Following the complete collapse of the Islamic State s (IS) self styled Caliphate in Syria and the subsequent Sunday Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the reclusive IS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi appeared in a rare eighteen minute video. Baghdadi reassured IS militants that he was alive, spirited and committed to jihadism notwithstanding recent setbacks. In the video, released by IS al Furqan media network, Baghdadi has copied the style of Al Qaeda s founder Osama Bin Laden: sitting cross legged with a dyed beard and an Ak 47 kept against the wall next to him. Baghdadi frames the defeat in Baghuz as a lost battle in a long war which is ongoing and urged his fighters to fight on. Baghdadi maintained that IS fighters fought valiantly in Baghuz and that the Caliphate has not been abandoned. As a proof, Baghdadi accepts the baya (oaths of allegiance) from militant groups in Burkina Faso and Mali, showing that IS is spreading and alerts his fighters of a long battle ahead. Tactically, the video is aimed at dispelling the impression of crippling military defeats in Syria. It has also quashed all rumors of Baghdadi s demise or critical injuries in recent fighting. In terms of its timing, the video has been released ahead of Ramadan, when IS appeals its cadres to step up their attacks. Strategically, the video is an attempt to create a new narrative around the Revenge Campaign for the lost Caliphate. This revenge campaign is not a reactionary strategy but an offensive move to stay relevant as the most feared terrorist groups in the world and the leader of the global jihadist movement. For instance, despite numerous setbacks, IS carried as many as 3,670 terrorist attacks in 2018, the most by any terrorist group in the world. Organizationally, IS is evolving from a quasi state to an insurgent and a terrorist group. IS has become weak at the center and strong at the periphery. According to noted terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman, IS has redirected its focus from the center to branches enabling it to survive and expand. Likewise, the IS propaganda narrative has shifted from joining and protecting the Caliphate to taking revenge for its losses. In cyberspace, the IS online community has migrated from open end social media platforms to encrypted ones and the dark web. Baghdadi s video is simultaneously a bold and desperate move by IS. Since his self proclamation to Caliphate in Iraq s Al Nuri mosque in June 2014, this is the second time that Baghdadi has appeared in a video. In the interim, he had issued several audio statements but did not appear in a video. On the one hand, it is an aggressive move: signaling his opponents that he is alive and indicating to his supporters that he is still leading the organization with full command and authority. On the other hand, the video could compromise his security as it could give critical leads to the intelligence agencies about his whereabouts to track and hunt him down. After all, Baghdadi is the most wanted terrorist in the world with a head bounty of $25 million. Unlike various Al Qaeda videos, which were all talk and no action, Baghdadi came out with a video after one of the most devastating attacks in South Asia s violence prone history. An attack followed by a video will help IS in its drive for global expansion. It will inspire IS global network of supporters and sympathizers to stay loyal to the global jihadist group and carry out attacks in its name. There will be wide ranging implications of Baghdadi s video. In the immediate term, it will stall IS downward slide and allow it some breathing space to recuperate. It might also result in a spike in IS inspired and directed terrorist attacks. Additionally, the video will encourage the self radicalized jihadist networks such as the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ), mainly responsible for Sri Lanka bombings, to link with IS and launch attacks in their names. IS is quite skillful in exploiting the sectarian and communal fault lines to grow in ungoverned space of fragile states like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Syria. After recent setbacks, IS expectations would increase from its eight official affiliates in Asia and Africa and two dozen worldwide networks. IS Af Pak franchise, the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK), is the deadliest and most potent of its eight affiliates. Since its emergence, ISK has carried out several high profile attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of ISK s cadres are former militants of the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). So, the terrorist attacks by IS in Afghanistan and Pakistan are likely to increase, particularly when the US is expected to withdraw from Afghanistan. The ISK will try to exploit the vacuum in a post US Afghanistan. In sum, IS is far from defeated and still poses the most formidable threat to global peace and security. Improved intelligence and coordinated counter terrorist operations would be needed to dismantle IS residual operational capabilities which allow it to link with various like minded Islamist networks to pull off sophisticated attacks. Clearly, the loss of territory has not dented IS capability to carry out violent attacks: the two are not coterminous with each other. Going forward, denting IS ideological narrative is as important as downgrading its operational and organizational prowess. Abdul Basit is an Associate Research Fellow (ARF) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore. He can be reached at email #160;protected . Image: Reuters View the discussion thread. copy; Copyright 2019 Center for the National Interest All Rights Reserved
A makeshift ladder built by firefighters rises out of a shored up sinkhole housing at least one stray cat near a home near 87 Avenue and 67 Street on April 19, 2019. Ian Kucerak Postmedia One of two cats trapped in a sinkhole in the city 's southeast is now alive and well above ground after 12 days with multiple rescue attempts.
Updated: April 21, 2019 4:53 PM PDT A cat is seen in a sinkhole beside an Edmonton house in this handout photo. Firefighters built them a ladder and a homeowner has tried luring them out with Easter ham and sardines, but so far two cats remain deep in a sinkhole beside an Edmonton house. Rebecca Hung says she spotted the hole beside her foundation Friday morning when she returned from a vacation that lasted several weeks. Rebecca Hung THE CANADIAN PRESS
A message posted by its Amaq propaganda agency said there were Congolese army ;dead and wounded; following an attack by ISIS fighters in the town of Kamango near the border.In a later statement, ISIS said "soldiers of the Caliphate " had attacked an army base in the village of Bovata, roughly 5 km (3 miles) from Komango in Beni region, "where they clashed with small and medium weapons. " Three Congolese army soldiers were killed and five others injured, the group claimed.
A suspected Israeli air strike on a military site in central Syria early on April 13 wounded six soldiers and destroyed several buildings, Syria s state news agency SANA reported. A military official told SANA that Israeli targeted a military academy near the town of Masyaf in Hama Province. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli air trikes hit three targets, wounding 17 Syrian soldiers. It said there were also deaths, but it was not immediately clear how many were killed and whether they were Iranians or Iran sponsored fighters. The Israeli military declined to comment.Israel does not usually comment on reports concerning its air strikes in neighboring Syria, though it has recently acknowledged striking Iranian targets there. Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and has sent military advisers, as well as thousands of fighters from across the region, to help his forces in the eight year conflict.
With WrestleMania 35 taking place on April 7, we re looking at 5 UFC stars who ve stepped foot in the octagon and squared circle. Watch the best fights from these crossover athletes on FIGHT PASS
Don t call it the Venezuelan Missile Crisis. In fact, Russian troops in Venezuela barely rate as a crisis at all. The Trump administration is up in arms over an estimated 100 Russian troops and military advisers that were airlifted into Venezuela in March to support the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro. Russia s got to leave Venezuela, declared Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while National Security Adviser John Bolton warned that other nations shouldn t establish military bases in the Western Hemisphere. It is understandable that Washington would be unhappy about Moscow s support for a regime it would like to see overthrown. Or that Venezuela has spent billions on Russian arms, including jet fighters, helicopters and anti aircraft missiles. Or that a pair of Tu 160 nuclear bombers has flown from western Russia to a Venezuelan airfield in a symbolic display of Russian aerial might. But how big a threat to U.S. security is a handful of Russian troops permanently stationed in Venezuela? Not much. To really threaten the continental United States from Venezuela, Russia would have to be capable of projecting power 1,400 miles the distance from Caracas to Miami or at least far enough out to threaten shipping lanes or the Panama Canal. That would mean putting missiles or long range bombers like the Tu 160 and Tu 22M3 in Venezuela, or shorter range tactical jets supported by air tankers. A deployment of that size would be noticed by U.S. intelligence. No White House administration could tolerate it, especially after word inevitably leaked to Congress and the press. Venezuela as a permanent Russian naval base, like the port of Tartus in Syria, is another possibility. That is, if the Russian Navy is capable of permanently operating a squadron in the Western Hemisphere. But again, any base that could service a large number of surface ships and nuclear submarines would be intolerable to Washington. As with Cuba or Nicaragua during the Cold War, a Russian outpost in Venezuela could function as an intelligence base in Latin America, or as a staging point to foment political conflict in the region. But that s hardly an existential threat to the United State. And even then, too active a Russian presence would only energize Americans who wouldn t mind sending the Marines for regime change in Caracas. A pro Russian Venezuela would be useful to the Kremlin in terms of prestige, a presence in South America, and a bit of payback for all the pro U.S. and NATO nations that are on Russia s borders. The oil rich nation is also a lucrative market for Russian weapons, though it already owes Russia $3 billion for past arms purchases (which is one reason that Moscow doesn t want to see Maduro go). But ultimately, a strong Russian military presence in Venezuela doesn t make sense unless Russia is prepared to guarantee Venezuela s security. And how far would Russia go to protect Venezuela? Cuba survived as a Soviet bastion because much as the United States wanted to get rid of Castro, it wasn t worth risking World War III. What would Moscow do if Washington chose to invade Venezuela, even if Russian boots were on the ground there? Retaliate by invading Latvia? Putin may brandish his bizarre atomic powered cruise missiles and nuclear armed robot subs, but he s not going to risk having Moscow nuked to save Caracas. President Donald Trump s critics gleefully point to Candidate Trump s denunciations of Barack Obama for setting red lines over Russian military intervention in Syria, and then doing nothing while the Kremlin sent in troops that saved Bashar al Assad s brutal regime. So, they ask, what s Trump going to do about Russian troops in Venezuela? The answer is that Trump doesn t have to do much of anything. Venezuela is an economic and political basket case that Russia is in no economic condition to support. Russian troops in Venezuela are not going to topple neighboring governments in a Latin American Domino Theory. And a hundred Russian soldiers in Venezuela are a cheap way for Moscow to thumb its nose at Washington, but they are more pantomime than threat. Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Image: Wikimedia Commons. View the discussion thread. copy; Copyright 2019 Center for the National Interest All Rights Reserved
Firefighters rescued a pup who had become trapped under rocks.
More than four years ago, ISIS ruled over 8 million people across a swath of territory the size of the United Kingdom. Today, its fighters are defiant but defeated either locked up in makeshift detention camps, dead, or in hiding. If Arab governments hope to sustain this success, they must do the difficult work of addressing the many political, social, and economic causes that served as kindling for ISIS s propaganda and recruitment.This reality stands in contrast to the conventional but misplaced argument among the Washington foreign policy elite that keeping ISIS permanently suppressed is the responsibility of the U.S military. Part of this sentiment rests on Washington s general over reliance on military intervention, where endless deployments in the Middle East are viewed as acceptable holding patterns to ensure terrorists don t regenerate. Another part is due to the tendency of the U.S. national security establishment to take primary ownership of regional problems regardless of its strategic importance to American security and prosperity.
;Lamont Peterson vs. Sergey Lipinets is a classic 50 50 matchup that is sure to include drama, action and intrigue,; said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. ;Lipinets is looking to conquer a second division after winning a 140 pound title, while Peterson is out to show he;s still amongst the welterweight elite. Peterson will be joined by his brother, Anthony Peterson, for a true homecoming event featuring two of the District of Columbia s most popular fighters. Anthony will have a tall task in former champion Argenis Mendez, and it should all equal to a great night.;During the final press conference held Friday at MGM National Harbor Lamont Peterson said, I know we re at the top level and I m facing a top guy. I m looking to capitalize on the opportunity and move forward. Lipinets is a tough guy. He only has about 15 pro fights, but he was able to move through the ranks pretty fast. That got my attention and lets you know that he s definitely coming to win.
Abu Hassan al Muhajir, who has not released an audio recording since September, used his 44 minute speech to undermine Trump s assertion that ISIS has been defeated and called on Muslims around the world to launch attacks to avenge last week s mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, The New York Times reported.Remaining ISIS fighters and their families had been pushed back to the last area under the group s control a ramshackle tent city in the village of Baghuz in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border. Hemmed in on all sides by the U.S. backed and Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the militants were being pummeled by artillery and airstrikes daily. Though thousands surrendered, many were expected to fight to the death.
The fire department evacuated part of 1st Avenue between A St. and 136 E, including the Covey and Hilcrest apartments.Salt Lake City Public Utilities first tweeted about the incident around 7:44 a.m., stating there was a water main break and responding crews smelled natural gas. Those crews called firefighters to respond.
The tiny strip of land next to the Euphrates river in Syria where the jihadists are holed up has been pummelled by weeks of air and artillery strikes
IAF fighters went 50 miles into Pakistan to hit Balakot terror campsAyodhya land dispute: SC to decide on court appointed mediator on March 5
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