SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
AS OBAMA SAYS THE US MAY HAVE “UNDERESTIMATED” JIHADISTS IN MIDDLE EAST, ATTACKS ON AL-NUSRA MAY BACKFIRE INTO EVEN MORE IS SUPPORT:
TIMELINE – 29th SEPTEMBER 2014 12.55 GMT – UPDATED 16.45 GMT:
The US-led Coalition is busy over Syria again this morning and conducted numerous strikes over the weekend.
15 airstrikes are reported around Manbij in Aleppo province from early this morning, Monday, including hits on a mill and grain silos. Several local workers were killed in the attack and a number of Islamic State (IS) fighters injured, though precise numbers are not yet available.
Some sources suggest that the silos were mistaken for an armed base, though another IS HQ at Al-Hesba was also hit. At least 3 makeshift “oil refineries” run by local people on behalf of IS were also attacked on Sunday in the vicinity of Tal Abyad in the northern part of Raqqah province.
People watching from the Turkish side of the border said flames from the refinery attacks went 60 metres in the air and explosions continued for up to 2 hours.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) estimates that 19 civilians have so far been killed in US Coalition airstrikes.
Coalition warplanes are also said to have struck a plastics factory on the outskirts of Raqqah city, killing at least 1 civilian, hit the Al-Zarqawi military camp in the village of Ibatin and made at least 8 airstrikes on the IS-captured airbase of Tabqa.
Some of the mobile refining plants separate diesel and petrol for use by civilians which is then sold on. The destruction of the refining vehicles has apparently led to a huge increase in the price of diesel in Aleppo province, thereby guaranteeing to further anger the local population.
The Al-Nusra Front (ANF) is also angry after 60 – 70 of its fighters were killed in the initial US airstrikes last week. The ANF leadership is now under pressure to join with the Islamic State and talks are apparently underway.
ANF spokesman, Abu Firas al-Suri, said in an audio message on Saturday “It’s not a war against Nusra Front, it’s a war against Islam. These countries have done a despicable act that will put them on the list of those targeted by Jihadist forces all over the world”.
There are persistent reports of large numbers of ANF fighters defecting to the Islamic State anyway, though IS was seen until now as being too extreme even by Al-Qaeda linked ANF “standards”.
From the US point of view, ANF is Al-Qaeda and therefore their enemy and an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone” could not be missed, though they seem to have targeted a very specific group that was thought to be preparing attacks against the West (scroll down – see below).
Coalition jets additionally attacked the entrance to the Conoco gas plant in Deir Ez-Zour province late on Sunday, hitting a building and a prayer area, but not damaging the plant itself.
A strike on the plant directly could have serious consequences, not just for the Jihadists but also for the Assad regime. The gas plant feeds the Jandar power station located in Homs province and if the gas supply stops, several regime held areas plus the IS-controlled part of Deir Ez-Zour will be left without electricity.
Before the Islamic State took over Deir Ez-Zour, Jihadists from the rival Al-Nusra Front and local tribes had an agreement with Assad’s regime to keep the Coneco gas plant up and running. In exchange for gas, the regime allowed electricity to continue to flow throughout Deir Ezzor province, an agreement which IS continued when they took over.
In the battle for the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Aleppo province, Coalition air attacks on Saturday against IS positions do not appear to have stopped the Jihadist advance, but may have slowed it.
The Kurdish forces say that they have taken back the village of Ali Shar on the eastern side of Kobane, but from other directions, IS are now shelling Kobane city itself with mortars and tank fire from the south-east, killing a 50 year-old woman, and are reported to have massed over 1,000 fighters in the west. Latest reports Monday afternoon, say that a volley of Is missiles has hit Kobane and the Jihadists are within 5 kilometres (3 miles) of the the city.
Tension is high on the Turkish border between Turkish Kurds and the Turkish Army who are preventing hundreds of men from crossing the frontier to join the Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State. Turkey fears they will return as “battle hardened terrorists” to challenge their rule over Kurdish claimed territory in their own country. The BBC has a video report, HERE:
However, Turkey has this afternoon, Monday, positioned 15 x M60T Patton tanks on a hill facing Kobane and beyond after Islamic State shells fell on its territory.
US Central Command have released this cockpit video of a US strike on Saturday at an IS compound near Kobane, here:
Planes from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and UAE are all reported to have taken part in the latest attacks on the Islamic State, with Qatar providing “back-up” facilities.
The BBC Syria news section also has a video report on the latest Kobane situation, HERE:
In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes programme, President Obama admitted that the US had “underestimated” the growing Jihadist threat that had bred in the chaotic conditions in Syria and Iraq over the last few years.
The President went on to say the short-term plan was to destabilise the Islamic State but in the long-term the US and its international partners would have to come up with political solutions for both Syria and Iraq. The BBC has video extracts from the interview, HERE:
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS CAPTURE HEZBOLLAH BASE SOUTH-WEST OF ALEPPO BUT BATTLE BOTH REGIME AND IS TO KEEP SUPPLY LINES OPEN:
To the south-west of Aleppo city at Khan Toman, Opposition fighters have captured a Hezbollah base, HERE: while to the north-east of the city the Opposition are having to contend with both the Assad regime and the Islamic State trying to cut their supply line between Turkey through northern Aleppo province to the eastern part of the city.
Ongoing battles are being reported between the Opposition and the Islamic State around the IS-held towns of Dabiq and Ihtaimlat. Also somewhere between Aleppo and Hama on the Knanasser road, the Opposition are reporting the assassination of Brigadier General Thaer Mustafa Abbas, a senior Assad officer, in an ambush on a Syrian Army convoy.
Good piece in English from Der Spiegel’s Syria news on living (and dying) in Aleppo, HERE:
In Deir Ez-Zour city Opposition sources are reporting a regime airstrike on Saturday using chlorine gas once again, while in Raqqah city Assad’s warplanes have repeated piggy-backing on Coalition strikes by bombing the Al-Rashid secondary school, which was used as an Islamic State base but was abandoned some time ago when the US strikes started, Assad’s men working on out-of-date intelligence.
In Daraa province the Assad Government is believed responsible for a series of IEDs planted in vehicles that exploded in Dael, Naemah and Tafas. One suspected booby-trapped vehicle was intercepted and destroyed in a controlled explosion at Yadodeh, HERE:
In Hama province no less than 25 regime airstrikes are reported today on towns and villages in the northern part of the province, while at the same time the Opposition are said to have destroyed both a T-72 tank and another tank howitzer at a barrier near Halfaya.
In Idlib province Government forces have come out of the Abu Al-Dhuhur airbase and tried to advance on the city of the same name nearby.
Following the first airstrikes by the US Coalition on targets in Idlib province, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an investigation into the reported deaths of a number of civilians.
3 local residents have told Human Rights Watch that missiles killed at least two men, two women, and five children, in the early morning hours on September 23 in the village of Kafr Deryan in northern Idlib, though the 2 men may well have been fighters from the Al-Nusra Front, the target of the attack. You can read more, HERE:
In Damascus residents of Yarmouk have now gone 20 days without a regular water supply, and Opposition sources say their fighters have killed the Syrian Army commander who was supposed to be leading the regime’s counter offensive to regain Al- Dukhaniyya.
Although the Opposition is said to have lost Adra to the regime in the last few days, heavy fighting is reported at a crossing near Tal Kurdi nearby, north-east of the capital.
IRAQ NEWS: AFTER SLOW START BRITISH MILITARY PREPARES OPERATION TO STRIKE ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ:
In Iraq, the US-led Coalition has made a number of strikes against Islamic State targets since Friday, 1 at Al-Qaim on the frontier with Syria reputedly hitting a university compound being used as a hideout by IS fighters, killing 52 of the them. The crossing has been officially shut since 2012 but has been regularly used by IS more recently.
5 airstrikes south and south-west of Kirkuk are reported to have destroyed 3 Humvees, 1 other IS vehicle and disabled 2 further armed vehicles and an armoured mine-resistant vehicle.
West of Baghdad 1 airstrike destroyed an IS “guard shack”, plus an armed vehicle and a bunker. Another airstrike near Al Qaim destroyed 4 armed vehicles, a command and control post and a checkpoint. There is increasing alarm in Baghdad though that in some areas the Jihadists are within 7 miles of the capital.
Although the British Parliament gave clearance for its armed forces to make airstrikes in Iraq, after 5 armed sorties over the weekend and today, Monday, the RAF Tornados have yet to engage the Islamic State in combat.
However, the UK is reported to have just purchased 20 Tomahawk Cruise missiles from the US at a cost of $32 million. A UK submarine armed with cruise missiles is believed to be positioned in the Persian Gulf.
The British are said to be about to launch an operation called “Shader” after special forces have identified on the ground Islamic State targets. The missiles will be directed from the Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, which is linked directly with US Central Command.
The Tornados are equipped with Paveway bombs for small targets, Storm Shadow bunker busters and supersonic Brimstone missiles capable of targeting and hitting moving objects like cars or motorbikes.
DESPITE FRESH STRIKES OVERNIGHT ON ISLAMIC STATE POSITIONS AND FACILITIES, THEY GET EVEN MORE RECRUITS IN SEPTEMBER:
TIMELINE – 26th SEPTEMBER 2014 19.55 GMT:
For the 4th day running, the US-led Coalition carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State, destroying their facilities mainly in north-east Syria.
While details from the Pentagon are slow in coming, other sources say that strikes early this morning, Friday, hit Islamic State bases and positions on the outskirts of the city of Al-Mayadin in Deir Ez-Zour province, as well as targeting the Al-Tanak oilfield and the Al-Quriyah areas.
The Coalition is also said to have targeted IS positions and installations south-east of Hasakah city, close to Syria’s border with Iraq earlier in the night. The strikes there targeted another oil production area, as well as vehicles the Jihadists had brought in from Iraq and apparently tried to bury in the ground to protect them.
Subject of some of the strikes may well have been the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), as well as the Islamic State, though this is not confirmed. Such strikes on ANF may be counter-productive as many of their followers are now making calls for them to form a joint force with the Islamic State.
Airstrikes are also reported at Sarmada near the Turkish border and west of Aleppo, but the source of these is currently not clear. With the Assad regime piggybacking on the American-led strikes to target all Opposition groups, it is not obvious who is attacking whom right now. (EDITOR: Though I will do my best to sort it out!)
The Pentagon has said that 16 fighter aircraft took part in the latest sortie, 6 American jets and 10 from mostly Arabic allies and later in the day that the Coalition had destroyed 4 x IS tanks and damaged another in 3 in airstrikes south and southeast of Deir Ez-Zour.
Major Mariam Al Mansouri, 35, (scroll down – see below) has turned into something of an Internet hit after her profile as the top female pilot leading the UAE strike force jets was released to the media.
Major Mansouri was the first woman to join the Emirati Air Force and comes from a family of 8 children, getting through high school with an average grade of 93% and obtaining a degree in English Literature at University. You can read more, HERE:
BBC Syria news also has a brief 60 second video report on the capabilities of the new $143 million US F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighter which has now been used in combat, in Syria, for the very first time. One of its features is that it can drop bombs on enemy targets from 25 miles away, so they won’t even know it’s there.
Faced with attacks from weapons like this, Opposition sources are saying that local people are moving away from IS buildings and infrastructure. However, this does seem to have deterred fighter recruitment to the Islamic State side.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports that it has been told that another 73 men joined IS in Aleppo province on the 24th and 25th September, mainly defectors from the Al Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda linked Jihadist group. This is in addition to 162 recruits reported since Coalition strikes in Iraq started on September 10th.
Life under the Islamic State continues to be grim for those who are trapped there. One 15 year old girl, who is now safe in a camp in southern Turkey, described to SkyNews how she saw beheadings and was beaten in Raqqah for lifting a veil she was forced to wear.
“Life under ISIS?” she said, “I’m not sure you can even call it a life. ISIS didn’t let us go to school unless we wore the full face veil – we couldn’t show an inch of skin. It was hard to write with gloves on.” You can read more, HERE:
17 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER OF BRITISH BEHEADING VICTIM CALLS FOR THE ISLAMIC STATE TO BE “ERADICATED”:
Ahead of a vote on UK involvement in airstrikes on IS in Iraq in the British Paliament today, Bethany Haines, the daughter of David Haines, the British aid worker who was beheaded by the Islamic State, called on them to be “eradicated”.
The 17 year old said, “They [IS] can’t continue this way. They can’t be doing this to people and get away with it, no matter what nationality, if they’re western or not.
Hundreds of Syrians have been killed by them and they need to be stopped. If air strikes and ground force is what it takes, that’s what it takes.” The Telegraph Syria news section has more, HERE:
Elsewhere in Syria, this video emerged of damage to a school in Homs after attacks by President Assad’s jets, HERE: and in Damascus province the regime declared that it recaptured Adra, normally a city of 150,000, north-east of the capital and held by the Opposition since last December.
Heavy fighting and regime airstrikes are reported once again on the Damascus suburb of Jobar, while in the Qalamoun region near to Lebanon, the Opposition are attempting a “come-back”, retaking Assal Al-Ward and using 3 suicide bombers, reputedly, in unconfirmed reports, killing 120+ Hezbollah and regime fighters dead.
Once again, regime helicopters are said to have dropped 2 barrel-bombs on the Damascus Opposition-held town of Zabadani today, Friday.
Video has been released of Opposition fighters in Daraa province near Namer attacking an Assad troop position with an anti-tank missile launcher fixed on the back of a pick-up, HERE:
In Idlib province there are reports of Assad regime warplanes attacking Saraqeb, where they are said to have hit a Al Nusra Front HQ, Khan Sheikoun and Kafr Nabl.
However, around the Abu Al-Duhur miltary base Opposition fighters are reported to have destroyed a Shilka armoured vehicle and killed more than 20 of Assad’s troops.
In Hasakah province, heavy fighting is reported for the 3rd day running between the Kurdish militia, the YPG and the Islamic State around Al-Rewaya, Mabroka, Al-Dahma and Thamad near Ras Al-Ein with 20 YPG fighters killed and 16 from IS.
The Islamic State have pulled back some of their fighters to the Ras Al-Ein area from the eastern side of the front at Kobane in Aleppo province, where Kurdish militia said they are holding off the Islamic State advance, but on the western and southern fronts IS continue to make “progress”.
In this video, Islamic State forces are just 7 kilometres from Kobane as the Kurdish YPG struggle hard to hold them back, HERE:
Latest reports from Kobane this afternoon, Friday, say that IS still in control of the hill known as Tell Shair and the village below it and are just 3 kilometres west of Kobane city and may making headway again in the east taking over the village of Ali Shar today.
In the ongoing situation, Turkish authorities have reported that a number of stray shells, presumably from IS, have hit their territory across the border striking a vineyard, though there is no information saying the Turkish Army has retaliated with artillery as it has done in the past with previous incursions. There are reports however of an exchange of gunfire between Turkish border guards and IS fighters.
Elsewhere in Aleppo province a huge explosion has been recorded in the Islamic State-held town of Ihtaimlat, with some sources speculating that it was a US Coalition missile but this remains unconfirmed.
Lastly, on Syria reports, the heart-warming story of an Aleppo ambulance driver who every day for the last 2 months has spent his own money on food for an army of as many as 150 stray cats still trying to survive in the abandoned district of Masaken Hanano. You can see more pictures, HERE:
IRAQ NEWS: FOUL IS JIHADISTS EXECUTE FEMALE HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER FOR FACEBOOK COMMENTS, WHILE YET ANOTHER 200 IRAQI SOLDIERS FACE EXTINCTION:
In Iraq overnight on Thursday to Friday, Coalition forces, this time led by French jets attacked Islamic State (IS) targets and US Central Command (Centcom) says that on Wednesday and Thursday they made 11 strikes over Iraq using a mixture of attack, bomber and fighter aircraft.
1 airstrike west of Erbil hit IS fighters and damaged an IS armed vehicle, while 5 airstrikes south of Kirkuk struck IS fighters and destroyed a IS tank, another vehicle and a Humvee, plus damaging 2 further armed vehicles. 5 airstrikes west of Baghdad destroyed a Humvee, four checkpoints, a fighting position, two guard towers, and a command post.
Further to an earlier post (scroll down – see below), the Islamic State is claiming that they killed nearly 300 soldiers at the Saqlawiyah Army base on Sunday and seized huge amounts of equipment including 41 Humvee armoured vehicles, though this has as yet not been verified. 132 Iraqi soldiers are also reported captured and their fate unknown.
Even worse news is that another 200 Iraqi soldiers are now besieged by the Islamic State at another camp not far from Baghdad, Albu Etha, about 10 kilometres south of Ramadi.
A soldier speaking from the camp said that they were running out of food, weapons and ammunition and forces sent to rescue them were struggling to clear a route through numerous roadside bombs and landmines. “There was an army group in front of us whom the Islamic State destroyed completely six days ago,” said the soldier, “If we withdraw, will be killed”.
An Iraqi Intelligence Officer from Anbar province has said, “The situation inside and outside Ramadi is very bad. They [the Iraqi Army] are in a defensive mode. They are not attacking. Each day the Islamic State is carrying out an operation. We will lose Ramadi unless the American air force carries out air strikes on their positions”.
Just to add to their foul reputation, sources in IS-controlled Mosul say that they have executed the female human rights lawyer, Samira Salih al-Nuaimi, for “apostasy”.
The lawyer was arrested on September 17th after allegations that she had posted messages on Facebook that were critical of the militants’ destruction of religious sites in Mosul.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq her family had told them that Al-Nuaimi was tried in a so-called “Sharia court” after which she was tortured for five days in attempt to get her to “repent”.
When she refused the Jihadists sentenced her to a “public execution” last Monday infront of the Governorate building in the Dawasa area of central Mosul.
Samira Salih Al-Nuaimi was a well-known activist for women’s rights and those suffering poverty.
She often represented defendants in the Mosul courts pro bono (free). (EDITOR: Damn you Islamic State for destroying all the good in the world – it seals your fate)
There is also a report from Iraq that IS have destroyed a 1500 year old Assyrian church in Tikrit.
Let’s not forget either the 4,000 Yezidi, including 3,000 women and children, are still thought to be in Islamic State hands. Many of the women and girls are reportedly being trafficked around the region and passed on as “spoils of war”.
One woman, Adla, who escaped, describes how she was taken with others from her village and held prisoner for 38 days. “At first I was taken to a big house in Mosul. It was full of women,” says Adla, trembling. “They locked all the windows and doors and surrounded it with guards.
Every day or two, men would come and make us take off our headscarves so they could choose which of us they wanted. Women were dragged out of the house by their hair.” As Adla was moved from place to place, she saw her friends being violently beaten and raped. One was forced to leave with her little son at gunpoint. You can read more of this dreadful history in the BBC section of its Syria news reports, HERE:
In New York at the UN for the Climate Change, Iraq’s President Haider al Abadi said that Iraqi Intelligence had received information that Westerners working for the Islamic State were planning attacks on the US and French subway systems, though American and French officials they had no evidence to confirm this.
However, FBI Director James Comey has said that following work mainly in Britain and Europe, the bureau has identified the IS Jihadist accused of beheading two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid worker David Haines, but is not ready to release the details yet.
Finally, in London this Friday evening, the British Parliament voted overwhelmingly to support the US-led coalition with a jet strike force to make attacks against the Islamic State in Iraq, but not for the present in Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron referred to IS fighters in the debate as “psychopathic terrorists”.
Britain already has 6 Tornado jets at its base in Cyprus carrying out surveillance patrols over Iraq and these same aircraft are expected to move into a direct armed combat role over the weekend.
Belgium has followed the Netherlands in sending 6 F-16s to join the Coalition and Denmark is sending a further 7 of the same aircraft.
UAE SENDS LEADING FEMALE PILOT TO ATTACK ISLAMIC STATE, AS THEIR OIL INSTALLATIONS ARE DESTROYED IN EASTERN SYRIA:
TIMELINE – 25th SEPTEMBER 2014 10.05 GMT:
On Wednesday night, US Coalition forces struck once again against the Islamic State in Syria, this time targeting their oil infrastructure in Deir Ez-Zour and Hasakah provinces.
3 of the IS mobile oil refining structures were hit around the Al-Houl area of Hasakah province and 2 more near Al-Shadadi.
In Deir Ez-Zour province fighter jets hit an IS HQ at Mosbaq al-Son’ near Al-Myadin and refinery structures at Al-Shebli in Al-Myadin city and Boqrus Badia.
Also hit was an IS camp at Al-Mazare’ and another HQ at Ein Ali plus a checkpoint near Hajin on the eastern side of the province. 2 x IS vehicles carrying fighters were also destroyed near Al-Hrejia and another “oil refinery” near Al-Ashara.
The aim of the attacks is to degrade and destroy the Islamic State’s ability to earn revenue by processing oil and selling fuel. “Oil refinery” is probably a misleading description for many of these installations, most of which are very basic, environment polluting temporary structures or mobile units.
This video from Vice News gives you a good idea of this crude but effective revenue earning operation that has been producing 100,000 barrels a day, HERE:
14 Islamic State fighters were reported killed in the overnight raids by armed drones and planes from the air forces of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 5 civilians, including women and children were also regrettably reported killed in the attacks, according to Opposition sources, probably family of fighters living near the oil facilities.
To add “insult to injury” for the Jihadists, the UAE strike force was led by their senior woman pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri (EDITOR: Well done UAE for showing a bit of equality enlightenment in the Middle East!)
In one other more sensible move, the Islamic State are reported to have freed 150 prisoners held in jail in Raqqah, fearing that the prison might be another target of the US Coalition strikes.
Speaking at the UN yesterday about the threat from the Islamic State, President Obama said, “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force, so the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort.” The BBC’s Syria news has more on Obama’s speech, HERE:
A video released by Algerian extremists aligned with IS said yesterday that they had beheaded a fourth hostage – a Frenchman seized in Algeria on Sunday – in retaliation for France joining the aerial assault against the militants in Iraq (scroll down – see below ). President Hollande, also at the UN, said France would not be deterred by this act of “barbarity”.
Belgium has announced that it is joining the US-led Coalition and the Netherlands is sending a contingent of 6 x F-16 fighter jets to Jordan to help with airstrikes in Iraq along with 380 military staff, 130 of whom will be instructors to train Iraqi and Kurdish military personnel.
In the UK, David Cameron has recalled the British Parliament to meet in special session tomorrow, Friday, to discuss the Middle East and it is likely that they will formerly join the US Coalition to make strikes in Iraq, though not Syria where many feel there are legality issues.
This map illustrates the current location and distribution of US Coalition forces, courtesy of @Stratfor, here:
It is also reported in the UK that one of the Jihadists killed in the first series of US strikes in Syria this week was a teenager from the British town of Brighton. BBC Syria news interviews his mother, HERE:
In Syria, particularly in Idlib province where a number of civilians were killed in US Coalition strikes, there have been protests against the United States for their attacks on the Al Nusra Front and other conservative, but none Islamic State, groups, here:
NEW US STRIKES REPORTED IN SYRIA AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE TARGETS ON THE BORDER WITH IRAQ:
TIMELINE – 24th SEPTEMBER 2014 13.30 GMT – UPDATED 16.31 GMT:
While it has been relatively quiet in Syria last night, Tuesday, after Monday’s massive US Coalition airstrikes, 13 US aircraft attacks are being reported this morning, Wednesday, on the Islamic State (IS) border town of Albu Kamel, wiping out the industrial area there.
Bombs and rockets have struck the IS headquarters in Albu Kamel, which sits on the frontier with Iraq, and checkpoints in Al-Sena’a and Al-Hejana near and around the city.
Residents reported the roar of the warplanes and the intensity of the shelling as similar to Monday night and different from anything they experienced from Assad.
Albu Kamal is on the main Euphrates River valley highway and one of the most important border crossings between Iraq and Syria.
It links the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, Raqqah, with its strategic front lines in western Iraq and therefore is probably a key target of US forces.
Overnight in Raqqah, local activists also reported a lot of drone and aircraft noise but no bombs or rockets falling.
The overall aftermath of Monday night’s US Coalition attacks seem to have been, according to Opposition sources, 70 Islamic State fighters dead and 300 injured.
The death toll could rise however as 100 of these men are seriously wounded and have been moved to Iraq for further treatment.
You can see a compilation of strike footage released by the US military (and ironically compiled on YouTube by Russia Today!), here:
On Tuesday following the bombing raid, residents of Raqqah reported 4 Islamic State convoys leaving the city with trucks of ammunition and mounted guns of various sizes.
There were also reports of 5 young men arrested for taking pictures of damaged areas on their mobile phones, brought before a military court and accused of “cooperating with the US”.
One former student who was smuggled out of Raqqah 2 weeks ago, describes life there as grim, with little food, no education and IS controlling every aspect of life. The main hospital, exclusively used by the Islamic State and already attacked by Assad, was destroyed in Monday night’s air attacks. You can read more, HERE:
Other residents of Raqqah say around 30 IS fighters were killed there and although the bombing was terrifying it attacked IS rather than civilians indiscriminately as the Assad regime does. You can read more in the Guardian Syria news.
As well as attacks on IS sites in Raqqah, Albu Kamel, Deir Ez-Zour, Hasakah and the outskirts of Aleppo, the US also struck on Monday night at the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) in Idlib province west of Aleppo, where a further 50 Jihadists, mostly Syrians, are reported killed.
According to US officials the strike was a deliberate attempt to neutralise a group of Jihadists embedded with Al Qaeda aligned ANF know as the Khorasan Group. Apparently, according to US Intelligence sources who have been monitoring Khorasan for some time, the group has no interest in fighting Assad, but is dedicated to attacking Western targets.
Some US sources believed on Wednesday that they had killed Khorasan’s alleged leader, a long-standing Al-Qaeda operative known as Muhsin al-Fadhli who reputedly had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, but his death has not yet been confirmed.
The group is thought to have been working with bomb makers from Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to develop new explosives which can be embedded in small devices and toiletries, hence the raising of security levels recently at Western airports. Passengers now have to prove that their laptops are charged and can be switched on.
Khorasan was hit in the first wave of 47 Tomahawk Cruise missiles with 8 strikes, which was then followed by a second wave of US F-15s and F-22s hitting targets all over Syria and third wave consisting mainly of Coalition aircraft from other nations plus US F-18s.
The Idlib attack hit the village of Kafar Daryan with updated reports of 11 ANF fighters killed and 10 civilians, including 2 women and 3 children. The death was also reported of Abu Yusuf AL-Turki, a senior ANF commander in charge of training snipers. A video of destruction at the village can be seen, HERE:
This morning. Wednesday, both the Al-Nusra Front and another more moderate Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, have evacuated their bases in populated areas of Idlib province, moved their heavy weapons and told civilians to stay away from their camps so “they do not get harmed”.
The Syrian regime has been largely mute on the subject of US Coalition strikes on its territory, Assad merely trying to position himself on the side of the “good” yesterday by telling an Iraqi security advisor in a meeting that “we must all fight against international terrorism”.
US officials said that while they warned both Syria and Iran of imminent strikes in Syria, they did not “ask permission or co-ordinate with their military or give details of targets” and warned the Syrian regime not to “engage US aircraft”.
Jordan has confirmed that it took part in the strikes, saying that the Jordanian airforce had hit IS targets “near the Jordanian border”.
The UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have also confirmed their involvement as “full participants”, pictures of Saudi pilots revealing that one of them was the son of the Saudi Crown Prince. Qatar apparently sent planes but made no strikes.
Before leaving the White House on Tuesday to fly to the Climate Change Conference at the UN in New York, President Obama said, “We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” and vowed to continue the attacks indefinitely.
The Syrian National Coalition and some moderate Opposition groups, while welcoming the attacks on IS are concerned at the danger to civilians and also to the Al Nusra Front, which the US lists as a “terrorist organisation” but which has allied itself successfully with the Opposition in effectively fighting Assad.
Latest reports from the US say that 50 states have now signed up to the Coalition, which will inevitably bring retaliation.
As well as an Algerian group threatening to kill a French tourist (scroll down – see below) unless France withdraws from involvement in Iraq, another militant group in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf, has said it will kill 1 of 2 German hostages unless its demands, including a ransom for $5.6 million and withdrawal of German support for the Coalition, are met.
In Australia a man suspected of involvement in Jihadist activities was shot dead outside a police station after stabbing 2 counter-intelligence officers who had been tracking him. Earlier he had been seen, according to reports, waving an Islamic State flag outside a shopping centre.
It is now thought that Turkey managed to gain release of its 49 hostages held by the Islamic State, 46 Turks and 3 Iraqis, by exchanging them for IS prisoners it was holding.
In the UK, the wife of British IS hostage Alan Henning, says she has received an audio file in which Alan pleads for his life. In reply she has issued a statement calling for the militant group to “open their hears and minds” and said she had been told that a Sharia court had found her husband innocent of being a spy and therefore they should release him.
ISLAMIC STATE REDEPLOY FIGHTERS AND TANKS TO KOBANE FRONT, LESS THAN 10 KM FROM TURKISH BORDER:
In the northern part of Aleppo province in Syria, despite unconfirmed reports of airstrikes on Islamic State positions, IS continues to advance towards the Turkish border, driving thousands of Kurds to flee before their advance.
Locals said that the jets came from the direction of Turkey, but Turkish authorities have denied this and said no US Coalition aircraft, or jets of any other nation, had overflown their airspace.
The Kurdish militias, the YPG and the PKK, are valiantly fighting to hold back the Islamic State, but increasingly, without air support it looks like a losing battle.
In the last 24 hours IS have taken control of Tel Ghazal and Robey, both villages less than 10 kilometres south of Kobane, as well as capturing grain silos in the same area.
Kurdish sources said that since the US-led attacks on Raqqah, the Islamic State had moved increased numbers of tanks, fighters and heavy weapons to their advance towards Kobane, the YPG being heavily out-gunned.
The Jihadists also took control of a communications tower on the main road to Kobane yesterday, in this IS battle video (Caution, some dead bodies) HERE:
Elsewhere in Syria there have been clashes once again between the Opposition and Assad’s troops around Prophet Younis mountain in Latakia province and in Hama province the Opposition have retaken, in a constantly changing battlescape, the Al-Zilaqiat checkpoint for the 3rd time!
Before moving in once again Opposition fighters destroyed yet another regime tank with a TOW missile, HERE: Opposition fighters are also reported today, Wednesday, to have blown up a Government oil tanker on the road in Hama province south of Morek.
And in the north-east of Daraa province Opposition fighters destroyed an Assad tank inside the Brigade 34 base, HERE:
East of Damascus the battle for control of the suburb of Al-Dkhaniyya continues, HERE: while in Adra 7 people are now reported to have died from an Assad toxic gas attack, (Caution, some disturbing images) HERE:
Near Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is battling with the Islamic State as well at Mare, HERE:
In Quneitra province, where the Opposition have done extremely well recently driving the Syrian Army away from the border with Israel, 16 of their fighters were reported killed by regime troops near the village of Taranja.
IRAQ NEWS: IRAQI ARMY FAILS TO AID SOLDIERS TRAPPED IN BASE NEAR FALLUJAH BY ISLAMIC STATE – 100s MISSING:
In Iraq too, the US-led Coalition has also made more airstrikes today, Wednesday, against the Islamic State (IS) hitting 2 targets west of Baghdad and 2 south-east of Erbil near Kurdistan.
The US military says that the latest strikes today in both Syria and Iraq have destroyed 2 x IS armed vehicles, 8 other vehicles, a weapons cache and fighting positions.
However, the Iraqi Army seems to have suffered another humiliating defeat near Fallujah with huge loss of life.
On Sunday Islamic State (IS) fighters stormed the Iraqi Government Army base at Saqlawiya just 30 kilometres and an hour’s drive away from Baghdad. Once again, as at Camp Speicher, it is unclear how many Iraqi troops were at the base, but one officer put the total at around 1,000, of which only 200 were able to flee.
IS gained control of Sijir, near Falluja, a week ago, which allowed them to surround the Saqlawiya base.
“We were without ammunition or food,” said the officer. “Every time we contacted military commanders, they promised to send helicopters to air drop reinforcements but nothing happened.
We were drinking salty well water and eating canned tomato paste.” The officer eventually fled to another base near Fallujah on Sunday.
A spokesman for the armed forces General Command said orders had been issued 4 days ago for supplies and military reinforcements to be sent to Saqlawiya and Sijir, in addition to intensifying overflights.
However, a convoy was attacked on its way from Baghdad, and last Wednesday soldiers in Salqlawiya allowed in a Humvee which they assume had an Iraqi Army driver.
Instead it was a suicide bomber who triggered a massive explosion allowing the Jihadists to get inside the camp.
The Iraqi Defence Ministry said it had “lost communication” with some soldiers in Sijir and Saqlawiya on Sunday. Now the road to the capital is littered with burnt-out military vehicles and dead bodies and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers are missing, believed dead.
Residents of IS-controlled Fullajah have reported that since the weekend around 30 men in Iraqi military uniforms have been driven around the city in the back of seized military vehicles, the captured troops looking very exhausted, while music blared glorifying the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
West of Mosul, the IS jihadists are also engaged in another 2 day ongoing battle to gain control of the Baiji oil refinery. Vast quantities of smoke have been seen pouring from the site.
Lastly an illustrated Iraq situation update, courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War, here:
SYRIA NEWS UPDATE: OVERNIGHT, US FORCES, SUPPORTED BY 5 ARAB STATES, ATTACK ISLAMIC STATE TARGETS IN SYRIA
TIMELINE – 23rd SEPTEMBER 2014 08.45 GMT:
For the very 1st time, US forces, backed by Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), attacked Islamic State targets in Syria last night, around 8.30pm Eastern Time in the US, 1.30am (Tuesday) GMT.
The attack started with the launch of Tomahawk missiles from the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke positioned in the Red Sea, followed by F-18 aircraft flying off the USS George H. W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.
B-1 bombers, F-16s, F-18s and Predator drones where also used in the assault, some of them flown by Arab nations, though the full details are not yet available.
The first wave of attacks lasted 90 minutes with other attacks over the course of several hours. Confirmation of the attacks has come from sources in the Islamic State main base in Syria at Raqqah and several amateur mobile phone videos appeared on the web including this one:
Initial reports say that one target was the former Provincial Governor’s building and at least 20 Islamic State fighters were killed. Other sites were reportedly hit in Deir EZ-Zour and other locations.
Reports from the US say that there were 20 targets in the initial strike, but other unconfirmed sources suggest as many as 50 sites may have been targeted overall throughout the night. American military officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings that the Jihadists use for command and control.
There are also reports that for the first time the US may be using its F-22 Stealth Fighter Jets ($143 million each!) in combat. Neither the UK, France or any other European allies apparently took part in the Syria strikes. The BBC Syria news has an updated video report, HERE:
In Damascus, the response from the Assad regime is so far very muted. The SANA state broadcaster’s 6.00am TV news bulletin was delayed and the station just played martial music and displayed a fixed photograph.
The SANA website just acknowledges that Syria’s Ambassador to the UN was told of the attack last night: “Foreign and Expatriates Ministry: The United States informed Syria’s permanent envoy to the U.N. before launching airstrikes against ISIS terrorist organization in Raqqa”. (EDITOR: That’s it! Nothing else at the time of writing)
IS has issued a 2nd video using British hostage John Cantlie (scroll down – see earlier reports below), though it is not known exactly when it was first published.
In the 2nd video, appearing to be under duress, Cantlie says, “Everyone now is getting involved. Denmark and France have sent airpower, Britain is arming the Kurds, Iran is sending troops and contractors are being sought in Iraq.
Even Bashar al Assad, until earlier this year the most hated and villainised tyrant in the Arab world, is being approached for permission to go into Syria. It’s all quite a circus. Not since Vietnam have we witnessed a potential mess in the making.” (EDITOR: He is very right there!)
In addition, following on from Sunday’s “commandment” by the Islamic State spokesman (scroll down – see below) to their followers to attack US and European citizens worldwide, a French tourist has been captured in Algeria.
In a video showing the kidnapped Frenchman, 55 year old Herve Gourde, a group calling itself Jund al-Khilafah, or the “Caliphate Soldiers”, threatens to kill their hostage unless France desists from attacking IS targets in Iraq.
At the same time as all this news, Israel apparently downed a Syrian Sukhoi 24 fighter jet that infiltrated its territory this morning, Tuesday, after it flew 800 metres into Israeli territory from Syria’s Quneitra province. The two pilots are reported to have used their ejector seats. This is the first time Israel has brought down a Syrian jet since the 1980’s Lebanon War.
EDITOR: No doubt more information on this emerging situation will be released during the course of today. I will post further detail tomorrow, Wednesday.
170,000 + NOW REPORTED TO HAVE FLED FROM NORTHERN SYRIA INTO TURKEY IN FACE OF ISLAMIC STATE ADVANCE NEAR KOBANE:
TIMELINE – 22nd SEPTEMBER 2014 13.08 GMT – UPDATED 17.15 GMT:
Latest reports from Kobane (Ayn Al-Arab) in the northern part of Aleppo province in Syria suggest that the Islamic State (IS) has taken control of as many as 130, mostly abandoned, villages and that 170,000 people, predominately Kurds, have fled across the Turkish border in the last 4 days.
The Kurdish militia, the YPG, is claiming that they have “halted” the IS advance to the eastern side of Kobane city as of last night, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since last Tuesday.
However, IS are still closing in on Kobane and all the villages surrounding it from both the west and the south, as well as the east, though sources say that another 250 villages still remain in Kurdish hands as well as Kobane city itself.
Today, Monday, IS are reported to have captured a hill overlooking Kobane city.
Other reports vary, but IS are still thought to be about 15 – 20 kilometres away from Kobane city but they do have formidable long-range fire power looted from Iraq.
This IS video shows them pounding the Kurdish villages with heavy artillery, tank-fire and mortars, HERE:
Opposition sources say that IS have executed at least 16 people in the Kobane region, but another 900 are still reported missing. IS deaths are given as just 7.
In an attempt to help the Kurds, one of the Syrian Opposition brigades, Nahrwan Al-Sham, has announced that they will open 3 new battle fronts against IS around Azaz in order to try and reduce the pressure on Kobane.
The pressure on the Turkish authorities however, who are already hosting around 1 million Syrian refugees, is enormous, leading to clashes on the border between Kurdish youths wanting to take relief aid to their brethren in Syria or to cross the border in order to join the fight against the Jihadists.
Stones were thrown and tear gas and water cannon fired and the border closed for a while.
This AFP report shows the scale of the flood across the Turkish frontier, HERE:
The BBC Syria news also has a video report, HERE:
A map, courtesy of @deSyracuse, shows the situation around Kobane, though the area held by the Kurds has almost certainly shrunk since it was published on Friday. The map also illustrates how quickly the Islamic State has advanced, here:
SYRIA NEWS: OPPOSITION CLOSING IN ON ALEPPO CITADEL AS THEY SEEK TO CUT ITS SUPPLY ROUTE TO THE WESTERN, ASSAD-HELD AREA OF THE CITY:
Elsewhere in Aleppo province, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has condemned the Assad regime’s barrel-bomb attack on a bakery in Al-Bab last Friday, even though the town is held by the Islamic State. Latest numbers from the attack say that 51 are dead, including 16 children, and 80 wounded.
An interesting situation is developing in Aleppo around the Old City area where Opposition fighters now surround Syrian Government troops holed up in the ancient Citadel on three sides. Currently heavy fighting is going on in Suweiqa in an attempt by the Opposition to cut the Citadel supply route and isolate it completely from the western, Assad-held areas of the city. Map courtesy of @archicivilians, here:
In Homs province the Syrian Army and Air Force have fired artillery shells and dropped 4 barrel-bombs on Al-Rastan, putting local children into shock and terror, HERE:
And in Latakia province, the Opposition still keep up their hit and run attacks, here firing mortar shells once again onto Observatory Hill 45, HERE:
In Hama heavy fighting continues in the north of the province but despite the Assad regime sending in reinforcements to regain ground, they are reported to have suffered heavy losses over the weekend. Opposition activists claim that 120 of Assad’s troops have been killed in the province this week alone.
Reports this morning say that Opposition fighters have shot down another regime jet near Kafr Zita and they also stormed a barrier at Hamamiyat just to the west over the weekend, grabbing all the weapons and ammunition they could find and then retreating after 2 hours, as well as destroying 2 tanks. Opposition fighters destroyed another regime tank at Al-Zilaquiat with a TOW missile launcher, HERE:
Even further west, the Opposition are now said to be in sections of Kernaz town and to have taken the Zalin checkpoint at Helfaia to the south-east.
In Idlib province the Assad regime massacred another 42 civilians over the weekend with airstrikes on Saraqib and Ehsim, in Ehsim managing to kill 17 people all from one family.
On the eastern side of the capital, Damascus, fierce fighting is reported once again this morning at Dukhaniyya, HERE: while to the north-east of the city the regime has made another attempt to recapture Adra.
9 airstrikes have hit Adra in the last 24 hours and the regime tactic seems to be to lure Opposition forces away from more central areas of the capital, but so far not working. Opposition fighters are said to have captured a gas plant in the Adra area.
The Opposition have also announced that they will give “1 million Syrian pounds” for the capture of any of 17 Islamic State commanders whom they believe are hiding out in Eastern Ghouta.
This map, courtesy of @archicivilians, shows the situation on the ground north, south and east of Damascus, here:
A leaked regime video shows the Syrian Army launching massive Scud missiles against Opposition areas, HERE:
In Raqqah province an unknown force, but probably the Assad regime, partly destroyed another Euphrates bridge at Qarah Qawzaq between Manbij and Raqqah cutting a major Islamic State supply line.
Two secret reports from Raqqah city itself show how uncomfortable and suppressive life is there. The first one is from the Wall Street Journal Syria news with material from brave activists inside the city, here:
The second one was secretly filmed by a French woman living in the city, with English sub-titles. At an “Internet Club”, a tearful mother pleads via Skype with her daughter to come home, here:
IRAQ NEWS: ISLAMIC STATE SPOKESMAN TELLS INTERNATIONAL FOLLOWERS TO KILL USA & EU CITIZENS FROM ANY NATION THAT BOMBS THEM:
In Iraq, 49 Turkish hostages held by the Islamic State, the Turkish Consul his staff and their families, were finally released unharmed early on Saturday after more than 3 months in captivity.
The Turkish Government says that “it paid no ransom” but so far has been extremely reluctant to endorse of support US and French military action against the Jihadists.
In a chilling message released online in several languages, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, a “spokesman” for the Islamic State has called for their members and supporters to kill foreigners, especially Americans and the French from those nations launching attacks against them.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European”, says Adnani, “especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian or any other disbeliever… including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him”.
This maniac then even went on to give “tips” on how to kill foreigners “without military equipment”.
“Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
“If you are unable to do so, then burn his home, car, or business. Or destroy his crops. If you are unable to do so, then spit in his face.”
Adnani described the US-led coalition as the “final campaign of the crusaders”.
(EDITOR: Clearly a man of great “spirituality, compassion and humanity”. Please God/Allah protect us all from their “enlightenment”.)
As a result of these threats, the EU has raised the security levels at its headquarters in Brussels.
Australia’s Defence Minister, David Johnston, after a meeting in Baghdad with the newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said that Australian jets would be taking part in airstrikes against the Islamic State as soon as technical preparations were complete.
8 Super-Hornet jets, based in the UAE, would be supported by an E-7 Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft, as well as special forces who would act as military advisers.
The latest US airstrike against the Jihadists is said to have killed 30 of them at a IS headquarters building in Duloaiya, near the old airport in Salah al-Din province.
However, near Fallujah, the Iraqi Army says it has lost contact with a group of its men under siege by the Islamic State on Sunday, while IS itself has released a video of gold ingots and 100s of thousands of US dollars found at the former home of the Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Usama an-Nudschaifi, in Niveneh province, (Arabic only) HERE: