War on Terrorism

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Wife of Dead ISIL Leader Charged in Death of Kayla Jean Mueller

Defendant Charged with Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIL

Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, aka Umm Sayyaf, 25, an Iraqi citizen and wife of Abu Sayyaf, a senior leader within the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) until his death last year, was charged by criminal complaint today for her role in a conspiracy that resulted in the death of American citizen Kayla Jean Mueller in February 2015.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“The charges filed today allege that Umm Sayyaf and others conspired to provide material support to ISIL and that this conspiracy resulted in the death of Kayla Jean Mueller,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “Sayyaf is currently in Iraqi custody for her terrorism-related activities.  We fully support the Iraqi prosecution of Sayyaf and will continue to work with the authorities there to pursue our shared goal of holding Sayyaf accountable for her crimes.  At the same time, these charges reflect that the U.S. justice system remains a powerful tool to bring to bear against those who harm our citizens abroad.  We will continue to pursue justice for Kayla and for all American victims of terrorism.”

“Kayla Mueller’s kidnapping and death is a tragic reminder of the dangers that ISIL poses to Americans,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.  “We will continue to work alongside the FBI to investigate this case and remain steadfast in our pursuit of justice for the Mueller family.”

“The FBI continues to work tirelessly alongside our partners to hold accountable those who are responsible for the kidnapping and death of Kayla Mueller,” said Assistant Director in Charge Abbate.  “This criminal complaint is another step toward achieving justice in the case.  We will always be relentless in our efforts to identify, locate and arrest those who are responsible for the kidnappings and murders of American citizens.”

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, in August 2013, on their second full day in northern Syria, Mueller and Individual 1 were kidnapped at gunpoint by masked ISIL soldiers.  Mueller remained an ISIL hostage until her death on or about Feb. 7, 2015.

According to the affidavit, in August 2014, Individual 2 and Individual 3, two young Kurdish women of Yazidi heritage, were forcibly kidnapped by ISIL from their village in northern Iraq.  After their capture, Individual 2 and Individual 3 were taken to a prison in Syria maintained by ISIL where they were held with Mueller.

According to the affidavit, on or about Sept. 24, 2014, Mueller, Individual 2 and Individual 3 were transferred from the ISIL prison to the custody of Abu and Umm Sayyaf.  Abu Sayyaf, who reported directly to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was ISIL’s minister of oil and gas, and was previously responsible for ISIL’s media program.  The Sayyafs maintained several residences where they forcibly held Mueller, Individual 2 and Individual 3, along with other female captives.  The captives were at various times handcuffed, held in locked rooms, and Mueller was sexually abused by Baghdadi, who forced her to have sex with him.  Umm Sayyaf knew how Mueller was treated by Baghdadi when Mueller was held against her will in Sayyaf’s home.

The Sayyaf residences featured ISIL flags and other ISIL-branded items, and often had numerous firearms open and visible to captives.  For a period of time, a large supply of weapons was maintained in a room of one of the residences for use by ISIL fighters.

According to the affidavit, the Sayyafs held young women who were sold or traded to ISIL men, and the women were characterized as being “owned” by the ISIL men who acquired them.  While Mueller, Individual 2 and Individual 3 were held captive by the Sayyafs, Umm Sayyaf threatened the women, telling them she would kill them if they did not listen to her.

According to the affidavit, on or about May 15, 2015, the U.S. military conducted an operation targeting one of the Sayyaf residences.  During the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged with U.S. military forces and Umm Sayyaf was captured.  Firearms stored at the residence at the time of the operation were seized and are currently in the custody of the FBI.

According to the affidavit, beginning on or about June 17, 2015, Umm Sayyaf was interviewed by FBI agents and admitted that her family belonged to the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist organization, the predecessor group to ISIL, and remained members of the terrorist organization when its name changed to ISIL.  The defendant admitted to holding Mueller, Individual 2, Individual 3 and others hostage on behalf of ISIL.  Umm Sayyaf also admitted she had sole responsibility for Mueller, Individual 2, Individual 3 and others in captivity while her husband travelled on ISIL business.  In addition, she admitted to hosting ISIL members, including al-Baghdadi, at her residence.

According to the affidavit, Sayyaf admitted that al-Baghdadi “owned” Mueller during her captivity at the Sayyaf residence and admitted that “owning” is equivalent to slavery.

If convicted, Sayyaf faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

The charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorneys Bridget Behling and John Gibbs of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Strikes Hit ISIL Terrorists in Syria, Iraq

From a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve News Release

SOUTHWEST ASIA, February 9, 2016 — 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.

Strikes in Syria

Attack aircraft conducted three strikes in Syria:

-- Near Kobani, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Manbij, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Mar’a, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

Strikes in Iraq

Coalition forces used rocket artillery and attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, seven strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and three ISIL staging areas, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed two ISIL rockets, an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL front-end loader, an ISIL heavy machine gun, and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Huwayjah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Fallujah, a strike destroyed an ISIL-used bridge.

-- Near Mosul, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL mortar tube, and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Qayyarah, two strikes struck an ISIL logistics facility and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL staging area, and two ISIL boats.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike suppressed an ISIL rocket position.

Additionally, a strike in Iraq from Feb. 7 was not included on the Feb. 8 strike release:

-- Near Ramadi, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, and an ISIL boat.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is a strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
Coalition nations conducting strikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting strikes in Syria include the United States, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Carter Appreciates Canada’s Counter-ISIL Efforts, Press Secretary Says

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2016 — As Defense Secretary Ash Carter prepares to travel to Brussels this week to encourage greater contributions by NATO allies to accelerate the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Canada today announced it will step up its counter-ISIL efforts, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

Cook said Canada will triple its training in Northern Iraq, double intelligence efforts and adjust humanitarian and development contributions. The Canadian military also will continue its air campaign and refuel aerial surveillance aircraft, he added.

“The secretary sees these as significant contributions, and he greatly appreciates the decision by the [Prime Minister Pierre] Trudeau government to step up Canada’s role in the campaign at this critical time,” he said.

NATO Meeting

Canada’s announcement coming on the heels of last week’s decision by the Dutch to join the air campaign in Syria, adds momentum to what Carter will ask of other nations during his 4th NATO Ministerial.

“As the secretary has said, the United States is willing to lead the coalition and the fight against ISIL, but the barbaric group poses a threat to every nation, so every nation should join the fight,” Cook said. Nations unable to contribute militarily should consider financial or humanitarian contributions and help to rebuild war-torn areas such as Ramadi, he added.

The secretary’s NATO agenda will also include President Barack Obama’s decision to quadruple funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, which would enable the United States to strengthen its robust military presence in Europe, enhance partner capabilities, and improve U.S. ability to uphold Article 5 commitments to NATO members, Cook said

North Korean Missile Launch

North Korea’s missile launch this weekend “represents yet another destabilizing and provocative action that only undermines peace and stability in the region,” Cook said.

And because the United States is committed to its regional allies’ security, “We will take all necessary steps to defend ourselves and our allies and respond to North Korean provocations,” Cook said.

Based on North Korea’s evolving threats, the U.S.-South Korea alliance will examine its missile defense posture and the feasibility of U.S. Forces Korea operating a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system as soon as possible, he said.

THAAD provides the Ballistic Missile Defense System with a globally transportable, rapidly deployable capability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight, according to DOD’s Missile Defense Agency website.

Budget Request to Debut

With the debut of the $582.7 billion fiscal year 2017 Defense Budget proposal tomorrow, Cook reminded reporters that Carter said, “Today's security environment is dramatically different than the one we've been engaged with for the last 25 years and it requires new ways of thinking and new ways of acting.”

While the defense budget request meets existing and future challenges and highlights “critical” defense investments, it also offers reforms to ensure taxpayers “get the most bangs for their buck,” he said.