Tag Archives: Islamic State

Russian troops join combat in Syria

Russian forces have begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of government troops, three Lebanese sources familiar with the political and military situation there said on Wednesday.

The sources, speaking to Reuters on condition they not be identified, gave the most forthright account yet from the region of what the United States fears is a deepening Russian military role in Syria’s civil war, though one of the Lebanese sources said the number of Russians involved so far was small.

U.S. officials said Russia sent two tank landing ships and additional cargo aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and deployed a small number of naval infantry forces.

The U.S. officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intent of Russia’s military moves in Syria was unclear. One suggested the focus may be on preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that Russia may want to use the airfield for air combat missions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Russian counterpart for the second time in four days to express concern over reports of Russian military activities in Syria, warning that it could fan more violence.

The White House said it was closely monitoring the situation.

Russia says the Syrian government must be incorporated into a shared global fight against Islamic State, the Islamist group that has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. The United States and Assad’s regional foes see him as part of the problem.

“We would welcome constructive Russian contributions to the counter-ISIL effort, but we’ve been clear that it would be unconscionable for any party, including the Russians, to provide any support to the Assad regime,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, using an acronym for Islamic State.


Assad’s forces have faced big setbacks on the battlefield in a four-year-old multi-sided civil war that has killed 250,000 people and driven half of Syria’s 23 million people from their homes.

Syrian troops pulled out of a major air base last Wednesday, and a monitoring group said this meant government soldiers were no longer present at all in Idlib province, most of which slipped from government control earlier this year.

Moscow confirmed it had “experts” on the ground in Syria, its long-time ally in the Middle East.
But Russia has declined to comment on the scale and scope of its military presence. Damascus denied Russians were involved in combat, but a Syrian official said the presence of experts had increased in the past year.

Reflecting Western concern, Germany’s foreign minister warned Russia against increased military intervention, saying the Iran nuclear deal and new U.N. initiatives offered a starting point for a political solution to the conflict.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said reports of growing Russian military activity in Syria were a cause for concern, while France said it made finding a political solution to the crisis more complicated.

Two of the Lebanese sources said the Russians were establishing two bases in Syria, one near the coast and one further inland which would be an operations base.

“The Russians are no longer just advisors,” one of the sources said. “The Russians have decided to join the war against terrorism.”


Moscow’s only naval base in the Mediterranean is at Tartous on the Syrian coast in territory held by Assad, and keeping it secure would be an important strategic objective for the Kremlin.

Another of the Lebanese sources said that so far any Russian combat role was still small: “They have started in small numbers, but the bigger force did not yet take part … There are numbers of Russians taking part in Syria but they did not yet join the fight against terrorism strongly.”

The Syrian official said: “Russian experts are always present but in the last year they have been present to a greater degree.”

Officials in the United States, which is fighting an air war against the Islamist militant group Islamic State in Syria and also opposes Assad’s government, have said in recent days that they suspect Russia is reinforcing to aid Assad.

Washington has put pressure on countries nearby to deny their air space to Russian flights, a move Moscow denounced on Wednesday as “international boorishness”.

Russia has set out the case for supporting Assad in the most forthright terms yet in the past few days, likening the Western approach to Syria to failures in Iraq and Libya.

Part of the diplomatic quarrel has centred around use of air space for flights, which Moscow says bring humanitarian aid but U.S. officials say may be bringing military supplies.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Wednesday that multiple Russian flights have passed over the airspace of Iran and Iraq to reach Syria.


The State Department said Russian use of Iranian airspace would not be surprising, given Tehran’s past support for Assad.

Spokesman John Kirby said the United States had advised “partners and our friends to ask the Russians tough questions about” overflight requests. He did not elaborate, saying only: “I’m not gonna detail diplomatic conversations.”

To avoid flying over Turkey, one of Assad’s main enemies, Russia has sought to fly planes over Balkan states, but Washington has urged them to deny Moscow permission.

On Tuesday, Bulgaria refused a Russian request to use its airspace citing doubts about the cargo on board. It said on Wednesday it would allow Russian supply flights to Syria to use its airspace only if Moscow agreed to checks of their cargo at a Bulgarian airport.

Turkey has not officially confirmed a ban on Russian flights to Syria but says it considers any requests to fly over its air space to Syria on a case by case basis.

Thus far in the war, Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have been Assad’s main sources of military support. The momentum turned against Assad earlier this year.

In the latest setback, state television reported government troops had surrendered an air base in northwestern Syria to a rebel alliance after nearly two years under siege.

This meant the last government troops had withdrawn from central Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict.

What a year of Islamic State terror looks like

The Islamic State has grown beyond its original home in Syria and Iraq, extending its operations into other parts of the Middle East and North Africa by establishing alliances and absorbing other terrorist groups. Data from IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center reveals how the group has claimed responsibility for carrying out attacks across the region. The map below reflects a year of Islamic State attacks following the capture of Mosul, one of Iraq’s most important cities. Since then, the militant group has carried out many attacks including a suicide bombing in Abha, Saudi Arabia, a beheading in Egypt, and most recently, a blast in Baghdad Thursday that left at least 60 dead.
Attacks linked to the Islamic State, from June 29, 2014, to June 20, 2015

The size of circles corresponds to the number of noncombatant casualties in attacks. Data for attacks by Boko Haram is unavailable.

Injuries and deaths
Injuries, no deaths
No noncombatant injuries or deaths
Wilayat (provinces)
Oct. 11, 2014
Show all
Islamic StateIslamic State
Gharb al-AfriqiyaGharb al-Afriqiya
Note: Attacks in Paris and Garland, Tex., are not shown on the map because they are considered to be inspired by — but not carried out by — the Islamic State.
How the Islamic State’s footprint grew, month by month
The majority of attacks carried out by the Islamic State have occurred in Syria and Iraq, where the group’s campaign began. The militants’ territory there is divided into 20 wilayat, or provinces, which form the core of its operational presence. Groups in other countries frequently pledge allegiance to the Islamic State but are not always accepted. In some cases, the Islamic State leadership formally declares some of these regions as part of its caliphate.

JULY 2014
210 attacks

300 attacks

214 attacks

253 attacks

294 attacks

278 attacks
In November, the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the establishment of eight new wilayat in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. It was the first time the Islamic State formally had claimed territory outside Syria and Iraq after the group was formed in February 2014. Of the eight new provinces, only the three in Libya successfully control territory.

285 attacks

229 attacks

265 attacks

285 attacks

290 attacks

184 attacks
In January, the Islamic State formed a new wilayah straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, an area that historically has been the core of al-Qaeda’s operations. This is seen as a further sign that the Islamic State is challenging al-Qaeda after previously declaring a wilayah in Yemen, home to al-Qaeda’s most active wing. In addition, the Islamic State announced a new wilayah in Russia’s North Caucasus region, splintering the territory of an al-Qaeda group that has operated in the region since 2007. Perhaps the most notable inclusion in the caliphate is Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the group in March. This gives the Islamic State a chance to maintain a presence across a wide arc of North and West Africa, and increases the chances of groups in the Islamic State’s North African wilayat collaborating with Boko Haram, according to Matthew Henman, manager of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center. “There are already reports of Boko Haram militants having fought alongside local Islamic State militants in Derna recently,” he said, referring to the city in Libya.
Notable attacks outside Syria and Iraq
After its separation from al-Qaeda in early 2014, the Islamic State focused on expanding its territory only in Syria and Iraq. The group caught the world’s attention when it took over Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities, more than five months after it split with al-Qaeda. In November, the Islamic State started claiming responsibility for attacks outside Syria and Iraq. The first of many high-profile attacks it carried out or claimed to have inspired outside its region came in January 2015, when gunmen attacked tourists in Tunisia. Since then, attacks claimed by the Islamic State have increased rapidly.

AUG. 8, 2015
Abha, Saudi Arabia. 15 killed

A 21-year-old suicide bomber carried out the attack at a mosque. An audio recording from the Islamic State just before the bombing said that Saudi Arabia would not “enjoy peace” due to its involvement with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. Read more.
JUNE 26, 2015
Kuwait City, Kuwait. 27 killed

A suicide bomber from Islamic State affiliate Najd Province killed 27 people and wounded dozens more in the first terrorist attack in Kuwait in more than 20 years. The victims had just finished prayers at a mosque in a residential neighborhood when the bomber entered and detonated his device. Read more.
JUNE 26, 2015
Sousse, Tunisia. 38 killed

A gunman opened fire on beachgoers at a resort frequented by Europeans in what is widely seen as a campaign to devastate Tunisia’s tourism industry. Many of the dead and injured were from Britain. Read more.
JUNE 20, 2015
Sanaa, Yemen. 2 killed

A car bomb at a mosque in Sanaa’s Old City killed two people and wounded at least six. The Islamic State said the bombing at the Qabat al-Mahdi mosque was aimed at Shiite Houthis, who seized control of Sanaa in September 2014. Read more.
JUNE 17, 2015
Sanaa, Yemen. 4 killed

Several suicide car bombings killed four people and injured dozens on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Read more.
MAY 22, 2015
Qadeeh, Saudi Arabia. 21 killed

The Islamic State’s first acknowledged attack in Saudi Arabia killed at least 21 people and wounded 123 in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the village of Qadeeh. Worshipers were celebrating the birth of a 7th-century Shiite saint. Read more.
MAY 20, 2015
Sirte, Libya. 23 killed

Islamic State fighters launched a multi-pronged attack on Libyan militias. It was unclear who fared better. The Islamic State said it seized vehicles, weapons and a military base from the militias, but the militias claimed victory and said they killed at least 23 Islamic State fighters. Read more.
MAY 5, 2015
Garland, Tex.. None

Two gunmen, including a man once suspected of seeking to join Islamist militants in Somalia, opened fire on police blocking their way to a cartoon exhibit and contest depicting the prophet Muhammad. U.S. officials suspect that the gunmen were inspired by the Islamic State rather than directed by it; still it is the first U.S. attack claimed by the group. The attack failed and only the gunmen were killed. Read more.
APRIL 18, 2015
Jalalabad, Afghanistan. 34 killed

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest outside a bank, where government workers waited in line to pick up their salaries. At least 34 people were killed and 125 injured. If the attack was carried out by the Islamic State, it would represent its farthest civilian target to date outside the Middle East and North Africa. Read more.
APRIL 13, 2015
Tripoli, Libya. 2 killed

The day before a bomb explosion damaged the Moroccan Embassy, two guards were killed in gunfire at the South Korean Embassy. The Islamic State gave no reason for the attacks. Read more.
APRIL 2, 2015
Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. 17 killed

Fifteen soldiers and two civilians died when militants simultaneously attacked five Army checkpoints across the Sinai Peninsula with grenade launchers and assault rifles. Read more.
MARCH 21, 2015
Sanaa, Yemen. 137 killed

Four suicide bombers detonated their explosives at two mosques in Sanaa, killed at least 137 people and wounded more than 300. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has carried out similar attacks in Yemen but denied the mosque bombings. Read more.
MARCH 18, 2015
Tunis. 22 killed

Two Tunisian gunmen stormed Bardo National Museum and killed a security officer and 21 tourists from countries including Italy, Spain, Britain, Japan and Colombia. Dozens more were injured. Police killed the gunmen. This was the first time the Islamic State claimed to have an operation in Tunisia. Read more.
FEB. 15, 2015
Libya. 21 killed

A video released by the Islamic State in Libya appeared to show fighters beheading Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya. Twenty of the 21 victims were identified by the Coptic Church as members who had been taken hostage in December and January in the coastal city of Sirte. Read more.
JAN. 29, 2015
Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. 27 killed

Four attacks killed at least 27 people within a few hours in the North Sinai and Suez provinces. Most of the dead were killed in the bombing of a military base and hotel in el-Arish. An Army officer died at one of two attacks at checkpoints, and a police officer was killed by a roadside bomb. Read more.
JAN. 27, 2015
Tripoli, Libya. 10 killed

Five Libyan security guards and five foreigners, including an American contractor, were killed when masked gunmen opened fire in the lobby of the Corinthia Hotel and a car bomb exploded at the gate. The Tripoli branch of the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Read more.
JAN. 7, 2015
Paris. 17 killed

Two brothers attack the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 people inside and two police officers outside. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. The next day, a man claiming to act in the name of the Islamic State killed a police officer at a traffic stop, and the day after that he shot four hostages at a kosher supermarket. The three gunmen claimed to be working together; all were killed. Read more.
JAN. 5, 2015
Arar, Saudi Arabia. 3 killed

Four militants, one wearing a suicide vest, killed three guards in an attack at Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia. It marked the first time the Islamic State directly attacked the Saudi military, and it was the closest it came to breaching the border since it declared a caliphate in June 2014.

Young Canadians head to Syria to join IS

At least six young Canadian men and women from Montreal and its suburbs travelled overseas last month to join the Islamic State group, local media reported Thursday.

Some of them, including two young women, were students at Montreal CEGEP College de Maisonneuve.

They flew to Turkey on January 16 with the aim of crossing its border into Syria, the Montreal daily La Presse said.

It is unclear if they reached their final destination.

The father of one of the young men, fearing his son’s downward spiral since taking up religious and Arabic studies, seized his passport. But his son reported it lost and obtained a replacement from authorities.

The six are aged 18 to 19 and of Mideast and North African descent.

A spokeswoman for Montreal CEGEP College de Maisonneuve confirmed that three of them had attended the high school last semester, but did not know if they knew each other.

Their departure follows the alleged radicalization of a 23-year-old Alberta woman who left her family mid-2014 to join the Islamic State group in Syria.

Western governments are increasingly concerned about a rising number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria through Turkey to join extremist groups.

US intelligence officials warned earlier this month that more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world had gone to Syria to link up with extremists.

Islamic State threatens to kill Japanese hostages in new video

Knife-brandishing jihadist with British accent demands $200 million from the Japanese government in the next 72 hours, urging the Japanese public to pressure their government to stop its ‘foolish’ support for the US-led coalition.
The video, identified as being made by the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm and posted on militant websites associated with the extremist group, mirrored other hostage threats it has made. The militant in it also directly addresses Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now on a six-day visit to the Middle East with more than 100 government officials and presidents of Japanese companies.

“To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” says the knife-brandishing militant in the video, standing in a desert area along with two kneeling men wearing orange clothing. “You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims.”
The jihadist, who resembles and sounds like a British militant involved in other filmed beheadings by the Islamic State group, said the Japanese public had 72 hours to pressure their government to stop its “foolish” support for the US-led coalition waging a military campaign against Islamic State.

“Otherwise this knife will become your nightmare,” the black-clad figure said in English. He demanded “200 million” without specifying a currency, but an Arabic subtitle identified it as US dollars.

The video shows two hostages that the militants identify as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa. Japan’s Foreign Ministry’s anti-terrorism section has seen the video and analysts are assessing it, a ministry official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules.

In a press conference in Jerusalem, Abe said the ultimatum set to his country by the Islamic State “is unforgivable and I feel strong resentment.”

He demanded the Islamic State group immediately release hostages Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.

On a visit to Cairo on Jan. 17, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged about $200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling Islamic State.

In August, a Japanese citizen believed to be Yukawa, a private military company operator in his early 40s, was kidnapped in Syria. His reason for going to Syria remains unclear. Goto is a Japanese freelance journalist who went to report on Syria’s civil war last year.

The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos. A British-accented jihadi also has appeared in the beheading videos of slain American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and with British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning
The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in other extremist propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American woman captured last year in Syria while working for aid groups. US officials have asked that the woman not be identified out of fears for her safety.