Briefing :- 17/6/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 17th of June, 2017 :-

1. Philippine troops pound Islamists as death toll crosses 300 :-

Philippine troops pounded Islamist militants holding parts of southern Marawi city with air strikes and artillery Saturday as more soldiers were deployed and the death toll rose to more than 300 after nearly a month of fighting.

The overall death toll rose to 329 with 310 — 225 militants, 59 soldiers and 26 civilians — killed in the conflict, according to government figures.

The 19 other deaths came from those displaced by the fighting, said Mujiv Hataman, the governor of a Muslim autonomous region in the south.

Hataman said the deaths among the evacuees were caused by severe dehydration from diarrhoea.

Fires erupted and dark plumes of smoke rose from enclaves still occupied by the militants as the air force staged bombing runs to support ground troops struggling to dislodge the fighters from entrenched positions, AFP journalists at the scene said.

MG520 attack helicopters and FA50 fighter jets were used in the raids, while sustained bursts of automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance, indicating the intensity of the fighting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, appearing in public for the first time in nearly a week, said the presence of foreign fighters from the Islamic State (IS) group among the militants in Marawi has made the fighting more difficult.

“You have a conglomeration there of IS fighters from Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lankans and Arabs,” he told soldiers during a visit to a military camp in Butuan city, northeast of Marawi, in the southern region of Mindanao.

“We have to use the air assets because we are up against fighters from the Middle East and they have learned the art of brutal killing — they will burn you, behead you,” he said.

Duterte’s absence had fuelled speculation about the state of the 72-year-old leader’s health.

Also on Saturday, 400 fresh troops were airlifted to Marawi from the central Philippines, ANC television said quoting military officials.

Television footage showed the soldiers bidding goodbye to their families before being flown to the conflict zone.

Hundreds of militants — supported by foreign fighters — rampaged through Marawi, the largely Christian Philippines’ most important Muslim city, on May 23 waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Duterte declared martial law in  Mindanao to counter the attack, which he said was part of a plan by IS to establish a base in the country.

Such a base could be crucial for IS’ ambitions to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia, analysts say.

The military has said at least eight foreign fighters from Chechnya, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia were among the militants killed in the Marawi fighting.

2. Trump business profits surge after becoming President, owes lenders $315 million :-

Becoming president forced Donald Trump to resign from a slew of corporate positions, but it also appears to have netted him much more income from his Mar-a-Lago resort and from book sales.

According to a financial disclosure form released late Friday, Trump earned around $37 million this year from the Florida resort — a seven million dollar increase from last year.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Trump had personal liabilities of at least $315.6 million to German, US and other lenders as of mid-2017.

Since coming becoming president on January 20, Trump has travelled to the Palm Beach property often and upped the membership fees substantially.

He has frequently referred to the property as the “Winter White House” and sought to promote the venue as an official presidential residence.

Trump’s trips to Florida bring with them a retinue of Secret Service agents and government staff, who are reported to stay there at US taxpayers’ expense.

The disclosure was made in forms released by the Office of Government Ethics. They are less detailed than full tax returns, which Trump has refused to release, breaking with decades of tradition.

The 98-page document shows that being president has also apparently increased Trump’s earnings from sales of his book “The Art of the Deal” published in 1987 and that he resigned from positions in 565 companies on or around the day before becoming president.

His assets range from Pfizer stocks to a drinks company in Israel, but the disclosure also showed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

3. Senior IS-Khorasan media member killed in air strike :-

A senior media member of Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghanistan branch of the Middle East-nased Islamist organisation, has been killed, the US military said.

The Hill reported that a June 3 air strike in Achin, Nangarhar province, killed Jawad Khan, the senior director of ISIS-K media production, and destroyed a major media production hub for the group.

This comes close on the heels of Russia claiming to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 air strike.

The US military statement said Khan’s killing was an important breakthrough as the Islamic State would be “deprived” of an “experienced media production director and skilled propagandist”.

Commander General John Nicholson stated that the death “will disrupt the ISIS-K network, degrade their recruitment process and hinder their attempts to conduct international operations.

There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan. With our Afghan partners we will continue to aggressively target IS-K and defeat them.”

The statement also confirmed that there were no civilian casualties associated with the strike.

IS has been fighting to get a foothold in Afghanistan.

The US estimates that there are 600 to 3,000 IS fighters in Afghanistan, with most of them operating in Nangarhar province.

Although the now-dormant Al Qaeda has no direct links with Islamic State, it is believed that IS’ branch in Afghanistan was primarily launched by disgruntled Al Qaeda members.

Islamic State-Khorasan recently chased the Taliban away from Tora Bora, a one-time Osama bin Laden hideout.

4. Israeli policewoman stabbing: Islamic State, Hamas fight to claim responsibility :-

Palestinian militant factions denied on Saturday a claim by Islamic State that three Palestinian men who carried out a fatal shooting and stabbing attack in Jerusalem were members of the militant group.

Islamic State took responsibility for the attack on Friday, in which one Israeli police officer was killed and another wounded, according to the group’s Amaq news agency.

Israeli security officials did not respond immediately to requests for comment on what the SITE intelligence monitoring group described as the first time Islamic State had claimed responsibility for an attack in Israeli-controlled territory, nor on the attackers’ affiliation.

However, a senior official from Hamas, the Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the three attackers, who were all shot dead at the scene, were their own members.

“The three hero martyrs who executed the Jerusalem operation have no connection to Daesh (Islamic State), they are affiliated with the PFLP and Hamas,” Hamas’ Izzat El-Reshiq wrote on Twitter.

The PFLP published a separate statement in which it identified two of the three attackers as members. “The media office of the PFLP armed wing mourns two of its hero comrades, two freed prisoners,” it said.

Israeli police said on Friday all the assailants were from Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank. Two of the attackers, both from Ramallah, were between the ages of 18 and 19 and the third was a 30-year-old from Hebron, police spokeswoman Luba Simri said.

The assaults took place simultaneously in two areas near the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s walled old city.

Two Palestinians were shot dead after opening fire at and trying to stab a group of Israeli police officers at one scene, police said. At the other, a Palestinian fatally stabbed a border policewoman before being shot dead by police.

A wave of Palestinian street attacks began in October 2015 but has since slowed. Israel blames the violence on incitement by the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, denies that and says assailants have acted out of desperation over Israeli occupation of land sought by Palestinians for a state.

U.S.-brokered peace talks between the sides broke down in 2014. Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

5. Shafi Amar, IS’ India recruiter, on US global terrorist list :-

The fugitive chief recruiter for the Islamic State in the Indian subcontinent Mohammed Shafi Armar was today named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US, becoming the first Indian leader of the dreaded terror outfit against whom America has slammed sanctions.

The US State Treasury Department, while updating its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), has included in it Armar, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka, clearing the way for sanctions against him.

An Interpol Red Corner notice is also pending against the 30-year-old Armar, who has many aliases like Chhote Maula, Anjan Bhai and Yousuf al-Hindi.

Armars name has now been added to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury Department which enforces economic sanctions programmes, primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers.

The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals of the US.

This is for the first time that the US has slammed sanctions against an Islamic State (IS) leader in India.

“Mohammed Shafi Armar is a leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, IS, the State Department said.

“He has cultivated a group of dozens of IS sympathisers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps,” said the statement.

Armar was said to have left for Pakistan along with his elder brother after crackdown on Indian Mujahideen cadres.

After a fight with Bhatkal brothers, including Riyaz, the founder of IM, in Pakistan, Armar is believed to have created Ansar ul Tawhid, which later pledged its allegiance to the IS.

There have been many reports of him having been dead in a drone attack or crackdown by the allied forces. However, every time intelligence agencies began giving credence to such reports, his name or voice cropped up in intercepts.

Tech savvy, Armar has been operating on Facebook and other personal messenger services to contact, brainwash and recruit youths from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

His links to the IS were also the highlight of the interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested near the Nepal border in 2013.

Armar first came on the radar of investigation agencies when the NIA was probing suspected Islamic State cadres in Ratlam of Madhya Pradesh.

During the interrogation of alleged IS operatives, it emerged that Armar was motivating and radicalising Muslim youths in India. He was said to have been recruiting youths for the Jund ul Khalifa-e-Hind through online radicalisation.

The NIA had charge-sheeted him along with five others for allegedly conspiring to carry out terror strikes in the national capital and also during ardh kumbh in Haridwar.

The National Investigation Agency had told a special court that these accused were planning to assemble Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) using extracts from “match sticks”.

The United Arab Emirates had deported three Indians who were allegedly working for Armar.

It emerged during the interrogation of IM suspects that he was a self-proclaimed ally of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, chief of the IS.

Two other IS leaders in Europe and the Middle East, Oussama Ahmad Atar and Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali were also listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US.

Oussama is a senior leader of IS external operations efforts and has established a network to carry out attacks in Europe.

“He was a leading coordinator of the November 2015 Paris attacks and March 2016 attacks in Brussels, the State Department said.

The Belgian-Moroccan national was responsible for recruiting, training, and sending at least some of the individuals to Paris to launch the November 2015 attacks, which killed and injured hundreds, including Americans, it said.

He also recruited and mentored two of the bombers involved in the March 2016 Brussels attacks that killed 32 and left many more wounded.

Mohammed Binali is a senior member of IS who departed Bahrain to join the terrorist group in 2014 and has since appeared in multiple ISIS propaganda videos calling on Bahrainis, specifically members of Bahrain’s security forces, to join IS, it said.

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