Iraq: US ground troops battle ISIS

US ground forces fought their first direct battle against ISIS militants, Iraq's Shafaq news agency reported Dec. 16. The battle came when ISIS forces launched an attack on Ain al-Assad base, 90 kilometers from Ramadi, capital of Anbar governorate. Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi, a local tribal leader, said that "US forces intervened because…ISIS started to come near the base." He added that he welcomed the US intervention, saying he hoped it will "not be the last." The US troops seem to have been backing up a mixed force of Iraqi government soliders and local tribal fighters. Nimrawi said that the "US promised to provide tribal fighters who are in that region…with weapons." (Shafaq News, Dec. 16)

The bodies of 230 people apparently killed by ISIS were meanwhile found in a mass grave uncovered by their relatives in Syria's Deir Ezzor governorate, near the Iraqi border. The discovery brings the number of Shaitat tribal members slain during the ISIS' summer advance in Deir Ezzor to more than 900, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The "vast majority" were civilians, many of them summarily executed after the tribe rose up against ISIS. (AFPBBC News, Dec. 17)

  1. US approved secret talks with ISIS?

    The Guardian claims to have seen e-mails indicating that "US counter-terrorism officials" secretly approved talks with the ISIS "spiritual leadership" (sic) to seek the release of Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig, a US national held hostage by the group, and executed in a typically grisly video released last month. Kassig had converted to Islam while held for more than a year by ISIS. The unsucessful talks were apparently brokered by New York attorney Stanley Cohen, recently convicted on a federal tax-related offense, and a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who The Guardian says it was asked not to name. The talks broke down when one of the clerics serving as a mediator was arrested by Jordanian authorities for spreading Qaedist ideology. The arrested cleric is named by the Daily Mail as Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi. Cleric Abu Qatada was also involved in the effort.

  2. ISIS executed almost 2,000 in Syria over six months

    ISIS executed 1,878 people in Syria over the past six months, reported UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) Dec. 28. Of those killed, 120 were members of IS who were foreign fighters trying the leave the ranks and head home. However, the majority of those executed were civilians. The head of the SOHR, Rami Abdulrahman, said 930 civilians were members of the al-Sheitaat, a Sunni tribe in eastern Syria. The tribe fought ISIS in July over control of two oil fields. Many civilians were executed for actions seen as violating Islamic law, such as stealing, blasphemy, adultery and homosexuality.

    From Jurist, Dec. 29. Used with permission.

  3. ISIS attack Iraqi base housing US troops

    ISIS militants attacked Ayn al-Assad Air Base in Anbar, which housed US military personnel. All the militants were killed before coming anywhere near the US forces, Central Command said in a statement. (CNN, Feb. 13)