Mosul offensive: ISIS militants fleeing to Syria, says tribal leader

over 100,000 allied forces converge on a region controlled by only 5000 islamic state fighters


Near Mosul, Iraq (CNN)Hundreds of ISIS fighters are fleeing Mosul in Iraq and crossing into neighboring Syria as coalition forces close in on the city, a powerful tribal leader in the region says.

Sheikh Abdullah Alyawer, a tribal leader in the town of Rabia, on Iraq’s border with Syria, told CNN Monday that dozens of ISIS militants and their families were fleeing the city each day, and crossing into Syria at Ba'aaj, an ISIS-controlled crossing point south of Sinjar.

The route was entirely along corridors under ISIS control, he said. Fleeing civilians with no affiliation to ISIS usually ended up in the Syrian town of al Houl, which is under Kurdish control, he said.

Better than expected gains

Coalition forces celebrated better-than-expected territorial gains over the weekend and artillery fire pummeled ISIS positions in the encircled town of Bashiqa early Monday morning in the relentless push for Mosul.

According to the Iraqi Joint Operations command center, 78 towns and villages have been liberated so far as the operation to retake the city enters its second week.

The center said 772 ISIS fighters had been killed and 23 were detained, 127 vehicle-borne explosive devices were destroyed, two bomb-making factories were discovered and nearly 400 improvised-explosive devices were remotely detonated so far.

United against ISIS

The offensive is remarkable for both its speed and the level of cooperation that this disparate group is showing in the face of its common enemy – an extraordinary union of factions that have long stood on opposing sides in Iraq’s history, with Kurdish forces, Christians and Shia Muslims fighting alongside the majority Sunni Arabs.

The thousands of ground troops were supported from above with a concentrated program of airstrikes aimed at weakening ISIS’ defenses – the highest weekly number since the campaign against the terror group began, according to Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

“One week into #Mosul operation, all objectives met thus far, and more coalition airstrikes than any other 7-day period of war against #ISIL,” he wrote on Twitter, using another name for ISIS.

The coalition force, which vastly exceeds ISIS’ numbers, is closing in on the beleaguered city, still home to an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 civilians.
But the coalition is well aware that resistance – already tough in the open fields and small villages surrounding the main prize – is likely to ramp up significantly when the city’s perimeter is breached.

ISIS has been in control of Mosul for two years, giving its fighters plenty of time to fortify defenses, and the militants have time and time again proved themselves adept at bloody, urban warfare.

The city was important to the terror group as the cultural capital of its envisaged caliphate, or Islamic state.

‘Freed’ and then forgotten

With this weekend’s gains have come pockets of horrific losses.

ISIS executed about 40 people who were celebrating the apparent liberation of their villages by Iraqi forces, a Mosul City Council official said Sunday, citing local sources.

The official said that although Iraqi troops passed through the village where the executions took place – near Nimrud, south of Mosul – they did not leave units behind to ensure that ISIS militants stayed out.

These follow executions on Thursday and Friday, when ISIS militants rounded up and shot dead 284 men and boys, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN.

Emergency crews have been working around the clock to extinguish a fire at a sulfur factory in Qayyara, about 30 kilometers south of Mosul, that was torched by ISIS militants.

The fire, started when the ISIS militants left explosives and slow-burning oil in sulfur deposits and around the facility, has sent plumes of toxic smoke in the air, causing hundreds to seek medical help.


Deadly militant attack on police academy in Quetta, Pakistan

Militants wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police academy in the southwestern city of Quetta overnight, killing at least 59 people, mostly police cadets and recruits, and waging a ferocious gunbattle with troops that lasted into early hours Tuesday.

Pakistani officials feared the death toll could rise further, as the four-hours-long siege — one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan’s security forces in recent years — left 117 wounded, some of them in critical condition.

The assault caught many of the recruits asleep in their dorms and forced cadets and trainers to jump off rooftops and run for their lives to escape the attackers.

By mid-day Tuesday, conflicting claims of responsibility emerged. The Islamic State group, which is waging war in Syria and Iraq where it has declared a self-styled caliphate, posted a claim on the group’s media arm, the Arabic-language Aamaq news agency. It said three IS fighters killed 60 police recruits in Quetta but the claim was not confirmed by Pakistani officials and IS did not offer any previously unknown details about the assault.

Earlier, a little-known breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Hakimullah group, also issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. Pakistani officials, doubting the group’s capabilities in staging such a coordinated and spectacular assault, also could not confirm that claim. (AP)

Photos: (from top) Naseer Ahmed/Reuters, AP Photo/Arshad Butt, Naseer Ahmed/Reuters (2)

See more images of militant attack in Quetta, Pakistan on Yahoo News

One tragedy doesn’t need to diminish another. You can stand with Paris, you can stand with Yemen, you can stand with Lebanon, you can stand with Syria, you can stand with Iraq, you can stand with Nigeria, you can stand with Libya, you can stand with BlackLivesMatter, you can stand with the University of Missouri, you can stand with Palestine, you can stand with South Korea, and the South Sudan, we can stand with refugees, we can stand with Muslims, and you can stand with all of them at the same time. You can care about all of them. We don’t need to play “oh you didn’t mention this, or this was worse” competitions with human suffering. It’s sickening, this is not a fucking game, this is the actual loss of human life.


This Is What Education Under ISIS In Raqqa Will Look Like

The new rules extend to the city’s schools, as Islamic State leaders have reportedly set out a new curriculum. In a video for the Wall Street Journal, Reem Makhoul explains the details of the new rules.

For all the rules and shocking statements teachers now working under the ISIS regime go here. 


He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person

The mother of American journalist James Foley, who was purportedly beheaded by Islamic militants, said on Tuesday her son gave his life to expose the suffering of the Syrian people and she asked his kidnappers to release their other captives.

“He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person,” Diane Foley said in a post on a Facebook page set up by the Foley family.

“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world,” Diane Foley said in the statement.

Foley was a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Journalists face threats in many forms as they try to report difficult stories that need to be told, but the attack on Jim was barbaric,” Northwestern said in a statement. “It was, in a larger sense, an attack on freedoms necessary in a civilized society and across strained cultures. Jim endures for us as a beacon reminding us of the risks implicit in shedding light where inhumanity can take hold.”


Islamic militant sect, ISIS, which has been rampaging across the north and west of Iraq since last month, has been demolishing sacred sites such as shrines and mosques around the historic northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province.

Photographs from the area posted online under the banner “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh” depicted mosques being turned into piles of rubble – explosives deployed against Shiite buildings - and bulldozers flattening the shrines.

At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed by the bulldozers, according to AFP. The structures had been built around graves of Muslim saints. Six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed using explosives.

Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed

Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria continue their war on the region’s cultural heritage, attacking archaeological sites with bulldozers and explosives.

The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) released a video that shocked the world last month by showing the fiery destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin, one of the best-preserved ruins at the Syrian site of Palmyra. Last weekend, explosions were reported at another Palmyra temple, dedicated to the ancient god Baal; a United Nation agency says satellite images show that larger temple has largely been destroyed.

The destruction is part of a propaganda campaign that includes videos of militants rampaging through Iraq’s Mosul Museum with pickaxes and sledgehammers, and the dynamiting of centuries-old Christian and Muslim shrines. Read more.


Obama asks Congress for permission to strike ISIS anywhere in world

Now the truth emerges: how the US fueled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq 

“The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George W. Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions … terrorism is now squarely in the eye of the beholder. And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny – and allies are enemies – often at the bewildering whim of a western policymaker’s conference call.” | Read the article by Seumas Milne

Illustration by Eva Bee
UN: ISIS is crucifying, burying alive, and selling children into slavery

It was incredibly difficult to find a safe-for-work image to go along with this headline.  A quick Google image search of ISIS’s brutality against innocent children is bone chilling and nauseating.

from New York Times:

Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive, a United Nations watchdog said on Wednesday.
Iraqi boys aged under 18 are increasingly being used by the militant group as suicide bombers, bomb makers, informants or human shields to protect facilities against U.S.-led air strikes, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.
“We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities,” committee expert Renate Winter told a news briefing. “The scope of the problem is huge.”
Children from the Yazidi sect or Christian communities, but also Shi'ites and Sunnis, have been victims, she said.
“We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding,” Winter told Reuters. “There was a video placed (online) that showed children at a very young age, approximately eight years of age and younger, to be trained already to become child soldiers.”

read the rest

Note to President Obama: don’t lecture us about people of centuries past doing “terrible deeds in the name of Christ."  We’re talking about something that’s happening right here, right now, and to deny the fanatical Islamic ideology behind it is to ignore the root of the problem. 

Mistake Number One: Treating the enemy as absolute evil, not even human.

Barack Obama called the Paris tragedy “an attack on all of humanity,” which means that, even for the president, IS fighters stand outside that category. They are evidently some other species and merely appear to be human. And this was the mildest of descriptions in this overheated political season of ours. “The face of evil” sounds modest indeed compared to the vivid images offered by the Republicans vying to replace him. For Ben Carson, IS are a bunch of “rabid dogs”;  for Ted Cruz, “scorpions.”  Donald Trump calls them “insane,” “animals.”

Mistake Number Two: Buried in the assumption that the enemy is not in any sense human like us is absolution for whatever hand we may have had in sparking or contributing to evil’s rise and spread. 

How could we have fertilized the soil of absolute evil or bear any responsibility for its successes?  It’s a basic postulate of wars against evil: God’s people must be innocent.

As a result, we don’t need to look at all the ways in which the U.S., even in battle mode, continues to contribute to the successes of Islamic State fighters in Sunni Arab lands by, for instance, supporting an Iraqi Shi’ite regime in Baghdad that has a grim history of oppressing Sunnis, a history that drives many of them to tolerate, or even actively support IS.

Mistake Number Three: Call it blotting out history. 

We lose the ability to really understand the enemy because we ignore the actual history of how that enemy came to be, of how a network of relationships grew up in which we played, and continue to play, a central role.

The historical record is clear for all who care to look: The U.S. (the CIA in particular) was a key to the creation, funding, and arming of the mujahidin, the rebel fighters in Afghanistan who took on the Soviet army there in the 1980s, the men (often extreme Islamists) whom President Ronald Reagancompared to our founding fathers. From that situation came al-Qaeda.

Mistake Number Four: We assume that the enemy, like Lucifer himself, does evil just for the sake of doing it. 

Even the most liberal parts of the media often can’t see IS fighters as more than “lunatics” bent on “slaughter for its own sake.”

Under such circumstances, what a foolish task it obviously is even to think about the enemy’s actual motives. After all, to do so would be to treat them as humans, with human purposes arising out of history. It would smack of sympathy for the devil.

Mistake Number Five: To convince ourselves that the Islamic State is evil incarnate, we imagine that the enemy is as relentless, intractable, and implacable as the devil himself. 

As a result, we also imagine that nothing we could do might diminish their will to evil. Since, as we see it, we had nothing to do with creating these monsters, no changes in our policies or actions could possibly influence their behavior.  And since they are just crazy — not capable of normal rationality — there is no point in trying to talk with them.

By this route we finally, inevitably, arrive at…

Mistake Number Six: The belief that we have only one option – annihilation. 

Or if that proves impossible, despite the military forces at our disposal, then at least containing them forever.

In fact, the presidential candidates of this moment all demand annihilation and nothing less. In Donald Trump’s words, “bomb the shit out of ‘em.” In Hillary Clinton’s more demure formulation, “crush ISIS… break the group’s momentum and then its back.”  Even Bernie Sanders agrees: “Our priority must be… to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime.”

Read the full article.