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Taj Mahal security elevated following threat from Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorist Group

After the release of graphics indicating towards threat to one of the wonders of the world, security tightened at the Taj Mahal

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Taj Mahal
Is Taj Maha just a 'cemetery'? Pixabay

Lucknow, Mar 18, 2017: Security at the Taj Mahal has been amplified following a media report about a threat to the heritage site from terror group ISIS.

“A link has been circulated in which it is claimed that Taj Mahal is on the target of ISIS. We are probing it. However, security has been enhanced in and around the monument,” Additional Director General, Law and Order, Daljeet Singh Chowdhury told PTI.

After a website showed graphics of a terrorist standing beside the Taj Mahal with a something resembling a weapon, the security was enhanced. According to reports, a pro-ISIS media group published a graphic depicting Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, as a possible target of the terror outfit.

After a website showed graphics of a terrorist standing beside the Taj Mahal with a something resembling a weapon, the security was enhanced. According to reports, a pro-ISIS media group published a graphic depicting Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, as a possible target of the terror outfit.

The graphic was released a week after security agencies executed combing operation in Uttar Pradesh in which Saifullah, one of the accused was killed while six others were arrested.

As per reports, Saifullah carried out a train attack in Bhopal after he brainwashed by the ISIS through online medium.

The graphic shows an ISIS wearing combat gear and a black headgear, armed with an assault rifle standing beside the taj Mahal. It also features three inset pictures- an image of Taj Mahal within crosshairs with the words “New Target” below it, a van with the Arabic text “Agra istishhad” (Agra martyrdom-seeker) written in English, implying the threat of a suicide bombing, and an image of a “bomb”.

The Taj Mahal, the biggest attraction for foreign and domestic tourists, is now protected by internal security provided by Central Industrial Military Force, a central para-military force which provides protection for industrial units, metro rail, airports along with other sensitive places.

The Uttar Pradesh Police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) man the outer periphery.

Outside the 500 metre security ring, police teams keep a strict watch on the movement of vehicles both on the western gate parking and the Shilpgram parking slot towards the eastern gate.

-Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Haryana Minister calls Taj Mahal a ‘beautiful kabristan’

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Taj Mahal. Wikimedia

Chandigarh, October 20: Joining the league of those making controversial statements on the Taj Mahal, senior Haryana Minister Anil Vij on Friday termed the marble monument as a “beautiful cemetery”.

“Taj Mahal ek khoobsurat kabristan hai,” Vij tweeted on Friday.

Vij, who is the cabinet Minister for Health and Sports in the BJP government in Haryana, is known for making controversial tweets and statements.

BJP leader Sangeet Som triggered a controversy last week by saying that the Taj Mahal was a blot on Indian culture. The Taj, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the world, is visited by lakhs of people from across the world.

In a damage control exercise, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said the famed monument in Agra was a part of Indian heritage and he is to visit it on October 26.

The 17th-century marble monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Both were buried at the Taj Mahal.

Adityanath, whose BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has been accused of ignoring Taj Mahal in the tourism booklet of the state, said that the monument was constructed “by the blood and sweat of Indian laborers”.(IANS)

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Will the Latest Message From Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Provoke New Attacks in the West?

IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses in United States and Europe

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This image taken from a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (VOA)

Washington, September 30, 2017 : U.S. intelligence officials examining the latest audio statement claiming to be from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say, so far, they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

However, there are questions as to whether the message from the leader of the collapsing, self-declared caliphate will cause IS operatives to spring into action. Some analysts see Baghdadi’s continued call to arms as almost a shot in the dark, aimed at rekindling interest despite the terror group’s fading fortunes in Syria and Iraq.

The still-early U.S. intelligence assessment comes just a day after the Islamic State’s al-Furqan media wing issued the 46-minute audio recording featuring Baghdadi, in which he calls on followers to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner.”

“Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed,” he says.

islamic state
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter takes cover behind a wall on a street where they fight against Islamic State militants, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Despite such threats, U.S. officials say the release of the latest audio message is not changing Washington’s approach.

“We are aware of the tape,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday. “But whether it’s al-Baghdadi or any member of ISIS, the Trump administration’s policy is destroying ISIS in Iraq, Syria and around the globe.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Still, intelligence and counterterror officials, both in the United States and in Europe, warn that IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses on the ground.

“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week, calling IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”

And while Western counterterror officials say the expected wave of returning IS foreign fighters has yet to materialize, the experience and skill sets of the operatives who have made it back home are ample reasons to worry.

But some caution the new Baghdadi audio message may have more to do with the terror group’s long-term strategy than its desire to carry out attacks in the near term.

“The broadcast boosts morale by contextualizing the hardships facing the group as their losses accumulate by reminding Islamic State militants and their supporters that day-to-day actions are part of a broader struggle, and metrics of progress shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum,” according to Jade Parker, a senior research associate at the Terror Asymmetrics Project (TAPSTRI).

ALSO READ  intelligence officials , Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Furqan, war, enemies, threats, US officials, raqqa, National Security Council, isis, Iraq, Syria, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, terrorism, Terror Asymmetrics Project ,

Parker also believes that while it is “extremely unlikely” the latest Baghdadi audio will spark or accelerate any IS plots, it might prevent fraying within the organization’s ranks.

“Baghdadi’s silence during the final days of IS’s battle for Mosul was a sore point for many IS fighters and supporters who felt confused and abandoned by their leader,” she added. “This statement was likely released in part to avoid that sentiment with respect to the fight to retain ground in Raqqa.” (VOA)