Jury sentences Navy SEAL for posing with Iraq war casualty

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A decorated Navy SEAL acquitted of murder in the killing of a wounded Islamic State captive in Iraq but convicted for posing with the corpse was sentenced by a military jury Wednesday after the Bronze Star recipient acknowledged making ethical and moral mistakes.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was sentenced by a military jury to a reduction in rank and four months of confinement.

A judge, however, credited the 40-year-old Gallagher with enough time already spent in custody to ensure he won't be locked up.

Gallagher turned to his wife, shook his head and pretended to unpin his "anchors" — the insignia of a chief — and fling them across the courtroom.Read more on

Japanese hostage’s mom makes last-minute appeal to ISIS as deadline passes

TOKYO — Junko Ishido shook and struggled to hold back tears as she talked about her hostage son, while camera shutters whirred.

“Time is running out. Please, Japanese government, save my son’s life,” she said Friday to a packed room of journalists, at times wiping her tears with a white handkerchief. In Japanese fashion, she apologized repeatedly for “all the trouble” her son, Kenji Goto, was causing the country and its people by being a hostage of the Islamic State group.

In a somewhat rambling message, Ishido said: “My son is not the enemy of the Islamic State. He went over there all by himself, simply hoping to rescue his friend.”

Ishido, 78, said she felt angry that her son had left for Syria just two weeks after his wife delivered a baby in search of the friend, Haruna Yukawa, but given his character, she understood why.

The two Japanese men are captives of the Islamic State group, threatened with death unless their government pays a $200 million ransom.

“Even before he could walk, even when he was just tottering on his feet, whenever he could be with other children, he would always show great kindness to them,” she said. “So I believe he always cared about other people.”

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have posted an online warning that the “countdown has begun” for the group to kill the pair of Japanese hostages.

The posting which appeared Friday shows a clock counting down to zero along with gruesome images of other hostages who have been beheaded by the Islamic State group.

The militant group gave Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a 72-hour deadline – which expired Friday – to pay a $200 million ransom for the two hostages. The posting on a forum popular among Islamic State militants and sympathizers did not show any images of the Japanese hostages.

Hezbollah leader says Muslim extremists harm Islam more than those who published satirical cartoons

BEIRUT — The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group says Islamic extremists have insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad more than those who published satirical cartoons mocking the religion.

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah did not directly mention the Paris attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, but he said Islamic extremists who behead and slaughter people – a reference to the ISIS’s rampages in Iraq and Syria – have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history.

Nasrallah spoke Friday via video link to supporters gathered in southern Beirut.

Hezbollah is an enemy of Israel and is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada and the United States. Nasrallah’s Shiite group is fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.

His remarks are in stark contrast to those of Sunni militants from ISIS and al-Qaida who have called for attacks on Western countries.

With a file from National Post

Paris shooters cornered in printing plant. Brothers say they ‘want to die as martyrs’

DAMMARTIN-EN-GOELE, France • An official in the French town where two terror suspects are holed up with a hostage near a school tells The Associated Press that phone contact has been established with the men. A lawmaker inside the command post tells French television the men “want to die as martyrs.”

Audrey Taupenas, spokeswoman for Dammartin-en-Goele, says officials established phone contact with the suspects in order to negotiate the safe evacuation of a school near the printing plant where the men are cornered. She says the suspects agreed.

Yves Albarello, a lawmaker who said he was inside the command post, said the two brothers told i-Tele on Friday they “want to die as martyrs.”

The men are suspected in the attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

Security forces backed by a convoy of ambulances streamed into the small industrial town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, in a massive operation to seize the men suspected of carrying out France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.

One of the men had been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008, and a U.S. official said both brothers were on the American no-fly list.

At least three helicopters hovered above the town. Nearby Charles de Gaulle airport closed two runways to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said. Schools went into lockdown and the town appealed to residents to stay inside their houses.

The siege unfolded after the suspects hijacked a car in the early morning hours, according to police and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the operation.

Tens of thousands of French security forces have mobilized to prevent a new terror attack since the Wednesday assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in the heart of Paris left 12 people dead, including the chief editor and cartoonist who had been under armed guard with threats against his life after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

His police bodyguard also died in the attack, which began during an editorial meeting.

Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi were named as the chief suspects after Said’s identity card was left behind in their abandoned getaway car. They were holed up Friday inside CTF Creation Tendance Decouverte, a printing house.

Xavier Castaing, the chief Paris police spokesman, and town hall spokeswoman Audrey Taupenas said there appeared to be one hostage inside. The police official, who was on the scene, confirmed a hostage.

Christelle Alleume, who works across the street, said a round of gunfire interrupted her coffee break Friday morning.

“We heard shots and we returned very fast because everyone was afraid,” she told i-Tele. “We had orders to turn off the lights and not approach the windows.”

The police official said security forces were preparing to intervene. The town’s website called on residents to stay home and said children would be kept at school.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said both suspects had been known to intelligence services before the attack.

A senior U.S. official said Thursday the elder Kouachi had travelled to Yemen, although it was unclear whether he was there to join extremist groups like al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based there. Witnesses said he claimed allegiance to the group during the attack.

The younger brother, Cherif, was convicted of terrorism charges in 2008 for his links to a network sending jihadis to fight American forces in Iraq.

Both were also on the U.S. no-fly list, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said. The American officials also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss foreign intelligence publicly.

French President Francois Hollande called for tolerance after the country’s worst terrorist attack in decades.

“France has been struck directly in the heart of its capital, in a place where the spirit of liberty — and thus of resistance — breathed freely,” Hollande said.

Nine people, members of the brothers’ entourage, have been detained for questioning in several regions. In all, 90 people, many of them witnesses to the grisly assault on the satirical weekly, were questioned for information on the attackers, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement.

A third suspect, 18-year-old Mourad Hamyd, surrendered at a police station Wednesday evening after hearing his name linked to the attacks. His relationship to the Kouachi brothers was unclear.

The Kouachi brothers, born in Paris to Algerian parents, were well-known to French counterterrorism authorities. Cherif Kouachi, a former pizza deliveryman, had appeared in a 2005 French TV documentary on Islamic extremism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for trying to join up with fighters battling in Iraq.

Charlie Hebdo had long drawn threats for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirized other religions and political figures. The weekly paper had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, and a sketch of Islamic State’s leader was the last tweet sent out by the irreverent newspaper, minutes before the attack. Nothing has been tweeted since.

Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed in the attack.
Charlie Hebdo planned a special edition next week, produced in the offices of another paper.
Editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, who was among those slain, “symbolized secularism … the combat against fundamentalism,” his companion, Jeannette Bougrab, said on BFM-TV.
“He was ready to die for his ideas,” she said.

Authorities around Europe have warned of the threat posed by the return of Western jihadis trained in warfare. France counts at least 1,200 citizens in the war zone in Syria — headed there, returned or dead. Both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have threatened France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

The French suspect in a deadly 2014 attack on a Jewish museum in Belgium had returned from fighting with extremists in Syria; and the man who rampaged in southern France in 2012, killing three soldiers and four people at a Jewish school, received paramilitary training in Pakistan.

High-ranking ISIS policeman reportedly found beheaded with message written on his tortured body

A high-ranking figure in the Islamic State’s self-declared police force was found beheaded in eastern Syria with a cigarette placed in his mouth and a message written on his body, the British-based the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

The body of the man, an Egyptian known as the deputy “al- Hesbah emir” in a province in Syria, was found with a message written on it: “O Sheikh this is munkar (hateful and evil thing).”

The body was found near a power plant in the city of al- Mayadin, the human rights group reported.

“We do not know whether Islamic State killed him or whether it was local people or other fighters,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.

Meanwhile, a suicide blast targeting Iraqi security forces and subsequent clashes with Islamic State extremists on Tuesday killed at least 23 troops and pro-government Sunni fighters in the country’s embattled western province of Anbar, officials said.

The day’s heavy toll for the Iraqi forces came as they struggle in battles against the Islamic State group and try to claw back territory lost to the extremists during the militants’ blitz last year. Iraq’s prime minister vowed on Tuesday to dislodge IS militants from all areas under their control.

Police officials said a suicide bomber first struck a gathering of pro-government Sunni fighters near the town of al-Baghdadi, about 180 kilometres northwest of Baghdad, in the morning hours.

Soon after, IS militants attacked nearby army and police positions, setting off hours-long clashes. Police and hospital officials said 23 were killed and 28 were wounded in all on the government side. They did not give the death toll on the militants’ side, saying only that the attackers “sustained some casualties” and declining to provide further details. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In Baghdad, Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi pledged that Iraq’s forces would retake all areas that fell to IS during last summer’s stunning blitz.

“We will emerge as victorious and the day our lands are liberated is nearing,” al-Abadi told a group of newly-graduated army officers, speaking at the Military Academy as Iraq marked Army Day. “Our goal … is that peace and prosperity prevail in Iraq and end this dark period in Iraqi history.”

A parade was also staged to mark the day, complete with jet fighters, helicopters and transport planes flying overhead.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State group announced killing eight men in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad for allegedly co-operating with government forces and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition targeting the militant group.

The group posted photographs showing eight blindfolded and bearded men in orange jumpsuits, their hands tied behind their backs. Five were identified as police officers and two as informants, but no information was provided on the eighth victim. The photos show the men by a riverbank next to masked gunmen, under what looks like a bridge. They are on their knees as the gunmen appear to be readying to shoot them. Other photos show bloodied bodies of seven of the men, lying on the ground.

The Islamic State group provided no details on the purported killings. The authenticity of the photos could not be independently verified but they were posted late Monday on a Twitter account frequently used by the militant group.

However, a provincial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for his safety, offered a different account on the photos, saying Tuesday that the men depicted in the images were army officers who had abandoned the military before the militants’ takeover of their area last year. The official said the men did not co-operate with Iraqi government forces.

The Salahuddin provincial capital, Tikrit, and other nearby towns have been in militant hands since June, when the Islamic State group expanded with lightning speed across Sunni-dominated regions of northern and western Iraq as government forces collapsed.

Since then, the IS group has declared a self-styled caliphate over about a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria. But there has been growing resentment among some residents fueled by the militant group’s enforcement of its extremist interpretation of Islamic law, economic stagnation and a lack of public services.

Seeking to squash any potential uprising, the militants have started killing policemen and soldiers living in areas of Iraq under their control — especially after the U.S.-led coalition air campaign began supporting ground offensives by Iraqi government forces, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias.

Imam wants radical recruiters of Muslim youth in Canada identified and dealt with

CALGARY — Reaching out to talk with Muslim youth who are at risk of being radicalized isn’t enough to stop it from happening, say parents, clerics and police.

Those leading the charge against radicalization say more has to be done to find and deal with the recruiters who convince vulnerable young people to give up their personal belongings, follow the teachings of the Islamic State and even travel overseas to fight and die on its behalf.

“There is something going on behind the scenes which is hidden. Unless we know the hand that is behind this recruitment it will be almost impossible to stop this recruitment and this radicalization,” says Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy, the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

“I have no doubt that there are people in this country who are facilitating and funding the travel to Syria and Iraq.
Those people need to be exposed. We just blame the Internet and social media, but I think that is very shortsighted.”

A handful of Calgary youth have already reportedly gone to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The federal government’s annual national security report said at the start of 2014, it knew of more than 130 individuals who were abroad and suspected of terror-related activities. About 30 people with Canadian connections were suspected of terror activities in Syria.

Calgary’s deputy police chief says his department has had success working with Muslim groups to find young people who are “vulnerable.” But Trevor Daroux agrees it is essential to find the people who are influencing those most at risk.

“There has to be concerted efforts to find and identify those who are … trying to exploit others through radicalization. The partnerships within the law enforcement community are really the answer to that,” Daroux says.

“Calgary, as well as every other city in this country and around the world, has to be very much aware that there are those individuals who will actively, face-to-face, try and radicalize those individuals.”

Chris Boudreau, whose 22-year-old son was killed while fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria, says there has been little sharing of information by law enforcement officials with those working in the community.

Her son, Damian Clairmont, converted to Islam as a teen and reportedly died in heavy fighting in the city of Aleppo last winter as a member of the militant group Islamic State.

Boudreau says her son was actively recruited by individuals in Calgary, so she knows they exist.

“You can be guaranteed they’re getting paid to do what they do. They’re not going to put themselves at risk — they’re just getting paid to go out and get more people and introduce them to these ideologies.”

Both Boudreau and Soharwardy want a national inquiry to shine a light on those who are working as puppeteers behind the scenes.

Soharwardy says he was contacted by the parents of a 17-year-old boy who was prevented from going to Syria. They discovered that $5,000 had been transferred into his bank account to pay for his trip. The matter was turned over to police and that’s where it ended.

“Our very young children have gone. They are children and they have been recruited in this country to be soldiers for terrorists. This is a serious thing and the public has the right to know and the politicians have a right to know,” says Soharwardy.

“I’m looking for a national inquiry into the radicalization and the recruitment of all Canadians — the 130 more Canadians — and we want to know who radicalized, who funded.”

Boudreau says she understands it is difficult for police to find recruiters and to make criminal charges stick. She says a public inquiry would encourage members of the public to come forward and help with the investigation.

“I believe they should be putting a lot more resources toward that. I think they should do what they’ve done in France — relax the laws so they can hold them even if it’s on suspicion. Here they can’t even do that,” she says.

“They need to make it feasible and comfortable and provide the right environment for people to come forward if they have any inkling or suspicion and be allowed to go and investigate and question those people.”

While community groups and those within the Mulsim community are reaching out to youth, the ones they are reaching are already engaged and less likely to be led astray.

Boudreau says they need to reach people like her son.

“It’s basically anybody who’s going through any transition in their lives — they’re open, they’re weak, they’re seeking purpose,” she says.

“You’re desperate and fed up and tired of hitting your head against the wall and somebody says, ‘here’s the answer for everything.”’

The rising stars of Canadian politics: Who to watch in 2015

Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press

Some are rising stars; others struggle with unexpected fame; yet others appear tottering on the edge of their political pedestals. Here are some people to watch on the federal scene in 2015:

Adrian Wyld / Canadian PressNDP MP Nathan Cullen asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Oct.31, 2013.

Nathan Cullen

The NDP MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was first elected in 2004, and has steadily gained influence in his party, even running for its leadership in 2012. Cullen has served as opposition House leader and now holds the high-profile post of finance critic, pitting him against Finance Minister Joe Oliver. With the recent announcement that fellow B.C. MP Libby Davies won’t run again, Cullen’s role within the party will only grow. If leader Tom Mulcair, recently hit with the defection of an Ontario MP, doesn’t shine in the 2015 election, he’ll face pressure to step aside as leader. Expect Cullen to take another crack at the job.

Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press

Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian PressNDP environment critic Megan Leslie asks a question during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 29, 2014.

Megan Leslie

Of course, if Cullen doesn’t run for the leadership in future, there’s always Leslie, the outspoken Halifax MP who serves as the NDP deputy leader and critic for the environment. Leslie won her seat in 2008. Since then, she has cheerfully pummelled the Conservative government on issues ranging from lack of oil and gas regulations to the Northern Gateway pipeline to federal conservation plans. Leslie has also been front and centre in attempting to explain the NDP’s actions on the sexual harassment file and the controversy surrounding two NDP MPs who complained of misconduct by two Liberals this fall.

Bill Morneau

The former chair of the C.D. Howe Institute and Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre is constantly touted as one of Justin Trudeau’s “star” candidates for 2015. He’s viewed as an accomplished entrepreneur through his experience at Morneau Shepell, and he boasts an impressive CV of social and philanthropic interests. The Liberals feel the business and economic “heft” of candidates such as Morneau will demonstrate the breadth and depth of the party as it confronts the Conservatives on economic policy, and balance Trudeau’s relatively thin personal resumé on economic matters.

Graham Hughes / Canadian Press

Graham Hughes / Canadian PressAndrew Leslie speaks in Montreal.

Andrew Leslie

This one is just going to be fun to watch. Another Liberal “star,” the retired lieutenant-general thought he’d be a shoo-in for the Grit nomination in Ottawa-Orléans, a riding the party wants back from Tory Royal Galipeau. But Leslie sparked controversy over his moving expenses upon leaving the military, and has had to grapple with the persistent — though apparently doomed — David Bertschi, who also wanted the nomination but who was blocked from it by the party, leading to complaints that the Liberal nomination process wasn’t as open as Trudeau promised it would be. If Leslie gets through all the controversy, and if his party wins in 2015, he will be a strong cabinet contender, so for the Liberals, it’s all worth the pouty faces.

Justin Tang / Canadian Press

Justin Tang / Canadian PressMinister of State (Social Development) Candice Bergen.

Candice Bergen

The onetime chief organizer for the Conservative party in Manitoba has steadily risen through the ranks of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s MPs, and isn’t done yet. First elected in 2008 to represent Portage—Lisgar, she vaulted to fame from the back benches with a private member’s bill in 2009 aimed at scrapping the long-gun registry. This trial-balloon bill was defeated, but not before sowing division within the opposition, and demonstrating the potential to use private members’ bills for wider political purposes. A government bill to scrap the registry passed in 2012. Bergen became minister of state for Social Development in the 2013 cabinet shuffle and now willingly — and smoothly — plays the role of government mouthpiece on a variety of issues.

Justin Tang / Canadian Press

Justin Tang / Canadian PressConservative MP James Bezan.

James Bezan

It’s often thought that Defence Minister Rob Nicholson doesn’t enjoy his job, so dour is he in public. Bezan, as his parliamentary secretary, exudes the opposite impression: ready to leap into battle, from the potential purchase of the F-35 to Canadian aid to Ukraine — particularly Ukraine. The Selkirk-Interlake MP has also been willing to deliver government mea culpas when needed, as he did after the Citizen revealed problems with a military board of inquiry into the death of Lt. Shawna Rogers. Bezan stood in the House of Commons and unblinkingly admitted the situation was “not acceptable.” When the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, committed rhetorical hara-kiri over the Iraq mission, it was Bezan who fielded further inquiries, in a serious and statesmanlike tone.

Fred Chartrand / Canadian Press

Fred Chartrand / Canadian PressDurham Ontario M.P. Erin O’Toole is led into the House of Commons by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and late Finance Minister Jim Flaherty before the start of Question Period in December 2012.

Erin O’Toole

A lawyer and the son of a politician, O’Toole’s 12 years in the military as a helicopter navigator earned him the rank of captain. He was also one of the founders of the True Patriot Love Foundation, which has raised millions to help members of the military and veterans. Now, as parliamentary secretary to the minister of International Trade, he has shown willingness to go beyond the party line on occasion, including being among the first to suggest the Tories might amend the Fair Elections Act last spring. On Iraq, he warned early that Canada shouldn’t get bogged down in a protracted mission. But his greatest value may end up being that he IS a veteran and he is NOT Julian Fantino (the embattled Veterans Affairs minister). On the veterans file, the Conservatives need someone to chopper them out of danger.

Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press

Adrian Wyld / Canadian PressLabour Minister and Minister for the Status of Women Kellie Leitch.

Kellie Leitch

Leitch, an orthopedic pediatric surgeon, was a potential star for the Conservatives from day one, helping them put the Helena Guergis affair behind them in the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey. She’s currently minister of Labour and minister for the Status of Women, both hot files this year, as calls mount for an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, and as the storm gathers on Parliament Hill over harassment policy for MPs and Hill staff. Leitch also made her mark this year as the doctor on the scene when former finance minister Jim Flaherty died suddenly in his Ottawa apartment. A longtime friend of the Flaherty family, Leitch struck the perfect tone in leading parliamentary tributes to her colleague — a show of poise and grace that has won her the increasing confidence of Harper’s inner circle.

Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press

Paul Chiasson / Canadian PressPierre Karl Péladeau.

Pierre Karl Péladeau

He’s the opposite of a federal “rising star,” but if he wins the Parti Québécois leadership in 2015, Péladeau will either be a federalist’s nightmare or a political shotput who heaves separatism into the stone age. The volatile Quebec media mogul helped scuttle Pauline Marois’s re-election as Quebec premier with his sovereignty-induced fist-pump during the provincial election. The PQ having lost power, Péladeau now seeks its leadership, despite a serious bike accident last spring, controversy over his relationship with Québecor (of which he remains controlling shareholder) and chippish relations with the news media.

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia News

Bruce Edwards / Postmedia NewsAlberta Jim Prentice.

Jim Prentice

The impressive political death spiral of Alison Redford spurred Prentice’s quick ascension to the premiership of Alberta, less than four years after he had bowed out of federal politics. He’s also been riding high on the implosion of the Wildrose party. But he’ll be challenged by plunging oil prices in 2015 and has already begun making adjustments. On the flip side, Harper isn’t enjoying the best of relations with some premiers — Kathleen Wynne, Philippe Couillard and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Paul Davis, come to mind — so Prentice will feel the love from his federal counterparts for some time to come.

Debi Daviau

Daviau, a computer systems analyst who became president of the 60,000-member Professional Institute of the Public Service Canada (PIPSC) a year ago, has mustered that union’s unique status to throw a curve at the federal government. She recently brought federal scientists to the bargaining table with a contract focused on “scientific integrity” in government — including a pitch to stop what the union feels is political interference in their work. These aren’t exactly conventional bargaining demands, and the stance has garnered attention abroad as well as at home. The tactic also feeds the opposition narrative of the Harper government as narrow, controlling and dictatorial.

Caroline Phillips

Caroline PhillipsJanice Charette.

Janice Charette

The public service is in the midst of a massive change; the unions are locked in a tense round of bargaining with Treasury Board; Canada is in the midst of a combat mission in Iraq; and a federal election will come within months. So, really, what’s to worry about for the recently appointed Clerk of the Privy Council? Charette took the job in October, but will she be a transitional clerk, or is she in it for the long haul? If she can navigate the politics of the position, motivate a dispirited public service and work around the unknowns of the economy and international events, she’ll be able to focus her remaining attention on the actual modernization of the bureaucracy. How will she and her new deputy, Michael Wernick, handle the search for new skills, new technologies and a “culture of innovation” within the public service? Will she still be there in a year if another party wins the federal election?

Sen. Leo Housakos

Appointed to the Senate in 2008, Housakos hasn’t been without controversy: a prominent Conservative fundraiser, he was investigated — and cleared — by the Senate ethics watchdog of conflict allegations over an engineering contract to study replacing Montreal’s Champlain Bridge. But that was then; his star has been rising since. He was the influential deputy chair of a committee now doing a hard-hitting study of the CBC. Nor has he been afraid to speak his mind on wider matters: In 2011, Housakos publicly opposed appointing the then-unilingual Michael Ferguson as federal auditor general. How much prime ministerial support does he enjoy? He was recently named deputy Speaker of the Senate.

ISIS has ‘the power of a nuclear bomb,’ says author allowed first-hand look at ‘caliphate’

SWR/AFP/Getty Images

A 74-year-old German author who gained unprecedented access to ISIS militants in Iraq has described the terrorist group as having “the power of a nuclear bomb or a tsunami.”

Juergen Todenhoefer travelled to Mosul, the largest city controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham. He described seeing first-hand how the population is controlled by the militants.

SWR/AFP/Getty ImagesGerman author Juergen Todenhoefer

Bookshops are filled with tomes describing how to treat slaves, while public dress is strictly monitored so as not to “resemble those worn by infidel women or men”, Todenhoefer told German media.

Todenhoefer met recruits from Europe, the U.S. and even the Caribbean, as well as gun-wielding child soldiers swearing their allegiance to the caliphate. The German author said he was most disturbed by his conversations with ISIS militants, who insisted that “all religions who agree with democracy have to die,” and that ISIS intends to “conquer the world.” “This is the largest religious cleansing strategy that has ever been planned in human history,” he told the RTL channel. “With every bomb that is dropped and hits a civilian, the number of terrorists increases.”

Todenhoefer’s unprecedented six-day access to ISIS was negotiated through a German jihadist, with permission issued by “the office of the Caliphate,” he said.

The former German politician was accompanied by his son, who was unwilling to let his father travel to Mosul alone. Toedenhoefer would have been subject to strict rules governing journalists, which include swearing allegiance and loyalty to Caliph Al-Baghdadi and submitting all material to ISIS censorship prior to publication. Figures released Tuesday showed that more than 1,171 people, the vast majority of them ISIS militants, have been killed in Syria during three months of U.S.-led strikes, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

AP Photo, File

AP Photo, FilePeople shopping at a market in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014. It is the largest city controlled by ISIS militants.

Only 52 casualties were civilians, said the Observatory’s head, Rami Abdulrahman, who emphasised that the insurgent casualties were likely to be higher.

“This is because of the difficulty of activists reaching areas hit by the coalition and also because the Islamic State keeps a tight lid on its human losses,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.

Up to Dec 15, the U.S. had launched 488 air strikes on ISIS targets in Syria, according to U.S. military data cited by Reuters.

The Observatory figures do not include casualties from air strikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.

The Daily Telegraph