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Found 87 results

  1. Bitcoin has been racing to record highs in recent days A suburban New York hospital technician accused of using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to launder money meant for the militant group Daesh was arrested on charges of money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization and bank fraud, prosecutors said Thursday. Federal prosecutors in New York?s Suffolk County claimed in court papers that Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, used fraudulent credit cards and loans to accumulate $85,000, which she attempted to transfer to the Daesh group before attempting to go to Syria to join it. Prosecutors said that after traveling to Jordan to work with the Syrian American Medical Society, Shahnaz returned to the United States and applied for six credit cards, which she used to buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The resident of the hamlet of Brentwood in Islip on Long Island appeared before a federal judge late on Thursday and was ordered detained, prosecutors said. Shahnaz? lawyer, Steve Zissou, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case. After borrowing about $85,000 with fraudulently obtained credit cards and loans and withdrawing another $22,000 from bank accounts in her own name, Shahnaz sent funds to recipients in Pakistan, China and Turkey, prosecutors said. Some of that money came in the form of $63,000 in bitcoin and other crypto-currencies purchased with the credit cards, prosecutors said. Arraignment and detention documents released on Thursday showed that Shahnaz, a US citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested on Wednesday. Prosecutors said that in July Shahnaz obtained a Pakistani passport and booked a flight to Pakistan with a layover in Istanbul with the intention of going to Syria. She was stopped by law enforcement investigators at John F. Kennedy airport and questioned about her trip and the financial transactions, prosecutors said. Bitcoin fever exposes crypto-market frailties At the same time, Bitfinex, the world?s biggest bitcoin exchange by trading volume She had $9,500 in cash with her, just under the limit of $10,000 that a person can take out of the country without declaring it to immigration and customs officials, they said. Subsequent searches of Shahnaz? electronic devices showed numerous searches for Daesh-related material, including travel checklists. She faces three charges of money laundering, including money laundering in support of a foreign terrorist organization, and is also charged with bank fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge.
  2. Police officers stand guard outside the closed New York Port Authority Subway entrance following a reported explosion, in New York City, US on December 11, 2017. ? Reuters The online video?s message was clear: Supporters of Daesh (Islamic State) who could not travel overseas to join the militant group should carry out attacks wherever they were in the United States or Europe. Bangladeshi immigrant Akayedullah, 27, followed those instructions on Monday when he tried to set off a homemade bomb in one of New York?s busiest commuter hubs, in an attack that illustrates the difficulty of stopping ?do-it-yourself? attacks by radicals who act alone. While harder to stop than attacks coordinated by multiple people - whose communications may be more easily monitored by law enforcement or intelligence agencies - they also tend to do less damage. Akayedullah was the person most seriously wounded when his bomb ignited but did not detonate in an underground passageway linking the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Times Square subway station; three others sustained lesser injuries. ?They tend to be less organised and less deadly,? said Seamus Hughes, a former adviser at the US government?s National Counterterrorism Centre. ?That?s because you?re dealing with more, for lack of a better word, amateurs.? The do-it-yourself style of attack is on the rise in the United States, according to research by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, where Hughes is deputy director. The United States has seen 19 attacks perpetrated by Daesh-inspired people since the group declared a ?caliphate? in June 2014 after capturing broad swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. Of those, 12 occurred in 2016 and 2017, almost twice as many as in the two preceding years. ?You?re going to see continued numbers of plots and, unfortunately, attacks,? Hughes said. Akayedullah began immersing himself in Daesh propaganda as early as 2014, three years after he arrived in the United States as a legal immigrant, according to federal prosecutors who charged him with terrorism offenses. They said in court papers that his computer records showed that he viewed Daesh videos urging supporters of the group to launch attacks where they lived. Experts said the success of Western allies in retaking most of Daesh?s territory could inspire more attacks out of anger or vengeance. ?No group has been as successful at drawing people into its ideology as Daesh,? Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said in congressional testimony last week. ?Through the internet, militants overseas now have access into our local communities to target and recruit our citizens.? National security analysts generally divide such perpetrators into three broad categories. Some attackers act at the direction of a group, like the Daesh-backed militants who carried out coordinated attacks in Paris in 2015, killing 130; others have some limited contact with an organisation but act largely on their own. A third type has no communication with a group but engage in violence after being radicalised by online propaganda. It is easier for trained, battle-hardened Daesh fighters to travel from the Middle East to Europe than for them to reach the United States. That helps explain why US attacks have largely been the work of ?self-made? militants, said Brandeis University professor and radicalisation expert Jytte Klausen. ?In these recent cases, we?ve seen very few indications that there was any type of direct training,? Klausen said. Self-directed perpetrators are the hardest for investigators to identify. Their ranks appear to include Akayedullah, as well as two other recent New York attackers: Ahmad Rahimi, the man who injured 30 with a homemade bomb in Manhattan in September 2016, and Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight by speeding a rental truck down a bike lane in October. While that type of attacker typically is less destructive, there are important exceptions. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols killed 168 people, and Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year. ?A single individual or two can still create a lot of damage,? said Max Abrahms, a professor at Northeastern University who studies terrorism. ?But they?re not able to wage sustained terrorist campaigns.?
  3. MOSCOW: Russia's defence ministry on Thursday said its mission to oust Daesh militants from Syria had been "accomplished" with the country "completely liberated" from the extremist group. "The Russian armed forces' goal to defeat armed groups of the ISIL terrorist organisation in Syria has been accomplished," said senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi, using an alternative acronym for the group. "There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of ISIL. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organisation," he told reporters. There has been an "unprecedented" involvement by Russia's airforce in recent days, he said, with warplanes making 100 sorties and staging up to 250 strikes daily. At the same time, special forces were active on the ground directing planes and "destroying the most odious leaders of militant groups behind enemy lines," he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict, said Thursday that Daesh still holds about eight percent of Deir Ezzor province. Rudskoi said "separate sabotage bands of ISIL" could still be operating but would be fought by Syrian government troops, indicating that Russia's involvement would be scaled down. "With the liquidation of armed bands of the ISIL terrorist group in Syria, the Russian contingent will concentrate its main efforts on providing aid to the Syrian people in rebuilding peace" and ensuring ceasefire commitments were met, he said. Russia began its bombing raids in September 2015 in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's beleaguered forces. Those strikes have helped Assad regain control over much of war-ravaged Syria. Last month, President Vladimir Putin said efforts to end the war were entering a "new stage" as the focus shifts from military intervention to political reform. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests against Assad´s rule that sparked a brutal crackdown.
  4. ISTANBUL: Istanbul police have detained 62 foreigners suspected of having links to Daesh in overnight raids, Turkish media reported Friday. Police have launched almost daily operations against Daesh cells across the country following concerns hundreds of alleged Daesh members have crossed into Turkey from Syria. The suspects were detained during raids on 12 addresses in eight districts of Istanbul, the privately-owned news agency Dogan said. They are suspected of providing financial support to fighters in "conflict zones", with the authorities opening deportation proceedings against them, it said. Earlier this month, Dogan said nearly 800 alleged Daesh members had illegally crossed into Turkey from Syria, though it did not say over what period. Police detained 634 Daesh suspects last month, according to interior ministry figures. Over the past two years, Turkey has suffered a series of attacks blamed on Daesh, one of which targeted a popular Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations, leaving 39 people dead. Daesh gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov, who was born in Uzbekistan and confessed to the attack, will go on trial this month. There are concerns that those foreigners who have fought in Syria or Iraq will pose security risks on their return home as Daesh loses significant territory in the two countries. At least 5,600 people, residents of 33 countries, have returned home, the Soufan Centre, a nonprofit security analysis group, said in October. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday claimed Turkey had stopped a total of 50,000 "foreign fighters" although he did not say over what period. This figure is believed to include those who have been blocked at Turkish airports. He also said Turkey had caught 5,000 Daesh suspects.
  5. Justin Bieber/File photo Getty Images LONDON: A British teenager was found guilty on Monday of planning to drive a car into a crowd in the Welsh capital Cardiff, with a Justin Bieber concert and a shopping center among the list of possible targets for his Daesh-inspired attack. The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wrote a letter in which he said he was ?a soldier of [Daesh]?. Police found the letter in a rucksack in his bedroom which also contained a large knife and a hammer. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he was planning an attack of a similar type to one near Britain?s parliament in March, where a man in a van drove into pedestrians on London?s Westminster Bridge before stabbing a policeman. ?This teenager?s behavior over many months leaves no doubt that he intended to kill and maim as many people as possible in an attack reminiscent of the incident on Westminster Bridge,? said Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter terrorism division at the CPS. ?He was also posting extremist content online that could have encouraged others to commit terrorist acts and downloading instructions on how to carry out ?lone wolf? attacks.? The Westminster attack was one of five major attacks this year that British authorities are treating as terrorism incidents. Five people including the policeman and the attacker, Khalid Masood, died in the Westminster incident. The CPS said the Welsh schoolboy had posted Daesh propaganda on his Instagram account, and his Instagram password was ?Truck Attack?. He researched possible targets including Cardiff Castle, a theater, a library and a shopping center, as well as the Bieber gig, which took place in June. The teenager admitted that he owned the knife and hammer and had written the letter, but denied intending to harm anyone. He will be sentenced in January.
  6. BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces said Friday that Daesh fighters are withdrawing deep into the desert to escape an offensive aimed at a final defeat of the militants. Daesh has already been driven out of all of the towns it once held, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he will not proclaim victory until the militants have been cleared from the western desert bordering Syria. The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary force said its fighters had taken control of 77 villages and hamlets since the launch of the offensive on Thursday morning. It said five militants had been killed south of the ancient desert city of Hatra, but otherwise Daesh had put up little resistance. The Hashed said that its fighters overran an airfield in the same area, where they discovered underground warehouses used by the militants. Air support for the offensive, which also involves the army and federal police, has so far been provided exclusively by the Iraqi air force. The US-led coalition, which has provided air support for other offensives against Daesh in Iraq, said it carried out no strikes on Thursday. "We will provide strikes if we know that there is an ISIS (IS) cell, or tunnels, or something there," coalition spokesman US Colonel Ryan Dillon told AFP. "If the requests are not coming, we won't do a strike... it's supply and demand," he said. "And when you're in such a vast wide open desert area... there's less of a requirement for precision-guided missiles," unlike in urban areas. At its peak in 2014, Daesh ruled over seven million people in a territory as large as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq. It is now being flushed out of its last desert hideouts in Iraq and under attack by Russian-backed government forces and US-backed Kurdish-led fighters in its last pockets of control in Syria.
  7. BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Monday he was prepared to pull his forces from Iraq, after Daesh lost control over its last urban stronghold in the country. In a televised address on Monday evening, Nasrallah said the Lebanese movement had deployed "large numbers of our commanders and cadres" to Iraq to fight Daesh. "We consider that the mission has been accomplished, but we are waiting for the final, Iraqi announcement of victory," he said. Once that official declaration came, Hezbollah would reassess its presence in Iraq and may pull its members out. "If we find that it's over, that there is no need for the presence of these brothers, they will return to be deployed in any other arena that needs them," Nasrallah said. Hezbollah mostly deployed experienced commanders as advisers and trainers to work alongside the Hashed al-Shaabi. Iraqi forces on November 17 announced they had retaken Rawa, the last town to have been held by Daesh group in Iraq, capping three years of anti-jihadist military operations. The latest efforts against Daesh have been spearheaded by Iraqi special forces and other regular troops but the Hashed, which counts tens of thousands of fighters, has been a key component of the bruising campaign. While Daesh no longer controls any urban hub in Iraq, its surviving fighters have regrouped in remote desert areas along the border with Syria and mopping up operations remain to be completed.
  8. ADEN: Daesh claimed responsibility for a car bombing that security sources said killed 10 people, including civilians, at a security post in Yemen's government bastion of Aden on Tuesday. The militant group claimed the attack in the southern port city via the encrypted messaging app Telegram, adding that a Yemeni suicide bomber had detonated the vehicle. Aden's security chief told AFP: "Eight members of the security forces and two civilians were killed in a car bombing in the central district of Abdul Aziz." "There are a large number of wounded, some of them in serious condition," Brigadier Shalal Shaya said, attributing the blast to a car bomb. Witnesses earlier told AFP they heard a loud explosion followed by gunfire at the main office of UAE-trained security forces in charge of guarding state-owned facilities. The Zayed bin Sultan mosque, which is located near the security office and funded by the United Arab Emirates, was also damaged in the attack. The United Arab Emirates, which has trained government forces in southern Yemen, is a key member of a Saudi-led military coalition. The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 with the aim of rolling back gains made by Houthi rebels and restoring the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power. But the mission has expanded to include operations against militant groups, both Daesh and Al-Qaeda, which have used the chaos of the war to gain footholds in government-held southern Yemen. Daesh also claimed a major attack in Aden on November 5 that killed 35 people, sparking a hostage crisis in a city that had seen a period of relative calm in the war-torn country. The Yemen war has killed more than 8,650 people, the majority civilians, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
  9. BEIRUT: The Daesh group fully recaptured the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal on Saturday, a monitor said, after a tough fightback for its last urban bastion against pro-regime forces. "Daesh fully recaptured Albu Kamal, and regime forces and allied militia are now between one to two kilometres from the city limits," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The recapture came after ambushes, car bombs and bomb attacks," said Abdel Rahman. Albu Kamal lies on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq and had been the last significant urban centre under Daesh control in Syria. After weeks of advancing on the town, regime forces and allied militia overran it on Thursday but have since faced a string of Daesh counter-attacks. The Britain-based Observatory had earlier reported that Daesh had recaptured most of Albu Kamal, pushing pro-regime forces to its southern and eastern edges. "It was Daesh´s biggest ambush operation, tricking the attacking forces into thinking they had controlled the city," Abdel Rahman said, using the Arabic acronym for Daesh. Albu Kamal lies at the heart of what used to be the sprawling "caliphate" that Daesh declared in 2014 across swathes of Iraq and Syria. Losing it completely would have capped the group´s reversion to an underground guerrilla organisation with no urban base.
  10. HAWIJA: Mass graves containing at least 400 suspected Daesh group victims have been found near Hawija in northern Iraq, the regional governor said Saturday. The string of grisly discoveries was made at a military base around three kilometres (two miles) from the city that the militants "turned into an execution ground", Kirkuk governor Rakan Said said. "Not less than 400 people were executed," he said, adding that some were clad in the uniform of prisoners condemned to death while others wore civilian clothing. Daesh was forced out of Hawija -- 240 kilometres north of Baghdad -- by Iraqi forces in October in a sweeping offensive that has seen the group lose the vast bulk of territory it seized in 2014. As government troops have advanced across Iraq they have uncovered dozens of mass graves holding hundreds of bodies in areas that fell under the militant's brutal rule. The burial pits near Hawija were discovered "thanks to witness accounts from local residents" given to the Iraqi military, General Mortada al-Luwaibi said. Saad Abbas, a farmer from the area, told AFP that during the three years of Daesh control the group´s fighters could be seen "driving around in cars with their prisoners". "They would shoot them and then throw them to the ground or burn their bodies," Abbas said.
  11. Former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. Photo: File KABUL: Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, has accused United States of working with Daesh in his country. In an interview with Al Jazeera TV, Karzai said the US government had allowed Daesh to flourish inside Afghanistan. "In my view under the full presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh [ISIL] has emerged," he said. "And for two years the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done." According to Karzai, the US administration under President Donald Trump made Daesh an excuse to drop a massive bomb in Afghanistan on April 2017. But, Karzai said, the very next day Daesh took over another district of Afghanistan. "That proves to us that there is a hand in it and that hand can be no one else but them [the US] in Afghanistan." GBU-43, the largest non-nuclear bomb, the US used in combat was dropped in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 36 Daesh fighters and destroying tunnel complex of the armed group. The US Central Command said the strike was designed to minimise the risk to Afghan and US forces conducting clearing operations in the area. The explosive also known as the mother of all bombs was equal to 11 tonnes of TNT (trinitrotoluene) with a blast radius of 1.6 kilometres. Witnesses said they felt the ground shake after the explosion while others described towering flames in the aftermath. At that time, Karzai also condemned the attack calling it an inhumane act and most brutal misuse of Afghanistan as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons .
  12. ISTANBUL: Turkish police have detained 165 people over suspected links to Daesh in Ankara and have arrest warrants for a total of 245 suspects in the capital and surrounding province, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Thursday. It said 1,500 police officers took part in the operation across Ankara province, raiding 250 addresses. No further details were immediately available. Private broadcaster CNNTurk said police in the northwestern city of Bursa also detained 27 suspects including some Syrian nationals over alleged links to Daesh. They confiscated documents and materials linked to the organisation during raids at the addresses of some suspects, it said.
  13. DAMASCUS: Syrian troops and allied militiamen on Thursday expelled Daesh fighters from Albu Kamal, the last significant town the militants still held in their disintegrating "caliphate". The militants' latest rout left them with only the dregs of a self-styled "state" that once spanned huge territory in Iraq and Syria, with surviving Daesh fighters melting away into desert hideouts. Anti-Daesh forces stormed into the town just across the border from Iraq on Wednesday and while fighting was initially reported as fierce, the outcome of one of Daesh's last major battles was never in doubt. "Our armed forces units, in cooperation with allied and auxiliary forces, have liberated the town of Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province," a statement carried by the official SANA news agency said. "Albu Kamal's liberation is very important because it means the failure of the IS terrorist group in the region," the army statement said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said much of the fighting had been done by allied militias rather than the regular army. The capture of Albu Kamal was the last in a string of setbacks that saw Daesh lose its urban bastions of Mosul and Raqqa within a few weeks and its embryonic state shrink to a rump. Leading the battle for the town were Hezbollah fighters and advisers, as well as fighters from militias, according to Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. He said that even as Daesh still controlled half of the town and fighting raged earlier Thursday, the militants retained one escape route to the north. Abdel Rahman confirmed that Albu Kamal had been fully retaken but said that "IS withdrew to desert areas in eastern Deir Ezzor" province, where they are likely to encounter US-backed Kurdish-led fighters. Thousands displaced The militants' flight from the town, where Daesh leaders used to meet and were once considered untouchable, caps a process which has seen the group relinquish any ambition as a land-holding force and return to the desert to fight a clandestine guerrilla war. Many of the group's top leaders have been killed as Syrian and Iraqi forces with backing from Russia, Iran and a US-led coalition rolled back the territorial losses that saw the militants declare a "caliphate" roughly the size of Britain in 2014. But the whereabouts of the first among them, self-proclaimed "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains unclear. He has been reported killed or wounded many times but Daesh has never offered ay confirmation. The capture of the group's last urban stronghold had always looked to be a matter of days after Syrian forces last week retook provincial capital Deir Ezzor and Iraqi forces reconquered Albu Kamal's twin town of Al-Qaim just over the border. There was little to slow the advance of the Syrian and its allies after their victories further up the Euphrates valley, but while the military phase of the fight against Daesh was nearing its end, the humanitarian crisis it sparked was still in full swing. "In the last few weeks, an estimated 120,000 people were displaced from Albu Kamal," the United Nations' humanitarian affairs office in Damascus said. Daesh still has a small presence in the east of Homs province, in the southern outskirts of Damascus and in the southern province of Daraa. It also holds the small Iraqi town of Rawa down the Euphrates valley from Al-Qaim. A rival militant alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls much of the northwestern province of Idlib and adjacent areas as well as pockets of territory elsewhere. It has come under attack by Russian-backed government forces and by Turkish-backed rebels.
  14. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (L) talks to US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis (C) and Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson (R) as they pose for a family photo during a NATO defence ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, November 8, 2017. AFP/John Thys BRUSSELS: With Daesh crumbling in Iraq and Syria, North Korea defiant over its nuclear ambitions, and Russia looming large, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis faced a host of pressing issues as he began talks with NATO allies on Wednesday. NATO defence ministers are meeting over two days at the alliance's Brussels headquarters as US President Donald Trump arrived in Beijing to press key player China to do more to get Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes. The North Korean nuclear crisis will be the focus of a working dinner on Wednesday, where ministers will be joined by the EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini. Tensions have soared since Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test ? its most powerful to date ? and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the crisis demanded a united international effort. "All NATO allies agree that we have to put strong pressure on North Korea because North Korea is responsible for reckless behaviour, irresponsible behaviour developing nuclear weapons and by developing missiles," Stoltenberg said. "We have to put pressure on North Korea to reach a peaceful negotiated solution. Pressure is the path to peace." What follows Daesh? Wednesday's talks were also to look at efforts to revamp NATO's command structure to help it better combat the rising threat from Russia. Mattis will hold a separate meeting on Thursday with partners from the coalition fighting Daesh in the Middle East, where the extremists continue to lose territory. As he flew to Europe, Mattis told reporters that coalition partners are looking to the United States for a clear plan about what follows the physical defeat of Daesh. "Maybe three-quarters of the questions I am getting asked now is (about) going forward. [] They are now saying: 'What's next? How is it looking?'" Mattis said. Following back-to-back losses, including of their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds of Raqa and Mosul, Daesh fighters are down to defending their last holdouts along the Euphrates River valley. America's military involvement in Syria has until now been focused solely on fighting Daesh, but with the extremists on the ropes, Washington must articulate its longer-term interests and what role, if any, US forces will play in Syria. A French source said allies were keen to hear what Mattis had to say about the role of Iran ? a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ? following Trump's tough rhetoric against Tehran. "We are wondering how the speeches by top US officials on the need to push back the Iranian presence in the region is going to manifest itself in real terms in the military strategy," the source said. Mattis supports a UN-backed effort in Geneva, which has run in parallel to a Russian and Iranian-led process, to reach a diplomatic solution. Afghanistan and beyond NATO has been in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in late 2001 to dislodge the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Despite a 16-year war and hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in Afghan institutions and security forces, the country remains beset by corruption and an ongoing security crisis that is killing thousands of local soldiers and civilians each year. NATO will boost its training mission to the local soldiers from around 13,000 troops to around 16,000, Stoltenberg said Tuesday. According to diplomatic sources, the US would contribute around 2,800 troops, while other NATO allies and partner countries would supply around 700 more. Mattis arrived in Brussels from Helsinki, where he attended a forum called the Northern Group, a little-known meeting of northern European nations focusing on the continent's military and security challenges, particularly from Russia. Moscow frequently sends warplanes into the skies around the Baltics, and Europe remains anxious about Russia's military intentions, especially after the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The threat of Russian cyber attacks will also be high on the agenda, with ministers set to agree on ways to integrate the new form of warfare into NATO planning and operations.
  15. NEW YORK: Daesh has claimed responsibility for a truck attack this week that killed eight people in the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001. The militant group on Thursday described accused attacker Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as ?one of the caliphate soldiers? in a weekly issue of its Al-Naba newspaper. The Uzbek immigrant was charged in federal court on Wednesday with acting in support of Daesh by ploughing a rented pickup truck down a popular riverside bike trail, crushing pedestrians and cyclists and injuring a dozen people in addition to those killed. According to the criminal complaint against him, Saipov told investigators he was inspired by watching Daesh propaganda videos on his cellphone, felt good about what he had done, and asked for permission to display the group?s flag in his hospital room in New York. Saipov was taken to Bellevue after being shot in the abdomen by a police officer before his arrest. U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called for Saipov to receive the death penalty, said on Twitter on Friday that Daesh had claimed as their soldier the ?Degenerate Animal? who killed and wounded ?the wonderful people on the West Side? of Lower Manhattan. ?Based on that, the Military has hit ISIS ?much harder? over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us!? Trump tweeted. In the Middle Eas,t Daesh?s self-proclaimed caliphate looked to be on the verge of defeat on Friday, with Syrian government forces seizing its last major city on one side of the border and Iraqi troops taking its last big town on the other. The group?s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is believed to be hiding in the desert near the frontier, and regional officials fear it will reconstitute itself as a guerrilla force, capable of waging attacks without territory to defend. Saipov?s sister believes he may have been brainwashed, and she appealed to Trump on Friday to ensure he gets a fair trial. Speaking by phone from the Uzbek capital Tashkent, she told Reuters she hoped Trump would help make sure her brother was given ?more time? and ?a fair trial.? In a separate interview with Radio Free Europe, she said she spoke with her brother the day before the attack and he was in a good mood. ?It was a usual, good conversation,? she said. Five Argentine tourists, a Belgian woman, a New Yorker and a New Jersey man were killed in Tuesday afternoon?s attack. The attack unfolded just blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, where some 2,600 people were killed when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the Twin Towers 16 years ago. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said it has located another Uzbek man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, who it said was wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the attack.
  16. Iraqi forces and members of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units) advance towards the city of al-Qaim. -AFP DEIR EZZOR: Daesh on Friday lost control of the last two major towns under its grip in Syria and Iraq, as Syrian troops and Iraqi security forces advanced in the Euphrates Valley border region. The simultaneous assaults on Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria and Al-Qaim in western Iraq dealt fresh blows to Daesh in its former heartland, leaving Abu Kamal, on the Syrian side of the border, the last town of note under its control. The militant group that once laid claim to a self-styled "caliphate" spanning swathes of Syria and Iraq has seen its proto-state crumble in recent months under the pressure of multiple offensives. In October, it lost its one-time de facto Syrian capital Raqqa after an assault of more than four months waged by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab alliance. On Friday, Syria's army announced that its Russian-backed assault had recaptured all of Deir Ezzor city, in the oil-rich east of the country, while Iraqi forces captured the Husaybah border post and the nearby town of Al-Qaim. "The army forces... restored security and stability to all of Deir Ezzor city," a spokesman for the Syrian army command said in a statement broadcast live on state television. "Deir Ezzor represents the final phase in the complete elimination of Daesh," the statement added, using the Arabic acronym for the group. The city "was the headquarters of the organisation's leadership, and in losing it, they lose their capacity to direct terrorist operations", it added. State television said engineering units from the army were combing captured neighbourhoods to clear mines and other explosives. Syrian forces entered Deir Ezzor city in September, breaking a Daesh siege of nearly three years on government-held parts of the provincial capital. A reporter contributing to AFP inside the city on Thursday saw entire floors of buildings that had crashed into those beneath, while on others, facades were completely blown away to reveal empty, destroyed interiors. Trenches dug by Daesh fighters were still visible, as were army minesweepers working to locate and defuse explosives laid by the militants. Iraqi forces take Al-Qaim Before Syria's war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, around 300,000 people lived in the city, the capital of Deir Ezzor province along Syria's eastern border with Iraq. But in 2014, Daesh militants seized the city and much of the surrounding province, including vital oil and gas fields that once served as a key source of revenue for the extremists. Iraqi forces and members of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation units) advance towards the city of al-Qaim. -AFP Daesh has now been driven from most of its strongholds in Deir Ezzor, but it still controls more than 35 percent of the province, much of it empty desert. Its last major position is the town of Abu Kamal, though it also holds a string of smaller towns and villages and at least one oilfield, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor. Daesh, which at its peak controlled territory roughly the size of Britain, has suffered a string of losses in recent months in both Syria and Iraq. On October 17, it lost the city of Raqqa to the US-backed SDF, a highly symbolic blow that illustrated how its "caliphate" has disintegrated. In Deir Ezzor province, it is under attack from both regime and SDF forces, while across the border in Iraq it had retained a foothold in just a single town, Al-Qaim, after losing its stronghold of Mosul in July and the town of Hawija in October. Iraqi forces captured Al-Qaim on Friday, within hours of seizing an important border crossing nearby, military commanders said. Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Abadi hailed what he called "the liberation of Al-Qaim in record time". Iraq's Joint Operations Command said earlier that troops had "regained full control" of the Husaybah border post on the edge of Al-Qaim. The Britain-based Observatory said several trucks with dozens of Daesh fighters fleeing from Al-Qaim crossed the border and sought refuge in Abu Kamal. Government forces launched the operation last week to seize Al-Qaim and its surroundings, a barren pocket of desert along the Euphrates near the Syrian border. The militants have been squeezed into nearby Rawa and surrounding desert areas of the two towns in Iraq's vast Anbar province. The US-led coalition has said around 1,500 Daesh fighters are left in the area, which it expects to be the scene of the "last big fight" against the group in Iraq. On the other side of the border, Syrian regime forces are still around 30 kilometres from Abu Kamal. Their advance on Abu Kamal is being supported by Russian air power.
  17. ROME: Italian police have seized 50 million euros worth of tablets of a synthetic opiate destined to be sold by Daesh in Libya to raise funds for attacks, a court said Friday. Financial police discovered over 24 million Tramadol tablets, en route from India to Libya, at the port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy. The painkiller has been described as the "fighter drug" as it is known to be popular among militants for its ability to dull pain and suppress fatigue. The haul is estimated to be worth 50 million euros and was found following a police crackdown sparked by the discovery of a similar shipment in Genoa in May. Investigators believe Daesh planned to sell the tablets to their foot soldiers for the equivalent of two euros a tablet. "According to the information shared with foreign investigative sources, the traffic of Tramadol is directly handled by Daesh to finance terrorist activities planned and carried out across the world," the court of Reggio Calabria said. Part of the money raised from the sales would also go "to subsidize terrorist groups and extremists operating in Libya, Syria and Iraq," it said in a statement. The court said the catch had been possible thanks in part to the DEA, the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
  18. DAMASCUS: Syrian government troops and allied fighters captured some of the last parts of Deir Ezzor city from Daesh on Thursday, state media and a monitor said. Syria's army has been battling inside the city since September, when it broke a militant siege of nearly three years on government-held parts of the provincial capital. Syrian state media said Thursday that the army and allied fighters had captured three neighbourhoods in the city, and "tightened the siege" on Daesh fighters in several remaining districts. State news agency SANA said Daesh fighters were using loudspeakers to urge remaining members of the group "not to run away from the fighting, and to kill any member who tried to escape or surrender". The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor also reported the regime advances in the city, provincial capital of surrounding Deir Ezzor, on Syria's eastern border with Iraq. The monitor said Daesh fighters held less than five percent of the city, and government forces were advancing as ally Russia carried out heavy air strikes in support of the offensive. "If the regime's forces succeed in continuing this offensive, they could bring an end to IS´s presence (in the city) in hours or days," the Observatory said. Daesh once held large sections of Deir Ezzor city, and for nearly three years laid siege to other parts of it that remained under government control. In early September, advancing government forces broke the siege, and they have been working since to expel the jihadists from the rest of the city. Oil-rich Deir Ezzor province was once an Daesh stronghold, but the militant group now faces twin assaults there, from the regime and the US-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces. The militants have already been expelled from neighbouring Raqqa province, and are now confined to just a few pockets of territory in Deir Ezzor.
  19. MOSCOW: Russia said Tuesday its submarine deployed in the Mediterranean fired three ballistic missiles to destroy a command post of Daesh group in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province. "A missile strike with three Kalibr missiles destroyed a command post with large numbers of militants and armed vehicles and also a large weapons and ammunition depot," the Russian defence ministry said in a statement posted on Facebook. It said the strikes targeted the area around the town of Abu Kamal, one of the few remaining urban strongholds of Daesh in Syria. The ministry added it could confirm "the destruction of all the given targets." It posted a video on Twitter of a missile blasting out of the sea. There have been heavy clashes between the Syrian army and Daesh group in the city of Deir Ezzor, capital of the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria. Russia said Tuesday that its Veliky Novgorod submarine has carried out four cruise missile strikes on terrorist groups since it was deployed to the Mediterranean in late August. At Russia's Syrian naval base of Tartus in the eastern Mediterranean, Russian ships have played a prominent role backing up an aerial bombing campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. The submarines are covered from Syria by Moscow's S-300 and S-400 missiles systems and its Bastion coastal defence system.
  20. BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces on Tuesday battled up to the edge of Al-Qaim, the largest town still held by Daesh in the country, as they pushed a final assault on the militants. Iraq's Joint Operations Command said government troops - backed by US air strikes and tribal fighters - captured the village of Al-Obeidi, some 20 kilometres from the Syrian border on the eastern outskirts of the town. "IS fighters resisted the advance of the troops, but the majority retreated to positions in the centre of Al-Qaim," it said in a statement. Al-Qaim and the surrounding pocket of barren desert territory along the Euphrates river is now the last remnant in the country of the self-styled caliphate Daesh declared after rampaging across Iraq and Syria in 2014. Iraq launched the offensive on the Al-Qaim region - which also includes the smaller town of Rawa - on Thursday to finish off a punishing campaign that saw it force the militants out of their major urban stronghold Mosul in July. Al-Obeidi was "one of the most important locations for IS fighters, who were there in great numbers," local tribal militia commander Qatari al-Obeidi told AFP. "They had arms caches and production lines for making explosives and preparing suicide bombers." Since the start of the offensive, last week government forces have also retaken a cement plant and phosphate processing facility, said operation commander General Abdel Amir Yarallah. As Iraq makes its final push, Daesh is also battling for survival against competing offensives backed by the US and Russia in the territory just over the porous border in Syria. Long before the rise of Daesh, Al-Qaim became renowned as a hotbed of insurgency in the wake of the US-led invasion in 2003. The roughly 150,000 people living in the Al-Qaim region - with 50,000 inside the town itself - are from a small number of influential tribes. Under Daesh, the town has been a vital supply route for its forces in Iraq and the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor it once dominated over the border in Syria.
  21. KABUL: At least 14 terrorists, affiliated with Daesh, have been killed in airstrikes in Afghanistan, Geo News reported Sunday. The airstrikes were held in Khogyani area of Afghanistan?s Nangarhar province, according to Afghan security officials. The officials confirmed that 14 terrorists were killed and many others injured in attacks on three main terrorists hideouts in the area. On October 18, it was reported that Omar Khalid Khorasani, chief of banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), was killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar chief killed in Afghanistan drone strike It was reported on Tuesday that the Umar Khalid Khurasani chief was critically injured in a drone attack The strike was conducted close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in Paktia on October 17. Khurasani, being critically injured in the attack, was moved to an undisclosed location. At least 31 people were killed in three drone strikes near the Pak-Afghan border in Afghanistan on October 16 and October 17. On October 11, as many as eight alleged Taliban militants were killed and more than 15 wounded in US drone strike carried out in Raghistan district of Afghanistan. The Taliban confirmed that a drone strike had been carried out but claimed that they suffered no casualties.
  22. Rockets being launched from Iraqi security forces´ against Kurdish Peshmerga positions in the area of Faysh Khabur. -AFP BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces Friday paused operations against the Kurds to allow for talks after clashes over a key border crossing, as Baghdad pushed on with a separate offensive against the Daesh group. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the 24-hour halt as his troops faced off with Kurdish fighters on the second day of a drive to capture the vital oil export point of Fishkhabur on the Turkish frontier. The freeze should help de-escalate fighting after the two sides - both armed and trained by the US - exchanged heavy artillery fire in the latest flare-up of a crisis sparked by a Kurdish independence vote last month. But Abadi kept the pressure on the Kurds by saying that the day-long pause was aimed at allowing a joint committee involving officials from Baghdad and the autonomous region "to work on deploying federal forces in all of the disputed zones". Iraqi forces on Thursday mounted a new assault on Kurdish fighters in the strategic Zummar area of Nineveh province, tightening the screws after seizing swathes of territory in a lightning advance since mid-October. After claiming the capture of several villages, the fighting died down earlier Friday as a government source told AFP that Baghdad had given the Kurds an ultimatum to withdraw from the area around Fishkhabur "within several hours". To the south, an AFP photographer reported that Iraqi troops had meanwhile retaken the Rabia border post with Syria from the Kurds. The Kurds insist they have managed to repulse the latest Iraqi advances and have given no indication of being willing to abandon crucial Fishkabur, where rival pipelines belonging to both sides cross into Turkey. There have been fears the bitter dispute between the Baghdad government and Iraqi Kurdish leaders would hamper the battle against Daesh, with the UN calling for talks on Thursday. A Kurdish official said the US-led coalition that has backed both the Kurds and the Iraqi forces in the fight against the militants had pushed them towards negotiations. The bloodless advance by Iraqi forces has seen them reclaim the entire oil-rich province of Kirkuk, stripping the Kurds of a major chunk of their oil revenues and dealing a crippling blow to their hopes of independence. The latest push on Fishkhabur risked taking them into territory inside the three core provinces that make up the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The area where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Syria converge is also a key economic hub for US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, with Iraq alleging it is used to smuggle out fuel. Baghdad insists it has the right under Iraq´s constitution to control the border and aims to revive a defunct pipeline that runs from the oilfields of Kirkuk to the area of the border crossing to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Clashes with Daesh Despite diverting forces for the push against the Kurds, Baghdad nonetheless on Thursday began an offensive to retake the "last den" of Daesh militants in the country around the town of Al-Qaim in the Euphrates valley on the border with Syria. An Iraqi general told AFP that troops backed by local Sunni militiamen bombarded Daesh with missiles and mortar fire south of the town on Friday as they tried to press early gains. Several officers reported that three fighters from Baghdad's Hashed al-Shaabi irregular force were killed while claiming that some 20 militants also died. The army released a photograph of a burnt-out vehicle in the barren desert landscape and said that its servicemen had managed to destroy a car suicide bomb before it reached their lines. Iraqi forces backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition have recaptured 95 per cent of the territory Daesh seized in the country in 2014, dismantling their self-styled caliphate. Al-Qaim has been renowned as a hotbed of militant insurgency ever since the 2003 US-led invasion. Coalition commanders have dubbed the latest operation "the last big fight" in the campaign against Daesh. The militants are also battling for survival in adjoining territory they hold in Syria, where competing offensives backed by Russia and the US are looking to drive them back.
  23. ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said that half of Afghanistan is under Daesh control. Asif said nearly 45 per cent of Afghanistan?s territory was under control of Daesh, adding that the terrorists would not need Pakistan for their hideouts. The foreign minister was referring to allegations levelled against Pakistan regarding harbouring terrorists. Afghanistan?s role as a facilitator for India is not acceptable to Pakistan, added the foreign minister while addressing the Senate. However, he said, Pakistan has managed to restore peace in its territory to a great extent and that number of drone strikes has come down as compared to previous years. ?We have fought away the elements that were the cause of drone strikes in Pakistan.? During his speech, Asif said Pakistan is not a super power, but is a nation that has sacrificed its people during the fight against terrorism. He added Pakistan had agreed on reconciliation in the past but it was to no avail. ?We would be sent a list [of terrorists],? he said. ?We have made the arrests [asked from us] and sent over.? Pakistan will continue its fight against terrorism, he said, but will not serve as anyone?s proxy.
  24. BEIRUT: Daesh has executed dozens of civilians this month in the Syrian desert, a monitor said Monday, in a gruesome massacre as the militants see their "caliphate" collapse. The extremist group last week lost its key Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the latest in a string of setbacks for the militants who are facing multiple offensives in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said Daesh fighters massacred more than 100 people in the desert town of Al-Qaryatain this month before they lost it to regime forces. "IS has over a period of 20 days executed at least 116 civilians in reprisal killings, accusing them of collaboration with regime forces," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Syrian forces retook Al-Qaryatain, which lies in the central Homs province, on Saturday, three weeks after the militants seized control of it. Daesh first occupied the town in 2015 and lost it to Russian-backed Syria forces last year. "After the regime retook it (on Saturday), the town´s residents found the bodies on the streets. They had been shot dead or executed with knives," Abdel Rahman said. "Most of the IS fighters who attacked the town a month ago were sleeper cells... They are from the town, know the town's residents and who is for or against the regime," he said. The majority of those killed were executed in the last two days before Daesh lost the town again, he added. The regime seized back Al-Qaryatain on Saturday after more than 200 militants withdrew from the town overnight, pulling back into the vast desert region that stretches all the way to the Iraqi border. Al-Qaryatain was a symbol of religious coexistence before the civil war broke out in 2011, with some 900 Christians among its population of 30,000. But it was ravaged by Daesh during the group's eight-month-long occupation of the town in 2015-16, with its Christian sites including a fifth-century church reduced to rubble. Daesh decline At the peak of its power in 2014, Daesh's self-styled "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq was approximately the size of Britain. But it has suffered a string of major setbacks in recent months, including the loss in July of its most important Iraqi stronghold, the city of Mosul. Last week, it also lost its most important Syrian bastion, the city of Raqqa, after a campaign of more than four months led by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia. The militant group is now mostly confined to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor in the country's east, along the border with Iraq. Daesh holds around 40 per cent of the province, which was once almost completely in its hands, and faces two separate offensives, including by the SDF. The US-backed militia is fighting the group mostly on the eastern side of the Euphrates River that slices diagonally across the province. On Sunday, SDF fighters seized one of the country's largest oilfields from the group. Syria's regime is conducting a separate, Russian-backed offensive in the province, largely on the western bank of the river. In September, the offensive ended a Daesh siege of nearly three years on government-held parts of the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city. The group now holds just eight percent of the city, according to the Observatory. Elsewhere in the country, Daesh holds just a few pockets of territory, including a handful of recently recaptured villages in central Hama province, and parts of the Palestinian Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus. An allied group, Jaish Khaled Bin Walid, is also present in parts of southern Syria.
  25. Philippine military airstrikes aimed at militants battling soldiers in a southern city instead killed 10 troops and injured seven others (AFP Photo) CLARK, PHILIPPINES: A five-month battle against Daesh supporters in the southern Philippines that claimed more than 1,000 lives has ended, the nation´s defence secretary said on Monday. "We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi," Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Clark, a northern Philippine city. Lorenzana said there were no more militants, known locally as coming from the Maute group, providing resistance following an intense final battle after which 42 bodies were recovered. "Those are the last group of stragglers of Mautes and they were caught in one building and so there was a firefight so they were finished," he said "All terrorists, fighting troops. All hostages have been recovered." Hundreds of gunmen who had pledged allegiance to Daesh rampaged through Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23, then took over parts of the city using civilians as human shields. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and security analysts said the militants were trying to establish a Southeast Asian caliphate in Marawi. The ensuing US-backed military campaign to evict the militants claimed more than 1,000 lives, displaced 400,000 residents and left large parts of Marawi in ruins. Duterte travelled to Marawi on Tuesday last week and declared the city had been "liberated", shortly after the Southeast Asian leader for Daesh, a Filipino militant named Isnilon Hapilon, was shot dead there. However the continued fighting raised questions over whether the city was indeed free of the militants. US Defence Secretary James Mattis on Monday praised the Philippines for its success in Marawi. "One of the first things I´m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists," Mattis told reporters on board a flight to the Philippines to attend the security meeting in Clark. "It was a very tough fight as you know in southern Mindanao (the local region). And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists." Hapilon, who was on the US government´s list of most-wanted terrorists, was killed along with one of group´s other leaders, Omarkhayam Maute, according to the military. Hapilon and Maute, along with hundreds of other militants, had been able to defy near daily bombing raids that left much of the city in ruins by sheltering in basements and travelling through tunnels, according to the military. The impoverished southern Philippines, home to many of the nation´s Muslim minority, has for decades endured conflict. The nation´s biggest Muslim rebel group is in talks with the government to end a rebellion that began in the 1970s and has claimed more than 120,00 lives. But more extreme groups have emerged have emerged with no interest in forging a peace. Some of those, including those led by Hapilon and Maute, had in recent years declared allegiance to Daesh.