For the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, heated front lines are drawn between the Syrian army and the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS). This development occurred following IS taking control over the neighborhoods of the city of Deir ez-Zor.
Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham had withdrawn yesterday [July 14] from this city, in an expected move after the breakdown of their forces in rural areas of the city last week. IS had tightened its grip on all of the cities and towns in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor as a result of the secret successive pledges of allegiance it obtained and the settlements it concluded with some brigades. This enabled it to save a large quantity of ammunition and weaponry that would have used if these settlements had not been concluded.
These pledges of allegiance and settlements broke down the morale of militants of other factions who realized that they had no chance of winning the war against IS, particularly since commanders and warlords from Jabhat al-Nusra fled Sheheil. The fall of this town was a heavy blow dealt to the alliance between the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, and al-Sahwat.
Besides this moral defeat, the blockade imposed by IS on Deir ez-Zor and the fact that it cut all supply lines to all brigades stationed in the city’s neighborhoods constituted an important factor prompting the surrender of these factions. It is worth mentioning that IS took advantage of the blockade to send delegations to the leaders of these factions to negotiate with them the terms of their surrender and the handing over [of the territories under their control].
While it was reported that battalions within the city pledged allegiance to IS, several other factions and battalions affected by the events in Iraq and the countryside of Deir ez-Zor decided to distance themselves from the conflict and retire from the battle that they has nothing to do with. These factions would not have taken part in this battle if it weren’t for the dominance of the Sharia Council. The latter was not so long ago in charge of the distribution of quotas, war prizes and oil fields. But today, its leaders are either dead or on the run.
The last of these brigades were the Battalions of Mohammed affiliated with the Authenticity and Development Front. These brigades issued a statement yesterday announcing the withdrawal from the fight with IS and disclaiming the Front it used to be affiliated with for having departed from its ideology. All these conditions and factors placed the remaining leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham in front of an inescapable fact that time is running out and there is no way to stay in the city more than that. Therefore, they decided to vacate their headquarters and all of their positions in the city and withdraw toward any safe area. Apparently, yesterday morning was the due date for the implementation of this decision.
Members of Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra were starting to clear out their headquarters while a military group from IS was entering the city through Jisr al-Siyasa in order to take over the headquarters the factions cleared out of. The group placed its flag over Jabhat al-Nusra’s headquarters as a sign that the city is now a part of the Islamic State, as it now controls the second province after Raqqa, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
However, there is one difference, which is that the Syrian army still controls some streets in the city of Deir ez-Zor while it is completely absent in Raqqa.
To the contrary of what the media published about the takeover of Deir ez-Zor being the result of the murder of the Jabhat al-Nusra emir in Deir ez-Zor, Safwan al-Hant – also known as Abu Hazem al-Balad – facts on the ground confirm that neither Hant’s living nor dying would have changed the course of events and prevented the fall of the city into the hands of IS.
Safwan alhant, Amir of al-Nusra fromt in Deir Ezzor. Has been killed as he was trying to move out of the city, Activists accused ISIS of killing him.--[[killed by ISIS, disguised in burqa, riding in wheelchair–ed]
The real story is that the escape plan to get Hant out of the city failed drastically. IS members discovered this plot and captured Hant, who was dressed as a woman on a wheelchair, and then killed him. The pictures showed him with no beard and indeed dressed in women’s clothes. Hant’s killing provoked serious rage among the members of Jabhat al-Nusra in Deir ez-Zor, who blamed Golani and the leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra for Hant’s death, since they fled ahead of him and left him to face those “Karijites” by himself.
Even though IS controls most of Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian army still holds some parts of the city. The army controls most of the streets in al-Sinaa, al-Jura and al-Kosur – as opposed to reports the SOHR mentioned about IS controlling all the streets – as well as al-Rashidiya street and the streets of al-Howeqa, al -Mouwazafin and al-Jabaliya. Recently, continuous battles between the Syrian army on one hand and Jabhat al-Nusra and their allies on the other were occurring in most of these streets.
It’s expected for these battles to include IS now, which is taking the place of these factions. This would create a new scenario in the Syrian war and possibly a complicated plot due to the mixture of events between eastern Syria and western Iraq. This requires an effective confrontation of IS from both borders.
This article was first published in Arabic on 7/15/2014. Read original article.
Sediq Sediqi, interior ministry spokesman, said the number of attackers invovled in attack on Kabul airport were six people, who were all shot dead.
The attack was carried out around 4:00 am local time after the group of insurgents took position in an under construction building located near the airport.
All the militants were killed following the gun battle which lasted almost four hours.
Taliban militants group in Afghanistan claimed responsibility behind the attack.
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The Taliban attack on the Kabul airport this morning may be linked to a new and dangerous development on the ground in Afghanistan: a flood of fresh fighters from the ranks of the Pakistani Taliban, known as TTP, on the other side of the frontier.
I was able to reach a senior Afghan Taliban commander operating in Kabul as the airport attack was still under way, and he told me that “big numbers of the Pakistani Taliban have crossed the border to Afghanistan,” enabling the Afghan Taliban to “deploy rapidly in massive numbers all over Afghanistan.”
“That is why we have more manpower this year,” commander Qari Talha told The Daily Beast over his mobile phone. “We are using Pakistani Taliban in big numbers for collective attacks.” He said they had deployed on the hotly contested battlefields of Helmand province, in Kabul and in other parts of the country. “We send them for big ground attacks and spectacular attacks in cities,” he said, and current fighting in Helmand is part of that new offensive.
The strike against the Kabul airport early on Thursday morning involved four fighters armed with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades firing from the top of a nearby building under construction. According to statements from the Afghan government, after about four hours all of the attackers were killed and there were no government casualties. But as the battle raged near the edge of the runway all flights had to be diverted to other cities. It has not yet been determined if the attackers were Afghani, Pakistani or both.
“We are using Pakistani Taliban in big numbers for collective attacks.”
As The Daily Beast reported in early May, border security was badly weakened by the Central Intelligence Agency’s decision to dismantle its front line Afghan counterterrorist forces in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The chaotic aftermath of the Afghan presidential elections has complicated the situation, and U.S. military commanders are saying American counterterrorism forces may be needed in Afghanistan long after the supposedly final U.S. troop withdrawal in 2016.
“Despite the increase in the numbers of Afghan security forces, actually the Taliban are able to penetrate very easily into Kabul and other cities,” Qari Talah boasted.
The Kabul airport handles both civilian and military flights, with military operations taking precedence, making it “a very appealing and legitimate target,” said Talah.
Another Afghan Taliban source says that the Pakistani army’s operations trying to suppress the TTP in the tribal areas along the Afghan border unexpectedly pushed more and more TTP fighters into Afghanistan, where they continued their violent jihad, seen by them as a religious duty, against Afghan forces.
The same Afghan Taliban source says that his group’s original strategy was to conserve its forces in 2014, looking forward to intensified fighting against a weaker Kabul regime in 2015 and afterward as the United States continued to draw down its forces. But the sudden influx of Pakistani fighters has led the Afghan Taliban to step up their collective attacks on multiple targets as the fighting season gets underway.
The situation is further complicated by the attitude of the Pakistani military, particularly the intelligence branch known as the ISI, which has tended to see the Pakistani Taliban as dangerous to Islamabad, which they certainly are, while viewing the Afghan Taliban as “good,” or at least as potentially useful over the long run. Pakistan traditionally has hoped to install client governments in Kabul, even if they are radical jihadis, in order to keep Indian and other foreign influence there to a minimum. Afghan officials have argued that if the Pakistanis would recognize that all Taliban are essentially the same, and essentially dangerous, the war against them on both sides of the border could be won in short order.
Retired Pakistani Army Col. Muhammad Nazir, who is familiar with operations along the frontier, says that due to the Afghan election crisis, political instability and NATO troop withdrawals, Afghanistan is weaker and the Taliban are able to take advantage. “All this boosts the morale of the Afghan Taliban,” says the colonel.
A senior Afghan security officer who does not want to be named also says the election crisis has exposed Afghan security forces to greater danger and impaired their ability to operate. “Forget about bringing peace and restoring security in the countryside,” he said. “We could not secure Kabul City.” And this after 13 years of war and American and NATO support.
What happened at Kabul airport was a classic case in point. “It was very obvious that a building under construction just next to the Kabul airport runway was an ideal spot for the Taliban,” said the security officer. Indeed, a similar attack was carried out just last year. “But who cared among the people at the Afghan interior ministry and defense ministry?”
“It is a big blow for Kabul airport and for Afghanistan, and we are sure that international airlines will stop flying and cease operations in Afghanistan,” the security officer said. Thus far there are no official indications that will happen. But the comment is a sign of the pessimism spreading through the ranks of the security forces. “The elections brought instead of stability, instability to Afghanistan,” said this official, “and it will never end.”
[It is pretty clear from these two drone strikes that the Army is working with the CIA to target the Taliban terrorist leadership ( Proof That Pak Army Picks CIA Drone Targets In FATA ). By allowing the CIA to freely join-in with the latest Pakistani Army killing spree, ISI takes care of its rogue Uzbek problem, while the CIA gets to kill another Haqqani.]
At least 50 people are dead after airstrikes hit northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, and at least 15 of those were the result of a suspected American drone strike.
Some officials also believe the drone strike’s death toll could be around 20 or higher. Either way, it’s the deadliest single drone-related incident since July 3, 2013, when 16 people were killed.
According to the Washington Post, the United States had two targets in its sight when it launched the Wednesday attack in North Waziristan: a house and a vehicle that was driving past. One villager claimed that at least four missiles were fired, and local officials said the targeted area is thought to be sheltering members of the Afghan Haqqani network and militants from Uzbekistan.
“The compound was being used by foreign militants, and some local terrorists were present in the vehicle that got targeted,” an unidentified Pakistani intelligence official told the newspaper.
Although the drone strike is believed to be carried out by the United States, government officials did not comment on the matter. Drone-related activity has declined in the recent past, but President Obama has said they will continue as necessary.
The drone strike marks the second such attack to occur in the area in less than a week. On July 10, six or seven people were killed by a drone. The spike in activity comes as the Pakistani military continues its offensive in North Waziristan, where it claims some 450 militants have been killed in the last month. Military officials are looking to disperse Pakistani Taliban members along with other militants who have taken up camp in the area, using it to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, Pakistani officials said they had also captured senior Pakistani Taliban leader Adnan Rashid as he attempted to make an escape.
As reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the most recent drone strike is notable for killing more than a dozen people. On average, strikes during the month of June killed four people each time. Overall, 35 drone strikes have occurred in the immediate area since 2004, killing at least 109 people. Almost half – about 50 – are believed to have been civilians.
In addition to the drone strike, Wednesday saw Pakistani airstrikes kill 35 people. Government officials said these individuals were Taliban fighters attempting to leave the area.
According to a separate report, the Bureau found that 15 airstrikes in North Waziristan killed somewhere between 291 – 540 people, with civilian casualties numbering anywhere from 16 to 112.
Chinese coast guard vessel near the area of China’s oil drilling rig near the Paracel Islands
HANOI, July 16. /ITAR-TASS/. China has begun removing its drilling platform Haiyang Shiyou 981 from the disputable part of the South China Sea where its operation has caused serious tensions with Hanoi.
The drilling platform was put in the area of the Paracel Islands, disputed by China and Vietnam, 75 days ago. Initially, Beijing said the platform would be prospecting for oil and gas until August 15. Vietnam said this was unacceptable and accused Beijing of “serious violation” of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Following the end of the drilling, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its official website that the Xisha Islands were the original Chinese territory and industrial activities there by Chinese companies were a matter of sovereignty of China and of its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
The Paracel Islands and nearby the Spratlys have long been the subject of a territorial dispute between China and Vietnam. These territories have also been claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.