Tuesday, June 30, 2015

ISIS executes women for 'witchcraft and sorcery' in Syria

Known for their extreme brutalism and use of summary executions, ISIS have reached a new level of evil with activists reporting that the jihadi militants beheaded two women in Syria for alleged 'sorcery.' 

It is believed to be the first time ISIS have executed a woman in Syria for crimes of 'witchcraft' and 'sorcery', the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said today.

'The Islamic State group executed two women by beheading them in Deir Ezzor province, and this is the first time the Observatory has documented women being killed by the group in this manner,' Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

It is believed to be the first time ISIS have executed a woman in Syria for crimes of 'witchcraft' and 'sorcery'. A sorcerer (pictured) was executed next to his charms last month 

It is believed to be the first time ISIS have executed a woman in Syria for crimes of 'witchcraft' and 'sorcery'. A sorcerer (pictured) was executed next to his charms last month 

ISIS have also targeted people for alleged sorcery in Libya. New photos emerged last month of a man being executed near Benghazi

ISIS have also targeted people for alleged sorcery in Libya. New photos emerged last month of a man being executed near Benghazi.

The Britain-based monitor said the executions took place on Sunday and Monday and involved two married couples. 

In both cases, the women were executed with their husbands, with each pair accused of witchcraft and sorcery.

The Islamic State group has become infamous for gruesome executions and is reported to have stoned women to death on allegations of adultery.

But the Observatory said this was the first time it was aware of the group beheading women.
According to the monitor, IS has executed more than 3,000 people in Syria in the year since it declared its Islamic "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq. 

Nearly 1,800 of them were civilians, including 74 children.

The public execution of so-called 'magicians' and 'sorcerers' have been confirmed by ISIS. 
Their media branch has previously released images of several executions in Syria and Iraq of individuals found guilty of performing 'black magic.' 

Street performers, entertaining young children and passersby have been put to death for crimes of magic and sorcerers.

Dressed in the dreaded orange execution suit, the man was forced to confess his supposed crime before being beheaded in the streets

Dressed in the dreaded orange execution suit, the man was forced to confess his supposed crime before being beheaded in the streets

ISIS in Libya claimed that this document, heavily inscribed in Arabic, represented proof that the man practiced black magic

ISIS in Libya claimed that this document, heavily inscribed in Arabic, represented proof that the man practiced black magic

Street performers, entertaining young children and passersby have been put to death for crimes of magic and sorcerers

Street performers, entertaining young children and passersby have been put to death for crimes of magic and sorcerers.

Optical illusions and other basic magic tricks are considered strictly forbidden and a form of black magic, an art condemned as questioning the existence of Allah.

Last month, ISIS's Libyan franchise, released their first images of a sorcerer being beheaded in the province of Barqah.

Forced into wearing a grisly orange boiler suit, the man was forced to confess his alleged 'crimes' and accept his death sentence. 

One of the images released as evidence of his guilt included a manuscript, covered in hand written Arabic in blue ink. The document is alleged to be some sort of spell or proof of black magic.
ISIS also released photos of a magician being decapitated in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin.
A close up image of the man's broken body shows a broken bag full of prayer beads lain near his body.

ISIS claim the beads are trinkets and charms, a form of black magic condemned by the jihadi group as an act of blasphemy. 

Egypt increasingly cracking down on its youth

Two years since the removal of ousted President Mohamed Morsi from power, Egypt has swung from "mass protest to mass incarceration", according to a new Amnesty International report.

The report, "Generation Jail: Egypt's Youth Go from Protests to Prison", details the country's increasingly repressive state. Its release on Tuesday marks the second anniversary of Egypt's June 30 protests, whose participants are now facing arbitrary arrests and prison.

"Mass protests have been replaced by mass arrests," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. "By relentlessly targeting Egypt's youth activists, the authorities are crushing an entire generation's hopes for a brighter future," Sahraoui added.

According to the report, activists estimate that 41,000 people have been arrested, charged or indicted, often through unfair trials where evidence consists solely of statements by security forces.

The report's researchers emphasise that the Egyptian society has seen its avenues for free speech and protest clang shut as the government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seeks to stifle scores of activists, politicians and youth in the name of state security.

The report focuses on 14 young people who were among the thousands that have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and practices "which do not comply with international law".

The authorities' repression of dissent and opposition originally began with the jailing of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their supporters. Now, however, its scope has reached university campuses and public streets, family homes, and the offices of human rights groups.

"Egypt today is a police state," said Nicholas Piachaud, a researcher on the Egypt team for Amnesty International. "People are deeply afraid of the knock on the door in the night," Piachaud told Al Jazeera.

For the youth in the country, who once enjoyed global praise for being the pulsing centre of Egypt's protest movements, the crackdown has been an overwhelming source of fear and despair.

One young man, Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, was just 18 years old when he was arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a political slogan on it. He has now spent 500 days in prison without charge or trial, and his family says that his body carries the marks of torture.

"The authorities have made it clear that now, what they wish to do is tear the heart out of the protest movement," Piachaud said. "It's their way or prison."

Recent reports of disappearances have only added to the atmosphere of fear.

On June 9, the National Council for Human Rights, a government-run entity, received 50 complaints lodged by families who suspect their loved ones are being detained with no way of communicating with the outside.

"One family of a detained individual that we spoke with said that what they're going through is awful, but what's happening with the recent disappearances is terrifying," said Piachaud.

In line with the country's Code of Criminal Procedures, accused persons in Egypt may be held without trial for up to 45 days, a period that courts can extend after review. 

According to the report, the law has led to some suspects going without trial for over a year.

When the trial does come, it can involve unfair practices that warp due process and subject the defence party to incomplete evidence, sudden changes in the hearing's location and even threats against lawyers.

One particularly "farcical" hearing, said the report, sentenced the defender to jail in absentia and featured home videos as evidence.

Yara Sallam, a prominent human rights defender, is another person charged with taking part "in an unauthorised demonstration that endangered public order". 

Her lawyers say that Sallam did not participate in any such demonstration, and had been arrested while buying water at a kiosk.

On the day of Sallam's trial, officials changed the address of the hearing location without notifying the defence lawyers. 

Sallam and her lawyer had to travel 25km to the new location, where a tinted sheet of glass prevented her from communicating with her defence counsel throughout the trial.

Though Sallam is one of the more well-known individuals prosecuted by authorities, repression in Egypt is not limited to only the prominent voices.

According to the report, innocuous acts by people - such as wearing the wrong shirt, or walking down a street where a demonstration is happening - can lead to detentions and jail time.

"Anyone who criticises the authorities and is seen to criticise the authorities is at risk," said Piachaud.
The already shrinking political space in Egypt is subject to regulations that severely limit when and where demonstrations may happen.

Passed in November 2013, the Protest Law requires any public demonstration to have prior approval from the interior ministry, and permits security forces to use excessive force in dispersing protesters.
The government justified these restrictions by saying that it was restoring stability to the country, invoking recent attacks on security and police forces.

Yet, the report noted that often, if demonstrations do see violence at the hands of one or a few protesters, forces will indiscriminately arrest anyone in the area.

According to Piachaud, this has sucked the air out of all public dissent in society.

Meanwhile, the report highlights that Egypt's international partners have been passive about the matter, choosing to welcome Sisi back into the political fold instead of denouncing the intensifying repression.

The international community, says Piachaud, was silent when Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of protesters in August of 2014, and that silence stretches on today.

"Egypt's partners are saying they do care about human rights, but on the other hand they're selling and transferring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military and security equipment to Egypt's government," he said. "This is sending a very dangerous signal to the authorities."

Report: Jordan will set up buffer zone inside Syria

Jordan may be preparing to establish a humanitarian “buffer zone” in southern Syria using military force, a move that could bolster security along the Jordanian border and stem the flow of Syrian refugees but that would also mark the most significant violation of Syria's territorial integrity by a foreign country in four years of grinding war.

According to the Financial Times, which reported the plan on Monday, Jordan intends to carve a buffer zone into a vast area that stretches across the contested southern provinces of Deraa and Suwayda, right up along Jordan’s northern border. The zone would apparently include the city of Deraa, where a pivotal battle has been playing out in recent weeks between the government of Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces, and could include a "militarized zone" to separate the buffer area from government forces.

Jordan’s powerful, U.S.-backed military would be involved, the FT reported, but the line would be manned primarily by “existing fighters in the anti-Assad rebel southern brigades” – presumably referring to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army – and include forces currently being trained in Jordan. Few other details were immediately available.

If accurate, Monday’s report would dramatically escalate Jordan’s role in Syria and almost certainly draw accusations of invasion by Damascus and its main allies, Iran and Russia. Since the early days of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Amman has backed the so-called “moderate” rebel factions that are fighting to overthrow Assad, but it has been hesitant about intervening more overtly. 

Along with Turkey, Syria’s neighbor to the north, Jordan has long called on its Western allies to help set up buffer zones, usually citing the need to relieve the enormous pressure it is shouldering as home to more than one million Syrian refugees. Amman argues that providing a relatively safe area on the Syrian side of the border – where international refugee camps could be set up and humanitarian aid could filter in – would shift the burden onto the international community and stem the flow of Syrians into impoverished, water-poor Jordan.

But analysts said the impetus for setting up a buffer zone right now could be more about burgeoning security fears. Jordan, which has kept its borders secure despite the chaos roiling Syria and Iraq, has grown increasingly anxious in recent months as the "moderate" rebel factions flounder and more radical rebel groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise, the Nusra Front, creep ever closer to its borders.

"Jordan has spillover from Syria, spillover from Iraq, it’s a short distance across the Gulf of Aqaba to the Sinai Peninsula – it's just surrounded by chaos and instability," said Christopher Harmer, an analyst and Syria expert at the Institute for the Study of War. It has kept itself safe for now, but "if and when factions in Syria turn their attention to Jordan, it's an open question whether the border is defensible."

Still, Jordan’s Western allies, including the United States, have been cool on the idea of escalating involvement in Syria's messy war. They are wary that any military action beyond the current coalition airstrikes on ISIL would hasten the collapse of the Assad government and expand the power vacuum allowed ISIL to metastasize in the first place. Commenting on Monday afternoon, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he had seen "no solid evidence" that either Jordan or Turkey were taking steps to set up a buffer zone, implying that the plan did not have Washington's blessing.

Harmer said the creation of a buffer zone could further signal that regional powers no longer believe the Assad government can realistically ever reclaim control of the country. “The moment you set up a humanitarian safe zone you’re opening the door to conversations about splitting Syria into different entities,” he said. Washington may be unlikely to back Jordan’s plan because “we’d essentially be opening the door to the dissolution of the Syrian nation-state. Of course, a lot of people say that’s already a done deal.”

According to the FT report, Jordan’s plan is backed by "key members" of the anti-ISIL coalition, though it did not name them. A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-ISIL coalition of scores of countries led by the U.S. that also includes Jordan, did not comment on the report, saying only that the coalition could not discuss the matter “for operational security reasons.”

UN: South Sudan army raped girls and burned them alive

The UN has accused South Sudan's army of raping and then burning girls alive inside their homes during its recent campaign, a report by its mission in the country said.

The statement, published on Tuesday, warned the recent upsurge in fighting had been marked by a "new brutality and intensity".

"The scope and level of cruelty that has characterised the reports suggests a depth of antipathy that exceeds political differences," the UN said. 

Women and children flee violence in South Sudan
Members of the UN mission in Sudan (UNMISS) said they interviewed 115 victims and eyewitnesses in Unity state where South Sudanese forces were involved in fighting against opposition fighters in April.

The survivors allege that the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) killed civilians, destroyed villages and displaced 100,000 people, the statement added.

The UN said attempts to corroborate the reports were prevented by the SPLA, which denied its teams access to the areas concerned.

"UNMISS human rights officers visited two additional sites of alleged atrocities and conducted more interviews of eyewitnesses and victims. The information gathered from those visits and interviews provided further corroboration of the earlier accounts," the statement read.

"We call on the SPLA to fulfil this commitment and allow our human rights officers unfettered access to the sites of these reported violations," said Ellen Margrethe Loej, the head of UNMISS. 

The military spokesman for the South Sudanese army, Philip Aguer Panyang, told Al Jazeera that the accusations made in the report needed further verification, and questioned accusations South Sudanese troops had obstructed UN investigators.
"Our role as an army is to facilitate humanitarian deliveries and access for civilian protection," Panyang said.

"If the UN has been denied access, they have the right to present those claims to the SPLA command." 

South Sudan attained independence in 2011 but the country has disintegrated into chaos. Thousands of people have been killed and almost two million displaced in a civil conflict that erupted in late 2013 as forces loyal to Salva Kiir tried to put down an uprising led by his former deputy, Riek Machar.

Peace talks between the factions collapsed in March this year, and clashes have since escalated.

Kiir said that he will not be forced into a premature peace deal and rejected the UN threat of sanctions against his country.


Large explosion hits Afghanistan's capital Kabul

A powerful blast has targeted a NATO military convoy in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, wounding 19 people, including women and children, officials said.

The blast on Tuesday came on the main road to the airport, around 500m from the US embassy and near a base for foreign troops.

NATO said none of its troops were killed or injured in the attack.

"It was a suicide car bomber targeting a convoy of foreign forces in Kabul," interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. 

Offensive against Afghan Taliban moves into Takhar Province
Kabul deputy police chief Sayed Gul Aga Rohani confirmed the attack and said there were casualties, but no further details were immediately available.

Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from close to the scene of the explosion, said the "huge" bombing explosion was heard around the city.

"Police and the army are already on the scene keeping people away... We heard the blast from our office, about 1.5km away and saw a huge plume of smoke," Glasse said, adding civilian cars had been caught up in the explosion.

The blast came about a week after the Taliban staged an attack on the Afghan parliament in Kabul, killing at least five people.

Also on Tuesday, a suicide attack on the police headquarters of a southern province killed three people and wounded more than 50, including policemen, Afghan officials said

Omar Zawak, spokesman for the governor of Helmand province, said most of the injured in the attack were women and children.

Police spokesman Farid Hamad Obaid said a car packed with explosives was driven into the back wall of the police headquarters in an attempt to breach a gate.

Afghan security forces arrived in time to prevent fighters from entering the compound, he says. Blaming the Taliban, he says all the gunmen fled the area.

In eastern Paktya province, three people were killed and one wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside mine, said the provincial police chief Zalmai Oryakhel.

On Sunday, at least 11 Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban ambush in Herat province in western Afghanistan. 

Security forces are facing their first fighting season without NATO combat support.


ISIL 'beheads women for the first time in Syria'

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has beheaded two women and their husbands in eastern Syria's Deir Ezzor province, a monitoring group said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that ISIL beheaded the couples after accusing them of using "magic for medicine".
It is not known what non-traditional health remedy the two couples had sought.
"It is the first time that the beheading of women, by the use of sword in public, has taken place in Syria," the Observatory's chief, Rami Abdel Rahman, told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera cannot confirm whether the executions represent the first time that women have been beheaded in Syria. Last year, ISIL reportedly beheaded at least three women who were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Kobane.
The more recent beheadings took place in the city of Deir Ezzor and the city of Mayadin. ISIL beheaded the first couple on Sunday and the second couple on Monday.
ISIL reportedly covered up both women and beheaded them, with many people watching, the Observatory said.

ISIL executions
The Observatory said earlier this week that it has documented 3,027 executions carried out by ISIL since the declaration of their 'caliphate', including those of 1,787 civilians, 74 of them children.
More than half of those executed were civilians and more than half of the executed civilians were members of the Sunni Shaitat tribe, which revolted against ISIL south of Deir Ezzor city in August 2014.
ISIL reportedly previously beheaded male British and American aid workers, American and Japanese journalists, Kurdish and Syrian soldiers.
With regard to women, the Observatory documented in late August in 2014, that ISIL gave its fighters 300 Yazidi women in Syria.


Dozens Killed In Indonesia As Military Plane Crashes Into Hotel And Houses

MEDAN, Indonesia, June 30 (Reuters) - At least 55 people were killed when a military transport plane crashed into a residential area shortly after take-off in northern Indonesia on Tuesday, but the toll looked set to rise after it emerged that more than 100 people had been on board.
"It looks like there are no survivors," Air Marshal Agus Supriatna told Metro TV in the Sumatra city of Medan, adding that some of the 113 passengers were air force families.
The crash of the C-130B Hercules aircraft, which went into service half a century ago, is bound to put a fresh spotlight on Indonesia's woeful air safety record and its aging planes.
Officials said the plane plunged into a built-up area of the Sumatra city of Medan. Eye witnesses said it had appeared to explode shortly before it smashed into houses and a hotel.

An official at a nearby hospital who declined to be named said that 55 bodies had been brought in so far. In the first hours after the crash officials had said that only a crew of 12 service personnel were on board.
Black smoke billowed from the wreckage and crowds of people milling around the area initially hampered emergency services rushing to the scene.
The Hercules transport plane was on its way from an air force base in Medan to Tanjung Pinang in Sumatra. Media said the pilot had asked to return because of technical problems.
"It passed overhead a few times, really low," said Elfrida Efi, a receptionist at the Golden Eleven Hotel.
"There was fire and black smoke. The third time it came by it crashed into the roof of the hotel and exploded straight away," she told Reuters by telephone.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 10 fatal crashes involving Indonesian military or police aircraft over the last decade. The accidents put under a spotlight the safety record of Indonesia's aviation and its aging aircraft.
AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore last December. All 162 people on board the Airbus A320 were killed.
"It's too early to say what caused today's disaster, but it will again raise concerns about air safety in Indonesia, especially since it comes just half a year after the crash of QZ8501," said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal, an aviation industry data and news service.
The Indonesian air force has now lost four C-130s, reducing its transport reach in an archipelagic country that stretches more than 5,000 km from its western to eastern tips.

Air force spokesman Dwi Badarmanto said it was unclear what caused the crash and, until it was, eight other C-130Bs would be grounded.
Although Indonesia accounted for nearly one-fifth of defense spending by Southeast Asian countries last year, as a percentage of GDP it was the lowest in the region at 0.8 percent, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data.
President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, has said he plans to double military spending to $15 billion by 2020.
However, the transport plane accident could bring pressure on the president to spend more on modernizing the air force.
"This incident shows us that we must renew our aircraft and our military equipment," Pramono Anung, a lawmaker and member of the parliamentary commission overseeing defense, told Reuters.

"The Hercules is already old, many of our other (weapons) systems are already old. As parliament we will support giving more funding to the military so that they can upgrade."

What Happens If The Iran Nuclear Talks Fall Apart

CAIRO (AP) — The Iranian nuclear talks are playing out in classic fashion: A self-imposed deadline appears to have been extended due to stubborn disputes, with the sides publicly sticking to positions and facing internal pressure from opponents ready to pounce on any compromise.
Should the talks actually collapse, the alternatives are not appealing. The war option that the United States has kept on the table has few fans, and the world community does not seem willing to impose truly crippling sanctions. A dangerous period of uncertainty looms.
Which way it goes may depend on which side needs a deal the most. Iran might seem the weaker party, with sanctions harming its economy. But its authoritarian regime puts up a convincingly brave front, and the Obama Administration, with its legacy on the line, seems at least as determined to conclude a deal.
Israel and Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia fear any scenario where Iran — a Shiite power with a theocratic government involved in conflicts all around the region — is even close to a bomb. Deeply skeptical of Iran's promises or of the West's ability to not be hoodwinked, they have no desire to see the deal that appears to be coming.

Here are some disquieting scenarios and questions to consider:


The Obama administration continues to say it has the option of using military force to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, should diplomacy fail. It does not provide details publicly, but military officials acknowledge that the most likely form of U.S. attack would be aerial bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities, some of which are deep underground. There likely are numerous variations on the drawing table.
Depending on the option picked by Obama, the U.S. military could call on a wide range of forces in such an attack, including one or more aircraft carriers, a full array of fighters, bombers and other combat aircraft stationed in or near the Middle East, and special operations forces that might be used to rescue downed pilots or enter Iran on sabotage or other secret missions.
Iran has a substantial air defense system — and Russia earlier this year lifted its self-imposed ban on sales to Iran of the advanced S-300 air defense missile. But even after Iranian deployment of such missiles, Obama says U.S. warplanes could penetrate Iranian airspace.
Still, senior Pentagon leaders have publicly stressed the limitations of bombing, saying it likely would delay Iran's development of a bomb by no more than three years while strengthening its inclination to covertly go nuclear — like other countries like North Korea and Israel have done. Leon Panetta said while heading the Pentagon in 2011 that U.S. bombing would have "unintended consequences." A retaliatory Iranian attack on Israel could lead to rapid escalation.
Israel itself has also made threatening noises, but the odds of unilateral military action seem slim: The Jewish state lacks the Americans' ability to destroy facilities deep underground, is vulnerable due to its small territory, and would risk undercutting the international pressure on Iran for a relatively small return.


It seems the world is not prepared to truly bring Iran to its knees by shutting off the flow of capital and goods. That would involve a tremendously expensive and politically explosive land and sea blockade as well as a militarily enforced no-fly zone across a country 2-1/2 times the size of Texas.
That leaves stiffer sanctions as the only realistic way to pressure Tehran economically. But even that could be a tough sell outside the U.S. The Iranian people who would suffer are largely captive, and some countries, like China, India and Japan, still depend on diminished but still significant exports of Iranian oil.
Iran is also a vast market that companies big and small are eager to tap. The longer sanctions stay in place, the greater the incentive for firms to find ways around them — potentially lessening the impact of any ratcheting up.
The U.S. has had sanctions against Iran in place ever since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and has tightened them several times in the years to include Tehran's crucial oil and banking sectors. There would be little to stop politicians in Washington from imposing even tougher measures on Tehran should talks break down and hopes for a deal fall through.
But there may be much less appetite for ramping up the sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union in recent years. As it is, sanctions discipline is already loosening as companies world-wide anticipate returning to the lucrative and underdeveloped Iranian market. Britain's ambassador to Washington, Peter Westmacott, said last month that "we are probably not far away from the high-water mark" of sanctions against Iran and said "sanctions erosion" would likely follow any collapse of talks.


After the initial recriminations, both sides are likely to look for ways to salvage the progress made over the past two years in reducing tensions and lowering the chance of a new Mideast war over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran says it will continue to honor the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its obligations with the UN's nuclear agency — meaning limited monitoring of its declared nuclear activities. But there will be great suspicion and Israel and others may ratchet up the covert war on the Iranian program; mysterious explosions, deaths and cyber-sabotage can be expected.
Iran may be ready to resume talks if alternatives arise to physical inspection of the non-nuclear sites. One possibility is advanced measuring instruments based on samples from surrounding areas, or samples taken by a mutually trusted Iranian expert while IAEA inspectors await just outside the sites. They may propose interviewing nuclear scientists only through an intermediary or written questions and answers. But the U.S. administration may find it politically difficult to agree to a new set of negotiations — with terms on nuclear transparency dictated by the Iranians — that are much weaker than it had sought.


They're unlikely to go all the way, but could push to reach "threshold" status. Iranian officials insist they do not intend to build a nuclear weapon, and there is a "fatwa," an Islamic ruling, against the very idea by the country's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet Tehran's bomb-making ability has grown, and with it the global agitation.
With no talks constraining Iran, it is likely to resume enriching uranium, which Tehran froze early last year under the preliminary deal that led to the present negotiation. Iran says that program is only for peaceful purposes, but enriched uranium can also form the fissile core of a nuclear warhead. If Iran opts to return to enriching at levels just a technical step away from weapons-grade, it could have enough fissile material for one bomb within months. This is the "breakout point" the deal is trying to extend to at least a year.
Iran is years away from the technical expertise needed not only to develop a working warhead but to be able to mount it on a powerful enough missile. But that — and the notion that Iran will stop at "threshold" level — is cold comfort to those who fear Iran.


The development would come when tensions between the rival Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam are at a historic high, with the sectarian divide fomenting wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere while threatening the stability of Lebanon and Bahrain and other countries in the region. Iran is Persian, not Arab — but it is emerging as the top Shiite power in the Middle East. Its hand is in many of the conflicts — whether overtly as in its support for the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and the Bashar Assad government in Syria, or more opaquely as in Yemen.
Thus, if Iran does become a threshold nuclear weapons state, a domino effect seems likely. Sunni Saudi Arabia — with the oil wealth to buy much of the nuclear prowess that Iran has labored to produce — has hinted it would feel compelled to acquire the same status. Egypt, could also follow suit. Israeli officials have said they believe Iran is aware that reaching the breakout point could have "serious consequences."


Aviation Experts Warn of Disaster After Drone’s Near-Miss With Airbus

A drone narrowly missed a commercial aircraft coming in to land at Heathrow in the second such incident in less than a year.

The object, widely believed to be a drone, was flown over the Airbus A320 at 1,700ft as it approached the runway at Heathrow, flying within 50ft of the aircraft.

The pilot reported that the object was ‘rectangular and appeared to be propellor driven’, indicating that it was a remote-controlled drone, according to a report by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB).
Aviations authorities have condemned the incidents as ‘irresponsible’.

According to The Times, the recent incident is the fourth recorded near-miss between a plane and an unmanned aircraft at a British airport.

Drones are available to anyone and can be bought for under £100 while more expensive models, which can cost up to £30,000, are capable of flying to around 11,000ft.

While some are used for commercial reasons, such as filming aerial shots for movies, capturing news footage or for surveillance, drones are becoming increasingly popular as ‘toys’ with high-street store Marlins selling more than 10,000 in 2014.

Despite being used as playthings, drones are still classified as ‘aircraft’ by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which provides strict guidelines on their use.

The rules state that drones should not be flown within 150m of built-up areas, or over crowds of more than 1,000 people or within 50m of any vehicle that is not under the user’s control - which would include aircraft. Users must keep drones within their sight at all times.

According to a survey carried out by the British Airline Pilots Assosociation (BALPA), more than half (52%) of the British public think that those who endanger an aircraft while flying a drone should be given a prison sentence.


NASA cuts live video transmission as THREE UFOs fly past Earth

NASA was reportedly forced to end a live stream from the International Space Station as THREE UFOs blasted out of Earth's atmosphere.

This shocking footage is causing quite a stir online. Some have already branded the clip definitive PROOF of alien lifeforms.

The video – which is reportedly shot from the International Space Station – shows three unidentified flying objects blast out of Earth’s atmosphere.

The lights leave our planet seconds before the live video feed is cut by NASA due to a reported “loss of signal”.

Conspiracy theorists have already labeled the YouTube clip – which has been watched more than 15,000 times – proof of alien life.

“BINGO Caught them red handed leaving earths orbit,” one viewer wrote on Youtube “Thats the kind of proof that is needed."

Another posted on the video sharing website: “Cut the cameras more that just confirms its true.”

The NASA footage – entitled “UFO Mysteries: UFOs, Angels Or Biological Creatures Seen Leaving The Earth?” – appeared online earlier this week.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

France attack suspect sent 'selfie' with victim's severed head: legal source

Paris (France) (AFP) - The man suspected of decapitating his boss and pinning his head to the gates of a gas factory in France sent a "selfie" with the severed head, a source close to the investigation said Saturday.

Yassin Salhi, 35, was arrested after driving his van into a warehouse containing dangerous gases near France's second city of Lyon. Authorities then found the severed head nearby.

The "selfie" picture was sent via the WhatsApp messaging system to a number in North America, said the source close to the investigation.

However, it was not possible to fix the location of Salhi's contact, the source added.


The US is starting to have an ISIS sympathizer problem

As the global US-led bombing campaign against ISIS approaches its first anniversary, the US is seeing an apparent rise in ISIS-related cases within its own borders.

Since ISIS seized and held its first cities and began building its "caliphate" in January 2015, the group has attracted increasing support from individual Americans who have drawn the attentions of US law enforcement. According to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, the rate of American individuals arrested for connections to ISIS has accelerated as recognition of the militant group's brand grows.

The center found that from March to December 2014, before the group held any territory, an average of one US citizen per month was arrested for ties to the organization. But from January 2015 to June 22, 2015, law enforcement arrested an average of 7 US citizens a month for connections to the terrorist group.

These arrests include US residents who are providing or attempted to provide various levels of support for the organization, from helping ISIS recruit via social media to planning domestic terror attacks to trying to leave the country to become a foreign fighter in Syria or Iraq.  The majority of those arrested, according to the center, are US citizens in their mid-twenties coming from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds.

Despite law enforcement's success in disrupting and arresting residents suspected of having ties to ISIS, The Soufan Group notes that there is still a large potential pool of suspects and followers of ISIS within the country. ISIS' nebulous nature and willingness to call on individuals to carry out lone-wolf attacks also makes policing against potential plots more difficult. 

"These disrupted plots and pre-plots varied widely in scope and threat but they all shared the characteristic of being inspired by the Islamic State rather than being directed by the group," The Soufan Group notes. "Traditional notions of command-and-control do not apply to the Islamic State, leaving traditional methods of law enforcement scrambling to adjust to plots where the fuse is lit not by an order but by an ideology."

The center notes that the major motivations driving US residents to join ISIS are resentment against US policy and feelings of alienation within US society, along with a favorable view of ISIS' military successes.


More terror attacks imminent in France, says Prime Minister Valls after Lyon attack

Saint-Quentin-Fallavier: Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned, on Saturday, that France faced more attacks to come after a grisly killing in which a suspected Islamist pinned the severed head of his boss to the gates of a gas factory.

The alleged assailant, identified as 35-year-old married father-of-three Yassin Salhi, also caused an explosion by smashing his vehicle into the Air Products factory near France's second city of Lyon.

The grisly killing came on the same day as two other attacks claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, which left 38 people dead at a beach resort in Tunisia and 27 in a suicide bombing in Kuwait.

The victim, a 54-year-old local businessman, was found with Arabic inscriptions scrawled on him and Islamic flags were also found on the site at the small town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Lyon.

His head was "hung onto the fence surrounded by two Islamic flags bearing the Shahada, the profession of (the Muslim) faith," said French prosecutor Francois Molins.

Valls said Friday's attack would create tension in France -- home to Western Europe's largest Muslim population -- that "will be exploited".

"It's difficult for a society to live for years under the threat of attack," he said, adding: "The question is not... if there will be another attack, but when."

This is the first time someone in France has been found beheaded by a suspected Islamist, a method of killing that has become a trademark of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

It also came nearly six months after the Islamist attacks in and around Paris that left 17 people dead, starting with a shooting at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Speaking in Brussels after cutting short an EU summit, French President Francois Hollande labelled the factory beheading "a terrorist attack," adding that "the intent was without doubt to cause an explosion".


UK cops foil ISIS terror plot in London: Report

LONDON: UK police have foiled a suicide bombing plot by the Islamic State (IS) group targeting an Armed Forces Day parade on Saturday, in a bid to kill soldiers from the regiment of Lee Rigby who was killed by Islamist extremists in 2013, a media report said.

The plot to explode a pressure-cooker bomb - to kill soldiers and bystanders on the route - was uncovered after one of its leaders in Syria unwittingly recruited an undercover investigator from the newspaper to carry it out, The Sun newspaper said.

The intended suicide bombing of the parade would have targeted soldiers from the same unit as murdered soldier Rigby, the report claimed.

It is alleged that a figure in IS, who it named as Junaid Hussain from Birmingham, told the paper's investigator: "It will be big. We will hit the kuffar (unbelievers) hard. Hit their soldiers in their own land.

"Soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan will be present. Jump in the crowd and detonate the bomb.

"They think they can kill Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan then come back to the UK and be safe. We'll hit them hard."

The newspaper said the plot to bomb the parade in Merton, south-west London, was thwarted when it informed police and security services.

The parade was targeted because it was closest to the barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, where Fusilier Rigby, 25, was hacked to death by Islamist extremists in May 2013, the newspaper said.

Fusiliers from his regiment, serving Gurkhas and war veterans would be among the 250 marchers, it added.

Prime Minister David Cameron said there will be "heightened security" at events paying tribute to British military. Police said they have stepped up security and have encouraged the public to attend events as normal.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The police, together with our security partners, remain alert to terrorist threats that may manifest here or where individuals overseas may seek to direct or inspire others to commit attacks in and against the UK.

"It is always helpful when journalists share with us information, as The Sun did in this case, that could indicate terrorist or criminal activity.

"Our priority is the safety and security for all those attending or involved - the public are encouraged to continue with their plans to attend or take part in events as normal."

Horror on the sand in Tunisian hotel massacre

Casually dressed in dark shorts, a necklace and T-shirt, he would have looked like any other young Tunisian among the German, British and Irish sunbathers soaking up the Mediterranean heat on one of Tunisia's long, yellow beaches.

In just five minutes, armed with the black Kalashnikov he had hidden in his beach umbrella, Saif Rezgui unleashed horror across the Imperial Marhaba resort, leaving 39 victims dead among the deck chairs and pool loungers.

It was the worst attack of its kind in Tunisia's modern history. Islamic State claimed responsibility though authorities say Rezgui, a 24-year-old student, was not on any terrorism watch list or a known militant.

Witnesses say the gunman, dressed like a tourist, drew little attention. He opened fire suddenly, making his way from the beach to the pool and hotel, selecting foreigners, pursuing his victims even as they fled indoors.
Rezgui was apparently well aware of the hotel's layout, a security source said. He had time to reload his rifle at least twice before he was finally confronted and shot dead by police outside the hotel.

Panicked tourists fled from the beach, running among the umbrellas, some falling among the white plastic sun loungers, their bodies later to be covered with towels and sheets. Blood was smeared over the steps leading into the hotel.

"It was horror what we saw, he was killing in an incredible way. It was clear he knew the hotel, he was everywhere," said Neil, an English tourist leaving Sousse with his wife. "He took seven minutes killing. They was no sign he was an extremist, he just looked like a normal young man."

A popular tourism destination, Tunisia has emerged from political upheaval after its 2011 uprising against autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Praised for its transition to democracy, the country is also struggling with rising Islamist militancy.

Tunisian authorities were already on the alert, months after two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, gunning down Japanese, French and Spanish visitors as they arrived by bus.

Like the Bardo attackers, the young Tunisian gunman appears to have fallen prey to extremist recruiters, radicalised and drawn away from his life as a student in a very short time, security sources said.

Since the 2011 uprising, Tunisia has seen radical imams and ultraconservative groups extend their influence, taking over mosques and setting up religious schools in the early turmoil of the country's transition.

More than 3,000 Tunisians are fighting for Islamic State and other groups in Iraq, Syria and neighbouring Libya. Some have warned they will return to carry out attacks in their homeland, one of the most secular nations in the Arab world.

By official accounts, Rezgui was a dedicated student from a stable family who enjoyed partying and practiced break-dancing. In a pattern similar to other Tunisia jihadists, he appeared to have come into contact with extremist preachers about six months ago, a senior security source said.

The two Bardo gunmen were also radicalised in their local mosques by hardliners. They were sent to Libya for training and showed no outward signs of their new extremist beliefs.

"He was a good student and always attending class," Prime Minister Habib Essid said. "Our investigations show he didn't reveal any signs of extremism, or ties to terrorists. He wasn't even on a watch list."


It was not the first time Sousse had been targeted. In October 2013, a young Tunisian militant blew himself up on a Sousse beach, killing only himself, after he was refused entry into a hotel. A fellow attacker was caught before he could detonate his bomb among tourists at a popular monument not far away.

The Bardo killings in March had been the worst massacre since the 2002 attack on a synagogue on the tourist island of Djerba, where an al Qaeda suicide bomber killed 21 people.

The Imperial Marhaba is an all-inclusive resort on the long stretch of beach that makes up the Sousse waterfront. A giant pool sits among palm trees set back from the beach.

Packed with European holiday-makers, the resort would have been a desired target for Islamist groups who have attacked North African tourist sites before, seeing them as legitimate targets because of their open Western lifestyles and tolerance of alcohol.

Islamic State praised the gunman's operation against a "bordello".

"I was on the beach when he started shooting. We got everyone back towards the hotel, but he followed us. He targeted the foreigners but not the Tunisians," said Wadia, a waiter.

"When he saw a Tunisian he shouted out 'Get out of the way' and shot at foreigners."


Arrests made over Kuwait Shia mosque attack

Kuwait has arrested several people in connection with the suicide bombing of a Shia Muslim mosque on Friday that killed 27 people, according to a security source.

A mass funeral was held on Saturday after the Gulf country’s worst militant attack in years, which has been claimed by Islamic State (Isis). Thousands of both Shias and Sunnis took part in the service at Kuwait’s Grand Mosque – the largest place of worship for Sunni Muslims.

More than 220 people were wounded in the al-Imam al-Sadiq mosque, the first attack on a Muslim place of worship in the emirate.

The interior ministry said an unspecified number of suspects were being questioned in connection with the attack, including the owner of the vehicle that took the bomber to the mosque. Officials were now looking for the driver of the Japanese-made car, who left the mosque immediately after the bombing.

Shias form a third of Kuwait’s 1.3 million native population, and Sunni groups have been quick to condemn the attack that Kuwait’s emir, the government, parliament and clerics have said was aimed at igniting sectarian tensions.

The nation’s leader, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, visiting the site of the bombing, said that the “criminal attack is a desperate and evil attempt targeting Kuwait’s national unity”.

Authorities said the victims would be laid to rest at the Shia cemetery, west of the capital. Saturday has been declared an official day of mourning.

A group in Saudi Arabia calling itself Najd Province, which said it is affiliated with Isis, named Abu Suleiman al-Muwahhid as the mosque bomber. The group said that the mosque had been promoting Shia Islam, which it considers to be heresy.

The statement on Twitter said the bomber had targeted a “temple of the apostates”. The same group had claimed responsibility for a pair of bombing attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks.

The Kuwaiti justice, religious endowment and Islamic affairs minister, Yacoub al-Sanna, described the attack as a “terrorist and cowardly action which threatens our nation and works at tearing apart the national unity”.

Sanna told the official state agency Kuna that the government would take all necessary measures to ensure protection of houses of worship. “Kuwait was, and will remain, the oasis of security and safety to all components of the Kuwaiti society and sects,” he said.

Kuwait also has increased security to the highest level at state-run oil companies.


Friday, June 26, 2015

HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier powers up for first time

Graphic of HMS Queen Eizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth's huge diesel generators have been powered up for the first time at the home of the UK's aircraft carrier programme in Rosyth.

The move brings the 65,000-tonne future flagship of the Royal Navy closer to becoming an operational warship.

The first of the ship's four generators was officially started by defence procurement minister Philip Dunne.

The warship is due to be handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 2016 ahead of being put into service in 2020.

Work is already under way on a second aircraft carrier, HMS Prince Of Wales.

Both warships are being built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a partnership between BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence.

HMS Queen Elizabeth's diesel generator sets will provide sufficient electrical power to drive the ship at cruise speeds. However, when higher speed is required, two gas turbine alternators will also be used.

Together they will produce 109MW of power - enough to power a medium-sized town.

Mr Dunne said: "It is a real pleasure to be back in Scotland, home of the UK's shipbuilding industry, to witness the impressive progress that is being made on our new aircraft carriers.

"Powering up the diesel generator today marks an important milestone on the journey to bring these highly versatile ships into service with our Armed Forces."


How Russian Militants Declared A New ISIS 'State' In Russia's North Caucasus

The Islamic State group announced the creation of its northernmost province this week, after accepting a formal pledge of allegiance from former al Qaeda militants in the North Caucasus region of Russia. An Islamic State wilayat, or province, in the autonomous republics of the country’s south may seem far-fetched, but the militant group has been preparing to announce its branch in the Caucasus for months.

With the addition of what it calls Wilayat Qawqaz, or Caucasus Province, in a heavily Muslim region of Russia, the group formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS has now declared it has provinces in nine countries outside Iraq and Syria. Militants in the North Caucasus region initiated the allegiance process as early as last December, and fulfilled all the requirements Wednesday, when an Islamic State leader or sheikh, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, announced that the militants had been accepted into the group in an audio statement circulated through social media.

In the past, the Islamic State group has been cautious when announcing its new wilayats, choosing areas where affiliated organizations were certain to succeed. Target countries are usually those with pre-existing sectarian tensions, a marginalized Sunni population and a large number of fighters who had already joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Wilayat Qawqaz fulfilled those requirements. Chechens make up a large proportion of the foreign fighters who have joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, where they are reputed to be the so-called caliphate’s toughest combatants. The number of militants in the new Wilayat Qawqaz is unknown, but experts believe most of them have not trained in Iraq and Syria. While it is too soon to tell, it’s likely militants will focus on local attacks.

In the short term, however, “this may have little immediate practical consequence for Russian security,” according to a report by the Soufan Group, a security-services company based in New York.

The creation of a province in the area will help additional fighters make their way to Iraq and Syria, experts said.

“People who would have left, people who feel like they need to fight in Iraq and Syria, will continue to do that, but the pledge came from militants who felt like they needed to stay and wage jihad from within the Caucasus,” said Harleen Gambhir, counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a military-focused think tank headquartered in Washington. “It will definitely make it easier for people who want to go Iraq and Syria to get in touch with ISIS networks in the area.”

Despite these factors, it still took months for the Islamic State group to accept the militants’ pledge of allegiance. The extremist group has a strict pledge-of-allegiance process for those interested in recognition from so-called caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The basic requirements for any hopeful organization are to have a unified leadership and a strong base of fighters, and to have consolidated other organizations in the area under an emir, or leader, who has had previous contact with Islamic State leaders.

The first pledges of allegiance from the Caucasus came last November, and they were celebrated (but not accepted) in the January edition of the Islamic State propaganda magazine Dabiq. By that point, the militant group had announced in the magazine that the process of creating this new wilayat was “under way.”

During the past month, media outlets affiliated with the Islamic State group have increased their propaganda output in the Russian language, signaling the announcement was coming. The miltant group’s main media outlet al-Hayat launched a Russian-language magazine at the end of May, presumably targeted toward militants in what is now Wilayat Qawqaz. The magazine contained statements by Chechens serving with the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria about their recent operations and the military skills they’ve acquired while fighting with the militant group.

This month, the leader of one of the most powerful branches of the official al Qaeda affiliate in the area, the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, released an audio statement pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.

This recent pledge “may have been the catalyst for [the] ISIS leader to say, ‘OK, now we have enough support, we can go ahead and do this,’” Gambhir said.

A so-called Islamic emirate has been active as an official al Qaeda branch in the North Caucasus region since 2007. It did not pledge allegiance to Baghdadi entirely. However, leaders and militants with four of its six divisions defected from al Qaeda and joined the Islamic State group, according to a statement by former members circulated via social media last week.


ISIS’ Wilayat Najd shatters GCC’s ironclad security perceptions

On June 26, ISIS’s Saudi Arabia-based branch, known as Wilayat Najd, claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing against a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers in central Kuwait City’s Sawabir area. Reports indicated that at least 24 people were killed and dozens injured in the attack. Initial reports also state that the suicide bomber is a Saudi national.

This is Wilayat Najd’s third suicide attack in two months. In May, two Shiite mosques were targeted in separate attacks, also during Friday prayers and also by Saudi nationals.

Context and Analysis

According to ISIS’s map of the “Caliphate” released in 2014, the “Hijaz” encompasses the majority of Saudi Arabia, as well as Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and part of Oman. However, while these may be self-declared boundaries, real borders separate these countries. Wilayat Najd’s claim, therefore, demonstrates the group’s ability to conduct attacks and recruit members in other countries that fall under its self-declared purview.

In this context, even if the suicide attacker recently traveled from Saudi Arabia, he would still require assistance in Kuwait. Moving between countries by such an individual would be difficult enough, particularly given the capabilities and reach of the Saudi intelligence forces, but carrying explosives across borders would be exponentially more problematic. This points to an increased likelihood that a Kuwait-based cell operates as part of the broader Wilayat Najd. It also suggests the concerning possibility that similar groups exist or could exist in Bahrain, UAE, Qatar, and even Oman.

Wilayat Najd’s own perception of its borders thus makes joint security operations and intelligence sharing among the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations even more imperative. A meeting of relevant officials regarding efforts to improve and increase security cooperation should be expected. Kuwait is likely to follow in Saudi Arabia’s footsteps by heightening security at sensitive locations, including Shiite mosques, and conducting arrest operations for ISIS sympathizers. Under the existing circumstances the remaining GCC states may also follow suit with these or similar preemptive measures.

Isis Expansion Along U.S. Borders

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Our southern border is long and U.S. border patrol agents work to fight illegal activity like illegal immigration, drugs and now according to an FBI consultant, the border could be an attractive region for ISIS thanks in part to powerful drug lords.

"Drug dealers have found a way to move money without it being followed,” said Tyrone Powers, Former FBI Agent. “They found a way to move people in and out and they found a way to move product."

That product powers refers to is tons and tons of meth, heroin and pot transferred through a labyrinth of tunnels from Mexico.

Drugs that are headed for the streets of the U.S.

But these tunnels could easily be an underground highway for ISIS to spawn its brutality here.

"The stronger they get over there, the more power they have so I can definitely see, in the future, collaboration between terrorist groups and drug dealers to our south," said Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, 2016 Presidential Candidate

"It's individuals they bring into this country, maybe at some point, suicide bombers which is really scary and then weapons of mass destruction," said Powers.

Terrorist experts say the epidemic of unstable leadership in Mexico, combined with ruthless drug cartels creates a vacuum.

"What's been going on in Mexico creates an opportunity for any organization to try to take advantage of it, whether it's ISIS or Al Shabbab," said Brandon Behlendorf, Terrorist Targeting Strategist.

Two major drug cartels that could attract ISIS cover a lot of land in Mexico. Both skirt the U.S. border.

The Sinalos Federation takes up western Mexico and borders Texas to California.

Los Zetas occupies eastern Mexico and hugs the southern Texas border.

Experts say Al Qaeda already tried linking up with drug lords in Mexico roughly 15 years ago. But to no avail.

But Isis is far more determined than Al Qaeda.

"It makes logical sense for ISIS to do this,” said powers. “But I do not think they'll be catching the intelligence agencies off guard, because this has been a persistent problem whether it was Al Qaeda or any other group."


ISIL battles Kurdish forces in northern Syria

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched twin assaults Thursday after Kurdish-led forces, supported by U.S.-led airstrikes, advanced to within 30 miles of Raqqa city, the de facto capital of ISIL's self-declared “caliphate.“
ISIL fighters have launched attacks on two fronts in northern Syria, re-entering the Kurdish town of Kobane and seizing parts of the city of Hasakah.
In both cases, ISIL has picked targets where it is difficult for the U.S.-led alliance to provide air support. In Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, aerial bombardment of residential areas risks civilian casualties.
Meanwhile the U.S.-led alliance has avoided bombing ISIL targets in areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, such as government-held Hasaka — one of his last footholds in the northeast.
The United States and its European and Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes on ISIL since last year in an effort to roll back the group, which has seized wide swaths of Syria and Iraq.
The attack on the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane and the nearby village of Brakh Bootan left at least 120 civilians dead, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 
The assault is the single biggest massacre of civilians by ISIL since it killed hundreds of members of the Sunni Sheitaat tribe in eastern Syria last year, the Observatory's Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The attack involved at least three suicide car bombs, and the dead included the elderly, women and children, Rahman said.

ISIL fighters were reported to number in the low dozens and entered the town in five cars disguised as members of the Kurdish fighting group YPG and Syrian rebel groups.

Fighting was ongoing inside the town, Rahman said.

Kobane was the site of one of the biggest battles against ISIL in 2014. The Kurdish forces eventually drove ISIL out in January with the help of U.S. airstrikes and Iraqi Kurdish fighters after months of fighting.

ISIL advanced rapidly last month, seizing cities in Syria and Iraq. But recent Kurdish advances in Syria shifted the momentum once more. ISIL fighters have often adopted a tactic of attacking elsewhere when they lose ground.

The armed group wrested control of at least one district of Hasaka city in its raid there on Thursday. The city is divided into zones run separately by the Syrian government and the Kurdish administration that controls the YPG.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said an estimated 50,000 people had been displaced within Hasaka city while 10,000 had left northward toward Amuda town, close to the Turkish border.

Speaking to Syrian state TV, the governor of Hasaka said the city was “safe and secure.” He urged people to return home.

But the Observatory said fighting continued in the city. Government forces were carrying out airstrikes targeting areas south of Hasaka controlled by ISIL, it added.

Assad has since late March lost areas of northwestern, southern and central Syria to a patchwork of armed groups.