A nearly hour-long, English language documentary-style video detailing the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria was uploaded to YouTube Friday, presumably by members of the rapidly expanding extremist group.
The film, entitled “Flames of War,” splices live footage from the front lines of the Islamic State’s wars in Iraq and Syria with special effects that include computer generated explosions, dramatic soundtracks and slow-motion sequences. Throughout the 55 minutes of the video, a narrator with an almost perfect American accent provides viewers with the radical Islamist group’s perspective on its history and objectives. The US government and military, continuously referred to in the film as “crusader forces” and “infidels,” are warned by the group that its combatants are ready and waiting to defeat them in battle, and a slogan asserting that “the fighting has just begun” is uttered by the narrator as well as featured jihadists time and again.
(Siobhan O’Grady) Imagine an ID card that remembers all of your personal records. This one card serves as your driver’s license and a catch-all that includes information about your health insurance, tax payments, and bank accounts. Oh, and it’s a MasterCard.Now imagine you’re required to have it to vote. By 2019, that will be the case in Nigeria, where the government is running a large-scale pilot program with MasterCard, the U.S. credit card giant. An initial 13 million Nigerians will participate in the pilot program, but all those above the age of 16 — a whopping 160 million people — are expected to carry the cards by 2019.
At an official launch in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last week, President Goodluck Jonathan was the first to receive one of the biometric cards, which stores a scan of its owners irises and all ten fingerprints. “The card is not only a means of certifying your identity, but also a personal database repository and payment card, all in your pocket,” Jonathan said.
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The number of criminal cases opened on extremism charges in Russia has doubled during 2014, and the Internet is responsible for most of the growth, as more political activity, campaigning, and recruiting happen online, and law enforcement becomes more web-savvy. According to an Izvestia report which quotes the numbers from the Russian Supreme court, in 2012 the courts received 260 criminal cases under “extremism” articles 280 and 282 of the criminal code, and 208 people received sentences for extremism. In 2013 this number grew to 402 court cases and 309 persons sentenced. By the end of August 2014 the Interior Ministry’s counter-extremism division had already sent 485 cases to the courts, with 594 persons named as defendants in those cases. Sverdlovsk region and Tatarstan took the lead on extremism charges in Russia, with 38 and 33 criminal cases respectively. The Interior Ministry says the growing numbers of cases and convictions are caused by a spike in online activity, both on the part of the politically active citizens, and on the part of law enforcement. In 2014 alone over 500 “extremist materials” have been removed from the web, and 406 pages or communities were deemed “extremist” and taken down. The Interior Ministry concludes that extremism in Russia is becoming less explicitly violent, and more digital in nature, as it moves online. Those labeled by the authorities as “extremists” engage in fewer forceful actions on the streets and use social networks to share their calls to action and rally for their causes. An extremism research think tank at Saint Petersburg State University concludes that most materials that resulted in criminal investigations this year had been published online several years earlier, and the only reason the court cases are piling up now is that law enforcement has become more diligent at checking websites and discovering “extremist” content. Sergey Kuznetsov, the think tank’s director,
told Izvestia that a good share of the investigations deal with content that has been online for ages, and is just now registering on the investigators’ radar. The Ministry’s operatives acknowledge it’s more difficult to counteract “extremists” online, since the space often allows them to remain anonymous and to open new platforms for political action once the existing ones are blocked, whether by setting up mirror websites or by creating carbon copies of their public pages on social networks. Kuznetsov also claimed that Russian nationalists are becoming less active online, while Ukrainians are occupying the vacant spaces.The Kremlin has made a concerted effort to limit the online freedoms of its citizens lately, and the “extremism” articles in the criminal code and their application to online content are just one of many examples of the crackdown. Other initiatives include the notorious blogger law requiring anyone with a daily audience of over 3 thousand users to go on a government registry, the law on personal data retention mandating websites store Russians’ data inside the country, and more extravagant suggestions by some politicians, such as the call to prepare for an autonomous Internet in Russia. While the authorities’ explanations for the growth of convictions on charges of extremism seem logical, they are also a prime example of the demonization of the Internet as a space that is unregulated, unsafe and needs a firmer set of controls in order to function properly. Given the recent wave of email password leaks, VKontakte shutting down a number of ISIS-related accounts, and the unwise use of social networks by Russian soldiers exposing their presence in Ukraine, the shadowy menace of “online extremists,” coupled with hysteria around the Ukrainian nationalist and far-right agenda, emerges as an excellent scare tactic which could potentially undermine the desire of many Russians to post critical thoughts on their blogs or pages, let alone engage in any kind of subversive activity online. Just how much the Russian authorities are afraid of the free Internet and whether they will manage to scare Russian netizens into complacency remains to be seen.
Militants in Iraq are seeking to blunt the effectiveness of U.S. airstrikes by dispersing their forces into urban areas and increasingly adopting terror tactics such as suicide attacks and bombings, says a senior American military officer..“What we’ve seen so far is a lot of the black flags have come down, a lot of the convoys have dispersed, a lot of the assembly areas have been moved into urban areas,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters Tuesday. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks.”The shift in tactics by Islamic State militants in Iraq comes less than a month after the U.S. began airstrikes. Iraqi and Kurdish troops with backing from U.S. advisors are seeking to eject an increasingly shadowy enemy from towns and cities while defending against attacks.Dempsey said the dispersal of militants into urban areas will make it “a little tougher” for U.S. warplanes to target them. In more than 160 airstrikes, U.S. aircraft and armed drones have attacked large convoys of vehicles and groups of fighters displaying black flags that made them easily identifiable from the air.Dempsey spoke to reporters as he headed to Paris for talks about Iraq with French officials. France has said it would consider joining the U.S. in carrying out airstrikes in Iraq.U.S. officials are still waiting for Iraq’s newly installed and Shiite Muslim-led government to take additional steps to reassure Sunnis Muslims and Kurds that it intends to share power. Without a government that enjoys broad support in Iraq, the military effort isn’t likely to be adequate to defeat the militants, Dempsey said.
Two Russian strategic bombers conducted practice cruise missile attacks on the United States during a training mission last week that defense officials say appeared timed to the NATO summit in Wales.The Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers were tracked flying a route across the northern Atlantic near Iceland, Greenland, and Canada’s northeast.Analysis of the flight indicated the aircraft were conducting practice runs to a pre-determined “launch box”—an optimum point for firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles at U.S. targets, said defense officials familiar with intelligence reports.Disclosure of the nuclear bombing practice comes as a Russian general last week called for Moscow to change its doctrine to
include preemptive nuclear strikes on the United States and NATO.Gen. Yuri Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official, was quoted by the state-run Interfax news agency as saying that Russia’s 2010 military doctrine should be revised to identify the United States and the NATO alliance as enemies, and clearly outline the conditions for a preemptive nuclear strike against them.Yakubov said among other needed doctrinal changes, “it is necessary to hash out the conditions under which Russia could carry out a preemptive strike with the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces”—Moscow’s nuclear forces.The practice bombing runs are the latest in a series of incidents involving threatening Russian bomber flights near the United States. Analysts say the bomber flights are nuclear saber-rattling by Moscow as a result of heightened tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.A spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command declined to comment on the bomber flights in the North Atlantic.No U.S. or Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the Bear-H bombers since the aircraft stayed outside the North American Air Defense Identification Zone.Additional details of the incident that took place over the Labrador Sea, the stretch of the Atlantic between Greenland and Canada’s Labrador Peninsula, could not be learned.Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic policymaker and currently senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy, said Russian leaders frequently issue public nuclear threats because they regard their nuclear arsenal as the main element of their great power status.“Putin began what he called bomber ‘combat patrols’ in 2007 and they continue,” Schneider said. “They are designed to intimidate as well as practice nuclear bomber attacks.”
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Beirut – Islamic State has gone underground in its Syrian stronghold since President Barack Obama authorised US air strikes on the group in Syria, disappearing from the streets, redeploying weapons and fighters, and cutting down its media exposure.In the city of Raqqa, 450km northeast of Damascus, residents say Islamic State has been moving equipment every day since Obama signalled on 11 September that air attacks on its forces could be expanded from Iraq to Syria.Islamic State activists who typically answer questions on the internet have been offline since then. Its leaders have not given a direct response to Obama: his speech last week was not mentioned in a video released on Saturday showing the beheading of British hostage David Haines by an Islamic State militant.As the United States tries to assemble a coalition to fight Islamic State, the jihadist group appears to be trying to leave as much uncertainty as possible about its strategy.
Facing US air strikes in Iraq, Islamic State fighters abandoned heavy weaponry that made them easy targets and tried to blend into civilian areas. In anticipation of similar raids in Syria, the group may already be doing the same.In Raqqa, the group has evacuated buildings it was using as offices, redeployed its heavy weaponry, and moved fighters’ families out of the city.”They are trying to keep on the move,” said one Raqqa resident, communicating via the internet and speaking on condition of anonymity because of safety fears. “They have sleeper cells everywhere,” he added.”They only meet in very limited gatherings.”The top US general promised on Tuesday “a persistent and sustainable campaign” against Islamic State in Syria, and Washington is probably already watching its positions in Raqqa. Obama approved surveillance flights over Syria last month, and footage taken by activists earlier this month appeared to show an American-made drone over the city.
CANBERRA, Australia – Terrorists will use Australia’s deployment of troops and war planes to the Middle East as an excuse to target Australians, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned on Monday.Australia is preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the increasingly aggressive campaign against the Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq, the government announced on Sunday.While Abbott expected extremists to react to Australia’s military deployment to the United Arab Emirates, he noted that 88 Australians were among 202 people killed by bombers on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002 before Australia went to war in Iraq.”There is no doubt that those who wish us harm will cite things like this as an excuse, but it’s not the reason,” Abbott told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.”The reason why we are targeted is not because of anything that we’ve done, but because of who we are and how we live,” he said.”This death cult targets everyone and anyone who does not conform to its particular ideology,” he added, referring to the Islamic State movement.