Newspaper retracts report of Turkish jets attacking Syrian rebels

Turkish-Syrian borderBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
A Turkish newspaper has retracted a report stating that Turkish military jets entered Syrian territory and destroyed an outpost belonging to an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, after its members attacked a Turkish military garrison along the Syrian-Turkish border. In a published correction, the paper said instead that the Turkish army opened fire from inside Turkey. Today’s Zaman, the English-language edition of Turkish daily Zaman, reported on January 29 that Turkish F-16s had entered Syrian territory and had bombed a stationary convoy of vehicles belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS, an al-Qaeda-linked group that made its appearance in Syria in April of last year. The origins of ISIS are in Iraq, where it was founded in 2003 as a Sunni armed paramilitary force, in response to the invasion by the United States. In 2004, the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and changed its name to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Many observers argue that, in recent months, ISIS has turned into “one of the most powerful forces on the ground” in Syria, with 7,000 well-armed fighters, many of whom are battle-hardened foreign Islamists. It is widely believed that ISIS now dominates Syria’s northwest, having established outposts in a series of “strategic towns” in the region, which are referred to by its leaders as “mini emirates”. Through these outposts, ISIS fighters are able to monitor border traffic between Syria and Turkey, and effectively control most border passages. After retracting its earlier report, Today’s Zaman said the Turkish military used “tanks and artillery fire” to attack the ISIL outpost. Read more of this post

Analysis: How al-Qaeda changed the Syrian Civil War

Regional map of SyriaBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Until relatively recently, few observers believed that the government of Bashar al-Assad had a future in war-torn Syria. But the situation in the world’s most active battle zone has changed drastically in recent months, and now many suggest that the Assad forces are dominating the conflict. In a recent article in The New York Review of Books, Sarah Birke, a Middle East correspondent for The Economist, argues that it was the presence of al-Qaeda that changed the balance of power between the warring sides. She points the finger at the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS, an al-Qaeda-linked group that made its appearance in Syria in April of last year. Since that time, ISIS has turned into “one of the most powerful forces on the ground”, with 7,000 well-armed fighters, many of whom are battle-hardened foreign Islamists. The origins of ISIS are in Iraq, where it was founded in 2003 as a Sunni armed paramilitary force, in response to the invasion by the United States. In 2004, the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and changed its name to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). The United States government has pledged $10 million in return for information leading to the capture of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but with no success so far. In the spring of 2003, the Iraqi-born al-Baghdadi announced the merger of AQI with the Al-Nusra Front, AQI’s branch in Syria. Since that time, the two unified groups have been commonly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham —al-Sham being a reference to ‘greater Syria’, known also as ‘the Levant’. Birke reports that ISIS now dominates Syria’s northwest, having established outposts in a series of “strategic towns” in the region, which are referred to by its leaders as “mini emirates”. Through these outposts, ISIS fighters are able to monitor border traffic between Syria and Turkey, and effectively control most border passages. This has crippled the Free Syrian Army, which used to dominate the Syrian opposition with the help of generous donations of money and war material coming in from Turkey. Read more of this post

MI6 set up fake mosque in Europe to attract Muslim extremists

Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi in 2007By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British and Libyan intelligence collaborated during the reign of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, in setting up a radical mosque in a European city aimed at luring Muslim extremists. The revelation was made last weekend by British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, which said it was in possession of documents describing the complex ruse. The paper said that the documents, which were authored by MI6, were discovered in the abandoned headquarters of the ESO, Libya’s External Security Organization, following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime. They allegedly describe a series of operations resulting from the close collaboration between the ESO and MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, which began in 2003. During that time, the two intelligence agencies re-established contact in the context of the diplomatic ‘thaw’ between London and Tripoli, which began with Libya’s decision to abandon its nuclear weapons program. With ESO’s assistance, MI6 recruited an agent who was “closely connected” to a senior al-Qaeda commander in Iraq. Codenamed JOSEPH, the agent was slowly groomed to infiltrate an al-Qaeda cell operating in a Western European city. The project’s ultimate goal was for JOSEPH to help establish a mosque aimed at luring Muslim extremists planning to launch terrorist attacks. The Telegraph states that the name of the city, which is in continental Europe, “cannot be named for security reasons”. In December 2003, JOSEPH was flown to the UK by MI6, along with a Libyan intelligence officer who had previously been stationed in London. The two men met with MI6 officers in a British hotel, where they discussed plans to set up the mosque. After taking some time to address JOSEPH’s strong reservations about his personal safety, MI6 officers met with him again in 2004 in “a city in the north of England”. Read more of this post

USAF interrogator says torture caused thousands of US troops’ deaths in Iraq

Matthew Alexander is the pseudonym used by a former US Air Force interrogator. He served for fourteen years, undertook special missions in over 30 countries and conducted or supervised over 1,300 interrogations. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his tour in Iraq, which he completed in 2006. Alexander has authored an editorial in The Washington Post, titled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq”. The article is deeply critical of what Alexander describes as “the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the US military conducts interrogations in Iraq”. Read more of this post