Battle Against ISIL: Russia Exposes US Lies in Syria

The successful Russian air strikes against ISIL in Syria have exposed the hypocrisy of the United States, an American writer and political analyst said.

Mark Glenn, a writer and co-founder of the Crescent and Cross Solidarity Movement, spoke in a phone interview with Press TV on Saturday.

“What we have to remember here is that Russia was able to achieve in two weeks’ time what America did not achieve in two years’ time, meaning that the Russians were in and engaged these terrorists in the way the Americans were pretending to engage with these terrorists,” Glenn said.

Pilot by a Russian MI-8AMShT cargo and attack helicopter at the Hmeimim air base in Syria.

He further said, “So, what in fact was taking place is that the Russians have exposed the Americans for being the outright liars that they are. It was never America’s intention from the beginning to deal with these terrorists.”

He explained that the US officials hoped that the presence of these terrorists on the ground would allow the US or NATO to invade Syria and remove Bashar al-Assad.

On September 30, Russia began airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Syria at the request of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, Moscow has carried out dozens of airstrikes against terrorists in Syria, killing hundreds of militants, Press TV reported.

On Friday, a senior Russian general said there has been growing restlessness among ISIL militants with their command in Syria as they are getting ‘demoralized’ and are abandoning their locations and fleeing for their lives.

 

Iraqi Forces Add Russian Guns to US Tanks for ISIL Fight

TEL AVIV, Israel — Earlier this month, Shia militiamen in Iraq dropped off an American-supplied Abrams tank at a US-supported repair facility where workers were surprised to find an attached Russian machine gun plus Iranian ammo, Defense News has learned.

The MIA1 main battle tank — one of 146 frontline tanks the US sold to Baghdad — was transported through the Green Zone to a US-supported Iraqi service facility at al-Muthanna that was established as part of the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

The tank was equipped with a Russian .50-caliber machine gun and Iranian-stamped 12.75-mm ammunition, according to a source at the facility.

“They brought it in through Iraqi checkpoints, back-rolled it off the trailer and then drove away,” recounted the source.

“Once all the ammo was removed, as per procedure, by Iraqi personnel, we noticed Iranian markings on the back of the shell casings. Seems they put a Russian machine gun with Iranian ammunition on an Abrams tank.”

As Washington scrambles to adapt to the myriad, Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting alongside its US-trained and -supplied partners in Iraq, new manifestations of shifting alliances may threaten the relevance of US end-use monitoring in that war-torn country.

After US-led coalition airstrikes were forced to destroy about 10 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) seized from the Iraqi Army by the Islamic State group, often called ISIL or ISIS, Washington is now grappling with the phenomenon of their voluntary transfer to Shiite forces battling in concert with Baghdad against the fanatical Sunni Caliphate.

Foreign Military Sales violation?

The US-Russian tank hybrid could constitute twin violations of Iraq’s FMS agreements with Washington, due to unauthorized use by Shiite militias and the unsanctioned addition of the Russian gun and Iranian ammo, Pentagon officials say.

“Any time you do a foreign military sale, there’s a requirement that you do end-use monitoring, and it’s a violation if you do alterations,” Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Defense News.

The presence of hybrid M1 Abrams tanks was confirmed to Defense News by Dr. Wathaq al-Hashimi, director of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies. “Iraq has been dependent on a number of different weapons suppliers, therefore they have integrated these weapons onto different platforms to achieve effectiveness.”

Al-Hashimi said this isn’t the first time Iraqi forces — looking for more firepower to battle ISIL — have integrated Russian weapons systems onto American platforms.

“Russian systems were placed on American M1 Abrams tanks specially with armor-piercing rocket systems to be used against ISIL explosive cars used in their attacks,” he said. “In Beiji [in Northern Iraq], there were 28 explosive cars used in one day and in Ramadi 15 cars were blown on another day.”

Iraqi forces need to integrate different systems as they receive weapons from American, Russian, Iranian and European sources, al-Hashimi said.

“This integration may very well lead to a problem between the US and Iraq due to the purchase agreements,” he said. “However, there was a real problem and threat from the ISIS-armored explosive cars which led the prime minister to travel to Moscow with the minister of defense to acquire these rocket systems which were placed on the tanks.”

Iraq has a long history and experience in weapons and hybridization, al-Hashimi said, noting that Iraqi military experts may have acquired assistance from some of the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 international consultants present in the country from many countries including Russia, the US, Iran and France.

With Thursday being a national holiday, Iraq’s Ministry of Defense could not be reached for comment.

‘This Is Not What We’re Going to Do’

Interviewed in Washington this week at the annual Association of the US Army conference, neither Rixey, the Pentagon’s FMS chief, nor Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, chief of the US Army Security Assistance Command, had knowledge of the event recounted to Defense News. However, both men suggested that their Iraqi customers had an obligation to report such occurrences in a timely and accurate manner.

“If they brought it into the maintenance facility, then that should be reported to our US folks there, and then we can have a discussion about how, ‘This is not what we’re going to do,’” McDonald said.

McDonald was deputy commander at the time the Iraqi tank deal was concluded, and noted that the FMS contract includes a maintenance package that covers the facility in question. “We eventually got them to buy the maintenance and training package, so I do know there is an ongoing maintenance effort going on over there under our FMS contract, with a US company doing the maintenance.”

The in-country source noted that it was the first time he had encountered the hybridization of the Abrams to accommodate the Russian gun and Iranian ammo.

“It could be an isolated event or it could mark the beginning of something worrisome. It’s too early to tell … but given the strange bedfellows over there in the Amber Zone, you never know.”

He was referring to the area adjacent to Baghdad’s US-dominated Green Zone, where, since the Iraqi Army’s stinging string of defeats at the hands of ISIL, sovereign Iraqi forces are cooperating — and often interoperating — with Iranian-backed Shiite militias against their common enemy.

The area designated as Amber Zone is now home to two regiments of Iraq’s 9th Armored Divison, each with 35 Abrams MBTs, a contingent from the Iranian Quds Force, Hezbollah, the Asa’ib al-Haq (AAH) and at least one other Shia militia loosely organized under the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is ostensibly under the command and control of the government in Baghdad.

US and Israeli intelligence sources note that Iran has flooded the Iraqi theater with billions of dollars worth of weaponry and ammunition since the Baghdad-sanctioned formation of the PMF in June 2014.

Washington also continues to send US State Department-approved and congressionally notified weaponry to Iraq on condition that US materiel remains under the strict command and control of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

But a video posted in January, in which a convoy of US vehicles, including an Abrams MBT, was shown flying the Hezbollah flag as they passed through the Iraqi desert offered circumstantial evidence that Iranian-controlled forces under the PMF umbrella have gained access to US-origin hardware.

At the time, Iraqi officials sought to assure their US counterparts that the convoy in the video was still under ISF control, and that the Hezbollah banner was simply displayed in solidarity for the Shiite militia sacrificing on their behalf.

Similarly, when told about the latest development, a source in Washington speculated that the hybrid tank could have been delivered to the facility by militiamen acting as drivers or subcontractors to the ISF. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the tank was in direct control of the militias. We simply don’t know,” he said.

Yet another source suggested that the overabundance of Iranian ammunition and the preference many Iraqi soldiers still have for Russian-origin machine guns may have triggered an ad hoc rigging of the US tank for purposes of convenience.

US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, declined comment on the reported hybrid Abrams MBT or on the constitution of forces in the Amber Zone, referring all queries to the Combined Joint Task Force at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

There, US Sgt. Vanessa Kilmer referred Defense News to CJTF’s Media Ops Center, where, after 24 hours, detailed questions submitted to Sgt. First Class Eric Rodriguez were returned with “no additional information on this subject” and a recommendation to contact the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

A US State Department official said he would need more information to determine whether Iraq could or should be held accountable for any end-use violations.

“We have made clear that the coalition will only support Iraqi efforts against ISIL that are under clear ISF command and control. We have received assurances from the government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces that they will use US equipment in accordance with US law and our bilateral agreements,” the official said.

Section 40A of the US Arms Export Control Act mandates two forms of end use monitoring (EUM): the Blue Lantern program managed by the State Department and the Golden Sentry program delegated to the Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency.

The former focuses on pre-checks before an export license is granted and post-checks to determine that the designated materiel has reached intended end users. The latter, managed by primarily by the Pentagon’s in-country security assistance officers aims to ensure that recipients are using the equipment properly as stipulated in various government-to-government agreements.

“Our mandate to conduct assessments in-country and to visit military installations is agreed upon by the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), which have notes and provisos that commit the recipients to proper end-use assurances,” a Pentagon official told Defense News in an interview two years ago.

At the time, the Pentagon official said DSCA works in concert with the State Department “in order to try to bring a united front from a US government perspective.”

Retired Israel Air Force Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said he would not be surprised if Hezbollah forces in Iraq or even Syria had access to frontline American MBTs. “It’s not surprising, because the Iraqi Army and the Shia militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and some American Special Forces are now fighting against the same enemy,” Yadlin said.

When asked if Abrams tanks in the hands of Hezbollah or other Iranian-controlled militias posed a concern to Israel, the former fighter pilot replied: “The dream of every Israeli helicopter pilot is to see this kind of vehicle against the background of the bare desert.”

CLASS ACT! Vladimir Putin says there’s only one reason the U.S. has failed to destroy ISIS: Obama is using them as a proxy army against Assad

830441b9069abbf9c7b7cb61037642-viRussia has struck over 110 ISIS targets in Syria in just two weeks. Over 40% of the Islamic State’s infrastructure has reportedly been destroyed already. The U.S. allegedly has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria for more than a year, yet failed to weaken ISIS at all. Military experts report that most U.S. bombers that went out on missions in Syria came back with their arsenals intact….as ordered by the Commander-in-Chief. In short, the airstrikes were all for show.

Truthstream Media It was recently noted by Putin that, by the time Russia showed up and started systematically destroying ISIS in short order, there were already 11 other countries bombing Syria.  In fact, it has been over a year since America started an airstrike campaign over there which accomplished virtually nothing.

It hardly needs to be pointed out how blatantly obvious it is that, regardless of how many billions the American people were told just had to be spent “fighting the terrorists” over there, this was never for one hot second about the West actually stopping ISIS.

The only way that lie works is if the Western coalition is the most inept terror rescue team ever invented in the history of time. Further, instead of applauding Putin’s timely and efficient intervention in Syria, the West is protesting Russia’s involvement and bombing of terrorists.

 

Russian Air Force destroys 29 ISIS camps in Syria in 24 hours 

Russian warplanes in Syria have bombed 29 terrorist field camps and other facilities of the militant group Islamic State in the past 24 hours, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

Our aviation group over the past day has destroyed two militant command centers, 29 field camps, 23 fortified facilities and several troop positions with military hardware,” ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday.

The Russian Air Force conducted 64 sorties and hit a total of 55 targets, he said.

He added that the Russian effort has “considerably degraded” the strength of the terrorist forces in Syria.

During the initial phase of the operation, our warplanes have destroyed the biggest and most important supply hubs of ISIL,” Konashenkov said, calling Islamic State by its former name. This resulted in the “mobility and offensive capability” of the jihadists being reduced, he said.

The general said signal intelligence reports indicate that the militants are suffering from a shortage of fuel and ammunition after the Russian bombings. “Some of them are demoralized and are actively leaving the battle zone, moving in eastern and northeastern directions,” he said.

Konashenkov said that the increasing number of combat missions conducted by Russia in Syria is explained by the large number of potential targets identified and confirmed as viable by space and aerial reconnaissance.

Russia started its bombing campaign in Syria last week with a goal to provide air support to the government troops fighting against various terrorist groups, primarily Islamic State. This allowed Damascus to go on the offensive in Hama province on Friday.

Russia has also reported killing 2 ISIS commanders, and three hundred militants.

 

Iraq would welcome Russian airstrikes against ISIS

The Iraqi government would welcome Russian airstrikes against Islamic State targets inside Iraq, although it has not formally asked the Russians for help, Air Force Times has learned.

Russia recently began conducting airstrikes in Syria, but the U.S. and Russia disagree over whether the air attacks have been against the Islamic State or rebel groups allied with the U.S.

The Iraqis feel that the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State has become too focused on Syria and has not made enough progress on the ground in Iraq, a senior Iraqi diplomat, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, told Air Force Times on Monday.

The official accused the coalition fores of moving too slowly, thereby missing opportunities to roll back the Islamic State in Iraqi cities. Since more than 2,000 Russians are among the Islamic State’s ranks and Russia has experience fighting Islamic militants in Chechnya, it makes sense to include Russia in anti-Islamic State efforts, he said.

However, Iraq does not want the Russians to send combat troops to fight the Islamic State on the ground, the diplomat said.

The diplomat also sought to allay fears about Iraq’s agreement to share intelligence with Russia and Syria, saying the Iraqi government has enough firewalls in its system to prevent harm to the U.S. and other coalition partners. The Iraqis will also coordinate closely with the U.S. on how to include Russia in the intelligence sharing operation, he said.

What the Iraqis need from the U.S. is more M1A1 Abrams tanks to help retake Anbar province from the Islamic State, according to the diplomat. The tanks would give the Iraqi military the offensive capability it needs right now, he said.

Both the State Department and Congress have approved the sale of 175 Abrams tanks to Iraq. Before the Islamic State captured Mosul and much of northern Iraq last June, the Iraqi army had about 140 Abrams tanks.

An unknown number of those tanks were destroyed, damaged beyond repair, lost or captured. In January, a video showed a Kata’ib Hezbollah convoy in Iraq that included an M1A1 Abrams on a truck.

As of Sept. 24, the U.S.-led coalition has destroyed 121 tanks in Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. Central Command’s latest list of targets struck. The list does not describe what kinds of tanks were destroyed. The Islamic State has captured many of the Syrian army’s tanks.

Airstrikes Hit ISIL Terrorists in Syria, Iraq > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Been a While!

Airstrikes Hit ISIL in Syria, Iraq > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE. More Dead Muslims!

SOUTHWEST ASIA, October 6, 2015 — U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Airstrikes in Syria

Bomber, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted seven strikes in Syria:

— Near Hasakah, five strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, five ISIL buildings, and an ISIL checkpoint.

Near Dayr Az Zawr, one strike struck an ISIL crude oil collection point.

Near Manbij, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Bomber, fighter, attack, fighter-attack, ground-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the government of Iraq:

— Near Huwayjah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

— Near Habbaniyah, one strike destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

— Near Mosul, One ISIL fighter Rear Mounted to a Donkey was destroyed.

— Near Mosul, one strike destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.

— Near Ramadi, nine strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb, four ISIL buildings, ten ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL excavator, two ISIL mortar positions, an ISIL improvised explosive device compound, three ISIL homemade explosive facilities, an ISIL house bomb, an ISIL homemade explosive cache, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

— Near Sinjar, two strikes destroyed six ISIL bunkers.

— Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

Russia Claims ISIS Now On The Ropes As Fighters Desert After 60 Airstrikes In 72 Hours 

One question that’s been asked repeatedly over the past thirteen months is why Washington has been unable to achieve the Pentagon’s stated goal of “degrading and defeating” ISIS despite the fact that the “battle” pits the most advanced air force on the planet against what amounts to a ragtag band of militants running around the desert in basketball shoes.

Those of a skeptical persuasion have been inclined to suggest that perhaps the US isn’t fully committed to the fight. Explanations for that suggestion range from the mainstream (the White House is loathe to get the US into another Mid-East war) to the “conspiratorial” (the CIA created ISIS and thus doesn’t want to destroy the group due to its value as a strategic asset).

The implication in all of this is that a modern army that was truly determined to destroy the group could likely do so in a matter of months if not weeks and so once Russia began flying sorties from Latakia, the world was anxious to see just how long the various rebel groups operating in Syria could hold up under bombardment by the Russian air force.

The answer, apparently, is “less than a week.”

On Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it has conducted 60 bombing runs in 72 hours, hitting more than 50 ISIS targets.

According to the ministry (Facebook page is here), Islamic State fighters are in a state of “panic” and more than 600 have deserted. 

Here’s what happens when the Russians locate a terrorist “command center”:

According to The Kremlin, the structure shown in the video is (or, more appropriately, “was”) “an ISIS hardened command centre near Raqqah.” Su-34s hit it with concrete-piercing BETAB-500s setting off a series of explosions and fires that “completely destroyed the object.”

Here’s RT:

Surgical airstrikes by Russian fighter jets have knocked out a number of Islamic State installations in Syria, including the battle headquarters of a jihadist group near Raqqa, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

 

“Over the past 24 hours, Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-24M fighter jets have performed 20 sorties and hit nine Islamic State installations,” Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, reported.

 

Konashenkov added that yesterday evening Russian aircraft went on six sorties, inflicting strikes on three terrorist installations.

 

“A bunker-busting BETAB-500 air bomb dropped from a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber near Raqqa has eliminated the command post of one of the terror groups, together with an underground storage facility for explosives and munitions,” the spokesman said.

 

Commenting on the video filmed by a Russian UAV monitoring the assault near Raqqa, Konashenkov noted, “a powerful explosion inside the bunker indicates it was also used for storing a large quantity of munitions.

 

“As you can see, a direct hit on the installation resulted in the detonation of explosives and multiple fires. It was completely demolished,” the spokesman said.

And here’s the Russian Defense Ministry taking a page out of the US Postal Service’s “neither rain, sleet, snow, nor hail” book on the way to serving notice that nothing is going to stop the Russian air force from exterminating Assad’s enemies in Syria:

Twenty-four hours a day #UAV’s are monitoring the situation in the ISIS activity areas. All the detected targets are effectively engaged day and night in any weather conditions.

Now obviously one must consider the source here, but Kremlin spin tactics aside, one cannot help but be amazed with the pace at which this is apparently unfolding. If any of the above is even close to accurate, it means that Russia is on schedule to declare victory over ISIS (and everyone else it looks like) in a matter of weeks, which would not only be extremely embarrassing for Washington, but would also effectively prove that the US has never truly embarked on an honest effort to rid Syria of the extremist groups the Western media claims are the scourge of humanity.

Summed up in 10 priceless seconds…

Cutting ISIL’s money supply – Al Jazeera English

The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) isn’t just a military one, according to the US government. Cutting off any ties to the global financial system is just as important, according to the US Treasury and State Department.

On Tuesday, the US announced new sanctions against 30 individuals and organisations with ties to ISIL. Those individuals include Tarad Mohammad Aljaraba, a Saudi national who reportedly helps shuttle people in and out of ISIL territory via Turkey, and Aqsa Mahmood, a British national from Glasgow who is being targeted for recruiting women via social media and being a member of an “all-female police unit” in ISIL-held territory in Syria.

The US says this is an important step in the fight against the group but how effective will it be? US officials admit that most of ISIL’s money comes from revenue generated within its own territory in Syria and Iraq. According to the Rand Corporation, oil revenues, selling looted antiquities on the black market and local taxation are the primary sources of funding for the group.

Many analysts say the effect of the new sanctions will be minimal and have little real impact in stopping them.

“The effect will be in the black and grey market,” said Christopher Swift, a National Security Studies professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. “Anyone who does business with ISIL will be punished.”

Blaise Misztal, from the Bipartisan Policy Center, added that the sanctions raise, “a red flag for partner countries, such as Turkey, in which these individuals might be trying operate.”

But according to Swift, there’s another important reason for the move. The White House has been pushing the US Congress to give them new legal authority to conduct military operations against ISIL. Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama submitted a draft resolution to lawmakers for the Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would grant him that power.

According to Obama, the authorisation would hand him, “the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving US or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership”. At the moment, US operations have been limited to military training and a bombing campaign.

But so far, the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to pass it. By expanding US powers financially against ISIL, this new move, according to Swift, is an acknowledgement, “that thing [AUMF] is going nowhere”.

Putin’s Jets in Syria Are a Threat to the U.S. 

On Sept. 30, Russian lawmakers unanimously approved Pres. Vladimir Putin’s plan to begin combat operations in Syria — and hours later Moscow’s warplanes in the region began attacking ISIS militants.

Right before the bombs rained down, a Russian general arrived in Baghdad warned the U.S. military planners to keep America’s own warplanes out of the way. U.S. officials said they would not alter their flight plans.

This is the beginning of a dangerous new phase of the international intervention in the Syrian civil war. Not only has Russia tried to order U.S. forces to step aside, it actually has the firepower to back up its demands. Some of the 35 warplanes Russia has deployed to Syria are specifically designed for fighting foes like the United States, not ISIS.

Seemingly out of nowhere on Sept. 21, they appeared at an air base in Latakia, a regime stronghold in western Syria—28 of the Russian air force’s best warplanes, including four Su-30 fighters and a number of Su-25 attack planes and Su-24 bombers.

Soon six more Su-34 bombers and at least one Il-20 spy plane followed, part of a contingent of Russia forces reportedly including some 500 troops plus armored vehicles and SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.

For U.S. and allied officials observing the deployment, there has been plenty of cause for confusion…and alarm. It’s not just that, more than four years into Syria’s bloody civil war, Russia has decided to jump in and make things more complicated.

No, it’s what kinds of weapons—planes and missiles, especially—Moscow decided to send, and what those weapons say about the Kremlin’s ultimate plan in Syria. Many of them don’t seem to be well-suited to fighting ISIS. They’re built to battle adversaries like the United States.

To be clear, 35 warplanes and a few surface-to-air missiles aren’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. There’s no shortage of military aircraft flying over Syria five years into the country’s bloody civil war.

Every day some of Syria’s aging Soviet-made planes —from the 300 or so that have survived four years of combat—take off from regime airfields to bomb ISIS militants and secular rebels slowly advancing on Syria’s main population centers.

Meanwhile hundreds of jets from the American-led international coalition have been waging, since the fall of 2014, an intensive air campaign against ISIS and al Qaeda targeting just the militants.

What’s weird and alarming about the Russian contingent is that it’s not really optimal for attacking lightly armed insurgent fighters. Surface-to-air missiles are only good for destroying enemy aircraft, which Syrian rebels do not possess. And the Su-30s are best suited for tangling with other high-tech forces.

Who in region possesses these high-tech forces? The United States, for one. Israel, too. Why, the United States, of course. Russia’s warplanes and missiles in Syria could pose a threat to America’s own aircraft flying over the country—all in order to carve out and preserve a portion of Syria that the United States can’t touch.

Russia’s warplanes and missiles in Syria could pose a threat to America’s own aircraft flying over the country—all in order to carve out and preserve a portion of Syria that the United States can’t touch.

Officially, Russia has deployed its forces to Syria to reinforce embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and help defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

“There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with American news networks ahead of his Sept. 28 meeting with President Obama at the United Nations in New York City.

“There are more than 2,000 militants in Syria from the former Soviet Union,” Putin said. “Instead of waiting for them to return home we should help President al-Assad fight them there, in Syria.”

Daesh launches first attack on Afghan government forces

KABUL, Afghanistan

Daesh launched its first attack on the Afghan security forces early Sunday with hundreds of fighters attacking police posts in eastern Nangarhar province, officials said.

Daesh, which emerged in Afghanistan in 2014 and has grown by imposing itself on the Taliban’s recruiting ground, attacked up to 10 posts in Achin district, around 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of capital Kabul.

District chief Haji Ghalib Mujahid said the attacks were launched simultaneously at 3 a.m. local time (2230GMT).

“Our forces managed to repel their attack but the fight is underway,” he told Anadolu Agency. Several militants have been reported killed and wounded while three Afghan soldiers were killed and eight others injured.

The attacks came just after the UN warned of Daesh’s growing presence in Afghanistan as a U.S.-led international security force looks to withdraw at the end of 2016.

Nicholas Haysom, UN’s envoy to Afghanistan, warned the group had established a “toehold” in Afghanistan.

Daesh has fought the Taliban repeatedly over territory in Nangarhar and targeted young men for membership in areas previously under the sway of the Taliban. The new group claims to have usurped the Taliban in five districts.

There are concerns that the emergence of Daesh could change the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan, where 13,000 foreign troops remain following the withdrawal of most last year.

France launches first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria – CNN.com

(CNN)The French military has carried out its first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, according to a statement from the office of France’s presidency.

The country had announced earlier this month that it would expand its aerial campaign against ISIS in Iraq — which it began a year ago — to include the militant group’s positions in Syria.

The French president’s office said that the strikes in Syria, which began Sunday, were based on intelligence gathered from air surveillance operations conducted over Syria during the past two weeks.

“Our country confirms its firm commitment to the fight against the terrorist threat Daesh,” the statement said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We will strike whenever our national security is at stake.”

President Francois Hollande, speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, described the camp as a “threat to our country.”

“We reached our goal and the whole training camp was destroyed,” Hollande said.

Six aircraft were used in the mission, which was led by the French but closely coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition, he said.

Despite the “horrible acts” committed by ISIS, Hollande placed the blame for the Syrian crisis on the country’s long time strongman Bashar al-Assad.

“Bashar al Assad is the main person at fault, although Daesh commits horrible acts,” Hollande said. “The future of Syria cannot happen with Bashar al Assad.”

String of terrorist attacks

France has been the site of a number of terrorist attacks this year.

Islamic extremists killed 17 people in a quick succession of attacks in Paris in January, including the shooting deaths of staff members in the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

In June, authorities said a man in southeastern France decapitated his boss, displayed the severed head with Islamist banners and also set off an explosion in a factory. And last month, three American men brought down a suspected terrorist gunman who tried to open fire on a train bound for France.

But France has also linked the refugee crisis Europe is facing in part to ISIS, saying it would strike the group for driving thousands of civilians out of Syria. “We’re not going to receive 4 to 5 million Syrians, so the problem has to be dealt with at source,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

France has been in talks with Russia about a political solution in Syria.

“Russia supports the regime of Bashar (al) Assad. But it also wants to find a political solution. And anyway, there will not be any political solution without a dialogue with all of the parties who directly or indirectly are involved with Syria,” Valls said.

France also planned to hold talks about Syria with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

 

Russian troops in Syria could end up helping Isis, report claims.

The deployment of Russian troops in Syria could end up helping Islamic State as they have been sent to areas where they are most likely to fight other groups opposed to Isis, according to a new report.

The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) report comes ahead of a US-Russian summit meeting at the UN on Monday, when Barack Obama will question Vladimir Putin on the intention behind Russia’s deepening military involvement in Syria, according to US officials.

The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani – also in New York for the UN general assembly meeting – rejected suggestions that his country was operating in concert with Russia against Isis. “I do not see a coalition between Iran and Russia on fighting terrorism in Syria,” Rouhani said.

The Rusi report, titled Inherently Unresolved, assesses the global effort to counter the spread of Isis, and warns that Iraq and Syria may not survive as unitary states. It includes a section on Russian aims, particularly those underpinning Putin’s despatch this month of warplanes and troops to Tartus and Latakia in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian strategic analyst, said there was an air regiment at Latakia with 28 planes, a battalion of motorised infantry and military engineers as well as a marine battalion at the naval base in Tartus.

The deployment, Sutyagin said, “underlines the contradictions of the Kremlin’s policy”, because the troops were in areas where Isis is not present.

“In this way, Russian troops are backing Assad in the fight against groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, which are themselves opposed to Isis. If Russian troops do eventually join combat, therefore, they would also – technically – be assisting Isis,” Sutyagin argued.

Satellite image from last week shows Russian aircraft and ground vehicles at air base in Latakia, Syria

The report says the Russian deployment should not therefore be seen as a change of policy towards fighting Isis directly, but a largely political move designed to save Assad and consolidate Russia’s hold over its naval base at Tartus and its newly built air base in Latakia, while currying favour with the west and the Gulf Arab states who are themselves reluctant to fight Isis on the ground.

“Indeed, the Kremlin may well be hoping that the west will show its appreciation by lifting the sanctions imposed in response to the situation in Ukraine,” Sutyagin said.

The tensions hanging over the Obama-Putin meeting on Monday were highlighted by discord between Washington and Moscow in describing the summit. US officials said it had been requested by Putin. A Russian spokesman insisted it was Obama who asked to meet. The White House said the meeting would address both the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The Kremlin said Ukraine would only be raised “if there was time”.

Celeste Wallander, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Russia, said that Obama would press Putin on his objectives in Syria. Putin meanwhile told CBS News: “There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.”

The White House argues that the Russian strategy of entrenching Assad will only serve to deepen the roots of extremism in Syria. Ben Rhodes, a White House spokesman, said that at the UN meeting “the president will have the opportunity to make clear to President Putin that we share the determination to counter Isil [Isis], that we welcome constructive contributions to counter Isil. But at the same time, we believe that one of the principal motivating factors for people who are fighting with Isil is the Assad regime.”

The Rusi report said that it would be “perfectly feasible” to defeat Isis if Turkey and Iran were also engaged in the search for a regional solution. It advised US policymakers to “not give up on the possibility of maintaining the unity of Iraq and Syria, but not be beholden or obsessed with this idea either”.

“If the US could ‘father’ two brand-new states in the Balkans during the 1990s, there is no reason why Washington should not tolerate at least the informal emergence of new states in the Middle East,” the report argued.

 

ISIS makes sure to avoid one apocalyptic prophecy about the Antichrist.

ISIS bases much of its recruitment and expansion strategy around the idea that the end times are upon us.

The extremist group pushes the idea that the apocalypse is nigh and that Islamic fighters will battle the “infidels” of the West in Dabiq, a town in Syria that ISIS now controls.

ISIS (also known as the Islamic State) uses Islamic scripture and prophecies to bolster its assertion, but it conveniently ignores one particularly damning prophecy that could inherently challenge the legitimacy of its self-declared “caliphate” — the territory in Iraq and Syria it controls that is central to Islamic doomsday prophecies.

Will McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, mentions it in his new book, “The ISIS Apocalypse.”

“There is one prophecy about the Antichrist that the Islamic State and its fans have studiously avoided, even though it is in a collection of prophecies they revere: The Antichrist will ‘appear in the empty area between Sham [Syria] and Iraq,'” McCants wrote. “That, of course, is precisely where the Islamic State is located.”

As McCants explained in his book, Jesus and the Antichrist do have a place in Islamic foretellings.

“The Qur’an portrays Jesus as a messenger of God and his followers as those ‘nearest in love to the believers’ (5:82),” McCants wrote. “But the prophecies attributed to Muhammad outside the Qur’an foresee Jesus returning to fight alongside the Muslims against the infidels. As in the Bible, the appearance of Jesus heralds the Last Days. …

“He will lead the Muslims in a war against the Jews, who will fight on behalf of the Antichrist.”

There are other Islamic prophecies that don’t jibe with ISIS’ message.

ISIS extremists often repeat ones that state the armies of “Rome” will come to northern Syria to fight Islamic soldiers.

“We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey — the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago,” Graeme Wood wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year. “Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.”

The “Rome” declaration doesn’t quite fit modern times if we’re to think of “Rome” as Turkey or the West.

“The fact that Turkish Muslims, not infidel Romans, control Constantinople, or Istanbul, today and are working with the infidel West against the Islamic State makes the Dabiq prophecy a poor fit for contemporary events,”  McCants wrote.

“… But in the apocalyptic imagination, inconvenient facts rarely impede the glorious march to the end of the world.”

Report: A former physics teacher is now leading ISIS 

A former physics teacher from Mosul has been installed as a new temporary leader for the Islamic State after the terror group’s leader was reportedly injured in an airstrike in March, an Iraqi government adviser told Newsweek.

Newsweek describes Abu Alaa Afri as a “rising star” within Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), and the Iraqi government adviser, Hisham al Hashimi, said Afri had become even more important than the injured “caliph” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“More important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma,” Hashimi told Newsweek. “All the leaders of Daesh find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration.”

Afri will become ISIS’ new permanent leader if Baghdadi dies, Hashimi said. He is reportedly a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri, a prominent jihadi scholar, and used to teach physics in the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

Having a caliph with a background of religious education is important to ISIS, which has shaped its self-proclaimed caliphate around a strict interpretation of sharia law. The group recruits people to come live in its territory by marketing it as an Islamic utopia.

Der Spiegel reported recently that early leaders of ISIS, many of whom are former Iraqi intelligence officers from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, decided to make Baghdadi caliph because he, as an “educated cleric,” would “give the group a religious face.”

Afri reportedly became Baghdadi’s right-hand man after Baghdadi took a step back from decision-making for security reasons, Newsweek reports. He has served as a link between ISIS’ top leaders and its lower ranks and helps with coordination between the upper ranks and the emirs in different regional provinces.

Osama bin Laden reportedly tapped Afri to run Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, after the death of senior officials in 2010, according to Newsweek. Afri became a senior member of the group and was known to be “very strict,” Hashimi said.

Newsweek reports that Afri is thought to desire reconciliation with Al Qaeda and its affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Nusra Front, a chief rival of ISIS in Syria.

ISIS used to be aligned with Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda leadership denounced ISIS after the group defied its directives and continued releasing brutal propaganda. The two terror groups have been competing for territory in Syria since then, and Western airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria have hurt that group while allowing Nusra to rise, the Associated Press reported last month.

ISIS Control Pentagon MapUS Department of Defense

And Nusra has faced pressure from its members to reconcile with ISIS so the two groups can join together to fight a common enemy: the West.

The Pentagon reported earlier this month that ISIS had since August lost thousands of miles of territory it once controlled, though nearly all of that lost territory is in Iraq, not Syria.

Afri also reportedly wants ISIS leadership to be made up half of Arabs and half of foreign fighters, which is a departure from its current structure.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that nearly all of ISIS’ leaders were former Iraqi officers, not foreign fighters. The foreign fighters have proved valuable for ISIS’ media strategy — the group used the now-infamous “Jihadi John,” a British extremist, in some of its beheading videos to gain more attention from the West — but seem to have so far been kept out of the upper echelons of leadership.

ISIS’ leaders operate largely in the shadows. Since rising to power as the leader of ISIS, Baghdadi has rarely appeared on video, and few photos of him have been released.

The Pentagon has denied reports of Baghdadi’s injury. US defense officials told The Daily Beast that the airstrike that reportedly wounded him was not aimed at a high-value target and that they “have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi.”

Martin Chulov at The Guardian reported that the strike targeted multiple cars in the town of Baaj in northwestern Iraq and that officials didn’t know that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.

Army to issue shoulder patch for ISIS fight. The 5 Patches will be awarded if the 5 Man 500 million dollar team survives.

WASHINGTON — Soldiers in Iraq will soon have a new shoulder sleeve patch to signify their service in the fight against the Islamic State.

All told, there are about 3,335 troops in the region training Iraqi troops, providing security and conducing bombing missions on Islamic State targets in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The Army’s patch features crossed scimitars, a palm wreath and stars. The scimitars, short swords with curved blades, are meant to symbolize the twin goals of the U.S.-led coalition: to defeat the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIL, and to restore stability in the region, according to Army documents.

The palm wreath is symbol of honor. While the stars and the buff-and-blue colors on the patch indicate the three-star command and the land, air and sea forces involved in the fight.

Scimitars and palm wreaths have appeared on patches from previous periods of war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein also favored the look, building a grand sculpture called the Arc of Triumph to commemorate the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s. It became a favored back drop for soldiers, contractors and journalists to snap photos after the invasion in 2003.

The current round of conflict there, referred to as Operation Inherent Resolve, by the Pentagon, began in August 2014. ISIL fighters swept through northern Iraq, seizingMosul, its second largest city, threatening the Kurdish region and ultimately advancing toward Baghdad.

U.S.-led airstrikes stemmed the advance to a degree. However, ISIL fighters retain control of Mosul and in May seized the Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar in western Iraq. They continue to hold those cities and a broad region stretching west into Syria despite daily airstrikes.

Since August 2014, there have been more than 7,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, destroying thousands of buildings and hundreds of tanks and Humvees the fighters seized from fleeing Iraqi troops. It cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $10 million per day to fly combat missions and train local troops. All told, the bill for the current fight is nearly $4 billion.

“Unit insignia is important because it fosters esprit de corps,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.  “The CJTF-OIR headquarters is made up of men and women from all services, many nations and many different units in the Army. This insignia will be worn by all of the Army members of the CJTF and may be authorized for wear by other services and nations according to their regulations.”

Russia preparing airstrikes on Isil if US does not back deal to keep Assad in office.

Russia sends dozens of fighter jets and helicopter gunships to Syria amid growing signs that Western leaders may support plan to allow Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in the country

An Mi-8 helicopter participates in Russian strategic military exercises last week

An Mi-8 helicopter participates in Russian strategic military exercises last week  Photo: Barcroft Media

Vladimir Putin is preparing to attack Isil in Syria amid growing signs that Western leaders may support a Russian plan to allow Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in the country.

Russia has sent dozens of fighter jets and helicopter gunships to Syria as he steps up his support for Assad, the country’s president, in the fight against Isil jihadists.

Mr Putin is understood to have told America that he is prepared to authorise unilateral Russian air strikes on Isil targets if the US does not back his plans to take on the jihadists while allowing Assad to remain in power.

Putin and Assad meeting in Moscow, 2005Putin and Assad meeting in Moscow, 2005

There have been growing signs that Western leaders are now softening their opposition to Assad remaining in power.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said on Thursday: “We have to speak with many actors. This includes Assad, but others as well.

“Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia.”

And Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, who has been a fierce critic of Assad, on Thurday suggested for the first time that the Syrian president could have a role to play in a future political transition.

“The process could possibly be without Assad, or the transitional process could be with him,” he said.

Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, and John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, have suggested that Assad must step down but that there could be a transitional period during which he remains in power.

However, there was also concern amongst European leaders about Russia’s decision to increase its military presence in Syria.

Mr Putin has drafted a request for the Russian upper house of parliament to approve the deployment of 2,000 air personnel to Syria, but has yet to formally submit it, according to Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources.

Mr Putin’s spokesman denied the claim.

Michael Fallon, Britain’s Defence Secretary, said that the “Russian build-up in Syria only complicates an already complicated and difficult situation”.

And Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Defence Minister, called on Moscow to justify a “very significant” buildup in Syria and said if its intention was “to protect” Mr Assad, it should say so.

Russia’s increasing involvement in Syria is likely to dominate next week’s session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where Mr Putin is scheduled to meet Barack Obama on Monday.

Obama meets with Putin during the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, 2013Obama meets with Putin during the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, 2013

“It would be irresponsible not to test whether we can make progress through high-level engagement,” a US official told AFP.

Russia has called on Western and Middle Eastern countries to form a broad anti-Isil coalition including Mr Assad’s government, arguing that Syrian government forces are the only ones capable of combatting terrorists on the battlefield.

Mr Putin is a staunch ally of Mr Assad and has supplied him with weapons and military advice throughout the four-year civil war.

But a recent increase in Russian activity in Syria, including reported deployment of drones and combat aircraft to an airbase near the government stronghold of Latakia, has prompted speculation that Russia is preparing to intervene on the regime’s side in the conflict.

The developments have raised concerns about the dangers of uncoordinated operations by both Russian forces and the Nato-led coalition currently prosecuting a campaign against Islamic State.

Earlier this week Mr Putin met with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to agree to a coordination mechanism to avoid clashes between Russian troops in Syria and Israeli forces.

The Russian defence ministry said the naval exercises announced on Thursday had been planned since the end of 2014, and described them as part of the “traditional” autumn exercises carried out by the Russian armed forces.

The rocket cruise Moskva, destroyer Smetlivy, and the landing craft Saratov are amongst the vessels slated to take part in exercises in September and October, the ministry said in a statement.

The Moskva guided missile cruiserThe Moskva guided missile cruiser

Several of the vessels, most of which serve with Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, have already been deployed to the area. The Smetlivy was seen passing through the Bosporus last week.

Endgame: Putin Plans To Strike ISIS With Or Without The U.S. | Zero Hedge

On Sunday, we noted that Washington’s strategy in Syria has now officially unravelled.

John Kerry, speaking from London following talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, essentially admitted over the weekend that Russia’s move to bolster the Assad regime at Latakia effectively means that the timing of Assad’s exit is now completely indeterminate. Here’s how we summed up the situation:

Moscow, realizing that instead of undertaking an earnest effort to fight terror in Syria, the US had simply adopted a containment strategy for ISIS while holding the group up to the public as the boogeyman par excellence, publicly invited Washington to join Russia in a once-and-for-all push to wipe Islamic State from the face of the earth. Of course The Kremlin knew the US wanted no such thing until Assad was gone, but by extending the invitation, Putin had literally called Washington’s bluff, forcing The White House to either admit that this isn’t about ISIS at all, or else join Russia in fighting them. The genius of that move is that if Washington does indeed coordinate its efforts to fight ISIS with Moscow, the US will be fighting to stabilize the very regime it sought to oust. 

Revelations (which surprised no one but the Pentagon apparently) that Moscow is coordinating its efforts in Syria with Tehran only serve to reinforce the contention that Assad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the US will either be forced to aid in the effort to destroy the very same Sunni extremists that it in some cases worked very hard to support, or else admit that countering Russia and supporting Washington’s regional allies in their efforts to remove Assad takes precedence over eliminating ISIS. Because the latter option is untenable for obvious reasons, Washington has a very real problem on its hands – and Vladimir Putin just made it worse.

As Bloomberg reports, The Kremlin is prepared to launch unilateral strikes against ISIS targets if the US is unwilling to cooperate. Here’s more:

President Vladimir Putin, determined to strengthen Russia’s only military outpost in the Middle East, is preparing to launch unilateral airstrikes against Islamic State from inside Syria if the U.S. rejects his proposal to join forces, two people familiar with the matter said.

Putin’s preferred course of action, though, is for America and its allies to agree to coordinate their campaign against the terrorist group with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army, which the Obama administration has so far resisted, according to a person close to the Kremlin and an adviser to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

Russian diplomacy has shifted into overdrive as Putin seeks to avoid the collapse of the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally who’s fighting both a 4 1/2 year civil war and Sunni extremists under the banner of Islamic State. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow for talks with Putin on Monday, followed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.

Putin’s proposal, which Russia has communicated to the U.S., calls for a “parallel track” of joint military action accompanied by a political transition away from Assad, a key U.S. demand, according to a third person. The initiative will be the centerpiece of Putin’s one-day trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, which may include talks with President Barack Obama.

“Russia is hoping common sense will prevail and Obama takes Putin’s outstretched hand,” said Elena Suponina, a senior Middle East analyst at the Institute of Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin. “But Putin will act anyway if this doesn’t happen.”

And that, as they say, it that. Checkmate.

The four-year effort to oust Assad by first supporting and then tolerating the rise of Sunni extremists (presaged in a leaked diplomatic cable) has failed and the Kremlin has officially served a burn notice on a former CIA “strategic asset.”

There are two things to note here.

First, Russia of course is fully aware that the US has never had any intention of eradicating ISIS completely. As recently as last week, Moscow’s allies in Tehran specifically accused Washington of pursuing nothing more than a containment policy as it relates to ISIS, as allowing the group to continue to operate in Syria ensures that the Assad regime remains under pressure.

Second, even if Russia does agree to some manner of managed transition away from Assad,you can be absolutely sure that Moscow is not going to risk the lives of its soldiers (not to mention its international reputation) only to have the US dictate what Syria’s new government looks like and indeed, Tehran will have absolutely nothing of a regime that doesn’t perpetuate the existing Mid-East balance of power which depends upon Syria not falling to the West. Additionally – and this is also critical – Russia will of course be keen on ensuring that whoever comes after Assad looks after Russia’s interests at its naval base at Tartus. This means that even if the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are forced to publicly support a managed transition, Washington, Riyadh, and Doha will privately be extremely disappointed with the outcome which begs the following question: what will be the next strategy to oust Assad and will it be accompanied by something even worse than a four-year-old bloody civil war and the creation of a band of black flag-waving militants bent on re-establishing a medieval caliphate?

Muslims Killing Muslims-Yemen mosque bombing kills dozens during Eid prayers. 

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN)A bombing in a crowded mosque in Yemen’s capital killed at least 29 people attending Eid prayers Thursday.

Officials fear the death toll from the attack at the Al Bilaili mosque in Sanaa will rise, because dozens of worshippers suffered severe injuries.

The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility on social media for the bombing. ISIS posted the statement on Twitter and said the bombing came as “part of a series of military operations to revenge Muslims against Houthis.”

Houthi rebels are acting as the government in Yemen, having driven the internationally recognized government out of power.

Video taken after the attack showed the power of the blast.

Rubble covered the streets. A hole was blown through what appeared to be a thick cement wall. Bits of stone and plaster littered the prayer floor inside the mosque.

Blood appeared to have stained the carpet where the faithful would have been praying. And shoes, which Muslims take off before entering a mosque, remained unclaimed outside.

5 things to know about Eid al-Adha

The attack is the sixth in three months in which a mosque has been targeted.

The early morning prayer service was meant to mark the beginning of Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God. The holiday is one of two major ones in Islam.

German Anti-ISIS Coalition Chief Found Dead in Iraq Hotel 

MAINZ, Germany — A German army chief in the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq was found dead in his hotel room there Wednesday, officials said.

Colonel Stephan Spoettel was found dead at 8:50 a.m. local time (1:50 a.m. ET) in the Cristal Erbil Hotel in the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, the German armed forces said in a statement.

Spoettel was the head of the coalition’s German training contingent in northern Iraq. There was no information to suggest suicide or “third-party involvement,” the statement added.

Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. name for the coalition fighting the extremists across Iraq and Syria, said in a statement that a member of the coalition had died in Irbil on Wednesday, without providing further details.

“This incident is under investigation and further information will be released as appropriate,” the statement added.