A U.S. airstrike kills Abu Kahlil al-Sudani, a high-ranking commander in al Qaeda, in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika on the Pakistani border. Al-Sudani was the head of al Qaeda’s suicide and explosive operations and has been directly linked to plans for external attacks against the U.S. Defense Secretary Carter:
This operation underscores the work that . . . all of our forces in Afghanistan do each day to take the fight to al Qaeda. We will continue to counter violent extremism in the region and around the world.
Al Qaeda announces the death of one of their senior leaders along with other operatives by drone strike. A U.S. based security firm confirms this statement.
A senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader who claimed the group’s responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the murder of an American hostage during a botched raid in December has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
Obama apologies for killing of two hostages in US drone attack on an al-Qaeda base.
This morning I has expressed my grief and condolences to the families of two hostages – one American, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto – who were tragically killed in a US counter-terrorism operation. Warren and Giovanni were aid workers in Pakistan devoted to improving the lives of the Pakistani people.
White House admits that it’s counter terrorism operation in January killed Weinstein and Porto who were being held hostage by al-Qaeda.
President Obama takes full responsibility for these operations…We would be conducting a thorough independent review to understand fully what happened and how we can prevent this type of tragic incident in the future.
A CIA interrogator writing under a pseudonym publishes a document (full text here) covering many aspects of the debate over enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), especially the effectiveness of the techniques. The document is reported to challenge conclusions of the upcoming Feinstein report on EITs. The interrogator says he underwent ‘soft-sell’ and ‘hard-sell’ interrogation techniques himself as part of a survival course, and was able to maintain lies during the ‘soft-sell,’ verbal-only questioning:
I then learned the difference between “soft-sell” and “hard-sell” by way of a large interrogator who applied enhanced techniques promptly upon the uttering of my first lie…I learned that I would rather sit across from the most talented interrogator on earth doing a soft-sell than any interrogator on earth doing a hard-sell—the information I had would be safer because the only consequences to my lies come in the form of words. I could handle words. Anyone could.
Ask any SERE Level C graduate which method was more effective on him or her—their answer should tell you something about the effectiveness of enhanced techniques, whether you agree with them or not. In my case, I learned that enhanced techniques made me want to tell the truth to make it stop—not to compound my situation with more lies.
A Syrian opposition commander and a high level militant say leaders from the two groups met between midnight and 4 a.m. at a farmhouse in northern Syria to agree to stop fighting each other and fight together against their opponents. The accord is believed to be fragile, and won’t soon extend to a full merger of the Islamic State (ISIS) and Nusra, Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliate. But it is expected to increase the level of opposition that more moderate rebels fighting against both the extremist groups and the Assad government, and backed by the U.S.-led international coalition, are facing in the conflict.
Intelligence and Department of Defense officials believe that 20-30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees released within the last two to three years have joined groups like ISIS, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda. Of the 620 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay, 180 have returned or are suspected to have returned to the battlefield. Officials say most of those 20 to 30 are operating inside Syria, while some are providing support including financing to radical groups from outside the country.
U.S. journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, a film-maker who has reported extensively from Syria, says he interviewed a commander of the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, who confronted ISIS to demand the release of Henning. Kareem says ‘anyone of any influence,’ including Al Qaeda, has sought to intervene on behalf of Haines, as he was a volunteer seeking to help Muslim refugees in the town of Dana and his abduction is ‘wrong under Islamic law’:
Four days after he was captured, the emir went to Al-Dana and said: ‘Look, what you are doing is wrong. You have no business what you are doing. You have no right to abduct him. You have no reason to detain him just because he is not Muslim’.
There were initial hopes that Henning would be released:
But then Henning was removed from his prison in Al-Dana and never heard of again.
Islamist leaders and security officials say ISIS is recruiting in Pakistan, India and Kashmir including in territories considered Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the leader of Pakistani group Jamat-ul Ahrar and a prominent Taliban figure:
IS (Islamic State) is an Islamic Jihadi organisation working for the implementation of the Islamic system and creation of the Caliphate. We respect them. If they ask us for help, we will look into it and decide.
ISIS is considered more attractive to younger radicals in South Asia, who see the Taliban as ineffective. A Pakistani security official says ISIS have apparently conducted recruiting activities in a Peshawar neighbourhood, including distributing jihadist materials brought in from Afghanistan:
Pakistani security agencies are working on the Pakistan-Afghan border and have arrested a number of Taliban fighters and recovered CDs, maps, literature in Persian, Pashto and Dari. We will not permit them to work in our country and anyone who is involved in this will be crushed by the government.
An official in Kashmir says the group are taking advantage of anti-India sentiment to recruit local youth:
The majority of them have no religious bent of mind. Some of them, less than 1 percent, of course are religious and radicalised and end up joining militant ranks. They are influenced by al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State.
Major Indian Muslim groups reject Al Qaeda’s efforts to set up a chapter on the subcontinent after al-Zawahri announces that Qaedat al-Jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya, or Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), will fight for Islamic law in Gujarat, Assam and Kashmir. All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat president Zafarul-Islam Khan:
We, the Indian Muslims totally reject the al-Qaida chief’s offer to help us and consider it a disservice to the cause of Muslims in the subcontinent. We do not want any meddling in our affairs by a foreign terrorist outfit
All-India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana Farangi Mahli:
Al-Qaida leadership believes that they will be able to rope in the disaffected Muslim young men from some Indian pockets and they will drive its operation in India. The outfit made similar attempt in Kashmir some years ago when it failed to attract Kashmiri Muslim youth.
Chennai-based Muslim community leader Professor M. H. Jawahirulla:
Indian Muslims have long faced the aggression from right wing Hindu extremists in the Hindu majority society. Al-Qaida’s call to Islamize India will only bring further miseries to minority Muslims and it has no room in a pluralistic or multi-religious society of India. There are secular-minded parties and organizations in India standing in support of Indian Muslims.
The top U.S. counterterror official says ISIS presents a threat to U.S. security but is not as grave a threat as Al Qaeda. National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen says at a Brookings Institute event that the group could inspire a lone wolf attack by a sympathizer in the U.S.:
[ISIS] poses a direct and significant threat to us [and] has the potential to use its safe haven to plan and coordinate attacks in Europe and the United States
But it is not as capable of carrying out a large-scale attack as al Qaeda was before 9/11:
ISIL is not al Qaeda pre 9/11. We are not what we were pre 9/11. We are so much better postured, in so many ways, to see, detect, stop any attack like what we saw on 9/11.
The major threat is to U.S. troops in Iraq:
We have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the United States … in the near term, we’re focused on protecting our personnel on the ground in Iraq.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri announces the formation of a South Asian chapter, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent:
[The group] is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity.
He says Qaedat al-Jihad will fight for an Islamic state and laws across the region…
…which was part of the Muslims’ territories before it was occupied by the infidel enemy.
Philippine peacekeeping troops trapped in the Golan Heights are attacked by rebels. Philippine Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin says the attacks started early Saturday on 40 peacekeepers at a UN post in the area. He doesn’t give details of casualties. The attackers are thought to include fighters from the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
A Youtube video shows a group of rebels including fighters from Al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front taking over the Quneitra border crossing on the Syrian side of the border with Israel after a battle with Assad regime forces. A fighter:
We are Al-Nusra fighters. We’ve just liberated the Syrian-Zionist crossing of Quneitra
In the footage, a black al-Nusra banner is seen flying in place of a Syrian flag in the border town, which is visibly damaged by the battle.
Syrian rebels surround 75 peacekeepers from the Philippines at two UN posts in the Golan Heights. Their commander in Manila, Col. Robert Ancan:
We can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities. I [would] just like to emphasise our troops are well-armed, they are well-trained … they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers.
The rebels include fighters from Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front. Ancan says they have used an English-speaking Fijian, one of a group of peacekeepers from Fiji captured earlier in the week, to relay demands to the Filippinos to lay down their weapons.
Video released by al Qaeda shows Moner Mohammad Abu Salha, believed to be the first American national to perform a suicide bombing in the Syrian conflict, apparently threatening the U.S. Abu Salha appears to tear up and chew his American passport before stating that he wishes to enter paradise with Osama bin Laden:
We are coming for you. Mark my words. You think you’ve won? You have never won. You will never defeat Islam … You think you killed Osama bin Laden? You sent him to paradise. Just know that we are coming.
An American detonates a suicide bomb in Syria on behalf of al-Nusra Front, the Syrian arm of Al Qaeda, driving a truck laden with 16 tons of explosives into a restaurant patronized by government troops in the northwestern city of Idlib. The group tweets a statement confirming the bombing, referring to him by his nom de guerre, ‘the American father of the kitten’:
Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki performed a martrydom operation in Idlib, Jabal Al-Arba’een. May Allah accept him.
The U.S. government identifies him as Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, of Florida.
Weinstein pleads Obama to help secure his freedom in a video released by al-Qaeda.
Mr. Obama, you are a family man, and so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing for these past more than two years. I am therefore appealing to you on a humanitarian basis, if nothing else, and asking that you take the necessary actions to expedite my release and my return to my family and to my country, to our country.