ISIS

Iraq wants anti-ISIS coalition’s bombing campaign stepped up as terror group goes back on offensive

OTTAWA — The Iraqi government wants the U.S., Canada and other coalition countries involved in the campaign against Islamic State forces to step up their bombing.

Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has gone on the attack again in three different locations in the country over the last several days. Just last week Canadian military officers said the extremist group, which has seized large parts of Iraq, had been blunted and was on its “back foot.”

Brig.-Gen. Dan Constable, who commands Joint Task Force Iraq, told journalists at that time that ISIS has failed to launch any offensives or large-scale pushes on the ground. As a result, he said, the militant force was on its back foot.

The term “back foot” is a familiar one, once used by Canadian officers to describe how the Taliban in Afghanistan were on the verge of defeat.

But on Thursday, Navy Capt. Paul Forget of Canadian Joint Operations Command acknowledged to reporters that ISIS had gone on the offensive in a number of locations. He did not know why that was but noted that ISIS’s actions will make its forces prone to attacks from CF-18 fighter jets.

“The fact they have taken the offensive has forced them to expose themselves more, thus allowing our fighters to detect them on the ground and engage them accordingly,” he explained.

Forget said he was aware of the Iraqi request provided to the coalition to increase the number of bombing raids. Canada, he said, is continually reassessing what it can contribute to the U.S.-led coalition.

Johanna Quinney, spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, stated in an email that Canada is one of many countries involved in the air strike campaign. “Our ongoing contribution continues to be evaluated based on coalition needs,” she noted.

‘Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing’

The operations involving CF-18s and other aircraft in Iraq “demonstrate our firm resolve to address the threat of terrorism and stand by our allies in the fight against ISIL,” Quinney added.

On Tuesday Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi met with retired general John Allen, the U.S. special envoy who is co-ordinating coalition war efforts.

Abadi’s office later issued a statement requesting the coalition “increase the tempo of the effective air strikes on Islamic State positions.” It also called on the alliance’s training campaign for Iraqi security forces to be further expanded.

Speaker of the Iraqi parliament Selim al-Jabouri delivered a similar message to Allen.

“Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing,” Jabouri told Reuters on Wednesday. “We might see participation here or there, but it is not enough for the tough situation we are passing through.”

Iraqi analysts say that ISIS has endured months of U.S.-led airstrikes but has lost little of the territory it had seized earlier in the year. Islamic State, supported by some Iraqi-Sunni tribes upset by their treatment at the hands of the Shia-dominated central government, had taken control of large areas of Iraq.

The situation now is seen as a stalemate by a number of security experts in Iraq.

U.S. Lt.-Gen. James Terry, who commands American forces fighting ISIS, has said it will “at least take a minimum of three years” to reach a turning point against insurgent forces.

There are 600 Canadian military personnel involved in the Iraq mission. Those include a small number of special forces in northern Iraq and aircrew in Kuwait who are supporting and operating six CF-18 fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora reconnaissance aircraft and a CC-150 Polaris in-air refuelling tanker.

The government has committed Canada to the Iraq mission for six months but it is expected that it will be extended.

Ottawa ‘closely monitoring’ as video repeats ISIS calls for Canada attacks

Security agencies were “closely monitoring” the situation after a video repeating calls by ISIS to kill Canadian civilians, police and members of the military was posted on the Internet, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said on Sunday.

The video showed footage of the attack on Parliament Hill as well as last week’s killings in Paris, and quoted from a statement issued last September by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad Al Adnani calling for terrorist attacks in the West.

While the 9-minute video was a compilation of earlier threats made by ISIS, and was not an official ISIS release, it specifically named Canada and, coming after the Paris attacks and the killings of Canadian Forces members, police were taking no chances.

“Given the recent terror attacks in France and in Canada, this new threat should be taken seriously,” the RCMP said in a message sent to members on Saturday after the video appeared on a Twitter account that has since been suspended.

“Because members of law enforcement are clearly mentioned by ISIS as priority targets, it is critical that you exercise a heightened level of caution and vigilance when carrying out your duties,” Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana wrote.

The video surfaced a day after the RCMP arrested twin brothers from Ottawa on multiple counts of terrorism — one of whom was stopped as he was allegedly about to board a flight to Frankfurt, raising flags he may have been heading for Syria.

Carlos Larmond, 24, was ticketed to transit through Germany to India but authorities suspected the second leg of his trip may have been a ruse. Frankfurt is a popular travel hub for Western extremists on their way to Syria and Iraq via Turkey.

Arrested Friday at Montreal’s Trudeau airport, he has been charged with two terrorism-related counts: participation in the activity of a terrorist group and attempting to leave Canada to participate in terrorist activity abroad.

His twin brother Ashton Carleton Larmond was arrested in Ottawa and has been charged with facilitating terrorist activity, participation in the activity of a terrorist group and instructing to carry out activity for a terrorist group.

“Canada will not be intimidated and stands firm against terrorists who would threaten our peace, freedom and democracy,” Mr. Blaney said in response to the latest pro-ISIS video. “While I cannot comment on operational matters, we will not hesitate to take all appropriate actions to counter any terrorist threat to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.”

The last ISIS video threat to Canada was made by John Maguire, a radicalized Ottawa Muslim convert who allegedly knew the Larmond brothers. It said that Canadians would be indiscriminately targeted and that Muslims were obliged to either join ISIS or “follow the example” of the attackers who struck in Ottawa and Quebec.

“My clients intend to vigorously defend these allegations,” the Larmonds’ defence lawyer, Joseph Addelman, said Saturday outside the Ottawa courthouse where the brothers made their first appearances.

“This is going to be a case where we are going to determine how much value the Canadian system truly places on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and these matters will be determined in court.”

Asked by a reporter where Carlos Larmond had intended to travel when he was arrested, Mr. Addelman said the Crown had not yet disclosed those details. The RCMP declined to comment on Mr. Larmond’s suspected travel plans.

She’s done everything for them, and for them to turn around and [allegedly] do something like this, it’s just awful

“We’re not revealing the cities or destinations where he was heading at this time,” said Sgt. Richard Rollings, an RCMP spokesman. The RCMP press release said only that he was arrested “as he was intending to travel overseas for terrorist purposes.”

Police have been struggling to track more than 100 Canadians whom they suspect have adopted violent extremist beliefs and may attempt to travel abroad to engage in terrorism. Syria and Iraq are currently the top destinations.

The threat is two-fold: that those who leave could return to conduct Paris-style attacks; and that those unable to leave could carry out simple but deadly acts of terrorism such as the October killings of Canadian Forces members.

Since the murders in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, Canadian counter-terrorism officials have ramped up their investigations, adding hundreds of officers to Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams across the country.

“Through collaborative efforts with our partners, we were able to prevent these individuals from leaving Canada to engage in terrorist activity overseas,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia, officer in charge of federal policing operations, said in a statement.

The charges against the hockey player twins relate to alleged terrorist activities that occurred since last August. The five-month investigation was conducted by the RCMP, Ottawa Police Service and Ontario Provincial Police.

The Larmond twins were raised by their grandmother, Linda Brennan, in the Ottawa suburb of Vanier and attended Rideau High School. “She’s done everything for them, and for them to turn around and [allegedly] do something like this, it’s just awful,” a neighbor told the Ottawa Citizen.

“You’d never see them apart,” said another neighbour. “If one’s walking down the street, the other’s not far behind.”

Nearly five years ago, the woman said she heard one of the brothers had a Muslim girlfriend and was looking to convert. “Whatever one does, the other does, too,” she said.

A former hockey teammate, who asked to be identified only as Doug, said Ashton Larmond had played on his team in the Minto Adult Hockey League. He recalled that while they waited for the Zamboni to finish clearing the ice in late 2013, a police officer had walked past, prompting Ashton to tell Doug that he was a newly converted Muslim and he was being watched by the RCMP.

“They’re all watching me because I’m a new Muslim and they think I’m doing stuff when I’m not doing stuff,” Doug recalled Ashton telling him. “He said to me that he wasn’t doing anything and that the RCMP was stupid,” Doug said.

The team soon grew to have difficulties with the young man. “He had a lot of anger on the ice. He would smash his stick on the board if he didn’t get passed [the puck] when he wanted it. He was very vocal about things so we had some inner team fighting around him,” Doug said. “He seemed like a pretty nice guy, to be honest.”

But as the season progressed, seemingly insignificant squabbles began to surface. One erupted into a larger dispute where Ashton claimed the team captain owed him $20. The team chose to kick him off the team.

The Larmonds were scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 12.

National Post, with files from the Ottawa Citizen

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

MP Michelle Rempel calls on Canadians not to ‘explain away’ extremism in candid post about Paris attack

Calgary MP Michelle Rempel took to Facebook Thursday with an impassioned plea for Canadians to resist the urge to “explain away” the threat of Islamic extremism in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

“Today – watching the coverage in Paris – an instant sickness grew in my gut,” Ms. Rempel wrote, comparing the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris to her own experience on Parliament Hill during the Oct. 22 shootings in Ottawa. On that day, a gunman shot dead Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he stood sentry on the National War Memorial. The shooter then briefly hijacked Ms. Rempel’s empty ministerial car on his way to his way to Centre Block.

“Frankly, I don’t understand why I’m alive and [Cpl. Cirillo is] not,” the Conservative MP wrote.

Even before the Ottawa attack, Ms. Rempel was an outspoken opponent of jihadists online — mocking ISIS threats on Canadians with a Twitter photo of herself “feeling pretty secure” in her bedroom in September.

I’m feeling pretty secure right now – b/c of hard won freedoms. #Canada. #securebedroomselfie ww2.nationalpost.com/m/wp/blog.html… http://t.co/qfLQtGJyQS


Michelle Rempel (@MichelleRempel) September 22, 2014

“If we are truly Charlie, we’ll move beyond hashtag activism and agree to call a spade a spade,” Ms. Rempel wrote, referencing the #JeSuisCharlie movement that sprouted on Twitter shortly after the killings.

“We won’t rationalize it, acquiesce to it, apologize for it, or shy from it.”

Ms. Rempel, the minister of western economic diversification, echoed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who warned Thursday that “the international jihadist movement has declared war.”

“The reality of the world is the following — and I don’t say this with any particular pleasure or excitement, in fact, quite the contrary,” he said. “They have declared war on anyone who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act.”

“We may not like this and wish it would go away. But it is not going to go away. The reality is we are going to have to confront it.”

Text of Michelle Rempel’s Facebook post:

On fear, intimidation, and ‪#‎charliehebdo‬

On October 22, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was standing sentry at the National War Memorial. Shortly after beginning his duty that day Cpl. Cirillo lay on the ground, shot by a radicalized terrorist. Nathan had been unarmed.

Earlier in October our country was seized with the debate on how to respond to the threat to Canada that ISIS posed.

Party leaders in the House of Commons were deeply divided this – I would prefer to characterize one particular position as deeply ignorant – however, that is not the point I’m trying to prove.

Rather, my focus here is on the that debate ensued.

Differences of opinion were shared. Political talk shows were had. Motivations were analyzed. Wide divides on opinions were held, gaffes were made.

Free speech reigned supreme.

No one was shot at.

Until October 22.

I’ve had….great difficulty….wrapping my head around October 22 and Cpl. Cirillo. Frankly, I don’t understand why I’m alive and he’s not. A block away from where we were sitting that morning, he stood serving us; from all accounts with pride. His life, his promise, his daily influence in his son’s life – ended.

There isn’t a day that has passed since that day that I don’t think of Cpl. Cirillo – of Barbara Winters, standing over him telling him he was loved as he passed.

I never knew him, but now every day there is a reminder of him for me – these are personal. But Nathan – he’s part of me now. Regardless of who our leader is he’s part of all 308 of us, elected to represent Canadian democracy who were in the House of Commons that day.

Today – watching the coverage in Paris – an instant sickness grew in my gut. I knew – in my head; that echo of the sound of a shot that is directed at you – not for who you are but what you stand for. That sickening – gag — recognition that someone prepared a physical weapon against something and you happen to be the indiscriminate living embodiment of that something; and that weapon is there to end your humanity, your voice, your joy, your ideas, your experience, your love, your family, your legacy, your ripple effect, you’re … next.

You’re wrong. You offend me. You’re not human. Convert or die; I’m the boss, run. Run. You can’t hide, you can’t beat this. Run. I am power. I am voice. This is the end. You have lost. We have won. Fear us. You’re not human, run.

Run.

Hide.

Fear.

Bow.

Be silent.

Acknowledge, acquiesce, apologize.

**

No.

**

It would be so easy, wouldn’t it? For us to shy away from this discussion – the radicalization of Islamic militants, and the impact of all terrorism on each of us; to rationalize it, to explain it away, to pretend it doesn’t impact us, to dilute it in the context of other issues, BRIGHT SHINY OBJECT LOOK OVER THERE NOTHING TO SEE HERE THERE’S A SEA BETWEEN US AND THIS ISSUE WE’LL SEND COLD EATHER GEAR EXPRESS POST.

Except, October 22.

Except, WO Vincent. Except, Lindt Café.

Except, Steven Sotloff and James Foley.

Except, David Haines, Alan Henning, and Peter Kassig.

Except, countless rapes, beheadings, genital mutilations, separated families, tortured persons, displaced people, lives ruined, children killed, mother’s anguish, the removal of rights of women, LGBTQ, religious minorities, quashing of free speech, threats, the rise of a regime that sees these ‘transgressors’ as subhuman, the enthusiastic embrace of the antithesis of western democratic ideals…..

…except #charliehebdo….

…..except…..

Nathan.

Here’s the rub; in 2015 humanity is decreasingly fighting nations, and increasingly fighting ideologies.

And therein lies our conundrum….how do Canadians celebrate and promote our great, unique, and precious Canadian pluralism, without denouncing the full rejection of these ideals that is aim of radicalized Islamist terrorists and the ISIS agenda?

Impossible.

We should start by acknowledging that our country is coming into greatness because of its pluralistic jumble; a glorious mash of varying political ideology, journalistic bias, religious belief, cultural heritage, and diversity.

We should then acknowledge that we are united by a unified belief in full equality of opportunity, of personage, of social inclusion, of freedom of speech, association and the right to hold religious belief without persecution; to express our identity in the manner we see fit, to hold the freedom to choose who we love, and what we set our hand to as our life’s work.

We then should give a nod to those who forged this nationhood by fighting against those who would reverse or change it, or stand in direct opposite threat to its existence. Ypres, Regina Trench, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Mons.

Nazism.

Extremism, terrorism.

2015.

We will have vigorous debate on how to achieve a means to this end; that’s part of who we are. It’s the definition of our wonderfully free democracy.

However, what we shouldn’t do is shy away from the debate and pretend it doesn’t affect us. We cannot apologize away a direct threat to the process we’ve embraced which allows us to thrive economically while debating policy designed to enshrine and refine our pluralism, under the guise of political correctness, or fear of corporate editors.

Ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t exist or, assuming in all circumstances that the perpetrators of this form of violence are somehow victims, shows intimidation and acquiescence to an ideology that is the antithesis of our identity as Canadians.

If we are truly Charlie, we’ll move beyond hashtag activism and agree to call a spade a spade. We won’t rationalize it, acquiesce to it, apologize for it, or shy from it.

I’ll also continue to think of Nathan.