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‘Operation Twilight’ could last long, says Bangladesh military

Today was the fourth day of 'Operation Twilight' carried out by Bangladesh military to flush out militants hiding in a building in Sylhet

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Bangladesh military (File photo) Image courtesy:, wikimedia commons

Dhaka, March 27: It was stated by Bangladesh’s military today that their operation to flush out Islamist militants from a five-storey building in Sylhet could last long as there still remain several more “well-trained operatives” inside the hideout.

According to PTI reports, Eight persons have lost their lives in the ‘Operation Twilight’ so far. Today was the fourth day of the military operation in this northwestern city which is about 236 km from the capital, Dhaka.

Witnesses have reported about experiencing explosions and sporadic gunfire today from the five-storey building in Sylhet, after a relative lull last night. ‘Operation Twilight’ was launched by the military to get rid of the militants from the hideout.

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According to the locals, burst of automatic weapons and explosions could be heard once again after 6 am. “We heard sporadic gunshots and explosions,” a resident in the northeastern city told media.

“There are several more well-trained operatives active inside the hideout,” Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan mentioned in conversation with reporters in Sylhet. He pointed out that the assault was far from over and hinted at “considerable risks” involved in it.

Ahsan added that the militants came prepared with small arms, explosives and grenades and managed to lay out booby traps at different corners of the building cooking up a situation that slowed down the progress of the military mission at the building. “The entire area has become risky. Considering the overall situation, it will take more time for the operation to complete,” he told the reporters.

The operation was launched after a suicide bomber blew himself up at the international airport in Dhaka in an attack on Friday night which was claimed by the ISIS. This incident came a week after a similar attack on a RAB camp in Dhaka.

On Saturday, two powerful bombs tore apart a crowd near the hideout, killing six people. Among the dead, two were police officers. The injured count is nearly 50, including two army officers who are currently serving the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

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Army stated that the two militants chose to blow themselves up detonating suicide vests after being shot by army commandos on ground floors of the building. According to their assumptions, more militants are still inside.

The Islamic State terror group’s presence in the country has been rejected by Bangladesh after the responsibility for Saturday’s retaliatory attack was claimed by the militant organization.

Meanwhile, residents who lived in the building where the operation is taking place said that the militants virtually pushed them in a hostage situation h by warning them of bombs implanted on their way out of the place.

The residents were brought out by the commandos from the top of the building who made their way there from the rooftop of an adjacent structure.

Banker Ranajit Das, a tenant of the house who was evacuated along with his five family members, said until commandos rescued them and evacuated the premises, militants’ warnings prevented them from coming out. “They (militants) said bombs were implanted downstairs which would blow us up if we try to leave,” he mentioned.

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The evacuation of the civilians was executed by the para-commandos from the top floor of the building placing roof to roof ladders from an adjacent building. They moved out residents from one floor after another until they reached the second floor stairwell, where they came across improvised explosive devices placed on the stairs.

Since 2013, Bangladesh has been the witness of a torrent of attacks on secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities. A massive crackdown on militants was launched by the country specially after the dreadful Dhaka cafe attack.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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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.

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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)

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Islamic State Flag saying “The Caliphate is coming”, Sighted in Pakistan

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Pakistani officials acknowledged that at least one IS flag was recently displayed on a billboard in Islamabad.(source: VOA)

Islamabad September 25: An Islamic State (IS), the flag was seen displayed near Islamabad which read “The Caliphate is coming,” slogan written on the flag, and was put up over a billboard Sunday on a major expressway in Islamabad.

Pakistan Interior Ministry authorities told that committee has been formed to investigate the incident. Pakistan authorities deny that IS may have established a foothold in the country.

Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia: Report

“The group does not have an organized presence, resources or structure to be able to operate in the area,” Talal Choudhry, State Minister for Interior Affairs told VOA’s Urdu Service.

The IS terror group has taken roots in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan since early 2015. It brands itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), a title that distinguishes the militant group in the region from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State threat in Pakistan follows recent media reports and activities by local IS affiliates in various regions that indicate the group has been making inroads in the country.(VOA)