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Islamic State Terrorists and the Threat to the Homeland!

Interesting Article: "ISIS mops up around Tabqa airport” by The Daily Star published Tuesday, August 26th 2014.


Latest ISIS news from Syria is that Militants from ISIS engaged in mopping-up operations around the Tabqa military airport Monday, one day after seizing the facility from government forces and cementing the group’s control over Raqqa province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime monitoring group based in Britain, said Islamic State (IS) fighters battled with regime troops in a farm on the outskirts of the military base, and appeared to seize the area. Observers following the conflict noted that ISIS militants, when they seized the air base Sunday, also captured quantities of sidewinder missiles and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS), as well as military aircraft. IS militants, who are believed to have killed around 170 government soldiers and captured another 150, posted photographs of the captured equipment and ammunition on social media. Anti-regime activists also posted video footage on YouTube, purporting to show the discovery of regime corpses in fields around the Tabqa airport by residents. As in the aftermath of its recent take-overs of military facilities, militants placed the severed heads of government soldiers on an iron fence in Naim Square in the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS operations in Syria, the Observatory said.

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The seizure of Tabqa air base, while not the first installation of its type to fall to militants, highlights the Islamic State’s gains in the region and the group’s continued pilfering of advanced military equipment, particularly the surface-to-air missile systems known as MANPADS, short for Man Portable Air Defense Systems.

Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher at the Switzerland-based research group Small Arms Survey and author of a recent report on MANPADS in Syria, believes that the takeover of Tabqa airbase could mark a “significant proliferation” of the weapons across the region.

It is difficult to independently confirm that Islamic State seized MANPADS from Tabqa.  Charles Lister, an analyst at Brookings Doha Center who has tracked the flow of weapons in the region, tweeted a photo that purportedly showed an Islamic State fighter wielding what appeared to be MANPADS.

Schroeder did not know the model of the system but noted it has the characteristics of an SA-18 and other Soviet MANPADS.

“This is not a system we see often,” Schroeder said. “We know very little about it.”

The SA-18 is one of eight MANPADS variants in militant hands that have been documented by Small Arms Survey. While most are Soviet-era models, the Russian Federation SA-24 and Chinese FN-6 have been sighted in the almost four-year-old conflict.

For Damien Spleeters, an investigator for Conflict Armament Research who just 10 days ago was documenting the weapons of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria, the takeover of Tabqa airbase is just another example of the Islamic State expanding its arsenal of advanced weaponry.
First fielded in the late 60′s, the SA-7 is one of the world’s most prevalent MANPADS. While a number of variants exist, it has been used to shoot down aircraft since the Vietnam War. State Department officials said they are concerned that the use of MANPADS poses a threat to civil aviation in Syria.

Rachel Stohl, an expert on arms control at the Stimson Center, believes that like prior conflicts in the region, that the Syrian civil war will have long standing ramifications for MANPADS proliferation in the Middle East.

“There’s no question that the region is going to have to deal with a legacy of these weapons,” Stohl said. “You don’t just put the immediate area at risk, there is a ripple effect.”

Stohl noted that the loss of Taqba airbase and its stores of weaponry highlights the need for aggressive stockpile management of MANPADS and the risks posed to the international community when a government loses control of its territory.

Gen. Martin Dempsey says that once he determines the Islamic State militants in Iraq have become a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, he will recommend the U.S. military move directly against the group in Syria. "I think ISIS has been so brutal, and has wrapped itself in a radical religious legitimacy that clearly threatens everybody I just mentioned, that I think they will be willing partners," said Dempsey, expressing optimism for the first time that the Arab nations would join in the conflict. (ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State group. Dempsey said the surging Islamic State group has an "apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision" in the Middle East and cannot be defeated unless confronted head-on in Syria.

"They can be contained, not in perpetuity," he said at the time. "To the question "can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border." He contrasted the Islamic State group to the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has plotted and attempted attacks against the U.S. and Europe. As a result, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism strikes against the group within Yemen.

Britain has been already dealing with a threat to their homeland. Contrary to U.S, the U.K is worried about IS jihadists coming back into the country. Major questions have been raised over Britain’s ability to catch jihadist terrorist suspects returning to the country, after figures showed that thousands of illegal immigrants are disappearing through the UK’s porous borders every year. The Home Office data, obtained by The Telegraph, show a dramatic increase in the proportion of immigrants who vanish after being stopped at border checks for carrying false passports or incorrect visas.

According to the Government, at least 500 Britons have made the journey to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which this week released a video of a fighter with a British accent beheading the American journalist, James Foley.

Ministers believe that Britain faces a grave threat from battle-hardened fighters who seek to return to carry out attacks on home soil. MI5 is, in the hunt for Mr. Foley’s murderer, understood to be investigating the deaths of 20 British jihadists in Iraq and Syria and seeking to establish whether the fighters are merely claiming to be dead as “cover” to allow them to return to the UK undetected.

Officers from MI5 and MI6 have been working closely with specialists at the Government’s listening station at GCHQ and are now said to be “very close” to putting a name to the Briton. (A London rapper is being investigated, dubbed 'Jihadi John'. Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, from west London, also known as 'L Jinny', is one of three British jihadis whose activities are reportedly being probed by police over the brutal killing. Security services are also believed to be hunting Abu Hussain Al-Britani, 20, and Abu Abdullah al-Britani, who is in his 20s, as they investigate Islamic State extremists, previously known as Isis. Bary, who is fighting in Syria under the name Abu Kalashnikov, posted a gruesome picture of himself holding a severed human head on social media just weeks before Mr Foley was beheaded.)

In a recent interview, Ambassador Westmacott on jihadists from the West: “People think that maybe as many as 500 British subjects have gone to Syria and Iraq for this cause of jihad. And it's not a problem exclusive to the United Kingdom. We have got people from lots and lots of Western democracies who, unfortunately, are misguided enough to go to that part of the region and take up a cause which is a betrayal of all our values.” He revealed that among the 70 militants who had been arrested after returning from Syria, a number of them were found to be carrying instructions for “very specific missions” to unleash terrorist outrages on British soil. “Which is why in the UK for example over the last year we’ve picked up around 70 different people on terrorism-related offences to do with activities in Iraq and Syria so we are very conscious of the threat that there is back at home.”

In terms of IS, we see more radicalized, more western bound jihadists, therefore, we need to remain vigilant on further attacks on the homeland. Countries in Europe are breeding grounds for these types of followers with passports that make it easier to travel to the U.S, therefore all efforts need to be put to stopping the Jihadists in those European countries prior to their arrival on American Soil.

References:
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Aug-26/268488-isis-mops-up-around-tabqa-airport.ashx#ixzz3BUwEo52w
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/25/islamic-state-might-have-taken-advanced-manpads-from-syrian-airfield/?tid=pm_world_pop
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/08/24/world/middleeast/ap-us-united-states-iraq.html?ref=world&_r=0
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11053440/UK-border-controls-in-chaos.html

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