was cut early on Saturday “because of security issues” and that supplies had been tested for suspicious substances. Police sources say that security officers patrolling the Badovac reservoir saw three of the men behaving suspiciously near the reservoir, and arrested them. They were later identified as ISIS supporters. Kosovar members of ISIS recently appeared in propaganda videos, warning of attacks against targets in the Balkans, including the water supplies of major cities.