Saturday, September 30, 2017

Military Strikes Continue Against ISIS Terrorists in Syria, Iraq

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Sept. 30, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, conducting 34 strikes consisting of 43 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of yesterday's strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted 28 strikes consisting of 32 engagements against ISIS targets:

-- Near Abu Kamal, three strikes engaged four ISIS units and destroyed three vehicles.

-- Near Raqqa, 25 strikes engaged seven ISIS tactical units and destroyed 21 fighting positions, 17 vehicles and a heavy machine gun.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets:

-- Near Qaim, a strike destroyed an ISIS staging area and an ISIS headquarters.

-- Near Beiji, a strike suppressed an ISIS tactical unit and a mortar team.

-- Near Huwijah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two tunnels; and damaged four ISIS supply routes.

-- Near Tuz, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed a tactical vehicle, a heavy machine gun and a fighting position.

Previous Strikes

Additionally, 19 strikes consisting of 42 engagements were conducted in Syria and Iraq on Sept. 10-28 that closed within the last 24 hours:

-- On Sept. 10, near Raqqa, Syria, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

-- On Sept. 14, near Raqqa, Syria, a strike destroyed an ISIS fighting position.

-- On Sept. 18, near Raqqa, Syria, a strike destroyed an ISIS fighting position.

-- On Sept. 24, near Raqqa, Syria, a strike destroyed an ISIS fighting position.

-- On Sept. 27, near Raqqa, Syria, four strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed a vehicle, a logistics node and a headquarters.

-- On Sept. 28, near Asad, Iraq, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed six vehicles.

-- On Sept. 28, near Huwijah, Iraq, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed 29 vehicles, seven fighting positions, two tunnel entrances, two weapons caches, a command-and-control node, a staging area, a medium machine gun, a headquarters and an ISIS-held building.

-- On Sept. 28, near Raqqa, Syria, eight strikes destroyed two ISIS fighting positions; and suppressed six fighting positions.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group's ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.
The task force does 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.

American Citizen Convicted of Conspiring to Murder U.S. Nationals in Bombing Attack Against Military Base in Afghanistan

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, returned a guilty verdict today against Muhanad Mahmoud Al-Farekh on nine counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb a government facility and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.  Farekh faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan.

The verdict was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney. Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

“Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is an al Qaeda terrorist who conspired to kill Americans overseas.  The trial evidence showed that he was involved in a variety of terrorist activity, including a VBIED attack on a U.S. military installation in Afghanistan in 2009.  With today’s guilty verdict, Farekh is being held accountable for his crimes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.  “Counterterrorism is the highest priority of the National Security Division, and we will continue to use all tools available across the globe to bring to justice those who seek to harm Americans, including our brave servicemen and women who risk their lives in defense of our nation.”

“Today, an American al-Qaeda member was brought to justice in a U.S. courtroom,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  “The jury’s verdict on all nine counts of the indictment established Farekh’s responsibility for a violent attack on members of our armed forces, his efforts to murder Americans and his commitment to one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations.  The defendant now faces the prospect of life imprisonment for the commission of these serious federal crimes.”

“Today’s verdict is justice for the harm and destruction Al Farekh intended to cause when he conspired with others to bomb a U.S. military base in Afghanistan,” said Assistant Director inCharge Sweeney.  “The FBI stands alongside our military and law enforcement partners to hold criminals accountable for their actions no matter where they are in the world.”

“The defendant in this case faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to bomb a government facility, use a weapon of mass destruction, murder U.S. nationals and provide material support to terrorists,” said Commissioner O’Neill.  “While Farekh’s crimes occurred in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the defendant’s co-conspirator trained Najibullah Zazi and others who also intended to attack New York City’s subway system. I want to thank all involved in today’s verdict, from the investigators and prosecutors to the jury and judge.”

At trial, the government presented evidence that prior to traveling overseas to join al Qaeda, Farekh was a student at the University of Manitoba in Canada. In 2007, Farekh and two fellow students traveled to Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces overseas. Farekh and his co-conspirators had become radicalized watching video recordings encouraging violent jihad, listened to jihadist lectures, including lectures by now-deceased al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki. They traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an area in the northern part of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is home to al Qaeda’s base of operations, where they joined and received training from al Qaeda.

One of Farekh’s co-conspirators, Ferid Imam, provided weapons and military-type training at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in September 2008. Among Imam’s trainees were Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, of Queens, New York, who intended to return to New York City to carry out a suicide attack in the subway system. During the trial, Ahmedzay testified that Imam as his weapons trainer. Zazi and Ahmedzay pleaded guilty pursuant to cooperation agreements and have yet to be sentenced. Medunjanin was convicted after trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Imam has been indicted for his role in the plot.

The government proved Farekh’s participation in the building of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) that was used in an attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman (FOB Chapman) on Jan. 19, 2009 in Khost, Afghanistan.  The evidence at trial showed that two vehicles approached the fence line of FOB Chapman. The operator of the first vehicle, a pickup-sized truck, detonated a VBIED at the gate. The second vehicle, a truck carrying 7,500 pounds of explosives, became stuck in the blast crater. The driver fled without detonating the second, more powerful VBIED, and was shot and killed by local security personnel.  Forensic technicians in Afghanistan recovered 18 fingerprints from the adhesive packing tape wrapped around the undetonated bomb that were matched to the defendant. A hair follicle was also recovered and analysis indicated that the follicle’s mitochondrial DNA was consistent with that of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Richard M. Tucker, Douglas M. Pravda and Saritha Komatireddy of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Alicia Cook of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case.

Friday, September 29, 2017

ISIS 'Losing on All Fronts,' OIR Spokesman Says

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2017 — Coalition and partner forces are making significant progress in defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today in Baghdad.

"ISIS is losing on all fronts, and they are losing their grip on their few remaining strongholds in both Iraq and Syria," Army Col. Ryan Dillon said in a videoconference with reporters at the Pentagon.

The coalition and its partners on the ground -- the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces -- remain committed to defeating the enemy, he said.

"But make no mistake," he added, "we fully expect fierce fighting in the days ahead. And while these terrorists remain a dangerous and desperate enemy, our ISF and SDF partners have proven they are up to the task."

The terrorists have committed inhumane actions and violated the laws of war, Dillon said, are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. He called on the world to hold ISIS accountable for the violations.

Focus on Decisive Defeat in Iraq

Iraqi forces have made significant progress in the fight, Dillon said. "Our Iraqi partners have fought a long, bloody war and have sacrificed a great deal to liberate their people and clear terrorists from cities and villages," he told reporters.

More than 42,000 square kilometers in Iraq have been cleared and more than 4 million people are now free from ISIS control, the colonel said. "ISIS is on the run, and we must remain focused on delivering a decisive defeat in their few remaining holdouts in Iraq," he added.

In the past week, Iraqi security forces have continued fighting ISIS on multiple fronts, showing their capacity as a strong, unified fighting force, Dillon said, noting that they have made steady progress in defeating the enemy in the two and a half weeks since launching simultaneous operations in Hiwija, Sharqat and in the western part of Anbar province.  The Iraqi forces completed the first phase of operations in Hiwija and Sharqat, clearing more than 1,300 square kilometers and liberating more than 100 villages, he said.

In western Anbar, the town of Ana is clear of ISIS fighters and improvised explosive devices, and operations are under way to clear the nearby town of Rayhanna.

ISIS Losing Grip on Raqqa

"We are seeing the terrorist group begin to lose its grip on their self-declared capital in Raqqa," he said, adding that more than 75 percent of the city is now clear of ISIS with more than 50 city blocks cleared in the past week.

"ISIS is trying to control the remaining civilians in the city, holding them hostage as the terrorists cling to the final square kilometers they hold," he said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces provided safe passage for about 300 civilians seeking refuge from Raqqa this week, he said. "The singular mission of our combined joint task force is the annihilation of ISIS," he stressed. "In total, across Syria, about 2 million people are no longer under ISIS control, and more than 44,000 square kilometers have been cleared."