The Kurdish news agency Rudaw reports Aug. 28 that the First Kakai Battalion of the Peshmerga, a 630-strong force made up entirely of members of the Kakai religious minority, is preparing to go into battle against ISIS along the frontline near Daquq—and protests that they are being denied the weaponry they need. When ISIS swept into northern Iraq last year, commander Farhad Nezar Kakai urged the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish the Kakai force to defend the minority's nine villages near the frontline in Kirkuk governorate. "After the catastrophe of Shingal, we felt that same thing could happen to Kakais," Nezar told Rudaw, referring to the massacre of thousands of Yazidis at Mount Sinjar (as it is more commonly rendered). The Kakai, like the Yazidis, are followers of a pre-Islamic faith, and targeted for extremination by ISIS.
Robert Doggart, apparently an ordained minister in something called the Christian National Church, pleaded guilty last month in a plot to massacre Muslims at an upstate New York village known as Islamberg. Doggart, a resident of Signal Mountain, Tenn., was detained by the FBI April 11 as he was evidently planning to burn down the school, mosque and cafeteria at Islamberg—formerly Hancock, in Delaware county along the Pennsylvania border, in the southwestern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. "Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives," he wrote in an indiscreet social media post. "We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God. We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace." Court papers say he intended to use an M-4 assault rifle and explosives, and sought to recruit volunteers for the attack from right-wing militia groups. He was apprehended while planning a reconnaissance mission to Islamberg. Doggart ran as an independent for Congress in Tennessee's 4th District last year, but was handily defeated.
With Islamist-led militia in nearly complete control of the Libyan capital, the historic Othman Pasha Madrassa in Tripoli's Old City was vandalized Oct. 11 by a crowd of gunmen. The door to the madrassa was smashed, books and Korans stolen, and the tree in the center of the courtyard chopped down, in "an act of apparent sheer vindictiveness." The madrassa was apparently targeted because it has for many years been a Sufi institution. It had been similarly attacked two years ago, with graves from its cemetery dug up and the remains removed. Also Oct. 11, gunmen attempted to invade the Darghouth Mosque across a narrow street from the madrassa, but were prevented by armed locals. (Libya Herald, Oct. 12)
ISIS militants on Sept. 17 detonated explosive charges to destroy the Citadel of Tikrit, birthplace of Salahaddin Ayubi (popularly rendered Saladin), one of the most important archeological sites in Iraq. Iornically, Saladin is a revered figure in Islam, who liberated much of Palestine from the Crusaders and recaptured Jerusalem for the Muslims in 1187. But ISIS charged that the place is revered as a shrine, and the fact that Saladin was Kurdish may have added to their intolerance of the site's veneration. Since seizing northern Iraq. ISIS have bombed many cultural, archeological and holy places of all the region's religions, including the tomb of the Prophet Younis in Mosul, the tomb of Baba Yadgar in Kakayi and other holy places of the Yazidis and Christians. (BasNews, IraqiNews, DiHA, PUKMedia, Sept. 17) ISIS is so extreme in its rejection of "idolatry" that it has even announced its aim to destroy the Kaaba, Islam's most sacred site. This may backfire and eventually lead to a Sunni uprising against ISIS in their areas of control. Meanwhile, cultural treasures are being lost every day.
The hope that a Sunni uprising will overthrow ISIS in their areas of control is daily given a boost by each new report of the organization's repression of the traditional "folk Islam" practiced by the common people of northern Iraq and Syria. Reuters on Sept. 13 reports the claim of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that ISIS militants have destroyed several Sufi shrines and tombs in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor—the latest in a string of such desecrations across their territory. In March, ISIS bombed the mosque of Ammar bin Yassir and Oweis al-Qarni in Raqqa, once a destination for Shi'ite pilgrims from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq. Destroying even sites revered by Sunnis is precisely the kind of overreach that even al-Qaeda warned its regional franchises against when they were in control of northern Mali last year. But the affiliate organizations didn't listen, and the local populace did indeed turn against them. Can we hope for a replay?
Authorities in Saudi Arabia announced the arrest of 88 on suspicion of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the kingdom and abroad. The Interior Ministry statement didn't cite the "Islamic State" by name, saying only the arrests were related to the "painful reality the region is going through" and denouncing those with "sick ideas" who "spread their extremist opinions and corrupt the youth and drag them to places of strife." Under Saudi law, terrorism suspects can be held up to a year without charges. (WSJ, Sept. 2) When ISIS was seizing northern Iraq in June, one leader boasted that they planned to overrun Saudi Arabia, capture Mecca, and raze the Kaaba. ISIS militant Abu Turab al-Mugaddasi said: "If Allah wills, we will kill those who worship stones in Mecca and destroy the Kaaba. People go to Mecca to touch the stones, not for Allah." (India Today, July 1; APA, Azerbaijan, June 30)
Faqir Jamshed Ahmad Gesu Daraz, leader of the Pakistan Seraiki Party (PSP), and two guards were killed in a bomb blast while driving to a Sufi shrine at in Kulachi Tehsil village of Dera Ismail Khan municipality in Pakistan's Pakhtunkhwa province on Aug. 4. Thousands had gathered at the shrine for a celebration, where Faqir Jamshed was to preside in his capacity as a spiritual leader of the Seraiki people. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but Kulachi Tehsil is regarded as stronghold of the Waziristan Taliban. Faqir Jamshed earlier belonged to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf political party, but had recently been expelled. The Tehreek-i-Insaf has recently come under criticism for its increasing sympathy with the Taliban. (RFE/RL, Aug. 6; Pak Tribune, Aug. 5; Dawn, Reuters, Aug. 4)
More than 700 were killed in Syria over the course of July 18-19, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) called the bloodiest 48 hours in the conflict to date. SOHR president Rami Abdul Rahman compared the violence to the gas attack in Ghouta last year, which he said killed some 500. The dead were mostly from fighting between ISIS and pro-government forces in clashes over the Shaar gas field near Homs. Reports of ISIS atrocities in Syria continue to mount. ISIS militants reportedly carried out the stoning of a woman charged with adultery in the stadium of Tabqa city July 18. SOHR said residents resisted ISIS pressure to participate in the stoning. (Asharq Al-Awsat, July 20)