TIME isis

Dutch Mom Travels to Syria to Rescue Daughter from ISIS

She has now brought her teenage daughter back to the Netherlands

A Dutch mother has travelled to Syria and rescued her daughter from the heart of lands controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

She ignored official warnings and traveled to the Syrian city of Raqqa to rescue her 19-year-old daughter who had run away to marry a Dutch ISIS fighter. Her daughter, named only as Aicha, was arrested upon her return to their home city of Maastricht, BBC reports.

Aicha left the Netherlands in February to marry Omar Yilmaz, a man she had been in contact with on social media. Yilmaz is a Dutch-Turkish jihadist who was previously in the Dutch military.

MORE: Marriage and martyrdom: how ISIS is winning women

Yilmaz told the BBC on Wednesday that he had married Aicha but they later broke up, saying “it didn’t work, we split. She went her way, I went my way.” Aicha is one of a growing number of teenage girls and women who have left Europe to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq, often getting married to jihadists once they arrive.

[BBC]

 

TIME U.K.

Terrorism Suspects to be Excluded From U.K Even If It’s Their Home

Counter-terrorism legislation aims to halt jihadis who want to come home from Syria and Iraq

As an idea it appears beautifully simple: stop potential terrorism by stopping potential terrorists at your borders—even if they’re your own citizens. Canada has already started revoking the passports of its nationals who are thought to have traveled to join Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Australia is piloting new legislation to impose prison sentences of up to 10 years on anyone returning to the country from overseas conflict zones who cannot prove a legitimate reason for the trip. And on Nov. 14 during Prime Minister David Cameron’s sojourn in Australia for the G20 summit, he unveiled his own plans to limit the increasing flow of “gap-year jihadis” by preventing Britons from coming home to the U.K. after a spell in the ranks of ISIS or some other violent Islamist organization.

Australian lawmakers warmly applauded Cameron’s proposals, whilst calls for the U.S. to adopt similar measures are growing louder. Yet reactions back in Britain are mixed. Three overlapping concerns dominate the debate: are such measures just, do they square with international law and would they really work?

Nobody denies the scale of the problem. The U.K. authorities estimate that between 500 and 600 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad. More than half of these have already returned to the U.K. while a further 25-30 are thought to have died in battle. That leaves around 250 whose eventual homecoming presages a raft of possible dangers and pressures. The security services are already stretched thin trying to keep tabs on radicals whose foreign travels have furnished them with the contacts and the skills to launch attacks at home or narratives to help the ISIS recruitment drive. Deradicalization programs have proved effective but struggle under the weight of numbers.

From that perspective, says Jonathan Russell, the political liaison officer of the counter-terrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation, there could be short term gains from restricting the influx of returnees. The British government plans to publish its proposed new bill before the end of November and get it onto the statute books by January, enabling officials to turn away suspect Britons for two years at a time if they refuse to submit to tough re-entry conditions such as facing prosecution or submitting to close supervision. The law is also expected to penalize airlines that fail to observe no-fly lists.

“It’s likely to stop dangerous people entering the U.K. and ease the pressure on the security services and their surveillance operations and make sure they can’t commit terrorist attacks in the U.K. in the two years they’re held up.” says Russell, but he is unconvinced by the move. “If we’re looking for longterm security I can’t see why it would have any impact.”

Russell is concerned that a large number of the Britons trying to return home would likely do so via Turkey, and find themselves stranded there, creating fresh problems and a diplomatic headache with Turkey which is likely to be at best an unpredictable partner in any resulting negotiations. Sara Ogilvie, policy officer for the U.K.-based human rights organization Liberty raises a different objection: excluding Britons from Britain is, she believes “clearly unlawful.” “If the result is to render someone stateless that will be a breach of our international obligations and will be subject to challenge,” she says.

Britain’s Supreme Court is already testing a related case, of a Vietnam-born naturalized Briton, known for legal reasons only as “B2,” who was stripped by the British government of his adopted citizenship in 2011 because of suspicions he was an al Qaeda supporter. Vietnam refuses to accept he is a Vietnamese national, so the British decision made B2 effectively stateless, in potential contravention of a key United Nations convention. When the Cameron first mooted new, tougher counter-terrorism laws in September, he floated the notion of permanently disowning British-born U.K. nationals involved with ISIS but has since accepted that there is no legal way to do so. The idea of two-year renewable exclusion orders to keep out British jihadis is intended to comply with international law. Ogilvie is skeptical: “If you’re a U.K. citizen but you can’t get into the U.K. what’s the point of you having U.K. citizenship? You don’t get the value of it. So we think that will definitely be challenged in the courts.”

The issue of the U.K’s relationship with the European Union is also complicated. Currently U.K passport holders have the right to travel throughout the E.U. but it is not clear how exclusion orders will affect their rights to remain in the E.U.

Ogilivie also argues that the proposed law infringes the values of democracy and the rule of law that it purports to safeguard. This is an issue Quilliam’s Russell also raises. The measure and the rhetoric around it “feeds into the narrative of the West being at war with Islam,” he says, adding an important clarification. “I wouldn’t say that counter-terrorism legislation makes people radical. It is a grievance that is exploited by radicalizers.” In his view, rather than seeking to exclude returning fighters, the U.K. authorities should do as much as possible “to engage with them ideologically, change their views and deradicalize them.”

On this point Margaret Gilmore, senior associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, RUSI, agrees, but she sees a potential benefit from the measure. “There’s been a lot of discussion in the Muslim community here, with some people saying if people want to come back it’s going to be more difficult now because they will be stopped and questioned,” she explains. “Yes they will be stopped and questioned but there will be some who welcome the fact that they will be stopped and questioned and can say ‘look I really have moved on, these are the reasons, I want to go back to my family, move back into the mainstream of thinking’.”

In this scenario, the kinds of returnees who are susceptible to rehabilitation will find it more easily. “It’s a very clear route to come back in and be helped back into the mainstream,” Gilmore says. The jury is out on that point, or may be soon enough.

TIME Libya

Report: ISIS Takes Control of a Libyan City

An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya
An armed motorcade belonging to members of Derna's Islamic Youth Council, consisting of former members of militias from the town of Derna, drive along a road in Derna, eastern Libya on October 3, 2014. Reuters

Derna is just hours from Tobruk, where what's left of the central government is based

Militants loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are now in control of a Libyan city of near the Egyptian border, according to a new report.

CNN, citing unnamed Libyan sources, reports that militants control Derna, a city only a few hours from Tobruk, where the remnants of Libya’s central government fled to after being forced out of the capital this summer. Approximately 300 of the 800-strong force in control of Derna are reportedly hard-line Libyan jihadists who fought with ISIS in Iraq an Syria.

The report is the latest sign of ISIS looking to expand its footprint across the Middle East despite U.S.-led air strikes against it in Iraq and Syria. Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of former strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011

Read more at CNN

Read next: Terrorism-Related Deaths Up 60% Last Year, Study Says

TIME Syria

Marriage and Martyrdom: How ISIS is Winning Women

Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France, Oct. 2, 2014.
Severine Ali Mehenni holds pictures of her daughter Sahra dressed in a traditional Islamic robe, at her home in Lezignan Corbieres, France, Oct. 2, 2014. Fred Scheiber—AP

At least 300 women have tried to join Isis from Europe and the U.S.

Last March 11, was a normal Thursday morning for the Ali Mehenni family, or so Kamel Ali Mehenni thought when he dropped off his 17-year-old daughter Sahra at the train station on her way to school. It was only that evening, when Sahra failed to meet her father at the station, that it became clear something was amiss. Even then the family thought the quiet, plump-cheeked teenager with a soft smile might have missed her train or gone out with friends.

Sahra, from Lézignan-Corbières in a wine-producing region of southern France, never went to school that day. Instead, she took a train to a nearby airport and flew alone to Turkey— to join ISIS jihadists on the warfront in Syria.

How a quiet young French woman from a mixed Muslim-Catholic family with five children was convinced to exchange her home in the south of France to one in the north of Syria, remains a mystery to her family and friends, even eight months later. “It is a catastrophe,” says her brother Jonathan, 22, sitting in his apartment in Margny-lès-Compiègne, an hour north of Paris, as he reads the private messages Sahra has written from Syria to her “beloved” sibling. “There is not a day that goes by when my parents don’t cry ‘Sahra, Sahra,'” he says. “They watch the news from Syria and it is so surreal.”

Yet Sahra’s story is hardly unique. ISIS has persuaded hundreds of young Western women to travel to Syria. That marks its battle as distinctly different from al-Qaeda’s campaigns of the last decade, and demonstrates that ISIS seeks to colonize the areas it has conquered with its soldiers, civil servants and women to breed a new generation of fighters.

In al-Qaeda’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, young armed men holed up on the battlefield far from their families. But in Syria ISIS aims to install a purist Islamic state—an entire new country—as its name denotes. And so ISIS fighters are looking to build lives that are far broader than fighting the war, ones in which they can come home after a day’s battle to a loving wife and children, and home-cooked meals. As such, recruiting women into ISIS is not simply about expanding the organization. It is the essential building block of a future society. ISIS members have said their women do not fight, but are there to help build the new society. “The strategy is geared to building a community and bringing families in so they have the infrastructure to set up a society,” says Melanie Smith, research associate at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College London, who has tracked dozens of British women who have joined ISIS. “They are the support system.”

A new ISIS-affiliated online group named “Al-Zawra’a Foundation” launched last month, advising Western women not only to watch training videos on handling weapons, but also to have their mothers teach them recipes and tailoring skills so they can cook for ISIS fighters and sew their combat uniforms. “May Allah be pleased with the female companion,” says the Al-Zawra’a’s recruiting pitch, describing women’s lives in ISIS as teaching others first aid, sewing and cooking, “until Allah chooses you for martyrdom.”

The female recruits come from all over the world—including the U.S. Last month German police arrested three teenage girls from Denver, Colorado at Frankfurt Airport, 5,000 miles from home, making their way to Syria to join ISIS. German officials extradited the high-schoolers back home. A fourth Denver woman, Shannon Conley, 19, was arrested last April as she was about board a flight from that city on her way to joining ISIS. Conley was convicted in September of aiding a terrorist organization and faces a possible five-year jail term at her sentencing in January.

Anti-terrorism officials in Europe estimate about 300 Western women have joined jihadist groups in Syria, about one-third from France. That might be because the largest number of foreign fighters in ISIS are believed to come from French-speaking Tunisia, many of them hardline militants who were freed from prisons after the Jasmine Revolution drove out the country’s secular dictator in January 2011. Those men moved on to Syria and from there have sought French-speaking wives.

In addition, French officials estimate about 1,000 French men have joined the Syrian jihad since 2011 of which about 375 are currently there. On Monday they identified one of them in the video that included the severed head of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig: Maxime Hauchard, 22, a small-town convert to Islam. Last week another convert, Flavien Moreau, was sentenced to seven years for having briefly traveled to Syria to join ISIS, before returning to France.

Within weeks of fleeing her home, Sahra called her brother Jonathan to tell him she had married a Tunisian fighter, deepening the family’s sense that she had slipped into a dark world far beyond their reach.

Sahra, by contrast, seems to have no thought of coming home. Still, in her messages to Jonathan, Sahra seems anxious for her parents’ approval, exposing herself as a vulnerable teenager, albeit in the midst of a war. “I miss you a lot, tell daddy and mommy I love them strongly, strongly,” she wrote soon after arriving in Syria. “They mustn’t worry about me, especially mom, I know the last time I heard her voice she was trembling. The choice I made was considered, I didn’t leave blindly. I love you a lot, mes amours.

But as the months have gone by, Sahra’s messages have begun to feel hollow to Jonathan. “It’s always the same: I’m eating okay, I’m well,” he says angrily. To the family Sahra’s life is abhorrant. Sahra’s mother is a French-born Catholic who married an Algerian-born Muslim. “For her we are non-believers,” Jonathan says. “For us, she is. It is two religions, in opposition to each other. For us, this is not Islam,” he says, referring to the macabre footage on television of ISIS beheadings.

Jonathan knows few details of Sahra’s ISIS life. But as U.S. fighter jets pound ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria, Sahra’s messages have become increasingly frantic, with her apologizing that she has only sporadic communications—a signal, perhaps, that the organization is on the run.

On November 2 Jonathan’s phone beeped with a new Facebook message he had waited weeks to read. “The connection is very weak,” Sahra wrote. “I hope you are well and that work is very good,” she went on, then scrambled to finish without punctuation. “I’m sorry I’m hurrying I’ll be quick all okay except for the planes.”

TIME Iraq

Iraq Accuses ISIS of Stealing 1 Million Tons of Grain

Grain supplies thought to be routed to militant-controlled cities in Syria

Iraq’s agriculture minister on Tuesday accused the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of pilfering more than 1.1 million tons of grain from the country’s northern region and delivering it to militant-controlled cities in Syria.

The supplies of wheat and barley were reportedly stolen from Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh Province and routed to the Syrian cities of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, Falah Hassan al-Zeidan said, Reuters reports. The allegation, which could not be independently verified, came months after a similar claim of more than 40,000 tons of wheat being stolen from Nineveh and Anbar provinces and relocated for milling in Syria.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of them farmers, have been displaced since ISIS’ lightning offensive throughout the northwest in June.

[Reuters]

TIME National Security

Obama Said to Order Review of U.S. Hostage Policy

In the wake of several high-profile hostage cases with terror groups

President Barack Obama has ordered a review of how the United States responds to Americans who are detained abroad, according to a recent letter from a Pentagon official to a member of Congress, in the wake of several high-profile hostage cases with terror groups.

The letter from Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of defense for policy, came in response to an inquiry from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and outlines that emphasis will be placed on themes including “family engagement, intelligence collection, and diplomatic engagement policies.”

The government’s refusal to pay ransom has been publicly debated in recent months following the executions of Americans by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Hunter’s letter was dated Aug. 20, one day after a video emerged of the beheading of journalist James Foley. A similar video appeared in September showing the death of journalist Steven Sotloff and, this past weekend, of American aid worker Peter (Abdul-Rahman) Kassig.

On Monday, according to ABC News, National Security Council Spokesman Alistair Baskey said the “comprehensive review” would include the FBI, Departments of Defense and State and larger intelligence community.

Read more at ABC News

TIME Terrorism

Terrorism-Related Deaths Up 60% Last Year, Study Says

AFGHANISTAN-UNREST-ATTACKS
An Afghan policeman is seen through the wreckage of a taxi which was destroyed by a suicide attack targeting a vehicle convoy of Afghan lawmakers in Kabul, Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2014. Farshad Usyan—AFP/Getty Images

More than 80% of the deaths occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria

Nearly 18,000 people were killed in terrorist-related incidents last year, a 60% increase from the previous year, a new study found. Deaths have increased five-fold since 2000.

The report, compiled by the Institute for Economics & Peace, attributes the increased terrorist activity to the growing influence of “radical Islamic groups.” Two thirds of the fatalities came at the hands of ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the report said.

“Given the theological nature of the problem it is difficult for outside actors to be influential,” Steve Killelea, institute executive chairman, said in a statement.

As the number of deaths has expanded, the location of attacks has remained limited. More than 80% of the deaths occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.

TIME Syria

French Citizen Identified in ISIS Execution Video

More than 1,600 French nationals are involved with ISIS

France identified one of its citizens Monday as an executioner in the latest ISIS video showing the beheading of an American hostage.

A prosecutor in Paris identified him as Maxime Hauchard, 22, a convert to Islam whom French authorities have been tracking for years. He recently posted pictures of himself in fatigues in Syria. He also gave an interview to a French television network in July and claimed part of the credit for ISIS’ capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Hauchard converted at 16 and has a felony conviction for driving without insurance, said the prosecutor, Francois Molins. He attended an…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME isis

White House Confirms Latest ISIS Beheading

Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig ISIS Islamic State
Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig is pictured making a food delivery to refugees in Lebanonís Bekaa Valley in this May 2013 handout photo. Reuters

President Barack Obama confirmed the news

President Barack Obama on Sunday confirmed the murder of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig by militant extremist group ISIS.

A former U.S. Army Ranger, 26-year-old Kassig was working as a medical aid to Syrians escaping civil war when he was captured in Syria in October of last year, the Associated Press reports. He converted to Islam in captivity and went by the name Abdul-Rahman.

“Abdul-Rahman was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity,” Obama said in a statement. “Like Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff before him, his life and deeds stand in stark contrast to everything that [ISIS] represents. While [ISIS] revels in the slaughter of innocents, including Muslims, and is bent only on sowing death and destruction, Abdul-Rahman was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict.”

The 16-minute video, which claims the execution took place in the Syrian town of Dabiq, also showed the beheadings of several Syrian soldiers.

“[ISIS]’s actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own,” Obama said in his statement.

The video, posted to websites previously used by the group, warns the U.S. to cease its airstrike campaign in Iraq and Syria, which the U.S. began earlier this year in order to halt the group’s expansion.

“There can be no greater contrast than that between Abdul-Rahman’s generosity of spirit and the pernicious evil of [ISIS],” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “During his time in captivity, his family, and the entire government, including his home state Senator Joe Donnelly, worked to avoid this tragic outcome. His mother’s searing plea directed to his captors is unforgettable. The fact that her appeal went unheeded is only further testament to the wicked inhumanity of the [ISIS] terrorists who have taken her son from her.”

In a statement released by the Pentagon late on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saluted Kassig’s relentless dedication to serving others — first as a ranger and then later as an aid worker — during his short life.

“As we join his loved ones in mourning his loss, we also celebrate his service,” said Hagel. “And we celebrate his commitment – a lifetime commitment to, as he said, ‘stand beside those who might need a helping hand.’”

Read next: An Army Ranger Helps Syrian Refugees

TIME Terrorism

Graphic ISIS Video Claims US Aid Worker Beheaded

Peter Kassig in front of a truck somewhere along the Syrian border between late 2012 and autumn 2013 as Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA) was delivering supplies to refugees before the American aid worker was held captive by Islamic State jihadists.
Peter Kassig in front of a truck somewhere along the Syrian border between late 2012 and autumn 2013 as Special Emergency Response and Assistance (SERA) was delivering supplies to refugees before the American aid worker was held captive by Islamic State jihadists. AFP/Getty Images

(BEIRUT) — The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria released a graphic video on Sunday in which a black-clad militant claimed to have beheaded U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig, who was captured last year.

The militant was standing over a severed head, but it was not immediately possible to confirm that it was Kassig, 26, who was pictured in the video. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video’s authenticity and the Kassig family said it was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

The video, which was posted on websites used by the group in the past, appeared to be the latest in a series of blood-soaked messages to the U.S. warning of further brutality if it does not abandon its air campaign in Iraq and Syria.

“This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen, of your country; Peter who fought against the Muslims in Iraq, while serving as a soldier,” the militant says near the end of the nearly 16-minute video. He speaks in an audible British accent despite his voice being distorted to make it more difficult to identify him.

The video identifies the militant’s location as Dabiq, a small town in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border.

The video also shows what appears to be the mass beheading of several Syrian soldiers captured by the group. The militants warn that U.S. soldiers will meet a similar fate.

“We say to you, Obama…you claim to have withdrawn from Iraq four years ago,” the militant said. “Here you are: you have not withdrawn. Rather, you hid some of your forces behind your proxies,” he said, apparently referring to Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military.

“Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.”

Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was providing medical aid to Syrians fleeing the civil war when he was captured inside Syria on Oct. 1, 2013. His friends say he converted to Islam in captivity and took the first name Abdul-Rahman.

Previous videos have shown the beheading of two American journalists and two British aid workers. The latest video did not show the person identified as Kassig being beheaded. Unlike previous videos, it did not show other Western captives or directly threaten to behead anyone else.

The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has been shown in several videos delivering long statements in English on the group’s behalf, perhaps under duress.

Kassig’s family said in a statement they were aware of the reports of the video and were awaiting confirmation from the U.S. government.

“The family respectfully asks that the news media avoid playing into the hostage takers’ hands and refrain from publishing or broadcasting photographs or video distributed by the hostage takers,” they said.

“We prefer our son is written about and remembered for his important work and the love he shared with friends and family, not in the manner the hostage takers would use to manipulate Americans and further their cause.”

The White House said the U.S. intelligence community was working to determine the authenticity of the video. National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that if the video is authentic, the White House would be “appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American.”

The White House expressed its deepest condolences to Kassig’s family and friends, Meehan said.

The video emerged just minutes after President Barack Obama departed Australia for the U.S. The president was in Australia for the Group of 20 economic summit.

Kassig formed the aid organization Special Emergency Response and Assistance, or SERA, in Turkey to provide aid and assistance to Syrian refugees. He began delivering food and medical supplies to Syrian refugee camps in 2012 and is also a trained medical assistant who provided trauma care to wounded Syrian civilians. His friends say he helped train 150 civilians in providing medical aid.

ISIS has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in a series of slickly produced, extremely graphic videos.

The group has declared an Islamic caliphate in the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, which it governs according to an extremely violent interpretation of Shariah law.

The U.S. began launching air strikes in Iraq and Syria earlier this year in a bid to halt the group’s rapid advance and eventually degrade and destroy it.

The fight against the militant group adds another layer to Syria’s complex civil war, now in its fourth year, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad.

ISIS emerged from the remains of al-Qaeda in Iraq and spread to Syria, where it battled both government forces and rebel groups as it carved out its self-styled Islamic state.

In June the group swept into northern Iraq, capturing about a third of the country, including the second largest city Mosul, and eventually prompting the U.S. to resume military operations in the country less than three years after withdrawing. In September the U.S. expanded the air campaign to Syria.

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