Tag Archives: Shia Islam

‘We’ve arrived’: ISIS wing in Yemen releases first video, threatens Houthis

Screenshot from youtube video by Vocativ

The Islamic State has declared its official presence in war-torn Yemen as the jihadists posted a video online, threating to “cut the throats” of Shiite Houthi rebels.

Like most Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) videos, the 9-minute-long clip was professionally shot and edited – with CGs and catchy background music.

It showed around two dozen IS fighters in full military gear training in the desert area, which is claimed to be located near the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

The jihadist carried AK-47s, heavy machine guns and RPGs and then fired from some of their weapons.

After that, the apparent commander of the group stuck the black IS flag into the sand and pronounced that the “soldiers of the Caliphate” have arrived in Yemen to “cut the throats” of the Houthis.

“We have come to Yemen, with men hungry for your blood to avenge the Sunnis and take back the land they have occupied,” the IS commander said in a video, the International Business Times reported.

He then addressed all able-bodied Sunni men in Yemen to join him the battle against the Houthis.

The video was posted online on Friday, a day after a newly-announced division of the IS, the Green Brigade, claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the Shiite rebels.

On Wednesday, five Houthi militia members were killed in the car bombing in Ibb province in central Yemen.

It became the second attack claimed by the IS in the country after 142 people were killed and another 350 injured in a series of suicide bombings at Shia mosques in Sanaa on March 20.

The Sunni IS and Al-Qaeda, which has traditionally been the dominant jihadist group in Yemen, view the Shiite Houthis as heretics.

READ MORE: Al-Qaeda seizes key military camp in Yemen, snatches tanks and artillery

The Houthi rebels took control of Sanaa in September 2014, forcing Sunni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia and are now fighting for the strategic port city of Aden.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies have been bombing the Shiite rebels since March 25, with over 550 civilians having been killed since the start of the airstrikes, according to UN estimations.

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Iraq’s Sadr warns will ‘shake the ground’ against militants

Najaf (Iraq) (AFP) – Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Wednesday voiced opposition to US military advisers who have begun meeting with Iraqi commanders, and warned that his supporters would “shake the ground” in combatting militants.

“We will shake the ground under the feet of ignorance and extremism,” he said, referring to Sunni insurgents who have overrun a swathe of territory in the past two weeks, in a televised speech from the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

He added that he only supported “providing international support from non-occupying states for the army of Iraq“.

The cleric’s remarks came days after fighters loyal to him paraded with weapons in the Sadr City area of north Baghdad, vowing to fight a major militant offensive that has alarmed the world and threatens to tear Iraq apart.

Iraq’s flagging security forces, which were swept aside by the initial offensive but have since at least somewhat recovered, have already been joined by some Shiite fighters, and thousands more are ready to take part.

Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which battled US forces for years when American troops were stationed in Iraq during their country’s nearly nine-year war, remains officially inactive, but fighters loyal to the cleric have nevertheless vowed to combat the militant advance.

Explosion shakes Lebanese capital Beirut

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A blast at a Lebanese military checkpoint shook the capital Beirut on Monday, wounding at least five people, Al Arabiya correspondent Adnan Gamloush reported.

The blast occurred when a suicide bomber blew up his car near the checkpoint, killing himself and damaging a nearby café, security sources and witnesses said.

Nineteen people, who were watching the World Cup in the café were wounded following the incident, according to Reuters news agency.

Television footage showed the blackened wreckage of a car, surrounded by damaged vehicles. Windows in nearby buildings were shattered by the blast, which occurred in an area of southern Beirut inhabited by supporters of the Shi’ite group Amal, an ally of the militant movement Hezbollah.

Play the above video to watch the latest footage from the explosion

The explosion, which happened shortly before midnight (2100 GMT), came just three days after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon, killing a policeman and wounding several other people.

The car bomb went off near the Abu Assaf cafe, where people had gathered to watch the World Cup matches.

Lebanon has been hit by violence spilling over from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is fighting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels trying to topple him.

Security forces have been on high alert since a suicide bomber killed one person and wounded 37 near the Syrian border on Friday in an attack that narrowly missed a security official, according to Reuters.

One security source said before Monday night’s explosion that security forces were hunting for two potential suicide bombers in the Lebanese capital.

Shiite militia parade in Baghdade in show of govt’s might as ISIS overruns border town

Volunteers of the newly formed 'Peace Brigades' participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, in defiance of ISIS

Volunteers of the newly formed ‘Peace Brigades’ participate in a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, in defiance of ISIS

Thousands of Shiite militia marched through Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities in a show of the government’s force. However, extremists are just winning more ground: the Sunni fighters of ISIS have seized a town on the border with Syria.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to take part in a military parade on Saturday. Hosts of Shiite Iraqis answered the call, flooding the center of Baghdad and other cities across the country.

Around 50,000 people joined the rally in the country’s capital, some armed with weapons including Kalashnikov assault rifles, shotguns, Dragunov sniper rifles, light machineguns and rocket launchers. They brandished banners with slogans reading “We sacrifice for you, oh Iraq,” “No, no to terrorism,” and “No, no to America.”

As volunteers gathered in Baghdad, Sunni militants led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) pushed back faltering government forces, seizing control of crucial towns on the Iraq-Syria border. Killing over 30 members of the Iraqi security forces, ISIS fighters attacked the town of al-Qaima and succeeded in taking over the town, which is home to 250,000, and the border crossing to neighboring Syria.

The militant group also made significant gains on the other side of the frontier, bringing them closer to accomplishing their aim of creating an Islamic state straddling national borders.

The border town is located on a strategic supply route, the loss of which would be a significant blow to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. ISIS has capitalized on the ongoing civil war in Syria to gather weapons and thousands of fresh recruits from around the world. Full control of the border zone would mean potential free passage from Syria into Iraq for the militants.

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To counter the swelling ranks of the Sunni militants, Iraq’s government has officially asked the White House to deploy airstrikes in the region. In response, the White House issued a statement, saying there was no purely military solution to Iraq’s problems, and that it would consider a range of options.

As a preliminary measure, the US has deployed 300 additional military personnel to Baghdad to “assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”

Obama also voiced criticism of Iraq’s leadership, suggesting that Al-Maliki has endangered the country by ignoring the needs of the country’s Sunni population.

“I don’t think that there’s any secret that, right now at least, there is deep division between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders,” Obama said Thursday. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington was preparing to consult with the Iranian government over a solution to the crisis in Iraq.

The ISIS-led militants began to show signs of fragmentation on Saturday as fighters from ISIS and the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah (JRTN) turned on each other in Kirkuk. At least 17 people were killed in the ensuing violence.

Who are the major players in the Iraq crisis?

Nouri al-Maliki

As Iraq edges toward civil war, here’s a look at major players and groups in the crisis.

Insurgents

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Sunni jihadist group that has its roots in the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that formed the backbone of the resistance against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. It has since expanded operations into Syria, where it is fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, and has broken formal ties with al-Qaeda. It embraces a radical form of Islam and consists of battle-hardened fighters.

Earlier this year, the group ransacked Fallujah and Ramadi, two influential Sunni cities in western Iraq. It has managed to hold much of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi. More recently it seized parts of Mosul and was positioned to edge toward Baghdad.

ISIL is also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nouri al-Maliki

The prime minister of Iraq leads a Shiite dominated government that has alienated many of the Sunnis in Iraq over the past several years. Maliki has been criticized for not taking more steps to include rival Sunni leaders in his government.

Shiites are the majority sect in Iraq, but for most of Iraq’s history they were oppressed by the Sunnis, who dominated the government. Saddam Hussein and his key leaders were all Sunnis. Shiite leaders during that time were driven into exile.

Iraq’s armed forces

Organized, trained and, to some extent, equipped by the United States, the Iraqi military was a competent force when the United States pulled all its forces out in 2011.

But over the past several years Maliki has been accused of appointing political cronies to key leadership positions and the military has ceased to conduct regular training. Sunnis have said the army is little more than another Shiite militia and have little confidence in its ability to protect them. Many units simply collapsed when insurgents attacked Mosul and other cities in Iraq.

Shiite militias

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Shiite militias, some of which were backed by Iran, grew to become powerful forces. Among the strongest such militias is the Mahdi Army, a group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militias at various times attacked U.S. forces and also participated in sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which peaked in 2006. Most of the insurgent gains were in Sunni or mixed areas. Shiite militias will likely try to protect Shiite neighborhoods if insurgents attempt to move into Baghdad.

Sunni militants seize Tal Afar city of 200k citizens enlarging control of Iraq

The Sunni militants fighting to make an Islamic state in Iraq have scored another victory in their move to control more territory. They captured Tal Afar, a city of 200,000 residents in north-west of the country.The city was taken just before dawn on Monday, Mayor Abdulal Abdoul confirmed to AP. The report was also confirmed by residents on the phone.

Residents reported that there was heavy fighting within the city limits as Shiite security troops used rockets and helicopters in an attempt to stop the advancing militants.

“The situation is disastrous in Tal Afar. There is crazy fighting and most families are trapped inside houses, they can’t leave town,” a local official told Reuters on Sunday before the city was overrun. “If the fighting continues, a mass killing among civilians could result.”

Tal Afar is home to mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkmen. Residents fear persecution by the hardline orthodox Sunni fighters comprising the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Sham movement.

The city had been one of the few spots of resistance to ISIS in the north-west of Iraq because, unlike most other Iraqi troops, the unit defending it didn’t flee the militants. It is also located close to the regions controlled by Kurds, who have been autonomous from Baghdad in most regards and have their own militias.

Iraqi men, who volunteered to fight against the Jihadist militants, gather around buses in Baghdad on June 13, 2014, as security forces are bolstering defenses in the capital.

US-trained Iraqi army and security forces proved to be grossly unprepared to defend the country from the lightning operation of ISIS, which is now in control of a large territory, including Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

ISIS military success made US consider the prospect of joining forces with its long-time adversary Iran to help the Iraqi government in dealing with the imminent threat.

ISIS seeks to create a fundamentalist Islamist state in the territories or Iraq and Syria with the majority of Sunni population. They are one of the fiercest and most radical fighters in the region, notorious for staging suicide bombing attacks and mass executions.

Their Iraqi offensive also made them the most wealthy and well-armed militant force in the region, after they captured banks and military depots.

US airstrikes to support Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s offensive in Iraq?

F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft

Iran deployed its Revolutionary Guard to help Iraq battle insurgents from a group inspired by Al-Qaeda, according to a recent report. In the meantime, the US is mulling airstrikes to support the Iraqi government.

On Wednesday, Al-Qaeda affiliate insurgents from the armed group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) conquered former dictator Saddam Hussein‘s hometown of Tikrit, marking the second major loss for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Earlier this week, insurgents captured Mosul, the second-largest city in the country. With jihadists threatening Baghdad and security forces unable resist the Sunni Islamists’ assault, Maliki turned to foreign powers for help, getting responses from two unlikely allies, Iran and the US.

Two battalions of the Quds Forces, which is the overseas branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, moved to Iraq on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. There they worked jointly with Iraqi troops to retake control of 85 percent of Tikrit, security forces from both countries told the Journal. Iranian forces are also helping guard the Iraqi capital of Bagdhad, as well as two Shiite holy cities that the Sunni jihadists are threatening.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, US President Barack Obama declared that he doesn’t rule out any options with regards to the ISIS takeover of cities in the northern region of Iraq. The administration and its national security team are discussing military options.

“We do have a stake in ensuring these jihadists don’t get foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama said.

Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified that US will not send ground troops to Iraq, but is seriously considering airstrikes that would help to drive jihadist militants out of their strongholds.

Iraq has privately indicated to the Obama administration that it would welcome airstrikes with either drones or manned aircraft that target ISIS militants in Iraqi territory, US officials said Wednesday.

If so, US may find itself assisting its archnemesis in the Middle East to fight against Sunni militias that enjoy support from one of America’s closest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia. The ruling family of the kingdom has long been accused of supplying jihadists all over the region with arms and financial support, the New York Times reported.

The US and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1979, after Islamic militants following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the government and deposed the American-backed shah. Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran, leading to the 444-day Iran hostage crisis. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran was in a state of heavy international isolation. The US has led the world in debilitating sanctions against the Islamic Republic that have increased as the Middle Eastern country has developed its nuclear program.

Under Hussein’s dictarorship, Sunnis dominated the Iraqi political landscape, even though over 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia. In Iran, over 95 percent of the population is Shia. The two countries are the only majority-Shiite nations in the Middle East. (Over 1.1 billion Muslims around the world are Sunni, while less than 200 million Muslims are Shia.)

From 1980 to 1988, the two nations battled in a deadly war in which both sides deployed chemical weapons. The US sided with Hussein during that war, but turned against the dictator when he invaded American ally Kuwait in 1990, leading to the first Gulf War. Hussein stayed in power until the second Gulf War began in March 2003.

Once Hussein was captured by American forces in December 2003, the Shia majority regained political power. Al-Maliki is a Shiite Muslim and has become unpopular with Iraq Sunni minority, which has accused the government of discrimination. Since 2005, Iran and Iraq have had a flourishing relationship, and are now considered to be each other’s strongest allies.

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the trademark Islamists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin on June 11, 2014.

Quds Forces have been active in Iraq for years, creating, training and funding Shiite militias that battled the US military after the 2003 invasion. Iran sees the battle for Iraq as “an existential sectarian battle between the two rival sects of Islam-Sunni and Shiite—and by default a proxy battle between their patrons Saudi Arabia and Iran,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US still sees Iraq as vital to its national interests, despite having pulled its troops out of the country at the end of 2011.

“What we’ve seen over last couple of days indicates degree to which Iraq is going to need more help,” Obama said, calling recent events a “wake-up call for the Iraqi government.”

“The next 9/11 is in the making,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said of the danger of the Iraqi insurgency.

Over 30 killed, 140 wounded in Iraq suicide bombing

A general view of the site of a car bomb attack in the neighbourhood of al-Qahera is seen in northern Baghdad, March 9, 2014

At least 35 people have been killed and 147 wounded when a suicide bomber driving a minibus detonated the vehicle filled with explosives in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla.

The bomb exploded arriving at a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the city, according to Reuters.

Over 50 cars were set no fire after the blast, with passengers trapped inside.

“Some of the victims were burned inside their cars,” a police officer said.

Of all the victims, at least six were security personnel and three civilians, according to two police officers at the scene, as cited by Al Jazeera.

Part of the checkpoint was destroyed.

Hilla is a largely Shiite Muslim city and is located 95 kilometers to the south of Baghdad.

Iraq has been torn by violent attacks since last April, with the numbers of dead jumping to its highest levels since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodshed in 2006-2008.

8,868 people were killed in 2013, and over 1,400 people have died in January and February of 2014, according to UN statistics.

People look at the site of a car bomb attack in the neighbourhood of al-Qahera in northern Baghdad, March 9, 2014

A picture taken on March 9, 2014 shows burnt out vehicles at the site of a suicide bombing that killed at least 21 people at a checkpoint near Baghdad, northern entrance to Hilla

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U.S. Navy drafts evacuation plan to ‘go afloat’ in case of Bahraini crisis | World Tribune

MOSCOW — The United States has been drafting plans for a rapid naval evacuation from Bahrain.

Officials said the U.S. Navy has conducted an exercise that envisioned acrisis in the Gulf Cooperation Council kingdom.

[Related stories: Bahrain, U.S. embassy deny reports of statements attributed to Gen. Shelton, Oct. 8 and Former Joint Chiefs chairman: Obama plotted to destabilize regimes in Bahrain, Egypt, Oct. 3]

The officials said the Navy sought to determine whether it could evacuate its Fifth Fleet headquarters to ships offshore.

“My plan B in a crisis is to go afloat,” U.S. Navy operations chief Adm. Jonathan Greenert said.

In an address to the Naval War College on Oct. 25, Greenert acknowledged the Shi’ite unrest in Bahrain. He said the Navy was monitoring the attacks on Bahraini security forces and foreign nationals to determine the safety of American personnel.

“Their internal security is something we watch,” Greenert said. “I don’t want to call it an insurgency. That’s too strong.”

Officials said the Navy conducted a crisis evacuation exercise on Oct.
25 to transfer onshore operations to offshore facilities. They said the
exercise was conducted by the Fifth Fleet off the coast of Bahrain and by the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.

“But there is no real good long-term alternative like Bahrain that we
have over there,” Greenert said.

Greenert said the Navy was helping Bahrain enhance counter-insurgency operations. He said Manama has been reliable in supporting the Fifth Fleet.

“We’ve been in Bahrain 60 years and they’ve been really with us every
time,” Greenert said. “They’ve been a solid ally and friend.”

U.S. Navy drafts evacuation plan to ‘go afloat’ in case of Bahraini crisis | World Tribune.

Bahrain slashes terms for policemen jailed over ‘torturing’ protesters to death — RT News

Two policemen convicted of ‘torturing’ a protester to death in 2011 have had their jail terms slashed by four years following an appeal. The policemen were convicted of beating to death a Shiite detainee during a mass crackdown on dissent in 2011.

Bahrain’s appeals court reduced the jail terms of the policemen involved from seven to three years, according to an anonymous judicial source who spoke to AFP. They were convicted by a lower court in December over two separate incidents.

Abdul Karim Fakhrawi died in April 2011 after nine days in custody. While it was initially reported by Bahrain’s official news agency that he died of kidney failure, photographs of Fakhrawi’s body leaked online, sparking national outrage.

Fakhrawi was a co-founder of independent newspaper al-Wasat, which temporarily had the plug pulled by authorities following a nationwide crackdown on Shiite-led protests, starting in mid-March 2011.

Even in December, the seven year sentence for the policeman involved in Fakhrawi’s death was criticized as being too lenient. “The prosecutor changed the charges from ‘torture leading to death’ to ‘beating leading to death’. They don’t want to admit that there was torture,” Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi, a member of Bahrain’s Wefaq Society, told Reuters at the time of the sentencing.

On Monday, a further policeman also had his sentence reduced from seven years to three. He had been convicted of shooting a protester dead in February 2011. Ali Musheime suffered birdshot wounds. However, the court declared on Monday that the incident had not been premeditated murder.

The wave of arrests which swept the nation meant that a number of policemen later faced trials over killing protesters or torturing detainees. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, at least 89 people have been killed in the Sunni-ruled kingdom since the unrest began.

Bahrain – home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet – is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, while over 75 percent of the population is Shia. In February 2011, thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of Bahrain’s capital Manama, demanding democratic reforms and the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa.

Since then, Bahrain has faced widespread criticism over its harsh sentencing of activists within the country. A decision to jail 50 Shiite activists for up to 15 years in a mass show trial led Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, to  call the verdict ‘appalling’ at the beginning of October. It also urged a probe into reports that some activists were tortured.

In April this year, a UN torture investigator, Juan Mendez, said that Bahrain has blocked him from a planned visit to the Gulf Arab state, terming it an “effective cancellation,” since no alternate dates were proposed.

The following month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded that authorities “immediately investigate allegations that officials are torturing activists in detention.”

In Mid-September it emerged that Bahrain’s law enforcement had also made a habit of regularly detaining children, who were forced to undergo humiliation and cruel treatment often bordering on torture, according to a HRW investigation.

Bahrain slashes terms for policemen jailed over ‘torturing’ protesters to death — RT News.