Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Turkey's Splitting Headache

"They said in the mosques that they could kill all Kurds between seven and 77 years old. So we collected our things and left, immediately."
Sahab Basravi, Syian Kurd

"I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions."
"A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility."
Numan Kurtulmus, Turkish deputy prime minister

"Fierce clashes are still underway but the ... advance to the east of Kobani has been halted since last night."
Redur Xelil, People's Protection Units spokesman
Turkish soldier stands guard as Syrian refugees wait to cross border in Suruc, Turkey. 21 Sept 2014 Turkish troops are trying to control the flood of refugees, and stop Kurdish fighters crossing into Syria

Between 250,000 to 400,000 people are thought to normally live in the region around Kobani. Close to 1.6-million Syrian refugees have thus far entered Turkey from Syria since 2011. Less than three kilometres from the Turkish border, Kobani is now a ghost town with about two thousand of its former 50,000 inhabitants left, along with a few Kurdish fighters. They are mostly elderly, the citizens, determined to protect themselves and their property; too old to rush off, but still desperate.

The Islamic State has conquered new territory, overrunning about an additional 50 Kurdish villages.
The Islamic State/ISIL/ISIS has conquered new territory in their drive to attain and stretch their geography for their caliphate, in the process attacking and killing non-Sunni Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Alawites (minority Shias) and Shiites in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds are targeted because of their secularism.

ISIS's reputation marches before it, instilling fear and terror in the hearts of the fleeing refugees. The Turkish border town of Suric, a Kurdish enclave, has seen its population more than double in recent days. Refugees, terrorized and weeping in fear and despair at their forlorn condition, have been accommodated in parks, squares and hospitals, with the Turkish government setting up temporary tent camps.

A massive security presence of Turkish police and soldiers has been deployed in huge numbers. This is an influx of Kurds, after all, stretching Turkey's patience to accommodate the presence of even more of that troublesome tribe within its borders. Their mission is to prevent People's Protection Units fighters from crossing the border to join the Kurdistan Workers' Party, their Turkish cousins, outlawed by the Government of Turkey as a terrorist group.

A Kurdish woman runs away from a water cannon near the Syrian border after Turkish authorities temporarily closed the border at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 22, 2014. Some 130,000 people had flooded across its border from Syria as Kurdish fighters battled Islamic State group jihadists trying to capture a strategic town.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images    A Kurdish woman runs away from a water cannon near the Syrian border after Turkish authorities temporarily closed the border at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 22, 2014. Some 130,000 people had flooded across its border from Syria as Kurdish fighters battled Islamic State group jihadists trying to capture a strategic town.

This is the same Turkey, needless to say, that considers Hamas to be a responsible Arabic Islamist government; reflecting their own values. Turkey's support of Hamas and respect for its terrorist tactics simply points out that it depends on whose ox is being gored. Turkey has no patience for anyone who might suggest that the Kurds deserve their own sovereign territory.

Turkey's cruelty to the Kurds is legendary, as is its failure to acknowledge the Armenian massacre and its atrocities committed against Greeks.

This however, is a NATO member demonstrating its capacity for human rights, welcoming within its borders Syrian refugees fleeing the depraved military response of an Alawite Syrian government against its Syrian Sunni population rebelling against the oppression under which it lives at the whims of a Shiite-offshoot regime.

As a NATO ally Turkey also refuses to involve itself in a U.S.-led allied battle against the Islamic State. Whose victims it now welcomes, however grudgingly.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Turkey’s Erdogan Abruptly Cancels Scheduled Meeting With Jewish Leader in New York

September 23, 2014 
 Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey
Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday abruptly canceled a planned meeting with World Jewish Congress (WJC) leader Ronald Lauder in New York, according to a report appearing in the Turkish Today’s Zamen newspaper.

Erdoğan, who arrived in the United States on Monday for the 69th United Nations General Assembly session, refused to agree to a request to move the meeting with the influential advocacy group to later that evening, according to the private Doğan news agency, citing sources from Erdoğan’s entourage.

A WJC official told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that their group was “not commenting on this story.”
The English-language Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported on the planned meeting and noted that Erdoğan “has previously vowed to protect the rights of the Jewish community in Turkey and has asserted that the government will never let the Jewish people in Turkey get hurt.”

But this summer, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Erdoğan had accused the Jewish state of committing “genocide” and waging “terrorism” against the Palestinians. Erdoğan also said Israel’s “barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s” and dismissed the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel.

Under his leadership, Turkish newspapers have printed columns calling on Turkish Jews to apologize for Israeli actions.

In July, Erdoğan agreed to return the “Profile of Courage” award he had received from the American Jewish Congress in 2004 for working to help bring peace to the Middle East and his commitment to protect the Jewish community in Turkey.

Erdoğan is scheduled to hold several meetings with world leaders during the week-long assembly session, among them US President Barack Obama, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

While Israel has avoided criticizing Turkey and hoped to renew rocky ties in the four years since the infamous Gaza flotilla debacle, now Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is emphasizing Ankara’s ties to terrorist activities in the Middle East – including support for Hamas, one of Israel’s main adversaries, NRG News reported in early September.

“Qatar and Turkey support Hamas and are members of the UN. Turkey is also a member of NATO,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said at the 14th International Conference of the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

Dispensing with political niceties, Ya’alon demanded the international community draw a unified moral line in the sand against terrorism.

“The foreign terrorist headquarters of Hamas sits in Istanbul. Salah Aruri is the man sitting there. Where is the world? When we talk about the war on terror, it starts with whether we’re choosing to ignore this kind of phenomenon, countries which sponsor terrorism and terrorist activity without hiding it,” Ya’alon charged.

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Top US General Says Arab Role in Islamic State Airstrikes Was Crucial

By | September 23, 2014
WASHINGTON— Combined U.S.-Arab airstrikes at the heart of the Islamic State group’s military strongholds in Syria achieved their strategic aim of showing the extremists that their savage attacks will not go unanswered, the top American military officer said Tuesday.

The U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group’s headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Monday using land- and sea-based U.S. aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf.

“We wanted to make sure that ISIL knew they have no safe haven, and we certainly achieved that,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with a small group of reporters as he flew to Washington after a weeklong trip to Europe. ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group whose fighters swept across much of Iraq this summer.

U.S. officials said five Arab nations either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support. They were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Dempsey said their role was indispensable to the U.S. goal of showing that the battle to degrade and defeat the Islamic State group is not just a U.S. fight.

“I can’t overstate” the importance of the Arab role, he said. He called it an unprecedented coalition with Arab states and said the partnering has set the stage for a broader international campaign against the extremists.

Dempsey said the five Arab nations’ agreement to join in the airstrikes came together quickly; as recently as Sunday he told reporters that more Arab participation was needed before President Barack Obama would sign off on the strategic air campaign.

“Once we had one of them on board, the others followed quickly thereafter,” he said, adding that the partnership came together over the past three days. “We now have a kind of credible campaign against ISIL that includes a coalition of partners.”

Several hours after the Pentagon announced the airstrikes against Islamic State targets, U.S. Central Command said American warplanes also launched eight airstrikes “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of “seasoned al-Qaida veterans” — sometimes known as the Khorasan Group — who have established a haven in Syria. It provided no details on the plotting.

Central Command said that separate bombing mission was undertaken solely by U.S. aircraft and took place west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It said targets included training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.
The airstrikes against Islamic State targets were carried out in the city of Raqqa and other areas in eastern Syria. The strikes were part of the expanded military campaign that Obama authorized nearly two weeks ago in order to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State militants, who have slaughtered thousands of people, beheaded Westerners — including two American journalists — and captured large swaths of Syria and northern and western Iraq.

The airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. EDT. Central Command said the U.S. fired 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles from aboard the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, operating from international waters in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf. U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets, drones and bombers also participated.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group.

At a conference on Sept. 11 with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

Russia’s foreign ministry warned Tuesday that what it called “unilateral” air strikes would destabilize the region. “The fight against terrorists in the Middle East and northern Africa requires coordinated efforts of the entire global community under the auspices of the U.N.,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Activists said the airstrikes hit targets in and around the Syrian city of Raqqa and the province with the same name. Raqqa is the Islamic State group’s self-declared capital in Syria.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press, “There is confirmed information that there are casualties among Islamic State group members.”

He added that missiles also targeted the towns of Tabqa, Ein Issa and Tel Abyad, as well as the village of Kfar Derian, which is a base for the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, a rival of the Islamic State group.

Another activist, Mohammed al-Dughaim, based in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, confirmed that several airstrikes hit Kfar Derian in the early hours of Tuesday. He said there were civilians among the casualties.

An amateur video posted online Tuesday shows explosions going off at night in an open area, blasts that are said to be from coalition airstrikes. The narrator in the video is heard saying that the footage shows the “bombardment of the Kfar Derian village.”

The head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Hadi Bahra, welcomed the commencement of airstrikes in Syria.

“We have called for airstrikes such as those that commenced tonight with a heavy heart and deep concern, as these strikes begin in our own homeland,” he said in a statement. “We insist that utmost care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.”

Dempsey repeatedly stressed the importance of having Arab participation and said it needs to extend beyond direct military roles to assisting in an international effort to undercut finances, recruiting and ideological support for the Islamic State group.

“What we’re talking about now is the beginning of an air campaign,” he said, adding that it must lead to what he called “the other air campaign” — an effort to fill public airwaves across the Muslim world with arguments for why the extremists must be defeated.

“These leaders now need to — and will — take on the responsibility to explain to the populace of the Arab-Muslim world why we’re doing what we’re doing so that we can strip away the cloak of religious legitimacy that ISIL has wrapped itself in,” he said.

In a speech Sept. 10, Obama vowed to go after the Islamic State militants wherever they may be. His military and defense leaders told Congress last week that airstrikes within Syria are meant to disrupt the group’s momentum and provide time for the U.S. and allies to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

The U.S. military has been launching targeted airstrikes in Iraq since August, focusing specifically on attacks to protect U.S. interests and personnel, assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure. Last week, as part of the newly expanded campaign, the U.S. began going after militant targets across Iraq, including enemy fighters, outposts, equipment and weapons.

To date, U.S. fighter aircraft, bombers and drones have launched about 190 airstrikes within Iraq.
Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.
Burns reported from aboard a U.S. military aircraft. Associated Press writers Zeina Karam, Julie Pace and Matthew Lee in New York, Josh Lederman in Washington and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Pakistan's Nuclear Reassurances

"The assurances Pakistan has given the world about the safety of its nuclear program will be severely tested with short-range and sea-based systems, but they are coming."
"A cardinal principle of Pakistan's nuclear program has been: 'Don't worry, we separate warheads from launchers.' Well, that is very hard to do at sea."
Michael Krepon, co-founder, Stimson Center, global security think-tank, Washington

"We are on our way, and my own hunch is within a year or so, we should be developing our second-strike capability."
Shireen Mazari, nuclear expert, former director, Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad think-tank

"We continue to urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear and missile capabilities. We continue to encourage efforts to promote confidence-building and stability and discourage actions that might destabilize the region."
Jen Psaki, spokesperson, U.S. State Department
Taliban fighters appear to be looking at an unexploded bomb from a downed Pakistani F-16 jet. The Taliban claimed they shot down the jet with a surface to air missile on Friday. Photo/TheBlaze
Taliban fighters appear to be looking at an unexploded bomb from a downed Pakistani F-16 jet. The Taliban claimed they shot down the jet with a surface-to-air missile on Friday. Photo/TheBlaze

That reassurance and about fifty cents could get you a package of bubble gum. As reassurances go, Pakistan's have never withstood much scrutiny. Its covert drive to possess nuclear weapons because its hated neighbour India used all the means at its disposal to become a nuclear power, drove Pakistan to succeed in that endeavour, and go a little further when its chief nuclear scientist took the trouble to share nuclear formulae with other Islamic countries in the belief that anything widely shared in the West should be shared in the Southeast as well.

North Korea, Iran, Libya for starters all gained hugely by this largesse on the part of Pakistan. And the world has since become a much less safe place. Even without the threat of nuclear proliferation, thanks to the surging Islamist tide of jihadi terrorists the world sits now on a powder keg. And Pakistan has endowed the world with more than its share of the jihadis who threaten peace and stability not only in Afghanistan but within Europe where so many have settled, seeking haven and turning against those countries that responded.

Pakistan gave firmly 'reliable' assurances to the United States and NATO allies that it was with them in the 'war on terror', while its intelligence services and its military were rife with Islamists well integrated and supportive of non-state Islamist militias, including the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban were given cross-border shelter in Pakistan while the government swore fealty to its allies fighting terrorism. At Abbottabad, the bin Ladens found refuge in their compound hard by a military officer training academy.

Pakistan, officially now battling its own Taliban and hill tribes' insurgencies, is in perpetual danger of losing control of its various nuclear facilities existing close to areas where those tribal Islamists rule and occasionally run amok. And in this volatile region of the world, where millions of Pakistanis live in endemic poverty, where the government hasn't the material or institutional wherewithal to offer humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of poor Pakistanis flooded out of their homes and their farms, there is ample funding for expanding the nuclear military presence.

Pakistan looks forward to achieving a sea-based missile capacity, and expanding its tactical nuclear warheads. It has become a high priority to develop nuclear missiles to be fired from a navy ship or submarine, to give Pakistan "second-strike" capability should a catastrophic nuclear 'exchange' destroy land-based weapons. And who, other than neighbour India against whom Pakistan continues to agitate and plot offences, might be the cause of such an exchange?

India, which hasn't been known to support terrorist groups to advance into Pakistan's cities to launch terrorist attacks killing hundreds of innocent civilians as was done with Pakistani military assistance in 2008 with the carnage that took place in Mumbai. Pakistan refuses to surrender the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, claiming that as a Pakistani nothing has been definitely proven, and he is free to do whatever he wishes.

This country that is overwhelmed by the presence of fanatical Islamists is set to launch itself into updating of its nuclear capabilities. Anti-government protests in the capital have taken the current government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif toward total collapse. And Pakistan and India have been shooting artillery shells across their border, enlarging the risk of yet another war. But short-range missiles carrying a small warhead, easy to transport, remain an urgent goal.

Prime Minister Sharif cited "evolving security dynamics in South Asia", as reason for Pakistan to develop "a full spectrum deterrence capability to deter all forms of aggression", when aggression and violence emanates from Pakistan itself, not from any outside source. Next in line appears to be the development of nuclear warheads for deployment from the Indian Ocean, from warships or from one of the country's five diesel-powered navy submarines.

Pakistan Navy is the first force in Indian Ocean Region to have submarines equipped with air-independent propulsion. PHOTO: SXC.HU

The country's Naval Strategic Force command overseeing nuclear weapons, is prepared to launch serious nuclear strides toward fulfillment of this latest of Pakistan's brilliant moves to make its region more stable, safer and dedicated to peace.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Citizen Backlash in Moscow

"Our country is acting as an aggressor, like Germany in the [Second World] war."
Konstantin Alexeyev, 35, Moscow

"I am concerned about the rhetoric on our TV channels, which disseminate anti-Ukrainian sentiment"
"Ukraine is a friendly country. We should just leave it alone."
Ludmila Shteigervalt, 50-year-old demonstrator, Moscow
Thousands march in Moscow against Ukraine fighting-Image1
Thousands march in Moscow against Ukraine fighting The Canadian Press, 2014
People carry Russian and Ukrainian flags during an anti-war rally in downtown Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Thousands of people were marching through central Moscow to demonstrate against the fighting in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

An estimate of tens of thousands of Muscovites marched in protest through central Moscow Sunday. These are obviously Russians who have not entirely swallowed the official Kremlin version of Nazi Ukraine threatening Ukrainians of Russian origin. And they must plainly have access to various news sources that render an entirely different version of what is unfolding in Ukraine than the official Russian story.

It's hard to believe that any Russians believe there is nothing amiss in their country ordering the annexation of Crimea, a legal piece of Ukrainian geography.

Nationalism runs high in Russia, all the more so with the uncomfortable knowledge that once again, Russia appears to be on the odds with the West. That NATO, which they have been persuaded by the official Russian line on state security, is out to get them, to humiliate and to bully and to force their great country to its knees in agreeing that anti-ballistic missile launchers be situated in the geography of former Soviet satellite states, a clear threat to Russian sovereignty by their very presence.

Supporters of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine tear an Ukrainian flag at their own rally in Moscow - 21 September 2014 Supporters of separatists in Ukraine held their own smaller rally in Moscow, where they ripped a Ukrainian flag

And while it is true that Russia feels the sting of the ignominy of former satellite Soviet states -- neighbours whom they fondly believed enjoyed being dominated by Russian aggression -- making deliberate choices to align themselves with Western powers, with the European Union and NATO they've indulged in military excess. Their neighbours' presence, westward-leaning, averse to Moscow's ongoing interest under Vladimir Putin to resurrect the old alliances seems threatening to a country long accustomed to paranoia.

The demonstrators, in their numbers, chanted slogans such as "No to war", and "The junta is in the Kremlin, not Kyiv", did not endear themselves to the government. Clearly enough, these Russians at least didn't believe the Kremlin line that their selection for president of Ukraine was illegally removed through a fascist coup. City police preferred to offer their own numbers, that the crowd was comprised of a mere five thousand, whereas the Associated Press reported the presence of 20,000 demonstrators.

Coverage of the Kremlin-provoked crisis between Russia and  Ukraine has been portrayed as Russia merely taking back what was rightfully and historically its own, in securing the Crimean peninsula. State-controlled television channels had reported events in the context of a courageous group of pro-Russian militias insisting on their human rights, against a corrupt and rigidly fascist government in Kyiv. This story-line boosted nationalistic fervour in Russia, ensuring that anything Vladimir Putin launched would have public support.

People walk with banners and flags during an anti-war rally in Moscow - 21 September 2014 A large column of protesters waving both Russian and Ukrainian flags marched in central Moscow

Nationalists were present unfurling a banner denouncing "The March of Traitors", ensuring that at the very least a few scuffles between protesters and their adversaries would take place.

A Ukrainian security official in Kyiv noted that Russia-supported fighters continue their attacks, despite the ongoing ceasefire agreed to by both sides over two weeks earlier. Speaking for Ukraine's national security council, Col. Andriy Lysenko stated that about 40 rebels and two Ukrainian servicemen had died in clashes a day earlier.

Sporadic shelling on the outskirts of the strategic city of Mariupol took place Sunday and the night before. The September 5 ceasefire has been repeatedly violated. The plan called for the withdrawal of foreign fighters, the pull-back of heavy weapons, and for all military flights to be banned over the combat area. Russia has complied with the pull-back, but remains poised to react should Mr. Putin deem it necessary.

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An employee (C) at Turkey's Consulate in Mosul is welcomed by her relatives at Esenboga International Airport in Ankara, Sept. 20, 2014, after being freed.  (photo by REUTERS)

How and why were 46 Turkish hostages freed?

Forty-nine staff members of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul (three of whom are Iraqi nationals) who were taken hostage June 11 by the Islamic State (IS) were freed at 6:30 a.m. Sept. 20. Details of the operation are slowly emerging.
SummaryPrint Turkey wonders what brought about the freeing of the hostages taken at its Mosul Consulate and why they obtained their liberty now.
Author Metin Turcan Posted September 21, 2014
Translator(s)Timur Goksel
According to what Al-Monitor learned from Turkish security sources, the operation was planned by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and closely coordinated with the prime minister's office, the Foreign Ministry and the chief of the Turkish General Staff.
According to information provided by officials and communicated by the media, in the three months of their captivity the hostages were kept together in Mosul but their location was changed eight times. The MIT had been keeping track of their movements for the last two months, both through human intelligence sources and with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveillance.
Three plans were developed for the rescue of the hostages: a military operation, persuasion through contacts with IS or paying ransom. Turkish intelligence officials were in close contact with IS in Mosul, with the Army of Naqshbandi dominated by former Baath cadres and with the Council of Mosul Tribes. The plan for a military operation was shelved after establishing close contacts with influential Sunni Arab tribes in Mosul who have been friendly to Turkey for many years. Turkey’s close liaison with the Mosul tribes was never a secret.
According to official statements, Turkey carried out the rescue operation all by itself without any input from foreign intelligence services. Officials also denied any ransom bargaining. They said no ransom was paid and there were no hostilities during the operation. The official Turkish narrative spoke of persuasion through contacts, an exclusive Turkish operation, no ransom payment and no clashes, while emphasizing the role of the Sunni Arab tribes of Mosul. Turkish news media reports are overflowing with praise for the MIT.
Interesting reports surfaced on the Takvahaber news website, which is identified as the IS mouthpiece in Turkey. According to one Takvahaber report, which was based on the Twitter account of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS caliph, the decision to release the hostages was personally approved by Baghdadi after Turkey refused to agree to the US demand for “active support of the coalition.”
According to the same report, there was no operation of any kind. Hostages were moved on the night of Sept. 19-20 from Mosul to Raqqa in Syria, which is known as the IS capital and therefore considered more secure. They were then moved from Raqqa to Turkey’s Akcakale crossing about 40 miles away, and handed over to Turkish officials.
In addition to the key question of whether the hostages were rescued through an operation or handed over by IS to Turkish officials, another question that gained prominence is, “Why now?” Why did IS give up the strategic ace it was holding against Turkey just now that the United States is setting up a coalition and is about to launch a military offensive?
Two major factors may have been at play. The first was the changing balance of power in Mosul: According to Turkish intelligence sources, US airstrikes seriously degraded IS communications between key centers in Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa and Tikrit it controls. IS withdrew most of its Mosul forces to inland areas. US airstrikes were instrumental in changing the power structure of Mosul by strengthening the role of the Army of Naqshbandi and the Council of Mosul Tribes. Both favored the release of the hostages. The second major factor was the severe reaction from the Sunni world after IS released visuals of the beheadings it carried out of three Westerners. As such, IS' release of the Turkish hostages signifies a change in IS strategy and signifies a move to win over Sunni public opinion.
In Turkey, some experts said a congratulatory message issued by the chief of the Turkish General Staff in a media statement titled “Return of the Mosul consulate personnel” showed how the military command wanted to emphasize that the operation was not carried out solely by the MIT, but with military support. Security sources said the UAV surveillance activity to monitor the movements of the hostages was carried out by the military, and said Turkish special forces provided security for the entire operation. Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Turkish special forces coordinated liaison operations in Kirkuk, Mosul and Tal Afar in conjunction with the US Army, and during the course of those activities developed strong ties with local elites.
A final question: Why were the hostages held in Mosul not handed over to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) 20 miles away, but instead taken 200 miles to Raqqa and then to Turkey’s Akcakale? There may be two major factors at play here as well. It could be that Turkey did not want the Kurds in northern Iraq to play the role of an intermediary and be seen as the “saviors.” The second factor could be that there is a crisis of confidence between the Sunni tribes of Mosul and the KRG. It is likely that the tribes did not want the hostages to be handed over to the Kurds. This possibility is significant for indicating soured relations between the Iraqi Kurds and the Sunni tribes.
The main question in the Turkish media is "What now?" Since the hostages have been released, will Turkey be less recalcitrant to join the anti-IS coalition? This is going to be a hotly debated issue in the coming days, particularly since Turkey cited the hostages as a major reason for not joining in the coalition.
Of course, conspiracy theories on regional developments are making the rounds. A member of the Turkish parliament wrote on Twitter: “Release of the hostages is actually a CIA move to persuade Turkey to join the coalition.”
This tweet will certainly find a prominent place in the Turkish tradition of resorting to conspiracy theories to explain complex issues. In this case, however, it is worrying that such a theory emanated not from the man in the street but from a parliamentarian.
In short, two key questions that will be discussed now are why IS released the Turkish hostages and why now. The Turkish media is justifiably confused, wondering why the hostages were released now if no ransom was paid, and there being no apparent IS gain for the release. That could mean that IS is losing power, or that it is engaged in a major public relations effort to win back the hearts and the minds of the Sunni world it alienated with its barbaric actions.

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UN Watch BriefingLatest from the United Nations  Vol. 504  |  September 22, 2014         

"I see no objection": UN adopts report praising Qatar's human rights record after UN Watch lists objections
                                                                 Click here for video
Intervention by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer in debate over UN Human Rights Council report on Qatar’s human rights record, September 19, 2014
Thank you, Mr. President. Today we ask: Does the cause of human rights support — or object to — the adoption of today’s UN Human Rights Council report on Qatar’s human rights record?
Let me read from the report:
  • China appreciated the efforts expended by Qatar to promote and protect human rights.”
  • Bangladesh praised Qatar for the progress made in empowering women.”
  • Iran commended Qatar on its integrated social development, and for improving the situation of women.”
  • Sudan applauded the steps taken by Qatar.”
  • Turkey commended the progress achieved by Qatar in human rights.”
Mr. President, no less than 78 out of the 84 country statements in this report offer praise for the human rights record of Qatar. That’s over 90 percent.

Yet the truth, Mr. President, is the opposite.

Let us be clear: The truth is that the 1.4 million migrant workers in Qatar object to this report because they are dying at the rate of one a day from inhuman conditions. At the current pace, more than 4,000 migrant workers will die to build the infrastructure for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup.

The truth is that the women of Qatar object to this report because they are denied basic rights to equality, for example denied the right to be elected to the Shura legislative council.

The truth is that journalists and aid workers who are abducted by the ISIS terrorist group and face beheading object to this report. In the words of Germany’s development aid minister, Gerd Mueller, from August 20th: “Who is financing these troops? Hint: Qatar.”

The truth is that the Palestinians, Israelis ,and other victims of Hamas war crimes — their exploitation and targeting of civilian populations, mosques, hospitals and schools — object to this report.

As one Arab diplomat said to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), as quoted in its testimony before the U.S. Congress, “Qatar finances Hamas strongly.”

Mr. President, for all of these reasons, let me be clear: the victims of human rights abuse around the world object to the adoption of this report. 

Thank you, Mr. President.
President of UNHRC Session: May I now propose that the Council adopt the decision of the UPR on Qatar as appears on screen. I see no objection. The decision is adopted.

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ISIS: Terrorist Army

"[ISIS is a] terrorist army [blending] medieval ideology] with modern weapons."
"We must also reject their nihilistic worldview wherever we find it."
(Mother of all classic understatements) Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, United Nations Security Council

"We are not by any means the leading contributor of foreign fighters to Syria, even though the dozens that are there and the 130 that are abroad [with other extremist groups] is a disturbing number for all Canadians. But we want to ensure that Canada's good name is not besmirched by these people any more than it already has been and that Canadians are protected."
"You [Islamic offenders] will cease being a Canadian because behaviour of this kind [dual nations convicted of terrorism] is incompatible with the duties and responsibilities of [Canadian] citizenship."
"[Integrating of immigrants] ...tends to create a very high level of allegiance and loyalty to Canada among the vast majority of immigrants, and we should be proud of that."
"But the pull of this poisonous ideology from the Gulf, from some of the centres of preaching, Pakistan and elsewhere, where it's really anchored, is strong. And it's transmitted by the Internet. So despite our success on immigration and settlement, we can't ignore this challenge."
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, Ottawa, Canada
ISIS has released a video showing a masked gunman standing before captured Syrian troops digging their own graves. After speaking 
in what sounded like North American — possibly Canadian —English, he appeared to help execute the kneeling prisoners with a handgun.
SITE    ISIS has released a video showing a masked gunman standing before captured Syrian troops digging their own graves. After speaking in what sounded like North American — possibly Canadian —English, he appeared to help execute the kneeling prisoners with a handgun.

Confirmed: Canada has revoked a number of passports from those Immigration Minister Alexander's department has assessed through intelligence as having travelled to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. As well as some who had not yet left Canada, but intended to travel abroad to the volatile areas to enlist themselves as foreign jihadi fighters in the cataclysmic battle of violent jihad intent on triumphing over the West in its journey toward a global caliphate.

"Yes, I think it's safe to say that there are cases of revocation of passports involving people who've gone to Syria and Iraq already. I just don't want to get into the numbers." While those identified by the removal of their passports and the privilege of being Canadian alarm him by their decision to join ISIS, he remains satisfied that Canada's numbers of aspiring jihadis are minuscule in comparison to the numbers of immigrants who have migrated from Muslim countries to become part of Canada's community of communities.

Measures to halt the flow of aspiring foreign fighters to both those countries, however, require strategies to compellingly use measures that will prove to be useful in turning the situation around to Canada's benefit. By isolating and removing access for return to those who have made such a fateful choice, Canada is protected from their return and the potential for them to practise within the country that has given them haven, the deadly techniques they have learned and practised abroad.

An hour-long propaganda video released by ISIS just hours earlier to the interview, appeared an effort to dissuade the mounting of an international military campaign against ISIS. Earlier, shorter, and hugely graphic videos of appalling cruelty and brutality have been responsible for persuading the international community that it should become involved in the battle against the criminally psychopathic Islamists; they may learn by this that they can't have it both ways.
In the chilling tape released on Friday, ISIS line up the Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on an airbase in Raqqa
In the chilling tape released on Friday, ISIS line up the Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on an airbase in Raqqa
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In the chilling tape released on Friday, ISIS line up the Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on an airbase in Raqqa Islamic State terrorists shooting Syrian prisoners at airbase in Raqqa
In the chilling tape released on Friday, ISIS line up the Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on an airbase in Raqqa
In the chilling tape released on Friday, ISIS line up the Syrian soldiers captured during an attack on an airbase in Raqqa
- See more at:

The new video featured a masked gunman and captured Syrian troops digging their own graves. After an announcement in North-American-accented (Canadian) English, the gunman standing watch over the prisoners took part in the execution of the kneeling prisoners, with the use of his handgun. Making it all the more imperative that Canada take these heretofore unthinkable measures of depriving a Canadian citizen of national identity through passport certification and re-entry to Canada.

Existing regulations make it lawful for officials to revoke or deny a passport with the evidence presented. "When law enforcement and security agencies provide us with that evidence, as they have done, we are able to act ... in multiple cases ... against those attempting to join extremists in Syria."

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Safeguarding the Western Public

"When I go home to West Virginia, my people say, 'What do you expect to be done that will be different from what we have done in that region of the world for thirteen years?"
"If money or military might hasn't changed it what makes you think you can change it now?"
"[America spent $20-billion to build up a 250,000-man army in Iraq] and the first time they were tested they turned tail and ran, turned over the arsenal that we equipped them with and now it is being used against us."
"The only thing that I know we're sure of is that the training [of 'moderate' rebels in Syria] and those weapons will probably be used against us in the future given everything that's happened in the past."
"How can I go home to West Virginia and make sense out of this at all?"
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat
Fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant pictured marching in Syria
Fighters from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant pictured marching in Syria [AP]

"Define the enemy for me."
Ted Poe, Texas Republican

"I call them the Enemy of Islam because that's what they are."
Secretary of State John Kerry

"Are they the enemy of the United States?"
Ted Poe

"They are the enemy of humanity. [The war will last] however long it takes [to defeat them]."
John Kerry
U.S. President Barack Obama said that support from both Republicans and Democrats "shows the world that Americans are united" in combating the Islamic State group.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that support from both Republicans and Democrats "shows the world that Americans are united" in combating the Islamic State group. Evan Vucci/Associated Press
"The regrettable reality is that to mount the kind of attacks which ISIL in Syria and in Iraq has in mind for Australia, all you need is a determined individual who will kill without compunction, a knife, an iPhone and a victim."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The reliably trenchant Islamist jihadists most certainly do represent themselves as the 'enemy of humanity', and they do so as as passionately engaged Islamist psychopaths. They do so, responding to the dictates of the Koran that it is fundamentally incumbent upon Muslims to surrender to the faith by embarking on a number of imperatives; one is the hajj, in memory of the hegira undertaken by the Prophet Mohammad, the second is jihad, and the two are inextricably intertwined.

Present-day jihadis are merely replicating in modern history what the Prophet Mohammad embarked upon in ancient history, by the sword persuading reluctant tribes to surrender - to Islam, the religion he constructed through an intimate conversation with Allah. To claim, as Barack Obama and his secretary of state are so delicately fond of doing -- lest they insult the Muslim ummah, much less the American Muslim demographic that Islam as a religion of peace has spawned violent jihad -- that terrorist jihadis do not express Islamic tenets, is to be deliberately obtuse.

American lawmakers in a majority-approving vote (78-22 Senate, 319-108 House) gave the president the power to train and equip what is described as 'moderate' Syrian rebels whom the administration appears to hope to be able to persuade to turn their conflict from that of attempting to destroy the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, to that of a response to what they hold to be a far more dangerous regime threatening Syria and Iraq and the entire Middle East.

The recruitment, according to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US. Joint Chiefs of Staff, should take about five months, the training an additional eight months. What further atrocities might the Islamic State wreak in that period of time, given their lightning-swift and successful march on Mosul? On the other hand, it is indeed Muslims who should meet Muslims in the battle for control of Muslim territory, allegiance and power.

The minute that Western military engages directly in ground conflict as opposed to helping to train national troops, is the minute that the entire Muslim community choruses the brutalities imposed upon Muslims by the West. The response, rather to face the intractable brutality of organized psychopathy threatening "humanity" and its most dearly held values of the sanctity of human life, is that of encouraging, aiding, training, arming and standing back.

Those who oppose the deadly carnage of fanatical Islam must be as determined to bring them to heel as the Islamists are to revel in Islamist-approved slaughter.

Once again France has dispatched its fighter jets as it did on its own in Mali, to destroy Islamic State logistics depots. France has stated it will restrict its air forays to Iraq and not venture into Syria. Leaving Syrian air strikes to the United States which has vowed it will launch them there, bypassing the authority of the Syrian president who had felt confident that he would finally gain recognition of legitimacy in his own war against Syrian Sunni citizens and rebels alike.

And managing to courageously withstand the verbal assault of Moscow insisting that the territorial integrity of Syria must be respected, for to do otherwise would represent a violent assault on all the international norms of legitimate state behaviour. That accusation should have been the clue for a bit of riotous hilarity on the part of the Western alliance.

Taking the experience of Australia as a template for the near future, where armed police have been authorized to take over security at Parliament House in Canberra in reflection of Australian Islamic State terrorists having instructed supporters in Australia to attack the building and members of the government, the United States will certainly exercise a need to react similarly.

And through that process perhaps create a more suitable arms-length relationship with their favoured Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Many Arabs and Muslims identify with the terrorists' anti-Western objectives ideology; they are afraid of being dubbed traitors and U.S. agents for joining non-Muslims in a war that would result in the death of many Muslims, and they are afraid their people would rise up against them.
Many Arab and Muslim leaders view the Islamic State as a by-product of failed U.S. policies, especially the current U.S. Administration's weak-kneed support for Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki. Some of these leaders, such as Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, consider the U.S. to be a major ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi and his regime will never forgive Obama for his support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Also, they do not seem to have much confidence in the Obama Administration, which is perceived as weak and incompetent when it comes to combating Islamists.
"This is not our war and we should not be taking part in it."
That is how many Arabs and Muslims reacted to US President Barack Obama's plan to form an international coalition to fight the Islamic State [IS] terrorist organization, which is operating in Iraq and Syria and threatening to invade more Arab countries.

Islamic State terrorists have killed and wounded tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, mostly over the past few months. By contrast, Islamic State has targeted only a few Westerners, three of whom were beheaded in recent weeks.

Islamic State terrorists are also responsible for the displacement of millions of Iraqis and Syrians, and for the murder of many others.

Still, the atrocities committed by Islamic State against Arabs and Muslims, in addition to the immediate threat it poses to many of their countries, do not seem to be sufficient reason for them to declare war on the group.

While some Arabs and Muslims would prefer to see the U.S. and its Western allies fight Islamic State, others have voiced strong opposition to the new U.S.-led coalition against the group, mainly because they identify with the terrorists' anti-Western objectives and ideology.

Arab leaders last week told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that they would contribute "in many aspects" to the anti-Islamic State coalition. But most are not prepared to commit ground troops to the battle against its estimated 30,000 jihadis.

The Arab leaders who want the U.S. to wage war on Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and U.S. agents for joining non-Muslims in a war on a group that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Their main fear is that their people would rise up against them once they were seen fighting alongside non-Muslims in a war that would result in the death of many Muslims.

The most these Arab leaders are prepared to do to help the emerging U.S.-led coalition is provide logistical and intelligence aid to the Americans and their Western allies in the war on Islamic State.
Jordan, for its part, has agreed to train members of Iraqi tribes to help them fight Islamic State terrorists in Iraq. Jordan and most of the Gulf countries are also reported to be opposed to serving as launching pads for airstrikes on the terrorist bases in Iraq and Syria.

Although they have formally agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, it appears that Arab leaders do not trust the Obama Administration when it comes to combating Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.

Some of these leaders, such as Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, consider the U.S. Administration to be a major ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi and his regime will never forgive Obama for his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

Will Sisi ever forgive the Obama Administration for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood? Above, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on July 22, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

Moreover, many Arabs and Muslims view Islamic State as a by-product of failed U.S. policies in the Middle East in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring." They say that the current U.S. Administration's weak-kneed support for former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his repressive measures against Sunnis paved the way for the emergence of Islamic State. They point out that Obama's hesitance to support the moderate and secular opposition in Syria also facilitated Islamic State's infiltration into that country.

Worse, there is no shortage of Arabs and Muslims who are convinced that Islamic State is actually an invention of Americans and "Zionists" to destroy the Arab world and tarnish the image of Islam.
The head of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, was recently quoted as saying that Islamic State terrorists were "colonial creations" serving a "Zionist" scheme to "destroy the Arab world."

Many Arabs and Muslims probably do not like Islamic State and view it as a real threat. But at the same time, they also do not seem to have much confidence in the Obama Administration, which is perceived as weak and incompetent when it comes to combating Islamists. They simply do not trust the Obama Administration.

Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, Chairman of the Qatari-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, who is no fan of Islamic State, has also come out against the emerging U.S.-led coalition.
"Our ideological differences with Islamic State do not mean that we agree to an American attack on the group," al-Qaradawi explained. "America does not care about the values of Islam. It only cares about its own interests."

If there is one Arab leader who is really concerned about the repercussions of a war on Islamic State, it is Jordan's King Abdullah, who is facing growing domestic pressure to stay away from the U.S.-led coalition.

Ironically, this opposition comes despite Jordan clearly appearing to be the next target of the Islamic State jihadis. Some reports have even suggested that Islamic State terrorists have already succeeded in infiltrating the kingdom.

King Abdullah's dilemma is that if he joins the U.S.-led coalition, his country would be plunged into turmoil and instability. Yet the monarch is well aware that failure to take part in the war would facilitate the jihadis' mission of invading his kingdom.

Over the past week, many Jordanians have publicly come out against the idea of Jordan joining the new coalition. These voices are not coming only from Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, but also from secular individuals and groups.

Last week, 21 Jordanian parliament members wrote a letter to their government warning it against helping the Americans and their allies in the war on Islamic State.

Six Jordanian secular parties also joined the call in a statement addressed to the government: "We must resist imperialist schemes and continue to raise the motto of democracy, independence and freedom."

Reflecting widespread skepticism over Obama's intentions, Jordanian writer Maher Abu Tair, who is closely associated with King Abdullah, sounded an alarm: "Getting Jordan involved in the confrontation with Islamic State is a dangerous matter. If everyone is truly worried about Jordan, why not support it socially and economically instead of dragging it into a quagmire?"

Reflecting similar sentiments, another Jordanian writer, Abdel Hadi al Katamin, said: "Yes, this is not our war and we have nothing to do with it and we don't need it. We don't want to wage war on behalf of others in return for nothing and just to appease Obama. Not everything we hear and watch is correct. The best solution is for us to protect our borders and prevent Islamic State from infiltrating our country. If they come, then it will be our war."

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Syria crisis: 66,000 'flee Islamic State' into Turkey

BBC News online -- 20 September 2014

Some 66,000 refugees - mainly Syrian Kurds - have crossed into Turkey in 24 hours, officials say, as Islamic State militants advance in northern Syria.

Turkey opened its border on Friday to Syrians fleeing the Kurdish town of Kobane in fear of an IS attack.

The UN refugee agency said it was boosting relief efforts as hundreds of thousands more could cross the border.

IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, and has seized dozens of villages around Kobane, also called Ayn al-Arab.

Turkey - which shares a border with Iraq and Syria - has taken in more than 847,000 refugees since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began three years ago.
But the opening of the border has seen a dramatic increase in the past 24 hours.

"As of today, the number of Syrian Kurds who entered Turkey has exceeded 60,000," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told reporters on Saturday.

He was speaking from the southern Turkish province of Sanliurfa, where many of the refugees have sought shelter.

Separately, a Turkish government official told the BBC's Mark Lowen that the number is as high as 66,000.
Syrian Kurds wait behind the border fence to cross into Turkey near the south-eastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, 19 September 2014. Queues of refugees began to mass even before the border opened on Friday
A Syrian Kurd pours water on a child after they crossed the border between Syria and Turkey near the south-eastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on 20 September 2014. Turkey says it is facing an unprecedented influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria
Analysis. By Mark Lowen, BBC News, on the Turkish-Syrian border
The influx is astonishing - and still continues.
At least 66,000 Syrian Kurds have entered Turkey since Friday, when the country opened parts of its border crossing with Syria.
Around 300 Kurdish fighters are said to have gone the other way, crossing from Turkey into Syria to help resist the IS onslaught.
Until recently, Turks and Kurds fought a civil war that killed 40,000 people. The fact that Turkey is now accepting tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees is a sign of how the rise of Islamic State is shifting allegiances in this region.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) said in a statement that, along with the Turkish government, it was preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving over the coming days, as the battle for Kobane forced more people to flee.

It added that the town had been living in relative safety for much of the Syrian conflict and as many as 200,000 internally displaced people had found refuge there.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 300 Kurdish fighters had joined Syrian Kurdish ranks in the Kobane area to fend off the IS advance. The activist group did not specify which Kurdish group the fighters belonged to.

"Islamic State sees Kobane like a lump in the body: they think it is in their way," the observatory's Rami Abdulrahman said.

Syrian activists say IS has seized as many as 60 villages surrounding Kobane since fighting began earlier this week.

The observatory said on Saturday that at least 11 Kurds had been executed by IS, with the fate of some 800 residents who fled the villages "unknown".

"We left everything we had... because of their cruelty." Refugees who left Syria for Turkey explain why they fled from IS
Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) drive a tank in villages surrounding Jazaa, in Qamishli countryside, after they seized control of the area from Islamic State fighters, on the Iraqi-Syrian border on 30 August 2014. The Kurds have reportedly teamed up with members of Syria's Kurdish "People's Protection Units"

The head of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union, Mohammed Saleh Muslim, has appealed for international assistance in the battle against the jihadists.

"Kobane is facing the fiercest and most barbaric attack in its history," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

"Kobane calls on all those who defend humane and democratic values... to stand by Kobane and support it immediately. The coming hours are decisive," he added.

BBC correspondents say the capture of the town would give IS control of a large strip of Syria's northern border with Turkey.

Map of IS areas of control
Who are Islamic State (IS)?
  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • The US has been launching air strikes on IS targets in north-eastern Iraq since mid-August
Hostages freed In a separate development, 46 Turkish and three Iraqi hostages seized by IS have been freed and taken to Turkey after a covert operation led by Turkey's intelligence agency.

The hostages were seized from the Turkish consulate after IS militants overran Mosul in a rapid advance in June.

Few details about the operation have been released, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's "own methods" brought the group home.

"After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country,' Mr Davutoglu said.

The BBC's Mark Lowen says there is "huge relief" in Turkey
The group was greeted by flag-waving crowds in Ankara, after arriving there early on Saturday.
"I can't describe the days we've lived through. I can't describe what we felt, me and my relatives," one of the hostages was quoted as saying after arriving in southern Turkey.

As well as consular employees, children and special forces police were among the hostages.
Thirty countries have pledged to join a US-led coalition against the militants but Turkey has said it will only allow humanitarian and logistical operations from a Nato air base on its soil.

Turkey has come under pressure from Western countries to stem the flow of foreign fighter joining IS.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey is developing plans for a buffer zone on its border with Iraq and Syria.

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