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Turkey has carried out raids against suspected ISIS militants after the deadly attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

At least 13 suspects were detained in the raids in Istanbul, with more in the western coastal city of Izmir.

Turkey believes ISIS was behind June 28 suicide gun and bomb attack that left 42 people dead and more than 230 injured.

More details of the victims have emerged, many of them airport workers.

A Turkish official told AFP: “Earlier today, the police raided 16 locations to detain 13 IS suspects, including three foreign nationals.”Istanbul airport attack 2016

Turkish media said counter-terrorism police had raided several areas of Istanbul – including Pendik, Basaksehir and Sultanbeyli.

Arrests were also reported in Izmir, where at least nine people were detained, accused of financing, recruiting and providing logistical support to ISIS.

Separately, Turkish media reported that security forces had killed two suspected ISIS militants on the Syrian border on June 25. They said one was planning an attack on the capital Ankara or the city of Adana.

No-one has yet said they carried out the airport attack.

The Hurriyet newspaper identified one of the three bombers as a Chechen but there is no official confirmation.

Turkey’s PM Binali Yildirim has said again that “our thoughts on those responsible for the attack lean towards Islamic State”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Wednesday a national day of mourning and said the attack should serve as a turning point in the global fight against militant groups.

Detailing the attack, Binali Yildirim said the three men had wanted to pass through the security system but on seeing the controls “took their weapons out of their suitcases and opened fire at random at the security check”.

One attacker detonated his explosives downstairs in the arrivals terminal, Turkish officials said.

The second went upstairs and set off his explosives there while the third waited outside as passengers fled. He then detonated his explosives, causing the most casualties.

A Kalashnikov assault rifle, a handgun and two grenades were found on the bodies, Turkish media said.

In addition to the 42 killed, more than 230 people were injured and dozens remain in critical condition in hospital.

The assault on Ataturk airport – Europe’s third busiest – is the sixth major attack in 2016 targeting either Istanbul or Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

The Iraqi military has declared the city of Ramadi “liberated” from ISIS.

Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul said forces had achieved an “epic” victory.

TV footages showed troops raising the Iraqi flag over the government complex.

However, some reports indicate there are still pockets of resistance in Ramadi.

Ramadi’s recapture marks a major reversal for the jihadist group. ISIS seized Ramadi in May, in an embarrassing defeat for the army.

Iraqi government forces have been fighting to retake it for weeks.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

State TV showed pictures of soldiers in Ramadi firing their guns in the air and publicly slaughtering a sheep in celebration.

Troops managed to capture the government compound on December 27, flushing out or killing ISIS fighters and suicide bombers who had been holding out in its buildings.

Brig. Gen. Majid al-Fatlawi of the army’s 8th division told AFP that ISIS fighters had “planted more than 300 explosive devices on the roads and in the buildings of the government complex”.

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi praised the capture of Ramadi in a TV address.

“2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when Daesh’s [ISIS’] presence in Iraq will be terminated,” he said.

“We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal and final blow to Daesh,” he added, in a reference to the largest city under ISIS control in northern Iraq.

The operation to recapture Ramadi, about 55 miles west of Baghdad, began in early November.

It was backed by US-led coalition air strikes. But it made slow progress, mainly because the government chose not to use the powerful Shia-dominated paramilitary force that helped it regain the mainly Sunni northern city of Tikrit, to avoid increasing sectarian tensions.

The US military called the recapture a “proud moment for Iraq”.

It added that “the coalition will continue to support the government of Iraq as they move forward to make Ramadi safe for civilians to return”.


A teacher at Paris’ Jean Perrin kindergarten, who said he had been stabbed by a man shouting “Islamic State”, has admitted he made the story up, prosecutors say.

The 45-year-old teacher said he had been attacked while alone in a classroom in Aubervilliers, a suburb of Paris.

However, prosecutors said he had wounded himself with a box cutter and was now being questioned as to why he lied.

France remains on high alert following the terror attacks in Paris on November 13 that left 130 people dead.

The teacher – who has not been named – has been treated in hospital for superficial wounds to his side and neck.

According to his account, a man had attacked him with a box cutter at about 07:10AM on December 14 and had shouted: “This is for Daesh [Islamic State]. It’s a warning.”Aubervilliers kindergarten fake attack

The incident sparked a manhunt in the northern suburb, as police tried to track down the alleged attacker.

The anti-terrorism branch of the Paris prosecutor’s office also opened an investigation for attempted murder in relation to a terrorist act.

After the incident, French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem visited the scene and vowed to increase security at schools.

All classes at the Jean-Perrin preschool were canceled.

Mayor of Aubervilliers Pascal Beaudet said it was not yet known what had motivated the teacher to lie.

He said the teacher had 20 years’ experience and was “appreciated” by parents at the school.

Last month, the ISIS’s French-language magazine Dar-al-Islam recently urged followers to kill teachers in France, describing them as “enemies of Allah” for teaching secularism.

Rachel Schneider, of the French primary school teachers’ union SNUipp, said many teachers had been alarmed by the threat.

“We have received many calls from colleagues, who are very worried,” she said.

“They don’t necessarily think there will be an organized attack, but they fear this message of murderous madness will inspire unstable people to action.”

Aubervilliers is in the Seine-Saint-Denis department of the Ile-de-France region.

According to US officials, an American airstrike has destroyed more than 238 fuel trucks controlled by ISIS militants in north-east Syria.

It is thought the pilots found the trucks parked up together, waiting to be loaded at an oil production point near al-Hasakah and Dayr Az Zawr.

Warning shots were reportedly fired to scare away the civilian drivers, before the destruction of the trucks began.

Islamic State makes large amounts of money from oil it produces from seized facilities.

The US Department of Defense says it will release video of the air raid, which took place over the weekend.ISIS oil trucks in Syria

Last week another 116 tankers were destroyed in a previous airstrike.

Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said on November 23: “This was conducted in many ways identical to our last,”

“It was proceeded with a leaflet drop to warn drivers out of their trucks as well as a show of force.”

Jeff Davis said there were no reports of civilian casualties.

The oil truck strikes are part of Operation Tidal Wave II, a change in tactics on the part of the coalition. Previously, petrol supplies were largely avoided because of the impact on civilian populations.

A US-led coalition began a campaign of air strikes in Syria and Iraq in 2014, after ISIS took large parts of both countries.

Belgium has raised the terror alert in Brussels to the highest level fearing an attack “like the one that happened in Paris” last week, PM Charles Michel says.

The fear was that “several individuals with arms and explosives could launch an attack… perhaps even in several places”, Charles Michel said.

Some of the attackers who killed 130 people in Paris lived in Brussels.

Paris attacks leading suspect Salah Abdeslam is believed to have gone back to Belgium.

A huge manhunt is under way.

The Brussels metro is closed till November 22 and people have been told to avoid crowds.

Photo AP

Photo AP

These include shopping centers and concerts, and the authorities have also recommended that large events, including football matches, be canceled, a statement said.

The warning for the rest of Belgium stays at a lower level, which is still at a “serious” level.

The Belgian government will review the security situation in Brussels on November 22, Charles Michel added.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon earlier told reporters Belgium’s situation was “serious”, but “under control”, as he arrived for a special security cabinet meeting on November 21.

Turkish police say they have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent on suspicion that he scouted out sites in Paris, Turkish news agencies report.

The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the attacks, which ISIS said it carried out.

ISIS militants have executed three captives in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra by tying them to columns and blowing them up, activists say.

The identities of those reportedly killed on October 25 have yet to be given.

However, they are thought to be the first to have been killed in that way since the jihadist group seized the ruins in May.

ISIS has destroyed two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers at Palmyra, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

The Islamic State believes that such structures are idolatrous. The UN cultural agency, UNESCO, has condemned the destruction as a war crime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, cited local sources in Palmyra as saying that on October 25 ISIS militants tied three detainees to Roman-era columns and then blew up the structures with explosives.ISIS kills captives in Palmyra

An activist from Palmyra, Khaled al-Homsi, said ISIS had yet to tell locals the identities of the three individuals or say why they had been killed.

“There was no-one there to see [the execution]. The columns were destroyed and IS has prevented anyone from heading to the site,” he told the AFP news agency.

Another activist, Mohammed al-Ayed, said ISIS was “doing this for the media attention”.

After overrunning the ruins of Palmyra and the adjoining modern town, also known as Tadmur, ISIS militants used the ancient theatre for the killing of 25 Syrian soldiers.

They also beheaded archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who looked after ruins for 40 years, after he reportedly refused to reveal where artifacts had been hidden.

Earlier this week, ISIS posted images online purportedly showing militants driving a tank over a captured soldier, who it alleged had himself driven over militants.

According to Afghanistan’s security services, Taliban supreme commander and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid died two years ago in Pakistan.

It appears Mullah Omar had died of health problems at a hospital in Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s government says information on his death is “credible”.

The latest reports of Mullah Omar’s death are being taken more seriously than previous such reports. The Taliban is expected to issue a statement soon.

A statement from the office of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said that it believed, “based on credible information”, that Mullah Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan.

The Afghan government, elected last year, has embarked on a peace process with the Taliban.Mullah Omar dead in Pakistan

In its statement, the government called on “all armed opposition groups to seize the opportunity and join the peace process”.

A security official in Pakistan, the country hosting the talks, told AP that the claims of Mullah Mohammed Omar’s death were mere “speculation”, designed to destabilize the negotiations.

Pakistan’s government and security services have not formally commented on the claims so far. They have always denied that Mullah Omar was in their country.

Mullah Omar led the Taliban to victory over rival Afghan militias in the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

His alliance with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Mullah Omar has since been in hiding, with a $10 million US state department bounty on his head.

Over the years, the Taliban have released several messages purported to be from the fugitive leader.

The latest of these statements, from mid-July, expressed support for the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, the message was in the form of a text published on a Taliban website, rather than an audio or video recording – fuelling rumors that the leader was dead or incapacitated.

The failure to prove that Mullah Omar was alive was a major factor behind the defection of several senior Taliban commanders to the so-called Islamic State group.


According to the Tunisian authorities, terrorist Seifeddine Rezgui had help in carrying out the attack at Sousse holiday resort.

They believe the suspected accomplices provided the Kalashnikov assault rifle to Seifeddine Rezgui and helped him get to the scene, interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui told AP.Tunisia attack gunman Seifeddine Rezgui

Mohamed Ali Aoui said Seifeddine Rezgui’s father and three friends he lived with in Kairouan, where he studied, had been detained for questioning.

Holiday companies put on extra flights over the weekend for people wanting to return home. Flights to Tunisia have also been cancelled.

The Tunisian government has brought in increased security measures.

A total of 38 people were killed on June 26 on a beach near Sousse by the gunman with links to Islamic State (ISIS) extremists.

Five teenage suspects have been arrested in Australia after police foiled an Islamic State-inspired plot to carry out an attack at ANZAC Day event in Melbourne.

One 18-year-old has been charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act.

The men were planning to target police at an ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) memorial event in Melbourne next week, police said.

About 200 police officers took part in the counter-terrorism operation in Melbourne early on Saturday, April 18.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters that evidence suggested the suspects had been influenced by ISIS.

One of the men, Sevdet Besim, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court on April 18.ANZAC Day terror plot Melbourne

Victoria state police say a second man held on terrorism-related offences is also likely to be charged.

A third man, also 18, was arrested on weapons charges and two other teenagers, aged 18 and 19, were in custody and assisting with inquiries.

Officials referred to possible attacks using “edged weapons”, but Neil Gaughan said there was no evidence to suggest there was “a planned beheading”.

The men were “associates” of Abdul Numan Haider, a teenager shot dead in September 2014 after he stabbed two officers, police said.

ANZAC Day is an annual day of remembrance for servicemen and women from Australia and New Zealand. A series of events are planned for next week to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli, Turkey.

Australian PM Tony Abbott urged people to turn up to memorial events as planned.

“The best thing we can do to counter terrorism… as individuals is to lead normal lives,” he said, adding that the authorities were doing everything possible to keep people safe.

Police said that although officers were the primary target of the alleged plot there was also a threat to the public.

Search operations were continuing at several addresses in the south-east of Melbourne on April 18.

Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, said the police presence at ANZAC Day events would be “significantly increased”.

“These individuals arrested today are not people of faith, they don’t represent any culture,” he added.

“This is not an issue of how you pray or where you were born… this is simply evil, plain and simple.”


Niger and Chad forces have launched a ground and air offensive against militant group Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria, officials say.

The campaign is said to be targeting militants in Borno state.

The move came as Nigerian officials dismissed Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) as a reaction to military pressure from Nigeria and its allies.

The pledge was posted online on March 7 in an audio message by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

Abubakar Shekau called on Muslims everywhere to swear loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria since 2009, and in recent months the violence has increasingly spilled over into neighboring states.Niger and Chad armies attack Boko Haram in Nigeria

Chad, Cameroon and Niger have already been helping Nigeria in its battle against Boko Haram.

On March 6, the African Union endorsed the creation of a regional force of more than 8,000 troops to combat the group. However, the force’s remit will be limited to securing the Nigerian side of Lake Chad, rather than pushing further into Nigeria.

As the latest offensive began early on Sunday, a resident and an aid worker told AFP news agency there had been heavy arms fire close to Niger’s border with Nigeria.

A local radio station said that a convoy of more than 200 vehicles was moving towards the area, and that air strikes had been carried out on Saturday and early on Sunday.

The Nigerian military and troops from neighboring states have recently claimed some success in their campaign against Boko Haram, and Nigerian officials said the pledge of allegiance to IS was a sign of weakness

Army spokesman Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka said the Boko Haram leader was like a “drowning man”.

A spokesman for the Nigerian government, Mike Omeri, said Boko Haram needed help “as a result of the heavy casualties and bombardment and degrading of their capacity”.

However, Boko Haram militants have continued to launch deadly attacks.

On March 7, Boko Haram was blamed for a series of attacks in its former stronghold of Maiduguri, including suicide bombings, that left more than 50 people dead.

Nigeria postponed national elections by six weeks until March 28 in order to have more time to try to improve security in the north.

Col. Sami Usman Kukasheka called on Nigerians “to be more security conscious because given the onslaught on Boko Haram definitely they are bound to spring surprises”.

ISIS has forged links with other militant groups across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and in January, militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged their allegiance.

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An American female hostage has been killed in a Jordanian air strike in Syria, Islamic State (ISIS) militants have said.

ISIS named the woman as aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller in statements online.

The group provided no other proof for the claim beyond pictures of the alleged site of the air strike, in Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in Syria.

The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by the reports but that it has yet to verify them. Jordan has questioned the ISIS claims.

A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Kayla Jean Mueller, 26, first came to the Turkish/Syrian border in 2012 to work with refugees.

She was abducted while working in Aleppo, Syria the following year.

The ISIS statement said she was killed in the building where she was being held. It did not provide images of a body.Kayla Jean Mueller killed by ISIS

If Kayla Jean Mueller’s death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while being held by ISIS. Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig were beheaded by the group.

The Jordanian foreign minister Nasser Judeh tweeted that the ISIS claims were: “An old and sick trick used by terrorists and despots for decades: claiming that hostages [and] human shields held captive are killed by air raids.”

Jordan said it carried out aerial bombardments on ISIS targets in Syria on February 5, including on Raqqa.

The strikes were carried out in response to the killing of Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh by ISIS militants.

A video of Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage was posted online by ISIS earlier this week.

Moaz al-Kasasbeh was captured by militants in December after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Syria. The video is believed to have been filmed on January 3.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Thursday’s strikes were “upping the ante” against ISIS.

Thousands rallied in Jordan’s capital, Amman, on February 6 in support of their government’s military response. Among those marching was Jordan’s Queen Rania.

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Abu Saad al-Ansari, a cleric from the ISIS group, claims the radical militia was responsible for the deadly attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“We started with the France operation for which we take responsibility. Tomorrow will be in Britain, America and others,” Abu Saad al-Ansari said in a sermon in the Islamic State-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul.

“This is a message to all countries participating in the [U.S.-led] coalition that has killed Islamic State members.”

According to the Islamic State-linked pages on Twitter on January 7, the gunmen who shot 12 French journalists dead at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris are closely related to ISIS.Charlie Hebdo attack claimed by ISIS

According to tweets, ISIS elements celebrated retaliating journalists who drew caricatures scorning the prophet Mohamed of Islam in 2011.

“Don’t say we defend the prophet through his morals, but say we retaliated the insults of the prophet,” raid a tweet.

According to French official reports, the gun assault on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine killed 12 and injured 10, 5 of them seriously.

The fugitive suspects are French-born sons of Algerian-born parents, both in their early 30s, and already under police surveillance.

One of them, Cherif Kouachi, 32, was jailed for 18 months for trying to travel to Iraq a decade ago to fight as part of an Islamist cell. Police said they were “armed and dangerous”.

Charlie Hebdo, where journalists were gunned down during an editorial meeting, had been firebombed in the past for printing cartoons that poked fun at militant Islam and some that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.


The FBI is seeking the American public’s help in identifying a masked man who appears in an Islamic State (ISIS) video.

Dressed in desert camouflage and wearing a shoulder holster, officials believe the jihadist betrays a North American accent as he speaks English and Arabic.

FBI director James Comey says about a dozen Americans are fighting with ISIS.

“In releasing a segment from the video, the FBI hopes someone might recognize the man through his voice and appearance,” the agency said.

It has put a clip of the video on its website, with details of how the public can help.

FBI officials believe the masked man in ISIS video betrays a North American accent as he speaks English and Arabic

FBI officials believe the masked man in ISIS video betrays a North American accent as he speaks English and Arabic

In parts of the video not shown in that segment, the militant stands over men he says are Syrian soldiers who have been taken prisoner at a base in Raqqa province, and are being made to dig their own graves.

He threatens them with execution before the men are shown being killed.

ISIS militants have seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria and are now being bombarded by US-led air strikes.

Intelligence officials in many Western countries have expressed fears that foreign recruits to the cause of IS could return from the fighting to launch attacks at home.

“We need the public’s assistance in identifying US persons going to fight overseas with terrorist groups or who are returning home from fighting overseas,” said Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

On October 4, a 19-year-old man in Chicago was arrested for allegedly attempting to travel overseas to join ISIS.

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A new Islamic State video has showed the killing of American journalist Steven Sotloff.

Steven Sotloff, 31, disappeared in Syria in 2013. He appeared at the end of a video last month which showed fellow American journalist James Foley being killed.

A militant in the latest video also threatens to kill a British hostage.

Steven Sotloff’s family said they were aware of the video and were “grieving privately”.

After James Foley’s death, Steven Sotloff’s mother appealed to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to save her son’s life.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said US officials were checking the reports.

The US has recently carried out dozens of air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq.

The video, entitled A second message to America, shows a masked figure together with Steven Sotloff, who is dressed in an orange jumpsuit.

Steven Sotloff was abducted near Aleppo in northern Syria in August 2013

Steven Sotloff was abducted near Aleppo in northern Syria in August 2013

Steven Sotloff reads out a text addressed to Barack Obama saying: “You’ve spent billions of US taxpayers’ dollars and we have lost thousands of our troops in our previous fighting against the Islamic State, so where is the people’s interest in reigniting this war?”

The masked man then describes the act he is about to commit as retribution for the US air strikes.

“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State… despite our serious warnings,” the man says.

“We take this opportunity to warn those governments that enter this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone.”

The video ends with the militant threatening to kill a captive who is claimed to be British.

US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act.”

Steven Sotloff was abducted near Aleppo in northern Syria in August 2013.

He had worked for Time magazine, Foreign Policy and the Christian Science Monitor, and reported from Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Friends said Steven Sotloff had lived in Yemen for many years and spoke good Arabic.

At the time of his capture, Steven Sotloff’s family chose not to go public with details, on the advice of officials.

Last month a video was released showing the beheading of James Foley.

Steven Sotloff was shown at the end, as a militant gave a warning that his fate depended on President Barack Obama’s next move.

The US launched has launched more than 120 air strikes in Iraq in the last month, in an attempt to help Kurdish forces curb the advance of Islamic State militants and protect minorities threatened by them.

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President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State (ISIS).

Correspondents say the move could mark the first step towards US air strikes inside Syria, where the jihadist group controls vast swathes of territory.

The US is already carrying out strikes against IS in neighboring Iraq.

On Monday, the Syrian government said it would work with the international community in the fight against IS.

Western governments have so far rejected suggestions that they collaborate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an attempt to counter the growing regional threat posed by IS.

They have repeatedly called on Bashar al-Assad to step down since the beginning of the three-and-a-half year uprising against his rule, in which more than 191,000 people are believed to have been killed.

On Monday evening, US officials said Barack Obama had approved over the weekend reconnaissance flights by unmanned and manned aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes.

One official later told the Associated Press that they had already begun.

President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State

President Barack Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria in order to gain intelligence on the activities of Islamic State

The US military has been carrying out aerial surveillance of IS – an al-Qaeda breakaway formerly known as Isis – in Iraq for months and launched air strikes on 8 August.

The president cited the threat to US diplomats and military personnel and the humanitarian crisis in the north, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes since June as IS fighters and allied Sunni rebels have taken control of dozens of cities, towns and villages.

Barack Obama has long resisted taking military action in Syria, but Pentagon officials are said to have advised him that the only way the threat from IS can be fully eliminated is to go after the group there.

A spokesman for General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon was “preparing options to address Isis both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools including air strikes”.

The options reportedly include targeting IS leaders in and around their stronghold of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, as well as in the east near the Iraqi border.

Last week, IS published a video showing it killing the American journalist James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012. The group threatened to kill other US citizens it was holding in retaliation for US air strikes.

It later emerged that US special forces had attempted to rescue the hostages earlier in July, but that they were not at the location in Syria where the military thought they were being held.

One Obama administration official told the New York Times that the US did not intend to collaborate with the Assad government or inform him in advance of any operation.

“It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.

“Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging [IS].”

On Monday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said his government was “ready for co-operation and co-ordination at the regional and international level to fight terrorism”.

However, Walid Muallem warned the White House that it would view any unilateral military action as a breach of sovereignty and an “act of aggression”.

The Western-backed rebel Free Syrian Army, which is fighting IS across northern Syria, meanwhile said its commanders on the ground were ready to co-ordinate with the US.

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The family of James Foley – the kidnapped American journalist killed by Islamic State militants last week – has posted a letter they say he sent while in captivity, via a fellow hostage.

James Foley was unable to write letters to his family because they were confiscated by his jailers.

Instead he asked another hostage who was about to be released to commit his letter to memory.

When that hostage was freed he dictated the letter to James Foley’s mother, Diane.

The family posted the letter on Sunday evening, on a Facebook page they had set up to campaign for James Foley’s release.

Earlier they had attended a memorial mass for James Foley in their home town of Rochester, New Hampshire.

James Foley was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012 while covering that country's civil war

James Foley was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012 while covering that country’s civil war

James Wright Foley, 41, a freelance journalist was abducted in northern Syria in November 2012, while covering that country’s civil war.

Last week, Islamic State militants released a video showing his killing by a masked man with a British accent.

On Sunday, the British ambassador to the US told CNN that British officials were close to identifying the killer.

James Foley’s last letter

Dear Family and Friends,

I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. I remember so many great family times that take me away from this prison. Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart.

I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe. I really feel I can touch you even in this darkness when I pray.

Eighteen of us have been held together in one cell, which has helped me. We have had each other to have endless long conversations about movies, trivia, sports. We have played games made up of scraps found in our cell… we have found ways to play checkers, Chess, and Risk… and have had tournaments of competition, spending some days preparing strategies for the next day’s game or lecture. The games and teaching each other have helped the time pass. They have been a huge help. We repeat stories and laugh to break the tension.

I have had weak and strong days. We are so grateful when anyone is freed; but of course, yearn for our own freedom. We try to encourage each other and share strength. We are being fed better now and daily. We have tea, occasional coffee. I have regained most of my weight lost last year.

I think a lot about my brothers and sister. I remember playing Werewolf in the dark with Michael and so many other adventures. I think of chasing Mattie and T around the kitchen counter. It makes me happy to think of them. If there is any money left in my bank account, I want it to go to Michael and Matthew. I am so proud of you, Michael and thankful to you for happy childhood memories and to you and Kristie for happy adult ones.

And big John, how I enjoyed visiting you and Cress in Germany. Thank you for welcoming me. I think a lot about RoRo and try to imagine what Jack is like. I hope he has RoRo’s personality!

And Mark… so proud of you too Bro. I think of you on the West coast and hope you are doing some snowboarding and camping, I especially remember us going to the Comedy Club in Boston together and our big hug after. The special moments keep me hopeful.

Katie, so very proud of you. You are the strongest and best of us all!! I think of you working so hard, helping people as a nurse. I am so glad we texted just before I was captured. I pray I can come to your wedding…. now I am sounding like Grammy!!

Grammy, please take your medicine, take walks and keep dancing. I plan to take you out to Margarita’s when I get home. Stay strong because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life.


Terrorist group Boko Haram has said it has set up an Islamic state in the towns and villages it has seized in north-eastern Nigeria.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month.

It is not clear if Abubakar Shekau has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nigeria’s army has rejected the claim as “empty”.

Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, since 2009 when Boko Haram began its insurgency.

Gwoza, which had 265,000 residents in the last census, is the biggest town under Boko Haram control.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was speaking in a video released to congratulate his fighters for seizing the town of Gwoza earlier this month

It has raised its flags over the palace of the Emir of Gwoza, the town’s traditional ruler, residents say.

“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic state,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.

It controls several areas, mostly in Borno state where the group was launched, but also in neighboring Yobe state.

The video also shows about 20 men in civilian clothes apparently being shot dead.

Nigeria’s military spokesman Chris Olukolade responded with a statement dismissing the declaration.

“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nigerian state is still intact,” he said.

In his previous video, released in July, Abubakar Shekau congratulated the Islamic State (IS) for its advances in Iraq and Syria but did not say whether they were allies – there is no evidence that the two groups have been working together.

IS has seized much of northern Iraq in recent months, leading the US to launch air strikes.

Last week, the militants sparked global outrage by killing American journalist James Foley.

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Iraqi President Fuad Masum has asked the deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, to form a new government.

Haider al-Abadi had previously been nominated prime minister by Shia parties, instead of the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki.

However, Nouri al-Maliki’s allies rejected Haidr al-Abadi’s nomination, saying he had no legitimacy. Nouri al-Maliki has made it clear he wants to stand for a third term.

Meanwhile the jihadist insurgency in the north of Iraq continues to cause international concern.

Fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group have made substantial gains in northern Iraq in recent months, forcing tens of thousands of people from religious minorities to flee their homes.

The US has begun supplying weapons to the Kurdish Peshmergas who are fighting the militants, senior US officials have told the Associated Press.

Iraq’s deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, has been asked by President Fuad Masum to form a new government

Iraq’s deputy speaker of parliament, Haider al-Abadi, has been asked by President Fuad Masum to form a new government (photo Facebook)

Iraq’s security forces are also supporting the Kurdish fighters, and have already delivered three plane-loads of ammunition.

In Baghdad, Iraqi President Fuad Masum said in a TV address that he hoped Haider al-Abadi would succeed in forming a government that would “protect the Iraqi people”.

“The country is now in your hands,” Fuad Masum told Haider al-Abadi, according to the French news agency AFP.

Analysts say the announcement is a public snub for Nouri al-Maliki, whose State of Law coalition won the most seats in April’s elections.

Now he has lost support from some of his own Shias – with the Shia National Alliance reported to have given Haider al-Abadi 130 votes, compared with just 40 votes for Nouri al-Maliki.

Nouri al-Maliki has been prime minister since 2006, but even though his coalition won the elections in April, parliament has still not agreed to give him a third term. He has also lost the backing of the US.

His popularity has suffered from the growing Islamist insurgency in the north – and even before that his support from Sunnis and Kurds was dwindling.

The White House said Vice-President Joe Biden called President Fuad Masum to discuss the nomination of Haider al-Abadi, and promised US support for the formation of a new government.

Haider al-Abadi’s nomination was welcomed outside Iraq. The presidents of France and Turkey called for him to form a government of national unity, while the UN urged Iraqi militias to keep out of politics.

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The US has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces who have started to make gains against Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq, senior officials say.

Previously, the US had insisted on only selling arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but the Kurdish peshmerga fighters had been losing ground to IS militants in recent weeks.

The US officials wouldn’t say which agency is providing the arms or what weapons are being sent, but one official said it isn’t the Pentagon. The CIA has historically done similar quiet arming operations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the operation publicly.

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of US concern about the IS militants’ gains in the north, and reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

The US has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq

The US has begun directly providing weapons to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq

At the same time, the administration is watching carefully as a political crisis brews in Baghdad, and Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iraq’s PM Nouri al-Maliki to maintain calm among the upheaval.

“We believe that the government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq,” John Kerry said.

“And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

Speaking in Australia on Monday, John Kerry said there should be no use of force by political factions as Iraq struggles form a government. He said the people of Iraq have made clear their desire for change and that the country’s new president is acting appropriately despite claims of malfeasance by Nouri al-Maliki.

Nouri al-Maliki is resisting calls to step down and says he’ll file a complaint against the president for not naming him prime minister.

John Kerry noted that Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia bloc has put forward three other candidates for the prime minister job and says the US stands with the new president, Fouad Massoum.

Nouri al-Maliki has accused Fouad Massoum of violating the constitution because he has not yet named a prime minister from the country’s largest parliamentary faction, missing a Sunday deadline.

President Barack Obama has warned it is “going to take some time” to help Iraqi people overcome the jihadist-led Sunni rebellion and stabilize their country.

It would be a “long-term project” to revamp and resupply the military and build support among Sunnis, he said.

Barack Obama stressed that progress would depend on Iraqis coming together and forming an inclusive government.

The Islamic State (IS), formerly known as Isis, has seized swathes of northern and western Iraq in recent months.

Barack Obama has warned it is going to take some time to help Iraqi people overcome the jihadist-led Sunni rebellion and stabilize their country

Barack Obama has warned it is going to take some time to help Iraqi people overcome the jihadist-led Sunni rebellion and stabilize their country

Barack Obama said air strikes on Friday – the first time US forces have been directly involved in a military operation in Iraq since they withdrew from the country in late 2011 – had destroyed IS arms and equipment.

They had also prevented attacks by the al-Qaeda breakaway on thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority group stranded on a mountain in the north-west, the president added.

The Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar a week ago after IS fighters overran a nearby town where many had been sheltering over the past two months.

Earlier, the UK said it had sent a cargo plane to help with the relief operation that has seen US aircraft drop thousands of bottles of water and ration packs in the area over the past two days.

One C-17 and two C-130 transporters dropped 72 bundles of supplies, according to the Pentagon. They were escorted by F/A-18 Hornet jets launched from the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf.

“We feel confident we can prevent [IS] from going up the mountain and slaughtering the people who are there,” Barack Obama said.

“But the next step, which is going to be complicated logistically, is how do we give safe passage for people down from the mountain and where can we ultimately relocate them so that they are safe.”

France would begin deliveries of first aid equipment to Iraq in the next few hours, President Francois Hollande’s office announced.

IS fighters meanwhile began hoisting their black flags at the Mosul dam, Iraq’s largest, and patrolling its perimeter, days after seizing the facility.

Barack Obama said a long-term strategy was needed to confront the jihadists.

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The US army has conducted its second air-drop of food and water to Iraqi people hiding in mountains from jihadist fighters, the Pentagon says.

The humanitarian aid came hours after the US launched fresh air strikes against militants from the Islamic State (IS).

The IS had recently made fresh gains in northern Iraq and is threatening the Kurdish city of Irbil.

The US is also piling pressure on Iraqi leaders to form a unity government capable of dealing with the jihadists.

The US army has conducted its second air-drop of food and water to Iraqi people hiding in mountains from jihadist fighters

The US army has conducted its second air-drop of food and water to Iraqi people hiding in mountains from jihadist fighters

President Barack Obama said on Friday that Iraq’s Shia Arab majority had “squandered an opportunity” to share power with the Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

IS, a jihadist group formerly known as Isis, has taken control of swathes of Iraq and Syria and has also seized Iraq’s largest dam.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the latest air-drop dispersed 72 bundles of supplies.

The aid was dropped into the mountains around the town of Sinjar, where up to 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious sect fled an IS advance a week ago.

Iraq’s human rights ministry believes the militants have seized hundreds of Yazidi women. Ministry spokesman Kamil Amin said some were being held in schools in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul.

The first US air strike on Friday saw two 500lb bombs dropped on IS artillery being used against forces defending Irbil.

Late on Friday, the Pentagon confirmed a second wave of attacks. It said drones and fighter jets attacked a mortar position and a seven-vehicle convoy carrying fighters also threatening Irbil.

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The US army has launched an airstrike against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

The Pentagon said American aircraft attacked artillery that was being used against Kurdish forces defending the northern city of Irbil.

President Barack Obama authorized air strikes on Thursday, but said he would not send US troops back to Iraq.

The US army has launched an airstrike against IS militants in Iraq

The US army has launched an airstrike against IS militants in Iraq (photo Reuters)

The Sunni Muslim group IS, formerly known as Isis, now has control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

In June, IS took control of the city of Mosul. Earlier this week, its fighters seized Qaraqosh, Iraq’s biggest Christian town.

The advance of IS also forced tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community – another minority group in northern Iraq – to leave their homes and seek shelter on a nearby mountain.

According to the Pentagon statement, two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on mobile artillery near Irbil.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said IS had been using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Irbil, where US personnel are based.

The air strike is the first time the US has been directly involved in a military operation in Iraq since American troops withdrew in late 2011.

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More than 25% of Iraq’s Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized Qaraqosh, the minority’s biggest town in the country.

The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

Meanwhile, the UN says some of the 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped by IS on Mount Sinjar have been rescued.

IS controls parts of Iraq and Syria and says it has created an Islamic state.

Nineveh, located 250 miles north-west of Baghdad, is home to a large number of religious minorities.

Up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized Qaraqosh

Up to a quarter of Iraq’s Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized Qaraqosh

Tens of thousands have been forced to flee since the Islamist rebels launched their onslaught in the north in June.

A majority of Nineveh inhabitants left their homes overnight, according to Fraternite en Irak, an international Christian organization based in Paris.

As many as 100,000 people are believed to be fleeing toward the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, have been fighting the IS militants’ advance for weeks.

The Peshmerga’s commander in Qaraqosh reportedly told the town’s archbishop late on Wednesday that the forces were abandoning their posts.

Several senior clergymen in Nineveh confirmed the town had fallen.

“It’s a catastrophe, a tragic situation: tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak,” said Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of the northern city of Kirkuk.

Eyewitnesses in Qaraqosh said IS militants were taking down crosses in churches and burning religious manuscripts.

The town – referred to as Iraq’s Christian capital – is located 20 miles south-east of the city of Mosul, which was captured by IS in June.

Last month, hundreds of Christian families fled Mosul after the Islamist rebels gave them an ultimatum to convert to Islam or face death.

Iraq is home to one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities, but numbers have dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

An air strike in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has killed at least 30 people, reports say.

Some of those killed were being held by the Islamic State (IS) militants.

Iraqi state TV reported that at least 60 militants were killed and about 300 detainees were able to escape.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces were also reportedly shelling eastern districts of Mosul and an area to the north-east on Wednesday.

Earlier, a senior Kurdish official warned that 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped in mountains to the west faced death if they were not rescued soon.

At least 30 people have been killed in an air strike in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

At least 30 people have been killed in an air strike in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

The Yazidis fled to the mountains with little food or water after fighters from IS – previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) – overran the town of Sinjar at the weekend.

“Urgent international action is needed to save them. Many of them – mainly the elderly, children and pregnant women – have died,” Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ministry in charge of the Peshmerga, told the Reuters news agency.

On Tuesday, the UN said it had received credible reports that 40 Yazidi children had died “as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration” since Sunday.

Iraqi army helicopters were reportedly delivering food and water to the area on Wednesday.

Sinjar fell during an offensive that saw the IS and its allies seize several other towns in the north-west, an oil field and Iraq’s biggest dam, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Peshmerga.

A senior official in Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said fighters from the Syria-based Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had launched a counter-offensive.

“The fighters of [the PYD] and the PKK are responsible for confronting [the Islamic State] in Rabia and the Sinjar area,” Hallo Penjweny told the AFP news agency.

“On our side, we are taking care of Zumar and the rest of the area north and east of Mosul.”

Ties were strained by the KRG’s decision to send Peshmerga forces into disputed areas of northern Iraq in June after soldiers abandoned their posts in the face of the IS advance; a push by Kurdish leaders for an independence referendum; and PM Nouri Maliki’s claim in July that they were giving sanctuary to extremists.


A caliphate is an Islamic state ruled by a single political and religious leader, or Caliph.

Caliphs are regarded by their followers as successors to the Prophet Muhammad and the leader of all Muslims.

The word “caliph” comes from the Arabic khalifa, meaning “successor”. Its use means the IS claims Baghdadi as the only legitimate successor to the Prophet.

Abdulmecid II was the last Sunni Caliph of Islam from the Ottoman Dynasty

Abdulmecid II was the last Sunni Caliph of Islam from the Ottoman Dynasty (photo flickr.com)

First caliphate came into being after Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632. In the centuries which followed, caliphates had dominion in the Middle East and North Africa.

Historically, caliphates involved governance under Islamic law, with the leadership elected according to Sunni practice and selected from a group of Imams under Shia traditions.

Laws under a caliphate are traditionally defined in accordance with Islamic ethics. In the past the role of caliph has largely been symbolic, leaving the day-to-day running of government down to the devolved powers of local rulers.

The last widely accepted caliphate was abolished in 1924 by Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Abdulmecid II was the last ruler of a caliphate.

In 2014, Islamist militant group ISIS has declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, appointing its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as Caliph.